The one where we go there and back again

Monday 15th July – Issue #12

Shades with Michael J. Gray

Kia ora koutou,

I am writing this dispatch from New Plymouth where I’m stationed for the week. Michelle is judging at the national Artistic Roller Sports Championships and we’ve taken the nearly six-month-old up with us, who funnily enough, didn’t fancy keeping himself entertained for the drive up in a rainstorm.

In coffee news, I bought a Bialetti Moka Express (also called a Moka pot). You’ve probably seen them before and in true hipster fashion, it’s making a comeback in some coffee circles. Invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933, the Moka Pot is an octagon-shaped aluminium kettle that sits on your stovetop and creates steam and pressure to push the water up through the coffee and into the top chamber.

After a good six-month run of the AeroPress, I’m still on my journey to find a coffee device that comes close to making an espresso that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I’m still experimenting with the Moka pot in avoiding making it bitter, which is easy to do. I got the 6 cup model and it’s not the wisest idea to drink it all in one go as I did this morning. Talk about a head rush!

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Back down to Middle Earth

Just when we thought we were out they pull us back in. Amazon, rather Jeff Bezos—he wanted his own Game of Thrones—is making a Lord of the Rings television show and New Zealand has “secured the rights” for the majority of filming. Sorry, Scotland. Game of Thrones is now finished and also set for its own prequel show. So we have some healthy competition between these big-budget fantasy epics.

Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world and we’re going to subsidise him a neat $375 million dollars. I understand this is standard practise around the world to incentivise Hollywood. It is depressing that we have to do it but just think of the “economic boom” to our film industry and the few businesses that are going to make bank off this. Dylan Reeve has a twitter thread about the benefits and how this is also great for all the actors and crew who now have this exciting work on offer.

When John Key brought in the ‘Hobbit law’ in 2010 to appease Warner Brothers, it eroded the rights of film workers to collectively bargain and treated them as independent contractors. Now they will have those rights back again but some of the law still stands, like not being able to strike, which is the most powerful tool unions have at their disposal. I can only imagine those bargaining discussions, “oh you don’t agree with our offer, then what are you going to do about it?”

I don’t know about you but I’m also tired of Aotearoa being referred to as Middle Earth. We have our own rich history and Tikanga Māori. Do we really need to slap some fictional brand on our country to have an identity? Or are we now trapped in James Cameron’s terrifying landscape of five Avatar films about a fictional race of blue aliens? Food for thought.

Review: Toy Story 4

Almost 25 years later we have yet another conclusion to the Toy Story franchise. The original Toy Story will always remain in my heart of hearts. It’s the one I grew up with and it changed the face of the animation industry for better or worse. I am leaning towards worse, though there is the odd exception. The sequels never really did land with me as much as they tried to hit those emotional beats, though I did enjoy my time with them. Perhaps it’s due to growing up and Toy Story 4 really nails the end of the parenting journey just as I’ve begun mine.

Bo Beep is back after being entirely absent for the last film with simply an off-hand comment. Although newcomer, Forky, is present, it’s really, old lovers, Bo and Woody, who are the focus here. Bo has been living as a “lost toy”, choosing to embrace the life of free-wheeling adventure over servitude to a child. Like many aspects of the Toy Story universe, it can really wreck you if you stop for a second to consider the implications of toys being alive, which brings us to the matter of Forky.

Forky, voiced by Tony Hale (who I really should’ve picked up on), presents this terrifying reality of a toy coming to life when all he wants is to be is his original form; trash. Woody becomes his parent, striving to keep Forky out of trouble so he can help Bonnie adjust to kindergarten, where of course, kids are monsters.

Buzz Lightyear is barely in this one. He hasn’t had much of a role, or an emotional arc, since the first film and is simply relegated to a humorous side character. His presence in Toy Story 4 is ultimately pointless. That’s probably for the best since Tim Allen isn’t such a savoury choice these days.

When it’s all said and done, Toy Story 4 passes on the baton (or Disney’s proprietary lightsaber if you will). We can only live in our childhood nostalgia for so long before it’s time to move on and let someone else have a go, to have their story told.

Reading

  • My favourite Wellington cafe, Sweet Release, is saying goodbye to single-use coffee cups to coincide with Plastic Free July. Sweet Release serves only vegan food and although I still partake in meat consumption it’s still very difficult to find dairy-free treats.

    While reducing our individual impact is important, I am well aware our individual choices won’t save us from the climate apocalypse. Together, we must put concrete steps into legislation, to avoid our world from boiling over.
     
  • The New Yorker has an opinion piece on the terminology of calling ‘US detention facilities’, ‘concentration camps’ and how we normalise the present while at the same time mythologise our history. No matter how Trump justifies it, the photos and stories coming out of this are utterly horrific.
     
  • Laura Walters writes for Newsroom on how collective bargaining can bring better pay and conditions for industries with low union membership such as the security, cleaning and supermarket industries. Moving towards sector-based bargaining with Fair Pay Agreements will help address poor working conditions across the board.
     
  • Over on The Verge, Uber Eats couriers are being hit and killed in Mexico on the job. But of course, in this gig economy, the standard protections aren’t available while Uber rakes in the profits. Couriers can barely make ends meet while they put their lives on the line. Uber has an insurance policy but as told by couriers in the article, they’re not often willing to pay out.

    “Uber Eats couriers are considered “service providers” under Mexican labor law, which means they have no recourse to recoup lost earnings, receive disability payments, or receive employer-sponsored health care. Couriers are not registered for social security and Uber can kick them off the app with no warning. As service providers, it is also very difficult for couriers to make a legal case against the company.”
     
  • As much as I despise much of David Seymour’s rhetoric, I am in favour of the End of Life Choice bill and glad it got through to select committee. It’s a complicated subject and the majority of MP’s made passionate arguments for and against, apart from those who disingenuously conflated euthanasia for people at the end of their life, with youth suicide.

    Yes, for those with disabilities and the issue of elder abuse, both need to be factored in when writing up such legislation. Also, both Marama Davidson and Willie Jackson brought up an interesting point about Māori making decisions as a collective whereas our independence over such a choice is more of a Western custom.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, burn it in the fires of Mount Doom.

*carries you like Samwise carries Mr. Frodo*

Michael