FND on FB

After a great deal of pain I’ve managed to get the FaceBook Fresh New Day page up and running. Once I’d stopped trying the super sophisticated ‘create a new application in FaceBook, get a full developer kit going’ approach and instead just set up a page with an RSS feed and got on with it.

Simple elegance is always, ALWAYS the best.

FND Launched!

Yay! We went live with Fresh New Day this morning – not exactly countless hours, but uncounted hours of concentrated effort to get what is perhaps our most ambitious project off the ground. It doesn’t look like there’s much going on – a photo, a few words – but it really has been like the legendary duck – serene on the surface all the while paddling like crazy things below the surface. Nevertheless, a positive action that has already served to inspire and move others – I really want to say ‘our job is done’, but there’s plenty more effort to be put in yet. Check it out.

scary alien errors

WordPress errors – scary aliens though they may be, are sometimes easily solved. Working on the Fresh New Day site (see tab above), I suddenly got the following error message snotted across the home page:

WordPress database error: [Table 'freshnew_wrdp1.wp_post2cat' doesn't exist] SELECT p2c.category_id AS cat_id, COUNT(p2c.rel_id) AS numposts, UNIX_TIMESTAMP(max(posts.post_date_gmt)) + ’12′ AS last_post_date, UNIX_TIMESTAMP(max(posts.post_date_gmt)) AS last_post_date_gmt FROM wp_post2cat p2c INNER JOIN wp_posts posts ON p2c.post_id=posts.id WHERE 1 = 1 AND posts.post_type = ‘post’ AND posts.post_status = ‘publish’ AND posts.post_date_gmt <= '2009-09-12 22:21:41' GROUP BY p2c.category_id ORDER BY numposts DESC

ARGH! If you get this error message, people I feel your pain. I freaked out, repaired databases, and went into that gritted teeth panic mode best reserved for fighting aliens. What it turned out to be was instead of installing Amaury Balmer’s rather excellent Simple Tags plugin, in my hurry and scurry, I’d accidentally installed the Simple Tagging plugin. Oh, duh, that would be the plugin for WP 2.3 – not really designed to work with WP 2.8.4. So, a quick uninstall and calmness returns to my world. The aliens are happy, I am happy.

fresh new day

There’s been a flurry of working going on over at our new initiative, Fresh New Day. Marica and I have begun creating a document of our everyday world – using photography and writing to learn more, notice more, to explore the local and immediate in greater depth.

I’m very interested in the cosmic in the commonplace. I’m looking forward to making numerous photographs through the year, hopefully elevating the familiar with insight and inspiration. I can’t wait.

So far it’s been fun (and funny) as Marica and I are generally not discussing the images and the words before we publish them, and so reading and viewing each other’s day brings surprise and laughter as we see what’s caught our eye. It’s been interesting to see colour and design commonalities as well – but from very, very different perspectives.

You can get an update on our photos by clicking on the ‘fresh new day’ tab (above), or get the hot off the press images and writing at Fresh New Day HQ.

the good old days

I recently caught up with a former student (Hi Floyd) and I was ranting about how cool the technologies are today – no more wrecking backs and knees lugging heavy video cameras and such around. I can get almost the same quality video from my little point-and-shoot Fuji still camera as I ever did from a 3-tube, and in terms of editing, Quicktime and Movie Maker can give me pinpoint accurate editing and still have $20k in my pocket compared with the old edit suites. I could just about be drawn back into teaching again. Just about…

The difference, though, that really makes a difference these days is the ability to communicate – around the room, around the corner, around the world. And even though that’s what my Masters is in, it still makes me shake my head in amazement and delight – I love it when it works, especially when connections work through a fusion of traditional and contemporary ways.

Here’s an example:

A few weeks ago I was wondering what it would be like to have a pet hyena.

image from http://www.pieterhugo.com/ Well, you do, don’t you. Except I don’t have Conan-sized biceps and I decided that a beast that size would probably knock stuff off the coffee table and shed everywhere and generally be – well – beastly. Cool, yes, beastly, undoubtedly. Damn useful, though, if I ever went back teaching. You need a good laugh when you work with people who find themselves unemployed.

The photo, by the way, by Pieter Hugo – the story behind the photos is great, and has given rise to ‘My baboon is feeling nervous’.

I digress. I decided a different kind of animal might be the order of the day, and after clicking around blog rolls and the net, I ended up falling in love with My Pal Walter. Who wouldn’t want a giant tortoise for a pal?

I thought Walter, and his pal, David Palumbo, were just the best thing, and I was moved to discover a little more by reading David’s profile. Turns out he’s an illustrator from Philadelphia, USA. And he (of course) presents some of his ideas, paintings, and sketches in an online portfolio. Using technology to communicate that’s called.

image by David Palumbo - davepalumbo.blogspot.comIn addition to the science fiction-y / fantasy type illustrations – book covers and the like, David does a fine line of erotic postcards. I’m not 100% sure if they’re erotic – they’re certainly beautifully illustrated with young women at various states of undress, however if you look at my drawings of nekkid chicks they’re anything but erotic. Perhaps it’s because I don’t draw as well as David.

An aside: horrors, I note I haven’t drawn since 2007, and some of the works from then are pretty odd and awful. I firmly believe it takes 10,000 hours to learn how to do something – I’d guess about another 9,995 hours are needed urgently.

As a warm-up exercise before working on his commissioned work, David began creating small postcard-sized paintings. What started out as a fun daily practice has turned into a new passion, and before you knew it, a book was born and a new web site, Quickie, was launched.

As part of the promo for the book David posted on his blog that he would give away prints of the postcards as – wait for it – postcards. If you sent him an address he’d send you a card. I figured there’d be none left or any other excuse I could come up with to explain why I wouldn’t get a card, however, to my complete delight a card duly arrived – signed by the artist himself – what a joy! The image is the one above – some chick removing purloined y-fronts. Hmmm, now there’s an interesting story…

MYOBBack to loving how connections work through a fusion of traditional and contemporary ways … way, way back when I designed and ran a Government funded business course for the YMCA (well, someone needed to get the profits and, as a not-for-profit, the Y was second to none in terms of taking profit).

There was no money to promote the course (of course) so I created a series of posters shamelessly re-appropriated from appropriated art and when no one was around fired them off through the Y’s copier, and posted them across town. Most were not coloured (this was in the days before cheap colour copiers), however I sat down with my coloured pencils and did a few for fun.

My friend Floyd rocked up to do the course – “I saw the posters and figured you’d probably have something to do this kind of carry on.” We got on with the course – Floyd pursued other fields, I went on to work with another oppressed minority group, the terminally rich.

The core image (with Gordon and Cynthia) was, I believe, created by Boris Vallejo – part of his Conan portfolio. The vulture (not by Boris) on the left says, “Oh well, I spose we better clean up Jenny.” The vulture on the right replies, “Yeah, else she’ll stain the carpets and stink up the place.” Jenny? Jenny Shipley, then minister of social welfare, and definitely not someone you’d want to take home to meet your parents, unless they were rabid National voters. Despite Gordan’s sovereign efforts, Jenny received her knighthood today. So much for the carpet.

And the connection? Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell turn out to be David Palumbo’s parents. I love how blogging allows us to make connections, to weave old stories in with the new – our world is hundreds of times richer and with far greater potential than it was 20 years ago. The real changes are not new minerals or whatever, rather something not only sustainable, but something increasingly available – human intercommunication and sharing of ideas.

school sux, work sox

The flight home last night from the Auckland was awash with aging suits who’d been at the employment summit. I talked to one of the suits – one of the 200 grey knights invited in to come up with ideas that will rescue our nation from doom and gloom. I was gauche enough to ask if he’d been at the unemployment conference. ‘No, we prefer to concentrate on employment – it was the employment salad.’

Eh? My ears, still dealing with post-flight clickiness, heard ‘employment salad’ and that got everything off to a terrific start. I’m just *naturally* impressive. I did my best to not engage as he launched into this amazing swirl of spin – if you’d believed this guy we’ll be at 110% employment by tomorrow. Or, somewhere over the rainbow. In the big rock candy mountain.

Which is kind of useful, because one of the big, big breakthroughs at the summit was a recycled idea about building a mountain bike trail from North Cape to Bluff. I think this is a great idea, it’ll make good use of the redundant rail tracks that currently infest the country. With much of our manufacturing industry now off shore the rail system is just a drain on the economy. We can sell the steel rails for scrap to the Chinese to convert into bicycles (yay the mighty wu tang) that they can sell back to us via the Warehouse and the profusion of $2 shops scattered across the country. The sleepers we can tear out and sell them to do landscaping in Remuera. And the carefully graded track lines will make mountain biking a really pleasant, but not too challenging, experience. An *added bonus* – minimal Resource Management Act requirements. Very good idea. And perhaps people will be able to make a pilgrimage by cycle, from the unemployment ghettos in the deep south up to Cape Reinga and cast themselves into the sea to launch their migration to Australia, our previously preferred (and time-honoured) method of solving unemployment.

I mentioned the migration method to my suit, and to my complete amazement, he thought I was younger than I am. He said, ‘When someone goes from here to there it doubles the average IQ on both sides the Tasman.’ I was stunned at the idea that he would voice that as being his own idea, and felt moved to mention that, ‘Yes, that’s what Muldoon said, and see where that got us.’

Apparently the suit (an ex-aussie himself) was of the opinion that in almost no time at all swarms ex-pats and their whanau will be back here to the land of the long flat white and honey. Mossies no more, we’ll be re-united, brothers in arms, red men … oh good grief, just no. I could see on the faces of the people around listening to the conversation that they were convinced they were in some sort of Tui ad, and that any minute now they were going the collectively shout, ‘YEAH, RIGHT!’

You know, thing I can never understand is how kids who are perfectly normal, fun, goofy, bumbling in a good way, vibrant and generally worthy people (i.e. real) at high school grow into conniving, word spinning, inhumane and at times, just downright stupid (i.e. unreal) in their adulthood. Does work – having a job do that to you?

I try to not buy into the illuminarti/new world order/masonic conspiracy but I cannot see what the payoff is. I’m unconvinced. Perhaps it’s greed. Perhaps it’s peer pressure. A desire for status. Craving credibility with the in-crowd. A media construct. Subliminal messages in the media. If enough people buy in to the Emperor’s new clothes group think takes over.

Pulling at an errant thread then, as much as I like the idea of being able to bike the length of the country – I am quite tempted by that idea I have to say – without the fear of being hammered by road traffic going through the bottleneck that is Auckland, and the other big cities – that I don’t really see New Zealand’s unemployment woes on the horizon being solved in this way. It’d be great, but let’s not pretend this’ll really do much provide widespread employment. Unlike if every Government business unit simply went to full staffing. Many business units are short staffed, and have been so for years. I don’t understand how a country can go from bleating about a shortage of skilled staff to increasingly strident bleats that companies are over-staffed in just a few months. I don’t understand why the Government doesn’t stop using foreign-owned banks instead of KiwiBank. Despite the seeming paucity of ideas (200 people, one day, 21 points – hey I wasn’t there perhaps it was fantastic and the points are incredible), the NZ Herald patriotically report: Mr Key said everybody who attended the summit had taken a risk, “but you put the interests of your country ahead of yourself or your organisation”.

Yeah, right.

what to tell your grandkids?

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on what to tell your grandkids. I don’t have any grandkids, but I was thinking about all those ‘What did you do in the war, Dad?’ kinds of questions that I didn’t ask my Dad. Could’ve, perhaps should’ve, but didn’t. Wasn’t that interested, to tell you the truth. At least not about the war. Dad did tell me/us a little about his early life and I think my memories of his memories are more about a brutish life than anything resembling fun, or even funny. You get that when your childhood gets stolen by someone else’s alcohol, a depressing environment, and relentless hard work. Dad did survive and, by any account, thrive – perhaps not financially rich, but a king’s ransom worth of knowledge and the love that his childhood didn’t have.

So back to the things to tell your grandkids – if a picture tells a 1,000 words then a video of a 1,000 pictures must tell thousands of thousands more. Here’s a great video, quaintly shot in the style of the Victorian photographs, doing Victorian things. This is what your grandmother was like when she was a girl…

Life, changing

Christina's World
Christina’s World Art Print
Wyeth, Andrew
36 in. x 28.75 in.
Buy at AllPosters.com
Framed   Mounted

The first writing of the new brings no comfort at all. I was saddened to read of the passing of Andrew Wyeth noted by James Gurney, and then in the NYTimes. It’s always interesting to me how little things can change lives – and it was seeing the work, Christina’s World (above) that set me on a more creative path than I perhaps would’ve walked otherwise. I saw Wyeth’s work – reproductions rather than originals – in the 1970s and I was struck by the strange (yet familiar) isolation the images conveyed. It’s difficult for me to express how these sparse images are so evocative – I can all but hear the susurration of grasses, the soft ‘flumph’ of curtains pulled over the window frame to flap in the breeze, the ringing of silence. ‘Atmospheric’ doesn’t capture the almost surrealistic detail – and yet, when you look, no details, just scratchy brush marks. Wonderful.

My favorite work is ‘Wind from the Sea‘. Strangely haunting, I’ve only ever seen the painting by way of reproductions, most no larger than the link. I frequently think of this image, and before today the memory of it has somehow enticed me buy property near the sea – pursuing the empty promises of imagined realities. Who knows what are the sources of motivation?

The deal

Tonight I cruised into the supermarket to grab some fixin’s for dinner. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. I noticed the trolley wrangler was wearing a green Santa’s helper hat. I remembered how my friend George had commented about the horrors of having to wear crap hats to hold down a job. Demeaning, he called it. I tried to drag myself nearer the festive part of the festive season. Three weeks to the day one of my colleagues announced today, in tones of joy that I didn’t know and chastisement that I didn’t know, blended with a subtle nuance of terror because she did know, and she knew what it meant. She also knew there was only one pay day between now and then. Almost like knowing there was only one more breath of air left in the car you drove off the wharf … sinking …

The supermarket. Instead of the usual blitz of frenzied looking faces grabbing calories to get through the night, no, tonight there was a bit of a crowd around the door, trays of slightly used looking snacks, and was that a barbecue? And someone in a penguin suit? No, not a tux; a suit what is a penguin. Handing out gee-gaws to sticky children prodded to the fore by grateful mothers. ‘Thank God that’s solved today’s demand.’ Is this how we want to live our lives? One of my other colleagues asked me today, ‘How do you approach xmas?’ Before I had a chance to answer he finished, ‘With trepidation?’

‘No’, I reassured him, ‘With fear and loathing.’ He laughed. We both laughed, in the way that those deep cellular memories laugh, the way our ancestral hunters laughed, around the camp fire, knowing full well that in the darkness just beyond the glow the sabre-toothed lion awaited. Patiently.

Xmas seems a bit like this for me this year. Been a long, long year – lots of laughs, but in the shadows, who knows. I grabbed me nuts (Brazils, keep it seemly) and me buttermilk, and headed for the checkout. Gotta get out of supermarket city … standing in queue. I turn, look at the next checkout queue. Checkout Chuck is wearing felt antlers. One proudly erect, one flaccid, spent, hanging over his be-pimpled face. And I think to myself, no, not what a beautiful world; rather, have I been somehow slurped into a Bosch painting?

Back, paying attention to my checkout. Wait, no, I’m distracted by a person (?) in a suit that looks a yellow coin with legs and arms. My mind evacuates itself. I am completely unable to … the switch goes to autopilot. I stare at the coin outfit. It makes no sense. I look for help to the checkout chick. She follows my glance and shrugs. At least I’m not hallucinating, she sees it too. ‘You must’ve been good’, I said. ‘Why?’ ‘You didn’t have to wear the yellow suit.’ ‘No’, she agreed.

We looked at the yellow suit, and back at each other. She seemed a trustworthy girl. ‘I want to make a deal with you, ‘ I said. ‘Sure, ok.’ ‘If I ever lose my job and become desperate for work, and I have to wear the yellow suit, I want you to kill me. Do NOT let me wear the yellow suit.’ ‘Sure, ok.’ ‘Deal?’ ‘Deal.’

I trust her.

I pay. I leave. I find out as I get closer (trying to be more invisible than my ancestral hunter confronting the sabre-tooth) it’s not a coin, it’s a crumpet. A crumpet. Someone came to work today and got paid to dress up as a starch-based food product. I walk back to the car. That was close. Too close. Oh, I know all about fear and loathing. I remember the year, that xmas, I came to work the crowds dressed up as Coogee Bear. You know, Rolf Harris. Coogee Bear. C’mon, you know you do.

Dressed up. For free. Where was that checkout chick when I needed her?