Monday, July 22, 2013

12 Things I hate about X-Factor

Note: this was written a few days ago, when it was slightly more current, but Ruaumoko had other ideas.

1. The host. I'm not sure what look Dominic Bowden is going for, but if it is slick smug sarcastic insincerity, he's got it nailed. Oh, and the paaaaaussssinggg.

2. Moments like this:

Man, that Stevie Nicks dude wrote some great songs back in the day. . . If you are going to judge material, at least pay the courtesy of fecking knowing it.

3. The X-factor they are looking for isn't talent. It is marketability. In some of the few moments of actual honesty on it, the judges near constantly refer to their charges ability to sell records to the "market". They stop short of referring to the performers as "units", but it isn't far away. It's not about making music. more about making money. It has nothing to do with good music, nothing to do with learning and honing your craft, of doing all the hard and unsung work, and it's hard not to see it as insulting to the musicians and performers that have paid their dues. It's designed to create an instant disposable product for an audience that generally doesn't know any better musically. I wonder how many in the rent-a-crowd studio audience knew who The Manic Street Preachers were without having to be told. Probably too busy waving their elbows as directed to care.

4. The show itself like most of its kind is a disposable product, designed to do nothing more than generate revenue for it's sponsors. Both the show and the performers it produces are intended to be short lived , the details forgotten by next season so they can do it all again. Whoever wins it will be a figurehead for whatever campaigning follows the show. If they are really lucky they might have a career afterward.

5. It's not reality. It's insincere, scripted and contrived at every turn. "Look, here's one of our hopefuls at McDonalds. Who happen to be one of our sponsors! And look, they happen to be talking about the show! How lucky it was our camera crew was present to capture this spontaneous moment!"
Let alone all the banter, arrangement, song selection to favour or disfavour a performer and pretty much everything else.

6. It doesn't find artists. It creates disposable carbon copy performers, to fit in a narrow mould. When they let contestants write and perform their own material rather than soullessly butchering other people's in a sort of hyper karaoke I'll be much more interested.Which brings me to point 7.

7. Butchering actually good classic songs and turning them into two-minute cheese-fests.

8. The public voting system is dubious at best, since it doesn't appear to be transparent, and there seems to be nothing stopping the producers from just making up the numbers anyway. Even if it is legit, it further reduces the talent factor, by way of turning the thing into a popularity contest. Not to mention raking in the cash at $1 a text.

9. It promotes the fantasy that the NZ music market is big enough to sustain pop mega-stars for more than a few singles. Bowden can say "living the dream!" as often as he wants, that doesn't make it true.

10. "Taking it to the next level". Etc.

11. The hype. It's inescapable. Inescapable enough that I can mercifully write this without having to watch too much of the show itself.

12. It's just wrong. Hey, no-one said this had to be rational. Like all rant lists, the objectivity is all mine.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Well this is getting old

Hot on the heels of Friday's rocking and rolling, we have had today's memorable events.
This bad boy in the morning woke me from a doze to wonder if one of the girls was jumping on the bed (something it took about a second to realise couldn't be true), before waking up and heading to the doorframe to join the rest of the family.
Screengrab via

Then right on tea-time it's bigger brother showed up.
Screengrab via

I was just walking out the back-door to bring in the washing when it kicked off. I ran back in to fetch Sophie from the lounge (who at 2 seems impervious to the shakes so far), and paused in the lounge doorway to wait and see what was happening. A cry from upstairs revealed that Charlotte (who at 4 is not quite so ambivalent as her sister) had been woken from her nap and was most displeased at the house going all wobbly again. Fi had now appeared in an adjacent doorframe, so thrusting/throwing Sophie at her I ran upstairs to meet Charlotte coming down. Second babe in hand I went back down and waited for the shaking to stop. While our heartrates settled down, a plan was hatched to sort out who goes for what babe in future, and Charlotte instructed to wait for us in a safe place. Just in time for the aftershock about five minutes later

I've discovered that the big slab of peneplain my house sits on manages to insulate us from most things below a 5.0 or so in this sequence, so we've been spared most of the aftershocks, and the worst of the main shocks. The damage around the city though is of a kind I don't recall seeing here in my lifetime, with at least one person I know having their inner city apartment trashed, and the CBD closed for inspection until at least noon. The preliminary report from GNS gives a 1 in 3 chance of a similar size quake within the next week, and a 1 in 5 for the next 24 hours. That's not encouraging.

Post script: On pondering what the shakes actually feel like, and it feels obvious to say it, the big shakes have a palpably different feel to them. They aren't just little shakes writ large. They have more heft, more bass (the bass component is a wierd one to explain), more everything. The little ones tease with the possibility they may get bigger. The big ones leave no doubt they mean business.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Nice Day for an Earthquake

And it was. Blue skies, sunshine, light winds.

And a shallow 5.7 out in Cook Strait. News link with awesome koiwoi ucksents here.

And after a friend of mine suggested this track on facebook, I'm shamelessly stealing it. Dodgy quality but one of my favourite videos in one of my favourite places (Te Mata Peak in the Hawkes Bay). Seems appropriate:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The goat that ate Wellington

This time last month, I looked out my office window, saw the wind turn to the south and posted this on facebook in anticipation of the weather that had been forecast:

And then for about 24 hours nothing happened. But while it was calm for now, out in Cook Strait a stormy goat was arising. A very ANGRY goat.
 Screenshot from the metservice rain radar on the night of 20th June.

Besides the forecast, the big hint that something out of the ordinary was up was an email to my worksite from the electricity distribution company saying that not only were they anticipating the possibility of power cuts that night, they were expecting them. Just before heading home after a calm day, I looked out the window and noticed the clouds I could see were suddenly moving a lot quicker. When I walked out to the car the wind was picking up bluster, and by dinnertime an hour later it was violent. My place is slightly sheltered from the predominant northwest and southerly gales, but this one was out of the southwest, and shaking the house with every gust, gusts I could occasionally hear roaring up the hill toward us. And then it just built and built.

Mid evening I took a screenshot of current conditions from metservice, which showed the wind had shifted to the south and was now averaging just over one hundred kilometres per hour. I've never seen it like this, equivalent to a category 1 hurricane (and if that is a weak hurricane, I'm glad I don't live somewhere where strong ones happen). Up on Mount Kaukau above the city there was a gust of more than two hundred.

Around about this time the Kaitaki Interislander broke it's moorings after a particularly strong gust and went for a wander around the harbour, while roofs, trees and fences did the same all over the region, and the sea rose up and smashed south facing beaches in the face. I'd like to say I had some heroic storm stories about battening down this, or rescuing that but I don't. I went out for a careful look around the main street of my suburb to see what was going on, saw the blacked-out suburbs in the valley below, then just sat in my study and watched the storm unfold on-line, while listening to the roar of wind and rain and watching the glass on the windows bending inwards to a degree I had never seen before. Then forcing myself to not watch the glass bending in.

Watching it on social and news media was interesting as a collective experience, as stories and events were relayed in real-time. Before this era you just hunkered down and waited until it blew over to find out what had happened, maybe keeping up with whatever made it to the radio. Now you know what's going on as it happens, including those using their phones to stay on-line after their power dropped out.Watching one suburb after another around us (but not us, since the power lines in my suburb are underground) lose power it occurred to me that this was the worst storm since at least the mid-80's. That storm in 1985 I remember waking up to dad cooking breakfast on a camp stove on top of the dead oven. As it turns out it was one of the worst in 50 years, breaking into that rare category of being genuinely comparable to the Wellington storm that is still the yardstick that local people compare storms to.

We suffered no damage at our place, but a house around the corner from us suddenly found it's roof sitting in the street instead of atop the walls. The possibility of unwelcome things happening to my house though kept me up until I saw the winds start to abate a little to regular storm strength. After that it was just a case of waiting until morning to see what the storm hath wrought.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back in the saddle. . . again

Back in the saddle in a couple of ways, first time posting in over a month, and first time back on my bike for a couple of months. The last ride was back in autumn, and my leg injury had a slight relapse and the weather was ugly, and I'd had a bad day and I wound up walking the bike all the way up the hill  to get home. After that, for various reasons, I just didn't manage to get back riding until a nice weekend amble with wife and kids a couple of weeks ago, then back to proper commute riding this week. I got two rides in this week, and both were great. The leg was a little sore after the first one, but settled down for the second. And the second ride was awesome. The sky was threatening, but calm and settled, and the surface of the river I ride beside like a mirror.

A couple of moments stand out. Approaching the rail bridge I got to see two trains cross at once, the real one and it's reflection in the water. As I was moving and the perspective was constantly changing it was like an awesome steadicam shot in the darkening twilight. On the bridge the still water was reflecting the streetlights and the troubled sky so perfectly I wished I had a camera.

A few minutes later riding up the valley toward home a heavy rain shower broke over the hills in front of me. In the still air with this giant slate grey mass filling the sky in front of me, and the columns of rain falling down, combined with the track I'm linking below on the mp3 player, it was just cool.

Nothing much else to say, I just wanted to write those moments down before I forgot them.

A good track for a good ride: