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.