Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Week

So much to be thankful for. Back in the USA visiting family down south and watching the tube for the latest news. Politics is the big story. No one can find any fault with President-elect Obama.

In the midst of watching Obama on TV it is clear what an intelligent and dignified President he will be.

Contrast this with the failed VP Republican Sarah Palin who as Governor of Alaska recently gave a press conference while a turkey was slaughtered behind her. She ended the interview with a smirk and a comment that the press will probably find some fault with it. -- As if torturing animals should not be questioned. Nothing is lower than people who torture those who cannot speak for themselves. And those who take pleasure in it? There is something seriously wrong with the education of the American people. The corporations are getting a bailout for greedy faulty investments. Nothing can bailout the poisoned mind that enjoys hurting others.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Looking for an Apartment in New York

I sublet my Manhattan apartment and the sub letter stole it. So now I'm starting over again.

Looking for an apartment in new york city has been a daunting experience. People who have overpriced dumps are loosing roommates and want a new one to share the love. After looking for a few weeks I know what I want and don't want: I want light, clutter free space with a window that doesn't, 1. have bars, 2. look out on a wall, 3. look out on a roof, all of which I have lived with in the past.

Checking out shares is interesting too. Some apartments have no living/shared space. Just kitchens with rooms next to the kitchen for sleeping.

After house sitting in beautiful apartments in Queens and Brooklyn and visiting friends in Manhattan who respect the space they live in, it is harder for me to compromise. I miss what I left three years ago, a beautiful apartment on the lower east side, on a high floor. I subleased my apartment to a friend of a friend, who promised to return my apartment to me when I returned to New York. So it goes.

The thief is a real estate agent --, oh ironies of irony.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Halloween 2008

My favorite costume at the Theatre for the New City Party

Reuben as President George W Bush in college

and not to be outdone, this dog was stealing hearts on Avenue A.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Tears for New Zealand

national party wins in new zealand

New Zealand just elected John Key, (self made millionaire) of the National Party, an extreme right winger who wants to bring in nuclear energy, send troops to Iraq, create more private investing, and cut back on all the layabouts (social services) including health care. Hey, this sounds like the last administration in the U.S. He said New Zealanders want a safer NZ (code for you know what)

While living in NZ I witnessed two campaigns for Prime Minister, 2005 and 2008, although more low key than the US, the drama was high in 2005 because Don Brash's campaign money came from the Exclusive Brethren, a right-wing Christian organization, and personal consultations on how to campaign from George Bush's advisers. When these things were discovered, they were denied (and later proven true) National lost in 2005.

Although I found it understandable that while I lived in New Zealand people were quite rabid haters of George Bush, (as in: "...there's enough of you bloody amerians here already!") it is perplexing now why they have virtually elected him to run their country.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

And for the animals

My heart cannot take so much goodness!

Just as important as who we voted for President, California was also voting for the humane treatment of animals.

California said no to the torture of animals raised for food. Proposition 2 passed by more than 62% of the people (and we know that 62% are not vegetarians!). Could it possibly be a new compassionate age? Proposition 2 will put an end to the inhumane confinement of animals on factory farms. And so we unite in the belief that all animals deserve humane treatment, even those of us who are raised for food. Hooray!

The New President-Elect Obama

When I left NZ a few weeks ago, people on both sides of the sea wondered about my return to one of "America's worst of times..."
....but it looks like I've come back to America's best.

Perhaps the next time I travel abroad non-Americans will be more generous in their judgment of and hatred towards the American people.
It looks very optimistic indeed.

People are saying they knew Obama would win and at the same time they are saying they can't believe it.

It's going to be very interesting. We owe a huge debt to those who were killed in this country by Americans just because of the colour of their skin. It feels hopeful.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Back in the USA

Back in New York

Only a week and already, I'm in the New York groove, walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk saying 'excuse me excuse me' wherever I go. I forgot how many people can be crammed into a subway car, how many people can line up at an ATM, and the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables from upstate New York at the Union Square Farmer's Market took my breath away -- heads of green and red lettuce $1.25 and apples $1 to $2 a pound. I bought 8 organic plums for $1.50 and an organic loaf of grain bread with no sugar or dairy for $3.75!

Although I don't have a view of the sea, the amazing diversity of the people here is a view I have missed. The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane at JFK was black people!!! I only knew one American black person in Wellington. Now I'm an Obama volunteer and will help with the campaign to be sure we have a president and vice president who will not turn back the rights of women that were fought for so hard by so many before, or turn their back on ALL the people.

It's good to be back and see everything new again.

There has been little time to blog, since I don't have a home or internet service, but the cafe I'm in at this moment, roots & Vines on Grand Street, offers the service free along with delicious coffee and only $2.00!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Your Dream Home

For a million dollars, or two, you can live here

and share your beach with SUV's (when the tide is out)

photos shot from a look out point, Wellingtons Beach, Whangarei

According to recent news items in the press, there is crises in New Zealand. Its coastal shores are in danger because of erosion from the usual suspects: over development runoffs from timber, building, sheep, cows, and the weather and god's will according to some religious groups. But one thing the NZ Government will not do is ban cars from the beach because it's a Kiwi tradition. But they are asking people to not be assholes when using the beach. Tell that to the birds who are loosing their habitat.
(what you can't see is what I could: I was close enough to houses on my left to see into their kitchens and bedrooms....)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wild Green Yonder - Great Book on Woofing

"The Wild Green Yonder: Ten seasons volunteering on New Zealand's organic farms," by Philippa Jamieson. New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd., 2007 (

The Wild Green Yonder is a personal story and an introduction to organic farming in New Zealand from a Woofer's point of view. A woofer is someone who lives on a farm and in exchange for four to five hours of work a day, receives room and board while learning about organic farming. It's also a way some foreigners choose to travel through New Zealand.

Traveling from her home base in Dunedin in the South Island, Philippa Jamieson, a vegetarian who was already familiar with an organic lifestyle and the importance of sustainable farming for the future of New Zealand and planet earth, wrote this book while traveling all over the country.

I enjoyed the book and as a vegetarian myself I was curious how others see their lives in relation to this choice. (Most consume dairy as part of their diet, but the pros and cons of how some farmers use animals is not part of this essay.) This book is well written and lively. As a non-New Zealander though I had to look up some flora and fauna definitions to understand what I was reading about. Gorse is a universal weed and I learned that left to it's own, gorse actually protects native bush. It's the human interferences with weeds that have created the (global) mess it is today.

I also learned that organic is never pure, not anywhere. Just like buying pollution points to continue to pollute, you can get a way with some non-organic practices according to organic regulations. It's disturbing that we are already over the brink and nothing is 100% organic today. If you are looking for an adventure, woofing is a way to discover New Zealand and meet-- according to Philippa -- wonderful people who also cook delicious meals -- and also serve lots of wine. For some reason, Philippa stayed with people who seemed to drink a lot.

The book makes the reader very conscious of where our food comes from. For instance, one farmer uses seaweed for fertilizer, which he buys from Canada. It is impossible to fathom why seaweed has to be imported to a country surrounded by the sea.

Maori had to be the first farmers in New Zealand but they are not mentioned in the book. Either they don't own any organic farms or Philippa did not visit them. The majority of owners seem to be German. There is a large population of Germans in New Zealand as residents and tourists both. (I'm writing this from a tiny sea-town in the North Island called Ngunguru; the local motel down the road has a sign out front: "Die Speiche Deutsche.")

There are plenty of stories about the people the food and traveling that keep this book an enjoyable read. It's also a great guide to woofing and the farms that are listed who are registered as woofer friendly. It may, like for me, make woofing look very attractive; but be warned, it could bring on changes to your sexuality, like it did for Phillipa -- but you'll have to read the book to find out the details about that.

Friday, September 19, 2008

First We Kill The Critics

In these uncertain economic times everyone's asking:

What will happen to art?

If it means the death of critics,
then at least some good will come of it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Palin is like a New Car - Lipstick on a Lemon is still a Lemon

A Riff on Sara Palin
Lipstick on a Lemon is still a Lemon

As told to me by an anonymous man:

Sara Palin is like a new car.
You see her in the lot and she looks really good.
Paint job is real shiney and she smells good too.
Turn the key and she revs up, blasting a nice sound.
She idles like a purring cat.
You take her for a test run, she seems okay.
Is she affordable?
Are there any hidden costs? What comes with her price and what is optional?
And, what if you need to go on a long trip, is she ready?
Could she be a lemon?
Could she be recalled?
When the warranty is up, are you stuck with her?
Will you be able to get rid of her? Or will you be stuck with her in your garage, driveway, eating away at your checkbook with every breakdown?

Maybe now is the time you need to look under the hood a little longer, check all her connections, make sure her lines going in and out are clean.
Lipstick on a lemon is still a lemon.

As told to me on the phone: sept 10 2008 8 pm est

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ngunguru, Northland, New Zealand

1 September 2008
New Moon
New beginnings

My final days in New Zealand will be spent in a home on a hill in Ngunguru with a black cat named Zakara while its owner, Lilicherie works in Wellington. Ngunguru is in the Northland, 40 minutes from the next town, Whangarei. I'm getting settled with supplies and hope and sadness. This view from my window looks out at the river and a sand spit; to the left it joins the sea. There are glorious walks here, -- when the tide is out -- along the sandy beach, cutting jagged cliffs to one side, the sea to the other. Many rocks from small to large, with jagged edges are covered with oysters. The beautiful sounds of Tui's and the shrill sounds of the oyster catchers accompany you wherever you go. In this photo the tide is in. A beautiful place to live before returning to New York.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Death Threats

When I exhibited the video art work, "Milk*" at the Detroit Institute of Arts, in 1978, I received death threats. John Neff, the Director of the DIA at the time said that although there was no way to know if those threats were real, it was his job to inform me that the DIA had received them.

I am proud of the work and it still stands up today as a funny commentary on social behavior. I'm also sort of proud that the work moved people to such extremes. It happened again with my play, WINTER. There were two reviews that didn't review the play, they reviewed me, and it's this anti-american sentiment that is driving me away from wanting to continue to work here.

Critics benefit from tearing apart the lives of others. Critics are killers of a what they have not experienced or are not open to experiencing. Those people who support them enjoy a vicarious pleasure in seeing others put down. Negativity, superiority, what's it good for? The same people who are critical of their own country (USA) of being bully's, are bullys themselves as critics. There is a big difference between the artist and the critic. I would have considered a negative review as a possible professional attempt to comment on the play, if it in fact had reviewed the play, which it seems to me should mention something about what a play involves like, the actors, the director, the set design, the lighting, the sound, .... even audience response....

Would a truthful artist spend his/her time tearing apart the work of others? Do mothers send their children to war?

* (Milk went on to receive many awards and is the first video art work from the 70's of a mother expressing her breast milk in a glass and drinking it while discussing breast feeding in public.)

Farwell Party

Saying goodbye at my party to some women who made a difference in my life in Wellington, NZ: (Me), Vlad, Rose and Kazz Funky Blue

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eclipse: a poem & a goodbye to Wellington

when the dark side of the moon
becomes two
they huddle together
and walk toward silence

Once again I am leaving Wellington. This will be the fourth time. Each time I left, I thought I would stay away. But in New York I heard the sea calling me, calling me back. And a man. I thought I would give it another go with the man, and again, and again. But it's not meant to be.

In a few days I go to Ngunguru, to live on the sea once more, Ngunguru is a small seaside town east of Whangarei, a few hours north of Auckland. It will be warmer there. The town has a dairy, a cafe and a real estate office. I'm taking my sketch book, pens and pencils and my new guitar. I gave my Drunk Monologues' guitar to Vlad and then Alfred showed up with a guitar for me. That night -- around 5 a.m. - Leonard called from Detroit.

I was half awake but had to laugh at the synchroncity of the call. The last time I asked the universe for a sign to return to music was in 2005. At the moment I said, okay, if I'm supposed to be making music, send me a sign. The Phone rang and it was Leonard. We had not spoken to each other in 25 years. LPJ was (is) the drummer in The Dangerous Diane Band. We put the band back together and did a kick ass reunion in Detroit.

Leonard Paul Johnson

This second coincidence of Leonard calling me on the night I was given a guitar is too Arthur Koestler to ignore, and so I will play some music in Ngunguru. -- It may be the blues this time.

Photos by Jay Yager, The Dangerous Diane Band Reunion Gig, Detroit 2005

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The original oil painting in WINTER is by Kazz Funky Blue. Here's a better photo of it to satisfy those of you who said they wanted to see it up close.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

TORN WINTER: A story w/pic Ch Two

Torn Winter
Chapter Two: opening tease:
"I was at the theatre, but I can't say exactly what happened. The police have put a zipper on it. I don't think Blandhurst deserved to die...."

Note to my blog readers: I have had to remove my entries for "Torn Winter" due to bizarre events (which will be written in chapter 3) and a bidding war for this story. Eventually there will be a book under a pseudonym. It seems that my story about a writer killing critics is hot. But, let's remember critics are people too, somewhere bellow serial killer but above pedophile. We can only hope that someday their brain will go through a high powered car wash and re-adjust the importance of their left brain. In the meantime, send me an email if you want to read future chapters......

I went for a walk to calm my senses. Came across this idyllic scene, until you look closer in the lower right hand corner. It tears you apart but it's the real world. be continued....

Review in Salient

Jackson Coe in Salient says WINTER is ....

" invocation of absurdist influences such as Beckett and Ionesco....." AND,

"Winter is like an absurdist comedy, teetering between reality and a world of dreams and fantasies. If anything, it’s encouraging to know that I’m not the only one who finds the difference between the two foggy at times."

check out entire review at

Monday, August 11, 2008

WINTER the final show

Photo by Tommaso Barsali

Melissa Billington & Nigel Edgecombe.

Winter closed at BATS Theatre on 9th August. Directed by Sally Richards, it enjoyed a very powerful run with audience members praising the production as one of the most poetic dramas ever. Despite some critics who just didn't get it, and failed to mention it's humour and dark story, -- (as well as the original music, set design, direction, lighting and other elements that are relevant to a live theatre work) -- the BATS audience loved it. Winter was about being the other in a foreign land; how we see others different from ourselves. It asks the universal question, 'how can we expect our world leaders to represent us in peace if we can't find peace in our own homes, in our own hearts?'

In addition to the work of the actors and director, I am grateful to the contributions and work of others who made WINTER a success, including: David Phillips as the lighting designer and operator, Kazz Funky Blue and Anjelica Singer as Co-Stage Managers and Tommaso Barsali as photographer and set helper. They gave their time and input into this production, making the story come to the audience, completing the circle of the first words of the play written in the winter of 2005: "...How was your walk?"

For the record, (since this seemed to be a contention with one critic), the first draft was written in 2005 but many drafts and workshops followed over three years. In 2005 I wrote the first words during the winter while living in Pukerua Bay, on the Kapiti Coast, with my partner. What is fictional and what is autobiographical is deliberately blurred; it's not anyone's business, and more important not relevant to the play, in particular not to critics who speculate about my life which they know nothing about.

Most critics depend on the creativity of artists to write their opinions because they don't have the guts to make art themselves or they make bad art. The late Robert Pincus Witten and (the very much alive) Lucy Lippard are two New York critics I have known personally who in their writing knew how to look at artists' work; they knew that the important thing is to report on what they actually saw, not on what they wish they saw.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Patti Smith Dream of Life REVIEW

RenCen, Downtown Detroit, shot from Canada

"Dream of Life," 2008, a documentary film about Patti Smith by Steven Sebring

"A" took me to see the Patti Smith documentary, "Dream of Life," at the Paramount in Wellington.

The film was shot over an eleven-year period, following Smith from New York to Detroit and around the world.

These are the things I now know about Patti Smith that I didn't know before:

She is a slob
She's still a friend with Sam Shepherd, her lover from the 70's
She eats hamburgers
She looks great at 60 (in 2006)
She wears Prado shoes (purchased at a Duty Free Shop in an Australian airport before entering New Zealand.)

She and Sam Shepard have tattoos from a wild night in New York in the 70's... we saw his tattoo on his hand, but when Patti pulled up her pant leg, the camera did not get a shot of it. (Sam Shepard never succumbed to Hollywood pressure to have perfect teeth.)
She still spits when she performs (At the Allen Ginsberg memorial there was a nasty piece that hung on her lip for a long time. It was like watching a car wreck.)

She adores her children
She's still political, despite eating meat
She loves her mum and dad
Lenny Kaye adores her (Actually I already knew this because I adore Lenny Kaye)
She eats meat (oh I said that.)
She can pee in a bottle on a small plane, while sitting next to the pilot who didn't have a clue -- (although the pilot from that time was not questioned about this.)
She didn't do drugs. (Well maybe she did but the word 'drug' was not in the film -- not even once, which has to be a first in a film about a punk rocker.)
She doesn't do drugs (Although she never said so, but hey, I wanted to know.)

Most of the performance footage in the film was from a concert where she wore a ragged drenched-in-sweat t-shirt. It's riveting. A few years ago I saw Patti Smith perform in Hoboken, New Jersey at a street fare. My daughter and I watched her from the side of the stage where we dodged her flying spits. (Warning, she spits to the left, stage right.) She wore her 'uniform:' white blouse, dark jacket, rolled up pants and heavy boots. There's something beautiful about Smith's choice to deny the male gaze to consume her body parts tightly wrapped by designer names. Her whole body and soul is her music and her poetry; and although the film is fantastic, it's nothing compared to listening to a cranked up CD, or even better, seeing her live.

"Dream of Life" is also the name of an album Smith produced with her husband, Fred Sonic Smith (guitarist from MC5) in Detroit in 1988. It's not my favorite -- Lenny Kaye is not on it, not that he holds a grudge. I met Lenny Kaye at the Knitting Factory in the 80's (when it was on Houston St.) where we shared the stage for an anti-war poetry reading. Lenny read his own poetry and I told him that on that very day I had cleaned the apartment while listening to him play on the album HORSES. He said he missed Patti since she moved to Detroit but that she was still the greatest living American poet ever. And then he bought my chapbook, "Vulva Poems." I tried to give it to him but he insisted on paying me the $2.00, which I used to buy a beer. Later I walked down Houston with Kate Millett, who was also a powerful reader that night.

A different review of this film can be seen at New Zealand's number one on-line publicaiton about theatre and the arts: Although I gotta laugh at their title: "Poet Princess: Patti Smith" Princess? For the godmother of punk? The godfather of punk of course is Iggy Pop who is from Detroit, and Smith left New York in the 80's to live in Detroit for 16 years. Detroit has spitted out some great talent from Motown to punk and it is still going.
RenCen, Detroit, Michigan
 as seen from Windsor, Ontario, my birthplace

Monday, August 04, 2008

Torn WINTER: A story with pictures Chapter One

Torn Winter
Chapter One

I spotted the poster as I walked on Lambton Quay near the railroad station. I ran across the street and looked at it up close. Another WINTER poster torn, hanging for dear life while other posters hung strong on the Kiosk, glad that it wasn't them. I examined the tear, it was fresh. A young man on a skateboard skidded at my heels. He pulled his headphones from his ears but I could still hear the familiar sounds of The Phoenix Foundation crackling in the earpieces.

I saw who did it, he said.
Did you get a good look at him?
Yeah, he was bald, old, fat. But so is my Dad and my Dad didn't do it.

He skated off, turned, and looked over his shoulder at me, without slowing down his rhythm. There was something about his look, something familiar. He caught my eye, turned on a dime, flipped the board, and skated back to me. "Oh, one more thing," he hesitated but then quickly said, "I don't know if it's helpful because I hear it all the time from my Dad's mates."

What is it I asked, trying not to look too hopeful.
He mumbled something under his breath when he ripped it.
Could you hear what it was?
What did he say?
He said, Bloody American cunt*.

It felt like someone punched me. The young man smiled with his lips pressed tightly together. He jumped on his board, said cheers and skated away towards the harbour. I I took a picture of the poster on the kiosk and walked to Newtown. When I got to the shops I felt a coffee jones coming on and stopped at the People's Cafe, even though I couldn't afford the $3 for a flat white. I sat outside next to a table with six cab drivers from Africa and listened to them talk about home. I studied the photo in my camera. I took out my journal and wrote, 'Bloody American Cu*t. Next to it I wrote three words: Old. Bald. Fat. Was there a connection? The young man said his Dad was old, fat and bald, but he didn't do it. Was that the clue? If it wasn't his Dad, could it be someone else's father? A priest? Or a monk? Was there a religious connection? Or was he an ordinary man. be continued....

*Note: I did not say cu*t. My character says it because a NZ writer recently said this word is now cool, that everyone said it, that it's so yesterday to be offended by it. So I thought I would put the word in a Kiwi mouth. I have never used the word in my writing before. I still think it's offensive, and so does the narrator, (which is why I, the writer, and the narrator both say cu*t; but the character says 'cunt.')

Winter with Kazz Funky Blue painting

Painting on the right: The original oil painting in the play, WINTER, was generously donated by Kazz Funky Blue, a Newtown artist. It is a tradition in New York to see original works of art in tv shows and films by NY artists. I am very pleased Kazz said yes so we could display this very sensual work of a woman playing a cello. Not just a 'hang on the wall work,' it appears in scene 2 when Crystal's 'stuff' from the U.S. arrives. It's sensual message adds another level to this play with it's underlying sexual theme.

Radio plays "Nothing Changes" Detroit jam version recorded with The Ghost Band in Detroit in the summer of 2006 in LPJ's basement in Royal Oak -- same city Patti Smith and Fred Smith lived in for 16 years until Fred died and Patti moved back to New York with her two children and picked up her career where she left it when she had met Fred and moved to Detroit. Royal Oak is a suburb of Detroit. Great place because Mary and Leonard are there.


Unsolicited texts, emails, and phone calls are coming in after three shows. It is wonderful to have people enjoy WINTER. I will be posting messages from those who have been generous in taking the time to send their thoughts:

"I loved your play. I laughed lots. good messages and really entertaining. Yay 4 u! k8"

"Our American Women's Network had a great evening out. There were 12 of us who attended Opening Night. We really enjoyed the play and seeing the American/Kiwi cultural issues alive on stage. Cheers, J."

"Great piece of writing. M."

"I was so inspired I went home and worked on my own writing. D"

Getting ready for the Olympics

Some of the Chinese community in Wellington, New Zealand had this to say about Helen Clark, the Prime Miniter of New Zealand signing a trade treaty with China.


This theatrical event took place on the back of a flat top truck driving up Willis Street mid day. This bloody scene was acted over and over.

WINTER & Condoleeza Rice

Nigel Edgecombe as Horse
Melissa Billington as Crystal

Condoleeza Rice flew into New Zealand on the 31 July, same day as the premiere of my play, "WINTER". Although I didn't spot her in the theatre, there were twelve women from the American Women in New Zealand Network in the audience waving American Flags. (Who sent an email saying how much fun they had and how fabulous the play was!!) -- Good on ya American Women -- . Perhaps they were hiding Condee because Auckland University's Student Association offered a $5,000 reward for the citizen's arrest of the U.S. Secretary of State. Pressured by the police, the Association withdrew their offer; however on hearing about the withdrawal, Victoria University's Student Association, in Wellington, offered a $10,000 reward.

Within days of the first performance two reviews of WINTER were published, both of which failed to mention how much the audience laughed. I thought perhaps the two middle aged Pakeha (white people for you non-Kiwi readers) men had no sense of humour, but I was wrong. Check out this statement by AUSA President David Do, who issued this statement to the media why the reward was offered for the citizen arrest for Rice:

"It's hard enough living as a student in Auckland these days without having a war criminal coming to town, so we thought we'd give our students a chance to make a dent in their student loans and work for global justice at the same time."

To read more about this event see the Victoria University student magazine salient, at

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I swore I would not write about politics, but I can't resist this one.
THE WIRETAPPING BILL was passed by Congress: 69 to 28. (97 out of 100 Senators!)
More individual rights have been stripped from American citizens.

Senator Obama said he was against it. VOTED FOR IT.
Senator Hillary Clinton said she was against it. VOTED AGAINST IT.
Senator McCain said he was for it. DID NOT SHOW UP TO VOTE.

This vote is indicative of who these people are, and have been from the very beginning. At the end of the day, it's not even that it's one issue. Every thing we do, every move we make, every word we speak indicates who we are.

I'm quite isolated watching U.S. politics from half way around the world because for the most part Kiwis just don't like Americans and American politics. (However, their own National Party, Brash and Key are allied with Bush, and they are in the lead for this year's election.)

Living in New Zealand I feel obligated to read about US politics. There are many websites including: nyt, bbc, guardian, and numerous 'alt' websites. The local papers here publish stories about the U.S. every day, mostly about celebrities. But how reliable they are on world events, I'm not sure, in 2006 they said -- after Katrina destroyed New Orleans -- that sharks from the ocean were swimming down Bourbon Street.

The passing of the wiretapping bill is shocking. The two year debate around it was based on fear. It includes immunity for those who cooperated with the government in illegal wire taping after 9/11. These would be AT&T, Verizon and anyone else the White House asked to conduct illegal spying.

My friend Olivia has a friend who just returned to New York after a trip to New Zealand and she says that if the Republicans win, she's moving to NZ. I got news for Olivia's friend, when you visit here they love you, when you move here it's a little different, like the one Kiwi who said to me, "You're not moving here are you? There are enough of you bloody Americans here already."
Why do Americans move to NZ?
P.S. To Olivia's friend, you can't move here if you are over the age of 54. They don't want oldies retiring here -- unless you invest 5 million -- then age is not a factor. Sigh.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Bonny Finberg

"How the Discovery of Sugar Produced the Romantic Era" by Bonny Finberg. Published by Sisyphus Press, NY, NY 2007

Finberg's twelve short stories told from the male point of view are a wonderful romp into the land of men. But who are these men? Do we know them? Friends? Lovers? Strangers? Family?

In the introduction Finberg says she wrote these stories from the male point of view as a distraction from the writing of her novel and she discovered, that "…man or woman, we all share the same loneliness, foolish hope and disappointment, and are essentially the same at our core."

"...essentially the same at our core" is a debatable topic, but what is clear is Finberg's talent in creating stories like an artist painting a canvas. She knows just how much to add to what we already know about the human (male) condition and she knows when to end it. As I finished each story, I found myself lingering over what I had read, the images, the person -- wondering if he was okay, or equally wondering if he knew what an idiot he was.

Her observations of ordinary acts are brilliant. Here's a ditty I love in "Basho on the Road:"
"He picks up a Dunkin' Donuts bag next to the clutch and pulls out white gym socks."

Ordinary guys, doing ordinary things offered to us, the reader, by an extraordinary talent.

As I read these stories, all but one in the third person, I found myself wondering how can a third person tale be gender specific? For instance, who else but Dashell Hammett could write from a male point of view, but is it male POV -- in third person when the writer is a woman? In each story Finberg got inside the men she was writing about. It was like she sat down in a café with these men and they opened their hearts and fears to her. And like the best ghost writer she was able to articulate what they thought they could not.

From "Memory":
"He would stand in the courtyard at dusk and play the violin. People threw down change in brown paper bags. This was before he understood that these were not ordinary things."

Brilliant. Humourous. Touching. Surprising. And the best for last: unexpected endings that will touch your heart and sometimes smack you up.

More from Finberg's introduction:
"I wanted to write from the male point of view in order to create a greater sense of distance from my characters. At first I discovered that saying “he” instead of “she” was all it took. Most of them sprang from my head like little Athenas while others were based on fleeting observations of strangers—in the street, at a cafe, parked behind the wheel of a mini-trailer. Sometimes I added elements from people I knew, and one or two were based on women that I turned into men."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My play WINTER about living on the Kapiti Coast and being seduced by the sea will premiere at BATS Theatre July 31, featuring Melissa Billington and Nigel Edgecombe. Director: Sally Richards.

As I post this I just felt an earthquake. A good sign -- I think.

Melissa Billington & Kapiti Island, Pukerua Bay, NZ

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What I do

Photo: Guler Ugur, Summer New York 2007

Hello to anyone who reads my blog.

In the interest of how little time is left in this present reincarnation, I will continue to document my work and stuff as it occurs here there and everywhere in photos and writing.

Coming up on my two year blog anniversary, (May, 2006), I can see how not much has changed with my approach of photos and musings about where I'm at at the moment.

I am always interested in showing other artists' work as well, with links and photos of your work, or a poem. (Still working on linking stuff to the website.) Those who are in the archives: Petruska, Beens, Dombrowski, Sumaya, Cordula, Guler Ugur, and many more.

This pic of me by Guler is what my flatmate Helen says is a "pretty good pukana" but it was in fact taken last year in New York. I wasn't trying to do a pukana. It was the hottest day of the summer and we were dripping in sweat. The haka, a traditional Maori dance is one of the things that gives me goose bumps in NZ.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

SPITZER - Politics the best drama

Governor of New York Resigns.

Can you believe it? A man caught in a sex scandal? While Governor Eliot Spitzer was representing millions of New Yorkers and working towards cleaning up the state by getting rid of those pesty prostitutes as if he was Mad Max he was doing private research. With his wife by his side, Spitzer said he was sorry and resigned. Mrs. Spitzer looked medicated and tired standing by her man. It was a sober thought about men.

Picture this: Hillary Clinton caught with a 23 year old prostitute who wants to be a singer.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Chaplinopera - a review

In college we used to watch movies with the sound off and the stereo full blast. It was hilarious. Does it work when the music is live by The New Zealand Stroma Ensemble to the Charlie Chaplin movies projected over the musicians' heads? Created by British composer Benedict Mason it was different because I couldn't lie on the floor, I wasn't high and I couldn't believe that everyone in the room paid $85 tickets to be there. Check out full review in The Lumiere Reader:

30 Horses Killed by SPCA New Zealand

30 horses were killed today by the SPCA at a New Zealand farm because the horses were so neglected they could not be saved, including a colt who saw its mother killed and then was killed later. The man responsible, who owned the horses, is not being charged with any crime. A world where people abuse those who have no voice, is not a world I want to live in.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Book of Longing and Philip Glass

"A" took me to see the Philip Glass opera "The Book of Longing" (Leonard Cohen) at the Fowler Centre (as part of the NZ International Arts Festival). It was great fun, prior to which Glass made a free appearance at the Town Hall. The place was bulging with people in the aisles, hanging from the walls. Glass entered the small stage looking like a frumpy old man in his rumpled casual attire (but very handsome in black during the show). I took this photo of him from the third row. He sat very still but every time I tried to shoot him, he moved. The New Zealanders wanted him to talk but he said, ask me questions. And so they did.

He talked mostly about working with Leonard Cohen over many years because Cohen was up at Baldy Mountain meditating and he had to wait till he came down, which he did after five years, (because of a woman).

He said English is the hardest language to sing -- too many words end in consonants. He consulted singers David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, Paul Simon and Susan Vega to learn how to use the voice with Cohen's poetry in his opera, which he entitled, "The Book of Longing" The same title of a book of drawings, poems and this and that by the Canadian poet/singer. Glass also said he was really grateful when he asked Cohen about his contribution to the opera and Cohen said, me words, you music.

After the show, I wondered why Glass used professional opera singers when in fact a little of Susan Vega would have been closer to Cohen and maybe give the show a bit of a kick. I said to "A" Patti Smith or Deborah Harry would have been a nice addition to the show. "A" gave it careful thought and then said, "They would have been too expensive." Yeah, I guess so, but everyone wants to go to New Zealand, the other alternative is using people here. There is a strong music scene here.

Motown is everywhere I go

The Four Tops. New World Suupermarket, Willis Street, Wellington.

USA oranges in New Zealand

New World Supermarket, downtown Wellington
From the "i don't get it" file

USA oranges are $3.99/kg, which is less than New Zealand oranges at $4.99/kg.
1 kg = 2.2 pounds.

How does that carbon footprint calculation go again? Some writers from America refused to come here for "Readers and Writers" week, claiming the best thing anyone can do for the planet is not fly. That may be true but it doesn't apply to New Zealanders. The Kiwis have to fly.

So which America, eh?
Sometimes the sign says "USA...oranges" Sometimes it says, "American..."
Why does everyone assume "American" always means USA. It doesn't!! More on this 'americanismizin in new zealand' in a new essay.....April 1 2008.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Songs of Kurt Weill - a review

New Zealand International Arts Festival.
The ensemble of New Zealand musicians opened with "Mack the Knife." I hate this song, never understood the attraction of singing about a man who slices up people. But then I never heard the song sung in German before by a beautiful woman wearing boots reminiscent of the SS.
Read the full review in Lumiere:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Ruthie Bird & The King of Hearts - Review

Ruthie Bird and the King of Hearts
Written and directed by Ellie Smith
Fringe 2008, BATS Theatre, 29 February - 8th March 2008
photo: courtesy Ellie Smith

"Ruthie Bird and the King of Hearts," may be Ellie Smith's first play but it is a very mature work. Smith, a well-known New Zealand actor and singer brings her theatrical experience to her writing and directing. "Ruthie Bird" is about Ruthie and her son, the King of Hearts who are homeless and living their lives on the street. Two other characters, Ginna, the photographer and Rostyn Kemp, a drugged out sweet talking weirdo weave in and out of their lives.

Read the full review published in The New Zealand Performing Arts and Directory:

Zarathustra Said - a Review

Alan Brunton's Death Song
"Zarathustra Said," by Alan Brunton, Directed by Lilicherie McGregor, at Happy, Wellington Fringe Festival, 2008
photo: courtesy Lilicherie McGregor

"Zarathustra Said" began in the dark, the space softly illuminated by candles around small rocks near pillars. Sounds of live music filled the space as three musicians in white suits entered playing their instruments: a clarinet, a horn, and a plastic toy horn. They marched and strutted, followed by three characters: a nymph in white rags who climbed the bar, her face, arms and legs dusted by white clay; next the Master of Ceremonies in a tux and white face with painted red cheeks and bow lips who greeted the audience with a stance as if she could swallow us whole; the Butcher menacing and proud; and walking on her hands a sexy blonde wearing a very short dress. This was just the beginning of "Zarathustra Said."
To read more see full review at New Zealand's Performing Arts & Directory, Theatre Review:

Friday, March 07, 2008

Tama Tu Tama Ora Review

Photo: publicity shot for the Festival (very old photo)
Maori Music from New Zealand International Arts Festival, Feb., 2008
Tama Tu Tama Ora performed popular Maori songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s to an enthusiastic audience, many who were familiar with the songs. In between songs, an MC read from a clipboard facts and dates about Maori history, repeating that the songs are an expression of Maori anger, pride, protest, grief, optimism and hope. I don’t know about the anger part; the musicians looked like they were having far too much fun.
To read more see my review published in The Lumiere Reader:

Monday, March 03, 2008

Newtown Festival and Motown

We were walking down the street when we heard the beat
Man, I can't go anywhere without hearing Motown. The Four Tops' Sugar Pie Honey Bunch was coming in loud and clear and I looked up at the stage and there was a man with a guitar singing my hometown blues, but he was white. Next to him two female singers, backed by the usual rock and roll instruments. They call themselves HEATWAVE, the name of which of course comes from a song by Martha and the Vandellas, a Motown group! They were good so V and I stuck around. The blonde singer introduced the next song by Aretha Franklin, "Think." Aretha was not with Motown but she was from Detroit! I was getting whoozy.

By this point I was so homesick, I just wanted to sit down on the curb and cry. The funny thing is I haven't lived in Detroit since 1981, but here in New Zealand any Detroit reference makes me homesick like crazy.

That's the thing with good music, if you grew up with it, you were lucky because it lives forever. The blonde, who looked to be in her 20's belted out the Motown sound as if she was Cris Clark, the only white chick signed with Motown. She had the hit, "Love's Gone Bad" in the 60's. She was also Barry Gordy's girlfriend; tall blonde, beautiful and she had soul. I guess the Motown sound will never die, people keep performing and recording the songs over and over. I do a mean Love's Gone Bad myself.

American Woman at Newtown Festival

American Woman in the Newtown Festival.
Moving on, leaving those memories behind we came across a large crowd surrounding a woman alone on top of a soap box, Bruce Springsteen came out of very bad speakers and she was threatening to tear up the Wellington phone book, dressed in red white and blue stripes. First she reminded us that she was from the u s of a, and this was how she made a living and please please please put a ten or a five in the hat.

Big Wall Big Hit

As part of the International Arts Festival, this wall at the side of the Te Papa Museum was a big hit. Total strangers interacted with each other's shadows, dancing and chasing and in one case, someone reaching down for my camera.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Beckoning of Hope

Marjorie McKee
The Beckoning of Hope by Michael Burton adapted by Marjorie McKee for solo actor, from Michael Burton's "It's not permitted to Hope"

A play in four movements. A solo performance with live accompaniment on cello by Sebastian Morgan-Lynch, directed by Andrew McKenzie from an original concept by L'hibou Hornung.

Phew, so many names for a solo show. That is theatre. A solo show is never a solo show. Marjorie McKee embodied two characters: Nadezhda Mandelshtam, widow of the Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam and Becky, a "Western" woman; "a stupid Western Woman," as Nadezhad refers to her in a voice over, admonishing her attempts to write anything worth while since she will never be able to come of anything because she and her country has not suffered enough. But she has, for who can know how much any one person suffers, it is not for others to judge. Toward the end Becky writes her poem on the floor in chalk white, a beautiful testament to her belief in herself, she is enough.

McKee played each character throughout the performance, individually and with strong conviction to living a full life and writing; both women struggle with memory, their writing, and the men, both real and some perhaps imagined. One director's choice of Nadeshda moving down stage placing her husband's poetry on the floor as she moved towards us, blessing it with water from a crystal bowl was very engaging. Marjorie McKee can probably play any role, her performance was simply flawless.

Jay Yager's reply to "Cat Jokes"

Jay Yager behind the camera, Belle River, Ontario, 2006.

Jay Yager wrote to me after reading my blog on Cat Jokes. With his permission I'm posting his response because it has the word vulture in it.

From Jay:
I read your piece about cat jokes on your blog. While I agree that such jokes are abusive I do think that there's another big issue involved. I recently read Alan Weisman's book "The World Without Us" which elaborates on my longstanding view that human overpopulation is wrecking the planet. An important part of that condition is the parallel overpopulation of dogs and cats and in the case of the latter the serious reduction in population of birds. I certainly don't advocate cruelty to these household pets but neither do I subscribe to the large scale favoring of some species over others. A couple months ago when Leda and Mark were here a turkey vulture landed in our next door neighbors yard and was eying one of the wild cats that live in the woods around our place. Leda ran out and chased the vulture away, a seemingly humanitarian reaction. My view is that that was a pretty even match and I would let nature take its course. It's likely that the cat would have survived anyway but the point is that our human intervention at all levels in the environment (now including the dramatic change of the very atmosphere of the planet) is causing a huge imbalance in the worlds natural systems. Of course we are part of nature but our success and overabundance, if it continues unchecked, is likely to lead to our own extinction along with that of a large number of other species. This prospect troubles me more than any of the other (and there certainly are many) humanitarian disasters in the world. But enough of the heavy stuff.

Mr. Skid

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cat Jokes?

I like to use this space to be supportive of other people and their work.

However, there are things I read about that I don't get. So I like to use this space to put them out there to see other opinions. Like dead animal jokes. I find them harmful and hurtful. I don't believe in censorship, and I realize I don't always get Kiwi humour (for example the Grammy for best comic album to Flight of the Conchords), but what is so funny about dead animals?

When I read Linley Boniface's essay in Wellington's Dominion Post 11 February, about returning from vacation, I did not laugh at her dead cat joke. She wrote about finding rancid dairy products in the refrigerator and lamented that her cat was still alive: "…(I) … discovered … the vicious and much loathed family cat that had again ignored our instructions to get run over while we were away."

Abandoning cats and dogs while going on vacation is too common in New Zealand. Many homes have cat doors and cats like to roam. A neighbor's cat often comes for a visit in our home and hangs out on the sofa, but the owner would never take off for two weeks abandoning their pet. It's against the law. Boniface may have made arrangements for her cat while she was away, but the intention in the essay is to say otherwise. Why? To be funny?

Why is it funny? What if you substitute another word for cat? Like child. Not funny? Where do you draw the line? While reading this essay I realized how common it is to see and hear dead animal jokes in the media. By laughing at these jokes we are adding to an acceptance of this type of humour which reinforces our already shameful neglect for those who can not speak for themselves. Many years ago I read a book that I will never forget: "The Dreaded Comparison," by Marjorie Spiegel, which shows how slavery was (and is) only possible because of our tolerance to oppress animals. Perhaps Ms. Boniface doesn't realize her own contribution to a long history of cruelty to animals and it's connection to slavery of people of color through mindless jokes.

If she truly has a "...much loathed and vicious cat..." perhaps she should look at her own environment and family. Pets often exhibit the personality of their owners. Maybe her cat needs to be rescued by the SPCA!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Chrysler sells to Men who want to be Pimps

Pics of car dealership on Courtney Street
Ad reads: Confident Woman seeks muscular American with bad-boy attitude and a hint of bling....

At first I thought the message was directed to women. On a second look it's clear: Chrysler is selling to Kiwi men who want to be imitators of American rappers and gangsters? I know it's supposed to be hip to say bling but the name came from rappers and gangsters who wear gold and silver in a gaudy display on their teeth and body while eating at fast food restaurants with menus with pictures of food because they can't read. The real message? Confident woman seeks illiterate pimp who will treat me bad?

Waitangi Park

Waitangi Park.
New mural of Bob Marley, the caption says "Don't Forget Your History. Know Your Destiny." Waitangi Day is the same day as Marley's birthday, and so the connection.

Walking by the park the day after Waitangi Day I saw this new mural. What's up with the spliff? Is this a pro drug promotion? In a public park? Sponsored by the government?

I heard a radiio interview with Kerry Pendergast, Mayor of Wellington, on Waitangi Day. She said she has no memories of pop music growing up because it wasn't allowed in her home; and she was too scared to listen to the Beatles, even at a friends, because it was forbidden. I can't imagine growing up without music, or living without it now. How can anyone escape it?

Not that she missed much. The Beatles were okay. They built their sound by imitating (stealing) the melodies and sounds of Motown (Detroit) until The Sargent Pepper's album, which was original; although they were completely stoned on acid, so it is said, when they recorded it. John Lennon on the other hand created beautiful songs on his own. Imagine is one. Although it was written with Yoko Ono, the record company refused to allow her name on the record. Nice of Yoko to agree to that. Of course she owns the song now! To her credit she has refused every major corporation's offer to pay for the song to sell stuff, until she said yes to Greenpeace.