Tuesday, January 30, 2007
If tears could build a stairway,
And memories a lane,
I'd walk right up to Heaven,
And bring you home again.
After all, there is nothing like cradling a singing egg to bring closure, and for only $34.98, it's a steal.
Also, have you ever worried about your favourite superhero's religious affiliation? Well, there's an answer! The Religion of Comic Book Characters website will let you know exactly what religion, nay, denomination Superman, Captain America or Wonder Woman are. No more will you agonise over whether your children should be reading their exploits, for you will know in whose name they fight for justice. Beware of all the lapsed Catholics.
Or if you have taken the plunge and declared yourself celibate until marriage, why not really go for gold and buy Wait Wear? If by some horrible mischance a member of the opposite sex gets so far as to see your underwear, he or she will be suddenly confronted with a firm and resounding "No Vows No Sex" or "Traffic Control: Wait for Marriage" printed boldly on the front of your undies. Chastity belts have never been so modern!
Friday, January 26, 2007
These photos are from a family gathering at my sister's house last weekend. I am particularly proud of the last one because it seems like the sort of photo a journalist would put in a magazine with a caption underneath saying, 'Greg A--------, eminent agricultural reproduction scientist and wannabe Shakespearian tragedy actor, relaxes in his home neath a canopy of grapes.' (Okay, so the only part of that that is true is the scientist part.)
As a budding (or withering) historian, I am aware I should be trying to put a good word in for studying history. And yes, I do love studying history although quite often it's a pain in the neck trying to be unbiased and scholarly. All the same, if you ever admire someone and look up to them as a role model - don't do a history course on them at university. It's allright if you do it at school, because schools, in my experience, though worthy institutions, tend to teach popular history. But if you take a course at university, you have to look at differing views. And suddenly all these things are pointed out to you that you never would have heard otherwise.
I am currently doing a course on Gandhi. He has never been exactly a hero of mine but I've always had a vague, comfortable notion that he was an amazing, visionary man who should be lauded on high. Now, after only three to four weeks of classes on him, I would consider him as very often manipulative and naive. The lecturer hasn't told us anything of the sort, and this has all come from the reading I have to do in order to pass the course, but all the same, without doing a university course on him, I would have been left happily delusional.
I used to admire Martin Luther very much... and then heard some bad things about him. I used to admire Martin Luther King very much... and the same thing happened. It's not that I don't admire aspects of them still, and there are aspects of Gandhi that I still admire very much - but it's a little depressing discovering things you dislike about people that are looked up to as icons. I suppose none of us can expect perfection of people, but I think most of us wish there was some human who didn't ever disappoint. It might make us feel a little better about our own states of morality.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Like a crazy person, I signed myself up for summer school at the university I attend, Canterbury University. This is because I will miss one semester at uni this year and have to catch up papers in time to do Honours in 2008. This basically means I have been wallowing in university stuff since February last year, and will have no substantial break until July this year. A wise decision? I'm unsure. But since I have been so immersed in university lately (and basically nothing else interesting is happening), I thought I would write a blog entry on Things About My University.
Firstly, I really like (most of) the lecturers at my university. If you will cast your eyes above and below, you will see Michael Palin, Bono and Adam Clayton. No, they are not my lecturers. However, in first year I had the good fortune to have Prof Geoff Rice (above) for Medieval European history. He is now the HOD of History, a great lecturer, and a Michael Palin lookalike. It is very scary. He even laughs the same way, and has similar mannerisms. I chose this photo of Michael Palin because it looked like something Prof Rice might do. Perhaps the photo doesn't quite have the same kick as seeing the man in person, but I assure you, the likeness is striking.
Likewise, I am convinced that my lecturer in second year for History of the English Language, Tony Deverson, has a genetic link somewhere to Adam Clayton, the bassist of U2. I apologise for the size of the photo, but it was all I could find. Again, in real life the likeness is quite striking. (Yes, this is how I spend precious lecture time; agonising over who it is my lecturers look like.)
Saturday, January 13, 2007
This is a horse called Ziggy. If I had a horse I would call it Penelope and if I had a dog I would call it Horatio. I suppose I'd have to check the gender first. The best thing about animals is you don't have to worry how they'll be teased at school or anything. If you called your dog John and your cat Anne, to be safe, you'd come across a bit boring. [Disclaimer: if either of your pets are called John and/or Anne, accept my unreserved apologies.]
I found it a bit unnerving a while back when I stayed with a friend who had a lovely big German Shepherd. When I got there, she started shouting, "Down, Allie!" Yup. Turns out the dog was called Allie too. It took a while to get used to that. Oh well, at least it wasn't a chihuahua or something.
Because I like naming things and I'm not particularly eager to have children yet, perhaps I should get a pet. Or better yet, pets. I do like the idea of a nice cuddly warm tabby cat, or a well behaved dog I could take walking and scare bad men away with. Unfortunately, every single pet I've had that was mainly my property to look after has died before their time. It makes me feel a little unloved. Waffles the rabbit and G-nu the guinea pig died when I was about 11, and although G-nu's death was natural, Waffles's was probably my fault for letting him get an infection. I still feel very bad about that. Dwiana the gecko became my sole charge when my elder sister got sick of her, and I fed her the wrong leaves, and she died. In my last year of school I decided to buy fish, and I saved up for ages and got a little aquarium and all the gear and two little goldfish which I named Flotsam and Jetsam. Flotsam died from unknown causes, and then Jetsam died when he/she got a fungus and his/her tail fell off, about three weeks after I bought them. All this leads me to conclude that I am not an animal person.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Some more photos from Christmas.
Who has heard of the Jetlag Travel Guides? I'm not exactly sure how global they are - if you have never heard of them, they are parodies of the Lonely Planet-style travel book, written by three Australian guys, about made-up countries. I have the Molvania and San Sombrero guides - here is an example of the type of thing:
Despite being one of the smallest countries in Europe, the Republic of Molvania has much to offer the discerning tourist. Panoramic scenery, magnificent neoclassical architecture and centuries of devotion to fine culture are, admittedly, all in short supply. ... Molvania, the world's number one producer of beetroot and the birthplace of whooping cough, is a country steeped in history and everywhere here the past is beautifully preserved, such as in towns like Gyorik where you'll find one of the oldest nuclear reactors still operating in the world.
You can't go on reading for large periods of time or it all just becomes too much but in my opinion they are works of genius. :) So...
...when I saw the movie pictured above today (The Dish, of 2000), I was delighted to hear it was written by the same three men!
Great movie, too. It's about the satellite dish in a small Australian town that somehow, in 1969, ends up being the main dish that is used for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, which, of course, carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldwin. This dish was the one and only medium through which the whole world saw the moon landing on TV. Very funny in many ways but it was also at times quite moving - all in all, a fantastic film. It really made me feel how big a deal the moon landing was, and it was nice seeing Australian people in something that was such a huge thing (although I made several snarky comments about Australians in my last post, Kiwis and Aussies actually get on pretty well when we're not competing - we're quite like each other).
Anyway, it got me thinking... Although there is something undeniably cool about sending rockets into space, I've often felt in the past that maybe all this money spent on NASA and such projects is a waste of humanity's resources and could be better spent elsewhere - like on the abject poverty of the Third World, for one thing. Part of me still feels that way.
But at the same time, it's suddenly struck me that the role of art is like the role of science in this way - one could argue that writing novels and performing music and painting pictures and such is a disgusting waste of money. Books use up forests all over the world, they produce no tangible results ie food, shelter or clothing, the money people spend on movies or music could probably feed the whole African continent (okay, so that's a massive guess but the point is, I think, clear), etc etc... but something in me rebels at this kind of thinking. It's the same way I feel when people scoff at the BA I'm studying for instead of "useful" degrees like Engineering or Medicine. I have to admit that space exploration probably does have a few more tangible benefits for humanity than art does - but at the same time, there is something about human progress that thrills us. And there is something in us that doesn't want to give up pointless things like books for the sake of humanity. I don't think this is coming out very clearly. I just wonder if sometimes we shoot down human progress for its own sake a little too much. I personally often voice my opinions about what a waste of time and money sport can be.
To sum up my whole post in one sentence: Despite knowing all the reasons why we shouldn't bother with certain types of progress, there is something about humans making it to a next step, where no one has been before, that always excites us. I don't think this is a bad thing. (Okay, so it was two sentences.)
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Above, you will see probably the prettiest photo in this blog post - pavlova. This is a legendary Kiwi dessert of a pile of meringue topped with cream and fruit. It's not simple to make but is well worth the effort - easily my favourite dessert, when I'm in a mood for sugar. The classic pavlova should have a ring of kiwifruit around it; at least, that's what always turns up at church shared lunches and the like, but I couldn't find a photo of that. [NB: Australians think they created it but they didn't! It was US! Not them!]
Above, we have the Swanndri. The Swanndri was created sometime back when some clever farmer got sick of rain combined with woolly jersey, and created the brand we know today as Swanndri - waterproof wool. This is a southern institution and any Kiwi will recognise the shtunning tartan design and has probably owned at least one in the course of their lives - that is, unless they're a JAFA (another term you need to know, which stands for Just Another F#$%ing Aucklander, as they are invariably referred to by most southerners).
Marmite. I suppose I should mention Vegemite too, but my personal preference is Marmite. There is quite a feud between Marmite-eaters and Vegemite-eaters and passionate reasons for eating either - rather like the Montagues and Capulets, although it hasn't quite come to suicides yet. Marmite is a spread for toast made from yeast extract. It looks rather like tar and has an unforgettable taste. I have it every morning on my toast and it is the best spread ever. [Australians also try to steal this off us. Bastards.]
L&P. This stands for Lemon and Paeroa, and is a Kiwi-invented soft drink. It is almost a legend in New Zealand now, partly because of clever marketing and partly because it is actually very, very nice. There are also some very funny ads featuring L&P and stubbies, aka very short shorts on males, another Kiwi institution I didn't think it would be polite to feature. Yes, this huge statue of L&P stands, in a town called Paeroa in the north. Kiwis have an unfortunate habit of erecting massive statues to odd things.
Watties Tomato Sauce! As the jingle goes, "You'll always be a Kiwi, you'll always be a Kiwi, you'll always be a Kiwi if you love our Watties sauce!" That could almost be our national anthem because Watties tomato sauce features in every home, on almost any meal (within reason), at any barbecue (in fact you couldn't have a barbecue without it). I have a nephew who, from age three to five, refused to eat anything if it didn't have Watties tomato sauce on it. From Watties has come another Kiwi institution - sausage wrapped in a slice of bread with tomato sauce and onions, the classic $1 fundraiser outside shops on Saturday mornings for school trips or community projects.
Lastly, I think it crucial for all truly multiethnic and diversity-loving people to have a few Maori phrases up their sleeves. Besides being, obviously, the language of the future, you can say cool things in it and no one will have a clue what you mean, outside New Zealand (and quite possibly within, too). I took most of these phrases from a handy little book called Instant Maori.
Does my bum look big in this? = Kei te nui te ahua o taku nono i roto i tenei?
Surf's up dude. = Hei tino pai te ti karekare e ho.
Tomato sauce please. = Homai te hinuki tomato e ho.
Some of my best friends are Pakeha (non-Maori). = Ko etahi o aku tino hau he pakeha.
Now isn't that the most useful blog post in a while?
Saturday, January 06, 2007
I have just been to see Casino Royale with my friend Sarah and NEED to express the feelings of my pounding bosom. Daniel Craig is PERFECT as Bond and that is the best Bond movie I have ever seen. Granted, I haven't seen many fully through but that is because they've always been on television and I've watched small amounts, snorted and groaned, and switched over to something else. In this film there were a total of ONLY TWO really cheesy and irredeemable lines, which were as follows (paraphrased):
Bond girl (accountant): "I'm the money."
Bond: "Yeah, every penny of it."
Bond: "You've got me there."
Bond girl: "You can have me any way you like."
Other than that, it was gripping. Even the massively long game of poker was great. I had no idea what was going on plot-wise, but for once I can't complain about that at all because it simply didn't matter. I did think the scene of naked torturing was a bit too much; Sarah and I chose that moment to start laughing without being able to stop, and it was agony trying to hold it in when it's undoubtedly meant to be the tensest, most serious part of the film. So we're immature. The rest of the time was spent trying not to whistle because Daniel Craig is basically the pinnacle of manhood. He runs like a Spartan and has eyes like a sprite. (That's my corny line for today.) FIVE STARS from me. *****
I thought I would make this a movies blog altogether because for the first time in a while, I got out some DVDs this week that I've been meaning to see for ages. First up: Possession. I loved the book, and if you ever mean to read the book, don't watch the movie first, because the book is gripping when you don't know what's going to happen. But if you've read the book or hate reading, this movie is great. I have to admit I didn't like the idea of an American Roland Michell, but Aaron Eckhart is so cool in anything I've ever seen him in (insert plug here for Thank You For Smoking) that I retract that statement
willingly. Gwyneth Paltrow was obviously created to play Maud Bailey, and Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle were superb as Ash and LaMotte. The movie flowed really well which was surprising when based on such a long, complex novel, so I give it an overall FOUR STARS. ****
I also got out Jane Eyre, directed by Franco Zeffirelli. I was always disappointed by the BBC TV series and so was delighted to discover a movie version. It started off amazingly well. Anna Paquin was actually perfect as the young Jane, and everything went along just as I imagined it. William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Rochester and Jane were also very impressive. Elle Macpherson played Blanche Ingram which would have worked okay if they hadn't made her appearance look so cutesy. It doesn't work on a tall, willowy, majestic thing like her, and I don't think Blanche Ingram was supposed to look cutesy anyway. But she served her purpose okay. I was impressed with the little girl who played Adele Varens; she was sweet and she added a few new depths to the story that I hadn't considered before. But then, suddenly, when Jane ran away - it went downhill. It's like they got to the middle of the story and suddenly realised they'd run out of time, and about the whole end half of the story took place in about fifteen to twenty minutes. St John Rivers and one sister made an appearance but were really only token whereas in the book they play such a huge part. So when it was finished I was very disappointed that it had started out so well yet ended in such a rush. THREE STARS. *** Or maybe TWO AND A HALF. ** [+ half an asterisk]
Thursday, January 04, 2007
One of the rather rainy days we encountered.
My nephew Sam wandering through the grounds at the church, on Boxing Day.
I have just powered through one 1300 word essay - in two hours! Congratulate me. Of course I still haven't proofread it and so on but it feels quite encouragaing. Especially as I have two more to do before the 9th. This essay was on "the notion of the littoral" (yes, it's spelt that way) which is apparently something to do with the foreshore or beach and is often used in imagery by New Zealand writers. It's a bit worrying that I still don't know exactly what it means but I'm not too fussed. I'm just glad to have finished!
One of the poems I wrote on I really liked. I thought I would share it. But you have to read it aloud. Okay, so I will let you mouth it under your breath if others are around. Here it is:
Wild Iron, by Allen Curnow
Sea go dark, dark with wind,
Feet go heavy, heavy with sand,
Thoughts go wild, wild with the sound
Of iron on the old shed swinging, clanging:
Go dark, go heavy, go wild, go round,
- Dark with the wind,
- Heavy with the sand,
Wild with the iron that tears at the nail
And the foundering shriek of the gale.
It's been nice doing this course because I've never really read much New Zealand literature before except for children's authors like Margaret Mahy or Sherryl Jordan or Maurice Gee. Some of it wasn't really me, but a lot of it was great. A nice surprise.
I'm not sure if I could say the same for the History course I started yesterday. It's on Gandhi and that stuff is all interesting - but on the very first lecture yesterday, our lecturer managed to slip in what she thinks of modern day Christianity, as if we were interested to know. It made me very annoyed because it had absolutely no relevance to what we were talking about. Argh! I've learnt to handle that stuff from English lecturers, even when it's not on topic, because that's what they do, but up until now History lecturers have always been unbiased or at least backed up what they were saying, which makes me think she isn't very professional. It's also annoying that you are essentially a captive audience with no way of defending yourself. Oh well. I've got over that now...
One of my photos has been published in our city newspaper! Yay! See last post back, of Finlay and the Big Tree. They had a competition to send in holiday photos, so I did. I am now in a draw to win $150. Money always alleviates annoyance. Although funnily enough my Dad says I shouldn't have sent that one in because people weren't actually meant to clamber around on it and we could get in trouble with the Department of Conservation! But I really doubt it. They have more important things to do with their time than stopping four-year-olds from having fun.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
My sister Felicity and nephew Alex, with the bouncy balls Alex made himself from my Christmas present to him.
Alex with the huhu grubs they found in the forest and threatened to feed us surreptitiously.