When I first moved to Wellington in 2007 I lived in an area called Kelburn. It's an upmarket suburb where people have status dogs and buy houses they can't afford so they begrudgingly rent out spare rooms to post-grads and young professionals.
On my walking route to University each day, I passed a twenty foot tall concrete retaining wall on which someone had spray painted in green:
"You adore me. Run come save me."
I hope that message is still there.* I have no idea who wrote it, how long it has been there or who it was meant for. To some extent, who it was meant for is irrelevant because to all that noticed it, it became theirs.
It became mine.
I always wondered why Wellington City Council didn't make an effort to get rid of it. Technically it was graffiti and in a suburb like Kelburn, you'd expect it to be dealt with rather swiftly. But it was allowed to stay, and to the best of my knowledge it's still there.
It got me thinking about the effect words have when they're decontextulised in unexpected locations. "You adore me. Run come save me" became like a teaser from a story I wanted to know the end of - and the beginning - and the difficult second act - and what my role was in it.
As a writer myself, I recently began thinking about ways I could provoke thought in strangers via decontextulised messages. So I decided to start leaving messages (on paper is the rule - but any type of paper) in random places and it turns out travelling provides many opportunities to do this e.g.
I call them (in honour of my recent visit to Tokyo) Shinobi* Memos. Here are some examples:
1. Shinobi Memo on the plane. Write on the barf bag and bookmark it in the in-flight magazine or behind the tray table. I left the following paraphrase on a barf bag bookmarked in the in-flight magazine. It is from the film 'Before Sunrise':
"You know what this makes me think of? All those people you briefly intersect with, maybe make eye contact with and then pass by. Now it's like... no matter what happens, we have met."
2. Toilet Roll Gag - I did this at my hostel.
3. Napkin Memo - Don't be afraid to be silly. I left 'Don't cry for me Argentinaaaah!' at Shakey's Diner in Harajuku.
4. Bunk Bed Slats - I left this note in my bunkbed at a hostel in Tokyo.
Want to leave your own Shinobi Memo?
> Take a book from the book-swap shelf in a hostel and write a message in pencil in the margin
> Take a book in your local library and tuck in a piece of paper.
> Write on the next leaf of toilet paper in a public toilet.
> In hotels, leave a few words on their feedback pad (but don't give them "feedback")
> Take a serviette from the pile in a cafe, put down your thoughts then replace it, hidden in the middle.
> Write on the barf-bag in an aeroplane.
> If you're in a bunk-bed hostel, leave a message tucked into the slats.
Any other ideas? Comment on this blog.
And if you take a photo, show me!
Leave the message in a place where the cleaning staff are unlikely to find it.
Don't get caught. Don't let people see you leaving it. Anonymity is key.
Why do this?
'Why' anything. But I suppose:
Maybe because it might break the monotony of routine in someone's day.
Maybe because by fluke it might be the words someone needs to hear.
Maybe because it will be a good story to tell their friends and family.
Maybe because it might make them smile or laugh.
Maybe because it might make someone feel privy to a secret.
Maybe because it might make them feel special.
Maybe because it might make someone stop for a second.
Maybe because it might remind them they're not the first person to have slept in that hotel room or to have pulled sheets from that toilet roll dispenser.
Maybe because it might remind them they're not alone.
*If anyone has a photo of "You adore me. Run come save me." in Kelburn, Wellington, please e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll update this blog (with you as the photo credit).
*A ninja (忍者)/shinobi (忍び)
Update: We checked Google Maps streetview and the phrase 'You adore me. Run come save me.' , is no longer there. Sad. Thanks for the heads-up though Catherine!
In an earlier blog post I advocated 1960's Stax Record classic: "Hold on, I'm Comin' " as the theme tune for the sun coming up.
The lyrics work. In the context of the sunrise it's a bit like: "Everyone calm the f**k down, I've got this. Hold on, I'm comin.'" In case you were worried tomorrow wasn't coming, the sweet sounds of soul duo Sam & Dave will serenade you daily with the promise that it is.
But forget the sunrise for a moment.
It's not what this song is about. Dig a little deeper and you find out it was inspired by songwriter/producer David Porter's trip to the toilet to relieve himself after drinking copious amounts of coffee and suffering through an unproductive day of future hit making with songwriting partner Isaac Hayes.
As the story goes, Hayes yelled at David to hurry up and finish peeing so they could get back to work and actually write something to which Porter replied: "Hold on man, I'm coming." As soon as the words were out of his mouth Porter knew they'd be a killer name for a song.
Of course this evolved from it's humble porcelain throne beginnings to a song about a man being safe harbour for his lover. Although all bets are off on the bridge lyrics which could be argued to mean something completely different. I'll let you muse on that.
"Lemme hear ya'll
You talk to me
For satisfaction, oh, hold on
Call my name, oh, call my name yeah for quick reaction
Yeah yeah yeah yeah"
But it wasn't even that bridge that the conservative radio stations at the time had a problem with. It was the song title itself, it was too suggestive. So it was re-titled on all the US original vinyls to 'Hold on, I'm A-Comin', which I don't think is any better really? Minds will make the leap anyway. Conservatives probably more frequently than their counterparts.
The origins of the song however aren't what I really wanted talk about though. It's the album artwork. The turtle. Sam and Dave on the turtle. The great, big, gaudy cartoon turtle. I've been looking at it. And I've been trying to figure it out.
And I must have been one of the only people that has wondered about that bloody turtle because there is damn near no information on it on the Internet.
What I do know is that the cover was designed by Ronnie "Angel" Stoots who was behind the iconic Stax Records logo and artwork for musical releases by Eddie Floyd* and Otis Redding:
Unfortunately Stoot's passed away about a month ago so we'll never be able to ask him about the significance of the turtle on Sam & Dave's hit record. So we are only left with speculation.
Here are my theories:
1. The turtle is a characteristically slow animal. So they're not in a hurry to get wherever they're going if they're choosing the turtle over a cheetah or a hare. Therefore it could be a bit of a swag statement "Hey baby, I'm here for you - but in my own sweet time yeah". Making the song a bit of a backhanded promise. And soul, it's so much about the swag.
2. Stoots drew something he dreamt.
3. Stoots is from Memphis Tennessee and the Stax record label was born out of that scene. Guess what the native reptile of Tennessee is? The Box Turtle.
3.1 So we have the Box Turtle. But let's take it one step further and get Freudian on this. If you've read any Freudian case histories like the infamous Dora and her subsequent dream interpretation in which she had to save her jewellery box from the burning fire, you'll know Freud believes the 'box' is an allegory for the female reproductive system. Soul is as much about swag as it is about seduction, so it's not entirely without foundation.
But who knows really?
Stoots' has taken this musical mystery to his grave and therefore we can only look upon this vinyl artwork with an eternal: Why?, Perhaps and ...
*Why does Eddie Floyd have an axe? If he's knocking on wood I feel like he should have a hammer.
Now I'm back on Fakebook I've noticed a lot of trends this year, and I've come to the rather delayed realization that this is because it is our generation's time.*
Our generation's time to buy their first house.
Our generation's time to get engaged and get married.
Our generation's time to have their first or second child.
Our generation's time to climb the next rung on the career ladder now we’re no longer new graduates.
I would have realised this without Fakebook but Fakebook sure does amplify it.
I HEAR YOU FAKEBOOK. I HEAR YOU. BUT I STILL HAVEN’T EVEN FIGURED OUT HOW TO WALK IN HIGHHEELS YET.
Hit your late twenties and I tell you what everyone suddenly seems to be in a hurry to do THINGS.
I think I missed the THINGS memo.
Oh, no that’s right – I did get the memo. I just spilt tea over it. And then I left it on the table and then the ink started to run and then by the time summer rolled around the Eastern sun had faded it, and I couldn't quite decipher what it said.
Honestly: Part of me did feel momentarily sorry for myself that I seemed to have failed on all four of these normative milestones vs. years I've been on the planet, but when I broke it down – let's see how I actually fared.
Our generation’s time to buy their first house.
My argument against failure:
I don’t know where I want to live yet. What country, what city. I'm waiting to find a place to get me in the gut where I instinctively go: THIS IS IT FOLKS. THIS IS WHERE I WILL BUILD MY
TINY TUMBLEWEED or ECO Perch.
Our generation’s time to get engaged and get married.
My argument against failure:
Even if I was currently in a relationship, I just don't have a rampant desire to get married. I think a lot of people get married for the wrong reasons (not everyone of course before you start ripping me to shreds).
But for example, here are some commonly misguided reasons why some people do get married:
- We've been going out so long it would be a waste of all those years if we didn't get married.
- I don't think anyone else will put up with me.
- I'm scared of the possibility of facing life on my own.
- I'm not getting any younger.
- I don’t want the hassle and potential rejection of finding someone new.
- Everyone else is doing it.
- I want a Wedding damn it. But actually you just want the photos.
And because of that it has somewhat tarnished my opinion of it.
I just don’t think you need to be married to love someone. I probably would only get married if it was important to the other person AND EVEN THEN I’d probably skip the Wedding part and just elope. AND EVEN THEN probably end up wearing something ridiculous and unceremonial and devoid of tradition as possible.
Our generation’s time to have their first or second child.
My argument against failure:
I'm not going to lie that from a genetic perspective a mini-Kate would be very interesting, although if myself as a child is anything to go by, I’d probably end up having a kid that looked like an extra from The Village of the Damned…
But biological curiosity isn't a good enough reason to have a kid and I can somewhat satiate biological curiosity by using the MorphThing website which generates what your offspring would look like.
Yeah. I bet you’re all going to see what your kids would look like with Ryan Gosling now, right?
Or that hot guy from Prometheus.
Seriously though, kids are expensive. The responsibility is massive and I just can’t imagine not being able to up and travel somewhere at the drop of a hat, which you can't do if you have a kid.
Maybe I’m just too independent.
Anyway, this is a hypothetical conversation for my mid 30’s – not for right now.
Slow down everyone you move too fast.
Our generation’s time to climb the next rung on the career ladder now we’re no longer new graduates.
My argument against failure:
I keep changing ladders and the only constant is writing – for which there is none
(just a repeated kick in the shins).
In review, I'm feeling pretty good about my set of decisions. I have no regrets (apart from the subject of my undergraduate major). So, if you are like me and haven’t ticked off any of those milestones. It’s OK. DON’T PANIC. Everyone in their own time.
And even better? Write your own list or let things unfold organically. Who knows what's around the corner? Maybe you don't buy a house – maybe you buy a boat! A Tiny Tumbleweed that floats. Now there’s a thought.
*Kids of the 80’s.
Village of the Damned Photo taken from the Celluloid Moon blog.
Wolf Head Picture taken from here: CLICK ME.
"Hello! BEAUTIFUL" followed by an enthusiastic thumbs up from the speaker.
This is the phrase which sometimes greets me at my local Superette by one of the men that works there.
I know he's meaning it as a compliment and trying to be friendly towards the foreigner trying to be understood at the checkout, but I always feel uncomfortable when someone comments on the way I look. I feel even more uncomfortable being commented on in a country where they have 'whitener' in many of their moisturizing lotions and top the list for plastic surgery.
It's hard to explain how I feel, I think there are two things going on:
Up until my early 20's I had really terrible self-esteem and although that is definitely not the case nowadays the past still echoes through from time to time. So from time to time part of me doesn't believe compliments are genuine and I laugh them off - a facet of my personality which has annoyed a number of people.
On the flip side, the other part of me feels like I'm upholding some kind of aesthetic evil by being blonde hair and blue-eyed. But the thing is - there is no truth in beauty. There never has been. It's fluid and ever changing. Think about walking on ground which is shifting constantly like moving tectonic plates. That's how unstable it is. The misnomer perhaps in Korea is that beauty is like a mathematical equation: 2+2=4.
But they're not alone in that belief. To some extent on a superficial level (and I really don't like to admit it) I play into the same game that 2+2=4, even though it doesn't. I'm disillusioned by the same myth, even though I grew up all the way over in New Zealand. I get blonde highlights and the clothes I choose to wear, it's all a manipulation of appearance and how I want to appear (or not appear) to other people.
I always have the same hairstyle: long, with a few layers around my face. My clothes: neat but not immaculate. The idea was always to strike right in the middle of the continuum: too untidy - you're noticed, too stylish - you're noticed. Nothing flashy - no tattoos, only my ears pierced and only once. You have to strike that middle. The middle is where people don't comment because there is absolutely nothing of note to comment on and therefore you can grasp at some semblance of invisibility. Invisibility in a visually hungry world has always been my aim, mainly because I don't want my legacy to be - oh that blonde girl with the long hair.
But let's face it, humans take physical form and we have eyes. You are going to be looked at.
And my attempt at invisibility?
From time to time - like in the Superette - I still fail. Why? Because many of us still believe 2+2=4. But it doesn't. Not this time. It's just a lie we treat as truth so we can make it a concrete series of tasks to complete and achieve.
The limits of the English language to adequately convey the inner workings of my mind.
In the previous post I talked about concepts which exist in other languages but are absent or untranslatable in English.
That exercise got me thinking about my day to day life and concepts and feelings (are feelings concepts?) which I don't think there is any word for in any language.
Though since I am not Babel I can probably only comment on English and the percentage of it that I know.
However, I thought I'd have a stab at making up these new words:
First image in blog sourced from here.
Below image is taken from this blog and displays McCandless final resting place in pursuit of ideology.
The limits of speaking one language. This blog post is - unwittingly to her - inspired by my younger sister, Lucy, who is currently learning German. Over the last few weeks, she has been sharing some words/concepts which don't exist in English or at least, not in exactly the same way.
e.g. Drachenfutter - Literal translation is 'dragon food' but it is a peacekeeping gift a husband must bring his wife after pissing her off.
e.g. Kummerspeck - Literal translation is 'grief bacon' but refers to excess weight gained by emotional over-eating.
For me, language is the doorway to culture and one of the ways this is best demonstrated is by the discovery of words which don't exist in other languages.
I stumbled across the following word about three years ago and immediately fell in love with it.
It is from the Yaghan language from Tierra del Fuego (Chile - near the Southern most tip of South America).
It's often described as the most succinct word in the history of language and one of the most difficult to translate.
It's meaning? As defined, by the sometimes academically dubious but extremely useful site, Wikipedia, mamihlapinatapai refers to "a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves."
If you have a fascination with words and language as I do, I'll leave you with a few other unusual words but that actually exist in English:
Entomophilous - Adaptation for pollination by insects.
Apodysophilia - A feverish desire to undress.
Boustrophedon - Alternating writing left to right, then right to left.
...for more visit here.
A brilliant infographic: Untranslatable Emotions in Other Languages other than English vs. Parrot's Emotion Classification.
Click the above link for the full view. Here is just a teaser:
First image in blog post modified from: http://www.adinnerguest.com/60-minutes/why-mamihlapinatapai-is-your-new-favorite-word/
Possible sounds for the sun rising.
If the sun rise had a sound, what would it be?
It's not a rational question, I'm not talking about ambient noise like your alarm clock, birds twittering or the sound of your neighbor taking a shower through the wall. And, suspend disbelief before you bring physics into the mix that there is no sound in space, just think IF.
IF the action of the sun rising had a sound. What would it be? Something like this?
This? (Woman Sighing)
This? (Eggs Frying)
This? (Creaky Door)
This? (Balloon Inflating)
This? (Toaster Pop Up)
This? (Bottle Pop)
This? (Yes! Ha, ha, ha)
This? (Corporate Success YES)
And then part of me just thinks it should be accompanied by a song - similar to International Cricketers who choose a theme song to introduce their entry onto the field.
If the sun rise had a theme song, what would it be?
Personally, I don't think you can go too far wrong with a bit of Sam & Dave - "Don't worry, I'm coming".
Sunrise Image Courtesy of WikiMediaCommons.
I was born about 300 years too late to be an explorer. To be the first person to walk on the shores of a new land or put a human footprint next to the root of an unknown plant.
The closest I can get is walking in fresh snow. I live in a city, but when it snows, as it often does at the moment, it coats the pavement and the road.
The pavement is an icon of human industry. It reminds us there are people that live in this area. This is where they walk, where millions of feet have passed before.
You are not special.
You are just one of many.
Going where everyone has gone before.
But when it snows, nature reclaims that space. It makes that reminder of human industry disappear. Wild reclaims industry.
So, although I am about 300 years too late to be an explorer, one of my favorite things to do is to get up early and be the first person to walk down the street in the snow, as if I were the first person to ever walk down it.
It's a funny time of year for TV. There's nothing current to really get lost in. It's a couple of painful months until the new seasons of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead kick in. So I've been watching past episodes of Investigation Discovery's reality hit 'Disappeared'.
It's not a work of art but it's competently done and endured for a number of seasons. I've jumped on the bandwagon.
Why? The concept of someone just disappearing without any strong leads seems so incredibly unlikely in today's world as to be completely fascinating. Think cellphones, credit card tracking, CCTV, social networks - our lives are the most visible they've ever been in history. I'll be the first to admit that this is a statement purely from a first world perspective but then ID's stories are Western/American stories, first world stories.
One of the things that strikes me about this TV series is how long it takes for someone to sound the alarm that something's not right. How it varies. So, it got me thinking: How long would it take for someone to figure out I had disappeared?
Let's look at the life I've cultivated at this particular point in time. I'm teaching overseas, I have my own apartment in which I live alone. I don't know my neighbors I've barely even seen them. Do they know I even live in the building? That aside though, during the academic year it would only take 24 hours or maybe 48 hours (if over the weekend) or basically as soon as I didn't clock in to work or show up for a dinner date for the alarm to be raised and questions asked.
But this all changes if it's the annual holiday period. That's a completely different story. I've been known to be recklessly independent, to travel alone frequently and drop out of contact for long periods of time. For me not to be in contact is not unusual, sometimes it can take me up to a month to reply to an e-mail. In which case, it could, in all honesty be 3 weeks until someone begins to get worried. 3 weeks!
I don't even know what to say about that except for the fact that I had better prepare a good 'I'm missing, have you seen me?' photo. A photo that might persuade people to look for me.
I have student loan debt though, so don't expect a reward.
Christmas and New Year
I've often toyed with the idea of deactivating my Facebook account but it took the New Year to roll around for me to actually do it.
I did wonder if the timing was coincidental, but on reflection, I doubt it. I think it was more influential than anything. A catalyst.
There is so much out pouring of mawkish sentiment at this time of year with most of it being amplified ten fold by the social networks that all I want to do is crawl into the rather large cavity under my sink and reappear mid-Jan.
You love your family. Congratulations. So do I. But why do most people only say it once a year? Is it because festive celebrations inevitably result in an annual epic domestic that takes another 12 months and a nip of brandy to recover from? If so, that leaves you with a damn slim window to get mawkish before all hell breaks loose.
But why profess on Facebook? Why not face to face? If it can't even be done through a cloud of alcoholic merriness, there is no hope for us. I don't have a problem if you're spouting well wishes to family and friends you can't physically be around. I do however take issue with this sort of fare:
'Just had the most amaze day with Darren and the fam. Ate way too much, best Christmas eva. Got totally spoilt. So lucky to have you in my life, love you guys loads xx.'
We're just a species that's evolved with the specific purpose of creating barriers to physical human interaction. Or that's evolved only to be comfortable dealing with emotion when you don't have to deal with the real time reaction. Are we DEVELOPING EMOTIONAL POVERTY? FAKEBOOK is it your fault? Fakebook will say no because like guns don't kill people, people kill people, Fakebook will say Fakebook doesn't kill physical human interaction, humans kill physical human interaction.
Yes, it's a dog eat dog world isn't it Fakebook? But here's a point, like guns Fakebook, you enable.
Anyway, long story short: I don't need to know you love your family, your family needs to know you love them.
And as an endnote to this entry I have discovered that there are actually sites out there blatantly feeding into this festive Facebook feeling frenzy. If you yourself can't even produce the mawkish sentiment to stick in your status update box, some freelance copywriting hack has saved you the exertion.
These are taken from FacebookStatus123.com:
"Merry Christmas! From my wall to yours..." (all the Marketing Execs would have used this one)
"The best gifts in life will never be found under a Christmas tree! Those gifts are friends, family, kids and the one you love!!" (Mawkish Sentiment Level - MSL = 9/10. Also, no editing here, it really did come with two exclamation marks).
Strangely enough, I actually quite like this one:
"Ha ha ha Christmas is coming and there’s nothing you can do about it..."
Overall and in sum, at this rate, there is no hope for us. But please, prove me wrong (I really want you to).