Sunday, October 30, 2011

Counting Down To E-Day

Yesterday we went to the Sandringham Spring Festival. We had to threaten Mum with abandonment to stop her from wearing the National rosette she had picked up on her first visit down there (no joke; she actually votes National, but it actually wouldn't have mattered since we lost her anyway), but Ruben wore his 'No Asset Sales' Labour tshirt so maybe we would have been alright. We are, regrettably, a politically diverse family. I didn't get to meet David Shearer and had to turn my back to avoid the phony hellos Melissa Lee, in her 'I'm A Key Person' tshirt, was giving to anyone unfortunate enough to cross her path. Mt Albert must feel very insulted that National thinks so little of them that it is presenting them with that train-wreck again. David Shearer is a sure thing, but at least Ravi Musuku wasn't detrimental to National (not that I'm complaining that they have put an idiot in his place, except for that fact that I have to see her moronic face, baring its teeth in what I assume to be an attempt at a smile, every time I visit my parents).

Today Vincent introduced me to a new website called The Standard. I haven't had time to do much exploring (too busy catching up on the latest in Suri's Burn Book) but I have already learned some useful statistics to use in my next argument. I was so tired yesterday that when someone began criticising Phil Goff for the usual (not being a ball of slime aka John Key - by ball of slime I don't just mean slimeball, I mean something unable to adhere permanently to anything, just stick long enough to leave its greasy mark), I just had to walk away. It is tiring having to argue with people who don't listen and don't actually have an argument, but I'm not doing the lefties any favours by being known to all my right-wing friends (I regret them, but as the Jenga Queen pointed out yesterday, she can be Melissa Lee's friend and not vote for her. I appreciated the sentiment, and didn't remind her she is a third of the voting age, and that if you sleep with a dog, you rise with fleas. She was on a roll yesterday; on seeing Veruca Salt disappear down the chute while watching Charlie And The Chocolate Factory with her uncle, she asked 'What if the incinerator isn't on but there isn't any other rubbish; will they die when they hit the ground?'.) as a raging socialist and then not always having the necessary facts or energy to stun them. Here are a couple of arrows in my quiver:
1. Under Key, the median household income has fallen by $82 a week after inflation.
2. Under National, government spending has increased by 5% of GDP. Holy shit.
The posts are very short but also frequent; I'll let you know what I think when I've had a better look around.

On the Mana website, I've been reading about how far National plans to go with its reintroduction of Youth Rates. This makes me feel sick. We're so smug about the alleged absence of an exploited immigrant working class; when overseas visitors (usually Americans) complain about the prices at work, I often bring up the fact that we care about paying workers a fair price in NZ. National would make this a lie; it would make young people this exploited group. And which young people will be hurt most by this change? Not the ones from wealthy families.

Mana has some interesting recommendations, including advocating lowering the voting age to 16. I've always thought it a bizarre arrangement that under the law a young person can be charged as an adult at 17 when they can't even vote yet. I want to think about it more, and do a bit of research, but what do you think? I was a bit of a fool at sixteen, but if I'd been old enough to vote I would have cared enough to find out what my options were and not just go with my favourite colour... I hope.

I actually haven't decided who I will vote for in this election. I have strong loyalty to Labour, and I feel like a vote to the left is a vote to the left (unless the polls are wrong and this isn't a sure thing for National). But if it's not, then I think maybe I want to be more to the left; as far left as I can go and still have my vote count. I read this morning (can't remember where, sorry) that a no-vote is a vote for National. Remind your friends of this; I'm ready to smack the colour off the hair of all the idiots saying the point of voting is having the choice of whether or not to do it. We are a nation of fools.

Never Never Never

I just found these NYTimes photos via The Velvet Bow, and so am thrust back under the Dunst spell. My first Kirsten Dunst film was Jumanji, and I wanted to be her so much it was painful. Then I saw Little Women, and my admiration and envy were sealed. As much as I loved Jo in the book, the film, which combined Little Women and Good Wives, made me an Amy; she became a bit like Veronica for me, and Jo faded into Betty - I wanted Jo/Betty to prevail because she should, but if I could be one it damn skippy wouldn't be her. Kirsten was so self-possessed, a working child actress in the company of adults I admired (Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale), and she grew up to be Samantha Mathis. She was so many things I wanted to be as a child; white, blonde, famous... and then she grew up to do terrible movies I went to and enjoyed and emulated (doing cheers on the road outside my house with my friends after Bring It On and practising every night to do the splits) and she was skinny but had boobs, and a dimple, and then she grew up a bit more and played parts I loved, like Lux Lisbon, and was in films I rated, like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. She named her dog Atticus, and went to the Toronto Film Festival and stayed up all night getting pissed with Josh Hartnett, and still wears great clothes, and doesn't do stupid actress things. And when she went to rehab, it was for alcohol and depression, not dumbness.

That's why I love her and I hate her. I hate to love her. In these photos, she looks amazing, and I want her to; when I look at pictures of stupid actors and they look great, I feel annoyed. I want her to keep doing movies; she's a great actress and she chooses good films (Elizabethtown a notable exception but Cameron Crowe is a risk worth taking). I'm glad she won Best Actress at Cannes. And I'm glad she looks so cool in these pictures. Really, I am.

By the way, I just read that Christina Hendricks was voted sexiest woman in the world (why don't they ever say sexiest famous woman in the world?) last year by lady Esquire readers. Now I don't know what kind of woman reads Esquire (all I know about it is its pretentious name and that they released a cookbook in the sixties that Vincent uses), but this has to be a wake-up call to studios. We are sick of seeing the skinnies pretending to be us. They are fine for runway; runway is a fantasy. But movies, even escapist, that are supposed to reflect some aspect of reality cannot continue to star emaciated women, even if they are good actresses, like Renee Zellweger. They don't have to be sexy like Christina, they can be anything, but please can they just look like something resembling a woman who lives her life, and not one who counts the number of flakes in her bowl of Special K every morning?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bits And Pieces

I've been meaning to post these pictures for a while. They come from a fantastic website called The Big Picture which has amazing photos of things happening around the world. These photos are of children in Somalia, part of a series of pictures on the East Africa crisis. I love words, but sometimes pictures say things so much better; I suppose because, although they're framed, there seems to be less bias. The photos in this particular series were heart-wrenching. In amongst the suffering is such resilience and resolve to live; I wrote an essay once in philosophy about the instinct to survive and how natural it is to us to do whatever we can to do it. Pictures showing this, like the second one here, are amazing... but they make the photos of hopeless faces who have just seen and suffered too much to fight even sadder. Photos are also important because they make situations, like the crisis, personal; numbers and words on a page might strike a chord, but faces, especially children's faces, are a challenge - can you look at me and go back to your day without helping me?

Vincent and I have been thinking and talking about the election policies parties are announcing, and I'm feeling really disillusioned. I just finished a book I thought was great and would recommend to anyone except my eldest sister (I don't know why I'm always nervous to recommend books to her; maybe because she has read more books than anyone I know?) - Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow. It is a lot about social change, and a bit about socialism and anarchy, and it's made me wonder how much I really support temperate politics. I don't know that fighting something within a framework that supports it is the way to take it down; I think upheaval and revolution may be the only way - otherwise it is always adapting, and never creating.

Anyway, here are a few lines I liked:

'He looked up with the swollen and laughable face of grief.'

'Or is injustice, once suffered, a mirror universe, with laws of logic and
principles of reason the opposite of civilisation's?'

'We might both be servants of our colour who insist on the truth of our manhood
and the respect it requires.'

'...he had aged and gone dull, made stupid, perhaps, by his travels and his work, so that more and more he only demonstrated his limits, that he had reached them,
and that he would never move beyond them.'

Part of what I like about Doctorow's writing is his use of punctuation; for me, punctuation is like the wooden blocks of adulthood.

Lastly, exciting news: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons are coming here in April! I have loved Frankie Valli since I was nine, listening to Sherry on Kool FM on the clock radio in my bedroom. Vincent and I went to see Jersey Boys last year when we were in Melbourne and loved it so much we wanted to see it again (as usual, our poverty, not our wills, didn't consent). We have tickets to both Fleet Foxes (at the Town Hall!) and Beirut in January... I have my fingers crossed that the fact that Frankie is playing Vector and will expect an older crowd won't mean tickets are exorbitantly priced. If they are, there's always YouTube.

This has always been one of my favourites, partly because nine-year-olds love quiet starts that launch into something big, partly because Kool FM hardly ever played it, but mostly because it's so awesome. 'Don't cool off while I'm burning!'

PS Does Frankie look scary because he has turtle eyes or because he was Rusty Millio?
PPS Have a look at this series on The Big Picture if you have time. I really liked it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Baby Blue

I'm so sad. In both senses of the word; when I got home I inhaled deeply to smell the stale urine emitting from the pillars at our building's entrance, in spite of the fact I was eating a piece of pizza, just because it's a reminder of Sunday night. And that was after I stayed late at work for late shoppers - something I usually resent - because they were French tourists, and I don't want them to go. The parade yesterday was like the family bbq the day after the wedding, and today has felt like coming back from girls' camp all over again, searching the kitchen for the only Arcoroc mug to drink from and sleeping in my sleeping bag instead of between my sheets. As we roamed the streets on Sunday night, basking in relief and triumph, I really wanted to ask people if we could still be friends tomorrow, and let's all remember tonight okay. I've never been good with endings.

The parade was wonderful. There were brass bands, one of which was made up of people dressed as kiwifruit, and there was a big white blow-up rugby ball that made me think of the NZ in Flight of the Conchords.

This is my excellent friend waiting for the All Blacks to arrive; she does a great snap-snap, and she hadn't been to bed yet. The lady beside her sat in a chair while we waited for it to begin. When her husband mentioned Sonny Bill she leapt up like a shot to everyone's amusement; he was merely asking where Sonny Bill was, and in the end he even wasn't part of the parade. Her husband did some great boos when a stupid reporter monopolised Jerome Kaino the whole time he was in front of us...

Understandably, many of the All Blacks looked like they'd rather be in bed, and several looked like they were about to throw up, so enthusiasm like this was much appreciated. I thought Piri was puking off the side but I saw on tv later that he was actually doing an interview. He's got this.

I'm pretty sure Graham Henry waved directly at me. I did only just pass the eye test for my licence renewal last week, but I'm almost certain. I was jumping in the air, waving with both hands, and yelling yeah Henry.

My beautiful city after the parade, like a Mother-of-the-bride. I'm so proud of her, and so pleased people have enjoyed her (quitting the 'she' business about now, I think). Today Auckland felt a bit depressed, like life going on almost as usual after something huge. I suppose that's one of life's strengths and tragedies; it just keeps going.

Finally, this is me hugging a stranger on Sunday night after we had won. Several people around us asked if I was French because I wasn't just crying, I was sobbing. In hindsight, it may partly have been the knowledge that it's over. But for me, it won't ever really be finished. Friends, of all the main-streets in all the cities in all the world, you walked into mine. We'll always have Auckland.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Messrs Farenheit

During the night I was awakened by a girl's voice yelling "Oi! Stop!". I just had time to ascertain what it was she was yelling at before it stopped; someone with their windows open playing Killer Queen. Eventually I got back to sleep but woke up with Queen on the brain, and if there was ever a day for Queen to be on the stereo, it is today.

I just read this transcript of what went down in the changing rooms before the '87 final (imagined? I'm not sure) and now I'm nervous; after preaching to Vincent about the outcome being the same whether we are nervous and crazy or relaxed and happy today (better back-track before he gets back from his run). It's just so exciting and so huge! I've been part of things that were personally or politically significant, but never have I been inside a sporting event like this, and I've loved it; even the massive spew we came back to find on the front step of our building last Saturday after the Wales vs France semi didn't change anything. Yesterday we went to Clevedon, and driving through Onehunga and then back through Papakura we saw flag after flag, lots of them Samoan, and I felt so happy. We arrived home to two beret-wearing Frenchmen, and that made me happy. There are people everywhere, from everywhere, and we all get to be part of this thing.

We watched last week's All Blacks semi at Queen's Wharf, and the atmosphere was so tense you could feel it pressing against you (and then you'd whip around to see who dared encroach on your space). If things had gone another way things could have been very ugly, and it was easy to see how someone who is already angry and frustrated might take it out on his family.

Anyway, I have to get back to my day; Vincent and I have a high-protein menu to prepare our bodies for all of the beer we'll be pouring into them this afternoon. We've decided today is the day to use the two hundred dollar bar-tab I won a few months ago, and so far it's just the two of us, so chances are we will be very drunk indeed. Allez les noir!

PS This interpretive dance is very silly but very clever. Although strictly speaking, this isn't interpretive dance - at least it's not how I do it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

There Will Be Blood

 It's easy to forget in the excitement of the World Cup and Christmas being around the corner that in just over a month there is an election. I wish there wasn't. I wish it had already been, the day Dan Carter injured his groin, or the week after the Rena hit the reef. I wish there was more than a month between us winning the Cup and us taking to the polls. But it hasn't been, and there won't be, so I'm just going to remind you of a few things.

1. Today there was a march on parliament calling for the legalising of same-sex marriage. There were lots of people smiling and waving flags, and support from Labour and, no doubt, the Greens. It looked like a lovely place to be; seeing it on the news made me feel happy (though I wish it was unnecessary). Then John Key came on, and I felt decidedly unhappy. He was asked if same-sex marriage was a priority for him, and he replied that we need to concentrate on the economy. I hate him. I was reminded of the letter Martin Luther King Jr wrote in the Birmingham jail, and in particular the phrase "horse-and-buggy pace". Marrying Vincent was so important to me; I'd always thought I would have a civil union because marriage excludes same-sex couples, but when it came to it, nothing else was enough, and I could barely wait two months. Waiting indefinitely would be torture; I hate thinking that a couple feeling the way Vincent and I feel about each other can't do what we did. Like I said when I was five, it's not fair. A friend of mine posted this quote today; it's nothing ground-breaking, but it's clear, and he seems to know what he's on about:

'Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless 
means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.'  Paolo Freire

2. Labour plans to legalise gay adoption. There is much room for improvement in the party, but this is heartening.
3. Labour has pledged to target homelessness. Under current law, asking for money (including having a sign and hat in front of you) is considered "anti-social behaviour", and police and council representatives are able to "move on" anyone doing so. Vincent and I witnessed this a few weeks ago when one of our homeless neighbours had his sign ripped up by a cop and was told to get going. We were incensed. As the gap widens between the rich and poor, ignorance increases. This is one of the reasons Campbell Live is so important; it frequently features stories about families living in poverty, and while many viewers might not realise poverty is far from unusual, at least they see life from someone else's perch. As long as homelessness exists in NZ, it has to be visible; it has to be. It's too easy for us with somewhere warm to sleep to forget about about people who have to cover themselves in newspaper and sleep in doorways. I want the man who asks me for a dollar on High Street to ask, and when he tells me to have a lovely day, I feel like I've been given a gift.

It's a month and six days until the election, but it really only takes a minute to think about what you think is important. For me, it's everyone getting a chance at a happy life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I grew up thinking the sixties must have been magical. Even when I was thirteen and studying Black Civil Rights at school, the romance remained; there seemed so much to live for because there was so much to fight for. I know now I was deluded; really just confused. I had thought of the late sixties as 'the sixties', plus everything had a wonderful and distracting soundtrack. I really thought this song was from the fifties until last night, when I finally saw The Help, and I've realised I thought much of what I see in Mad Men was fifties America. I think I need to do some more reading.

Anyway, we're almost through season two of Mad Men, and I have decided on a few things:
1. Don Draper is not a Man of Mystique, he is just Fucking Boring. This is a phenomenon we still see today; the man who is rude and controlling but gets his way (and his women) because we think there are Hidden Depths. Most times, there are not. There is just a moron with no original thought, or a nut-job who is paranoid, or, most charming, He Who Cannot Be Bothered. All three can take a running jump.
2. Why do we have to keep watching Don, and the re-establishing of things we already know about him, always in slow-motion? There are three (plus) interesting stories that we are being drip-fed at the same time! I want so much to know more about Peggy, Betty, and Joan. This may be because, as my boss gave as a reason for giving up on the series, there is no-one to side with, and I feel I can side with them because they are women. Whatever the reason, it's becoming very frustrating seeing so much of Don kissing and smoking and looking concerned when these three women are fascinating.
3. I've given up on my concerns about glorifying a time of oppression by dressing like the women in Mad Men. I'll think about it some more, but I think their clothes may not be any more oppressing than ours; at least that's what I've been telling myself when putting on my bright skirts and red lipstick and pinning my hair every day this week. And this can't be a bad thing: Christina Hendricks has been my inspiration to keep the four kilograms I've somehow (four tablespoons of sugar on my porridge) put on in the last couple of weeks. I don't have the boobs to balance the look, but I have hips and a bum that just weren't made for jeggings. Maybe I subconsciously think I look more attractive this way (I do seem to slink a bit more when I wear lipstick) but I think this is an Affirmation Of Nature and What I Am (the hips and bottom, not the lipstick, although I do stay within my lip-line; Momma didn't raise no clown). Please don't quote me when I'm drinking Pure Blonde and skipping breakfast in two months time.

(You'll want to mute this; Peggy Lee would roll over in her grave.)

Why didn't I get the boobs? Or the hair?
It would've been nice if I was a red-head. Yes, then nothing could have stopped us.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Indomitable Anne Shirley

Vincent and I had lunch in the Downtown Shopping Centre foodcourt today, looking out over the square where the big, ridiculous digital Countdown To The World Cup is, criticising the hundreds of people milling past, posing for photos, and gearing up for the game later. My favourite was the Australian guy in his long-sleeved Wallabies jersey who stopped by a pillar to take it off, revealing some awesomely terrible arm tattoos, and his spare ute tyre when his singlet came up, and put on his short-sleeved Wallabies jersey. Aussies are A1. Anyway, sitting and criticising while looking out into the sunny, windy square reminded me of when Anne wheels Mrs Harris out and tells her she can "creeticise" to her heart's content, and then I thought of Anne, and what a wonderful role model she was.

Anne made it okay to be a bit vain. She appreciated beauty; she was always so quick to admire it, and her attempts to achieve it were so sincere. Who could judge someone who would try to dye their hair black with dye bought from a tinker, even if it ended up green? And that was another thing. She didn't want to be blonde, which every tv show and movie said we were supposed to want. She wanted raven black hair, like Diana. It may be because of Anne that I love red hair so much. She was theatrical. Her apology to Marilla for (not) losing her brooch was mistressful, as was her cracking of her slate over Gilbert's head. And her temper; wonderful. It was righteous anger; railing against injustice, or personal injury. She was clever, and she occasionally used it for evil. She made mistakes in front of everybody. She said she could do things she couldn't do. She dreamed, all the time.

I have to go now, but I'm glad to remember and acknowledge someone who had a profound effect on me. To you, Anne. Man I love you.

I tried to get my friends to do this with me when I was eight, but they weren't into it. I obviously don't have Anne's powers of persuasion... and just as well.

My Renaissance (and What's In A Name)

It's a strange thing to have something all over your face (and arms, and legs, and body) that tells people something about you that you're not really sure of yourself.

For me, it's that I'm Not From Here. New Zealand is a country of immigrants but it seems we're sticking to the story that we were just a green figment of our imaginations until were officially founded in 1840, and that the only way you Come From Here is if you are white. Even Maori doesn't immediately connect with the name New Zealand; New Zealander does (making it clear from the get go that NZ doesn't belong to Maori; it belongs to "Kiwis"). And if you are brown but not Maori, you don't get to be a New Zealander at all (unless you have several reputable referees, or do something special, like play 100 tests for the All Blacks). When you fill out a form, the only way you get to be from NZ but not Maori (and actually from NZ) is if you are European (ie Anglo-Saxon); there is NZ Maori and NZ European, and then there is Chinese, Samoan etc. It's irrelevant to what I'm saying, but the first recorded Chinese immigrants arrived here in the 1860s, twenty years after "New Zealand" began.

It started off as an angry train of thought, but I stopped feeling angry and still think if New Zealand was Aotearoa, it would improve our sense of identity and belonging, and hopefully make people like the nut-job who recently set her dogs on recent immigrants to Christchurch think about why they think they have more of a right to be here. Aotearoa, as well as actually meaning something, is Maori. Everybody else is a guest here; we can claim nationality, but that's it.

For years, having to justify myself as a New Zealander has angered and hurt me. I was born here, have lived my entire life here, and having only been to Samoa twice and not knowing how to say much more than How Are You in Samoan, I felt like NZ was all I had; it's all I've really known. On the other hand, I've never been the same as my friends who are From Here, although I'm really not sure if I felt different because I have twenty-something first cousins on my Mother's side alone or because everybody treated me like I was different. When I joined the Samoan group in fourth form, I was still treated like I didn't belong; I was tolerated, and constantly felt like I had to tone it down in case they thought I was the greatest of all sins in Samoan culture; fia palagi. I wasn't. Compared with most of the girls, who spoke Samoan, went to Samoan churches, and knew Samoans to whom they weren't related, I might as well have actually been palagi (fainting from the heat once during practise did me no favours). By the end of the festival, they had accepted me, but as an oddity, a space I was already pretty used to filling.

Last year I met an American guy living in Morocco, who is Jewish, Italian, and several other things, and gay. He said he recognised me as an outsider, and although it might sound trite, he was sincere, and I believed it. We talked about the things being an outsider lends to (writing, drinking, depression), and it didn't seem so bad; being outsiders means being outside the rules. Except that when you're trying to be an insider, you have to keep trying to follow them. And I didn't want to be an outsider; not in the countries that are supposed to be home.

Then the World Cup began, and something happened. Samoans, and Tongans and Fijians, were everywhere, and there were thousands of us. And I felt like I could be part of it; it was my in. I went to the Wales game and even though I worried about not being Samoan enough, no-one questioned me; nobody cared. I went to see The Orator, and I felt so much pride in it; I felt Samoan enough to feel like some of it was mine. And then yesterday I did something I didn't think I would ever be able to do; I went to a protest of mostly Samoans, on my own. I had a flag, and I put red lipstick on my cheeks, and I wore a lei, and I stood on my own, and felt like I should be there, and that felt so good I don't know if anyone could understand. Several people came by and asked me what was going on; at first I thought it was because I looked so legit but then wondered if it was because I looked more like them... but it doesn't really matter. After we came home from The Orator, Vincent and I talked about how separate I felt from other Samoans in the audience, laughing at things in the film that were not meant to be laughed at, and he pointed out the differences between himself and the friends he grew up with in the small town he grew up in. He's very different from them, and always was even when he lived there, but just because he's not obviously of the place doesn't change the fact that it belongs to him. It might make it easier to fit in, but I don't have to be like other Samoans to be one, and it's not my differences from people who aren't Samoan that make me one. It doesn't make me feel like I belong, but it does make me feel like it's mine by right, if I want it, and I do want it.

This has gone on too long and is a bit confusing (even in my own head), so suffice to say, I have had a not insignificant epiphany. I'll try to make more sense of it later.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

So, So Sorry

One of my friends at work lives on Waiheke. She grew up in Oregon, dreaming in the forest, and now she bush walks with her boyfriend and they take care of the land and beach around them. She loves shells but he doesn't let her take them from the beach; if there's one she really can't leave behind, he gets her to thank Tangaroa for it. The two of them give me hope for a lot of things, but especially the land.

Today at work she wasn't very talkative. She went straight to the drawer where we keep the things we use to make cards, and she started a series about the oil spill. When she went on her break I looked at one. It was a map of the Bay Of Plenty, and she had written over it We Love You Tangaroa, and drawn hearts around it.

I'm not angry anymore. The situation is still worth feeling that way, but I watched the news tonight and cried, and realised right now I just feel sad. I watched people who love birds and spend their lives protecting and nurturing them having to sort through their carcasses, counting their oil-covered bodies. Then I saw a young guy sitting on the beach alone, crying. It reminded me of the scene in Whale Rider when the whales beach themselves and the community try to help them, but they know it means something, and they feel their part in it. I realised my part in it. I use oil. I don't know where it comes from, or how it comes. I don't know if what I bought today came on a ship that isn't sea-worthy. I do know that it probably caused hardship for someone; especially if it contains oil. Someone probably lives in a country that has been torn apart by war because I use oil.

The land and sea are gifts to us; we can use them but they don't belong to us. We are their caretakers. What have we done?

Image from

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lady Hero

Billie Holiday is an artist you either get or you don't. For some reason, I did, and count myself so lucky for it.

I grew up in an Ella Fitzgerald house; no Lena, no Sarah, no Billie. We listened to songs about love - not always working out - and walks and most of the great jazz standards, and I loved them; Ella's voice was beautiful and reassuring, and I was too young to know about segregation or heartbreak. Then when I was a lot older, someone gave my sister a Billie Holiday cd, and her name seemed familiar and someone I should know, so I nabbed it, and I fell in love. Billie was like nothing I had ever heard before. She sang songs I knew but I couldn't sing along with her; she played around with the timing and the tune and sometimes it was like she wasn't even singing; it was like she was a cloth and the words were being squeezed out of her. And songs about love; they weren't happy. They were torrid; she had been used, and abused, and if she could go back it would just be the same. She broke my heart. Every word she sang spoke of heartbreak and resignation and aloneness, and even though I was in my early teens, with no life experience, I knew she was for real, and I wanted to be part of it.

Billie's life was as her voice told it. At eleven she had dropped out of school, and was temporarily placed in care after being raped by a neighbour. She and her mother then began working for a madam, and by the time she was thirteen, Billie was working as a prostitute, for which she went to prison (not the only time she was there; she was sent again as an adult for drug possession). Her life never really got any easier. She had drug and alcohol problems, and was involved in abusive relationship after abusive relationship. Throughout, she sang, and wrote, and gave everything she had; achieving success but never really enjoying it. She died aged forty-four, with seventy cents in the bank.

Before I even knew what kind of person I was, I felt like I could relate to Billie. Her life was tragic, and most times so unhappy, yet there's an undeniable sense of acceptance and life-affirmation in her work. Her voice is her heart on her sleeve; when she sings All Of Me, there is no doubt she is giving every bit of herself. And whatever her life was like and how little control she seemed to have, the minute she started singing, something changed; my Mum bought me a dvd of her, and I've seen it. I forget right now which philosopher said it, but Billie makes me think about making your life a work of art.

Image from


Lucy, the newest member of our family. Oscar, her uncle, is teaching her how to be a dog(-person), and she thinks he is wonderful. The two of them, running to greet us at the gate last night, were almost too much; he, the handsome gentle giant, and she, tiny and so, so cute.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm So...

The Rena oil catastrophe. This timeline is useful as it cuts out a lot of the wibu-wibu. A "spill" can do this much damage, and yet we are allowing drilling to occur off our coast, because because oil is Texas Tea, and the US has nearly raped the middle east dry. I can bitch about them, and the government (and Labour) for failing to sufficiently protect the environment, but I would make a lot more difference if I changed some habits. I just read this about things that contain oil (strictly beeswax candles for me from now on), and I've decided to make some changes, starting with a pledge for the month.
For the rest of October I will:
1. Not accept any plastic bags from any shops.
2. Walk up to K'rd instead of being a lazy-bum and catching the bus.
3. I can't think of any more (that I don't already do and relate to oil. Help?).

Happy (and also sad):
Mils playing his century. With most public figures I don't think there is any responsibility to be a good role model, but the All Blacks are an exception, and I think Mils is a great role model and ambassador for rugby, NZ, and Samoa. I was so pleased to see him starting last night, and so sad to see his press conference today when he cried and said what a great experience he's had. And I'll be sad to see this ad go; it makes me giggle every time it's on (plus I'm a big fan of Up & Go). Malo Mils.

That the World Cup is diverting attention from the upcoming election and the fuck-ups National is getting away with while we're feeling all proud and happy and probably drunk. If I had to choose between winning the Cup and Labour having a fighting chance in the election, I would probably choose the latter (I hope the boys would understand). I was talking today to someone about the changes NZ has seen in the last year, and I was surprised and dismayed. I feel like a frog in a pot of gradually simmering water who is simultaneously playing that game where you have to bash the weasel on the head when it pops out of one of several holes. I'm really afraid that rather than doing something now, people are going to wait until things get much worse before they do something. And some things can never be returned once they've gone.

We watched both games at a bar last night with my darling friend who was born on this day, along with our other darling friend, twenty-eight years ago. It was lots of fun, even when I realised my commentary did the opposite of what it was meant to achieve and just highlighted my ignorance (I'm going back to critiquing hair and uniforms; I'm more than competent at that) and after we ascertained there was no alcohol in the jug of pink stuff we had asked for (for which my liver and brain were very grateful today, not least because we ate all of the fruit at the bottom just in case). So off I go to watch a movie in bed with my even-more-tired-than-I husband. Here's a great song, and here's to a good week.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

After The Orator

It was everything I hoped it would be and more; possibly the best film I have seen this year. I don't really know what to say right now except that I sat there crying after it had finished and then went home on a high, impatient to see it again, which I will as soon as I can. The acting and art direction were beautiful, the writing poignant, and the direction simply excellent. The film moves, and educates, and provokes thought and response. It doesn't have gratuitous love scenes but you believe the love. It has some comic relief but it doesn't feel entirely like relief; it feels like another aspect of village life and Samoan culture.

I can't recommend it highly enough (in fact, in the twenty-four hours following I told about as many people to watch it). Do yourself a solid and get to a cinema as soon as you can. Samoans can do anything.

Except keep a straight face when someone is injured in their presence.

Image from

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Quick Note

Since we've just come home from my beautiful little cousin's sixteenth birthday at my favourite restaurant in the universe (can it be a restaurant if it's open only once a week?), and having eaten half my body weight and then danced up a tornado (look out Detroit!) I am ready to co-llapse.

This is a song that's been on my mind a bit lately; I rarely listen to it because the slight melancholy in the happiness makes me feel really sick (a bit like lots of my favourite songs from the eighties - actually my favourite thing about eighties music in general). My lovely friend included it in the mix cd she made me as a wedding present two years ago (is there a greater show of love than making someone a playlist? I don't often do them now but I used to love doing them for my favourite people, like secret audio love letters... sometimes not so secret when they'd get to the end and find songs like Truly tacked on), and I used to listen to it most mornings and lots of evenings when I was waiting for Vincent to come back and marry me. My days were so fraught, and I felt so adrift and worried that something might happen to stop us from doing it, so that on top of how the song actually sounds (or possibly in place of it), it sounds to me like uncertainty and the threat of the unknown. Which is what being in love is, I suppose. There's not a day that goes by that I don't worry about something separating Vincent and me, and even in our happiest times (which are every time we're together) I'm aware it's not guaranteed to be forever. Maybe that's why what Tusi Tamasese said about death not breaking these bonds meant so much to me.

Anyway, it's a great song, and I hope you enjoy it and can make some happy associations with your not-crazy brain. I should be so lucky...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Images from

I am really, really excited about seeing The Orator (O Le Tulafale) when it comes out on Thursday. It is the first ever Samoan language feature film, set in Samoa and about actual Samoan culture through Samoan eyes. I was reading a review of it in Metro today (the writer of which said it could be an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film - amazing) in which the director, Tusi Tamasese, talked about the Samoan custom of burying the dead outside the fale, and how it's like saying to death: You can't break these bonds. That meant a lot to me, and has had me thinking about things we do in life to show things like that; that message was part of my decision to tattoo Vincent's initials on my hand. Anyway, I'm really proud that Samoa has a film, and I can't wait to see it; not only does it look great (in spite of the cheesy trailer), I think it'll be a really interesting way to learn more about Fa'a Samoa. Also, last year I saw Tamasese's short film Va Tapuia (Sacred Spaces), which was brilliant; beautiful, and so, so moving. You can watch it here, but wait and watch it when you've got time to really enjoy it and think about it afterward.

A Short List Of Things That Make Me Ask "Why?":

1. Grown women in pigtails.
2. Fake Burberry.
3. Jessica Simpson.

In other news, I have a new hobby: Oral Hygiene. I have always been a conscientious tooth-brusher. Actually, that's a lie; I've always brushed my teeth well and for a full two minutes when I brushed them. Dental care was a strange thing in my house when I was growing up. Mum and Dad were excellent tooth-brushers who always asked me if I had brushed my teeth but didn't watch me, so when my cousin showed me a new way of brushing my teeth without my toothbrush (gargling with toothpaste and water; the froth cleaned your teeth) which meant I passed the breath-test when mum came to say good-night, I thought I was set for life. (I was actually only set for a week; Mum discovered my toothbrush still in my overnight bag the following weekend and that, as they say, was that). Mum added to my confusion by occasionally allowing my sisters and I to eat an apple instead of brushing my teeth; it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I realised that was probably worse than just not doing anything. Then I added my own theories, such as double-brushing in the morning to avoid having to brush at night (crucial for an Ernie type like me who habitually snacks in bed; part of the beauty of the milo and the biscuits in bed is that they are the last thing that happened that day). However, having already undergone a root canal this year and still needing work on the golf course that remains, I have taken the bull by the ping-pongs and started flossing and mouth-washing (I realise now that I still eat and drink as much sugar as ever, but that's not under Oral Hygiene is it?), and I feel Smug As Hell. Yeah, when I chew gum I can taste what I had for lunch from the hole in my upper right side that desperately needs attention, but I am Doing What I Can. [Insert you high-fiving me here.]

Before I go, I want to mention that today is a really special day. My Uncle, one of the kindest and best men I have ever known, should have been sixty today. Most times when I think about him, I think about how much sadder the world is without him. But this afternoon it struck me how much better the world is because he was in it; indisputably better - I'm better because I knew him. My Uncle liked to watch rugby, and play golf, and listen to country music, he worked hard, and he never, ever let the people he loved, especially my Aunty and my cousins, doubt that he loved them. I don't want to make anyone sad by reading this... I just want to pay tribute to a wonderful man whom I miss, and whose legacy, of leaving the world better than he found it, is all I could wish for. This is for him.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Drying Out

This is how I feel today; like wet jeans, slowly drying out from the beer and the wine and the bearded lady I drank last night. I woke up wearing nothing up top but my stockings and stripey socks still on the bottom, and felt very, very glad I don't get very drunk anymore. Vincent told me and our friends that bouncers checking ID this year can accept 1993-ers, which means I have been of age for Ten Years. Dolce et decorum est that I can nearly always put myself to bed after a night on the turps, and not always bring my mates Give-My-Opinions-On-Your-Relationship Mia, Dance-When-There-Isn't-A-Dancefloor Mia, and Fall-Asleep-In-The-Train/Bar/Cab Mia. When I awoke this morning I had a horrible feeling I had also taken along Pick-Fights-With-People-Trying-To-Help Mia, but Vincent's inquiring smile put my fears to rest.

I know my blogging habits have been very bad of late; rugby and family have kept me busy, and I've enjoyed both so much that I've given myself a break. However, this week I'm determined to get things back on track (including the food baby; it's been nice having the company but it's time for me to go it alone), so this is going to be a long post that doesn't link together very well; just bits that I've come across this week or have been floating around in my head.

My picks from stuff this week:
1. I'm ashamed to say I found this hilarious. It turned out it was a prank and that some girls had filled it with ice-cream (which is also quite funny), so not so much harm done. I think we got off lightly when we took the Jenga Queen to Valentines when she was about one and a half and were surprised to see her chewing gum... and then horrified to discover she had pulled it off the underside of the table. She was so proud of herself.
2. I say I hate idiots, but I don't really. Not when they do awesome things like this guy.
3. More evidence that cats are evil. (Warning: Don't look at this while eating, like I did.)
4. This protest excites me. The reporting is fairly vague but the message isn't, and there are more planned in other cities. I'd love to have one here; we're continually told how important it is for NZ to be part of the global economy, but it means if they go down, we do too. What's wrong with self-sufficiency? Oh that's right, it's only for hippies.

And Elsewhere:
1. This teacher is awesome! I'm trying to figure out what to do with myself, and teaching is one of my ideas. I would love to be like this guy.
2. I wish I could argue more like Jon Stewart and just let my opponents look like asses. Although my friend did say last night that although he disagrees with what I'm saying, the passion in my delivery is very compelling (yes I paraphrased).

I've been thinking a lot during the World Cup about how I fit into New Zealand and Samoa, and the problems that come with living in an immigrant country. I'm going to write a proper post about who New Zealanders are and why that's a nonsense term, but for now I'm just going to say I think I feel differently about being accepted as a "New Zealander". I'll still get riled and hurt when I have to tick a box that doesn't have NZ in front of it just because I'm not white, but I realise now that's not the solution. I'm Samoan, and while I've been shaped a certain way from being born and living my entire life away from Samoa, that's what I am. Watch this space: the post will be called What's In A Name. Unless I change my mind.

Lastly, two songs, one that's been in my head today and one that I've been listening to at work this week, and that I think fits Mt Roskill better than the Hollie Smith version (not to say I don't like hers; I do, and I know why they had to use it for No 2). Hope you're having a nice Sunday afternoon (and that no more All Blacks are injured, and no more Samoans fined).

PS Have you seen The Darjeeling Limited? I love Rushmore so much but I think T.D.L. is my favourite of Wes Anderson's films. It's brilliant.