Friday, January 30, 2004

a personal message ...

Ian Pryor, if you're reading this - a big fat juicy hi to you!

Its so cool to know someone actually found my blog and read it - seeing your name in one of my posts may have something to do with it....

I'm lousy at phoning people, so get yourself a new e-mail account so we can catch up electronically until my phoning self-improvement plan takes effect (this could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months though!).

My library has your Peter Jackson bio, even before I got around to recommending it to the aquisitions folks.

An exhibition of gown art

My neighbour, Jo Torr, is an artist. (She's also a trained librarian, but thats by-the-by). She's having an exhibition at Avid, of gowns, which opened tonight.

These gowns are sort of 18th Century-ish. The kind with the corset and the bustle and the decolletage. What's different about them is that the fabric has been screenprinted in black and white with images taken from old photos of Pacific Island people.

Now, I only managed to read a couple of pages of the accompanying literature before getting caught up in a conversation with Jo's lovely mum - but I gather that the works are a statement about the way white folks used to objectify non-white cultures.

It was a sort of 'white gaze', as opposed to a 'male gaze'.
Both women and men in the images are 'noble savages', subject to white people's cultural arrogance and stereotyping.

At least, that's what I think those dresses were all about.

Jo's mum introduced herself to me and was really lovely. I was happy to meet Denise, one of the two (identical twin) models wearing the works. I was interested to learn that she's a professional illustrator, and attends life drawing sessions at the school where I learned to draw.

Of course, being an aspiring artist, I wanted to know everything she did and how. It seemed I'd made a friend.

I think I must be good at this social networking thing.

Janet Frame

Janet Frame died yesterday. We wanted to put up a display for her in the library, and got together some books and other display materials. It didn't go up until this morning, because we'd been waiting for the supports for our new display board.

Our display attracted a bit of interest, and several patrons mentioned how great a writer she was.

I really must read some of her books. I think I'll start with volume one of her autobiography, 'To the Is-land'. I'll let you know how I go....

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I may be a born-again techno-cretin

I don't know about that RSS thing. I tried out the 'Feed' link mentioned in the 27th, and apparently some sort of sortware is needed for it to work.

Or maybe I'm supposed to copy and paste all that html code which appears when I click on another blog's 'Feed' link...

I can't be bothered trying to figure it out right now. If I wanted to be knee-deep in techie stuff I'd have kept my programming job two years ago...

Well, if it doesn't work for you, here's something else. You can now subscribe to my blog - all you have to do is enter your e-mail address in that text box on the lower left, and click on 'subscribe'.

Each time I make a new post, you'll get an e-mail - hopefully with the whole post in the body of the e-mail. Go on, try it.

'Sex and the City' - for middle aged men

If you haven't seen BBC's comedy series, 'Manchild', yet - start now. It's already in it's second series, and you wouldn't want to miss out on the character development would you?

As you might have guessed from my title, Manchild is about 4 Englishmen in their 50's, all financially 'comforable' and great mates. Two are divorced, one of whom openly chases 20-something girlies; one is happily married yet envious of the exploits of his single friends;and the fourth is a confirmed bachelor of the old-fashioned sort i.e. you never see him with a girlfriend, but he isn't gay (as far as I can tell).

Heres a site which tells you all about the series, including episode guides and a facility allowing you to submit and/or read reviews....

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

RSS feed now available

This atom thing which Blogger now has available - I suppose it means that all you have to do is click on the link at left and you'll get each and every one of my lovely blog posts in your e-mail. Won't that be convenient?

I take a walk on the wilder side

Or, if you're a bit worldlier than me, a walk on the less tame side....

Last weekend we went to the Cosmic Corner shop to have a bit of a browse, and left with 2 purchases which put a grin on my face :

1. a small black t-shirt with a picture of a small, angular feline and the words 'Bad Kitty' underneath. It's sort of naughty, but in a subtle way. I wore it to work yesterday, wondering whether it would get any comments. The first 2 people to say anything about it were men. The other person was a young, pierced, belly-dancing fellow library-assistant. Not as subtle as I thought?

2. Some 'herbal highs' - 2 capsules per packet. These are supposed to either mellow you out or hype you up, depending on the label. I tried one of the mellow ones, and sure enough I did feel mellow all afternoon. But then, one can't be sure the effect isn't purely psychological. My boy had one of the speed-like capsules, and claimed to feel more 'up' afterwards.

To make this more scientific, we're going to have to try them a few more times.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

More on the Peter Jackson biography

The review in my previous post's link is not nearly so positive as the one in The DominionPost. I'd be inclined to go with the latter, since the reviewer is a well-respected rock critic and musician whom I've actually read and heard. And also 'cos Ian's a mate...

Here are are couple more articles on the book,
in Stuff
and in the NZ Herald

An unauthorised biography of Peter Jackson

A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself listening to a radio interview with an aquaintance of mine, Ian Pryor. He's just had a book published about Peter Jackson, New Zealand's film-maker god/hero.

I'd first met Ian while backpacking in northern Italy about a decade ago, when he was on his way to the Cannes Film Festival. The next time I met him (in New Zealand), he was moonlighting in a trendy video shop while freelancing as a film journalist.

And yet I had no idea he was working on a book about Peter Jackson.

I've since seen the book in the shops, but my library assistant job and salary prevent me from buying books if theres a chance I can borrow it for nothing.

I still don't know for myself whether it's a good book, however The DominionPost has given it an excellent review (its the paper's Book of the Week), so I'll definitely be entering their draw for a free copy.

Heres an online article about the book.

BTW, it's called 'Peter Jackson: From Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings' and published by Random House.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Whakapapa photos

In case anyone's interested, photos from the weekend in the mountains can be found here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Possibly everything you ever wanted to know about dragons

This site has heaps of info about the history of dragons in various cultures, and even something about the physiology and anatomy of dragons.

I've yet to check it for accuracy e.g. whether the Maori word for dragon really is 'tarakona' (I thought maybe it was 'taniwha'?), and there is a bit of a commercial side to it (you can buy dragon merchandise on the site). But the author seems to simply be genuinely interested in dragon mythology.

I'd like to know her source for the anatomical drawings.

Talk about changeable weather!

Over the weekend it was all lovely and sunny and warm...
Yesterday all my extremities froze in the wintery cold and wind, when I was dressed for a mildly cool day...

Overnight there was such a horrible storm that the street sign on the corner blew right off the signpost. My gatepost, which was admittedly rotting already, had completely uprooted and was trying to lie flat against the footpath. The howling kept me awake all night and made me dream of leaks in the roof....

So this morning I dressed for winter cold, only to find once I got to work that the temperatures are merely mildly cool.
Talk about changeable!

Monday, January 19, 2004

Back from a weekend in the mountains

We just got back this afternoon, from a weekend at Whakapapa, staying at a tramping club lodge with about 30 other people.

Several friends, some of whom I've known since primary school, were going to be there. Also, I was looking to forward to a weekend away in which it wasn't just the two of us. The promise of walks was a super-bonus...

I haven't done any tramping in years, and I didn't think my boy was up to it - he's a chain smoker and I've never seen him excercise on a regular basis - so I thought we'd be looking to do a short stroll here and there while the others were out doing the Tongariro Crossing (which apparently takes about 8 hours to complete).

We were spared from deciding whether to do that particular trip however, because we didn't turn up until late Saturday afternoon. On the following day, most people wanted to do something a little shorter, such as the 4-5 hr walk up to the crater lake on Ruapehu. And this is the one we joined up with.

This walk consisted of 2 ski-lift rides which took us most of the way up (in beautiful weather), then a scramble on loose dirt and boulders, then zig-zagging up the soft-snow covered slopes to the ridge, then a walk along the ridge to Dome Hut which overlooks the crater lake.

My boy did bloody well for a sedentary computer-game-addict. He not only insisted on carrying my gear in his daypack, but managed to get to the ridge before succumbing to oxygen-deprivation. So he stayed there, and I kept him company (I was well fit for the full trip, honest!), and other 5 in our group continued on.

Then we had to run/slide back down to catch the last chair-lift back to the village or suffer the consequences i.e. an additional 2.5 hour walk to get back. My claim to fame on this leg of the journey was spectacularly bad slide down a portion of the slope, in which I totally lost control and ended up going head first (though face up) for about 20 metres. And then I had to trek back up a bit to retrieve my sunglasses.

We finished off with a soak in hot mineral springs, after which I almost nodded off to sleep even though it was only about 7pm.

Friday, January 16, 2004

I want feedback

Actually, I want to know whether anyone is reading this blog....
Regardless of the answer to this question, I will keep on posting because you never know. And the mere possibility that you might be reading this right now, or have read one of my previous posts, is enough to keep me writing.

So I've created myself an e-mail account specifically for you, the reader, to enable you to send me a message. You can tell me as little as you want - just let it be relevant to the blog and not just a random rant or piece of spam.

Click on the 'Gimme Feedback' link at the left there, and talk to me.................

Thursday, January 15, 2004

A weekend in the mountains, and preparations for Chinese New Year

I'm so looking forward to this weekend. We're joining a large group of friends, aquaintances and strangers, at a tramping club lodge which is approximately 5 1/2 hours drive from home.

There'll be walks, chats, party games, communal meals, quiet reading times and opportunities for drawing and photography - and no work until Tuesday.

Plus its a cheap weekend away, with no chance of frittering away hard-earned dosh on unnecessary stuff like DVDs and such like.

I've been organising a display for the library, to celebrate Chinese New Year. I have to admit that my personal experience of this festival is - lots of food, especially the kind particular to New Year, and receiving 'lucky money'. Giving away money and displaying food wouldn't really work at a public library, would it?

So I sourced a few small Chinese lanterns, a Good Luck poster (bright red and gold and glittery - that shamelessly tacky style done so well in Hong Kong), and some lucky money envelopes. I've collected a few library books on all things Chinese - New Year, cooking, astrology, ink painting, calligraphy...even a biography claiming to cover a period of 900 years (must get around to reading it). Might even try to get hold of some Amy Tan books or similar.

Being the first time I've ever organised a library display, I'll be sure to take photos of the end result, for my CV.....

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Hot, hot weather

It's really hot today. I don't know what the temperature is, probably in the mid-twenties (Celsius). That doesn't sound hot compared to, say, Prague at the height of summer (it was 41 degrees C when I was there once), but for the lower North Island it's STEAMING hot.

I'm doing a shift at the branch library this afternoon, and this building has no air-conditioning and no fans. I've opened a couple of windows, but there's very little breeze to blow in. Oh, if only I wasn't working, I could find a nice shady spot under some trees and actually enjoy the sunny-ness.

I shouldn't complain - we generally have disappointing summers. The weather here is so iffy that people actually remember back to that halcyon time (about 5 years ago) when we had two very nice summers in a row. I bet people in Hawaii or Queensland don't have thoughts like that.....

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Impenetrable philosophy writing

I've just finished with the book 'The Matrix and Philosophy' (ed. William Irwin), and I have to say a lot of it was a real slog.

As someone who has studied very little philosophy at an academic level, but has a 'pop' interest in it, it was a little frustrating - the stuff I could follow was the stuff which was already getting to be old hat for me e.g. the film's use of the ideas of real vs unreal, knowing vs not knowing, the Buddhist touches blah blah blah. Plus, the same few ideas seemed to be repeated over several articles, quoting the same few quotes from the film.

Where an article was about something I hadn't come across before, I couldn't bloody understand what the writer was talking about...
Prior knowledge was assumed and I didn't have it. It didn't help that some of the language was...impenetrable.

It's a library book, so I don't have the luxury of re-reading it over and over (with a bit of research into Lacan and anything else I am ignorant of). But I suppose if I owned a copy I'd be free to do that, and probably appreciate some of the writings a little more.

Overall, a much less accessible book than 'Buffy the Vampire slayer and Philosophy'.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

A work day in the life of a librarian-in-training

I just found out what time my classes will be for my first MLIS (Master of Library and Information Studies).

Fortunately, its at 9am, which means I can go to my class, then drive straight to work afterwards. This, as opposed to the idea of driving allllll the way to UH and then driving alllll the way back into the City for the class, then driving alllll the way back to UH to finish the working day - you get the idea.

There's a young guy who comes into the library quite regularly - an ultra-clever 14 year-old who's been banned from our computers because he's notorious for working around the in-built restrictions which prevent normal patrons from accessing the Internet freely (without paying).

He knows I'm a soft-touch 'cos I'm newish (been there 5 months) and not yet sufficiently fed up with his cheekiness to tell him off when I should. He's likeable y'see, and intelligent. I respect intelligent people and if they're likeable as well, its hard to be hard on 'em.

As for my progress on getting my heavy vehicle driving licence - I've booked myself in for the written test for this coming Wednesday. Once I pass that, I get a learner's licence. That means I'll be let loose on the library bus - with an instructor anyway. What worries me is that the first thing I'll have to do is back the thing out of the garage.

The bus fits the garage like the meat in a sausage roll fits in the pastry. Not one of those dried-out sausage rolls you see sitting, rejected, late in the day in a cafe. I mean those sausage rolls fresh out of the oven, pastry clinging to the filling like ...umm...a clingy thing.....

We went to a birthday/New Year party last night. The first part for ages - that's right, we did not party over Xmas and New Year, sad isn't it?

Great party anyway. The kind where you know and love most of the people there, and the others are really friendly and interesting so it doesn't matter that you have no idea who they are.

Then I got lost on the way home.

Philosophy Humour

I thought this was quite amusing - at least, the bits I understood, anyway. Have a read of this qestion below, then click here to find the answer....

Dear Doctor Rude,

I think I understand what a "platonic kiss" is, but could you explain to me the difference between the following kisses?

Aristotelian kiss
Hegelian kiss
Wittgensteinian kiss
Godelian kiss

Flummoxed in Florida

Thursday, January 08, 2004

A database chock full of journal articles

I found this site, called FindArticles (see the link in the sidebar) today.

Of course, I had to test it, so I entered 'Buffy the vampire slayer' in the search box. Lo and behold, lots of articles - some of them scholarly, others the kind of thing you read in the entertainment portion of the newspaper.

The one I was most interested in was this one on Buffy and The X Files, because - guess what - I'm a fan of the old X Files series too.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

A little bit of introspection....

I saw this little questionnaire in a blog, which I thought was quite interesting. No right answers, you just answer it and other people get to find out more about you....

The questions, and my answers, are below:

If you could afford it at this moment, you would buy -
a car stereo
a bigger house
an overseas holiday
(umm maybe you're only supposed to give one answer..)

Your most beautiful childhood memory of your parents -
Actually I can’t think of a single thing

Your most horrifying childhood memory of your parents -
Waking up one morning to find Mum really sick with an ulcer and about to be rushed to the hospital

At your funeral, you want people to remember you as -
Cool, smart, interesting and funny

Something that makes you happy -
Praise, especially for a painting I did

Your greatest fear about aging -
Getting sick easily, going senile and having no money to make it more comfy

Sex is -
The one activity in which I like to be not in control

If I had extra money -
I’d buy that car stereo. Those long drives to and from work really bore me.

My most important goal right now -
To get back into shape so I don’t have to keep buying bigger clothes

The word to best describe your life -
Nah, I can’t think of just ONE word.. ‘Interesting‘, if I had to pick one.

What would you have answered?

a poem by Alistair Campbell

My friend Tama, whom I know from life-drawing, sent me this lovely lovely poem by a Cook Island New Zealander. I have no idea what its about, but it just sounds lovely....

IX Trade Winds

You were just a girl,
one of two wild sisters,
when he came to Tongareva,
a gloomy trader,
his soul eaten away
by five years
in the trenches.
You followed him
from island to island,
bore his children
only to see your dreams
break up
on the hidden reef
of Savaiki.
your footsteps falter
outside my window,
where you have waited
fifty years
for your children
to return.
The moon comes out,
as a mother's face
over a sleeping child.
the trade winds
are your fingers
on my eyelids.
Nice, eh?

I get to eat out for lunch

My friend Raych was back in New Zealand for Christmas and New Year. She's been in Columbia working on her PhD and will soon be heading off to Berkeley where she's got funding to do more research (don't ask me what its on - something about geographical/demographic information systems).

So for the first time since starting this job last July, I get to go out to lunch with a friend. Actually, two friends and a 3-year-old. Even better, I was shouted food and drink.

A bit of a relief, actually, even the sandwiches are about seven bucks.

It gets a bit socially boring for me out here, in UH. All my friends work in the City, so it's too far for them or I to go just for lunch - its a 45 minute drive each way, with parking anxiety thrown in if you're heading into the City.

I get a bit more reading done I suppose. I keep suggesting to my workmates that we at the library should have paid reading time during the day, to allow us to keep up with the collection.

Its falling on deaf ears though.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

End of Hols. Boo

After almost two weeks off work, I've already started thinking about work again (I'm back in tomorrow). Not that work is so bad. Its just so much more fun when I don't. I'm probably speaking for a fair few people out there....

I've been reading the NZ Sunday Star Times, which is our version of all the great Sunday papers available in the UK (but nowhere near as physically big). There is a bit of a feature on how time-poor double-income families are. I don't even have kids myself (but I do have a mother, that might count), and I feel time-poor. And I haven't even started my Masters yet (which I'll be doing part-time). Maybe I'm just sick and tired of working, and it wasn't just a matter of finding my vocation after all.

Before I left my IT job a few years ago, I asked myself what I what do if I won Lotto. My answer, when I was still single, was that I would travel the world until the money ran out. Now that I'm not, the answer would be to live my life out as a perpetual (but rich) student. I'd study whatever the hell I felt like, without caring about how it would affect my job prospects.

Of course, I haven't gotten around to buying Lotto so there's zero chance of winning millions. Damn that sensible, non-gambling gene!

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Wear makeup, get a job

I saw this post on the greenfairy blog. There's a newspaper article defending the bias of employers towards makeup for women workers. The post, and the comments on it, make interesting reading

Friday, January 02, 2004

Finding fiction I can relate to - Margaret Forster

For the longest time, I wouldn't read fiction about contemporary family relationships. Those stories seemed to be mostly about white, middle-class people and surely wouldn't have much in common with me (a first generation Chinese New Zealander wrestling with the conflicts between a strict, traditional upbringing and the Western culture of my surroundings).

In order for me to consider reading a novel (unless it was science fiction), it would have to be about offspring of immigrants, preferably female.

That worked for ages, I got to enjoy the work of Amy Tan, Ruth Ozeki, Patricia Chao and, more recently, Meera Syal.

I've since had to take it all back. Margaret Forster. I only discovered her less than a year ago, even though she's been around for decades, and only because a memoir of hers was on the reading list for a course I was doing. But I've now read 2 memoirs and 3 novels by her, and enjoyed every single one:

'Hidden Lives' is the result of Forster delving into her family history, catalysed by the knowledge that her grandmother had had an illegitimate daughter.

'Precious Lives' is about the slow journey towards death, of Forster's father and sister-in-law respectively. Throughout, Forster tries to answer the question of what exactly is it that drives an individual to cling to life - what is it that makes life so precious.

And the novels I've just completed are 'Georgy Girl', 'The travels of Maudie Tipstaff' and .'Mother can you hear me?'

I could identify with most of the female characters in some way, even the ones who were an absolute pain in the neck.

The novels are, I suppose, female-oriented in theme and approach - mothers and daughters; fathers and daughters; the struggle to escape parental manipulation, yet being unable to completely break bonds. They actually are not so different from Amy Tan's books - the cultural settings are different but the themes are universal.