Stand aside, I'm creating content.....

Warning: This post mocks myself in places and those of you who use social media.

This site has been lying dormant for the past year or so as I have coped with a move to Wellington, new job, LIANZA Presidency and life really.  Where for some people that might have led to an outpouring of creative writing or commentary, for me it has really done the opposite.   My content creation has been much more in the music and photograph front, which seem to have been the ones firing for me of late.

I chuckled as I wrote content creation as I find it a rather amusing term which we use all too readily to describe what is in effect something like someone taking a photo or writing a few paragraphs.  It's use some how gives a higher legitimacy to what are often the inane or fairly average musings of an individual and of course the all to common selfie.  I do think we take ourselves far to seriously in this web enabled world where anyone, given a piece of technology, can "publish" themselves online.  "We are the media", Amanda Palmer proclaimed sending shivers down the spines of the Rupert Murdoch's and Kerry Packers of this world.  Yet where traditional media publishing is shrinking, others are making fortunes providing a self obsessed society with the means to tell there world what they had for breakfast or show their delight in the passing of the SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage by putting a rainbow over their profile pic.

We are increasingly self absorbed, a preoccupation which is encouraged by media and by business who seek to profit from enabling this self absorption.  For evidence on that you need look no further than companies that take years or decades to post a profit yet are able to have a book value in the billions.  Put this together with the opportunities that a society who are in the main looking inwards provide to those who wish to more easily control us and I think we are possibly at a pretty scary point in time. I'm not going to say the scariest point in time, as we all too easily fall into the trap of being like every other generation who think that what they are facing is the most significant set of circumstances that human kind has ever faced.  I'm pretty sure the Serfs of the Middle Ages didn't feel a great deal of empowerment or ability to stop those in power from controlling them.  Yet I wonder if the danger here, is the perception that through the web we are all empowered when in reality we are watching the shinny silver thing while others do their dastardly work in the background.  Serfs, at least, knew their lot and that they had no power.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not for one minute saying I am turning my back on the web enabled world that allows me to post with only a moment's thought essentially anything I want.  I enjoy it and the outlet it provides.  It's enablement to share a thought, get quick feedback and stay connected with peers locally and around the world is great.  However I am left wondering if this sense of connection is an illusion in what is actually an increasingly disconnected world.   When we are looking at our peers we are still in many ways looking inward, we see in them a reflection of what we want to see.

I don't have an answer to all theses musings, rather just more questions.  However, I think it's important to ponder this stuff.  What's important is not the shiny Apple laptop, or the rather brilliant meme we just saw or even Kim K's bum.  What is important is world we inhabit, how we treat it and each other and making the most of what is a very short time we all get to spend on it and together.  In the end, we individually matter very little.  At at best no more than the imprint we leave on those around us after we are gone or perhaps for a few of us, the world.  

Now I'm conscious this is reading like a bit of a conspiracy theory and maybe it is, but whether this is insightful, thoughtful or not, one thing is for sure.  By creating this content, and if you are reading it, by "consuming" it, I've helped contribute to the very issue I am articulating.....

 

Music - 2014 in review

Music is a large part of my life.  Whether listening to it or playing it, I get a lot of relaxation and enjoyment out of it.  It's always been that way since I tuned into music when I was about 13 years old.  Duran Duran hold the medal for being "that band" for me, and although my musical tastes broadened widely in later years they will always hold a place in my heart.  Oh the years I spent wishing I was Simon Le Bon......

I was thinking last night how every year I discover new music and reconnect with songs and how it's always good to spread the word about great music you have found.  Some of these new discoveries have been around for years, and I am almost embarrassed to say I have not tuned into them before, but whether new or old, here is my list of music you should checkout from my 2014.

Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked for the Holidays - I know it probably feels a bit much to be contemplating a Christmas Album in January, but at some point in time you should give this a listen.  Save it for your 2015 Christmas experience if you cannot face it before. The Barenakeds' bring a great air to some very well known and traditional Christmas music.  I love the way they mix tempos and genres and that is sometimes in the same song.  The Barenaked Ladies are also a group who I have never really listened to and I am a bit embarrassed about that.  They are right in my musical sweet spot, so I keep asking myself how I could have ignored them for 20 years!!!

Johnny Cash - Bitter Tears: Johnny Cash Sings Ballads of the American Indian - So this is an oldie which I only listened to this year.  I'm a Cash fan but his catalogue of music is so vast it I am still discovering the true extent of his legacy.  This album is a treat if you love Cash and his style but it's also pretty amazing that in 1964 he was making an album dedicated to the rights of native Americans.  Incidentally an album has recently been published which celebrates 50 years of this album and contains the original Cash material as well as covers but contemporary country artists.  If you like this, also check out 1968's The Holy Land.  It's a weird mix that can only come from the U.S. brand of Christianity.

Recoil - various songs from the back catalogue - Recoil is a band I should be listening too.  Recoil is the musical creative outlet of Alan Wilder who was one of the members of Depeche Mode until 1995.  Depeche Mode are one of my 'go to bands'. Recoil is in its essence an ongoing collaborative project where Alan samples and works with musicians around the world to produce what I find are very interesting songs.  I am often hear a combination of Depeche Mode and Fat Boy Slim.

Lily Allen - Shezzus - I have a real weakness for Lily.   There is something about her voice, pop sensibilities and attitude which works for me.  I have listened to Shezzus many times and I continue to love it.  The title track Shezzus is a standout track for me.   Hilarious lyrics at times and actually a nice comment on the 'competitive nature' of the pop divas.  I also love Lily when she does a ballad and her treatment of Keane's Somewhere Only We Know is simply beautiful.

Prince - Art Official Age - Prince is back and with what I think is a welcome return to form.  In true Prince style he released two different albums which have different musical leanings.  Art Official Age, is for me the better of the two albums (both are good).  I wouldn't say Prince has produced anything new in particular with this album, but what he has done is prove he can still do what he does very well, which is a grand mix of funk, pop and rock.  If you like Prince, you should hear this.  If you don't really know him, this is a good place to start.

Zaz - Zaz - A friend who I made this year introduced me to Zaz.  Even more spectacularly they introduced me to her while I was in France. I can't actually think of a better place to discover a French singer.  Zaz's music is a lovely mix of jazz and traditional French sounds.  There is nothing more pleasant to listen to on a Sunday afternoon, or indeed when sitting drinking red wine in France!

Peter and the Mountain - You Are a Bear, Take What's Yours - Describing themselves as atmospheric fuzzy folk, Peter and the Mountain create peaceful lovely songs which remind me of some of the music my pen-friend in England and I would exchange via tape in the mid 80's.  I find this very English.

Valerie June - Pushin' Against A Stone - This is good modern country.  Valerie June presents an interesting collection of country inspired "organic moonshine roots music".  Valerie is from Tennessee and you can hear it.  Delightful bluegrass permeates through sounds which are both the traditional deep south and contemporary America.

Christmas Eve thoughts

Well it's Christmas Eve and it feels quite peaceful.  It's been a huge year on my side. New city, new job, last Comfy Chairs gig, a trip to Europe, LIANZA Conference as President to name but a few. 2015 doesn't feel like it's going to be any less busy but I'm trying not to get into that mental space yet.  I met some new friends this year and grew my friendships with some others.  Whether you are religious or not, I hope you have a wonderful festive season. X

Roma

I kind of doing this all backwards as Rome is the last stop on my trip to Europe and I have not posted about the earlier places yet, but as it is my last morning in Rome I wanted to write about it now.

I agonised over where to go with my 5 extra days in Europe for some time deciding between Prague, Stockholm, Copenhagen, London (again) and Rome.  In the end I decided to come here because I studied classics and it is one of those cities that you need to visit at least once.  Let me just say, I am so glad I chose here. 

I will admit I was kinda nervous when I arrived at the airport, as every second person I had spoken to felt compelled to tell me to watch out for the pick pockets that were rife all over Rome.  What was this city like?  How had the economic downturn affected the people?  Was the poverty that bad that people were everywhere trying to steal from you?   

From the moment I arrived at my hotel I knew this was going to be a good trip.  Hotel Alessandrino, is 10 mins walk from the Vatican, in a suburban street on a hill and it's a pretty lovely place.  I was checked into my room at 11.30am, given a great orientation to the surronding area and felt at home.  I would recommend this hotel for anyone wanting a safe, lovely place to stay which is not in the hustle bussle, but close enough to everywhere. 

I have felt nothing but safe everywhere I have walked in Rome and I have walked.  From the Vatican to Trastevere, to the Forum, to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona.  I have walked all over central Rome.  Small alleys, big streets, crossing intersections with no lights (sticking with the Italians) as the traffic magically stops and doesn't kill you somehow.    I sported a bum bag (for the first time in my life) which worn at the front kept my cards, money and phone in sight and never had an issue. 

Rome is charming, the history is immense and overwhelming, the sites beautiful and the feel of the city homely but cosmopolitan.  It's a lot more human than Paris I think, which while I loved, tends to be more remote and dare I say it, a bit elite.  The combination of medieval and classical combines effortlessly and the Italians have made it work.

I like the people here too.  The Italians are effortlessly classy.  I have delighted at watching them.  The men are so well dressed and Italian, the women invariably beautiful and just a tad carefree (or at least appear to be).  The scooter riders make me laugh.  They go full steam down the roads, dodging cars.  Men in suits, women in lovely dresses, nipping down the Lungotevere del Vallati like it was Forumula One.   

I find the street hawkers here less annoying than Paris too.  The edge of the Vatican City is covered in people selling hand bags (genuine Guchi I assure you), Rosary Beads and anything that you can reasonably sell to someone on the street that in some way links to Rome.  A simple no, and they are on to the next person.  I also noticed, it's the pretty ladies who get the most attention around here.  Not a 43 year old guy with a handlebar mustache.  

It's truly hard to find a favourite place here.  The Vatican was amazing, from the museum to the Basillica it was all just amazing.  I spent a full day there and then next, a full day at the Forum, Collessum and Palatine Hill.  This too was incredible.  Having spent so much time studying this place, to walk where Ceaser and Augustus walked was mind blowing. To leave a coin in Ceaser's temple and to stroll the gardens on the Palatine Hill was just truly special.  The Collessum helps you sense what this place must have been like before it was largely ruined and I agree with a guide book which says visit the Pantheon and the Collessum first so you can visualise the rest.

Food!  Oh the food.  I have largely lived on Pizza and Pasta for five days and its been great.  Oh and Vino.  The hotel here has been great at ordering takeout Pizza and getting it delivered and it is just bloody amazing.  I made a couple of new friends (Rosco and Nicola) who where over from the UK and we spent two great evenings, sitting in the roof garden, drinking Chianti and eating pizza.  Good company, great food and a beautiful city. 

Things I missed this trip?  The Trevi Fountain was drained and scaffolded.  I'll need to come back for that.  Also, I didn't make it up to the gardens above the Spanish Steps.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Churches and art.  The artwork in the churches here is truly astounding.  I was impressed in France, but what occurred here during the Renaissance is something else again.  The beauty, intricacy and sheer volume of the work on walls, and in particular on domes and ceilings is astounding.  What you cannot appreciate until you have seen it in real life, is the work of Raphael and Michelangelo.  The 3D effect that they produced is astounding.  It's breathtaking.  This has been my learning for this trip and one that I feel blessed to have seen.  

Viva Roma. La più bella delle città. Mi hai incantato con il tuo popolo, i tuoi edifici e la tua arte

School boy, I would like a seat....

An interesting moment on the bus home tonight.  A healthy male adult in his 40's, said to a school boy "Excuse me school boy, I would like a seat" and effectively made him stand up so he could sit.  It has been a million years since I have encountered this.  I remember as a school boy the bus used to have signs which read "School children must not remain seated while adults are standing".  I had assumed that now that we live in a time where age discrimination is not ok, that this did not occur.   I actually found it quite offensive.  While I believe in manners and would always stand up myself as an adult for either an elderly person, or a pregnant woman, I don't believe this is an automatic right for any adult that they can require a child to stand.  Why is a healthy adult any more deserving of a seat than a child?  Thoughts???

Blog June - 9th

Woman's Day is declaring the princess may have conceived on the New Zealand leg of the couple's April tour.....

Yeah and she may have conceived in Australia or on a plane or just about anywhere.... what a non story......

Blog June - 8th

To brew or not to brew.... that..... is the question......  For some years now I have dabbled in making food which requires fermentation and crafting.  Sourdough and Cheese have been my two things so far.  Now I am considering whether I should try brewing beer.  I love the idea of taking basic ingredients, cooking them up, putting them into a barrel producing something to drink.  What I am struggling with, is, is this just a passing fancy and can I be bothered with a process that takes a bit of work?  I've got all my cheese making stuff still but have not made any cheese in two years.  That said, I feel I will make cheese again when I am in the right frame a mind. 

So what to do......

Blog June - 6th

My Mother

My mother was born in 1930, which seems like a long time ago

My mother lost her father when she was 8, but never really talked of it

My mother lived with her Grandmother and Grandfather whom she loved very much

My mother remembered the start of the war, and its end, but never really talked of it

My mother fell in love and was married at 21 and was a wife for 55 years

My mother had 6 children, lived with not much and gave everything she had to her family

My mother was shy and would rather stay at home than go out

My mother liked to cater for, rather be catered too

My mother had a beautiful smile, but I don’t ever really remember her laughing

My mother was a wife

My mother loved music and would listen to my records while I was at school

My mother must have been lonely when the last of her children started school and spent more and more time away

My mother travelled the world by reading

My mother never went further than Australia

My mother discovered at 55 when she applied for her first passport, that her parents were not married 

My mother was livid when as a tempestuous teenager I reminded her of this when I was angry

My mother had 6 boys and insisted she never really wanted a girl

My mother had 6 boys and although she would not admit it, I think she wanted a girl

My mother had a heart attack at 60 and was never the same

My mother thought she had died and gone to heaven when she saw the priest beside her in the hospital

It might have been kinder if she had

My mother suffered 16 more years

My mother went unwillingly into a rest home and the last time I saw her alive was the day she went in

My mother died alone in the hospital, just after my father said, she had spoken clearly for the first time in years

I hope she wasn’t scared

Blog June - 5th

People often ask me how much work the moustache is.  The answer is actually surprisingly little once you have the hang of it.  In reality it took me around a year to get my 'technique' right but once I did, it became very easy.  5 mins is really all  it takes in the morning.

The main issue is actually that I can't leave the house without tending to "the mo" as it looks pretty crap first thing in the morning.  Invariably I wake with one side up and one side down from having slept on it.  This is not really a look I like to leave the house with.

I was pondering today whether it is something I will have for the rest of my life.  I will shave it off and regrow it from time to time, but in all likelihood I will keep it for as long as I can.  I quite fancy the idea of it when it's white or grey.  A white curly mo would be excellent I think.....

Blog June - 4th

Tonight, in a fit of danger seeking, I watched the video for Britney Spears classic song Baby One More Time.  I feel it is important to revisit such classics once in a while to remind oneself how good music can really be.  It surely is only once in a lifetime that someone comes along who leaves such a mark on popular music both in terms of vocal and lyric writing talent.  

The video of course is widely regarded as ground breaking on a number of levels, so I thought I would spend a few minutes reminding you all of this unique piece of art.  

The unique and unusual portrayal of a school girl, rebelling by dancing in the corridor is of course widely imitated.  The far too short shirt and white shirt tied at the front adding to Britney's rebellious image.  The obviously deliberate bad lip syncing only serving to remind us that Britney did not care about the establishment (which she clearly was trying to subvert).

The next scene in the video moves outside with Britney in white baggy pants and a pink crop top.  Britney here shows us she is down with the break dancing culture which was obviously such a key part of her youth.  Street battles, growing up on the hard side of the road, are all very evident in the world Britney is letting us see.  One can only assume she got a scholarship to attend the obviously slightly wealthy high school we now see her dancing in.

Cut to the basketball court.  We see Britney's rebel side again as she sits on the sign saying please keep clear in the bleachers.  Britney and her friends then dance as some kind of electrical storm goes on outside causing random flashes of light in the stadium.  The teacher arrives looking ever so cross, but cannot help but be won over by the dancing of Britney and her cool dancing friends.

Finally, we realise the whole thing was just a dream as Britney wakes up in class.  One can only what will happen next.....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-u5WLJ9Yk4

 

Blog June - 3rd

An interesting chat and beer tonight with a friend from Auckland who was down overnight.  David is a creative and he certainly talks some interesting stuff.  It was refreshing to spend some time with someone like that who I know, but don't really know.  To learn a little more about him and to just have some damn fun conversation.

Also today I found via Mashable this Spotify playlist, Summer Jams 1962-2014.  I had a lot of fun walking to work listening to this.  Still quite a few years to go before I reach the end of it too. It has put me in mind of my July Blogging effort.  I am going to listen to the #1 on the NZ Charts from the first week of July for the past 31 years.  So day 1 will be the #1 from the first week of July 1983 and so on.  Now that should be an interesting little trip.

 

Blog June - 2nd

I'm sitting in bed, with two cats snuggled up beside me.  Apparently they can think of no better place to be than as close to my heat as possible.   They are both purring so, I am surrounded by a slow rumble.  I'm sitting in bed, in the dark, looking out over the city and its lovely at this time of night.  I'm going to find it very hard not to have this view one day.

Today was a very lazy day.  It began with some amazing Bircher Muesli that I made.  I'm trying to get back into the habit of making stuff for myself.  I'd never made Bircher before but I will again.  I also need to start my Sourdough again, at some point make cheese and I want to try proper home brewing.  I have thing about stuff you ferment yourself.  Oh and yesterday I made yummy vegetable soup for dinner.  I'm all about making good food.

I also tried to make biscuits today which was a disaster.  The apartment has a very odd oven which has a top element only and it seems to burn things.  I am still working out how it works.  10 mins into the 20 min cooking I had burnt biscuits.....  That one is going to take some work.  

 

 

Blog June - 1st

So I am doing Blog June as a way of getting myself writing again.  It's been a while with other things really dominating my life of late.  Relationship changes, moves of city, new job etc etc etc.    I do like to write, so find it frustrating when I loose my mojo and somewhat demotivating when I post something and realise no one is really reading anyway.  So this month, I am writing for me.

I am having to reevaluate the things that have dominated my thinking over the past few years about what is important.  Major change does that I guess and we are all visited by it at certain times in our lives.  If we never do, I suspect life can be a bit of a sidewalk to the grave.  Also, we never improve if we don't examine who we are.  Even though that can be painful at times, I would rather do it than not, despite the consequences or outcomes.

In some ways I am feeling more grounded now than I have ever have.  Why is that? Is it age?  Is it the fact that I have moved myself, alone, to another city and am getting more me time?  Whatever it is, I am enjoying this time even though it is at once frightening and sometimes lonely.   Lonely can be good though.  Lonely means I have more time to play my uke and get better at an instrument.  Lonely, means I have more time to think about who I am.  Lonely, means that I am challenged to examine what it is that I enjoy and find those things, wherever they are.

I don't watch broadcast television, which means, living on my own, I don't turn that on to create noise and some company.  In fact, most of the time, my apartment is quiet with just the sound of me on the keyboard or ukulele, a miaowing cat and the occasional creak of a floorboard.  When I do have other noise it's some music or National Radio playing.  I do love the rich sound of the interviews and discussion and this is something I aspire to with my own podcasts.    I enjoy a life without television adverts and indeed Paul Henry.

Music dominates my life and always has.  I am finding being in a new city without a band challenging.  The camaraderie, the performance, the sounds you make together all go to making a brilliant experience.   The Comfy Chairs were a brilliant experience and I could not have hoped for a better foray into the world of being in a band.  I am rediscovering old music too through my CD collection and the blessing of Spotify and being able to revisit old albums which I have on vinyl but do not play.  The Jazz Butcher, David Sylvian, The Mockers, Tanita Tikaram, Bauhaus, Echo and the Bunnymen to name but a few.

So, enough rambling, let's wait and see where this month goes.....

The Prince and the Putin

I was listening to the news tonight and discussion over Prince Charles' comments comparing Putin to Hitler.  Now I'm not going to get into the Hitler comment, but I can see the parallels Prince Charles is seeing.  More interesting to me is that conventional wisdom is that the Prince should not actually comment on anything as he will be a future Monarch and is not an elected leader.  I have to say, personally I don't have any problem with Prince Charles or any member of the royal family making comment.    My main reasoning for this is that he has spent a lifetime preparing to lead and he is making informed comment on what he is observing.  I don't see the issue here.  

Putin is clearly dangerous, the question is, what are we going to do about it.....

A short poem

It's been years Since I tried to write something in verse

Which seeks to express how I'm feeling

Or what I am not feeling

 

I received a package last year, of poems and such from my youth

I wasn't so embarrassed as amused

At what a young man felt

Or thought he felt, and tried to put down

On the page

 

A singer with four strings

I find it hard to write the words these days

Yet my head is full of them

Just waiting to come out