June 28, 2011

Too much Good Friday and not enough Easter Sunday

A Taxi Driver piece by me is in the new Werewolf. The first in a series on films to run there.

June 26, 2011

Impostor syndrome

I’m Not There footnote: Hayden Christensen’s unnamed – for legal reasons – Bob Dylan in the dreary and strangely truncated Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl runs like a failed audition for the Dylan variation played by Heath Ledger in the Todd Haynes film. Ledger’s Dylan – Robbie Clark, the Dylan of the divorce years - was distinguished by his machismo (key prop: motorcycle), as is Christensen’s “folk singer”. In Factory Girl, that machismo, as authenticity, is set clumsily against the feyness and artificiality of the Warhol scene, but Cate Blanchett’s speed-freak Dylan in I’m Not There – where Edie appears (suitably) briefly as “CoCo Rivington” -- would have fit right in. Which only goes to show that Haynes mastered the Dylan contradictions that have defeated others. (I talked about I'm Not There here -- and I liked it more on a second viewing.)

June 24, 2011

Days after

Today was a day after for many others in Christchurch: the long-anticipated release of the government's assessment of quake-damaged land came yesterday. Home owners learnt if their houses are in the green zone (fine), orange zone (more investigation needed) or red (considered no longer viable). Our house is in the green zone, but there are splashes of orange near us in St Martins and Opawa. Above: the St Martins Community Library, looking worse than it did after the big shake in February (see this entry for a comparison), and liquefaction on St Martins Road. That section above is within the orange zone.

There is a familiar feeling to days after a quake in Christchurch, a subdued mood. People are quieter, cars drive a little slower. Streets seem emptier. Today, the day after bad news for many, felt like one of those days.

The St Martins New World has been demolished, along with a cluster of neighbourhood shops (chemist, hairdresser, cafe, bookseller) that stood near it.

The furniture shop Mr Mod is being emptied out. The army is here digging new silt out of backyards, again within the orange zone. On Wilsons Road, I talk to an elderly couple who do not know which zone they are in. No computer, the woman mimes. And they must go out to read the newspaper. The house is barely liveable, she says, and will be demolished and a new house built. "But we're not as badly off as those poor people in Bexley." And while the damaged house is cold, "summer's coming" (yes, in six months).

There used to be streams all through here before European settlement, she adds, streams submerged by building and roading, that have erupted since February. That big pile of liquefaction? There was a creek there once. Someone showed her an old map. The post-quake city's secret knowledge.

What are all these mysterious markings? Future generations will wonder. Above, in Hansen Park, Opawa.

Again, those rivers: so far, the red zone seems to be entirely around the estuary end of the Avon river. The lovely riverside suburb of Avonside will be largely abandoned, part of the city's history vanishing. Opawa is reminiscent of Avonside, a similar age, similar style of houses, built around a river. But there are only patches of orange here, again by the river. There are 5000 houses in the red zone in total. Another 9000 in the orange zone.

Above: marking one of Opawa's creeks (Opawaho being the Maori name for the Heathcote river). Above that: a historical home and attached land (Fifield homestead) is for sale. It was last on the market in 1890. Below: damaged roads and bridge on Fifield Terrace, Opawa. Again, this is the orange zone.

Risingholme on Cholmondeley Avenue is another grand Opawa home, built in 1864. The council bought it in 1943; its lands are now a park, the house is a community centre. But there are no cars in the carpark, no lights on in the home. All of its activities have been shifted elsewhere -- see the notices on the red door. A shy cat hides under the house as I approach. One of Opawa's streams runs quietly next to the home. The city's rivers reassert themselves.

June 15, 2011

After after

Seven mobile phone pictures taken on the five-minute walk back from Beckenham School to home this morning, registering only the things that were not there on Monday, before the 5.5 and 6.3 aftershocks (or are they new quake events?). New cracking and fresh mud on curbs and roads. New safety fencing and a spraypainted "keep clear" sign on the wall of the already ruined school pool. Roads that were repaired just weeks ago now have fresh holes, and there is a newly collapsed river bank. New signs warn of contaminated water in the river; a homemade "slow down" sign appears, warning of slightly more damaged houses and nerves.

The illusion of normality is partly for the sake of children. School returns as normal but there has never been a morning so quiet, on the school grounds, in the park, on the roads. The morning is beautifully clear and cold and I think of some comments from Christchurch poet Joanna Preston, made at the Auckland Writers Festival in May, remembering the morning of the first, September quake: "Afterwards, you didn't know what to do. The sun came up and it was the most incredibly beautiful Canterbury day. Early September, I think there had been a frost. It was blue and it was perfect. Because they had closed the airport, there were no planes going overhead and it was quiet. No cars, no noise. Just quiet, like a day in paradise. The thing is, you have to die to get to paradise. It really did feel a little bit like we were walking in the afterworld.”

June 10, 2011

The Garden of Eden lay in ruins

Even modern historians are condescending in their accounts of the peoples who wandered through luxuriant nature without the need to violate or exploit it. Instead of looking for traces of a distinct Aurignacian or Magdalenian culture they usually try to find in these civilisations only the faltering beginnings of our era. It does not occur to them that the unity from which the diverse mineral, vegetable, animal and human elements originated may have undergone a radically different development from the social orientation imposed on it since Neolithic times. One day we must analyse the cave paintings and artifacts -- with their frequent feminine symbols, their fusion of male and female principles, and their graceful depiction of humans and animals. We may expect to discover traces of a milieu that actually favoured life. Perhaps we shall discover a society careful not to disavow its connection with nature, a civilisation that, through its analogical mode of understanding, was moving toward a living science that could take whatever the natural forces blindly offered, whether harmless or beneficial, and turn it to the advantage of the living.
-- Raoul Vaneigem, from The Movement of the Free Spirit, Zone Books, 1994. Image from Cave of Forgotten Dreams, directed by Werner Herzog, 2010.