Friday, October 28, 2011

TVNZ7 under threat

I've only recently discovered TVNZ7 because we only got Freeview in the last few months.   Admittedly TVNZ7 has a tendency to repeat itself, which can be fine if the subject is interesting enough. This is obviously part of their policy and means that programmes get more than a single airing, and turn up at different times of the day. 

They have a bit too much news on for my taste - the less news the better, is my motto.  By which I mean TV news, since it's entirely geared around whatever they have pictures of.  If there aren't any pictures, it's not news.

But TVNZ7 is under threat of closure.  For a start it isn't interested in sport, which makes it something of a heretic's channel in NZ.  It's very interested in ART which makes it something of an oddball channel in NZ.  And it's interested in talking about art, and showing it, and thinking about it, and discussing it and everything else you can do with it.   There's a programme on one of the other main channels - How to look at a painting - or something along those lines.   It's not a bad programme - it's shown late at night, of course, when everyone's making their last hot drink before going to bed - and Justin Paton, the presenter, is a good communicator.  But it has a tendency to do the quick flick thing, where picture after picture is whipped across the screen until your eyeballs fall out.   Occasionally Justin will stop and focus (or is allowed to stop and focus) and then the programme actually comes to life, when he tells you what is able to be seen in the painting in question.  But this doesn't happen nearly often enough.

TVNZ7 is far more inclined to stop and look.   That's what I like about it. 

The end of the Iraq War?

Some extracts from Jim Wallis' article (an article that's worth reading in full) on the end of the Iraqi War - as far as the US's involvement in it is concerned.

The war in Iraq was fundamentally a war of choice, and it was the wrong choice.

From the outset, this war was fought on false pretenses, with false information, and for false purposes. And the official decisions to argue for this war and then carry it out were made at the height of political and moral irresponsibility — especially when we see the failed results and consider both the human and financial costs.

This week, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a nine-term Republican from eastern North Carolina and long-time member of the House Armed Services Committee....called his decision to give President George W. Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq “a sin.”   

Jones has had a change of heart towards the War through having personal encounters with families who lost their precious loved ones, and by the convictions of his own Christian faith.  He says 'we were lied to and “misled” into war by the “previous administration.”

Wallis lists some of the costs of this unjust war:
* 4,499 U.S. military killed
* 32,200 wounded
* 110,000 estimated Iraqi civilian deaths
* 2.5 million internally displaced Iraqis
* $800 billion in federal funding for the Iraq War through FY2011
* An estimated $3-5 trillion total economic cost to the United States of the war in Iraq.
* As many as 300,000 U.S. troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder.
* 320,000 troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with traumatic brain injuries
* The number of suicide attempts by veterans could exceed an earlier official estimate of 1,000 a month.

Wallis adds: Such a list takes my breath away and should drive each of us to pray for lives that have been so painfully and irreparably changed.

And note that for every US soldier killed, nearly 25 Iraqi civilians were killed.   Admittedly, there has been much internal bloodshed, not entirely related to the War.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Truth Game

Went to Simon Cunliffe's play, The Truth Game, last night.   House wasn't very full, which was a bit of a surprise, since the play has had very good reviews, and it's new, and it's locally-written (Cunliffe works for the Otago Daily Times, which has sponsored the play, and also provided, no doubt, the mountains of newspapers that litter the stage and the foyer, and which the Fortune is going to have to recycle at the end of the season on Saturday).

The play has an excellent cast: Greg Johnson, Peter Hayden, Phil Vaughan, Michele Amas, Anna Henare and Kathleen Burns - more on them later - and a striking set designed by Matt Best.   At first it looked as though the giant screen that dominates the stage (and is used by Belinda as a PowerPoint) is going to clutter up things.  In fact, its screen is made up of modern-style Venetian blinds (I'm sure they have their own proper name) and these open up completely to reveal an office within the larger office that takes up the rest of the stage.  

The play is basically about the conflict that's going on in the newspaper world between old hacks like the rough-edged Frank Stone (note the name) and his even older confederate Ralph (pronounced Rafe, as he carefully explains to the newbie journalist), and the New Media people who think running a newspaper is all about making money (which of course it is, but news comes into it too - real news, as Frank insists again and again), and the up-and-coming generation who can find reports and articles and tweets and blogs at the drop of a hat.   No one wins - not in this play - and probably the competition is going to go on for a long time yet.   

Frank may be rough-edged, but he's a very good editor and organiser - when the big story comes at the end of the first act, he's onto it in a flash.  Frank is played by Greg Johnson - he was the irascible hostel manager in the movie, The Insatiable Moon.   This is a somewhat similar character: a man who's hard-nosed, but has considerable integrity.  A man who shouts at this clientele, but loves them dearly.   A man with mistakes in his past (as the sub-plot brings to light - a sub-plot that's interesting, but not quite in line with the play as a whole; still, it provides variety.  By the way, that use of a semi-colon there is much denigrated at one point in the play, along with a number of other woolly-liberal kinds of punctuation - the end-dash, for one.)

Peter Hayden plays Ralph.  Hayden has had a long and successful career both as an actor and also as one of the men at the forefront of the Natural History documentary unit here in Dunedin.   In this play, Ralph is a little fragile, past retirement age, but still living in a world where he is safe and snug doing what he's always done.   Hayden provides a quiet foil to the noise that goes around him (he writes with large earphones on), and provides some of the more amusing moments with his didactic approach to grammar.  Ralph spends his days puttering around doing the editorial (I always thought the leader was done by the Editor, says Jo, the newbie), pulling together stuff from his forty plus years of experience of writing, and also writing the wine column (a somewhat less-than-journalistic occupation in the eyes of some of the others). 

Phil Vaughan is the fussy little manager; he still has a bit of journalism in his blood, but mostly its been diluted by the need to make money, please the Head Office and so on.  The arm-wrestling he and Frank do at one point may be a bit odd, but it's significant in terms of their relationship.   Anna Henare (a Fortune Theatre regular) is the up-and-coming editor, an able journalist, still with integrity, and still soft, but heading - it seems - towards being as hard-nosed as Frank has become.   She's Frank's current lover, but journalism and truth keep getting in the road.  

Michelle Amas (who's a poet as well as an actor) is the brittle Belinda.  She opens the play with an almost-too-long seminar 'talk' to an Australian conference (Frank is there, and walks out in disgust).   The least likeable character in the play, Amas still manages to give her some warmth - though never too much.  Kathleen Burns is the youngest character in the play (meant to be a late teenager, I'd think, while Burns is around 25), and the one with all the Internet skills.   Burns has a bit of a difficult role: her character, Jo, brings humour to the play, is meant to be a little gauche but also better-read than her years would indicate, and struggles with the interplay between the other characters.    At times I felt Burns was acting the part rather than giving it to us direct; some of her moves had the air of being there to add character, rather than coming out of the character itself.   This may be intentional on the director's part (Lara McGregor, who's done a superb job overall - she's also the Fortune's new artistic director) but at times it just didn't seem quite on a par with the other actors' work.   Nevertheless, Burns is well-integrated into the cast, and my quibble is minor.  

All in all, not only has this play been well worth putting on - and I'd hope there are other companies around the country who'll pick it up - but it's perhaps the best thing I've seen at the Fortune in a long time.  Though that may not mean much as my attendance at the Fortune is pretty irregular!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Election Forums

An invitation from the Centre for Theology and Public Issues to


There's an election coming next month. How should we vote? What questions should we put to candidates? Will our voices be heard?

There's an opportunity to discuss some of the important issues we face at two Churches' Election Forums which the Centre for Theology and Public Issues is co-hosting in the first week of November. Each will include short presentations from an invited panel; summary and commentary; and opportunity for discussion and questions. (Please note these are not 'candidate meetings').

At each event the focus will be on four broad themes:
  • alcohol, advertising, consumerism and their effects;
  • our national identity and the Treaty;
  • families and relationships;
  • crime and punishment.
Churches are also encouraged to download the Centre's 'election resource pack' which also covers these themes. These would be ideal for discussion by groups in the weeks leading up to the election.

You are very welcome to these forums. Please also make them known among churches and other networks.

Dunedin: TUESDAY 1 NOVEMBER, 7.30 - 9.00 pm, Burns Hall, First Church, Moray Place.
  • Glyn Carpenter (Director, New Zealand Christian Network)
  • Gillian Bremner (CEO Presbyterian Support Otago)
  • Prof Andrew Bradstock (Centre for Theology and Public Issues)
  • Dr Andrew Shepherd (Centre for Theology and Public Issues).

Summary: Rt Rev Kelvin Wright (Anglican Bishop of Dunedin)
Chair: Rev Anne Thomson (First Church).

Wellington: THURSDAY 3 NOVEMBER, 7.00 - 9.00 pm: St John's in the City.

Glyn Carpenter (Director, New Zealand Christian Network)
Rev Susan Blaikie (Wellington City Missioner)
Lisa Beech (Research and Advocacy Coordinator, Caritas)
Dr Andrew Shepherd (Centre for Theology and Public Issues)

Summary: Rev Canon Deborah Broome
Chair: Very Rev Frank Nelson (Dean of Wellington).

Further information from: Jill Rutherford, Centre for Theology and Public Issues (03 479 5358;

Office Hours:  9.00am - 12 noon,  Mondays -Thursday

Andrew Bradstock
Howard Paterson Professor of Theology and Public Issues
Director, Centre for Theology and Public Issues
Department of Theology and Religion
University of Otago
PO Box 56
Dunedin 9054

(03) 479 8450

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jennie Lynn Paske paintings

As anyone who uses Blogger will (probably) know, on the Overview page of any particular blog you can now see three other blogs listed, suggestions by Blogger of blogs you might like to visit.   They're usually pretty randomly selected, but today I came across one that was worth the visit. 

It's called Jennie Lynn Paske's Obsolete World and it features paintings by the blogger.   I don't want to reproduce any of the pictures directly here, because of copyright issues, but even more because I'd like you to go and look at the paintings on the blog yourself, rather than just viewing one I've chosen for you. 

I will however reproduce a photo of a number of the paintings hanging in an exhibition: that will give you enough of an idea of the style of the artist without compromising any particular work. 

In this picture you can just see something of the artist's style, and colours.   This artist paints pictures of strange creatures that don't quite inhabit our world...or perhaps any world.  Some are a little creepy, I must admit; more are quite endearing.   Check out this one, or this one.  They'll give you a better idea of what's she creating. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Orator

My wife and I went to see the Samoan film, The Orator, this afternoon.   Before I note anything that other people have written about it, a few thoughts on my own reactions to it. 

Firstly, it's a very moving film - ultimately.   Initially, it's quiet, slow and seems hardly to be telling a story.  Yet each scene contributes to the whole, and in spite of the gentle pace of the movie, little time is actually wasted. 

For palangi, it's something of a difficult movie: we're thrust into a culture that's nothing like what we know about Samoans in New Zealand.  This island culture (to me) is harsh and even brutal, with heavy stones being thrown back and forth at people (with intent to seriously injure), threats of killing people with machetes, squabbles over property, over straying husbands, and much verbal abuse.   The women are as vicious as the men: in one scene three women attack a schoolgirl and chase her home, threatening even to come into her house and beat her up.  They have a reason, but it's not gentle stuff.  In another scene, a woman bullies the main character (a man considerably stunted in growth, with an obvious hip problem) and threatens him with her machete.   He quietly asks, How sharp is your machete?  But it's barely a joke.

Quietness is a constant here: the husband (the small man) and his wife (a woman banished from her own family and village seventeen years before) barely speak, although they're not especially at odds with each other.  They have a daughter - she's the reason for the banishment, and she's not the husband's child anyway - and she isn't someone who says a lot either.   Most of the speaking is taken up by those who seem to be in charge: the orators, or the village elders - or the coach of the football team (who is a delight, incidentally, and provides one of the few lighter moments in the movie). 

The film is about outsiders, and we as an audience, without familiarity regarding this culture, are made to feel like outsiders too.   In several scenes we're left asking why such and such a thing happened; some of it is explained later, some is never explained.  A second viewing is definitely in order, so as to work out more accurately some of the things we see and don't understand first time around.

Production values are great - the island is lush and alive, and almost as much of a character as any of the people (Leon Narby is the cinematographer - which tells you a great deal about the look of the movie).  The acting is uniformly good; no cringe factor here, even though this is Samoa's first feature film ever.   It was shot entirely in Samoa, and uses an authentic Samoan cast. 

It's likely Samoans will see the film in a different way to palangi: Samoan Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni has described it as "a beautiful and poignant love story" which brings "the finest aspects of traditions of our Samoan culture into the international spotlight".   I find it hard to agree with that.  There's a love story here, but it's one with enormous tension running underneath it, and I'm not sure that what's portrayed are the 'finest aspects' of Samoan culture.  It has to be admitted that about three-quarters of the way through the movie there's a change in mood; the violent, angry side of things seems to slide away, and barely surfaces again.  Instead, forgiveness becomes a predominant key to the last quarter of the movie, and in this real poignancy arises. 

Variety wrote: [The] script offers an insider's view of a society that just about keeps a lid on simmering violence through complex, ritualized forms of group interaction and humour, a portrait that goes some way toward exploding the myth of Samoans as peace-loving, noble-savage proto-hippies.   I suspect this is more how most palangi will see the movie.

The film was written and directed by Tusi Tamasese; the lead part is played by a complete newcomer, Fa'Afiaula Sagote (in the photo), and this is also Tausili Pushparaj's first film.  (She plays his wife.)   

Blog Action Day 2011 - Missed!

Don't ask me how, but I managed to miss Blog Action Day 2011 even though I signed up for it. (BAD 2011 tied in with World Food Day this year.)   I seem to remember last year that I got a lot more emails warning me that the date was coming up.   This year...nothing, zilch.  I must have dropped off the list, somehow.  Curiously enough I didn't even see any tweets about it.  What was happening...?

Oh, well, the only way to redeem myself is to write my own little post, post-Blog Action Day 2011.  

BAD 2011 was focused on food, something I tend to focus on myself a good deal, especially as we're still eating the leftovers from my son's engagement party last Saturday.   When I say 'leftovers' I don't mean tired sandwiches and soggy chips.  Nope, we're still getting through the second of the two fruitcakes my wife made, plus the couple of boxes of biscuits she baked that are still partly full. 

Of course this isn't really what BAD 2011 wanted to focus on...the enjoyment of leftover biscuits and cake.  Strictly speaking, I should focusing on the fact that there are millions of people in the world who never have any leftovers, because they often don't have any start-overs to begin with. 

I don't know where you begin with the world/hunger problem.   We know that the planet can sustain all the beings on it.   That's not the issue.   Overpopulation doesn't actually come into it.  Distribution of resources does, and of course, as soon as there's distribution, there are distribution problems: mainly ones that relate back to whether the distributor is going to make enough money or not.   Quite honestly that's too big a problem for me even to think about.

Closer to home we have a different kind of distribution problem.  Food being thrown out from supermarkets and cafes and restaurants because it's too much of a hassle to redistribute it.   For a while, when I worked for the Presbyterian National Mission Office between late 2007 and 2011, in the late afternoon I used to go round to a coffee shop called Mash (in the Octagon) and pick up the leftover food that couldn't be sold the next day, and transfer it only a block away to the Presbyterian Support people.   They didn't have time to pick it up; Mash staff didn't have time to take it there, so we acted as intermediaries.   This went on for quite a few months until various staff changed (as they do frequently in cafes) and the idea got quietly dropped. 

This was a drop in the ocean, of course.   It could happen each day at a supermarket, if someone was designated to give away the food that couldn't be sold the next day.   All it would require would be a staff member to stand at a certain door and offer the food to whoever needed/wanted it.  You can bet it would mostly be the needy who came for it; other people would in general be too proud to be seen taking it.  (Sometimes, curiously, the needy are too proud to take this kind of charity.)

But no, the present system is for 'out-of-date' food to be tossed into the rubbish.   Crazy, but that's what happens.

Perhaps it needs someone - even a me sort of someone - to go and see the management of the supermarkets and see if they couldn't come up with some sort of scheme.   Perhaps they just need a little nudge.  And then, of course, it could go a lot further.   I know there are certain health and safety restrictions, but I don't think they would necessarily come into play if the food was being given away the day before it was due to be tossed. 

Bears thinking about...

Photo: Waiting for the soup kitchen to open, by Jeffrey Beall

Occupying and wealth

A quote from the latest Sojourners newsletter, written by Jim Wallis.   

1. Don’t expect the Occupy Wall Street movement and sites across the nation and world to produce a set of demands. They are instead raising some fundamental questions about the un-economy, and creating the space for a new cultural and political conversation about it. It’s our job now to push that conversation forward— an especially good role for the faith community as our biblical values and theological assertions are integrally involved in these matters. It’s time to put our faith values forward in the midst of what could become a new global conversation about what a fair, sustainable, stable, and happy economy might look like.
2. Don’t worry about endorsing the Occupy Wall Street movement (all the diverse elements involved wouldn’t even endorse each other!), but rather engage it. I asked a young African-American man I met at Occupy Wall Street what churches could do to help. He suggested three things: inspiration, consultation, and presence. I think that’s a very good guide. Worship services are already being held at many of the sites, led by local clergy of many faiths. Take a potluck meal down to the site as a chance to sit, eat, and talk with the people there. Take your youth group or members of your congregation down there after church just to see, meet, and listen. Offer the occupiers support—material and spiritual—along with prayer and love.

I'm not personally sure that the local Occupy movements (in Dunedin's The Octagon, for instance) are doing much more than piggybacking on the big movements overseas.  Nevertheless, they are keeping the bigger movement in mind, and that in itself is perhaps a valuable thing.  Regrettably, the young man who was interviewed in the Otago Daily Times the other day seemed naive in some areas as to where the money comes from to help him study at Varsity and then to support him when he's out of work at the end of his study (which for some reason he assumes he will be).  

On the other hand, it was interesting to see on TV7 a couple of weeks ago a short doco on wealthy people in New Zealand being castigated by other wealthy people for not giving to philanthropic concerns, whether the arts, or medicine or whatever.  Not everything is bad/wrong in the wealth sector.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I'm not entirely sure what the little phrase tablets pcs is supposed to mean exactly, so I can only assume it's trying to say in a kind of shorthand way something about tablet personal computers, of which there are now umpteen (the Amazon Kindle Fire, for example, pictured at right), if this article in Tech Radar is anything to go by.

The i-Pad is of course the obvious example when anyone thinks about tablets - that is, when anyone else thinks about them.  When I hear the word 'tablet' and 'computer' in connection with each other I think of the tablets that my colleagues at my last job used, which often seemed to be a bit of a nightmare.  (The tablets, not the colleagues, that is.)   If they weren't playing up in some way, they would prefer to do their own thing, often causing havoc for the user (actually that's not unlike my colleagues too - just kidding!).   Yes, of course, part of it was familiarity with the machine, but part of it was also the general quirkiness of these particular versions of the computer. 

One of my colleagues liked to keep her tablet screen on a very small font - I found it practically impossible to read, and don't know how she managed.  Though admittedly she hadn't been wearing glasses since she was eight. 

My daughter has an i-Pad, and once you get used to its systems (which are similar for the most part to the i-Phone, which my wife has had for some time) it's pretty functional. (my grandson, of course, breezes through it).  I quite like the touch screen approach for some aspects of use, though I can't say that tapping out messages one finger at a time onto a screen is really progress, to my way of thinking.  I suspect anyone who touchtypes on an ordinary PC would find the same thing. 

I guess it's all relative.  I've watched a friend of mine who's only recently got his first laptop, and it brings back all the memories of trying to stop the cursor racing all over the screen, or figuring out how to land it on precisely the right spot: things that you do as a matter of course once you've been into the computing world for some time (like about 22 years in my case, with a PC, and even longer with office computers).   You also forget just how intuitive you become when getting used to a new computer or an upgrade.   What in the past would have flummoxed you becomes fairly easy to figure out with two decades of experience. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

You wanted to follow for Why?

I've hit the 111 mark with Twitter in terms of how many people follow me.   That may seem a positive thing, until you actually check out who's following you. 

Some are people I follow as well; some are people who know me from elsewhere.  

But some seem rather random in terms of why would they follow me?   It's as if they have some automated system that looks for a key word related to their area of interest.  If I happen to mention that key word in one of my tweets, voila!,  I have a new follower. 

Even then, some of them are mysteries: the 'official tweets for the Olympic Games'?  A stunt actor and fight choreographer.  Someone who's "Sexy, sassy and adventurous."  (She's definitely in the wrong place.)  "DocLocker [who] delivers the ideal combination of first-class maximum security and ease of use."  Someone who has a photo of a collie with boots on as his avatar.  

Someone who has this as their profile: My beloved Nelson died November 6,2009.Memory Eternal.My blog:The Unwedded Widow.Orthodox Christian,hypothyroid/CFS/spoonie,knitter,jobless,navigating grief.  The Brazen Head, that advertises itself this way: Welcome to Ireland's oldest pub, come and experience great music, award winning food & a unique atmosphere!  Terry, who....enjoys Maui sunsets with his wife! Real Estate & Tax Lien Investor. Realtor, Trainer, Speaker for Real Estate Investors. Internet Marketing Consultant.  Carl, who writes: Im married with 2 daughters and have an awesome recipe for chick pea curry. I also lead a UK and increasingly international mens ministry.

An awesome recipe for chick pea curry?   OK, Carl.

Changing looks and computing plays

A few days ago I decided to change the look of this blog to Google's new dynamic approach, which means that not only can the writer of the blog change how everything appears on the page at the drop of a hat, but so can the readers.

However, there are some frustrations with this new look. firstly, it's much harder to search on it.  For one thing on some of the dynamic pages you can't even find a search box.  Secondly, all the additional matter that you've so carefully added to the page over the years seems to go AWOL.  The Google ads are still there - on some versions of the page - but not consistently.  Links to other sites seem to vanish completely, and other interesting bits and pieces are all hidden away somewhere that I haven't been able to discover since I did the change.

So tonight, as the observant will note, I've changed the look again (or the 'template' to use the correct term).   In fact I've done it on all the blogs I have on Blogger.   Given them a facelift, but left them so that they're still easy to follow and won't go swishing all over the page as soon as you touch something.

I quite enjoyed that, but I didn't enjoy trying to find some information again on one of this blog and spending far too long doing so.  In fact, anything that's older than this year, it seems, just comes up as a complete chunk of stuff: all the posts from 2008 will arrive if you ask for some info on a post that was done that year.

Not so hot.

Incidentally, what I was trying to find were the dates of the plays I've acted in over the last decade.   It's been quite a productive time in that regard, with roles in nine plays, and music written for a tenth.   Here's the list.

1.      Mr Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, [second production by Narnia Productions], 2004 (Teachers’ College auditorium)
2.      Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew, Sept 2005 (Teachers’ College auditorium)
3.      Mr Dussel in The Diary of Anne Frank, 2006 (The Playhouse)
4.      The Father in And Then They Came for Me, May 2008 (Globe  Theatre)[also co-directed]
5.      Reepicheep in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Sept 2008, (Mayfair Theatre)
6.      Ormonroyd in When We Are Married, May 2009, (Playhouse Theatre)
7.      Jacob Marley and Mr Fizziwigg in The Christmas Carol Nov 2009 (Mayfair Theatre)
8.      Pianist for Love – or Nearest Offer Apr 2010 (Playhouse Theatre)
9.      Rev Harry Harrington in Shadowlands, May 2011, (Playhouse Theatre)
10.  Paravicini in The Mousetrap, October 2011 (Mayfair Theatre)

I've kept a journal since 1987 (the first entry discusses my daughter waking up in the night with a rat in the room - the only time such a thing has happened - and dropping it down the toilet to get rid of it) you'd think it would be easy to track down the dates of these productions.   But for some reason there are chunks of time when I didn't make entries in the journal, and often they seem to coincide with the productions of these plays.  Furthermore, I've often written about these plays on this blog - or so I thought.  But in fact I hadn't.  I only seem to have mentioned Anne Frank in passing - after it was finished - and the two earlier Narnia plays barely get a look in.  Odd.

The Star newspaper is supposed to have some references to a number of these plays, but when you click on the Google search results, invariably you find that you locked out of the archives.  So you try the Star page...worse still.  The search box that's supposed to be available according to the help page is missing and when you try to access 'all' newspapers, it happily gives you nothing more than 2011. 

The photo is from The Mousetrap: all cast members on stage in Act II (Natalie Ellis, who played Mrs Boyle, doesn't appear in the second act).  I'm sitting comfortably on the couch keeping the audience guessing as to my role in the situation.  The photo was taken by Andy Cook, who designed the set.

Update as at 30.3.13: I've now completed another role, or rather two roles: Rev Hinton, and the Doctor, in Harvest Field, the Ministry of Rosalie Macgeorge.  This play had its world premiere last night, and its one and only performance, as part of the Dunedin City Baptist Church's 150th Celebrations.  The script was by Greg Brook, who also directed.  The play was performed at Otago Boys' High School Auditorium.
And, while I haven't acted otherwise since my part in The Mousetrap, the first part of last year was greatly taken up with Grimhilda! which I'd written with Cherianne Parks, composed the music for, played the piano during rehearsals for (and occasionally stood in for the Music Director).

In the preface to Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde wrote: "All art is quite useless." A student at Oxford named Bernulf Clegg was intrigued by that statement, and he wrote to Wilde and asked him what he meant by it.
Wilde responded:

"My dear Sir,

Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realize the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.

Truly yours,

Oscar Wilde."

It's fortunate that Wilde writes the second paragraph, otherwise we might think he was serious about the first....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Time for a Change

Those familiar with the usual look of this blog will note a slight change.  In fact they may wonder what's become of's gone from a somewhat bland approach, with posts leaking their way down the page as usual, running out of space and becoming 'older posts' and with various other items visible on the page. 

At the moment I haven't discovered what's become of these other items - links to other blogs, and info about the writer and more - but no doubt in due course I'll uncover them.   In the meantime, the new look is actually quite a lot of fun and very visual.   Even the posts that don't have a picture attached claim attention by not having something graphic, as though they were somehow less of the hoi polloi.  

And I've just seen that I'm no longer restricted to one look; by clicking on the menu over to the top left, you, the reader, can change the look of the page to suit yourself.   Apparently.   Currently I've got it on Flipcard, but it can be in half a dozen or more formats.   Phew.  All a bit much. 

Time will tell how I feel about the arrangement overall, and it's possible I may revert to 'normality' if I get frustrated with this new mode.   Now, since visual is all the rage on here, I better attach a photo of something relevant!

Photo by Matt from London

Not for the fainthearted...

Being not a person who enjoys racing around in a vehicle that is likely to go off at some weird angle and leave you dangling over the edge of a cliff, nor someone who particularly enjoys racing around inhospitable countryside in a four-wheel drive being whiplashed by a passing tree, nor someone who has much mechanical know-how, I can't tell you exactly what RZR stands for.  But the following is a photo of the 2011 XP RZR.  

That gives you - and me - an idea of what we're talking about.   So when a company called Polaris brings out Polaris RZR accessories this is what the accessories are for.   There you go, wasn't that helpful?

As you can see, the vehicle is something along the lines of what I'd think of as a beach buggy, though it obviously has potential to be a great deal more.   In this video you can see it racing over sandy ground filled with barely visible rocks and other nasty obstacles likely to tip the average vehicle on its nose, or cause the sump to fall out.  The wheels seem to pretty much have a life of their own.   In fact they look to me to be apt to leap off the vehicle and go racing off on their own little beach trip.   Heaps of fun for those who have no respect for life or limb....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Too early for Christmas thinking!

It's only October, but of course, for retailers that means they'll already have Christmas stock on their shelves, from Christmas gift baskets to those dreadful toys that only seem to appear around this time of the year, cost a fortune, and fall apart on Boxing Day. 

I'm not even thinking about Christmas yet (no longer being a retailer, thank goodness); in fact the main thing on our minds at the moment is my son's engagement party, which takes place on Saturday.   Of course it the engagement party of my son and his fiancee, but I found that hard to work into the last sentence without the grammar falling into the same number of pieces as those dreadful toys I mentioned above are prone to do on the day after Christmas.   Phew.

And then once the engagement party is over, we have more of Grimhilda! on our plate...the auditions, for starters (plus having to get another application in for funding before the end of the month).   So it's all go round here and Christmas is barely on the it were.   Certainly not on the radar.  

Actually thinking back to the poor old retailers: we used to have to start thinking about Christmas way before October, anyway, as we had to start ordering stuff somewhere round May/June.   Isn't it a tough life being a retailer?  You're working so far ahead of yourself all the time, and always hoping that all the money you've forked out in orders will be well and truly covered by purchases - six or seven months down the track. 

Thank goodness I'm out of it! 

Auditions for Grimhilda!

Stageworks will present a new family musical, Grimhilda!, at the Mayfair Theatre, in May 2012.  The show's main role is taken by a young boy who can act and sing well; there is also a smaller role for a youngish girl that requires more acting than singing.  Both children should be able to pass for 8-10 years old.   We're looking for four children in all.  

The remainder of the parts are played by adults. 

There are three substantial adult roles, including that of Grimhilda herself - a part that requires a singer/actress with pizzazz, vocal ability and stage presence.  The parents of Toby - the young hero - are played by a soprano and baritone.   

The chorus members - a minimum of a dozen of a wide age range - all have minor speaking roles, and play vital roles in the musical.

There are three important non-singing roles.  One short scene requires half a dozen dancers.  
Auditions start at on Saturday Nov 5th at the Mornington Presbyterian Community Hall in Maryhill Tce, Dunedin.     Auditionees should bring a piece of music to sing (unless applying for a non-singing role), and be ready to read lines from the script.   Rehearsals will begin early in Feb, 2012.   For more information, and to book a time, please phone Mike Crowl, 0210 641 081, or email

Grimhilda! will be directed by Bert Nisbet, with the Musical Director being Jonathan Drummond. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Krishna Shanoi

A wonderful online children's book about grief, fathers, sons, a book that will speak to any boy or girl who has lost their father at a young age and never known whether they were loved or not.   It's called Glasses, and it's by Krishna Shanoi

Make sure you view it on full screen....wonderful detailed drawings, and concise, moving text.

Krishna Bala Shenoi is a name entirely unfamiliar to me, and I was only alerted to this book by a tweet from Roger Ebert, the film critic.   Shenoi's website, Artistic Scrapyard. has a wide range of artistic work.  Glasses is finely finished, compared to some of the other material showing, but you might also like to check out the video, Tissue - a love story, which is a video using a combination of animation and live action.  (It also has a surprise ending - and is beautifully matched to George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

As anyone who's read this blog more than once will note, I'm always intrigued by the ways in which people discover the blog.  I've just been looking at the stats helpfully provided by Blogger/Google, and one site that's got me beat as to what it's got to do with me is something called  When you go to this you find it's called Torrent Tracker.   I have sort of an idea what a Torrent is in internet terms - something along the lines of being able to download very large files (movies, for instance) in tiny bits, so that the bandwidth doesn't get overloaded.  At least that's what I gather it is.   So I'm not sure why this particular site would be sending anyone my way, but apparently they did, 34 times, over the last week or so.

More interesting than that little mystery, for me, are the search words that bring people on board.   According to the Blogger/Google stats, this is the list of top ten word searches over the last week that have hooked people up with this blog:

skinny tie
james berardinelli
frederick buechner marriage
athlete's hand pictures
chrissy popadics
edgar jepson
how to wear a skinny tie
steve jobs quote about not settling
tui advert

An odd mix, to be sure.   And it's interesting that the skinny tie thing comes up twice.   It may be that when you put skinny tie into Google, a picture of a bloke wearing such a tie comes up in the images; click on him and you'll come to me.  I don't even remember where I found the picture...!

The 'graveyard' post relates to Neil Gaiman's book, The Graveyard Book.   Curiously, I'm about tenth on Google's search list for this, so it's interesting that people find me.   The mysteries of search engines are wondrous to behold.    However, I'm first on the list (as of today) when you put in Frederick Buechner marriage which is something of a surprise.   The Buechner piece is great, and perhaps a lot of people are using it at their weddings these days.   Well, it's all there on my post!

Just remembered that in the script of The Mousetrap, the irritating old lady, Mrs Boyle, talks about the young architect's ties, calling them skinny...or narrow...or something that equally implies disdain for his lack of style.  Actually, now I think about it, I think she just says, 'And his ties' - Agatha Christie has already told us in the script directions that his tie needs to be skinny.  

Why would you....?

One of the things about doing some baking at home is that you keep on asking one particular question: how did that first come about?   What I mean is, how, for instance, did someone work out that using gelatine in food was a good idea?   Gelatin (or gelatine), as Wikipedia tells us, is a translucent, colorless, brittle (when dry), flavorless, solid substance derived from the collagen inside animals' skin and bones.   Who first discovered it anyway, and why would you go from there to using it in food?

Or take this?   In one of the recipes we used today we separated the egg white from the egg yolk.   Who would have thought this was a good idea, and having separated them, then go on to whisk the white in such a way that it becomes no longer liquid but something that's able to be tipped upside down in the bowl and still stay there?   Doesn't that strike you as odd?

All cooking is a kind of chemical experiment, I guess, and each recipe is basically just a set of instructions telling us how to change certain elements from one thing to another, combining them in some cases, altering them in others.   But even recipes in themselves are curious: we know from seeing cooking programmes on TV that chefs are always experimenting: but they're experimenting with the things that are known.   Who experimented in the first place, and why?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Think again about Steve Jobs' quotes

Alan Jacobs alerted me to two blogs that commented on the famous Steve Jobs' graduation address, quotes from which have been doing the rounds since Jobs' death.  

Robin Hanson, on a blog called Overcoming Bias, wrote that Jobs' advice about not settling until you're doing what you really love isn't actually that practical in real world terms.  If that was the case, no one would get on and do the humdrum stuff, and unfortunately that still needs to be done, come what may. 

It's a bit like a lot of Seth Godin's blog posts: the idea that you can up and leave what you hate doing and go and find what you love doing.  The reality is that most of us have to do something that is 'normal' and do what we love in our spare time.

Will Wilkinson wittily commented further, both on Jobs' statements, and on Hanson's.  Sometimes those who have succeeded in life forget that many others just have to get on with it; they don't have the choices that hugely talented people - or hugely successful people - have.   It's just the way life is. 

I'm keen to do the things I love, but regrettably I've never been in a position to go for broke and do only the things I love.  So be it.  Contentment with your lot isn't too bad a thing, in many ways.

Incidentally, Jacobs also quotes another writer on Jobs, and the less savoury aspects of Apple's influence on the computer world.