Hannah Montana Must Die

The school holidays bring fear and delusion in equal measures. The fear of that moment you know is coming when play dough will no longer do it for them and delusion that I will somehow transform into one of those mothers that are… born. Not made. Those enviable paragons of parenting who can whip up a Megasaurous sculpture in a trice and then get their kids to write a script for it and create a quick special effects video to play back in the afternoon. The kind who manage to teach their kids all about universal compassion while making a batch of pikelets or get all the neighbours kids around to create a ukulele benefit concert. The kind that actually have a rainy day activities book and know how to use it. So far it hasn’t happened but I’m kidding myself that the deranged haranguing about tidying up the bedroom is just my way of building up to spending a quality day with my daughter creating our own special version of a Tibetan sand mandala.

The standards seem set so high for kids’ entertainment in the holidays. A rainy day activity used to be going down to the creek to see if any cows were floating upside down in it. For reasons obscure to me now this was endlessly fascinating and fun, perhaps because parents weren’t a feature of our random ramblings. It didn’t occur to anyone that kids should be entertained. Carefully instructed to avoid killing ourselves by drowning or making fires in hay barns, we dutifully and very happily buggered off for the day.

How did the whole school holiday deal get to be such high maintenance? This time I’ve set my sights lower – I have only one small but arduous mission these school holidays and I am by no means certain of a victory. In every mall, $2 shop, book stand and clothing outlet my nemesis awaits me. She smiles in that LA orthodontistly enhanced way knowing that eventually I’ll cave. I see her image on bedspreads, undies, pencil cases – band aids. But I’m staunch. I know that Hannah Montana must die. Or at least the marketing frenzy around her merchandising needs to quietly fade. No matter how much the adoring small person wants her… I will not feed the machine.

Hannah Montanna
Aimed at the very vulnerable pre-teens Hannah Montana’s marketing people know that you can pretty much sell anything to people who still believe in the tooth fairy. From tooth brushes to g-strings, dog’s clothes to ceiling fans (seriously!) Hannah Montana’s tweenie rockstar image is on them all – and small girls just love it. She’s nice, she sings and interestingly – in much the same way as we loved our school holidays for the lack of adult input, Hannah Montana’s TV world is almost entirely parent free – maybe that’s the attraction for the small person. While the Latin has likened my TV censorship to something the Taliban would aspire to, I didn’t have Hannah on my list of most unwanted. Until that is, I heard the six year old humming along to one of Hannah’s tunes which went: “Grab a little Gucci bag, and some Prada shoes, here take my credit card… they’re all here to wait on you… D and G on every wall… that’s ok… just buy them all.” No wonder some American economists are crediting a 15 year old girl with heading off the recession with her movie release.

Quite what relevance the Hannah Montana ‘package’ has to young girls growing up in Northland or for that matter what message she sends to young boys about what being a girl means is beyond me. But there is help. Drowning in a sea of merchandise having googled ‘Hannah Montana’ I typed in; ‘I hate Hannah Montana!” and accidentally pressed ‘search’. I am far from alone. There are support groups, counselling and Montana merchandise rehab. Viva la Resistance!

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I still walk away!!

The universe is sending me signs – once I may have thought that this meant I had stepped over the boundaries of reality and was deep in magical thinking territory – just a stones throw from nutsville, I now know that it’s just the Law of Attraction (LOA!) working.

The Universe sent me an email last week (even the universe has upgraded – it used to deal in seers, angels and crones) to go to a life enhancing seminar. It told me I was a money magnet and could attract anything I wanted to me. I wondered if a toy boy and obscene wealth were inappropriate things to be willing into my orbit at this point in my life.

I decided not and went along. I have a murky history with new age stuff. I once spent an evening trying to get a friend out of a new age cult where they stroked auras and changed their names to will into their lives the qualities they wished to attract. Apparently they could sense bad vibrations on me – well, ‘Chastity’ could. She said I needed to cleanse the room which I did, all the while thinking she was wearing an awfully short skirt and rather a lot of make up to be willing much that was chaste into her life. She gave me a bell and a ribbon to cleanse with. It was like Bad Jelly got the role of Tinkerbell in the school play – I swished ribbons and tinkled bells while giving my mate the vilest looks I could muster without actually getting myself kicked out and ever since have been slightly allergic to the word ‘vibrations’. Which is a pity, because the Law of Attraction operates on the idea that the vibrations we emit is what we attract back into our lives.

Vibrations equals emotions, so Chris Prime told us, and if we put good vibrations out into the world we get good stuff back – bad vibrations – you guessed it we get only a life of interminable excrement. At this point I was hoping there was no one in the audience whose partner had died or who had a child with cancer – grief tends to do a great job of guilt tripping anyway without suggesting that somehow they attracted all the bad juju into their lives. Although, in a funny way that’s comforting too because if you convince yourself you were somehow responsible for an unfortunate event then by behaving in certain prescribed ways you can avoid it ever happening again. It’s why all great fascist states indulge in victim blaming – it makes the populace so much easier to control, or that much more tempted to buy into an expensive ‘empowerment course’ – for example. Apparently it is only doubt that stops us from achieving anything.

Whether or not the Law of Attraction will provide a passing hot air balloon if I decided to fly from the Harbour Bridge is a factor of my doubt but in my case the Laws of physics would undoubtedly get in the way first. Suggesting to terminally ill people that they are somehow responsible for their illness seems unkind if not entirely irresponsible to me. But if you really believe in the Laws of Attraction you will know that there is no such thing as incurable disease. It is only doubt that prevents us from healing ourselves. I got that from their website. Except the part where life itself is, by its nature, … incurable. We all die. Which is how I came to the sudden and terrible realisation of what my daily mantra actually is. And it’s not: “I love having millions in the bank” as Chris suggested.

Somehow I have taken into my heart the lovely Chinese man on the 30 Seconds TV advert as my new age spiritual leader and I find myself looking at difficult situations and people and thinking “I walk away!” When I come back later and find the situation or the person still incurably unbearable I find myself thinking “See? Still dying! I still walk away!”

I may not win the Polyanna Positive Person award – but it works for me.
Thanks Chris, but… I still walk away!

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Taking the Michael

Good old Barnaby Dixson. His academic career has just reached a cerebral climax and after years of difficult and intensive research he has had his eureka moment. And this is it: Men really can multi task. They can pretend to have a conversation with a woman while checking out her breasts and hip to waist ration in a nano-second.

Well; Duuh! C’mon Barnaby – the sole reason that mechanics adorn the walls of their workshops with unadorned boobs is because they know that breasts put blokes into a hypnotic trance for long enough to swipe the eftpos for 500 bucks when all that has been done are the spark plugs. Hardly the sort of stuff that wins Nobels.
barnaby dixson
Two things strike me as odd about this research:
1) wouldn’t the results have been more valid if the female subjects had been clothed? It’s pretty hard not to look at breasts when they’re jiggling all over the place.
And 2) who in the world funds this stuff? Apart from you and me that is.

I’m still waiting in feverish anticipation for the publication of Annamarie Jagose’s report on her study on the sex life of Aucklanders.
Remember her? This is an excerpt from Annamarie regarding the three year project only part of which was funded by a $150,000 grant from the Marsden Fund:
“My current research project is “Orgasmology,” a cultural history of the unique compactions of cultural meaning that have accrued to orgasm as well as the wide repertory of narratives that have taken orgasm as their figural vehicle across the twentieth century. In 2004, I was awarded a Vice-Chancellor's Strategic Research Development Award (2005-2006) to advance this research. Also as part of this work, I am currently a member of a collaborative University of Auckland team on a project; “Acts and Identities: Toward a New Cultural History of Sex.”

The report from that study will be out in a few months. I only hope someone can read it.

I had the dubious inorgasmic pleasure of being Annamarie’s student in the early nineties. I couldn’t understand a thing she said but in those times it was very unwise to say so – in the same way it would have been for young peasants in Maoist China to say that their leaders may have been talking utter bollocks. I vaguely remember writing an essay on phallogocentricism as an exercise in taking the Michael out of the language that we were bludgeoned with in those lectures. Convinced I would fail the essay, as I had absolutely no idea what the question meant and even I couldn’t understand what I had written, I would then be able to request that I be taught in a way more accessible for a westie farm girl. Appallingly – I got an A. I hadn’t so much cut through the non-speak as vindicated it. And I swear it wasn’t because I was looking at her breasts. It couldn’t have been because unlike the men in the first publicly funded study – I can’t multi task to save my life. The last time I tried it I lost my mobile phone. And found it 3 hours later – in the fridge.

Which is why I loved the findings from the Stanford University study last week that debunked the myth that woman are great multi-taskers. I have long suspected that this myth was created by blokes so that they could make the woman in their lives juggle 5 things at once while they reserved the luxury to do one thing exceptionally well. Leaving time to go and crack open a beer and watch the hapless multi-tasker go beserk when all the wheels inevitably come off at which point they lend some superior masculine advice.

When it comes to multi-tasking we are all equally useless - the knowledge of which may eventually make Barnaby Dixson’s study slightly more useful.
Girls: give a bloke a 5 second boob break - and then attempt conversation.
Remember – they can’t multi-task either.

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That thin green line

There’s something so comforting about the familiar – women go back to partners that beat them to within an inch of their lives because… it’s what they know and there’s a certain comfort in that, however self-defeating and dangerous. I feel the same way about Gerry Brownlee’s announcement that Department of Conservation land should be on the block as part of our latest get rich quick plan.

A blessed relief to get back to true National party politics after all this time, roll out the topographical maps and start talking… mineral resources. All that tinkering with allowing developers to cut down a few trees was a distracting sideshow so it’s reassuring to get back to business. And what a lot of business there is to be had. Billions of it according to some reports, on our seabed alone. Foreshore? For sure bro, it’s yours – if you can afford to buy it. That’s what’s so great about government owned assets – everybody gets a slice of the pie, providing you get invited to sit round the table when it’s getting carved up of course.

Sure there are a few pesky national parks in the way and some wowser is sure to whinge about a squished snail or fairy tern. Haven’t they heard about evolution? Surely if you’re stupid enough to have been born a slow moving invertebrate or make your nest where quad bikes rove then it’s your own fault if you disappear from the face of the earth. And Gerry is right – there are some excellent examples of mining companies co-existing with environmental responsibility. He used two of them in his address to the inaugural coal seam gas industry briefing in June this year where he discussed the tricky art of getting DoC people to give mining people easier access to conservation land. I would have thought people in the department of conservation would have been less than ecstatic at the thought of being the mining companies’ bum boys but according to Gerry they’re working hand in hand with Crown minerals to get the process underway.

Perhaps it was just the terminology that was the problem – when Gerry talks about gaining access to natural resources he is not talking about New Zealanders being able to appreciate the fecundity of our forests and wildlife by being able to walk and camp amongst it. Rather, he means – mining companies should be able to prospect where they please regardless of what or who might be living on top. Maybe they were agreeing to two completely different things, historically we’re pretty good at that. Gerry talked about Newmont’s Martha mine being a shining example of sustainability and I have to admit that after visiting their website I was convinced. Of course hard science was not a key factor in this conclusion but a mind boggling display of graphs and unintelligible squiggles, especially on their exit strategy for, well, 2007 had all the hypnotic effect of a Tibetan Mandela. The colours were pretty but I didn’t understand a thing. I’m sure Newmont have the people of Waihi and their environment at heart. Really. Although the shine may have worn off slightly for those people who lost their homes down a ruddy great hole eight years ago when a section of Waihi township subsided. That’s got nothing to do with the mine though. I know. Their PR people told me. As for using the example of Solid Energy agreeing to move an endangered snail population out of the way of a mining operation; that was …inspirational. Lets mine all over Northland! Move the entire kiwi population to somewhere with lots of native trees… like… Grey Lynn. That’d work. People love kiwis there – we could keep them in captivity until the native forests of Ponsonby grew back and then release the kiwi with white balloons and poetry readings by small children. That would leave us free to dig up all the stuff that’s sitting there under the useless wasteland of trees and retarded fauna and we could finally get back to the business of keeping up with the Joneses over the ditch. Without worrying about that thin green line that just keeps getting in the way.

Related Link:
Kiwis can speak out on mining

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Landlords Suck

Is it my imagination or are landlords unusually creepy?

Over a 15 year period of renting houses I came across some spectacularly bad examples of the species. There was the one who showed an unwitting couple through the house, while I was having a shower. He let himself in without knocking but popped into the bathroom to tell me to ‘relax and take my time as the couple wanted to see the downstairs first’. Nice. I wasn’t able to answer immediately as I was busy re-starting my heart - which he took as compliance. Caught with too many investment properties on his hands – the bank foreclosed and we, cash-strapped students were just part of the clueless stock take. We lost our bond which represented about 10% of our total annual income and he, not being a citizen, buggered off to wherever he’d come from. There were the ones who partitioned single rooms and rented out airless cupboards and the one who, seeing me 8 months pregnant said he was increasing the rent by 25% and didn’t think I’d have much to say about it seeing as ‘I wouldn’t be going anywhere soon in my state.’ Really nice.

I suppose I find landlords slightly disturbing in that they represent a return to a feudal past and the relics of an old class system that many of our fore-parents were fleeing but we seem hell-bent over the last few decades in trying to re-create.

There is an underlying tone of social superiority in many landlords of residential properties, regardless of how delusional it might be, that is intrinsically irritating. I came across this recently when a house nearby sold. I asked the buyer if she was moving in, thinking I was talking to my new neighbour whereby she choked in mock shock and said ‘I don’t think so – this is really only for a rental.’ Apart from the laughable snobbery of the comment it embodies a whole investment philosophy that is damaging in so many ways to the idea of forming any kind of cohesive society. It’s the gated community philosophy, a form of civil colonialism whereby you go out into the world and make money renting properties you wouldn’t live in, to people who can’t afford to buy them and keep the rent just high enough to make sure they never will. This road to wealth is so entrenched in the New Zealand psyche that there have even been companies named after it; “Wealth. Buy Property!” It was Wakefield in the early 1800’s who first decided that a colony would be much nicer for, well, people like him, if there was a group of landless labourers like Maori and a constant flow of new immigrants to do the work for them. Land, he said, should be of a ‘sufficient and high enough price’ to prevent these labourers from becoming landowners and going and wrecking the whole shebang by working for themselves. The rare few who managed to scrape together the capital to buy their own property could stand as the shining example to which workers could aspire, making it unlikely that they would ever complain – or revolt.

Which is why it shouldn’t be surprising that there is so much antipathy towards Russel Norman’s suggestion of introducing a capital gains tax on properties other than the family home. Logically it makes perfect sense – but psychologically we’ve all been sold the idea that we can win the lotto simply by buying residential properties and going into the people farming business. One day. And so we seem quite prepared to look at hiking GST which would undoubtedly hit low income families where it hurts – in the supermarket aisles, rather than forego the great kiwi dream. Where we might look to countries like Denmark where social cohesion and a generally happy populace are benchmarks for success, we’ve hitched a ride on the monopoly money investment property train on the caboose next to Iceland. The last time I checked they’d had to go to the Russian mafia to bail them out. And those bad boys are probably the worst landlords of all.

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