zeborah: Zebra with stripes shaking (earthquake)
(This is in Wellington this time, I didn't feel a thing.)

Masonry fell, people started panic buying at supermarkets and one person was knocked out by a falling TV in the 20-second quake that was followed by a flurry of aftershocks.
(Source)

For background, New Zealand is a series of seismic faults with a bunch of volcanic cherries on top. So yeah, technically this one was 'bigger than February' as another headline puts it, but in a different situation so no-one was killed and damage seems relatively minimal - nuisance value. I mean, absolutely all sympathy/empathy during the aftershocks and confusion for friends and family and others there, especially those who left Christchurch, but at least it relieves my own reflexive anxiety.
zeborah: Zebra looking at its rainbow reflection (rainbow)
New Zealand just passed the third and final reading of our marriage equality bill 77-44.

(I was listening by radio after, having failing to get reception for Parliament TV and failing to get sufficient bandwidth for the internet livestream, I put out a plaintive tweet asking about livestreaming audio and someone pointed me to 882AM. Oh yeah, that dusty old machine.)

After the Speaker's announcement of the result and before the tumultuous applause, a waiata was sung and harmonised upon.

This is itself probably needs explaining. Waiata are traditionally sung (among other occasions) in support of a speech. As a non-Māori New Zealander I've most often witnessed/participated when this has happened during a traditional welcoming ceremony or opening ceremony; but also after some keynotes at New Zealand library conferences; or in support of family/friends at graduation. So for this to happen was very appropriate.

But the particular waiata chosen is what really needs translation. It was Pokarekare Ana which is a song extremely widely known in New Zealand, you may well even have heard it overseas, so it might just seem a bit twee if you don't know anything about it. And it's about a famous heterosexual love story, so if you know a little bit about it you might think that in this context, um, what?

But the reason this song was perfect for the occasion was because earlier in the evening, speaking in support of the bill, Te Ururoa Flavell referred to another part of this story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai - to the part where after Tutanekai married Hinemoa, his hoa takatāpui Tiki grieved for losing him. Te Ururoa pointed out that people complaining about this bill seeking to "redefine marriage" need to be aware that, in New Zealand, marriage was redefined way back in the 19th century by colonialism.

A lot of people, throughout the evening, pointed out that there's still a lot of work to do for justice and equality. But this was a great step, in so many ways.

[For reference, words I had to redact from this post given I'm attempting to translate here: Pākehā; kōrero; pōwhiri; marae; tautoko; Aotearoa; ahakoa he iti he pounamu.]
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (New Zealand zebra)
Late to the party I think, but:


This may have made me even more teary than the descant to the "Men of every" verse does.

(I've been browsing links. About NZSL is one of the key ones, and the Online Dictionary of NZSL and online exercises for students studying NZSL which I can do a *bit* of guessing at for some of lesson one, based on mimesis (I think that's the word I want?), context, lipreading, and a slow memory of fingerspelling. Also in the second lesson I think I recognise the words for boy and girl but that's about it. --Oh, the 'g' would be the grand-(mother/father) prefix. --I took an NZSL course about ten years ago and have forgotten most of it since.)
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (read)
Ripples on the Lake by Dawn Rotarangi (Pākehā, though she's married to a Māori guy)
Older-young adult fantasy (marketed as "paranormal adventure").

The point of view characters are Pākehā (white New Zealanders): Saffron, eldest of five siblings, who's drawn into events by trying to protect her youngest brother from the results of stealing some tapu (sort of sacred/taboo - anyway, dangerous) coins; and Nick, a press photographer with a penchant for taking photos of anything that's bleeding. With her whole family at risk, Saffron has to put things right with some help from local Māori and eventually Nick.

(The story subverts the "Magical Negro" trope in that the Māori helping her aren't so much taking a backseat to the white heroine because she's the heroine, but rather because they're way too smart to mess with these things if they don't have to. In some cases they're explicitly using her so they can keep a distance.)

I like the British superstition as a backdrop to what the Pākehā characters scorn as Māori 'superstition'. It's part of what gets Saffron involved (her father inculcated all his kids with a strong sense that it's a good idea to avoid cracks in the pavement, the number 13, black cats, etc, just in case, so she plays along with the whole tapu thing long enough to find out that yeah, this stuff's real) and thematically it makes a nice compare-and-contrast.

Trigger warnings: (skip) Refers to suicide of Saffron's father. Contains graphic descriptions of two of her siblings' deaths and of a massacre of women and babies.

Cut for my irritable judgement of some of the male characters, involving MANY spoilers )

Beak of the Moon by Philip Temple
Young adult; Watership Down with kea; myxomatosis is replaced with fire and sheep.

I read it mostly because I'm researching kea, in aid of hopefully writing a short story about them. It was okay I guess. Makes an interesting compare-and-contrast with Sil: A Novel by Jill Harris which is the same thing but with tui and a different plot - Sil is about a singing contest and the threat of magpies rather than the whole "Must leave dictatorial home to establish a new utopian colony. Oh noes, we forgot the females!" thing. In fact both Sil and Beak of the Moon have scenes where Our Heroes attempt to fly over a large body of water (Sil is trying to flee to an island in his grief at losing the singing contest; Strongbeak of Beak of the Moon hasn't quite figured out that Australia is more than 16km away from New Zealand) with disastrous results.

In terms of anthropomorphisation, Watership Down does the least and Beak of the Moon is pretty close to that (particularly because if you know anything about kea you'll be ready to believe pretty much anything about them); Sil has more and I particularly go squinty-eyed at the tui plot to imitate magpies in order to annoy the humans enough that the humans will shoot all the magpies. But as books for that age groups go, it was a book for that age group.

The compare and contrast of Beak of the Moon with Watership Down is a bit more interesting but also makes its failings the more obvious. The first two thirds of the novel follow the Watership Down plot pretty closely, though it's slower to get started, there's more infighting among our intrepid adventurers, and in the last third they come back home and deal with the problems there; and then they establish their colony in the last chapter. I did like that it was more rooted in the home and that the book considered it important to solve the problems there, but... Strongbeak's wavering between determination-bordering-on-recklessness and Hamlet-like indecision made it all drag a bit.

Kea mythology isn't quite as fun-filled as rabbit mythology, though it's competent and plausible.

But what really irritated me were:
  1. In chapter one, Our Heroes meet humans for the first time. Humans who wear different coloured hats, and ride horses, and leave out bread for them to eat (and later in the book start fires and bring sheep and shoot the kea with guns). And kea have never before even heard of humans. Apparently Māori don't exist in this New Zealand. I... I guess that could be why the kea meet moa on their journeys? In short: Oh Philip Temple no.
  2. He's clearly done some research on kea, but has equally clearly failed to do research on their history. Part of the reason I read the book was that I am doing research on their history. I didn't find it too hard at all to discover that the early history of kea/human relations goes like this:
    • Māori and kea know about each other. Māori know that kea come further down the mountains in colder winters. There's a reference to some Māori training them as pets.
    • Pākehā naturalists arrive, observe and describe kea. (1856 at the latest.) There's more interaction over the next few years. A topographer knocks them down with stones for food.
    • Pākehā drive sheep into the areas where kea are spending cold winters. Kea investigate the shepherds' huts and discover the joys of pecking at sheep skins and other remains of humans butchering sheep. Some get captured (most promptly escape).
    • Kea discover they can get awesome tasty food from sheep killed in accidents.
    • Kea discover that you don't even need to wait for the sheep to be dead.
    • Pākehā think for months (if not years; I'm not sure if I've seen an exact chronology of the early years) that the resultant wounds are some new kind of sheep disease, until one shepherd in 1871 notices what's actually going on (almost half-way down the page).
    • At some point kea start outright killing the sheep (rather than nomming on them alive and the sheep sometimes dying later of their wounds) but this mightn't be until the 1880s.
    • From 1878 on, Pākehā work out new and increasingly exciting ways of slaughtering the kea to protect their sheep. (I concede there was probably some of this going on from 1871 on smaller scales.) By 1883 beaks are taken as trophies as the government pays a few shillings a beak.
    Temple's history, by contrast, appears to be:
    • There are no Māori.
    • There are no naturalists.
    • In the space of a single year, Pākehā meet kea for the first time ever, set fire to the mountain, and bring sheep (which the kea call "pinkfaces"! Philip Temple, have you ever seen a sheep? if there's any pink quality it's not exactly the first impression a kea would have) to feed on the new growth; in the same year the rest of the book takes place and then, in desperation, a kea discovers a nommy sheep carcass and within a week some more kea learn to kill them; next day the humans shoot at and kill several of the kea, after which the story would have us believe all the kea swear off meat forever.
So that was kind of irritating for me.

(Buller wrote a decent overview of what Pākehā knew about kea by the late 19th century. I can give references to anything not mentioned there.)
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (read)
Erewhon, or, Over the Range (1872) by Samuel Butler

Butler wrote part of the premise of Erewhon in 1863 as a letter to the editor of the Press, "Darwin Among the Machines".

Erewhon itself isn't much more plotful. It's the traditional storyline: "Man travels to Strange Lands; man infodumps for a couple of dozen chapters about Strange Lands, incidentally meeting a girl; man escapes with girl in hot air balloon."

As Anno Domini 2000 had three basic premises, so had Erewhon three topics for satire, except Butler was less helpful than Vogel so I've had to extrude them myself. Near as I can tell, they are:
  1. disease vs bad behaviour: in Erewhon disease is punishable by law and bad behaviour treated and cured -- and the system actually seems almost as workable as our own
  2. religion: Butler actually satirises this from a number of directions. One is treating it like a banking system which everyone claims to value while in practice only truly valuing the money from a supposedly inferior banking system. Another was describing their beliefs in pre-existence as a satire on the afterlife and (in its consequences) on baptism. Thirdly was setting up a pantheon of virtues (justice, hope, etc) and principles (two things can't be in the same place at once; thus the gods get angry if a stone and a head try to inhabit the same space at the same time, and may even strike dead the head in question) and then fourthly he added another religion, Ydgrunism, with a goddess who is what people really believe in, but to be honest at this point I totally lost track of what the hell he was on about.
  3. the possibility of machines developing consciousness (including paragraphs copied from his 1963 letter to the editor). I'm not sure if he had a point here other than being clever (not that I object to being clever), because he's written somewhere that he wasn't attempting to satirise Darwinism. But at the same time he doesn't seem to have any real fear of machines beyond the thought experiment. He also proposes, briefly, an alternative view that machines are an evolution of humanity - we're developing limbs that we can pick up and put down at will, so to speak - but then he moves on quickly to describe the Erewhonians' decision to make away with all machines entirely.
There's also some miscellaneous thoughts on vegetarianism (which he reducts ad absurdum) and education (including classical languages, which I'm getting the idea were unpopular among forward-thinking men of the late 19th century) and other bits and pieces; these are less well integrated into the story, such as it is.

It's probable that the narrator-protag's constant desire to convert the Erewhonians to C of E is a satire itself, especially as it culminates in the final pages; only the difference of 140 years makes me unsure of the precise rhetorical context he was operating in.

May appeal to those who thought Gulliver's Travels had too much adventure and not enough infodumping.

(HTML and ePub versions available at NZETC.)
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (read)
Anno Domini 2000; or, Women's Destiny (1889) by Sir Julius Vogel

Vogel bases this utopia on three principles, which he helpfully lays out in the epilogue:
  1. there's no reason women can't do everything men can [except for a telling blind spot he has regarding participation in and leading of the armed forces];
  2. there's no reason the various British colonies shouldn't form a British empire;
  3. there's no reason we shouldn't eliminate poverty [on the grounds that a) it's easy enough to give everyone basic sustenance and lodging, and b) this won't eliminate ambition but rather stoke it because ambition increases the higher up the foodchain you get, and the poorest people are actually too poor to have energy for ambition].
Having fixed all these things, the various colonies force Britain to give Ireland the same self-determination they have, people stop learning Latin and Greek and with the time no longer thus wasted advance the sciences instead, and the House of Lords becomes ashamed of holding their position due only to their birth so dissolves itself.

The plot hinges on the remaining inequality of sexes - that is, the fact that the emperor's heir defaults to his male before his female progeny. Two reasons oppose any change to this: a) it would mean changing the Constitution, and this seems a dangerous precedent; and b) the heir has to be ready to lead the armed forces so obviously it can't be a woman. [You see what I mean about this being a blind spot. It never once occurs to Vogel that a woman could actually lead the armed forces.]

Our Heroine has purple eyes, is beautiful and intelligent and an up-and-coming 23-year-old politician, and everybody loves her. Unfortunately "everybody" includes "Nice Guy" Reginald who's sure she'll eventually love him back if he stalks, slanders, commits treason, and kidnaps her enough. Spoilers: (skip) She thwarts the treason, inherits a stunningly successful gold-mining operation, becomes universally adored, and (after being made a countess and then the Duchess of New Zealand) marries into the position of Empress. Because she's just that awesome.

Oh, and there's artificial magnetism, self-acting elevators, silent telegraphs, sustainable energy, and a potted history of the development of the aircruiser. When Vogel writes, "Strange to say, the inventor or discoverer [of the final stage of the aircruiser] was a young Jewish woman not yet thirty years of age", the "strange" part is almost certainly her youth; most of the awesome scientists mentioned in the book are female, and the awesomest guy is Jewish.

While pro-Irish and pro-Jewish (ah! just found he was Jewish himself), he's pretty silent on non-white folk. The Jewish guy was possibly partly "Asiatic" or possibly that was just a synonym for Jewish; the description was confusing. A Lord and Lady Taieri are mentioned, but I'm not sure whether they're Māori or just named for the gorge (cf a "Lady Cairo") as they get no description at all. And the inhabitants of Antarctica are, alas, described as "docile, peaceful, intelligent" and "unsophisticated" "Antarctic Esquimaux", related to the Māori and assimilated to the climate with "a thick growth of short curly hair" covering both faces and bodies.

But we must not forget Antarctica itself! "A large island, easily accessible, which received the name of Antarctica, was discovered within ten degrees of the Pole, stretching towards it, so that its southern point was not more than ten miles from the southern apex of the world. From causes satisfactorily explained by scientists, the temperature within a hundred-mile circle of the Pole was comparatively mild. There was no wind; and although the cold was severe, it was bearable, and in comparison with the near northern latitudes it was pleasant." Also, they dig up bountiful supplies of ivory there.

Read more on Sir Julius (contains spoilers, not all of which are accurate) and the novel itself. (ETA: Wrong link; try this one instead - on the right nav bar it lists various formats.)

Update the dialogue (keep the Victorian costumes) and I reckon this would make an awesome movie.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Picture me arriving, turning on the lights, and wondering for several seconds, where the cat is. Picture a tremendous clatter at the cat flap. Then picture the cat's dismay when I have to go out ten minutes later to get groceries. I could hear her piteous mew from halfway down the road. Later on she lay on my lap, occasionally looking up to make sure it was actually me, and when I went to bed she came and touched my nose, then slept practically on top of me.

So! The thing to remember is that New Zealand is, if small, nevertheless long. So our itinerary was:

Oh yes, I have photos here; SNIP! )
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Chicken soup is awesomesauce. It's easy to make from a can, it's full of protein-y goodness, and it makes that really stale bread edible again.

Funny story! When I was sick once in Korea I thought I'd order chicken soup. But when it arrived it turned out to be a chicken. In soup. It was surprisingly difficult to eat with chopsticks, and I hadn't even expected it to be that easy.

After that whenever I was sick I'd order bean paste soup instead.

---

Someone wrote: "When I think of Wild Wild West, I'll always remember the moment when Branaugh's 'evil plan' was revealed - part of it involved returning California and Texas to Mexican control. Myself and 3/4 of the audience cheered."

And I immediately thought, what would happen if, when the Evil Overperson revealed their dastardly plan, Our Protagonist said, "...Your ideas intrigue me and I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter"?

Awesomesauce, that's what!

---

After my comment to chuk_g, I got to thinking about all the other ways New Zealand is totally cooler than anywhere else in the world, and I decided a list was called for!

Top reasons why New Zealand is more awesome than Your Country

1. As I was saying, we bring our DIY attitude to interspecies biological warfare.

2. We can spot a capital "Z" on a page faster than anyone else in the world.

3. Our prime ministers guest star on the national soap opera.

4. We got new copyright legislation changed because of our online protest.

5. We contain Ancient Greece, Middle Earth, and Narnia. Trufax: when I was a kid, me and my family orienteered where the Pevensies fought the White Witch.

6. We invented jet boats, bungy jumping, zorbing, and even weirder extreme sports.

7. The populace regularly infiltrates our secret spy base.

8. Pineapple lumps.

9. Native birds attack invaders such as sheep, cars, and the Scottish.

Hmm, my fever seems to have fizzled out. I'll continue the list if and when it returns.

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