I should observe a successful weekend. I spent Saturday night alone as my flatmates disappeared to a concert in Central Otago overnight. Being left alone to my own company only improves my mental balance. So Saturday night I went out to watch a movie: a five hour recording of the 2008 New York Metropolitan Opera Season Tristan und Isolde. What a night! It was a marathon, but definitely worth it. There are two more operas left to play in this season. I should try and see La Boheme at least. These recordings have not attracted audiences in New Zealand. Apparently in Australia they have attracted a new generation of people to going to the opera.

Sitting through act II, where Tristan and Isolde get to hold hands, I keep thinking if Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman were saying these lines instead of the shit that George Lucas wrote for them, then Attack of the Clones would have been more bearable.

I walked into town on Sunday afternoon to visit the art gallery and the Settlers’ Museum. The art gallery had an exhibition of Rita Angus’ painting. I found seeing the range of her opus very inspiring — the imagery she incorporated into her work. I would like to go back and buy a copy of the exhibition book so I can keep those images as a memento.

I thought I was going to see the Polish heritage exhibition at the Settlers’ museum. It was ‘lovely’ in an earnest auntie-ish sort of way. What caught my eye was Shopkeeping, an exhibition of photos of Dunedin identities standing in their shops. It deserves a second look, along with narratives provided on a computer. Dunedin readers, I encourage you to go see this. Remember, entry to the Settlers’ museum is now free. Since the photos were taken in 2006 seven of the forty-something businesses in the display have closed. Fortunately the display will be archived at the Hocken archives. It is a shame this collection of images is not online.

I am already looking forward to the second half of this week. Nicky Hager, author of The Hollow Men, is talking at the Archway lecture theatre on Wednesday. I missed his lecture the last time he was in Dunedin as I got the day wrong. Then the next day my brother is travelling through Dunedin to Invercargill for the Burt Munro races on Oreti Beach. This means I will get a bike ride down to Invercargill and stay for two nights. Southern Dave, you have been warned. I should remember to pack my Weet-Bix.

Tenders close for the renovations of the new archives offices on Friday.

Honour the dead, by Colin Gibson

Leave a comment

Honour the dead, our country’s fighting brave.
honour our children left in foreign grave,
where poppies grow and sorrow seeds her flowers,
honour the crosses marked forever ours.

Weep for the places ravaged with our blood,
weep for the young bones buried in the mud,
weep for the powers of violence and greed,
weep for the deals done in the name of need.

Honour the brave whose conscience was their call,
answered no bugle, went against the wall,
suffered in prisons of contempt and shame,
branded as cowards, in our country’s name.

Weep for the waste of all that might have been,
weep for the cost that war has made obscene,
weep for the homes that ache with human pain,
weep that we ever sanction war again.

Honour the dream for which our nation bled,
held now in trust to justify the dead,
honour their vision on this solemn day:
peace known in freedom, peace the only way…

Yes, I’ve voted

Leave a comment

I did it as part of my Saturday morning trip to the supermarket. There was no queue. A young man in a t-shirt and baseball cap pointed me to the registration desk.

I walked over to the young woma who was handling the general roll. She took my ID and found my name. There were two people in the North Dunedin Electrate who have my name. I identified that I did not live on Gamma Street. My address was on the back of the card anyway. When I asked she said that they had been open for half an hour already.

She took my card, crossed off my name, and gave me my candidates’ sheet. I went into a booth and ticked a candidate and a party. New Zealand’s law on proportional representation means I get two votes. At the last election only 2% of the voting population went unrepresented into parliament; I understand in America it is 40%. I put the form into the correct box and left. On the way out they gave me a sticker. All that took less than 10 minutes.

The depressing thing is that Australia got Rudd, and America got Obama. New Zealand seems determined to get Key. Talk about getting the consulation prize!

Anyway, Happy Election Day! All together now! ‘Tis the season to be polling! Tralalalala la la la la!

Character Sketch 3

Leave a comment

One of my favourites: Anghelo (the gh-sound sounds like it’s gargled). He’s a fighter, a gun-slinger, a swordsman, a martial-artist. (In Hypercronius the martial arts are called Folkfold, derived from the childhood threat, “I know origami, people folding, and other Japanese words!”)

He could have stepped out of a western novel: long black suede coat, trimmed with fur, it’s beginning to look faded in places; high-buttoned black waistcoat; black suit pants; white shirt; short black tie; dark glasses. Sadly the effect is lost due to the permanent unwashed smell that hangs around him. He is fearful of the sun and doesn’t change. Ironically he’s naturally tanned from a life outdoors. He’s not a person who looks good dressed like this on his muscular frame.

He has a face like a pug. He doesn’t smile or react. His face is inanimate. Long black wavy hair which he wears tied back in a bun, a thick beard like a Victorian gentleman.

Anghelo is for hire. Watch him in a fight. He has weapons hidden on his body. He’s a bounty hunter or a bodyguard. What’s he doing here? He could be dangerous.

Character sketch 2

Leave a comment

I have not had the time the last couple of days to post a character sketch. I have updated one I call Sleazy the Dwarf. I suspect that there is a lot more that I can write into this character; he’s about half incomplete (for a given value of one half). He is described as a balding dwarf with a long grey beard down his chest, just a fringe of silver hair around his head. His appearance is not appealing: greasy, oily skin, prominent nose, thin lips. His attitude is cocky. At the moment he is a secondary character more than someone who carries a plot forward. He is one of the few characters sketches I have who is not explicitly human

Upsetting news

Leave a comment

I knew that the registrar who retired from Knox College was over the ditch in Melbourne. It was her fourth visit this year to see her grandchild. Now I have heard that she has been hospitalised in Melbourne and diagnosed with bowel cancer. The initial treatment in Melbourne will take a month. Her husband has gone over to join her.

Character Sketch 1

Leave a comment

This is the character that meets us on arrival, probably leaning against his old wagon, waiting to meet us. A good choice for a character to begin with.

His dog’s in the back. Don’t worry, it may be big but it won’t bite. It’s a gentle animal.

He’s dressed as a farmer: woollen trousers, shirt, straw hat. He has long hair. It’s gone white and he wears it in a pony tail. If he takes his hat off we will discover that he has had it tinted at the front, red and blue. He has a thin boney face, probably the kind that is weathered rather than wrinkled, and blue eyes, probably a washed-out pale blue. A pendant earring hangs from one ear.

He is the cantor for a local religious community. At one stage he will be discovered leading the singing in the shrine/chapel, barefoot. I don’t know what he wears otherwise, probably boots which he has removed while he is at liturgy. Without knowing the background of the community I cannot say whether he is leading hymns, prayers, bhajans or sutras.

At this stage we will probably meet his cat. It is ginger with decided musical tastes: ancient, nothing modern or else we will see it walking out.

I can imagine what kind of person this is: gentle, a little bland, with an independent streak and alternative. I have met people like that. He hasn’t been labelled with a name yet.

Introduction to the character sketches

Leave a comment

A few years ago Southern Dave and I got halfway through writing a comic fantasy on the world of Hypercronius. I will say halfway because we ran out of steam and never finished it. We both still have a copy of it. We kept it going for a couple of years mailing each other chapters between Invercargill and Dunedin. I think by the end I had worked out where the story was going. While we were writing it I kept a file on my computer, my scribbles file. It has names that caught my attention and ideas I wanted to use. Most importantly it had characters I had put together. They are collages of descriptions I heard in conversation and mentally noted down to put into the scribbles file. That part of the file has continued to grow in the hope that someday I would return to these people. Some of them are nearly as old as the original file, more than ten years old, little Frankensteinian monsters.

I don’t plan to write a story in November. Instead I decided that when I update my file during the month I would also write a character sketch on my journal. It could be interesting.

Any resemblence to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.