February 2009


After a tweet from Ms Sue Tyler that daddy-blogging is all the rage now, and seen as it consumes all the brainpower not devoted to keeping myself out of trouble at work, I thought I would relent. After all, Sue almost single-handedly revived the Wellington craft market scene, and is an early-adopter in many respects.

But, we’ll steer this conversation away from anything resembling cutesy-pie. No, “Chef Du Plunge” learned to say “WTF?” round here…

I was privvy to a conversation the other day between some women who were discussing children, and it turned towards the amount of time they’ve spent away from their newborns. Well… actually… I was eavesdropping, but it was in a good cause, I promise. One woman stated that she regularly leaves the infant with her partner and heads out of the house, thereby allowing herself to spend time with friends, clear her head, get a little exercise, etc. Second Chef enjoys this too, and I actively encourage it. Another woman stated that she had not spent more than three hours away from her child in 8 months, and was almost appalled at the first woman for spending time away.

Now, ignoring that I’m simplifying this conversation, most of which was between people I didn’t even know, the near-accusation of neglect on the part of the mother I can only describe as ‘clingy’ was pretty surprising to me. CDP and I have “father-son” day on Sunday, and it makes me appreciate his yelling all the more! At least I’ve learned to distinguish ‘hungry’ from ‘tired’, and get to teach him things his mother doesn’t.

As an aside, it is amazing how quickly we’ve fallen into Second Chef nurturing him, and me coaching and encouraging him. Last Sunday’s accomplishment was ‘reaching for things’. Not hugely successful just yet, but we’re getting there. I reckon one more week and he might actually realise it’s his hand holding that shiny rattly thing.

Back to the conversation. It soon emerged that the 3-hour woman couldn’t believe the get-out-for-a-coffee/cake woman didn’t worry that her partner wouldn’t hurt their child. I was gobsmacked. I know for certain that Second Chef doesn’t worry about me in the slightest, so it was quite revealing that 3-hour woman was in this space. I surely she could leave the child with someone else, but chances are that she would worry about them too?

I thought about this a lot over the next few weeks, and tried to observe families around the city, which is one benefit of living close to sooo many people. In conjunction with consideration I’ve given to this in the past, including fatherhood role models I’ve copied, what I concluded is that men are possibly and sometimes excluded from active parenting because of kind of anxiety by mothers. The depth of this exclusion varies, but ownership of a baby is frequently afforded to the mother, and the father is relegated to a safe support role with things like ‘fetching’. In part this is because men haven’t been given models of active fathering, but sometimes this is because the mother has been given a boundary-oriented, passive, and “protective” model for fathering (which again speaks to the capacity for violence).

Second Chef was educated for a time in Hong Kong, and before we had CDP she’d often comment about how you can often see Asian men out with their children, and how it was different to the traditional New Zealand pattern of woman and child, maybe Dad tagging along. I watched for this, and observed it as well. It is not always the case, but is frequently true.

What I’d be interested in knowing is the extent to which this is tied to the fear of male violence? I is true that men are often considered a danger to children, in many ways, and for that reason there is an uneven undercurrent of distrust.  A friend commented on this after his divorce. While married he was just Dad, but afterwards he was aware of people paying a little more attention to his relationship with his daughters. Almost overnight he became a potential threat.

It worries me that I hear this type of concern. A society where men are engaged with their children, and considered safe, is healthy for families and fathers. One where men are excluded, and where their ability to own part of their child’s development is curtailed is one in which children can start of become “other”.

And so what’s the way round this? I dunno. I’m still thinking that my thoughts are muddled on this. What I do know is that taking an active role in the boys’ life is an inherent good, and the least I can do is encourage other fathers to do the same. Even though it’s miserable when the guys are out on a stag night and you’re at home helping take care of a sick wee tacker.

Better than the alternative though aeh? Isolation.

As part of the ongoing investigation of my anatomy, and no, that’s not as fun as it sounds, I starved myself yesterday in order to prepare myself for an X-ray of my gut today.

So all I got to eat was blinking chicken broth for lunch and tea. Along with a dry biscuit and lots of fresh water. Awesome… Then to top that off I get to take three pills that have left me at home with “digestional urgency”.

In the good news stakes I got to try out the new base hospital. It’s very flash, and the staff are very nice. They fed me some of a cup of barium solution, which weighted about 1kg in a cup, and then lay me on a big table. The X-ray was “real-time”, meaning they lay me down while they stood in lead suits next to me, looking at snapshots of my puku. None of this running backwards and forwards from a lead-lined room in today’s modern hospitals, no surree bob.

And it turns out that my stomach is on the opposite side! Yay! Also the first part of my intestine, called the duodenum apparently, is all over the shop and not sitting nicely the way it’s supposed to. Apparently neither of things is “bad” per se. The main import is that I can now go to a doctor with better information. You know, so that they don’t diagnose a lower abdominal pain as “constipation”, when it’s actually where my appendix is…

The next thing to find out is whether this contributes to the diagnosis of what’s effected my heart. And, ask a nice Dr. to put Chef Du Plunge on the list to get a similar scan. In childhood these attributes are dangerous, not so much in adulthood.

It appears that’s all she wrote. Now to get my cardiologist interested in doing a little reading, and actually diagnose something, instead of writing numerous prescriptions…

I’ve been wanting to review this one for a while, but have been put off by the assorted ra-ra cheerleading that’s been happening on the radio. In case you’re the only person in New Zealand who hasn’t heard of the album, it’s a collaboration between a number of notable Wellington musicians, and well worth the cover price.

As I say, I’ve been wanting to talk about it, and have only been finally prompted to because the first song on the album, Hey You (sung by Jess Chambers) happens to be Chef Du Plunge’s favourite song. I pop him up in his wee bouncinette, possibly the best invention in child-care, ever, and sing along flat and out of key. CDP obliges by smiling and saying “aaa-gooo” a lot, with the occasional squeal. And only to this song, which is nice.

The Woolshed Sessions has been on high rotation here at the Dart launching pad since before Christmas, and if I had to review it in only two words? Those words would be ‘perfect diction”. Most of the singers, excepting Age Pryor and his distinctive lisp, seem to have been schooled far, far from dirty, dirty rock and roll, and pronounce all their words very carefully. Problematically, once I realised this I listened to the album just to try hearing someone use bad grammar… But they seem not to, even when one would normally slip a word in to balance out an otherwise questionable rhyme.

This non-criticism aside, the album has the feel of all great retreat albums, such as Rumours (but without the infighting and angst), where the album itself is insular and unpacked out of the feel of the retreat itself. You can feel how the writers have explored their own backgrounds, concerns, and roots to pull together songs that reflect not only the place they’ve recorded, a woolshed converted to bach in Golden Bay, but the effects of that place on their understanding of themselves.

The result is a set of extremely poignant songs huddled among ideas seemingly brought out of Wellington and aired. Consequently you have what I’m assuming is such a song in the form of Waterfall adjacent to Stringing Me Along, the former of which has the feel of the country about it, while the latter is what I can only describe as ‘Parisian’ (actually a few of the songs have that feel, kind of ‘jaunty’).

In a way, the album very much reveals an ethos you can only describe as hippy, examples being Sun Song and I’d Take You With Me with a blend of alt.country and bluegrass mixed in with more exotic noises. Such as the nose flutes, which you really should listen for.

(Picture lifted of Age Pryor‘s flickr stream)

Well, for your Grandad it began in the Great Depression. He was born in the 1920s, and when the Depression rolled around he was about the age you start getting messages about leaving school. Thing was though, he was also too young to leave home. So, he ended up living under the sway of your great-Grandad for a bit longer.

Sway? Well, your great-Grandad was a bit on the authoritarian side.

I’m not sure why. Most would say because he was only a little man. Had that chip on his shoulder some little men get, you know.

Actually, here’s a story. We were at the table visiting them one day. They had these long bench seats they’d gotten during the Depression when they’d taken in a lot of boarders to made ends meet, tough times and all. So your great-Grandad arcs up about something and he’s getting pretty loud. He’s standing and yelling and slapping the table and carrying on, and your great-Grandma, a saint of  a woman, just ups from her seat, walks around the table, seizes a HUGE pair of dress-making scissors, grabs his braces in one hand and cuts them through with the other. Should have seen the look on the old boy’s face as his trousers fell to the ground. That story got told for years.

Anyhow, your Grandad and your great-Grandad didn’t get on so well. Who knows why, right? But we think part of the reason might have been the harsh treatment the little man doled out. When your Grandad was just what we’d think of as a child these days they took in all these boarders, and needed space in the house. So they moved your Grandad out to sleep on the porch of the house. I think they might have put up canvas or something, but there the little guy is, 8 or 10 or something, and he’s sleeping in a tent, during the Depression!

This is Te Aroha, a small town, and a there’s a lot of transients around. The boy must have been scared out of his wits!

He says he took to the streets not long after. Started going to pool halls, pubs. Light places, you know. And as soon as he could then he left his old man and New Zealand by forging his parent’s authority and going to the Second World War at the age of 17.

Pretty crazy stuff. All that time out in the night means he ends up being a pretty reliable boxer, and can play pool like no-one you’ve ever seen, right? Can even make a few bob off the games. Fit too. Plays football, and might have been a champion cyclist and represented New Zealand had things been different.

Different how? Well, Hiroshima boy. Hiroshima, he cleaned it up. Changed his life.

F,FLP

UPDATE! It turns out that this wasn’t a scam. We got the satchel.

Downside? It’s crap.

*     *     *

So, here’s what is possibly the worst scam I’ve ever seen.

Back in November 2008 Second Chef and I were walking through Manners Mall and we spot a great big sandwich board on a trailer being drawn on by Otis Frizzell and some other dude. It’s much the same as you see in this YouTube. There’s some music, and the geezers are drawing a great big picture much the same way as in this Nokia advert.

Makes sense right? Big Nokia promotion, so we get some locals to draw a big picture just like in the ad. Sweet as.

Next to the canvas are a bunch of minions in Nokia t-shirts wandering about handing out entry forms, and you can win a satchel made from the Otis drawing. Even better! Second Chef and I get entry forms, enter, and wait.

Then, a few weeks later, Second Chef gets a call stating that she has won a bag! Much jubilation! and I spend three or four weeks trying to convince her that she doesn’t need the bag, and should let me keep it. As you’d expect.

But… the satchel never turns up.

Then last week we try phoning up Vodafone and asking, WTF? This was of course our first mistake. Because while we both thought Vodafone were the ones making false promises to us, this was not the case. Unless anyone else out there remembers this promotion, and whether Vodafone were involved. If they weren’t, my apologies to the highly amicable Paul Brislen over at Vodafone, who I politely hassled…

The next step is phoning Nokia, but they disavow all knowledge! Even though we sent them the YouTuve with their logo all over it. So… we ask ourselves, what in the hell is going on?

A quick interweb search reveals only this social networking site, where some people state they have also been contacted about the satchels, but none have shown up.

All very mysterious, right?

Naturally my paranoid mind jumps to SCAM! But they didn’t actually get us to part with any money, nor get us to make any promises to transfer money via Western Union. All they got from us was some contact details. Sure, these can be sold to some spammers, but the call to Second Chef’s mobile would have made that less than cost effective immediately.

So what did they actually get? Did the satchels never get made? Did the promotion “not go smoothly” for some reason?

Just plain weird really. If anyone has any information, we love to hear about it. And if you know Otis, say, WTF?!

As part of my commitment to not sharing online too much of Chef Du Plunge’s short life (I figure he can make that choice himself in years to come, I have a suspicion that the current generation of “over-sharers” will find their enthusiasm… fraught… in years to come), I sent a copy of a short video of him “chatting” to me to a friend. She replied, flatteringly, that he was “beautiful, clearly advanced, and gifted”. My reply was, “but he’s only allowed to be one… which should be chose?”

While appearing facetious, the question is actually very serious.

Something great about international society is that you can succeed using only one of these attributes. Celebrity is frequently based on only slightly more than beauty, for example. In the modern world of careful media management we find beautiful people of barely recognisable talents making their way to fame and fortune with nary a sideways glance at the bucktoothed genii who may surround them, and by doing so will few raise to them a less-than perfectly formed eyebrow.

So which should he chose (were he old enough to actually make a choice, that is)?

My own preference is to not ever have to sacrifice one of these such things. Instead, I’ve worked hard to be all things to all men. Not in a superficial manner, but in a manner that both puts others at ease, and allows me to easily adapt to both others’ needs and their mores. And in a career of me that has spanned many different occupations, it’s been a trait that has held me in good stead.

But there is nothing to say that Chef Du Plunge will ever have to be a Jack of All Trades. In the future world, the one the other side of the nascent financial reckoning (like the high times of the 1980s, that lending-fuelled party was never going to last), it may well be that making a choice of one of these things could suffice?

So should he chose ‘gifted’? Would intelligence be enough to get you by in the coming future, with it’s technology, technologic society; it’s rapidly adaptive pace of life?

I’m not sure that it would. Personally my IQ usually rates just the high side of normal in any test I might be presented. Genious I am not, nor gifted. What I am is an extremely fast learner. Sometimes. Sometimes not. Languages (and things like names) being a pertinent example. But learning fast, and being highly amenable to change, is what has got me by. I have frequently been surrounded by people I consider far more intelligent than myself, and not always while feeling completely comfortable (smart people intimidate me).

And that is the nature of the, dare I say it, sibyllene complement paid to Chef Du Plunge. Which should he chose? Because any one of these things might be enough to limit him in some way, while propelling him in others.

A fascinating and compelling problem.

OK, so you have all the elements. The first hundred colonists being sent to Mars. A planet dripping with resources for a hungry Earth, and ‘red’ environmentalists hanging on at all costs. A love-triangle between the most powerful three, and a murder thrown in for good measure. You’d think this would be the basis for a good novel right?

Nope.

Boring, beyond, belief.

I gave up and left this slow slow snail of a story well behind me. I mean, they even had something like freakin Ninja’s and this was *still* boring, like a long slow pan of the most gorgeous landscape you can imagine. But again, and again, and again. A visual feast, but nothing much else doing.

Robinson has written two sequels to Red Mars, and you can bet your patooty I will not be rushing out to the library to find them.

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