Sunday, 28 September 2014

LIKE PICKING SCABS (2)

I went to Christchurch last week.

This was the first time I've been there for about seven years, long before the devastating earthquake.

My family came from the South Island and I spent many school holidays in and around Christchurch so have fond memories of the cathedral city with its parochial rugby supporters, punting on the Avon river, its crisp, clear winter days and where everyone used bicycles for all sorts of reasons.



I lived in Christchurch for 5 years in the mid to late 1990's and thoroughly enjoyed my stay there. We had a wonderful house with a very large garden which made weekends a pure pleasure even with having to mow so much lawn.



I loved Christchurch with its old stone buildings, parks and a feeling of tranquillity so it was a shock seeing it in its current state of disarray.

Sure I'd seen all the images on TV and in newspapers post the two earthquakes, but its not until you see things first hand that you realise how bad things are. If I'd seen it just after the quakes maybe it wouldn't have seemed so bad. Fallen masonry and broken things would look like they just needed to be picked up and replaced or fixed.


Now, nearly four years later, after all of the procrastination, lies, ineptitude and disagreement, what's left is just sad.

The injuries to the city haven't been cured. A lot of them are still weeping sores and at best, scabs. There are vacant lots where buildings once stood. There are new buildings that have replaced those that fell down or were condemned and pulled down. There are, unfortunately those still in limbo.




My overall impression was of a city that has lost its core being, its soul.


I don't think I'll return to Christchurch or not until it has been totally rebuilt (or relocated - Northland with its stable geology would make sense).


Saturday, 27 September 2014

GREEN ACRES

We followed Uncle Joe's directions to the Haney place, turning left at Sam Drucker's store and catching the Hooterville Express for the last 5 miles.

There it was. Good friends' Tony and Alisons pied-a-terre (literally) in the country.




Tiger country




"Miles from nowhere
I guess I'll take my time
Oh yeah, to reach there

Look up at the mountain
I have to climb
Oh yeah, to reach there. "

Well we made it, Mike and I and found Tony in his temporary accommodation he's installed while the house gets built.

Alison wasn't there as she's overseas at present (probably waiting until the house is built if she has any sense).



Tony took us on a tour of the property It's huge - over 20 hectares of farm, bush, forest, wetland and hills.

Lots of hills.




I liked it and would like something similar but I know that The Old Girl would veto the idea. It will be a magnificent property when they fully develop it. This should take about 20 years so when they're in their 80's they can sit back and enjoy it.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

CAR n AGE

I bought a car today (well to be honest it was a few weeks ago).
It is a ....umm....a B.., no a G... bugger me, it's something I'd never heard of before being  out of the range of my normal aspirations (which are dominated by Maserati by the way).

In the past, in blog posts I have entertained, informed, written, banged on about cars I've owned. This latest addition isn't one that I'll rave about being a bit of a grandma's car - safe, boring, small engine and low performance but will probably run for years and years.
I bought it for a few reasons:

  • help out the tenants of our house up North
  • have a reliable car that has to sit undriven for weeks at a time
  • have a car that I'll only use to get me from Whangarei to McLeod Bay and back on the odd weekend.
Not the usual reasons I'd buy a car.

So, what do we need cars for?

Living in Toronto for the last year without a car was a bit of an eye-opener for me.
I didn't need a car and I didn't want a car. I walked. When I couldn't or didn't want to walk because of distance or inclement weather I used public transport. I actually preferred this to driving. I was much more aware of my surroundings and it was a hell of a lot cheaper.

Now that I'm back in Godzone I don't really feel that much different. Admittedly the public transport isn't as good, having got used to the integrated subway/tram/bus system they have in Toronto (and other North American cities),but in Auckland I still walk or use public transport before considering using a car - even the company car I have.

So, what's this post really about?

For the last few years I've been getting pissed off with the way car companies have been advertising their product.
In the past they had real technological things to say about their brand - ABS braking systems, safety features, transmission advancements etc and of course performance.
A lot of this had to be put into a geo-political context e.g. post WW2 German car manufacturers used the humble and inoffensive Volkswagon 'Bug' for penetration into US of A marketing it as small, cheap to buy and cheap to run etc. no threat to the good ol' boy's gas-guzzling Fords and Chevies.

 It wasn't until the '60's that the krauts felt safe enough to market their big arrogant Mercedes Benz's and their sexy Porsch's and Beamers.



Today, with almost all car manufacturers meeting and exceeding engineering, safety and environmental standards it's a bit of a problem for marketers to differentiate their product apart from price.

That's why, in recent years we've got all this 'lifestyle' crap in the promotion of new cars.

If it's a 4WD then we get some macho fool barrelling along high country roads setting up clouds of dust that just have to settle on some farmer's crops or pastures.


If it's a 'metro' car then some silly, grinning bimbo is racing through narrow city streets racing her idiot bike-riding and metro sexual boyfriend to their favourite latte shop.
Fun. Fun. Fun. Bugger the safety aspects.




Give me a break.


Monday, 22 September 2014

SIR JOHN

The Wine Guy used to write about the music concerts he went to and the wines he drank there but since returning from overseas Mr Google refuses to recognise his sign in to his blog so he's asked me to post on his behalf. So, here goes.

"Last Thursday I went to the opening night of Don Giovanni, the New Zealand Opera performance of Mozart's famous opera.

This is pretty heady stuff with Nanny Herald reporting that some people are shocked that school children (read 7th form or whatever equivalent that is in today's school terminology) are allowed to see a performance that has sex, abduction, pole dancing, subterfuge and murder as the major themes. Shades of Patricia Bartlett methinks. I actually thought that all good opera included most if not all of these themes (well perhaps not the pole-dancing).


Now I'm usually not a fan of Mozart's operas. Sure he writes a good tune and, to be honest it's a lot better than the 'filler' that other opera writers pad out the show but it lacks the big bang. You know, the powerful "Nessum Dorma' type of arias that Joe Green, Puccini, Delibes and Rossini knocked out. Apart from a 'Figaro, Figaro' outburst old Amadeaus kept it pretty even.

The little bugger was also pretty wordy which means, in opera when the singing is in Italian, French or German, you have to crane your neck up to see the 'sur-titles' for the translation. With Mozart the words change rapidly something not seen with Guiseppe who usually repeats the same line about 10 times so that we the viewers don't have to crane our necks as we, after 3 repeats of (in Italian) 'You have a lovely hand', "I have a lovely hand', 'You have a lovely hand', 'I have a.....etc' we recognise what they're saying and can concentrate on the performers, especially the luscious ones.

Anyway, as I said, last Thursday I went to see Don Giovanni at the Aotea Centre (which is a pretty good venue).
I knew that it would be a modern take on the opera  - thanks to Nanny Herald and the salivating warnings about the salacious content - so was a bit trepidacious. I don't like classics being modernised and have not bothered seeing films of Shakespeare plays being put in contemporary or futuristic settings.


I have to admit though that in this opera it worked and probably better than if it had been done to be contemporaneous with Mozart what with the powdered wigs and puffery.


The setting was a modern Spanish city in the nightclub area - all neon and graffiti. New Zealand Opera do the sets really, really well. We've seen a fair bit of opera around the world, in bigger cities with grander opera houses and they tend to do things a bit over the top. Auckland does it simply and elegantly with often the merest suggestion of a theme or placing done with a fragment of architecture. Brilliant.


The performances were, as usual, world class with NZ, Australian and (this time) a British lead carrying on the tradition. There was some good music with a whole lot of jokers making noises below the stage. What I was particularly pleased with was that the conductor didn't turn up too late this time, In the past, and this was particularly annoying at the Met in NYC, the conductor chappie (who just waves a stick about) swans in ages after the other musicians are all seated ready to go. And then the audience clap and cheer him (always a bloke). I often call out "what kept you?" much to 'Her Indoors' chagrin.

The whole show rollicked along, a murder here, a beating there, a bit of fiddling and, to underscore what a bastard Giovanni is, a rape. We all knew he was going to  meet a bad end - in the original this was being dragged down to Hell by demons - but when it happened it took everyone by shock.

****************SPOILER ALERT**********************************

The Don, after being overpowered by the vigilantes which was easy to do since he'd been sloshing back Cognac and snorting cocaine, was soaked in petrol and set fire to.

SET FIRE TO!

 On stage. In a public auditorium that was packed. Wow! Brave stuff this.
The choreography was brilliant. The Don was dragged backwards over a couch where a stunt man was hidden who lept up and had a cigarette lighter thrown at him. He burst into flames and ran screaming to the back of othe stage, up a staircase and out.


Powerful stuff this. I bet they don't try this at Covent garden or the Metropolitan.

I was there on my own. 'Her Indoors' being overseas, so did my usual thing in these situations and waited to the last minute to buy my ticket. When buying tickets for two (seated together) the opportunities are more limited. when buying for one, especially on the afternoon of the performance, there are good buys to be had. I asked for the best deal and was sold a Circle ticket to the right of the stage for $56. At interval I was chatting to the woman seated next to me and, when I said that I bought my ticket fairly late in the piece, she asked how much? When I told her she shrieked. She had paid $92 for effectively the same seating. I commiserated but quietly felt good.

Overall it was a damned good evening and ............oops, I nearly forgot the wine.
As usual the wine at Aotea Centre is pretty good - big brands from the sponsoring big producer Pernod Ricard but Church Road Chardonnay is well worth the peanuts you pay for it - $12 a decent sized glass. It would have been perfect if I hadn't gobbled down a white chocolate and caramel ice-cream afterwards and felt slightly nauseous but there you go, that's what happens when your other half is half the world away."

Monday, 8 September 2014

TREMBLING EH!

I watched John Campbell on TV3 tonight - not unnusual as I've recently moved over to this channel.


I used to be a TVOne stalwart but over the last few years the triteness, loss of journalistic values and overt employment of blonde bimboes has driven me away.


Anyway, as I said, I watched Campbell on TV3 and was particularly struck by a segment on the problems that Christchurch residents are having with trying, three and a half years later, to get settlement and resolution from the insurance companies and official bodies that have given them the run around and made their lives miserable.
Oh, and many are still living in a vitual refugee camp existence.

It resonated with me and I suddenly thought (before the woman being interviewed concluded with the comment "..I hope that Nicki Hagar is watching because there's a book in here..", that there is a film or TV series in here.

I am blessed with having intelligent, educated and talented friends. I reckon that between us we could knock together a TV series that encaptures the daily struggles, trials, hopes and aspirations of the 'inmates' down there.
The concept is in being a drama based on the interactions of a seemingly diverse group of people but underlying they all are connected through the Christchurch earthquake and subsequent issues and problems.

I'm sure that writing, organising, musical scoring, performing, marketing and business management is totally withing the experience and abilities of myself, Tony, Mike, Richard and his Bros and we could even find roles for Noel and Yort.



It's a great idea but as we all have day jobs it'll never happen.



With apologies (and a nod) to Treme.


Friday, 5 September 2014

OO OO THAT SMELL




"Whiskey bottles and brand new cars.......Oo Oo that smell..." Yes, freshly baked bread, barrel fermented Chardonnay, handfuls of fresh herbs ... these smells are evocative. I got the new company car today. 13KM's on the clock. brand new inside and out.

 Oo Oo that smell!

"WE'RE A TOILET"

I like John Oliver. His retakes of the news are insightful and very funny. Have a look via the link below at his latest review of Facebook...