Sing Street, Beautiful Ruins, My Dad Wrote a Porno

Winter 2016 Media Picks

 

Winter can be a bastard

 

Rain getting all over your shoes and making your socks wet? Oh fuck that noise. Waking up and feeling the chill of the air as you walk to the bathroom. A nice hot shower is a temporary reprieve sure, then what happens when you turn the stream off and the mist clears, leaving you to tiptoe around the bathroom, drying yourself as quickly as you can so you can put on the underwear you’ve left draped over the heater? The small frustrations and discomforts of the cold season can be thwarted and overcome by the clever consumer. No, not a heater, although those help. A crackling fire in the grate will always do the trick but that luxury has become rare.

 

To warm the heart, a romance is needed. To warm the brain, an intellectually stimulating idea or discussion. To warm the torso, a comedy. I can do you two for three.

 

FILM: SING STREET (2016)

 

Sing Street poster

Directed by John Carney. Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (who?), Lucy Boynton (who?), Jack Reynor (some people might know him).

 

Carney, the writer and director, has written and directed two other films, both featuring romance and music at the forefront. Once (2006), made on a very small budget, and Begin Again (2013) when he had a big more clout. Enough clout to get Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo to star. Both of these films are charming and have great tunes, but Sing Street is a massive step ahead of them. There’s something irresistible about the enthusiasm and fearlessness of the lead character Cosmo, a high school kid who starts a band in order to get a pretty girl to hang out with him.

 

The film looks great too. Set in 1980s Ireland, there are plenty of muted tones during scenes at the uniformed school, but when the makeshift teenage band film their music videos out in the streets and by the ocean, the film is filled with blues and oranges and wind in hair and clothes, making things feel alive and exciting.

 

 

And of course, young love. Who can beat it? The chemistry is great between the actors. The dialogue made me laugh every minute. The story of Cosmo and his dysfunctional family going through hard times compliments the coming of age story as he finds out what turns himself on. Music. Pop rock music in the 80s.

 

I rated Sing Street 10/10 on IMDb, something that took a great deal of thought as I take my movie rating very seriously. When it comes down to it, this film made me feel love. I felt nostalgic for a time I haven’t even lived in, nostalgic for a group of friends I never had, and a girl I’d never met. And the music! I like 80s pop sure, but it’s not my favoured genre. Despite this, the Sing Street single Drive It Like You Stole It is quickly becoming my most played track of the year. I can’t recommend this film highly enough.

 

 

BOOK: BEAUTIFUL RUINS

 

 

Beautiful Ruins Jess Walter

 

Written by Jess Walter.

Jess Walter is an American writer who’s written six novels to date, over a dozen short stories and plenty of poetry. He runs a podcast with an author friend where they discuss literature, music and other art and have guests perform poetry and music. Beautiful Ruins is currently being adapted into a film.

 

Beautiful Ruins was released in 2012 and I have sentimental history with it. I was in Bali with my partner at the time and she was suffering from a fever. I had borrowed the book from a friend with her high recommendation. I started reading it in the cheap hotel we were staying, pausing every sixty seconds to run hot water over a flannel for my poor girlfriend. Facing the full night in the hotel room, I bought a pack of Guinness and settled in. I absolutely devoured it.

 

Four years later, I’m struggling to enjoy reading. I put down my third book in a row that I can’t finish. I’m bored. Nothing is getting to me. I can’t seem to enjoy prose or character or plot, choosing to swipe through Facebook instead of finishing the chapter. I decide, like any good reader should, to reread something that touched me in the past. I choose Beautiful Ruins. I’ve bought this book a few times for gifts in the past, intending to read it again but never getting around to it. Of course, part of me is concerned. What if I don’t like it as much as I remember? Will the memory of reading it beat out the actual experience of reading it?

 

I needn’t have worried. Without giving away anything important about the plot, this book is about love. Spanning over multiple continents and decades, the cast of characters as they weave through each other’s lives ensures you’re never bored. Walter has written in a variety of forms. You’ve got your usual third person narrative, then we have a chapter of first person thought, a stream of consciousness movie pitch in Hollywood, the opening chapter of a character’s autobiography, an opening chapter of another character’s unfinished novel.

 

Beautiful Ruins Pasquale Dee

Pasquale and Dee as portrayed by cover art

 

The story is about Pasquale, an Italian hotel owner in his twenties on a remote island, who meets and falls for American actress Dee Moray during a short stay of hers. I really liked it when I read it the first time, but the second time I read it I loved it. Passionately. I was bawling, tears streaming down my face and blurring my vision so much I had to take a break, breathe through it, before I could continue reading. It’s a fulfilling book.

 

PODCAST: MY DAD WROTE A PORNO

 

 

Belinda Blinked My Dad Wrote a Porno

 

Recorded by James cooper, Jamie Morton and Alice Levine

 

Whether you’re big on podcasts or not, this is a must listen. It’s a phenomenally funny piece of pop culture, quickly gaining more and more listeners world wide. It started off simply enough. Morton, upon discovering his father had written an entire erotic novel, enlisted his friends James and Alice to listen to him read it, chime in with thoughts and feelings they experienced, and recorded it.

 

The book itself is at once hilariously cringe-worthy, explicitly sexual, anatomically misguided, poorly written yet strangely addictive and absorbing. The story follows Belinda Blumenthal as she’s hired at ‘Steeles Pots and Pans’ and attempts to rise in the business world while having a vast amount of strange and colourful sex with an eclectic mix of partners.

 

Jamie Morton, James Cooper and Alice Levine

James Cooper, Jamie Morton and Alice Levine

 

The friendship of Cooper, Morton and Levine makes the podcast what it is. Levine is often disgusted but always quick to joke, Cooper enjoys the lurid details of female body from the safe vantage of homosexuality, while Morton reads on, playing Devil’s advocate when necessary to salvage what he can of his father’s reputation (pen name Rocky Flintstone). The camaraderie and quick wit of the team combined with the icky and outlandish source material make listening to the latest episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno the funnest hour of your week.

 

Bring on Spring

Those three things have been lifesavers during this cold blue season. All things considered, we are lucky people to be alive and able to consume media at such a time that these three exist.

 

I’m looking forward to the second season of My Dad Wrote a Porno, as well as Carney’s next film and Walter’s next book. In the meantime, we can busy ourselves with rereading, rewatching and relistening to the magic that is Beautiful Ruins, Sing Street and My Dad Wrote a Porno.

 

Cheers and enjoy your winter!

Auckland New Zealand with title

The Difference between Auckland and Wellington

No doubt about it, Auckland is the big smoke of New Zealand. I mean that purely figuratively; out of the thousands of people I’ve passed in the street, a mere handful of them smoke. From what I’ve seen.

I moved here two weeks ago today. My mother and her husband drove me up, my entire life’s possessions taking up a back seat (and my scooter in the trailer). The weight of my possessions tripled when we picked up a bed I’d spontaneously purchased on trade. I had the choice between a $70 wireframe and a much much much more expensive thick gorgeous wooden number. A good friend quipped, ‘You’re going to use it every day,’ and that oak bastard’s fate was sealed.

Navigating the most Wellington-like streets of Kingsland tested our patience, but everybody kept admiringly calm, and the two boxes full of my hard drives and Harry Potter books were hauled into my new room. Me and mum assembled my bed, we indulged in some buttery, sugary bakery food at the Most Littered Park in Auckland, and that was it. As I watched the truck pull away Southward, I was struck by a profound sense of nothing much. Much like a birthday signifying a new year of life, a chapter of my life closed and another began:

 

HJW: THE AUCKLAND YEARS

 

 

The difference between Wellington and Auckland can be summed up thus:

Aucklanders are more confident and unashamed about what they want and how quick they want it, as if the number of heartbeats thumped through a transaction directly correlates with what you’ll be charged.

Wellington hospitality interaction
A customer enters a cafe. Nods to the server.
’Hey there, how’re you doing?’ says the customer.
‘Fantastic, you?’
‘You kidding?’ *points outside at weather*
‘Ah, can’t beat Wellington on a good day.’ (This phrase can be used in any and all exchanges regarding weather or Wellington or any other city in the world) ‘What can I do for you?’
‘Just a long black, thanks.’
‘No worries.’
‘Oh, could you throw some cinnamon on the top there please?’
’Of course. Cinnamon on a black coffee huh? Haven’t heard of that one before.’
‘It’s delicious. Nature’s superfood.’
‘That right? Well, huh.’
*smiles all round*
‘Three dollars fifty, thanks.’

Auckland hospitality integration
A customer walks in. ’Long black with cinnamon.’
‘Four dollars.’

Aucklanders wear what they fit into well, not what they think would look good if they had the body they wanted.

A friend of mine pointed this out to me, completely devoid of judgement. If you’re obese or tiny but you live in Wellington, you can get away wearing anything. Fluorescent miniskirt with a slab of flesh hanging over the side? Go for it. Oversized trench coat inspired by Neo in The Matrix? Be my guest. People don’t really care that much. But in Auckland? It doesn’t seem to happen. Sure, there are people wearing bikini tops to the supermarket (miles away from the beach), or sleeping in shit-stained sweat pants on the side of the street, but their clothes seem to fit their shape well.

Traffic is ridiculous

Granted, I came forewarned. If I had a nickel for every time I heard about the nightmarish traffic in Auckland, I’d have a lot of nickels. I’d trade them in for a bicycle and take the cycle lanes through the city. Although it’d take weeks to transport those damn nickels if I had to drive a car. Anything’s faster than cars. I’m one of the lucky ones, I have a scooter. If I’m happy ignoring the huffing faces when I pull up to the front of a traffic light, swerving my way between the lanes of stationary cars, I can cover up to three times the ground of a car in the same amount of time.

If you’re late for surgery or a tinder date, you’re in trouble. This city seems to be planned for those who enjoy taking their time in life, relaxing and breathing in the fumes while watching the wiles of life pass them by. If you’re the kind of person who sees an old person in a rocking chair and thinks, ‘that’s the life I want,’ then have I got news for you. Auckland traffic is the modern equivalent. Except in place of a rocking chair and tranquil view, you’re stuck in a sweatbox listening to the collective groaning and grunting of metal and gasoline.

House parties are a thing again

Can you remember growing up in a small town and partying in garages until sunrise? Tina would be vomiting in the bushes from too many KGBs, Ryan would be starting to get lippy and wanting to fight his best friends due to dark spirits awakening his inner demons, and Katherine would be starting to scout those who remain standing for anyone sober enough to get it up. Remember when that all changed? Midnight would arrive and everybody wanted to head into town. To dance. As if you couldn’t dance to the stereo in the lounge. Why leave the comforts of home and self-mixed drinks for the expense of taxis and extortionate drinks, run-ins with power-hungry bouncers and the irresistible pull of greasy kebabs?

Good news: Aucklanders have house parties. This past fortnight has had me invited to half a dozen house parties (some on a school night even). I know what you’re thinking, and it’s the first thing that came to my mind too; we can get naked without being arrested.

There is no jealousy-induced intercity rivalry from Aucklanders

Telling Wellingtonians I was moving to Auckland was greeted with two parts disdain, one part confusion.

‘Why?’ was the most common response. There were a handful of optimists who wished me well and ensured me I’d enjoy myself. For the most part, citizens of Wellington seem to harbour resentment for citizens of Auckland. The harbour city against the city of sails. Why?

Everybody I’ve spoken to about living in Wellington (and I’ve spoken to everybody I meet about it because it’s one of the only conversation starters I have now that weather isn’t a viable option) has been enthusiastic.

‘Oh, I love Wellington!’

‘That place is so arty and cool!’

‘Wow, I haven’t been there much myself but I’ve heard great things.’

When I tell them about my Ankylosing Spondylitis and the warmer weather being better for my health, they nod politely and express apologetic sympathy, as if they’ve been put in the awkward position of being a favourite aunty who’s just been told they’re better liked than another aunty.

 

It’s now 2am and I have a whole lot of reading in the sun to do tomorrow. I’m sure in the next few weeks I’ll find some things about Auckland that aren’t so sexy. For now, through my rose tinted specs, I feel it’s going to be a very comfortable life here. Sure I miss Wellington, but it’s more the people I miss, the places I miss purely for the memories attached to them. I might one day move back, and I’ll surely be back to visit often until that hypothetical day comes. But for now, I sing the praises of Auckland and rejoice for the humid warmth hugging my poor arthritic spine.

Please let me know if you’re up this way. I have a nice new bed you can stay in.

 

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Walton St Cafe – Te Awamutu’s Creative Collective

If you’re passing through T.A., check out Walton St Cafe

 

 

 

Te Awamutu is a gorgeous town smack bang in the middle of the North Island, christened the Rosetown of New Zealand. TA’s borne its share of creativity in its time, our crowning jewel are the Finn brothers of Split Enz and Crowded House fame.

 

It’s a rural town, the gigantic shining dairy factory on the fringe of the town lending the sweet bouncy aroma of processed milk to waft throughout the residences every day at around 3pm. Being home to a meagre 12,000, TA’s considered a small town and attractions and activities for youth are sparse. The drinking culture reigns supreme, challenged only by teenage promiscuity culture. In short, TA is the perfect place for young Kiwis to grow up. With the excess calories from beer and regular exercise from sleeping around in the weekends, most Te Awamutuans are fit and strong.

 

Indeed, Te Awamutu breeds stunning sportspeople. As a student, if you could swing a stick or handle a ball, you’d be looked upon fondly by teachers and parents alike. Playing in a band or doing long division? Not as much. Painting, writing, filmmaking, such interests categorise you away from the masses. So what do you if you find yourself in a small town wanting to be in a creative industry? You leave. You go somewhere bigger with more opportunity. Right? Sure. OR, you bring the party to the small town.

 

Walton Street Cafe

The Cafe area, Before and After

 

That’s what these guys (and gals) did with the Walton St Cafe. Chris, Carl, Kat, Zoe, Tash. Creative people with kids who enjoy living in Te Awamutu, they’ve created this creative spot where art can happen, and the public can also score a decent feed and great coffee. Wind and traffic lights be damned, TA is the new Wellington.

 

I first came across Walton St about a year ago. It’d been up and running for eighteen months, but I was unfamiliar with it. I thought I knew every nook in this town, and here I was across the road from the Court House (where I’ve regretfully spent some time) peering inside inside a building I’d never taken much notice of before. It had been completely transformed. Where before was a nondescript electrician’s where friends and I had stolen blown fluorescent lightbulbs (you know the long ones?) to smash over each other’s backs, was now this!

 

Alex Walton Street

Rocket Coffee is expertly handled by very friendly baristas. This is Alex, he’s pumped.

 

To be honest, I felt out of place. I didn’t know if I qualified as cool enough for a place like this. I was greeted with vegetarian food, organic juice, murals on walls, children books and chocolate on shelves, stylish clothing on racks being stocked by a STUNNING BLONDE LADY (my schoolfriend Tash), melting pot furniture housing laughing customers, and casually dressed staff busy behind the counter, chatting and being cool.

 

In fact, I wandered around for around thirty seconds, smiling shyly when confronted by another human, then left.

 

 

Tash Hanna Ash

Tash Hanna (gorgeous blonde currently pink) in ASH

 

Fast forward a couple of years. I’ve spent five months overseas editing my film, and I’m back visiting my mum. I had a week before I headed Wellingtonward, so I popped into Walton St again.

 

‘Heeeyyyyyy!’ said Tash, welcoming me into her store with strong mummy arms toned from holding up a fourteen month old child.

I looked around, blown away by the place. Tash has managed to combine a rustic vibe with minimalist, clean indie fashion vibe. Plus she has sweets there. YUM!

‘You want the tour?’ she asked, and I nodded. I’ll always nod when Tash asks me a question.

I was led through the cafe area, past the coffee machine that’s perpetually in use, through an airy dining area, complete with children’s playpen.

 

Walton St Play Area

 

And lo, I recognised this place… it felt familiar. Of course! The old Te Awamutu brothel and sex shop! Except where were the whores? Why were the walls suddenly clean? It’d been fully renovated.

 

I met Chris Lane, a filmmaker I’d heard about. TA was alight with chatter about the music video he directed for Avalanche City, Inside Out. I wandered through the open office, nodding hellos to the handful of people hard at work at computers around me. The main window looks out onto Alexandra Street, the main street of TA, and Chris wore bare feet.

 

Walton St Office

The OFFICE area of Walton St, I’m taking the photo from where the street view is

 

Me and Chris nerded out about film stuff for half an hour, during which time I slipped in a few questions about the space. How did it all come about? Where did the money come from? What exactly was the place?

 

I could see Chris was editing a video, and I had seen a lot of Kat Merewether’s books in the cafe. Kat’s a writer, graphic designer and illustrator, and runs Design on Q. I’d briefly met a cheery bearded man on my way through named Carl Sheridan. Carl is the social nucleus of the cafe and runs Architects of Change with his partner Jo.

 

‘What is this place?’ I asked Chris a month later over coffee.

Chris kinda laughed and shrugged a bit, and attempted to explain. ‘It started out an office, because we were too poor to afford an office basically. It’s like… the two things we have is coffee and creative… It’s Walton Street.’

 

Walton Street Cafe

 

 

I became a Walton St regular when I was home again. Every day the place is busy, especially around lunchtime. Customers sit, drink, eat, run into each other, catch up, then walk through ASH, Tash’s store. There’s a comfortable small-town feeling in the air because everybody seems to know everybody, and there are plenty of regulars.

 

To go from a brothel and electrician’s to a cafe and creative collective space is a big jump. But it didn’t happen all in one go. It’s been a thirty month process of constantly evolving and growing.

 

Carl and Chris met at an old cafe called Empire, owned by a lady named Zoe. They originally were looking for an office, that would double as a coffee space. They found the building, at the time a very dank and dark shed, and spent months tearing the place to shreds. A friend Fliss sourced some furniture and set about giving the place its own look, then they asked Zoe (remember her from Empire where it all started?) if she’d be interested in kitting the cafe out. She was, and she did.

 

Walton St Te Awamutu

Carl, Zoe and Chris outside Walton St Cafe back in the daze

 

Walton St Cafe was starting to come together. After a free trip to the design conference SemiPermanent, Carl flicked one of the speakers a message with the idea of a collaboration. Askew1, world renowned graffiti artist, was enthused by the idea of painting a mural on the main outside wall for free, if the Walton St crew would foot the bill of materials.

 

When the brothel became the office, Kat from Design on Q became part of the team, and her daughter Opal was the inspiration for the mural. Askew1 managed to fit Te Awamutu in his schedule between LA and Dublin.

 

Walton St Askew1 Opal

Opal in paint, Opal in person

 

With the cafe gaining popularity and the brothel-turned office cleaned up and operational, there was a space near the entrance that had potential for something more. Enter ASH.

 

ASH Walton St Cafe

For all your fashion needs, ASH

 

Apart from the very obvious sexism on show (males can currently only peruse hats and wallets – I’ve been assured there will be menswear soon), ASH is slick as heck. It’s free flowing from the cafe, and you’re encouraged to wander and socialise as you please. Plus there are sweets.

 

Okay, so there’s coffee, food, a creative office space and a shop specialising in beautiful things. It’s also a venue for non-alcoholic live music gigs. And they make food for teachers at a nearby school every week. Walton St is a hurricane of community goodness. On your next trip to Te Awamutu, be sure to stop in and say hi. They’re really friendly.

 

WALTON COLLECTIVE WEBSITE

WALTON ST CAFE FACEBOOK

 

 

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Wonderland Teaser

 

 

As I mentioned, I’ve been directing ladies in underwear. The last couple of days have included me watching a monitor, scrutinising performance, having to ignore said underwear.

 

While I’m balls deep in post production for my feature film (currently called Chronesthesia but that very may well change soon), I’ve taken a sidestep to concentrate on another project. It’s called Wonderland and it’s written and produced by Casey Whelan and Steve Barr. Casey and Steve have found major success in their recent feature film Born to Dance which has made over $1 million locally since its release a couple of weeks ago.

 

Casey Whelan, writer, producer, set builder, prop buyer, wardrobe co-ordinator, catering... I could go on

Casey Whelan, writer, producer, set builder, prop buyer, wardrobe co-ordinator, catering… I could go on

 

I don’t want to say too much about the actual show Wonderland as it’s still top secret, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. The premise is about a young girl who decides to try on high class escorting as a means of making money, does incredibly well through it, and the various trials and tribulations that come with it.

 

In the leading role is Abby Damen, from Dick Off and Blind Date fame.

 

We did a three day shoot (one day on location and two days in a studio with built sets) with a very enthusiastic and generous cast and crew. Lots of laughs were had and while the tone of the teaser is very comedic, there is also some very sexy content involved. The ladies wore beautiful lingerie and wore it well. We had an actress spanking an actor for six minutes straight, and I am now the lucky holder of about half an hour’s worth of close up male orgasm faces. It’s horrific.

 

Wonderland, Brandon Te Moananui

Brandon Te Moananui, our director of photography, cameoing as ‘cumming man’.

 

It’s time to edit. I’m actually only writing this post because I’ve finished logging all the footage and I want to screen it for Casey before starting the official cut. She’s on her way from the studio now. I’d love to post some more pictures, but they have to go through clearance first.

 

I wish I could run through the whole crew and the reasons they’re amazing, as they worked hard and fast without complaint. I tip my hat to you all.

 

Updates to come.

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HJW’s Top 20 Movies of 2014

Best 20 MOVIES of 2014 as voted by HJW

 We had some absolute crackers this year. A lot of sequels, remakes, films based on novels, and a few originals. Having gotten free movies all year and being a massive movie fan, I’ve been privileged enough to have seen the vast majority of theatrical released films in New Zealand.

In reverse order, here are my top 20 favourite films of 2014, rated using a complex emotional algorithm of enjoyment.

Please note, because I live in New Zealand, there are a number of fantastic films I haven’t seen this year due to them not being released here yet, like Birdman.

20 to 17 best films

20. Magic in the Moonlight

Director/Writer: Woody Allen
Starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone

Some people took the piss outta this one because of the age difference of the romantic leads. Granted, Woody Allen married his adopted daughter, so I kinda get where they’re coming from. But the film is charming. Colin Firth seems as if he’s trying his best to speak louder in every scene than anyone else, and Emma Stone, in my opinion, is at her most beautiful in this film. Cute, light, easy with enjoyable dialogue and an interesting pro-atheism undertone.

19. Predestination

Directors/Writers: Peter and Michael Spierig
Starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook

I’m a sucker for time travel, and I loved the Spierig brothers last vampire film Daybreakers. This drama action thriller period piece sci-fi film dealing with chicken and egg time travel paradoxes was a breath of fresh air in terms of structure, having a forty minute dialogue scene drawing you in with a lax smugness. A sunny, stylish look with Australian actress Sarah Snook playing a convincing man. Ethan aswell, you’ll see him pop on the list again later…

18. Whiplash

Director/Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons

Many friends have this film in their top five. The tension, the music, the chemistry. It’s a great film. Developed through the Sundance program (like Taika Waititi’s Boy), Whiplash was a wonderful sidestep from the usual Hollywood paradigm.

17. The Trip to Italy

Director/Writer: Michael Winterbottom
Starring Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon

In their foray to Italy, it’s Rob Brydon who gets to fiddle with the locals, cheating on his loving wife. There’s something about older people’s constant search for happiness that I find intriguing and a great source for humour and pathos. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s bromance really make the film, with their constant bickering and occasional genuine love for each other compliment the ambling plot.

16 to 13 best films

16. Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Director: Rob Minkoff
Writers: Craig Wright (screenplay), Jay Ward (original series)
Starring the voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles

I laughed, learned, and teared up. There’s something really attractive about films made for a family audience. Something unapologetic. They ride out there, crossing the line of cheese, getting away with dialogue and plot twists that a more ‘mature’ film could never.

15. Gone Girl

Director: David Fincher
Writer: Gillian Flynn (novel and screenplay)
Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

I read Gone Girl when I learnt it was to be directed by David Fincher. I LOVED the book. There were constant twists and turns and the characterization is terrifying. People’s inherent desires are fucked. The film was really enjoyable to watch despite having all the substance of the story already given to me from the book.

14. Interstellar

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Jonathan Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway

Oh man. What a ride. I saw this in the third biggest screen in the world, Melbourne’s SEVEN STORY HIGH IMAX. Good god I thought I was gonna have a panic attack in some scenes, it was glorious. There has been so much said about this film, so many different opinions, and the most common (and the one that I share) is that it was a beautiful mess. Overly emotional too quick, it had some incredible effects sequences and some pointless tension building, but was a helluva ride.

13. St. Vincent

Director/Writer: Theodore Melfi
Starring Bill Murray, Jaeden Leiberher

Another father son story. I’m a sucker for those. Like Mr. Peabody & Sherman, it just got to me. It’s the father son stuff. It was funny too. And it went to places I didn’t think it would go. An overlooked gem.

12 to 9 best films

12. The Interview

Directors: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Writers: Dan Sterling (screenplay), Seth and Evan (story)
Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco

After all the hullaballoo, I wasn’t let down. This is an insensitive, offensive romp filled with sex jokes and poo jokes. Loved it. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are filmmakers. They know their craft. They’ve written hit after hit, and this second whack at directing proves they can craft killer sequences and pay offs. Not for everybody – definite not – but I’m the target demographic and I laughed a lot.

11. Nightcrawler

Director/Writer: Dan Gilroy
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo

Oh man, I was not prepared for this film. It felt like the 2014 version of American Psycho, Jake Gyllenhaal’s gaunt, brooding, fiercely ambitious anti-hero serving as a much more entertaining watch than Christian Bale’s. The music, the editing, the tension, all of it made the film pack massive punch. Loved it.

10. Neighbours (Bad Neighbours)

Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writers: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien
Starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron

With his second film in my top twenty, Seth Rogen is really impressing me this year. Last year his directorial debut This is The End blew me away with laughs and action, and this year he’s smacking it outta the park with juvenile humour that has a strange heart to it. Rose Byrne is one of the funniest and most loveable characters ever and Zac Efron topless gets a big thumbs up from me any day.

9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Matt Reevs
Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa
Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke

It’s not often I see blockbusters twice at the cinema where I have to pay, but Apes was worth seeing on the Embassy’s massive screen twice. Cranking music, awesome effects, genuine heart and an interesting play on the development of language and the issues of pack mentality, Caeser and his son’s story brought this one into the top ten for me.

8 to 5 best films

8. Pride

Director: Matthew Warchus
Writer: Stephen Beresford
Starring Ben Shnetzer, George MacKay

My favourite Uncle died of AIDS when I was twelve so this story hit me hard. I saw this with my mum and her husband and couldn’t help but be brought into the story by the charm and irresistible flamboyance of the characters. Also, it’s a true story which makes it more weighty emotionally.

7. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Simon Kinberg (screenplay), Jane Goldman (story)
Starring Hugh Jackman, James MacAvoy

Hugh Jackman is huge. Even though Wolverine has the most screen time and the most plot, he’s also the character with the least development and lacks an arc, but that’s okay coz his muscles are massive. Great to float back to the 70s, see James MacAvoy rocking out some tears again, and bring back so many well-loved characters. The only thing that let me down was the music. I miss Henry Jackman’s themes he set up so well in First Class.

6. The Equalizer

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writers: Richard Wenk, Michael Sloan (original TV series)
Starring Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz

Violent, loud, over the top – the perfect movie to see with friends. It’s a remake of a TV show, but really it’s a simple premise. Denzel kicks arse. Chloe’s barely in the movie, which was fine by me. Ever since rewatching Man on Fire and Deja Vu, and seeing as Tony Scott has left a gigantic hole in action movie production over the last few years, I was looking forward to this and wasn’t disappointed. Big loud fun.

5. 22 Jump Street

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writers: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman
Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum

These directors know what they’re doing. They seem to love films and enjoy playing with cliches, foreshadowing, MacGuffin’s, Red Herrings, and other plot devices which the cop action genre lends itself to so well. With a bigger budget comes bigger scope and Jonah Hill’s performance is more fun to watch than the action. Had to see this twice at the movies and rewatch at home too.

4 to 1 best films

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2

Director: Dean DeBlois
Writers: Dean DeBlois, Cressida Cowell (book)
Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett

Since seeing this a second time, I realized I’ve put it this high up on the list largely based on nostalgia. John Powell’s incredible themes is half the reason I love these films so much, and the Kid and his Pet story harks back to films I loved as a kid like Free Willy and E.T. Every frame could be a painting and every sequence could be a carnival ride, the only thing marring this film (in my opinion) was the fact the family dog kills the father. It’s kinda full on.

3. Edge of Tomorrow

Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Hiroshi Sikurazaka (novel)
Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt

Mission Impossible III is my favourite action film (big call) so I was very disappointed and saddened by the Tom Cruise backlash of recent years. However, he really brought things back with MI4 and now, after Edge of Tomorrow, you can almost physically feel the public opinion of the Cruise sway back into his favour. This film is smart, exciting, and had a lot of people scratching their heads and being forced to use their brains. Always a good thing.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness (story), Stefan Zweig (inspired by the writings of)
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori

It’s almost as if all Wes Anderson’s previous films have been leading up to this one. The score is perfect, the production design is perfectly fit, the acting, dialogue and story are really firing on all cylinders, making this film the most well crafted piece of art of the year. Ralph Fiennes had me in hysterics with his love of old women and sporadic outbursts of anger, and the sweet relationship between his character and his protege made the film climb to number 2 on my most enjoyed films of the year list.

1. Boyhood

Director/Writer: Richard Linklater
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke

Everything I can say about this film can be summed up in my review I wrote after seeing it. What a deep ride from such a committed and enthralling filmmaking team. My favourite film of the year, Boyhood.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

honourable mention

 

 

Begin AgainBest Indie Vibe Film

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley are secondary stars to the music in this film, and it’s message about how an audience respects and will appreciate genuine heart in a product over money-making ideals inspired me. Also, any film where you’ve got a scruffy haired scoundrel waking up in New York apartment with an empty bottle beside the bed and smoking a cigarette on their balcony gets points for effort.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesMost Fun Film

The turtles had character and made me genuinely laugh. The sequence at the end where they come out and tell each other how they really feel made me tear up, and Megan Fox was in the movie too, however overshadowed she was by the masterful visual effects sequences.

 

Housebound and The Dark Horse | Best Kiwi Films

Wow. What a year from New Zealand films. These two are already slated as kiwi classics in my mind. Hilarious micro budget horror comedy Housebound and dark dramatic true story biopic The Dark Horse.

 

Reading back and remembering all the joy filled hours I had sitting a darkened room with light splayed on a white screen, I feel very fortunate to be in a world where such entertaining stories are created.

I came out of each of these films with a wide smile and something roaring inside me; a yearning to be part of that world. The world of movies. This year, 2015, I’m joining that world with my no budget feature. Please subscribe and follow my journey at HJWBTS.

 

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Streat Cafe Feature Image

Streat Cafe Melbourne – Coolest Cafe in the World

Most cafes make money. Sure, they make food, provide differing degrees of service, provide a venue for catch-ups and a lot of them provide wifi to surf the net and read great articles like this one. Streat Cafe Melbourne do something else. This almost decade young enterprise provides training, life-skills and hands-on hospitality experience for homeless youths.

 

Streat Cafe Melbourne

Luke, one of the nicest hospitality workers we met during our time in Melbourne (and check out that sweet mo!)

 

We got off the tram at Newmarket stop, swiped the electronic travel card my sister had provided us with across the graffiti-stained monitors and trundled our suitcases down the peeling wooden steps. The hot air’s fingers caressed my dry hair and coaxed the sweat out of my dehydrated pores as we walked through the township, past policemen on horses, a group of Somalian men smoking outside their store, the famous Laksa King, busy House of Dumplings and a public toilet that could win Most Effective Use of Smell in Melbourne.

 

Despite the picture I’m subjectively painting, Newmarket/Flemington/Kensington is charming. Trams bundle past and people nod at you with a smile; it’s like walking through 1940s New York, or at least how they make it look in films.

Traveling since 4:30am had left us bleary, blurred and hungry. The only question I had time for was: Where can we eat?
“The girls love Streat Cafe,” my sister said. “They actually just got back from there.”
“We did! It’s amazing!” one of the flatmates called from down the hall.
I raised my eyebrow to my girlfriend. She shrugged. Her eyes said, Feed me anything.

 

Streat Cafe Melbourne

Streat has a great backyard outdoor area with flora and brick

 

Once we walked in, we knew it was exactly what we were looking for. The atmosphere was immediately welcoming. Clean, organised, and the two baristas behind the counter flashed relaxed smiles when they saw us. I counted one moustache and one beard: evidence that this was to be a good visit. Calculations complete, we took a seat in the outside area out the back, admiring the faux grass, real trees, wood and brick.

 

Streat's impressive stats

Streat’s impressive stats

 

We were served by an Australian gentleman. This came as no shock as we were in Australia. His traditional manners combined with his ‘bros’ and ‘dudes’ made for a comforting and relaxing dialogue. He asked us where we were from (Wellington, New Zealand – the self-proclaimed little cousin of Melbourne), handed us menus, took our coffee order and recommended certain dishes. Once he was out of sight, we turned into schoolgirls, complimenting his dress sense and immaculately groomed stubble (that I was admittedly jealous of). Then, we flicked through the back page of the menu and were blown away.

 

What we learned is that Streat Cafe is an ethical, morally virtuous cafe. Not only do they ensure top of the range service and product, they contribute to society in more ways than economical. They train young people who have found themselves in unfortunate circumstances. Homeless, marginalised youths between 16 and 25 who can’t find a job because they lack skills, but can’t gain skills because they lack experience, and can’t gain experience because they can’t find a job, are up-skilled at Streat Cafe and are taught life skills to aid them in whatever future endeavour they aspire to.

 

Streat Cafe coffee

Delicious and aesthetically pleasing flat white

 

This sparked the inevitable discussion that I’m sure most Streat first-timers indulge in.

“Will the food be good?”
“Will an unwashed drug addict bring it out?”
(This question never actually came out of our mouths, especially in such vocab, as the environment had already assured us we were in a clean, hospitable place.)
“How good can youths with little to no experience really be in a kitchen?”

The answers, in order, are: YES, NO, REALLY GOOD.

 

Streat Meals Melbourne

Fruit and porridge, Salmon, eggs, Vegetarian, Meaty, we covered all bases

 

Streat Cafe have goals for how many youths they want to help. By 2020, Streat wants to be helping one youth per mealtime. Three a day, which equates to 1095 a year.

Sounds like a steep climb, but they’ve already dialled up over 30,000 hours of training since conception of the program.

At the back of the menu, there are multiple ways a customer who feels passionate by the cause can support the program (listed below).

 

After our meals and second coffee, we took another couple of minutes of the guys’ time with some banter and questions, asked if it’s okay to take a few photos and write a blog entry, shook hands and promised we’d be back soon.

We were back soon. We ate there twice more before we left Melbourne, and while we visited many cafes on our trip, none left us more invigorated or altruistically stimulated like Streat. Next time you’re visiting, drop in to 307 Racecourse Road in Flemington, 5 McKillop Street in the CBD, or Melbourne Central near the escalators. Tell them you read this article (that might score me a free coffee next time I’m over there).

 

Streat cafe Melbourne

Streat’s menu, page one. “We all live on a street. Not all of us in a home. Thanks for changing this.”

 

If you feel like getting involved, these are some ways:

 

Share
Tell others about Streat, share a coffee or a meal with friends at Streat, or just share a coffee or a meal with someone less fortunate than yourself.

Connect
Join the Streat mailing list streat.com.au, follow Streat on twitter @STREATmelbourne, @STREATcafe, like Streat on Facebook.

Buy or Donate
Buy Streat coffee or a cookbook at the shop, make a donation (donations over $2 are tax deductible).

Partner of Volunteer
Streat has volunteers and student interns in a bunch of areas. They also have a lot of business and non-profit partnerships so have a chat to them about possibilities.

Get involved.

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Abby Damen Sustainable Diet

The Journey to a Sustainable Diet

Abby Damen is THE FOUNDER OF SAVING2050 and is our first guest post author

 

I was diagnosed with endometriosis this year, a disease of the uterus caused by hormone imbalance that affects at least 120,000 girls and women in New Zealand (and about 176 million world-wide).  Exact causes for this disease are still unknown but genetics, immunological and environmental factors appear to be common catalysts.

My gynecologist had a one hour long yarn with me during my fifteen minute follow-up appointment about the causes of endo and what could have contributed to my hormone imbalance:

-the toxins in the air caused by dairy farming

-the pesticides our food is sprayed with contains high levels of estrogen

-the antibiotics and/or hormone growth supplements that particular meat-destined animals may or may not be given

 

Cool, I didn’t know that.  Naturally, I freaked out and for the previous six months I’ve been navigating the Sunday markets and grocery stores with heightened suspicion:

These vegetables are full of endocrine disrupting pesticides / She obviously doesn’t care about her health if she’s purchasing that brand of chicken / OMG – quinoa is sourced unethically, it wont be fair trade if it’s just in Alison’s Pantry and why isn’t anyone else in this queue carrying a reusable bag?!

 

supermarket confusion

Supermarket Confusion

I was so excited with the idea that if I stopped eating hormone-induced chicken my symptoms would disappear that I didn’t even research this properly:  Apparently, New Zealand doesn’t inject chickens with hormones – or at least they do, but according to Food Smart NZ, they are of the “approved” kind that “don’t impact human health”.

However, we do spray our crops with pesticides and while it’s difficult to source information on the types of pesticides used on animal feed, I think we can be slightly skeptical or at the very least curious about whether or not the consumption of particular animal bi-products have endocrine disrupting effects due to what kind of pesticides the animal itself has consumed.

Organic NZ says the most commonly drifted pesticide, 2, 4-D is an endocrine distruptor and that “…there is anecdotal evidence that 2,4-D is involved in disturbances of the menstrual cycle of adult women and in precipitating early onset of menses in children in New Zealand”.

However, New Zealand government websites boast New Zealand poultry as entirely hormone free and assure us that regular testing occurs to ensure it remains as such.  Then again, I’ve also come across articles like this one which admits that approximately 1100 farmers in New Zealand use growth hormone supplements.

WAIT WHAT?  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT TO BUY IF I CARE ABOUT MY HEALTH AND WANT TO SAVE THE ANIMALS?!

Abby and Animals

Me (+ dad) with lots of animals – aren’t they fascinating and wonderful?!

 

It is so hard to find out what’s “right” and what’s “good”. Having a sustainable diet drives me mental to be honest – trying balance the scales between eating ethically, healthily and sustainably, all while trying to fulfill my dreams of getting bulked up, and still being able to enjoy the taste of food – and at the end of the day, I still don’t know the answer.

Despite this confusion, I have a hunch that if I lived in a tiny little room (imagine that 1 x 1 square box you used to build around the Sim you wanted to kill off), I would get pretty stressed out.  There are still chickens in New Zealand confined to a space smaller than the size of an A4 sheet of paper, and whether or not the stress/hormone link is true for poultry, the possibility of consuming what was once an organism that had a stressful and shortened life shouldn’t be an option.

 

caged poultry in nz

Caged Poultry in NZ (SAFE website)

 

It’s as simple as that.

Considering New Zealand’s land mass and its population relative to its size, it’s significantly easier for us than any other country to be game changers in this industry.  Animal product consumption is estimated to increase at an unsustainable rate.  Environmentally speaking – we need to make a change.

If the environment catastrophe doesn’t resonate with you, and pictures of chickens don’t encourage you to want to consume consciously, how about the fact that 260,000 kiwi kids live without the basics.  Our society is trapped in a food system that subsidises processed food making it cheaper than natural food sources.  It frustrates me no end to think that it’s cheaper to buy coca-cola than it is to buy coconut water.

Excuse my French, but this is fucked. Unfortunately, chicken is currently consumed at an annual rate of over 35kg per person and until that demand drops, we are unlikely to see a change in the lives of poorly treated New Zealand farm animals, the detrimental rate at which we currently consume meat and even the health of people living in relative poverty.

 

corn

One kg of meat = the meals of 400 people. If only 10% of the world’s population become vegetarians, the threat of higher world temperatures would be vastly diminished.

 

Imagine if the food that got fed to the 35kg of chicken you consume over a year went to people in need.  The likelihood of your phone getting stolen may even decrease.

My dream is to walk into the meat section of the supermarket and have nothing but free range chicken and grass-fed beef available.  Woolworths has announced that the Canberra region will be the first territory to sell only cage-free eggs and I think we could do that across Aotearoa.

Let’s do more than sign a petition. If you have a similar dream, share your animal-friendly recipe with Vegetus and be the change that our generation will be remembered for.

 

The philosophy is simple: The more animal-friendly treats we get to create and enjoy, the more likely it is that we’ll be in a position to be able to afford high-quality meat, egg and dairy product in lesser quantities (because lets face it – that stuff is expensive), resulting in the low quality product disappearing from our shelves and the high quality becoming cheaper and the norm.

Ignorance is bliss – until you start bleeding out of your uterus.  So, who’s with me on a vegetarian style hangi?

 

 

References:

*A really great book is “Melting Point” by Eric Dorfman which puts Global Warming and Climate Change into perspective with the relevance of New Zealand as the central topic.  It is also in laymans terms which is a breath of fresh air for an impatient generation-Y’er like me.

**If you haven’t already, watch “Food Matters.”  It’s a slightly cynical but nonetheless interesting documentary that advocates food over drugs. “Earthlings” is also a documentary that “appeals to the emotions” as it looks at the utilization of animals in terms of science, pets, entertainment, food and clothing.

Safe Food Campaign NZ: http://www.safefood.org.nz/pesticide.php

Te Ara Government NZ: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/poultry-industry/page-5

Kids Can NZ: http://www.kidscan.org.nz/our-work/nz-child-poverty

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-gottfried-md/cortisol_b_2822176.html

Physcians Committee Org: http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/endometriosis

Endometriosis New Zealand: http://www.nzendo.org.nz/

FMCG Business:  http://www.fmcgbusiness.co.nz/2014/09/15/australian-supermarkets-support-cage-free-eggs/

Action Wanted: http://actionwanted.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/myths-about-non-vegetarian-diet/

 

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Today, Labour Day, I turn the stigmatised but otherwise un-noteworthy age of 27. That’s right – I’ll be counting down the days from 365, keeping half an eye on the airspace above me, measuring my alcohol intake with care and steering far (even farther than usual) from heroin lest I join the prestigious but dreaded 27 club.

A birthday is a great day for reflection. Much like New Years Eve or a relationship anniversary, it’s a time to consider improvements in one’s current situation while paying tribute to the multitude of positives one has enjoyed in the past.

With that, I will commence my list. It reads a bit like I’m bragging, which I guess is a good thing. In no particular order, here are:

 

27 Things I’m Grateful For

 

1. My health

Sure, I have Ankylosing Spondylitis and it does an impressively depressing job of crippling me for hours at a time. Some days I can’t pull my jeans without considerable pain and panting like an old man, but I’m healthy. I eat okay, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink to excess anywhere near as much as I did ten years ago, and I have recently been described as sprightly.

Number 1 on most first world country citizens’ list of importance is health. And I have that. Massive tick.

2. My family

My sister is smarter than everyone else combined, hence why she's wearing the cap.

My sister is smarter than everyone else combined, hence why she’s wearing the cap.

My mother Joni, my father Patrick, their respective partners, and my incredibly cool and intelligent sister Lana (anal backwards). These guys rock. Surely I don’t have to list the pros of having family that talk to me and support me in my career, relationships and values.

Also, special mention to the step parents in my life, Gaz and Deb, who I have to thank for keeping my parents safe and happy.

3. Harry Potter

Okay, I said this list was in no particular order, didn’t I? The reason Harry Potter is a thing I’m grateful for is pretty simple. It’s added a lot of pleasure to my life. I’ve re-read the books almost annually and watched the films countless times. That is a lot of hours of fun. Beyond that, I’m sure there are some ethical lessons and arguments that have seeped into my subconscious and made me a better person.

The Mudblood/Pure Blood idea is an allegory about racism, the disease of being a Werewolf is a metaphor for HIV and the skirmishes between the Ministry for Magic and Hogwarts are loaded with views about indoctrination and eduacation.

HP

HJW books music

My real life bookshelf right now.

4. Music

Music fucking rocks. The Beatles, Belle and Sebastian, David Bowie… I’m not gonna list my favourite artists ‘coz we’ll be here all night.

Music makes you feel.

5. Books

I’m a huge advocate for more reading. I believe it would benefit us all. Whether it be fiction or non-fiction or the shampoo bottle, there’s always more to learn.

Slipping into another world has never been easier than opening up one of those bad boys. Books make you feel too.

6. Abby Damen

I’m not gonna get sappy here. She’s my girlfriend and the best person I know and makes me better. She’s like exercise or a small amount of alcohol.

7. Movies

My entire world has been wrapped around the moving image since I was kid watching Back to the Future. Holy shit, it’s so good. It’s a perfectly written script, it has a cool main character, a great message, great action, music, action sequences, and romance. If I can one day make a film that makes me half as happy as Back to the Future, I will have succeeded in life.

Like music or books, movies make me feel and think and provide an insight to worlds I would’ve never known about otherwise.

HJW bali

Abby and me in Bali where even when it wasn’t sunny it was warm. SOOOO GOOD

8. Sunny Days

Warmth helps my back, but I’ve always loved a sunny day. It affects everyone’s mood in a positive way. How can you not love that? You don’t have to wear as many clothes, and I like to have a bare minimum of clothes touching my body at any given time. Which brings me to…

9. Being Naked

Yup. Best feeling ever. Complete freedom. It saddens me we’re not allowed to be naked all the time. Earlier in the week I went and lay in our back yard completely naked and read my book, letting the sun’s rays caress every crack and crevice of me… and I noticed the neighbours could see me.

Their young son was looking out the kitchen window right into the furry afro of my pubes. My first thought was, “Shit, I could get in trouble for this,” which is so sad, isn’t it? Some could argue a ten year old seeing me naked is sad too, and I wouldn’t disagree.

10. Coke Zero

I’ve always liked it. It’s refreshing and tasty. I know it’s bad and wrong and I should be sorry and it’s probably melting away my insides but I haven’t eaten McDonald’s or KFC in two years so it should balance out, right?

11. Coffee

Two cups in the morning and maybe an espresso closer to midday. Black, no sugar, with some cinnamon sprinkled on top. That’s how I take it. It’s the perfect accessory to writing.

On The Hobbit, Peter Jackson had a white cup filled with tea glued to his hand at all times. He’d sip it every now and again and his assistant Sebastian would refill it a dozen or so times a day. It’s like scratching an itch or running your hands through your hair. It’s comforting.

See the post about NZ’s coolest coffee shop, Raglan Roast.

coffee

Long black with cinnamon from Raglan Roast in Raglan, NZ

12. My friends

I am lucky enough to have a tight group of very talented and intelligent friends who can stand up to my pig-headedness and take anything I say when I’m in a mood with a large packet of salt.

We also make films together as Moffilaide and 2 Point 21 Films.

13. My workplace and workfriends

I work at a boutique cinema and have since it opened two years ago. I’m now assistant manager to a really groovy bunch of interesting and funny people who I consider close friends. They’re all young and attractive too which is a major bonus.

We eat dinner together and go to each other’s parties and we all watched Back to the Future in the cinema last night for my birthday.

14. My trips

Somehow, and I’m very grateful for this and take time to appreciate it often, I find myself going on these great trips. I don’t mean the ones brought on by lysergic acid diethylamide, I mean physical travel.

Last year I went to Thailand, Bali and Rarotonga with my friends, my girlfriend and my family friends. This year I went to Malaysia to mentor film students and the South Island to speak at primary schools about reading.

Soon I’m going to Melbourne to visit my sister and I’ll no doubt be taking photos and writing things about the cafes there.

HJW Thailand

New Year’s Eve in Phuket, Thailand, with the best friends ever

15. My career

I’ve barely started it really, but so far Hot Rob, Jack and Chops, The Hobbit, and all of Moffilaide’s stuff has been so much fun and made people laugh. I’m gonna keep going and have a few things in the pipeline with a lot of really great people, so I’m stoked on that.

16. My flat

I have a place to live and it’s warm and cosy and all the walls are different colours. Even better, my room is purple which is my favourite colour.

17. Food

Oh man, I had the best lunch at Prefab cafe today. I was tutoring the students of Film School doing directing actors workshops and for my lunch break I went over and had eggs and a coffee and read my book. Can’t beat it.

Apart from that, chicken wraps. That’s all I need.

HJW About Last Night

This is a BTS shot by Courtney Hooper of episode 3 in our new series About Last Night. Episode 3 directed by Abby Damen and Lesa MacLeod-Whiting.

18. Sex

My penis works properly and although it won’t win any contests for size or performance, it does the job to a satisfactory degree. Sex is a great form of exercise and lots of fun.

19. Exercise

One of the happy accidents of having a genetic arthritic condition is how I manage it. I am obliged to do yoga and core exercises. I never thought I’d enjoy it but I really do. It’s difficult at the time and hurts, but afterwards I have abs and my back feels good.

20. My scooter

I love that damn thing. It costs me $10 a fortnight in petrol and I use it daily to get everywhere I need to go. It zips to the front of red light queues and parking is always free with no time limit.

Sure, the weather can really shit your day, but the pros of having a scooter outweigh the cons by a long shot.

21. Wellington

It’s the coolest little capital in the world with more cafes per capita than New York. We’re surrounded by beaches and there are more creative people here then I’ll ever have the time to meet.

Scorching Bay Wellington HJW

Scorching Bay, Wellington, NZ

22. Sleeping

Today I didn’t start tutoring until 10am. Isn’t that outrageous? My friends work up to 80 hours a week right now with the looming release of The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, and here I am making a spicy beans and egg burrito to have with my instant coffee and novel in the morning. If I wasn’t currently dedicated to writing this great new project (we’ll hopefully shoot in January), I could sleep until 9am if I wanted. Me and Abby just bought new pillows too.

23. This website

With help from my flatmate Elle, this thing was set up with minimal cost and has already benefited me by being able to spread the word about mooncups, get recognized by some of the NZ Film Commish peeps via my Dark Horse and Housebound reviews, and put all of my videos in one place.

24. Past experiences

I got arrested when I was 19 and months of legal headaches ensued. I was convicted for something I believe I shouldn’t have been convicted for which affected how I was viewed by employers for seven years.

From this, I learned several valuable lessons, the most important being: people’s motivations may not always be in line with yours.

25. My intelligence

Okay, I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here. I never got a degree or graduated top of any class, but I have street smarts…

26. My genetics

This can almost be a subpoint under Family and Health but I think it’s valid. Thanks to my father, I tan easy. I have thick hair. I can grow a beard (sure, it’s not as full as I’d like on the cheeks but it’s passable). My teeth are relatively straight. I have a mole on my left arse cheek I could incorporate into my tattoo as Lake Taupo. I have good metabolism.

HJW tattoo Hayden J. Weal

Thanks for the mole, mum!

27. You

You reading this. You who watches my videos. You who says nice things to me about my work. Any and all constructive comments or straight out compliments. Pat yourself on the back because it means a lot to me. Or I wouldn’t bother putting fingers to keys.

How about a list from you? What would you come up with around the #18 mark? I talked about my penis, I’m sure you can do better.

Happy Birthday me!

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Like What You Like

Do you ever feel embarrassed admitting you like Iggy Azalea and Ariana Grande’s song Problem? Greeted with furrowed brows when confessing to rereading the Harry Potter series? Laughed at when coming clean about your love for anal?

 

NOT ANYMORE!

 

hayden j weal naked queenstown

FREEDOM!

 

You don’t choose what gets you going any more than you choose to be heterosexual or Asian or have freckles, dimples, crooked teeth, red blood or brown poo. It’s ingrained in our genetic code, meshed and melded by various life experiences . We have no control over it, so why must we have any emotional protectiveness over what other people think of it?

 

I dig The Beatles despite my parents never listening to them in the house. I never listen to The Bee Gees although their hits were on every family cassette tape and played on a constant, screeching loop in the car. My favourite colour is purple and I have no idea why. I’m not gonna question it. Why would I? Why should I?

 

The Beatles. Purple. The dream.

 

Okay sure, I kind of understand certain associations. If you say you genuinely like Justin Bieber as a person, you’re putting yourself out there for scrutiny because you’re saying you feel some level of parallel thinking toward him and the silly mistakes he continues to make. I’d also cringe and jump to assumptions about you as a person if you told me you were a fan of Hitler. Unanimously, the world agrees Hitler’s views were evil so if you feel an affinity for that dude, we’re gonna look at you with scared eyes and you’ll have a hard go of it making friends.

 

Hitler and Bieber

 

However, let me paint a picture and let’s dissect it. This actually happened.

 

I’m at work. Standing behind a counter, serving movie tickets, making coffees, flirting with ladies over 60, the usual. I’m chatting with workmates about films when two young ladies approach us. I turn, flash my winning smile and ask them how I can help.

“Two tickets for the 6:30, please. Students,” one of them says. She’s got straw coloured hair and little stud earrings. She’s pretty.

“No worries. You heard much about it?” I ask.

“‘Sposed to be good,” she says.

Her friend pipes up. “Awesome soundtrack apparently.”

“Yeah, the music is great,” I say. “It’s kinda like Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, you ever see that?”

Blank looks.

“You know, Josh Hutcherson and The Rock team up with Vanessa Hudgens and they go on an adventure…” I continue. “It’s awesome. The Rock does his pec-pop of love in 3D and the berries come out at you…”

An awkward silence.

“Isn’t that film for kids?” the pretty one asks, lip curling in an ugly sneer.

I shrug. “Yeah. It’s good fun.”

Her eyes bug out and she draws in a big breath. “Okay…”

 

Hayden J. Weal About Last Night

Wut…?

 

Alright. What the fuck happened there?

I was made out to feel like I should apologise for not being cool. As if enjoying a film made for kids means I have inferior tastes to someone who exclusively enjoys classics. This is not an okay way to make people feel. Everybody is allowed to like whatever they damn well please.

 

LIKE WHAT YOU LIKE

 

And relax if it’s not synonymous with everyone else’s likes. Yes, I like the song Problem by Iggy Azalea and Ariana Grande. I love the Harry Potter books and reread them often. I rewatch the movies too.

As for the anal thing, I’m actually unsure. But if I had a penchant for it, I’d come out with it.

I also like The Hunger Games and Zac Efron and went and saw The Equalizer the other night and loved it. Denzel Washington kicking arse and taking names in an R18 violent vigilante flick that critics scoff at but audiences love. Some of these things are considered uncool for a 26 year old male to enjoy but I’m stoked! I dig them!

 

WHOA!

WHOA!

 

A lot of people are so concerned with how they’re coming off to the rest of the world, poring over status updates, rewording tweets and applying filters to photos that they have no idea how to react when somebody unashamedly states they enjoy something that’s deemed ‘uncool’ by a ‘cool’ demographic.

 

Same goes for the pressures to like something. Don’t enjoy smoking? Sex? One Direction? That’s entirely up to you and don’t let anyone tell you it’s strange or embarrassing. I’m lucky I have a relatively fortified self esteem so insults about my preferences tend to bead off my feathers onto the dusty ground. But for a lot of people, the ridicule sinks in and they find the best solution is to alter their likes according to what’s acceptable in their social group. Fuck ’em. Like what you like.

 

When you’re watching that cheesy romance film or listening to that guilty pleasure album, what do those people’s views (I believe the modern term is ‘haters’) matter?  Besides, their scoffing faces blur into the background when placed alongside Zefron’s rock hard abs.

 

ABS ABS ABS

ABS ABS ABS

 

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Duffy Books Trip 2 – Queenstown and Dunedin

It’s cool to read. It’s cool to achieve. Books rock.

That’s the Duffy motto. Another thing I found myself saying a lot over my time down South to the kids was

If you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything

I assure you I didn’t plagiarise the phrase from Doc Emit Brown from Back to the Future, I credited the hell out of him as Back to the Future was a recurring star in my yarn.

“Who wants to guess my favourite movie?”

“ME ME ME ME ME!”

“It’s got a really cool dude in it who plays guitar and skateboards, and he goes back in time and meets his parents when they’re his age…”

Single out a raised hand. “Yes?”

“Ben 10?”

“Nope… yes?”

“Barbie and the Crystal Unicorn?”

“… nope. It’s got a time traveling car in it…”

“BACK TO THE FUTURE!” a few would shout at once.

Interesting what kids remember.

 

moody southland

Moody early morning shot on the way to Queenstown for the day

 

I had the weekend off so spent all Saturday in Queenstown, the most touristy and gorgeous place in New Zealand. Action packed with bungy, skydiving, tourists and cafes up the wazoo, I love visiting Queenstown whenever I get the chance.

I rose at 6am, showered and hit the road. Once there, I ate a whole lotta food and drank a whole lotta coffee and read my book. I walked around too, but I spent 80% of my time stationary and reading.

 

Queenstown beach

Sun made Queenstown even more beautiful than usual. Lying on the sand and hearing kids play made it funny.

 

After walking through the shops, around the frisbee golf course and through the rose gardens, I drove to Historic Arrowtown, a gold rush settlement twenty minutes drive away, and wandered through the curious, eerie old Chinese opium huts, imagining what it may have been like in the 1800s.

 

Chinese huts Arrowtown

These huts reminded me of The Luminaries, Man Booker Prize winning book written by 26 year old Eleanor Catton. Which I read all 1000 pages of – goal!

 

I finished the book I was reading, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, while chowing down on a steak sandwich from an Arrowtown pub. The 900 page detective thriller novel had snuck up on me. I enjoyed reading it and barely noticed how much I thought about it, craving it when I was at work, wishing I could read it while driving, letting my coffee and toast go cold over breakfast as I pored over it.

It’s now one of my all-time favourite books. I am Pilgrim. Check it out. Apparently the author is writing another two books centred around the character Pilgrim and there is talk of a film adaptation. Which makes me very happy.

 

Hayden J. Weal Oteri beach

Oteri Beach – Burt Munro used to race his Indian motorcycle here, setting a world record of 136 mph.

 

I got back to Invercargill late at night and stayed up until 5am binge-watching Masters of Sex, the drama comedy TV show starring and produced by Michael Sheen. Dr. William Masters, a well respected obstetrician, finds himself ostracised by the scientific community after choosing to study sexual arousal.

After a deliciously fatty feast at The Bach cafe (Invercargill’s best cafe, Southland populace unanimously agrees), I drove to Oteri Beach. Ten kms West of Invercargill, the sand is hard enough to drive on so you can have a ball speeding around the 26km-long beach, the same sand Burt Munro used to drive upon.

 

Invercargill winter gardens

The Invercargill gardens are a joy to walk through. The best bits are the colourful flowers.

 

I wandered through the gardens, amusing myself by lying to children. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Sunday is the most popular day to walk through the gardens and I passed by many families, the young children playing in the fountains or pushing each other on the swings. Two little girls were playing with the brass statues that surround the fountain. Three squirrels, frozen in place hovering over their brass nuts, were being prodded and poked by them.

“Did you know,” I started, getting the girls’ attention. “These squirrels used to be real, but they were turned into statues by an evil witch because they were greedy?”

“No,” the braver of the girls said loudly. “They’re just ornaments.”

“Ah, I wish it were true,” I said. “They might come back to life one day, once they’ve learnt their lesson. See, they used to steal nuts from other squirrels, so the witch decided they’d learn a lesson if they were forced to stand here and watch all the kids playing. She thought maybe they’d see how to share and be more compassionate.”

“And that one,” I went on, pointing to the giant eagle who faced the playground. “He used to flap his wings, frightening people and making them fall over. So the witch made him be the Watcher of the playground. Now he has to look out for any bullies and make sure everyone is safe when they’re playing.”

The girls shrugged and kept on playing.

 

Clockwise from top left: New River School, Lumsden school, Tisbury School, Mataura School.

Clockwise from top left: New River School, Lumsden school, Tisbury School, Mataura School.

 

Monday brought with it two schools, and Tuesday three. The kids were as enthusiastic as I hoped, asking hilarious questions I could never have expected like, “What did you eat for breakfast?” and “Do you have a sister or brother and do you like them?”

No children were scared of my video, they all cheered when the building exploded in Hot Rob and laughed when the picture of me as fat dwarf in The Hobbit came up. My throat had began to itch and my voice was fading by this time, from the constant talking or late nights, I couldn’t tell. I was eating fairly well, treating myself to large salads and fizzy Berocca drinks every day, but I couldn’t deny it; it was getting worse. I felt myself sink into the world of the sick.

On Tuesday after being interviewed for the EnSign, Mataura’s local newspaper, I set off to Dunedin. By the time I got there, my head was throbbing and my vision blurring. I drank as much water as I could and attempted to convince myself I was okay.

 

Dunedin Hayden

Dunedin’s Signal Hill lookout is amazing!

 

A good friend’s little sister Sarah took me up to Signal Hill lookout. You can see all of Dunedin from up there, she said. Aha, she was wrong. The mist had rolled in, a drizzle had dampened my festive spirits and the view was nothing but a grey miasma. Instead, we went to Nova, a restaurant in the Octagon and treated ourselves to chocolate desserts and caught up.

I retired early, one hundred pages in to the new book I was reading, I Know This Much Is True, a psychological family drama gifted to me by someone I met on my travels. After talking about books and movies and music, she promised me it was a good read. She was not wrong.

 

The view from my motel room. Despite all the activities Dunedin has to offer, I couldn't drag myself from the floor.

The view from my motel room. Despite all the activities Dunedin has to offer, I couldn’t drag myself from the floor.

 

I woke with an aching back, searing throat and delicate skin. Pitching my coat tightly around me, I sprinted to the corner store and loaded up on lozenges, pills, salves and medicine, then dosed up. Time had sped up strangely and I noted with shock that I was due at St. Joseph’s so I rushed into the car and swerved through the traffic in the pouring rain.

The students of St. Joseph’s were finishing Kapa haka practice when I arrived so I sat in and admired their loud voices, envy creeping over me. However, would you believe it, fate threw me a solid; St. Joseph’s was the first school I visited with a microphone! Where before I was feeling close to fainting, as soon as I stood in front of the hundred or so smiling faces and heard them greet me in a collective chant, adrenalin threw me strength.

I talked and talked, the croaky voice lending me a mystique reserved only for grandfathers, giving my stories a fireplace glow. The video went down a treat and the kids were buzzing about the boxes of books they were being gifted.

I figured out at the second school to give the books out last. The kids couldn’t concentrate on a thing once the book’s had be given, it was trouble enough saying ka kite.

 

Hayden J. Weal dunedin

7am view. Frostily gorgeous.

 

I did finally make it up Signal Hill to admire Dunedin from above. What photography fails to describe is the roaring wind and sub zero temperature. Regardless of the flu and cold, it was beautiful and I stayed for long enough to balance the camera precariously on a stone turret and set the ten second timer. When this was done I hobbled back to the car and turned the heater up to full.

 

Dunedin moody beach

Moody and rough, it was the perfect place to sit for a lemon honey ginger drink and read

 

Bathgate, Carisbrook, Pine Hill, Brockville and Concord schools were all a lot of fun. By rule, I should’ve been blending the memories of the schools together but I still remember the nuances of each school and the unique kids that went there, especially their questions.

“Did you see How To Train Your Dragon 2?”

“I did and I loved it. Did you see it?”

They all yell “YES!”, and I can tell that even those who didn’t see it join in. Even those who are more interested in wedging the glob of snot from their nostrils yell “YES!” because that’s what their peers are doing.

This herd mentality worked to my advantage when I showed the kids my work. I’d explain that the video I was about to show them was ‘funny and scary and very exciting’. After that seed was planted, it ensured they’d laugh, hide behind their hands and cheer. The power to manipulate children is too easily granted and we must wield it with discerning care.

 

Duffy Carisbrook, Brockville, Concord

Carisbrook, Brockville and Concord school.

 

Getting back on the plane to Wellington, I found myself experiencing the same strange sense of loss I get after finishing a particularly good book or film. Like I’d gotten to know heaps of friends and I’d already had to say goodbye without knowing if I’d ever see them again.

I hope to catch up with all of these kids in the future and the way the world works, it’s not an outlandish hope. Fingers crossed for another trip soon! Thanks Duffy!

 

PART ONE OF MY TRIP HERE

 

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Duffy trip hayden j weal

Duffy Books Trip Part 1 – Invercargill and Bluff

I’m traveling the deep south of New Zealand in a hired car, staying in motels and chatting to young kiwi kids about reading and filmmaking every day.

It’s like a genie appeared, “What’s your ideal way to spend your time, Hayden J.?”

And it’s granted.

I’ll tell you how, and why, I’m here. Duffy Books in Homes.

 

Hayden J. Weal Bluff hill

I got to walk around Bluff hill!

 

Duffy Books in Homes is a charitable foundation started by Alan Duff, author of Once Were Warriors (yeesh – grisly kiwi story there) which provides a minimum of five books a year to over 100,000 kiwi kids scattered throughout 530 low decile schools.

 

St Teresa's School Bluff duffy

Enthusiastic kids at St. Teresa’s school in Bluff were stoked on the books

 

Basically, Alan Duff wanted more adults to encourage more kids to read, and the key to getting that happening was hooking the kids young. Get them reading. Get them educating themselves unknowingly so they can grow into the kinds of people who encourage more kids to read and educate themselves and so on and so on.

 

My sexy hire car. The challenge was keeping the girls away.

My sexy hire car. At that point I knew: my biggest challenge would be keeping the girls away.

 

Duffy Heroes

 

Duffy Heroes (or Duffy Role Models) are people who’ve achieved a dream and who love reading and want to pass on their love of reading to the young ‘uns.

Grant Roa Uncle Rawiri

Grant is Uncle Rawiri in masterpiece NZ film Whale Rider

Having achieved my lifelong dream of becoming stunningly gorgeous, muscular and modest, I was put forward by a very good friend (and fantastic actor) Grant Roa to be a Duffy Role Model.

Needless to say, I was honoured and jumped at the chance.

My first school, Newfield Park School in Invercargill, were a good crowd... except for the 5 year olds who cried through my video

My first school, Newfield Park School in Invercargill, were a good crowd… except for the 5 year olds who cried through the video I showed them. Jack and Chops freaked them out.

 

I did a mini tour around the Wairarapa region last year and had a whale of a time. It’s so much fun, even though I don’t personally buy these books for the kids, or even pick them (the kids themselves pick them – a great many generous sponsor buy the books), I feel like Santa Claus rocking in there, yarning about being Bilbo and how cool reading is, then reaching into my sack and handing out books to super pumped kids.

 

This horrible woman works for parliament. She turned her phone on before landing then sniggered when I asked her to obey the rules. I reported her.

This horrible woman sat next to me on the plane. She works for parliament. She turned her phone on before landing then sniggered when I asked her to obey the rules. I reported her with pleasure.

 

They have a special Duffy song and a special assembly for the book giving. It’s an event. The schools Duffy supply for are selected from areas ‘where the children are most likely to come from bookless homes’ so imagine how much getting free books means to them. Back in my day, books were books and we’d shrug at them. These guys are genuinely excited about being gifted their very own books to take home.

 

Bluff School Duffy books in homes

An awesome class of readers at Bluff School plus a creepy dude in the middle

 

This year, Duffy celebrated it’s twenty year anniversary and the donation of TEN MILLION BOOKS viagra kaufen im internet. They held a governmental breakfast at Parliament and Dr. Ben Carson, along with the honourable Hekia Parata span some yarns for us.

 

Bluff sign post

This is mandatory in Bluff, okay? Even the locals do it.

 

There was one guy who spoke at the anniversary. Sometimes you know when you’re hearing something that you’ll never forget. Well, this guy and his speech was one of those times. He was one of the first Duffy kids ever. His school – a poor school – had been chosen for the first year of Duffy. And this guy – a young boy who was being abused at home and struggling to learn – had been gifted a book.

 

fernworth school invercargill

Sweet crowd at Fernworth school give me what they call a ‘ferny’ welcome

 

This young boy grew up into a young man, cherishing the books he received from the Duffy program, and he became an opera singer and traveled all over the world. He spoke about his life and we were all transfixed, hanging on his every word. Then he turned to Alan Duff, who was as enraptured as the rest of us, smoked salmon and hash brown breakfast going cold, untouched, and said, “I want to say – because I’ve never had the chance to say this – thank you, Alan. I don’t know if even you know how much those books meant to me.”

 

This is my sunset from the motel I'm staying in

This is my sunset from the motel I’m staying in

This is me looking at the sunset from my motel in Invercargill

This is me looking at the sunset from the motel I’m staying in

 

I was a mess, my smoked salmon extra salty from the tears drizzling down my cheeks and through my messy beard.

Weeks later, when Jacqui Whyte, Duffy Theatre administrator, asked if I’d consider a trip to the South Island to tour some schools, I couldn’t email back fast enough. With YES in capitals.

 

Takitimu school in Nightcaps win the award for the most remote location in the world

Takitimu school in Nightcaps win the award for the most remote location in the world. Drove for an hour and a half through rolling farmlands to get to them

 

Eight days. Sixteen schools. That was the plan. Easy.

The schools would be mixed sizes and the students, as usual, an eclectic variety. And it’s strange, I’ve found that at every school, no matter how big or small, there’s always one student that calls out, interrupts, disrupts, jeers, jokes, jibes or jips me. And it’s usually because they’re excited.

I must extend my thanks to all the teachers who delicately rebuked the children I struggled to deal with. The deserve a pay raise.

 

Stormy beach at Taramea point, just past Riverton.

Stormy beach at Taramea point, out of Invercargill, past Riverton.

 

In the afternoons I explore Invercargill, walk around the heritage trails and indulge in unhealthy but delicious food. I read my book, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (and wow, it’s SUCH a good book) and edit the photos I’ve taken in the day. I’m living the dream.

I have made a short video to show the kids. It features some of Jack and Chops, Hot Rob, and some stills from The Hobbit featuring me as a number of different characters. On my first day, at Newfield school, some of the younger pupils got very scared and started crying. The principal had a few stern words to me, so I’ve added a verbal disclaimer and you know what’s strange? Saying the video might be scary gets the kids even more excited to see it.

 

St Patrick's school in Nightcaps has a total of 14 students. You see all sorts.

St Patrick’s school in Nightcaps has a total of 14 students.

 

It started raining today. I took a photo of it.

 

Raindrops on the window

 

I’m halfway through the trip and already I’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm of these kids. Stay tuned because there are more photos on the way.

 

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I talked and talked, the croaky voice lending me a mystique reserved only for grandfathers, giving my stories a fireplace glow. The video went down a treat and the kids were buzzing about the boxes of books they were being gifted.

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Hayden J. Weal tampons should be free

Tampons should be free

The price of having a bloody fanny

“You okay?” I asked.

My workmate’s frown had been fixed for much longer than usual. Brow knotted, she clipped back, “Fine.”

A few minutes later, the lack of her standard perkiness had me worried. I waited until we had a degree of privacy. “Honestly, what’s up?”

She looked back at me, face blank. “What? Nothing. I’m just…”

“Work related or…?” I wanted to say ‘lady days’ but growing up in a household filled predominately with women meant that I possess a shrapnel of tact. Instead, I shook my hand at my abdomen and said, “Fanny stuff?”

See? Tact.

Awkward Turtle

The eloquence of man is but virgin land to me

 

I’m fortunate to work with very awesome people. She laughed and nodded. “Yeah, just kinda shitty and I don’t know why. It’ll pass.”

“Right on,” I said, and we left it there. I reflected on my history working with this particular staff member. After two years, I could count the number of times she’d been in this mood on one hand. I inquired – using my masterful way with words – “How often do you period it up?”

She told me that by being on the pill, she was able to control it so she only ‘surfs the crimson wave’ once every three months.

“That safe?” I asked.

“My doctor recommends it. Plus, tampons are expensive.”

 

happy tampon

Smug white gold

I didn’t know that. Why would tampons be expensive? Wait a minute, how could tampons be expensive? They’re a necessary commodity for a massive percentage of the world’s population due to circumstances outside personal control.

What about pads? Surely pads are cheaper.

Nope.

The pill?

No way. More expensive.

Frankly, this is backwards. Technologically, we can store tens of thousands of songs, videos, pictures and documents on a mobile phone and video chat synchronously with someone on the far side of the world. Scientifically, we’ve drafted the human genome and have split the atom. Politically, the world is stable. The summarise: we’re in good shape.

This is my contention: if menstruating is outside of a person’s control, the cost of managing the effects and symptoms of said menstruation should be covered by the state.

 

Cheering girls for free tampons

 

This idea has been touched on and talked about many times before, but being a man, I’m in a position to give an objective view of the issue. Let me spin a yarn:

I have Ankylosing Spondylitis. It’s an arthritic genetic predisposition that means my spine is trying to fuse itself together, causing crippling pain unless managed. The way I manage my condition is through exercise and the indulgent use of prescription anti-inflammatory medication. When I was diagnosed, I saw a number of specialists, had x-rays, blood tests, a proposed MRI scan, countless referrals from doctor to doctor, ophthalmologist (eye doc) to rheumatologist (bone doc), and the cost of all of it was covered by the state.

Thank you NZ tax payers!

This is because my affliction is not my fault. I didn’t fuse my spine together deliberately, it’s due to the odds of the universe and genetics.

If we use that very simple edict, shouldn’t all menstruation costs be free? Women don’t decide they’d like to add the XX chromosome while they’re a malformed zygote, right? Females don’t choose to bleed their uterus’ lining through their vagina often causing severe pain and limiting productivity, do they?

It’s not like shaving your face. If I like, I can let my beard grow. That’s my choice. Sure, ladies could let The Red Baron through the floodgates and flow freely if they like, but that would quite possibly ruin their jeans, ostracize them from any water cooler conversation and spoil their chances of a second date with that cute guy who finally asked them out.

 

Carrie bloody

This photo may appear to be in bad taste but the story of Carrie and her period humiliation is a classic example of menstrual fear and humiliation induced by a misogynistic society.

 

In short, it’s not really a viable option. In order to prevent such a grisly scene, ladies must use tampons or pads or the pill… or a mooncup (which we’ll get to later – get excited for that).

Allow me to present some ballpark (very ballpark) figures based on a walk through three of my local supermarkets and txting friends.

 

TAMPONS

1 menstruation cycle = 20 tampons (give or take depending on your flow – heavy flow means more moolah)

1 pack of 20 tampons = approx $6.00 (again, depends on a myriad of variables)

1 year of tampons = $72

 

PADS

1 menstruation cycle = 14 pads

1 pack of 14 pads = $6.49

1 year of pads = $78

 

THE PILL

Between $15 and $50 a month (This one is really tricky as variations of hormones affect each person differently. We’re all a unique snowflake, yay!)

1 year of the pill: $180 – $600

Some ladies have little choice here. They might have extremely painful and debilitating periods causing them to stay home from work or school and the only alternative is popping pills of hormones at a designated time every day.

 

BEING A MAN

Free.

(In the case of vaginal bleeding, anyhow)

 

 

“But what can we do?” I hear you cry. We’re just a small country at the bottom of the earth who make world acclaimed films and music. We can’t affect world politics.

The sultry miss to your right might have something to say about that.

I’m going to lay down two suggestions, each is a progressive step toward a stronger, more just society.

 

Kate Sheppard suffrage

Kate Sheppard appears on our $10 note and is our most famous suffragette

1. Make all tampons and pads free.

This would cause a sweet wave. Imagine if we were the first country in the world to do this?! We’d be hailed!

Imagine the headlines:

New Zealand first to do something that America could’ve and should’ve prioritized over Obama Care.

Countries would follow our example and in ten years we’ll all look back and marvel at how backward we were, making people pay to manage a physical impediment out of their hands.

The cost is minimal. Our tax can cover it. If anyone cites cost as an issue, remind them that it’s a healthcare cost. If our country can shell out for my spine (which I’m very thankful for), I’m sure it’s shelling out for a lot of other people’s cases, so it can shell out for this too. It’s in the name of creating more productive citizens.

It’s not enough to make feminine hygiene products tax free (it’s ludicrous they’re taxed as it is), they should be 100% free for all women, no matter the flow, vagina size or number needed.

 

2. Use a mooncup.

Mooncup

The many faces of Mooncup, the modern day minge-friend – I had to work hard to refrain from photoshopping happy faces on them.

 

You insert these soft, amenable funnels into your vagina to catch the blood. From what I hear it takes some practice but once you get the hang of it, much like riding a bike, it becomes a second nature and they’re more comfortable and induce more confidence than tampons or pads.

These little beauties are next level awesome. Allow me to list the ways in which they rock the party:

– They hold three times the blood of a tampon which means much less trips to the toilet.

– They’re silicon-free, hypoallergenic and contain no dyes, plastics, toxins or bleaches (It’s like clean eating for your vagina!).

– They’re tremendously economical. One mooncup will last years and years and years.

And best of all…

– Price. Around $50 will purchase a wicked wee mooncup for your soon-to-be comfortably clean yoni. That works out as cheaper than one year of tampons or pads and you can keep one mooncup for decades.

– Bonus point: They have measurement markings on it so you can keep track of your bleedings (I tried for a long time to come up with a better term but ‘bleedings’ is by far the best). This is helpful for medical reasons, I guess, or if you felt like keeping a chart for fun like we do for Erection Size Graphs.

happy girl tampon free beach

Financially and menstruationally free!

I’m personally in favour of both. Use a mooncup, tell your friends to use a mooncup and save the environment one tampon at a time, but while doing so, let’s storm the Beehive Parliament Building and demand free feminine hygiene products.

All together now, FOR A BETTER AOTEAROA!

Check out Mooncups here.

Tony Ryall of the National party is New Zealand’s current Minister of Health. If you’d like to join the plight, address a letter to him (you don’t even need a stamp):

 

Mr. Tony Ryall MP

Freepost Parliament

Private Bag 18 888, Parliament Buildings

Wellington 6160

 

Or email him on t.ryall@ministers.govt.nz

 

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Politics for the non-politically minded Kiwi

Don’t know about politics? You’re not alone

Politics is confusing

Politics = confusion

I have plenty of intelligent, worldly, passionate friends who have no idea who to vote for in this year’s election. And that’s gravy. While voting is important, it’s remarkably difficult to wade through the rivers of information-crap in order to garner any scrap of useful political knowledge. This is my attempt to add some simple perspective.

 

New Zealand is facing its 162nd year having an official system of government.

 

We’ve got a whole selection of documents holding our constitution together, consisting of different acts written up in England, here, phrases borrowed from other countries and our own unique agreement: the Treaty of Waitangi.’

All these different acts were slapped together in a hodge-podge consolidation melting pot in 1986 and here we are! A steady, green, beautiful, young and pert country full of gorgeous citizens.

 

Who knew that stuff? I didn’t. I did some googling and paraphrasing. All the information we need to better arm ourselves with the most powerful tool in the world is right here on the interwebs. Parties, policies, enrollment forms.

So why don’t we read it?

Because it’s drudgery. No matter how much we all want to partake in political dinner discussions, why subject yourself to such a banal exercise?

 

I tried to find a likable picture to balance out the slander

I tried to find a likable picture to balance out the slander

 

John Key has been our prime minister for six years now and he hasn’t exploded the country. According to non-reliable ‘news’ sources like stuff.co.nz, he’s the frontrunner to be prime minister again despite what seems like a nationwide agreement that he’s uncool. Public debt has risen $27 million a day since he’s been holding the PM crown, reaching $60 billion last November. I mean, we had the Christchurch earthquake and that accounts for a lot of it surely, but $60 billion is a lot.

Holy shit, I gotta be honest here, I’m boring myself silly thinking about the pros and cons of John Key. If you wanna talk about that, swing to Facebook and scroll down your news feed.

 

Key Change

Ha. Puns. Let’s talk about how to change the country for the better.

What’s the biggest issue facing NZ? Unemployment? International debt? Asset sales? Being unprotected from invasion either from a foreign country or space?

No. I think the most dangerous pitfall that Aotearoa faces is the ignorance of its citizens as a collective.

I don’t mean the fact the majority of us can’t name more than four political parties or comment objectively on any of the current bills being discussed in Parliament (although that’s a pretty major worry), I mean the fact that barely anyone I’ve heard speak in the past few months seems to think beyond the next ten years.

Or the fact most people are shocked when they hear about the poverty a huge number of our families are currently experiencing.

I mean, check out this graph!

 

Interesting political graph

Eye-opening numbers. I couldn’t believe my opened eyes.

 

That intriguing graph aside, here’s a real stat:

Right now, as you’re reading this, more than 260,000 are living in poverty.

That’s over a quarter of the kids in this country who aren’t sure of three proper meals a day and/or don’t have appropriate winter clothing.

 

As a sufferer of arthritis in my spine, I groan when I look out the window and see rain and a feel a chill because it signifies an oncoming day of pain. But I have shoes to wear and jerseys to don. I even have some stylish scarves that keep my neck warm and my image stunning.

27% of the children in New Zealand don’t have these things. It’s hard to look cool when you’re filling up on the school water fountain because you haven’t had breakfast.

When choosing parties to support, my main angle is the angle of the kids, particularly the ones who are in hardship due to factors outside their control.

 

Firstly, those hungry kids now will one day be having their own (statistically, probably hungry) kids later and instilling their knowledge (or lack of) into those poor, dry, bitter minds. They didn’t do anything wrong to be punished. They deserve to know they can strive for better but better is hard to achieve when you can’t concentrate in class due to malnutrition.

 

NZ kids in poverty

1 in 4 kiwi kids live in poverty

 

Backing kiwi kids’ well being in a big way is the Mana Internet party. The top of their policy list is to:

– Establish Government-funded breakfast and lunch programs in all decile 1 and decile 2 schools (A ‘decile’ is the NZ ranking system for the socio-economic populace of schools – Decile 1 and 2 means the ‘poorest’ 20% of schools).

That’s a great start. The downside is that the Internet party (who’ve recently joined forces with the Mana party) was established and is currently headed by Kim dotcom, known to most as freaky German internet guy, and at a recent gathering, Dotcom riled the crowd to chant “Fuck John Key!” which is massively embarrassing and detrimental to any cause he has. Hate does not buy love, Kim.

 

  • The National Party are keen to introduce Performance Pay which will associate teachers’ pay with the performance of their students, offering teachers a monetary incentive to push their kids.
  • The Labour Party want to decrease the number of students in the average NZ class by one per year, giving teachers more attention to spend on each individual pupil.
  • The Green Party have a holistic plan to make NZ greener, but it may mean sacrificing some international deals and relations, not to mention some creature comforts the majority of us have grown accustomed to.
  • The Maori Party want Maori ownership of the foreshore and seabed and while nearly everyone agrees that another of their policies, teaching more Maori and Pacific history in schools, is a crucial step toward a more educated country, it’s a tough sell that a certain race/ethnicity/blood can be entitled to ownership over other citizens purely because of their race/ethnicity/blood.

 

Let’s not wax lyrical

I could spout on and on about policies all day but I shan’t. I encourage you, as a citizen of this country, to do some googling, watch some videos and read some interviews, and mould your own opinions until you find a party that lines up with your value system.

I know Russell Brand doesn’t vote, but right now it’s the biggest say we have short of storming the Beehive with pitchforks and fury burning in our hearts and that sounds too undignified for the likes of me.

 

Politics have adopted an unhealthy stigma of whining, insulting, immature sycophants which is unfortunate but reasonable seeing as the ‘highest minds’ of the country fling verbal abuse at each other and lose themselves in concerns over ego as opposed to civilly discussing issues and solutions, so we need each other’s help in reshaping the image of caring about politics. Discuss it with friends. Sharpen your views and arguments. Discover what issues you care deeply about. Speak calmly and without malice which should give you a kick seeing as it’d make you more mature than 121 of the 121 MPs in the House of Representatives.

 

How is their behaviour so at odds with such a regal environment?

How is their behaviour so at odds with such a regal environment?

 

As my good friend said the other day when confronted with the very common, apathetic view of voting:

“You live in this country. You take daily advantage of the many benefits of living in this country. You have a responsibility to make it the best possible place to live you can for all of its sexy citizens.”

Okay I added the ‘sexy’ bit, but it rings true. You’re all sexy if you’re reading this.

 

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Raglan Roast |Coolest Coffee Shop in the World

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About two weeks ago, one brisk but sunny Sunday morning, me and my stunning girlfriend turned up our collars and braved the markets on the windy waterfront of Wellington. Despite our punctiliously early arrival, crowds already surged against one another in the tight labyrinthine aisles. Combined with an ice cold breeze that sends my arthritic spine to tumult, I became a Grinch, refusing to hold so much as a plum without first indulging in a hit of caffeine. The queues for every coffee truck snaked through the markets, a dozen shivering Wellingtonians deep, so I wandered afar. Down the waterfront past the boats, through the rich person’s market and into a quiet coffee shop called Raglan Roast, unique in its disparate decor; wooden crates fashioned into coffee tables and old couches dominate the space where you’d expect chrome and steel.

 

Raglan Roast Chaffers

Raglan Roast on Chaffers waterfront in Wellington

 

Behind the counter were two friendly faces, fingers itching to tamp and steam. No queue. I held back my reservations and bought a long black. I was charged $2.50. My mouth opened to query the price when I saw the chalkboard pricelist, then my mouth opened further, then twisted in a smile, then made small talk until the shot had extracted, then puckered and sucked in a gulp of strong, deliciously dark brown coffee. Alanah, a tall, blonde, beautiful and warm person (I swear this didn’t affect my response to the coffee), told me a little bit about the business. The founder and owner who I would meet two weeks later is her amicably brusque father Tony Bruce.

 

Raglan Roast Chaffers

Alanah Bruce, stoked to be rocking Raglan Roast Chaffers

 

Alanah told me that all the beans Raglan Roast use are fair trade and that they’re roasted in Raglan with a blowtorch by her old man and his friend Bobo. I was intrigued. The business started because they were sick of waiting in line at the local cafes, so Tony started brewing up for his friends. One thing led to another and now they have seven stores across the nation as well as a loyal customer base who buy their blends online, not to mention the throngs of locals who culminate in the Raglan sun outside the hole-in-the-wall outlet. I figured I better check it out and sing some praises.

 

The Hole-in-the-wall

Hauraki radio blaring in my mum’s speedy green Golf, I pulled into Raglan around noon. The clouds seemed to be having a whale of a time, darkening the sky then pissing rain only to move on leaving a shining blue day then return to restart their maddening procession. I shook the hand of Gene, the barista on guard, and introduced myself, catching the eye of a rugged farmer type in a thick woolen jersey and mince pie in hand, standing in the background.

“Ah,” he said. “You’re the guy.”

He strode forward and shook my hand. “Have a coffee and sit in the sun for a minute, I’ll come down soon.” This was Tony Bruce.

 

Raglan Roast interior

Giving handshakes and coffee, Gene rocks the interior of the hole-in-the-wall

 

I grabbed a long black, peppered it with cinnamon and sat on the homely table and chair setup outside. I watched as a man ordered his coffee then pulled a battered notebook from the counter, made a quick note, put it back, then sat down. Seeing my camera, he asked what I was taking pictures of. I briefly explained that I wanted to show the cafe culture community the story of the Raglan Roast coffee shop.

“We love it here,” the man (who later introduced himself as Mark) said as he held up his latte. “You watch. Watch how many people come and watch their attitudes to the place.”

Mark, Oliver, a girl I didn't meet, Selena

Mark, Oliver, a girl I didn’t meet, Selena

Under ten seconds after Mark finished this sentence, a young lady wearing a hood and large glasses waltzed over.

“Gene! Mocha time, I reckon,” she said with a smile. Gene bantered as he steamed the milk and the lady sat down. “Hi,” she said, and her eyes darted to the camera and my notes. “Hey Mark,” she said, then asked me about the camera. I explained again. “Oh yeah,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

Just as Selena (she introduced herself) was telling me about her day’s work ahead painting, a bushy-haired rocker ordered, sat down and introduced himself as Oliver. Seeing the camera, he asked what I was doing. I told him. As I finished, four young travelers arrived. They crowded around the hole-in-the-wall and ordered, all of them handing over ceramic cups to Gene they’d brought from home.

“Mind if we join you guys for a bit?” asked the most confident of the group, her blonde hair swinging around her head in time with her loose-fitting clothes. Nationality: Canadian. Name: Crystal. Drink: Capuccino. Seeing the camera, the inquiry came. With the help of Mark, Selena and Oliver, I explained.

Raglan Roast Volcom Lane

The controversial Raglan Roast insignia, my long black, the backgammon crew, backgammon, Raglan Roast in the sun

The others gathered around and opened out boards of backgammon. After setting up her pieces and shaking the hand of her opponent, Crystal stretched her arms back in the sun. “It’s rad, man,” she said. “We come here every day before work to play backgammon ‘coz the coffee’s so tasty and cheap.” Tantalized, I asked about the cups.

“You get 50 cents off if you bring your own cup,” explained Tillman. German. Flat white.

“And the book?” I asked Mark.

“You prepay your coffees and cross them off as you come,” he said, showing it to me. “It’s a sweet deal. Based on trust.”

 

Raglan Roast Volcom lane Book

The Raglan Roast prepay book

 

The backgammon boards seduced two more customers from the surf shop next door who grabbed a coffee and took a seat. With the ten of us crammed around two backgammon boards with a coffee each, the sun shining on our backs and rock’n’roll on the radio, I felt like I’d been transported to another time.

 

The Roasting Room

A large white van backed itself down Volcom Lane (where Raglan Roast’s hole-in-the-wall resides). The back door opened up revealing four large cardboard boxes of surfboards. Then Tony appeared. He’d helped pick them up for the local surf shop. After helping him carry the boards up a tricky set of stairs, we retired to the coffee shop and Tony handed me a beer from the fridge. The sun had sunk to the horizon and the coffee machine was having its chemical clean. A few dudes I hadn’t met had wandered through to the shop and were enjoying a beer together in the small room next door, sitting among the stacked containers of beans.

 

Tony Bruce Raglan Roast

Tony Bruce – Raglan Roast’s big papa

 

“It’s time to roast,” Tony said and tipped his head to the metal contraption at the end of the room. My first thought was, looks like a barbeque fucked a dryer. An LPG bottle with a weedkilling flamethrower spewed flames into the opening and the beans churned and danced through the fire until their second crack was heard by the roaster, a handsome, stylish man – the exact opposite of the image you get in your mind when you hear the name Bobo.

 

“All good if I…?” I raised the camera in question.

 

Tony shrugged and poured some beans from a container to a bag. “‘Course.”

 

 

Raglan Roast coffee roaster

A lotta trial and error went into this epic setup

 

Raglan Roast imports beans from everywhere. South America, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, India, and other countries I don’t trust myself to spell. When I asked about Fair Trade, Tony spoke with confidence and professionalism, stating the importance of ensuring environmental sustainability and positive relations. When I asked about how they started, he shrugs it off and said offhandedly, “I was just sick of queuing.”

Tony Bruce Raglan Roast

Tony having a yarn

When I ask why he set up shops in Wellington, he told the story about helping his daughter move into her flat. “I’d been to a few cafes that day and every coffee I tried -” he winced, “so I thought why not? I was standing outside Southern Cross waiting for the girls and I saw the spot. Little place. Simple. So I called the number and I knew the guy. He asked what I wanted to pay and I told him,” then he shrugged again.

This store is the legendarily always-busy Abel Smith street Raglan Roast, managed by Jed, “a very talented kid with coffee talent to burn,” said Tony. It epitomizes what Raglan Roast is about and, as their first foray into competitor titan Havana territory, would be the real test of their coffee and style. “I feel that was the single most important thing for us getting traction further afield than Rags. We tried to make it how Cuba street used to feel and look,” Tony said, then with a smile: “And it worked.”

Raglan Roast Abel Smith has a roomy seating area, a DJ spinning tunes and the same friendly vibe as Raglan. Customers greet Jed by name and as he busies himself with their order (showing off his sparkling memory), they make conversation with each other, including me while I took this photo. Raglan Roast tends to attract friendly people, I decided.

 

Jed Raglan Roast Abel Smith street

Jed, Bohemian manager of Raglan Roast Abel Smith Street

 

And Nelson? “Same story. Went down. Bought some coffee -” he winced again. “Found a spot, called the number and I knew the guy on the end of the line. And I was sick of it being so expensive. It doesn’t have to be.” Raglan Roast Tahunanui is the newest addition to the whanau. Resting in the heart of Nelson, the geographical centre of Aotearoa, it snuggles next to a kite surfing shop and the famous Nelson all-year sun has assured consistent crowds.

Where Raglan Roast differs from most cafes is the price. Black coffee is $2.50 and a white coffee is $3. That’s it. Pouring the roasted beans into the cooler, Bobo laughed about it with me. “If you charge people five dollars for a flat white, it feels like you’re suddenly in a totally different ball game. You’ve gone from providing an semi-addictive beverage to… drug dealing.”

Bobo Raglan Roast

Bobo the handsome ‘barosta’

With 14 original blends and dozens of tonnes of roasted beans per year, Tony and Bobo seemed remarkably nonchalant despite evidence of their ongoing growth. “We’re not even a pimple on the arse of the coffee industry,” Bobo said. “It’s just heaps of fun.”

Tony agreed. He even seemed slightly embarrassed about being interviewed. Of course, it didn’t help that his mates stood by listening in, smirks on their faces.

“He’s the mayor of Raglan,” a friend said. “He knows everyone, gets stuck in, helps out.”

I left at dusk in good spirits. After a day of chilling in the sun drinking good coffee, learning how to play backgammon and chatting to genuine, passionate creators, one of Bobo’s yarns in particular stuck in my mind.

Raglan Roast isn’t part of the NZ Roaster Guild or Specialty Coffee Association. “Na, Tony’s keen to keep it light and fun. We just wanna make coffee that’s good, tasty and cheap. It means we can’t go to the Award nights or anything, but my award is the lines of customers on a weekend.”

 

Raglan Roast

Raglan Roast by Raglan night

 

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