Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Thanksgiving

No, it’s not celebrated in Aotearoa, although Black Friday is now firmly on the retailers’ calendar, replacing Boxing day (December 26) as the day with the highest retail turnover. Besides, it celebrates a myth and a whitewashing of America’s colonial past.

Before ill health forced me into early retirement 15 years before I anticipated, I worked for the New Zealand subsidiary of a multinational information technology company. The managing director of the NZ subsidiary was typically (but not always) a foreign national – often American. In the early years of the 1990s an American was appointed to the role of managing director, and in his wisdom, he decided that as the parent company headquarters were located in the US, the NZ subsidiary should follow the American tradition of Thanksgiving. Staff located in Auckland where the NZ head office was located were “treated” to a luncheon with turkey and speeches that were mostly meaningless to the attendees. Staff in the fifteen or so branches scattered across the country were “less fortunate”, as all we were “treated” to was turkey sandwiches that had been couriered to each staff member in every branch.

I hate to think what it cost the company, as turkey was almost unknown here at the time. I presume it was imported specially for the occasion. The six staff members in the branch I was based at took one bite of a sandwich, and instantly tossed all their sandwiches into the rubbish. None of us had tasted turkey before, and not one of us liked the taste one tiny bit. The same occurred in every branch, and apparently most of the turkey served in Auckland had a similar fate. It’s not something the Kiwi palate could easily accommodate.

No one had the courage to inform the managing director what they thought of the whole Thanksgiving fiasco, so he decided to celebrate Thanksgiving the following year. While many Auckland staff found excuses not to attend the luncheon, the branches hatched up a plan of their own. Every sandwich package delivered to the branches was carefully repackaged, addressed to the Managing director and sent by overnight courier back to Auckland. There were about 80 staff members across all the branches, so when he arrived at his office the following morning, the managing director found 80 packages of stale turkey sandwiches waiting for him.

We never heard mention of Thanksgiving again.


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Musical Monday (2022/11/14) – Bliss

Being autistic, I’m unlikely to venture into places where this song usually heard. Pubs and loud people are a form of torture for me. Bliss has become something of an iconic cult song in Aotearoa – our unofficial national drinking song. Performed by the Kiwi band Th’ Dudes, it’s kind of ironic as it was written as a satirical comment about the many drunken audiences they played to while performing on the Sydney pub circuit in Australia. Any evening when large quantities of alcohol is consumed in this nation, you can guarantee the song will the night’s anthem.

Originally this song originally referred to piss, which is slang for alcohol, especially beer, but their recording company balked at its use, hence the word piss being replaced by bliss, including as the title. The music video was recorded in a well known Wellington watering hole – The Cricketer’s Arms. The song was released in May 1980 and climbed to a ranking of 25 on the New Zealand Music Charts. It has since been voted 50th best New Zealand song of the 20th century.

While I’ll never be able to participate in rendering this song in alcohol induced revelry, I find it somewhat liberating when I hear it played at a moderate volume level. Enjoy.

Bliss – Th’ Dudes (1980)
Bliss

Yah ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya
Yah ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya

Drink yourself more bliss
Forget about the last one
Get yourself another
Drink yourself more bliss
Forget about the last one
Get yourself another

Drink yourself more bliss
Have a stiff one all night
Everything is alright
Try and reach the bar
Coppers took the car
Offers from the sidewalk

Drink yourself more bliss
Forget about the last one
Get yourself another
Drink yourself more bliss
Forget about the last one
Get yourself another

Yah ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya
Yah ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya

Think I'm at full speed
Get it up the Coogee
Hello Sailor cruising
Buy some Spanish shoes
Think I need a refill
Get it at the Cross

Drink yourself more bliss
Forget about the last one
Get yourself another
Drink yourself more bliss
Forget about the last one
Get yourself another

Drink yourself more bliss
Forget about the last one
Get yourself another
Drink yourself more bliss
Forget about the last one
Get yourself another

Drink yourself more bliss
Forget about the last one
Get yourself another


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Empathy

Like many, perhaps most autistic people, I am suspicious of a lot of the work and research that Simon Baron Cohen is involved with, however sometimes he hits the nail right on the head. I recently watched a 2012 TEDx presentation by Cohen and he made some comments regarding empathy and democracy that are surely relevant today. Let me quote starting from 10:35:

10:35 “Empathy is vital for a healthy democracy; it ensures that when we listen to different perspectives, we hear other people’s emotions and we also feel them. Indeed without empathy, democracy would not be possible.”

11:46 “Empathy is our most valuable natural resource for conflict resolution. We could wait for our political leaders to use empathy – and that would be refreshing – but actually we could all use our empathy.”

If I was asked for one word to describe what is lacking in American society and politics at this time, I think I would choose the word empathy.

If you wish to watch Simon Baron Cohen’s presentation in its entirety you can find it on YouTube: The erosion of empathy | Simon Baron Cohen | TEDxHousesofParliament.


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Musical Monday (2022/11/07) – Tangaroa Whakamautai

Most of the music I choose for Musical Mondays is from the 60s, 70s and 80s as these are the decades where I was most exposed to music and where I developed my preferences. But I’m not so set in my ways that I don’t don’t enjoy some music from more recent decades. This is one such song. In Māori mythology, Tangaroa is one of the deities present when the earth mother, Papatūānuku, and the sky father, Ranginui, were forced apart to let in the light and bring about the beginning of the world. He became the guardian of the oceans.

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something almost spiritual in many modern songs in te Reo Māori, and Tangaroa Whakamautai is no exception. I find it exquisitely beautiful. I hope you do too. This song by Kiwi singer songwriter Maisey Rika was released in September 2012.

Some of the music video was shot on Whakaari (White Island), which is an active volcano that lies about 50Km (30 miles) off the coast of Aotearoa. It erupted explosively in 2019 killing 22 people and seriously burning and injuring 25 others. Access to the island is now prohibited to tourists.

Tangaroa Whakamautai – Maisey Rika
Tangaroa Whakamautai

Te ararau o Tangaroa
E rere ki te papaurunui 
Te ararau o Tangaroa
E rere ki te papaurunui 
Te ararau o Tangaroa
E rere ki te papaurunui 

Tahora nui ātea
Te manawa o te moana
Te mauri o Tangaroa
Tangaroa whakamautai
Tangaroa whakamautai

Tūtara Kauika
He poutiriao
Te wai o Tangaroa
Te wai o Tangaroa

Te tangi a te tohorā
He tohu nō aituā
Te mau a Tangaroa
Te mau a Tangaroa

He kaitiaki
He taonga 
He tipua
He ariki
He taniwha
He tipua
He kaitiaki
He taonga
He tipua
Tangaroa whakamautai

An English translation by Maisey Rika:

The various waterways of Tangaroa
Flow back into its voluminous source

(x3)

The vast expanse
The heart of the ocean
The life-force of Tangaroa
Tangaroa commander of the tides

A pod of whales (or in reference to Tūtara Kauika the historical whale guardian ancestor)
A supernatural phenomenon
Evolving from the waters of Tangaroa
The waters of Tangaroa

The cry of the whale
Signals a warning
The power of Tangaroa
The power of Tangaroa
Tangaroa commander of the tides

A guardian
A precious treasure
A strange / supernatural being
A god
Of the ancient prehistoric realm
A guardian
A precious treasure
A strange / supernatural being
Tangaroa commander of the tides.


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The trouble with flowering trees and shrubs…

…is flowers.

They look lovely when on the trees and even look quite pretty when the dropping petals first land on the footpath, but…

They stick like glue to the footpath making them almost impossible to sweep away unless…

Someone walks over them, where they stick like glue to the soles of shoes or to Frankie the cat’s fur, again making them almost impossible to remove, unless…

The aforementioned shoes or cat come in contact with the carpeting in the car or the house entry points where those damned petals stick like glue to said carpet and become impossible to remove even with the vacuum cleaner, unless…

I pick up each decaying petal one by one where they stick to my fingers and I find them impossible to remove, unless…

Please let me discover another unless

HELP!


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An upside to the overturning of Roe v Wade

For America and Americans there isn’t any, but for us in Aotearoa there is an upside. Especially when it comes to women’s health. The reality is that in America, and especially in the conservative south, many professionals working in women’s health live in fear – fear of being shot, fear of their work places being bombed, fear that their families might become targets for anti-abortion extremists. Who would choose to live like that? If enquiries from American health professionals to New zealand recruitment services are anything to go by, many have chosen to seek safer pastures.

For many decades, Aotearoa, like many smaller nations have have been the happy hunting ground where large American and European health organisations poach health professionals by offering eye watering salaries way beyond our capacity to pay. We simply don’t have those resources. As a consequence this country is critically short of medical staff in practically every field. And covid has only made thing worse with staff often working beyond the point of exhaustion. But perhaps the tables are about to be turned.

While I have the deepest sympathy for American women who have had their bodily autonomy stolen, I’m grateful that as a consequence of Roe vs Wade, many qualified and experienced health professionals are looking for alternative places where they can practice what they have been trained to do without fear of imprisonment and without fear for their safety, the safety of their families, safety in their place of work and safety for their patients. Many are seeking to make a new, safer and more balanced life for themselves and their families here in Aotearoa. We benefit by a reduction in our critical shortage of health professionals. Everyone wins (except for America and its women).

The YouTube video below is from Sunday, a weekly documentary series shown on TVNZ’s ONE channel. This episode describes the plight of American women seeking abortions in the south of America and also the plight of their health professionals. I can’t imagine living like that. I suspect this outside perspective of what America has become will be unsettling to many of its citizens, but I also suspect that those who should see it will be the last to even consider watching a foreign documentary. That’s what religious and political intolerance does.


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Scary stories

Halloween was a few days ago. It’s an event I ignore. It didn’t exist in Aotearoa when I was growing up and personally I’d be happy if it remained so today. Thankfully, our current home has not been visited for Trick or Treating since we moved here 16 years ago. Perhaps it’s the unlit, tree lined zig-zag path that leads to the front door that puts kids off. Whatever the reason, it means I don’t have to pretend that Halloween is fun.

Halloween has brought up the topic of how folk with aphantasia (the inability to visualise mental images), such as myself, react to scary stories. Apparently we don’t. It might explain why I had no interest in sharing scary stories as a child. According to a Royal Society Publishing article the fear induced while reading or hearing a scary story relies on being able to create a mental image of the situation/event being described. No image, no fear.

The study measured skin conductivity of subjects while being presented with a scary or frightening story such as being in an aircraft as it crashed, or being trapped in a room full of spiders that then begin crawling over you. It’s well established that strong emotions are linked to skin moisture – the stronger the emotion, the wetter the skin becomes, lowering its electrical resistance. The control group showed significant increases in skin conductivity during the presentation of the scary stories but the aphantasiacs “flatlined” showing no change in emotions.

To check whether aphantasiacs lacked emotional responses, subjects were also presented with scary images. Both the control group and those with aphantasia showed identical responses. The study indicates the there is a close relationship between visual imagery and emotions. Both the control group and aphantasiacs presented the same emotional reactions when presented with real images, but only the control group did so when no images were presented as they were able to create the mental image of the story whereas those with aphantasia could not.

Around 2% – 5% of the general population have aphantasia, while it’s estimated that 20% – 30% of autistics are also aphantasiacs. Most people with Aphantasia don’t realise that they have it unless they are tested specifically for it. I only discovered I have aphantasia in my mid 60s – around six or seven years ago. It might go someway to explain why I have difficulty identifying faces –even of those nearest and dearest to me. Perhaps it might also explain why I find little to no attachment to fictional situations, but slightly more so when I see it on a TV or movie screen.

Aphantasia is another one of those neurological differences where those with the condition are frequently described as suffering with/from the condition, in much the way autistics are often described as suffering from autism. If you are guilty of this, just stop it! Neither autism nor aphantasia cause suffering in and of themselves. Any suffering comes from how others disbelieve, devalue, ignore and gaslight the experiences of those with these conditions, and worse when we are punished because others perceive our responses to our experiences as being wrong.


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Musical Monday (2022/10/31) – Victoria

One of my all time favourite songs and ranks at number 8 in New Zealand’s Top 100 songs of all time. The song tells of a real life person known as vicky who used heavy makeup to hide the bruises inflicted by her then boyfriend and pimp. Often she used makeup and unusual clothing to hide the bruises on her body, arms and legs as well. It tells of the life of many caught in the sex trade before it was decriminalised in Aotearoa in 2003.

Victoria was the debut song of the Dance Exponents when they first appeared live at the Hillsborough Tavern on 15th October 1982, making this song 40 years old at time of writing. It was written by band member Jordan Luck, who as a naive eighteen year old didn’t at first realise why Vicky wore such heavy makeup. The song is just as valid today for many people (mostly, but not always women) who find themselves in an abusive relationship but unable (or unwilling) to escape from it.

Victoria – Dance Exponents. Song writer: Jordan William Hunter Luck
Victoria

She gets glances since they first greeted
Sent salutations that can't be repeated
She's become a social institution
Prepares her prey like an execution

Victoria
What do you want from him, want from him?
Victoria
What do see in him, see in him?

She's up in time to watch the soap opera
Reads cosmopolitan and Alvin Toffler
Meeting in the places that she's never been to
She's got a mind but it's the clothes they see through

Victoria
What do you want from him, want from him?
Victoria
What do see in him, see in him?

She lives with a man who sees her as money
Laughs at his lines that aren't even funny
She's in bed but she's not sleeping
is he a customer that's really worth keeping?

Victoria
What do you want from him, want from him?
Victoria
What do see in him, see in him?

There's no such thing as romance blooming
Sundays are for washing and doing the hoovering
Talking to her friends on the telephone
Another jerk rings up who won't leave her alone

Victoria
What do you want from him, want from him?
Victoria
What do see in him, see in him?

Victoria
What do you want from him, want from him?
Victoria
What do see in him, see in him?

Victoria
What do you want from him, want from him?
Victoria
What do see in him, see in him?


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A Parliamentary milestone

For the first time in our history, women Members of Parliament outnumber men. With one vacancy in Parliament (a by-election is due soon) the swearing in of Soraya Peke-Mason yesterday means that there are currently 60 women MPs (Members of Parliament) and 59 men MPs.

Grant Robertson (an openly gay MP) who is Acting Prime Minister while Jacinda Ardern is in Antarctica, stated that It is a significant moment in the democratic representation of New Zealand. “At a time when we have a female prime minister, Governor General and Chief Justice, it is further evidence of the strides that we’re making in gender equality.” Notice that he said strides we are making – in other words there’s still progress to be made.

Aotearoa New Zealand made history in 1893 by becoming the nation to grant universal suffrage regardless of ethnicity, gender or property ownership. Then we progressed at a snail’s pace, with women not being able to be elected to parliament until 1919, and the first woman being successfully elected fourteen years later in 1933. As Ms Peke-Mason said, “Good things take time. No doubt it’s a special day for me but it’s also a historic occasion for Aotearoa New Zealand.”

What is significant is that it’s the left of centre parties where women are better represented. Of the 64 Labour MPs, 37 are women, while 7 of the 10 Green MPs are women. In contrast, the right of centre National party has only 10 women amongst its 33 MPs, and the ACT party does slightly better with 4 of its 10 MPs being women. It’s interesting to note that in the first 23 years of this century, we’ve had a woman Prime Minister for 14 of those years.

As a footnote Aotearoa New Zealand became the first nation to elect an openly trans woman to Parliament in 2005. Following the 2020 general elections, our Parliament became the “queerest” in the world with 12 openly LGBTQI representatives elected – 10% of all MPs sitting in Parliament.