It Gets, um, *Chile* in Winter ’round here

I hate myself for that lame title. But it’s a good, satisfying kind of self-hate.
So Chuck has arrived! Last night I took him out for his first good Scottish Night Out – ‘Donde las papas queman!’ (“Where the tatties are burning!”), Chilean traditional music performed by a group of Chilean ex-pats and one hairy Scot.
We met up with Jess, a Kiwi from Rotorua, and George, a Kiwi from Wellington. To paraphrase Chuck: “What could be more Scottish than listening to South American folk music with a bunch of New Zealanders?” And you know, I really don’t know what could.
Made me reflect for a bit on the absence of a ‘traditional music scene’ in Wellington, and perhaps in wider New Zealand. Traditional/cultural music groups exist, of course, but they’re pretty hard to find – I certainly never stumbled across more than one or two. (Although, now I think of it, the Cuba Street Carnival always seemed to summon them out of their shadowy corners.)
In New Zealand we have little in the way of local traditional ‘folk’ music that is shared with the community. Certainly, we have cultural music traditions that are strong – I defy any New Zealander’s spine not to tingle when a waiata rings out – but they are bounded into particular spaces and contexts. The Pacific Island musical traditions are likewise heavily tied into their particular communities. New Zealand’s European-descended pakeha seem to be largely happy to let the musical traditions of their various forefathers fade to nothing. The Asian communities are still a long battle away from being accepted as ‘part of New Zealand’ and their music likewise.
All of this adds up to a New Zealand with a quiet sort of multiculturalism.
Which is no bad thing. But it is odd – another distinguishing feature of the strangely half-formed New Zealand culture. Hell, even Aussie has a style of music (twangy guitar ballads often filled with filthy jokes) of its own. And as usual with NZ, it gives us a rare opportunity to have a foot in many worlds and construct a society with a 21st century mindset that is the Victorian humanist legacy of the nation’s modern founders.
It’s an interesting country, Aotearoa.
(Note: all the above is generalising from personal experience – I’m quite ready to believe that other parts of NZ have much wider-spread engagement in cultural musical traditions.)
(Note 2: I recognise the oddness of reflecting on NZ traditional music when Chilean music is hardly local to Edinburgh – but there is a connection, namely the fact that the hairy Scot of the players got chatting to us in Sandy Bells, local folk music pub. Everything connects, etc etc.)
I think the best example I can recall of engaging with traditional music and making it part of the community: the Pacific Island drumming that accompanied every home game for the Hutt Valley Lakers basketball team back in the early 90s. That was a beautiful thing.

(skims back over entry)
Ah, so that’s what I’ll be using this blog for – long stream-of-consciousness rambles. Cool, I guess.

21st Century Thingness

This is a thing of the 21st Century. (Link courtesy the ever-wise Billy.)
I call it art, dammit. But that’s another rant. (Don’t get me started on Jake and Milos Forman.)
In other news, the fabulous Chuck Gillespie lands on Scottish Soil in about a half hour. ‘ray! And I emailed Ella all the suggestions people made, and more besides. Should keep her busy.

Mad Home

Somewhat odd to be on the other side of the world while my home town goes completely wild
(And if, four years ago, someone told me that in 2003 Seth Green would be hanging out in Lower Hutt but I would be in Edinburgh, I would have thought them a very adventurous sort of psychic.)

‘Love, actually’

Went to see new Brithope ‘Love, Actually’ t’other night. (“Oh no!” readers cry, “he’s reduced to writing about movies already!” Well, shush. I’m going somewhere with this.)

‘Love…’ does what it says on the box – romance, Christmas, snow, public declarations of love, Atkinson Firth Grant Rickman Thompson Lincoln Knightley Neeson etc etc. The bad stuff is also pretty unsurprising – non-white characters are all in marginal roles (London, the whitest most-ethnically-diverse city in the world!), dumb bits with Comedy Americans, a gobsmackingly stupid portrayal of politics that could be overlooked if September 11 wasn’t explicitly referenced in the opening monologue.


‘Love…’ does its po-mo po-faced, with characters taking their love lessons from movies (it ain’t over till its over, it all comes together at the last possible moment, you have to run across town and call out someone’s name before they slip out of your life forever). It even quotes about 10 seconds of ‘Titanic’ full-frame (I had a weird feeling that someone taped over the movie). The ‘Titanic’ riff is calculated. ‘Love, Actually’ has sold itself as the follow-on to ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and ‘Notting Hill’, but that’s just to get you in the door. It has set its sights far higher than that. ‘Love, Actually’ is intended as the spiritual successor to ‘Titanic’.

(ASIDE: ‘Titanic’, of course, is the most recent adoptee of the Gone With The Wind Trophy for the Most Romantic Movie Of All Time. It’s also a nice barometer for comprehending movie criticism.

Now, I loved ‘Titanic’. I saw it three times on the big screen. I do not apologise for this. Sure, the characters are two-dimensional. Sure, it’s an unrealistic fairy-tale stapled on to a horrific historical tragedy. Sure. But if you buy into its desperate Mills & Boon-via-Tom Clancy logic, it’s one hell of a tale. And it isn’t that hard to buy in – this was the movie that broke records and made 3-hour films entirely mainstream, remember? (Another of Jim Cameron’s multitiude of sins. But I digress.)

Lots of smart people hated ‘Titanic’ but when they say why they hate it, most of the time at least, I can’t help but conclude they have missed the point. Second point of reference for the same thing: season 1 Dawson’s Creek was one of the best teen-romance tales I’ve ever come across. Lots of people hated the way all the characters talked in thirty-something therapy-speak. These people have missed the point. That’s what Dawson’s Creek is.)

‘Love, Actually’ is for *ahem* grown-ups. It doesn’t have the teen-daydream emotional logic of ‘Dawson’ and ‘Titanic’, but it does have a non-rational story structure where the real world is just a backdrop to the stories of people discovering and committing themselves to emotional truths.

The crux of ‘Love…’ is an idea, repeated over and over again, that Christmas is a time for telling the truth. ‘Telling the truth’, of course, is explicitly developed as code for biting your lip, being brave, and admitting to someone that you fancy them.

And that makes this a fascinating movie. It’s being mass-released all over the world. For every person in the audience who is trying to work up the nerve to tell someone that what they really want for Christmas ‘is you’, it lays down a path, hands over the tools, pats them on the back and makes encouraging noises. It does everything but tip alcohol down their throat and spray on perfume/cologne. This movie is trying to make all those people screw up their courage and go for it.

‘Love…’ is trying to change the world. Movies don’t do this often. Certainly not big, mass-release blockbuster type movies. (‘Fight Club’ and ‘American Beauty’ are the only big examples I can think of in the last few years.) I am somewhat cautious about movies that attempt to prompt real change in their viewers’ lives, but by my lights, the message of ‘Love…’ is a grand one. I hope it works. I hope, all over the world, people who see this movie then get their nerve steadied and tell that special someone how they feel.

The planet would be a better place for it.

(By the way, if you are already hooked up with someone, as I am, there is still great enjoyment to be had from the movie. Well, specifically, from Bill Nighy. And the Andrew Lincoln-Keira Knightley storyline, for that matter. But I’ve written long enough.)

I need your help.

Just over a year ago I was travelling through Portugal and Spain with Canadian smilewright Ella Munro, everyone’s favourite multi-lingual Winnipeger. Good times and a new friend, plus highlight after highlight as we wandered Iberia.
Now – one year later – Ella is coming to Aotearoa.
As you can imagine, I have talked up this fine country of ours, but sadly I won’t be there to help make it live up to the hype. So I’m calling on you, ye readers – those of you who are familiar with New Zealand, at least – what would you recommend to a traveller spending December in the land of the long white cloud?
Anything that jazzes you. Hidden corners that won’t be found in a Lonely Planet, as well as obvious places that just should not be missed! (She should have access to a car at some point, so out of the way is fine.)
Share your favourite places. Even better if you say why they are special, like Karen does in the September 19 entry here.
Go on, click ‘Comments’ and write. Make me a happy morgue.

Beginning to Exist

Well, okay. I think I’m here now. And in the process of figuring how this will fit in with other means of communication.
BLOG OPENING SPECIAL! I have typed up a first draft of a horror movie screenplay called ‘Cold Night’. I will email it FREE to anyone who asks! JUST BECAUSE I CAN!
It ain’t finished – the ending is rushed, it has a saggy middle, and I’m starting to suspect it ain’t scary – but I’m still sorta happy with it.
So, yeah. Here I am. Now, you speak.

a soundtrack

RUNAWAY by Del Shannon
As I walk along I wonder a-what went wrong
With our love, a love that was so strong
And as I still walk on, I think of the things we’ve done
Together, a-while our hearts were young
I’m a-walkin’ in the rain
Tears are fallin’ and I feel the pain
Wishin’ you were here by me
To end this misery
And I wonder
I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder
Ah-why-why-why-why-why she ran away
And I wonder where she will stay
My little runaway, run-run-run-run-runaway
—— Musitron solo ——
I’m a-walkin’ in the rain
Tears are fallin’ and I feel the pain
Wishin’ you were here by me
To end this misery
And I wonder
I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder
Ah-why-why-why-why-why she ran away
And I wonder where she will stay
My little runaway, run-run-run-run-runaway

already in motion

and through came the noise, through the wall of wax, whistle-thin, pointed. Brushing someone else’s hair off my page so I can write, thick weeping willows of hair rich in aroma.
mirror writing, despite or because of the noise. I step through and see what I have written from beneath. These are my mirrored words:
“if you mess with this, the karma pigs will oink against your soul”