It seems buying presents these days is getting harder. For the second year in a row, someone attempted to buy me Harry Orsman's
excellent Oxford Dictionary of New Zealand English: A Dictionary of New Zealandisms on Historical Principles
. I would have thought it would have been straight forward enough. I already have a lot
of dictionaries, and I've moaned about how this one is expensive, but would be cool to have, and how big it is, and how it is a fairly obsessive record of neologisms peculiar to New Zealand. Admittedly, looking around a bookstore, and the two attempts to buy me this so far, I can kind of see why they get confused. Last birthday I got the Reed Dictionary of New Zealand English
, which was also originally edited by Orsman. It's a great dictionary actually. It's a general dictionary of English, with a useful number of New Zealandisms. Unfortunately, noboby has bought me the New Zealand Oxford Dictionary
either, which is a bigger, more comprehensive general dictionary with an NZ bent.
Then, I was engaged about a week before my birthday on a discussion about Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. As it transpires, having seen how keen I was to go to see the film version of The Motorcycle Diaries
, it had been surmised that I might be the greatful recipient of a Che t-shirt. Now unfortunately for the person concerned, I explained how I saw the hilarious stage version of the Motorcycle Diaries (the humour in the moview was much
more restrained) on a Friday night a few years ago. Now after a few post-show wines, I detoured into the central libary
to to use the facilities, and suddenly became inspired to read a book on Guevara. There was a short-ish book that was on loan, so I settled on the latest 800 page academic biography, replete with 200 pages of endnotes. Apart from a little two much detail, it was an excellent read (the Motorcycle diaries era was about 20 pages!!). A little like the movie you get an interesting sense of how a middle-class brat transforms into a communist revolutionary. Being an exhaustive historical critique (including the first to benefit from interviews with both Castro and Che's wife), I got to see the bad with the good, and to see a fairly tragically flawed figure. Anyway, so I have some deal of admiration for some of his acheivements and principles, but in a somewhat balanced fashion. So to cut a fairly long story short, it's not that I'm averse to Che or wearing his likeness on a t-shirt, I just feel that it would misconstrue what I actually think on the topic. And I don't think my views entirely line up with the views (or lack thereof) of the usual Che t-shirt wearing crowd. Funnily enough, Che the middle-class revolutionary is a popular icon for the wannabe middle-class revolutionaries. Somewhat relatedly, there was quite an interesting article in The Listener
, suggesting that the Free Tibet movement was a misguided middle-class action.
CODA: So the t-shirt will be going back if the receipt can be found, otherwise I'll wear it, but not too prominently. And one last present thing, not that I don't love my espresso machine, but I would have bought a grinder first... I'm such a bastard to buy for.