Sunday, September 28, 2008

601 - a picture paints (not quite) a thousand words

You have to love blogging. It is community building at its best. From these words on digital pages I have met so many interesting people. Made great friends. Experienced a diversity of virtual connections. But the latest has got to take the cake.

Ever taken much notice of the graffiti I use as an identifier? I took it on an instamatic camera (ah life before digital) when I was a teenager spending six months living in Sydney. I’d been catapulted from Wellington (population under 300,000) to a city of more than 3 million. It was 1982. Despite this era being the dizzy intersection of punk and post-punk, I put on my best frock and got a proper job, in an office doing the most menial work on a big government health study.

My time in Sydney cemented my love of graffiti. BUGA UP was at its height. Writings on walls, pre-tagging, were witty, political and an emerging art form. One sunny day in Paddington, the following spray made me laugh.

Oh the irony.

Fast forward 25 years and I am living in Australia again. As I flipped through some old photos, the words seemed just a relevant now I find myself amidst the whole food blog/foodie pretension/food porn thing. It seemed the perfect bridge between my disparate blogs. Ironic? Moi!

Then a short while ago, while bringing yet another blog to life, I got a comment from one of the people responsible for the words on the wall. I’ve got Andra’s (coincidentally another outspoken kiwi) permission to share the story. Here it, as she told me via email.

…if you remember the period and the area. Darlinghurst was full of arty squats. Kings Cross was squalid. Paddington was the height of pretension south of the bridge.

My friends and I lived (and died) in the coffee shops of Darlo, Victoria Rd and Oxford St. We fancied ourselves as real punks, feminists, artists and voyagers but we were complete wankers.

That was when the book "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche" had become popular. I think the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend (which we read) did a big feature on the 'arty punks of paddington.. or darlo.. and the coffee shop scene'. We stayed up all night (as we did) and decided that my 'real punks can't spell cappoc cuppa.. coffee' was clever.

We were so artschool! The trouble we had organising the logistics. Who had access to a car! What sort of paint. Who was going to be lookout. Where were we going to paint. I think we ended up with 5 lookouts, 1 driver and 1 painter. I think we sprayed in 3 locations, Darlo, Ultimo and Paddington. The Paddo location stayed up for a while. I can't remember exactly where cause it's all changed and I've moved but the bottom end of Glenmore Rd near Oxford St on the borders of Kings Cross/Rushcutters/Darlo is where I remember that one.

We really were ahead of the graffiti curve in Australia! I think that spray also got featured shortly after in a coffee table type book on public art or punk art.

I love stories that come full circle.

Words on walls, tags, public art, whatever – is by nature temporary. I'm glad this story has had its moment in the sun again, even if it is in yet another transient medium.

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post-punk nostaligia part 2

Part 2? It was the only way I could think of to celebrate 600 posts of Health, Philosophy, Politics and Other Rants!

I should really be writing a piece on how Stephen Fielding and Family First has blocked the only pro-single person legislation to attempt to be enacted into law for donkey's years but saying "I told you so" to the ALP is no way to jump for joy at turning 600. Rudd and his buddies have no one to blame but themselves that the wonderful changes to the Medicare Levy for singletons got dumped in the Senate, being haunted by elections past when the Labour party preferenced Family First (fundamentalist christian political party) instead of the Greens. I'd be kissing goodbye to a massive wad of tax that I've had to pay if the Greens had got the preference back then.

But I digress.

Just one more bit of kiwi music nostalgia.

Blam, Blam, Blam, "There is no depression in New Zealand"

All these years later it's still a timely song.

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post-punk nostaligia part 1

A discussion about graffiti in the dazzling days of punk here in the Antipodes has sent me off on a jag of post-punk '80's kiwi music. Early music videos, poor production levels, dodgy sound quality and all - thanks to the kind you-tubing souls who've made this little trip possible.

Blam, Blam, Blam, "Don't fight it Marsha, its bigger than both of us". Ah, Don McGlashan I adored you from that moment in Orientation Week when I saw you play PVC pipes with jandals!

The Chills, "Pink Frost". How can any tribute to the '80's not include some Chills? This vid is a fine example of artistic expression in the new medium of music videos!

Look Blue Go Purple, "Cactus Cat" - worth seeing for the interview with the band bookending the clip (nice cat!) - and the need to ask "Are there any difficulty (sic) in being an all female band?" .

"The Verlaines, "Death and the Maiden". More cutting edge art interspersed with playing in the lounge room complete with fag stuck into the guitar and a white bunny. How can you not like a song with lyrics like "You're just too, too ob-scu-re for me"?

I was definitely a clone of those short haired girls jiggling in the background!

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

back to my roots

At twenty, on the day I finished my BA, after a post-exam lunch at the pub I headed off to the hairdresser. After all, the very next day I had my first job interview. My hair was already short. The long, flaxen locks a mere childhood phase. There was not much room to go even shorter or spikier but I needed something to celebrate my coming of age. So the hairdresser decided that colour would be the best way to go and my inaugural brush with the dye pot left me with a fringe in three shades of red.

Strangely, teamed with my most conservative frock, it did not get me the first job I applied for. My academic record suggested I was conscientious but no doubt the discordance in my appearance told another story.

But back to the hair. After the first wash the tricolour bangs (don’t you just love that American term!) reverted to one uniform shade of ginger. Ginger! No lush red, no gold – just common or garden carrot top. I was devastated. The hairdresser looked knowingly and said “Ah, you must have some red strands in your hair – so you can’t hold red dye”. What? I was blondish, mouse-ish but never a redhead. On closer examination I found my hair told another story. Some strands were fair, others brown, strangely there had been the odd bit of grey since I was thirteen but now I saw red and even black. Black? Red? What was going on?

As I’ve got older I realise my hair has been belying my roots all along. Despite two brown haired parents, there was the uncle red-haired as a child and as for the black?

Just who is my great-grandmother? Any clues as to her heritage?

Her son, my mother’s father was “swarthy” and some of his offspring have a decidedly olive complexion. They joked that maybe there was a mafia connection, Italian blood perhaps? But not one of his children wanted to dig too closely to find out. My aunt, now with gloriously white hair, her face permanently “tanned” admitted recently to being asked quite often who her “people” are. Maori elders wanting to know her iwi. She brushes them off, not exactly offended but disquietened, “Oh no, all Anglo here”. But it gets me thinking.

One day, a number of years ago I heard compatriot Russell Crowe on the radio. It was the international year of Indigenous Peoples and he was proclaiming his newfound Maori heritage, going to a marae and meeting distant relatives. To be honest my first thought was “wanker”- having had the privileges of a pakeha upbringing, now it was considered almost trendy to claim indigenous roots, what rights did he have to call himself Maori when it suited him?

Which leads me to wonder. If Great Grandma’s ancestry really was deep in the roots of Aotearoa, not some distant shore – does that change who I am? Can I claim it with pride, not feel like a fraud?

As much as I love my partner, half Italian/half Anglo, would he be offended to know that as to my own DNA, I hope it lies closer to home?

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

the face of the nation

When I first left New Zealand I would have been lucky to make it back for a visit every eighteen months, or so. These days, with the state of the elderly parents, I am hopping across the Tasman every three or four months. Considering the frequency of these visits you would think there would be no changes in the place big enough to surprise me.

But there was one thing that struck me like a blunt object between the eyes – the biculturalism of New Zealand television.

In Melbourne the box has been in the shed since the last trip ‘home’ so I’ve become completely desensitised to advertising. Being in family lock down as I got exposed to rather a lot of what was on TV in Kiwiland. A year or so ago I became impressed with the ALAC campaign “It’s not the drinking. It’s how we’re drinking”, on alcohol awareness. Most of us would prefer to not clone ourselves when on a bender but this public health series does well by avoiding demonising alcohol or moralising about standard drinks measurements.

But it was everyday advertising that struck me this time. New Zealand is a Maori/Polynesian and Pakeha (white) society. When mainstream ads reflect this, then you know that is true. It seemed to me that almost every home grown commercial featured the true faces of the country. How often are Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders depicted in ads for every day products? Can anyone think of any?

Though you’d need to be familiar with name of the company shown at the end to know what the heck it was actually trying to sell, as a slice of life I fell in love with the ad recently.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

a coming out of sorts

I’ve hidden this blog away like a treasure to be explored on a rainy day.

That day has now come (though there is more wind than rain) and I am opening deliberately barren to become a collaborative blog with any other women who are child-free, child-less, infertile or just didn’t quite get around to having children, to join in.

The title is in honour of Australia’s first female deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, jibe from the enlightened Mr Heffernan – stating she was unfit for leadership because she was ”deliberately barren”.

This forum is open to be read by all – men, women, parents, step-parents, bereaved parents – with contributions by women who fall into the category of barren whether through choice or circumstances, deliberately or not. There is the opportunity to celebrate, grieve, laugh, rant, raise awareness and much more. But most of all, it is time for us to come out of the shadows.

If you would like to be part of this collaboration email me – otherrants (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

blog as confessional

It’s weird but I haven’t felt at all het up about hurricane Ike in the way that I felt about Gustav and now feel strangely guilty about my lack of concern for the peoples of the affected region.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

my day in lists

osteopath 9.30

present/card for dad

wrap mum’s present

thank you card for Aunty M and something to add to her present?

dry washing do the washing

charge batteries, phone, laptop


return books/dvds to library

check all the other lists on iphone notes

remind the NB (again) that I’m going tomorrow after work, not today

It’s not a holiday to a sunny clime, just another tour of familial duty in NZ. I ache for a week of sun, sea and abandon but that’s on hold this year. Will be back in a bit.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Even from the safe distance of being on the other side of the world, Gustav watch has become an obsession.

Since Katrina, which was sad and horrifying enough to observe from afar, I’ve followed the plight of Lisa through her blog and virtual friendship as she and her family have gone through the ups and downs of temporary homes, work, schools, dramas and a return to New Orleans. Three years on her home is still not habitable. Imagine three years of dealing with a recalcitrant insurance company, dodgy contractors and living with your mother? Actually I can’t, I get too stressed just contemplating it.

Now they are doing it all over again. Fleeing the city, which means a long slow crawl in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Finding and paying for accommodation for an unknown length of time. Knowing how bad it was last time. Who knows what will happen next?

For the Gustav obsessed, the various radar and other images at Weather Underground are compelling. Almost as much as tuning into the local bloggers – tales of evacuation but also some brave/mad souls who are staying put (keep an ear out for Craig, he’s doing some media links with Australia).

Being an atheist there are no pithy platitudes to use at such a time (surely a second hit on such an amazing city is all the proof you need that there is no god?) but for what it is worth my thoughts and hopes are with you all.

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