Monday, July 27, 2009

the early 90's: where no one quite knew what to listen to...

Currently I am in the early 90’s love song zone. I’m not even going to try and defend myself.

They are, put quite simply, hilarious, but I love them. What’s not to love? The drama, the clichés riddled with anguish, the powerful build up to the instrumental, the use of the elements (wind, rain, thunder) to enhance the musical experience, the repetition of the main lines in the chorus by backing might instantly think of Celine Dion’s ‘It’s All Coming Back to me Now”, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

When these songs first came out, I think those who were Top 40 listeners in the world were desperate to have music that didn’t involve a synthesiser or a singer donning gold spandex and permed hair. Music needed to be ‘serious’ if it was going to compete with the emerging genres of alternative rock and grunge that seemed to be slowly moving into mainstream. The latter groups had something of note to say, no one could hide from Nirvana, or deny that the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Sonic Youth had established themselves.

We were about to be privy to Pearl Jam’s Ten, and Pixies were standing their ground alongside The Flaming Lips, Pavement, Pulp. Aerosmith and the Stones were having a resurgence, and while all wondered what U2 were up to with their new album Achtung Baby, they were still pumping out solid rock despite embracing a bit of ‘the future’ ('Mysterious Ways', 'Even Better than the Real Thing'). Green Day was bursting on to the scene after a few years of industrious garage practices, ‘When I come around’ was, well, around the corner.

Grunge was here. It was new, it was gritty, it was ‘real’: and it wasn’t just Neil Young promoting it solo with a sandwich board: an entire generation of teenage rockers and middle aged folk who had smoked the ganji at Woodstock did not want to hear Dead or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Right Round’ anymore.

The 80’s jig was up. If only for a hiatus before the early 2000’s saw us reconnect with the ‘tragic 80’s’, dubbing them ‘fun’, ‘light’ even reneging on our claims that we NEVER wear lycra or shoulder pads again. Vogue, July 2009 issue. I ask you?!

If artists who had ridden on the new wave of the 80’s didn’t start making waves elsewhere, they were quickly going to be sinking into the wet sand of lycra and blue mascara.

Songs like Michael Bolton’s 1993 song ‘Said I loved you…but I lied’, Grayson Hugh’s 1989 hit ‘Talk it over’, Roxette’s ‘It must have been love’ (1990), Simply Red’s version (released in 1989) of ‘If you don’t know me by now’, and who could forget Richard Marx's 'Right Here Waiting' and 'Hazard'. Brilliant tracks! And all are examples of that short era before the ‘slow jams’ started infiltrating (Boyz II Men hit our charts in late 1992) and we all started to make our way towards either Keith Sweat and R. Kelly via the Tony Rich Project’s 'Nobody Knows'.

Many video clips from back then star the frustrated, lonely woman wandering around a homely apartment, giving up on the relationship as the singer sings about his side of the story (if you haven’t seen Ricky Gervais’ satire of such a situation, you must, here it is) in a beret and a white t-shirt, or sometimes, if it's needing a more 'natural' look, yoga pants.

Meatloaf’s ‘I would do anything for love’ reached into the inner core of everyone’s soul I’m sure as the two singers had to deal with their hopeless love, and oh as the windstorm gathered momentum around the castle, so did Meatloaf’s arms flail to exemplify just how hard this process was of saying ‘I’d do anything for you, but not that’. Did we ever find out what ‘that’ was? Cynicism suggests it could have been a delicate subject…

Early 90’s love songs got in and made a name for themselves before boy bands, before the Presidents of the USA rocked us with ‘Lump’ or Tupac somehow delivered his lines through the ghetto, past Los Angeles, across the world to NZ and into the mouths of 14 year old school girls.

The steamy hue surrounding Michael Bolton’s crimped mullet, his use of white and roses as he brings his fist towards his heart, trying to make his point while wearing some sort of sueded open shirt; women can be forgiven for having moments of weakness and fantasising about Bolton (oh come on, you know you did), but I reckon most fans of Bolton took his lyrics not with a grain of salt, but with a tonne of earnestness as he sang, telling us that you came to him like the dawn to the night. People no doubt would have listened to these songs and thought ‘oh my god, that is so the situation I’m in right now, I can so understand what he’s singing about’.

Whitney’s ‘I will always love you’ undoubtedly spoke to countless brides to be in the early 90’s ('that's our song, I'm walking up the aisle to Whitney'), torn between that and Celine Dion’s ‘The Power of Love’...such adversity!
It's not just women who succumbed to the charms of the love ballad: men still crumble at those intial drum beats of Springsteen's 'Streets of Philadelphia' and some may even have that emphatic 'good song!' moment with Bon Jovi's 'Always'. If it's husky, it's ok to like.

We recognise by listening to these songs that we’re not the first, nor the last to go through the events and situations that these singers discuss. I suppose those in the northern hemisphere listen to Coldplay songs and think ‘yes, it really was a long and dark December! Chris Martin is amazing, he’s nailed it again.’

What's slightly uncanny is that the aforementioned Achtung Baby by U2, received the following review from The Rolling Stone the year it was released (1991): ‘[U2 had] proven that they had the same penchant for epic musical and verbal gestures that leads many artists to self-parody can, in more inspired hands, fuel the unforgettable fire that defines great rock & roll’….

I suppose that’s what happened in the end though: pop met rock and that’s when ‘that 90’s sound’ came to fruition: Bryan Adams bursting through with ‘Waking Up the Neighbours’,Counting Crows, Oasis, Blur, Third Eye Blind, Black Crowes, later work by The Cure ('Friday, I’m in Love')..I could go on, and I may just do that in a future post.

The Rolling Stone review of U2’s album was the early 90’s wrapped up in a fortune cookie…while many ballads of the era may not be u'nforgettable fire', and most may have turned out to be more on the 'self-parodied' side of the fence, they still have their place in music history, and always a place on a party playlist. Whether it be a moment for everyone to come together in droves for a group hug full of nostalgia, or a chance to whip out the hairbrush and go gang busters in the bedroom, you can’t help for have a soft spot for that old 90's love ballad.

Until next time!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

NZ Montana Poetry Day 2009

Today is National Poetry day, and while I know many of you may not be in love with this literary form like I am, I thought in today’s post I’d simply share some favourites of mine. All 3 are by New Zealand poets, and have that uncanny ability, that poems do, to reach out and encourage me to marvel- at how one can pen words so succinctly, or unashamedly indulgently without clichés; how you want to simply pause for a moment; how they describe terms, or rites of passage, or everyday thing with words not used before. When the latter occurs, you can sometimes be left wondering how you've not used these very lines or words or 'new' phrases yourself, given you immediately identify with them.
My favourite poems tend to be those that comment on human nature, friendship, family, the impact of our surroundings on our souls, and of course as a quintessential romantic at heart, love! Poetry is soul food. Thank god I found poetry- those Chicken Soup for the Soul books were never going to stand the test of god I shudder just thinking about them.

Enjoy these poems, and enjoy the weekend.


Clear, tranquil, calm,
the morning's luminous.

The art's in deflection
if we're to avoid
Dante's worst torment
which was to have recognised happiness

only after it had passed.
Even truth's available,

and so we speed on
pre-destined, complete.
-Brian Turner, Taking Off, 2001


The fire that lights a candle
cannot be shared between the wick
and the match, it has to be given
like a life.

The body lying on the wet sand
must leave an impression deeper
than the shallow water
coming to erase it.

May you never recover
from the lightness of my touch.

-Kapka Kassabova, Someone Else's Life, 2003

What It's Like

Well, it's kind of like
you're hanging over a
steep drop, fingers
cracking on some old
root or other and below
there's sand or river,
boulders worn to solid
spheres, and you say to
yourself, 'Now, I could
let go.' And what do
you know?

You do.

And then, it's kind of like
singing with your feet off
the pedals, bush lining a
damp black road downhill
to the corner and a creek
like a crowd hanging about
in dappled shade for you
to whistle by.
And then, it's kind of like
lying on a hillside, sun
full on and a gum tree
rattling away like streamers,
and there's a whole kind of
shining party going on,
and you're at it.

-Fiona Farrell, The Inhabited Initial, 1999

NB: this morning Jenny Bornholdt was announced as this year's winner of Poetry Book of the Year for The Rocky Shore. I've read through this volume, and it's pretty innovative in terms of contemporary free verse. Made up entirely of 6 long poems, according to the judges it 'broke the rules'...obviously rather successfully. I enjoy Bornholdt's work; it's comforting, motherly, quietly observant, sometimes stark but never's poetry that comments on family life and dwells happily on the comforting things in life whilst exploring feelings that one might sometimes think should be kept under wraps: in that very typical old fashioned NZ way of thinking...

Last night Cilla McQueen was announced to succeed Michelle Leggott with the next two year tenure of being the country's Poet Laureate. It will be interesting to see if the National Library and IIML roll with a repeat of last year's fantastic opportunity of having all living Poet Laureates in one room...I look forward to the publication of Leggott's work over the past couple of years.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Ballet Years (1990-1995)

When I was younger I did ballet. For about six, seven years. I loved it. I lived for it. The lights of the Whakatane Little Theatre with sold out crowds watching my classmates and I dance The Nutcracker, the fame of being photographed for the Whakatane Beacon, the makeup, the slicked back hair, the fact I got to wear a lot of pink.

But I was rubbish. As my final year at home before boarding school drew to a close, I started asking questions about where I’d do ballet in Cambridge. My teacher had quiet words with my parents. These words were undoubtedly ones such as ‘lack of rhythm’, ‘not likely to pass higher levels’ and ‘Laura should really stick to academic endeavours’.

My dreams about being the next Margot Fonteyn dispelled into the stark reality that I was about to start a new school being stuck with the dreaded nerd/geek/dork features/loser label. I wasn’t born to be cool, but at least with ballet I (thought I) had a chance.

Looking back, ballet was hard work, probably even harder given I was always out of time and almost completely incompetent. Though my enthusiasm was palpable, my talent, unfortunately, was not. Those that have danced with the adult Laura will have discovered that from struggling acorns, uncoordinated oaks grow.

We’ve all seen those ‘motivational’ notebooks/cards/calendars/canvases that start off with ‘dance as if no one’s watching’. I have to, otherwise you’d never see me out there cutting shapes!Just as those who can’t sing think they can after a couple of wines, I thought after each lesson of having my feet forced into the right position, my legs being yanked into turning out properly, my teacher constantly yelling at me and my exam reports coming back from the Royal Academy of Dance with ‘Pass’ ‘Pass Plus’ as opposed to ‘Highly Commended’ and ‘Distinction’ (I think I got one ‘Merit’ but that was probably for theory…) that I’d somehow been given talent in my sleep.

My first ballet was Giselle in Tauranga at the old Baycourt theatre. I think I started imagining that Sir Jon Trimmer was going to come to our twice weekly classes and identify me as hot favourite for my very own performance as Giselle. Then I had a celebrity crush on Rudolf Nuryev until I learned what 'gay' meant...and then consequently 'AIDS'...we were never going to work. He was 53 and terminal, I was 8, living at home and not allowed out after dark.

These days I am more than happy being a devout admirer of the ballet and thrive on going along to the theatre to see performances. Earlier in the year the Royal New Zealand ballet did their annual tour of all the towns and cities throughout New Zealand for their Tutus on Tour show, a very well marketed campaign to get all New Zealanders on board; and next week my mother and I are going along to La Sylphide, a tragic love story (something novel for ballet) about a Scotsman who is tricked by an evil sorceress and succumbs to the usual star crossed lover fate. Like many ballets, I know it will hold such a lovely sense of magic about it, particularly seeing as a sylph is part of the love triangle!

Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Coppelia, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Romeo and Juliet: many of these you will know in some shape or form anyhow, but to see an age old story told through dance is something else.

Ballet has the amazing ability to combine strength and skill without once compromising the grace, elegance and romance that the stories usually hold. Audiences can admire the tall, lithe forms of the female dancers and we can note the extreme...’definition’ of the males: it’s particularly amazing how male dancers are able to maintain an air of masculinity whilst on stage in tights. Ballet brings together art, music (particularly when we are lucky enough to have a live orchestra playing) and of course dance. Glancing around the types of audiences that frequent the seasons held in Wellington, many are older; patrons of the RNZB, donning tuxedoes and sparkly long sleeved gowns for opening night. But it is so lovely to see many mother/daughter duos, young couples (husbands/boyfriends being dealt a dose of culture…) and young children continuing to drink in the atmosphere that comes with the ballet territory. While I cast disapproving glances at those that wear jeans (honestly…), it is heartening to see performances still being heavily attended, and enjoyed by the public.

This Saturday is a free tour and behind the scenes look at the Royal New Zealand ballet. Head along if you’re in Wellington and have a few moments spare. And if you see a short red head sifting in the background wearing pink leg warmers and trying to look like part of the furniture, be a friend and drag me out…

NB: This is not me dancing. My hair isn't that long.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

having the last laugh...

Further to Saturday’s win against the Aussies at Eden Park, it took me great pleasure to outwardly, proudly, display a smug look on my face as I read this article reflecting on Henry's almost last minute call to name Stephen Donald at 1st V for the game.

Those (and there are A LOT of you) who have knocked Stephen Donald since even before he was named in the ABs were hopefully indulging in a sweet piece of humble pie after the game on Saturday.
I'm pro-Henry, and I'm pro-Donald. And while I'm stoked McCaw is back, I'm even more pleased to see Donald proved he was worthy of his place at 1st five on Saturday despite McAlister recently having emerged back on the NZ scene.

I get the sense Donald is yet another 'old school' player that the All Blacks should be lucky to have...we just don't quite know it yet. Henry and Smith are old school leaders; you can't help but stick with their calls. McCaw beyond doubt screams old school with his leadership, stapled eyes and hustle; Smith is a solid, consistent old school AB, Woodcock and Hore can also wear the title with ease. It's not the instinctive flair that keeps me watching a game of rugby (although this does provide for great spectator sport), or working on following what I can of the rules and non-NZ players (there's a line as to where a girl can recall all the phrases. I get lost with that 'breakdown' one), it's the presence of these players who simply get on with the game. Sometimes they're the heroes, sometimes their day in the sun is contained to being another strong link in the chain. That's just me, and I know the team is better for having both show ponies and the stout and true-blues, but I guess I reckon Donald showed that despite the media frenzy surrounding him, he just got on with it. Good on him.

I guess all in all it was great to have a good old fashioned Trans-Tasman clash and while I was gutted to have to watch the replay and rely on text updates from my friend, I suppose there's nothing more satisfying in a game of rugby to see your team fall behind earlier on in the piece, and do nothing but man up, dig it in, and go gung-ho in order to take it out.

Stephen Donald: at the risk of blowing out with a super gay pun, but channelling Joe Cocker on this happy occasion: you can leave your boot on.

Nice work lads, best of luck against the 'boks!


my penchant for Nick Hornby...

Currently on in Wellington is the New Zealand International Film Festival. Shib!

Tonight I was lucky enough to get a seat for Sundance winner ‘An Education’ based on the memoirs of Lynn Barber. The first draw card was not the fact that it was about a ‘student in love with all things French’, but the fact that the screenplay had been written by Nick Hornby.

Hornby’s novels 'Feverpitch', 'High Fidelity' and 'About A Boy' have all been made into films, and the latter two have also held my attention in the initial literary form as well. Colin Firth, John Cusack and Hugh Grant have all been able to act out Hornby’s, well, typical male characters.

The bumbling, the feebleness, the whining, the justifying: all of his characters are hilarious, and remind us all of who really wears the trousers in places all over the world…he seems to have a knack though of still making the male out as the hero (or anti-hero?!) at the end of the day…funny that hey? I think it’s the fact that Hornby lets us know that he’s a bloke. And men are useless sometimes. And they hear us ramble on (I just got Ross from 'Friends' in my head after he falls asleep reading Rachel’s ’18 page letter….FRONT AND BACK’…), so they simply zone out. We all know this! But Hornby seems to convey this through his writing in a way that is factual, commenting on human nature/nature of our genders and encourages us to embrace the stereotypical vices of men and women.

Nick Hornby’s right on the money, droll…sorry can I just pause here and say it is so hard to review 'An Education' with 'Grey’s Anatomy' on at present! I can barely see my computer screen, it’s very, very emotional. Izzie’s gone bald but Alex is nothing but tender because he loves her! Hunt is holding out hope for Christina despite jilting her, literally and psychologically, and Derek and Meredith seem to have gone back into the honeymoon phase with some sort of balloon clad, streamer ridden, warm fire roasting lounge and a couple of blankets keeping them modest. They both look into each other’s weepy small eyes, take in each other’s crop of floppy hair and you can just tell they’ll be together forever. And also…the final next week? Seriously? Winter just stretched ahead much longer than I cared to think…

So Hornby’s droll writing, takes on society and men and women, and the rites of passage we all go through are cleverly articulated once more in 'An Education'. I suppose in a way you’re more intrigued from the outset about an older man cavorting around the West End in Swinging 60’s London with a school girl, but Peter Sarsgaard does it rather well as David. I was quickly put into place with my suspicions of him and convinced that Jenny (played by Carey Mulligan) was that exception to the rule- there was a presence about her and despite being confident without worldliness, it was her education that substituted this well, especially when she realized she was in the company of rather materialistic people. Alfred Molina (Dad) was amazing, seamless with Hornby’s screenplay I reckon in his portrayal of a British suburban father with a very traditionalist approach to women. You can tell Hornby had a major hand in this film, and it makes it. I couldn’t get enough of the way society was constantly commented on, the fashions and the way Jenny’s hair was styled, the shots of a very familiar Oxford (Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, Magadlen Bridge, a small pub we used to frequent, the Oxfordshire rural villages...) the spinster-like yet not typically austere roles of her teachers and principal (played by Emma Thompson, the ‘head’ goddess of acting); although you definitely pick up on some feminist traits pushing through: as above, Thompson dons one serious pastel power suit, and there has to be someone counteracting Molina's paternal instincts...

A highlight? the following:

“You know I got told recently that people won’t be using the Latin language in about 50 years, so I wouldn’t worry about it.”


“Yes! No one will be speaking Latin, not even Latin people, so I wouldn’t worry about your B [from your exams]”


On Tuesday I have tickets to see the 'In the Loop', and I am extremely excited about this. Thanks to some dear friends I have had the pleasure of being spoilt with the humour of Steve Coogan, and he is pretty much the reason I’m heading along despite him not having a huge part. This is a fairly well written, non plot revealing review here, but there may be some of you who know the series that the film is a spin off of BBC comedy series/satire on the British Government 'The thick of it'.

I’ve got a few more in the pipeline too, hopefully I can drag someone along to 'North Face'; it’s about two German guys who, in the 1930’s, just sifted off away from the Nazi regime and all the chaos going on and started doing hikes and intense mountain climbs in the Alps! To quote the brief synopsis given “…more edge-of-the-seat suspenseful than ‘Touching the Void’…footage of young men inching up a vertical rock face (of the ‘Eiger’ aka ‘The Murder Wall’!) proves nerve-wracking…gripping and fascinating in equal measure”.

Inevitably there’s a chance I’ll start planning a trip to Everest once I’ve seen that bad boy! Here's to a great couple of weeks of films; although I missed out this morning on the final viewing for the season of 'The September Issue' (a documentary on Anna Wintour and Vogue...), so here's hoping I can swing seats to 'Valentino: The Last Emperor'...

Have a great Monday!


PS. Can't believe I almost forgot this, but a worthwhile, non-fiction read is '31 Songs' by Hornby- it's his favourite songs and the reasons why he loves them, with a bit of history and interesting 'stuff' to go alongside his own thoughts. I haven't read it in years, so am now spurred on to track it down and re-read. Viva la Mix Tape/CD!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the remaker, the prodigy, the bygones

I was cranking a little bit of procrastination earlier on in the week and as I tap tap tapped (digress here, every time I’m on the golf course and miss an easy putt I take on Adam Sandler’s bizarre baby voice in Happy Gilmore and angrily mutter that ‘tap tap tap’ line…) my fingers along to the Velvet Underground’s Sweet Nuthin’ I got thinking about the music industry in the mid 60’s through to the later 70’s.

Past eras have provided foundations for so many avenues of music that I don’t think we’ve quite realised the half of yet. We’re happy to recognise that Madonna’s Hung Up is loved mainly because of the background tune that was first made famous by ABBA’s Gimme Gimme Gimme…yet this generation that may not have known this if their parents didn’t play ABBA in the car or they had been ferreting around themselves in some class music history. David Gray’s Say Hello, Wave Goodbye is a poignant remake of Softcell’s (of Tainted Love…’notoriety’) original.

What makes the latter however seem a tad more credible than Madonna’s mutilation of ABBA’s tune is that Gray made the song his. We’ve heard this kind of comment from judges in American/New Zealand/British/Moroccan Idol, but it does maketh the song. On the reality/talent show Rockstar: Supernova, I absolutely fell in love with Ryan Starr’s version of REM’s Losing My Religion; what warm-blooded straight female who heard it didn’t, (Jason Newstead, bassist of Metallica/Supernova can be quoted as saying “dude, you are so going to get laid tonight”) and Chris Cornell can be heard singing an evocative version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean.

We see Justin Timberlake and marvel at how the man has basically created a genre of his own, yet Michael Jackson’s early days, middle days and early 90’s days live on through J.Timberlake’s own beat of the music, suave moves and in some cases, attire.

While JT may be the go to guy for, well, everything these days in terms of party music, sing along songs, background music, running music, he is really just another enigmatic prodigy in a long line of similar such wonders.

Ian Curtis, lead singer, and…wait for it, Ice-T pun coming… ‘Original angster’ of late 70’s pioneer post-punk/precursor to the New Wave genre band Joy Division, was an introverted trouble teenager who basically followed the same tumultuous issues that Bowie had faced in suburban north England growing up. The sense of knowing that Salford (Curtis’ hometown) was not, and could not be the extent of his life, Curtis I think was genuinely torn between his roots and wholesome life with his wife and the excitement that fame, and therefore exotic European locations brought to his existence. If you listen hard, past Joy Division’s ‘eerie’ (I cannot claim to be the first to use this adjective to describe the band’s sound) songs, you’ll note that the lyrics (Transmission, Love Will Tear Us Apart (Again), Isolation) just cry out for a helping hand (or rather, the acknowledgment that one's hand would probably be rendered useless by Curtis!) and yet drug king Iggy Pop (as per the mandatory watch of a film Control) was pretty much the catalyst for Curtis to make his way in the music world…and in my mind Iggy is one of the most comical characters to affront the world with his music!

We all know the Fast Times in Tahoe like-life of Jim Morrison, so I won’t bang on about him...but these two figures are just the start of intriguing folk that we idolise, appreciate, yearn to know more about, or are content to merely love their work and sing along.

I suppose that while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, today’s generation of musicians has a music bank with plenty to work with. And in this social environment where we want something right here, right now, it’s easy to draw inspiration…and consequently the music rights, to create a new and improved version of songs. Remakes have of course happened prior to the late 90’s/2000’s hundreds of times: two of my favourites are Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of I Put A Spell On You and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s version of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground.

But when I heard Snoop Dogg’s ‘version’ of The Doors’ Riders on the Storm, all I thought to myself was “Jesus”. While the man is just so facetious in his work and while I’m sure I’d be ‘dealt with’ if I ever confronted those who live and would die by the gospel of Snoop, I don't see Snoop as a legend, unless you're talking about how mint his character was in the remake of Starsky & Hutch.

Tell me when the last time was you heard an original song like Sweet Nuthin’, got to a point like the one at 5 min 7 sec in such a song and subtly got sucked into a cheeky little 1 minute 27 sec rock riff on the old guitar. You're left at the end of the song simply thinking 'sheer music brilliance'. I still get dumbfounded with such moments. Hendrix & Watchtower, Pearl Jam & that almost shrill yet still oddly comforting intro of Once; the epic piano solo in Des'ree's Kissing You (blast from the past teenage Leo lovers?!), the chorus of one of my Dad's favourites, The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel, John Mayer's fantastic tease of a version of Ray Charles' I got a woman; the 1 min 17sec intro of U2's Where the Streets Have No get the drift and I would hope you have your own!

Tell me when you last heard someone that could get away with a song like Patti Smith’s version of Van Morrison’s Gloria with her opening the song in one monotonous line Jesus died/for somebody’s sins/but not mine…

I’ll never forget when I was in the UK and met this 40 year old character who lived with his mother (no kidding, they were old money and he was clearly quite happy to forever indulge in the comforts of home) in Oxfordshire. Now before this starts sounding dodgy, can I just say he really wasn’t. The guy was a gentle soul, just a bit…of a character. Anyway. He introduced me one day to Led Zeppelin’s How the West Was Won which is a 3CD/DVD set of original footage of the band over the years. Many of you have no doubt heard this yarn, but my goodness. John Bonham, Moby Dick, 18 minutes, drum solo. Just like the Hendrix: Live at Woodstock footage I was lucky to view recently (incidentally, CCR performed I Put A Spell On You at, just tying things up there within the post)....anyway, the Youtube clips I found for the post are RUBBISH. Invest in the box set, go on- you won't regret it!

I have rambled, as per, for far too long. My wish for today? Ryan Adams and Bob Dylan combine harmonicas. To the extent of my knowledge on such a duet, it hasn't been done. If Johnny Cash can find new fans through Trent Reznor and NIN, then hell, get Bob on board with the self-indulgent youth of today that take Adams not as the prodigal son of country music that he is, but the borderline emo-ballad writer that he unfortunately comes across as being at times...if you haven't already been privy to his astounding version of Oasis' Wonderwall, you're crazy. Listen to it here, and I guess I'll catch ya later!



PS. Motown revival at the Mission Concert next'd be crazy not to go if you're in the country!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Books: the constant as technology permeates society

Very recently my friend was accepted into a post-graduate publishing course. It means exciting times ahead, and the industry is lucky to have a young woman with a wise head on her shoulders enter the publishing world. I have no doubt in my mind she is set to become an authority!

We were talking one day about the fact that books will always be sought after. A physical book in the hand can never be replaced by the e-books one can purchase now, it is impossible to fathom every piece of literature being published on the web.

I can’t imagine a world without bookstores, and yet Wellington has already seen Dymocks face liquidation. Whether it is due the recession, or there simply being no need for 5 major book stores on the stretch from Bond Street to Lambton Quay North, I’m unsure.

Incomprehensible to me is a home without books. A book is solace when you want no part in any kind of interaction with humans: this includes television, phone, computers, stereos.

I cannot envisage a train or bus that doesn’t sit one person, nose buried in a book about ‘it’ being not about the bike, or Fabio on the front in some sort of water coloured hue gripping a woman with a perm. I cannot imagine seeing no person (regretfully young or old) reading Harry bloody Potter, or (shudder) The Secret.

When I travel on the old PT system, I’m likely to only have a copy of Turner’s something in my bag, or the latest Vogue. This is because I day dream, or (in a non creepy sense) watch people. Ok, glance at people. Watching is creepy.

You’ll find that a man (possibly wearing a dark trench coat) is likely to be reading the paper in the mornings. He’ll have a two seater to himself, and he’ll have placed all other sections barring ‘World’ and ‘Business’ beside him. In the evening after work, he’ll be reading Obama’s biography.

You’ll be surprised to see a young lad with massive noise cancelling headphones on reading something like The Poisonwood Bible and whisper to yourself ‘good on him!’ before raising an eyebrow at yourself for vocalising.

It won’t surprise you to see 3 different Jodi Picoult books around the place, or at least one copy of Marian Keye’s variously fluro coloured books.

Someone will be heavily involved with For Whom The Bell Tolls or and without doubt Marching Powder will be captivating a 20-something young professional about to embark on their OE. That, or Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue.

So, imagine if everyone turned to owning a PDA, complete with e-books, and books themselves became merely objects of reference for the researchers and the academics of the world?

Now, that cannot ever be me. I don’t see myself owning a PDA. Well, perhaps owning one, pretending to know what to do and reverting back to the Nokia 3330 that finally gave up the ghost and was replaced with a more modern version by my very lovely friends- in turn this was then stolen by kids (but that’s another yarn)- so now I have a generously loaned, very flash Samsung flippy top cell phone.

I think about the 3330 pretty much every day. Seriously.

On that, a slight digress to discuss the flip top: it has Who Wants to be a Millionaire? on it (you play it like the quiz game!), and my goodness does that keep me going! Who can afford to don rose tinted glasses over Pac Man when you’ve got that bad boy stored in your WAP compatible phone! (I don’t know what WAP is: I just chucked that in there for good measure).

We would be in a dreary environment without books. Not just rich leather bound books, surrounded by mahogany furniture, but trashy books, ‘chick lit’ (a dubious term, one I’m not too comfortable in pronouncing in haste….), Shakespeare, contemporary fiction, old faithfuls, the controversial, the classic; the biographical, the diet guides, the self helps and the Bible.

Naturally the old adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ comes to mind, but these days aren’t we spoilt for choice in the way books have developed aesthetic appeal? Beautiful presentation almost makes the purchase of a book for those who are less...'regular' in their procurement of literary pleasure. Recipe books, heavy volumes and coffee table books are ideal examples of this.

Travelling from your armchair, relying on your imagination and the imagery an author conjures up for you seems so much more satisfying than having everything at your fingertips.

In terms of historical tomes, technology was limited or non-existent when various subjects lived or incidents occurred. Laborious, extensive research by those passionate enough to delve into the lives, societies, wars, buildings and politics of any past epoch is invaluable to the way we learn about human nature and the significant 'same meat, different gravy' events that shape the world we live in. Naturally much of the world's history can invariably be found on the web, and this is great. But my first thought is not JSTOR, or Wikipedia (as a first point) or any kind of history site. It's not "ooh, I'll flick onto Channel 73 and see if something about Wakefield moseying out to New Zealand is on", it's Michael King's History of New Zealand, it's down to the library to go through old reference books.

The opinions of figures in history are ever changing, and as we become further removed from them, particularly in a young country like NZ, I suppose biases change, science pulls through with tangible evidence of events/mystery surrounding events, and new conclusions are able/have to be drawn.

Anyway, that was a huge offshoot of books in general and how we should treasure them, so I'm going to head off now.

Last night in the latest issue of Vogue, I noticed that 50 Years of Australian Vogue is coming out in a beautifully presented hardcover book.



Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Golfer rows to Mauritius!

Today deserves nothing more than a toast to the Rowing for Prostate lads for completing 3 months on the Indian Ocean from Geraldton, WA (just out from Perth) to Mauritius.

Hearts stopped for a moment when communication went down 10 odd days ago, but thanks to Billy's blogs prior to that (you can read some of the lighter moments, tribulations and weather encounters here), friends, family and supporters were able to glean half an idea of what they went through!

You can hear Alison Mau speaking with guys (post cocktails!) this morning here.
Congratulations to Matt the Golfer and the rest of the crew!
Enjoy the weekend all.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ginger Rogers, dance on air: Vogue, Vogue, Vogue

I love Vogue.

Two giant stacks of Vogue greet visitors at home. The thought of pages being ripped out or the thought of missing a month is, well, incomprehensible.

I'm not sure if it started with Sex and the City and Carrie's love for Vogue, and subsequent employment there, but both magazine and tv series are hugely influential on the way I dress, look at fabrics, choose trends to adopt, choose trends to drop.

The aim is not to be trendy, or ultra stylish, but half the fun is constantly evolving, working out your style, what to wear, how to team one thing with something else, how to wear a black dress with jewellery and never look the same. I often think I should write down outfit combinations I fluke, but I'm far too lazy for that. I get it wrong a lot of the time and end up having to loosen belts, keep pulling down tops or yanking stockings up; God does love a trier!

Thank goodness I am a person of little consequence fame wise! The media would tear me to shreds undoubtedly. I see it now. In response, I'm likely to behave a la Christian Bale on the set of Terminator Salvation.

I love the layout of Vogue, the foresight, the complete indulgence in fashion. An occasional nod to the eco-friendly, the political, the literary and art worlds (for these two worlds cannot help but influence fashion and society and vice versa), but really, at the end of the day, Vogue is a monthly, updated bible for me.

Op shops freak some people out. I can't think why. What a trove on every corner supporting either Red Cross or Mary Potter! Get amongst it- these little gems deserve your money more than 'secondhand' stores!

Vogue is like a little tip-off for me. I see what's happening in the hierachy of fashion, absorb it, and then sub-consciously form an idea in my mind of what I 'need'. Next on my list is a couple of lace collars and a gentleman's fob watch. Proper, not costume. Just to wear in place of a necklace or brooch. I've actually been looking for ages, but not seen anything that grabs me.

Now, parents are, when you don't live in a nearby vicinity to them (or when you do upon thinking that one through), those little voices in your head, those midget like figures on your shoulders asking you if 'this' or 'that' is a need or a want?

I need fashion. I love the idea of getting older, having children and looking at photos with them and hearing them giggle when they see my plum coloured hair, flared jeans/tapered jeans/sneakers & jeans...and then seeing them go through the very same fashion trends.

Meryl Streep's speech in The Devil Wears Prada about Anne Hathaway's cornflower blue cable knit jersey being dictated by the fashion powers-that-be was brilliant. People that don't 'care' about what they wear should be, quite frankly, shot.

I have two very good friends, guys, who always look so dappa, purely because they take the time to care about what they wear. It helps, although it's not the sole attribution to their fashion sense success, that their wives are stylish too.

Sceptics or those that are blasé towards fashion, clothing and trends pay heed: caring about style is not a sign of being shallow. It is more than the cliché of "expressing oneself". What I care about in fashion goes beyond just me. It's about paying respect to clothiers of note: Chanel, Valentino, Lagerfeld, McQueen, McCartney, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein. It's about looking to the designers of today who have earned the right to be movers and shakers surrounding what hits the fashion shows of New York, Paris, Milan, London, and feeling inspired. If you were to observe common trends in your local city, you would not be able to help but start to feel that these trends suit you too: flat shoes in Wellington for instance, a classic. Wellingtonians, as a general rule, walk everywhere, and an Aucklander once wrote that Wellingtonians are usually a well turned out bunch, apart from 'hideous' shoes. And we usually need a hood too considering umbrellas are not practical!

Getting dressed daily, or carefully picking out an outfit for an event involves conscious, and sub-conscious, thinking about what previous generations have worn, choosing to be adorned with a grandmother's brooch, or a mother's ring, wanting to be noticed as someone who cares about presentation, embracing a new garment that was either an impulse buy or a careful lay-by.

Loving being in vogue, or just loving your own style, is yet one more thing that makes waking up in the morning so exciting!

Enjoy the sales, but always try and remember that it's not a bargain unless you're actually going to get some mileage from it!

Catch ya later.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

small steps, giant leaps

Over the past year or so I've started seriously thinking about farming. Those who know me, will find this, put quite simply the most daft and ridiculous idea I've ever come up with. Even more so than the time I wondered if during the World War II women used their bras as underwear AND a soup bowl.

As a career, a lifestyle, a place to build a home in the future on, farming seems the way to go. A way of living where you can be at one with nature, yet be learning the business side of things, contributing not only to the family, but to the nation. The life of a patriot, a thinker, a worker.

A friend of mine, a big reason why I started The Whisky Bar, has a blog which charms us with a romantic notion of farming, particularly as a farmer's daughter, hence the name: the photos are glorious and can be found here (also link in to her personal blog- some excellent thoughts, fashion, crafty delights and photos to peruse!)

What I find interesting though, and what I am keen to learn more about is how one farm, and the production from that one farm, goes on to contribute to a much bigger picture: New Zealand's exports. In the last year, beef prices have gone down almost .40c per kg. Last year's fully shared payout to dairy farmers was $7.66 per kg/ms- this year July's payout (due later) is forecasted at $4.55 per kg/ms...yet Fonterra has a little graph providing claims that global demand is in place for dairy products, growing at a rate of approx. 2% per countries and regions on the dairy goodness buzz are in for some excellent bargains.
It's interesting to consider the 'what if' side of things in terms of the industry here in NZ: 'what if' Fonterra had not been established after failed merger attempts with the previous two major dairy companies and the Dairy Board almost 10 years ago now?

'What if' the government had moseyed on in to the Dairy Board, sifted out their assets as they did back in the late 90's/2000, made the two main co-ops work together and that had succeeded?

I doubt it would have, and perhaps, and this may be completely left field, but perhaps even smaller, independent co-ops would have been established. 11,000 dairy farmers. 14 billion litres of milk. We've got game and goods!

Cowboys would be turning up all over the place and the government would be left with their fist in their mouth.

Huge claims, this I realise, but it all boils down to 'what if'!

200 years of farming backs New Zealand and its ag industry, Fonterra and the reason why we are world renowned. I believe the desire to keep on succeeding, innovating and relying on the confidence we have that we do, in fact, know what we're doing, and do it well. 2008 figures of turnover for the top 20 dairy companies around the world show Fonterra in 5th position with a US$ turnover of 12 billion. This is ahead of the 1st and 2nd US companies at 6th and 7th position respectively; Dean Foods (USD$11.8 billion) and Dairy Farmers of America (USD$10.1 billion). Leading is Switzerland's Nestle on USD$27.2 billion in turnover*
So back to the little people, the littler figures, the New Zealand farmer. US Economist Bob Yonkers (seriously. Yonkers. That is his name. In his photo he wears day time Blu-blockers. They are so sweet) states that without the global market New Zealand and Australia would suffer without our 'lion's share revenue' that is international exports.
This makes me sceptical. Would we suffer? Because I'm fairly certain the number 8 wire would be sourced. Fonterra is a main player in the global dairy market. Bottom of the world, small population. Excess prodcut. Perhaps looking past the OECD? I don't know. I haven't read enough or listened to my dad enough to forecast these kinds of calls.

I grew up on a farm where I was loathed to leave my books, baking tools and Barbie dolls for the outdoors, but was ‘gently encouraged’ to in order to grub thistles and rid the farm of ragworts. I bloody hated that job.

If I can shed the label of being a bookworm and girl’s girl and become one to muck in and just get the job done, I would love to think that I am that ‘small step for man’ for farming in New Zealand. I get pretty homesick for the Rangitaiki Plains.

My vision for the future is to build a life on a farm with a similar attitude that is not only a picture of tradition and family heritage, but houses processes that encompass what New Zealanders are known for globally: innovation and ingenuity.

So what would be the giant leap for mankind for agriculture in New Zealand?

I desperately believe in the predominantly rural foundations that the settlers of this country built, in order for the New Zealanders of today to be able to lead a life without chains in a country that is young. Determination and patriotism are on our side.

The ‘giant leap’ is to embrace what we have in order to achieve what we want, what we desire for our industry. This will be done by encouraging future generations and embracing practical change.

There is a notoriety bestowed upon farmers of land that is comprised of milk and honey, ‘dairy cockies’ if you will, that we apparently keep to ourselves, and we do not like change.

Knuckling down and working hard does not necessarily indicate an adversity towards change.

I feel pity, to an extent, for those that ‘piggy-backed’ on to the last great payout and ‘became
farmers’. To those who succeeded, great, farmers are not advocates for Tall Poppy Syndrome. However, I believe there is a misconception to those slightly more ignorant about farming. Sure, the figures some years assert the fact that mega-bucks are being earned, but people with a green eye need to realise that these profits are invariably put straight back into the farms. From new stock or milk plants, to a lick of paint for the farmhouse; some years you’re buying your moleskins from Rodd & Gunn, other years you’re living out your dreams in holey long-johns and an Ivomec “free cap with purchase!” baseball hat from RD1.

My father and fellow farmers stand their ground for what they believe in, the farms they own and work, not just from 8am until 5pm, 5 days a week, but 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This year it was reported that 60% of new Young Farmers members in New Zealand were new to the industry. It would be interesting to see how the next generation of farmers, across all sectors, embrace the ‘new breed’. If we can effectively work alongside each other, develop and cement the notion that tradition and innovation can be, and need to be, inextricably linked, then rural New Zealand will have successfully mastered the giant leap.

Recently I have joined Young Farmers, and had the chance to meet some great people and also attend events. We meet once a month, and have also just recently been given a bit of support from Leuven which is rather nice!

This weekend the WGN club is heading to the National Young Farmer of the Year Awards and Ball in the Manawatu. Best of luck to all the finalists who can be found online here at

Catch you up,


*these figures were sourced from Rabobank International.

when it is and when it isn't just cricket...

I know it's the middle of winter. I know most of us are disheartened by the state of affairs with cricket. I don't claim to know alot about cricket, but I go with my gut, and my gut basically loves the gentleman's game. A classic example of how one can be sucked in to the beauty of cricket is here where Agnew and Johnston suffer from a classic case of innuendo whilst commentating a Lords test match. It's up there with, well anything, Richie Benaud says.

I have a vivid memory of having a crush on Chris Cairns when I was about 7. It was 92, the World Cup year. The boys were wearing grey shirts and their surnames were printed in an arch on their backs. Pringle and Harris wore serious amounts of pink zinc and Martin Crowe was man of the series.

Nowadays Pringle looks a bit like a sausage, but still a cutie despite ending cricket in...95 I think, Harris and Crowe have lost their hair with the latter crop farming a new lot, and Cairns...well, he's not as hot as Fleming, but he certainly looks good in gold!

I miss Stephen Fleming. We all breathe New Zealand's favourite air alongside him these days, but at the crease was where I felt truly at ease with Flem-dog as a household name.

At the risk of being lynched, I even miss Astle. He was a talker, and he had some low points, but he was a name to be reckoned with. I wish I had time to get used to Oram being a regular in the side, but truth be told, my love for him is waning through injury. Poor guy. He had me at hello.

I was about 13 when a Black Caps calendar came out and a topless, tanned, well cut Vettori teamed brown leather cowboy boots, those leather slack things and his glasses together with some sort of hay bale stack and a cigarette holder. Although the cowboy look obviously ended up being a fusion of 1920's glamour and a scene from Country Calendar with a porno-librarian-turned-cowboy setting the scene, it was a milestone for the lad who would eventually become our nation's cricket team captain. From little acorns great oaks grow hey...

Now, up until now I've probably come across as a girl who watches the game just so I can see the lads bend over while fielding, and observe McCullum's miraculous guns pull us through some pretty tight batting situations with impressive sixes. However when I was living over in Aussie, I missioned it, alone, to the Bellerive Oval in Hobart to see NZ be...obliterated. What a ground. I was yet to see the MCG, so it was probably like going to Rainbow's End before Disneyland, but I fell even further in love with the institution that is cricket. Clubrooms with pride, old men beautifully dressed and, a crowd who simply love the atmosphere (particularly an Aussie one who saw the Black Caps fall for less than 100 runs and Vettori taking a duck).

Ask any Wellingtonian, and they're more than likely to say they prefer sitting at the Basin rather than the Caketin. The MCG has a hold over every sports fan, not just cricket, and I presume Lords needs no introduction.

McLean Park in Napier is a family favourite, and Seddon in the Tron has a fantastic set up for the spectator. Impeccable grounds on the few occasions I've been there. Awesome for test matches:

What's not cricket today however is how lucky NZ is to have the greenery, have the locations, but seem to face a mediocre support network. The media trounce all over our team when they lose, face desperation with fronting a full strength team, and yet were more than happy to stalk Ryder, Taylor and Guptill when these lads debuted.

I seem to have a figurative wall that crops up whenever someone asks me "who will take out the match this weekend, NZ or Windies/Aussie/Pakistan/Proteas etc."

Gayle, Akhtar, Vaughan and Lara before retirement, Warne, Roy, Ponting, Cronje before fixing AND death, all legends in their own right. Cricketers worth watching, players who MAKE the game. But these players are not New Zealanders.

Too many kiwis are more than happy to ride on the tails of the Black Caps when they're up, but when they're down (and dare I say this occurred with the All Blacks in 2007..hell even 2003), we almost disown them.

This, is not cricket.

What is cricket is the old man working weekends at the New Zealand Cricket Museum, housed at Basin Reserve here in Wellington. You pay your feeble $5 and I am convinced you don't even have to be a cricket fan. That place is amazing. Hadlee, Sutcliffe, Turner, Cairns, Crowe, they're all there amongst others. He'll show you the first bat that came to NZ, talk you through the original black and white footage of the 1920's team in the changing rooms, turn on the AV for you and ensure you have the peace to absorb our nation's cricketing history.

He is a stalwart. And stalwarts are the reason cricket is an institution today. Traditionalists, sportsmen, gentlemen, determined folk who have a passion for the game. And to be frank, thanks to the domination rugby holds in NZ, they have the space to put their heads down, get to it and get on with the game.

Very few cowboys infiltrate the game of cricket.

In fact, there's only been the one in my time. Good luck for 09/10 Vettori and the team.

Think this is a dram worth recommending?