Crystal Waters Fish Farm: Week 81

At the end of a leafy driveway, lined with little white pastoral statues, was the Crystal Waters Fish Farm. It was easy to see why my friend Amit had fallen in love with his piece of land. His property sat in a narrow valley, surrounded by forests and bisected by gurgling streams. There were landscaped gardens, hidden fountains and even a large wooden suspension bridge to link both halves of his land, and this was just the residential section.

Across his stream was the commercial half of the land- where tanks and sheds filled with more tanks were used for breeding and growing. The golden days of hatching goldfish had gone and aside from empty containers, all that remained was a radio and a wall of stiff black bristles. It might not have looked like much, but it was just the foundation Amit needed for his future plans.

Walking back to the house, we passed a sunlit hill with sheep grazing on top.

“Actually, I’d like to show that part of the property,” Amit decided. We changed course and as we crested the top of the hill, a little lamb came into view.

“Hey!” I cried. “You do have a lamb!”

Actually, Amit had three lambs that he didn’t know about. He took notice of my squeals of delight and had an idea. “Would you like to hold one?”


I definitely wanted to squeeze one of those little tufts of wool till its hooves popped off.

We stealthily moved into formation, held our arms out to appear larger, and closed in on the sheep. Sensing our approach, they ran down the hill as our circle tightened. I dashed to the right, perhaps too fast, and the sheep became more spooked. They cut between us and looped around a small pond. We changed tactic and repositioned.

Once again the sheep were heading in the intended direction. Right before they entered their paddock though, they made a desperate last dash through the knee-deep bush. All but the littlest lamb had gotten away. It bleated mournfully as it futilely tried to hop the shrub. Amit, thinking he could use the lamb to bait the others, called out to the nearest person.

“Hey Barret, could you pick it up?”

From my perch on the hill I saw Barret pause. He looked over at the lamb and glanced behind him to the herd of sheep. The mother, having realized her baby was stranded, began calling out imperative bleats. The calls were intended for the lamb but they had an unnerving effect on Barret, who believed a stampede was eminent.

“No.” He decided, his voice cracking.  “You pick it up!”

I never thought a tiny lamb could terrify the same man who chased a purse snatcher down a dark street in Uruguay, but it had. Amit obligingly picked up the lamb himself and when I reached the base of the hill, I grabbed its furry little body for photo ops.

Amit still had a surprise for us before we left. He went to ‘get something important’ and reappeared with a can of cat food in one hand and a fork in the other.

“Are you ready?” He asked, enjoying the puzzled expression on our faces.

We followed him out onto an exposed rocky area next to a stream. He scooped up a little cat food and placed the fork and bait just below the water. Several minutes passed before we saw a dark shadow move under the rippling surface. A long black eel slowly advanced and, reaching the cat food, engulfed the fork in its mouth.

Amit loosened the fork from the eel’s grip and handed it to Barret, who grabbed it with a steady determination. Barret thrust it into the can and disgorged the biggest lump of wet cat food I have ever seen. Then, with lightning fast reflexes, he plunged the bait into the frigid water. He soon had the eels attention and dexterously coaxed it out from mysterious depths.

With the eel distracted, Barret jabbed a finger into the slick, spongy body (or maybe it was still its neck) and claimed it conquered.

Thank god my manly man had returned.

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

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