“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nostalgic for the past

I've been listening to a "classic rock" station on the commute home from work now and then. It makes me miss the '70s. I was just a kid, but people seemed happier, and more rational. Just listen to ABBA's Dancing Queen, and how could you not smile? I had a rainbow print top and listened to Supertramp. I also listened to my brother's Van Halen and Ted Nugent records. Unicorns were popular. I watched the Muppet Show, Fantasy Island, and the Love Boat. After the gas crisis, I learned in school that petroleum was a finite resource, and the planet had a carrying capacity. The shift to alternative energy sources seemed like the way of the future, a logical no-brainer. What happened to our dreams?? Kermit, I miss your green frog face. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) may not have been our best president ever, but he did win a Nobel Peace Prize. No one is going to be giving one to our current demagogue, GW Bush.
The 80's happened: Reaganomics, the Iran-Contra Affair, the AIDS crisis, and disco was dead. Yuppies were snorting cocaine and Miami Vice was a highly rated television show. Madonna and Michael Jackson rose to the highest level of popularity. Americans became obsessed with money and consuming like never before. The space shuttle Challenger exploded after take off, in front of our eyes, on the TV in our classroom. We used to watch every launch. The 80's gave us televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Oral Roberts, and Jimmy Swaggert sucking millions of dollars out of stupid people, all the while behaving like the opposite of a "good Christian". OK, to be fair, the 70's had its share of cults, most notably Jonestown. Worse was the hysteria over daycare sex abuse, some going so far as to claim satanic ritual abuse. Ah, the good old days, ha ha!
The 80's did give us some good movies though. Here is a list of my favorite 80's movies:

and of course, Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2.
As evidence of my nostalgia, I went to see the performance of We Will Rock You at the Civic Theatre in Auckland. It is based upon the music of Queen, and was written by Ben Elton, who is a very funny British writer. I've read This Other Eden, and Stark is on my shelf, to be read after I finish the other books I'm currently reading.
I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which came highly recommended by my sister. I have started Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier for the second time, but the Kingsolver book is more transportable. Both are good so far. I also have from the library The China Study, which has been criticized for over-reaching, so I may get disgusted and return it early. The other library book I have is a compilation of essays by Joan Didion, a California writer from the 1960's (futher evidence of my nostalgia) whose central thesis is, "things fall apart; the centre cannot hold" (Yeats)- referring to American Culture.
The photo of the horse with the foal is Fleur and her not even 1 day old colt. So cute. The bloke at the grill full of fresh asparagus is Slade, our Kiwi friend who recently hosted a lovely BBQ and gave us fresh juicy oranges from his tree.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Scary stuff

Halloween is approaching, but here in New Zealand, I had to go onto the eBay website to be reminded of it. None of the shops are advertising candy and costume sales. No decorations, either. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but you just can't get a carving pumpkin in the spring. I would throw together a party, but it's just prior to our trip to the US and I'm a little distracted. Part of the distraction is the fear that Americans have grown to live with these days. Last week, American author Richard Heinberg gave a talk at Auckland University, "Life After Oil". We attended and the place was packed. His book Power Down was one of the first books Darin and I read about "peak oil", and we also have read The Long Emergency. Seriously sobering stuff, and part of of the reason that we want to buy land and live a more sustainable lifestyle. How do we do that? We're not sure how, exactly, but we're working on the problem. Reading the Omnivore's Dilemma helped crystalize my thoughts about sustainable agriculture on a local rather than global level. NZ's Green Party has a petition to be submitted to Parlaiment requiring all food products be labelled with country of origin. Australia already does this, and I think it's a great idea. I've blogged about China sending contaminated food to other countries before, so I'll just attach the link.
The other scary thing is the secret concentration camps in the US, supposedly 800 of them. When I heard about them for the first time last week, I thought "no way". But in fact, they have been around since 1984, and known of at least since 1987, when Oliver North was questioned about the REX-84 program during the Iran-Contra hearings. Their purpose is unknown, and there are many conspiracy theories. "A Halliburton subsidiary has just received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to provide "temporary detention and processing capabilities.""
This, with the knowledge that the US Treasury has the power to sieze and freeze gold, silver, and any other asset in the event of an emergency, leads me to think that paranoia is not such a bad thing.
The cemetery photos are from the Symonds Street cemetery, where a number of important historical figues are buried. The cemetery is in the heart of Auckland, and is obviously very old. The Grafton Street Bridge was built over and through the cemetery, and the motorway is at the bottom of the ravine. There are trails through the cemetery, and as I mentioned in my last blog, it is haunted. Haunted by big, brown rats, living in holes below the gravestones. I didn't see any zombies, unless I count the one apparently indigent guy I see hanging around the area. When I told my Kiwi co-worker I'd been there, she said the cemetery is frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes. I didn't ask her how she knows this, heh heh. Back in my hometown of Fargo, there is a cemetery on a road with a sign that says "Dead End", get it? Ha.

Here's a photo of the mural in Swanson, with an incorrect use of appostrophe (posessive). It looks old, so I like it anyway. The picture of Darin is from O'Neill's beach, just north of Bethell's beach. We went there after watching France beat the NZ All Blacks in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup. We'll get them next time, when the World Cup is held here in Auckland!

In other news, I got my NZ driver's lisence! I also got the motorcycle lisence, because although I don't have a motorcycle (yet), it's easier to transfer the US lisence to NZ than start over from the beginning. In my lisence photo I have an angry face, because their stupid eye exam machine wouldn't allow me to see the 3rd column of letters. I got really upset because I've had an exam recently and know my vision is good (with corrective lenses). Still, I had to go to the eye doc and get a 5 min exam and pay $20 for this certificate saying my eyes are fine. I'm feeling like a real Kiwi now because the local elections were just held, and we got to vote. Darin has joined a hunting group, Deerstalkers, and intends to do a bit of hunting here. Deer are only raised on farms here, typically for export. When they escape, along with the goats and pigs gone wild, they are fair game. To my knowledge there is no hunting lisence or fee to pay, so to hunt a wild deer, pig, or goat is to protect the NZ biosecurity and get "free" meat- a win/win situation.

Darin built me an herb garden using the wood from the old fence in our front yard, and we're supposed to plant the garden today. The wind is blowing so hard, I really don't want to go out. Also, I'm recovering from a minor food poisoning. Yesterday we ate at a purported "Mediterranian" restaurant, where I ordered moussaka. I have ordered this at another restaurant in Auckland, and it tasted nothing like real moussaka. Again, I was disappointed- no eggplant, made with potatoes, topped with tomato sauce/katsup. Moussaka is a classic dish, and I'm just offended that Auckland restaurants serve this pathetic excuse for the dish. But, yeah, I ate it anyway, I was hungry. Based on how I felt the rest of the day, the dish was obviously sitting around for awhile. I'm feeling better now, so I should get some other things done.