Friday, December 30, 2005

Strange But True...

The science fiction TV program Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, (the 1978 edition), was the originator of Spandex as a fashion statement. The costume designer, Jean-Pierre Dorleac found a fabric previously used in women's underwear for things like the side panels in girdles and turned it inside out to lose the high-gloss effect. He says that "[The producer] had an idea silhouette-wise of what Buck Rogers should look like. He wanted him all in white and he wanted it very sleek and tight fitting."

Jean-Pierre, you have much to answer for.

Simak, Steven A., "25th Century Style", CFQ: Cinefantastique, (New Milford: Curtis Circulation Company), December/January 2005, p47.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Commonplace Book...

I just read a poem that Dorothy Sayers wrote about being thankful which I rather liked. (This was written early on in WWII when a lot of material goods were becoming scarce.)

I need not shiver in silk stockings; -
I had a hunch about wool before it was rationed;
Now I have knitted myself woollen stockings
That come a long way up.
They are warm and admirable,
They do not ladder or go into holes suddenly.
I can boast quietly about them
And smirk while others admire my industry;
As it happens, I like knitting
And nothing gratifies one more
Than to be admired for doing what one likes.
-- Dorothy L. Sayers

(Hannay, Margaret P. (ed.), As Her Whimsey Took Her: Critical Essays on the Work of Dorothy L. Sayers, Kent: The Kent State University Press, pp211-2)

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Guessing Game...

(Borrowed from repton_infinity over on LiveJournal.)

I'm thinking of a book. You can ask Yes/No questions that relate to the content of the book, but not the externals. So it's OK to ask if there is a quest to save the world, but not if it was written before 1980.

It's a science fiction novel. I think it's reasonable that you guys have read it or heard of it. I even own a copy.

First Question:
Do the main characters ever travel from one solar system to another?
-Yes, although to be fair, not during the course of the book.

(Please ask new questions as Blogspot comments and not the RSS feed available on LiveJournal.)



Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I've Been Watching The Man From Uncle

It's very silly. In the last episode, "The Karate Killers", they had to chase around the world finding the flighty step-daughters of a dead scientist so that they could collect bogus scientific formulae inscribed on his photograph, rearrange the letters to "Japanese Lullabye" so that the scientist's real daughter could remember an old friend of her father's who lived in Japan, go to Tokyo, rescue the daughter from a Geisha House, find the old friend, be captured (again) and taken to the North Pole where there was a factory that was extracting gold from sea water. Then they escaped and saved the day.

It had go-go dancers, an impoverished Count, a ski-lift, a dastardly villain and the aforementioned geisha girls.

All in all, quite fun.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I've Been Being Organised...

Travel booked, Xmas presents dealt with, provision made for my cat, and all in all, I'm feeling much more relaxed about Christmas. Maybe Douglas Adams had it right about random tendrils of Guilt connecting people to things, although, since there is still washing up to be done, I've still got an attachment to my house and everything. So that's a relief.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

In Which I Talk About My Cat...

Because Catherine is sick of me talking about poetry. Actually, it's poetry that I really want to talk about, so this is an attempt to sneak under her radar.

I've been thinking lately that the modern popular conception of poetry is of something that's either difficult and hard to understand for 'posh people' with intellectual pretensions or something that's fun, rhymes and is meant for kids. As a couple of examples, I present for your edification a bona fide 'literary' poem that won awards called "Dismemberment: when in the dark" by Kapka Kassabova and a fun, happy kid's poem called "Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich" by Shel Silverstein, both chosen for the arbitrary reason that I happen to like them.

There are some really obvious differences here. While neither has a fixed verse form, the Silverstein has a very obvious meter and makes heavy use of rhyme. It's designed to rollick through from beginning to end and practically begs to be read out loud. Kassbova's piece has very few rhymes at all, and they're mostly from word repetition. There are some repeated consonantal sounds, but they're mostly internal and subtle, for instance the repeating S sound in "When the moon comes it displays / your passing shadow - a stooped loneliness" which, really, you have to look for to notice. Moreover, the word order seems designed to emphasise the pauses between sentences and separate lines. To me, it seems that Kassabova, like many modern poets, really likes using such artificial silences to highlight what she sees as key points, and like many poems it gives the finished article a fractured quality. "Dismemberment: when in the dark" requires an effort to read and come to grips with. There's more emphasis on making the reader figure out what's meant rather than simply enjoying words that sound good.

To me, this seems to be an obvious result in the changing forms and uses of poetry. We are no longer in an age where an evening's entertainment would be for someone to belt out Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade", and looking at "The Charge", it has much more in common with Silverstein's poem in terms of meter, rhyme, repetition and other aural devices than Kassabova's piece. Kassabova was writing for a different audience, one that would read the poem silently in magazines and slim books of poetry. While it might occasionally be recited out loud at a public poetry reading, most people will encounter the poem only visually. Silverstein, on the other hand, is still writing for an aural audience - children who will be read to by their parents and teachers.

All this, of course, will be obvious to my discerning readers. Yet, I ask this: Where is the poetry for people who are neither children nor literati? Are they to be doomed to an arid wasteland of sports results and knitting patterns? Actually, this was a rhetorical question, because I already know the answer. Most (Western) people listen to poetry most days, it's just in hiding. To introduce the fourth example of this essay, "Take On Me" by A-ha (very popular when I was 8, by the way) has extremely simple lyrics which go right back into the tradition of making the words sound good. There's a very repetitive and simple rhyme scheme - lots of 'ay' sounds like "Okay", "anyway", "say", "play". The chorus is repeated very often as well, a trick that Tennyson and numerous other pre-20th century poets utilised heavily. The Carpe Diem theme has been used in poetry going back over two thousand years. As simple as it is, this poem links into a very old tradition of oral poetry, the main differences I can see are that the meter isn't very obvious and the phrases are very short. These seem reasonable compromises for words that are only one component of a song - the melody will buttress the words and provide its own timing, so it isn't as necessary for the word order to supply it, secondly, the vocal component of the song is just another instrument, a casual listener might not catch all of the words so keeping the phrases short helps their understanding. As another more recent example, "Travelin' Soldier" by the Dixie Chicks is packed full of alliterative and assonant/rhyme sounds, for instance "Too young for him they told her/Waitin’ for the love of a travelin’ soldier" and "piccolo player". The meter supplied from the words themselves is also entirely secondary to that provided by the martial drum beat that is played with the song. As far as I can tell, most song lyrics share similar qualities - like pre-20th century poetry the main emphasis is on sound, not how the lyrics work on the page, and the lyrics are provided as part of an ensemble - an important component but not the only one.

What's my point? The lyrics of pop songs are the poetry of the people. I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the song writers in bands don't really consider themselves to be poets, but that's what they are. Next time you're singing along to the radio, spare a thought for your favourite poet and give them a cheer.


Oh, where's the bit about my cat? Through a series of strange events, a small plastic bag of catnip ended up on my bed instead of safely out of the way on a shelf where she can't get at it. I walked into my room to find her lolling on my bed, purring fit to burst and absolutely covered in the stuff. So is my bed (covered with catnip, I mean). Babe has a drug problem. (sob) What did I do wrong?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Commonplace Book

Dismemberment: when in the dark
There is a continent of your memory, somewhere,
carried by the frivolous tide
of everything that isn't you.
Each morning, you welcome the low tide.
You welcome each sun
that blinds you away from that continent.

But when the storm comes, you remember:
nothing is really quiet.
When the earthquake comes
cracks appear in your mental furniture.
When the moon comes it displays
your passing shadow - a stooped loneliness
so much taller than you.
And yet you're not moving. No, you're not moving.

In the dark, you listen to the world shed its silences
and dream of bruising yourself
against a body, or a sharpened soul
to break like an ice-pick that continent.

When in the dark somebody comes
the continent will float away, dismembered.

And you too will wake up on a breakaway piece,
alone and naked.
When in the dark somebody comes.

-- Kapka Kassabova, dismemberment, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1998.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Poems R Us - Take Three

Who Weeps, Who Weeps For Adonis?

Who weeps for the lion, whose golden curls tumble
To the ground? He is most fine and bound in rough hemp, he’s tied
To a table of stone, and will lie,
Death-quiet, through a dark night,
Beneath the stars.

Who weeps for Dumuzi on a throne of gold? Cast down
Into dust, the death of brightness,
He's dragged into the dark
For his wife.

Who weeps for Adonis whose ivory skin is sprawled and tainted
By a boar’s tusk? His purple lips and sunken eyes
Will make no kisses now.

Who weeps for the burning boy, staggering back
With a piece of mistletoe in his eye?

Who weeps? Who weeps for a beautiful youth, fallen
To the outraged shout of a gunshot?
Blood seeps into cracks in concrete
To nourish the mosses, like urine;
His waste, his discards, boxed up and planted
In a tidy garden, somewhere,
With a carved stone on it.

Who weeps for the man who trembles with cold?
Hunched and shivering, back to a dried up pine tree,
He's the sacrifice of a pig hunt gone wrong;
His blood soaks into parched ground,
Down to a red salt sea.
That pale youth has a new name:
Corpse-rot, worm-food; he’s swallowed up in earth now,
His body hung by Herself on a nail on the wall,
Gone into dust.

Have we paid teind enough?

-- Stephanie Pegg, November 2005

This is one of those highly referential jobs that are lots of fun to write, but are hard to understand by anyone who hasn't read exactly the same books as the poet. I'm not sorry, but I'll understand if my vict- er, readers don't really get this.

I wrote the first draft when I was studying for an exam on Classical Traditions in English Literature and had been fairly well steeped in the Venus and Adonis myth. So that's where it comes from, as much as anything else.

Cheers all,


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Commonplace Book

Love's the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite "The boy stood on
the burning deck". Love's the son
                    stood stammering elocution
                    while the poor ship in flames went down.

Love's the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolroom platform, too
                    or an excuse to stay
                    on deck. And love's the burning boy.

-- Elizabeth Bishop

(Filched from the 'Wondering Minstrels' poetry list, a truly excellent resource.

Friday, November 04, 2005

No more exams for me...

La la la.
Roman history went pretty well. It's weird, I just about always end exams with nothing left to do at the 15 minute mark. This time I made it down the stairs, just about to hand my exam to the invigilator just before the "No Leaving" cutout which meant I didn't have to stare into space for quarter of an hour, but I still find it weird. Good planning? Lack of inpsiration? The crippling effects of writer's cramp? (Ow. I still can't type properly, quite.)

Still, it's over and done with and I'm pretty certain sure I passed the course. On to my summer holiday! :-D


Monday, October 31, 2005

I Have A Cellphone Again...

Which is somewhat surreal when you consider that I lost it 3 months ago and the Lost Property boxes at the University all came up empty. It turned out that it had been handed into the English Department, thrown in a drawer and forgotten by somebody, and then found by somebody else who resourcefully swapped out the SIM card and called a random number from the Saved list. I am very grateful to the somebody else.

Oh, and I had an exam today. Is it a good sign if you get writer's cramp an hour in?


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I Played Frisbee Last Night!

No, really, in an organised sports team and everything. Our team has several scarily good players and rabble. I'm rabble and I throw like a girl, but to my advantage is gender - there have to be two women on the field at all times so having extras who can sub for each other is a good thing. Also, it means getting out to a park on a summer evening and running around a lot which is lots of fun. It's also a friendly atmosphere - it's all about fun and sportsmanship and after each match the competing teams wander around shaking each others' hands and thanking them for the game. Several times this worked out as a receiving line effect - both teams ended up in queues working their way along the other queue. (If only I can teach them how to Hay!) Last night was the first in the season and was organised as a bunch of short matches so that the organisers can work out which grade everyone should be in. It was actually very interesting watching over the course of the evening our team's throwing skills and tactics improving. I think we'll be quite low on the rankings, but that means there's nowhere to go but up.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Goss.

So, I'm now showered, sweet-smelling and in clean jammies. Also, some nice hot pizza is a mere 20 minutes away and I'm feeling very relaxed.

How has my week been? Work was busy in a good way. I finally figured out a way to solve a modelling problem that's been bugging my workmates for a while, although every time I try to explain it to people they get a little glazed about the eyes. Anyhow, I got a prototype knocked up last week and this week my project (along with study type stuff) is to get the code working and start testing it. But that's not the interesting part.

It was bitterly, bitterly cold. Every year I go I think that I've finally worked out how to dress properly and every year I find out I'm wrong. I have plans, however, for new and fine woolen dresses with flannel linings which will be the envy of everyone for next year, although improvising drapes with some material I bought at the market worked very well indeed also. (Thank you, I, Claudius.) Iwitahi's main virtue (Iwitahi Outdoor Education Camp near Taupo) is lots of very hot water in the showers and a very efficient fire in the Main Hall, which it needs, because it's up on the plateau and its version Labour Weekend weather seems to be Noah's Flood or winds that knock the breath out of you.

It was lots and lots of fun. I got to catch up with lots of old friends that I only see once a year, and met a whole heap of people that I hope will become friends shortly. Highlights: chilling out; making my very own leather pouch under the guidance of Jeremy of the Red Ravens (it rocks); singing with Sarah and the Christchurch SCA chick whose name I've forgotten; playing Stretch (that's Twister with throwing knives), much to the amusement of the spectators; playing Kubb with Jess (it's a game where you throw bits of wood at other bits of wood and my team lost lots); playing with other people's babies and being able to give them back afterwards (which is of course the most important part); wandering around the forestry trails and realising that it's not as bleak as I remember; and not dancing on tables (sorry Adam).

An anti-highlight was providing evening entertainment for my roommates by having a truly hideous nightmare. From my point of view, I woke at 2am on Monday morning convinced that the room was full of evil undead zombies who were planning to eat me. Or my soul, or something like that. Naturally, I fled. From my roommates' point of view, I suddenly screamed "Oh my God, NO!!!" and ran out the door, which is an impressive feat in a sleeping bag. Apparently I got several metres out the door before I fell over. (Ain't claustrophobia grand? I think it was waking up in a very dark room tied up in piles of sleeping bags and blankets and not being able to breathe properly because my nose was stuffed up.) Anyway, it turned out that the Main Hall was taking in refugees, so I spent the rest of the night there where it was nice and warm. Warm is good.

Hot pools are good, too. So is sitting on the grass at the airport watching planes take off and people jumping out of them. And winning the Riddle Competition (with help) with the prize of an extremely Un-Naff Notebook with a carved stone (?) cover. The riddle that I answered to win it was this:
A strange thing hangs by man's hip,
hidden by a garment. It has a hole
in its head. It is stiff and strong
and its firm bearing reaps a reward.
When the retainer hitches his clothing
high above his knee, he wants the head
of that hanging thing to find the old hole
that it, outstretched, has often filled before.

Any guesses?


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Harrowing Pictures, Part 3

Here are some more pictures taken at another dress rehearsal by Peter Walls.

I've attached some that I particularly liked below:

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Review: Anansi Boys

First off, this book is dedicated to me. Me, me, me. Gosh, how did Mr Gaiman know I’d always secretly wanted to be the subject of a book dedication? It made my whole day! Anyway, on to the review.

A friend once suggested to me that Aristophanes was a funnier writer than Shakespeare because, in addition to Sex Jokes and Gender-Changing Jokes, Aristophanes had also mastered the Fart Joke. So has Neil Gaiman. I’m not kidding here – early in the piece is a very long and elaborately told joke that refers to an old woman ‘flatulating’ as just one more of its precisely crude details. In fact, the whole book is littered with the commonplaces and little embarrassments of life: hair mayonnaise and turning up late to your father’s funeral and the shriek of a cat being shampooed. Why do I think this is worth mentioning? Because this is a story about gods and the myths that they wear, and amongst the minutiae of real life is the bitter taste of funeral wine, flavoured with aloes and rosemary, and the tears of broken-hearted virgins. The commonplaces give us, the humble readers, something to identify with, a way into the story, and a place to rest from the larger events of the story quietly gleaming behind them.

Anansi Boys is a lighter book than American Gods, the sort-of prequel. This doesn’t make it light-weight, but it floats more softly over the dark undercurrents of Gaiman’s mythology. American Gods dug right in to issues of transplantation and how to live in an alien country, an epic battle between entire pantheons of gods and the death and resurrection of the son of a god, always a powerful story, whichever god it might happen to be. Anansi Boys, suitable to the tale of a trickster god, is more about a private spat, and the horribly excruciating embarrassment that one’s parents can be. Gaiman still brings out the sense of separation from one’s point of origin, particularly for Fat Charlie, born in Florida to transplanted parents who was himself transplanted to London and who remade himself so successfully that his entire accent changed. However, while many characters are either living in different places than where they were born, or are the children of such parents, it is a more subtle feature than the set-piece descriptions of the arrival and failure of different colonisation expeditions that were a repeating motif in American Gods. (One of the thumbs up aspects of Anansi Boys is not just that Gaiman never assumes that characters will by default be Caucasian, but that he delays mentioning what ethnic background his characters have until we’ve already been introduced to them and gotten to know them a little (or a lot) first. For Gaiman, race is part of his characters’ identity, but it is not the thing that defines them. He gets another thumbs up for writing different dialects convincingly without resorting to phonetic spelling, which to me is more annoyance than it’s worth.)

It is also a story of integration. Fat Charlie at the beginning of the book is, in many ways, not whole. He clings to a bad job and a not-right relationship because they give him a sense of identity that he can’t provide for himself. His brother Spider, who at first sight seems to have it all, is also lacking a sense of completeness. The meeting of their antithetical personalities brings, as one would expect, an enormous clash – matter meets anti-matter kind of thing - that threatens to destroy Fat Charlie’s life and, more subtly, Spider’s as well. Over the course of the book, Spider’s personality seems more and more fragile, and I was never quite sure how much of the fragility came from crashing against the rock that was Charlie and how much was always there, hiding beneath his flamboyant outer persona. How the two brothers will resolve this conflict is the central theme of the book. Other writers have addressed this kind of Jungian division; for instance, Ursula LeGuin, who resolved it with the wizard Ged absorbing his own shadow personality in A Wizard of Earthsea by naming it as himself. Here, names are also an issue – Fat Charlie was named so by his father Anansi and spent his life trying to escape it. His means of growing out of his nickname, as his means of growing into his identity and coping both with his father’s death and the existence of his strange and fickle brother is wholly right.

This is a finely crafted story. Many of the minor details come around again later in the book in ways that are meaningful to the whole and not jarring to the reader. The story thrives on co-incidences and the surreal Just Because-ness of a fairy tale. Gaiman juggles the multiple threads of the tale so that they spiral together into the delicate pattern of a spider’s web. Without going into too much detail for those that haven’t read it yet, the end of the story shows the web completed. Gaiman comments in an interview at the end of the book that “in horror fiction people get what they deserve, whereas in comedies people get what they need.” In this story, both definitions apply, everybody ends up precisely where they ought to be.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Harrowing Pictures, Part 2

Harrowing Pictures, Part 1

The play went really really well. [laughs evilly]

These pictures were taken at the dress rehearsal on Saturday by Ivan Towlson, a friend who turned up to be random audience.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Advertisement - Lieder and Aria Concert

As I gaze at the poster, I wonder whether Laurie Fleming is Laurie the Countertenor that I met at the SF convention last year. Hmmm. Edward Sargisson is, of course, my brother.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Poems R Us - The Second Wave

I've been feeling a little bit homesick lately in a very non-specific, not exactly sure what I want, kind of way. (Having said that, this evening which consisted of turning up to WARGS, concluding that nobody really wanted to play board games that much and repairing to a cafe for a chat helped a lot.)

My beta reader has pointed out that most people will not get some of the references in this poem, to which I say “Suffer”. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.

On Feeling Homesick,
I Pause To Reflect That Going Backwards Can,
At Times, Be Difficult.

In my life there was no flood,
no fire, no grand catastrophe.
There are no disaster pictures
of the demolished ruins of my home.

Instead, it sliced itself away
in pieces.
There is no place for me now
in that house where I was born.
Or the next, where a charred grapevine
clung grimly to the wall, nor even
that house where from the garden
I ripped stubborn roots
in the grey winter that my father died.

My life moves on, it moves on,
and fickle time will go forward,
despite the best of intentions,
and manners.

What is left to me now
is the walk home
down a cool hill side
and the shy smile of Mr Patel,
the man at the dairy.

-- Stephanie Pegg, October 2005.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Satire

Now that it's finished, handed in and there's absolutely nothing I can do if I decide to change anything, here is the finished version. Many thanks to the people that took the time to review it while it was still in the draft stages.

DISCLAIMER: In many ways this is an exaggeration of the Auckland environment. That's what satires do. There are things that I like about Auckland as well, I just haven't put them in here.

DISCLAIMER 2: The brief was to write an imitation of a particular satire by a particular guy (Juvenal #3). Some of the oddities that people have commented on, like why most of it is a speech by someone saying good bye to the narrator are lifted directly out of the original. It ain't my fault. Really.

DISCLAIMER 3: People reading this via the RSS feed via their LJ friend's pages, I'm sorry about chewing up your screen space.

Anyway, here goes:

Since the siege and the assault was ceased at Troy°,
And Rome writhed in the wrath of Vandals,
And the sun set on soldier-bred Britain,
And Hobson found harbour and a hundred lovers°,
Have men moulded matchless monuments
And choked their cities in cheerless filth,
Until top-heavy, they tip to ruin,
And residents race for worthless honours,
          And Anna,
     Drowned in petrol, rat-like, fleeing,
     Hawke’s Bay bound, I grieved that she
     Life boxed, money hoarding,
     Prepared to take her leave.

To Maungawhau°, a soiled Eden, we’d made our measure,
Her life’s scraps stuffed in a scungy Toyota.
We stood on high, crowded by vacant tourists
Bursting briefly from climate controlled buses
To womble° wearily taking bad photos, with which
Back home they can say ‘I was there,’ before
Shunting off to the next scheduled stop.
Anna turned to me then and cried “Enough!
I’ll live here no longer, heaven revolts.
Once it snowed on Mt Smart, and nevermore:
The rock of Rarotonga° was wanted for roads,
The mountain dismantled, marked out for sports
Where Tamaki once held fort. And south
Still, an orphaned King° lies broken:
No Grail Quest can cure you, now. Oh Gawain,
          Know this:
     The mountains need a hero.
     What use swords against bulldozers?
     What use chivalry, when we know
     The pull of money?

“I cannot live here; to Hicks’ town° I’ll go.
Honesty hinders me. I never learned to lie, and here
Sincerity is a sin, deception the common rule –
To get a tenant gone from your house
Spin a story of sick relatives, if they look
Gullible, screw them more. Don’t bother
With niceties of notice,° and make sure
They know how stupid they were. Tell
Yourself you’re learning them a life lesson.
Of course, that’s mere pettiness, like ignoring phone calls,
The Big Lie is more fun, for business ethics are boring.
What point in passing courses when a printed paper
Can mark you as a mover and shaker of men,
Even a hockey referee of renown.°
Public money goes to grifters – they’re
Accountable to no one but their Auntie May, makes
You wonder whose got screws on who.
When the government grants money to a weirdo
(And they’re all weird, when you think about it)
What’s the politician done, who do they sleep with?
What drug habit do they hide and more -
Whose kids are they messing around?
          I hate
     Fearing to trust. A simple soul, I,
     And smiling faces with glassy eyes
     Hide demons. Where
     Are the honest men? Not here.

“Courts care more for criminals than casualties,
The victims sit quiet, while cads and convicts
Live in luxury, and marijuana-smoking millionaires
Have the best justice money can buy,
(Poor people are pitched prison-wards, soon enough,)
I’m no-one if my knickers are less than eighty
Nine bucks. Money talks:
To build a slum is no crime, the builders borrow
And file as bankrupts when bills are due, pocketing
Backhanders, leaving backers high and dry, unlike
The leaky dwellings their gulls are left to live in.
These soggy houses rot ere they’re built:
Surprised and shocked, builders summon up the thought
That, actually, it does rain in Auckland, after all.
All this forgot in the rush to throw up wrecks
To be sold for record prices. Cram
The punters in cheek by jowl, and fill
In the gaps left to the green spaces.
Don’t worry on who can’t afford houses,
Who can’t afford to live.
Poor people are to blame for their poverty, right?
Of course, children can help what their parents do.
Politicians who postulate otherwise are
Bleeding-heart liberals, their heads in clouds.
The unemployed must eke out lives on little enough,
Else why would they work? The mills of the masters
Need grist, what use have they for human rights? °
But in the country I’ll have cheap rent and a chance to grow
Food for myself, fresh veggies, and a piece of grass. In the city
          None care
     For people fallen through cracks
     Keep them hungry, keep them ill,
     No matter if they break their backs, for
     Their crime is lack of coin.

“And more, the traffic terrifies me, that snarling beast
That holds me captive in the sticky air.
I’ve better things to do than torment myself on buses.
An hour to go 5k? I could walk that quicker!
The best bus schedule is no better than a vague
Nod to time, why, sometimes I’ve waited an hour,
For a bus that sailed by, standing room only.
If you want to go anywhere but the centre of town
Two hours of your life are taken, right there.
And the bus strikes! That’s right, ruin the working world
So you can savour an extra long lunch break.
Cars are no better – choke-monsters – if I could not cough
For just one day … Yet I’ll not.
The fumes will never free me. The air on the Khyber Pass?°
I wouldn’t make a dog breathe it, why must I?
Only drunks can cope with the chaos.
They make the chaos! Can’t they keep out of crashes?
If they want to die so bad, they could slit their wrists
And save on cleanup time. And there’s more, those damn
Suicides striking out for their share of glory
By strolling on the motorway,° right in time for rush hour.
I hate them. I hate them all.° It’s hell they’ll go to –
Not despair, no, no! - disservice to humanity.
          And so,
     You can keep your cars,
     Your trucks, your trikes and bikes,
     I’ll live where I can walk, thanks,
     Breathing sweet air.

“You ask if I’ll fear for myself in a land of
Meth houses and Mongrel Mob - not really.
In this city, the red lights merge with the white –
Druggies and prostitutes in front of churches
And the most respectable streets hold brothels.°
Home invasions, a new word for an old idea –
We used to call them burglaries, until politicians
Wanted to make some mileage. They’ll be no
Worse in Hastings, although I hear no better.
Still, it’s an old-fashioned place, criminals
Have not yet created dope farms next door to the cop house.°
          What the hell,
     ‘Crime will always be with you’
     Is my motto. Until someone pulls
     Finger and pays police to
     Be police, we’re stuck with it.

Sweet air, sweet words, sweet notes, in Auckland
You can forget about them, ‘It’s all about Art, darling,
Only the Avant-Garde counts here.’ Time was,
Poets sought the scent of beauty. ‘Uglify!’
They now cry, ‘It can’t be Art, if the ear don’t shudder,
Dissonance and discord, that’s where it’s at,
And interesting things with rulers. It must be difficult!’
Grace is passé. Don’t dance, throw an epileptic fit.
Who cares for common metre when a tab key will do, but
Though we cope with ‘Da Damyata’, or even ‘Shantih Da’, and
Dissected splinters lie scattered in waste around us,
What use are the pieces if they stay fractured?
          Does it signify
     When scraps of sound are split
     And language lies in pieces?
     Why do they call themselves poets
     If they reject beauty?

“Is there even such a thing here? Beauty? No, buildings
With facades of agèd brick tacked on to turquoise glass.°
Blow the bleeding skies° of Auckland, that blaze of
Sleazy red is no ash, it’s bloody street-lights blistering off clouds;
Volcanoes count for naught, I’m for earthquake country.°
While I lie wakeful in the watches of the night,
Still Te Mata° sleeps sound and there I once saw
A man say ‘I will not hang myself today.’°
Yet, I’m Pania’s girl,° the parts of me must split,
Longing, for two lives, there’s some of me that yet loves
These sprawling streets and the shadows and the sea,
And there are many here I’ll miss°, but
          I need
     To find a secret stream, I need the sky
     To seem small again, I need
     Hills that glow gold, and I
     Need to find the earth of me.

“There’s more, I cannot tally the troubles of this tip.
I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll leave in peace, the list is long.
I’ll go south now, yet when south you go too,
Come see the life I’m living in the clean free air.”
And with that she left, her tatty Toyota trundling,
And I wondered if follow her I would, or whether
It’s city rat I am, born and bred
Since the siege and the assault was ceased at Troy
To brave the multitudes. And so, this ballad
          Is writ
     (With apologies to gentle Gawain)
     For Anna, gone from this place, and
     For the glory of the Queen of Heaven.
     May she grant us her good grace.

° Since the siege and the assault was ceased at Troy: The verse form for this satire is unashamedly ripped from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the first line of which is “Sithen the sege and the assaut was sesed at Troye.”
° And Hobson … lovers: The Maori name for the area where Auckland was built, Tamaki Makau Rau, means Tamaki of the Hundred Lovers. William Hobson was, of course, the first governor of New Zealand and founder of Auckland.
° Maungawhau: “Hill of the Whau Tree”, also called Mt Eden, after Hobson’s patron, George Eden, the Earl of Auckland.
° womble: In the sense of “an aimlessly wandering walk” as used by John Lowe, an acquaintance of mine.
° rock of Rarotonga: Rarotonga, “Down South”, also called Mt Smart. It was quarried away to nothing so that its scoria and basalt could be used to build roads and railways. There is a sports stadium there now. It was also a pa site for Tamaki, a famous chief in the area. A friend told me once about an anecdote from an elderly lady who had been called out of primary school to watch the snow falling on Mt Smart. Her teacher said “You’ll never see that again,” and she was right.
° orphaned King: Only one of the hills of the “Three Kings” group remains, two were quarried to nothing, of the third only half remains. Local residents have been campaigning to stop further quarrying for fear that pumping more water out of the aquifer will cause major subsidence.
° Hicks’ town: Hastings, otherwise known as my home town, was formerly (thankfully briefly) known as Hicksville, after a prominent local settler Francis Hicks.
° niceties of notice: That would be Judith Webb of Tawhiri Rd, One Tree Hill. This really happened to me, about ten years ago.
° hockey referee of renown: John Davy, of the Maori Television CV fraud scandal.
° what need have they for human rights?: I realise that this is a deviation from the original’s distaste for prostitutes’ sons getting the best seats in theatres, yet my politics differ from Juvenal’s and I refuse to pretend otherwise. Immigration is not included as a target here for the same reason.
° Khyber Pass: Khyber Pass Rd. Major thoroughfare between Newmarket and the central city. It has notoriously bad air quality. Also the very large Lion brewery.
° suicides … strolling on the motorway: In 2004 there were several incidents of pedestrians being run over on the motorway just before rush hour, traffic was hopelessly snarled for hours as a result.
° I hate them, I hate them all: Ahem. Corruption may always be there, but to most people in a fairly remote and impersonal way. Bad traffic happens to everyone.
° respectable streets holding brothels: This is actually true. I used to work on the very respectable Vincent St that held office buildings, lots of trees, a large police station, two churches and a pair of ‘massage’ parlours. (Although to do it justice, the area is not unsafe. Walking home at midnight has never been an issue for me.)
° grown dope next door to the cops: Technically it was two doors down. There was a large drug bust on Vincent St (of the aforementioned police station and massage parlours) several years ago. The loads of top soil removed in skips were very memorable.
° facades of agèd brick tacked on to turquoise glass: The Queen’s Head on Queen St. The architects gutted a rather beautiful pub built in 1868 to knock up a turquoise mirrored cube. But historical buffs need fear not – they kept the outer façade intact. The combination is hideously ugly.
° bleeding skies: The island Rangitoto is named for the blood red skies seen when it erupted from the sea. (Te Rangi I Totongia A Tamatekapua: “the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed”).
° earthquake country: Hawke’s Bay is prone to earthquakes, the most famous of which levelled Napier and half of Hastings in 1931.
° Te Mata: Te Mata O Rongokako was a Maori chief. A legend in Hawke’s Bay is that he is the sleeping giant that forms the large mountain overshadowing Havelock North.
° ‘I will not hang myself today.’: From “Ballade of a Suicide”, G. K. Chesterton. The reference to a “secret stream” is also from this poem: “And through thick woods one finds a stream astray/ So secret that the very sky seems small.”
° Pania’s girl: Pania was a sea maiden who fell in love with a human chief. For a while she lived by day in the sea and would spend the nights with her husband. He tried to make her stay always by placing cooked food on her while she slept, but something went wrong and she disappeared into the sea forever. Pania’s Reef is the breakwater near Napier where she used to sit. There is a story that at ebb-tide she can be seen stretched at the bottom of the rocky shelf, arms stretched to land.
° And there are many here I’ll miss: I moved from Auckland at the beginning of the year. It was a hard decision to make, for all the petty annoyances of living there.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Poems R Us

Inspired, in a weird kind of way, by writing a satire with the theme of 'everything that I hate about Auckland'. I guess dissatisfaction with the world around me knows no boundaries. ;-)
(LJ people: the formatting will look a heck of a lot better on the blogspot site, not the RSS feed you're seeing on your Friend's page.)

What I Hate About Modern Poetry
(or, How to Antagonise Modern Poets)

It stutter starts
then stalls. A cynic’s
playground, it must
    be difficult
to be art.

dissonance is the key,
weird lacunae like awkward
in conversation
and really, really
work those line-

by all means,
throw up your verbal graffiti,
fracture words,
show the world broken in pieces
around you.
(although it still seems to struggle on, regardless)

Time was, poets loved their language.
They wove words into symphonies and quiet nocturnes.
Behind the spaces of their thoughts lay the great silence,
and the beating of mighty wings.
Entropy will win, in the end,
does it need a headstart?

I’ll not think less of you
for writing beauty.
Go on.
I dares ya.
-- Stephanie Pegg, September 2005.

(I'm afraid to polish it more for fear that I'll break it.)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Harrowing of Hell

Watch Satan get what's coming to him in a genuine Medieval Mystery Play!

LAUGH at the devil's comic antics.
THRILL at the might of Jesus.
REJOICE at the rescue of those virtuous heathen type people.
JEER at a University lecturer being thrown into the darkest pit of hell.

Thursday, 6 October, 2.10pm
Memorial Theatre Foyer (in the Student Union building), Victoria University
No charge, light refreshments afterwards.

There was talk of running a dress rehearsal with an audience, so if you're interested but can't make 2pm on a Thursday, let me know and I'll get in touch when I know the time for the dress rehearsal.
(I'm playing Beelzebub. Heh heh heh.)
And they really liked my banner. :-D


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Da da da da da da da dum dum dummmmm

Da da da da da da da dum dum dummmmmm
Da da da da da da da dee da dee da dummmmmm -

Stuffed Stephanie in a cannon and went to see the 1812 with Edward.

heh heh heh


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Weird Things

I was part of the 100+ group booking to see Serenity in Wellington last night. (Reports on the size of the booking have varied between 130 and 170 so I'm not sure how many were actually in it) and it amused me to see how many people from overlapping fields of interest came. There were Medieval Guilders and Science Fictioners and Board Gamers and Roleplayers and SCAers and many friendly Americans whom I suspected (and later found out for sure) were employed by Weta. Also the manager of the local laser strike, Sara from my Latin class, an ex-Hoarde member and an assorted miscellany of other people that I couldn't categorise so exactly. The weird thing? How many of these people all knew each other, or had friends in common, or knew each other by LiveJournal handles as Friends of Friends and wanted to know what each other looked like. (Mashugenah, did ThreeMonkeys ever catch up with you?) No seriously, about half the conversations I was in that evening included the question of what someone's LiveJournal handle was. It was good to get out for the costume party in Coyote Ugly before hand as well, worth even having to drag my costume around with me all day because I didn't have time to go home and get changed. Companion was a very popular choice, bringing with it, as it does, the opportunity to dress up to the nines. There were also some Kaylee's, Browncoats, generic Chinese/Euro mismash and a Woman with Blue Hands. She even had the gadget that makes peoples eyes bleed.

The movie itself was excellent. I'm not going to discuss it except in general terms - good plot, characters that I cared about, scary bits, sad bits, funny bits, exciing bits. Joss Whedon pulls no punches with this movie. It's also a technically accomplished movie, although as the story pulls people in very strongly it was very rare for me to pull out of suspension of disbelief to think about how cool the effects were. What did shake me out was not controllable by the movie makers. (Well, I suppose it was controllable, on a technicality.) I recognised one of the actresses in a very emotionally traumatic scene and, as I was used to seeing her in a romantic comedy, the dissonance was very very weird. River was absolutely gorgeous, especially in the way she moved. I sometimes wonder if the actress was found first and the part written for her, she fits it so well.

My one not-very-spoiler: Hang on to the end of the credits, there's a very nice guitar solo of the original theme tune.

And yet another weird thing: as I was leaving Varsity I was accosted (in the nicest possible way) by a large, friendly, red-headed giant who used to know Catherine in Palmerston North. He remembered her kindly and, as I was feeling a bit low at the time, getting to bask in a wave of reflected good feeling made me feel much better about the world.


Monday, September 19, 2005

What I Did On My Weekend

As requested by She Who Must Be Obeyed.

This weekend I made an expedition north, no, not to find the sun, but to visit my lovely sister Catherine. Thinking back, it's been pretty full on. First off, I get to feel all smug and virtuous for being caught up on the reading for virtually all my courses and comfortably ahead of the game for two of them. (That's the good thing about train rides. The enforced inactivity encourages you to read.) I've also started work on one of the assignments - a verse satire about Auckland, written in the alliterative style. The poetry may suck, but any course work that has you giggling aloud as you write has got to be a good thing.

On arriving, I was promptly swooped on by Cat and her flatmate Michael, and taken to an evening of roleplaying in the Underdark. That was the theory, anyway. It turned into more of a social evening because we hadn't seen each other in a while and partway through the evening the GM was called by a friend in Hong Kong who wanted to rant about politics. At length. It was a damn fine evening, with some roleplaying thrown in for flavour and we were all rather surprised when Conal (that's the GM) declared that we had made very good progress and awarded us a 1/4 level in XP. It turned out that we'd taken a very eccentric route through the cave system and had managed to accidentally miss all the juicy monsters as we wandered around looking for an important NPC to talk to.

Michael dissapeared up to Auckland for the weekend. I found this out when he announced that I was driving him to the airport the next morning. Michael is a really interesting guy. Astronomer, programmer, evolutionary biologist, musician, bridge player and atheist, he lacks but an interest in writing poetry to be considered a true Renaissance Man. Alas, his trust in my driving skills is sadly misplaced. It's not that I can't drive, it's that I get distracted easily, and that isn't good when large pieces of metal are traversing at speed. Still, no crashes, which is a good sign. It also meant that we had a car available for a Grand Expedition to Spotlight, so that Cat could get material for some dresses that she's making and I could get material for a St George's banner for The Harrowing of Hell. We're both aiming for our Holy Grail in these projects - subtle and understated excellence, partly so that they'll look good but also for the sheer snob apeal of it all. You don't want to blazon to the world that you're a fantastically good dressmaker, you want to cough it discreetly.

We also had Jehovah's Witnesses turn up at the door. Contrary to the last pair of missionaries that I actually talked to instead of sending off with guilty sounding pleas of busy-ness, this pair had actually studied their subject matter and were not just repeating some set phrases that someone had passed on to them. (Digression: "It is a well known fact that Rome fell because of homosexuality." Well known to whom? Myself, I would have thought that greed, lust for power, infighting, and a horde of Vandals might have had something to do with it. But that's just me.) Anyway, to end the digression, Cat and I had a quite interesting chat with the pair and they stood up pretty well to debate. They wanted to talk about Fear, but we quickly derailed them into something more interesting. ;-)

And then there was the election. Everyone was watching, so like me they'll be aware of the absolute lack of decisiveness in the result. It's their own bloody fault for sniping at each other, says I. On the other hand, since any kind of conclusion has to wait on the counting of the thousands of special votes, I, as someone outside of their own electorate on Polling Day, can feel smug that, in my own small way, I contributed to that. We also tried watching King Arthur. Bad dialogue, bad acting, bad plot line, bad historicity, unecessarily graphic violence and boring fight scenes. We stopped watching when the Saxons were introduced. My imagination is plenty good enough to think of them as vile and despicable people without having to watch a woman being raped in quite that much detail, thank you very much. If you haven't seen it yet, don't bother.

Yea, verily, on Sunday, I slept in. Quite a lot actually, which wasn't so good as I had trouble getting to sleep last night. Also helped Cat a little on her sewing, some of which is for my benefit in her quest for the Holy Grail for understated excellence. About the point where you're being careful that the slipstitching won't show on the lining which will never be seen by anyone except the wearer, that's when you realise that you've gone beyond finicky and on to the high plateau that is our goal.

Anyway, got home around 9. Babe pleased to see me. Flatmates pleased to see me. It's all good.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Commonplace Book

Several of my friends are going through bad places in their lives right now and I got to thinking that when I'm in the middle of a black depression this is the poem that, in a very strange way, makes me feel a little bit better. It reminds me, not so much that things have started to improve, but that eventually they will - there will always be moments of walking down the street in a spring evening smelling bread baking, and that's a comforting thought. So for anyone who reads this who is stuck in a dark state of mind that they can't see their way out of, er, hang in there.

A Ballade of Suicide
The gallows in my garden, people say,
     Is new and neat and adequately tall;
I tie the noose on in a knowing way
     As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
     But just as all the neighbours--on the wall--
Are drawing a long breath to shout "Hurray!"
     The strangest whim has seized me. . . . After all
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

To-morrow is the time I get my pay--
     My uncle's sword is hanging in the hall--
I see a little cloud all pink and grey--
     Perhaps the rector's mother will not call--
     I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall
That mushrooms could be cooked another way--
     I never read the works of Juvenal--
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

The world will have another washing-day;
     The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
And H.G. Wells has found that children play,
     And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall,
     Rationalists are growing rational--
And through thick woods one finds a stream astray
     So secret that the very sky seems small--
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

     Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,
The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way;
     Even to-day your royal head may fall,
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

G.K. Chesterton

Friday, August 19, 2005

I Seek A Book...

... which I read and really liked as a child.

It was set in Britain near the White Horse of Uffington, there was a blind girl and lots of pagan references to things like mistletoe and the correct way to orient horseshoes so that the luck doesn't run out. I think there may have been a frog that was left to dry out in the sun because someone wanted to use the bones for something and I'm pretty sure the climax of the story involved the blind girl being left in the eye of the White Horse in the middle of the night. My sister thinks that it may have been called "The Moon Horse" but the name doesn't really ring a bell. Does anyone know for sure what the title was? The author would be a great help as well.

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Christmas Survey...

My older sister Alexandra is very organised. So organised, in fact, that she's already started planning for Christmas and, because I and my other sister are notoriously hard to shop for, she invented a questionnaire for us to fill out. It's quite cool, interesting me not just for its comprehensiveness but for its mad eclecticness. (I have no idea what question 10 is supposed to be for.)

The List

1) Choose one: Bronze/Silver
2) Choose two: Owl /Falcon /Cat /Lion /Griffon /Thistle /Spiral /Wolf /Boar /Celtic Dragon /Raven /Ram
3) Choose one: Circular/Straight
4) Choose one: Hair/Fabric
5) Choose one: Audio/Visual
6) Choose one: Real/Artificial
7) Choose one: Matching Set/Eclectic Mix
8) Choose two: Wool /Brocade /Cotton /Velvet /Silk /Leather /Other ___________
9) Choose one: Manufacture/Repair/Design
10) Choose one: Long /Short /Throwing /Wood /Protection /Shoot
11) Choose one: Belt /Bag /Pouch
12) Choose one: To LARP/Not to LARP
13) Choose three: Fantasy /Crime /Science Fiction /Murder Mystery /Comedy /Non-Fiction /Romance /Historical /Other _____________
14) Choose two: Dark Ages /Middle Ages/ Victorian/ Early 20th Century/ Present Day/ Near Future/ Distant Future/ Imaginary
15) Choose two: Pop/ Rap/ Classical/ Folk/ Country/ Rock/ Orchestral/ Musical/ Celtic/ R'n'B/ Other _______________

Vital Statistics:
Favourite Author(s):
Favourite Artist(s):
Favourite Musician(s):
Favourite Instrument(s):
Favourite Colour:
Favourite Poet(s):

Clothing Size:
Recommended Shops/Websites:
Current Wishlist:

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Common Place Book

"Is there any such thing as a modern-English version of the Canterbury Tales? I have these guilts about never having read Chaucer but I was talked out of learning Early Anglo-Saxon/Middle English by a friend who had to take it for her Ph.D. They told her to write an essay in Early Anglo-Saxon on any-subject-of-her-own-choosing. 'Which is all very well,' she said bitterly, 'but the only essay subject you can find enough Early Anglo-Saxon words for is "How to Slaughter a Thousand Men in a Mead Hall."'"

--Helene Hanff, 84, Charing Cross Road

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I'm Making Casserole

As opposed to my sister's recent excursion into the Ways of Liver, complete with greyish membranes, large mysterious holes and weird chewy texture, mine is a nice beef casserole with onions, broccoli and beef stock that doesn't scare my flatmates. Come to think of it, there's some bacon in the fridge which I could likely have added to some profit...

Gosh, it's amazing how much housework I can get done when I should be writing an essay. It doesn't help that the subject that it's on is not exactly enthralling me. 1100 words and counting. (Min limit 1500.) Back to work. Sigh.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Oh why not, I like this one too...

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.
-- James Leigh Hunt

Shameless advertising...

My lovely sister Catherine has just succumbed to the internet journal addiction and has set up her own Blog. It's here:

Check it out. She's a very good poet and usually has interesting things to say.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

It's All Good.

My Middle English course is producing a mystery play for October. It's called the Harrowing of Hell and I get to be Beelzebub.
Heh heh heh.
(Slinks off to work on Evil Laugh)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

And Another Just Because...

My sister Catherine wrote this poem. It made me laugh a lot and I feel like sharing.

To My Sister's Cat
For you have been radioactive in your day, and petulant when we shunned you.
For your blindness is very audible.
For your voice is distinctive and your appetite a Thing that waxeth, yea, and waneth in its own Time and Measure.
For you complain about this.
For you will sit and sit and sit
And sit and sit
And sit.
For your rest is peaceful,
And you are very stubborn.
For you will never brisk about life, but for one case:
For you will throw your heart and small body at the door and, lo!, it opens.
For you will never admit that it won't.
For you are as soft as the Sea bathing ancient bones and as stubborn as the Sea in your striving.
For you are happy to see me.
For you love my sister.
For you are happy.

--Catherine Pegg

(To people who read this who have never met my cat, she is getting old and blind. Several years she was treated with radioactive iodine for a health problem which meant that she couldn't sleep in my room for several weeks. My nights used to go like this: THUD, slide, patpatpat, THUD, slide, patpatpat, THUD, slide, patpatpat, THUD, slide, patpatpat, meow, THUD, slide, patpatpat and so forth ad insomniam. I had to barricade myself in because the catch on the door wouldn't keep her out by itself. After a couple of hours she'd change tactics and sit outside my window crying. It was a very long three weeks.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Just Because...

My Sweet, Crushed Angel
You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to hold hands with the Beautiful One.

You have waltzed with great style,
My sweet, crushed angel,
To have ever neared God's heart at all.

Our Partner is notoriously difficult to follow,
And even His best musicians are not always easy
To hear.

So what if the music has stopped for a while.

So what
If the price of admission to the Divine
Is out of reach tonight.

So what, my dear,
If you do not have the ante to gamble for Real Love.

The mind and the body are famous
For holding the heart ransom,

But Hafiz knows the Beloved's eternal habits.

Have patience,

For He will not be able to resist your longing
For Long.

You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to kiss the Beautiful One.

You have actually waltzed with tremendous style,
O my sweet,
O my sweet crushed angel.

-- Hafiz

Thursday, June 16, 2005


My last exam is now done! I have writer's cramp and came the closest ever to filling my answer book. I also got to take lots of potshots at Pullman, which is always fun. And the fire alarm went off two minutes before the end of the exam. We all just stared at the invigilators in complete shock before being told to leave our scripts where they were and file out for 20 minutes. If it turns out that that was someone's idea of a good time for a fire drill I will be mightily pissed. But that's OK, I'd just finished my last essay and was starting to fill out the front cover, so it all turned out well for me. :-D

Friday, June 10, 2005

Another One Bites The Dust...

ENGL111 is done and dusted. I'm reasonably confident about it. I used all the time I had, not from needing to think but because I had things to say, so I'm not paranoid about all the people who left an hour early. Not paranoid at all. Really.

Friday, June 03, 2005

My first exam was really easy. La la la.

That's it. Nothing else to say.

Love to all,


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I just got the nicest comments back from my tutor...

She finally coughed up with my essay (the first copy of which having met with an accident with a shredder), and along with its sequel it was full of really ego-flattering comments like "Splendid", "Marvellous", "Tremendous", one to two pages of typed commentary for both of them, some interesting points on what I had to say, a suggestion that I start reading up on post-colonialism (I'm not sure exactly what post-colonialism is but I think I really ought to check it out, somehow) and finished it all with:

"I hope you'll go on with English - you'll maybe want to do the Post-Colonial theory course - and I hope you'll consider post-graduate study in English? I want to read more of your work."

This is like, amazingly awesome. It's been 6 hours since I read it and I'm still grinning about it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I just wrote a really long and interesting post about my birthday and then the internet connection failed and it was all lost...

So I'll leave everyone with the news that I had a good birthday.

Also these words from my Latin teacher:
felicem tibi
natalem diem!
felicem, O Steph,
natelem diem!

Friday, May 13, 2005

My Essay Got Shredded ...

... and my tutor still hasn't marked the replacement, despite having had it for a full week.

I like getting feedback. I like someone who knows more than me suggesting how I could have argued my point better, or mentioning other sources that I'd find interesting, or even just telling me what they liked. I'm presumably going to get it back next Wednesday which will make it a full month since I handed the damn thing in in the first place. Man, this is annoying. There's nothing worse than feeling like you're throwing finely crafted words out into empty air. Phooey.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Well, Now I Know How It Feels To Be In The Middle Of A Car Crash...

The word 'middle' used advisedly. My brother and I were in the second car at a red light when someone piled into the back of us. I have a headache and had a sore neck. (Turns out my side got the biggest dent.) The latter got me a visit from an ambulance and a fire engine. I think the fire engine was marginally closer or something, but they both figured that if I was wondering around non-disorientated after 20 minutes the odds of me being concussed or having a broken neck were slight. So they asked me some more questions, poked at my neck a bit and offered me a ride in the ambulance if I wanted to have an x-ray. 3 hour queue. To be honest, my headache isn't that bad. It probably helped that I was cracking jokes and asking for a lolly pop. That was the entertaining part.

The non entertaining part was hanging around a closed petrol station for another hour waiting for the police to turn up. When we eventually re-called them, it turned out that the ambulance had said that there was no emergency and they'd taken us off their visit list. Without telling us about it. Bastards. Presumably someone else gets to deal with the abandoned car of the driver who started it all and which, when we left, was blocking the petrol truck from leaving.

Man, I'm tired. And I didn't even have a book to read.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

And She Is Now Back!

I got woken at 5am by a very loud and gravelly pur.

Phew! She has no broken limbs, is very hungry but hasn't had time to lose weight, and is purring fit to burst. I have no idea where she's been or why she turned up now, but I've never been happier about broken sleep in my life.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Bast, St Francis and any other deity or saint or helped in this. And a big cheers to the SPCA who weren't able help to me in particular but save many pets in general and were friendly and helpful in advice. Also three cheers to the National Pet Database at


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

...And She Is Now Missing.

She seemed pretty happy to be home, but around 1am I realised that the reason she was so restive was an inability to get out of the house owing to my flatmate locking the catdoor. So I put her outside and realised an hour later that the catdoor was locked from the inside as well so she hadn't been able to get back in. But now no cat, her breakfast is untouched and the neighbours who are home haven't seen her. My new flatmate, Mark, thinks he heard the catdoor flap and the sound of feet earlier today, but that could have been the neighbour's cat.

This is extremely uncharacteristic behaviour and I am worried. She's not really the type to storm off because of a snit. The only good sign so far is no corpses on the road.



Monday, April 11, 2005

I Sprang My Cat From Quod Today...

And boy did she create hell about being in the car again. She's now purring lots and obsessively patrolling the house, which I choose to interpret as being glad to be home.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

I'm Looking For Some Research Help

Hi all,

I have a favour to ask. In my (absolutely splendiferously awesome) course on Children's Fantasy mentioned in my previous post, we have started studying the Chronicles of Earthsea. It turns out that my attitude to this particular course is to encourage my lecturers to run in fear from my opinions, basically because I know the set texts pretty well so I'm trying to wring the last drop of meaning out of them. So far my lecturers seem to know the books even better than I do, so I probably won't win, but I'm going to have fun trying. ;-)
Anyway, on to the favour. The Earthsea books are absolutely reeking with plant references, particularly in the wood that the wizards' staffs are made of. For some of them (yew, rowan, oak etc) I'm passably familiar with the pagan symbolism associated with them, but, while I have some reference texts, they're buried at the bottom of seven boxes of books. Can anyone out there suggest some good internet resources and books that the public and university libraries are likely to have?

What I can pull out of memory so far (I'm treating this as a scratchpad, sorry for any errors):
Yew: Ged, the second Master Summoner, planted in graveyards, used for bows, protection from the dead, immortality
Rowan: Lebannen, protection from magic, the berries make a pentagram and I know there's heaps more
Oak: Ogion
Olive: Master Healer
Aspen: the evil wizard in Tehanu
Alder: Tenar
Hazel: Therru
The Immanent Grove is comprised of oaks, willows, chestnuts, ashes and tall evergreens, (Dragonfly, p237) plus the Tree of the Grove which is a bit like an oak and a bit like a chestnut and only grows there.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Some People Are Weird...

So I'm sitting in my Children's Fantasy class before the lecture eavesdropping on the conversation behind me (as you do) and these two guys are talking about the fact that they haven't read the set text (Narnia). Ever. One of them thinks he might once sort of have seen a BBC serial of it. This is after two and a half weeks of lectures and tutorials on C. S. Lewis' life, times, and in considerable detail the Chronicles of Narnia and the big question in my mind is: "What the fuck are you two doing in here?"

If you don't care enough about the subject enough to read the books, why are you sitting a course on it in the first place? How do you expect to understand the lectures if you don't know what they're talking about. Even if you're solely motivated by the mark you get at the end of the course how do you expect to pass if you don't read the material? Understand me, this is not a course for teenagers fresh out of high school. To be in it, you need to have passed two 100 level English papers or talked the Dean into giving you an exemption, so these two people must have done some studying in the past. But I just don't get it - you only get one chance at the lectures and then they're gone forever. You only get so much time to cram all that knowledge into your brain. To me sitting around wasting it is ... approaching blasphemy.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I must be moved in, we have had a house warming party...

(Disclaimer: some of this was previously written in a letter to a friend. Hi Donald!)

So after a week of University I feel a need to take stock. I'm liking getting to mooch around in my pyjamas in the morning and very carefully selected tutorial slots to be no earlier than 11am. (Joy.) My cat has finally arrived (see below), the weather has been gorgeous although is today overcast and windy. For the weather I'm blaming Alan who is visiting for the weekend - he must have brought it down with him. Also, we now have a broadband internet connection so I don't have to trek all the way into town to get access to email. (Double joy.)

Last night we had a house warming party so I guess that officially we're moved in. ;-)
Babe finally made the last two hour car journey to Wellington yesterday. She's coping pretty well, although a bit grumpy about not being allowed outside. We went out for a sniff this morning and I accidentally let her get out of sight for a couple of minutes and then found that I couldn't find her - she'd dissapeared into the undergrowth somewhere. After about 5 minutes she turned up again, so I delayed having a heart attack for the moment.

University has been good. I get to read the Chronicles of Narnia as homework (my Gran didn't believe me when I told her), manicly trying to memorise Latin vocabulary, and reading Middle English to Elizabethan love poetry, some of which is extremely smutty. The first couple of art classes were a bit dull, but hopefully they'll liven up a bit. I've also found that there's an SF group and a Gaming group on campus, so I think I shall be wandering up to their events and seeing what they're like.

I'm learning to navigate like a Wellingtonian. That means working out the easiest ways to gain altitude (like crossing the street, going into a building, taking a lift up 2 floors then crossing the street again via an overbridge) and maintaining altitude once you've got it. Unfortunately, the maps don't contain topographical information, so you pretty much have to 'know' the streets in question. However trust me on this one - you do not want to go down into a valley unless you absolutely have to.

Love to all,


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Watch Out Wellington ... Again

So the movers gave me trouble with when my stuff was going to arrive and I finished all the errands that I needed to run so I ended up going back to Palmerston North to visit Catherine again. I'm back now, the weather is great, my gear is finally here and I had a reverse negotiation with my landlord over rent.

Me: "Y'know, I rechecked my finances. I'm not as poor as I thought I'd be. Do you want me to raise my rent to X?" (previously we'd negotiated my rent at a discount because I'm a poor student.)
Norman: "I had a look at prices around here. Do you want to lower it to Y?"
Me: "Sure. Aren't we doing this the wrong way around?"

I will leave you all with the mystery of why packing materials take up more space when the things that they've been packed with have been removed even when I'm taking care to stack them in neatly.

Missing the Auckland contingent heaps,

Love to all,


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Watch out, Wellington

So I finally made it here.

Taking the train down from Palmerston North I remembered again how beautiful the hills are. I somehow always forget when I'm away from them.

I'm living in Kingston. Even native Wellingtonions don't seem to know where that is - a bit south of Vogeltown and a bit north of Happy Valley. Norman (me landlord) is a nice guy, but I get the impression that he will be out a lot in the near future - I think he's busy at work and that.

This is my first full day and I've been doing important things like:
1. Finding out about bus and train timetables. I went to the train station counter and asked for bus timetables. The nice chap pointed me in the right direction. Then I asked about train timetables. To Waikanae. He slumped in defeat so I hastily changed it to Paraparaumu which he could help me with. Apparently the commuter trains all stop in Parapaumu which is only about 5km south of Waikane. Go figure. (Waikanae is where my gran lives.)
2. Getting a map (which promptly lost itself, which is a bad start. However, it turned outself in, so I'm letting it off with a warning.)
3. Getting a library card. The library is where I am now, actually, they have internet access and everything.
4. Inviting myself to my brother's house for dinner. It's good to let him know who's boss, early. Then he invited me to the Botanical Gardens to watch an open air viewing of Amelie. Maybe he's trying to show that he's boss. Hmm. I must think on this. ...

More later.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Watch Out, Palmerston North

I'm here.

It's gone pretty well so far. Babe made an ill-judged dash for her food bowl about half past 11 and found herself unceremoniously stuffed into the bathroom for the rest of the day. She seems to like her new cage, which is reinforced plywood and very enclosed. At least, she spent most of her day hiding inside it. Was highly unimpressed about the plane trip (OK, so I might have told her that she was being sold for medical experiments), but took it pretty well and is very relaxed about wandering around Catherine's house.

Watching a cat explore a new house always make me think of a Feng Shui dragon. She keeps making circuits around the house checking out all the nooks and crannies that she can find and checking them for fit and smell. She has been very quietly and gracefully trying to ooze herself out through a window so I'm guessing she's not hugely worried about life right now.

(I should add that I found when travelling to South Africa for a holiday that having Catherine along meant that I had someone to fuss over, which was a good outlet for travel nerves. I think that Babe has taken over that role, hence my obsessive detailing of her movements. ;-) )


Monday, February 07, 2005

Up, up and away...

OK, I'm moving tomorrow.

My life has been condensed into 4 cubic metres of stuff (or at least that's what the nice people at the moving company are charging me for), a suitcase of clothes and a cat. My pot plants are on long term loan to a friend, I have purchased an industrial grade cat cage that the airline will accept, I have purged a lot of books I don't read anymore and clothes I don't wear anymore and my room is almost down to remnants of furniture with set squares, miscellaneous CDs, a padlock, a letter holder, unused envelopes, scissors, hair stuff and all the little bits and pieces that just don't pack up easily.

Most of my forms have been filled out, the movers turn up tomorrow at lunch time and my sister is expecting me and the cat. Her name is Babe by the way. Somehow I suspect that with all this, she still hasn't worked out that we're moving yet. She's purring far too much to have pre-move nerves.

More later. (Wellington, here I come.)

^%*^%$ I can't find my cat!!!

I guess she's figured out that something's up after all.

I have six hours and twenty one minutes to lay my hands on her scruffy little neck.