Transmissions from the Outside

Becka and I recently watched the movie the Wrestler, a dark drama following the attempts of a washed-up pro wrestler to revive his career (or even survive from day to day) while trying to mend his neglected relationship with his daughter. During one scene Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei are drinking in a bar when suddenly the pop-metal band Rat’s song Round and Round comes screeching out of the sound-system. They begin to reminisce about all the things they miss the most from the eighties. Rourke’s character summarizes “Then that Cobain pussy had to come around and ruin it all.” “The Nineties sucked.” Tomei responds. “The nineties sucked.” Rourke confirms.

Indeed, if you are a fan of Hair Metal or pro-wrestling, the nineteen eighties must seem like some kind of hairspray encrusted golden age. Yet, like many people my own age (I graduated from high school just as the eighties came to a close), I am mystified by the current fascination with anything and everything from this decade. I’ll avoid reciting a litany of things that made the eighties the cultural wasteland that I experienced as teenager, as I’m sure it’s been done before (and better) elsewhere. However, I did find myself succumbing to a certain sense of nostalgia as I reflected upon the music and culture that sustained me through the decade.

As a teenager I developed the habit of keeping a fresh tape in our VCR as I trolled through channels late at night into the early morning, searching for some glimmer of hope in a sea of televangelists and infomercials. Occasionally something struck me as important and I would record it for repeated viewings and closer scrutiny. These rare moments seemed to me like transmissions from beyond the boarders of my stale and claustrophobic small-town existence. There was something else out there that seemed real and exciting, hidden between the usual mundane programming like secret messages left for me to decipher. By interpreting these glimpses I created an overall impression of what the outside world must be like. As incomplete and misconstrued as many of my interpretations often were, they gave me hope that there was something out there beyond my parent’s living room walls, beyond the borders of my home town, beyond the myopic scope of my own reality.

Find here some of the fragments that fed my youthful hope for a better way to live. Some of them are minor masterpieces, some of them guilty pleasures. I’ll let you decide which are which as they are too embedded in my sense-of-self for me to ever be view objectively.

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Lonesome Bunker on the Hill

One of the things I love most about my new adopted home – Wellington – is its vast amount of semi-urban hiking opportunities. Within a quick 20 minute walk from my front doorstep you can find some of the most spectacular views over the city and Wellington Harbour.

On one of my recent morning treks I finally got around to exploring a curious concrete building sitting on the peak of a hill not far from my house. What I thought might be some sort of water tank covered in graffiti turned out to be something far more interesting. As I climbed the hill I found myself amongst a collection of concrete foundations from what appeared to bunkers or some sort of military installment. Most of these half-dozen or so structures consisted of an octagonal central room, the roof long missing, with several covered rooms radiating from this hub. What was left of the buildings appeared to have been disused for several decades. However, in the meantime, they had taken on a new function: An outdoor gallery for numerous pieces of street art.

I did a little google research and found that the site was formerly an anti-aircraft station from the Second World War, built when there were fears that New Zealand my be subject to air raids by Japan.

There seems to be a complex and thoroughly modern irony that such an urban form of expression, intent on reclaiming public spaces and taking art out of the galleries and onto the street, should find a home in such a pastoral open air gallery. A great example of peace-time conversion, anyway.

Find below some of my favourite pieces:

ImageThe approach

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Surprised doorway

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The Monkey on My Back

Anyone who knows me very well can tell you I am a procrastinator par excellence. I often feel as if my brain is on its own time schedule and when its ready to do something I have no problem digging in and putting in whatever effort is required to get it done. When it isn’t ready, no amount of prodding will coerce it into concentrating on the matter at hand. To complicate things further my wife Rebekah over at Bliss in a Teacup is easily my equal at the task-avoidance game. When we get together we are a procrastination-enabling force of nature!

It’s not that I take pride in my lackadaisical approach to life. I admire and even envy people who are focused, determined and who can see what they need to do and just get on with it. Many of my greatest regrets involve time wasted and opportunities squandered. Even when I’m fully aware of what that I’m procrastinating, there is always one more frivolous YouTube video to be watched or one more piece of pop culture trivia to be gleaned. (Sometimes I think the internet was created solely as a perverse device with which to torture procrastinators.)

Recently Becka drew my ever-wavering attention to an article by Tim Urban at Wait But Why about this very subject. I was amazed by how accurately the first part of the article described me, my task-avoiding habits and the feelings of depression and frustration with myself that they engendered. The author cleverly and succinctly summed up the psychology of the self-sabotaging process in which we allow ourselves to stray from difficult or challenging tasks, while in the second part he provides realistic-but-constructive suggestions for coping with your “Instant Gratification Monkey”. (Spoiler alert: there’s no panacea, just coping strategies and the hard work of trying to be self-disciplined.)

Find Tim’s funny and illuminating article here:

http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html

As it is a long article I figured you might need a little audio encouragement to stick with it, so here is the Pink Fairies’ ode to gettin’ it done:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIKm8FNUzdY

A World of My Own

As I am currently in the soul-crushing process of searching for a new job, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the nature of work and how what we do for a living is inextricably entangled with our sense of self. To see my life reduced to a few impersonal pages, describing how I function as a productive-flesh-machine, is a harrowing prospect and perhaps one that I should not dwell upon too long. (I am certain there must be a precise word of this particular type of malaise, no doubt in a language from a culture less morbidly fearful of solipsism than English.)

This crisis of self confidence has led me to think about my happiest memories of employment, maybe in hopes of figuring out what I want, ideally, from a job. It was summer and I had recently discovered the joys of ocean swimming. I had also just recently paid off my student loan so whatever money I earned was my own. I had youth, I had a little money and time to spare, I was the healthiest I had ever been: Life was good. I had suddenly found myself rapidly transitioned from more-than-full-time to a 24 hour-a-week schedule, making more money per hour than I ever had in my life (which, really, is quite a modest statement). The nature of the work wasn’t exactly the sort you could lose yourself in, but it was pleasant enough and something you never took home with you, figuratively or literally.

I think this feeling of elation was enhanced by the fact that the previous three work years had been so gut-wrenchingly stressful. Although working at the same company, the tone of the work was completely different. The hours were long with plenty of forced overtime, I was constantly under strict time constraints and high expectations. The job was physically punishing and many of my co-workers suffered from work-related injuries. Whats more, as I was a casual relief worker I was frequently bumped from one location to another, uncertain where I would end up at the end of any given day. I frequently had anxiety nightmares about work and my partner at the time told me the only time I ever seemed relaxed was after a couple of beers (self-medicating for stress was extremely common among my peers). But what really pushed my anxiety needle into the red was that I had no job security at all. The entire three years I was considered a temporary employee (the slightly derogatory term used for us among supervisors and our co-workers was “terms”, as in “short-term”) and thus could be fired at any time without cause. This rarely happened, but some supervisors held the possibility over our heads like the Sword of Damocles in order to push us to work a little harder or faster or under unsafe conditions.

It was during this time that I discovered photo-montage. I was first exposed to the anti-Nazi posters of John Heartfield and then the amazing, other worldly images of Hannah Hoch and Max Ernst. The simplicity of the materials and the possibility of deeply surrealistic compositions really drew me in. I began collecting huge folders of images from books and magazines, sorted by what must have seemed like slightly eccentric categorization: Patterns; Heads; Body Parts. Soon my favourite way of spending a Friday evening was with a stack of clipped photos, a pair of sharp scissors and a bottle of micro-brew.

It’s hard to judge the end results objectively so many years later, but I am certain that the process of constructing these little pieces gave me the sense of order and purpose and control of at least one aspect of my life that allowed me to cope with the challenges that I was facing elsewhere.

Find below a few of my favourite pieces and if you’d like to see more, click on the link at the bottom this page.

Gladly Beyond DTES Aluminum Radiant Thaw And Yet The Fine Art of ChessCityscape

https://www.flickr.com/photos/brushthrower