Thursday, August 20, 2009

A moment with the Minister of Agriculture

Last night I attended an informal gathering with the WYF at the Beehive to listen to Hon. David Carter's thoughts on, well, agriculture.

When I asked the Minister what he thought of the consistent forecasting by both Infometrics AND Ganesh Nana at Berl Economics that Agriculture was going to be one of 5 sectors deemed weaker sectors contributing to us ‘bouncing back’ (flashback to Alan Partridge selling his own book at Paddington Station entitled ‘Bouncing Back’) from the recession (other sectors include construction, forestry, fisheries and communications, with the strongest sectors being business, retail and health & community. 'In between' or moderate are the tourism, transport, wholesale, and some aspects of the manufacturing sectors), particularly when Agriculture completion rates for trainees and cadets are dead last in the latest table released by the TEC, he shot me down simply by saying “I’m going to have to disagree with that statement” followed by the core shaking, revelation-like idea that to get future farmers established we need to 'get them interested'. Oh for goodness sake I thought. Really David?! You're onto something there.

Considering the payouts for this season (discussed in a previous post), I was interested to see how he disagreed with me. He'd just finished stating that the debt incurred by the agriculture industry, New Zealand's major primary industry, was unsustainable. It has DOUBLED in the last 5 years. Further to this, reading through Infometrics thoughts on future export growth (basically, don't hold out hope for dairy in the interim years before we flourish once more in the land of milk and honey), I wondered how he could dispel my notion that had sound foundations.

I'm so keen to hear people's opinions on this. Even if it's recession related rather than agriculture focused.
Enjoy this amazing weather if you're here in NZ, and of course, no matter where you are, the weekend!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The magic of the South. And Lush. And Turner.

Last week I almost put myself into an hysterics-induced, frantic seizure. You can imagine how fun that was for the polite, softly spoken beauty therapist who had lit candles and prepared a room with hot towels, pan flute music and a cup of herbal tea for me in preparation eyebrows.

I had secured a Pearl Jam ticket. I was seeing some of my family that weekend.

The high points though?

I'd just heard the most exciting rumour that Marcus Lush was back on our screen with his new series South on Channel One. Seriously. Can he top Off the Rails? After Sunday's premiere, I'd say there's a good chance. Teepee cults on Stewart Island, moments of reflection in his hometown of Bluff, the usual inquisitive/mickey taking but not spiteful approach to interviewing quirky characters/embracing of the old adage 'different strokes for different folks'...I eagerly await the next episode. Hell, the day I can buy it on DVD!

Anyway, don't be thinking I haven't already started drafting a post about trains + Radio Live + Marcus Lush. Because I have. It's pending, and it is TOUGH to execute.

So. There I am, bursting to get home and confirm said rumour, tapping my fingers on each side of the bed, trying to process this new series AND the fact that bestowed upon me in Unity Books was a total surprise.
Brian Turner. New volume of poetry. Entitled 'Just This'. For some reason I am biding time to buy it. I think with the bustling life that is so at the moment (the sun comes out and days suddenly fill up!), I don't want to have it at home knowing I can't just hide away for a day and delve into the latest grumblings, beautifully narrated thoughts and delicate observations on nature from BT. Turner is someone, a Kiwi someone that I have, rightly, wrongly, however it has happened, almost deified really. He believes one succeeds by posessing courage in the face of adversity. When interviewed on Dunedin's Channel 9, he remains undeterred by the fact that poetry books, when published 'punch above their weight' when selling. He is deeply concerned at how we, by and large, treat this environment and if 'we don't stop, it'll be curtains'. I found it interesting, though not surprising, to read in an ODT article that Turner had 'run out of steam' with his intense level of campaigning around Meridian's 2007 consent application to build a new wind farm in the Rock & Pillar Ranges (incorrectly stated in hearings as being on Lammermoor Ranges) down in Central Otago (Meridian's side of things can be viewed here). Bitterness really does only eat you up, and I guess depsite seeing his big skies, vast landscapes and the flora & fauna, BT keeps on keeping on. As a 'practical idealist', Turner's poetry is the kind that one should read with an acceptance of cycnicism, a hope for humanity and an embrace of romanticism. Often poets are shunned into a corner, not to be taken seriously like 'real authors'. I think what people forget is that poetry, the poetry I identify with anyhow, is conceived, written in a manner that gives you a meaning that is face value, but also inspires you to dig a little deeper, think for yourself. Poetry isn't to be spoon fed, though it is a delight to share, to savour.
I think what BT does for me is remind me of the person I want to be. Of the morals and values I want to hold on to despite living in a city, working at a desk.

Roger Robinson describes Turner's poetry as 'tough honesty', which is a unique description to hold considering to write poetry you need to be...hmm, not sensitive, but almost painfully aware of your surroundings. Poet Emma Neale puts it much more eloquently: you have to be `thin-skinned' - have a heightened reception to the world around you'.

While there is always room for tenderness, human emotion, nostalgia, cheeky sarcasm (which I rate); Turner has no qualms in stating through his work that there are no tricks up his sleeve. What you see is what you get, and I like that about him. Life teaches you that talk is cheap, and those that are earnest can sometimes be fooled: inadvertently or not. In poetry, you are quickly busted for being cheap. But further to this, you can go back to Turner, again and again, and always feel something different, or re-read a poem with fresh eyes, or a new understanding. The more you grow, the more I think you'll understand his point of view more and more.

John Keats commented that poets are usually able to identify with everyone in the room to the point where their identities merge: Turner does this. He doesn't stereotype, yet he somehow articulates notions on common ground. If you don't know poetry, I urge you to start with BT. A national sports rep, with national sports rep brothers, a love for fishing, literature, our country: why wouldn't you?

I'll leave you with a poem I once passed on to a friend of mine who is a good kiwi bloke but has a touch of SNAG in him as well (...there's a 90's acronym we all wanted to forget. Well forget it, the renaissance is here!). BT was just the man to help me out...


It's nice when they volunteer
the benefit of their experience,

which is to take it on the chin,
mate, move on and make a clean

break. It's as if they think
emotions are like bones

that grow back more or less
in the same place, and fresh

starts are as simple as lining up
week after week for another

club event that affects no one's
national ranking. Fine, chaps,

fine, but it's not that easy.
Perhaps it's better to have

an end in mind and hope
you've a mind in the end.

Until next time!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Under Paris Skies...

As the days get longer, it’s only natural to get more and more…energised about summer. Instead of remaining a permanent resident in the doldrums, your plans for summer become cemented and you start replacing home baking with dried fruit and nuts as snacks.

Well, I have anyway.

In between fasting and doing a weekly BMI test spring somehow arrives. You still need a jacket, but it’s easily shed at lunchtime. Flowers seem to be brighter, and more readily available. Tulips, daffodils, other spring flowers (clearly haven't found my green thumb just yet...) seem to be at every dairy door, you even find yourself doing little skips. .

Well, I do anyway.

I can’t help but get a little giddy and start imagining myself down the Champs Elysees, sifting alongside the Seine armed with newly purchased second hand silk garments, vintage jewellery, fresh bread and veg from the markets in my local Parisienne neighbourhood and heading back to some scody but ‘rustic’ ‘shabby chic’ studio apartment on Left Bank. I'll no doubt be dirt poor but be living the champagne lifestyle...

While I wouldn’t have taken up smoking, I’d say red lipstick will be cranking. You may even spot a faux beauty spot. Hopefully not, although one never knows how caught up in a fantasy one will get until they are actually living out their days in said fantasy.

And Paris is mine, soon to be a reality. Ever since I was handed my first text book ‘Ça Bouge 3’ I knew I’d be visiting France one day. Ever since I returned from the UK after staying in the Loire and travelling through the South of France, I knew I would live there. Ever since I studied curriculum theory, I even fancied working there to help promote relations between NZ and France re: education (I know, saving the world one high flying job at a time...)
And now, Paris is a callin'!
I cannot wait to be wide-eyed again. Living off the smell of a paté-laced canapé, knowing that the cliché tourist attractions are more than that to me, that they form part of the makeup that is my new city of residence. I love getting to know a new city. Travelling the public transport to get my bearings, work out the right routes to the places that will be stops in my routine, finding out how this suburb links in with that one etc.

So I guess here are some images that get me rather excited about the future! They may be irrelevant to you, they may spur you on, but I hope you all have something similar to focus on, whether it be Europe, Africa, the Americas; or a summer holiday, a new job or a new interest, this is the beauty of warmer weather: daydreaming becomes less about the dream and more about the day it all eventuates!

A bientôt,


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mincing the fruit for the Juic(er)y fruits in Auckland on the Freelove Freeway

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was sitting in a pseudo-Slough office, across from my friend Nick, trying to catch his eye in order to make him laugh about this, that, or the other. It was definitely the kind of comaraderie that begins as work colleagues and quickly turns into a great friendship.

The world had only known David Brent for about 18 months, and I was riding on his coat tails here in Wellington. Living vicariously through his cringe worthy moments by working a room at parties with my impersonations of David Brent; husking my voice to sing Spaceman/Freelove Freeway and tilting my head in a downwards motion despite continuing to inflect the end of my sentences ('racial'), telling people that the reason why women wear necklaces is really to draw attention to cleavage and asking people if the reason why they were travelling was to discover themselves 'down under'.

Nick would often educate me on Brentisms, dissecting them, always showing the utmost faith that Gervais' character really was a good apple in the end. We both had a mutual hate for Chris Finch, my goodness that guy was a tool. If I was on the phone, I'd almost lose it if Nick would stand up and interlock his hands while smugly mouthing 'synergy'. Crikey I'm losing it now just re-living the moments!

As has often been stated, The Office has this amazing way of reaching out, worldwide, to the monotony of the office. It drew out the stereotypes of figures within a company, regardless of what business the office is in. Keith, Neil, Dawn, Tim, Gareth, the pregnant woman in season watch that series and everytime you think 'my god I have met that person in every job I've worked.'

It took a couple of days of planning around our university timetables, but Nick walked into the office one morning only to find his clippy clipper (essential stationery item at EFTPOS NZ) completely dominated by a bowl of yellow jelly.

But all good things must come to an end, and the dynamic duo of Morris & Buck reached a hiatus when the better half moved to Auckland to spread the sunshine.


Nowadays Mr. Buck can be spotted working the CBD circuit at the famous Juicery. While it's a shame I've not yet been able to grace the joint with my presence, I can't wait to think that I've 'died and gone to heaven' after sipping on a boysenberry smoothie that undoubtedly so many people have done since The Juicery opened last year. I've only just discovered Nick's blog here, and going into summer, there is some handy info to arm yourselves with in order to start slimming, trimming and shaping up for summer. Happy Monday, and if you're in Auckland, or frequent Albert Street on a regular basis, please call in and see Nick, provide feedback on the music he plays, and enjoy the goof...goodness that this brilliant friend of mine no doubt has in store for you.

He's thrown a kettle over a pub, what have you done?


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Art: the only way to run away without leaving home

When a considerable amount of time has passed since I’ve devoted some time to an interest of mine, my mind starts to crave it, or in an uncanny turn of events, I am bombarded with a multitude of opportunities.
Apparently a woman named Twyla Tharp quoted the title of this blog. I'm not sure who that is. I do know I probably would have claimed that 'Anon' coined the phrase though if my name was Twyla.

It had been a few months since I’d really spent some time in the galleries around Wellington, or read/perused the net to get myself up to speed with the latest. Although I do have a few friends in the art world who keep me up to date, I like to make sure I capitalise on living in a city that apparently has the largest number of galleries in the country in relation to population.

All of a sudden ALL of the galleries ALL over New Zealand and beyond these shores that I have, over zealously, subscribed to over the years decided to invite me to this that and the other. From Dunedin to London and in between, galleries have not forgotten my name or my email address though at times I've wondered if they have.

This is the culture ‘vulture’ sifting back into the economy. The recession, well, recedes, an inch, and those art investments that may seem superfluous to some come screaming back at you a
hundred a miles an hour once there’s a sniff of extra money around. Artists are the grand scale example of 'last on board, first to be pushed off' when money is tight. When one work that could last you a lifetime equates to a year's worth of groceries...well, worrying about starving Ethiopians during a credit crunch goes out the window, it's your own well being that has to come first!
On less facetious note, when I think about it, we in Wellington are lucky to have such a high calibre of galleries here. Starting with Te Papa’s Level 5, the WGN City Gallery and the New Dowse in Lower Hutt and ending at suburban galleries like Suite on Daniell St in Newtown, Solander Gallery out in Island Bay (now on Willis Street in the CBD) and Millwood Gallery in Thorndon. In between the institutions (let's not forget the fabulous Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University) and the locals, galleries in the city such as Page Blackie, Bowen Galleries and the (now sadly former) Janne Land Gallery boast and have boasted both emerging and established artists, of national and international reputations. The importance of the dealer/gallery owner is as vital sometimes as the works itself if they are to be sold, if they are to find a home amongst those of us willing to invest, indulge, and be inspired (for life) by a work of art.

Just recently at the NZ Film Festival, a documentary on local art dealer Peter McLeavey was shown to sold out crowds. It returns to the Paramount theatre next week, thank goodness, because I was far too complacent and missed out on a seat! Naturally many folk around Wellington would already know of the small gallery tucked away on Cuba St. just next to Scopa and upstairs in the same vicinity as the Enjoy Public Art Gallery. McLeavey is well known around these parts and has done his bit in nurturing the careers of well established artists such as Bill Hammond and Gordon Walters.

Also on at the moment out in the Dowse is the exhibiton Thrill Me Every Day: the collection of Celia Dunlop, a Wellingtonian who passed away last year (I think) and bequeathed her collection for the public to enjoy. It really was thrilling to walk around that exhibition, thinking that Dunlop had bought this Ralph Hotere, and that Michael Smither when she was so much younger, and they so less known by the nation. Her philosophy was one I too possess: art was to be enjoyed, and it didn't have to cost the earth. What's marvelling is that many of her works, including John Pule, Seraphine Pick, Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters...the list really does go on, only cost her a mere few hundred dollars. She inadvertently had the foresight, the knowledge, and ultimately, the class and the taste I suppose, to develop a collection that narrated some of the country's finest contemporary art and its history. The exhibition runs until September.

A couple of years back at the City Gallery, I was so stoked to be able to wander around a part of the collection of Jim and Mary Barr. Oh I think these two are just marvellous. Friends of Rita Angus and Evelyn Page, once again an example of those who, may not be artists themselves, but believe in the nurturing of this channel of creativity. Their collection was breath taking, and as they tend to curate many of their exhibitons, I had no doubt that each piece that had been selected to show was carefully done so to give us, Joe Public, a sense of what it is to them to be community and culturally orientated, particularly in New Zealand. While I will always admire the works of overseas artists, I think my purse strings will always tighten should I consider buying major work once I'm in such a position to do so.

Why send good money offshore when some of the world's most talented artists are right here in our neighbourhood, depicting our country, challenging us to think about the world in a new light or different angle: just as daringly as any foreign folk, and further to that, have the desire or the want to take their work and their philosophies overseas themselves. Think on Frances Hodgkins and how when she first emerged onto the NZ art scene, society did not want to hear about it, nor want to see her 'outrageous' style of painting. She left. She travelled to the UK, became an integral part of the Seven and Five society and basically denounced the country!

While times have changed, I would hate to think that I would be turning my back on such talent here if artists who possess half the foresight Hodgkins did should I not maintain the same sort of thinking that McLeavey, Dunlop and the Barrs did and do. Although, that makes it sound like I'm going to be this powerful art dealer. Which I'm not. Unless I win Lotto. Who knows. No one until one day you come round for afternoon tea and you casually sit below a C.F. Goldie...

My rule when considering art to buy? I smile on first glance. Needless to say if you know me that I'll never have a Bill Hammond in the joint then....

Have a lovely weekend!

Works in order:

Interior by Emily Wolfe. 2009. Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington
Heloise and Francoise by John Drawbridge. 1986. Paperworks Gallery, Napier
Sold by Billy Apple. 1981. Auckland Art Gallery Collection
Peter McLeavey. Photo used for The Man in the Hat.
Simon and Martin by Marti Friedlander. 1965. fhe Galleries
Careworn by Seraphine Pick. 2005. Brooke Gifford Gallery, New Plymouth
Days by John Pule. 2007. For the SAFE animal campaign.
Jim and Mary Barr by Marti Friedlander. 1978. Auckland Art Gallery, gift of Marti Friedlander

Saturday, August 1, 2009

La douleur exquise* (the exquisite pain): the blues.

‘Eric Clapton: knows that I steal his ideas and is still cool with it’ – John Mayer

Following on from my post the other day about figures in past music decades, and the post script which mentioned Motown and the reunion that is planned, I thought I'd carry on down the blues path. On the latest Ben Harper album, ‘White Lies for Dark Times’, track 4 is…and fans of early Ben Harper will scoff at such a claim, but track 4 is one of my favourite Ben Harper songs. Ever.

The best line from the song (entitled Lay There and Hate Me) for me, ‘never trust a woman who loves the blues’ just makes me smile. The first time I heard it I immediately thought about the music industry and how it owes such a lot of its existence today to the blues.

I love the blues Ben.

Anyway. It’s the attitude of the song. The pain, the despair, the getting lost in one’s own world. But it’s also about appreciating what one can do, loving the music so much that you feel the pain of the artist, but also get a real rush from it too. It’s amazing. Exquisite. A good blues song can be the piece de resistance for someone who needs to prove they’ve got the good, or a good blues song can be what makes an artist (Miles Davis, Clapton).

You hear a blues song, no matter what genre and you think ‘I hear ya mate, I feel your pain’, but you also can’t help but marvel and feel at ease at the same time. It’s incredible. The blues is the type of music you almost don’t want to share with anyone. But then you do because everyone should be educated on what construes a good dose of blues!

While not a constant rule, and it would be a dull world without exceptions, the blues should start off with one line of dramatic ‘depths of despair’ notes. Slow, and definite. The drums usually come in after this and then you just get drawn in. A small guitar or piano solo to let us know what we’re in for. The instrumentals should outweigh the singing. I mean, let’s be honest. If it’s the blues, you can’t say much more than ‘I want to drink very heavily right now and keep my door closed because my heart is broken’ or ‘God I’m so tormented and tired right now, someone dim the lighting so I can have a whinge for 5 minutes’. So what is left, but to cut the talk and get strumming/playing the ivories.

Let it Loose
by the Rolling Stones is a good example of how they’ve adopted the blues, but retained that quintessential Stones ‘flavour’ if you like to the song. On the other hand, the John Mayer Trio’s Out of My Mind is textbook blues. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s Clapton, especially after hearing his Driftin’ Blues…although in saying that, it kind of sounds like Clapton has more of a…hmm…steely sound.

Badly Drawn Boy have successfully ‘modernised’ the blues with the song Delta (Little Boy Blues) by injecting a slightly whimsical sound to the tune. One could argue however that it’s because it was written for the film About A Boy.

Funnily enough, Nick Hornby (author of About A Boy) does have a quirky little crack regarding blues and soul: “Have you got any soul?" a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I've got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can't seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn't be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.”

On Love and Theft, Bob Dylan funks up the blues a bit with his Lonesome Day Blues. It actually sounds slightly reminiscent of Bad to the Bone which I found slightly disturbing, particularly as Bob seems to have found some sort of hoarse and gravelly aspect to his voice….

It was very exciting to find a 1920’s King Oliver tune which is flapper music type incorporating the blues: the Dippermouth Blues. It’s pretty cute, and while not quite what I’d deem your typical bluesy number, it still contains that yearning sound that one possess. Plus it’s lyric-less. Really, in that era you don’t need to go too further past Billie Holiday Gloomy Sunday or I’ll Be Seeing You.It was timely that I ventured out on Friday to yet another NZFF film: this one being a pretty special get together of guitar legends Jimmy Page, The Edge and emerging legend Jack White for the documentary It Might Get Loud.

The three give us their childhood backgrounds, provide original footage from various projects (Page's post session guitarist era involvement with The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin; The Edge's U2; White's The White Stripes, The Upholsterers, The Raconteurs), general jamming and discussion on early influences, their guitars and of course, their raisons d'etre.

There were some classic moments in the film, Page is a real character; an earnest child that soon realised his talents took him to commercialism; being milked for his skills, showcasing other people's work and not making waves himself. This all, of course, before creating some of rock's best music. On the other side of the coin, The Edge remains earnest. Ireland's bloody history is a constant troubling tempest in his thoughts, and the technical side to his music writing was a great insight. It was, dare I say this, extremely refreshing to see U2's music and history narrated, touched upon, by someone other than Bono. It..relieved I guess, the glorification of their music which I think happens quite often. It made me remember that U2 started out, and continue to be, advocates for anti-war, that they're patriots, and, at the risk of sounding trite, they really have injected hope into the lives of many around the world.

Thirdly, we got to see a little bit more of what makes Jack White tick. I said to my friend afterward that after seeing It Might Get Loud, that I hope Jack White enjoys longjevity with his career. Seeing him in his home environment cranking improvised blues tunes, playing the piano, the guitar, the drums, handmaking objects, this guy is awesome. He has his own distinct style, and has the potential to revitalise the blues in the future. And he made a fantastic statement regarding the blues:

"if you're digging round for the beginning of rock and roll, you're on the free train to the blues"

So: the exquisite pain of the blues and the adrenaline of rock and roll. Hand in glove as it turns out.

Til next time!


*'La douleur exquise' is the title of an episode in Sex and the City, Season 2.

Think this is a dram worth recommending?