Todd

He looked like death warmed up
the first time we met
Grey as a ghost
as the blood flowed in
He fell asleep as we talked
Told me about his ex
How she gambled
Took their kids and
left her debts and his cancer
The dope helps, he said

His friend said he was
sick for years before the doctors knew
His treatment hadn’t gone well
Her eyes showed the worry

The last time I saw him
he looked pretty frisky
But I could see through his clothes
as he left
there wasn’t much meat on those bones

Bye bye My Opera

So My Opera is closing. As you can see from the post below this one, I haven’t been here for a while. Not that I’ve given up on it, but I’ve been a bit distracted with things: work, community activities, managing cancer treatment…life, in other words.

Still, I was sad to hear that My Opera going. I think the community here is fabulous. People from all over the world, interacting in a way they don’t on Facebook. FB’s good for keeping in touch with people you actually know (friends and family), but not for strangers. Short status updates don’t give you the measure of a person. Sites like My Opera do, and that’s what been so great about it.

I’ve always liked the way it’s easy to find people from Asia, the Middle East, and central and eastern Europe on MyOpera, and chat without them thinking you’re being creepy (I hope), although there are plenty of creepy men commenting on photos of attractive women/girls (get real, guys, she’s not interested). I have been in contact with such great and suprising people – I even chatted once with a Scottish guy who went to the same school my father went to in Dundee (although not at the same time, i.e. late 1920s-mid-1930s).

And then two days ago I chatted with a Danish guy (FlaRin) because he has posted a copy of The Front Lawn’s (a New Zealand theatre and music group) fabulous short movie ‘The Lounge Bar’ (http://my.opera.com/FlaRin/blog/2012/12/14/song-of-the-week-36). He’d lived in New Zealand, and liked our music, so of course I thought he was a great guy.

I’ll miss that sort of serendipitous connection. It looks like I’ll be heading over the WordPress with many of the other My Opera refugees. I am on Google+ but it doesn’t seem to offer the same functionality (more a microblogging site like Facebook than My Opera was). I might hang around for a while longer, now that I’m remade my connection with My Opera, but it will be adiós sooner or later.

Extreme weather photography

Yesterday, we had foul weather with heavy rain and strong winds all day. Not really a day for going out…so we did…to the supermarket for our regular household shopping. Late in the evening, I dropped my daughter off at the railway station last night so she could get back into the city. The weather was still dreadful, and we had to walk into a strong wind in heavy rain to get to shelter. Of course, I had my camera with me, so had to see what sort of photos I could get. As it turned out, not very good ones.

I took this one at the train arrived. I was facing into the wind, although I was sheltering behind the wall of the passenger shelter. But I still got wet. (I discovered I was kneeling in a puddle of water.) It’s not easy in these conditions; it’s hard enough shooting hand-held in low light, but when you’re being buffeted by the wind and the rain is hitting the lens, it’s just about impossible.


(50mm, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/20s)

It’s not in focus, and there are annoying green ghosts from the lights.

The weather was just as bad facing the other way.

New A-League football season starts

We’ve just returned from one of the pre-season games for the new A-League football season. It was a non-competition “friendly” between the Phoenix and Boca Juniors, one of Argentina’s top clubs sides (Wikipedia link). The final score was Phoenix 2–Boca Juniors 1. The Phoenix scored all three goals. Poor Andrew Durante, the Phoenix captain, scored one goal for each team! :no:

They did better than Melbourne Victory, the defending A-League champions, who lost 1–0 to Boca last week.

It was a closer game that I thought it would be. The Phoenix played fairly well, strung some good passes together, and were OK in defence, although they did get put under a bit of pressure by the Boca forwards a few times. Most of the second half was all the Phoenix’s, but it got pretty scrappy — lots of yellow cards handed out and few incidents of pushing and shoving between players, with Boca’s captain, Christian Cellay, sent off after his second yellow. I know the referee, Jamie Cross — he’s one of the best we’ve got in Wellington — and he had to work hard to keep things cool between the teams.

It was good to see some of the new guys in the team. Dylan Macallister scored a very nice goal from an excellent cross from Chris Greenacre, and his second-half replacement, Roberto Cornejo, looked pretty good at times, too. With Ifill, Bertos and Daniel still in the team, I think we’ve got a strong attacking side this season.

It was great to get back into the stadium to watch the favourite team, especially after New Zealand did much better than we expected at the World Cup. And to see them win another game at home; the last time they lost a home game was in November 2008.


Some worried Boca Junior supporters

Antony

I love stumbling upon new things that give unexpected pleasures. Normally, it’s musicians I haven’t heard before, even if they have been around for years. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Every year on a weekend towards the end of January we celebrate Wellington Anniversary — it’s a holiday weekend when we get the Monday off work. We normally go camping with our friends to our favourite spot on a farm by a river. This year the weather was terrible, so we stayed at their house in the city instead. We mooched around town on the Saturday, and ended up back at their house in the last afternoon with a new jigsaw puzzle to kill the time. (I know, we were really desperate!)

While we were doing the puzzle and grazing on delicious food, my friend put on a DVD of I’m Your Man, a concert featuring songs by Leonard Cohen. I was a bit dubious because, 30 years ago, I had a flatmate who loved Leonard Cohen and tried to get me interested. I was more interested in jazz rock, reggae and punk/new wave at the time, and I thought he was dreadful (Leonard Cohen, that is. I was very interested in the girl I flatted with :devil:). Anyway, the concert was very good, but the song that stopped me dead was If It Be Your Will, sung by Antony (Hegarty). It is a beautiful version of the song. The video is on YouTube, but I can’t embed it (sorry, it’s been disabled). It’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MDlMdu2gjw. The lyrics are worth a close look, too.

“If It Be Your Will”
Leonard Cohen

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.

So, after that little epiphany, I’ve been searching for more Antony and the Johnsons songs. I’ve picked up their début, self-titled album from 2000. Probably my favourite song from it is Cripple and the Starfish.

And another one I love is from the 2005 I Am A Bird Now album. The song You Are My Sister features Boy George on the chorus.

“You Are My Sister”
You are my sister, we were born
So innocent, so full of need
There were times we were friends but times I was so cruel
Each night I’d ask for you to watch me as I sleep
I was so afraid of the night
You seemed to move through the places that I feared
You lived inside my world so softly
Protected only by the kindness of your nature
You are my sister
And I love you
May all of your dreams come true
We felt so differently then
So similar over the years
The way we laugh the way we experience pain
So many memories
But theres nothing left to gain from remembering
Faces and worlds that no one else will ever know
You are my sister
And I love you
May all of your dreams come true
I want this for you
They’re gonna come true (gonna come true)

Love the singing, love the lyrics, love the video.

Random music videos

Here’s some stuff I’m listening to at the moment. No particular reason and in no particular order, except it’s on my MP3 player.

Common Market are part of the Seattle hip hop underground. They’ve released two excellent albums, Common Market and Tobacco Road and an EP Black Patch War. The two members, RA Scion and Sabzi, are both Bahá’í and their music has strong spiritual and political themes.

RA Scion likes to publish and explain all his lyrics (in great detail) and you can see them at http://www.commonmarketmusic.com/index.php

The Undertones were, for me, a perfect pop band. Hard guitar sound, all songs played at a breakneck speed and insanely catchy melodies. Brilliant! A very old promotional video from their first single Teenage Kicks (John Peel’s all-time favourite song).

Actually, while I’m on the topic of perfect pop songs, what about the Only Ones’ Another Girl Another Planet?

Blink-182 did a pretty tepid cover of this and managed to leave out all the urgency the Only Ones had in the original. There’s a debate about the relative merits of the two versions on YouTube. And when I say “debate”, I mean exchanges that look like 12 year olds trading puerile insults.:(

I hadn’t heard of The National until a couple of weeks ago; they were another spontaneous purchase off Emusic.com. Very nice bit of “grown up” rock music. The drummer’s my favourite musician; slightly unconventional playing.

I guess I’m going through a bit of a nostalgia trip at the moment. I just scored a live album from one of my all-time favourite punk bands, Ruts, from a 1979 gig at the Marquee in London. Of course, this song’s on it.

Enjoy.

World Cup here we come!

Boy, talk about excited. Last night we went to see the All Whites play Bahrain for a place in the next football world cup in South Africa. The stadium was completely packed out (35,000) people — the biggest crowd ever for a football game in New Zealand. There was so much resting on this game for both teams — New Zealand had to win to get through to the finals. A draw would have meant that Bahrain qualified.

The only other time NZ has made it to the world cup was in 1982. There was a huge media buildup to the game, and I was a bit nervous about it. The All Whites were lucky to have got a draw against Bahrain when they played them in October. Bahrain had missed a couple of easy goals and could so easily have won. But the All Whites had been working hard on their set pieces all last week, and had stuck with the 3-4-3 formation that allowed them to field a stronger attacking squad.

When we went into the stadium it was already buzzing. We could tell it was going to be a noisy night. Football crowds tend to be much noisier than rugby crowds, and they were already pretty rowdy. Most of the crowd were wearing white clothes in solidarity with the team. We bought our beer and warmed up our vocal cords for the match.

At the kick off, Bahrain went straight onto the attack. Their forwards were very fast taking the ball up the pitch and immediately put our defense under pressure. But Ryan Nelson and Ivan Vicelich held firm in the back line. New Zealand picked up the pace after a few minutes and started to dominate the game. There were some great shots, especially Chris Killen’s left-foot volley from the edge of the penalty box, which beat the keeper, but hit the cross bar. Rory Fallon finally got the ball in the net a minute before half time with a header from a good Leo Bertos corner.


Rory Fallon, instant hero!

The other hero of the night was the All White’s keeper, Mark Patson, when he saved a penalty early in the second half.


Boy, the relief!

Bertos and Shane Smeltz seemed to get their combinations working better in the second half and came close to scoring. When Bahrain scored our hearts sank. But when we realised the referee had awarded a penalty for a foul against Patson, everyone cheered. And the place erupted at the full time whistle. What a game. What a night. Fantastic!

Sandboarding in the old days

It’s funny how things from your past can suddenly come back to remind you how much fun they were.

I was chatting on Twitter the other day with a young guy who lives in my old home town. He made a comment about me surfing, I replied that I didn’t surf but used to sandboard, and he replied “What’s that?” He’d never heard of it.

I Googled it to find that it’s now a moderately popular sport in some places — desert areas or places where there are large sand dunes. Check out Sandboard Magazine or Planet Sandboard. Basically, you ride a board like a snowboard down the biggest, steepest sand dune you find. The modern boards are large, about the size of a snowboard, complete with snowboard-like bindings.

My cousin Roger, who’s four years older than me, got us into it. He’s always been a keen surfie, and he and his friends used to sandboard when the surf was small. Very few people did it, and we had to make our own boards. The boards in those days were smaller than the modern ones. We made them out of the hardest wood we could find — normally a plank about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick, and the length and width of a typical skateboard. We would shape them so they were still flat on the top, but rounded at the bottom edges so the edge was quite sharp. Then we would get sanding with paper until they were as smooth as we could get them — like glass, if we could (that’s why they had to be made of hardwood). Then we would paint the top and sprinkle sand in the paint so we had some grip.

Before we rode the board, we would wax the bottom. We used to use old candles, or we would steal blocks of the wax Mum used to seal the tops of jars of preserves or jam. Then you just got on at the top of the biggest sand dune you could find, push off and try to stay upright until you got to the bottom. Sometimes we managed it, but the rides were short and really fast. A 45 to 60 degree slope was about ideal.

There were a lot fewer injuries than skateboarding (sand’s a lot softer than tarseal or concrete), although I did once get a pinched nerve next to my spine after landing heavily with straight legs. It took two trips to the osteopath to fix that, after many months of intermittent pain. (Actually, when we were much younger we lived on a farm, and one time Roger visited he made boards for us to ride down the dry grass slopes on the farm. I broke my little finger doing that. I must remind him how he’s been responsible for those injuries the next time I need a favour from him.)

It was heaps of fun, and the only thing that stopped us was that there were only a few really good dunes at our beach and we eventually got bored with them. You probably can’t do it there these days as the erosion has got bad and the best dune slopes are fenced off — probably because of the damage started by us when we were kids.

Iran protest updates – what Aavez has been up to

Recently, the Avaaz community rapidly responded to the election crisis in Iran with an opinion poll to gauge the views of ordinary Iranians, a petition to world leaders to withhold recognition of the new President until the crackdown on protests ceased, and a fundraiser to support technology that would allow Iranians to freely access the internet.

The rapidly deteriorating security situation has made it difficult to conduct the poll (final word on that coming this week), but the technology fundraiser has raised over a hundred thousand dollars to support the best tools for Iranians to access the internet and communicate freely. The situation in Iran remains uncertain, and Avaaz will continue to both support freedom of expression and oppose those who would exploit this crisis to justify military action against Iran.