Saturday, April 26, 2008

negativity and positivity

I just read a blog post of Beck's a few hours ago that I really loved; hence, this post. I'm not sure if Beck set out exactly to list things she doesn't like, but since I love doing just that, that is the task for today. However, life is just going so well right now that I am going to have to tack some positive stuff on the end.


I don't like finding out that I'm a hypocrite. I tend to be a little judgmental of spelling mistakes. I've been trying to stop because it feels kind of elitist/bourgeois/fascist of me to do this, but the problem persists. Anyway, yesterday I discovered that I have been spelling (and probably saying) the word "procrastinate" wrong for my entire life! I always thought it was "procastinate", or at least spelt it that way without thinking. I feel humbled and worm-like.

I don't like going to the mall, or town, and running up against swarms of teenage girls wearing t-shirts saying things like "My boyfriend's hotter than yours" or "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" or (oh-so-politically sophisticated) "killing whales is stupid", carrying huge bags from horrid little teenybopper shops like Supré, cackling, and walking about ten abreast.

I don't like spiders. Nothing surprising there, I suppose. I found a huge white-tail spider in the kitchen this morning; these are slightly poisonous. Not fatal, but reasonably painful. I caught it in a cup, drove ten minutes away, and let it go. I don't like killing them because they're big enough to make me feel guilty about it.

I don't like academic books or articles that insist on using Big And Obscure Words. I read an article today and spent about three minutes (until I gave up) trying to understand this sentence: "The salience of the rubric is inescapable, identifying as it does the project's tendentious literalism." Oh, of course. Utterly inescapable.


I like the star charts me and K. made for the honours room. Almost everyone who uses the room has opted in. Every can of V (energy drink) drunk gets one green star. (I'm winning so far!) Every book bought or borrowed from the library gets a different coloured dot, depending on how many pages there are. Every time someone goes upstairs to wash the teaspoons or fill the kettle, they get a blue star. Communal purchases such as milk or sugar or coffee get a red star. Anytime someone procrastinates they receive a silver star. Special awards earn a gold star. (Example of how this works: J. suggested K. and I deserved the first gold stars and not him, because we had done most of the work, and so we awarded him a special award for being noble.) If anyone spends ten solid hours or more at uni, they get a smiley face (or, if they feel like it, an unhappy face).

I like nice wine! Exclamation mark - because this is a real accomplishment for me. I've realised I like white wine, not red. And it has to be nice stuff, not cheap and nasty. I still don't drink much at all because I only need to have about one glass before I start feeling the effects, but it's a real relief to discover I could like it!

I like babies. Mmmm. And by the way... I'm a godmother. :)

I like buying CDs. Despite not having much money at the moment, sigh. When will I learn to economise?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

welcome to the world... my new baby niece, Miriam Katherine Rose. Born yesterday (22 April), all well, dark hair, little sister to Ruby, very very cute. I know my brother-in-law well enough to know that he wouldn't appreciate me sharing her photo online to potentially millions, so (below) Miriam and little Moses will have to do!

Unfortunately I won't see her for a while as she is in Perth, Australia, but my sister has recently accepted a job offer back in Christchurch starting next year, and they will possibly come back to visit for my father's birthday in August.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

weekends are goooood

Well, I have had a full-on, busy and huge weekend but somehow I feel so refreshed! This is what happened:

On Friday night was my friend K.'s 21st birthday party which was a COSTUME PARTY!!! Such a relief after so many formal/cocktail dress 21sts which, though fun, require an endless supply of pretty clothes. At first I wanted to go as a hippie but then I couldn't find a sufficiently ugly dress at the op shop. So I went and hired me a nun costume! I've wanted to dress up as a nun ever since I got obsessed with The Sound of Music, and I have to say, it's so much fun. I went around all Friday singing "how do you solve a problem like Maria". Below is a picture of me and K. There were also cowboys, Snow White, zombies, fairies, singers from K.I.S.S., Austin Powers, hobbits... and so on.
Then on Saturday morning I got up very early, and a friend (P.) and I drove down to Dunedin for another friend's wedding. I also have two sisters and some friends there, and P. has some friends studying there. It was so much fun travelling with a friend for the five hour trip, and it was a rather beautiful trip too. Soon after leaving Christchurch we had the most beautiful view of the mountains, snow-capped quite early in the year and stretched right out along the horizon.
We also stopped at the Moeraki boulders, which are about two thirds of the way to Dunedin, and spent about half an hour there. Moeraki boulders are weird concretions which you will see below. It was a sunny day but a rather frigid wind was blowing and it made me feel so happy to be back in the New Zealand countryside, feeling fresh, rather than swatting away flies and sweltering in thick windless air in Western Australia. P. has a moral problem with wearing shoes on the beach so she happily froze her toes off.

Dunedin itself was exhibiting absolutely horrible weather when we arrived. I had to go buy myself some tights at a supermarket because I had chosen wedding clothes with Christchurch weather in mind - silly me. The wedding itself was lovely although very very quick; the bride arrived a few minutes early and the vows were all over in maybe ten minutes! Then I spent a lovely evening with my sister V. and her husband and kids, and we stayed at their house.

The next morning I dropped P. off to see friends, and I went out to one of the beaches to visit my brother-in-law and my two nephews (unfortunately my sister was at a conference all weekend so I couldn't see her). They're renting at this beach until they move into their house and it was a beautiful sunny day so we went for a long walk along Brighton beach and climbing around the rocky cliffs (which I am paying for now - I don't think I've used some of those muscles since I broke my heel!). It was great to see them again and it is such a lovely beach. I love Dunedin beaches. They're very pretty but also wild, and it's not uncommon to come across seals, sea lions or penguins enjoying the day. My sister has seen whales off the beach on numerous occasions.

Some crazy man surfing - full wetsuit, but still... it must have been pretty frigid.
After I left their house, I went into Dunedin city for a couple of hours to visit the Otago Museum. Unfortunately the friend I wanted to see had to cancel, so I went instead to the tropical butterfly forest in the museum which I've heard a lot about. This is kept heated at about 34 degrees celsius, so obviously the Dunedin people, who are used to maybe twenty degrees on a really good day, love it. It was very cool, full of tropical plantings and butterflies flying around everywhere. One landed on my camera and some people were walking around with butterflies sitting on them. I took lots of photos but here are a couple of the best.
Then I picked up P. at about 4pm, and we returned to Christchurch! Another beautiful trip until the sun set, and a nice warm electric blanketed bed to hop into at the end.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

growing up

You Are Somewhat Mature

You definitely act like an adult sometimes, but a big part of you is still a kid at heart.

While your immature side is definitely fun, you're going to have to grow up sooner or later.

When I was at school, I always felt a little older intellectually than most people in my class or year group. Especially boys - and I don't think that's uncommon at all!

Once I got to uni, however... for the last three years I've always felt a little behind where others are on most of the obvious levels. Let's say that practically I feel inexperienced. I haven't really had any serious relationships, up until this year I hated alcohol and would have no idea how to order myself a beer at a pub, I live at home with my father, I don't own a car, I came to uni straight from school whereas a lot of people in my classes spent a year abroad or doing other things first. So on and so forth.

Maybe these are all slightly superficial but it did make me feel different to most of the people around me at university. And I found it very strange if anyone ever called me a "woman" because I felt like I was hardly out of school. "Girl" was the more appropriate term.

This year, though - I think this is the first year I am beginning to feel like an adult. Not a lot of those obvious things have changed. I still live with my dad - but when I hear how huge the student loans are of my classmates who have flatted since they started uni, I really don't feel embarrassed. I still don't own a car. I am still almost completely inexperienced in lurve. (I write "lurve" because I'm still so immature it feels silly to write "love".) But this doesn't seem to matter so much now. I have good reasons for living at home; it's not just because I want to skive off my dad. I have good reasons for not buying a car; what would be the point if next year I left New Zealand? I think I know myself well enough now to not really care what other people might see in my circumstances, and I wonder if this is the beginning of maturity.

I still feel young. When I hear about an old school friend who is thinking about buying a house or a business, it still freaks me out. I still find it incredibly surprising that so many of my peers are getting married or having kids. But I don't feel like an awkward teenager anymore and I feel like I can make my own rules now. If you know what I mean. I can think about things like PhDs or careers without flipping out (almost). I've got a lot more growing up to do. But I'm starting to think that perhaps I won't be an awkward kid forever.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

the chaser

While I was in Australia last year, I became addicted to one particular show, The Chaser's War on Everything, and - hooray! - the Chaser has just come to New Zealand TV too. The Chaser are five comedians who basically, er, make war on everything. It's very funny. They take on politicians, corporations, Joe Bloggs on the streets, with song and dance routines and cameras conveniently placed to capture their random-as scenarios. I mentioned them in a blog post last year when they made international news by somehow getting past the hefty APEC security dressed up as Osama bin Laden.

I've been loving watching them on TV again and also looking up favourite or new segments on Youtube, and wanted to share some of the best with you. A lot of the Chaser's stuff only makes sense in Australia because of specific politics/sports/celebrity details etc, but this stuff is universally hilarious.

One of my favourite segments is called If Life Were A Musical, in which they appear before unsuspecting civilians with a song and dance routine that wouldn't look out of place in a musical. Here's one of my favourites: a rainy day umbrella routine. And if you like that, here's four of the best.

Another hilarious alter ego who turns up a lot is Crazy Warehouse Guy. I don't know if these ads appear outside New Zealand and Oz - the man who shouts that he's gone completely crazy and all the prices are down 95% etc etc?? Anyway, Andrew Hansen, my favourite Chaser, has perfected this character, and a fantastic example is in this remake of a Gershwin duet.

Possibly my favourite Chaser episode is this video, in response to current events at the time. Death metal band Cannibal Corpse were banned from touring Australia because of their extremely violent lyrics. So Andrew Hansen decided it would be funny to make a lounge music version of their song "Rancid Amputation". Hilarious.

Another thing the Chaser likes to do is present mock ads or news clips as if they're the real thing - here's one of future Winter Olympic athletes training.

Finally, one of the Chasers, Julian Morrow, does a segment called Open Mic. In this particular video, he goes into random shops, commandeers their public announcement microphone, and gives out a community service announcement. My favourite is the last shop in this video, where he announces a minute's silence.

There are so many more I wanted to share, but if you liked these, just look up "The Chaser" on Youtube, or on their website, and there are many, many more clips to be found. I think their current project is a stage show touring Australia, which I wish I could see.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

audience input needed

Because I am doing a sort of mini-thesis this year, I get to have a supervisor. My particular supervisor is wonderful, an incredibly helpful, funny and interesting Welshman whose speciality is in postwar Germany but who also has a soft spot for Soviet history, which is my area for this particular project. Because he's so great, he has four other Honours students as supervisees (is that a word?!). Today, however, me and another student (let's call her Mandy) started talking about the questions he asks us. As happened to her today, we walk into his office, all ready with our difficult questions and filled up to the ears with Soviet Russia, Social Darwinism, or whatever our particular topics happen to be. As Mandy said today, we say something like, "I just have three questions for you," and he replies something like this.

"Well, I have three questions for you."

Okaaaay. Uh-oh, he's going to ask us some incredibly difficult historically relevant questions that we will probably look like utter prats answering.

Actually, no.

"Do you like: tea or coffee after dinner? Cats or dogs? Friends or Sex and the City?"

On other occasions, it could be something like "Tell me three things you like doing in your spare time."

The other day, he asked me how things were going, I said "up and down", and he asked me to tell him one example of up, and one example of down.

So, one of the things I like about him is that he actually does take an interest in us. But when he puts you on the spot like that, especially when you've got three incredibly difficult history questions on the tip of your tongue, it can be very embarrassing. Personally, my mind goes entirely blank. One time, he said to me, "tell me something about you that I don't already know", and I stood in the doorway going "Um.... um.... um.... um..." and of course came off looking like an incredibly boring and inarticulate person.

So Mandy and I have been talking. We have decided next time we see him to turn this whole situation around on him, ask him the random questions before the meeting as such starts, and so we just need some seemingly random but interesting, non-history related questions to ask him. This is where you guys come in. Any suggestions will be much appreciated! Remember, we want to leave him at a loss for words.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

being a copycat

Jenkneebee has just done a fantastic blog post on the St. Paul Stone Arch Bridge as part of something called My Town Monday. Being, uh, me, I wanted to do the same thing! (I love how this form of plagiarism is acceptable while blogging!) I don't exactly intend to do something like this every single Monday but I do think it's a cool idea. So, I have chosen to write the Arts Centre, which is in the heart of Christchurch and one of my favourite places to go. (Here is the website for it.)

The University of Canterbury was founded in 1873 and what is now the Arts Centre was the site. Unfortunately for me, the university moved in 1974 to its current campus in Ilam, which is just not as pretty as the Arts Centre, though bigger. My dad studied at the original site in his days of BSc and MSc, and below are some older photos of the buildings and grounds.

The modern Arts Centre has kept its Gothic architecture, thank goodness, but the contents of it are quite different now. Restaurants, cafes, arty shops and galleries and workshops. I think some parts of the buildings are even apartments now, but most of the area is open to the public and there are heaps of things to do and see.

There is also at the Arts Centre a fantastic little movie theatre called Academy Cinema, which plays any slightly arty or special movie that has just come out, and also regularly plays a few films that are just so good people keep coming back. Gloomy Sunday has been playing there every night at 7.15pm for about five years now, in a tiny little theatre that seats about nine people. Also at the Arts Centre is the Court Theatre, which always has something of very high quality on - Shakespeare, modern drama, improvised comedy, musicals, you name it.
The Arts Centre is just about the most popular wedding photo destination in Christchurch (as below), and it is general practice now to book different areas in it for photos so that there are not huge numbers of bridal parties fighting it out for the best photos. Venues at the Arts Centre like the Great Hall can be hired for weddings as well.
There are heaps of cool little shops at the Arts Centre which I have loved to visit all my life. The Fudge Cottage (below), is one of the best. The fudge is delicious, and there are always free samples to taste. :) Another favourite of mine is Beadz Unlimited, a fantastic shop filled with a huge amount of beautiful beads and everything you could ever need to make your own jewellery. Even if I don't want to buy anything I visit it every time I go to the Arts Centre. Besides these particular shops, there's a huge amount of little arty shops filled with paintings, pottery, woodwork, and so on. Great for wedding presents or any kind of present that you want to be slightly special.

However, my favourite, favourite part of the Arts Centre is the markets that you can shop at on Saturdays and Sundays (below). These are random, arty and eclectic, some are expensive items, some are cheap. There's always some buskers round (including, in 2006, yours truly) and great food to sample. Even if you don't buy anything it's fun to look around.
The restaurants and cafes are also some of my favourites in town. The Dux de Lux is a vegetarian and fish restaurant that occupies the old Student Union building. Le Cafe has the best chicken nachos and coffee, and a great brunch menu. Alchemy cafe, down the road at the Art Gallery, makes the best iced coffee I've ever had. One of the best parts, though, is the ethnic food stalls that are open on the weekends, where you can buy incredibly yummy food from all over the world and then eat it on the sunny North Quad lawn.

Technically not in the Arts Centre, but so close that I have to mention them, are some other great places: Across the road, the Botanic Gardens and the Canterbury Museum (below)...

... the Antigua Boatsheds (below), where you can hire canoes for an hour or two and paddle up and down the Avon River, or hire some time on a punt, being peacefully punted along the river by a nice looking man in a funny uniform and flat hat...
... and the Christchurch Art Gallery (below), which is obviously a building of more modern architecture, but which I think is really quite beautiful, and filled with fantastic artwork, a very cool bookshop, and, as I mentioned before, a fantastic cafe.
The End. Come visit me and I'll show you around!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

China, China, China

Why don't people learn from history? Currently I'm reading all these bizarre and saddening stories about Westerners who would make up any excuse for the atrocities in Stalin's Russia, and then I turn on the news to see New Zealand politicians overjoyed at the free trade agreement they've scored with China, and very very quiet whenever someone mentions human rights. Probably two minutes before there would have been a news item on what scurrilous little Fiji has done now, and how noble our politicians have been in standing up against it.

It's not that I think our politicians shouldn't make a stand against loss of crucial rights in Fiji such as freedom of press. But I would like to point out, if I may, that Fiji is not in possession of a massive economy and therefore there's no reason for us to play dumb. Neither is Fiji shooting people in the back of the head every day and charging their families for the bullets.

Then the sports news comes on, and here's some more New Zealand athletes happily signing gag agreements, and explaining that politics has nothing to do with sports and that their job is to go and compete, and to hell with human rights. (I paraphrased a little there.) Thank goodness that some athletes, such as Mark Todd, have made it clear from the outset that they have absolutely no intention of keeping their mouth shut just to keep Beijing happy.

Maybe later that evening there will be a documentary on the Berlin Olympics in 1936 (any guesses on the amount of politics that will be featured in that story of sports?), or perhaps on the South African Springboks rugby tour of New Zealand in 1981. The noble few who protested against anything less than condemnation of apartheid. The exclusion of Maori players from the All Blacks team so as not to offend the sensitive white Springbok sportsmen. The evil sports bosses who claimed politics doesn't come into it. Bishop Desmond Tutu on how much the protests meant to them. Maybe a few sportsmen will be interviewed who will concede that at the time perhaps they hated the protesters, but now they have seen the light.

Please, sportspeople, politicians, pick up a history book. Every once in a while. And consider the probability that one day you will be featured in one. Do you really want to be the people we look back on, disgusted and amazed at how anyone could be so (a) stupid or (b) callous and indifferent to human suffering?

So. This year I am boycotting the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately my decision won't have much of an effect. Unfortunately most of those few people whose decisions would make a difference will be zipping their lips tight shut, because it's not their job.