Friday, 29 January 2010

My newest favourite thing: artists on the green

It was a scorching hot day as I walked down to Arrowtown Village Green for a spot of art and craft. The shady positions were highly sought after as the artists and artisans sold their wares.

I love Leslie Duggan’s artwork and we have several of her colourful and vibrant fabric creations adorning our walls. One (of red hot chillies and ice cool martinis) was given to us as a wedding present. The quirky cats and jaunty pukekos are also favourites. I see she also does triptychs of more subtle korus and kiwis in muted tones which would make great wall hangings too – check them out at her garden shed gallery.

I met the charming Rex Charlesworth with his fabulous display of handcrafted glass beads and jewellery. He is inspired by dragonflies; their iridescent colours, fragile wings and superlative aerodynamics. Some of the beads featured in pendants and earrings are fashioned to represent their startling eyes.

We discussed photography and patience – he clearly has lots of it as he used to spend hours photographing dragons and damsels in minute detail and extreme close-up. You can follow a link from his
Queenstown Hotglass website to see some of these wonderful images.

I was also pleased to meet the artist Christina Roach who, despite being inundated with golfing fans for the Michael Hill NZ Open, was still smiling as she painted her Central Otago landscapes. This is the scenery with which she chooses to surround herself and you can tell her connection to it with each loving brush stroke of the oil on the canvas or the dots of colour that represent glorious autumnal leaves on Tobin's Track.

Christina had almost sold out of her paintings and so was completing some more to add to her stock. Today she was painting from a photograph – a panorama of images taped together, which she kept in the front pocket of her apron. I suggested that it might be difficult to imagine the landscape while she looked out at the Arrowtown street bustling with summer visitors, but as she mixed more pockets of paint, she said she knows these hills like the back of her hand.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Driving Forces

People who drive sign-written vehicles can be startling stupid. I ride my bike around the Wakatipu Basin a lot and I see some alarming driving. Many cars (usually 4WDs) cut me up or don’t understand the concept of share the road. I know this is mutual and there are quite a few cyclists who display a reckless disregard for fellow road-users also, but that’s not what this post is about.

Last week I was carved up three times in less than ten minutes in Arrowtown by the same vehicle. Arrogance or ignorance; I’m not sure which is worse, but it certainly motivated this bloke’s attitude to the road. He ended up pulling into his driveway (overtaking me and then turning inches in front of me, causing me to brake heavily) so I know where he lives. If he continues this behaviour, I will let you know where he lives too.

And this is where those with sign-written vehicles come in. It’s all too easy to think you are in your own little bubble when you drive, but your antisocial and unthinking actions affect everyone else in your vicinity. You are blatantly advertising that you don’t give a toss and are reckless, thoughtless and completely inconsiderate. Do you really think anyone would want to do business with you? I’ve witnessed a lot of woeful driving; dangerous overtaking and careless corner-cutting. I won’t mention it here, but I know who you are.

I must also give credit where it’s due – there are some sign-written vehicles in the area who display consistent courtesy and I would certainly recommend their business to anyone who requires their services. Among the more noticeable champions of the road are Nomad Safaris, Otago Southland Waste Services, Addstaff and Ministry of Works.

Of course, not everyone wants you to know who they are. Once, Him Outdoors was racing around the Lake District when a car pulled out sharply in front of him forcing him to slam on the brakes and take evasive action. He waited until the driver was looking his rear view mirror then flashed a rude signal and mouthed obscenities very clearly, which the other driver couldn’t help but lip-read.
The flashing blue lights popped up and Him Outdoors was reluctantly pulled over by the unmarked police car. After trading ‘You shouldn’t have pulled out like that’ and “It wouldn’t have been a problem if you weren’t speeding’, the policeman allowed that he had another pressing call to attend and that Him Outdoors was lucky to be let off without a fine. His parting shot was, ‘Just watch who you call a f*&%ing t#%t in future, sir.’ Which goes to prove, you can never be too careful on the road – someone is indeed always watching.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Boy Books

The latest list to challenge my Libran (and female) sensibilities is Esqire's 75 Books Every Man Should Read. Clearly, I am not a man, but I'm always interested in the difference in reading habits between the sexes, so I took a look. I have read about a third of their list so I suppose I am entitled to some insight.

One of the things I took from this list is that men don't read books by women - we know this anyway. Often on men's top ten favourite reading lists, the only female author you will find is Harper Lee. I often thought this was because, what with the androgynous name and general lack of public appearances, many blokes think she is a man. Perhaps the same is true of Flannery O'Connor, as she is the only female included in the 75. I think that's pretty shallow. But then, why 'should' someone read a book? To find out about things they don't know, or to reaffirm what they already do?

The books have little blurbs to sum them up. A large proportion are about war. Others are about dogs, horses and cattle or mountains and seafaring - exploration in other words. Men 'should' read about tough manly heroes and their pursuit of survival; adjectives include raw, unrelenting and revenge.

They admire stories about slaves, prison, spies, scandal, presidents, journalists, detectives and the Holocaust; apparently these are manly topics. They are also encouraged to read tales of mateship, farting and sex; childhood, highschool and college. There is usually an edge about having a passionate longing (whether or not it is requited) with your best friend's girlfriend/wife and a troubled relationship with your father.

Of course, there are heaps of titles about drugs and drinking. Descriptions are full of words such as crazy, drunk, hallucinatory, boozing, brawling, fighting, whiskey and defeat. Naturally this leads to a chronic onset of navel-gazing; dirty, damned, grotesque, trapped, desolation, darkness, loss of self.
It's no surprise that the quintissential boy book, Heart of Darkness makes it onto the list, although I am puzzled by the omission of Albert Caumus' L'Etranger. Apparently men should read of cold brilliance, sparseness, animalism, brutality and deception.

I find this list somewhat depressing, mainly because it suggests that men are still living in the past. They dream of swashbuckling adventures where men were tough and women were unimportant. If there was a war to fight, then all the better, as they could prove their valour and value. They could then adopt an attractive world-weary pose to demonstrate strength and knowledge of unspeakable things. When they lost their pioneering capabilities they retreated into drugs and alcohol, unable to face reality, assuming a delusional paranoia that everyone was out to get them.

In real life they are drinking in bars, working in offices and playing pointless computer games by themselves. They read these fantasies but they don't discuss them (how many men do you know in book clubs?) because they like to believe they are the explorer who has discovered new territory. They still don't have any friends and they still don't care what women think.