Jul 4, 2015

When men piss me off with their art

This is a ranty post. It's also not entirely serious, but it is a little bit serious, because the things I mention really did/do annoy me, though probably not all to the degree I'm presenting them here. I'm exaggerating a little to make my point.  It's just for fun :)

When men piss me off with their art

You won't get any argument from me that most great artists are men. You will get an argument from me if you try and say that's because men are better than women at art, but that's another story.

(The pram in the hall - I'm just saying).

Anyway, as there is so much great art, high and low, produced by so many talented men, I have been a big fan of a number of talented men all my life. And when you're a huge fan of someone with huge talent, it is easy to assume that that person is also a wonderful human being who you would personally like and admire in the flesh, and that they generally see the world the same way you do, because after all, don't you both agree on what makes awesome art??

So it is a shock when these artists disappoint you. You might find out they might not be nice people (Terence Howard - you disappointed me greatly, sir). Or, as is equally jarring, an artist you love suddenly produces something that pisses you off!

Gordon Lightfoot

I LOVE Gordon Lightfoot. If there is a better slow sultry country song than Sundown then I haven't heard it. I love Early Morning Rain, If You Could Read My Mind, Carefree Highway....

Carefree Highway. I do love it, but it also never fails to piss me off a little. Take a listen:

Carefree highway, got to see you my old friend
Carefree highway, you've seen better days
Got the morning after blues, from my head down to my shoes
Carefree highway, let me slip away, slip away on you

What's it about? A guy who is down on his luck, lost (possibly because his girlfriend left him, or perhaps that was some time ago), not knowing what to do. And what does he do? Takes off. Hits the highway, as he's done before. Sure, run away from your problems! It's not like anyone else ever has the same impulse, is it? Nice to be able to just throw everything away, pack your bag and take off when things get hard!

In my even less charitable moments, I think, what a GUY thing to do!  A bit like:

Bruce Springsteen

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never came back...

Paul Theroux

For years, Paul Theroux was my favourite writer. I read most of his books in my teens and early twenties, and I didn't mind that he was arrogant and grumpy. At least not until The Happy Isles of Oceania, when he was finally too grumpy even for me. Plus I was a bit offended when he referred to a bloody sanitary pad on a beach as "that disgusting thing" - I mean sure, it was disgusting that it was there on a beach, I get it - but there was something about the way he phrased it that was a bit... anti-women? It seemed?

It may well be wrong or unfair, but sometimes it feels like you read something that shows a true glimpse of the writer's feelings or character.

Here's the main thing I remember, from all my hours and hours of reading Paul Theroux. Hours and hours, and books and books, and this is what has stuck with me:

This is from My Other Life, which was a weird experiment that annoyed me a bit in itself, even while it was a great read. There is a chapter where Paul Theroux (or possibly a fictional character! He won't say which!) has invited people for dinner and is forced to cook and organise everything himself because his wife, tired from her day at work and under some kind of unnamed stress, is angry with him and refuses to help with any of it, saying repeatedly "It's your dinner."

The thing is, even young as I was when I read this, and even being a massive Paul Theroux fan, I totally got his wife's point of view in this, without any more context from Paul Theroux. In this one incident, in which he imagines he portrays himself as the injured party, he instead unwittingly outs himself as a probable bastard who routinely expected a lot from his wife with little reciprocation or notice. She was busy from work, tired and stressed out, and was angry at him for a lifetime of precisely this kind of shit. A lifetime of watching him swan off to travel and write memoirs which included boastful hints of affairs or at least flirtations, and her at home to raise the kids plus keep her own career going, and then also have to entertain his last-minute mid-week dinner guests when he was back home?

Fuck off Paul, it's your dinner!

AND WHAT'S MORE: After enduring the unreasonable and unfathomable reaction from his wife, Paul Theroux (or, okay, the fictional character), happily and competently makes the dinner. He prepares a pot of curry on the stove - taking care to describe the deft and relaxed way in which he prepares it, as counterpoint to his wife's unreasonable stress - then ducks out to the shops to buy whiskey for his guests while it cooks, because his wife wouldn't go and get it.  As he walks, he passes the local pub and "wished that I could be sitting there irresponsibly reading the evening paper over a pint of draft Guinness."

Oh. My. God. I do believe this is the part that actually irritated me the most. This whole section is meant to convey how relaxed and competent he is in the kitchen and at life, but in that one sentence he conveys his sudden pique at having to do all this himself when he really, obviously, didn't think he should have to.  What an asshole.

Cat Stevens

As a teenager I discovered my parents' Cat Stevens albums, and fell for them hard. I LOVED Cat Stevens. I taped Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman and listened to them for years. I loved the beautiful melody in the song Wild World but it also has always pissed me off.  As a kid I had been confused by the way men seemed to sing romantic songs to girl-children ("little girl"). It took me ages to understand that the "little girls" in songs were actually grown-up girlfriends. As I got older it just started to really annoy me. I didn't know the word "infantilising" but I knew that's what it was. It was always either really patronising or really creepy and sometimes, as in Wild World, it managed to be both.

In Wild World, the singer's character is upset that his girlfriend is leaving him, and he is begging her to reconsider. We all have contradictory feelings in anger and the song is well written: the character veers between grief, despair, concern for his girlfriend and flashes of anger ("I hope you have a lot of nice things to wear"). But it is super patronising, and gives the girlfriend no credit for having any intelligence at all. It refuses to believe she has any good reason for leaving him. I mean I know it's just a "story", in character, and it's about feelings, but it just always really irked me. It is absolute proof that the girlfriend was making the right decision. You run far, girl, and don't look back!

You know I've seen a lot of what the world can do
And it's breakin' my heart in two
Because I never wanna see you sad, girl
Don't be a bad girl
But if you wanna leave, take good care
I hope you make a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there's a lot of bad and beware

Yeah.... see ya!

And finally...

Jim Carrey

While I was looking for an image I could use for this post using search terms "angry woman" I came across this Jim Carrey quote/meme, and it pissed me off!


Jun 27, 2015


Of all the wonders of the world, colour is one of the most perplexing and amazing. All the wonders of the world are perplexing and amazing when you look at them, of course. But colour is one of those things - like music, like beauty - that sings to our senses and affects the way we feel.

Our favourite colours may be a mystery to other people. When someone says "blue" is their favourite colour, most people will nod and many will agree. When someone chooses "red" you may instantly form an opinion of that person's personality. (Or maybe that's just me?)

I remember when I was a kid asking my dad his favourite colour and he said "orange" and I was thunderstruck. Orange? Who would choose orange? Orange was the most jarring, thirsty colour there was and I hated it. I could not fathom that someone could ever have that as their favourite colour. I told my mother and she laughed - she could not understand it either.

Nowadays, I quite like orange, and have a lot of it in clothing and accessories. But I still remember the horror I had for it as a child. I equated it with Fanta: horrible, glaring, hot, thirst-inducing.

On the other hand my sister's favourite colour as a child was yellow, and that to me was a very suitable, happy colour. I also had a bright yellow transistor radio that I loved - perhaps this was before the onslaught of little-girl pink in all things?

My favourite colours have always been some shade of blue or green.  An image like this is like heaven to me:

blue green

I remember in primary school in L.A. in 1980, all the girls were into baby blue and lilac. I loved both colours but didn't feel I was worthy to share lilac with the popular girls (with their blonde hair, lipgloss, painted nails and beautiful clothes in pastel colours), so I stuck with baby blue.

I also adored - and still adore - mint and pale greens. I had a pale green gingham dress my mum made me which made me want to twirl and sing, and that mint green that was everywhere in the early eighties was one of my favourites. Just today at K-Mart I lobbied hard and unsuccessfully for one of my daughters to choose a gorgeous mint green shirt that took me right back to that time. (It should be sold with a Walkman).

Best eighties mint green

mint gingham

The late eighties didn't leave me unscarred, so for a short time my favourite colour was electric blue.

electric blue

In high school I ventured into darker colours. I was the proud collector of cool shirts in bright colours. My favourites were hot pink, teal, tourquoise, aqua and zambezi green.


Zambezi was my declared favourite colour for a few years.

zambezi green car

In the early nineties I loved lime green and spring green - and I still love them (though no longer to wear). I do love my neon green Chux Super Wipes kitchen cloths!  (I alternate between the green and the blue)

My whole life I have also loved midnight navy: the inky colour of the sky after sunset. I had a beautiful dark navy satin shirt in the eighties (with a cowl neck and massive shoulder pads, of course) that I teamed with a grey-and-navy striped yoke skirt (calf-length, of course), and navy "court shoes" when I was feeling fancy.

glorious deep midnight navy

Growing up in Auckland, there was always the bay. Often it was glittery blue in the sunshine, but just as often it was dark and overcast, and I loved it best like that. My parents briefly had a holiday house in Pauanui on the Coromandel, where most times the beach was windswept and overcast. The stormy denim of the sea and sky of those memories is etched in my head, and my favourite colour of all time is probably a version of this.

Stormy Blue

What's your favourite colour? What memories does it evoke in you?

Jun 19, 2015

You learn something new every day: refrigerated minced meat edition

I learned a couple of new things today.

Firstly, I learned that I am getting too old and wussy for scary movies.  I nearly had a heart attack throughout almost all of Jurassic World, and actually got quite emotionally terrified when a flock of escaped pterodactyls flew across the island toward the crowds of unsuspecting tourists. (I actually got a lump in my throat, and when the pterodactyls started to swoop I for real started shallow-breathing and almost squeezed out some tears. The children! The children! What would I do if I was herding my kids through a stampeding crowd chased by raptors and pterodactyls?? What would I do, dammit?! The horror, the horror....)

So that was number one. I can obviously no longer go and see scary movies, or even enjoyable adventure movies with predictable character arcs and what I am sure is deeply inaccurate science.

But: despite all that, Jurassic World is actually pretty good and I did (kind of?) enjoy it. I am just an emotional idiot.

The second thing I learned was that managing minced meat can be a whole lot easier than I ever knew. I was making bolognese sauce, and you know how once you've heated the oil and sautéed the onions and garlic, you get the beef mince out of its packet and drop it into the saucepan, and it's basically a big red cold brick that you have to sort of hack away at with your wooden spoon, if you don't want to tear it into chunks with your bare hands first? And it's actually quite hard work chopping it all up and mixing it and turning the pieces until it's all broken down and brown and starting to cook?

Well, it turns out you don't have to do that. Today I dropped my red brick of cold minced beef into my saucepan, then turned away momentarily to read a couple of pages of a book I am reading, then got lost in the book and completely forgot about my saucepan... until a faint cooking smell wafted over, and I hurried over to resume. Voila! My minced beef had all "melted" into the pot, broken down and almost all browned, and only needed a couple of easy stirs to get all mixed in and ready for cooking.

So there you go.

Cute Dino Pics

Jun 14, 2015

Great idea!

My daughter M has a cunning sort of cleverness about her that I am sure will serve her well in life. When she uses her powers for good, she comes up with some smart stuff.

Here are three of her recent ideas - two just from today - that I think are pretty good:

  • Sweets van:  Like an ice-cream van but selling sweets, like lollies (candy) and cakes
  • Digital devices (cell phones, tablets, etc) that are charged by the energy in your body
  • A high-powered hot-air fan that dries and warms your body as soon as you step out of the shower

I told her today that she comes up with some pretty good ideas. She said, "Well, that's because I want a lot of things in my life that I don't have."

I guess all inventions come from wanting things that don't yet exist.  The more I think about it, the more I want the third one too.

Jun 12, 2015

Belt-tightening 101: the answer

I've been thinking about the question I posed yesterday: why don't politicians trying to convince the public on the need to cut spending cut some of their own salary or allowances to win hearts and minds?

And I think I know the answer.

In a parliamentary system one of the hardest jobs the leaders have is to rally, control and maintain unity among their MPs. These may include members who've worked very hard to win marginal seats, members on the back bench not earning big bucks, members already getting disillusioned or embittered and members on the rise looking for any excuse to either jump ship or try and take your job.

Most governments try and do the cost-cutting early in their term, aiming to get the pain - and public anger - out of the way early and betting that the electorate will have forgiven and moved on by the time of the next election.

So the most important hearts and minds the leaders need to win during this sort of program are those of their own MPs.

And of course, from a purely budgetary standpoint, cutting MP allowances won't deliver the same millions or billions beckoning them temptingly from the list of public benefits and subsidies, so they probably don't see it as worth the pain, considering the factors above. To sell a belt-tightening program and help you through all the hard work of your pet reforms, you need your MPs on-side and energetic, not bitter and angry.

Politics, eh?

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