August 2009


Yesterday I went on the first of my “blind friend dates” with a nice-sounding lady who works in a cattery and hasn’t been bothered to make friends since coming to Wellington. We went to the zoo, and it was only mildly uncomfortable.

The following things occurred:

1) I fed a giraffe leaves from my hand.

I scratched her scruffle-y chin afterwards. It was satisfying.

I'm the one in purple and grey.

2) While I was looking the baboons through a sheet of plexiglass, one of them walked towards me and shoved its butt up against the glass.

It stands as a reminder: Baboons are Dangerous.

3) I spent the whole day thinking this girl’s name was something different than what it actually was. I still can’t remember if I ever addressed her by the incorrect name.

4) I overheard a school boy taunting the lemurs. In a ridiculous, mock-posh accent: “Why HELLOOOO! How are WE today?”

5) I am about 65% sure the girl I spent the day with is a member of a (non-dangerous) cult. I’m 100% sure she’s the member of a something…I’m not positive it’s a cult.

It’s Landmark Education. I did some Googling and couldn’t get a straight answer. But now I get banner ads for Scientology. If anyone’s got any opinions on Landmark Education…send them my way.

The cat graffiti which I believe I’ve mentioned before was painted and the graffiti’d over recently. Which was horrible news for me! It was one of my favorite things in the neighborhood.

Yesterday: accidentally started outwardly laughing when I caught a guy on the street literally nuzzling a stranger’s cat with his face after he secretly photographed it. Had to make a quick getaway before he said anything.

Today: next door neighbor and I made extended eye contact while he smoked weed on his balcony and I surreptitiously stole raw dough while baking cookies.

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This is a call to arms.

I’ve been busy and/or not been in a good headspace for actual blogging lately. However! I realized something of vital importance and want to glean as much as possible from any corner of the web where I am allowed to ask people about things.

As you almost definitely know if you’ve been reading this, I play the ukulele.

It’s been a wonderful resource for me in New Zealand especially–it’s n0t too difficult to get a basic grip on a lot of songs to sit and play around with for a while, but it’s not simple enough that I don’t need to practice a WHOLE LOT to get anywhere near good.

I haven’t actually made any friends yet in Wellington. I go out for classes and when I force myself on walks through the city (which, depending on my state of mind when I leave the house, can either be fantastic or miserable). It’s really easy to get lonely or depressed in this situation. The ukulele’s given me something to do that I like, that feels productive, and that REALLY cheers me up.

This is all territory that Loudon Wainwright’s already covered. I don’t want to be repetitive, so I’ll defer to him:

Anyway, if I haven’t made it clear enough: I already really liked the ukulele. But over the past month or so, we’ve grown very, very close.

We're in looove.

We're in looove.

All this and, perhaps shockingly, my ukulele doesn’t have a name.

Generally, I think the naming of inanimate objects is ridiculous (I named my computer, my iPod, every camera I ever owned, my car, and my giant tricycle but apparently I draw the line there). But the ukulele and I have a level of intimacy that I feel requires a first-name basis (non-sexual).

I need name suggestions. I don’t know what to call it.

Some information: it’s a concert-sized uke with a little guitar-style cutaway bit at the top and a tacky, sort of ugly sunburst coloring (I would never have chosen the sunburst, but it was a gift from my Dad who is WILD about sunburst guitars). It’s an Oscar Schmidt. I don’t know anything about different types of ukuleles or different types of wood but I suspect it is spruce (it’s definitely not koa).

It has a hook-up for an amp, which is a little bit yonic and suggests that it’s a pretty little girl uke, but have my suspicions that my ukulele is male. Which is really too bad, because thinking of girl names for a uke is easy-peasy.

I’ve considered naming it Al, obviously after the man I love:

But something about that seems slightly too odd and terrifying.

Obviously naming it after Roy Smeck, radio wizard of the screen, is an option:

(as a side note: what the hell is up with that voice? Did people back then ACTUALLY talk like that in every-day life, or is it just a weird thing affected by performers? And if so, why did they affect it?)

Though I don’t know about “Roy” as a name in general for anyone

Except for the mysterious nephew from the Simpsons, obviously.

Except for the mysterious nephew from the Simpsons, obviously.

Anyway, come one, come all and SUGGEST A NAME FOR MY UKULELE.

If you think it’s a girl, feel free to challenge me.

AN ONLY VAGUELY RELATED ADDENDUM:

I’ve been wanting to mention (on this blog and to every single person I know or have known or see walking past me on the streets) a video blog I’ve been enjoying recently.

I’ll try to keep this as related as possible. So it involves some uke-ing. And I’d venture to say this fellow’s generally sunny disposition (and tendency towards at least slight optimism in the face of bad-feeling) have helped me quite a bit in recent days when I’ve not been feeling my best.

He’s JB Dazen and he’s a Dutch musician. He’s got a pretty great band that you can check out here: http://postponers.bandcamp.com/

He also posts a bit of solo music on his video blog, like this fantastic ukulele song:

Sometimes he posts things entirely in Dutch, which is a fantastic treat especially if you, like me, neither speak nor understand a word of Dutch. I promise I’m not being sarcastic–I think the Dutch sounds really beautiful AND I get a big kick out of trying to figure out what’s going on, where the jokes fall, etc.

So, yes. JB Dazen. Very funny, very talented, amiable and charming. Possibly rivaling certain ukulele-centric website owners for a space in my weird little heart.

Friday night I followed the cardinal rule of the friendless loser:

Thou shalt accept every invitation given unto thee.

I went with one of the girls from my orientation group to the Hare Krishna Festival at the yoga center. $5 Indian food. Okay, I’m in.

Pre-dinner, of course, there was a bit of show. First half was the mandatory “explain our religion and why it is good” portion–it largely concerned how everyone in the world is going to die and you’d better just get used to it and the only reason we fear death is because we are horrible, greedy creatures (gross vs. subtle bodies an’ that). The second half was a 20 minute dance-a-thon. To the “Hare Krishna” chant (if you don’t know the words, it’s “Hare Krishna” and “Hare Rama” over and over, several hundred times). With a serious load of jumping in the air dancing.

Basically, the first half was like this:

Whereas the second half was more like this:

Or the dancing at the end of The Wicker Man. Except…y’know. Vegan-friendly.

I tried to go along with their spirited hopping, but the closest I can possibly get to dancing is an insane, bastardized version of throwing shapes:

(And you thought it wasn’t possible to bastardize throwing shapes. It’s a very subtle artform.)

My general technique in these sorts of functions is to find the other disgruntled-looking non-enthusiast(s) and make sarcastic comments to them for a while.

These people did not exist. It was nothing but grinning faces bobbing up and down and shouting “Hare Hare” at the top of their lungs, occasionally smiling at me after accidentally hopping into me.

And then dinner came. It wouldn’t be a hippie free-for-all if you weren’t stuck sitting next to a stranger making polite conversation. My table buddy, named Miranda, was a museum studies major who wanted a run down of the best museums of Texas. Though she didn’t seem to like the idea of Texas on the whole.

Afterwards I was convinced to see District 9.

If you haven’t heard about District 9, it’s set in the future, and an enthusiastic but poor crab-like alien who loves his freedom chooses to express his feeling by devouring a flag meant to represent the unity of Earth. He is then hunted down and must get his compatriots from his home planet to help him fight back (with the help of a Satanic polygamist veteran lawyer).

Okay, maybe that’s the plot of an episode of Futurama. But the actual film plot (aliens who only want their freedom are treated as if they are violent, must fight back with the aid of a human guy) seems eerily similar to me (on the surface level at least).

Plus the aliens even sort of look a little bit like a real-life version of Zoidberg:

Casual hello, its me Zoidberg, act natural.

Casual hello, it's me Zoidberg, act natural.

I don’t think it was as amazing as everyone else seems to. Good, sure, but uneven to say the least. And (for me, a rusty-hearted robot) not very emotionally resonant when it was trying to be.

But it DID have my all-time favorite action movie trope (except for Jason Statham. At this point he’s a trope): the suddenly cut off important phone call causing the protagonist to, in a fit of frustration, grip his or her cellphone and look away in defeat.

You know, this:

Friend date had to cancel this weekend. But don’t worry, the very small mistake of posting a platonic personal ad is snow balling. It should be a doozy soon enough.

Things are about to start getting weird for me. Very, very weird. (So be pleased, I will stop writing about things that I really enjoy i.e. rambling about The Daily Show or making joke lists of things or imaging conversations and go back to writing about the many and varied things that make me totally uncomfortable.)

Basically, what happened was this:

I got very, very sick of having absolutely no friends (except for the two girls in different tutorials who I will occasionally make polite small talk with…though they hardly count as friends). So I did a VERY not-me-ish thing and decided it would be a good idea to put an “I am a loser who desperately needs friends please will someone please PLEASE talk to me if only so I can make sure my vocal chords do actually still work?” ad on what is basically the international equivalent of Craigslist.

(I friend-prostituted myself out, is what I am saying.)

Shockingly, out of the seven or so responses I got, only one was an out-and-out proposition for sex (and what a hilarious proposition it was–it involved rhyme!)

Frankly, it’s shocking that I got a response at all–the ad was about two sentences long, and the second was just a rambling statement about how the fact that people actually use skateboards for transportation here surprises me.

I’m a bit wary of the respondents (I’m wary of certain rhyming men who advertise themselves as “skilled in the art of massage” for obvious reasons). I feel like a big, old-fashioned sexist here but I’ve heard back from one girl and the fact that the rest of them are men reads to me to be a bit “I am expecting a blind date”-ish to me. As someone who generally gets along better with men than women I’m more than a little bit shocked at my own assumption that a man certainly wouldn’t just want to be FRIENDS with a woman.

I’ve responded with varying degrees of “let’s talk some more I want to be friends possibly”-ness, ranging from “you sound fun” sort of bland but friendly statements to “Sorry I’m not interested in anything sexual at the moment. Good luck, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a woman given your obvious talents” and apparently I am now setting up a friend date with the lady respondent.

She seems to have a collection of international friends who do a pub quiz together every week. She likes good TV and wearing hats. I’ll be joining a group automatically for the friend date, which frankly is a great, low-pressure idea.

It’s actually a little more nerve-wracking than any of the normal dates I’ve been on (that said I hate dating and avoid it whenever possible, so that number is thankfully very low and generally involved people I already knew outside of a few emails).

In other news, I apparently laughed enough (or loudly enough) during New Media today while we were watching the Steve Balmer “Developers!” video to warrant some attention from my seven year-old professor, who went on to show the Star Wars Kid video, first asking “Has anyone seen this? I bet YOU have” while pointing directly at me. Yes, sir, you’ve got me pegged: I spend 90% of my time watching viral videos.

It’s a shame, really, because he runs all the tutorials as well and he kept bringing up how sick he is. I’d sort of thought out loud to my flatmates that I should give him my remaining dissolvable vitamin C Emergen-C knock-off tablets as a gift, which they said would be very, very weird (which is probably true). But had I known then that he and I share a deep, psychological connection based entirely around our shared enjoyment of specific viral videos, I DEFINITELY would have brought it for him. Certain things have suggested to me that we also have a shared interested in Vanilla Coke, googling the United Colors of Benneton ads, pictures from the 1800s, and horns-based, hip hop-influenced electropop and/or Fats Waller (one of which he generally plays over loudspeakers before lectures start)…this is clearly a best friendship waiting to happen.

The exciting results of my weekend jaunt through town were naught. I was too sick to be interested in anything I saw and spent most of the weekend watching North & South, which if you like pseudo-political Victorian love stories is very good (despite the disgustingly lack of emotional repression display at the end). The beginning is basically a parody of itself, though. A lot of Victorian romances begin with misunderstanding between the couple (i.e. Elizabeth overhears Darcy saying she isn’t so great looking and the like). North & South begins with its main character, Margaret Hale, visiting a cotton mill where she sees but does not know the context of her romantic interest literally beating one of his workers before throwing him out. It was more than a little difficult not to laugh

It starred Richard Armitage, which I imagine happens a lot when you’re making a British period piece and you say to yourself “well I’d really like to get Sean Bean, but if possible I’d like someone who looks like a more sinister Sean Bean.” The result is as follows:

Sean Bean presumably in something from the Sharpe series

Sean Bean presumably in something from the Sharpe series

Richard Armitage in what the Robin Hood producers

Richard Armitage in what the producers of Robin Hood believe to be a period-appropriate costume.

I’d like to end it there, but it’s impossible to mention Sean Bean without sharing the absolute beauty of this image:

you've got to throw some jazz fusion in there, too.

you've got to throw some jazz fusion in there, too.

I’m not going to say they don’t have butter here. That would be a lie. New Zealanders are fully capable of producing butter. It’s mostly used in baking.

I’m not saying I go around eating sticks of butter or anything. That has never happened. I’m pretty sure. But as someone who is just learning to cook and isn’t very good at it yet (I genuinely think things would be going better in that department if someone would give me my own cooking-themed radio program. Like an audio version of Martha Stewart broken up by sections of music, designed to match some sort of theme determined by the food. It would be called Fried Rhymes, obviously) is wont to do, I make a lot of toast. I’m really good at making toast.

And when that toast is done toasting, I’m putting margarine on it. And sure, it’s almost definitely better for my health. And the taste is hardly different enough for me to notice. But I can’t help but feel a little bit cheated.

They also don’t carry Emergen-C here, which is problematic for me as I now have a cold. The closest thing they have is basically a vitman C infused Alka Seltzer tablet. I don’t get heartburn, so Alka Seltzer outside of the context of having a hangover is a little weird to me.

Well, that or having an entire suit made of it

Look, here’s the thing: the rest of this entry is basically going to be nonsense that is only vaguely if at all related to the fact that I am in New Zealand. I have some silly things that I like lying around (stupid list and fake conversations, mostly) and I don’t know where they belong, but I feel like they belong somewhere. Probably not here.

Just in case any of the two people who occasionally read this have a problem with that, here are a few pictures of stuff in my neighborhood that I like:

I live in the bottom half of this.

I live in the bottom half of this.

in the Aro Valley Park/Community Center

in the Aro Valley Park/Community Center

some cat-themed graffiti

some cat-themed graffiti

Okay. Now it’s time for stupid shit.

The other day I was listening to that song by the band “Music is My Hot, Hot Sex” by the band C.S.S. If you don’t know C.S.S., they do fun sort of dance-y music. The lyrics are, 9/10 times, REALLY ridiculous and have something to do with sex or Paris Hilton.

“Music is My Hot, Hot Sex” has a sort of bandied-about line that goes “music is my boyfriend.” It’s one of the most moronic sentiments I can imagine. Least of all because that would cause nothing but problems. And thus:

Problems I Have With My Boyfriend Because Music Is My Boyfriend

1) Boyfriend is almost definitely manic-depressive. He volleys wildly between cheerful and upbeat and depressing and heartbroken.

2) He doesn’t cook for himself.

3) He uses the same single dish over and over to avoid helping out with the other dishes.

4) Not a good listened.

5) Tells embarrassing personal stories in mixed company.

6) Shout at people from across the street to get their attention.

7) Constantly quotes Family Guy

8 ) Takes extra long showers so there is no hot water left over for me.

9) Refuses to let me be the lead guitarist in our Rock Band band even though I shred and he doesn’t.

10) Takes bites directly from the block of cheese instead of cutting off slices.

(Not) Overheard On Set the First Day of Filming for the Motion Picture Juno,  Apparently the Winner of the 2007 Academy Award For Best Original Screenplay

Oh, hey wait a minute. Jason! Jason! I think there’s a typo or something here. I mean I’m not 100% sure but… Well, you know that thing you do sometimes where you’re writing one thing and thinking another? And then you accidentally write down the thing you were thinking about rather than the thing that you wanted to be writing about? Like if I was writing the word “sincerely” but…I don’t know, thinking about lunch and wrote “sausages” instead? Well, I’m guessing it’s just that. You see here? I mean, this sentence is clearly meant to read “Honest to God?” but what it says is “Honest to Blog?”

Do you see what I mean?

So…should we call Diablo, or…?

No?

…Okay.

Conversations Likely to Occur at New Zealand’s World of Wearable Art

I’ll be volunteering at the World of Wearable Art in September. Basically, designers make couture-ish art pieces meant to be worn by models or dancers. These models or dancers then walk or dance their way down a runway to show off the art. I will likely be either selling programs or assisting as a dresser.

Carrie is a Dresser, female model or male dancer

CARRIE: Hi! My name’s Carrie Griffin. I’ll be taking your clothes off at various points throughout the evening.

MODEL/DANCER:

CARRIE:

(repeat into infinity)

Carrie is a Dresser, female dancer

CARRIE: So do you know how to crump?

DANCER:

Carrie is a Dresser, male model

CARRIE: Do you face a lot of prejudice as a male model? Do people assume all sorts of things about you?

MODEL: Well, you’ll always get people who assume if you’re a model you’re stupid, or if you’re a male model you’re gay or something like that. But it’s not so bad. It’s not like Zoolander or anything.

CARRIE: So do you have any other talents?

MODEL:

CARRIE: (pause) Did you like Zoolander?

Carrie is Selling Programs, All Instances

(Carrie makes no attempt to say anything or gain anyone’s attention through the whole of the night, sells no programs, and is asked not to return.)

I’ve Repeated This To Everyone Thus Far But I am Very Dedicated To It

This is an idea I have for a film.

Tony Blair, post-his prime ministerial career, enters into a deep depression when he finds himself completely reviled and ostracized by the British public. To piece his life back together, he retreats to the country where, during a late-night fog walk, he is bitten by a werewolf. Imbued with new werewolf super-powers, he must choose whether to fight for good or evil, whether he should protect the society that rejected him, or (literally) bite back.

It should star Michael Sheen as the Tony Blair-wolf. Ideally, directed by Guillermo Del Toro and co-written by Mike Leigh and Nick Hornby.

I’m considering finding a place where I can post a personal ad:

Lonely American Girl Wants Friends

Likes: Cartoons, Promotional Pens, Naps, Pie, That Part in Kill Bill Part 2 When David Carradine Makes a Sandwich

Dislikes: Anime, Promotional Pins, Exercise, Onions, That Part in Deathproof with the Inappropriately Tarantino-esque Dialogue

No actual similarities between us necessary. Can guarantee no direct insults until third or fourth week of friendship.

I hope you don’t have to pay by the letter.

Am considering hand-writing several and posting them in random places in the Aro Valley.

Especially the Anarchy House. Which has its own blog:

128wellington.wordpress.com/

It looks like this:

though generally at a considering higher angle

though generally at a considerably higher angle

It hosts an anarchist bookshop and a bike repair shop. Also several rooms for backpackers. All free. Oh, and there’s a sign on the side of the house facing the street that says “If Prisons Worked There Wouldn’t Be Any.”

I love the Anarchy House. I sincerely hope one day I am able to befriend or at least stalk (in an endearing way) one of its residents.

Almost a month into my stay in Wellington, the first thing that I really, deep-in-my-gut miss strikes me as odd. I’m sorry to report it’s not my parents or my cats or my friends or my sister or even Chuy’s

food of the gods

food of the gods

It’s The Daily Show.

We don’t have a TV here. And our wireless cap is so small that it wouldn’t be worth spending the rest of the month at dial-up speed for me to stream a weeks’ worth of episodes.

It’s worth stating that if you think TV is horrible and mind-numbing and is making everyone in the world stupider, you’d better stop reading now, because you’re going to lose all respect for me. I hate a lot of shows. But I am fucking wild about good TV. I apologize in advance to anyone who might choose to read on. The rest of this is, in fact, about how much I love The Daily Show. Apparently it’s more than even I thought.

I didn’t grow up with The Daily Show the same way I did with The Simpsons. The Simpsons started roughly a year after I was born, it bonded my sister and I as friends during a point in our lives when we should have hated each other and argue constantly. It’s so present in my life and my interactions with my family that it’s almost a member of the family itself (maybe that’s why it’s so easy for me to forgive missteps and shitty episodes–“oh, but they’re just trying, they’re doing their best. Better still watch, out opf solidarity”–or why I feel particularly defensive of certain episodes or writers–“the Armin Tamzarian episode didn’t ‘ruin the series’ as certain nerds might have you believe. In fact, it was a brilliant and brilliantly written episode. And Mike Scully didn’t destroy anything. He’s a fantastic comedy writer and he did a stand-up job during the seasons he show-ran”).

I was eleven when Jon Stewart started hosting The Daily Show (which is to say: when people started giving a shit about The Daily Show). Having watched The Simpsons since I was old enough to pay attention to what was happening and, as a result of Fox’s weekday evening line-up and the old black-and-white TV my sister secretly purchased with saved allowance money for our room, Seinfeld for almost as long. Josie and I started watching Saturday Night Live, David Letterman, and Conan O’Brien not long after purchasing our secret TV. We got a satellite dish when I was about nine and, already something of a comedy nerd in the making, I was automatically drawn to basically everything on Comedy Central. I didn’t care about the news when I was eleven. But of course I watched The Daily Show. I eventually had to start following the news so I could understand the more subtle, referential jokes on The Daily Show. It made me a better, more informed person.

For me, The Daily Show is more like a close friend. The people I went to elementary school with, that I sort of half-associated myself with in my very-young childhood, were changing in their adolescence, growing up ever so slightly, enough so that we could recognize similarities in each other, things which distinguished us from everyone else. By the time I was thirteen, I was close with the people I consider my closest friends today.

Obviously, The Daily Show hasn’t remained the same over the past decade. They’ve cycled through correspondents, dealt with serious issues no one ever thought a news parody show would address, become an incredibly prominent culture figure. But it’s still Jon Stewart, similar enough to the person he was when I was eleven so that we still connect, but different enough that I can appreciate him and his show in a newer, better way.

my friend Jon

my friend Jon