Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Miss Wallace Regrets

I think people who say they have no regrets are bollocks. If you have no regrets, then you are perfect or you are zen (vomit, vomit). Anyway, something today reminded me of a clock I saw in a secondhand shop in Christchurch once when Vincent was at a wedding and I spent the afternoon wandering around, exploring the city and trying to look nonchalant and deliberately alone while reading my book in a bar. Being in the city, the shop and the lovely, rickety building which housed it and was also home to a secondhand bookshop owned by a weirdo guy who seemed mildly annoyed when you'd walk past him, and a vintage boutique owned by the friendliest woman in Christchurch, and a unicornish massage/healing place, is now gone. And so is the clock. So here are some of my regrets (only a few, but still worth a mention):

1. The Elvis Clock. His legs moved from side to side like a pendulum. I don't know if I'll ever see one for under a hundred dollars again. Sometimes I think about it, and how I've never ever wanted a time-keeper before; I don't like being reminded of the time, and the fact that the day's slipping away from me and that I'm probably late for something. I also blame not buying it for my must-buy-might-never-see-again fear when vintage shopping, and the bag of unworn skirts in the top of the wardrobe.

2. James Brown.

He came, to the St James, and I didn't go, and then he died. I still think about it, and kick myself.

3. Not visiting people who aren't around anymore. I can tell myself I was busy, but I know I could have made time. Everytime I think of them I feel guilt, and sadness, and so much regret.

I also regret things other people do, and things we all do. And I worry a lot about not doing all the things I should be, and the time slipping away from me, and the regrets I'll have if I don't get it together. I read this today about Sue Kedgley, and it reminded me how crucial it is to do things now; it takes a long time to make an impact, and we don't know how long we have. I suppose that's the thing with regrets; they hurt, but you can learn from them. I'm going to try to visit some family this weekend, and start my plan for next year. And next time I see anything practical that is Elvis-related, it's mine.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hello again!

It's been a while since my last post; work, family things and rugby have been keeping me very busy. I'm still enjoying the Cup very much; my lovely Christchurch parents came up for the weekend and we watched all the games in various places, the best being the Cloud for the Samoa vs Fiji game, where the atmosphere (read: Samoans) was excellent. My favourite fans (other than us) were a family who stood behind us singing and paki-paki-ing the whole game. The best moment was when time was up but the final whistle hadn't been blown and we heard a sharp blast; the father had a whistle around his neck ready for the moment. At the end they stood together in their special matching tshirts and sang. This was them:

We also went to the re-opened art gallery, which looks so great. I can only take in so much art at a time (not very much) and so much of gallery people (next to none), so a trip to the art gallery is never a long one; I could never spend an entire day there (unless half was in the cafe) the way I can a museum. I often find myself spending more time reading the description plaques than looking at the pieces (usually with ones I don't like or connect with immediately); I like knowing how something was meant by the person who made it if it doesn't have meaning for me. I also like to pick a best thing, which Vincent does also. This was mine:

It's called Golden Cloud and is by Gretchen Albrecht. The photo doesn't really do it justice but I think that's a good thing. The painting made me think of being up high, and the feeling you get like there's nothing but you and the sky and how you feel. My other favourite thing was this installation outside, which is beautiful but so sad...

And this was Vincent's, with him and his Dad talking in front of it:

It's Six Days In Nelson And Canterbury by Colin McCahon.

In other news, it's been ages since I went to the movies and I really really want to see thisthis, and (I'm heartily ashamed to admit) this. I did Victorian Literature twice at university (which tells you that I love Victorian Literature and that I didn't do any coursework the first time) but didn't actually read Jane Eyre either time... Victorian novels take a bloody long time to get through, and my lecturer for that particular novel was so good I actually felt like I had read the book, although I didn't fool her when I alluded to it in one of my exam essays. Win Win is a win win for me because I really liked both The Station Agent and The Visitor, am a big fan of Paul Giamatti, and it has Bobby Canavale and Beattie in it! The last film... I'm really just being a sucker. But really, if you live in the crosshairs, isn't the way to stay there to do something expected once in a while?

Lastly, I've been thinking a bit today about intimacy; something reminded me of how my excellent niece lets me pick out bogers for her sometimes, an act that makes me feel really close to her. Last week a friend and I were talking about other people's sex habits and she was telling me her friend's argument for putting a leash on her boyfriend and lashing him with a whip while he cleans her room on his hands and knees, and how much trust that requires. We both had a very good laugh at it, and the idea of our significant others playing dog-maid, and discussed whether or not her friend had a point... Anyway, I though today about the actions that make me feel like there is trust and intimacy in a relationship (real intimacy vs forced familiarity), and for me, it's things like picking my niece's nose, or having the ingrowns on my leg squeezed out by my friend while we sit in the park; acknowledgment and acceptance of things that aren't perfect, and physical, monkeyish closeness. In my relationship with Vincent, it wasn't sex stuff that came to mind either (although my idea of showing trust and how comfortable I am differs from the dog-maid's mistress); it was having him comb my hair for nits, and his letting me be in the bathroom with him and pat his back after he's accidentally eaten nuts. Then I thought about the three circles they show you at school about how showing more of yourself to others allows to to see more of yourself, and wondered if it works the same way with being close enough to people to do things like pick their noses. I'll think some more and let you know what I come up with.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

S v W

Outnumbered 100:1 at the only pub we could find except for one called Em-Bar-Go. Obviously the Samoa fans were at a private pre-game party we weren't invited to because we didn't manage to memorise the entire anthem; no prizes for trying here. This is the WORLD CUP. The Welsh fans were friendly enough though; particularly the one who thought Vincent was wearing an American flag and came over wanting to know if his captain had been cited for the his shoulder-charge.

Vincent looked a lot like a Vailima superhero. As far as I'm concerned, he is one; he drove the four hour trip home with his wife snoring beside him, waking only to provide a drunken harmony to Jackson and show off her Sound Of Music prowess by doing all the parts of Do-Re-Mi. In her defense, who could have known it would ever be played on the radio? It was a dream come true. Then he took back the car alone, and bussed back. At least that's what he said; I think he may have flown.

Even I know how important a warm-up is; I was very conscientious at primary school. No-one was ever interested in watching me do it, which may be why I preferred to sit down...

Now I'm very conscientious about hydration. And colour-coordination.

The crowd was surprisingly sedate; not for lack of passion, of which there was plenty. I don't know if it was that it was Sunday, or the gravity of the game.

This is Wales. Rugby players are seriously enormous. If one of them tackled me I'd be in traction. At least I hope I would be; my food baby is so healthy they might actually just bounce off.

I always think the idea of an old-fashioned duel, before which the parties shake hands, is totally absurd. But, while I know no-one's going to end up dead (or at least not on purpose) during a rugby game, it's a battle. So warming up across the field from each other before engaging seems weird to me. Also, it's a little bit like seeing the corset that's making the wench's boobs look so bountiful. I don't want to see the tricks, I just want to see the effect. 

I'd been looking forward to the anthems as much as the game; Vincent and I had done a few final run-throughs at the pub, and I felt ready (except for the words - we were clearly going to need our little scrap of paper for prompting). Disappointingly, the crowd's seriousness meant they weren't sung with the gusto I'd expected; I could hear myself, which was unfortunate.

We were too busy watching to take photos during the game, but you know what happened. The team did a lap of the field at the end, and Vincent and I cheered and chehooed, and waved our flags all the way back to the car. It's not over yet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

RWC is A-OK!

I just found out the Japanese rugby team is called the Brave Blossoms. I love this. Vincent stopped by our local TAB pub on his way home to watch the last five minutes of the Tonga vs Canada game and had his best World Cup moment so far; a man in his seventies coming out, raising his hands and crying Samoa! with tears running down his face, professing his love for all and then leaving with an emphatic and tearful God Bless Everybody. I wish I'd been there, but I'm afraid I then would have been introducing Jimmy to an uncle/aunty. Sunday is going to be fantastic, and considering how noisy we both can be, it's funny to know we'll probably be the quietest Samoa supporters there. Wales were brilliant on Sunday, and I wanted them to win so much, but this week they are the enemy and I want them to go down.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

One Last Thing...

This isn't a cover, but one of the songs on Waiata reminded me of it, and it's one of those songs that gets under your skin until you've listened to it. Although a lot of things seem to have that effect on me; if I see an ad for something edible that I like, I can't rest easy until I've eaten it - even if I don't feel like it I'll eat it when I come across it just to get it out of my system.

I really like this video because it sounds so vinyly; the timing's a bit funny and it sounds 3D, if that make sense (maybe the dust?). That record-player sound takes me back to 1990, making radio stations with my favourite cousin in my sisters bedroom, and recording the songs off records onto a tape recorder; it was high-tech stuff. Anyway, the song.

How great are The Fifth Dimension? In fact, I can't leave it there. We have to have my favourite Fifth Dimension song, another one that creeps up inside me. Who else would sing a song asking their boyfriend why he won't marry them? And compare his voice to a choir of carousels?

Cover Me

There's nothing like a good cover. Vincent and I have spent hours talking about our top fives and no matter how many times we do it there's still always room for debate. Even narrowing it down is problematic; thinking about my top five Dylan covers is like having Twelve Angry Men in my head. (Last check they were, in no particular order, The Specials - Maggie's Farm, Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower, Hendrix - Like A Rolling Stone, Johnny Cash & June Carter - It Ain't Me Babe, The White Stripes - One More Cup Of Coffee. Vincent's not here to remind me of what I've left off, so no doubt I'll be screaming back here in half an hour when I remember.)

Anyway, today at work my boss brought in a new cd called Waiata, a collection of songs by Maori showbands and troubadours, and I spent the afternoon trying very hard not to make soul trains with customers, or throw my undies at the stereo (actually that bit was easy, but I felt like I should say it; John Rowles features). Most of the collection is covers - great ones - including one of Mandy where he says Brandy instead (totally new meaning to the line: you stopped me from shaking). And yesterday, she gave me another pile of her husband's old music magazines (they're not Mojo but they occasionally have something worth looking at), and in an ancient copy of The Word have come across some covers I'd never known about, which I'm enjoying.

1. I grew up in an Andy Williams household; when I sing Moon River, I'm singing with him, not Frank Sinatra or Audrey Hepburn. I still know nothing about Andy Williams, but always imagined him to be like this Mr Pollock at church; older-man good-looking and friendly but with a bit of mystique. And a wife. Andy Williams always seemed like a man with a wife. I'm not sure what that means. Anyway, this was in The Word, and I like it.

2. I just read yesterday that, with his producer Hank Cosby, Stevie Wonder wrote the tune of Tears Of A Clown, and gave it to Smokey Robinson, when he was sixteen. What a guy. Everything he writes is so full of joy; even his sad songs are so life affirming. It was already a great song and The Beatles did it well, but Stevie puts so much life in it, it's like all of a sudden the song is in colour. Which, being 1970s America, I guess it was. Hey, remember In Living Colour?!

3. This is a beautiful song, and the original is near perfect. And, the first time I heard this cover, I hated it; I didn't know who it was. But when I did, and I learnt what he'd been through, it near broke my heart. I love Joe Strummer, and I always will.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Me Series: The Road Not Taken

I mostly talk about the bad aspects of my primary school, but it wasn't all its fault. It was just a rich primary school in the eighties; it couldn't help that there were only four Samoan kids in the school, a number that halved when I started J2 and my sister and our compatriot in her year started intermediate. In fact, they did try to include other cultures; we were encouraged to respond to our names with a (mispronounced/barely comprehensible) greeting from another country. I mispronounced with the best of them, convinced that in spite of being about a hundred shades darker than everyone else that I could blend in, even though I got a sick feeling as I chanted Ta-low-fa Mrs Hunt.

There was something wonderful about my primary school, and it was called Mr Francks' Language Group. Mr Francks was the school principal, a man with a lot of fine grey hair and a slight English accent, and his language group was comprised of about twenty children (forty, split into juniors and seniors), recommended by our teachers for showing interest and promise in reading and writing. Every week we met for an hour or so in a little room where we would sit in front of Mr Francks and receive the week's publication; a poem or excerpt followed by some questions, and then, best of all, the pieces he had chosen from our submissions of the previous week that had been marked "publish". First, Mr Francks would read us the poem, and we would talk about it. For years after I left primary school I would come across these poems again; I remember Sylvia Plath, and William Carlos Williams, and Peter Mayle (Mr Francks chose the excerpt from A Year In Provence in which Mayle describes a gargantuan meal; I adored it), and when these poems popped up I would all of a sudden see the totara trees outside the window, and remember what Felix's Roman sandals looked like. Finally the published among us would read our piece aloud, and then we would peel off to a corner to write.

I became part of the group when I was about six. My writing wasn't great, but as the years went by and my tastes became more affected while my inspirations (Anne Of Green Gables, Little Women) remained as sentimental, it steadily worsened. My final mistresspiece, which opened the annual anthology of my standard four year, was really something; a piece of prose about a grandmother and a swing, inspired by Highwic and Fried Green Tomatoes. However, in spite of giving me a misplaced belief in my writing, the group was wonderful for me. I already loved reading, but the group cultivated my love of language. I got to talk, confidently, about poems I otherwise mightn't have found until I was much older (if at all), and read some embarrassingly good poetry by children, aged ten and under, (as well as some as embarrassingly bad as my own). And I felt special; like the thing I loved loved me back.

Anyway, this was actually meant to be the first in a (non-consecutive) series of posts about things that made an impression on me and kind of made me me, and the thing I was thinking of wasn't Mr Francks' Language Group. It was this poem, which I first read at the group, when I was about eight. It surprises me now that I cared about it so much; compared with a lot of what we read, it's quite straightforward, and accessible when my tastes were strictly elitist. At the time I wanted to be an actress; I probably thought the poem was about that. When I was fifteen, I remembered it, hunted it out to photocopy and glue it in the front of my journal; this time I think I thought I was so original that everything I did was, like, different. I learnt it by heart, but a couple of weeks ago when I was in a secondhand bookshop looking for a present for my father-in-law for father's day, I came across a beautiful edition of Robert Frost's poems, a Penguin published in the sixties, and now I have a copy of my own. Now, when I read it, I think of all the forks in the roads I've taken, and how many must be ahead of me. I think of the people I met on the roads I ended up on, and how it's hard but still possible to shout through the bushes to my friends who took the other roads. I think about why the road less travelled by usually appeals to me. And I think about how lucky I was to have read this poem when I was little, and to have grown up to have choices.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads onto way,
I doubted if i should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Thank you, Mr Francks.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Love Of Fate

Like most of what he said, Nietzsche's idea of Amor Fati had a deep impression on me. After I first read about it, I wanted to tattoo it on my wrist, partly as a reminder and partly to affirm my belief that to truly live life, you have to accept all of it. Then, I forgot. I'm trying to work out how it happened, and I think it had something to do with finding Vincent; I became so happy, sadness seemed like a betrayal of what I had discovered. I remembered the tattoo the other day, and struggled to remember what it had meant to me; how accepting everything was a beautiful ideal, and the most genuine way to live life. Then a few days later I read this in a Rolling Stone interview with Springsteen from 1992:

I've struggled a lot over the past two, three years, and it's been real rewarding.
I've been very, very happy,
truly the happiest I've ever been in my whole life.
And it's not that one-dimensional idea of "happy".
It's accepting a lot of death and sorrow and mortality.

I think I rail so hard against things I think are wrong, I forget that some things are to be accepted; that if I don't accept them, there really isn't a point. It's probably part of getting older, realising that living doesn't have to be all about fighting; it's as much about embracing things as they come. I told a friend I feel partly to blame for hurting my ribs because I don't exercise, and she suggested it might be another example of me putting unnecessary guilt on myself (she thinks a lot about how different people work, and why), so I thought about it and came to the conclusion that taking blame was a way of taking control, in a situation where my main struggle has been based in powerlessness. Now I see that maybe that was what I needed to accept; I've been so quick to accept the good things that have come, like Vincent, (and have probably given myself credit for them), and been so protected by them that I've been almost immune to things that might otherwise have personally affected me, and then when something has (being sick and unable to live the way I'm accustomed to for an entire month) I've felt frustrated and inadequate for not being able to cope with it, when there was no need to cope.

Springsteen goes on to say

It's putting down the script and letting the chips fall where they may.

Which at first I thought wasn't about amor fati, but now see is taking it to its logical conclusion. It's not about being passive, letting things just happen to you and not trying to improve things or live in a way that's true to who you are. It means realising you're not in control, in that you are not as powerful as you might think you are, and in that you cannot take responsibility for everything. I've never subscribed to the smug belief that Everything Happens For A Reason; I remember someone saying it to me when something terrible had happened and trying to imagine what reason could possibly justify it. I think it would be better if we just said Everything Happens. It's far more comforting, it doesn't presuppose responsibility or lack of responsibility.

One of the greatest things about Springsteen's lyrics is his amor fati, even in songs written long before this interview took place. Recognising the value in lives that aren't valuable in capitalist terms, and celebrating what happens in these lives is, to me, what makes amor fati so liberating (even though Richy didn't mean it this way); it's about seeing the beauty in what is real. Fate is hard to love sometimes, but if life is what you're about, and you want to say yes to it (sounds even better in my favourite lecturer's American accent), you have to try.

And lastly, a song that sometimes drives me up the wall but that I've been listening to a bit this past week. I like to think that there doesn't have to be a time for anything you don't want there to be a time for, and that's not a bad way to get things done, but it's nice to sit back and think maybe there is. Also this song reminds me of my cousin saying it plagiarises the bible, which pleased me very much.

A Little Realisation

Vincent and I just watched an episode of the BBC series All Too Human, the one about Sartre, and I realised something that, strangely, has never actually occurred to me before. I'm a philosopher! Maybe you knew that, but I didn't; I know I spend a lot of time mulling over things (henceforth to be known as philosophising) and trying to figure out how the new things I discover affect my life etc etc, but I've never really thought of that as being what my heroes (and anti-heroes) did, or that just because the people I know who think about things don't identify as philosophers doesn't mean I can't. It's made me feel very happy, and that my job is not just passing time, and it's made me realise how important it is to talk about important things with people I respect. I'm reminded of when (before Singh's success) an uncle told my sister that the only difference between Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods was a million dollars; I think the only difference between the afternoons my sister, Vincent and I have spent at the pub discussing social issues and Sartre and his friends at their cafe is that nobody really listens to us. (Which is a very big difference.)

Anyway, I don't expect this realisation to change my blog much, except maybe in that I might have a bit more confidence to say things, like I have the right to say them. My next post, about amor fati, was something I actually started writing last week but didn't get to finish. With this blog, and my job, and my lifestyle, I have the luxury of seeing lots of things and getting the time to figure out how I feel about them, and what they mean. Now I think maybe that gives me some responsibility, to chuck on things to you so you can see what you think, even if its just a reaction to what I thought. I'm always interested to know what you guys think too, so please comment when you want to, or email me. I've always preferred the opinions of those who agree with me, but I'd like to change that; I think maybe when I took up debating I never really let it go and have always thought it's about persuasion. Also we finished watching Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster today, and I'm enjoying the idea that something completely mundane can inspire... something that is only mostly mundane. Or vehement disdain, a la my favourite philosopher, the inimitable Richy.

Image from thequoteblog.com

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Something To Recuperate About

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, not least that I kind of wish tomorrow wasn't tomorrow because I want to be at my best for it, and I won't be at my best tomorrow. But, like Christmas, this thing is bigger than me.

Everyone is excited. I went to get flags yesterday and the shop had been stripped (although I managed to get the last Samoa fan-cape, handed over by two girls who said they wanted to buy them together and complimented me on my team), and everywhere you go you feel a hum in the air... People are smiling, and the sun has been coming out, and everyone has a plan to get in tomorrow; even we, for the first time ever, have a table booked at our pub so we have a base. I don't think we recognise it because we're Aucklanders, and being an Aucklander means being largely indifferent to the city, but we're proud of Auckland (although if anything goes wrong we'll be the first to point it out). For the first time I can remember, we're united.

My friend's son is going to be on one of the waka; he's been training for weeks, and tomorrow his waka will have come from ten hours away - this ain't for show. Then, at four-forty, Dave Dobbyn is going to play Welcome Home. You already know how I feel about Dave (one of Auckland's Godparents), and to sing Welcome Home, in Auckland, to our population of immigrants, means the world to me. I was talking with a friend yesterday about how displaced I sometimes feel, living in a country that doesn't accept me as its own, but not belonging anywhere else. I feel like Dave understands this, and wants to change it, and sees the richness I do in living in a city so diverse. I already know I'm going to cry.

And then this, the promise that captured my child's imagination, whenever it was that Len Brown first said it would be the biggest fireworks display NZ has ever seen. Apart from how beautiful it will be, when those fireworks hit the sky, thousands and thousands of Aucklanders will be watching them, from vantage points all over the city, but together. Guys, we should do this more often. Lend me some sugar; I am your neighbour...

This is me and Vincent tomorrow, although I'll have slightly more of a lean because of my ribs. I can't believe it. Right here where we live... right here in St Louis.

Images from auckland2011.co.nz and motionsimages.blogspot.com

Monday, September 5, 2011

Madwoman on Mad Men

After leaving it for a while having been distinctly unimpressed by the first episode, Vincent and I are giving Mad Men another go. The first episode seemed void of any substance (or plot), and the sexism and racism really, really pissed me off. I read other people's opinions - that it is really a feminist story (really? I don't think so) - and saw in more and more blogs and magazines the show's influence on fashion. I felt it myself; I wanted to look like a lady too, and then stopped and wondered what I'm saying if I want to dress like it's the fifties when I'm disgusted by what the fifties were. Can you separate those things? I'm not sure. My favourite fashion is from the thirties and forties, and now I wonder what I'm expressing when I wear outfits inspired by those decades. The difference with Mad Men and fashion, though, is that the popularity of the show's style serves to glorify it; can it do so without glorifying the time in which the show is set? I don't know that it can. Those waists and lipsticks are directly linked with the oppression of the fifties on women (and even then, these were women of privilege; every black woman so far has been in some kind of uniform.)

Anyway, the main thing that bothers me now about Mad Men is something that most TV shows are guilty of, but seems more noticeable in Mad Men because of being set in such segregated times, and that is the fact that it once again shows life from a privileged white perspective. At first I thought it was simply the time in which it is set, and that shows set now are more likely to have diverse casts because there is more diversity in our societies. But that simply isn't true. TV shows now are nearly always centred around white characters (The Wire a significant exception), and will frequently be completely devoid of any non-white ethnicities. There could easily be a show set in the fifties about black people; sure it couldn't be set in an advertising agency unless from the point of view from the lift operator, but why would it need to be? As long as we don't get to see their stories, I think a lot of TV watchers forget these invisible people existed; I have my moments but my mama didn't raise no fool, and I just told you what I first thought about the era being the problem, and not the story. And it goes further; as long as the stories are only about white characters, the only actors getting these jobs are also white. I read recently in a magazine an interview with Keira Knightley where the interviewer stated her success following Bend It Like Beckham over that of Parminder Nagra was her acting ability. I was furious. It's one thing to live in a world where things are a certain way, but to lie about why things are this way is insulting and completely unjust. Parminder Nagra has had one notable role since Bend It Like Beckham, on ER. Hospital dramas seem to me to be light years ahead of other TV shows in the ethnic diversity of their casts (although the central protagonists are still usually white). Say what you like about Grey's Anatomy, but it is one of the only shows on TV where non-white characters have relationships with white characters and don't have to be white-featured or ridiculously good looking to do so[/deserve to]. Miranda Bailey's character was originally written for a white, blonde woman, but went to Chandra Wilson; I understand a writer having a picture of a character in their head while writing but I like to think that this made the writing on the show more open.

There's a lot more I want to say about this but I think that'll do for now. The problem with Mad Men for me, really, is me. I find it watchable, and in spite of my objections to what I see, I know I will keep watching it. And I did get something interesting from an episode we watched last night. A character told Don there was no point in competing with the Pete Campbells of the world (Pete Campbell is a young, fairly competent junior executive who cannot be fired because of his family connexions), and I thought about how true that is. At first I thought I was being cynical, thinking that privileged birth will always be more important to success than personal achievement. Then I thought some more, and realised how true it is, and how important it is to capitalism that we, the un-privileged, don't believe it. I know part of National's success is due to people who don't benefit at all from its policies but believe that one day they will, and how National sells the State-House John lie to make it seem like we are all in control of what we can do in life, but I hadn't thought about how crucial that lie is to the entire system. To support capitalism, we have to buy this lie that everyone is equal; if not, why will we try? How will the smarts of people like Don Draper be exploited if they don't believe they are where they are on merit and all of the Pete Campbells are too? I may sound like a conspiracy theorist, but if you think about it, I think you might agree.

One more thing. Is it enough to rely on viewers to interpret what they see for themselves? I'm not sure. I'm not an advocate of censorship, but I do believe in responsible broadcasting; we're not stupid, but when we're treated as such (news and reality TV being the worst culprits), broadcasters need to be consistent. Shows like Mad Men are supposed to be watched by discerning audiences; one can be discerning without having any idea of what is real or acceptable. So much of what the male characters say in Mad Men is similar to what I've heard my own friends say, I don't trust them to know where the line is. Do you? I'd be really interested to know what other people think about the show. (Except people going with the feminist line; pull the other one. Finger, I mean.)

Good Times, Bad Times

It's been a Dickensian past few days.

The Best of Times:

It was my lovely Mother's birthday on Friday. After the lazarus-type event earlier in the week we postponed the champagne breakfast we had been planning for her but it was too late to cancel the ten dozen oysters, so Friday night found us tucking in without any of the usual polite hesitation (despite having protested ten minutes before their arrival that we were all stuffed). Dad kept asking me when I thought I'd get to eat oysters like that again and made me wonder if I'm going to be pregnant or dead soon but I realised he was referring to the fact I'd had about a dozen.

Because of my lovely Mother's birthday, my wonderful little niece was down for the weekend, and I got to spend time with her, my excellent six-year-old niece, and my cousin's four-year-old son who is one of the sweetest little kids I've met. I love being with my family (most of the time!) but having children around is a whole other thing.

Yesterday Vincent and I bought tickets to the Samoa vs Wales game in Hamilton. On Saturday I had watched this (and other clips) on youtube and had to fight back tears; it's funny how patriotism in other countries can be so vomitous but when it's your own it's beautiful and bloody emotional. I'm now completely in the spirit; it's hard not to be when you live in a country of immigrants who are totally amped about their teams - one Tongan fan on tonight's news: "It doesn't matter if it's one hundred to zero" on the Tonga vs All Blacks game, from his car with a clothesline of Tongan flags from his back bumper to his front bumper. Cars everywhere are flying flags (five Tongan flags for every other), but my parents' neighbour took the cake yesterday when we were outside waving off our Far North family and he casually drove in with the most enormous flag on a flag-pole attached to his tow-bar. He is a fan who has a large flagpole outside his house which flies a Chilean flag except on game weekends when the All Blacks flag is raised without fail, and before the last game his parents wished mine luck. I've been such a grump about an invasion of tourists and the prospect of picking my way through piles of spew to get to work in the morning, but right now I can't resent something that has people so happy and excited. And come Friday, the official opening at the waterfront, I am going to be there, with bells on, drinking my first (through twelfth) beer in about a month.

The Worst of Times:

This update on 3 News on Saturday night, which shows thousands and thousands of people waiting in line after travelling miles and miles, starving. After being with my nieces and nephew the night before and seeing what a happy, healthy child is like, I couldn't bear seeing these children; I could feel my heart breaking. I just read here that an entire generation may be lost.

"The future of an entire generation hangs in the balance," stressed Ms Migiro at the African Union summit. 
"We will be asked how we stood by and watched a generation die, 
how we allowed a crisis to become a catastrophe, when we could have stopped it."  

Please, please watch the clip, and give. Especially if you have a kid in your life whom you love; it's harrowing, but imagine if they needed something that you couldn't give them, and then you had to watch them suffer because of it. No-one deserves that, and every child deserves to be well, and to have a chance to grow up. You can give here.

It's pretty pathetic to list having strained/possibly cracked ribs from all my coughing, and I'm glad to be reminded of that. I've been in a lot of pain and I've been struggling, physically and mentally, and I hate myself for being so weak. It's been unnerving realising how unsettled I can be, but I'm working on it. Hopefully I'll nail it very soon; doctor says ribs can take several weeks to heal. Whoopee.

Other Times:

This afternoon I watched The Royal Tenenbaums. I've seen it a few times before, but the mood I was in (strange - I cried, like full-on cried, at the end when Royal dies) meant different things stuck out to me. One was that love is the only thing we really have. (I know. Imagine being inside my head.)  And the other, from Royal's story, was that is's never too late. I was talking to some friends last week about persistence, and how one man's wore down my cousin so she married him, and watching the movie today made me think that if you want to make a change, be someone different (I would hope better), or make something up to someone, the key is not giving up. It can't be about how your efforts are received (Chas, completely understandably, won't have a bar of Royal for a long time); it has to be about being committed to what you've decided to do. And then if you keep doing it, you have to win; you have to. It's totally cheesy, but I remember Justin on Brothers And Sisters (I said it was cheesy!) saying of his recovery from drug-addiction "Fake it till you make it" (it's probably well-known but I hadn't heard it before) and I've never forgotten it. It might feel like an effort, and unnatural, and maybe even not quite genuine at first, but the more you do it, the less it is. I'm fully aware I'm probably trying to convince myself of something here. Now I just have to figure out to what it pertains.

Lastly, I listened to this, from the soundtrack, after the movie finished. Do you think about how you fit in to everything and what you can do? Sometimes I don't know if I'm insane or what. Anyway, I really believe Yoko was the perfect thing for Lennon. What he did after he left The Beatles was beautiful and significant, and while I know he had it in him, I think it was she who awakened it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The 'F' Word

It's been an interesting week. Less so the actual fact that it's fashion week than what it being fashion week has led me to discover, and the discussions I've had with a friend and with myself.

I see fashion as two things; style and trends. Trends don't interest me; I'll go into it in more detail later on, but as far as I'm concerned, they inhibit rather than encourage personal expression. Style, on the other hand, works on its own; it can involve incorporating trends, but not because they are trends but because being trends their components are more easily found. People with style might wear current trends but their clothes are never dictated by them. Style is about self-expression and art.

Fashion trends are about the most obvious example of capitalist simulated-want (Baudrillard) I can think of. Every season, designers put out new collections. From strong themes and overlaps within these collections come trends; for example, Balmain's strong shoulders whenever that was. People rushed out to buy one of these. Granted, they were interesting, but that wasn't why they were so popular. They were of the season; anything else was clearly older, and in the world of fashion, old simply won't do (it undermines the point of everything). In the fashion world, if you want to look as if you know anything about clothes, you dress according to trend; hence the number of "thank goodness!" stories in fashion magazines when flat shoes are in fashion. It doesn't matter how many good jackets or shoes you might have, once their season in the sun is over, they no longer say you're part of that crowd, so you go out and buy whatever is in fashion now - it's never-ending, like being in limbo.

I talked about this with a friend of mine, with more interest in and knowledge of fashion than me. She asked me if I thought stores like Topshop and Glassons have helped to remove the elitist aspect of fashion by making it more accessible. My first answer was yes, and then I thought about it a bit more. People who can afford high fashion; who support the designers who dictate trends, have money. They're capitalists; fashion is a hobby for them, somewhere between collecting art and playing bridge, I think, and as capitalists, it's in their interests to perpetuate things like fashion that create a constant state of want - it keeps them rich. Fashion trends are for the wealthy. So when we, the workers, engage in these trends through stores like Topshop, where we can afford to shop, we are attempting to emulate a lifestyle; the lifestyle of those who keep us in our position. The more I thought about it, the more pathetic it seemed; like depression glass. I understand people living through the depression needing beauty around them, deserving some frivolity, and associating unnecessarily decorative things with a life of comparative ease. Depression glass made sense to them. But I can't help imagining what it might have been like if we weren't the way we are, and a plain glass jar was beautiful enough in its utility; like an affirmation of life however it comes. For me, as part of the proletariat, following fashion trends not only supports, both symbolically and monetarily, a system I despise, but makes a joke of me and what I stand for.

I'm not saying I think I need to start wearing a Chinese Communist party uniform and stop wearing make-up. I enjoy beautiful things, and I like clothes and using them to express things, and if a trend means it's all of a sudden easier and cheaper for me to buy something I like, then bully for me. But, especially during a time like fashion week, I think it's really important to think about who I am and what I stand for before engaging. After seeing some photos of girls at some of the shows, I felt like I am a fashion amateur, and that didn't feel good. But now that I've consciously remembered who I am and what fashion is to me, that's pretty much all I ever want to be.

PS I know this might look funny after my last post and the pants. I'm not saying I'm outside capitalism or that I don't want things I don't need. I think this is becoming my motto: Self-improvement is a lifelong commitment!