It's all happening at the Shrek rave
Would you get down with the green?
Kia ora and welcome to The Weekend. I like setting myself little themes for the “Everything Else” section of this newsletter and this week I tried to exclusively link to stories about places south of the equator, which was an interesting challenge. I think so much about how much my idea of good writing has been shaped by the British and American writing I read, and how this might limit me. At some point — I keep telling myself — I’m going to try to have a year without reading American books or watching American movies and see what it makes me think about. In the meantime, the fact that I found selecting a good range of links that weren’t from these places relatively difficult (when usually having lots of links is easy), is telling in and of itself. And I have lots of northern hemisphere pieces saved for next week, never fear!
-Shanti Mathias, staff writer
At least half of the original Shrek movie is imprinted on my brain forever: I can still see the animated DVD menu (a lost artform) if I close my eyes and think. In fact, I could spend the rest of this newsletter recounting the most memeable moments from the movie but instead I’m going to revel in Alex Casey’s dispatch from a Shrek rave. She says: “I cannot describe the extent to which I felt like an undercover cop at the Shrek Rave. Not only was I sober, but I was a decade older than all the other ravers, and I was holding a notebook AND wearing a large polar fleece vest. Nevertheless, the Gen Z ravers were extremely open to yarning with me about what Shrek meant to them, and how a movie from 2001 has somehow become more ubiquitous for those who were born in the years following its release. Did I figure out what it all meant? No. Did I see a green Shrek ass print on a toilet seat? Yes.”
Election. Polls. Chris. Caucus diversity. Michael Wood(house). Roads. Potholes. It feels like this newsletter has said something along the lines of “the election is heating up” for weeks so I guess we’re keeping on trend. After its lowest result in the polls for absolutely ages, Labour is describing itself as the underdog, which is kind of wild given that they are the government. Toby Manhire (very different from Tobey Maguire) looks at some of the pitfalls, or rather potholes, National has to avoid to keep doing well. He says that the party will have to cost everything perfectly, keep Chris Luxon’s foot out of his mouth and manage their relationship with Act.
Sharon Lam pens a dispatch from Venice, where the architecture biennale has turned the city into a glimpse of a decolonial future, with exhibitors from around the world pushing the boundaries for swanky arty types. The atmosphere is “electric”, even if the audience is “niche”, she says: so why is Aotearoa not welcomed among the pavilions of different countries? In short, it’s because the government isn’t choosing to fund it; exhibiting overseas is expense. “When you are a country with the GDP of New Zealand, spending public funds on something as decently wanky as the Venice Architecture Biennale will always be a bit problematic,” Lam writes — but she hopes that a benevolent millionaire could step in and make this boundary-pushing event accessible to New Zealand practitioners.
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Resigning MPs have been giving valedictory speeches this week, an overview of their parliamentary careers and a chance to say thank you to those who have supported them. We’ll have something comprehensive on that next week but in the meantime, one particular valedictory caught the eye of our new Wellington editor, Joel MacManus (welcome, Joel!). Jamie Strange, an MP for Hamilton East who has been in Parliament since 2017, thanks his family — and also his cats. He reads out the all the verses of the national anthem. He talks extensively about his love of sports and playing for the parliamentary sports teams. Joel has a full, hilarious recap, which you can read here.
The best political merch of 2023 — and some even better alternatives
When I moved back to New Zealand in 2018, a reference to “ghost chips” in a media studies class felt like a reminder of how much New Zealand pop culture references I was doomed to miss. Little was I to know that the ghost chips would haunt me (ha) coming up again and again in the years since — but they weren’t the only ones. I might never experience the shock of seeing a drink driving ad interrupt my Dancing with the Stars (2007) viewing but I can relive the impact of these public service announcements via Tara Ward’s trip down the windy road of TV history. Dark, sometimes gory and not to be cringe but actually pretty important, the good news is that thanks to PSAs and heaps of other measures risk on the road has decreased hugely in the last few decades.
A special poetic treat
Yesterday was National Poetry Day and I LOVE poetry so here are some of my favourite lines from some of the poems The Spinoff has published this year. Level up how literary you feel by clicking through to the entire poem!
“They fold stories – x – like plucking a mango from the neighbour’s tree – x – & crashing a motorbike into a river of snakes”
“My family is full of women/stepping out from each other/like the Russian dolls/my grandmother kept”
“I cannot be buoyed by a plaque, no matter in how/large a variety of fonts it tells me that it’s not about/waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance/ in the rain.”
“We are not young very often,/and everyone looks terrible/early in the morning”
Want to work at The Spinoff? Our internship programme, funded by the Auckland Radio Trust and The Spinoff Members, is back. We’re seeking applications for the fourth year of our internship programme, aimed at writers without newsroom experience who would like to join The Spinoff’s Tāmaki Makaurau-based team. The successful candidate will spend six months based at our office, gaining experience across reporting, feature writing and editing, and will be paid the living wage.
To apply, please send two writing samples with a cover letter addressed to The Spinoff editor Madeleine Chapman to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are due by August 31, 2023.
Read more about our internship programme and share with anyone who might be interested.
This everything else section is a Northern Hemisphere free space
Airana Ngarewa explores the stories between traditional place names in Taranaki
This completely convinced me that Lissy and Rudi Robinson-Cole’s crochet artwork is an amazing way to create contemporary Māori spaces
Duncan Greive remembers the early days of New Zealand’s craft beer boom
A beautiful essay about the meaning of renaming Waimapihi Reserve in Wellington, formerly Polhill
Extremely fascinating about the political power of herbal remedies in Madagascar
Snazzy new ferries are coming to Auckland, but that doesn’t help present day commuters
Why…do people want to hang replica testicles… from their cars
I enjoyed this interview with Australian investigative journalist Anthony Loewenstein about surveillance technology
BusinessDesk investigates why no-one in New Zealand even knows if our recycling programmes are effective
Dinithi Bowatte asks: why was her idea of what is cool so focused on white bodies?
I recently read and loved Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm - one of the many excellent recommendations in Courtney Johnston’s issue of The Spinoff Books Confessional
Wheelchair users and other people with disabilities often have a lot to gain from bike lanes
My treat this weekend is going to be watching Kāinga, a film about Asian migration to New Zealand, which has been released on RNZ in full