Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And the award goes to...

Listening to: The Higher ++ EP - HDU. Late 90's moody and occasionally angry guitar rock instrumental, with the highlight being the evocative and contemplative 'Lull', which got some single airplay on Channel Z back in the day.

Those of you who know me in real life can attest that I'm not really into self promotion or own-trumpet-blowing, but I thought this was worth mentioning.

Most of the time if you win or place at a modelling competition run by my club, you will wind up with a nice A5 size certificate like this:
In fact, since entering the club and competition scene a couple of years ago, I have somehow acquired quite a few:
I couldn't make the end of year prizegiving for my club back in mid November, so asked one of my clubmates to accept and hold anything I picked up for me in my place. I got in touch with him a few days later, and he confirmed he had accepted my certificates and my award on my behalf.
Umm, my what?
Turns out that in addition to picking up the prize for best New Zealand aircraft at the internal club competition, I had also won one of the half dozen or so prestige / actual trophy awards, the one for best New Zealand subject in any category.
I couldn't remember what it looked like, so was a bit surprised when I turned up at my mates place to collect, and he walked out with a handful of certificates and one of the biggest pieces of pounamu / greenstone I have seen outside of a museum:
With my name engraved on the side even:Just for a sense of scale, here it is alongside a coke can, and the model that won it:
I'll have to give it back next year, but until then it is on our mantlepiece equivalent in the lounge. Nice.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Twaaaaang!

I'll confess I'm not an expert when it comes to correctly rigging mountain bikes, but I am pretty sure the cables aren't supposed to look like this:
That's the control cable for the front chain ring shifter, and it snapped about halfway through my ride into town on boxing day, far enough from anywhere worthwhile that there was no point doing anything other than pushing on.

Unfortunately (except if you are hill climbing) in failure mode the shifter shifts to the lowest ring, thus limiting me to my lowest 8 (of 24) gears for the next fifteen or so kilometres to my destination.

It took a while. I got passed by a guy on a BMX. Which was kind of appropriate, since I was riding BMX style (pedal pedal pedal coast, pedal pedal pedal coast), although I reasoned it was only fair since the one gear available to him was higher than any of the eight available to me.

I blame the harbour cycleway. I think it hates me, since this is the second techinical fail I have incurred on it is the last half a dozen times or so I have ridden it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Other giants I have seen

Further to the giants of New Plymouth post, I just felt like listing all of the biggish bands/artists I have seen live over the years, if for no other reason than to see what it looked like. I'm only listing the internationally known ones, if I added the local heroes it would take up the whole page. The year in brackets is the year I saw them. Also listed off the top of my head, so possibly incomplete:

The Police (2008)

Dire Straits (1991)

The Violent Femmes (1995 , 2003)

Pearl Jam (1998, 2009)

Soundgarden (1996)

Smashing Pumpkins (1996)

U2 (1993)

Fleetwood Mac (2009)

The Foo Fighters (2000)

The Prodigy (2002)

New Order (2002)

Garbage (2002)

Nine Inch Nails (2000)

The Go! Team (2006)

The White Stripes (2006)

Iggy and the Stooges (2006)

Metallica (2004)

The Darkness (2004)

System of a Down (2002)

Alien Ant Farm (2002)

Blink 182 (2000)

The Chemical Brothers (2000)

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers (2000)

Joe Strummer (2000)

David Bowie (2003)

Crowded House (2007)

Midnight Oil (1995)

Elton John (2006)

Ben Harper (2004)

Audioslave (2003)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Looked like this in one of my favourite haunts today:



Have a happy Christmas wherever you are (and this being the internet, whoever you are :) )

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Plymouth, Land of the Giants

Listening to: this (link). One of the foundation albums in the evolution of my musical tastes.

If this billboard is to be believed, in New Plymouth there be giant alluring maidens stepping from the sea.
In a clumsy segue, I was in New Plymouth over the weekend to see giants of another kind, Fleetwood Mac. This may or may not be their chartered jet:
Its quite likely that it is. The airport wasn't exactly littered with rock legend transportation.
I went up with Dad, who organised the whole thing once he heard they were coming to town (ish its a five hour drive from home), and Fi, Charlotte and Kirsten (referred to throughout as 'The Girls') who weren't attending the concert, but just came along for the roadie. Rich came along independently with his own harem of fetching maidens.
Its hard to write about Fleetwood Mac without resorting to cliche. On the face of it they write carefully crafted and musically brilliant inoffensive MOR music for a more conservative audience than your average rock listener. Thats a misleading visage though, since behind the radio friendly hits there is a dark and intense undercurrent of history and conflict, and almost apocalyptic excess. It's impressive that the band members are even still alive in 2009, let alone touring.
They are hated by some for that definitive MOR-ness for sure, and there is always that section of 'real' Fleetwood Mac fans who prefer the earlier 1960's incarnation of the band, and regard the most well known and successful line up with practiced disdain. After being uncool for a while, they have gone back to being cool now, or have become so uncool that they are cool. Whatever.
The greatest hits compilation I referred to at the top of the post was released way back in 1988. Dad bought it back then (on cassette), and would play it on our long car trips to airshows around the country. It took me a while to come around to it, but eventually I came to like it, to the point now where I seldom go on a roadie without it. Every track on it has an association with some piece of state highway somewhere in the country, at various times and occasions going back more than twenty years now. Its a very evocative and nostalgic album for me to listen to.
Not only that, I owe it (and Dad by proxy) a huge debt, since it taught me how to really listen to music and hear how all of a bands components meld to form a whole. Many times Dad would say "listen to what they are doing there", and point out a particularly effective melody or harmony, and how it worked. It taught me how to listen to each musician, and pick out a particularly good or subtle undercurrent behind or hidden in the melody. To this day I still often sing along to bass lines or backing vocals rather than leads.
So when the first Fleetwood Mac concerts in New Zealand for nearly thirty years (they were last here in 1980, or to put it another way, when I was 3), I had to go, not only because I would kick myself for missing to opportunity to see legends, but also to acknowledge the lessons from twenty years ago. And also to see what they were like after all this time, and all the legends (I would have loved to have seen them in their relative heyday in the late seventies and eighties). And its nice when Dad and my musical tastes align, which isn't that often when it comes to concerts.
And it was great. It rained, which made it much more atmospheric (I had an oilskin so stayed dry). The merchandising stand was a complete debacle of poor planning, and there were too many smokers standing next to me, but meh, that goes with the territory.
With no album to promote, the tour was free to play all the classics and then some. The voices certainly aren't as clean as they were recorded thirty years ago, and they definitely miss Christine McVie (who retired about a decade ago) in the harmonies. But again thats a small gripe. It was just cool to see all these classic songs played live by the original artist. As I've gotten older I've started to prefer some of the darker more introspective singles like 'The Chain' and 'Gold Dust Woman' to the more accessible stuff (I tend to skip 'Don't Stop' these days), and it was a treat to see them played, and played with what looked to be still genuine intensity and passion.
Also interesting was seeing the band interact with each other, and how they relate now to some of the very personal natures and themes of songs (the bands hits were often about each other, most prominently for example 'Go your own way', which was written by the lead guitarist for the lead singer about their disintegrating relationship)that they have been performing now for decades. I think 'Dreams' is probably my favourite song of theirs, and when they played it I wondered just how many times Stevie Nicks has sung it in the three decades since it was written. It must be hundreds if not thousands.
The set lasted over two hours, with two encores adding another half hour or so to the experience. It was nice to see proof of just why they are legends, and well worth the trip. Seeing bands I like live is important to me, and its cool I can now add Fleetwood Mac to that list after all this time.
Rich was standing next to me the whole time and his take on the gig is here (link)
An actual professional music writer style review is here (link), complete with a picture of Stevie Nicks quite disturbingly resembling Courtney Love, and Stevie Nicks' thoughts on the New Zealand leg of the tour are here (link).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bebefest

Since I haven't posted any pictures of the Charlotte in a while (who is day by day becoming less of a bebe and more of a little girl). All from the last few months or so:








Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Only in New Zealand

The graffitied extra 'S' just makes it even more spesh.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Monday

So after the alarm went off at 7 this morning, I had a look out the window above the bed, saw it was a nice morning, then spent a groggy few seconds figuring out what day it was.

Then realised it was Monday.

Meh.

Still, the morning was made a bit easier by the fact I have started cycling to work again (when I can). A couple of times in the early morning sun, with the wind behind me and the tyres singing on the asphalt by the river, and the MP3 (well, WMA to be honest) player shuffling some nice tunes, I even forgot I was riding to work....

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I like weather

Especially when it is as pretty as this:
The warm and still conditions on Saturday allowed a beautiful isolated cumulonimbus-with-anvil convection shower to form south of Wellington. Out of curiosity I had a look on the Wellington rain radar (link) to see if it showed up, and it turned out to be over the Inland Kaikoura's over 100 kilometres away.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Scientists have cooler toys

Listening to: Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen

How to make Ice Cream the quick and easy way:

First, gather your ingredients (milk, cream, sugar, vanilla etc):

Measure and add the ingredients to a suitably sized container, and mix until uniform.


Then dispense your Liquid Nitrogen:
Carefully add the nitrogen to the mix. Avoid splashing:
Mix until uniform:
Then serve!:
Should take about five minutes or so.

Tastes better when made in the prescence of a sweet/lolly cannon:

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Spitfires and Auckland

Listening to: The new Dave Dobbyn compilation, and the new Shapeshifter album

A post in two parts

Part 1: Spitfire
Some of you may recall back in January I posted about a newly restored Second World War Spitfire that had suffered a landing accident (link here, below my account of overdosing on cold medication). Well they picked it up, sent it up to specialists in Auckland to be repaired, and it started flying again about ten days ago. So you can imagine how disappointing it must be for anyone interested or involved to see it looking like this today:

Picture copyright Stuff.co.nz

Another landing accident, and back to the workshop. I'm not even going to begin to speculate as to why, but this is just unfortunate whichever way you look at it. Buggar.

Part two: Non Pearl Jam related bits of Auckland
Or alternatively, 'How many pics can I put in a single post before blogspot tells me 'No!'". I've linked the relevant landmarks if you want more info

Around the concert we did some tiki-touring around Auckland on Friday and Saturday.

Auckland central city from One Tree Hill (yes U2 fans, that One Tree Hill). I think this is the only time I can recall that I have been on One Tree Hill on a completely clear day after numerous visits. Its an informal tradition for me that whenever I go to Auckland I got there:

One Tree Hill lies under one of the approach paths for Auckland International Airport, and while there I got my first real life glimpse of a 'Largest Airliner in the World tm' A380. Big beastie to be sure...
The summit of One Tree Hill was at least as windy as Wellington, as attested by travelling crew Kate, Iona, Reidun and Carly in this shot. Feel free to ask for a hi res version from me if you want to use this for Facebook profiles guys :)
A One Tree Hill tradition apparently is to spell out messages in the volcanic rocks lying around. Reidun aptly termed it 'Organic Grafitti':
Obelisk dedicated to the Maori People atop One Tree Hill. Which used to have one tree, until it was attacked by a Maori rights activist with a chainsaw a wee while ago:
The new-to-me atrium development at the Auckland Museum. I liked the juxtaposition of curves and straight and old and new:
The kids section of the museum had live versions of Nemo and Dory (shown about life size). We spent more time in this section than unaccompanied by children adults really should, but it was pretty cool.
They had geckos to. We waited ages for this one to nail the fly on it's head, but it was too patient for us. Our bloodlust was satisfied by another gecko/fly stalk and spring kill anyway, so we moved on.
They had inscrutable frogs too:
More interesting than the frogs though (and a lot bigger) were the dinosaurs, which will never be uncool:
The Museum also has a Spitfire, which even though it's a late war Merlin engined low-back Mark XVIe (one of my least favourite looking Spitfire marks), is still a Spitfire, and thus will never be without aura.
In addition to the Spitfire, the museum also possesses the ultimate Mitsubishi boy-racer vehicle, an A6M3 Zero, recovered by NZ forces in the Pacific near the end of the Second World War.
When in Auckland, there is a certain tendency to photograph the icons, like the Sky Tower (from the Domain in front of the museum):
The Bean Rock lighthouse. I always thought this would be an awesome place to live as a child:
The fountain in Mission Bay. Also somewhere I try and get to every time I am up there. Its a nice locale. Chasing up a pretty reliable sighting of Eddie Vedder and Ben Harper took us out there on a whim, as did our desire/need for good coffee. We aren't stalkers really, but we needed something to do after lunch:
After missing Eddie and Ben (although the member of our party who saw them got very close indeed, they almost ran over her kayak in their outrigger canoe. Unfortunately the rest of us weren't in on the Kayaking option) we headed to the Michael Savage Memorial at Bastion Point as the weather began to close in. Made for some moody shots.
A moody and broody Rangitoto from Bastion Point, with Bean Rock in the foreground. I like Rangitoto, to me it is more of an Auckland icon than the Skytower. I don't feel like I've been to Auckland until I have seen Rangitoto. I like its symetrical cones, and how new it looks (which geologically it is. It was formed less than 1000 years ago, and its last eruptions 600 odd years ago feature in local iwi memory). I also like that the island is a plain reminder of the fact that Auckland is built on a dormant volcanic field, meaning that the potential exists for the city to simply blow up one day:
The memorial is a popular wedding photo spot. Three parties turned up while we were there. Hopes of a wedding rumble were unfortunately not met.
One Tree Hill in a spot of sunshine photographed from Mount Eden. Like almost all the peaks in the Auckland urban area, both are extinct volcanic cones, part of the already mentioned Auckland Volcanic Field.
Looking across the Mount Eden crater toward the city. Navigating from Bastion Point to Mount Eden with Kate ('these roads don't have names on the map so I am ignoring them') navigating, me ('is Mount Eden actually in the suburb of Mount Eden?') driving, and Reidun succinctly interjecting from the back seat ('you know the big blue signs saying 'Mount Eden' might be worth following') was one of the comic highlights of the trip. I wanted to climb down to the bottom of the crater, but there was a sign saying it was tapu, so I didn't.
View of not quite native bush from Iona's verandah. Kate's friend Iona was the hostess with the mostest. She gave us a comfortable place to stay, cooked us dinner one night, took us to and from the concert, and even lent us her car while she was at work on Saturday. Plus she was fun to hang out with, and her and her brother's movie collection is paralyzing to behold. Legend.
Flying home on Sunday, Mount Ruapehu from 31,000 feet. I framed the winglet because I thought it made a nice composition. Kate and I agreed at lengt about the essential wrongness and absurdity and miraculous nature of strapping yourself into an aluminium, steel and fibreglass tube, to travel at over 800 kilometres per hour over 10 kilometres above the ground, and how it has become so normal as to be taken for granted.
Mounts Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe with their summer coats on (as opposed to their winter ones here).
Kate had the window seat and my camera and took an average of a photo per minute on our way south. She got some cool shots. This is one of the Makara wind turbines through a gap in the clouds.
Intrepidly, Kate kept shooting right up until touchdown at Wellington. I like this shot of the surfers at Lyall Bay.