Novelist

One day in late October, while doing the daily web page rounds, I read on Moira’s web page that she was going to write a novel the next month. I was intrigued and clicked on the link and discovered the wonderful world of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it gets shortened to.

The basic idea behind it is that participants write a 50,000 word novel entirely in the month of November. This works out to an average of about 1666 words a day. The motto of NaNoWriMo (“No plot? No problem!”) means that instead of labouring over contructing meaningful sentences of literary genius, just sitting down and banging out whatever works come in to your head is ok.

In theory, participating in NaNoWriMo is a way of making yourself write that novel you’ve always felt you could write. The thing is, I’ve never felt compelled to write a novel. But NaNoWriMo sounded like a bloody silly and rather fun thing to do, so I signed up and became part of NaNoWriMo 2001.

Shortly after midnight on 1 November I started writing. I had a basic premise in mind – I was going to write about a chick who worked at a movie theatre – but I had no idea what I was going to write. I thought back to the last time I’d written fiction. It was ten years ago, when I was at school (unless you want to count Doreen McKay’s romantic fiction). I sat in front of my computer and wrote a bunch of complete arse. It was great.

Most days I wrote about 2000 words. One day I only wrote about 1000 because I had concussion, another day I managed about 60 words because I couldn’t be bothered. I had no idea what I was going to write about. There was no beginning, middle or end. I’d just sit down and start writing and would usually manage to come up with enough plot that I didn’t have to resort to dumb filler tricks.

Sometimes (i.e. most of the time) I got lazy and started writing in pre-existing characters. The McKay Family, Dr Kraw, Bob and Karen, Keith Flinton all made appearances, as well as Ronny Xiang’s Golden Lucky Horse Oriental Emporium.

About a week into it things got a lot easier when my lovely new iBook arrived. Instead of being trapped sitting in front of the crappy old slow computer, I had a nice, fast, portable laptop. It meant that when I went to the beach for a weekend I could still write.

There was a discussion board set up for people doing NaNoWriMo. I avoided it because it seemed to be mainly used by really mental people. The kind of people who would post about how their inner voice had instructed them to make their main character an alien. Other people would angst about suffering from writer’s block. Like it’s hard to write shit.

As the month went on I noticed that I was able to write a lot faster. Where in the beginning 2000 words would have taken me about five hours, I was now able to do it in only two. And I didn’t keep delaying so much that I’d be up ’til three o’clock in the morning.

I also noticed that my perception of film and TV stories changed. It was like when I learned to play the guitar – suddenly rock music was demystified. I could recognise really easy-to-play chord progressions and no longer was in awe of someone playing a guitar. It was the same with films and TV programs. Storylines and plots were no longer decided by some divine guidance, instead I knew that there was someone, somewhere sitting in front of a blank piece of paper thinking how on earth they were going to end it, then coming up with some half-arsed idea and somehow making it fit.

Along the way I was interviewed as part of the daily profiles of people doing NaNoWriMo. It was a funny interview, giving a rather interesting profile of me as a seductress. It’s probably my fault. Being in a creative, making-stuff-up mood, I kind of made up a bunch of stuff when I was answering the interviewer’s questions.

Eventually I hit 50,000 words on 25 November. I was so glad, so very glad to have finished it. My attempt at being dark, gritty and alcoholic in tone didn’t work and I found myself writing a reasonably upbeat and life-affirming ending. I’d discuss what I wrote in more detail, only I can’t really remember what I wrote.

So now I have a 50,000+ word novel sitting on my hard drive. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m planning on printing it out, reading it and if I’m not too disgusted with it, I may stick it up online.

I guess now I can say that I’m a novelist (“Soy un novelista!”), albiet a shit one. Like many things I do, it was some thing that I did so that I could say that I did it. So here we go. I wrote a 50,000 word novel in a month. Choice, eh?

Holistic Health Festival

It used to be the site of one of Hamilton’s rubbish dumps. Trailer loads, truckloads, tonnes of rubbish were dumped on the strip of land between Cobham Drive and the Waikato River. But that was years ago. Eventually the dump was closed, a bunch of top soil was put over the rubbish and the area was turned into the splendid Hamilton Gardens. On this site the Festival of Holistic Health was being held. It was a Sunday afternoon, I had nothing better to do, so I went.

I got to the doorway of the Hamilton Pavilion. Previous events at this venue include the 1991 Hillcrest High School ball, and the record fair where I got that really cool Pixies bootleg. But today it was overrun with stalls manned by women in their forties.

I knew there was a $5 admission fee, but there was no obvious place to pay. There was a desk by the door but it was just some guy selling incense. I wandered in, thinking maybe there would be an admission stand inside the door.

“Excuse! Have you paid?!”

I turned around and there was a woman with a bumbag strapped on. She’s been standing off to the side chatting with some friends. She had skilfully managed to blend in with the surrounding ageing hippy environment. I paid her $5, she stamped my arm and I walked on in.

Incense, crystals, former bored housewives giving tarot card readings. They were all there. One woman was busy with some coloured pencils and a pad of paper. She was a spiritual portrait artist, her unique talent being “revealing the face of your personal spirit guide of loved one.” A selection of portraits she’d done adorned her booth walls. They all looked like versions the same of person, like maybe a family of spirit guides. Kindly old woman, kindly old man, kindly young woman, kindly guy who looks a bit like Nandor Tanczos.

Being close to Christmas, there were many stands offering their wares as Christmas presents. “This is a wonderful, peaceful, heart-warming CD,” one sign read. “A great Xmas present”. Sadly I couldn’t think of anyone in my life who would appreciate such a gift.

There were many people offering tarot card readings. I wasn’t quite ready to shell out over $30 for a reading, so I was excited when I saw a bowl of little scrolls sitting above a pond of water. A sign read, “Into the water, coin of gold, for you the oracle, will be told.” I plopped $1 in and selected one of the scrolls. The oracle’s words of wisdom were:

“Listen to the hearts voice with openness and trust”. Righto.

Most people were trying to sell something. So often I’d go over to a stand just to browse and the woman sitting behind it would launch into a sales pitch, and the next thing she’d be smearing herbal massage oil over the back of my hand.

As I walked past one stand, which looked like it was a new age version of door-to-door cosmetics, a woman sitting near it suddenly stood up and said, “hi! How you are!” I told her I was ok, and walked on as she tried to keep the conversation going.

An abundance of homemade, photocopied brochures soon accumulated in my bag. Highlights included the Tarot Summer School (“Fortune telling in the 21st century”), bottled water (“How can alkaline micro water help me lose weight?”) and aura photography (“actually measures your energy field and displays it with lights and colours)”.

There were a few sites that didn’t have a sales agenda. Greenpeace had a stand where I picked up a copy of their “GE Free Food Guide”. SAFE also had a stand, manned by spunky, tattooed young people. It was a welcome change from the fat ladies offering “hands-on healing”.

I was getting tired of all the sales pitches and decided to get out of there. My last stop was the food stand where I got a plate of Greek beans. After I’d bought them, the guy who served me asked how I was finding the festival. I told him about the lady who’d covered my hands with massage oil, he said there’d been people actually doing hand massages last year. It was the first conversation I’d had that wasn’t part of a sales pitch. With that pleasant note I decided to call it a day. I ate the Greek beans then left the site of the former rubbish dump.

NYWF

Despite the fact that the sign at the Qantas check-in counter at Melbourne Airport proclaimed that knives, scissors and sharp instruments could not be carried in cabin baggage, I passed through the metal detector and x-ray scanner with a Swiss Army Knife in my bag. As I walked towards the departure gate, I felt like a notorious criminal gangsta.

Just over two hours later I was in Newcastle and I was feeling pretty good.

“…so I was doing this stupid writing workshop in Germany and I was surrounded by all these teenage boys and I thought, ‘my boyfriend is not here. I can do what I like!”
“You bad girl!”
“Ha, and I can’t believe I’m spilling my guts to you guys. I mean, I just met you yesterday.”
“This is Newcastle. You can say anything.”

This is what I knew about Newcastle: Silverchair and BHP. Oh yeah, and it is the home of the National Young Writers Festival, which is part of the This Is Not Art festival and my reason for being in town.

The only evidence of Silverchair was a record shop that had the neon sign from the “Neon Ballroom” album cover on display in its front window. BHP had left town a couple of years ago and taken their factory with them. The Writer’s Festival was all that remained. Just as well.

“She was like a hurricane that came in and ripped up my wheat fields, and turned my barn upside down.”
“Hey, nice metaphor, man.”

To give you an idea of what the NYWF is like, compare this event description from the Melbourne Writers’ Festival:

“Harry Potter Celebrity Reading: Come and hear celebrities read from their favourite Harry Potter books.”

And this event from the NYWF:

“Our Writing and Our Mental Elf: Noises in our heads speak through the end of our pens.”

That is to say, the people at NYWF were not the kind of people who write stuff about the year they spent in Tuscany.

“Hey, I really liked what you were saying in that panel today.”
“Thanks, yeah, I thought it went really well.”
“Hey, have you got any pot?”
“Uh, no. But, um, if you get any, let me know.”

During the day I attended discussion panels, workshops, and I even made a zine in two hours. Most nights there was at least one spoken word performance event. Some people read bad poetry for way too long, others were superb.

“Hey, you know that hippy guy – the one with the pants?”
“Yeah.”
“Was he being ironic? Was he doing a parody?”
“Uh, no. I don’t think so.”
“Shit, ‘cos I was going to say that if it was, he was really good.”

At one point on Thursday night I found myself listening to a demented reverend (or was he?) singing a song about giving Jesus oral relief as he hung on the cross. I knew that someone, somewhere would find that highly offensive. But it was no one in that room, that night. I was too busy having a good time to be even remotely offended.

“Where’d those guys go?”
“Um, I think they’ve gone off to take some acid.”
“Oh, ok. Let’s go to the pub.”

Since I left my big, evil corporate job almost a year ago, I’ve been putting “writer” as my occupation whenever I’ve filled in various forms. Sometimes I never really felt like a proper writer (whatever that is), but after NYWF I feel like I’ve got a bit more direction. It’s at least heartening to know that there are others like me.

It’s not about money (one spoken word performer announced, to wild applause and cheering, that he’d been on the dole for six years), it’s not about doing stuff that looks good on my CV. For me it’s about doing something I really enjoy, and doing it well.

Life is good.

Hypno Show

The tickets were free, ok. And it’s not like I had anything better to do. I went to see a hypnotist perform, oh it was choice.

We got there too early and had a whole hour to kill before the show started. Other people had arrived early too, but it wasn’t due to bad planning. “We came here early to get good seats,” explained Michelle from Papatoetoe to the doorman. “I’m sorry, but the doors don’t open until half-past.”

Finally the doors opened and we sat down at a table (table = chipboard circle on a stick with an unhemmed square of red nylon acting as a table cloth). The venue was non-smoking, but as it’s usually a rock concert venue, the place had a perma-smoke aroma to it.

Gradually the theatre filled up with paying customers. Some people had obviously made an effort and dressed up, wearing their very best polar fleece vests. One lady sitting nearby was a vision in those special pants that could only be described as dress jeans, and a black sequinned top.

The bar did a roaring trade in Vodka Cruisers, the alcoholic beverage of choice for people who don’t want the yucky flavour of alcohol to get in the way of them getting pissed.

Sitting near me was a couple in their late 40s. They both looked bored shitless waiting for the show to start. (“D’ya wanna go to that hypnotist bloke?” “Yeah, all right.”)

A Nathan Haines CD played while the audience waited for the action to begin. People sat around trying to feel cool, hip and urban, but given that everyone there was lame, unhip and very suburban, that wasn’t happening.

A recorded announcement came on warning us that “hilarious hypnotism” would start in three minutes, and sure enough, it did.

By this stage I hated everything. I hated the venue, the audience, the hypnotist and myself for being there. I was really seriously considering going home. But I didn’t. I had this little niggling feeling that maybe I would actually like it and it wouldn’t be too bad.

It was pretty standard hypno-show. Get extroverts up on stage, get them to con-cen-trate, then get them to do wacky zany stuff. Ha ha ha, see that lady over there. Her name’s Barb, but she thinks she’s actually Robert Muldoon! And look, they think that cigarette being passed around is marijuana!

So like a good audience member I laughed at all the hilarious hyno-antics. I was about to conclude that I really was having a good time after all, and that the audience and I had a lot in common. But then a wonderful thing happened.

I suddenly realised that I wasn’t laughing with the audience, I was laughing at them! I was enjoying the hypno show in the way that I enjoy reading the readers letters in the TV Guide (the writers of which were probably in that audience). I was being an urban hipster!

Having realised that my punk-arse alterno-cred was intact, I happily left and rode around on a scooter, drank organic soy milk lattes and listened to acid jazz.

Computer Expo

As regular reader of these pages may be aware of, I have a liking for expos, so you can imagine my delight when I learned of the Computerworld Expo. Actually, that’s a lie. The news of the 2001 Computerworld Expo did not excite me much.

I went to the 1999 one and listened to some guy with a beard rave on about where the Internet was “@”. That was enough to make me run away screaming in horror and disgust.

I wasn’t planning on going this year, but a friend required me to go so he could bum a ride off me, so I didn’t really have a choice.

We arrived just in time for the Geek Bowl, a quiz to test the geek knowledge of the participants. After swiping my card with the “hostess” (who looked suspiciously like a man), I went in and joined the Geeks team. The Geeks at that stage were having their arses kicked by the Nerds team on the other side of the room.

At this stage I was miserable. Sitting in a room full of self-confessed geeks and nerds who were answering questions about computer stuff that was going straight over my head, I felt sure that anyone moment someone really cool was going to walk past and see me and laugh and ruin my urban hipster status. However I realised that really cool people would not be at such an expo, so I cheered up a little.

Then an unexpected thing happened. As well as questions about computers, there were also questions about general geek culture, including more than a few about geek movies. There were questions I knew the answers to, and answer them I did. Soon the Geeks were in the lead, totally kicking the Nerds’ arse! Then the scoring program crashed, but it was up and running in time for the grand final question.

The question asked what Patricia Neal’s character said to Gort the robot, and it was also said by Bruce Campbell’s character in Army of Darkness. I knew it! I hurriedly scribbled it down on a piece of paper. But the Nerds got it right too, so it was a draw. The quizmaster threw inflatable penguins at the teams and I grabbed one. I was so happy. Oh, quelle sad-arse!

My next missions was to score as much free stuff as possible without being disgusted by the large amount of e-w@nkery.

My loot:

  • 3M Notebook Palm Pads
  • Three bags of jelly beans for Job Universe
  • Two IBM drink bottles with a compartment containing three penguins (like those Eskimo lollies, but penguin-shaped)
  • One sock (I apparently get the other one when they ring me up later)
  • Three Compaq juggling balls
  • Two cans of Red Bull
  • One can of V

(I’m thinking if I had all that stuff before the 12-hour movie marathon, I would have been set.)

It wasn’t pretty interesting to compare this year’s expo to 1999’s. There was much less pretentious arse than two years ago. There was a distinct lack of dodgy web designers (“I will design you one A4 size www page for $50!!!!”). There was money behind a lot of the stands, and it showed.

The best bit is how, unlike at other expos, sex is not used to sell anything. Stick a chick in hot pants and potential customers will not look at her – they’ll be too busy looking at the hardware to notice.

I left the Expo with my bag full of free stuff that I don’t actually have much use for. I donated the penguin to a friend’s geek flat. It pains me to say it, but I had a reasonably good time.

Erotica

I’m really asking for it by naming this page “Erotica”. Well, it’s either that or “Masturbation Aids Expo”. I have this horrible fear I’m going to end up with lots of people coming through here by searching for you-know-what on search engines. I can only hope they stay away.

Hot on the heels of the glorious hummusfest known as the Food Expo, the expo centre was host of Erotica the “adult concepts and lifestyle expo”.

I had first heard of Erotica a few months earlier when a newsgroup had been spammed with an ad for the expo. I was curious, and visited the official website. There it was claimed that Erotica was based on the Australian Sexpos. The site also mentioned that “an exit pole revealed that visitors came from all walks of life and included a diverse range of adults, young and old.” Whilst a regular expo would have an exit poll, it does make sense that a sex expo would have an exit pole, probably with a young lady in a bikini wrapped around it.

And then there was the whole “adult concepts” thing. No, this wasn’t going to be an expo dealing with such subjects as how you can afford this week’s groceries when the car needs urgent repairs, whether you should vaccinate your kids, and should you refinance the mortgage and other such adult concepts. No, these adult concept are more of the latex and silicone kind.

I came to the conclusion that going to Erotica would be in the “good for a laugh in an ironic, alanisy kind of way” but that I wouldn’t actually pay to go in. The magical fairy of free stuff must have been listening, because suddenly I found myself with two free passes to Erotica. So I dragged along a fellow by the name of Selwyn, and off we went to Erotica.

The first moment of excitement came at the door. A security guard searched my bag and found my digital camera and would not let me in with it. Curses! But having taken care of that, I entered the expo and came face to face with a plaster impressions of various nether regions. Not really the most attractive thing to see in plaster of Paris.

The word erotica can mean literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality. There was none of that at Erotica. If they were going to be completely honest it should have been named “Masturbation Aids Expo” because, really, that’s what it was all about.

There were various sex shops with the standard selection of rubber and plastic goods. But what really stood out were the vegetable slicer guys. You know how at all expo things there always seem to be a large number of people demonstrating magical vegetable slicing devices? There were several at Erotica. There was also a guy demonstrating a pasta maker and another man selling caramel popcorn.

As I walked along the rows, I spied a stand selling sex toys and Hustler magazine. It was staffed by three guys all wearing Cat In The Hat hats, all looking really old and hoary. The kind of guys who if they had higher morals, would be touting themselves as Internet solution providers. Actually, make that lower morals.

The Internet fellows were there too. There were a few sites that consisted solely of a banner with a URL. Hidden around a corner were the serious stands, the Auckland Hospital’s sexual health people, Family Planning and the New Zealand Prostitute’s Collective. They all gave out condoms for free, while the other stands were more interested in selling them.

Opposite the popcorn stand was a mini lap-dancing booth. There was a large crowd of people standing outside it. They weren’t queuing up for a lap-dance. They were waiting to see who was coming out of the little booth. I saw a few of the guys who emerged and they looked like the sort of people who one would expect to engage in lap-dancing.

A sex shop had a pair of wobbly fake tits things that are put in a bra to beef up cleavage (the same stuff Julia Roberts used playing Erin Brockovich). A lot of people who walked past stopped and had a feel. Everytime that happened the guy running the stand went over and straightened up the wobbly tits.

There weren’t a lot of women there. The females that were there seemed to be mostly their with their boyfriends. It was mostly groups of young men and old men. Yes, there were plenty of pervy old men.

There were a stage where various acts got up on stage and shook their erotic arses. I had missed the Showboys, but I was in time for the foam wrestling. Setting up for the wrestling, a guy sprayed foam into a plastic pool while a montage of clips from various porno films played on the screen behind him. I found it more interesting looking at him than at the many kum fac’e on the screen. When the pool was filled up, the two wresters Tyler and Cindy (probably spelt Thailah and Sinndee) were introduced. Then the got in the pool and wriggled about in the foam. My view of the action itself was obscured by the spikey haired youth two rows in front, but I was able to get a slightly out-of-focus look at the video images on the screen.

The object of the game, Selwyn told me, was to get the clothes of your opponent off. But according to Erotica’s organiser as quoted in the Herald, there wasn’t going to be any full nudity. The group of men in their forties sitting nearby didn’t seem to release this as they kept yelling “get your pants off!”. But really, they were expecting that for $10 admission?

After walking around looking at everything there was to see I was getting pretty bored. Sure, it was funny seeing the knee-jerk reaction of some of the guys there whenever they spied something that even remotely looked like a nude woman, but even that had its limits.

It was when I saw a guy whose was demonstrating how he can photoshop a picture of a person to make it look like they were standing with some naked women, that I realised that my time at Erotica had come to an end.

As I made my way to the exit I noticed a large crowd of people watching one of the vegetable slicer guys demonstrating how easy it was to slice potatoes into shoe string fries shapes. And I realised that really and truly, watching a guy slicing a potato was way more interesting than looking at rubber tits.

Protest Rally

Politics, it is said, makes for strange bedfellows. Common causes lead to groups such as Christian temperance organisations and organised criminals both agreeing in the 1930s that prohibition of alcohol was a very good thing.

That concept was so exemplified by the various people speaking at the Hikoi Rangatiratanga Freedom From State Surveillance Rally held in QEII Square on July 9. It was a Sunday. It had nothing else to do, so I turned up and along with a couple of hundred other people, I watched and listened.

Graeme Monk – Stand Up New Zealand Inc

I arrived at the protest just as Mr Monk was starting his speech. He’s convinced that the reason that photos taken for drivers licences are stored digitally is so the government can identify people in crowds easily.

He claimed that a New Zealand passport will get its holder into any country in the world, but it won’t get the holder recognised as a driver.

Steve Able – Wild Greens

The best bit during Steve Able’s speech was when he mentioned that there were surveillance cameras around QEII Square and invited people to have a look around for them, so throughout his speech there were all these people looking around for cameras. One guy was pointing out what he was sure was a camera on the old Post Office building, but then it flew away, not unlike a pigeon.

Someone in the crowd, possibly an old person, or maybe a drunk person, yelled out something that was rather unintelligible, and Mr Able, ever the diplomat, responded, “kia ora”.

Maire Leadbeater – Auckland City Councillor

Maire Leadbeater

Cr Leadbeater bragged about her criminal record. She was arrested for trespassing on the spy base at Waihopai. She didn’t really have much to say, other than she generally supported the rally. Good on you, Mai.

Ni Hake – Ta Moko Campaigner

As hippies sipped coffee from the nearby Starbucks, Ni Hake took to the mike. As far as I understand it, the Ta Moko campaign is a group of Maori who object to their moko being digitally captured. The Treaty of Waitangi guarantees Maori possession of the things that are precious to them, and for a moko to be digitally captured is taking a bit of it away from them. Or as Hake put it, “When moko goes into a database it gets translated into binary figures and I see that as a disturbance.”

In a moment of oratorical brilliance, Hake said in reference to the government, “Which part of no don’t you know? Please tell me. I’ll come to your place and… tell you.” Subtle.

He then brought on a woman whose name I didn’t write down, but she had her car impounded because she was using what was essentially a homemade drivers licence. The crowd started out fairly supportive of her, but there was a definite feeling that if you’re going to make your own drivers licence, then you have to be prepared for that sort of thing. She also objected to her fingerprints being kept on record and saw that as a breech of the treaty. She droned on for so long that she was given a hurry-up warning.

Tame ItiThen mini-mega star activist Tama Iti was brought on. He has a moko but interestingly enough provided a solution for moko wearers who wished to get a photo licence without having their moko digitally captured. He said a fellow he knew had worn makeup to cover over his moko when he had the photo taken. Oh well, problem solved, then.

Barry Wilson – Auckland Council Civil Liberties

Mr Wilson was well-prepared and was a good speaker. However, he referred to New Zealand as being like “Communist Russia”, which he appeared to be referring to in the present tense.

By this stage I had lost count of the number of times that various speakers had mentioned “big brother”.

Brian Kirby – Grey Power

Whilst not speaking on behalf of Grey Power, Mr Kirby did make some good points about the licence’s impact on the elderly. However, like Tama Iti, he ended his speech with an amusing anecdote that kind of negated what he’d been saying.

An old lady had contacted him because she’s had her licence taken off her. She drove over to his house to discuss it, and managed to knock down some fence posts upon both entering and leaving his place.

Ian Wishart – Writer and Publisher

Ian Wishart

Next up at the podium of protest was the man whose publishing company Howling At The Moon brought us all those something-is-very-wrong books. Mr Wishart said, “legally you are still a serf, legally parliament is your sovereign”.

He also noted that, “we’re all in this waka together.”

Nandor Tanczos – Green Party List MP

Nandor Tanczos

Then the even bigger mini-mega star Nandor took his turn. He is a really good speaker. He’s vibrant and full of life and even if one doesn’t agree with what he says he’s interesting to listen to.

Tanczos asked: “Do we want to live in a police surveillance state? Or do we want to live in an eco-nation?”

He said that the rally would be noted by those in power, and that it was a powerful shout-out to the government. He also sent out big ups to the crowd.

Saffron Toms – Auckland University Students Association

Saffron Toms

There was some doubt as to the identity of the AUSA speaker. I had identified her as Saffron Toms, but then someone said they knew Saffron Tom and my picture of her looked nothing like her. Then I got an email from another person who said they were there and it was her. So I’ll assume that the AUSA representative was indeed Saffron Toms.

Ms Toms, clad in black flares and a tight yellow t-shirt with “Goodies” emblazoned across her bust had something to say, but I’m not sure she really knew what it was.

She didn’t appear to be very well prepared and came up with clunky sentences, such as, “he asked the friend of mine’s partner..”

She starting talking about the power of students, and how HART (Halt All Racist Tours), the protest group best known for its anti-apartheid protests during the infamous 1981 tour of the South African rugby team in New Zealand. Toms stated that HART “contributed really strongly to the abolition of apartheid in South Africa.” I wonder if Nelson Mandela and the ANC are aware of this? I felt a bit embarrassed for her.

Then she started a bitter rant about voluntary student union membership and how when the AUSA go to the university administrators asking that a fee increase doesn’t happen, they’re told as they are not representing all students any more their demands aren’t as strong. So to take that metaphor a step further, should all New Zealanders be required by law to join an anti-drivers licence movement?

Carol Leader – Ordinary Citizen

Ms Leader took some sort of legal action against the government to do with the licence. She said that when she first read the application form, “my heart sank lower and lower and lower”.

She also offered this as a metaphor: “Because we have invented buckets to carry our water, there’s no reason to bury our head in it.” I’m not too sure what she meant by that.

Then the emcee of the day, whose name I didn’t catch, invited people to come up on stage and cut up their licences. Three people did this. There was also a guy up there who had placed white dots on his face, which was supposed to represent something.

One fairly common theme was along the lines of “I was issued with a “lifetime licence” and mine says it expires in 2035, but now the government is saying that it’s illegal for me to drive with it!” The first time it was amusing, but after almost every speaker trotted it out, it was beginning to sound like a teenage girl crying “but you said you’d love me forever…”

It seemed everyone who spoke had a different reason for thinking that the licences were bad. The licences were too expensive, gave the government too much power, were unfair to old people, were in violation of Te Tiriti, were too costly for poor people, were a sign that New Zealand has become a police state and were a violation of our basic civil rights.

So after two hours the sun was behind the big black building 1 Queen Street where the Land Transport Safety Authority is located, casting a cold, wintery shadow over the Square, chilling the audience. The crowd of assorted hippies, old people and interested bystanders moved on, probably most of them carrying a drivers licence.

Photos From the Day

Various Signs

Drivers licenceIt’s a digital image of my drivers licence. Gosh, if this fell into the wrong hands I could be in big trouble.

Hummus Fest

The Food Show was on this weekend. It claimed to be, “For people who love eating, drinking, cooking and entertaining.” That didn’t sound like me, but as it was a food show I figured there would be lots of free samples, so I decided it would obviously be perfect to go to.

Three-bloody-dollars for parking. Ten-bloody-dollars admission. At that price, I had better be getting thirteen dollars worth of goodies.

Upon arrival, I entered the exhibition hall and started to wander around. I fought my way through a sea of old ladies in search of free stuff. Oh, there were lots of free goodies. But there seemed to be a lot of places giving out the same sorts of free samples. After much investigation, I found that most of the samples could be put in one of these categories.

* Wine
* Hummus
* Cheese
* Coffee and tea
* Hummus
* Jams
* Healthy drinks
* Sauces
* Hummus
* Breads
* Instant meals
* Hummus

I don’t know why there was such an extraordinary amount of hummus. Even stands that didn’t seem to have any apparent connection with hummus had samples of it (“It slices carrots, onions, leeks, tomatoes, hummus…”) It was almost as if hummus was the magical sex appeal that could get people excited.

Then out of the hummus one stand caught my eye. A giant sign with “M.O.M. MICHELE’S ORGANIC MEAL” stood out. This is the description of the “M.O.M.” from the show programme:

“A delicious meal. Three organic meats and four organic vegetables beautifully layered and baked and delivered to your door.”

From that it sounds ok. Like it might be quite enjoyable. I was in the free sample mood and was about to taste a slice of M.O.M. when I looked at it.

Imagine stripy spam. Like, a red stripe, a white stripe, a green strip, and some brownish stripes. It looked really unappealing. It was like the sort of food you’d expect to have to eat if it was the year 2000 and the cybertronic warlords had taken over the earth, forcing the few remaining humans underground to exist on a diet of M.O.M. as that’s the only thing that can be cultivated underground.

However, as I didn’t taste it I don’t know if its flavour matched its appeal. It might be really delicious, so I’ll attempt to give M.O.M. the benefit of the doubt.

In the end I had sampled so many goodies (and there were some goodies – kia ora to Wild Appetite’s chocolate paté) that I was really full. I had also managed to acquire three coffee bags and five tea bags, a sachet of olive oil, some garlic salt and a scone.

Later in the day I was at the supermarket doing my weekly shopping and found myself in front of the refrigerated goods section. There it was. Row after row of hummus. I bought a pot of chargrilled capsicum hummus. It rules.

Nice Arse

It all started when a fellow who goes by the name of Selwyn O’Pants mentioned that as he worked for a sponsor of the show, he had an invite to the season premiere of the live broadcast of Ice TV in its new incarnation as Ice As.

As a general rule, stuff is good, but free stuff is even better. I sensed an opportunity for free stuff, so I convinced Mr O’Pants that he would benefit from being seen with a glamourous personality such as myself. He agreed to this and the evening was set.

I’ve visited the TV3 studios once before. That was when I was in the sixth form, as part of a journalism field trip. That was also back in the day when Russell Rooster was TV3’s most popular star. Oh, how times have changed.

So Selwyn and I turned up to the studios having been earlier entertained by the comic stylings of Jan Maree and Justine Smith in their show “Alas! Smith and Franicevic – Return of the Showgals” (If it sounds like I’m being sarcastic and somehow suggesting that they were crap, I’m not, and they were actually really funny. The drunk middle-aged slappers in the front row weren’t funny, though.).

We were escorted down to a little waiting area and sat around watching the rehearsals in the monitor room. Bloody boring.

Then a bunch of comedians taking part in the laugh fest arrived. Some of them were just cool, relaxed normal people, other were doing the “Look at me! I am a comedian! I must be funny all the time!” thing and they were dicks. Cal Wilson, Ben Norris and Ronnie Edwards were not being dicks.

Then we hung out in what I suppose was the green room, but it was really a wide hallway with a lift and one end. There were nibbles and booze. I partook and free stuff is cool. One by one semi-famous people arrived. Fiona McDonald! The guys from Boss TV! Joel Tobeck! The boys from Betchadupa! Murray Cammick! Slave!

I was a bit freaked out by the appearance of Slave, also known as Mark James. I really wanted to go up to him and say “Hey dude! When I was 16 I thought MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave were the coolest rap group in the entire universe and that the song that went “Drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs, marijuana” was really cool.”

But I didn’t. Instead I just stood kind of near him and heard him tell Murray (Muzza!) that “Joined at the Hip Hop” had been receiving a lot of air play recently because it has 96 beats per minute. Righto.

Then the time came. We were ushered into the studio and were seated amongst the set. I took my place atop a barstool and had a good view of all the goings-on. I think the idea was that it was like a bar where a bunch of people were hanging out. A place were a neon sign reading “NICE ARSE” with a dim, flickering N, R and E hangs above the bar.

Eleven o’clock came and the magic of live television took place. Or rather I stood on my stool and watched the show on the monitors and giggled with delight when I occasionally saw my shoulder or my knee on TV.

It went on like that for an hour (and seven minutes), then everyone went back to the green-ish room and drank some more and ate some more nibbles.

I noticed the boys from Betchadupa (the fine young lads responsible for that irresistibly catchy song “Empty Head”, and my word isn’t that Liam Finn a bit of all right, eh? Not bad for a sixteen year old youngster. (Oh God help me, I’m turning into a pervert.)) drinking L&P, which is good as they are all under age. I’m glad I didn’t see any of those lads drinking any alcoholic substances such as, oh, let’s say, Steinlager.

I attempted to hobnob. I also attempted to schmooze. I was unable to do both as I don’t suck. O’Pants managed “Hey, Jon Bridges, star of Ice As, don’t eat the fish, cos it doesn’t taste nice.” Arse kisser.

It was getting late, I was getting tired, being in the presence of so many people who always look when someone enters the room because it-might-be-someone-really-famous was getting a little bit too much. I needed to keep it real, so with that, I exited and sped off into the Eden Terrace night.

So, in conclusion, I have concluded that being an audience member of Ice As is choice.

Rebirth

It was a Friday night. I was in Aotea Square hanging out with my skater homies. Actually, I don’t have any skater homies, but it was a Friday night and I was hanging out in Aotea Square with Selwyn. Ok, not Aotea Square, which was bloody freezing, but the pseudo-Blade Runneresque relative warmth and comfort of the Force Entertainment Centre.

So Selwyn says, “Hey, Rebirth is on! Let’s go and see it.” I had heard of Rebirth. Some dude had posted a message to a newsgroup asking if anyone knew where to get lots of Coke really cheap because he needed it for Rebirth. That was about all I knew of it.

But I quickly learned that it was a LAN convention type thing. The idea is a whole lot of people bring their computers along and they get hooked up on a network so they can all play games, like Quake, together. All that gets the religious-sounding moniker of “Rebirth”.

So Selwyn and I made our way over to the Aotea Centre to view this spectacle. The first sight that greeted me on arrival was a bunch of dudes throwing an inflatable sheep around. Righto, lads.

In one corner some electronic music played, a sponsors banner hung on the wall. Row after row of guys sitting in front of their computers playing games.

After perusing the isles, Selwyn and I concluded that the event was 99% girl-free. I think I saw two girls actually sitting at computers playing, and a few others who appeared to be visiting. But really, really, that’s not surprising.

I mused that if a female were to get up on the balcony, take her top off and yell “Hey check out my tits!” she might get a few glances, but no one would really be all that interested. But I’m sure the purpose of a LAN convention is not meeting girls, so it doesn’t really matter.

Almost every desk had a 1.25 litre bottle of Coke sitting on it. Bags of McDonald’s and Burger King sat on laps. I spotting a large box of liquorice on one desk. Potato chips were also a popular food item. Eating at an event like this does not involve any culinary pleasure. The only requirement is that the food must be dry, able to be eaten with fingers, and be filling. Pure fuel.

The convention room was spacious and air conditioned, but was already starting to be filled with that distinctive eau de geek.

The event goes on over the whole weekend. Some people go home and sleep, others bring a sleeping bag and bed down for the night. By the end on Sunday the place is going to be filled with a bunch tired, smelly, messy geeks.

While I have a computer and spent time in front of it, the whole LAN gaming subculture is something I’ve never been part of. I don’t really get it, but I know that no matter how bleak the hall full of guys and their computers looked, they were probably having a pretty good time. And besides, there’s always the blow-up sheep for company.