WOW

Okay, if you are thinking of coming to visit us here in Wellington, New Zealand, I can now strongly recommend that you time your visit for the end of September/beginning of October, so you’ll be in town to see the World of Wearable Art show. The catch being that you’ll need to decide by February, so we can get you tickets — they sell out fast. Stephen and I went to see it last night, and were totally blown away.

WOW (the official acronym takes a few liberties) happened because the woman who started it saw an ad for a “Wearable Art” exhibition at a museum in Auckland, and was frustrated and disappointed to find that the exhibition was little more than some dyed silk scarves and jackets someone had painted flowers on. She was expecting something quite a bit more grand, more imaginative, more boundary-trashing. So she went home to Nelson and, because that’s the way these stories usually go, did it herself. The first show, 17 years ago, was held in a paddock with a hired marquee. This year, they outgrew Nelson and moved the show to Wellington (which was very very keen to get it, let me tell you). They had to add a couple extra shows because they sold out so quickly.

You can see some of the costume entries from past years here.

And the Dominion Post has pics of this year’s finalists here.

(Go ahead and vote for your favorite, why not ?)

The costumes freely blend textile arts, sculpture, and in some cases engineering and electronics. What the pics of the costumes don’t really get across, though, is the overall impact and extravagance of the show. It’s not just a parade of wacky outfits — the whole thing is blended together with music and dance and lights and choreography. Half the time what the dance troupes were wearing was every bit as artsy and funky as the entrants, and some of the set pieces were just stunning. The theme this year was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch, so you had black-garbed Chiron figures pulling a shrouded golden boat that disgorged strange half-machine people, fluffy white ballet dancers that turned into liquid silver beast-headed demons, a choir in white, an opera-singer in architectural scarlet, and a series of violinists with their faces shrouded in black lace all serenading a black-and-white dinner party that morphed into a Renaissance wedding in red and gold, complete with silver angels descending on wires. The Pacifica section featured a woman erupting from a volcano accompanied by dancers swinging electric red poi, three enormous silk waves, and a truly fantastic Tahitiian (??) dance troupe. Oh yeah, and Elvis — for the Bizarre Bra section. One of the best Elvis impersonators I think I’ve seen yet (young, leather Elvis — not a sequin in sight).

I could go on, but I really can’t do it justice. I strongly suspect that WOW will eventually end up like Cirque du Soleil, with different productions taking place all over the world; but until then, it’s one of those best-kept-secrets things and you’ll have to come here to see it.

Spring pics

Because we haven’t inundated y’all with photos in a while:

That would be from left to right, Hankyo, Jennifer getting Hyouki used to the halter and lead, and Victoria employing her favorite tactic. Somebody in the past did a very good job training her in the fine art of being a big imobile lump.

After the training exercises, we haltered up Jim, Oak, and Pointer and took them all to the top of the hill — that first pic is StephenR and Oak jumping over the back stream (there *is* a stream under all that watercress and monkeymusk). Stephen and Jennifer have now joined the ranks of People Who’ve Climbed The Hill. Kudos to them, and also to Oak and Pointer, who did very well for being so over-stimmed.

Serenity

Last night we went and watched a sneak preview of Serentiy. For those of you don’t know, this is the movie based on the tragically short-lived SF series Firefly. It was good. Very good. Some surprises, which I will not reveal as they would be massive spoilers for those of you who have not seen it. After the film we managed to find a few people who had not seen Firefly before, but they really enjoyed it too, and “got” everything that was going on. I hope the movie is really popular, since I have heard they have options for a few more movies, and we can always hope the TV series would be revived if there was sufficient interest.

The short intro clip by Joss (the writer/director) was also very cute- especially the Lederhosen comment.

This sneak preview sucked in a good fraction of the geek population of Wellington. Our tickets were arranged and purchased by Thomas (yay Thomas!), a fellow I met through wargaming. A huge chunk of the local SCA group was there, and we spotted a number of Bellydancers we know.

Before the show they had a “Shindig” at Coyote, a western-themed bar across the street from the theater. Part of this was a costume contest. Tam won a prize. This is especially amusing because she was just wearing her work clothes, but they were sufficiently interesting and ethnic to garner a gift certificate. Hee!

Great comment from Kerry before the film started. She looked around the packed theater, and considering the crowd said “I bet Wellingtons internet useage has dropped significantly tonight.” 🙂

Democracy!

We voted yesterday. It is so cool that NZ lets us vote here, you just need to be a resident for a year. Very fair. They are also very aggressive about getting people to enrole to vote, and apparently this year they reached 95% of eligible voters on the rolls.Looks like onyl about 75% of the people voted though, which has them disappointed. (but wow thats better than the US!)

New Zealand uses a MMP (mixed member proportional) parlimenary system. This is interesting and fun. You get two votes, one for your electorate seat, and the other a party votes. The electorate seats are a “normal” first past the post sort of election, whoever gets the most votes wins. But these seats only account for about half of parliment, the rest are apportioned based on party votes.

To get into parliment, your party must either (A) win an electorate seat, or (B) get 5%+ of the party vote. This means that for the large parties the electorate seats are not super-important, but the party vote is. For some of the very small parties, the electorate seat is totally vital, as if they only get 1.5% of the party vote it is the only way to get 1 or 2 members into parliment.

NZ is also very voter-friendly, as once you are on the rolls you can vote anywhere. Much easier than in the States! They also hold the election on a Saturday, which is much more convenient.

Watching the results roll in last night at Steve and Jennifers place was rather harrowing. At the start of the count National had a large lead (43% to 37% in party vote), but as the night wore on and more votes were counted, it got closer and closer. Eventually labor just managed to inch ahead (about 40.2% to 39.8%, exact number depending on special vote counts). This gives labor 50 seats, and national 49. And You need 61+ to form a goverment. A handful of smaller parties won seats including the Greens (6), New Zealand First (7), United Future (3), Jim Andersons Progressives (1- Jim!), ACT (2), and the Maori Party (4). This gives 124 saets, not the noral 120. This is due to “overhang” caused by the Maori party electorate victories. This is an interesting phenomina where a party wins more electorate seats than it would be “entitled to” based on their % of the party vote. So Parliment is temporarily expanded to even out the numbers.

We just hope that Helen Clark (the Labor leader) can manage to craft a coalition that manages a full 3 years. We don’t want to “pull an Italy”, and do this all again in 5 months. If National had managed a 1-seat majority, a short-lived government seems much mroe likely, as most of their potential coalition parters had “messy-self-destruction” written all over them. Probably because National spent a lot of election effort trying to wipe out and steal the voters from their two most obvious partners (ACT adn NZ First). I expect Winston (of NZ First), is not feeling very happy about National right now.

Democracy in action. It is much mre exciting when you have multiple parties. It was very refreshing to cast a ballot, without feeling I was just voting for the “lesser evil!”

It's dead. No, it's alive again. No, it's dead… No, wait…

What’s better than getting up bright and early and heading out for a day of back-breaking work on the farm ?
Doing it while fighting off a migrane !
The Bright Side: Hard labor *sometimes* makes Stephen’s migranes go away.

What’s better than having a burning hunk of gorse roll down out of your burn-pile into the standing bush, setting off a mini-brushfire which you have to spend an hour stamping out in the blowing ash and smoke (still with your migrane) ?
Having it reignite after you’ve come down off the hill for your lunch-break, and the neighbors call the fire department, and you have to go back up and stomp it all back out again !
The Bright Side: The firies said Stephen was doing everything right — burning uphill and downwind on a still day — didn’t reckon the fire was a hazard, and because Stephen has correctly called beforehand to let them know he was doing a burn, didn’t charge us for the callout. They just asked him to make sure it was out before dark, so they didn’t get another call that night.

What’s better than having the same ^&%$ fire re-start again, AFTER you’ve had a shower and gotten all clean, so you can go up and stomp it out a third time ?
Doing it all in the dark, because the sun’s gone down while you’re still finding little smoking patches and glowing embers.
The Bright Side: Your sweetie is home to help, and it’s easier to see embers in the dark.

What’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick ?
A poke in the eye with a charred gorse stick, which deposits a big wad of ash smack into your contact lens, which drops out, never to be seen again.
The Bright Side: Losing a lens is better than losing an eye, and hey, a pile of smoking ash is at *least* as good a place to lose a contact lens as the catwalk over the bottomless crevasse in that cavern in Tennessee, or wherever it was I lost the *first* one, lo these many years ago. (Remember that, Mom ? I’d only had them, what, three weeks at that point ?)

What’s better than picking your way down off a hill in the dark, over uneven ground full of foot-high gorse stumps, sudden drop-offs and slippery patches of baked-smooth clay ?
Doing it with no depth perception !
The Bright Side: A shovel makes an adequate walking stick, and we did manage to get down without either of us twisting, breaking or spraining anything.

Oy vey, what a day ! As Sean noted later, at the game night which we had a good excuse to be late to, “Ah yes, the peaceful farming life.”

Pac-tastic

It was a good weekend.

It started well on Friday night when I picked up Tam from the airport. Yah! Sweetie is home! I discovered the best way to cruise the airport without paying for parking. If you are there less than 5 miutes it is free, and I discovered they have a special exit lane where there is no booth, just stick in your ticket, and so long as you are within 5 minutes, out you go. I discovered this after getting stuck with a $2 charge because I was stuck in queue behind people paying at the booth, and ran over 5 minutes.

Saturday bright and early Steve dropped off Jennifer, so that we could drive up to Thief of Hearts (aka “alpacas unlimited”) in Palmerston North for a field-day. This particular one was about “showing”, that is, getting your animals ready for a show. This involves clipping and tipping the animal to make it look oh-so-fluffy, and the whole process made me just that much more cynical about the whole show system. After lunch Eric did a bit of halter-training demonstration work. The style we had been tought before (The T-Team approach of Marty McGee) is a slow-and-steady process of winning the animals trust. Eric goes for a rough-and-tumble breaking of the animals will. That being said, there are merits to his style. It involves slapping on a halter and lead, and then lead-chasing the bucking animals around the field. But we watched animals doing this for the first time calm remarkably within 15 to 20 minutes. Apparently you can completely halter train most animals in 3 or 4 15-minute sessions. Now, this is a style that you can use on small animals, but not large ones. It is good to remember that Marty works mainly with Llamas (150-250 kg), where as Eric works with young alpaca (40-75 kg). Trying to wrestle a bucking llama would probably result in injury, definitely for you and possibly for the llama.

After the field day we looked at Gladiator, one of the studs we are considering for our girls. It was convenient as there were 15 or 20 Gladiator cria present, so we could see what sort of offspring he produces. Quite interesting, but we still havn’t decided which stud we will use. After the field day we drove to the end of Scotts road, an exploration we had left half-finished from the last time we were up there. Turned out we had pretty much made it to the end last time. It was still fun exploring up in the hills. We then drove back to Wellington, had a lovely dinner with Steve and Jennifer, then popped back up to Porirua to drop in on Shellys birth day party to say “hi!”. Then some much-needed sleep.

Sunday was all about playing with our alpaca. We brought them all down into the shed/yards after breakfast. Jennifer came back over, and we started halter-training using Erics style. We worked with both cria (Hankyo and Hyouki), and their mothers (Galadriel and Concetta). We also did some halter work with Oak, and left him tied to the fence for about 20 minutes, which he seemed fine with. We did a bit of slow-and-steady pen-work with Victoria and Cariboo, as they are both too big and strong to try the Eric-way. The most amusing aspect was pooor Pointer. He was trying to use the midden to have a pee, but bucking-running animals on halter and lead kept careening into him, interrupting his potty break. So 5 minutes later he would try again, and again get rammed into by some other ‘paca. All quite amusing, in a toilet-humor kind of way.

We then haltered up Oak, POinter and Jim and took them all for a walk down the valley. It was the first time off-farm for the two alpaca wethers, but having Big Jim in the lead probably helped calm their nerves. We took them about a km down, and then back, dropping in briefly to say hi to Stuart. They did really well, not even being too badly freaked by traffic. I look forward to building a transport box on the back of the Ute so we can try taking them to the beach some time. That would be fun.

After Jennifer left Tam and I climbed the back hill to do one of our periodic photo-shoots of the property. We do this to maintain records to the place, so in years to come we can see how our work changed it, and how it changes with the seasons.

And then we rested, because after all that we were good and tired!

AKL part deux

Finishing up the Auckland trip:

Thursday

Brekkie at the hotel – a massive omlette with hash browns and grilled tomatoes. It was good, if a little bland, and I ate way too much of it. Have decided that that first day was not an anomaly, and the staff here are unhappy and as a result not, ehn, “customer focussed”. They must have a management problem. Wandered down to the waterfront at lunch — gorgeous sunny day. After class, Rowena and Shirley and I shopped our way up High Street & then met Sala for dinner at the restaurant at the base of the Sky Tower. Good fish, chips uninspiring, all of it overpriced. It was fun, though, hanging out with them.

Friday

I elected to brave the surly wait-staff and have another yummie waffle at the hotel, but they stuffed it up and it came out half raw. Boy, did that make me surly. I checked out (I think I scared the woman at the counter), checked my bag, and stomped down High Street until I found a bagel shop to supply me with an alternate breakfast. Felt better after that. Class ended in time for lunch, so Rowena and I hit the Aotea Market, then hooked up with Shirley to track down a blouse she’d seen earlier, then finally shared a cab with Rowena to the airport, where Shirley, Sala and I hoped to fly standby on a earlier flight. No luck there, so we sat around jawing outside Whitcouls for a couple hours waiting for the plane. (Six of us in that class, and five of us had to fly up from Wellington !)

All in all, a good trip. Learned lots, shopped lots, got to hang with Emily, play in the library, and get to know Sala and Rowena better. Yay !

Away in Auckland

I’ve been sent to Auckland for training this week. Here’s what I’ve been up to so far:

Monday

Got up early to catch plane. Class is good. BONUS: The class PCs have internet connections, so I can check email on the breaks. Rowena and Sala from my former workplace are here, so I can catch up on the gossip. Browsed my way up Queen Street (the Russian shop had this adorable little ceramic ermine, with an egg in its mouth — egg-sucking vermin!!) and had dinner at the Mexican place across from the Sky Tower — pretty good. Went to check out the city library (Conveniently around the corner from my hotel) after dinner — I’m looking for pictures of medieval rolls of arms, so I can check out period art styles. BUT ! All their heraldry books are either in the basement, and you have to ask someone to go and get them for you, or they’re in the special geneological research section, which unless you have a library card, you have to pay to get into. YOu have to pay to look at their books ! BOO!!

Tuesday

The hotel restaurant does a good waffle. Yum. Learning heaps in class. Scooted up to K’Road afterwards, because that’s where a lot of the funky shops are, but they mostly all close at 5:30 or 6, so only got into a couple. Then dinner with Emily and her brother, who managed to squeeze me into the midst of their whirlwind tour (they’d just gotten back from the Rotorua-Taupo loop, and Em was off to Christchurch the next morning). We went to the place all the US ex-pats apparently refer to as “that new Cali-Mex place in the Viaduct”. It was good — you pick what you want and they build it for you, and their salsas and stuff taste right. Oh, and I had my first iced tea in a dog’s age; it was just Lipton, but since we’re in NZ it’s made with honest sugar water instead of corn syrup. We talked about politics, and about how surreal it is to be in another country when something like Katrina happens (Em was here for 9/11 as well). Discovered on the walk back that half the Asian-run tourist shops here sell imported alpaca rugs (under a Made in NZ label), most of them made out of cria skins ! That’s a LOT of cria. One of the shops had a life-sized stuffed llama in the window (I’m pretty sure it was made from alpaca, though). Pretty wacky. BONUS: Emily’s loaned me her library card ! YAY!! DOUBLE BONUS: Emily is offically job-hunting in Wellington — she’s had phone interviews and everything.

Wednesday

Waffles at a different restaurant this morning (a Belgian pub in Vulcan Lane), and I picked up some Dunkin’ Donuts to have with tea later (okay, I’m weak). Rowena and I grabbed some quick sushi for lunch (just as the fire alarm was going off in the Food Court) and scarfed it on the way to the Victoria Park Market. We took the wrong way back, though, and were late getting back to class. Oops. Frankie (from AKL University) showed me how to grab a bus to the top of Queen Street so I could try and hit a couple more shops in K’Road before everything closed. SCORE: I nabbed a $400 silk sari for $75. Love those clearance tables. Emily’s card got me into the geneology section. Didn’t find any good art, but did find a couple wacky devices and a little pamphlet on heraldic beasties with a good bibliography. Might head back today and try some of the basement books. Dinner (left the library a half hour before it closed, on account of I was so hungry) was at the Tanuki Sake-and-Sushi Bar across the street from my hotel. Very cool ! Tanuki figurines everywhere and I got to sit at the bar & watch the grand frantic ballet of all the food being prepared. Way fun.

Cultural Things

A little tidbit I noticed on my trip north 2 weeks ago, but forgot to mention. The airport in Kerikeri was quite small. Quite. Small. It had, as near as I can tell, 2 staff members. The plane refueled from a conventional gas pump with an extra-long hose. While waiting for my plane out a NZ Navy helicopter (one of 2 total in the whole navy?) landed, taxied over, and parked, so the crew could come into the little terminal for a coffee break!

In such a small place, there is no food service. But they had a drinks-vending machine. And they had a rack full of snacks, with posted prices, and an “honesty box” where you could pay. I think it says good things about a society when you can do food sales using an honesty box.

In other news, Tam had her big performance in the “Feet with Heat- dance your socks off” show this weekend. Our dance troupe was invted to do a few numbers (quite an honor, this is a big yearly all-styles dance show). The troupe had a big group number they wanted to do, as it had worked so well at the Yalla! show a few months ago, but the lead person was missing, so Beverly asked Tam to fill in. It apparently all went well, and afterwards they all went out to a new moorish-decorated bar/restaurant that just opened downtown. To the great delight of the Turkish owners, who suddenly had a bunch of happy, excited women in costume dancing away in the place.

On Sunday we had our first War Practive out at our place. We had 4 heavy fighters, 2 combat archers and a javelin thrower running around in the Gallop Paddock, running various practice scenarios. A really good time was had by all. Hopefully we will do this monthly, and by Cantebury Faire in Februrary we should actually be pretty good as a unit. That would be fun. Sarah and JoAnne got a surprise, and quite a laugh, when they came over the hill to collect their horses, and found the paddock full of silly people running around and clubbing each other with sticks! Added a touch or surrealality to their day.