Friday, May 27, 2011

Well bald

When I was in my mid-twenties I sported a spectacularly bedraggled Afro, and laughed at relatives who warned me that I was doomed by biology to early baldness. A few years later an ominous expanse of bare scalp had emerged from under the long matted curls; I began to resort to variations on the legendary combover, and later to a variety of headpieces. My hair has departed at an accelerating rate as my thirties have worn on, but I have always been able to convince myself that I am not quite, well, you know, bald. (When you don't spend a lot of time - hell, when you don't spend any time - in front of a mirror grooming yourself, then you can engage in such self-delusions more easily.)

Looking at the newly-uploaded video of the conversation I had with Bill Direen for the New Zealand Cultural Icons series, though, I have to admit the brutal truth: I am well bald. Iconic Bill's thick brown locks only serve to emphasise my nakedness (Bill is a decade and a half older than me, but I have speculated before that, like his good friend Lemmy Kilmister, he might have been made immune to the normal attritions of time by a rigorously hedonistic rock 'n roll lifestyle). My chat with Bill was recorded last October, and has been uploaded as the thirtieth instalment in the series produced by Devonport's Art Depot. Bill had wandered down the road to the Depot, which is blessed with its own film studio, from the Michael King Centre on the side of Mount Victoria/Takarunga, where he was serving a six month spell as writer in residence. I had already thrown Bill a few foul balls at September's Going West Literary Festival in Titirangi, where Ted Jenner and I had spent an hour on stage with him exploring his biography and obsessions.

The Art Depot conversation started sensibly enough, with Bill answering questions about the pagan folk songs and Catholic rituals which were part of his upbringing in working class Christchurch, but then moved into a series of debates about the place of Latin in southern hemisphere schools and the literary qualities of punk music. Either tiring of or warming to my provocations, Bill suddenly donned a funny pair of glasses, announced that he had assumed my identity, and began demanding that I answer questions about "Bill Direen's next move" and "Bill's greatest secret". My replies were inevitably rather fanciful. For reasons which I can't quite understand, the folks at the Depot chose not to upload that part of the interview.

Last weekend Peter Simpson's Holloway Press published the diary which Bill kept during his stint at the Michael King Centre; I'll be reviewing this extraordinary text soon.


Anonymous James said...

Great interview, specially when you get onto languages.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Direen on the radio some years back. As it shows in your interview, he's such a lovely man.

2:05 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Pleased you enjoyed it James. I always prefer to do written interviews, because - if truth be told - I can tinker with them removing ums and ahs and ungrammatical sentences...

3:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Direen plays his guitar in a mocking kind of way.

5:19 pm  
Blogger Sensa said...

There was a priest at St Bedes whose nickname (they all had them) was Chrome. Some of the names were less than kind. I was playing an acoustic Hummingbird when reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Shouldn't kill one. But ok to nudge one off or knock one off its perch. ... "Mocking?" I take it as a compliment. What does Baldness symbolise in different cultures, I'm wondering? Wisdom, experience, worry on a philosophical scale ... Often complimentary, I reckon.

11:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bald men can't shoot straight.

12:23 am  
Anonymous Keri H said...

There are several words for 'bald' i te reo - they dont signify anything except 'lacking hair on head.'

9:34 pm  
Blogger AngonaMM said...

Some men have baldness where you least expect it.

11:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My country is a violent place
That travels at a violent pace
In politics good copy cats
Our aspirations those of rats
In sport better than on all fours
Our sportsmen tantamount to whores
Our writers valets to the buck
Many of them know how to fuck
With overseas investors' money
The kiwi cunt is full of honey
Slipperiness keeps us out of hock
By sucking other countries' cock
Exploiting labour starts at home
As disappointing as this stupid pome.

9:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty crude old rhyme, that...

5:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The poet and critic Kendrick Smithyman spent quite a bit of time thinking about this sort of question back in the '50s and '60s, when New Zealand was a lot more provincial than it is today.

At the time, there were some Pakeha intellectuals who advocated a cultural nationalism that looked to the landscape and rural life for inspiration, and others who espoused cosmopolitanism and focused their attention on urban life, like the 'Wellington school' of writers around Louis Johnson. The nationalists thought New Zealand was defined by its distance and difference from the rest of the world; the cosmopolitans celebrated the 'undersea tunnels' that linked New Zealand culturally to Europe, especially.

In his book A Way of Saying Smithyman argued that cosmpolitanism and provincialism were two sides of the same coin.

1:17 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home