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Sun in the sky... | Feb 07, 2005 17:13

Despite being what most people would call a music freak - walls full of records and CDs - I'm not often moved by live performances. I mean, I appreciate them, and I like seeing the band members on stage, but I'm not often transported anywhere in an emotional sense.

Which makes Shapeshifter's performance with the Auckland Philharmonia at yesterday's Groove in the Park all the more amazing. Chills I tell you, chills running up my spine, the hairs on my neck literally standing on end. And no, I wasn't on the party pills, just a glass or two of Kim Crawford.

Originally it was reported a tree had forced the act to be cancelled, however on the day the Philharmonia was merely condensed to a 25-piece, proving man and nature can live in harmony… As the strings rose and fell over the band's atmospheric intro to "As of Lately", I could tell we were in for a goody.

If you've never seen or heard Shapeshifter, you really are missing out. Both the albums to date are absolute staples in my collection. Their guest vocalists, such as Dallas and Ladi 6, add an incredible new dimension to carefully crafted broken beats.

I was initially disappointed to find no guest vocalists (after all, Ladi just lives down the road from me), but singer/MC P Diggity did himself proud. He launched a capella into the opening verse of Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good' and it was a beautiful thing. When the (superbly played, live) drums and (gut thumping) bass kicked in, I nearly cried.

It was the best live set I've witnessed in years.

Elsewhere on Waitangi Day, a new all-kiwi radio station was launched. I think it's an admirable idea (even though corporate giant CanWest is unlikely to do anything without the bottom-line in mind), and I hope it succeeds, but it'll be a difficult beast to programme... They might both be from Christchurch, but how far apart would you have to schedule Shapeshifter and The Feelers to stop the latter from contaminating the former? Is there enough pop-punk (Goodnight Nurse, Elemeno P etc) to keep the kidz from switching over to get their fix of the latest Sum 41? Two-thirds of Crowded House's original members were Australian - does that disqualify them?

I suspect some of these issues can be dealt to by programming solid specialist shows. People are increasingly treating radio like they do TV, what marketers like to call "appointment viewing". We don't sit in front of one channel all night, we tune in for certain shows, and the rest of the time, we surf. Good radio should be the same.

Obvious loyalties aside - as a random builder said to a friend the other day, "it might be number two in the alphabet, but it's number one on my dial" - if there are good shows on Kiwi, or National Radio, or wherever, then I'll seek them out. But don't expect me to stick around when the show I've switched to ends, and I'm left with Wayne Mowat's "In Touch with Palmerston North" or Tadpole's Renee Brennan presents "The Best of True Bliss". Regardless of the hosts' commands to do otherwise, I'm touchin' that dial.

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E Tu, Taika | Jan 26, 2005 08:41

"We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."

Okay I know that finding nonsensical statements in the words of George Bush is up there with shooting kittens in a barrel, but even I did a double take when I heard this line, the crescendo of his inaugural address the other day.

How long is freedom's history then? The historian Lord Acton had some interesting points on the matter, but somehow I can't imagine George W having a copy of The History of Freedom in Antiquity sitting on his bedside table. Although, as the author of the "power corrupts/absolute power corrupts absolutely" maxim, Acton may have unwittingly given the Bush administration a few tips: "Hey guys, it says here that if we can get absolute power…"

Depending on your definition, freedom's history started a long time before we were around. In fact, there was nothing but freedom until humans came along and started imprisoning, enslaving and generally acting all oppressive. I guess you could argue that freedom didn't exist until whatever it's opposite came into being. Much like there being no such thing as duty-free until someone decided to charge duty. Or something.

Anyway, without getting all esoteric on it, the idea of freedom's been around for a pretty long time. So whatever these achievements are, they'll have to be pretty big. Of course there's always the possibility Bush was just spouting a pile of rhetorical arse.

So Don Brash has delivered his much-anticipated Orewa address. Unlike George Bush, who used it some 27 times, Brash didn't mention the word freedom once. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

Quoted in the Herald, even Don doesn't think his speech will cause any major change in the polls. Way to back yourself, dude. Discussing whether or not there was going to be a leadership coup, Brash said he didn't see it happening, but acknowledged he probably wouldn't be the first to know if that were the case:

It may well be, of course, that I am shielded from that discussion, but I don't sense any mood for change at all.

And the reason he gave for thinking he's safe? Because he's doing a sterling job? There's no-one else to take his place? No: It's too close to the election. Which doesn't suggest he has much hope beyond that.

I have to admit, I quite like the fact he's stating the obvious here, essentially saying 'well they're hardly going to tell me, are they?' Bill English always scoffed heartily at the idea he was about to be replaced, despite month after month of poor polling, speculation, rumour and pundits doing the maths on the chances of a coup working. And in the end, English looked the fool. I don't know how much sleep Don would lose if he never made it to the ninth floor of the Beehive, but I suspect it wouldn't be a lot.

Congratulations to Taika Waititi for getting the Oscar nod for his incredible short 2 Cars, 1 Night. As I wrote back in May last year, it's my favourite short film, ever. But while I can force it upon everybody who walks into my flat (and I do), I dare say this Oscar nomination will be what it takes to get Taika and his film the public recognition he/it deserves. Now fingers crossed for the win!

FYI: Taika's new film, Tama Tu, premiered at Sundance on Sunday. A copy is winging its way to me as I write, and I'll let you know how it measures up… In the meantime, anyone who wants to see 2 Cars, it's available on the very worthwhile CD/DVD combo, Loop Select 005.

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No Play Today | Jan 10, 2005 13:35

I don't know how this weather keeps up. Must be something to do with all the water left over from the Tsunami. How about that eh?

I have to say, I'm getting pretty sick of the foreign correspondents on the telly each night, particularly the Brits. I'm tired of "poignant reminders". Some of these reporters must spend their entire time searching through rubble and ruins in the hope of finding something tangible to base their reports around. I'm reminded of the rumours about certain correspondents carrying an assortment of such items - teddy bears, children's shoes and the like.

The other night the "poignant reminder" was a photo album.

"In it, photos of people, families, now dead."

"Photos of weddings, birthdays, religious ceremonies… all the participants, now dead."

"And this photo, of people at the beach, the beach which killed them, a poignant reminder…"

Oh fuck off.

One hundred and fifty thousand-odd people are dead. Houses, villages and vast tracts of coastline have been demolished. I don't need to see a photo album, poignant or otherwise, to realise exactly how devastating this is.

As for the story "a glimmer of hope among all the destruction" about the Thai rescue of two dolphins who were trapped inland… Do we really need this? We need a cutesy animal story about two marine mammals who are completely insignificant in the scheme of things [sorry animal lovers, but you know what I'm saying], so we can feel okay for a while?

Anyway. The long break was nice, thanks for asking. I managed to find myself at beaches in Waiheke and Northland during what seemed like the only four sunny days in weeks (27th/28th and the 4th/5th).

The trip up North was long overdue, the first time in my conscious memory I've been past the Bay of Islands. It's getting a bit yuppified in parts (Mangonui, Cable Bay, Rangiputa), but at least that means you can find a decent feed…

A month off (I start work next Monday, but thought I'd do the honourable thing, by providing those back at work today with a five minute diversion) has finally provided me with the time to knock off a few books.

I interview an author every week or two on my radio show, and usually only have time to read about 100 pages between the time the book arrives, and the interview itself. Regardless of how good the book might be, it's almost impossible to finish after the interview, because the book for the following week's interview needs reading. Yeah, I know, tough job.

I quite it when bloggers do the "what I'm reading/listening to" thing, so I think I'll follow suit, albeit sporadically. Anyway, here's three you might enjoy.

What I read these holidays, by Damian Christie.

What I Loved - Siri Hustvedt. Best book I've read in ages. It follows two families living in New York over a period of 20 or so years. Highly recommended, so much so that I'm going to track down everything else Hustvedt has written and read it.

The Big Year - Mark Obmascik. A true account of America's biggest bird watching competition, The Big Year follow four birders who spend an entire year - and tens of thousands of dollars - competing to see who can spot the greatest number of bird species within continental North America. A great tale of human obsession.

Cosmopolis - Don DeLillo. A friend of mine rates DeLillo very highly. He's written a dozen or more novels, but this is the first I've read. A very stylish piece of literature, set in April 2000, tracing a day in the life of a billionaire currency analyst. DeLillo creates a great atmosphere.

And sticking with the theme, and conscious of providing a few more minutes of much needed respite from work, here's a review I wrote a while back:

The Resurrectionists
By Michael Collins
Phoenix

In 1988 Irish rock band U2 travelled through America. They visited Graceland, walked the streets of Harlem, played with blues legend BB King, covered a Dylan tune, penned a tribute to Billie Holiday and generally discovered the heartland. The resulting album, Rattle and Hum, was awful.

If that same CD was what inspired Michael Collins to leave Limerick and cross the Atlantic in search of a better life, I shouldn't be at all surprised. His first offering, The Keepers of Truth, was set on the 'rust belt' of the USA, and in its opening four pages manages to name-check no fewer than four makes of American car, ten different American fast food outlets and the ubiquitous Coca-Cola.

Rather than now having it all out of his system, Collins seems to have redoubled his efforts to capture the American essence in his latest work, The Resurrectionists. Again, for reasons best known to the author, the first chapter earns not just one but two thick coats of luscious red, white and blue. In those first few pages, the reader is introduced to burger jockey Frank Cassidy, whose parents died in a mysterious fire when he was five, his wife Honey, a truck dispatcher whose ex is on death row in Georgia, and their children Robert Lee and Ernie. Frank gets free sodas by banging on the machine just so; Honey says 'goddamn' a lot. Robert Lee calls Frank a 'son-of-a-bitch'; Ernie plays with his dinosaurs.

When Frank learns that his uncle, a farmer in bleakest Michigan, has been shot dead, he steals a car - what else, a Cadillac - bundles up the wife and kids and sets off to reclaim the family acreage. Arriving in the "sleepy backwater town" of Cooper, the mysteries behind the deaths of Frank's mother, father and uncle simultaneously unravel and intertwine and unravel again.

One suspects that Collins could be a very good writer, if he were writing an entirely different book than this. As an American Gothic mystery, it fails: 'All is not as it seems!' the author cries. 'Who cares?' comes the response. His descriptive style is often rich and poetic but over the course of the book seems more like endless padding, and any requisite tension is lacking. Collins has a hundred imaginative ways of describing a stormy sky, but leaves many central characters as flat as the pages on which they appear. When characters do speak, their voices are muddled, sounding remarkably like an intelligent Irish writer putting on a bad Southern drawl.

In an interview after the release of The Keepers of Truth, Collins spoke of his concern in not breaking into the American market, and The Resurrectionists seems to be a none-too-subtle attempt to remedy this. If he succeeds, then all power to him, but it ain't working for this cowboy, that's for darn tootin'.

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Mo' Money | Dec 16, 2004 17:04

She's been a funny old year.

In January I was in my twenties, working in student radio, and not entirely sure that leaving life as a lawyer behind was the right decision. I had a moustache.

Come December, I'm in my thirties, working for the biggest broadcaster in the land with an exciting new future ahead of me. And, if recent events are anything to go by, a whole lot of room to grow.

Okay, the twenties-thirties thing was going to happen no matter what. Some things, such as getting my eyes lasered, and shaving off the mo', took seconds to achieve, and left me wondering why I'd left it so long. Others, like getting a column, seemed the pay-off for years of writing for anyone who'd publish me - back before blogging redefined how 'being a writer' works.

Tomorrow I finish my first job in television, as a producer on TV2's Flipside. It's been a great show to work on, a fantastically talented young crew, led by the Wise Old (comparatively speaking) Owl Jude Anaru. I owe her a lot. And I know Flipside will be missed.

Having said that, I don't have a lot of time for life's whingers. And despite ostensibly grand intentions, single-issue blogs such as reinventingtvnz are only ever going to be a haven for that sort of person. The sort of person who, as my father often said 'would moan if his bum was on fire'. Never quite understood that one. The sort of person who calls TVNZ to complain because Coro's been moved, or Judy's talking like a native again and it's not even Maori language week, or why is Ali off sick, or the old weather symbol they used to have for the sun was a lot clearer than the new one, or why isn't there more sport/less sport/hamster throwing, or why doesn't that lovely Sacha freshen up her look with a nice perm…

Piss off.

It has to be a tribute to the power of television that not only does everyone has an opinion on it, everyone thinks they have some ownership of it. Not just TVNZ, because that's literally true, but all free-to-air telly.

As I mentioned the other week, there are more column inches on TV presenters at the moment than, dare I say it, any real news. When did the newspapers take over from Woman's Day in this regard? When one TV news leads its broadcast - leads, I tells ya - with news about how much the other's newsreader is getting paid, isn't that all just a little silly?

I can't blame 3 for making a meal of the story - inter-media rivalry is at an all time high. Whether it's APN going up against Fairfax over the spy story, the Sunday papers trying to outdo each other every weekend, ZB versus Radio Live (pronounce it "liv" I say, that'll learn 'em for choosing a dumb name) or the sudden smorgasboard 7pm current affairs.

But what a fantastic time to be working in the industry. While long term, it might not be sustainable to have three Sunday papers, three talk radio stations or three 7pm current affairs shows, right now there's opportunity aplenty for talented people, or inevitably, those with no talent and a whole lot of drive.

'Thrusters', my mate Simon calls them.

As from next week I'll be posting from the comfort of my lounge sofa. I feel compelled to do some sort of best of times/worst of times final post for the year - please send me your submissions. David Slack promises* to give you an iPod if you do.

*doesn't promise.

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Out with the Old | Dec 06, 2004 17:09

It probably sounds very condescending, but that's never stopped me before, so I'll say it: Old people make me sad.

Not all the time, because that would just be a bit too much to deal with. But on certain occasions, like Anzac Day. If there is anything more throat-lump worthy than some tough old bugger with his medals on, wiping a tear from his eye on a chilly April morning, let me know.

Even though she's previously admitted Dave's her secret boyfriend, it didn't stop me from considering applying for the position as the male half of Sarah's cute old couple.

Given that I find myself getting more cantankerous the older I get, I'm thinking the chances of being single at sixty are increasing daily. And when you're sixty they don't call it single. They call it alone.

I saw an elderly man at the supermarket the other day. He was immaculately turned out in a brown three-piece suit and hat, his shirt neatly pressed and his tie in a full windsor. In his trolley was a stack of seven heat-n-eat cottage pie dinners, and a box of popsicles. I guessed the popsicles were for the days his grandkids came to visit, although I like to think he snuck the odd one for himself.

When his back was turned, I swapped one of his Cottage Pie dinners for the same brand's Smoked Chicken Lasagne. If variety is all its cracked up to be, then this old man's life just got spicier, thanks to yours truly.

Sarah, please consider this my on-line application. I don't want to end up with some young whippersnapper taking liberties with my frozen goods. And I certainly don't want to end up contributing to what I think has to be the most depressing scheme in the world - Chrisco's Frozen TV Dinner Christmas Hamper.

In Media News: I've been getting grumpy recently with the fact that most newspapers seem to think they can pull any old name out of their arses as a "tipped to be the next blah" or "widely rumoured to be moving to blah". I've one friend whose name is often dropped in such stories. He's never been approached by the competition supposedly poaching him, or had his supposedly imminent promotion discussed by those in a position to offer it.

I did some digging to discover where one of these reporters was getting his stories. Sure enough, more often than not it comes down to two reporters gossiping about who they thought would be good in the new role, or on the new channel. And with tightlipped TV bosses refusing to confirm or deny anything these days, they can simply run with whatever story they see fit to print.

Of course, they're right some of the time.

In unrelated techy news, local lads Ambient Design have just won an international software design contest put together by Microsoft. They beat off 260 submissions to take the grand prize with their art programme ArtRage.

Best thing, their styley application is FREE to play with, and a whole lot of fun to play with, even for an artistic illiterate like myself. I dare say the kids will love it too.

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