Sunday, August 31, 2008

Listening to John Adams

I’ve finally started catching up with some of John Adams’ music – and I’ve also got the new book out from the library that I wrote about recently.
The interview at the beginning of the book gives a fairly laid-back view of Adams, tells how he was enamoured of John Cage’s music for a time, but left that behind, how he’s been classed with the minimalists, but isn’t really one of them. Seems to me, from what I’ve been listening to, that he has minimalist leanings, in the sense that he takes a very small amount of material and uses it constantly, but the difference is that he adds variety to this: things don’t stay the same for hour after hour until you want to scream. And the piece in which the recording of a preacher features, even the preacher’s words are swapped around and edited so that there’s a different sense to them each time they appear. Unlike those pieces where some words are just looped over and over, while the musicians play randomly, Adams’ looping is done with some finesse, with the hand of an artist, rather than that of someone who thinks that looping for the sake of looping is artful.

On the Street Where I Live

We’re so serious about our New Zealand music. I’ve just been watching Jack Body’s On the Street Where I Live, which features Stephen de Pledge playing the piano, and Body’s (disembodied) voice talking casually about his house.
At the end of the video we have a quite unnecessary few moments of Body himself telling us something about the piece. But what is there to tell? It’s all there in the work: a composer chatting on about his house, the birds, the street; a pianist fitting in a random bunch of notes that sometimes fit neatly to the words, most often merely trickle around them. Seldom do they add much to the speech, which is a pity, because it’s plain that Body could have done something with more depth in it. What he says is simple and charming; what the music does is just twitter away in the modernist style, offering little for the listener to get hold of, and doing a few crashes when Body talks about being overwhelmed by stuff in the house, and a few knocks and whistles when he talks about birds.
The music's about as interesting as office furniture. It's there for the voice to sit on, but contributes nothing to the listener.
Stephen de Pledge plays it all with a seriousness that probably mostly comes from having to concentrate deeply in order to make sure he fits in with the recorded voice. And he does that perfectly. Full marks to him, at least.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Narnia Productions

I'd forgotten that there's a Narnia Productions site, and have just spent several minutes checking out the photos from the previous productions, and the backstage shots. It's a great collection, and well worth a visit. The various reviews from the media are on there too, for the most part, including the sequence of photos taken when I had my beard shaved off (rather publicly) for The Magician's Nephew.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More grumpy reviews on Mumma Mia

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian failing to realise that Colin Firth was supposed to be gay until ten minutes after the movie. In Mamma Mia! Abba is everywhere and nowhere. This is Planet Abba or Abbaworld. The characters are forever dancing and smiling and bursting into Abba songs like Stepford cyborgs when you flip the secret panel behind their heads and press the Life-Affirming Behaviour button.

Philip French, also in The Guardian,
can be pretty tart at times, but here he holds in it somewhat - generously.

Roger Ebert is no worse than me in his assessment of the movie; 'It would be charity to call the plot contrived,' is about as severe as he gets.

James Berardinelli is even kinder, which just goes to show what a good bloke he is. (And he's changed the look of his page; no longer something that appears to have been typed onto the page directly from an old electric typewriter; now there's a flashy banner heading and even flashier ads.

And one last, from If there's going to be a sassy review with plenty of spit and bite in it, it'll be the one from this source. And I haven't even checked it out yet as I write this. But, here, as I expected:

"Mamma Mia!" is the debut feature film of British stage director Phyllida "Keep Your Day Job" Lloyd, but it feels more like a movie made by a karaoke machine than a human being: We're constantly being reminded what a great time the cast is having, particularly the women, as they cavort and mug before us, swinging their swishy skirts and throwing their heads back as if they truly believed they were channeling Dorothy Dandridge in "Carmen Jones." But it doesn't take long -- about 10 minutes, I'd say -- before their aggressive, you-go-girl joyfulness becomes outright oppression.

The Chick Flick Musical

After being rather under the weather last night from some stomach upset, it was probably good for me to go and see Mumma Mia tonight. If you were feeling like death warmed up, it’s very enlivening.

I don’t get the impression, somehow, that it’s geared towards the blokes; even the three main blokes in it have rather ditzy parts with not much going for them. It’s the women who get to do all the dancing and have all the fun dressing up and being energetic and generally throwing themselves all over. Meryl Streep makes the most of her part, as always – she’s the consummate professional, and manages to find some depth in a role that, when all’s said and done, is pretty lightly written. Julie Walters is wonderful, as always: she catches the tone perfectly, and never seems to be overdoing it the way some of the others are (the opening sequence with the two bridesmaids is surprisingly full in your face – more suited to the stage than the screen). And she gets some of the best laughs. Christine Baranski is Christine Baranski, as usual; she’s only cast in roles that require her to be herself. But that’s the way movies have always done it. Some people making a living out of playing themselves and playing themselves very well.

Pierce Brosnan is surprisingly dull; but so is his role, so it’s not entirely surprising. And he’s hampered by having the worst singing voice of the lot. Colin Firth manages a not-too-weedy tenor, and Stellan Skarsgard is fortunate in virtually not having to sing at all. Dominic Cooper as the young fiancé is bright and energetic, and even though his part is (like most of the other parts) underwritten, he comes across with some fire. The three ageing hippies (Brosnan. Firth and Skarsgard) all seem a bit wet by comparison.

The story’s a bit tacky for my taste, but it doesn’t seem to bother most audiences. And why does Firth get saddled with a bloke at the end? Where did that come from? It’s totally out of the blue, and muddles the character. To be honest, the script as a whole is a muddle, saddled as it is with trying to get as many ABBA songs on board as possible. There’s a cleverness in fitting them into the story, but unfortunately the story is full of holes and barely stands on its own two feet. None of the characters quite seem to know what they want, and at the end they’re still poncing around trying to figure it out, while being forced to leap into whichever arms happen to be left over (hence Firth winding up with a bloke – Baranksi was never a likely candidate for him).

Okay, I didn’t hate it. I enjoy musicals at the best of times, and on the musical side this is full of beans: catchy tunes (even the ones you don’t know), dancing with muscle, and plenty of colour and energy. I think it could probably have been better, but that obviously wasn’t the general opinion of those around me – nor of those who’ve enthused to me over going to see it. And hey, I did want to go and see myself anyway, in spite of the very negative review by Richard Corliss I read in Time magazine a week or two ago. If you think this post is negative, check that out!

Here’s one of the worst and least true paragraphs:
Now the big genre challenge: musicals. The very form is antique. Young filmgoers often have to be told why the people in these movies are suddenly singing instead of speaking. And nothing dates faster than musical styles. The great American songbook of Gershwin and Porter and Rodgers standards can sound positively atonal to teen ears, just as hip-hop seems melody-deficient to the folks with hearing aids.

‘Positively atonal’? ‘Young filmgoers have to be told why the people are suddenly singing?’ You mean none of them watch MTV? Come on, Richard, you're a bigger grump than I am.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Franklin Taylor by two

My comments on Franklin Taylor in a couple of recent posts have brought a different Franklin Taylor to my attention. This one, instead of being a long deceased music editor and occasional composer, is an artist. His abstract paintings can be seen here.
I can’t find anything about him as a person, and wherever you go on the Net, the art work that’s available seems to be just the same few prints: Ascending I and Ascending II, or In the Mix I and II. They’re always available as posters.
No doubt someone knows who he is, but so far I haven’t been able to find out anything.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We continue on with The Dawn Treader

Another Dawn Treader rehearsal today. I was tired when I arrived, and much more tired by the time we finished. It hadn’t helped that I’d stayed up watching The Red Shoes until 1.30 am, but even when I did go to bed I slept very fitfully, and felt as though I’d been more awake during the night than asleep.
I sometimes wonder if actors aren’t mostly introverts: they appear to be extroverts because they get up in front of people and perform, and they’re often quite noisy at social occasions. But in a rehearsal setting they swing widely from putting themselves on the line in terms of their part to looking like hurt children when the director chides them in some way. And as hurt children all that energy and life can fizzle away in a moment.
I said in an earlier post how each time you begin the rehearsal period for a play you have to overcome that feeling of inferiority in regard to the other actors (who are probably doing the same) and you have to build up a sufficient level of trust in each other to be able to do what can often be quite daft things – especially if your character is in any way ‘out there’.
Acting is a bit like a bloke wearing an engagement ring: being regarded as slightly odd goes with the territory.
Anyway, today at our rehearsal we used a different room. We’re rehearsing in the old King Edward Technical College building right in town (it’s now called King Edward Court) and have been using a large corner room in which the Dawn Treader ship fits (even if our heads virtually touch the ceiling when we’re standing on the poop deck, or where someone incautious can knock their head on a fluorescent lamp swinging from the ceiling). Today we worked in an even larger room, full of sunlight, some carpet around the perimeter (which reduced the level of echo - the other room is very echoey), and a general feeling of plenty of space. We were working on scenes that don’t require the ship, and discovered that nearly all these scenes were ones we’d done two to three weeks ago, and hadn’t really worked on since to the extent that we felt at home in them. So the afternoon was a series of disappointments not only for the director, as she saw all her hard work seeming to crumble, but for the actors, who probably mostly felt as dispirited as I did, because we seemed to be forgetting lines and moves left, right and centre. We came away feeling as though we’d all been sacked from the wine of the month club.
However, now that we’ve got ourselves back into these scenes, we’ll hopefully cement them into our psyches a bit more, and the next time we come back to them, things might be a bit more cheerful!

The photo is of the Stuart St frontage of KE Court; it's a vast building that extends over a good deal of the block.

John Adams again

Some information on John Adams from the back cover of a book on him and his works:

The John Adams Reader: Essential Writings on an American Composer is the first full-length book in English devoted to the work of John Adams, among the most frequently performed living American composers in the sphere of classical music. Sometimes called America's "composer laureate," John Adams has proved to be that rare bird - an enduring, if often controversial, figure in contemporary art music.
Although branded a minimalist early in his career, Adams has composed in many styles and forms, from opera, choral, and orchestral pieces to multimedia stage works and tape and electronic composition.

So, branded a minimalist, but obviously not a minimalist in his total output. This book sounds as though it would be worth getting hold of, and checking out the different viewpoints on the man.

Another old movie

Just a mention of another old movie we watched the other night. It’s called Hunted, but also has an American title, The Stranger in Between, which isn’t as appropriate as the original.
Dirk Bogarde stars in it, along with a wonderful child actor, Jon Whiteley. Bogarde is a bit too suave and romantic to really play the hunted murderer well, but he’s always a great presence on the screen, and he carries it off. Whiteley, who’d never made a film before, and who was only seven when this film was made (as I was), is just wonderful. There are one or two moments when his concentration isn’t quite there, but in general he brings everything to the screen. He went on to star in four more movies (including The Spanish Gardener, again with Bogarde), an episode of the tv series, Robin Hood, and then gave it all up at the age of twelve. He spent his adult life as an art historian at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
The film is in black and white, and makes great use of the visual contrasts available in that medium. Unfortunately, it runs out of steam some way towards the end: there’s no real climax, only a crisis of conscience on the part of Bogarde’s character, and it’s not enough to satisfy a modern audience any more, I feel. Nevertheless, while it runs, it has some great moments, is visually good to look at, and has a number of well-played minor roles.

Two movies

I mentioned the movie, Serenity, in my previous post. Some guys from our church get together about once a month to watch a DVD together, and this was the choice for last night’s event. Not my choice, but that of the young fellow in the group who’s a keen sci-fi fan.
Apart from the fact that it borrowed from every other sci-fi movie under the sun, particularly the first Star Wars, it wasn’t too bad, with a few twists in the tail, (including allowing the baddie to live!), and some semblance of a plot. (Some of which had to be explained by the sci-fi buff, as the rest of us had no idea of the background to the thing – it pays to have watched Firefly, the series it was based on.)
There were some crazy moments in it: the cannibalistic nasties and the Alliance (yup, one of those, and megalomaniac with it) had a space battle at one point, while the heroes escaped between them. All this was done in spaceships so cluttered together in space that the collision level should have been extraordinarily high. Somehow they managed to battle it out without everything in sight blowing up.
The girl, River, was far superior at taekwondo than the two girls in the Olympics: she could take on fifty men at the drop of a hat and defeat them all. Yeah, right. Even being the mean war machine she was supposed to be, the sheer improbability was just a bit much.
And then the heroes only strapped themselves into seats in their space ship when they thought they were going to crash. Prior to that they’d been walking happily about the thing in spite of the fact that it was doing frequent somersaults in space and corkscrews and you name it.
Still, the spaceship designs were cool throughout: the baddies had nasty kinds of designs, like sharks, and the goodies had something like a bird, or a large insect.
For some reason, after this, I came home and watched The Red Shoes, while my wife slept in the lazy boy chair. The acting is old school – clear enunciation and rather mannered movements (but only at times) – and the story is a bit dragged out, and the ballet people are all a bit over the top, but there are some great things in it still. The photography is superb, moving seamlessly from atmospheric studio stuff to location work, much of it in a brilliantly sunny Monte Carlo. And the colour throughout is imaginatively used: Moira Shearer’s ginger hair shines, the red shoes glisten menacingly, the arty ballet sets contrast wonderfully with the clean location colours, the warm interiors and much more. Even the men’s dark suits and tuxedos shine.
And while the ‘real’ story of two men in love with the same woman is a bit clumsily handled, it parallels nicely with the Red Shoes ballet itself, which is based round a similar idea. The ballet is superbly done, not just from a dancing point of view, where the choreography is imaginative and detailed, but from a cinematic point of view. Like the best Hollywood musical ballets, it doesn’t stint on using cinematic tricks (the usual shift from a real stage and audience to vast sets is handled with ease). Shearer leaps into the red shoes almost in one take; a newspaper gets up and dances with her and then transforms within the same shot into Robert Helpmann, and back again; a huge, rolling ocean behind the conductor (who appears randomly throughout the ballet – he’s one of the lovers) turns into the audience; and other seamless moments show the marvellous control that the directors, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and DOP Jack Cardiff have over their material.

How not to throw the discus

Four days without rain or overcast skies or freezing winds. Real live sunshine. We’re beginning to feel human again.
While we were watching the movie, Serenity, last night at a friend’s place, our host was recording some of the Olympic Games on his HDD. (It’s something we can do too on our machine, although we haven’t actually done it yet.) Anyway, amongst the various things that we picked up on after the movie was finished, were some of the Decathlon events: the hurdles and the discus throwing.
A couple of odd things stood out. In one of the hurdles heats, one of the contestants leapt up with all the others to race, and then stopped, and did nothing more, while the other hurdlers ran on. No explanation from the commentators – he was just ignored, as though he’d never been in the race to begin with.
And then, as we were watching the discus, we pondered on how easy it would be for someone throwing the thing to miss the opening and send it crashing into the nets. And immediately one did! A gentleman by the name of Roman Šebrle, who was the top man in the Decathlon discus. How frustrating for such a thing to slip from an athlete’s fingers. Our host reckoned it was because Roman had spat on the discus before he threw it!
I didn’t know Šebrle as a name, so I kept hearing it as Roman Chevrolet, which seemed to be how the announcers were saying it. Crikey, what a romantic sounding name – it’s the sort of name you give to a hero in a romantic novel!
We also watched a bit of the Russian/American volleyball game. I think if you added up the amount of time they spend playing and the amount of time they spend hugging each other, the latter would come out on top easily. The game is played in a pretty boring fashion, really, with massive serves that almost invariably cause nothing else to happen in that volley. When they do actually all get to chase the ball around, it's over in seconds.
I watched the table tennis the other night: at least in that game they get on with it, and while some of the rallies may be very short, a good number have some action in them. I don't know who the two guys were, but one was a tall Scandinavian and the other a Chinese from China or Hong Kong. The Scandinavian wiped the floor with the Chinese, which apparently wasn't supposed to happen.
And one other thing we caught up on: the women's Taekwondo. There was a New Zealand girl in this, and she and her opponent spent so much time hopping back and forth from foot to foot and never actually doing more than sizing up the opposition that the referee had to keep stepping in and reminding them they were supposed to be fighting - and giving them penalties for not doing so. Not one of the highlights.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Performer as Priest and Prophet

...mediocrity is where most performers exist: midway between extremes, neither brilliant nor excessively dull. One does one's best with teh gift one is given. The point is that to say yes to that gift as it really is, is to say yes to its limits - and yes to the honest work that hones and polishes the gift. This is not the anxious, angry work that is really a denial of limits: 'If I just do a little more, then I'll be able to..." A Salieri can never become a Mozart. To say yes clears the air so that one can see and rejoice in things as they really are.

From Performer as Priest and Prophet, chapter 4 (pg 75), by Judith Rock and Norman Mealy, published Harper & Row 1988

I don't think the authors mean by 'mediocrity' a state of poor artistry, but of the 'mean' between brilliant and excessively dull.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More hitting the top spots

How to crowl in a right way– this search request from a country that spells ‘did you mean’ as ‘Tarkoititko’. Interestingly enough, when you put ‘tarkoititko’ in Google, along with Mike Crowl, it asks: did you mean Tarkoitetaan? Whatever language it is, it’s subtle! More to the point, the original request brought up this blog at the top. Must be a week for it!
Google is brilliant at finding what you want, but it’s also brilliant at finding things that are so far from what you want that you wonder how it got there. Still, that’s the way search engines function, pretty much.
Somebody else was looking for my old friend, Arnold Bachop, the tenor. Just doing that brought up this blog twice, in first and second place, and then another post of mine on my older website.
Someone else wants to know about the waterfall scene in Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty For Me. I certainly don’t mention it anywhere in the post I wrote on that film, even though we came third in the Google stakes on that one. In fact, I don’t remember a waterfall scene in the movie at all.
Veno’s Lighting Cough Bottles was the next search query, and we came in number two on that, for once actually having all the words in the search query actually turn up in the same post! To my surprise the same thing happens with the query: Diana Crowl music. Google thought the best thing on offer was my post on Gerald Finzi, in which all three of those words appear, but which probably has nothing to do with what the searcher wanted.
We drop down the list in regard to a query about Generation C, but we’re still in the top ten. Somehow we go to the top of the list again with ‘I hate to sit up straight’ – a query that boggles the mind as to why you’d want to say such a thing to Google in the first place. (Actually in this instance they said it to AOL search. AOL search – who are they? Perhaps AOL had been telling one of its customers to sit up straight? It’s the sort of restrictive thing they’re into, I think.)
To my amazement I’m in the top ten for ‘dating for everyone’, something that I’d hardly have thought to have written about, but apparently did, as I also did about religious jeans. How do I get into these sidetracks?
Back to number four for Franklin Taylor, that irritant to my Mozart playing. He was the editor of the edition of Mozart sonatas I’m currently playing from, and does some unbelievably silly things in terms of adding expression marks. Still, he was working in a period when the editors seemed to think they knew best about everything, including how Mozart would have added expression marks if he’d had the time. I remember reading Albert Schweitzer’s book on J S Bach. He was just as bad, complaining that Bach hadn’t done this, had done that and shouldn’t have, and so on. Schweitzer might have been a fairly clever chappie, but at 25 or so, he was hardly a match for the genius of J S B. Guess that’s the arrogance of youth.
Another composer turns up in the HitTail lists (that’s what I’m checking at the moment, in case you hadn’t figured it out). It’s our old friend Gareth Farr. The searcher apparently thought his name was double-barrelled: Gareth-Farr. Unfortunately that would leave Gareth without a first name, and what would his friends call him then?
And nearly last on our list tonight is yet another composer, this time, John Adams, he of the minimalist music. He whom I haven’t quite given room enough to grow accustomed to yet. And may still do so!
Finally, we get back to another request for crawling spelt as crowling. This time it’s ‘crowls in the water’. Well, we had Crowls in the water this morning, because both my wife and I had a bath. Does that count?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I’d never heard the term, collagraph, until yesterday, when I came across it in the Moray Gallery. An artist called Robert West has an exhibition on at the moment, in which he uses the technique.

Seemingly, a collagraph print is a collage printmaking technique, and is a form of Intaglio printing. (That is, one of the kinds of printing where something sharp is etched into a surface.) The collagraph plate is printed in the same way as etchings, but also include the basic principle of relief printing, and can be printed either as intaglio or relief.

A collagraph is a collage board where the materials are assembled on a flat base or plate (the matrix) in order to form a relief block with different surface levels and textures.

Collagraph plates are created by sticking and gluing materials like textured paper or fabric onto the plate and then coating it with varnish or acrylic medium afterwards to protect the materials.

That’s a simple introduction to it. There’s a fairly clear explanation here.

Unfortunately, Moray Gallery (which is right next to where I work, and used to be only two doors along from me when I ran the bookshop in Princes St) doesn’t have any of West’s prints on display on the website.

I’ve included a collagraph above, which appears on the site. It’s by someone who calls themselves 10b travelling. But if you’d like to see more examples, just Google the word, and look at the images. There are heaps on the Net.

I make the top of the search list more than once!

I have to ask, what the heck is a crowl cage? This is what someone went searching for on Yahoo a couple of days ago. I shouldn’t worry, as it brought my blog up at the top of the list, but since Yahoo thought that John Cage and Mike Crowl had something in common with a crowl cage, it seemed a bit of a pointless result for the query.
Various other equally inconsequential results turned up, none of them having anything to do with a crowl cage. The results are much the same on Google, and I still come up at the top of the list. Well, good on John Cage for providing me with some assistance in terms of search queries.
I'd still like to know what the person was looking for, and what they thought 'crowl' meant.
I didn’t do nearly so well when it came to people getting search results for Baldwin St and wheelie bins. I’ve written about the incident in which a student died elsewhere, but it’s interesting to see that a number of other people have also written about this, and several of them have got their facts wrong. Word-of-blog can be just as muddled as word-of-mouth, rather like the equivalent of Chinese whispers on the web.
Which reminds me that I had a good idea about blogs at lunch time while talking to a friend – which I’ve now forgotten. Maybe it’ll come back before I finish this post.
I did manage to get to the top of the Google list with ‘skin game coughing’ – a fairly meaningless phrase, you’d think, until you realise, as Google apparently did, that it might have something to do with Hitchcock’s movie, The Skin Game, and the scene in which the auctioneer has a persistent cough.
Eeyore’s characteristics turn up again, and I get to third place. Pretty good for a little blog that only three people ever read….
The film, Deliverance, must be being studied at the moment, since a common search is for ‘notes deliverance’. And I get to third place for that too, even though my only comment on this film is to quote from another source – the Christian Science Monitor, in fact – which actually has something good to say about the movie. I remember it as a shocking and nasty piece of work, with the only brief moment of quiet and gentleness being when one of the four main characters stops to play a duet with a young mountain boy. It’s a well-known sequence, but it has very little to do with the violent nature of the rest of the movie. Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.
Back in 2007, I mentioned that Peter Jackson was likely to be directing a film (or perhaps three films made back-to-back) about Tin Tin. Seems like that’s going ahead, with Jackson and Spielberg co-directing. One source says they’ll each direct one movie, and then co-direct the third. I get the impression this is all still in the pipeline as yet.
Extraordinarily I make it to the top of the list again, with a query about John Adams Composer. I was very taken with a piece of music by this composer that I heard in England, and intended to get to know his music better when I got back home. For a brief period, Adams was flavour of the month on the local Concert radio program, but they didn’t play the piece I’d heard, and what I did hear didn’t great excite me. Adams appears to be in the mode of composers such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, guys who have their moments, but who have chosen to compose minimalist music that can drive you quite insane. Unless that’s their intention, of course.
I’ve been trying to think how I can introduce strollers into this post, and so far haven’t succeeded. Strollers, for those who don’t have, or never have had, children, are those awkwardly-shaped devices that fold up into equally awkwardly-shaped shapes, and in which you carry your toddler (when it’s not folded up – the stroller, I mean, not the child). We used to call them baby buggies, and I think they have a number of different names, depending on where in the world you happen to live. Baby buggies were okay – they were lighter than some strollers I’ve since come across, and we didn’t go through too many of them in carting our five kids around over a period of several years. Nor did any of them ever fold up while the child was in them, which I’ve seen happen with later versions. When we first bought one (in fact, I think we brought it back from England with us), they were the new thing. After that, everyone had to have one. Of course.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More on Nintendo jewellery

A few other times I've mentioned Nintendo jewellery without really knowing what it is. Well, I've just discovered a whole swag of photos on which show Nintendo jewellery. Those who have been troubled by my lack of knowledge can now be assisted by the fact that a picture is worth a thousand words (so the much overused cliche goes) and check out this link.

Narnia again

Another long Narnia rehearsal today, with a lot of time at the end spent trying to get the movements of the ship right. Because we change the audience’s point of view of the ship from scene to scene, it has to be moved around the stage. At the moment it’s only the actors doing this, although in due course hopefully there’ll also be some stage hands.
There are a couple of issues: remembering which way it has to be turned, and what has to be moved out of the way, for one; and getting all the right bits and pieces picked up or shifted out of the way for another.
There are some twenty or more people involved at any time, some of whom have got to get to another part of the ship and some of whom have to move things. All in all it’s taking quite a bit of co-ordination. Without this complication, we’d probably have more time to rehearse everything else! However, it’s an essential part of the play, and has to be worked out thoroughly.
We’ve just about covered all the play – I think there’s only one or two small scenes right at the end that haven’t actually had any rehearsal time. But since they only involve the main characters rather than the people who play pirates, sailors, dufflepuds and ‘crowd’, it should be a bit easier to get them sorted in the next rehearsal. Once they’re done, we should be able to concentrate on getting everything really tight and tidy. We went back and did some of the earlier scenes again today, since they involved the ship, and it was a relief to find we still remembered what to do and say…!

Whistle Down the Wind

The film, Whistle Down the Wind, turned up in The Warehouse’s bargain DVDs this weekend, along with Tiger Bay and another similar movie, all in one package. I saw Tiger Bay when it first came out, but hadn’t ever seen this later Hayley Mills’ movie.
It’s a wonderful small-scale piece in which three young siblings who live on a farm discover a man hiding in their father’s barn, and come to believe he’s Jesus. The implications for the children, and the other village children, and the man himself, are profound. And even though we know the man isn’t Jesus, we understand the children’s belief and their theological questioning, and appreciate why they think the way they do.
The film would be nothing without the integrity of the two younger children and a number of others who are so much part of the landscape that everything about them is believable. Hayley Mills is very good, being almost the only child with previous film experience, but she doesn’t quite belong in this environment the way the other kids do. That’s not to say she doesn’t play the part well; Mills always had a sincerity and genuineness that transcended everything else about the films she appeared in. She was a natural screen performer and deserved the accolades she got.
The film plays out almost entirely on a real farm, where the slush and mud is authentic, the buildings are as old as they look, and the craggy trees and the winter sunshine are bleak but not unbeautiful. Even though the interiors were mostly shot at Pinewood Studios, they match the exteriors well.
The story is moving, but more than anything it’s the faces of the children that are so wonderful. These Northern kids for the most part went back to their normal lives, but you’d think they’d been working in movies since the day they were born. There’s not a drop of ‘acting’ anywhere. Diane Holgate as Hayley Mills’ younger sister has that Northern stance and way of looking that was still visible on Coronation St up until a few years ago. Alan Barnes lives the part from beginning to end: the irritating little brother, the child angrily questioning Jesus as to why he didn’t keep his kitten alive, the innocent little boy quite capable of facing up to his perpetually annoyed aunt, the birthday boy demanding that his game be played because it’s his birthday.
There’s another boy in it whose face, the moment it appeared, was familiar. So strong are his features that they didn’t change a jot as he progressed into adulthood. While I wouldn’t have known his name, Roy Holder, it’s interesting to see that he’s been going strong ever since Whistle Down the Wind was made.
And then there are a host of other children: reality written all over them.
Bernard Miles, Norman Bird and Alan Bates are the main adult characters, and fit in with the milieu well.

Discovered Crowl quote

Although I try to get my facts right I'd sooner manage without any facts at all.

A rather nice line from one of my old columns.

On the reasons for beards

Robert Capon, in his book, The Offering of Uncles, gives seventeen reasons why he has a beard. (Chapter 7)

(Simple) : I like it.
(Taciturn); I just do.
(Sheepish): Lots of men have beards.
(Rude): None of your business.
(Cowardly): Oh! Don’t you like it?
(Confident): It is manly.
(Overconfident): It keeps women away.
(Practical, in respectu causae efficientis): Because I don’t shave.
(Agnostic): I don’t know; I stopped shaving and it grew.
(Theological, but cautious): You will have to ask God.
(Practical, propter incommoditatem rasurarum): I was tired of cutting myself every morning.
(Devout): It is a gift of God.
(Practical, pro bono prolis): I look more paternal with one.
(Meditative): It would be ungrateful to die without having seen it.
(Practical, sed propter vanitatem): It hides my weak chin.
(Theological, propter causam finalem): God meant man to have one.
(Practical, ad placendam uxorem): It tickles my wife.

Some rough translations:
in respectu causae efficientis: in the cause of efficiency.
propter incommoditatem rasurarum: on account of the scratching.
pro bono prolis: for the good of the children.
sed propter vanitatem: on account of my vanity.
propter causam finalem: using God as the final excuse.
ad placendam uxurem: to please my wife.

And a Crowl quote:
Life should be a combination of order and chaos. Too much of either is unhealthy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mr Phelps, the food addict

In my pessimistic mode, I have to wonder how long Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold-medallist (over and over) can go on before he falls apart? In yesterday’s Otago Daily Times, they listed how much food he consumes in a day in order to keep himself thriving. His meals would feed several families in the Third World for a week. You have to wonder at the rationale of that: one human being consuming so much food in order to do what? Swim faster than everyone else. How long will the fame last? What’s the point of being a millionaire swimmer if, in a few years time, you’re going to look like an overweight blob? Because consuming food on that level must have an effect eventually, even if it isn’t now.
And the way he and these other Olympic swimmers look: they’re all shoulders. Top heavy, somehow. Every time I see them I’m reminding of this picture by Bettina Tizzy which I first posted on my other blog.
Anyway, according to the report, Phelps consumes 12,000 calories a day (the average male needs only 2,000 and would survive on less).
Here’s breakfast: three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise, two cups of coffee, a five-egg omelette, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes.
Lunch is: a pound of enriched pasta and two large ham and cheese sandwiches slathered with mayonnaise on white bread – and about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.
Evening meal: a pound of pasta and an entire pizza, washed down with another 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.
It’s enough to make you sick, personally, and that seems to be pretty much how the Guardian writer Jon Henley felt as well.
Notice the lack of vegetables (apart from breakfast tomatoes and lettuce) and fruit. This poor kid is going to have a very unhealthy system before much longer.

Where's the Joy?

Slight variation on an old saying:

All play and no joy makes Jack a dull boy.

And not at all apropos of the above:

In recent months it’s struck me how much Christian music has lost its sense of joy. Listen to one of Radio Rhema’s various outlets and you’ll hear singer after singer injecting a kind of melancholy into their songs, even songs that have a perfectly good ‘uplift’ otherwise.
I spoke to a guy who was running a retreat I was at a couple of months ago: he didn’t seem to be hearing this melancholy, even though one of the songs he played was an oldie which was being sung as though it was a dirge.
And at the South Island Pastors’ Conference, I spoke to the guy who was doing most of the worship leading. He didn’t seem to be hearing this melancholy either, and kind of brushed off what I was saying.
However, my wife agrees with me, and if she hears it, then it’s definitely there.
It’s as if the singers have got it into their heads that God is only pleased when we come with a kind of apologetic tone. Gone are the days – it appears – when people sang with full hearts and lots of energy. Not it’s all ‘boo hoo, how sad am I’. A weird state of affairs for Christians, of all people.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Snail Sticks Out

Originally uploaded by mfcrowl
I’ve been thinking about uploading the photos I took of Dunedin murals for a week or so now, after I discovered another site where there were some displayed. Mark Leggatt has a lot of graphic stuff on his blog, but there’s also a link to a ‘group’ on where a bunch of people have got together to display Dunedin murals and street art. I’m not sure where the dividing line between the two is, as some street art is superb (and some rotten) and some murals are superb (and some rotten).
Anyway, I have about twenty-five photos of murals up now, and there’ll be more to follow.
There’s also a rather random photo of a snail. I just happen to like it.

One of the stranger search requests on HitTail this week is 'joyce kilmer in italian'. The person searching didn't get much joy, because Kilmer doesn't seem to have been translated into Italian - at least not as far as the search engine (Alot) was aware. However, a verse from a long poem by Kilmer called Delicatessen came up a lot on the search results. It's not a poem I know, but here's the relevant stanza:
Here is a shop of wonderment.
From every land has come a prize;
Rich spices from the Orient,
And fruit that knew Italian skies...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Odds and bods

You get so used to the pronunciation of places that you grow up with that it's a surprise when other people come along and mispronounce them. Someone was waiting for one of the Dunedin buses recently and along came the one for Shiel Hill. Now to locals that's a simple name, pronounced roughly: Sheel Hill. Don't ask me now what the stranger thought it read as, but it was a long way from home.
Apropos of that, I'm constantly intrigued by the fact that that pronunciation of the name, Boise, in Idaho, is a source of such confusion. This might be because even the locals seem to have some variations in the way they say it. I'm informed that it's Boyz - rather like Boyz in the Hood, but apparently not everyone says it that way. Anyway, it's a search query on the Net all the time.
As are the characteristics of Eeyore. You'd think these would be obvious, but apparently not.
Well, here for those who want to know, are his characteristics according to one source: He is a pessimistic, gloomy, old, depressed, grey stuffed donkey who is a friend of Winnie-the-Pooh. Eeyore's name is a phonetic representation of the donkey's bray: an onomatopoeia, possibly derived from the baby talk name for the animal. (Excuse all the links - they came with the quote!)
You can see why I don't consider myself an Eeyore, even if one or two others have done so. I'm as optimistic as I am pessimistic, which makes me some sort of optipess, or pessiopt; I'm sometimes gloomy, but certainly not all the time; I'm old, but not as old as some people; I've been depressed in my lifetime, but it's not my normal state; I'm certainly not a grey stuffed donkey, and I never bray. I'm certainly not a Tim Shadbolt, someone who seems to laugh at life and rarely gets down (even when he's smashed up the mayoral limousine), but neither am I the epitome of depression. I'm an introvert with a dash or two of extrovert - particularly when I get on stage.
Incidentally, after I wrote the post about Benjamin Hoff's The Te of Piglet, I came across a long essay written by Hoff on his experiences with publishers. Man, in this essay, he negates all the Tao that he talks about in his books. Gone is the quiet and calm. He's outraged by what's been done to him as an author. But should he have such reason to complain? He was given advances on his books, he made the New York Times bestseller list twice, for 49 weeks the first time, and for 59 the second. That's fairly up there, if you ask me.
He says that he only created his site (in 2007) to tell people that he's giving up being an author (this, quite a few years after his bestsellers came out). He explains in immense and unhappy detail how badly done by he's been by various publishers, how they haven't served him well as an author, and seem to have been singularly careless in regard to their treatment of him.
You have to wonder a bit about it all. I don't know much about being an author really, but in general my understanding of the way authors are treated is that when their books are doing well, they do well too. And the publishers do well, and usually want more of the same 'do well' stuff from the author.
But not with Hoff. Everything that could have gone wrong seems to have gone wrong. It's a sad saga, the writer of which is a seemingly different character from the one who appears in the picture on the site. In fact, he comes across as a positive Eeyore. Which is rather ironic, really, since he plainly isn't one of Eeyore's fans, if The Te of Piglet is anything to go by.
The picture is of the older Hoff - he barely resembles his younger self.

Twin still dying

I've been reading through the latest draft of my novel, My Twin is Dying, again, as I think I mentioned the other day. I've been pleasantly surprised, and, apart from correcting a few proofreading errors and tidying up a few odd sentences that didn't quite work, it's been easy on the editing. I think that's because basically the chapter I'm up to at the moment, and those preceding it, have all been thoroughly gone over several times. I'm still to come to the sections that haven't really had a good sorting out. And of course, the ending is nowhere near sorted: that's been one of the bugbears of the book as a whole. I know what I want to do at the end, but I just can't seem to get it all to work together. It needs to have things working out logically for the climax not to seem over the top, and at the moment, they're all a bit forced.
I've also begun the 'variations' movement of the string quartet I've been writing on and off for some months. The opening section seems fine - or it did when I first re-listened to it (!) - but the first variation isn't working at all well, so it might be time to abandon that and try something different.
On top of this I'm trying to memorise the rest of the lines for the play. For some reason my character suddenly starts spouting forth more than he does in a while towards the end of the play. So instead of popping an occasional line into a scene, suddenly I'm having real conversations.
I've just checked out HitTail, and find that Anna Leese soprano flower named after has turned up as a search phrase. Could it be because that's the current question on the Concert program's weekly quiz? I think it might just be! I didn't know what the flower in question was when I heard the quiz, but I suspected it might be a rose, and it turns out I'm right. Curiously enough, the phrase the other searcher put in didn't help them to find this out!
Here's the gen: The Anna Leese rose (WEKscemala), was bred by Tom Carruth of Weeks Roses, California, USA. It has blooms of an eye-catching combination of orange red suffused with apricot yellow, set off against mahogany red new growth. A bushy grower to one metre high. Bred from Scentimental x Amalia.
Sounds delightful, as of course Ms Leese herself does...!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Freud and road construction

I’ve just been checking back on an old post, one relating to a quote by Sigmund Freud, in which he uses the phrase: de mortuis nil nisi bonum (speak nothing but good of the dead). Curiously this particular post attracted not one but four comments that were plainly nothing but advertising. (I’m loathe to block comments on my site because I get so few of them!). The first three were all from the same crowd advertising road construction (yup, it has everything to do with Freud, and/or speaking good of the dead). The fourth comment was for some other equally unrelated item. I’ve just deleted all four (which reduces my comment rate considerably, no doubt), but I’d still love to know why they turned up on this post in the first place!

Update on Narnia and the Dawn Treader

Yesterday (Saturday) the Narnians had their first taste of working on the Dawn Treader itself. The ship is still in a rather primitive state, but at least we could go in and out of the cabin door, climb up onto the poop deck (which took us within inches of the rehearsal room’s ceiling) and feel as though we were getting the sense of our eventual surroundings for when we go on stage.
The poop deck is well above head height, so there’s a ladder of about eight steps to get up to it. We’re told by the builder that it will take 10-15 people without problem (rather like those lifts where they tell you so many kilos or so many people – you always wonder why telling you how many kilos the lift will carry is of any use), but even having a few people up there feels uncomfortably crowded (at least it did to me) and there’s a sense that the railing around the poop isn’t really secure enough to hold anyone in an emergency. It’s going to be strengthened, thank goodness.
And standing on it while it's being moved is a bit too exciting for my fractured nerves, but I guess I'll get used to it!
We’re now just about towards the end of the play, in terms of blocking out scenes, and it’s noticeable that my character, Reepicheep, gets more vocal as time goes on. Of course, the end of the play almost belongs to him (okay, give or take a couple of other important characters), and there’s that thrill of reaching the ‘end of the world’ and the sweet, sweet water that isn’t salty to the taste, and various other aspects that he’s been waiting for all his life.
And today, five of us went out to have publicity shots done, which meant traipsing around by the area in front of the St Clair Salt Water Pool while we got organised, and some people got their costumes on (the guys modestly getting untrousered and trousered in our car). I’d already been dressed since just after church this morning, because I was also made up: a kind of intermediate, experimental make-up, but it looked okay.
We went around to the back beach, beyond the Pool, getting odd looks and comments from various passers-by, and finally had the photos taken right along the end, where the cliffs rise up behind you, and the sea storms away below. It’s a wonderful spot, and the day was blissfully sunny (after what seems like weeks of rain and cold). Erina, our director, said it’s strange how actors tend to be shy in public. None of us, initially, was enthused about walking in public in our costumes, whereas we’d all be much more comfortable on stage. We like to keep our audience at a bit of a distance. On the other, hand, once you get used to the idea of looking daft in public, you just go with it, and none of us was that embarrassed.

Photo courtesy of Brett, from his Picasa album: Flatting in Dunedin

Friday, August 08, 2008

Street Art

Those innumerable readers (all 3 of you) who haven't been engrossed in catching up with some 0 balance transfer from one credit card to another, and who check out this blog every day of the week, will no doubt notice that I've been adding a bunch of links down the side. They're all to blogs written in Dunedin, and I've been tracking them down bit by bit. Came across a site today called Dunedin blogs, in fact, and it had some that were new to me, including a delightful one called Dunedin Streets, produced by Sophie. Sophie has apparently been going round Dunedin's byways and highways photographing 'street art' (known to most of us as graffiti) and she has a mixed bag of superb pieces, careless art and what seems to me to be a fairly low form of the medium. Well worth checking out.

Three quotes

Without yet again exercising my Eeyore characteristics – that is, being dour about everything I read – I have to say that the following paragraph in today’s Otago Daily Times surely serves as a good example of gobbledegook:

In her detailed 324-page report commissioned by the council, [Jackie Gillies] said additions to the exterior of the town hall would need to be ‘extremely carefully considered in order to avoid detracting from both the bulk appearance of the building and/or the rhythm provided by the articulation and placing of the openings on all facades.’ It’s hardly surprising it took Ms Gillies 324 pages to write her report. 

In another place (in the now defunct Dunedin freebie newspaper, Deadline), I found this piece of rather unsubstantiated journalism: I agree with his sentiments on the stupidity of NZ’s marijuana laws, which are (as far as I can make out), principally there because some Christian nut-job blackmailed the government into backing away from the reforms recommended by their own legal and medical experts. ‘some Christian nut-job blackmailed the government’ – oh, puleese, Mr Ben Vidgen. If the Closed Brethren couldn’t change the way a party thought by using a heck of a lot of money, I don’t personally think that any Christian nut-job (whatever that may actually be in real life) could blackmail the government. But then again, maybe I’m as wrong as I think you are! 
And the last of my quotes today is this paragraph from a wonderful piece of humorous writing by David Hill, whose fairly regular pieces in the ODT opinion pages are invariably a delight to read. He’s talking about walk shorts, those wonderful pieces of menswear that were fashionable in the 70s (and still are, in some circles). I still have those walk-shorts. Partly this is because men bond much more with their clothing than women do. Those who claim Anglo-Saxon males aren’t capable of deep emotional attachment have never seen a man trying to throw out a 12-year-old T-shirt. I can empathise entirely with this: I’ll wear clothes until they’re practically falling apart, if they’ve been something I enjoy wearing. I don’t like to part with clothes until I’ve got my last ounce of wear out of them, for one thing, but equally I hate trying out new clothes. 

You can read Hill’s piece here. The Otago Daily Time’s approach to archiving older material is much improved from the time I wrote this post. (You can now find some of my book reviews there along with other bits of writing.)
Photo of (one bit of) the Dunedin Town Hall by bronzebrew, on
This post was updated on the 12.10.20 due to various links being out of date. 

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Playing it strange

In an article in a magazine put out by NZ Management this month, Mike Chunn talks about a site called Play It Strange. It focuses on NZ (popular) music, and in particular, on songwriting. Its aim is to give young people the chance to write songs and get them heard by people who know whether they have any quality, any playability. You can listen to a half an hour's worth of some of the music that's already made it, and is being played on the Play It Strange radio show, which is featured on KiwiFM. At this point you can download 'episode' 17, although episodes 14,15, and 16 appear to be missing.

This is what the site says about itself:

The Play It Strange Charitable Trust was established in November 2003 for the purpose of encouraging young New Zealanders to develop interests and skills in songwriting and musical performance. The Trust intends running a range of programmes across New Zealand to achieve its purpose.

For the first time in our history, we have a popular music industry where local artists singing original songs are outperforming the Anglo-American imports. And this celebration is happening at all levels. From the Beehive to the church hall, from the decile 1 school to the Aotea Centre, NZ music is coming across loud and clear.

Newspapers versus the Net

Back at the end of May this year, Michael Courtman, who writes a blog called NZ Conservative: unfashionable, politically incorrect commentary on New Zealand and international issues, began a blog in this way:

In newspaper commentaries on the decline/ stagnation of newspapers, and the rise of Internet, you don't tend to hear much about the Internet's greatest strength - its capacity to act as an outlet for frank opinion, or it's greatest weakness - its lack of appeal to advertisers.

For example, in a Press opinion column from last week "There's no business like news business," (Saturday, May 24), Martin Van Beynen says the Internet is competing strongly with print media for advertising, but later in the piece claims newspapers are struggling to get any revenue from their online versions.

He goes on to talk about the way the blog is a place for all sorts of 'journalism' but isn't much use to advertisers - not so far at least, anyway.

It's worth reading in full.

Mike also writes another blog (spasmodically) called, Lightening the Load. It focuses on labour-saving technology.

Beginning a book

Books may begin well. Authors do not. When an author sets out, he is only vaguely in possession of what he wants to say. He knows as much about his unwritten book as an architect knows about an unbuilt house: only, for example, how many rooms she wants, and whether the kitchen is to be central or auxiliary. The true work of composition must be done, hit or miss, from the ground up; to attempt it form the porch in will produce a monstrosity. The real beginning of a book, therefore, is always carefully suppressed. Not to do so would be an editorial sin comparable to leaving an excavation in front of a finished house.

From Robert Farrar Capon’s Prologue to An Offering of Uncles.

I found this an interesting paragraph, particularly after reading the beginning of my novel, My Twin is Dying, again, where it seemed as if I needed to go back and rewrite the way it worked because of things I'd written later in the book.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Just came across Wordle as a result of checking out someone else's blog, and here's the result:

Click on the picture to see a full-size version

The Wordle site says: Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

Note the predominance of athlete's in this Wordle. Plainly I should be writing about athletes rather than art!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Going back to the draft

I began to reread the novel (My Twin is Dying is the working title) I've been working on for the last three or four years (very spasmodically) again today, just to see what I felt about it now. I'd revised quite a bit of the early stuff a few months ago, so the opening couple of chapters seemed pretty much okay. There are two possible criticisms my internal editor immediately pointed out:

1. the beginning of the novel might be a bit slow, maybe
2. there isn't enough 'texture': smells, sounds, touch sensations, those sort of things.

Well, there are certainly more than there were in previous drafts, but now they turn up in some sections and less so in others. This is certainly something that needs work. I'm off to read some more of it - and try and encourage myself that it's worth pursuing further.

(Before I did that, I checked out a shortish video on the Sony Vaio. It's worth watching, though there are so many choices amongst what seems to be a small group of laptops, that I quickly began to struggle to figure out which one would be of interest!)

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Top Ten

What's important about these ten names or items?

Athlete's hand
James Berardinelli (the self-taught film reviewer)
Mike Crowl
Brent Stavig (singer, bandsman, actor?)
Shrinking Shirts
Karl Maugham (whose name is properly spelt as Karl Maughan)
Chrissie Popadics
Nintendo Jewellery
Athlete's fingers
Michael Crowl

They're the ten top search phrases on my HitTail list. Note that I appear under two guises; James Berdinelli comes higher than me on the list (!), both athlete's hand and athlete's fingers appear, and Chrissie Popadics, about whom I've only ever written once as far as I recall, manages to get to 7th place. The mysterious item, Nintendo jewellery is there, and Karl Maugham, incorrectly spelt comes in at 6th place.

The names or phrases that make up the second ten are just as an intriguing bunch:
Henry Lewis Gates
religious jeans
La Monte Young (a composer)
The Great Divorce notes (C S Lewis' incomparable book)
Ronnie Rinalde (the whistler)
Stephen de Pledge (the pianist)
Hitchcock auteur
Athlete hand (can't get away from this one - maybe I should write all my posts about it!)
Brother of the More Famous Jack (a novel)
Church going notes (I have no idea why this gets picked up)

Singers Claire Barton and Kiri te Kanawa don't quite make it into the top twenty, but some form of search for athlete's fingers, hands, itchiness, feet, toes etc makes another ten or so appearances - in the first 350 entries. The same phrase, in some form, appears four times in the top ten Google Analytics keywords as well. Maybe I should forget writing about art and become the blog for athlete's feet!

Blogging and other things

Why blog?

Because I have nothing else to do.

Because my life is empty and blogging fills in some time.

Because I have to write and blogging does the trick.

Because I think I can write.

Because I’m trying to communicate with a world beyond my immediate sphere.

Because I want my family and friends to hear my opinion on everything.

Because my wife has had enough of hearing my opinion on everything.

Because I’ve committed myself to blogging at least once a day.

Because I believe in blogging.

Because I want to make lots of money from having a blog.

Because when I first heard about blogging several years ago I couldn’t see the point and now I can.

Because there are people out there just waiting to hear from me.

Because I want to know whether anyone reading this understands irony or not.


Because it gives me a chance to tell you why guys wear engagement rings.

Or what a smidgen is.

Or discuss the Hitchcock auteur theory.

Or admire nintendo jewellery - if you can tell me what the nintendo side of this kind of jewellery is, I'm be interested. Here's a pendant with the name Nintendo attached to it, anyway.

Consider why athlete's might have athlete's hand rather than athlete's foot.

Or to answer such queries as: what music does the aquaggaswack play? (I didn't believe I'd ever written about such an instrument until I checked back on my blog just now! Crikey, you'd think you'd remember something like that.) Here's some information about it, according to the Oddmusic site: The first version of the Aquaggaswack, built in 1996, only had about 18 pot lids and was narrower (It didn't have the outer sections). This second version, revamped in 1998, has 29 pot lids representing a majority of the notes in an octave, plus some quarter-tones. The center lids have mostly "bell"-like tones and the outer sets have a more "gong"-like tone. All the lids were obtained from thrift stores and friends. At various times both versions of the Aquaggaswack also included a cymbal, jingle bells, a cowbell with clacker and a mine cylinder.
Any the wiser? There's a picture of the aquaggaswack on that site as well, if you think that a picture's better than a thousand words (or even the 94 in the paragraph above).

Rowland Croucher's jokes

I just discovered Rowland Croucher's jokes blog today. Okay, some of the jokes are weak, but some are terrific, and there's a heap of them.

Some one-line examples from one of the most popular posts:

12. Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?

13. Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

14. Why is the third hand on the watch called a second hand?

15. Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

16. Why isn't there a special name for the tops of your feet?

17. Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?

18. If you throw a cat out of the car window, does it become kitty litter?

Yup, that's typical of them. But some of these are clever, some are daft, and some...well, that's jokes for you. But I love the way you can play around with language, taking something that seems to make sense and, when you scrutinize it, find it doesn't really. On the English version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the early questions often have spoof answers, ones that play upon the peculiarity of the language. And one of the queries on HitTail this time around is: wedding church bans bands. Say it quickly enough and it's plainly absurd.

Talking of, I must make sure I always write it as HitTail, not HitTails (as I note other people have also done). HitTails will take you to a completely different site, that picks up on the same idea but is nowhere near as professional-looking.