And Finally This

I’m thinking that I might just delay New Years. Just for a couple days, until I can have a night off. So then I could have a drink or two without immediately falling asleep.

It’s been a weird year altogether. Everyone seems to be stuck in this idea that it was overwhelmingly awful and they won’t miss 2016 at all, but it’s hard to pin down exactly why.

Continue reading And Finally This

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Mickey Ruins the Real World Again

The unusual occurrence of a night off meant one thing: burgers and a movie. Date night.

And now, after two hours of Star Wars, both my husband and I are wondering when we got so old and when they started making cinema seats so uncomfortable. Ow, my aching back. Ow, my legs have gone to sleep. Ow, did I just lose a kneecap? Ow, that cartoon version of Tarkin was soooo unnecessary.

I won’t go into any more spoilers for those who haven’t seen the movie yet, but it was good. Nice story arc. Some complexity of motives. Not a groundbreaking masterpiece, but better than any part of 1-3. Except for the CGI Tarkin, who was so distractingly rubbery that it pissed me off… Almost as much as Old Leia’s new tendency to talk through a clenched jaw. Seriously, just open your mouth more. I think the botox has taken away your ability to enunciate, deary.

You really do have to wonder why they thought resurrecting Peter Cushing was required. 95% of Star Wars fans already knew he was dead. If you think that those lines absolutely have to be delivered by Tarkin, then just put another actor in that role. It’s not unforgivable and nowhere near as cringe-inducing as painting Hayden Christensen into Return of the Jedi. Either that, or make those lines belong to some hitherto unknown Empire official who just happens to die near the end. Yes, the story would still work even though Tarkin pops up as a semi-important figure in Episode 4. There are ways to navigate around these things that don’t involve putting a cartoon of a dead actor in your movie.

I really think that filmmakers with big budgets often get carried away with the “because we can” element. Why have a CGI Tarkin? Because we can. Because we think that the graphics are good enough that most people won’t notice that it’s fake – and it’s pretty cool that we get to show off our abilities and our expensive animation… Except that it still does look really fake, and there’s actually no logical reason for it other than inflating the ego of the animators. They may as well just paint in the character as Goofy and be done with it. I really hope that Peter Cushing’s family got a big, fat check and then wiped their asses with it.

Why? Because, in what I assume is the majority opinion, I am not in favor of reanimating the dead. And while Tarkin is a character that continues to exist in an artistic medium, Peter Cushing was an actual human being who made a living from his ability to say words and create facial expressions in front of other human beings. Using his face to create expressions and deliver words long after his death is really just replacing his labor with a computer. This has already happened to lots of people’s jobs – and will continue to happen to lots of people’s jobs – but I still prefer my art to come from a person and not a machine, and there are plenty of real living humans who are still around and who would be more than capable of giving that character pathos. While I’ve definitely had emotional reactions to cartoons in the past, in this case I’m expecting to see a person and not Baloo the Bear.

And that’s the end of my rant. Sorry. My back is just sore.

 

Shifting Tide Lines

It has been a day of developments all over the place. From the supposed (and perhaps momentary) halt on the Dakota Access Pipeline, to the shock resignation of NZ’s Prime Minister, many of my left-wing friends have been memeing for joy all day.

But not so fast…

Now that Prime Minister John Key has resigned, we will almost undoubtedly go into the New Year with a Prime Minister who is worse. John Key started out as a day trader – a bit of a Trump-like figure, who sat on a massive capitalist fortune, who made changes to benefit businesses whilst hurting those at the very bottom, and whose silly over-privileged adult children provided New Zealanders with a lot of amusement. However, his politicking was personality-based and cynical – he went for the type of glibness that would appeal to most voters, regardless of his own personal beliefs. I’m not even convinced that he has entrenched political beliefs. His potential replacements are career politicians – true-believers whose positions will be hard to shift, no matter what realities they face.

And as for the Dakota Access Pipeline… Well Obama can now count the remaining weeks of his presidency on his fingers. The halt called by the Army Corps of Engineers can be quickly overturned by the incoming President-Elect. And given that Trump owns shares in the company that is building the pipeline… Well it’s a surprise that anyone is excited about this. Why on earth would he make a decision that would damage his own personal fortune? When you prime an electorate to believe that all government is corrupt, then you can behave corruptly without much fear of consequence…

However… it was an unbearably hot day to be outside. So my husband decided that we should go for a walk down on the beach in the afternoon to cool off. It would have worked, except that the water was as warm as a bath. And I found a little injured sparrow.

He was lying on the beach, breathing hard, with his beak pressed into the sand. When I went up to check on him and see if there was anything I could do, he reacted with a panicked flutter but he clearly couldn’t fly. At least one wing was broken, and I’d say he’d been badly punctured by a cat.

Nature is a very cruel thing much of the time. It reminded me of my little story about the hedgehog. The natural world rarely offers comfortable and easy ways to die.

There was nothing I could do to save his life, and my presence only seemed to frighten him, so I resolved to do the only thing I felt I rightly could. I broke a branch off a nearby pohutukawa tree and, moving quietly and slowly, sank it into the sand beside him. This gave him camouflage should the cat return, and also gave him shade from the crippling heat. Yes, eventually the tide would come in, and he might have to make a choice to either move or remain, but in the meantime he would be more comfortable.

Just because we can’t fix all the injustices of life, it doesn’t mean we should give up on trying to be nice to one another…

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Fitspiration

I have a confession to make. I really don’t understand why people take photos of themselves posing at the gym and then post them on social media.

Am I meant to be inspired? Impressed? Jealous? Turned on? Crying into my delicious cookies?

I can comprehend going for a bike ride in the forest and sharing a photo of a cool sunset you saw – that is both noting that you exercise and that it has helped you experience something unique and beautiful. I can even understand the “look at this amazing dance and/or acrobatic move I just mastered” photos – because you’re capturing a moment where sustained effort has enabled you to learn a new skill. But I just don’t understand the purpose of proudly sharing the fact you think your ass looks good in lycra and that you can pick up a bit of metal that weighs 100 lbs. So what? This is far from the pinnacle of human endeavor. I can pick up a 100 lb bag of cement (and have done so many times) but I’m not photographing it and then asking for emotional reassurance from someone I knew in high school.

In fact, perhaps that’s it: I don’t understand the gym photos because I don’t need to have my ego stroked by friends and random acquaintances. Although apparently I know people who do.

I’m sure that it sounds crotchety to share this thought in our current world (and it is, a bit). Even if we don’t all laud the growth of narcissism, we at least tolerate it. Mostly. And I am certainly not opposed to sharing the wonders of human achievement and resilience – no matter how insignificant. You managed to perfect your eyeliner after eight attempts? That’s great!

But getting it right the first time? Just showing off how much better your eyeliner is over other people people’s eyeliner? Why am I supposed to give a shit?

… Yeah. I’ll just be over here with my delicious cookies.

Storms

Summer is officially only 13 days away, and yet we’re still being hammered with freezing southerlies and rain. I’m wrapped up on the sofa in a fluffy blanket, contemplating lighting a fire, in mid-November.

Poor Wellington seems to be copping the worst of the weather. More and more buildings are being condemned because of the earthquakes, and then they’ve added flooding to that. It’s a miserable end to an already trying year.

And as if to prove that America does not hold the monopoly on stupid, fear-mongering bigots, a fairly prominent New Zealand preacher has proclaimed to his followers that the earthquake was caused by homosexuality… Fortunately most New Zealanders responded with laughter, but someone also started a petition to get the church’s tax-free status removed – which is actually a pretty sensible solution when people widely regard this particular church as a manipulative money-making enterprise designed to make the preacher rich by bilking the poor. Giving him attention now for his offensive comments almost seems counter-productive, but if it at least results in a downturn of cashflow for him then I suppose it was worth it. Encouraging people to actually read the Bible he’s foolishly misquoting might also cause some to stop giving this charlatan their money.

Unfortunately it’s not even the dumbest theory I’ve heard thus far about the earthquakes. A US Navy destroyer (the USS Sampson) has gone to Kaikoura to help evacuate people who were trapped in the coastal town after the roads were destroyed. This is a good thing – helpful, humane, kind. But of course, I’ve actually heard a fully grown adult state that it is not a coincidence that the US Navy has arrived so quickly, because they caused the earthquake just so they could start an invasion…

I know.

I know.

I’m actually sitting here wondering how this person has managed to keep themselves alive this long. Do they have the intelligence necessary to open a refrigerator? Can they figure out how to button clothing? Should I get them some kind of home help to ensure that they don’t burn down their house when they use the stove?… But instead all I could do was shake my head and walk away. Sometimes you can’t even help people without them spitting in your face.

Thinking about the future

Was anyone else hoping that the conclusion of the election would finally put an end to seeing these same faces on the news day after day? How’s that working out for you? Can we please start focusing on the holiday season now, and just go back to ignoring these people like we used to?

I have one more large event (of four) to complete this week. 12-13 hours a piece, and then back on Monday to have meetings and do my orders and pretend to be awake. All I can really think about is Tuesday, when I have my next day off and I can hopefully get back into the garden and won’t spend the whole day asleep (which is the more likely scenario). That’s life right now: long shifts at work and lots of daydreaming about all of the summer garden prep that’s getting away from me. For whatever reason, getting tomatoes into the ground is much more important to me than the election.

Weirdly enough, it’s probably the same basic drive that pushed the election in the first place. I started planting a vegetable garden several years ago, when the recession hit and I got made redundant. I needed to ensure that we wouldn’t go hungry, and the one thing I had available to me was time. Within a year, I had expanded out to planting pretty flowers too, just because they made me happy in a tough time.

And it was really that simple: I was anxious about our future, so I started a garden… Now I’m just anxious about not doing enough gardening. It’s probably more a matter of distraction than self-preservation right now, but that anxiety about the future still sits in the background.

 

 

Hibiscus

Well, that’s the thing about elections, isn’t it? Despite all the polls, you never really know what will happen on the day. Perhaps it was a sign when the hibiscus I bought (which was meant to be pale yellow) bloomed a vivid shade of red and orange.

I have friends on both sides of the aisle. Some were always going to vote Republican, whether or not the liked Trump. Some were always going to vote Democrat, whether or not they liked Hillary. What has been most interesting over the past few months is the sense of dismay that many of them revealed – largely along the lines of “Really? This is the best candidate you can give us to go up against that POS?” Hatred of the opposition seemed to be a stronger motivator than any affection for their own party.

But then, there were others who liked Trump. I’ve never been able to figure out that quandary for myself (in the 30+ years that I’ve been aware of his existence, he has always seemed to be a creepy and duplicitous individual to me) but these were the people who seemed to be both the most vicious and the least able to explain why. Possibly the best justification I’ve heard is from people saying that he’s a good businessman… but then I think we’re both looking at the same business and coming away with very different opinions of his abilities. Those who attacked Trump in my presence largely did so with humor, and I was quick to turn away from anything more nasty than that. But those who defended him seemed to lack a sense of humor that flowed the other way. Out of everyone I have encountered, they were the ones who took this election seriously.

Some friends have now come back online to mourn, while others have come to gloat. Either way, it’s ugly and sad… and that is possibly the best outcome we could have expected from an entire election cycle that was both ugly and sad.

2016 began with the shock death of David Bowie, and then Prince. It brought us Brexit. It has so far been the year of “Surprise!!! Things are way worse than they seem!”

And I want it to be over. Because I want to go back to feeling good again.

I guess that’s all anyone wanted from this election in the first place.

 

Springtime for Hitler pt 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2

 

There’s every possibility that the “smoking gun” Wikileaks was trying to expose actually had little to do with Clinton’s Wall Street speeches, but was instead about the boogie man of Benghazi.

Ah Benghazi… Just the mention of the name by now will cause a certain portion of the electorate’s ears to perk up, even while everyone else just shudders and shakes their head.

Continue reading Springtime for Hitler pt 3

Click Here for More

After the strain of the last few days, the husband and I went out to dinner together tonight (at my workplace, admittedly). It’s always a nice relief to just sit and chat and enjoy each other’s company, without a screen or a big block of work between us. I do miss that. Don’t we all?

One thing that we started talking about was the sharp decline in journalism and the fact that we’ve both found ourselves with more and more rubbish, click-baity articles filling our newsfeeds. This sounds like the typical grumble of aging people. “Things used to be better. I miss those things.” But it’s true. It seems like every time I sit in front of my computer I’m reading five or six “articles” which are so badly written and lacking in research (and all on supposedly legitimate news sites) that I end up wondering what on earth I’m doing with my life.

It all comes down to money though, doesn’t it? (And the relative skill and intelligence of an editor.) Virtually nobody buys newspapers anymore. Ad revenues have fallen as subscriptions have fallen. We still seem to think we’re entitled to free content anywhere on the internet, but good journalism is a paid profession.

I find that I’m leaning on sites like BBC and The Guardian more and more. It’s not that the British are better at journalism (although these are very respected and well-established news organizations), it’s just that they post very good content and haven’t yet put up pay walls. It won’t last forever though. Increasingly the free news sites are turning into a muesli of reader-written posts, pop-science and Kardasians, while the news outlets with actual standards (like the NY Times) are putting up blocks that make you pay to read.

But I still won’t pay. And why not? My husband are I are getting older, but we’re also in that transitional age where we’ve paid for magazine and newspaper subscriptions before (when they were actual paper) but still see the internet as inherently free. If we want to be be able to read actual news, then that’s got to change. And soon.

We actually got onto this subject by segueing off the discussion about paying for music. We’re both strongly in favor of that. We’d both rather buy an album than rip it off. Again, we’re both old enough to have ripped off music before (even all the way back, when we’d literally tape songs off the radio rather than buying the single). But the music industry has done a lot of work to try and talk people around to buying content off the internet. We do understand that if we want good music (and if we want musicians to be able to make a living) then we have to pay for it. Things like iTunes have made it easy and convenient – with a small fee per song, which seems appealing and very affordable… until you buy song after song and quickly realize that you’ve just spent ninety bucks.

News outlets seem to have so far not caught on to this iTunes effect – instead putting up pay walls that tend to ask for the ninety bucks upfront, rather than allowing you to trickle through payments with every story. It’s not smart marketing, because I balk at the $90 but would quite happily pay 50c per article if I like the first few sentences and want to keep reading below the line. 50c seems like so little for that moment’s distraction. And given how much I read… $90 would come around very quickly.

It requires a very different journalistic mindset though, and the ability to set up an easy way to charge someone’s card for every click. It would mean that articles in newspapers would have to go back to being written like articles in academic journals – start with the abstract and explain what the reader is about to read – or like the teasing chapters old-fashioned serial fiction. You want to click for more. You need to click for more. You must know what happens next.

The serialization of information – a free teaser and then paying for the next installment – is a very time-honored technique. Charles Dickens originally wrote his novels as series of chapters in magazines, which is why the chapters of his novels all tend to end with cliffhangers. You need to buy the next edition because you have to keep reading. Even if you don’t like the book and think it’s rubbish, you figure you may as well keep going to find out what happens. 50 Shades of Grey (for all its many, many faults) is structured in the same way. Virtually all television outlets understand the appeal of serialization. It plays into human curiosity and it works well.

Plus it’s profitable. EL James didn’t even have to worry about paying for the good/smart editor. Everyone shelled out their money regardless.

There’s something to this…