Robyn Gallagher

Adventures in words and web

Category: Biography (page 1 of 11)

Instagram ate my 2012

Four years ago I declared “Twitter ate my 2008″, an acknowledgement of the new social media tool’s ability to suck my ability to blog. Well, it turns out Twitter isn’t the only thing that can do that. So can writing about music videos on my other site, and so can taking photos of stuff, adding exotic filters and uploading to Instagram.

Days BayLet’s start with a breakfast, just to get the whole “Instagram = photos of breakfasts” cliche out of the way. When I decided I was going to leave Wellington, I went on a tour of some of my favourite places in the city. This was taken at the peculiarly named Chocolate Dayz Cafe in Days Bay. It was an outrageously sunny day and my pancakes looked almost pornographic in the late summer sun.

I really like that in Wellington, it’s possible to jump on a bus or a train and less than an hour later you can end up in a little seaside town with a reasonably good cafe (or a grim coastal suburb with a McDonalds – your choice).

Homegrown 2012I went to the Homegrown music festival, my second year of scoring a freebie ticket at the last minute. This is Home Brew performing, and I just happened to capture this blissed-out audience member.

I tweeted the photo which caught the attention of Russell Brown who was at the Splore festival in Auckland. Writes Russell:

It was 3.30pm and Tom Scott of Home Brew was due to be Tom Scott of @Peace at 6.30pm on the mainstage at Splore. He’d been onsite overnight, then missed his ride to the airport in the morning. Was he going to make it back?

Yes, he was, pulling off a two-in-one-day extravaganza on par with Phil Collins’ transatlantic Live Aid appearances.

Raglan wharfThis is Raglan, where I live now. Does this look nice? People tell me Raglan is nice and relaxing – which it is – but here’s the thing: no one wants to be relaxed and chilled out all the time. I haven’t lived in a small town before and I rather like city life. Cities have interesting stuff in them like footpaths and public transport and bookshops. I miss those things.

But Raglan has quite a cool museum, and there’s a cafe that does pretty good Cambodian food. And the sushi joint actually makes fresh sushi, rather than having pre-made packs. And there’s a cool little second-hand bookshop where I found the most amazing old New Zealand book that I will write about soon.

Brisbane 2012But if I can’t live in a city, I can at least visit cities. This is me and my bro having dinner at a restaurant in the middle of Queen Street Mall in Brisbane. He is using his phone instead of talking to me. It was the middle of winter, which is a very pleasant time of year in Queensland.

We went for a hoon down the coast. All these little Gold Coast towns are like what Brits dream of when they watch Home and Away on a cold, miserable English summer’s day – fit, tanned teens strolling around town. But the reality is probably more like Muriel’s Wedding. Also, Surfers Paradise on a Sunday is kind of bleak.

VanuatuI also went to Vanuatu. Here’s the thing – Vanuatu is a #thirdworldcountry. It’s even on the United Nations list of least developed countries. But it has really good cell coverage (from multiple providers) that is very popular with the locals, even ones who live in remote villages.

This billboard was advertising mobael intanet. It’s written in Bislama, the English-based creole that’s widely spoken in Vanuatu and is one of my favourite languages. “Traem wetem 50vt nomo” means “Try with only 50 vatu”. 50 vatu is about 60 New Zealand cents – cheap!

The mobile broadband I used was good and cheap. It puts a bit of perspective on those misguided #firstworldproblems tweets.

WellingtonI went back to Wellington in November for the National Digital Forum, a conference about the intersection of museums/libraries/galleries/archives and the digital world. Held at Te Papa, it offered access to the secret world of the national museum’s conference facilities, including majestic harbour views. It was good. I’d previously attended a couple of Webstocks, both of which left me all revved up but feeling a little empty after a few weeks. The NDF was a lot calmer, smarter and didn’t have speakers running around yelling empty slogans like “Do awesome things!”

Wellington had not changed at all, but it had also changed a lot. The pizza cafe in the old toilet block was open. The city was full of Hobbit advertising. There was a cafe dedicated to artisan cordials. The Moore Wilson trompe l’oeil mural of ’80s groceries had been painted over. But the curious thing – I didn’t feel like a visitor. I felt more like I’d just not gone out much over the previous six months, and now finally I’d been bothered to go into town.

ReflectionAs predicted last year, the world did not end on 21 December and I happily celebrated my 38th birthday. I was going to say that 38 is a weird age – not young enough to be a young ‘un; not old enough to be adult. But then I realised that’s actually every year from the age of 12. Also, I again turned off my age on Facebook and almost no one wished me happy birthday. The ones who did: u r golden.

So, 2012. Quite a good year, full of nice things. I have a smartphone that takes photos, and that’s about enough for me.

And in conclusion:

Internet

Things I learned from working in morning television

I worked in morning television for three years. It was intense but the people I worked with were really smart, creative and cool, and I had a lot of fun times. These are the key things I learned from working in morning television:

The art of being calm around famous people

On my first day of work, I was introduced to the show’s presenters and really had to rein myself in. I wanted to spazz out and go “OMG! You are that guy on the TV!!!!” But I’d never have got any work done if I’d been like that all the time. After a few weeks, proper famous people would come on the show and I’d barely remember that they were famous. But it helps when the celeb is just sitting on a couch, flicking through a Women’s Day, nibbling on a Shrewsbury.

However, I was not immune from having proper fangirl moments:

1. Savage and Alphrisk

Hanging out with Savage and Alphrisk

I loved the Deceptikonz’s first album and much of the work from the Dawn Raid family in the early 2000s, so I was super excited to meet Savage and Alphrisk. They were both really nice and friendly. Alphrisk was just being professionally staunch.

2. Dr Alan Bollard

The two Dr Bollards

Yep, I’m a total fangirl of the governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. I took along David Hay’s “New Zealand Reserve Bank Annual”, written by a fictional Alan Bollard. The real one cheerfully signed it and posed for a photo.

3. Nik from NZ Idol

I didn’t get a photo with Nik, but I was so excited to meet him. He was the runner-up of the second series of NZ Idol, but he was always my fave, right from the auditions. I think he was just on the show to promote some gigs he was doing. He still managed to be ultra cool and amazing and fully reduced me to a squeeing fangirl.

And then there were inanimate objects:

1. The Ranfurly Shield

I don’t even know how rugby works, but one day the Ranfurly Shield showed up and I ended up posing with it. I wasn’t smiling in a “Woohoo! Wellington have the Log o’ Wood!” way, but more like “This is insane and it’s so heavy I can’t hold it much longer.”

The shield

2. Thingee

A few times New Zealand children’s television icon Thingee would appear on the show. For some staff of a certain age, who’d grown up watching “The Son of a Gunn Show”, this was the first time in their life that they’d considered that Thingee wasn’t actually an alien and was just a puppet. As they realised this, they’d all get the same look in their eyes, as part of their childhood died.

Other important lessons:

1. Too much cake is a bad thing

Via the show’s cooking segments, I had the opportunity to sample a lot of fancy cooking from New Zealand’s top chefs. And all that lovely baking, well, it left me with a jaded palate. Since then, home baking never quite measures up. While I always appreciate the effort the baker has made, it can never live up to the stuff the patissiere chefs made. I’ve pretty much given up on civilian baking now.

2. People are snobs about morning television

I was at a Girl Geek Dinner event, sat at a table with a random selection of women in tech. As I introduced myself and my job, my tablemates reacted with comments like, “I’ve never seen it” or “Oh, I don’t watch television.” As if somehow a show that broadcast during the day, aimed at stay-at-home mums and retirees was a failure for not being on the radar of IT professional and academics.

3. The shadow of Paul Henry is long and dark

Paul Henry did not work on the show I worked on, but a lot of people thought he did. “What’s Paul Henry like?” they’d breathlessly ask. It was always a let-down when I said he’d only been on the show a couple of times and that I’d never met him.

4. That thing about never working with children is true

I thought the adage “Never work with children and animals” was because of their unpredictibility. But there’s a different issue with children – they clam up. Most kids get overwhelmed with all the stuff going on in a TV studio and can’t manage to say anything other than a shy yes or no.

5. Being able to put things together is a useful skill

I assembled a Thomas the Tank Engine train set, with a drive-by Fat Controller activation; I clicked together a Lightsaber kit; I set up an eco baby cot and changing table twice, even though I’d forgotten everything by the second year; I changed the hinge side on the fridge; and I screwed together a flatpack cupboard. None of this was in my job description. I just did it because it was fun.

6. The art of applying false eyelashes

The boss was away so the stylist organised a demonstration of how to apply false eyelashes using the $2 shop kits. The trick – apply regular eye makeup first, cut the lashes in half and wait till the glue is tacky before sticking the half-lash to the outer half of your eyelashes. It’s great – fab lashes without looking like a drag queen.

7. And then there was this

Stand around with a cup of coffee, they said. You’ll be on the telly, they said. It will be fun, they said. It will only be for a couple of minutes, they said. But some comedians got up to hilarious comedy antics in the background and so it ended up in the paper:

Worst day at work ever

Why I still don’t drink coffee

One of the earliest things I wrote online was a piece called “Why I don’t drink coffee“, a bold declaration against the bitter brown beverage being in my life. But it was less about coffee and more a rage against social culture of Hamilton in the mid 1990s. People kept offering me Nescafe; I didn’t like Nescafe. And what about my friends who were obsessed with “caffeeeeeine!!!!”? And why were people so fixated on having a “hot drink”? So many questions. So much confusion. I was only 21.

But perhaps that piece should have been titled “Why I don’t drink coffee yet“, because within a couple of years, I had become a coffee drinker. One of those people.

I was one of those people who took photos of swirly latte patterns

The blame lies firmly with Starbucks. One day after work in 1998, my friend Dylan and I ventured into deepest darkest Parnell to check out the fancy new American cafe that served coffee in those white paper cups, just like in the movies. I ordered a grande decaf non-fat latte with hazelnut syrup. Grande because it was the biggest size, decaf because I had to get up early in the morning, non-fat because I was a girl, and hazelnut syrup because I was even more of a girl.

Starbucks was the gateway drug. Soon I’d pared down my beverage of choice to just a latte, and got it from better cafes than Starbucks. It felt good to go to the cafe around the corner from work, get a coffee and mooch around with the cup. Yeah, I’m a grown-up. Glad you noticed. I have a job *and* a cup of coffee, which I am drinking. Because I’m a grown-up.

I was addicted to caffeine. I figured this out when I started getting headaches if I stayed in bed for too long on the weekends. A few times I tried to stop drinking coffee but the resulting headache felt like someone was kicking my skull from the inside. I couldn’t handle that. Once I had to leave a party because the withdrawal headache had turned me into a vile whingebag. Or at least that’s what I blamed it on.

I got to know baristas at the local cafes and coffee carts that I’d go to. They’d remember my order, and we’d chat about the news of the day. My favourite barista was a fellow who worked at the Wellington railway station coffee cart. One day he mentioned he’d been working out with a new personal trainer and he was really seeing some definition coming through in his abs. He lifted up his t-shirt to demonstrate this. Oh, yes. You just don’t get that level of service at Starbucks.

I was right into the power combo of iPhone and coffee – taking photos in cafes. Oh look, the barista has swirled a heart shape on the top of my latte. I will take a photo, whack a vintage filter on it and call it art. Even a provincial cafe with a name like Aromas looks good with an Instagram filter.

I became a little obsessed with brewing methods, enough so to start reading CoffeeGeek.com (but not posting – I wasn’t that obsessed). I would visit local cafes that brewed coffee using devices like a syphon, the Chemex, or the fancy one that uses a gold filter. And none of these coffees were served in a takeaway cup, so it would force me to sit down and contemplate life, watch the world passing by, maybe write some poetry… only to get bored and just end up mucking around on my iPhone.

I'm not sure what to do with these now

Then a funny thing happened: I stopped drinking coffee.

When I came back from Japan in March, I stayed at my parents’ place for a couple of weeks. Initially I’d go down to a local cafe for a coffee, but one day I couldn’t be bothered. I accidentally went cold turkey.

The familiar headache came and went within a couple of days. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for sticking it out, but then the awfulness came. I felt so ill. It was the classic “flu-like symptoms”. I was tired all the time, I couldn’t sleep when I wanted to, I was achy and just generally felt like the undead.

But that passed. I hauled myself off to Napier for a few days, got back into a regular sleep pattern and realised I’d finally made it out the other side. And I was surprised at how normal I felt in the post-caffeine world.

It was almost disappointingly normal. I felt a little bit let down because things generally didn’t feel any different to how they had felt on coffee. While I didn’t get the dramatic highs and lows of alertness any more and I could stay in bed on weekends for as long as I liked, everything else just felt normal.

But worse, being caffeine-free ushered in a whole new level of social awkwardness. If someone nicely offers to buy me a coffee, I can’t just say “No thanks”. I feel like I have to explain that I’m not deliberately rejecting their kind hospitality. And I probably explain too much, leaving the person wishing they’d never said anything in the first place. I’ll still meet someone “for a coffee”, though. It’s a useful shorthand.

Peppermint tea: it's ok

As yet, I don’t have a substitute drink to enjoy in a cafe. I once tried decaf but it tasted empty, and I have mixed feelings about herbal tea. Peppermint and camomile are ok, but everything else usually tastes like twigs dipped in Fanta. Coffee is so tied up with cafe culture (after all, café is the French word for coffee) that it seems completely wrong not to have a coffee in a cafe.

Because coffee is such an adult beverage, I feel like I’ve taken a step away from adult life, like someone’s who’s quit their job to pursue a career in clowning, crossed with someone doing a weird restrictive diet. Yeah, giving up coffee = Chuckles the Gluten-free Clown. It’s like I’m missing out on the secret fun adult coffee society, and I’m due to be exiled to the kids’ corner along with schoolgirls clutching giant hot chocolates and four-year-olds getting fluffies all over their face.

So now I’m left feeling like I have a coffee-flavoured void in my life that I need to fill. But with what? Reality TV? Nail polish? Ponies? I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon enough, but whatever it is, it will have to look good in Instagram photos.

A cafe, in happier times

2011: An adventure

Oh, 2011. What a craZy year you have been. Ok, let’s do this chronologically, because that’s the only kind of logic that works with 2011.

The end of 2010 seemed like a good point to leave TVNZ, so I decided not to renew my contract for 2011. I had enough saved to live on for several months, so I figured I would have at least a more relaxed year, if not a whole year off, and maybe travel a bit and have some adventures.

What it says

Street art in Poplar Lane, now demolished

In early January I went to Christchurch, my first visit since the September 2010 earthquake. It was a bit bashed around, but I could see things were getting back on track. It gave me hope for the future. Oh, the irony, etc.

I went to Webstock, my first time as a proper attendee. It was uplifting and inspiring, especially Merlin Mann’s very moving talk on fear. Handy hint: if you have an iPhone and you don’t have a job or contents insurance, don’t accidentally drop your phone on the hard tiles at the Wellington Town Hall.

My post-Webstock buzz lasted three days, abruptly shoved out of the way by the awful Christchurch earthquake. I put my oodles of spare time to use, getting involved with the Christchurch Recovery Map web project.

Rooftop bar

From a rooftop bar in Harajuku

That could be a segue into my visit to Japan, but the earthquake in Tokyo and aftermath took up maybe half a day of my time there. The rest was sightseeing and exploring and, ok, the occasional interview with New Zealand radio.

After Japan I paid a brief visit to Napier, where I explored the city as inspired by the Shell Guide to New Zealand. I discovered the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre, the disappearance of the boating lake, and the joyful universe of Trainworld.

Still with plenty of spare time, I created a new web project for myself – 5000 Ways to Love You. I’m reviewing every NZ On Air-funded music video I can get my hands on. So far I’m up to 1995. Revisiting the ’90s reminded me of music video trend for male shirtlessness in the early ’90s, with mixed results. Cheers to Morgan for hosting it!

And speaking of Morgs, I joined him, Ben and Dylan on the Discourse Weekly Show, New Zealand’s Best Podcast. It’s quite fun hanging out and talking about technology, television and corned beef with the dudes.

Over winter I had a four-month contract with the NZ Film Festival. I fulfilled a lifelong goal of writing a film note for the festival programme, but I watched too many films and something broke inside me. Seriously, since leaving the festival, I’ve seen two films: “Snark Night 3D”, which is not even good trash; and “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part One”, which was utterly extravagant and glorious. I still like television, though.

Tea

Tea time at Hardware Société cafe

In September the sun came. I went to Melbourne, having vowed to return in 2011 after previously visiting in 1991 and 2001. First I revisited all my old neighbourhoods, but discovered they weren’t so much fun any more. So I set about exploring the bustling laneways of central Melbourne. It’s a good city for eating.

Over on Tumblr, I reviewed all 35 of Britney Spears’ music videos. I discovered that Britney’s videos often feature paparazzi, with frequent scenes of cameras getting all up in her face. She doesn’t usually get the guy, being left alone and lonely. But her last video ended with something of a happy ending at last. Yay, Britney.

Back in Wellington, I volunteered with NZ On Screen’s New Zealand On Screen display, an interactive history of New Zealand film and television, in a shipping container down by the waterfront. It was a fun experience. Lots of parents came in and showed their kids the Goodnight Kiwi clip, only to discover they had to also explain that in the olden days, television used to stop at night.

And somehow – and I’m still not entirely sure how this happened – I became fully embroiled in the fandom of John and Edward Grimes, aka Irish pop twins Jedward. I’ve never been part of a fandom before, so it’s quite exciting to finally, legitimately be involved in one. But maybe the best bit is discovering a really cool community of other older Jedward fans, many of whom are, curiously enough, former goths. I like Jedward. They make me smile.

I was interviewed in the Dominion Post for an article on New Zealand bloggers. The printed version featured a giant, quarter page photo of me and described me as a “content guru”, whatever that means. Most people only mentioned the photo, which is slightly annoying because I didn’t even take the photo. I just put some eyeliner on.

But photos I did take featured in Public Address’ new photoblog Capture. I’m a contributor along with talented photographers Jackson Perry and Jonathan Ganley. We weren’t sure how it would be received, but the PA community has taken to it with great enthusiasm.

No events

A youth centre in Christchurch has no events to offer

In December I returned to Christchurchand explored its crack problem. I toured the Red Zone, but also found cool little corners blossoming with new life.

On the job side of things, I’m still unemployed. A fistful of rejection emails reveals that perhaps I’m even less of a “content guru” than I had thought, as I don’t seem to be able to get work in the wonderful world of web content production at the moment. But, guys, I have bills to pay. I have a head full of ideas and not enough outlets for them. What’s a girl to do?

I expected an adventure in 2011 and I got one.

As for 2012, I’ll tell you one thing – the world is not going to end on 21 December because my 38th birthday is on 22 December.

Nice

Shibuya, Tokyo. Photo by Jon Ellis.

Things To Do IV

The last time I was without a job, I did a series of posts called Things To Do where I listed the stuff I’d been doing (part 1, part 2, part 3). 11 years later I’m in a similar position. My last job finished at the end of August, and since then I’ve been almost too busy with various things, so I figured it was time for part four.

Rediscover the lost pleasures of nailpolish

Nails

Creamy fuschia. The secret is good cuticle condition.

I noticed that my Tumblr feed kept featuring photos of elaborately decorated fingernails, and then I read in Vogue that nailpolish is the new lipstick. This excites me. Back in the late ’90s, I was rather fond of the world of nailpolish, so I relished the opportunity to put my skills back to use. While I’m not steady-handed enough to paint little flowers or complex tartans on my nails, I can at least give them a nice solid colour from a $2 shop. And remember, always work with a window open or you will think you can do freehand flower designs but end up with something that looks like crudely drawn genitalia.

Learn the Beyonce “Single Ladies” dance

I’m not sure how this is going. I’ve never had dancing lessons, so it’s whole new world. I’ve learned a few moves, but not everything put together. Some of the steps are really easy, but others are much more complex and I’m not sure I can actually get my body to do some of that stuff. The hand-waving move, though, that’s easy. A few days ago I noticed a bunch of people on Twitter talking about having felt a minor earthquake in Wellington. I wondered why I hadn’t felt it. Then I remembered – I’d been dancing. It’s like a protective bubble surrounds me.

Bake cupcakes

Yay! I baked cupcakes. And I iced them with buttercream icing and roses and glitter and when I ate it, it got all over my face! Actually, this is a lie. Robyn doesn’t bake. I just told you that to make it interesting. I have baked cupcakes twice in my life: once in 1980, and again in 2006. Cupcakes always look better than they taste, they are hard to eat and – OMG – they are sooo ’00s.

Hang out in a shipping container down by the waterfront

Pink face

A music video on my face.

It was a fancy shipping container. During the Rugby World Cup, the good people at NZ On Screen kitted out a couple of shipping containers down by the waterfront with a showcase of New Zealand film and television history. I worked as a volunteer, showing visitors how it all worked. The Goodnight Kiwi was a popular one, which led to parents explaining to their kids the outrageous concept of how TV used to end at night. It was a really fun experience, and I learned a valuable lesson: on a cold morning, there’s no better way to warm up than putting on a music video and having a dance.

Watch too many music videos

Oh hey, do you know about my other website 5000 Ways to Love You? I’ve set myself a mission to watch every NZ On Air-funded music video, or at least the ones I can track down. I’ve discovered many things about New Zealand’s history of music videos, including the ’90s trend for green-screen special effects, male shirtlessness and ladies in peasant blouses. Sometimes all three if you’re lucky.

And speaking of lucky, following on my 2010 Tumblr project to watch all 68 Madonna music videos, I’ve now moved on to the videographic oeuvre of Britney Spears for 2011. Some people are excited by this, but others – always guys with beards – have some half-arsed idea about Britney being a bit rubbish, which is just evidence that they’ve never been on a dancefloor with a girl when a Britney song has been played. It really is Britney, bitch.

Go to Melbourne

Brunch #3

The fried brioche with passionfruit curd had me plotting ways to teleport the cafe back to Wellington.

I went there for a week in early September, and caught up with my bro (incredible dumplings), my cousin (showbiz gossip) and a friend (amazing tapas). I also visited the Heide Museum of Modern Art, which involved a train and a bus out to a Pakuranga-like suburb, but had an amazing collection. I was especially thrilled to see Jeffrey Smart’s Cahill Expressway painting, one of my faves. I also visited the National Gallery of Victoria, but honestly, I had a much more enjoyable experience at the local IKEA. But, ok, Melbourne was full of good food. My favourite brunch spot was a cafe called Hardware Societé. And I came to the realisation that I now love the 86 tram more than the 96.

Watch the Twilight films

I didn’t really pay much attention to the “Twilight” films, other than vaguely away that the cool-dude film kids thought they were awful, but other people were truly, madly, deeply in love with the world of “Twilight”. But since becoming emeshed in one particular fandom, I have become interested in other fandoms, the things that people become totally obssesed with and structure their lives around. I could have picked Justin Bieber or Harry Potter, but I’ve decided to start with “Twilight”. I’m really looking forward to experiencing the world of the girl and the beautiful glitter vampire.

Look for work

It’s weird. I’ve never formally looked for work before. In the past I’ve just kind of got jobs without any great effort from me. You know, networking and all that. But things seem different now. It’s either that there’s nothing that suits me in Wellington, or I’m maybe looking in the wrong direction. Something to do with web content in a sweary office would be ideal, but does that even exist anymore? What kind of job do you think I should do? All suggestions, serious or loltastic, are welcome.

Back to the old house

Old bedroom

This is what my childhood bedroom looks like now.

1. What is that stain on the carpet? I may not be the neatest person, but I would never let that happen.

2. I was going to diss the light fitting on the wall, but I have a horrible suspicion it’s mine. It’s the ’80s peach and black that gives it away.

3. But, bloody hell, what is going on with that yellow wall colour and matching carpet? The last time I redecorated – 1991 – the walls were white and the carpet was a light woolly colour. It was awesome, going for an urban apartment vibe, at odds with the view out the back window. And the previous redecoration, in 1986, saw pale pink wallpaper with diagonal stripes. Which is what happens when an 11-year-old girl gets to choose her own wallpaper.

4. See the curtain on the far right? That’s the wardrobe. We added on about a metre to the bedrooms, and so the wardrobes were embiggened to fill the gap. The intention was to replace the old single wardrobe door with a pair (probably those ones with horizontal slats, that would have been swell), but the house ended up being sold without doors on the wardrobes. Hilariously, the new owner/s have kept them doorless for almost 20 years.

5. The house is for sale, and it’s weird looking through the pics. The new owners have opened up some spaces and made it flow better, but there’s remnants of some really odd decorating choices that makes me feel a whole lot better about what, until now, I thought was my amateur sense of interior decoration. And the carpets are filthy.

Out of 2010

2010 or two-thousand-and-ten or twenty-ten was a year. Here are some things I did in that year.

In January I paid a visit to sunny Gisborne, exploring both the town and larger region. Gisborne feels like a cross between small New Zealand town and a tropical South Seas port town. It manages to be both glam and dinky, along with a fistful of magnificent scenery.

Leis and hi-viz vests

Learning from last year’s awful Sevens weekend experience, I had planning in advance, escaping to Christchurch for the weekend. This led some to believe that I had a SECRET BOYFRIEND in Christchurch (because why would anyone willingly go there otherwise?)

In March I saw the Cribs play, along with their new guitarist who used to be in that band that is quite good. Despite the audience being filled with iPhone-toting dads who were intent on capturing a blurry, grainy photo of their rock hero, the Jarman brothers and Mr Marr put on a good serious show.

Again this year I was involved with the 48HOURS film competition. It’s always thrilling to see the fresh teams disappear off into the Newtown night, only to reappear two days later in a state of weary, sleep-deprivation, but clutching their disks of cinematic gold, or part thereof.

As a judge I went to all the heats, and sat through several rool out-of-it-as films, like the Dirty Bird film and that one about the pole-dancing Olympic committee. And then there was Simon Peter’s film The Legend of Simon Pederson (NSFW. There’s a hilltop penis in it.)

My absolute fave film was the runner-up, The Wake Up. It’s a lovely romantic comedy, but also manages to be really stylish and with a great soundtrack and cool urban vibe. Yeah.

I accidentally appeared in the Dominion Post as a local woman who doesn’t want public transport costs to increase. This experience made me realise that lots of people still read the paper in its printed form, and that also people get really excited when they see someone they know in the paper. Best thing about it though, I ended up with a really moody urban portrait from it.

19-dpt-train3

I needed a winter project and I found one – I watched every Madonna video and wrote about them on my Tumblr blog. Despite Madonna’s reputation as a constant reinventor of personal style, I discovered that she actually sticks with a number of styles that she knows works on her, just updating them for whatever’s in fashion. It’s always corsets, power suits and 1940s floral dresses.

In August, bleak midwinter, I jumped on the Cook Strait ferry and sailed over to the South Island. I discovered that the Interislander is like a floating bus depot, and that people who take the ferry are rather unlike people who fly.

From Picton, I took the TranzCoastal train down to Christchurch and – it turned out – I was lucky to be able to explore the city a month before the September earthquake that smashed my SECRET BOYFRIEND up a bit.

How we like to remember

I contributed to Heyday’s Down To The Wire project, a brilliant website that looks at New Zealand’s web history. I pop up in 1996 and 1997 talking about the olden days of personal websites, back when the webs ran on a coal-powered steam engine.

In October, I paid a visit to my bro in Brisbane and explored a bit of Queensland, including a visit to Dreamworld, which after seeing Inception was a bit of a disappointment. (I’m about halfway writing about my adventures here, so hold on, ok.)

Queensland Art Gallery

November was real busy, as I had two presentations to foist upon Wellington creative groups. First I gave a five-minute talk at the mash-up-themed Webstock Mini. I talked about using the 1968 Shell Guide to New Zealand to take on my holidays.

Then later in the month, I gave a talk at the ninth Wellington Pecha Kucha Night expanding on the Shell Guide as a sort of anti-travel philosophy; that sometimes you’ve just got to put the travel guide down.

You know what’s weird? Despite living in this digital world where everyone seems to have a camera on them, I’ve yet to find a single photo of the event. Instead I’ll link to Tom Beard’s slides from his PKN presentation back in April. It was a good one.

I joined Morgan and Ben as a regular contributor on their podcast, the Discourse Weekly Show, offering cultural commentary from the luxurious Studio 3 (there are mohair throws).

Cones

The year ended with me deciding to not renew my work contract for 2011. After putting in a few good years in the world of morning telly (and meeting some massive celebrities), it just seemed like a good time to call it a day. And it gives me the added thrill of having the anything-could-happen potential for 2011.

I turned 36, and discovered that if you remove your birthday from Facebook and don’t tweet it, hardly anyone will actually know it’s your birthday. Maybe if I can make the few rememberers forget it too, I’ll stop having birthdays altogether and have discovered the secret of eternal youth. Wait – that would be so awful.

And as a nice bookend for the year, I saw the Trons and The Shrugs play at the Yot Club in Raglan. The Trons captivated the audience, causing one dude to exclaim to a friend, “I can’t believe that it’s actually robots playing to us, bro. With personalities.” The Shrugs remain one of my favourite bands, so it’s always ace to see them live, along with the usual suspects in the audience.

So let’s end 2010 with a Trons video, for the aptly titled song Time’s Up. And it was filmed at the old dairy factory just down the road from the house I grew up in.

Good August and other months

I started the year by recreating the Cover Girl lipgloss ad task from “America’s Next Top Model”, thanks to Jo of Pretty Pretty Pretty. It is important for a modern girl to know how to work the camera.

I was lucky enough to go to Webstock, but due to the Current Economic Climate I had go there as a door-holding, clock-watching volunteer, but I possibly had more fun than I would have if I’d gone as a regular attendee. I got to see my long-time interweb heroes Derek Powazek and Heather Champ’s talk on online communities, which was inspiring.

Hanging out

Oh God – Sevens weekend, possibly the most miserable weekend of the year. Lots of my friends left town, leaving me to face a city full of drunken munters. This has left me determined to avoid the broken glass and vomit in 2010 by leaving town for the weekend.

But on the good side of sports, I made a vow to see live sports games. I went to a test cricket match, a Phoenix game, and the mighty All Whites World Cup qualifier. I’m still not ready to sell my soul to any particular sport, but at least I think I get football.

Arrow

I went to Auckland for a few days for business and pleasure. I unexpectedly saw legendary Auckland punk band The Spelling Mistakes play “Feels So Good”, which was something I had never expected to see. I also realised that the Auckland of now is no longer the Auckland I left. At the time, I felt quite melancholic about it, but a later visit revealed Auckland to be all right, still.

Much fun was had on a panel at the Young Labour Conference, talking about blogs, online communities and politics along with Keith Ng and David Farrar. This is where I got to share my wisdom with the younger generation.

De La Orgee

I saw De La Soul perform at the Opera House. The last time I saw them live was in 1991, was I was a huge De La fan. They were touring to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album, “Three Feet High and Rising”. And that made me wonder what it would be like for me to revisit stuff I’d created when I was 19. No wonder De La were chopping up their old stuff, mixing it up to make something new.

I watched Too Many Films this year. Too Many Films going being entertainment and into a state of being. I initially watched Too Many Films from around 1993 to 2004, but somehow managed to get sober in the mid 2000s. I thought I was over it, but a combination of the 48Hours film competition, the Film Festival and seeing many new releases as Slevin’s plus-one dragged me right back into it. Therefore, I have no life; I watch films instead.

Speaking of 48Hours, one is still haunted by the splendid Wellington regional winner, “Otack Otack Otack Fall“.

I also went to many theatrical shows this year, and (re)learned the ancient art of writing reviews. It turns out there’s more to say than “It was nice. I liked it.” I especially enjoyed “Biography of my Skin” a collaboration between actress Miranda Harcourt and her husband Stuart McKenzie, all about marriage and being complicated. It gave me hope.

Heh, remember earlier in the year when everyone was freaking right out about swine flu and how everyone was going to die, etc? Those were fun times.

I ended up with a swine cold, the downside of which was not being able to go to Napier for a holiday (but there would have been awful weather had I gone), and the upside of which was getting prescribed coff-b-gone, a cough syrup containing morphine. Aw yeah, I said morphine. Though in the middle of that wobbly, blissed-out week, I saw “Bruno” and laughed even though I knew it wasn’t funny, so I was glad to eventually get well.

Storm a-brewin'

After being thrown around by June and July, I decided that August would be good. In fact, I gave August its own hashtag (#goodaugust) and indeed it was a good month. You should try this. It works.

I went to WordCamp, which was not about words nor a camp. Instead it was a two-day un-conference about WordPress (the thing my blog runs on). It was most interesting, but I ended up leaving early on the second day because the sun was shining and I needed to be outside and not be in a suburban bowling club.

The power supply for my laptop broke, and I had to wait over a week for the new one to come. I turned to “books”, with their “pages” and “ink”, reading Dan Brown’s thrilling piece of shit “The Lost Symbol” and my DCM Book Fair acquisition, “True Colours” – Dave Armstrong’s funny and insightful account of the lead up to the 1996 election campaign.

Cactuses

I finally got to have some holiday and travel, with an excursion to the South Island. I was based in Christchurch and then Dunedin, but also explored some surrounding parts of Canterbury, Otago and Southland. I also fulfilled my lifelong dream of going to Gore.

I also took many notes and wrote an epic 10-part account of my travels. “You should write a book,” the people said. “But I haven’t even got out of bed yet,” Robyn replied.

The year nicely ended(-ish) with the Fourth Annual Wellingtonista Awards, celebrating the best of Wellington. I presented a few awards, joined in the festivities, and ended up performing “Buffalo Stance” in the hipster karaoke that followed.

And I turned 35, which took ages to happen. I was somehow expecting a dull day, but it actually turned out to be splendid with sunshine and delicious food and spending time with lovely friends.

So, quite a good year. And while Twitter ate my 2008, I had more a harmonious relationship with it this year:

I just completed an awesome 100 piece jigsaw puzzle of some Barbies riding horses on a California beach.
4:30 PM Dec 18th from Tweetie

Great radio

Waikato University’s student radio station Contact 88.1 FM (nee Contact 89 FM) is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Contact was a station that changed my life, and that got me thinking about my life of radio.

My earliest memory of radio is actually of television, not radio. It’s a Datsun ad on the telly in the late ’70s. But after that my earliest memory of radio is the National Programme (now Radio New Zealand National), which my mum always had on in the house.

There was the little silver radio with the brown leather case that sat on the kitchen windowsill, and the larger silver radio that sat on mum’s bedside table (the radio was on her side, Dad had the phone on his side).

I generally hated the National Programme. It was all talking, usually BBC comedy panel shows where people said things that weren’t funny but caused raucous laughter. What music was played seemed to be either classical pieces or bloody sea shanties.

I don’t know if it was the aged radios or the general quality of AM, but National always seemed to have an omnipresent dark drone to it, almost like a groan of annoyance at having to listen to the National Programme again.

Well, ok, there was the Sunday morning children’s show with the mellifluous tones of Dick Weir. I always remember feeling like those children’s stories on the radio sucked me in a little bit too much, like rather than just listening to the story, I was part of it. Books never took me that far, neither did TV.

Growing up in Hamilton, there was the local commercial AM station, 1ZH (now Classic Hits), which (as Wikipedia jogs my memory) was known as 1300 1ZH and also Hits and Memories 1ZH. Hits and Memories sounds like the biography of a boxer.

1ZH was cool, but it was also AM and therefore not totally cool. It would play all the songs that were in the charts, but it still had that slightly institutional Radio New Zealand feel to it.

What was cool was 89.8 FM (pronounced “eight ninety-eight”), later Kiwi FM (no relation to the current Kiwi FM; also, now ZM). 89.8 had Ronnie and Andrea in the mornings and they were all lively and energetic and cool and people would come to school talking about what they’d heard on the breakfast show that morning.

Except by the late ’80s, Hamilton’s radio stations weren’t playing the music I wanted to listen to. It was MOR pop and rock oriented, and I wanted to listen to that hip hop and house-influenced pop that was emerging at that time.

I discovered that if I put my little pink ghettoblaster on the top level of my bedroom shelves, at night I could tune into Auckland’s 91FM (now also ZM). While 89FM was the popular Auckland station, 91FM just seemed nicer.

Radio on shelf, I’d listen nightly to the Hot Nine at 9 show. The listener-decided countdown was just different to the music that Hamilton listeners requested.

When I was in the seventh form, I started listening to the aforementioned Contact FM. Someone at school told me they’d heard a hilarious rude parody of C+C Music Factory’s hit song “Gonna Make You Sweat”, so I’d tuned into Contact on the off chance that I might hear it.

I didn’t. But what I did hear was “Typical Male” by “radical activist recording and performing group” Consolidated. Sample lyrics: “The typical male thinks with his dick. That’s how he rationalises shallow sexual conquest as a means of self-expression and fulfillment in a world of alienation and emptiness under modern capitalism.” This is good to be exposed to when you’re 17.

Yeah, so Contact changed my life. But not through painfully right-on hip hop. It introduced me to music that I liked, that made sense to me. I’d left school and I was on the dole and I spent much of my weekly $110.69 payment on tapes (CDs cost about $10 more).

I ended up doing newsreading on Contact, which started out being fun but eventually got a bit boring. And, besides, I really hated having to get up early on my days.

Hamilton radio in the ’90s spawned the Edge and the Rock, both of which have gone on to dominate the respective pop and bogan corners of today’s radio market. Bloody hell.

When I moved to Auckland in 1997, I assumed that I would listen to 95bFM, but I found myself strangely taken in by the station The Dot 96.1. It had been set up in direct competition to alterno-lite station Channel Z. The Dot had no live DJs, just recorded announcements for songs, and claimed that the first 10,000 songs played were commercial free.

I think it was this minimalistic approach that appealed to me. In a way, it was a bit like listening to an iPod on shuffle. It didn’t pretend to be my friend, it just played music, and most of it was OK.

Strangely, though, when I think back to the sort of music The Dot played, it was stuff like Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth. Did I used to enjoy that? Or did it just not matter?

Near its end, The Dot had live DJs, including Jaquie Brown on the breakfast show. That didn’t quite have the same appeal to me, but I kept listening, anyway.

On 1 January 2000, after a night that ended on a tiresome, sad note, I was driving home, listening to The Dot. Slowly I realised that all I’d been listening to was R&B songs. Oh no – The Dot had changed formats. It was now an R&B station, no doubt trying to crush Mai FM, just as it had attempted to crush Channel Z.

Actually, let’s just skip back to late 1997. My friend Dylan had somehow found himself in the position of running an IRC channel during the Sunday night youth talkback show on Newstalk ZB. Dylz used to cart his PC into the office and have that set up, chatting with the handful of early adaptors who were also listening.

The highlight of the ZB experience was when the host, Timothy Giles, raced out, grabbed me by the hand, pulled me into the studio and said he had Bic Runga live in the studio. Because I have the improv skillz, I immediately did my best Bic Runga voice (nice, clear, a little nervous) and wished viewers a happy new year. I still don’t know what that was all about.

Then in 2000, Giles was over at Radio Pacific (now Radio Live) doing a Sunday afternoon show called Computer Chat, and Dylan was in the studio as a computer expert.

Somehow I ended up going from hanging out in the studio, writing show summaries, to actually being in the studio, making up advice for people with computer problems. Worst moment – when Dylz had a coughing fit, leaving me to help some codger with his printer. “You could try turning it on and off… and maybe contact the manufacturer?”

By the way, the worst thing about Radio Pacific was the constant interruptions for the live horse racing commentaries. We’re now going live to Addington to hear about some ponies running around in a circle.

In 2002 I bought a Japanese import car that could only pick up Newstalk ZB or Mai FM. I chose Mai, and with it entered the world of hip hop, R&B and the teen culture that goes along with it, which I’ve previously documented.

I was listening to so much Mai that I could recognise a partially disguised version of the 50 Cent Remix of Mr JT’s “Cry Me a River”. I became obsessed with Ja Rule. I would sing along with “I’m so sick of being lonely every night while my man goes out with his homies. I wanna know how it feels to be loved, be lo-uh-uh-oved.”

So when I crashed my car and sold it, I missed not having the Mai soundtrack in my life any more, but I soon got over it.

But since then, radio of the live tuned-in variety hasn’t been a big part of my life.

Sometimes I would listen to bFM on my tinny clock radio while I was straightening my hair, but I don’t even do that any more. I couldn’t even say what the Wellington radio scene is like (though Radio Active seems good).

But instead I consume radio content in podcast form. This year I’ve been listening to the 95bFM “Historical Society” series of interviews with past station staff, and I’m subscribed to various podcasts from stations like BBC, ABC and NPR, and – oh, have I just come full circle? – I listen to Radio New Zealand National online too.

There’s something intimate about good radio. I like it when it’s one voice – not a “morning madhouse” cacophony – someone who’ll talk to me and who I can listen to; to lie down or sit or walk to a voice who’ll guide me through thoughts, ideas or just a good song.

Nice suits

A few weeks ago I was at Hamilton Airport, waiting for my flight to Anywhere But Hamilton (a popular destination). I’d checked in and was waiting in the departure lounge, when I became aware of a vaguely familiar sounding song quietly playing on the airport’s PA.

I moved to a table directly under a speaker and listened. Soon the identity of the song became clear. It was “Break My Heart”, the 2001 single by En Masse.

Actually, saying “2001 single” is a bit deceptive because it implies that En Masse had singles in other years. And it implies they actually had other singles.

En Masse were an attempt at a New Zealand boyband. Eight years on they are almost ungoogable, so I’m going to have to rely on my memory.

The story goes something like this. A Christchurch businessman saw that overseas boybands such as Nsync, Backstreet Boys and Blue were rather popular, so he decided to make a local version. A group of five singers was recruited, the group formed, and they recorded “Break My Heart”. En Masse received a NZ On Air grant to make a music video, in the same funding round as “Sophie” by Goodshirt and “Bruce” by Rubicon, and the video was made.

It shows the boys dressed in nice suits (a quality product; not street), mooching around a palatial house, singing the song, while a pretty blonde woman goes about her business, oblivious to them, eventually driving off with an older white guy. The group looks tense and nervous in the video. And one of them is cross-eyed. And they can’t dance.

enmasse

At the time “Break My Heart” was released, I’d returned to New Zealand after spending some time in Melbourne. I was staying at my parents’ place and spent most of my days sitting on the couch watching music videos on Juice TV. Juice always had slightly strange playlists that didn’t necessarily reflect what was popular. Somehow “Break My Heart” had ended up as a high-rotate video, so I watched it far too many times.

When you compare “Break My Heart” with the stuff that was actually popular back then – songs like Kylie’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”, Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’”, Blue’s “All Rise” and Afroman’s #1 hit “Because I Got High” – it’s obvious that “Break My Heart” never stood a chance.

By then the boyband phenomena had just past its peak. Nsync was soon to fracture into parts, Backstreet Boys took a hiatus but were never able to return to their former glory, and Blue also split.

And then there’s the New Zealand issue. For some reason – and I’ve been pondering this for years – New Zealanders don’t like New Zealand singers who don’t sing their own songs. We’re perfectly happy to love the Spice Girls or Westlife, but when it comes to local bands, our standards turn to those of a naive teenager. Somehow it’s not proper music unless it’s written by the person who sings it, no matter how good their voice and performance is.

If you want to see something that’s a little bit heartbreaking, watch this promo video about En Masse. The five band members and their management all talk about the future with such hope – they’re really going to be the first New Zealand boyband to be successful in Asia, Europe and America.

Back in Hamilton Airport, I’ve just had my boarding call (thank God) and “Break My Heart” is nearing its, end with the chorus repeated far too many times.

I wonder how the song came to be on the airport’s playlist of innocuous music. Perhaps it was just a result of some bulk music licensing deal. Perhaps it’s part of the general Faustian pact that Hamilton seem to have been built on. Or perhaps someone at Hamilton Airport is the one remaining En Masse fan in the world.

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