Some longer reflections after four months in New Zealand

Here are a few more remarkable things about life in Auckland, longer-format this time, with some links for good measure:

This is NOT a litigious society. It doesn’t need to be, because the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) “provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand.” It’s funded by levies collected from motor vehicle operators (through licensing fees and petrol sales), wage earners (via income tax), and the government (via general taxes). Thanks to the ACC, your medical costs and even most of your lost wages (the latter only if you work in New Zealand) due to accidents are covered, even if an injury happens while you’re at work or playing a dangerous sport or on the premises of a business. How this actually feels different on the ground is that we regularly encounter all sorts of things that you simply would not find in the US, like massive public play structures that kids could actually fall off of, cliffs at lookouts without fences to prevent falls, people walking around everywhere (inside and outside) with bare feet, absurd pits of unmitigated mud at music festivals (I’m still somewhat traumatized by last weekend’s Splore experience), uneven stairways without hand rails, and the like. So much lost revenue opportunity for the poor insurance companies, ambulance-chasing attorneys, and safety device manufacturers, to name but a few! But it sure seems a lot more efficient to handle things this way.  Continue reading

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On privilege, intersectionality, and how a Trump presidency could affect New Zealanders

While I chose not to join my friends and hundreds of others in Auckland who marched in solidarity today with the Women’s March on DC, I was very much there in spirit. Rather than marching, I spent the day researching this essay; consider it my contribution to the very important work that is currently happening around the world.

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Last night as my yoga class was closing, the topic of the March came up. Another student, a white woman in her early 40s, asked if it was an “anti-Trump March.” I tried my best to offer a different perspective, in the spirit of “When they go low, we go high:”

“I prefer to think of it as a march FOR women’s rights, and for the rights of people of color and immigrants and people of all sexual orientations and–”

That’s as far as I got before she interrupted, “so, it’s an anti-Trump march.”

Her interest in simplifying this for herself only started to get under my skin (consciously, at least) after my post-yoga bliss wore off.

Today's #ActivistAday features myself, ShiShi Rose (@shishi.rose) and I am one of the admins here. . For some people, their outlook of this country deeply changed on November 9th. For the rest of us, this is how it has always looked. I want to remind you that that is a privilege. It's a privilege that white supremacy wasn't at the forefront of your reality, because you benefit from it. I want to remind you that no ally ever got very far, in any movement, without acknowledgement of their own privilege daily. You do not just get to join the efforts that people of color have been working for their entire lives to both teach and survive, without doing work, too. You don't just get to join because now you're scared, too. I was born scared. Now is the time for you to be listening more, talking less, spend time observing, taking in media and art created by people of color, researching, and unlearning the things you have been taught about this country. You should be reading our books and understanding the roots of racism and white supremacy. Listening to our speeches. You should be drowning yourselves in our poetry. Now is the time that you should be exposed to more than just the horrors of this country, but also the beauty that has always existed within communities of color. Beauty that was covered over because the need to see white faces depicted was more important. Now is the time to teach your children, to call out your family, to finally speak up. You have been silent for long enough. Now is the time to realize that you should have joined us sooner. But since you're here now, it's time to get to work. #WhyIMarch

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I’m going to give my yoga classmate, and most other Kiwis I’ve spoken with about Trump’s election, the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they are inherently good, well-intentioned people. Indeed, the average Kiwi that I have encountered thus far seems to be FAR more politically aware and progressive than the average Americans I encountered at home.

But there’s something about their flip dismissal of what the election (and now, inauguration) of Trump actually means that has really been bothering me. Continue reading

The perfect waffle recipe

img_7527When we were still living in San Francisco, Scott asked if we could get a waffle iron once we got to Auckland. Of course, especially if he would use it?! And so long before we had records or instruments or bikes or crafty stuff or anything else we’d shipped, we had a waffle iron to play with.

After weeks of experimenting, I’m pretty sure we’ve worked out the perfect waffle recipe. The following results in a magic combination of light, crispy, chewy, and just sweet enough that they stand on their own without maple syrup:

Prep:
– Warm up the waffle iron
– Melt a bit more than 1/3 cup salted butter (low heat on the stove or microwave) Continue reading

All the ways I appreciate music

Haven’t been able to get this video out of my mind since discovering it last week. Such a moving example of the power of visual storytelling, as the video doesn’t actually match the lyrics to the song, except for a pretty brilliant bit of overlap at the climax:

Trying to explain why I like Pup so much — in a nutshell, because listening to them makes me want to *play* music like this! — has got me thinking about the very complicated Venn diagram that might illustrate the various ways that music affects me.

There would need to be circles to represent: Continue reading

Reflections upon moving to New Zealand

We’ve now been in Auckland for two months – here’s a quick summary of some differences between life here and life in the San Francisco Bay Area that have struck me, avoiding the most obvious, in no particular order:

  • Almost all egg yolks are the gorgeous orange I associate with pastured eggs back home.
  • We’ve traded burritos for fish & chips, and approximately 1,000 options for Chinese dumplings. Though we have found one brand of halfway decent corn tortillas, we’ve yet to find any tortilla chips or salsas worth buying again.
  • Toilets don’t swirl the other way; in fact, they all seem to be low-flow, dual-flush… and what little water does go down, goes down straight.
  • Big, fluffy clouds (with and without rain) pass through on a regular basis, which makes for lots of rainbows and generally dramatic skyscapes, particularly at sunset. It is quite different from the standard coastal Bay Area options of clear, fog, or total cloud cover.
  • Pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way.

Continue reading

Don’t rob yourself of the now: Timmy’s tribute to José as a balm for those who grieve

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My interview with climber, comedian, friend, and _____* Timmy O’Neill is now live on Xero Gravity, please check it out!

Timmy was a consistent presence during my Yosemite years, and he recently wrote a beautiful tribute to our late friend José, asking:

How do you bring someone long gone, back to life, and what are the physical and emotional artifacts that allow you to personify him?

I feel similarly trying to describe Timmy; *there are precious few words for describing those people who just vibrate at a higher level, even when they are still with us Continue reading

Still Amour

We were supposed to leave for NZ at the end of October, but stayed through the 3rd so we could catch Malian singer Rokia Traoré and her sweet, super tight band at the SF Jazz Fest. Seemed like an appropriate bookend to our San Francisco existence, since that’s where Scott and I spent our first date, too…

As soon as they started playing Amour:

…I was immediately reminded of this Khruangbin song:

As is frequently the case, the studio versions of both pale in comparison to the energy and complexity of the live performances

Continue reading

Influences

I’ve convinced myself that Feist’s I Feel It All video (I am in awe, I love it) influenced the first two thirds of Maggie Rogers’ video for Alaska… after which it’s no longer one take and falls apart for me, but I still love the song. I can find no evidence to support my hunch other than Maggie’s mention of Feist in this interview from 2013, have a look anyway.

Chris van Leuven: my other “brother”

chris-vlChris van Leuven spent quite a bit of time at our house in high school, so much so that I often thought of him as the third sibling in the family. Things at his house weren’t going that well, we gathered, but neither my brother nor I asked many questions. Instead, we would bring him home after our afternoon sessions at the local boulders or climbing gym. We’d let his endless stream of words, spoken in such animated, rapid succession that anyone else would have struggled to comprehend, melt into our own stories from the day. Often, all three of us would be speaking at the same time, but that didn’t hinder our understanding.

In the Spring of 1996, I was just finishing my first year of college in Montreal while Chris was actually living our high school dream of dirtbagging in Yosemite Valley. Continue reading