Thursday, October 22, 2009

a short thought for the long weekend

“Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you”.

A short one to end the long weekend with- I've started a couple of posts this last week and just not gotten round to finishing them I'm afraid!

The last issue of Rolling Stone had 4 covers, giving each Beatle their own cover as they are celebrated once again, in yet another light, with the digital remastering of every single one of their albums, b-sides, name it on the catalogue, it's there, for purchase, in either 'original' mono recording or new stereo.

Something must be attractive about this latest marketing ploy- I think I've only seen a few stray copies of Let it Be and Abbey Road sifting around the shelves of music stores. Certainly no Sgt. Pepper or White Album.

Anyway, I somehow got reading about Khalil Gibran, a poet/musician/artist who influenced Lennon particularly around the White Album days, and am bemused at how typical his philosophies, works etc were just one of many who inspired figures like Lennon in the 60s. People were searching for something in the sixties weren't they? As a society, not just as individuals. Those who were 'discovered' by people like The Beatles, or at least, their philosophies were adapted collectively by the counterculture of the 60s (perhaps because these figures stood for nothing that the Western world represented, and yet the values of American and British societies were almost in perfect alignment with the words that Gibran et al had penned decades prior....) would then be treated to people like Lennon et al 'spreading the word' of teachings from Gibran, Gandhi, Buddha, Kharam, the Dalai Lama...

It's an intriguing thing: the East, the Middle East worlds where the way we think, behave and act were not the same as inhabitants of those particular cultures...even today where the world is far more accessible, through travel, through the media, the internet...there is still plenty of room for ignorance.

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 20, 2009



Tuesday, October 13, 2009



Monday, October 12, 2009

Living History: Dick Frizzell

Last night I attended the book launch of Dick Frizzell: The Painter at the Page Blackie Gallery.

Now, I definitely don't consider myself a reviewer of any sort, nor worthy of having credibility to be a critic, but one can't help but be pleased to see an event being hosted that funnily enough, seems to be so rare yet the components of it really are hand in glove.

It was the first time I was at a gallery where live music was, not in the background, but part of the 'programme'. The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra was, as per, on form and charismatic with their new uniformed look (designed by Frizzell, modelled by most members)

Here's the kicker: the artist and the artist's wife were in collaboration with the musicians!

Throw in Wellington name-of-the-moment Lawrence Arabia and you have a niche event that a) you were lucky to attend because you love, adore, treasure, admire art, and b) wish more people had attended because the concept was just so...'neat'! (I'm still smiling!)

While purists may have a slight sense of cynicism that could note that the music was used as a draw card to attract numbers, I admit that was my first thought as well. But think on it, this is a man who is launching a book, not a series of works (in this instance). It was a celebration of his contribution to, hell, even leadership of, pop culture in New Zealand. And what is pop culture? It is, and the list is not exhaustive, comprised of society, fashion, music, art, trends, attitudes and dare I say it, to an extent, the state of a nation.

A highlight for me at events such as these is when someone that has a close affiliation with the celebrated is the one who speaks on them. David Gascoigne (Chair of NZ Opera, and a fan of changing the nation's flag) was this man last night, quoting Hamish Keith, referring us to Bookman Beattie's blog, and throwing in a charming anecdote here and there that lets us know how lucky we are to have been in the presence of someone who is a living part of New Zealand's history.
I tell ya though, when Dick and wife Judy got up to sing Folsom Prison Blues with the Orchestra, that's when I was just elated to have gone along.

That and being pleasantly surprised by the glass of Frizzell Wines Chardonnay I had to drink. Very caramelly after taste, smooth, delightful. It's a boutique baby of a wine, so head to this website (even if it's just to look at his design work for the site!) to buy. YUM.

Anyway, I digress.

After Frizzell and Judy departed the stage, we were 'blessed' to have Lawrence Arabia (aka James Milne) join the ukelele gang. At first I rolled my eyes. This guy is everywhere at the moment. He seems to be the guy that people who frequent Mighty Mighty in brown cord suits and A-line skirts made out of curtain fabric seem to love, plus he really annoyed me at the Liam Finn and EJ Barnes gig I attended last month at the Opera House doing some sort of 2 noted wail alongside Connan Mockasin.

Anyway, can I just say Lawrie baby was brilliant! He suited to the more intimate and tinny (in a good way) sound of the ukelele/bass. His singing was downpat and the group was tight.

My cherry on top for the evening though was the Orchestra doing quite possibly the cutest slash best acoustic version of 'Sunshine of Your Love' by Cream. Outstanding! The singer was reminiscent of Claption, yet didn't sound ridiculous, the solo riff was just an absolute joy, in fact, as Hamish Keith described Dick Frizzell to be, I would happily put it out there that this version of Cream's song had the highest level of 'robust joy' I've heard from a song in ages.

Nice work PBG- it was a brilliant soiree and further cemented your place in the country as a top gallery.

Until next time,

Cover of Dick Frizzell: The Painter, published by Random House 2009
Cultural Tiki by Frizzell
A photo of the artist
The Kiss, 2007, by Dick Frizzell (Janne Land Gallery)

Birds: Part Two

Why will I never watch Jeremy Wells' Birdland?

Some of you will know of, will have had to be involuntarily tolerant of in fact, of my fear of birds.

Ornithophobia. It's a pain in the arse, just like any other phobia I suppose. I have two friends who also 'suffer' from this ridiculous, irrational fear. I know of 5-6 others who shriek at the sight of birds in general, wings flapping, eyes peering, beaks searching for food, talons, feathers, the creepy characteristics of birds, physical or physiological are almost endless.

I can't even have photos of birds on this post. Instead please observe the images of natural habitats of birds and signage associated with areas that birds tend to frequent. Delightful.

Clammy hands, tears, shaking, sudden yelps, ridiculous nightmares every couple of months, irrational thoughts that spiral into being housebound. Walking down Lambton Quay, two pigeons on either side of me. If I have no companion's arm to cling to, I'm crossing that street, or darting out to the road in a semi circle detour before coming back to the sidewalk.

The worst scenario is when a person is walking towards me, and is about the same distance away from the flying rat as I am. What needs to happen in order for peace to prevail is me reaching the area of the bird first, so that it walks away from me, and I continue on my merry way.


If the other person gets there first, it then chases the pigeon towards me, where I then seek refuge I have been seen huddling in the doorways of Chicago Menswear, Farmers on Lambton, Aotea Square, the music store on The Strand, Whakatane, the grand arches of Paddington Station, the food vendors vans of Flinders Street station. Seemingly, the world can not offer me a single refuge devoid of our feathered and winged counterparts.

Some days one may only suffer a slightly racing heart when encountering their nemesis. When when this happens, I simply clench and unclench my hands and carry on as per. Other days though, whoa.

A sparrow (before I made my peace with this particular species of bird) once got trapped in my laundry. I was at home studying for the morning, and heard a chirp.

Shit I thought. That's not outside.
Upon further investigation armed with a broom, I saw the little creep, shivering on the window pane. I tried to spook it by stamping my feet, but physically could not get closer than about 10 metres.

Needless to say the stomp was of a little effect.

All of a sudden, I was imagining thousands of sparrows infiltrating, pecking at me, surrounding the house. I couldn't go outside, and I couldn't open windows. Three hours later, someone came home and I was liberated.

Recent enemies of the avian flu spreading mongrels include that white cockatoo that sifts around the City Market on Sunday mornings. I want a croissant and peruse around the artisan goods that are available and whammo! A bloody parrot is squawking behind me, eyeing me up, ready to have me for breakfast.In Melbourne the crows behave like king pins- such awful creatures with their beaks, and their laughing as they stick together in gangs. I actually had to go through another suburb to get home once- because seeing them started out as a moment of freak out and then launched into a massive spin out where I was sure they were going to target me and peck me to death.


I've even had to grab a couple of strangers arms and tell them what was happening and let them (sorry, make them) lead me through a construction tunnel on a street in Wellington. They must have thought I was absolutely bonkers.

Which, to be fair, is what someone with a phobia is when having a moment of irrationality. A phobia of anything is not to be laughed at, and yet it should be, it is funny. I mean, now, as I write, birds are outside flitting around, dive bombing for fish and feasting on birdseed.

I'm sure plenty of friends out there would like to be able to make plans with me for some sort of eating event on the beach or lunch outdoors during work hours (Midland Park on Lambton or the waterfall square on High Street? Forget it) without me screeching 'VETO!'...

It is so bizarre thinking that a phobia lurks beneath a rather 'normal' character. It strikes at any time- I even get ridiculous nightmares.

If you have a phobia, of anything, or know someone that does, I urge you to try and read up on what you can do to either live with it, or try and overcome it. You can't just be given a good shake and told to get over it, in fact, that often leads to escalating a situation to the 'peck to the death' imagery.

Those who are...used to a loose sense of the phrase, now just simply keep talking, or pause while I cross the street then cross back over once the bird 'crisis' has been averted. Their arms are ready for me to grab, and their composure is always intact to carry on as per if I start crying from fear.

Until next time,

PS. I have in recent months attended the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Amazing. Do it. It's not even that scary if you see native birds since most of them don't fly or are shy...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Birds: Part One.

I've got a bone to pick with Jeremy Wells. It's hard to be slightly defiant towards someone who hails from a society that gave me 7 fruitful years, yes, Hamilton, but I'm going to.

His new show Birdland starts on Saturday (7pm. Just before Country Calendar. How about that time slot Newsboy?), and when I first saw the ads, my first thought was that he suited being an ornithologist. Quirky, sifty as anything (do we all remember Kum'face back in the Mikey Havoc Show days?), able to be camouflage himself to an extent, the components were there. Good on him I thought.

Sure, he's riding on the bandwagon of 'going back to nature' that Lush has successfully done and many prior to that before Xboxes and Playstations took over from fishing and cricket rounders, but he doesn't deserve to be shot down, nor compared to Lush. He's been around for awhile now and definitely has carved out his own place with TVNZ.

But I question what he stands for. His satirical approach to New Zealand, New Zealanders and the New Zealand culture used to be very, very clever. I thought that was his niche. And so Birdland will be an interesting road not yet taken by the artist formerly known as Newsboy.

No doubt destined to be a cut above Jenny Shipley's Intrepid Journey, though not a spot on Marcus Lush and Off The Rails, Ice or South, or Peter Elliot, Paul Henry, or even Oliver Driver (when he was arts only, before he sold his soul to the hideousness that is stereotypical Auckland captured in Tv3's Sunrise...) in terms of fronting a tv show that goes tiki-touring throughout our country, I wait with only partially baited breath to see what the ratings are like.

"Sadly every other subject for a television show had been taken. Lush took trains, Hamish Keith stole art and Radar mucked about on a farm. As far as I'm aware birds were the last subject of national importance left to milk."

I mean, what is that saying about his credibility as someone who is a patriot? The reason why the other programmes he mentioned have been a success is because you can't help but be carried away with the passion that these hosts hold for their subject, or their lifelong hobby, their Kiwi or international topics. They're real, or at least convincing as seemingly genuine anyway.
...................................... .....................................................................
A rubbish episode of Intrepid Journeys.
I'd be heartbroken if it came to light that Marcus hated the railways, or relocated to, I don't know, Te Kuiti from his beloved South Island (as someone who has pioneering forefathers from that area, please be assured I am not hassling the King Country area) or Paul Henry was a spy for England (despite what critics may say of him as a person, there can be no denial that Paul Henry is one of the most patriotic personalities on our screens) because they shine, so simply through their zest for life, however it may be conveyed.

Perhaps Wells is searching for the same thing, or simply, something. He readily admits that it was time for a change after roughly a decade of 'poking fun at minor celebrities from behind a desk'. Which, to his credit is a bold statement.

Considering our celebrities do fall into the minor category (they recycle their fame by deciding to continue partying together, realise they've all been on the rugby field, Shortland Street or TAB Sports Cafe in some combination or another at some point, so they pack a video camera and bang! Treasure Island or Lost in the Pacific or some other rubbish hits TV2 on a Sunday.)

Birdland is freaking the bejeezus out of me before it even starts. I won't be watching it, ever, but I will listen with interest to what the reviews are like.

Good luck to him.

Until next time,


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Woodstock: an American music odyssey

40 years ago in mid August, the world's biggest festival took place in upstate New York on a farm belonging to dairy farmer Max Yasgur. 500,000 people (approximately) attended Woodstock from August 15th-18th, 1969.

Woodstock, as we all do and/or should know was the festival that flower children attended and, in short, did whatever they wanted for three days while some of the generation's most important acts played. Free love, drugs and rolling around in mud seemed to be the three headlining actions.
Cocker, Joplin, Baez, CCR, Hendrix, The Who, Ten Years After, The Band (I always thought Bob Dylan was in The Band as WELL as Travelling Wilburys later on: wrong, he just did some gigs with them), Jefferson Airplane, CSNY (and these are merely the artists I love/know well)- despite some bands/musicians not playing who you'd think would have (Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Doors, The Byrds), Woodstock remains almost a household name even in today's society, such is the impact it has had. It's an excellent example of entrepeneurial skills, depsite the chaotic financial implications it had for the organisers, the town of Bethel, Yasgur and the musicians. According to the trusty Wikipedia article, Creedence frontman John Fogerty agreed to play for $10,000, however they declined to be filmed for the Woodstock film/documentary.

Foresight. Or lack of. What was Fogso up to?! Having created a new genre of rock that adopted blues and roots as part of its make up ('swamp rock'), and having just hit the big time, no doubt the record label was whispering in his ear and telling him that Woodstock was merely a token appearance, one of many that they had made that year.

I don't think it helped that despite being a 'headline act', they were scheduled to play at 3am. Rough.

"We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn... ...there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud. And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: a quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic*, and in the night I hear, "Don't worry about it John. We're with you." I played the rest of the show for that guy."

Clearly a poignant yet scintillating moment for Fogerty.

*By the way, the dude's 'Bic' was nothing dodgy, nor a ball point pen, but a lighter.

Just, imagine paying $12 for, I don't know, Glastonbury, Falls Festival (as an aside, Melburnians, your lineup for Falls this year is not too shabby, albeit more 'alty' than usual), or the Big Day Out. Hell, even Parachutes or the now defunct Sweetwaters (imagine bringing that bad boy of an NZ festival back. Brilliant). Apparently, and this is according to a music lover slash economist, that now equates to (still only) around US$105 which takes into consideration 'adjusting for purchasing power', and 'US$75 after adjusting for inflation'
.............................................................Original Swamp rockers Creedence Clearwater Revival

The Inimitable Janis Joplin

It was still early days in terms of radicalism for many folk in the Bethel/Woodstock area, and Yasgur was not liked for condoning the hippie behaviour via permission to rent his farm. It's hilarious considering the stereotype of Jewish people that he was quickly renowned for being hippie-ish himself by allowing 'free water' and giving away a plethora of supplies to those who flocked to the festival: "I hear you are considering changing the zoning law to prevent the festival. I hear you don't like the look of the kids who are working at the site. I hear you don't like their lifestyle. I hear you don't like they are against the war and that they say so very loudly. . . I don't particularly like the looks of some of those kids either. I don't particularly like their lifestyle, especially the drugs and free love."
After this point Yasgur gets a tad cheesy American, so forgive me for taking liberty and axing all the God Bless America blah. I am excited though about Ang Lee's gumption with making the film Taking Woodstock, starring Emile Hirsch (Into The Wild) and Demetri Martin (see his website here)...
I think half the things that people, my age, back in the sixties stood for are either irrelevant today or taken for granted. Dress, speech, music, relationships, art, education.
I mentioned to someone the other day that I was always disappointed I never partook in a march to protest something, anything apart from "No Fee Increase for Students" at university.
Timothy Leary I reckon nails on the head what the Hippy movement meant to him, and indeed many who were hippies or lived alongside them:
"Hippies started the ecology movement. They combated racism. They liberated sexual stereotypes, encouraged change, individual pride, and self-confidence. They questioned robot materialism. In four years they managed to stop the Vietnam War. They got marijuana decriminalized in fourteen states during the Carter Administration."
PS. Some hilarious Woodstock yarns can be read here

Think this is a dram worth recommending?