Monthly Archives: November 2005

music filled the air

I somehow must’ve been out having a leak or a walk or something when they handed out the music gene. It’s not that I don’t like music – I really like lots of different music – eclectic tastes that’s what that’s called. But somehow the making of music seems to have eluded me. At school I missed the hip music of the 70’s by listening to Mike Oldfield, Tangerine Dream, Beethoven, Wendy Carlos, and the like. In the early 80s punk chundered and left. Reggae smoked through. And now it’s all of the above, along with oodles of Penguin Cafe and a dash of Mozart.

Today my wife arrived home with a selection of cds – Enya’s Amarantine, and Fat Freddys Drop – Based on a true story. Lovely music, to add to our ever expanding cd collection – our friend Cathy sent us Flowers in Song, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Cathy is there, selling art and culture, stop by and buy – goowan, you know you wanna. At the gift shop, ask for Catherine, and tell her I sent you.

Meanwhile, in the corner of my mind, rarely shared, is the part of me that looks at recycling bins and sees musical instruments, looks a daikon and wonders what they’d sound like with a recorder mouthpiece shoved in it, what sounds would a cucumber make with a clarinet reed poked in, and whether I can record and loop and scratch and play my electric toothbrush. I want to grab sounds and make them my own. A sort of middle class middle age middle earth deep forest. I’m thinking: Shallow Suburbia. Accompanied by lawn mowers. Blenders. Electric toothbrushes. Alarm clocks. Cellphones.

What music is hidden in our lives? Perhaps I wasn’t out when the music gene was handed out, perhaps they just dropped it, wiped the dust off and – *bing* good as new. A bit like the sausage off the barbeque – blow the dust off and yummy yummy.


Ecclesiastes 11.1

Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what evil may happen on earth. (RSV)

Way back when, farmers tended to pay a great deal of heed to their own (and I guess any visiting expert’s) opinion about the weather. The model for the above message is plant seeds while the floods are still there. The seeds will be distributed nice and evenly because initially they’ll float. Eventually they’ll absorb some water and sink into the moist soil. Birds are unlikely to take seeds from off water, and by the time they can get to them the seeds are starting to sprout.

But here’s the key – don’t plant one seed and expect a loaf of bread. Things go wrong. Evil may happen on earth. As it does. Expect to lose 12% or more. 12 x 8 = 96 i.e. more than 12%.

So, what’s the big message here?

There’s two.

First, do more than you think it’ll take. It’s kind of like Murphy’s law. I hate these kinds of cliches, but it does seem to be the law of the universe – abundance is the best approach, because evil happens. Give abundant service. Communicate abundantly. Save abundantly.

Second, be open to new opportunities – more than 12% will have evil happen – and that’s probably in the first year. There’s a good model for running your own business. Cast your bread upon the waters.

time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana

It seems like an age since I blogged here last – there’s been all sorts of issues that I haven’t been able to resolve in terms of getting into the site to blog – the time I usually write I don’t seem to be able to get a good access, and then I get angry and tired and at times like this even Fat Freddy’s Drop is not much help. I just go to bed.

It’s not that I haven’t been productive, I just need to dig the postings out of Word and get them here.

link to Blog Hui 2006I’ve also been making bullets and badges to help promote Blog Hui 2006 – damn that’s been fun – they had to drag me off or I’d still be making them. Last summer Mira spent a day or so turning innocent bottle caps into embellishments for visual diaries and because, well, it’s fun too. I now understand and have begun to think of the badges and buttons as digital embellishments.

I’ve also been doing war with the code of the online registration form. At the moment there’s a sullen stand-off as we look at each other battered and bruised. Php is all well and good, but from time to time thought is required – and that can be painful. When I’d rather be blogging or badging or buttoning.

Meanwhile Friday night has become Sunday afternoon, and life is a razor edge present between an infinity before and behind. Sometimes I feel like I’m toppling forward into time…even though there’s never enough of it.

time slips

I had a late lunch with my sister and brother-in-law today. It was a wonderfully sunny late spring day, and we explored the nuances of barbeque. The venue was at Mo and Owen’s place in Paraparaumu – don’t worry about where exactly, clearly, your invite is ’still in the mail’. Mo – Maureen – is my sister’s schoolhood friend – I always thought she was the sun itself – a warm, genuine and funny person then, and nothing has changed.

What was interesting to me was Mo and my sister sat and ate their lunch with another couple – mutual friends from high school. They were schoolyard sweethearts – and still together 30+ years later. Very nice. The interesting part was watching them talk and laugh about the old days, and for a moment I had the vision of the wearing their school uniforms and the years rolled back to the late 60s.

The girls wore pleated grey gym slips – goodness knows what that means – the hem had to be a palm span above the knee – none of this mini-skirtedness. The girls had underwear inspection to ensure they were wearing the regulation undies. Tell me that’s not a job prospect or two…

Guys wore grey shorts, caps and hair was short, back and sides.

The good old days sucked, from my perspective. The only thing they had to recommend them, in my opinion, it that eventually, they ended. And not a moment too soon. The used to say, “Nothing is better than this”. How right they were. Sorry, all you nostalgia buffs, the only reason for a time machine is to go backwards in order to deposit some money on compound interest, ready for when you go forwards.


can’t get it up part II

Way back when, I blogged about how annoying it is to love doing something, but that it can’t support you. I called it, ‘can’t get it up‘.

It’s still a dream, I guess of others as well, to pack in my day job and go pursue more interesting, and more lucrative roles. But I’ve been there, and given the choice about being ‘free’ but broke, the ‘leash’ of economic security gets more comfortable by the day. But I still pursue ideas on the chance that the opportunity will present itself, and I’ll have the preparation to be able to take full advantage of it.

I’m not entirely alone in this idea of keeping the day job while trying to plant seeds for a new, brighter future. David St Lawrence says: Don’t give up your day job, and again, and again. Not always as comforting as I’d like, but at least realistic.


die, shakespeare! die! die! die!

People who write better than me really annoy me. I don’t mean that they inevitably make me angry, I mean they disturb me – they activate me to sit up and take notice, and think about things in a new way. And that’s what annoying is. Annoy – verb: cause annoyance in; disturb, especially by minor irritations. Denis Dutton annoys me. He wouldn’t remember me, but we had some great conversations back in the very late 80’s. I was working for Tearaway magazine, and I think we were both wondering what the hell we’d done, respectively, in our previous lives to end up in post-Muldoon New Zealand. I think Denis was one of the first people I’d spoken to who made it ok to have a brain. In the late 80’s, in NZ, that was a rare thing.

Timeshifting back to the 70’s, (which, by the way, made the 80’s look like an unending picnic), I used wonder what would happen if the ‘big one’ hit what would be left. I have no idea what the ‘big one’ is, but here’s the basic premise. Let’s say the ‘big one’ was about to hit, what would you take with you?

I’m not talking about the tsunami arriving and you being found with the Hello Kitty pencil case you got age five firmly clenched in your sweaty hands. I’m meaning let’s say we had to leave the planet, and we could only take so much with us, what would get taken? What would be relevant for the next planet? What music, what art, what culture would we take, not so much as an individual, but as humanity. How much of what we take for culture is purely an expression of context? An artefact as much as a prisoner might scratch four lines and fifth at an angle to cross a batch of days.

I’m not much chop at parties. I normally try to hide and look at people’s record (or maybe cd), and always their book collection. Few artefacts mark the passage of context as well as books and music. You and your Bay City Rollers lps. I like to think of the informal research into the archeology of bookshelves as a form of informal learning. Better that than nosy. Or bored. What I’ve learned is: most of the ilk of Danielle Steele, Dan Brown, Eminem, and Boney M are not things I’d load on my container to go to the stars. They (and the morass of their tribe) are not galactic desert island discs.

They’re crap, really.

I’ve wrestled with this angel in my mind for a long time. And I noticed, annoyingly, that Denis has been thinking and (more annoyingly) writing about this too. In “What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Cannot Prove It?” he observes that The majority of works of popular art today are not inevitably shallow or worthless, but they tend to be easily replaceable. I am of the opinion that is true to the extent that they are replaceable by works that are equally not inevitably shallow or worthless. Isn’t that one and the same? I’m not brave enough to argue with Denis, any more than I willing try to stare down the sun.

What I have no argument with Denis is in his observation:

Some unique works of art, for example, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, possess this rare but demonstrable capacity to excite the human mind across cultural boundaries and through historic time. I cannot prove it, but I think a small body of such works—by Homer, Bach, Shakespeare, Murasaki Shikibu, Vermeer, Michelangelo, Wagner, Jane Austen, Sophocles, Hokusai—will be sought after and enjoyed for centuries or millennia into the future. As much as fashions and philosophies are bound to change, these works will remain objects of permanent value to human beings.

Have these authors, artists, and composers somehow managed to capture our essential humanity? The best of us and the worst of us? Denis alludes to this universality of art:

…the ephemeral nature of mass art seems more pronounced than ever: most popular works are incapable of surviving even a year, let alone a couple of generations. It’s different with art’s classic survivors: even if they began, as Sophocles’ and Shakespeare’s did, as works of popular art, they set themselves apart in their durable appeal: nothing kills them. Audiences keep coming back to experience these original works themselves.

I suspect if I was going to load up my container of meaty cultural goodness ready to play galactic desert island discs, I’d want to call Denis again. I’m very confident that in some distant corner of the big one, there’s room for a shakespeare that will not die. And you. And the Hello Kitty pencil case.


everything about it was good

Concrete poetry in Oriental Bay

Everything about it was good; the tugging wind trapped and cornered by buildings, steep short cuts bordered by garden escapes, precipitous green gullies where throttling green creepers blanketed the trees beneath.

Barbara Anderson

Barbara Anderson’s concrete poetry can be found in a little park away from the city in Oriental Bay. It’s not exactly hidden, but like all the other concrete poems, is not immediately obvious. That’s ok – you need the exercise anyway.

tough subjects in a tough market

I’m always interested in people who have looked over into the abyss, and who come back to tell the story. It’s great when their story reaches out and touches people; and even better when they manage to tell stories that make a contribution towards positive change for other travellers.

I was thrilled to read today that my must-read-blog pal, Trevor Romain, has scored the award for Best Independent Video Series Aged 5 – 8. Great news, Trevor, congrats.

Again, for those who voted for us, thank you all so very much. We won the award for Best Independent Video Series Aged 5 – 8. We are still in the running for the big award, which will be announced at the event. The Kids First Awards is a big deal for us because it’s like the Oscars for kids. We are so grateful, not only to those who voted for us, but to everyone who worked so hard on producing the series. Production on the next three episodes starts in December. Watch this space for more information.

(I’m happy to share some more good news! We were also awarded the Parent’s Choice Gold Award for our video “What On Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?” and the silver for “Bullies Are A Pain In The Brain.”)


how to be happy

I’ve been interested for some time about the politics and economics (the postmodern yin/yang) of happiness. I loved the ‘Insiders Guide to Happiness‘. One of my blogrolemodels, Richard Bell, the nature diarist, blogged about Richard Reeves on ‘How to be Happy’ recently:

‘Take some exercise,’ suggests Richard Reeves, writer and management consultant in this week’s Radio Times, ‘It won’t make you happy now: in fact, if you go for a run you’ll feel terrible. But do it two or three times a week for six months, and I guarantee it’ll make you happier. If you want to feel happier this week, indulge yourself: get drunk, eat chocolate and buy a new car. You’ll feel better – but it won’t last. Long term happiness involves short term sacrifice.’

Reeves is in the new BBC2 series Making Slough Happy, but I probably won’t get to see it because Open University psychology expert Richard Stevens, who is also in the series, suggests that another way to happiness is to ‘cut down your TV viewing by half’ (fortunately there is a book of the series too: How to be Happy: Making Slough Happy).

I’m allergic to chocolate. Getting drunk makes for a bad next day, buying a new car is just a waste of money – so it seems like an idea – the exercise part that is. I take at least a 30 minute walk every day. I do it because it gives me a chance to think. And to wonder, pondering the big questions in life. Like: is everyone in the UK called Richard?

Apparently, possibly sadly, no. The author of the Observer comment ‘Everybody happy?’ is Tim Adams. Or so they say. Tim writes well about the idea of cognitive therapy for Slough. Now THAT’s something I’d like to see. Adams notes:

Stevens believes that modern society militates against contentment in various ways: that we are very busy to no particular purpose; that we fret about the past and we worry about the future and we forget about the present; that we talk all the time about diet and exercise then we eat badly and slob out; that we would love to be part of a community, but spend half our lives staring at TV screens and playing online poker. The Slough experiment, he suggests, was the biggest of its kind, and perhaps points to a way through some of those problems.

Happiness is interesting stuff.