Sensible or Scaredy Cat?

Risk management is tricky business. To celebrate my mid-March birthday, Scott and I had planned to go to Hilma af Klint’s exhibit in Wellington, and finally visit Te Papa Museum. But when Omicron escaped New Zealand’s managed isolation facilities, we reconsidered our timing to minimize the chances that we might catch — or worse, spread — the virus.

First, we moved our trip forward to mid-February, figuring we’d beat the COVID peak, expected at the end of March. Then we decided to drive rather than fly. Driving would extend our trip by two whole days, but if we happen to catch Omicron while in Wellington, we’ll at least still be able to get back home to isolate in Thames. Finally, I booked us a hotel room with its own bathroom, kitchenette, and a three day cancellation policy. The shared bathroom and kitchen in the bed and breakfast we had booked suddenly feel like unnecessary risks.

We’ve been following the news about The-Convoy-and-associated protests, never imagining it would last this long, or get this tense. When I came across a map of the protestors’ activity I started to wonder: do we really want to visit Wellington at a time when the city is full of people who are not only gathering without masks, but actively harassing those who choose to wear them? As a person of color and an immigrant, do I really want to enter a zone rife with anti-Semitic sentiment? Where nooses hang? Where known white supremacists may be recruiting as others fearlessly share violent intentions?

A few years back, while applying for visas to live and work in New Zealand, my partner and I had to declare that we’ve never made public racist statements, or been members of a racist group. Now permanent residents, we enjoy most of the rights of New Zealand citizens, but there is still no guarantee we will be safe from their racist statements or actions.

My birthday happens to fall on March 15th. On that day three years ago, a white supremacist gunned down 51 innocent Muslim people in Christchurch as they gathered in their places of worship. Many New Zealanders were shocked that such a racially-motivated terrorist massacre could happen here, despite what many Muslims already knew — and had been trying to tell authorities — about anti-Muslim sentiment. If I’m scared about what this protest means for New Zealand’s future, I can’t help but wonder how the Muslim community feels about what’s happening in Wellington right now.

Every year, on the anniversary of the day my partner and I immigrated to New Zealand from San Francisco, people around the country light off truckloads of backyard fireworks. Every year I joke that all this fanfare is in honor of our immigration. The truth, of course, is more complicated.

In 1605, English Catholics had had enough of being persecuted under the Protestant leadership of Great Britain. A group of conspirators hatched a plan to assassinate King James I and his parliament, gathering 36 barrels of gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament with the intention of blowing it all up. Their chosen date: November 5th.

As the date approached, however, some of the conspirators began to have second thoughts, particularly as they considered the innocent people that would inevitably get caught up in the blast. One sent an anonymous letter warning a friend to stay away from Parliament on November 5th. That warning eventually made it to the king, whose forces discovered the barrels of gunpowder under Parliament, along with Guy Fawkes, with only hours to spare before the attack. Guy Fawkes was convicted of treason, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. Guy Fawkes Day is meant to be a reminder that traitorous plots will not be tolerated.

I’m not sure how many Kiwis are aware of this history, or see Guy Fawkes Day as anything other than an excuse to light off fireworks. If they are aware of the political backstory, do they see themselves as celebrating the government? Or do they align more closely with those who sought to bring the government down? Do they see any parallels between this event and what’s happening in Wellington right now?

On our first evening in New Zealand, the fifth of November, 2016, we attended a Guy Fawkes party at the home of some fellow Americans, friend’s of Scott’s. An older man who works with one of them brought, along with an enormous selection of fireworks, several MAGA hats. “As a joke,” he claimed, when we Americans failed to laugh along. Scott and I tried to stay awake for the fireworks but were exhausted from the flight, from jetlag, from the months of logistics related to securing visas and shipping our things across an ocean. We excused ourselves early, catching occasional flashes of light through the windows or our Uber as we crossed town.

Three days later, Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. My new boss, a Māori man I couldn’t wait to move across an ocean to work with, offered me a hug when I came to work shellshocked the following morning. But before long he too was saying things like, “well, you got what you deserved, more than half of you voted for him.” I got tired of explaining how few people in the US actually vote, or the intricacies of the electoral system.

“Your timing was impeccable!” people kept saying of our move to New Zealand, as if I’d had any idea Trump stood a chance at being elected. I hadn’t been paying enough attention to the rise of alt right sentiments in the US. What little I’d heard I wrote off as too absurd, too fringe to be of real concern.

Are Kiwis paying attention?

I view New Zealand’s history of peaceful protests with a sense of awe. I have deep respect for ngā rōpū tautohetohe, the Māori protest movements and hīkoi, protest marches. Since moving here we have attended marches for climate action, rights for all women, and Black Lives Matter. It has been disheartening to watch the pandemic-era protests get co-opted by people espousing a narrow sort of freedom and a false inclusivity, both of which disproportionately affect the very people who pioneered Aotearoa’s protest traditions.

Of course I’d prefer not to live in fear. I too want to get on with life. How lovely it would be to celebrate beauty, to learn more about Aotearoa’s history at Te Papa, to see the Hilma af Klint show before it closes at the end of March. 

So we wonder: how much longer will the protesters be occupying Wellington? How exactly do they define freedom? Freedom for whom? At what cost? How will they know when they’ve got it? How bad will things get between now and then?

We have no way of knowing, just as we have no way of knowing when the COVID curve will peak, whether or not we will catch it, or what will happen if (when?) we do. If we let the protesters change our plans, are we just giving them too much power? Should we just get on with our lives, regardless of risk? We have until midnight tonight to cancel our hotel booking without penalty. I still can’t make up my mind.

I spoke about wings / You just flew

I find it so inspiring to see what happens when one commits 100% to something, and here’s an excellent example: Fiona Apple in the zone, without flashy lights, without makeup, without any of the unnecessary extras that so often obscure performances like this:

I can’t help but imagine what might have been possible in that room without the headset, microphone, or camera tethering her to the material plane…

The Whole of the Moon
Michael Scott / The Waterboys

I pictured a rainbow
You held it in your hands
I had flashes
But you saw the plan
I wandered out in the world for years
While you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon

Hmm, you were there in the turnstiles, with the wind at your heels
You stretched for the stars and you know how it feels to reach too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon
I was grounded
While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth
You cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley
You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon

I spoke about wings
You just flew
I wondered, I guessed and I tried
You just knew
I sighed
But you swooned, I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon

(The whole of the moon) with a torch in your pocket and the wind at your heels
You climbed on the ladder and you know how it feels to get too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon, hey yeah!

Unicorns and cannonballs, palaces and piers
Trumpets, towers and tenements
Wide oceans full of tears
Flags, rags ferryboats
Scimitars and scarves
Every precious dream and vision
Underneath the stars, yes, you climbed on the ladder
With the wind in your sails
You came like a comet
Blazing your trail too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon

Rover 90, and other pleasures of Pic’s peanut butter

I love Pic’s peanut butter. As a lover of jars, I love how easy it is to remove their labels. I love that so many of my homemade jams (etc) are now adorned with bright red stars on their reused-jar lids.

The last Pic’s label I peeled off had a poem on it so good I’ve been keeping said label around for weeks, trying to keep it from sticking to everything I accidentally get near it.

Time to transcribe so I can finally throw this gluey label away. I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I do.

Rover 90

Once I met a girl who owned a Rover.
Older than me, could barely reach
the clutch. Hair as fine as cobweb;
a piece missing from one of her fingers.

The Rover ran on five. In spring
she let me under the bonnet.
I ground the valves in, and we drove
on six all summer. Running like a dream.

By autumn, the engine was blowing smoke,
the girl was pregnant. By the side
of the road out of Tapu it died,
the Rover, the girl, the baby, and I.

-Bill Smith
The Poet Who Writes for Peanuts!’

I really FEEL this one, you know? Tapu is just 25 minutes up the road from us. The whole scene reminds me of my old Holden Gemini, and associated adventures in Tasmania in 1998. “…serious pieces worthy of a darkened corner, a glass of wine and perhaps a box of tissues” indeed. Thanks, Pic’s.

Critical acclaim for Scott’s new EP — I’m so proud!

My God that record is just unbelievable, maybe even tune of the week… just amazing.

Tom Ravenscroft (BBC Radio 6 Music) re Blue Soul’s On the Angel of History
“It’s all unbelievably dramatic stuff” -Tom Ravenscroft on Saturn Devouring His Sun by Blue Soul

We’ve been excited to watch Scott’s latest Blue Soul EP making the rounds since its release just two weeks ago. Gotta love seing those Bandcamp, iTunes, and Spotify lines going up and to the right!

You can listen to BBC Radio 6 wonder Tom Ravenscroft raving about the whole album at 1:11:11 (how satisfying!) in this recent playlist. It’s only available online for another couple of weeks, so if you missed it… he gushed so hard I got teary-eyed, gah!

“…sure gets under your skin!” -Don Letts on Saturn Devouring His Sun by Blue Soul

Or check out this playlist from another BBC Radio 6 DJ, Don Letts; he introduces another of Scott’s songs starting at 52:37 during his 6 Music Festival Special broadcast. ” That one’s available for three more weeks so you’ve got a bit more time if you want to listen to the “bass-heavy set he’d like to have done” had there been a Radio 6 Music Festival this year.

Better yet, head on over to Bandcamp and show Scott some support! If we’re friends and you want a free download, you know how to find me…

Go Scott Go! I couldn’t be more proud of you, and am so glad I’m not the only one who gets to benefit from your musical genius ❤

A Beginner’s Guide to Uncle Roger: How to make egg fried rice

Uncle Roger is basically All my Chinese Uncles. And my dad, who regularly berated me for not having the heat high enough when I cooked in front of him growing up. “Are you frying that, or stewing it?!” he’d yell over the din of the range hood fan, shaking his head.

Dad recently sent me this article on wok hei (“breath of the wok”), which mentioned Uncle Roger’s now-famous YouTube video from July. This was the first I’d ever heard of Uncle Roger — that’s what being off social media does to a person — and though I don’t love all his videos or everything about him, I love how much Uncle Roger makes me think about my own Chinese heritage, and everything I’ve learned about being Chinese from my dad.

Dad can’t be bothered to watch Uncle Roger’s videos. “They’re too long,” he says. My (white, and very competent cooker of Chinese cuisine) mom, however, is always keen to know what the heck my brother Adam and I area talking about on our family Hangouts. So I told her I’d send her a list of Uncle Roger videos to watch, in order, as the humor definitely builds on itself.

Here’s that list, for Mom and anyone else who hasn’t yet discovered the joy that is Uncle Roger!

Uncle Roger: the videos to watch, in order

This is the one that started it all in July, when comedian Nigel Ng released a video of his character Uncle Roger reacting to an episode of BBC Food:

Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Uncle Roger: How to make egg fried rice”

Alt + Christmas Songs

I just went grocery shopping and they were already playing Christmas music, so I figure it’s fair game to post a few of my favorite “alternative” Christmas songs. I think they’re better than anything you’ll find in a retail establishment. Except for maybe the last one.

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I came across this song while Mike and I were looking for a new band to play with. The band was looking for a new singer, and though I quickly decided I had neither the guts nor the pipes to audition, I did listen to this on repeat for days; wish it were longer!

The photo is a tree I remember fondly. There’s a massive magnolia not far away that flowers a month or so after Christmas every year, points if you’re familiar with these San Francisco landmarks!

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Rob is a friend-of-a-friend who moved to Vietnam. A trip into the SoundCloud rabbit hole led me to this song of his, so lovely! (His GoodReads updates are amongst the most interesting in my feed, too.)

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Late Breaking Christmas Eve Update: I had forgotten about this oh-so-California number from my friend and former bass teacher Alexis, but must include it!

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Scott reminded me to include this one, Khruangbin’s version of the Charlie Brown Christmas / Vince Guaraldi classic:

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I did NOT leave the best for last. I apologize, this one’s pretty bad, from Lawrence Arabia, who seems to hold weirdly mythical status in NZ. I’m fascinated by his stage presence so I like to go to his performances; we’ve also seen him (plus entourage) in the audience at other people’s shows. (Aside: he did a really interesting crowdfunding project in 2018, which of course I appreciated!)

He wrote of this:

It’s a jaunty song I wrote, inspired by a friend’s Christmas Eve one night stand. It’s got at least one appalling double entendre in it.

Merry Christmas!

If your heart is breaking, I hope it’s breaking OPEN

A friend-of-a-friend sent this to a friend of mine (Ashley!), who sent this to me, and now I send it to you, and maybe you’ll send it on again, and we’ll all Keep Going:

What a beautiful example of Lovingkindness, and Compassion, and Mudita, aka JOY!

And of transferring merits, don’t they show so vulnerably how one’s own practice can become a beacon and an inspiration and an invitation to open to your own experience, and that of others?! Check out how many people wrote in the comments that watching this video is what finally allowed them to cry.

May I somehow manage to cultivate a bit of the beautiful, generous, connected energy they share, especially in the section from 1:37 – 2:30. And her eyes-closed, centering BREATH at 1:53! _/|\_

I hope my rage, I pray that my rage is a fire
That clears my mind out
And makes me ready to listen
I pray my pain is a river
That flows to the ocean
That connects my pain to yours
And I pray, I pray my happiness is like pollen
That flies to you and pollinates your joy
Oh boy!
Oh boy, is that possible?!
I don’t know, I don’t know
We are making this up as we go
We have to make it up as we go

On letting go of rules: words of wisdom from Devi Daly

Yin yoga is like the punk rock of yoga; it’s the yoga where we don’t like rules very much.

Thus spoke Devi Daly in the middle of Dragon pose during her live-streamed Yin yoga class this morning.

She went on to explain that there is a lot of physical variation from person to person; we don’t all have the same bone structures, the same hip joints, the same flexibility, etc. So when it comes to yoga postures,

We really need to have a lot of variation, a lot of permission, and a lot of willingness to break the rules. For those of us who have done a lot of other kinds of yoga that have strict rules we need to let go of some of these alignment dogmas that we’ve learned in order to honor our bodies properly.

I’d add that for those of us who have done a lot of ANYTHING that involves strict rules or even unspoken or not-so-strict codes of conduct — it pays to at least question what we’ve learned in order to honor ourselves properly. Because we’re all different, in terms of values, motivations, and inclinations. Thanks for reminding me of this, Devi, I really needed that this morning ❤

If you’re looking for some excellent online yoga classes, taught by someone who’s really on it as far as the technology goes, do check out her awesome yoga channel and consider subscribing!

Lauren Ruth Ward channels some serious Vajrapani energy

I’ve been studying up on Vajrapani, wielder of the thunderbolt, protector from fear of unknown places. He’s got a wrathful side. Look at his mudra! \m/ He’s ready to burn it all down; all the delusion and hatred, that is.

Lauren Ruth Ward channels this energy perfectly in this Jam in the Van performance:

Even the lyrics are spot on, complete with poison, pride, and a fight to lead with one’s heart. Om Vajrapani Hum!

Valhalla by Lauren Ruth Ward

You’ve got beauty coming out your ears
Aw, must make it hard for you to hear
Give me the wheel
And I will take you off course
I’ll put your money on the speckled horse
I’ll put your money on the speckled horse

Communication is the only ointment
(But) You give me poison
You give me poison

They’ll memorize my name on the list
At the door at Valhalla
I’ll tell them how I died
In the battle of Madonna
Some will scratch their balls
And wonder how I conquered
Befriend the male gaze
Make my own money
Forming my own phase

I ate shit on the walk of fame
Yeah, I tripped looking down looking for my name
I saw the L saw the A saw the U
Saw the aRe you gonna gonna make it thru?
You can’t take tomorrow
Won’t fake today
When are you going to make
A name?

They’ll memorize my name on the list
At the door at Valhalla
I’ll tell them how I died
In the battle of Madonna
Some will scratch their balls
And wonder how I conquered
Befriend the male gaze
Make my own money
Forming my own phase

It’s a sleepy time
For the ones who choose their hearts
One of a kind, bedroom eyed
Pair of dice
Take my hand you will understand
My side
Be my friend
Woman or man
We will fight

They’ll memorize my name on the list
At the door at Valhalla I’ll tell them how I died
In the battle of Madonna
Some will scratch their balls
And wonder how I conquered
Befriend the male gaze
Make my own money
Forming my own phase

How did she do it?
How did she do it?
How did she do it?
They all will ask