Friday, October 22, 2010

Ghosts in the theatre.

My brain is fried. I'm exhausted all day then get a second wind around 10pm which means I don't sleep til 2am.
My shirt may well be on inside out. I smell of sugar free V, grease paint, sweat and dusty costumes and the bags under my eyes are pudgier than my eyelids.
I'm forgetting words. I haven't seen my Mum in a fortnight or called my Nan in a month.

It must be the end of show season.

I had planned to elaborate further but I cant be arsed.
IOU one decent post about this show once it is over.

Oh, one funny thing from backstage. The performers have gotten all overexcited, and every time something goes missing (and yes, that's common in the backstage shambles) they blame it on a theatre ghost.
Seeing as the last three things have been ladies undergarments (either costume or personal) I was starting to wonder if thief ghost had been a dirty old man in the past.

Their theory is that it is Freda Stark.
Are you kidding me?
For a start she died old and happy fairly in 1999.
For a second point she danced NAKED...
Why in FSM's name would she want a bra??

Turns out they didn't know who Freda was but knew she was a famous dancer in the Civic in the 30's.
They were stunned to find out that she was in the catagory of exotic and was also gay to top it off.

And they thought I was mean because I laughed at them.
I wouldn't laugh if the weren't so Stupid!!!!

Ok that was mean. Sorry.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grieving a child - A new resource for families experiencing loss.

Note: the base details of this write up were taken from the details of an interview with the Bay of Plenty Times.

I want to thank Liz, primarily for writing this incredible book, and also for allowing me to write this, I hope this will help market the book and allow the community to know about this new resource.
Please pass the word around. As activists in various different women’s interest
groups we are ideally set to pass the word around.


It is not often that a book comes out, and I want to;
A) Get it NOW
B) Buy multiple copies for my friends.

Recently I got a wee note from a friend of mine who wanted to let people know that his sister has written a book.
The number of books I have read because I know the author, and then wished I had that couple of hours back...
This is different.

For a start it is a book written to help families cope with bereavement and the process of a stillbirth.
Liz Tamblyn has self-published 300 copies. She hopes the book will be a valuable tool for people working with children dealing with grief .

Secondly Liz is the author and it is written in first person perspective, but
not hers...
The book is called Baby Sam and is in the voice of Baby Sam’s big brother Jack, who was 4 when Sam was stillborn.
Liz wrote the story soon after Sam's death four years ago.
"A lot of it is Jack's words. I read it to him seven or eight times and he corrected the bits I got wrong."
There are not too many times in your life you remember minute to minute. The day you realise your child is gone is one of those moments.

Sam was six days overdue when a check-up discovered that he had died. Liz had felt him moving just the day before.
She knew about stillbirth through her cousin’s experience 14 years before her, and what she had seen in the media, but nothing can prepare you for this.
What Liz’s book does help with is the process after. Grief, the experience of mourning as a family unit and the ways of remembering a child lost.
“The book tells how the family celebrated Sam's life with a special dance at his funeral and by releasing red balloons. Jack and his younger sister Sally received presents from Sam and had a birthday cake with a train on it to mark his birthday.”

This really hit home for me; we celebrated my friend’s son’s 18th birthday a few years back though he died quite soon after his 4th. The first birthdays were filled with the weight of grief, raw and unhealed. In contrast his 18th Birthday was a picnic on the grass; we each laid flowers on his grave and had our own private moments with him before joining the group for what was definitely a celebration. A celebration of his life and his family’s since his loss.

No one grieves the same way, or uses the same coping mechanisms, and so any resource to help support a child through a healthy and natural process of loss is highly relevant.
The BOP times reported that this is the only book on baby loss from the sibling’s perspective, which Liz has kindly let me know is incorrect.
In her words...
“There is another book put out by Skylight NZ, SIDS Wellington and Sands Wellington called "What Happened to Baby" (Which I highly recommend!). It is generic and could be any baby, for any reason at any age or gestation. The text has been carefully designed to fit a wide range of bereavement situations, including miscarriage, stillbirth, cot death and accidental or natural deaths of an infant or toddler. Ours is the only TRUE and PERSONAL story I have found on the subject.”
Liz who is also mum to Harry and Sally, found writing the book was extremely healing and therapeutic.
"It's almost like his life has left a legacy of helping other people through their grief. It's like a new purpose in my life, which I would never have had. I'd rather have him if I had the choice but I have to find the good things."

Mrs Tamblyn is a committee member for Sands, a support group for “families grieving the loss of a baby no matter the gestation or age or reason for death. (Not just stillbirth and newborn death).”

The book was officially launched at a private function in Tauranga last week.

To buy Baby Sam, email or visit

Friday, October 8, 2010

My angry, angry, angry breasts.

There are two Facebook messages/ updates going around that are bugging all hell out of me.
The first is that girls and women are updating their profile with
“I like it...” then stating where they keep their handbag.
Consequently it looks a bit dirty when girls
“like it behind the couch”, or “like it behind the door”, or even better “like it wherever I can be bothered.”
Witty! I thought it was funny until I got the (let’s face it) Chain letter causing this...

“Last year women on facebook played a game to raise awareness of October Breast Cancer Month. They each posted what colour bra they were wearing on their status. The effect was so widespread that it made men wonder what it was about and eventually made it to the news - increasing the awareness of breast cancer. This year's game has to do with your handbag or purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home for example "I like it on the couch", "I like it on the kitchen counter", "I like it on the dresser" you get the idea. Just put your answer as your status with nothing more than that and cut'n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news; let's see how powerful we women really are..!


*cough* Several questions...
How does this raise awareness of breast cancer?
There are no links to sites with education, no ability to book a mammogram, no info on when and where to get a mammogram, and when they become free...
There are no links to the cancer foundation, no information about how to donate, or donate time to become a collector for collection day.
And how does this make women feel or appear powerful?

In fact, is this what it appears to be? A chain letter no better than; “pass this on or little sally will die of syphilis and you will never get a boyfriend”?

I’m disappointed and angry that this is not only happening but being carried on by smart, caring women I know.

The second is this one.
“October is cancer month. In memory of every cancer patient, family member and friend who has lost their battle with cancer and in honour of those who continue to conquer it! Put this up for 1 hour if you love someone who has or had cancer.”

It’s like “post this as your facebook status if you hate having a cold, and love money.”
Well DUH. Except there is a highly emotional level to this making it in essence, emotional bribery.
Considering roughly 1/4 of New Zealanders will get some form of cancer in their life time, and one fifth of all cancer deaths in women is from breast cancer*, your hit rate is pretty good.

It cheapens what people are living through and dying with, and I object that because my status update has nothing to do with cancer somehow that implies that I don’t ‘care’.

I care deeply.

I care so deeply that I don’t talk about cancer frivolously.
I sure as hell don’t use it for spam, or to emotionally bribe people to update their status to match mine.
I care, so I talk about it person-to-person and make sure I can see someone’s eyes when I talk about cancer, so I can see where those boundaries’ of hurt and fear are that I don’t want to accidentally cross.
I care; so as new research and education comes out I pass it on to my loved ones.
I care, so I check my own breasts, and teach other women how to check theirs.

I care for more than ONE BLOODY HOUR on Facebook.

I’m sorry if you forwarded anything on, or feel this posting attacks something you did out of the kindness of your heart.
I understand that most people mean well, but try to understand why these messages are thoughtless in so many ways.

For information on breast cancer specifically visit the breast cancer foundation of New Zealand

Or their ‘Take action’ page, if you want to *gasp* do something.

or join them on Facebook.

Go to this site to see Janelle Aitken, a National Breast Health Educator take you through a concise breast health presentation; covering basic breast awareness, healthy lifestyle tips and busts some of the myths that are floating around about breast cancer.

Or for info on recovery exercises (I think this may even be free) go to the ywca.

*data from the 90's needs updated stats, sorry.

Some info for your interest...

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among New Zealand women, with more than 2500 new cases expected this year - also approximately 20 men will be diagnosed1.

More than 600 women will die from the disease this year - making it the leading cause of cancer-related death in females.

1 in 9 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime2.

90-95% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

Getting older is the most common risk factor: over 70% of new cases are among women 50years and over.

Women of all ages, especially those over the age of 40 years, need to be ‘breast aware'.

In being ‘breast aware' women should:
· Know what is normal for them
· Know what changes to look and feel for
· Report changes without delay to their family doctor
· Attend mammography screening if appropriate for their age

Changes in the breast that may indicate cancer:
· A new lump or thickening
· A change in the breast shape or size
· Pain in the breast that is unusual
· Puckering or dimpling of the skin
· Any change in one nipple, such as:
- a turned-in (inverted) nipple
- a discharge that occurs without squeezing
· A rash or reddening of the skin that appears only on the breast.

Early detection of breast cancer increases a woman's chance of survival. Today, close to 85% of NZ women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive 5 years or more, and the death rate has decreased by nearly 24% between1995-2005.

New Zealand's free, nationwide breast screening programme, BreastScreen Aotearoa, checks women with no breast cancer symptoms - ‘well' women - for early breast cancer between 45-69 years of age with a screening mammogram every two years.

Screening mammograms do not stop the development of breast cancer, but do reduce the chance of dying from breast cancer by approximately 33%.

Thermography is ineffective as a breast cancer screening tool or breast cancer diagnostic tool.

Breast cancer occurs with equal frequency in Maori and Non-Maori women. However, Maori women are nearly twice as likely to die from the disease as non-Maori; one important reason for this is they are presenting with breast cancer at a later stage of disease. The reasons for their presenting late are complex, but are shown by the low rate of attendance by Maori women for screening mammograms.

Pacific women in NZ are 20% more likely to die of breast cancer than other NZ women.


1. Ministry of Health (2008). Cancer New Registrations and Deaths 2005, pp. 18-19. Wellington: MOH.

2. Ministry of Health/NZHIS/BSA (2007). Personal communication. Personal Communication: Bercinskas,
L (2007) and Childs, J.(2009)

3. The National Screening Unit, the Cancer Society of New Zealand and The New Zealand Breast Cancer
Foundation (2008, Oct). Position Statement on Breast Awareness.. Ministry of Health: Wellington.

4. Ministry of Health (2008). Cancer New Registrations and Deaths 2005, p.35 Wellington: MOH.

5. Ministry of Health/NZHIS (2006). Data is average for 1996-2000 mortality.

6. The National Screening Unit, the Cancer Society of New Zealand and The New Zealand Breast Cancer
Foundation (2005, Jan). Position Statement: The use of thermography as a breast screening or
diagnostic tool. Ministry of Health: Wellington.

7. Cancer Control Council of NZ (Nov 2008). Mapping Progress 11: Phase 1 of the Cancer Council
Strategy Action Plan 2005-2010. p. 32. Wellington: Cancer Control Council of NZ.

8. Ministry of Health/Breast Screen Aotearoa (2009). Retrieved from the internet on 11 March 2009

Remember - early detection saves breasts and lives

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Insights from a crappy Tuesday Part 1/2

He’s a nice guy really...

My second revelation from a crappy Tuesday:
My friends are not as nice as I thought, and there is a disturbing undercurrent of racism in my beautiful country.

I’m sick of being attacked for my opinions this week.
I’ve had person after person either insinuate, or out and out say to my face that I am “too PC”, “soft”, am “being petty”, getting involved in something that doesn’t affect me, am letting “negativity win by getting involved in arguments, and have got too much time on my hands due to me;

1) Openly showing my stance against a prominent media personality who has repeatedly denigrated his guests on the show and viewers based on their sex, appearance, race, income, sexuality and appearance.
2) Signing a petition with regards to the above
3) Joining a Face book group to show support for the appropriate and lawful dismissal of said “personality.”

First and foremost, none of those things took much time at all.
I work a full 8 hour day, and am volunteering for a community theatre job 5-6 shows a week in the evenings, so I’m not just sitting around waiting for something to get all up in arms about.
I’ve taken my precious time to make these statements because I care deeply and this behaviour concerns me greatly. Do not undermine me by implying that I’m somehow not leading a fulfilling life because I took the time to take a stand.

Secondly, I pride myself of being a rather positive person. Those who know me personally will attest to a rather sick sense of humour and a strong awareness of the power of positivity.
I’m more worried about my job review this week, a speech I have to give tomorrow and the fact I won’t be at the theatre tonight (did I train my replacement well enough?).
Being able to vent real frustration in an appropriate fashion to make positive change in a genuine outlet is wonderful, therapeutic, and totally functional.
Don’t tell me what I can and cannot handle.

Thirdly... what the hell is “Too P.C?”
I understand that being “P.C.” can go too far. Where is too far?
No derogatory or defamatory terms in court?
No derogatory or defamatory terms in parliament?
No derogatory or defamatory terms on the news?
No derogatory or defamatory terms on news based television?
No derogatory or defamatory terms on the radio?
No derogatory or defamatory terms by lecturers or teachers in schools and universities?
No derogatory or defamatory terms in workplaces?
No derogatory or defamatory terms in restaurants?
No derogatory or defamatory terms in your own home?

Where is your cut off?
Where is the cut off for what is “too PC”
Chances are they are the same place. It is an opinion based judgement.

Be very careful of using the terms “too PC “, or “PC gone mad”.

“Political correctness is one of the brilliant tools that the American Right developed in the mid-1980s, as part of its demolition of American liberalism. . . . What the sharpest thinkers on the American Right saw quickly was that by declaring war on the cultural manifestations of liberalism — by leveling the charge of "political correctness" against its exponents — they could discredit the whole political project”
Hutton W, “Words really are important, Mr Blunkett” The Observer, Sunday December 16, 2001

The only statement you are making is that you aren’t willing to actually debate the topic, just discredit my reasoning with a blanket statement that I can’t argue because there is no basis in fact, only opinion.

Insights from a crappy Tuesday Part 2/2

As for my awesome pettiness...
When did caring about racism become petty? What about equal rights for all people regardless of their colour, creed, sexuality, beliefs or appearance?
Ok that was not functional, or appropriate.

Again, petty is an opinion based judgement.
My Grandmother happily assumes that anyone Pacific island or Maori in the Hawkes Bay must be unemployed, and wouldn’t question that statement on national television.
My parents aren’t too concerned when people make comments about Asian drivers.
Both of these make me cringe and yet I have my own inappropriate judgements – I assume that if a white man has an Afrikaans accent he will be both sexist and racist.
This is both incorrect and totally inappropriate for us to talk about these views in a professional or large public forum.
Is it petty for someone to criticise us if we do?

Once you have these ingrained beliefs, with no factual basis what you do with them is important.
Would it cause me to discriminate?
Would I hire a South African?
Marry one?
Vote one into a parliamentary position?
Pay one less than I would a New Zealander?
Assume a judgement of guilty if I was on a jury?
Would I use my beliefs as an excuse to hurt, or harm someone emotionally or physically?

The importance of what our prominent figures are saying comes in here.
Because people are abusing and marginalising every day, and if someone is being devalued due to their sex, race, income, sexuality or appearance I do not want that behaviour being backed up by the mainstream media.

I am getting involved in this because it DOES involve me. I take great pride in living in a country with free speech, equal rights, and the first place in the western world to give women the vote.
These are things that we have earned due to people speaking up when it was hard to. Going against the grain and believing in a better reality.
Expecting more than what we already have is the path to better things.

Think about why you have or haven’t bothered to take a stand on something recently and think again about the accusations I’ve had levelled at me the last few days.
“Too PC”, “soft”, am “being petty”, getting involved in something that doesn’t affect me, letting “negativity win by getting involved in the arguments, and have got too much time on my hands.

These are the same accusations that were put to those people who got involved in the Civil rights movement in the USA.

And that was a cause worth fighting for.

community announcement.

A reminder thanks to Julie at the Handmirror...
Have you had experience with Child Support through inland revenue?

The Families Commission would like you to participate in a focus group exploring the proposed review of the child support scheme and what this would mean in practical terms and also any other changes that may be required for child support.

You will need to be available on the evening of Monday, 11th October 2010, and we are able to provide $30 per participant to help with child minding and transport costs.

Please register on 376 3227 or Please do not attend without registering - thanks!


I had a few scary insights yesterday.
For ease of reading they will be split into different posts.

Number one was when I rocked up to the “Fire Paul Henry” demonstration outside TVNZ yesterday.
I was confronted with a medium sized (there were more people reporting, than in the protest) group of men frothing at the mouth, and occasionally into their beards yelling aggressive slogans into loud-speakers.
Most of them were carrying placards; few of them were related to the actual cause.
They were socialist union protesters and the boards varied from focused comments on the topic “Fire Paul Henry Now!”
To bizarre mixes of other campaigns. “Unions unite NZ; Ban racism.”
The slogans being yelled were loud, enraged, and frankly a bit scary.
There was plenty of spit flying through the air as aggression rang strong.
I leaned against a lamp post beside the media and eavesdropped.

“Good god, it’s the same banners and nutters from the protest last month, they just stuck 'fire Paul Henry' at the bottom”.
“Where are the normal people?”
“Clearly its only people who do this shit for fun that are enjoying getting up in arms about it”.

I watched and counted for around 30 minutes.
Over THIRTY FIVE people arrived in the area, stood on the outskirts, looked sad and left.
Most of them were wearing NZ t Shirts (as I was) and I suspect had planned to join the protest.
That would have not only doubled the numbers but also given it some credibility with Jo Public.

I suspect, like me, that they had no intention of standing by and allowing PH get away with marginalising yet another group of people and were making the most of the sway of public opinion to make their point.

To arrive and find that what you had thought was a human rights protest had three people from a human rights organisation (thanks to Global Peace and Justice Auckland) and a loud majority of angry, red faced, purple nosed, politically motivated men.

I don’t mean to undermine what they were doing. Every protest needs someone with a loud voice and a solid chant, but it was just too much to cope with, and it came across as them getting their rocks off being angry about something (could have been anything?) and undermined the fact that the issue is one affecting a wide range of Kiwis, not just the usual campaigners.

I was too scared to go and stand in the group.
One- I’m not a biggy for blatant aggression and you could smell the testosterone coming off the man nearest to me.
Two – I had no intention of being photographed or filmed by the media under a “socialist NZ” banner. I don’t like to parade my politics, and certainly don’t want to parade someone else’s!!

So after thirty minutes I admitted I was a coward, and fled.
Dinner did not taste good and I suspect the bitter regret flavour in my mouth was impacting on the butter chicken.

In case you were wondering, the insight was...
Im a coward.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Part one in my series on Community theatre - THE TEAM


There are Five distinct groups of people backstage.

The Performers:
These can be identified by several distinct markings.
They are light of frame, nocturnal of nature, strong in grandiose gestures, and like most in the animal kingdom, the male is gaudier in decoration. They are the focal point of each theatre, yet most are unaware of how their surrounds actually work.
They form strong attachments on immediate contact yet will forget people’s names within 5 minutes of leaving them. Consistency is important in their support crew as they are prone to panic and flap at the slightest changes.

There are four categories; Singer –dancers, singer-actors, actor dancers, and actors with no other talent. The latter is the most rare as their careers are often culled in infancy.

The Directors/choreographers / production team:
Like most predators these species are designed for stealth, they speak in hushed voices in the corridors, using cunning to catch their prey and ensnare them in the production. They use the power of words and reputation to lure a team of unsuspecting artists into their trap. The stalk the wings, glaring at any who dare slight the production or hinder its course. It is not until a team is in the trap that they raise their voices and begin to take charge.

The Technical team:
The grubby underbelly of the theatre. They wear all black and fight to camouflage with the surrounds.
They are the working class of the theatre, arriving hours before the show, and the last to lock up.
If you want to know where something is, how something works, or when things are happening, find someone in full blacks.
If you need something – anything; they can find it, make it, or steal it for you.
If they feel like it.

“The artists” Hair and makeup:
Often flamboyant and even more often out of their depth; these staff are often brought in from other areas such as film and television, or hair and makeup study centres.
Like beautiful trained pets; they are willing to please and keen to try anything, they are the talent of the tech team, but need reassurance and clear communication to avoid startling them.
Their plumage tends to be outlandish and fantastic, and they constantly smoke.

The groupies:
These people tend to be previous members of the performer community but are no longer performing.
Unwilling to wear black or get dirty, and unskilled in direction or art forms they generally hang around with a clip board fulfilling the “bad-guy” side of the “good-guy-bad-guy” team of the key members (director, producer etc).
Not particularly useful, they do strike fear into the hearts of all, and are good for ensuring fees are paid, the dishes are done, and the cupboards are stocked.

As with any species there is overlap. Isn’t a Mule a combination of a donkey and a horse?

The Mules:
In small towns or community theatres, many of the team are mules and will combine aspects of different team members.
They are generally as stubborn and loud as their name sakes.
An example would be I, a mule with a background of performing, lighting, sound, props, painting, backstage crew and makeup experience.
I wear black, know where everything is, boss people around, are generally smug about my knowledge, can convert to bright clothes and grandiose gestures at the end of the season, or in mating season. I always have a torch, safety pins, hat pins, sticking plaster and duct tape on my belt and can be called on to belt a tune in the Pitt if needed.

I take great delight in winding up and loving every member in the above team and am grateful to call them my Stage family.
Thanks gang.
And Break A Leg!