Farewell, Hoyts

Can’t say I have any fond feelings towards the Hoyts cinema in Lower Hutt that just closed, and is eulogised by Judge/Jury and Off-Black. Even when it was new it was disappointing. It was the scene of my first date, and of numerous other fond memories, but I can’t spread the rosy glow of those times to the venue itself.
My fondest memory of Hoyts Lower Hutt: going to see The Last Action Hero there. This is a movie that showed promise in its first half-hour as a satire of ridiculous action movie cliches, then quickly degenerated into another example of the genre it was supposed to be mocking. By the halfway mark, it was quite incredibly bad.
I remember seeing it with a friend in a mostly-full cinema, and at about the half-way mark, the sound cut out. Suddenly the whole audience was sitting there watching a silent movie.
At first, no-one moved.
Then, after a minute, it became apparent no-one was going to move. No-one went to shout at ushers and ask for the sound to be put back on and for money back. Everyone just remained in their seats. No-one wanted to hear the movie. Conversations started, laughter started bubbling up, everyone was suddenly having a much better time. We went through a full 20 minutes before a projectionist noticed what was up and got the sound going again. By that time, the audience was a lost cause, merrily nudging each other and chatting away through the remainder of the film, then happily going downstairs to get a voucher for a free trip next time.
I’ve still never heard the soundtrack for that 20 minutes of Last Action Hero. Can’t say I really consider that a situation worth rectifying.

Yes, posting mostly inconsequential stuff. It is a busy week this week.

Something else to go to in Wellington

Pearce convinced me
Now I try to convince you: if you are in Wellingtown, make some time to go see Gravity and other myths at Civic Square. It is a free show. There are hot boys and hot girls on trapezes and other aerial devices, all to the strains of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds and other such pleasantness. We saw it on Friday. Wickedy.
It’s on until the 15th at 7:15pm. Go see. You won’t regret it. (Unless, like me, you forget that dressing in Wellington is about LAYERS and forget to take anything to wear over your shirt and so are cold the whole time. But enough about me.)

Wellington Bypass: One Year On

It’s been over a year since the much-maligned Wellington Bypass was opened. How does it stack up?
“The bypass” as it is invariably known was a motorway extension that knocked through one end of central Wellington’s bohemian arm to smooth out the east-west crossing. I wrote about it before, first back in Sept 2004 and then again when it opened this time last year. I also made a post that linked to a a good roundup at BuzzAndHum.
In the 2004 post I was a bit florid, but I still agree with what I wrote. Here’s the key bit in terms of what I expected would happen:

Cuba Street is the seat of the city’s creative energy, its endless innovation, its diversity. It is the city’s soul… [The bypass] will carve a symbolic wall through Cuba Street itself and cut it off from the extensions of the Cuba-Street-idea – places like Aro Valley, Brooklyn. It will have a huge effect on the city.
Now, I’m not saying that the bypass will definitely change everything or will definitely be the tipping point. There’s no way for us to know that. But it will cause significant change, of that we can be certain. If it comes to pass, Wellington will not feel the same. The balance will be shifted. If worst comes to worst, the balance will be completely upset.

(I also took a couple paragraphs to ridicule the pro-Bypass argument that it would add to business productivity by getting staff to work a few minutes earlier.)
I hit the same themes a year ago:

This is a significant step away from the kind of Wellington I feel we should have towards one that we should avoid… [The arguments against the new road are] speculative and subjective. There is no set of facts that could convince a Bypass-backer that the new road creates an unpleasant psychological barrier or squanders the area’s value. However, it is crucial to remember the other side of the coin, which is that the rationale given for the bypass was, and is, nonsensical. The bypass will not significantly improve congestion in the city, as car traffic will expand to meet the available roadspace. The bypass will not improve the productivity of Wellington’s business community, as was so earnestly claimed and debated in the Council Chambers. These claims are, quite simply, ridiculous. And they have cost us $40 million, and one more chunk of the city’s soul.

So, one year on, and Wellington’s new road is heavily used. I notice myself how it is now easier and faster to get from the motorway to the basin reserve; I wonder, however, how much of that is due to the rolling green lights that you always get on the bypass, rather then the new route itself.
I also notice how it’s made many other journeys through the city more annoying. Heading east from Aro is a nightmare, for one thing. The lanes and lights in many of the changed streets are a real nuisance. Crossing the bypass in either direction is usually a hassle.
However, I’m not a heavy driver and especially not in peak traffic times, so I can’t speak to the ultimate success or failure of the time-saving claims that built the bypass.
What I can say is that the bypass has indeed torn a swathe through a part of Wellington with a lot character. Upper Cuba and upper Willis, in particular, show the effects of the Bypass. The Bypass itself is lined with scenic gardens that no human will ever use, and beautifully restored residences that no sane human will want to live in. It’s notable how lifeless the bypass is, compared to all the other streets around it. It’s a corridor of dead space.
Overall, while I’m glad that I get to drive across town more easily, this increase in ease is hardly compensation for what has been lost. (And considering the environmental impact of driving, making it easier to drive is hardly a straightforward positive.) I feel that one year on, the key fears of the anti-bypass campaigners have been realised. A chunk of Wellington has been sacrificed for something that is, ultimately, of very little worth. The money should have been spent elsewhere, for example on public transport – Wellington’s public transport system is massively in need of investment.
That’s my take on the bypass, one year on. What say you?

I Don’t Know What This Means

I knew about the secret Flight of the Conchords gig at Aro Video, but instead I went to work.
Does this mean I am square, because I went to work instead of ditchin’ to go see the dudes? Or does it mean that I am hip, because making an effort to see Bret and Jemaine is something uncool mainstreamers do because they didn’t know them back in the day?
Or does it just mean that Bret is hotter than Jemaine? Or that Jemaine is hotter than Bret? Or that it really is just too close to call?
(“We headlined for Video Ezy back in the day,” Clement said in his trademark flat monotone.
They both then pointed out where people could find different genre movies.)

Wellington By Blog

Recently arrived on the blogging scene: Poneke, a journo writing about NZ as a whole and Wellington in particular. It’s good stuff, well-researched and smart and breaking new stories now and then. I’ve had an eyebrow raised at the climate change coverage but almost everything else there has been top-notch.
When Poneke turned up it felt like there was the satisfying clunk of a final piece falling into place in the Wgtn-focus blogosphere. With events-and-chatter mavens the Wellingtonista going strong and Tom guiding us through the changing physical environment at WellUrban, we had a strong trio of distinctive perspectives that covered a lot of ground. These three blogs, it seemed, would give you a pretty solid overview of DubTown.
Naturally, almost as soon as Poneke picked up steam, the turf changed. Tom has retired WellUrban to move into employment in the field of his enthusiastic interest. Luckily, there are good signs that the triangulated coverage of Wellington will continue, with newcomers Eye of the Fish pledging to carry on where Tom left off on the architecture-and-urbanism front.
So that’s the scene. Yes, Wellington is small enough that you can get a fair sense of it from just three blogs; but of course that’s only the general shape and size. There’s a whole lot more complexity to the city than that, and if anyone else steps up with their own Wgtn-focus blog, there’s definitely space for them. (They might already be out there – who am I missing?)
Anyway, I want to extend a cheer in Tom’s direction for his efforts on WellUrban. I’ve learned a lot from reading that blog, about my home, about how cities work and can work, and most importantly what “active edges” means. Thanks man.