Wednesday, May 30, 2012

J is for Jesus Christ, and Jackson James.

Jesus christ.

This entire 'strangers caring about what I have to say' experience has been utterly bizarre and excruciatingly uncomfortable, in a number of ways, but I have learned a lot and for that I am grateful. Mostly, though, I am grateful to everyone who read my letter. Thank you, to everyone who read what I had to say and thought it was worth sharing. Thank you especially to those of you who put me forward as a representative to speak on your behalf. It was an honour, though a thoroughly undeserved one. But now that I know that my sentiments are echoed by so many of you, I will do what I can to make myself (ourselves?) heard.


The letter that comes after 'I' is 'J' and the best thing that starts with 'J' is Jackson James Wood.

This is him.

He is a boy. Apparently he likes me which is quite cool because I like him too. I met him when we both went to the movies with our mutual wonderful friend Fiona. I didn't really like him that much at first but he grew on me and now I like him quite a lot.

One time he roasted me a duck. A more different time he sent me a pukeko in the post.

I can tell I like him because usually when my phone rings I ignore it, but when it's him I smile and answer it.

It's a bit sad because I didn't really realise I liked him that much until I moved away from him and now we live far far apart and I miss him every day.

He's pretty clever and funny. For ages he was Dr Brash on Twitter and I knew that but I wasn't allowed to tell anyone. One day he is going to be a Green MP and then he is going to save the world.

He's also pretty much the most tolerant man I have ever met and that's probably actually why we're still dating because I am Incredibly Hard Work and Something Of A Nightmare At Times but he is always patient and kind and gentle and he can fix anything and make me smile even when I have the ultimate sads. And when he calls me up and he says "What can I do?" I know that he would really do anything and somehow that fixes things a little, all on its own.

All these feelings are making me uncomfortable so I will now show you a picture of some more excellent Js and then we can be done.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I is for I Really Think You Should Reconsider, John Key.

Dear John*,

Hello. We don't know each other, but I have a few things to say to you so I thought I'd write you a letter.

I already know quite a bit about you so to make things even I'll tell you a bit about me. My name is Amy. I'm 24. I'm currently living in Rotorua, but I was born in Stratford, grew up in Whakatane, and then spent six years at university in Wellington. Gosh, I get around a bit, don't I? Starting to see where Colin Craig was coming from.

Have you been to Rotorua? We don't have any famous people or sports folk for you to hand-shake on the tele so probably not. That's okay. I wasn't so crash-hot on the idea of moving here either. Turns out it's actually a kinda nice place! But I digress.

I am in my final year of my post-graduate diploma in Clinical Psychology. I did three years of undergraduate psychology, a year of Honours, and now I'm in my third of three years of clinical. One's third year of clinical involves working four full-time days per week as an intern psychologist, attending a full day (9 till 4.30) of classes on a Friday, and doing assignments and exam preparation in the evenings and weekends.

Are you ready for the twist? Because here it is: the Government, and then very quickly the DHBs, run out of money.. so most of our internships are unpaid. Only five of the fourteen of us in my class got paid placements, and the other nine.. well, we're living on whatever you deign to loan/give us. I am one of the unpaid ones, and I took a very very faraway internship in Rotorua because there weren't enough in Wellington and it's really cheap to live here and also it was nice and close to my mum and I quite like her.

For me, it's my first year of student allowance because even though my father makes terrible financial decisions and therefore is barely scraping by paycheck-to-paycheck, apparently he was earning enough for support me up until my 24th birthday. He didn't, but nobody really seemed to care too much about that. Including myself, to be honest, because in undergrad I had enough spare time to have a part-time job (and anyone who says they don't is either lying or working way too damn hard) and I even managed to save up enough money to see me through Honours.

Things went to hell in a handbasket after that financially. During my first and second years of clinical I was living in the only apartment in the city which I could actually afford with my $160 living costs, and then entirely supporting myself off the $40 a week I made tutoring. It was kind of fine though, in a way, because I was only a student so on the weeks I couldn't afford washing powder I just wore dirty clothes. Bikinis became 'clean underwear'. Dirty underwear turned inside out also became 'clean underwear'. Any shirt that didn't smell bad became a 'clean shirt'. It was kind of charming, in a really gross way.

But then, in my third year of clinical, two things happened. One: I stopped having the spare time to even run a couple of tutorials a week (refer to above schedule). Two: I became an intern psychologist, which meant clean clothes. All the time. Clean, nice clothes. All. The. Time.

But that's okay! Student allowance to the rescue! In an amazing feat of for once in my life having amazing timing, I turned 24 three weeks before my internship started. Hallelujah! Praise the lords! In a fortunate twist of fate, the first year that I actually really needed the allowance, I was eligible for it, and it has been amazing. And not because the money is free, John. I think this is where people get confused. I'm not afraid of debt. My generation can't afford to be. Between course fees and living costs and course-related costs, I've been borrowing $10k a year for the past six years. Sick as it is, I'm okay with having to borrow to be able to live. I barely even cry when I see my student loan balance anymore.

But the thing is, in this country, you can't actually borrow enough to exist. If I could only borrow $160 per week this year, I could not survive. I could certainly not survive well enough to be a competent, healthy and non-olfactorally-offensive psychologist. And if I was living in Wellington, where my rent was $50 per week more expensive to live in a flat with cardboard walls and a lounge without windows, well, same thing, but actually bordering on hilarious.

But for some reason, while you can only borrow up to $160, if you qualify for allowance you get GIVEN at least $200. If the roles were reversed, and I could be handed $160 or borrow $200, I'd borrow the $200. I'm not trying to steal your precious money, John. I don't give a bucket if you give it to me, or I borrow it, or it falls from the sky. I need enough money to pay my rent and buy my food and my shampoo and my laundry powder and my pantyhose because apparently, I have to be able to afford to dress like a grown-up now.

So imagine my dismay when I saw that you were taking away student allowance for postgraduate students, without any mention of increasing the amount they were able to borrow.

I'd really love to know what the plan is there, John. What the end goal looks like. Because right now, what I'm hearing is:

"Unless you are living at home, have parents that will pay your rent, or are middle-aged and have been saving up for a while, you cannot do postgraduate study."

You know how that's going to end? That's going to end with a university even more filled with people like you.

You know what we need? The opposite of that.

I almost said some very mean things about you just then but I refrained (and by refrained I mean typed them, and then deleted them) because I don't think that would be particularly helpful. What would be helpful is you telling me what the flying fuck the interns of 2013 are supposed to do.

Yours in disappointment and dismay,

*I asked on Twitter how one is supposed to address you, and answers ranged from 'Muppet' to 'Your Royal Highness' and back to 'Cunt' but I didn't particularly fancy any of those so I hope calling you John is okay. Please don't double my taxes or cut out my tongue.**

**I've been reading the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series a bit too much lately. Have you read them? They're great.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

H is for Hopefulness, Hideous Hairstyles, Home Decor, Horrible Horses, Holidays, Handlebars, and Heavy Hammers.

If you read even one hundredth of my tweets, you'll know that I am currently devouring the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I am utterly obsessed, and find no shame in it. They are highly obsess-worthy, and if you haven't read them/aren't planning to, then you're a twit.

One unfortunate downfall of my rapture is that it makes thinking about other things difficult. When attempting to think of 'H' words to use as blog inspiration, my mind kept bleating 'Harrenhal! Harrenhal!'. Now, I could actually write a half-decent blog post about Harrenal, but a) it would be full of spoilers that might not endear me to those who are watching the show before they delve into the books and b) I feel it would push my obsession dangerously close to the 'not okay' end of the spectrum.

I tweeted about this conundrum, because, well, that's what I do. While Troy took the devil's advocate route, Cate came up with a somewhat bizarre list of prompts. I think I was supposed to pick one. But I don't. I PICK THEM ALL. But I don't have many words tonight, so I accept the challenge.. in pictures.

H is for Hopefulness

H is for Hideous Hairstyles

H is for Home Decor

H is for Horrible Horses

H is for Holidays

H is for Handlebars

H is for Heavy Hammers

But mostly, mostly, H is for Happy.

Monday, May 14, 2012

G is for Giraffes, and Geekery.

First of all G is for Giraffes because they are my first equal favourite animal.

Oh hi.

I was going to write all about why I love them but I need to get on to the second part so I will just put one more picture. This one I took at the zoo when I went to visit the giraffes there with Simon.

Look at him just sitting there, chilling out, giving me a little smile. Yes, giving me a little smile. Don't challenge me on that if you value our friendship. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT HE WAS SMILING AT ME SHUT UP.

Anyway, back on to the second G: Geekery. I have always maintained that I am a total geek. However, this has often been hotly disputed by 'real' geeks: mainly because I had not seen Star Wars. Little did they know that it went far beyond that: until very recently I did not even know the difference between Star Wars, Star Trek, and Stargate (in fact, I used to think Star Wars referred to some sort of conflict between Star Trek and Stargate.. not even kidding). 

Anyway. This has all been rectified and my geekery is now indisputable because as of Saturday evening, I have now seen Star Wars. (Except Episode 1, which I was told is entirely unnecessary. I was mildly devastated about this because Liam Neeson, but apparently even he doesn't redeem it. I find this unlikely. I am so utterly attracted to Liam Neeson. I think him and Sean Bean would make the most amazing couple and I want to see them pash.)

For reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, Hadyn had been secretly on the prowl for a Star Wars virgin so that he could show them the movies in 'Machete Order' (4, 5, 2, 3, 6) to see if that 'helped'. With what I am unsure, so I cannot really tell you if it helped or not. What I can (and now will) do is tell you all about what I thought of them.

We started with Episode IV, in original VHS quality. While I understand that the remastered versions are a plague on all that is good and true in the world, I found the prehistoric special effects so amusing that they completely distracted from the storyline. I also thought that Natalie Portman was Princess Leia and Hayden Christiansen was Luke Skywalker so I was moderately confused about what was going on there, and highly disappointed about the lack of babes in my life. I found the acting stilted and forced, and the complete lack of chemsitry between the characters bemusing. Also, there was no Yoda (who I was expecting to look like a mogwai). I think we can sum up the first movie as equal parts disappointing and hilarious, and not in a good way.

There were some good bits, I'll admit. Potentially due to the godawfully painful acting dished out by the human characters, I fell madly in love with C3PO (in fact, it was pointed out by Hadyn that the only time I had an emotional reaction in the entire movie was when C3PO got his arm ripped off. I 'awww!'ed), and Chewy, and I had a certain fondness for R2D2 although I found his limited capacity for communication moderately frustrating. I definitely didn't form any emotional attachments to any of the human characters, unless 'mild annoyance' counts.

Next came Episode V. We watched the remastered version of this so I was far less distracted by the awfulness of the special effects and actually able to watch the fight/chase scenes with some sort of buy-in, although this did not do much for my emotional connection to the characters (saddest moment was when Chewy got all upset that Han Solo was flying out to look for Luke. Poor Chewy!). There was further confusion: I'd always thought/heard that Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia get together (don't people go as them to 'famous couples' dress-up parties?) so was relatively taken aback by her dalliances with Han Solo.

Overall though I kind of enjoyed this film and it ended up being my second favourite. Finally getting to meet this Yoda guy I'd heard so much about was pretty exciting, even if he wasn't quite as furry as I was anticipating. Knowing beforehand that I wasn't getting any Natalie Portman in my life saved me from that crushing disappointment, and the acting was a little better. Even though I knew just from being alive that Darth Vader was Luke's father, it was kinda fun seeing it all unfold in context and finally understanding the gravity of this revelation. I found myself almost, almost disappointed when it ended and certainly looking forward to returning in a fortnight and finding out what happened.

Unfortunately, after patiently waiting a fortnight, the first thing I had to do was watch some prequels. Episodes II and III kind of blur into one mess in my mind, but I'll attempt to talk about them separately.

Episode II I found to be mildly ridiculous and the worst film by far. Aside from celebrity-spotting excitement (Natalie Portman was best, obvs, but I love me a little Christopher Lee and Samuel L. Jackson) this movie went from absurd (that first chase sequence, what the actual) to creepy (any scene with Anakin Skywalker in it) and back to absurd (MEADOW FOLICKING ARE YOU KIDDING ME) with very little life progress seeming to happen in between. The special effects seemed to be worse than the re-mastered old movies which once again, served to distract me, and somehow the acting had not improved. I honestly have no recollection of the actual storyline. Ridiculous ridiculous ridiculous.

Episode III redeemed itself only by being the movie which answered a lot of questions I had about Episodes IV and V - mainly, when did Anakin become Vader, why does he wear that mask and do the creepy breathing, if Vader's Luke's father then who/where is his mother, etc. So from that point of view, it was.. well, enjoyable might be too strong a word, but enlightening at least. Luke moved from one sort of creepy to another, slightly more enjoyable sort, but Natalie Portman was significantly more clothed. Overall, not quite as much as a waste of my life as Episode II was, but definitely not an experience I wish to repeat, ever.

I was about ready to throw my toys at this point and tell Hadyn to stick Episode VI up his bumoley but it seemed like we'd come so far and I really did want to know what happened, so we persevered. And I'm so very, very pleased that we did.

Episode VI was the only movie that I will actually call 'good'. It was a good movie and I liked it. The chemistry was finally there between the actors, Princess Leia got some skin out, half of it was about super cute little furry things, most of the main characters were in one place for lots of it so it wasn't too choppy and changey and I could actually keep up all the time, the ending was kinda unexpected and really sweet, and it was all just a bucket full of win. I mean, it doesn't make it into my top twenty movies of all time or anything, but I certainly enjoyed it. A+++ would trade again.

I'm not sure exactly what watching them in the funny order was supposed to do but I actually recommend it. Get some buy-in with the originals first, then give the important back-story with the shitty new ones, then end it all off with the grand finale. Was an excellent way to do it.

So that's it! My geekery is no longer disputable and I love giraffes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

F is for Fifteen.

The other day I was helping someone construct their bucket list and I suddenly remembered that I had one too. Given the sixteen existential crises I've had this year you'd think that'd never be far from my mind, but apparently you'd think wrong. 

We'll call it 'unpredictable' instead of 'illogical', shall we?

Anyway. I unearthed it, and found that to my pleasant surprise, I'd knocked a fair few of the bastards off. Highlights include:
  • Learn to drive (I even bought a car to drive around IN)
  • Write a Masters thesis (and had it accepted, with Merit)
  • Visit Rosemary (and then, seven months later, moved to the same city as her!)
  • Meet Brad and Lauren (who are, without doubt, two of the most wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of spending time with)
Then I got to reading the rest of my bucket list, and.. well, it was a bit drivel-y. It was kind of more a list of 'Things it might be quite cool to do sometime but maybe not' rather than 'Things I will actually regret not doing as I lie on my deathbed'. So I started again.

Here is my new bucket list. It has just fifteen items, in no particular order.
  1. Go to Italy
  2. Go to Stewart Island
  3. Donate blood
  4. Have sex with a girl
  5. Watch every movie that won the Best Picture Oscar up until 2012 (and hopefully further if I live for a while longer)
  6. Learn (proper) Te Reo Maori
  7. Make my own dress and wear it out in public
  8. Get a tattoo
  9. Write a novel
  10. Commit to spending my life with someone
  11. See a show on Broadway (preferably Wicked)
  12. Own a Kitchenaid stand mixer
  13. Have sex on my birthday
  14. Get my PhD
  15. Go to Disneyland
You can tell it's in no particular order because Disneyland is at the bottom and we all know it isn't, really. (this will be me)

These are the only things I could think of that if it came down to it, I would be really truly disappointed that I left this world without doing. And yes, some of them are ridiculous. Own a Kitchenaid stand mixer? Really, Amy? Well, yes. I have always wanted one and I truly believe that the level of happiness I will get out of owning one will be significant and worthwhile. 

That's really all I have to say about that.