Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More on AGYG

Another blogger left a comment about Annie Get Your Gun a couple of days ago, saying that it was originally made in black and white and that people don't watch b&w movies and thus miss out on many good films.
Well, I don't have any doubt that AGYG was made in colour, not b&w. It has no hint of being a 'coloured' movie. And I've watched black and white movies as often as colour. It's only in the last few years, however, that b&w has come back into its own. And, thank goodness, the idea of colouring movies has gone out the window pretty much. It was always an awful approach, and seldom truly successful.
Another blogger informed me that there's a huge website devoted to Judy Garland, called The Judy Garland Experience. Seems that everything you ever wanted to know about Garland is available on this site - I'm still to check it out - and there are people writing on it who actually knew her well.
It's a great experience to watch Garland in a musical. There's such life in everything she does - and she not only had a unique voice, she had a unique way of expressing herself as a person. The tragedy of her life won't be forgotten in a hurry, but the legacy of her movies will eventually overshadow it, I think.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dressing up Online


Back in the dim dark ages, little girls used to be able to buy books of cut-out dolls – they usually came as part of the cardboard cover (the dolls, I mean, not the little girls – we all know little girls are made of sugar and spice, and a bit of curry) – and then inside the book would be a host of ‘dresses’ that you could fold over the doll, so you could dress her up as you pleased. From my recollection they weren’t entirely satisfactory, as the little paper folds were never quite substantial enough to hold onto the dolls for long.
How do I know this, being a bloke? I have no idea – it’s possible in my non-bloke childhood I actually had something like this. But who can remember so long ago? Being an only child I wasn’t beholden to any brothers or sisters as to what I should or shouldn’t do, so it’s possible I dressed up little cardboard dolls. Or maybe I just saw them somewhere. (This ain’t confession time!)
Anyway, these days, things being what they are, with the Internet an’ all, you can do the same sort of thing online. It all looked a bit complicated to me, but no doubt my nearly-seven-year-old granddaughter would take one look at it and have it sussed in a matter of minutes. You can use these pixellated dolls for dress up games or become your own ‘dollmaker.’ I’m addressing that last sentence to little girls, by the way, little girls who are very with it when it comes to using the Net. My granddaughter is into something called Bratz – we have to stop her printing off every screen she comes across – and that’s very fashion conscious, with most of its games centring around fashion. (The characters all strike me as rather unlikely, but then, am I a seven-year-old girl?)
Or if, you aren’t seven, and you’d like to make use of these, you can turn them into avatars. Yes, you all know what avatars are. I talked about them in a post on the 8th of January. Go on, have a look. If you get lost, I'll tell you in the next post.
Disclosure statement

Monday, January 29, 2007

Annie Gets Her Gun Again

Watched Annie Get Your Gun on DVD last night....it was the first time I'd seen it since the movie came out around 1950. (When I was a little lad.) One of the reasons it's been invisible, apparently, is that the film has been the subject of some dispute between Irving Berlin's estate and the film company.
It's a great DVD transfer: the colour is excellent, and the copy is very clean. The music has survived untainted, from the sensuous songs, The girl that I marry, and, They say that falling in love is wonderful, to the full-on-vocal-argument: Anything you can do I can do better, which is performed with such energy you wonder the two of them make it right through. The two of them being Betty Hutton (a replacement for Judy Garland, who took ill) and Howard Keel (who looks as though he was never ill). Hutton is full in your face - well, mostly in Keel's face - but you still wish that they'd made the movie when Ethel Merman was young enough to still do the part on screen. What a loss not to have a record of her performance in the part. You can't quite imagine her hopping around the stage with a rifle swinging, but nevertheless....
The music is what holds the piece together: the storyline is pretty thin, although the cast do their utmost to make sure we don't notice. But the male chauvinism of Frank Butler (I was almost going to write Rhett Butler) is never addressed; in fact, he's given leeway to maintain his arrogant male attitude because Annie lets him in the end, in order that they get together. You don't imagine it would be much of a marriage though; eventually she'd sock him one because he was so thick-skinned. Even Keel can't do much with a character who one minute is all gooey-eyed over Hutton and the next mostly gooey-eyed over himself.
And then there are the Indians. Shuffled around the background of the movie until Chief Sitting Bull makes an appearance, and even then mostly treated as bullet fodder. Sitting Bull at least is given some wisdom stuff to spout, and pulls the end of the story together, but his Sioux tribe are a pretty odd lot when they get a-dancing...! Supposedly Busby Berkeley was due to direct at one point; it's probably just as well he didn't. Whoever did the choreography wasn't much into Indian dancing, I suspect. These guys are a bunch of clowns without being funny.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Players Go Wild!

Not long ago I saw a short clip on the Prime sports program, The Crowd Goes Wild, showing a couple of ice hockey players slugging it out while all the officials stood around on their skates waiting. Apparently they can’t interfere while the players are fighting. That’s probably a understatement, or shows a lack of knowledge, but to my amazement, fighting in hockey is actually allowed and there are rules relating to it!
The two guys who host the program, Andrew Mulligan and Mark Richardson, thought the standing-aside of the officials was pretty odd – but then it really would be in our national game of rugby. According to a long article on Wikipedia however, fighting in ice hockey has a whole host of rules which take quite some learning. Just goes to show that gentlemanliness is well and truly out of the sports arena, in terms of hockey anyway. And by hockey, by the way, I mean only ice hockey, since that’s what ‘hockey’ means in the States, I’ve now discovered. I don’t think anyone in the States plays what we here in NZ call hockey– at least not at the professional level of ice hockey.
There’s a whole site devoted to discussing the game online called NHL Forums, and it’s jam-packed with people talking about the game. You open it up and there’s no end of discussions, right there in your face. No fancy homepage, no pretty pictures: this is Ice Hockey with a capital I and H, and they’re aiming to reach 8 million posts pretty soon. This site’s been around for 5 years, which probably isn’t bad in terms of Internet life. Each of the posters appears to have a picture of their own on the left side, and there are the usual arguments and comments (how did he get number one post when he posted a reply to himself?) that have nothing to do with the topic in hand. Looks like there are quite a few video clips too – which I won’t watch since I just got told by my ISP that I’m nearly up to my limit for the month. Which seems incredible since I have a gig of usage and don’t really download anything large. Ce la vie.
Disclosure statement

Friday, January 26, 2007

Steve Reich

The other evening coming home from work I was listening to a Steve Reich piece, one of those duets of his where two pianists are playing exactly the same phrase over and over, and then one gets out of synch slightly, and changes the sound of the rhythm, and then gradually they get further apart and slowly come together again. At first I just wanted to switch it off – there’s nothing more annoying than sheer repetition, but the subtle differences gradually got to me, and appealed. And really that’s all there is to this music: it’s like listening to something extremely mechanical that can’t quite stay in sync with itself, such as a large machine. There’s an odd fascination with it, and an irritation. I don’t know that you could call it music, as such, except in the broadest Charles-Ives sense.
At the moment, as I write this, there's something similar on the Concert Program. I don't know what it is, though it must end soon, because the requests section is due to start. It's more orchestral, but still has that awe-ful repetition going on, only here there's a bit more variety because there are more instruments. I'm not sure that I'd want to build my reputation on music that consists of tiny repeated phrases. I've just remembered that I've heard the Clapping Music recently too: that must be exceptionally difficult to do. Two musicians doing nothing but clapping, first in sync and then gradually out of sync. But in the end how is that particularly different from the piece I heard the other night? Or the thing that's on at the moment - which still hasn't come to an end?
Wait, it has come to an end, and it was Reich. But the announcer unhelpfully hasn't told us what it was exactly.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A J Hudson footnote

In some of the posts I do, I’m restricted from including other links, which is okay. Them’s the breaks. But sometimes it’s nice to add links to topics that get mentioned. So this is a kind of footnote post where you can click on the word, Dreamgirls, to find out more about the movie I mentioned in the last post. There’s also a very good bio of Jennifer Hudson at this link.
One thing I love about IMDB, the movie site (for those not familiar with those initials) is that you can find out all sorts of irrelevant things – well, they’re not irrelevant for the people involved, but in terms of what you start out searching for, they are. For instance, there are four other Jennifer Hudsons listed: the girl who sings in the movie is not a stunt artist, a member of the miscellaneous crew on Full Disclosure, an actress who doesn’t sing, nor someone who works in the Art Department. Now, didn’t you not want to know all that?

Are you listening?

Does a program like American/Australian/NZ Idol work? Is it of long-term benefit to the person who wins? For some people it obviously is, and sometimes it isn’t the winner who benefits. Jennifer Hudson made the finals of the show and then not only got slammed by at least one of the judges, but was ousted late in the proceedings. Nevertheless, she went on to play out the ‘American Idol’ summer tour, and followed this up with two years’ worth of concerts on the road. Perseverance was the key. In the auditions for the movie, Dreamgirls, she went on to beat the very American Idol she had performed with, Fantasia Barrino. for the part of Effie Melody White, the cast-off member of a group that was similar to the Supremes. Now she’s being touted as performing more powerfully in the movie than Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy or Jamie Foxx. Since the movie appeared, she has already received the National Board of Review (for "Breakthrough Performance"), New York Film Critics Award, Phoenix Film Critic's Society Award, Golden Satellite Award and a Golden Globe nomination. That’s all just for starters.
In another area of music competition is a company called We Are Listening. Checking out their staff is intriguing. They’re based in London, but the Managing Director is Israeli by origin, the Marketing Manager is Italian, the Production Manager is Bolivian, the head of the Production team is another Israeli, the manager of business and creative development is Indian, the Web Developer is German, and the company solicitor is Spanish. Oh, yes, the Office Manager is a Brit – and the only woman on the team. (Is this what life is like now in the European Community? LOL)
The company’s goal is to create professional opportunities for singer-songwriters in particular, and with that in mind they host the Singer/Songwriter Awards to enable people to have their music evaluated by the music industry.
You can listen to the We Are Listening song contest winners, finalists and runners up. Their music (both the original recording they sent in, and the arranged version done with Steve Williams) are available on the website. Unlike streaming radio, I found there was a bit of interruption when I tried listening, but it might be that my broadband is a little slower than some. (The thing’s got to travel 12,000 miles, for crying out loud!)
When you’ve listened to the various artists, you can vote for your favourite, and if you like what you hear, you can download a range of podcasts that consists of the site’s indie catalogue - for free (!) Ah, the joys of the internet, and how much time you can spend doing things on it….
Disclosure statement

L'Engle

It must be a long time since I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, because I’d forgotten most of it. I’d remembered it with some fondness, but a re-reading in the last few days shows that it starts off a lot better than it finishes. The first two thirds of the book bustles along at a great pace, but somewhere in the last third it loses momentum, and the ending is quite weak. I was reading along, thinking ‘this is going to lead to a great climax’ and then realised there were only half a dozen pages left. Meg’s rescue, on her own, of her precocious little brother, hinges on her being able to love him more than the strength of the darkness can brainwash him, and it’s over in a few sentences. It’s rather like the ending of the first Harry Potter book, where, after an enormous effort to get there, Harry seems to manage to deal with Voldermort in a matter of seconds. (The scriptwriter for the film realised this problem and gave a lot more room to the climax).

Still, L’Engle’s famous book has lots of charm, and, when it was published, was no doubt quite a wind change in the children’s publishing industry. It expected children to cope with long words and interesting concepts, including something that it took the general adult market another decade or more to deal with, in Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

I don’t know that I ever quite believe in the little brother, Charles Wallace (he’s called by this double-barrelled name throughout for some reason); he’s too perceptive to be true, and considering that his father only knew him as a toddler, and then was away for one or two years, the child can only be three or four. In spite of that, L’Engle gives him wise things and almost-adult things to say, and it’s hard to get a picture of him in your head. In fact, apart from saying that when he sits on a chair his feet dangle six inches from the floor, we’re not given much indication how big or old he is. Which is helpful to L’Engle, but a little annoying to the reader. Precocious children seem to delight some American authors. They’re not very true, and rather indicate that the author hasn’t looked lately at the average three or four-year-old. I have, and they ain’t much like this! Half the time you’re lucky if you can understand what it is they’re trying to get at, and I’m talking about the intelligent ones. In the end you get a picture of Charles Wallace in your head that makes him about seven, and you have to ignore L’Engle’s insistence that he must be a lot younger.

I still like L’Engle as a writer, though she can be annoyingly waffly at times. I read a much later book of hers a couple of years ago. The romance aspect of it was plain awful, in spite of the book as a whole having some very good writing. Think the book was Troubling a Star and it was about a girl going to Antarctica on a boat with a number of rather suspicious people – rather too many suspicious people, but never mind. Her autobiographical books suffer from a bit of waffle too, but there are so many gems amongst the waffle that you can accept the waffle and ignore it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Buying up in Bulgaria

Rightly or wrongly, when I think of Bulgarians, I think of comic characters in operas, violent villains in movies, and other such negative pictures.
But Bulgaria, now that it’s been freed from Communism, is on the rise. You might even say it’s on the high rise, considering the number of apartment buildings that have been going up. And the image of the Bulgarians is altogether different to my stereotype.
Furthermore, a large number of Brits are buying up in Bulgaria, seeing it as the place to go for holidays. It’s still relatively cheap to live there, the air fares are good, and, most of all, the property values, though they’ve risen, are still economic by British standards. A few years ago you could buy a rural property for £5000. Though the price has tripled, by comparison with many other holiday spots, this is still a bargain.
There’s even a British real estate firm that specialises in Bulgaria Property. Someone got in on the act pretty smartly there!
And of course there are lovely coastlines and sunny beaches. Bit far for me to travel, but maybe one day….just like that maybe one day…Hawaii.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Collaboration

Collaborating on writing a book has taken a new turn with the world of blogging.
Justin Patten, a solictor from the UK, has his own blog called Human Law, in which he posts recently about the way in which collaborative writing is becoming more frequent. He quotes an article from Computing Business: Wiki technology, for example, is now being used for knowledge management. ‘We’ve had people talking about knowledge management in the enterprise for decades and out pops Wikipedia.’"
Patten himself is writing a collaborative style book on blogging and the law. He’s set up a wiki (a website on which anybody can add to the content) to open up room for bloggers and writers in general to comment on what he’s saying and add to his mine of information.
And Greg Sandow, one of the bloggers on Arts Journal.com, has been writing, chapter by chapter, a book on the future of classical music. Bloggers have been critiquing this for some time and he’s now up to Book 2: Episode 16.
It’s a bit of a misnomer to call it ‘classical’ music, by the way. You might want to check out what I have to say about this, in a very introductory sort of way, in the box to the left, under Classical Music Isn’t Always Classical.

Washed by Soaps!

Soaps. You love ‘em or loathe ‘em – and a few of us sit somewhere in the middle, slightly uncomfortable on the fence, avoiding them one day, glancing at them another, and then getting totally involved in an episode – usually against our better judgement because we should be doing ‘something more important.’
It’s pretty scary to think, for instance, that Coronation Street has been running as long as I’ve been working: 46 years. Even scarier to think that William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, has been working in that show, in that one part, for that same amount of time.
Even Shortland Street has been running 14 years. 14 years!
An article on Wikipedia talks about the regurgitating of stereotypes on these shows: as one character is killed off, another character turns up (not always straight away) to replace the now-missing stereotype. It’s perhaps more obvious in Coronation Street, but Shortland Street has its own stereotypes as well.
All these Soap Operas have their own sites, of course, but for the last five months or so a new US site has been up and running called, not surprisingly, soaps.com. It focuses on American soaps, particularly the daytime ones, and gives you just about all the info you’d ever need, from daily updates to news about characters, from comings and goings to spoilers, from weekly polls to a ratings race. There are nearly 100 links on the main page alone.
Don’t check it out when you should be doing ‘something more important.’
The home page is a little oddly laid out: one long column down the left, joining up eventually with another long column down the right. And a lot of it is pink. Hmmm….pink? Does this suggest that only women watch soaps?

Wild Man

Watching Bruno Lawrence in Smash Palace again, after a number of years, I’m struck by how much he epitomises the ‘wild man’ so beloved of Robert Bly and his contemporaries. He rages, he lusts, he argues mightily, he gets angry. He has enough confidence in himself to offer not only the shirt off his back to his wife’s lover, but every other piece of clothing as well, until he stands naked in the street. He can pull the door off his wife’s house with his tow-truck if she won’t open it to him.
But he’s also gentle with his daughter, warm, and very loving. There’s only one scene in the movie where he gets angry with her, and at first we can’t tell whether he’s merely playing or is truly angry. His anger lasts for a moment, and he apologises to her, a seven-year-old child.
It could be said that these are all aspects of the character Lawrence plays, but this film would never have been what it is without Lawrence. He fits the role like a glove – or perhaps, the role fits him. Lawrence, in real life, was a wild man, thoroughly masculine, full of energy, crazy, often at odds with polite society. A bit scary even.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Using the money in your house

I met a man in the street once whom I’d worked with years before. I asked him, "What are you doing these days?’ ‘Oh, I’m practically a millionaire.’ What a hook line. What could you ask after that, but: ‘HOW?’
Turned out he’d got into the property market when it was at a low ebb. He bought up houses, rented them out, did them up, sold them on – all the sorts of things property people do. And because he’d started at the bottom of the wave, he made a lot of money.
What he didn’t tell us (we went to talk to him with another couple not long afterwards) was that the housing market was then closer to the top of the wave. In our enthusiasm for the subject, we missed out understanding this, and it was a major error that bugged us for a number of years after.
However, what it did do was give us insight into the idea of a Home Equity Loan.
The first house we bought this way turned out to be a dud. We rushed into it, as people with lot of enthusiasm and no experience (and maybe too little wisdom) do, and, after painting it more than once, and putting a new roof on, and attending to its various problems as the years went on, we finally got rid of it, for far less money than we needed to get.
However, when a situation arose where my daughter needed to move into town with her family, we knew the deal with Home Equity Loans, and had no problem hunting out a house and putting a deposit on it with the equity in our home. Long term we made enough on that house (thanks to our son-in-law) to cover all the losses on the other place.
When more recently my son and his wife needed extra cash to get off the ground with their new home, we were able to do the same thing. Learning about equity has been great. However, going into the property market is another thing altogether – and something I’d only recommend to people with nerves of steel!
Disclosure statement

It's true, I tell ya!

Here’s a true Trade Me story. A woman bought a fridge off someone on Trade Me, and in the course of several emails back and forth finally asked, Whereabouts are you, as a matter of interest? The other woman gave her address. It was right next door.

On the coattails of fame

My wife pointed out to me an interesting fact a few months back when Kiri te Kanawa, Ana James, and Anna Leese sang together at Twickenham.
Here’s the paragraph that appeared in the newsletter of the Kiri te Kanawa Foundation.
Jonah Lomu's recent return to rugby, following his kidney transplant, was marked by a charity match at Twickenham in honour of former English Captain Martin Johnson. The match was televised throughout the world. Jonah asked Dame Kiri to sing at the opening ceremony and she in turn requested that two of the young singers she had been working with, sing with her. Ana James (first recipient of a Foundation grant) and Anna Leese joined Dame Kiri for an unforgettable experience which also gave them both invaluable experience – and exposure.
What my wife pointed out was that at various points in time I’d accompanied all three of these singers. Nothing like swinging on the coattails of fame!
Kiri te Kanawa was in her second year of study at the London Opera Centre when I went there (for one year) to do the Repetiteur’s course. This was back in 1967/8. I worked with her as a repetiteur a number of times, because that’s what the singers and repetiteurs did, but on one occasion also accompanied her at a very unmemorable concert in the depths of Surrey – or somewhere! It was one of those concerts put on for a select group (a rather wealthy select group, I seem to remember) and they were probably as interested in music as I am in making money on shares – that is, marginally. Kiri drove me down to the concert and home again, a longish journey, and I have no idea what we talked about.
I accompanied Ana James quite often when she was in her early singing stages. She was always a wonderfully focused young singer, and had a voice that was a gift. We performed at local concerts and competitions (where she usually won). And then suddenly, she was moving into the big time, and no doubt has a long career ahead of her.
Anna Leese and I had much less to do with each other. We had one practice together for a concert put on, I think, by the Dunedin Opera Company at the Mayfair – one of their perennial Sunday afternoon concerts, if I recall. I seem to remember there was a pianist of some note there too, who played souped-up versions of popular classics. Anna knew her song without any help from me, and all I did was keep up with her. She was also another very focused young singer with a remarkable gift of a voice, and is proving that by the way she’s forged ahead so early in her career.
Photos from The Newsletter of the Kiri te Kanawa Foundation

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Online Shopping

I’ve just been watching an online video for the company, Magnet Commerce, and it was very tempting to sign up for their 15 day free trial! The only trouble is I’d probably want to go further than the trial, and at the moment I really don’t have the justification for opening an online shop.

Magnet Commerce offers the software to get a shop online for someone who wants to sell online but doesn’t have the means or expertise to get the thing off the ground. You don’t have to download anything – which is always a plus. Everything is provided online, even graphics if you don’t want to upload those yourself. It’s like having a database, catalogue, invoicing system, and admin all on tap.

There were several times when I debated doing this kind of thing with OC Books when I was there, but we never quite got to a decision on the subject. (When I say ‘we’ I mean I never persuaded myself that this was the way to go…at that point.) If I’d come across Magnetcommerce ecommerce software, I might have gone for it. It’s not hugely expensive (the price depends on where you’re working from) especially when you compare all the costs of setting up such a thing yourself.

At OC Books, the suppliers who had online databases were the ones you tended to go back to more readily than those that would reply when they got round to it. With online databases you could tell at the drop of a hat whether the company had something on hand, or how long it would take to get it. That’s my kind of system.

Magnet Commerce also supports multiple languages and multiple currencies on the same store. That’s pretty effective: I could start a shop that sold to people in countries as widespread as India and Indonesia, Ireland and Iran. You don’t have to have a separate ‘shop’ for each location: you just manage them all from the one application. Ah, you say, but would they support all sorts of languages? Well, according to their site: "Any language you want to enable can be supported. Simply contact us and let us know which languages you want to use!" You can deal in multiple currencies too.
Another advantage, they tell me, is that their system is built on the latest ASP.NET 2.0 technology also using Microsoft SQL database. Unfortunately I don’t exactly know what that means, but it sounds impressive. I recognise SQL, because my son and I have talked about it a few times – it means Structured Query Language, if that’s any help. It’s a way of getting information from a database, and updating the database in return. (That’s putting it somewhat simply!)

Being of a curious nature, I checked out Microsoft ASP.NET on Google. It’s a free technology that allows programmers to create dynamic web applications, and can be used to create anything from small, personal websites through to large, enterprise-class web applications. You can see I’m pretty enthusiastic about Magnet Commerce. Good!

Disclosure statement

Re-Viewing Smash Palace

I've just watched Smash Palace again after some twenty plus years. It stands up well to the test of time, and though I remembered certain scenes quite well, others had gone completely – including the ending, thank goodness, which, when you think about it, is borrowed from Buster Keaton’s The General.
It has the feel of an ‘art’ film, rather than a commercial one – though it was a commercial success. (The Piano was also an art film, and borrowed heavily from the moody and gloomy 60s/70s European art films, borrowed without somehow taking up their intellectual depth.)
Smash Palace has the great advantage of starring Bruno Lawrence – and Greer Robson. Their scenes together are a delight (apparently she regarded him as a kind of a second father, her own father having abandoned his family sometime before she made the movie), and the film would never have been the success it was without these two. Anna Jemison (these days, for some reason, known as Anna Maria Monticelli) is good, has a kind of glow onscreen and is effective, but doesn’t receive the sympathy she perhaps should. Donaldson himself was having some marriage problems at the time he wrote the script and these are reflected in the way he treats the characters. You root for Lawrence much more readily than for Jemison, who comes across as being rather selfish.
In a documentary on the DVD version, someone notes that American actors such as Jack Nicholson greatly admired Lawrence for his absolute honesty and openness on the screen – and the raw emotion he could bring. The same person comments that while actors such as Nicholson have those same sorts of qualities, it’s unlikely any of them would ever do the scene in which Lawrence divests himself of all his clothes – except his gumboots – and stands there shouting (‘with his dick hanging out’ says the person) at his wife and her ostensible lover. The scene could have been ridiculous; somehow with Lawrence it’s believable. Even the kidnapping of the girl in the chemist’s survives – although it’s absurd – because Lawrence makes it work.
And there are a couple of wonderful lines connected to this scene: as Lawrence is dragging the girl out of the shop she weeps that she can’t go with him: she’s got a hair appointment at three o’clock. It’s so ridiculous in the middle of the tension that it works. Later, as Bruno lets her go, he says, ‘Hurry up, you’ve only got a few minutes.’ She turns to look at him, terrified that he’s changed his mind about letting her get away. ‘What for?’ she asks. ‘Your hair appointment.’

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Smaller and smaller cellphones

My kids and my wife have always been enthusiasts for the latest in cellphones – and they’re constantly taking pictures on them, as well as short videos. I’m still in the basic cellphone mode, because it’s taken me a while to be bothered with having a cellphone, and all I really need one for is a bit of communication now and then. Such as when the car stops in the middle of nowhere, as it did when we were travelling to Christchurch the other day. One minute going fine, next minute going nowhere.
My daughter tells me the Motorola Z3 is commonly called The Razor (based on the initials RIZR). It’s razor thin, amongst things, and it has – well, I don’t know what it doesn’t have. A click flick through the list tells me there’s Bluetooth wireless technology, colour screen, data capability, email connectivity, handsfreeability, MP3 player usability, and voice dialability. Why would you go anywhere else? as the ad (for something else) goes.
And of course, most important of all – for some people – you can get stylish ring tones, and groovy screen tattoos. (Screen tattoos? Oh, will you get with it! They’re like tattoos that you’d have on your body except that you have them on your screen. It’s obvious.)
Ring tonability and screen tattooability. And did I mention it’s razor thinability, too?
You can buy the Motorola MOTOKRZR online, wherever you are.
Disclosure statement

Friday, January 19, 2007

godunedin

I mentioned godunedin.co.nz a couple of posts ago. At first it appeared not to exist, but it does, and the helpdesk at gopromotions has just informed me that it "is currently Dunedin's busiestwebsite with half a million pages viewed each month."
I've just had a proper look at it - now that I've found it - and it's certainly a lively site. If you want to know anything about our fair city, check it out. It's even got a webcam going - you can move across eight different locations and see what bits of us look like.

Ranting about parking machines

I’m puzzled about one thing to do with parking machines. I don’t mean the parking meters littered along practically every road in Dunedin, but the machines that are installed in parking buildings. Most particularly the one in the building in Moray Place that was only opened up for parking less than a year ago. Firstly they installed a machine that takes coins and notes. Notes, you say – that’s pretty radical. Well, it would be if it was effective. One morning I stood beside a young fellow trying to put a five dollar note into the machine over and over and the machine just wasn’t interested. But the machine was installed not long before the advent of our new coinage, which the Treasury decided in its wisdom would be as different from our old coinage as possible. Thus the machine was out of date as soon as it was installed.
All that would be okay, but whenever I go to park in this place I have the problem of whether I have any change or not. I barely ever carry change, since I pay most things with my Eftpos card.
Why on earth wasn’t a machine installed that would take cards rather than coins? It would have been twice as cost effective in the first instance, and not only that there must be a lot less wear and tear on an Eftpos style machine than a coin-operated one. It’s not as though the machine is stuck out in the street where access to phone lines would have been an issue.
Most of the other parking buildings in town still have humans operating the system. I don’t want to put anyone out of a job, but again, Eftpos would be far more satisfactory. Heck, I can even go to the tip (sorry, the transit station, I think it now is) and pay by Eftpos.

Planning the Great Event

Sometimes website names are a little confusing to read. For instance there’s one I regularly see when I walk into town: godunedin.co.nz. Without fail I read it as God-Dunedin.co.nz, rather that what it is: Go! Dunedin.co.nz
I had a look at a site called regonline.com today. At first I thought it was Region Line.com. See how the eye tells the brain incorrect messages? I wondered what on earth a company called Region Line would do, and had to check it out. Turns out they’re called Reg on Line (Reg being short for Registration, so the ‘g’ is soft), and they promote software that makes it easy - very easy in fact – to get a function up and running and attend to all the details. If I was about to set up a function, which unfortunately I’m not, I’d go for this at the drop of a hat. It seems to me superb. The focus is on Online Registration.
There was only one small point I picked up on and that was so minor, and didn’t stop me going ahead with a free registration, that it isn’t worth worrying about. As part of their registration process (to join the site) they ask where you heard about them. Amongst other things they ask if you have a special promotion code. Nope, I didn’t, but it didn’t seem to matter as I couldn’t see where to put any code anyway.
Small beer. The rest of the site is very easy to access, and their demo video makes it plain that this is pretty easy software to use. It has the look of something like the Eudora email program – and probably quite a few other programs as well, and immediately it makes you feel at home. I can understand this! you say.
Everything is integrated in the program, from emailouts to ways to invoice and charge, from reports to follow-ups. They even tell you how much it would cost – and suggest the best pricing options. That’s not something everyone will do online.
We could have done with something like this for our son’s wedding a couple of years or more ago. Or rather, they could have, as they did most of the organising of who was coming – after a bit of argy-bargy with us! If he’d known about this, I’m sure my son would have gone for it hook, line and sinker. He loves programming his life – as well as his work. I can just see him emailing all his guests to fill in the Event Registration Forms that are available here. It would have saved him a lot of time on his laptop! And some stress (as if getting married wasn’t stressful enough in the first place…)
Disclosure statement

Thursday, January 18, 2007

This is a rather wandering piece…

In the 1950s there used to be a recording artist called Ronnie Ronalde (the emphasis was on the second syllable). Ronnie’s gift to the world was the ability to whistle, (and yodel, I've just discovered) not just like your man in the street (never heard a woman whistling in the street); Ronnie could do all sorts of bird calls, and he had a considerable range and a great deal of flexibility. He was very popular on the 4ZB Request session which played every Sunday around lunchtime, so I guess he was pretty popular generally.
For some reason I was reminded of Ronnie this morning. Also in the 1950s cinemas used to show ‘shorts’ – short films on all sorts of topics which appeared before the Intermission. Some of these must have been years old when we saw them, and some of them were extremely cheaply made. One I recall with some sort of strange horror presented a band, which had a man who whistled with them. At one point the man whistled the tune for what seemed like a very long time. He was presented full on, with no variation, and no cutting away to anyone else in the band. A man whistling is not a pretty sight, even though the sound may be okay. For a start he can’t really smile, so the face presents a permanent pucker. This guy didn’t move either, so as a figure in a film he was what you would call, static. And it wasn’t actually that easy to tell that he was whistling. Anyone could have been doing it.
How times have changed. Filmmaking is often frantic. Some films know how to put dancing across – Shall We Dance, for instance – but others, such as Moulin Rouge, are a nightmare of cutting. In the big dance sequences in that film there was so much chop cutting that the dancers could have been dancing or standing still. It wouldn’t have made any difference: the editor was doing all the dancing.
Peter Jackson’s movies are made up of thousands of shots – for better or worse. As David Bordwell was commenting in a book I was reading a couple of days ago, The Way Hollywood Tells It, Jackson sometimes cuts in such a way that you often don’t see the actors’ acted reaction to what’s going on, only Jackson’s version of it - which, in fact, may have been filmed at a different time and place. In Brian Sibley’s book on Peter Jackson, we’re told that an emotional scene between Frodo and Sam was actually filmed in two places, a year apart. The shots showing Frodo speaking were shot a year in advance of the shots showing Sam speaking, though you wouldn’t know it on the screen.
Bordwell says the Hong Kong action films, for all their frenetic behaviour, do actually have scenes in which characters can be seen on screen together, which gives the actors a chance to react in their own way, rather than as the director cuts it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A little more arty stuff

It's an arts day today. A friend sent me a link to an article that was published in the Telegraph by Michael Henderson on Schubert. It's a bit gushy, but Henderson is obviously a Schubert devotee. I'm not, though I must say I love some of his music. Some of it, as I've said previously, 'rabbits' on a bit - to me. Nevertheless, as I said to my friends, any composer who can write The Trout Quintet, can be forgiven any less than perfect music that he might have written.

You can listen to some samples from the Quintet by clicking on this link at Amazon.com

Promote Yourself! Now!

I’ve talked about the late Lindsay Crooks before in this blog. Apart from being an artist of high calibre, he also thoroughly enjoyed surfing. At this funeral it was a surprise, I think, to the arty people, to find that the church also contained a large number of (ageing) surfies.
But something else was special about Lindsay. He was one of the few artists I know who had marketing ability. I guess Grahame Sydney is another; certainly his work is available in many reproductions and books, but Lindsay seemed to do it with a certain ease. We first met when he walked into my shop one day saying he’d met my wife up at the Health Centre and she’d suggested coming to see me. What he was doing was hiring out his unsold paintings at a very reasonable price for three months at a time. It provided Lindsay with an audience for the works, and the hirer with a certain thrill in ‘owning’ something special for a time, and the opportunity to have a change of picture regularly. All, as I said, for a very reasonable price. In fact the price was ridiculous, but the value of it was that it made Lindsay known. We would never have come across him personally in any other way. As it was, after that we would look out for his work, or go and see it in galleries – eventually we even bought a piece, something unheard of for us.
Artists aren’t, in general, good at self-promotion. Like builders and carpenters and other tradesmen who work for themselves, they won’t to get on with the job. Selling your skills and products is another ‘job’ altogether and many tradesmen and artists don’t have that ability. We have some other friends, husband and wife Wally Crossman and Rosalie Gillies, who are excellent artists. But neither of them is good at promotion, and it’s only in the last few years that they’ve had the recognition they deserve because others have promoted them.
I’ve come across a site that seeks to rectify this issue for artists. It focuses on fine art marketing, and is presented in the form of a blog (like this one). One post offers the following suggestions as kind of marketing resolutions for 2007:

Do read an inspiring book from a great direct marketer. Find out what kind of results other people get from good marketing and sales tactics, and get excited about the subject.
Don’t read books about "brand marketing" if you’re a solo or small business. Brand management is for the big guys.
Do make a note of just one or two new marketing activities you will put into action in the first quarter of 2007.
Don’t spend your money on printed promotional material unless you know exactly where it’s needed (for example, at a trade show)
Do sign up for our free mini-course at the top of this page, if you haven’t
already.


I think this is a great site offering good ideas, and links to other good ideasDisclosure statement

Lewis: quiet - and atheism

C S Lewis writes that the way not to hear from God goes along these lines:

Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.

From Christian Reflections, pages 168-9 (Eerdmans edition).

You’ll note that television isn’t mentioned here, but it’s possibly because it didn’t feature large on Lewis’ horizon. Nevertheless, it deserves a place – even a place of honour – in this list of great distractions.

I recently came across the Atheists/Atheism section on About.com by accident. The rather arrogant-looking guide to this site, Austin Cline, (I would regard him as arrogant-looking even if he wasn’t running this part of About.com), has an article – one of several – on C S Lewis, in which he asks if Lewis’ theological arguments are any good. At the end of his article, which is designed to show that Lewis wasn’t all he’s cracked up to be, and that he’s only popular with believers, not with anyone else, he says:


Even one of Lewis’ most sympathetic biographers, A.N. Wilson, writes that Lewis "has become in the quarter-century since he died something very like a saint in the minds of conservative-minded believers." At the same time, though, you won’t find professional theologians and sophisticated apologists citing C.S. Lewis or relying on his arguments in their own efforts.
Theology builds upon the insights and accomplishments of those who have come before, but Lewis doesn’t even appear to function as a minor plank in anyone’s platform. This combination of general popularity and professional dismissal is very curious — either the average believer knows something which the professionals have missed, or Lewis isn’t the apologist he is popularly believed to be.

That Cline could regard Wilson as a ‘sympathetic’ biographer is peculiar, since Wilson does all he can in his book to cut away the so-called hagiography, and to make Lewis ‘just’ a man.

Equally, Cline’s point that professional theologians and apologists don’t cite Lewis means nothing. Lewis never claimed to be a theologian; he wrote for the man in the street, trying to clarify theology and bring it into ordinary language. His task was never to produce theology, something he would have regarded as absurd, I suspect. Anyway, apologists don’t invent theology either. They aim to explain the theology that already exists.

It's interesting that all the articles I noted on Cline's section of About.com are defensive: arguments against what Christians say about atheists ('brights,' remember?). There's no atheism on its own, per se. Isn't this just a little curious?

One Man's Faith Journey

James Robertson, from our church, has been cycling through NZ from top to bottom (he’s in the middle of the South Island at present, I think), to raise awareness and funds for Tear Fund. Good on yer, James! James is a great guy, and even though he’s used to cycling long distances (a cycle ride from Dunedin city over the top road to the end of the Peninsula and back again is quite normal for him) this long trip is something out of the bag.
I have to have been wrong, but twice on the radio last night, when I was at work, I heard something in relation to Tear Fund which seemed rather odd. It sounded as though they had given a prize for a couple to go and see a work they were supporting in somewhere (I never managed to catch where) to check out the water project that was going on. And then…the couple were going onto Bali for a couple of days in a luxury hotel! Seemed a bit of irony going on here. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong – I can’t see anything about it on Tear Fund’s site. I hope so.

Campolo/Kendrick Tour

I'm most disappointed to discover that Tony Campolo and Graham Kendrick won’t be coming to Dunedin on their NZ tour. They’re going to Invercargill, but not Dunedin? How can such things be?
I’ve admired Campolo for years: his wit, his storytelling, his utter energy, his enthusiasm for God and his ability to communicate it to others, his intelligence and theology, and his willingness to step out into areas that many Christian speakers avoid - such as homosexuality – and give his honest opinions on the subject. Which usually aren’t the same as many other Christians. (He’d probably disagree with the latest Presbyterian approach to dealing with gay ministers, for example; maybe he wouldn’t!)
He’s a bit scary: he puts your own Christianity in the spotlight and makes you question where you’re at – but that’s okay. We need people with what-might-be-called a modern prophetic gift in the wider church. (Far preferable to those who have a ‘prophetic gift’ that’s always proclaiming doom and gloom for the world in general. Sure there were OT prophets like that, but they mixed it with some hope!) Campolo’s prophetic gifting is to focus on issues within the Body and expect some changes to come. He never says, ‘Thus saith the Lord’, but he might often be doing so, in fact.
Yes, I’d probably like to see Graham Kendrick too, although I’m not sure that he’s written anything startling in the music scene for quite some time. He certainly pioneered a bit of a move in the Christian music scene: some of his early songs were outstanding and very popular with congregations. But some of them are also quite awful – the one called, (I think) God of the Poor, is very earnest, and the words themselves make sense, and deal with good issues, and the tune is not too bad, but somehow it never seems to come off, to me, as a whole. Then again, it doesn’t help to have heard Kendrick himself singing it: he has one of those melancholy voices that don’t record well. (Although, if it comes to that, melancholy seems the ‘in’ thing for Christian singers, especially worship leaders. Don’t you hate that catch-in-the-throat thing they all do? And the kind of sobbing feel they use when they’re ‘talking’ to God in a live worship recording? Where’s the joy?)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Douglas Lilburn

I know Douglas Lilburn is supposed to be one of the greatest composers New Zealand has produced, but for the life of me I can’t enjoy his music. Almost without exception it seems to have nothing I can call a melody, or even a melodic line. Okay this might not be considered any big deal, except that he seems to rely on little rhythmic phrases or small movements repeated again and again, and in the end there’s nothing you can hang your hat on.
His early music almost gets melodic, and then it’s as if he eschewed (word of the day) the idea of melody and decided as time went on he’d go for nothing that struck anyone in the nature of a melody. Now there are plenty of composers who can’t be considered melodic in the first instance, but none of them seem quite to throw melody out the window, the way Lilburn does. By the time he’s in the middle of his career he’s writing stuff that floats around the piano but doesn’t seem to have any beginning, middle or end, and in his later works he’s even tossed that stuff aside and gone for electronic music – which of course makes him very modern and therefore the darling of all those who chase modernism as an idol to be adored at all costs. Even their musical commonsense.
I struggle to like his music, as I mostly struggle to like Colin McCahon’s paintings. I hear the crowd saying both are very good, but I struggle to hear or see it. More on this anon, no doubt!
Just remembered that I have performed Sings Harry with a singer, Brent Read, in the last few years, and yes, there is some music there, but.....
What am I trying to say about it? That it's an exception to my criticism above. Maybe. It certainly has a melancholic quality, but it's also fairly early in his canon.
You can hear some of his music by clicking here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Me and Trade Me

My wife and I went to Christchurch on Friday, partly to give her a bit of a holiday away from the house (even though she’s been on holiday for three weeks, we’d had to stay at home because I’m working evenings at present); partly to see my daughter and her partner, and her toddler, who’s just begun to walk; and, as an added inventive, partly to dip in and out of various secondhand bookshops and op shops and such on the way to find some books to sell on Trade Me.
We didn’t come back exactly loaded up with books, but there are certainly enough there to keep me going for a few weeks. And it’ll give me a chance to list some new stock as opposed to the items I’ve listed several times before.
Trade Me is surely one of NZ’s phenomena. What other institution in the country (apart from the government, perhaps) can you mention in conversation and everyone else will have had some experience of it? If they haven’t bought on Trade Me themselves, they’ll know someone who has – and they ‘got this great bargain’ – and the details will come pouring out.
My daughter regularly sells on Trade Me and is quite canny with it. She doesn’t appear to be a businesswoman, but when it comes to that sort of business, she’s very shrewd. And within the wider family I think everyone has bought something – everyone! That’s quite extraordinary, when you think about it.
This isn’t an advertisement for Trade Me – or for my involvement on it – as some of these posts quite unabashedly are. But if you’re interested in checking out what I’m selling, just click here!

Searching less far and wide

I just spent a quarter of an hour unpacking a piece of gobbledegook advertising language that appeared in a job advertisement. "Including reporting (standard and non standard) and provider/public liaison, and audit and compliance activities" was just one of the job requirements. Put simply, does it mean: telling the boss what you’re doing if he inquires, being able to speak to the customers in real English, making sure the petty cash hasn’t been filched, and coming to work on time? I think it might.
I won’t be going for this job, somehow; if I can’t make sense of how they talk in the advertisement, how will I understand them in reality? Would I have to translate everything everybody said, or would they talk in plain English?
I came across a phrase today: Vertically Searching for Meaning. This is a whole new concept to me, and again it’s taken me a bit of translating to get my head around it.
Basically, a Vertical Search is a more specific search than something like a general search, such as Google does. Google searches far and wide from its index of recorded webpages, and though it’s superb at what it does, it can also give a lot of irrelevant information. This is neither the fault of Google nor the searcher.
Vertical search engines, however, search a database that contains information related to a specific topic. It’s like the Encyclopaedia Britannica as opposed to a map index to your local city and its environs – though of course the comparison isn’t exact. Vertical searches, therefore, are of much more use to people wanting a particular focus. Thus there are search engines for doctors, job seekers, real estate – and others: I guess some of the ones I’ve talked about in the last few weeks would come into this category. Roughly.
Of course advertisers are interested in these vertical search databases, because it allows them to focus their advertising in a much more specific way. While Google’s adsense ads for the most part align themselves to the topic in hand – for the most part – ads on these databases know exactly what’s of interest and that makes all the difference.
Well, there, now that I’ve explained it to myself, I’m much happier!
Disclosure statement

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wonderful sustained visual comedy

Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Since I first discovered Wallace and Gromit, I’ve been a great fan. I love the detail in their movies, detail which repays constant revisits, and I love the humour which is not only dry and English, but is often subtle, and almost missed.
This full-length feature has all these qualities in abundance, and it has a neat plot which is complicated enough without being complex. But I think what made it so appealing was its laugh-out-loud quality. There were moments while watching this when my wife and I were barely unable to stop laughing because of the sheer silliness and invention in the humour. (Normally my wife has a habit of going to sleep during animated movies, evenin the cinema.) The climax of the film is an absolute delight, and what’s more it’s full of references to recent movies, notably Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
In spite of its animated approach, this is comedy for adults far more than for children. The many jokes, the obvious and the not-so-obvious, will mostly float over the heads of young ones. They’re intended for people with a bit of life experience, and with a residue of background material to compare the humour against. (Keep an eye out for what's behind the vicar, and 'her ladyship' in the church scene.)
Even though there is dialogue in this movie, it’s the silent comedy aspect of it that’s most effective. We couldn’t do without the wonderful comic vocals of Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter, but far more of the humour is located in Gromit’s silent facial expressions and his ability to bring home the bacon when all else fails. It reminds me of Buster Keaton’s movies. They had dialogue, but it was only there to move the plot along. The greatest moments are purely visual, as they are in this film, and all the more effective for it.

Something that’s always interested me.

Most of us will have applied various ointments to various parts of our bodies at various times in our lives. The applying is fine, and we expect the ointment to do the trick because it’s been applied to the unhealthy area. But what about the ointment that we have on the hand that isn’t unhealthy, the one that's done the applying? Okay we may wash it off, but for a short time at least, that ointment presumably is going to work on a hand or finger that’s already okay. Isn’t it a bit scary thinking about what it might be doing? Might that finger or hand be even more healthy than normal?

Being Civil

I’ve had a lot to do with recruitment firms over the last few months, since I left my last job. I’ve found that unless you stay on their case, they don’t stay on yours. One reason I got for this, is that they’ve got new people coming in all the time that they have to deal with. A flabby excuse, I say. What’s the point of taking you onto their books if they’re not going to do their best for you?
Anyway, I’ve complained about them enough online already in other places. Maybe some of my complaints are unjustified, maybe not. Maybe I’m just a complainer by nature – which is probably why I write a lot.
The sort of work I’m looking for, pretty much, is general office work. I’m good with figures, data, computers, admin – all those sorts of things. Pity I wasn’t a civil engineer, because there’s a recruitment company in the States who, (I quote), don’t ‘churn’ "through old resumes; we focus on dialing hot prospects and building relationships……CSI makes every effort to customize the search to fit your needs." They sound like my kind of people. They sound proactive. They sound as though they wouldn’t put you on the back burner and expect you to keep bursting into flames to get noticed.
So, if you’re looking for Civil Engineer Jobs or are out to recruit a Civil Engineer (no point coming to me, I’m not civil enough), CSI are your people. They give me confidence – and when you’re out of work that’s something you soon lack!
Disclosure statement

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The dude has talent...!

Just to prove there's never a new idea under the sun, I discovered today that the idea of Jackson directing Potter has already been mooted - as I should have known it would be. I don't know if the site is still accessible - I had to use Google's cache approach to pick it up, but seems on Petition Spot, back in 2005, someone started a petition to get Jackson to direct the next Potter movie.
Peter Jackson really needs to direct harry potter and the order of the pheonix, harry potter and the half blood prince, and harry potter 7. hopefully you all saw the wonders with what he did with lord of the rings the dude has talent. maybe if he directs Harry potter might actually win the oscars. please sign my petition you'll be helping a awesome book become an awesome movie. plus all of the other directors ruin the books!!!!!!! stick to the books u stupid directors!!!!!
I love the comment: 'the dude has talent'.
And here's a comment on the petition:
Peter Jackson has a great talent that not manydirectors have. He manages to extract the mostcritical points from a book and display itmagnificently on the movies. This can be seen fromthe LOTR trilogy. He also manages to add manyinteresting pieces of the plot that were not foundin the book and adds life to the movie. King Kongwas another great movie. Also, I hope IanMcKellen can be cast as Dumbledore as the currentDumbledore is too aggressive.
Yeah! Go McKellan!

Baldwin St

Baldwin St may be popular with tourists, but it’s not so popular with the people who live in it. Does that make sense?
You know, of course, what Baldwin St is famous for, because you read your Guinness Book of Records, or the Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand. It’s the steepest street in the world, isn’t it!
I remember having an email conversation with someone about this one time, because he claimed that there was a street in San Francisco that was steeper, and set out some mathematical stuff that I didn’t in the least understand, to prove it. Well, whether it is, or whether it isn’t, it’s regarded as being, and that’s enough for me. (Actually I’ve just noticed in the paper this morning that there was a battle over this issue in 2003, and we won!)
However, steepness draws loonies, and with there being up to 20,000 students in the city during the Varsity year, it’s not surprising there gain some additional loonies. (We actually have enough of our own without importing any, by the way.)
In 2001 one loony student ‘drove’ his girlfriend down the street in a wheelie bin (a rubbish bin on wheels) and killed her when they crashed. And just the other day several loonies in a car (littered with booze bottles and such) careened down the street at an estimated 150 kph and crashed into the Hospice at the bottom.
These are the sorts of things that make the street unpopular with those who live there: they hate the drongos who see the street as a challenge to their (inept) driving skills.
Quite honestly, it’s not a street I’d care to live in. I once worked as a survey interviewer, and got Baldwin St on my list. It ain’t fun to climb, I can tell you.

Moving right along...!

The need for self storage is huge these days, with half the world’s population seemingly constantly on the move – and I’m definitely not talking about refugees.
What did people do in the past? Probably what our kids still do: leave all their gear with Mum and Dad. It’s just as well we’ve got a large house. At one time we had all the furniture and most of the belongings of my son and daughter-in-law packed into the room I’m typing this in, packed to the gunnels, in fact. And we also had various other items belonging to the other children, stuff they’d left (and in some cases forgotten about) and stuff they intended to pick up…some time.
Here in Dunedin we’ve got several storage facilities. The old Roslyn Mills, where my mother worked for many years, has now been partly turned into a self storage facility. And it’s amazing how much you can pack into a small space. I remember helping shift someone who’d had most of their stuff in storage. We walked down this alleyway of what was rather like a prison without any little windows in the doors to see the prisoners, arrived at what appeared to be a pokey little ‘room’, and found that it contained, quite happily, a houseful of goods. When we have our furniture stacked around the room, we don’t realise how little the space is that it would take up if we packed it all on top of itself. Not so convenient for the average householder of course, but it would leave quite a bit of floor space free. (To put up a large table-tennis table, as we have.)
Moving.bz (haven’t seen one of those suffixes before) is a great site to figure out in advance where you’re going to put all your gear. And what’s more it has some very good advice on the whole process of moving.
Disclosure statement

More news on Peter Jackson

If he directs the Harry Potter series he’s going to insist on them being filmed in NZ. "Not only is Weta Workshops extremely capable, but we have the scenery. Some of the scenery in previous Potter movies has been all CGI. Here we can make a complete reversal of this process, and use real scenery!"
There’s been some concern about him having to drag a large cast all the way to NZ to film the last two movies in the series. One agent particularly mentioned that Dame Maggie Smith is now quite elderly, and prefers not to travel far to make movies. "If she could shoot the film in her own living room, she’d be happy!"
Jackson is not fazed by this. "We could get Andy Serkis to do the part, and then use CGI to turn him into Maggie Smith! It’s quite simple. She could do the vocal part of the role. We’d probably need to do a moderate amount of filming of her, to get the movements right, but these could probably be done in her living room, in fact!"

Trust and faith - dealing with them

In chapter five of Philip Yancey’s book, Reaching for the Invisible God, he quotes Jean-Pierre de Caussade, an 18th century spiritual director: "A living faith is nothing else than a steadfast pursuit of God through all that disguises, disfigures, demolishes and seeks, so to speak, to abolish him."

Yancey adds, "In theory, if not in practice, I take everything without exception as God’s action in the sense of asking what I can learn from it and praying for God to redeem it by improving me. I take nothing as God’s action in the sense of judging God’s character, for I have learned to accept my puny status as a creature – which includes a limited point of view that obscure unseen forces in the present as well as a future known only to God. The sceptic may insist this unfairly lets God off the hook, but perhaps that’s what faith is: trusting God’s goodness despite any apparent evidence against it. as a soldier trusts his general’s orders; better, as a child trusts her loving parents."

One doesn’t have to be a sceptic to think about letting God off the hook: I’ve done it plenty of times myself. But in the end you either have to come back to the point Yancey talks about, or go down the plughole. I’d prefer not to do the latter.

Getting well away from it all

I’m not the world’s greatest traveller, and nor have I ever thought much about staying in popular resorts in a large vacation home close to the beach where the sea spray can be felt from the front door on a breezy morning. (Waxing lyrical here!) Well, part of the reason is that I’ve never had the cash to do this, and part of the reason is that I don’t like moving far from home! My wife, on the other hand, would go anywhere at the drop of a hat – and sometimes I’ve been swept up and taken as a result, to some place I wouldn’t have thought of going. We even decked out our Toyota TownAce once with its own temporary curtains and slept in it in places we felt like stopping at.
But I must say that reading the Gebhart Properties page on the Net is very enticing! And slightly different to sleeping in a TownAce. These are exclusive resort locations in the Hawaiian Islands. The houses have spacious living areas, custom furnishings, and specially commissioned artwork.
One of condominiums sleeps 6 and offers a mere 2,576 square feet of living space with private elevator access, gourmet kitchen, and outstanding views of Anaeho'omalu Bay and Kileaua. Private elevator access….I love it! 2,576 square feet: I’d just about be able to fit into that!
Another comfortably sleeps up to 8 people and features full-sized kitchens and expansive lanais (a verandah or roofed patio), two master suites and a private wading pool. Your own wading pool seems a little superfluous when you’re that close to the beach, but am I complaining?
You can check these out under this link: Maui Vacation Rental. After the kind of miserable winter we’ve had, and the almost equally miserable summer Maui seems worth making the effort for. It might break the bank, but what the heck? I’m unemployed anyway!
Disclosure statement

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Peter Jackson Movies?

News has reached us today that Peter Jackson, the renowned director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the second remake of King Kong, has a couple of ideas in the pipeline for his next productions after he completes his new version of The Dam Busters.
"I’ve been intrigued by the Harry Potter series, and the way different directors have viewed the original books and produced quite different perspectives. I’ve proposed that the last two books in the series be made back to back (those kids aren’t getting any younger, you know) and I’d like to direct them. Of course, Fran and Phillipa and I would write the scripts, as usual."
But this isn’t the only idea Mr Jackson has up his sleeve. The famous operatic Ring Cycle by Richard Wagner is also in his sights. "These aren’t as well known as Tolkien’s trilogy, of course, so we’d have a bit more leeway to play around with the story. Probably Howard Shore, whose music has such a Wagnerian quality anyway, would be called in to do some rewriting of the original score."
The four operas in the Cycle: Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdamerung – translated as The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried and The Twilight of the Gods – are just the sort of epic drama that Mr Jackson has so admirably put on the screen in his previous masterpieces.
"There’s plenty of room for CGI, and maybe even a bit of splatter," he said jokingly, referring to his earlier movies, Braindead and Bad Taste. "No one has ever managed to stage the Ride of the Valkyries effectively. I believe we can make it one of the most hair-raising scenes in movie history. And the descent into the Rhine, and the forging of the Sword. It’s just waiting to be captured on screen!"
Mr Jackson feels certain Andy Serkis would have a part to play in the movies. "He’s done so well at conveying the essential character of Gollum and Kong, that we couldn’t possibly leave him out. He’d make a great Fafner, the brother who turns into a dragon."
Already Mr Jackson’s agents are at work dealing with the rights to these works. Mr Jackson is confident, given his status in the movie world, that gaining the rights will be no big deal.

More Musos

A friend commented that she 'Missed Mozart and Schubert, and Faure in the earlier blog. Well, it wasn't an intentional miss.

I enjoy all three of these composers (though sometimes find Schubert has a bit of a tendency to rabbit on in his piano works). I've struggled to be able to play one particular piece by Faure for many years. It not only has three against two - it was the first piece, I think, in which I encountered this difficulty, and the pencil notes from my teacher are still on the page - but it also has a stinker of a chromatic run at speed, and I'm blowed if I can figure out the sequence of it.

And Faure's Requiem is a favourite of mine, too (in complete contrast to another favourite Requiem, by Verdi, which is one of the all time great Requiems). I got to know it before I went overseas, and then heard that a local choral group was presenting it, in London. (I think my uncle may have encouraged me to go.) It was a dismal performance - but then, it seemed to me that the amateur strata in England was considerably below the skill level of the amateur strata in NZ.

I'm a sucker for coupons!

You might have seen, when shopping on Amazon.com, a note about entering your coupon number here. I’d always thought this was some special deal I wasn’t privy to. However, I’ve discovered today that these coupons are readily available, and not only for Amazon. They’re part of a system of online coupons (rather like the ones you find on the back of your supermarket till tape), and they apply to a wide range of items. Of course, books was what I checked out first. At present Amazon is offering coupons not only on text books, ($15 off $150) but also – rather oddly, considering I always think of Amazon as a bookshop primarily, on kitchen and household items. Once I’d got the bug I started checking out other things: for instance BestBuy are offering 2 DVDs for $20 (remember I’m quoting everything in US dollars here, for once). These aren’t your old hat DVDs that no one can shift of the shelf either: King Kong is there and a range of other recent titles.
Oh, dear, CouponChief is another site to bookmark. That makes about 300 ‘favourites’ so far! LOL
Disclosure statement

Blogged out...almost

In my current search for some money-making projects on the Net, I signed up with yet another blog crowd last night: Blogit. I'll give them a trial month to see how they go in terms of being moneymakers; have a suspicion it'll cost me as much as I'll gain. Quite apart from the effort of writing posts to up to four blogs a day (that's four at different sites, not all on Blogit!) By the way, unless you want to pay for the privilege of seeing what I'm writing on Blogit, I'm afraid it's going to be off-limits.

The writing isn't difficult; it's the keeping up with everything. Some smaller things will have to drop away, things that make so little money a time that they aren't worth bothering with longterm. And then today I received a reject for every single review I'd done on a particular site! Not specific enough. That's vague, isn't it? This from a site that has no account for each individual involved, so you have no idea where your material has gone. Nor does it show what you've made - or in my case, haven't made. Well, they can keep their US$1.50 a review (it was $2.00 when I first looked - they must have seen me coming!)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dropping the Mail

Ever wondered about those places in movies where the hero picks up his mail in what doesn’t seem to be a post office? Or when he sends it off care of some obscure address that obviously isn’t his own? I’ve never had the opportunity to use a mail drop service, and until today didn’t even realise there were such things in New Zealand. I only came across the NZ addresses when I was checking out a US-based service that’s a directory of mail forwarding, mailboxes and remailing services. For once I could be a person with a reason to post a parcel to a NZ address that isn’t my own, and know where to find such a place. Equally, of course, I could post it to Bulgaria, Liechtenstein, Colombia, or the Seychelles, or dozens of addresses in the States. (The problem then would be to go and pick the mysterious parcel up, but that’s another issue.)
So what is a maildrop service? It’s a secure address, recognised by the postal service, where you can rent a box and effectively use it as postal address. Sometimes it’s an office that will either hold your mail, or forward it on elsewhere. (Convenient if you’re being hounded by someone and you don’t want them to know where the secret map has been stored. You know the kind of thing.) Of course you don’t have to be a man/woman on the run: you can be an ordinary person who just doesn’t happen to have a proper mailbox at the moment, or is away from home a lot, or has a nosy neighbour who insists on checking out your letterbox before you get home.
If only so many of the villains in movies used this system: how much more difficult they’d make it for the heroes! LOL

aka Alfred

The Internet use of the Indian word, Avatar is rather odd. It’s been used in its current meaning for years, apparently: as far back as 1985 according to one source. But it’s appearance on Internet forums, such as myLot, is probably more recent.
For those who haven’t come across an avatar in this style, it now usually appears in the form of a picture to the side of a post (a blog post, or forum post, rather than one on the side of the road!) and is intended to convey something of the character of the person writing – this is necessary in view of the fact that in most forums anonymity is the norm, with people’s real names hidden behind user names.
MyLot’s avatars can be one of your own pictures, and for me that’s preferable to some odd cartoon, or computer-produced job. On the other hand, on another forum where I sometimes write, Paypost, you can choose your own avatar from a fairly limited selection available. The closest picture to my way of presenting myself online was Alfred, the butler to Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. Since I tend to write what might be classed as ‘stuffy’ posts, ones that try to bring some sense to posts that consist of nothing but the ‘I hate politicians’ type of nonsense, Alfred isn’t too bad an avatar. But maybe I should fool everyone and go for Bruce Wayne instead…

Thomas Merton


If you find God with great ease...perhaps it is not God that you have found.

Thomas Merton, quoted in chapter two of Reaching for the Invisible God, by Philip Yancey.


I've begun to read Yancey's book again, after having felt for some time that it wasn't his best. In fact, it's as good as most of his work; I probably wasn't in the right place to read it last time. And the fact that it's greatly about 'doubt' is very helpful to me at present, when I'm struggling with this very issue.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Links to the left of me, links to the right of me

I can’t say the Optics Planet site is the tidiest site I’ve ever visited, nor is it the most pleasantly laid out. It’s aim is to get on with the job and sell. It’s like one of the old-fashioned stores - gun shops and fishing shops still tend to go for this style - where all the stock is on display and all crammed together in as little space as possible. Fishing rods sprout like supergrass, and tackle swarms; leggings hang like dried seaweed, and there are cases and cases of flies (and sometimes a few flies with legs as well). Gunshops are a bit tidier, on average, but they usually sport enough guns to give you nightmares, and bulletsbulletsbullets and shellsshellsshells.
Optics Planet is the same: its opening page has more words per screen than anything I’ve seen in a while, and though there are pictures, they’re almost nudged off the page by more words. Practically every word is clickable – so thick on the ground are the links that you’re likely to click on Butler Creek and end up in Coronado. (Butler Creek, for those need to know these things, deal with rifle scope covers, slings, binocular straps etc – Coronado is into things telescopic.)
Optics Planet also sells atn scopes– go on, check them out! It’s a site that’ll keep you occupied all day…!
Disclosure statement

Some more on Comments

I don’t get many comments on my site, and of course they don’t appear unless you click on them. A few are relevant to the post they’re attached to; most appear suspiciously irrelevant.
Here’s one that seems like a compliment…with a sting in its tail.
"You really have some interesting stuff on your site. keep at it.xenical."
This one seems to warp off into some other space/time continuum:
"Perspectives on Crisis Vary As Worshipers Refill PewsLA PLACE, La., Sept. 11 -- Willie B. Jones couldn't contain his excitement. Standing with his wife, Loretta, at New Home Ministries, Jones was attending his first church service since Hurricane Katrina swept ...I like your blog! Hey, if you're interested in health and healthy kid snacks recipe, you might like to visit my healthy kid snacks recipe - it's all about healthy kid snacks recipe. Thanks!"
And this one is over-the-top complimentary – and has a slight brain-stop in the middle:
"Another great blog man! What a 4 you are! I couldn't derive half the fantastic ideas that you come up with.My stepping stones garden site is off topic but still noteworthy. Why aren't you in advertising or better yet a "think tank". Can you teach this kind of creative thinking? Is it something you were born with? Keep the fabulous ideas comming! [sic]"
As does this one…
"Hi, I was just blog surfing and found you! If you are interested, go see my best vitamins related site. It isnt anything special but you may still find something of interest."
And I got a whole series of this kind. Apparently private road construction is very important!
"Chinese bloggers poor, students: surveyA survey of Chinese bloggers published by Sohu.com and the Tsinghua University has found that Chinese bloggers are either poor, or students.Find out how you can buy and sell anything, like things related to private road construction on interest free credit and pay back whenever you want! Exchange FREE ads on any topic, like private road construction!"