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Winner - Best Personal Blog - 2003 Netguide Web Awards

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Death & Taxes | Jul 12, 2005 17:25

The old cliché of Death and Taxes have been a real theme for me in the past couple of weeks.

Tax, in the sense that I'm nutting out a story on this year's big election issue, while simultaneously ignoring the letters from IRD telling me my tax returns are overdue. The twice-yearly pain in the arse that is GST filing has been complicated even more by packing away all my stuff into various boxes, moving house, and not having the space to unpack everything.

Who am I kidding? It's also got a lot to do with the fact that I use my company account like a small child uses a tree - providing endless hours of entertainment in any way I see fit. Somehow it all works out, but there are a lot of dubious Friday night withdrawals that need to be explained away first.

Death-wise, I carried my grandfather's coffin on Wednesday. I've been to a few funerals before, but this was the first time I've acted as a pallbearer. I guess that's one way of determining how close you are to someone, especially as a guy - although I'm reliably informed it's common for women to lend a hand these days.

The funeral was nice, even if the chaplain did get a bit lost with the names (somehow my Uncle Terry became Aunty Megan), and the Last Post failed to fire on the stereo (I knew we were up against it when the chaplain tried turning the CD over to play the other side…). Surely it couldn't be that hard to find a bugler on a naval base.

Leaving the chapel, it was raining pretty solidly, a very grey day at the Devonport navy base, and I wondered if we needed to walk quite so slowly from the chapel out to the hearse. The alternative - breaking into a quick jog - didn't seem appropriate though, so I resigned myself to the downpour.

Which for some reason reminds me of a joke. Why does Snoop Dogg always carry an umbrella?


Anyhoo, Sunday just gone, I wrote my HOS column about the trials and tribulations of moving house. Mercury Energy in particular go out of their way to make life difficult, especially with their policy of "we'll be round to connect your power, um, sometime today."

How it works is this: You name a time, and they send someone round up to five hours later. They can't tell you anything more detailed than that, they can't call you to let you know they're on their way, and if you're not there, you pay a penalty (and nominate another time…)

All of which is great when you're trying to move house.

I got an email from Mercury offering an explanation for the mandatory five-hours of sitting around with my finger up my bum (I was bored, okay)

We are unable to give a more accurate timeframe for reconnection as the contractors we use have a schedule of jobs over the greater Auckland area and any new job is then added to that.

Which doesn't really explain anything. Many people have a schedule of many things, and add new things to the end. It's the way schedules work, and it certainly doesn't give them more than half a day's leeway to turn up to existing appointments.

But the real pisser about having to move came from the landlord. As I mentioned before, she's selling the house, so we had to move out. The stooped thing is, when the owner of a house gives you notice, if you find a place earlier, you've still got to give 3 weeks' notice.

Which is arse, quite frankly.

Not only do you have to pay moving expenses, reconnection fees, letting fees etc - all of which added up to about $800 - you have to pay them rent for the house they're about to make a killing from.

So I negotiated with the property manager to only give two weeks' notice. Two weeks later, the landlord said she wanted an extra week. I said "no". I pointed out we'd paid about $90,000 of her mortgage off already. She said "how about half a week?" I said "no". She looked down and realised she was standing on no legs.

Seriously though, what about a change in the default residential tenancy rules? If the landlord sells the house from under you, you can move out without any notice.

While I'm on things that just don't make sense: David McPhail's TV reviews. Anyone?

For something that's actually funny, Office fans should check out Ricky Gervais' ads for Live8.

Incidentally, I've seen the much-dreaded US version of The Office. It's actually not bad. It helps that large chunks of dialogue have been lifted verbatim from the original, and that the casting is close, but not so close as to be sad. It has no laugh track. It works.

Whew. One whole post without mentioning London. You see, I've never been there, and friends of mine are far more qualified to comment than I.

But my thoughts are with you. And as the Maori proverb says, "Iti noa ana, he pito mata" - "With care, a small kumara will produce a harvest."

Okay, it doesn't make sense, but it's a proverb with a kumara in it. What's not to like?

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Brumating my troubles away | Jun 21, 2005 17:09

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No I haven't gone.

I've been hibernating. I've lowered my body temperature, my rate of breathing, my blood pressure and my brain activity. I'm making like the Three-toed Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis) and slowing things down a bit.

Actually, life outside of my climate-controlled blogosphere has been anything but dormant. Work's been all go, and after the successful execution of my carefully laid year-long plan to shed flatmates, the landlord called the other day. She's selling.

Unfortunately, as the flatmates have been disposed of (under the floorboards in the study, should any potential buyers care to look), the detritus of my life has expanded to fill the unused space.

Some call me a hoarder - generally those who have to share a house with my ever-growing collection of books, CDs, records and eighties kitsch. Every week I interview an author on my radio show; every week I only manage to read the first hundred pages of the book before Sunday morning arrives. Even if the book is utterly compelling, I'm forced to put it down and move on. Much the same with the video games I review, and the CDs that arrive. I must have one of the biggest collections of stuff I've never read, played or listened to.

When it comes to filling a house with crap, I have a theory. Women want their house to look like something from Home & Garden. Polished floors, tastefully placed object d'art. Men, on the other hand, want to turn their home into a pub. Which guy doesn't even secretly think a pool table, a jukebox and a fully-stocked bar isn't a great use for a spare room?

With that in mind, I went and bought a pinball machine. Not just any old machine, but my all-time favourite, Creature from the Black Lagoon. It's based on the 1954 b-grade flick of the same name, and it's beautiful.

After the machine arrived from Christchurch, dirty and malfunctioning from a decade of neglect and a week on the road, I was lucky to make the acquaintance of Pinball Wizard Kerry Hogan. "Like new" was the promise, and a couple of weeks later, "like new" was delivered back to my house, complete with flashing lights, springy rubbers and brand new shiny balls.

(If you're in Auckland with a pinball machine in need of some TLC, I couldn't recommend Kerry more highly - a true gentleman who knows his stuff. Flick me feedback for his contact details)

So with an extra hundred or so kilograms of furniture bleeping away in the spare room, of course the landlord was going to sell. A new house was secured without too much effort, albeit further away from work, with higher rent and less room. It has a garage though, so I have somewhere to put the powertools I'm yet to buy for purposes unknown, and store my constant headache of a classic car. Middle-aged manhood is creeping up on me.

Rather than sit and watch the hair in my ears thicken, I've decided it's time for a bit of action and adventure again this weekend - namely diving for crays in the Coromandel. The last time I went diving at the Poor Knights, I saw one fat juicy beauty, but thanks to "the man", I was restricted to taking snaps of Snappy: I know how the Japs must feel. This weekend however, the gloves are on. I'm coming home with kaimoana.

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Sit & Spin | Jun 02, 2005 17:27

After thirty-odd years, Deep Throat has finally stepped out of the shadows and confirmed his identity. Being born in the same year as Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal, the mystery had never featured highly in my adult consciousness.

I'd previously thought Deep Throat was Linda Lovelace.

This made for an interesting incident when I received an email from a friend the other day, hunting for an informant, or as she put it, a "deep throat".

My mind boggled.

Maybe 91-year old former FBI Director Mark Felt wanted a little time in the sun before retiring into the earth. Maybe he yearned for the highest honour in American society - appearing on a talkshow. Maybe he'd hoped Woodward & Bernstein would spill their guts

(And yes, I'd previously credited Woodward & Bernstein with writing The Pirates of Penzance…)

In this day and age where journalists, politicians, and all manner of confidantes leak more than Felt's nonagenarian bladder, who'd have thought the two hacks would stay true to their word?

Now that we've got the Watergate scandal out of the way, we can move on to more pressing matters. In particular, a local riddle that has held my attention for almost a decade now. Perhaps one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in New Zealand politics. Except that I seem to be the only one who cares….

Who wrote The Spin?

Obviously the reason no-one cares is because it wasn't especially well-written, it wasn't particularly insightful, and overall it was about as compelling as Geoff Murphy's Winebox adaptation Spooked. But I just need to know. I feel the same way when I miss the answers to John Campbell's trivia question following the second commercial break.

I even have a copy of The Spin on my bookshelf, and it sits there taunting me. You see, every other New Zealand book I own is signed by the author. It's an epidemic over here, authors running around with pens, waiting to scrawl their name on your shiny new purchase. I've been told that if you can find a copy of I've Been Thinking *not* signed by Richard Prebble, it's actually worth more.

Anyhoo, long story short, I need to have my copy of The Spin signed.

So here are my suspects. I'm willing to add to, or subtract from, this list if I receive strong leads or solid denials:

Simon Carr. Simon gains points for actually being a writer. From what I'm told he largely wrote Act's early flurry of books (does this put Prebble's signature on "I've Been Thinking" in the same category as Helen's art fraud?) Even Rodney admits "Prebble's book" wasn't a solo effort.

While Simon may actually be too skilled a writer to have penned The Spin, the time constraints required (remember it was released during the interregnum, before Winston jumped into bed with Jim Bolger) could explain any lowering of standards.

Murry McCully. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on McCully. When The Spin was released, Muzza was very, very interested in keeping tabs on all the publicity it generated. Someone, I think it may have been Linda Clark, also thought it was McCully, recalling he'd used a phrase from the book before its release. Circumstantial evidence of course, but sometimes you've gotta go with your gut.

Michael Laws. The only person in New Zealand to actually get a stiffy watching "Spin Doctors", Laws is largely responsible for bringing the 'Dark Art' of media manipulation into the public's imagination. If anyone were going to write a book to boost the sexiness of his profession - rather than the mundane reality of trying to get the skid-marks out of Tuku's underpants - it'd be Laws. On the downside, it's impossible to believe Laws would do anything without taking credit for it.

Any suggestions?

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Stars Wars Episode III: A Review (of sorts) | May 18, 2005 17:22

Those of you who follow my banal existence with any more than a passing disdain may recall something I wrote last year about the other Damian Christie. Briefly, he's past-President of the Australian Doctor Who fan club, contributor to any number of science fiction magazines and so forth. While I have no evidence to prove this, I also suspect he spends his weekends painting little lead figurines and practicing his Klingon dialect.

And even though he doesn't know I exist, he's my nemesis.

So I noticed the other day that he's set to review Star Wars: Episode III this Thursday, after seeing it on Wednesday night. Having attended the charity premiere on Monday night (I didn't pay for my $50 ticket - go tell the kids there'll be no hospital), I have to get in there before Other Damian, and beat him at his own geeky game…

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. A review by Damian Christie. Of New Zealand.

I was very cynical heading into Episode III. Secure in the knowledge that Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader) couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag, it was bound to be a stinker. As Yoda might say, "Suck, I knew it would."

But it didn't. Okay, there were some pretty stinky patches. George Lucas's dialogue is lifted straight from Days of Our Lives. I laughed when he actually used a line straight from my team's 2004 48hours soap opera piss-take Flights of Destiny. My lawyers are still getting back to me, but don't be surprised if I end up with a share of the Star Wars profits.


But that's how cheesy it was. It turns out Anakin flits to the Dark Side because of a girl. And not because he's hoping the girl might Give It Up for him, but because he's worried she might die during childbirth. So. Gay.

CGI is the winner on the day. I think Anthony Daniels (C3PO) sums it best in this quote regarding his last day on the job after nearly three decades wearing a tin suit:

For the final shot I walked along a blue corridor with a blue background behind me talking to someone who wasn't there."

What's interesting to watch, is that the closer the prequel gets to the beginning of the movie we just called "Star Wars", the more Lucas is limited by what he was able to achieve in 1977. Darth Vader looks the same as he did 30 years ago, right down to those big light-switches superglued on his "space-age" control panel.

As the technology I remember from my youth returns, X-wing fighters, TIE fighters etc, so the nostalgia level increases. This feels like a proper Star Wars movie.

Lucas still flips old school fans the finger by a cameo inclusion from Jar Jar Binks, but at least there are no Ewoks. Similarly, when the action moves to the Wookie's home planet, I was afraid Lucas would use the opportunity to include some unbearably cute Wookie babies, but mercifully there are none. The main creature annoyance is Yoda, whose every sentence is put through an identical grammar mincer. Bored of it, I am.

Episode III is no Empire Strikes Back, but it is the most similar in many regards. Notably, it's dark - when the Empire turns on the Jedi, it ain't pretty. And even though this is the third of three prequels, Lucas isn't afraid to leave the movie hanging where it should, just like Empire, rather than wrap it up in a neat little bundle.

Episode III isn't going to silence critics of the prequels, but it will go some way to placating them. Yes the acting is dodgy, the dialogue is cheesy and some of the creatures are too cute. But have you seen the original Star Wars lately? It's no To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Pirates! | May 13, 2005 12:45

I've started writing a book.

I say this for a few reasons. First, it means from this point on, people will casually say to me "how's your book going?" Of course, it won't have progressed any further than it has to date (1 chapter, 6 pages) and so I'll be guilted into writing more. I don't have a conscience of my own to speak of, so you're it. I have a few friends who have publicly declared their great works underway, and while none of them has yet finished, I'm sure they're just around the corner. Isn't that right, Evie, Rachael, Jen?

Second, an alarming number of my blogmates have books either out this week, next week, or sometime in the near future. One of them even has his own book-making company. Pricks. And as I'm making an appearance at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival next week, I'd rather it was not as a Reader. Aspirant Novellist sounds much better.

Third, I wanted to get the title out there, so if anyone else hears about it and steals it, I've got proof it was my idea first. In as much as the Internet is proof of anything, of course. But it's easier than that old (albeit kinda true) theory people have about writing your ideas down and sending them back to yourself as a registered letter.

So it's called Pirates! I don't imagine there are going to be too many actual pirates; it's more of a metaphor. An allegory. An apologue, figuration, metonymy, symbolisation, typification.

Yep, I also bought a thesaurus to help me out. The favourite word competition last month - and the entries are still coming in - only helped to prove (affirm, attest, authenticate, bear out, certify, check, confirm, convince, corroborate…) that there are many, many words I don't know how to use in a sentence.

Anyway, Pirates! (possible subtitle: "A Metaphor") is underway. Six pages underway. I'm not sure that it'll be particularly readable when it's finished, but I'm hoping the title alone will sell it. I mean, what's not to love about a book called "Pirates!"? I'd read it. Hell, I'm writing it.

I've started keeping a notebook next to my bed. I got really annoyed at having all these great ideas just as I was drifting off, assuming they'd be there in the morning, only to wake up blank. The other night I was feeling particularly inspired. I don't know whether it was the ill-advised party pill, or the bottle and a half of whiskey, but brilliant ideas were coming thick and fast. The next morning I fished out the notebook, knowing my precious ideas were safe:

"You know the thing about toothbrushes? Those electric ones, you can swap the heads off the cheaper models onto the expensive models and they work fine. What's that about - you think they design them that way?"

Needless to say, that little gem won't be making the final cut.

Seriously though, what's with that new razor that has an AA battery in the base? Guys, you know what I'm talking about. It's not an electric razor, because the blades don't seem to move. It's not a manual razor, because it's got a freakin' battery in it. "Micro pulses raise hairs" my arse.

Is it a gimmick? Will I be tricked into upgrading? Do any PR companies want to make me a convert? It reminds me of one of my favourite Onion articles.

I've been to see a bit of comedy the past two weeks, and it's all been pretty good. Danny Bhoy, Charlie Pickering, Lawrence Leung's "Sucker", The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) last night.

I have to say though, because no-one else is likely to, Taika, the jig is up. You're a funny man, dare I say it a good looking man, and clearly quite talented. I've been quietly championing your work for some time now. But if you're going to do an hour of stand-up, prepare something. Don't recycle a few tenuous gags from last year, make jokes about padding for time, and rely on your winning smile. People can tell, and they talk. You're better than that.

It must be something about Wellington that encourages this sort of slackness, because as Russell mentioned, Fat Freddy's Drop have just released their album. Great too, as long as you like that Fat Freddy's Drop sound. But it's a sign of that Wellington attitude that Hope, a song first made available (on the Radio Active 25th anniversary CD) in 1998, is on the album released seven years later. Joyce's Ulysses took less time to put together, although I'm sure it doesn't go down so well at parties.

On a musical tip, my nominee for most disturbing song/video this year: The Greenskeepers, "Lotion"

That's it for me. Not long now until I'm once again burdened with a genre and the responsibility of writing something sufficiently inspiring to make two dozen actors and crew jump through all manner of hoops for 48 hours. Full report next week, but in the meantime, if you're approached by a bedraggled film crew (the chances are high, there's a couple of hundred teams around the country), be nice to them, do what they want, and offer them a cuppa if you can.

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Fits and Starts | Apr 28, 2005 18:18



'Cos she…dum dah dah dah dah...

...She speeeeeeeeds


There's nothing quite as funny as listening to the crowd singing along at a Straitjacket Fits gig. Well actually, there's plenty of things just as funny, funnier even, but I'm not writing about them today.

The point being, to a greater or lesser extent, no-one knows at least half of the lyrics to your average SF song, but it doesn't stop them singing along anyway. At least at the Dawn Service they hand out lyric sheets.

I know it's a few days after the fact, but I'm conscious Shayne and the lads are playing Wellington this Friday and Saturday, Christchurch and Dunedin the week after.

So my thoughts. Well, they're all good. Apart from the tosser in front of me who thought it was amusing to shout "Who's going to sing Down In Splendour?" Well, no-one is, you pillock, surely that was pretty bloody obvious to anyone with half a brain. Oh hang on, you were being funny, because Andrew Brough isn't there anymore? I get it. No, actually, you're still an idiot. An idiot who then proceeded to sway annoyingly in front of me so that I couldn't get a clear view without swaying in the opposite direction at the same time. Tosser.

That aside, what a gig. The frontman's rock 'n' roll charisma was such that I heard more than one (presumably hitherto straight) guy in the audience mutter, "Shit, I'd do him". Perhaps it was the haircut.

Understandably, most of the crowd were there to reminisce. The average age was such that even those of us who are "pushing 50" wouldn't have felt out of place. But while there was plenty of opportunity for tripping down memory lane, there were no cobwebs on the 'fits. "Age shall not weary them" indeed.

I won't go into the set list or such, because there are plenty of anorak wearers out there who have already done just that.

Suffice to say, they rocked, and if you're south of the Bombays and have the opportunity to head along this or next week, attendance is heartily recommended. If you didn't make it, or can't, then all I can say is: Sucks to be you. Except in my mind, it's sung to the tune "If I Were You".

Just a reminder: If you live in Auckland and haven't yet, the Ans Westra exhibition is waiting for you. If you're not, you can still check out my interview and look at the pretty pictures...

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