Thursday, April 26, 2007

I Feel Really Awful

Take your pick as to what's a cause and what's a symptom:
- crashing with a cold yesterday afternoon, right when I thought I'd finally gotten rid of it.
- not enough sleep for the third night running, along with the joys of the Mysterious 1am Impossible To Sleep Through Beep that nevertheless took me 40 minutes to track down
- crying all the time
- being angry all the time
- picking fights with a friend and even when I know I ought to be sorry, somehow I can't make myself feel that way
- bursting into tears when Mum called to see how I was
- bursting into tears when Cat called to cheer me up
- thanking whatever powers may exist that I have a cat that likes company and emergency cuddly toys

Catherine has just suggested hiring myself out as a zombie or vampire. The idea has some merit. And now my nose has started running and my room is out of tissues. @#^$$#

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Alter Egos

Well not actually. Just that I got a random message from someone living in Michigan who happens to have the same name, and happens to have a daughter called Catherine (actually Kathryn, but close enough for government work.) [Waves]

Friday, April 13, 2007


My cat's new favourite spot to perch is a box of books in my room. I have no idea why: it isn't the nearest she can get to the heater, there is no sun beam handily situated there, and I challenge any feline bum to find books more comfortable than carpet or a cushion. Go figure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Review: The Company

Easter has just been and, in the dollop of free time preserved by my assiduous refusal to go to things, I did a certain amount of movie watching. My local video shop is the estimable Aro Video Shop, and so there was a wide selection of 'thinky' movies available, and I ended up with the serious art world's answer to Center Stage: The Company.

Happy escapism, this is not. It's about the Joffrey Ballet Company of Chicago, except it isn't set inside the company, it's starring the company. It shows glimpses of the working and personal lives of the company members over a period of time, roughly the amount of time it takes to produce a new ballet from the first meeting with the choreographer to the first night, with frequent interspersements of the performances that the company is working on in the meantime. It's not at all linear - the fragile threads of story that you end up seeing are built out of a mosaic of small private moments, often of people you don't know the name of, and will never know the endings of. The mosaic style of movie (or book), I confess I find quite tiring to watch, all the information comes out of small details and you need to pay constant attention to keep track of what's happening. It was also filmed in an uncomfortable manner. There were lots of long and medium shots with very few closeups, often dark lighting, or shots looking straight at the stage lights, the view was frequently obscured by other people and various furniture, and I realised after a while that we never got to see anyone's eyes or feel that the people filmed were looking at us, which added to the uncomfortableness of it. As with other works that are built as a mosaic, somewhere between a third and two thirds of the movie I found I was wondering why I was still watching.

In this movie, the answer is the dancing. It's absolutely gorgeous. There are no body doubles or camera tricks to make people look better than they are, this is pure unadulterated magical movement, and the nett result of the camera and lighting weirdness is the closest experience to actually being at a live performance that I've seen. The company has a wide repertoire, from the opening (to an electronic soundtrack) of dancers in a weirdly abstract sequence with the rustle of long ribbons and the pat of the dancers' feet as the main sounds heard, to the excursions into classical ballet, exquisite solo pieces, and the final production number of the Giant's Mouth, it's all wonderful. Often the dancing pieces appear without comment or explanation, simply as the performance that the company is working on just then, often we are shown the progression from rehearsal into final performance.

Just lovely.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Walking the Skyline


I just got back from walking the Skyline track with John. We didn't do the whole track, just the part from the Northland Cemetary to Mt Kau Kau then down to the train station in Khandallah, so there's a section around Karori and Makara that I haven't seen yet. I had a good time, but I'm rather tired now.

Length of full track: 12km
Length we walked: Dunno, exactly. 9ish? 10?
Time: Four and a quarter hours.
Hardest part: Walking up onto the track from the cemetary to Johnston Hill. There weren't any horrendously steep bits, it just kept on going and going and going. The section after that was a nice undulating amble over the top ridge of someone's farm, though, so it helped for getting my breath back.
Steepest gradient: Near Mt Kau Kau, but we were going down hill for those bits.
Difference in fitness between John and me: Lots.
Easter egg encounters: A victory egg at the top of Mt Kau Kau, and an egg encountered in passing that someone had left on a survey marker at the top of Mt Johnston. A libation for Easter, maybe?
New Foodstuffs 1: Kellog's All-Bran Baked Bars. Yummy, filling, and full of things that are actually good for you! (Bran and molasses, and things like that.)
New Foodstuffs 2: Nashis. A kind of fruit with a flavour and texture sort of like a cross between an apple and a pear. First bite was sweet and kinda bland, but with interesting tart flavours coming through near the centre of the nashi.
Highest point: Mt Kau Kau at 445m.
Second highest point: Johnston Hill at 360m.
View: Absolutely stunning. It's another reminder, actually, of how compact Wellington is. I don't know of many capital cities where you could stand in sight of the port on one side, and someone's farm on t'other, all at the same time.
The bacon sandwiches we had when we staggered home: Priceless

Thursday, April 05, 2007

On Oral Presentations...

Today I had to give a presentation to my class on the play we've been studying, by a chap called Plautus, called Amphitruo, which is about Jupiter and Mercury disguising themselves as human and arranging an elaborate scheme that allows Jupiter to have it off with the general Amphitruo's lovely and virtuous wife, Alcumena. I hadn't actually picked the topic of my talk with any care, just seen out of a list of suggestions the title "Roman Comedy / Roman Construct" that had a recommended reading on 'Roman street theatre' and figured, "Hey, it'll be something to do with how Romans put on plays, that'll be interesting."

I should have chosen with more attention. The reading turned out to be about triumphs and Scipio swanning around implying that he was a quasi-Jupiter, and I ended up going rather off the beaten track and heading into the surreal world of grotesque realism and whether Alcumena was a stand-in for Juno in the play. It's always worrying when your lecturer suddenly sits up and pays extra close attention to what you say. (Hoping I pulled it off.)

Monday, April 02, 2007

On Suicidal Birds...

About 40 minutes ago, a wax-eye flew straight into the window and landed with an enormous thump. When I peered out, it was still twitching, at which point I had a huge dither fit and ended up calling half a dozen people and their dog for advice. Well, maybe not that many, but I wasn't sure whether it was better to kill it or leave it and hope it gets better. Fortunately, the SPCA came through with a positive answer and said to stash it in a dark place for a while until it gets over the shock of the affair. It's gone from limp and looking like it had broken its neck, to sitting/hunching up, to sitting all the way up on its legs. Still shivering, though.

ETA: 5.40pm And it's rather bedraggled, but just flew off looking reasonably happy about the state of affairs. I found it rather disturbing that Babe, blind as she is, chose that particular moment to sniff around in the bushes and hauled her inside, though.

Commonplace Book

A Martian Sends A Postcard Home
Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings -

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside -
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.

At night when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves -
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

-- Craig Raine

For Lucy, who asks good questions.