Sunday, August 30, 2009

Power building progress

Listening to: Monuments and Melodies - Incubus (best of)

Progress on the modelling front......

After a lot of masking like this (the blu tack rolls mean I get fuzzy lines between the colours like the real thing):
The complicated paint schemes on two of the three Skyhawks are essentially complete
Quite stoked with how they look just quietly :)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Heh heh heh heh sweeeeet

Listening to: A Shaggy / Rage against the machine mash up on Active (Mr Boombastic vs Killing in the name. Sounds better than it , er, sounds).

Got my hands on this via the couriers yesterday.......


Also acquired in todays shopping:

-New and more practical camera bag (birthday present)
-New indoor netball shoes (been needed since last summer or so, need lately expressed through shin splints and sore feet, and the od fall through the soles being worn down to slicks).
-The new Incubus best of compilation, Tigerlily by Natalie Merchant, a Pitch Black (NZ Elctronica, not the Vin Diesel movie) compilation I know nothing about, but liked the look of the tracklist and contributors, American Idiot by Greenday, all for ridiculously cheap prices.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Power Building

Listening to: Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy

Got three models on the go at the moment, trying to get them done in time for the National Competition next weekend. Three Skyhawks, all to be finished as New Zealand ones, one from 1970 or so, one from 1991 or so, and one as they look now.

Started about two weeks ago with these:
Last week they looked like this:
Over the weekend detail stuff was done, tiny little cockpits with tiny little ejector seats
and things like that We got to here about Tuesday, ready to start prepping for paint
And here we are at the end of the night tonight. Painting about a third done.....
They need to be finished by this time next week if they are going to be entered in competition.......the clock is ticking

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

21 and some months

In honour of today being my 33rd birthday (wooooo that's a third of a century!), here is a picture of Sean Connery, who is no doubt grateful he shares the same birthdate as me:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekend Miscellany

Got a long planned reorganisation of my long term model storage done today. Bascially compressed the contents of all these boxes:
Into these boxes.
This frees up a lot of space in our workshop, and protects the models even more from the ravages of time and humidity, something cardboard boxes are not very good at.
Fishy helped with the reduction of boxes into smaller boxes:
And Charlotte lent moral support
Along the way I rediscovered my Matchbox car collection from (dating from 1980 or so to 1993 or so), also in deep and ineffectual storage. I didn't quite realise how many I had until I saw them like this. I moved from play to avid collection as an early teenager. The 80's and 90's were a great time for Matchbox car models and paint schemes. The cars were mostly realistic and the schemes as well. They are a bit more fantastic now, kind of like they were in the 70's with lots of fictional and wierd and strange vehicles in the range. Mine are almost all mint or nearly so, and the collection as a whole could conservatively be valued at several hundred dollars (at least) based on some of the prices I have seen.
Very nostalgic and fun to sit and sort through. Charlotte will almost certainly not get to play with them though. I kinda want to, but the conservator in me says no, their playing days are over (and most of them were well played with). They have made it this far, they deserve an honourable retirement. Plus it will be more fun for her to have her own contemporary collection rather than her dads old school hand me downs. Besides I have seen what kids do to cars (me included). One of the cars in the box was buried in a school sandpit for a few weeks, its lucky to even be here......;)
Back in March or so I posted about the Ian Curtis graffiti / public artwork in Mount Cook (linky).
It has since been updated:
This is good, since the dates are now both correct and much more prominent. Unfortunately now I have to ponder what 'Revamp' is referring to, along with the continuing conundrum of who Budgie is and why he rulz...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Film Festival Wrap Up#4

Listening to: PJ Harvey - Stories from the city, stories from the sea

Wake In Fright (1970)

I admittedly didn't know the story of this 'Lost Australian Classic', but the premise sounded interesting. Cultured, educated man finds himself trapped in the cultural wasteland of a small town in the Australian outback. It plays out like a more extreme, apocalyptically booze drenched version of 'Groundhog Day', twenty something years earlier and with more epic scenery, in vivid technicolour.

The opening shot establishes the tone perfectly. A long slow 360 degree pan over a two building settlement in the desert. The buildings are a Pub/Hotel and a one room schoolhouse, between them a railway line stretching to a barren horizon in both directions.

There is no greenery, no shade, no flinching at showing how bleak the desert can be. The central character is the teacher at the schoolhouse. Bonded to pay for his education, he isn't there by choice, and plans to travel to Sydney to spend Christmas with his girlfriend. On the way he must overnight in the mining town of Bundanyabba (played by the mining town of Broken Hill. Yes, that Broken Hill). Befriended by the local cop, he stumbles on a way to pay off his bond, which ultimately fails and leaves him penniless and stranded in the 'Yabba. Initially horrified by the binge drinking, brawling and hard partying nature of the town, the film follows his attempts to maintain his principles and not descend into the madness around him. While making the point that the landscape is not the only desert to be found here, it is also rubbed home that there is a beast to be unleashed within even the most cultured soul.

It's interesting not only for the plot, but for the film itself. While ostensibly a work of fiction, at times it is hard to tell. Released only six years before I was born, I enjoyed a lot of the period details. And while Australia and New Zealand are ultimately very different cultures, there are some recognisable shared references in the movie, particularly in the depiction of the male oriented booze culture of the sixties and seventies (there are only three female characters in the movie, two not particularly flattering and the third only a photograph to be idolised from a distance).

Alcohol is as much a character in this movie as any of the actors. No-one in 'yabba drinks for fun. They drink because everybody else does, and there is nothing else to do. The bar stays open long after its legal closing hour, which doesn't matter because the cops are inside chopping down the drinks with the rest of the punters. Beer is not sipped or savoured here; it is drained in one pull from a small glass, which is immediately replaced or refilled. Empties are lined up along the bar and filled en-masse from a hose for industrialised drinking. No one cares about the flavour. I had heard about this behaviour in relation to a recent part of New Zealand history known as the Six O'clock Swill, but never seen what it looked like in real life. The bar scenes were filmed on location, and feel more documentary than fiction (also documentary feeling are the Two up gaming scenes where our protagonist loses all his money). One of the best lines in the film belongs to the town's alcoholic doctor. In Sydney his alcoholism was a liability, but out here it just means he blends in with the crowd.

Drinking and partying is exercised without restraint until the participants are unconscious, from the drink or from the brawling. And when they awake they pick up where they left off. The Teacher tries to stay aloof at first, but is steadily corrupted by the environment (or the environment just exposes his high minded pretension, which ever you prefer), eventually abandoning himself to the alcoholic orgy and brutality. In a moment of clarity he realises what is happening to him and the rest of the film centres around his increasingly desperate and futile attempts to escape both the town and the culture.

Its not a film for the faint hearted, and still relevant in the context of the continued prevalence of binge drinking in particular in New Zealand. While having a lot to say, it is never preachy, and is remarkably undated for its age. Well worth seeing

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Film Festival Wrap Up #3

Listening to: Husker Du - Candy Apple Grey

Adventureland (2009)

Set in the summer of 1987, this is a wistful and endearing take on young romance set against the background of minimum wage summer jobs at the themepark of the title. The story centres around James, forced to work at the park after his summer plans to tour europe fall through.
At the park he meets a usual suspects crowd of coworkers, all with their own stories to tell. Eventually he notices park veteran Em, and what follows is a fairly tried and true tale of boy meets girl, they fall in love, fall out of love, then find each other again. Its a bit more complicated than that, but I don't want to rehash the entire plot.
The story may be familiar, but it is very well realised. Although set in real time, the movie evokes a feeling of events being recalled years later. It certainly got me thinking of times and relationships past, of the things that worked out, and the ones that all ended in tears, of the mistakes and misunderstandings, and the things you would change if you could. The cast realises the awkward teenage experience of thinking you have everything sorted, then finding out you don't really well. There are some great and exactly right touching moments.
Comparison's to the legendary 70's teenager epic Dazed and Confused are perhaps inevitable, but they are very different movies in scope and concept, although neither are particularly tied to their chronological setting; they both could be set anytime in the last 30 years.
It's not a perfect film. There are a couple of potentially significant but blink and you'll miss it underdeveloped plot and character arcs, and the ending is a little contrived and maybe unrealistic.
Overall though its a great little quiet achievement of a movie and I really enjoyed it. And the soundtrack is damn near perfect.

Other takes from viewing buddies Rich and NotKate here and here

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Mountain

Listening to: Gramsci - Object

We went up to the mountain last weekend for the annual Upper Hutt College staff ski trip
When people round here talk about going to 'The Mountain', there is only one mountain they are referring to. Mount Ruapehu, the active volcano that along with its siblings Ngauruhoe and Tongariro dominates the central North Island.

I've had a lifelong fascination with volcanoes, possibly due to living in Rotorua at a young age and being exposed to plenty of evidence of what goes on beneath our feet. There is just something very primordial about volcanoes and their ability to change the face of a landscape overnight. I like the notion of mountains that can remodel themselves, and can create new landforms on a timescale that is visible to us puny humans. The older landforms around the volcanoes date back over a million years, but the youngest are less than 3000 years old, practically yesterday in geological time. To the Maori people the volcanoes were living and sentient things, with emotions, families and stories to tell. I like the legends; they add an extra dimension of personality to an already dynamic landscape.

I love visiting this area and seeing eternal creation and destruction at work. Ruapehu's last spectacular eruptions were in 1995 and 1996, but the most recent minor one was only a couple of years ago. Whenever I'm around my attention is always drawn to them. They are like slumbering beasts, capable of both great beauty and cataclysmic violence. I'd love to see an eruption from a safe distance, and each visit to the area is always tempered by the remote possibility that today might be the day they awaken. I rue not taking advantage of the fact of being a student during the spectacular but relatively benign eruptions of the nineties and taking the time to drive up and see them in person.

We were blessed with three days of calm and clear weather over the weekend, unusual for this time of year, but great for photography. Click on any pic to enlarge.

Night shot of Mt Ruapehu under a full moon, viewed from the south (Ohakune) side. About a two minute exposure on a very cold night....
Ruapehu from the east (Rangipo Desert) side. Ruapehu is thought to have once had a large cone like Ngauruhoe near its peak, which has been lost to erosion.
A dormant volcano photographed from the slopes of an active one. Mt Taranaki (last erupted around 200 years ago, expected to erupt again sometime in the future) in the early morning sunlight as seen from the Turoa skifield carpark on Mt Ruapehu, about 80 miles / 130 kilometres away.
Mt Ruapehu's shadow reaches toward the horizon as the sun rises
Mt Tongariro (left) and Mt Ngauruhoe / Mt Doom from the Whakapapa access road. Ngauruhoe is a youngster at only 2500 years old, and last erupted about thirty years ago. It stands on the remnants of a similar but much older volcanic cone dating from around 260,000 years ago which has gradually been eroded away.
Mt Taranaki from the Whakapapa skifield on Ruapehu, with the shoulder of Hauhungatahi, a vent of Ruapehu but a small mountain in its own right in the foreground.
Looking toward the north from atop a breccia lava flow near Whakapapa. The rocks are incredibly abrasive. Touching them with a bare hand felt like the rock was adhering itself to my hand, a bit like velcro.
Mt Tongariro and Ngauruhoe from the north. Tongariro is more of a collection of small vents and craters than a single entity, hence its flat appearance
The Desert Road along the eastern side of the mountains exposes layer upon layer of volcanic fallout in its cuttings, exposing thousands of years of volcanic eruptions to view. Since in winter they don't see any sun, ice can persist for days.
One of the visible layers is from the nearby and somewhat apocalyptic Lake Taupo eruption of AD 168, which covered the entire area with a layer of ash and pumice up to 5 metres thick, the atmospheric effects of which were noted by both the ancient Romans and Chinese, and is one of the largest volcanic eruptions to have occured in recorded human history. To put it another way, the amount of tephra ejected from the lake during the eruption was more than double the amount of ejecta from the Mt St Helens (1980), Vesuvius (AD 79) and Krakatoa (1883) eruptions combined.
The different layers erode at different rates. When driving through as children a favourite game was to try and see profile faces in the silhouettes of the cuttings as we went around corners.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Frequent flyers

How do you know its afternoon nap time in the Childrens Ward at Wellington Hospital?

When they turn off the hallway lights and turn the fairy lights on:
Coolest thing I've seen in ages.

After a false start last week, Charlotte had the operation to widen her oesophagus today, and it went perfectly. So well in fact she is back home already, sleeping like a baby. Which frankly, you would expect given she is not yet a year old.
Thanks to all for your continuing good wishes and support. We appreciate it all.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Film Festival Wrap Up #2

Listening to: All of this and nothing - The Psychedelic Furs

We Live in Public (2009)

Or the one that I didn't actually see. I was supposed to see it with Kate and Rich, who have summarised it here, and here.

I'm not sure I should try and summarise something I didn't see, but it is supposed to about one of the early proponents of putting your life on public display via the internet. Anyway the blurb in the guide made it sound interesting.

Unfortunately, at the time I was supposed to be meeting at the theatre I was waiting in the emergency department with Fi and Charlotte, trying to figure out if Charlotte's cold was a recurrence of her broncholitis, or just a cold (turning out to be the latter). We left the hospital about ten minutes after the film started (oh, and about 12 miles from the theatre).

I'm disappointed, but ultimately not too fussed about missing out, since I was doing something more important, and the film will probably get a general release in coming months anyway.

Much of the commentary about the film has centred about how much of our lives we live on-line, and how much is too much. Like others, this caused me to think about my own level of internet exposure.

I have a blog, a facebook account, and actively contribute to two or three forums under pseudonyms. I like my anonymity, but conversely don't put anything on-line I can't defend. I don't troll, and avoid flame wars.

I've got two general rules for defining what I post on line (there are a few specific ones as well):
1. Not only can everyone see what you post, anyone can. There are no private conversations in public arenas.
2. Don't post anything you wouldn't be comfortable telling a room full of strangers, friends and family.

Obviously, this means there are a few things that will never grace the ages of this blog or my facebook account. The facebook is by definition non-anonymous, but I only let friends access it, and I don't friend anyone I wouldn't socialise with in real-life. I employ facebook in its original intent, to stay in touch with friends and facilitate my real social life.

This blog paradoxically is both my least and most anonymous outlet. Least if you know me, most if you have never met me. I have no real idea of how many regular readers there are. I know a lot of my friends and some family check in from time to time, so I generally post with them in mind. Complete strangers (of which there are a few according to sitemeter) might get lost, but then again most of them come here via random google searches anyway. I'd be interested to know if there are any lurking strangers out there, who read but never comment.

I'm comfortable with my level of involvement, mainly because I can take it or leave it as I please. The internet certainly has the potential to take over your life. How much it does is up to you.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

2009 Film Festival Wrap up #1

Listening to: Various snippets of Led Zeppelin, U2, and the White Stripes

My Film Festival campaign is now wrapped up. While more of a lightning raid than the full scale epic assault enacted by others (link), I was more than satisfied with what I did see. I bought tickets for five features, got to four of them, which is much better than my average return for the festival.

I'm going to go though these in reverse order, just because its easier that way, and my favourite film of the festival was the one I saw last.

It Might Get Loud (2009)

*There are links all over this thing. Click if you want to know or more importantly hear more.......

I saw this yesterday with Kate, and didn't want it to end. Someone had the idea of getting three great rock guitarists in a studio to talk about their craft, and what drew them to the guitar in the first place. Its simple in concept, but immensely rewarding. The three guitarists brought together were Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2), and Jack White (The White Stripes). As Kate has pointed out in her own excellent summing up here, the three represent different generations, ideologies, and approaches to making music. They also each have quite aurally distinct sounds that make them stand out. Each talked about the sounds and artists and events in their life that inspired them. The film was divided into chapters for each of the three to describe their own experience of the shared evolutionary stages of the way they played, and common experiences, each chapter beginning with the three chatting together, and then moving out to archival footage combined with specifically shot material.
Its no fault of the documentary makers, and probably unavoidable, but in terms of legendary aura the film is definitely (for me anyhow) about Jimmy Page and two other guys.
I came late to Led Zeppelin. Apart from the passing knowledge of 'Stairway to Heaven' common to pretty much every rock fan, I had no great appreciation for Led Zeppelin. I always thought they were a bit too heavy and bogan for me. One winter's evening in 1998, the local alternative music radio station played 'Ramble On' by request. The riff reminded me of some of Pearl Jam's stuff. The link is more than coincidental, since Zeppelin were a big influence on Pearl Jam's sound, something knowingly acknowledged in the Pearl Jam single 'Given to Fly', which borrows heavily from Led Zeppelin's 'Going to California', more in tribute than theft. I picked up a copy of the "Remasters" double disc collection not long afterward. It was around then that I realised that Led Zeppelin was a lot more than a backing group for the consumption of an endless number of bourbon and cokes. They were good, better than good in fact, one of those unique confluences of talent that only occurs perhaps once in a musical generation. Beyond the rock and roll swagger, these guys were seriously talented musicians. So when Page's journey was the first to begin in the film, and introduced with him playing that riff from 'Ramble on' unaccompanied, and I got to understand it in a whole new way, I was hooked. It was a proper rock and roll moment. The film is littered with them. Another one was Page explaining just why he had a custom built double necked guitar: he couldn't play the solo part of 'Stairway to Heaven' live without it, since the break before the guitar solo is played on a different guitar to the solo itself (six vs seven string).
Each artist got a brief introductory part and from then their stories were intertwined, as parallels and contrasts were revealed (like Jack White revealing how he hates the use of technology in music, something The Edge employs enthusiastically to create the sounds he wants).
Whereas Jimmy Page is deservedly a legend, The Edge is more the quiet acheiver and somewhat underrated. U2 (which I am also a big fan of) would simply not be where it is today without him and his sound. He was also the most engaging and drily funny storyteller of the three, like when he related how the riff for 'I will follow' was recorded on a particular guitar; when the producer suggested he use another he couldn't, because it was the only guitar he owned. The Edge was also unafraid to deconstruct his own mythology, demonstrating just how simple the riff for 'Elevation' is when stripped of the effects employed to create what is heard when the song is performed. He also explained the timing structure of 'Where the streets have no name' as being working in both 3+3 or 6+6, which led to a great cut from a clip of the band performing the song to an audience of thousands on the Vertigo tour (a concert I had to sell my tickets for since it clashed with a friends wedding, sigh. I saw them play in 1993 though), to The Edge returning to where they first played to an audience, at their school on a concrete pad smaller than my lounge.
Jack White was the most curious of the three for me. I'm no great fan of The White Stripes (I like a few of their songs, especially 'Icky Thump' and 'Seven Nation Army' but am pretty meh about most of their stuff, and The Raconteurs leave me completely cold). White is the most self consciously artistic of the trio, and also the most image conscious. Perhaps tellingly, White talks about his childhood while roaming around rural blues country Tennessee; only later is it revealed that he grew up in suburban Detroit. This doesn't take anything away from his music or influences, but he does come across as a little insecure and feeling like he has things to prove, mainly to himself. He is a definite counterpoint to the other two more classical rock guitarists. White states quite early on in the piece that one of his ambitions from the meeting is to get Page and Edge to teach him some of their tricks. Another telling, and fascinating part of the film is when Page demonstrates how he used distortion by playing the riff to 'Whole lotta love'; White is visibly trying to stay cool, but "oh my god, Jimmy freakin' Page is playing 'Whole lotta love' right-here-in-front-of-me!" is written all over his face, a look quickly replaced by furious concentration as he tries to decipher Page's technique. The Edge on the other hand is clearly just content to enjoy the awesomeness of the moment.
This film was awesome and instantly earned a place in my top five favourite documentaries. I'd recommend it for anyone with an interest in rock music and why it sounds the way it does, and anyone learning to play guitar. The film doesn't just feature music from the three artists, their influences and inspirations are also given free reign, and it would be a soundtrack well worth picking up.
I left the theatre wanting to see more, and also wanting to go and resume trying to learn to play the guitar I have at home. It's that sort of film.