Possum Costumes & Dumplings: Week 75

Recently, while at my parent’s house, I was stuck with the unenviable task of repacking mold-damaged boxes. I couldn’t complain because I wasn’t paying my parents to store my things, so instead I saw it as an opportunity. It was time to trim the excess and. while I was at it, take a little detour down memory lane.

French Painters:


  • avoided commissions, not sociable
  • credited w/ creating the fete galante
  • sense of fantasy w/ women in contemp. clothes & men in theater or 17th cent. outfits

When this little white note turned up I couldn’t remember why I had kept it; 17th century art history wasn’t something I was particularly interested in. Nevertheless, I flipped the page over and continued reading.

  • subjects do not engage the viewer   as   high   pa i y,  b ut  in   Frencoi  rt
  • U  o

Franqois Boucher

  • Men werenot perfect- some wa   grly
  • 18th 1800s in trone = were
  • v   e   ry       
  •              po

“Ah ha!” I chuckled to myself as I thought about the dark classroom with the tiered platforms and uncomfortable plastic chairs. If the furniture didn’t feel dated enough, there was always the dual slide projector. Its predictable kachook click was made, I am sure of it, to lull students into sleepy hazes from which they awoke with stiff necks and drool in their hands.

While art history wasn’t the most inspiring class, I still loved being in school and I was excited to be revisit that part of my life. My best friend Jen Kleven had opened a gallery since graduating and she was hosting a group show titled BFABYOBBBQRedo2012. It was a group exhibit showcasing one artwork from each person who graduated from our BFA program. My contribution was to be my first time back in an art circuit since leaving school and moving abroad.

After considering several differnt approaches, I had chosen the inspiration that had just fallen in my lap. Actually, it had been a breaking news update emailed around the office: children were dressing up possum corpses for a school fundraiser in Uruti, NZ. It was weird, it had panache, it was perfect. I couldn’t wait to get started.

While I was drawing Barret had been observing Ivy, our roommate from Shanghai, make a batch of dumplings. Her Chinese version was similar to Korean mandu, which happens to be one of Barret’s favorite foods. So it didn’t surprise me at all when he decided to take an afternoon off from work and to recreate a gluten-free version of his favorite snack.

When they came out from their steam bath they were soft and sticky and fragrant. I never pitied myself for not being able to eat dumplings, but maybe that’s because I didn’t know what I had been missing. They were delicious. I believe the term Ivy would have used was, “Oh my Godness!”

About BFABYOBBBQRedo2012: Kleven Contemporary

About divalicious dead possums in New Zealand: Uruti School Fundraiser

How Far is Heaven: Week 74

Barret and I were at the Paramount Cinema for our last film at the New Zealand Film Festival. While the nuns on stage lead the theater in a prayer, I finished up my chocolate covered black cherry cone. Ice cream at a movie theater was both delicious and novel and curiously satisfying even though it didn’t last very far into my movie going experience. Although, I have to admit that my bag of popcorn never usually makes it past the opening credits either.

Even though it wasn’t the films opening night, there was a big audience and we could tell the filmmakers were nervous. How Far is Heaven was the only documentary Barret and I had chosen from the festival and it definitely made the experience more interesting when we realized that some of the people from the film were in the audience. Nuns included.

Two little girls were sitting next to each other inside their church’s activity room. The girl on the left was holding a doll when she looked over her shoulder at her companion.

“This is my baby. I don’t love the daddy no more.”

As if on cue, her friend asks where the father is.

“He’s in jail,” the little girl responds. “He hit me and I didn’t like that.”

While the little girl’s friend gave a naughty smile and continued asking questions, I sat quite smugly in my seat. I have read up on social issues, earned a college degree, traveled the world, and seen more episodes of Intervention than I could shake a stick at.

So as I watched this playtime discussion, I pitied the girls. It only took a second in my mind to condemn their parent’s ability to raise children and judge the lack of education. I also compared those two girls to the children I taught in Korea and to my own childhood, in which that kind of talk felt more foreign than Mars.

I’m also fairly certain I wasn’t the only person in the audience that felt that way. Even the nuns on-screen had locked themselves in their prayer room and asked God to help them not pass judgements on others.

Several more minutes of playful dialog lapsed before the two girls became bored with their play. As a last thought the girl on the right asked her friend, “what is the daddy’s name that you don’t like no more?”

The girl on the left looked down at her doll and gave it a rough stroke.

She paused a moment longer. “Tiger Woods.”

While her friend giggled the audience burst out in genuine laughter.

The filmmakers Miriam Smith and Christopher Pryor must be made of a better cloth than both the nuns and I because their film reveals life on a quiet rural bend of the Wanganui River without judgement and clichés.

Instead, the story about the tiny community of Jerusalem and the three nuns who run the church is both quirky, amusing and rewards the viewer with the unexpected. It is the kind of film that reminded me that without preconceptions you open yourself up to surprises and the nuances of life.

Kudos to Smith and Pryor for a wonderful film.

How to get to the Paramount: 25 Courtenay Place  Wellington 6011, New Zealand

About: How Far is Heaven

New Zealand Film Festival: Week 72

On a Tuesday night in early June, Barret and I poured over the New Zealand Film Festival guide.

“Oh this film is that animated one we wanted to see in Korea about bullying. What do you think?”

“Hmm.. 9.43”

“Really,” I replied, “.43?


“How about the new Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom?”


“Hmm. I agree.”

The New Zealand Film Festival was opening in a few weeks and the tickets had just been released for sale. There were so many interesting films in the guide that Barret and I came up with a system to rate them. I assigned a preliminary star to which Barret gave a numerical score. I didn’t quite understand his scale, but it made him feel like he actually had a say.

The last film festival we attended, the Busan International Film Festival, took place in South Korea. It was the northeast Asian version of Sundance and extremely hard to get passes for- especially the star-studded opening. The tickets had gone on sale while I rode the bus to work and by the time I logged in at work almost every film was sold out.

So on that Tuesday night, knowing the NZFF tickets had been on sale since morning, Barret and I prepared a list of 15 films we wanted to see. One of our top choices, Beasts of the Southern Wild, was the official opening night film. Although I was certain the tickets were already sold out, I decided to try my luck anyways.

Barret, there’s still tickets! For everything!

I was excited because I hadn’t attended a film festival opening before and I also had not been to the Embassy. I had been mooning over the art deco design of the Roxy theater without realizing that this landmark building from the 20s was a gem in itself. The walls of the lobby were decorated with beautiful tile work that delicately curved up the stairwells all the way up to the second level. While there might not have been any red carpets or limousines like there was the night The Return of the King premiered, it was easy to imagine a celebrity sipping a glass of wine by the glass terrace before being ushered to their seats.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was screening inside the main theater, which was so large it had two spiral staircases leading down to the front row seating. It almost made neck-craning seem desirable and refined. Almost. The festival organizer gave a short speech in which he sounded both satisfied and completely exhausted, the audience gave a polite clap and then the opening credits began to roll.

It might not have been the most special special-screening and yes the theater was very crowded, but I could see why premiers are so popular. You just can’t capture the element of excitement and anticipation you feel from sitting amongst 1,000 other movie goers on Blu-Ray.

How to get to the Embassy: Kent Terrace  Mount Victoria, Wellington 6011, New Zealand

About: New Zealand Film Festival

The Roxy: Week 71

There is something quite special about movie theaters in New Zealand. From the smallest towns to the capitol, people visit cinemas not only for movies but also for boutique restaurants and cafés. There is not a bendy straw or coin-gobbling video arcade in sight and if you asked for a child’s combo pack, well, there would certainly be a bit on confusion.

Barret’s favorite place to catch a movie is the Roxy. It originally opened in 1928 as a silent theater in the suburb of Miramar and operated until the mid 60s, when it was converted to a shopping court. After the business closed, it sat idle for a while until a group of cinemaphiles (including the Weta founders) bought the old building with plans of renovation.

It has been open for over a year now and on that rainy Sunday night, the illuminated entrance cast a bright welcoming glow. After purchasing our tickets we walked across the marble foyer towards the café. The counter was made from dark wood and cut clean bold lines. At the end of it, on shiny silver stands, were sugar-dusted muffins and brownies iced with rich chocolate cream. The espresso machine was steaming and the peaceful clatter of forks and knives could be heard from the restaurant’s tables.

Would you like the beverage list?” The bartender asked.

Yes, please.”

After browsing the selection we decided on a half bottle of red wine, which the bartender poured into a delicate glass carafe. Then he handed us two large wine glasses that had the kind of squeaky-clean surface you only see on dishwasher commercials. There was a fifteen minute wait before the movie began, so we made our way to the lounge upstairs. It was Barret’s favorite part of the cinema because the robotic ceiling mural (designed by a Weta artist) cleverly incorporated utilitarian elements like smoke alarms and vents into the image.

When the theater doors opened we found our seats and sat the bottle of wine on a little semicircular table at the end of the armrest. The lights dimmed and an Expedia commercial about Las Vegas began. Barret and I had seen it before so we knew when to expect our friend, Danielle Kelly, on the big screen. Right as her cameo began we glanced over at each other and gave a small toast for friends, for home, and for Wellington. And you know what- not one glass broke in the theater. How classy.

How to get to The Roxy: 5 Park Road, Miramar, Wellington

Meringues: Week 70

It was Sunday evening and Jess was sitting at the kitchen table; her posture stiff as she scribbled a list of questions.

“I really can’t be bothered now. It’s late. We can ask her tomorrow.”

“I know it’s late,” I delicately responded, “but isn’t Vanessa leaving tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” Jess brusquely replied, “I never see her. I think she avoids me.”

Jess glanced over with a raised eyebrow, but it didn’t fool me. Vanessa spent most of her time holed up in her room and if Jess really wanted to talk, she only had to knock on the door. This avoidance worked both ways.

“Let’s just talk to her now,” Lisa interjected with her characteristically relaxed tone. She was wearing a baggy sweat suit and stood beside Jess while examining the list on the table.

“Well someone else has to do the talking because if I do I will get snippy. It’s bad enough that it’s already Sunday,” Jess replied with a frown.

“Now if you’re going to get snippy…” Lisa cautioned as she looked down at Jess. The kitchen lamp cast a harsh overhead light and made Lisa look like a film noir investigator. Her British accent fit the role perfectly.

“Nooo…Like I said,” Jess replied, “I‘ll just be quiet and let someone else do the talking.”

“Barret,” I quickly suggested, “is the right man for the job.” Until then he had been quietly standing by the door with his arms folded against his grey hoodie. His ruffled hair and scraggly beard were the antithesis to his composed nature.

When Barret strolled out the door I turned my attention back to the oven. Two trays of crispy white meringues were baking and to be honest I had made them out of spite. After all the vegan cookies I had specially made for Vanessa (and all the subsequent dishes I had washed) she had tried to sell me her iron before moving out. The gall.

A minute later Barret returned with Vanessa and Jess slyly tucked her notes under the table. An awkward silence soon settled as every one waited for someone else to speak. “So,” I turned to Vanessa, “My meringues are almost done!” She cast a disinterested glance towards the pile of broken eggshells before uneasily leaning against the ruby red counter.

The room became quiet again. Like a magician waving a distracting wand, I wielded my wooden mixing spoon covered in batter. “Mmm,” I sighed as I licked the spoon, “I think these are going to taste so good!” Vanessa ignored the glint in my eye, Barret worried about raw eggs, and Jess just stared at the wooden laminate table. Lisa, however, cut straight to the point.  “Have you found us a new flatmate?”

Now that the elephant in the room had been addressed, we all turned to Vanessa. She raised her hands to her face and wearily rubbed her eyes. It was a habit of hers that made her look more tired and older than she really was.

“Uhhhhh. No.”

Vanessa left two days later along with the vegetable peeler. Her gas bill was unpaid and her small white room still empty. The only thing that remained was a large cardboard box clumsily placed near the front door.

“My friend, Seb, is going to pick it up on Wednesday,” Vanessa had mentioned the morning of her flight home.

However days turned to weeks and Seb never showed up. Aside from being inconvenient, it reminded me of Vanessa’s last night and of spiteful baking. I realize that ill will does not build good character, but it does make for crispy sweet meringue peaks. At least in my kitchen.

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