Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mt Cargill with a Smurfette

Most people walk up Mt. Cargill for the spectacular views of Dunedin and the surrounding beaches and peninsula. To break with tradition, my beautiful friend Dr. Gi and I decided to bundle up there on an exceptionally misty day - so the surrounding landscape was nothing but bright white.

To celebrate, Dr. Gi turned up dressed entirely in blue. I loved it.

Ominous foggy scenes.

"This is the part where the Zombies come out..."

Below: the famous radio tower. Squint hard.

Our picnic, courtesy of Crusty Corner (orzo, feta and spinach salad!), Pierre (happy to finally be on a trip again, no matter how small) and below: when the sun came out on our stumble down the hill, during which the smurfette dished out copious gossip I cannot repeat here !

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Regent book sale haul

I went to the famous 24 Hour Regent Book Sale this year with the intention of not buying anything. What a joke. The books pictured above are not even all the books I purchased, but perhaps those I am most proud of (no one needs to know about my trashy penchant for collecting copious travel guides*).

* In fact, those thin, pastel-coloured books in the pile above, but not featured in this post, are all 1967 National Geographic Country Guides and I will be doing an entire post on them next. Because really, everyone needs to know about them.

Philip Roth is one of my all-time favourite authors, so I was very excited to find this hardcover for only $3. This was in the expensive part of the book sale, because, at the Regent, $3 is a pretty astronomical price for a book.

The first sentence is: "I hadn't been in New York in eleven years."

Some people consider Philip Roth a misogynist. Some people are wrong idiots who don't understand complexity. Well, too bad for them. Lucky for me, I'm the kind of raving feminist who likes a bit of Roth with my de Beauvoir (certain feminists would call me a 'Roth apologist'; there's a term, truly). Here's what the Guardian has to say about The Mandarins: "The characters, especially the women, are uninhibited and sometimes predatory. The dialogues are salty, frank and realistic. The characters' amorous adventures are set down with microscopic exactitude."

1. I want to have 'salty' conversations. 2. I love lurid sex scenes in books, for example right now I am reading "Fear of Flying" by Erica Jong - a famous feminist book where the (lady) protagonist goes in search of the mythical 'zipless fuck.' 3. I love writers who are brave enough to write predatory women, for example the geniuses behind Battlestar Galactica. Swoon.

Speaking of predatory women, just look at that portrait of Ethel Mannin, taken in approx 1930. It's pretty much the whole reason I bought her autobiography, and was also my first acquaintance with Ethel. Actually, it wasn't the whole reason, because also this:

"I did not want to born, and like that unhappy heroine Susan Lennox, even when born had to be galvanised into some sign of life. My mother wanted me called "Stella," which I should have much preferred to their final choice, but my father objected to it because of Stella Maris - who was an incubator baby, I understand - and he found the association of ideas unpleasant."

Also, if you want some early 20th century gossip, read her wikipedia entry for goodness sake. It made my jaw drop.

"Death in Midsummer: and other stories" by Yukio Mishima already seemed fairly irresistible, largely due to it's cover (contrary to popular knowledge, you often can judge books by them).

Then I read the back: "Violence, homosexuality and the spiritual emptiness of post-war Japan: these were Mishima's key themes." It also says he has wry and ironic humour. And finally "Here is Mishima. Here is Japan."

Hey book, consider my expectations: raised ! ... (it'll be fine, it's a Penguin).

I love travel. I love reading. I hate most travel writing. Most of it is so, so shit. It's like reading about your aunty taking her bored (and boring) husband to southern France to buy a vineyard, at which point they will spend months complaining about how the French don't know how to make tea and talking about how 'rustic' everything is. Ok, it isn't like that. It is literally just that.

But then, like in any genre, there are some gems. I am cautiously optimistic about "The Fruit Palace" - it's recommended by respectable institutions, it's set in Colombia (so I'll probably love it even just for nostalgia's sake) and it grew from the author being given an assignment to write an 'exposé' of the cocaine trade, at which point he got way too involved in the lives of the urban poor of Colombia and the project instead turned into this massive book. Cool. Promising, anyway.

Oh Nancy, Nancy Nancy Nancy. I'm always in the mood for Nancy Mitford, even if I am slightly dubious about taking on this novel - the first of her non-fiction books I am attempting to read. I just love her fiction so much anything would seem a step down, especially a biography about some famous royal of the day ?!

In any case, here is a glorious quote from her fiction as a fittingly non sequitur end to this post:

“The worst of being a Communist is the parties you may go to are - well - awfully funny and touching but not very gay...I don't see the point of sad parties, do you? And Left-wing people are always sad because they mind dreadfully about their causes, and the causes are always going so badly.”
- The Pursuit of Love (I think).


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cute Pictures juxtaposed with Disgusting Tale

Now, I am decidedly not a dog person. As evidenced by the fact I spent a long morning with that brown-haired golden retriever in the pictures, and actually really liked her, but can't for the life of me remember her name. The small, white spoodle (apparently called a 'cockapoo' in the states, jesus h.) is called Skye and belongs to my beautiful red-haired Australian flatmate Claire, pictured above and belong being suffocated by dogs while trying to drive.

The little idiot Skye has been growing on me, like a tumour, to the point where I even let her sleep in my bed while Claire was away filming nature documentaries a la David Attenborough. The first night was great, Skye stayed at my feet (rule #1) and didn't wake me too early (rule #2). She even kept me warm and gave me the false sense of security that if there should be an intruder, she would do something (just what a 'cockapoo' would be capable of doing takes quite a wild stretch of the imagination). I was thinking, oh, I see where these 'dog-people' are coming from!

Well, then she woke me on a Friday morning, at the cheerful hour of just after six a.m., by unceremoniously puking on my bed. I felt like I had gone against all good judgement and taken a drunk first-year home, and was looking at the all-too-predictable results. One of my neighbours, on hearing the tale, responded "God, I can't even handle birds singing at six in the morning, you poor thing!" Indeed. I had to 'deal with' the grossness, while holding back violent gags, while half asleep, before I even had a coffee. POOR POOR ME.

So, I'm well back to being a cat person. I said this to my sister, triumphantly. My sister, who thinks all pets are disgusting, costly wastes of space replied: "cats puke too"

me: "yes, true, but they're smaller right? it isn't as bad?"


Great story?

Epilogue: I still love Skye, but she is banned from my room until further notice. I know it wasn't her fault, but - in a way - that makes it worse.