Books I have not finished

Atlas Shrugged
I read about half of this in 1994, but gave up on account of it being really longwinded and nothing seemed to be happening.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
I read the first part at some point in the mid-’90s. It was interesting, but I decided to take a break before moving onto the second part. That break is still in progress.

Ulysses
Oh shit. About eight years ago I read the first third. It’s complicated. I have also read the end bit, Molly Bloom’s soliloquy. This might have been a bad move as I think this is the best bit of the book. But I am determined to finish it. Yes, I will. Yes.

Nostalgia for the future

I’m a fan of the future. No, not the one beyond the present. I mean the future as seen from the 1950s – 1980s. When the year 2000 was going to be all flying cars and food pills. Whatever happened to that future?

One of my favourite relics of The Future is The Usborne Book of the Future, published in 1979. I had it as a child and I was excited to discover that it had been scanned and put online.

When I was little, I enjoyed reading of the authors’ vision of the future. Was it to be a brown, smoggy dying world, or would we get our act together and live in a green, thriving utopia with robots to clean the toilet?

But the one thing that really confused me was an illustration of a hologram conference call – where some businesspeople see their boss across the table, only he’s a hologram.

holomeeting2000

It wasn’t the technology that confused me. It was the fact that is was daylight for the staff and night-time for the boss. I didn’t understand how the two states could exist simultaneously. My mum tried explaining about the shape of the earth and time zones, but it did not compute.

Now, maybe the idea of cyborgs with ESP or colonising Venus is still pretty far-fetched, but the Computers in the Home section didn’t do too badly with his predictions – A giant flat-screen TV! A home video camera! Ordering goods off a computer! A video disk player! Electronic mail! A robot butler!

All of those innovations are now part of my everyday life (Except the robot butler – I threw my RoboButler2000 off a cliff after he gained sentience and started pilfering my Jack Daniel’s. What a hassle that was.) Though, unlike the future suburbanites in the book, I don’t lounge about in a jumpsuit.

But is is worth considering that the idea of email as we know it was too far out to be considered – email back then involved writing out a letter by hand, scanning it, sending it, and then printing out at the other end. OMG -fax!

And unlike the 1950s’ sexist vision of The Future, were women did housework in their space homes, bringing their husband his space pipe and space slippers, this 1979 vision of The Future appears to have gone one step future and has no women in it at all. Or – and I think this theory has weight – perhaps by the year 2000 the human race has evolved into one sex – everyone is totally gay for everyone else! (This doesn’t explain the abundance of jumpsuits, though.)

But I’m not going to be nostalgic for the future too much. I’ll just take comfort that while it’s the cybertronic year 2008, even though the lush, green solar-powered utopian future hasn’t happened, at least the dirty brown nightmare future hasn’t happened either.

utopametopia

Perhaps it’s most revealing that both visions of the future include brutalist architecture.

Consider it three dollars well spent

Gazza has a new book out. It’s called “Making Music In New Zealand“. This is not a euphemism for anything. It is, in fact, a guide to making a music for budding musos (Yuck. I hate the word “muso”).

It covers basics like picking a band name (Hint: Brand names are not a good idea) and goes all the way to the more serious stuff like recording and touring. Rather than attempting to tell everyone what to do, Gareth instead had interviews heaps of musos (Why do I keep using that word?) and lets them tell their stories and give advice in their own words.

The book was launched tonight at Real Groovy, so I toodled along after work to celebrate. On the way there, I passed through Aotea Square and was surprised at the number of ladies wearing skimpy, sleeveless tops on the chilly, rainy spring evening.

Even more curious was the appearance of a red carpet in front of the Aotea Centre. A crimson gash in the midst of the grey, near-deserted Aotea Centre, about a dozen people were huddled around the barriers either side of it, watching someone on the red carpet being interviewed. Then I realised that it was the New Zealand Music Awards, and someone was trying to make like it was the Grammys. A case of “fake it till you make it,” perhaps?

Over at Real Groovy, Ryan McPhun and the Ruby Suns were playing up on he stage. I tried to get into them, but I got bored and wandered over to the alternative music section and was pleasantly surprised to see “Goo”, Sonic Youth’s 1990 major label debut, had been remastered and rereleased along with a bonus disk of demos. Porno. “Goo” reminds me of being 17 and skipping school and hanging out at my boyfriend’s place and smoking cigarettes and drinking cheap wine and listening to records, which is curious because I never actually did that when I was 17.

I bought Gareth’s book and got him to sign it. His inscription included the phrase, “See you online”, which possibly negates any previous indie cool that I may have had by, like, going to a muso (!!!) book launch.

But the biggest unanswered question is: When’s my book coming out, ow?

Wonkatania

“The famous English scientist, Professor Foulbody, invented a machine which would tell you at once, without opening the wrapper of a bar of chocolate, whether or not there was a Golden Ticket hidden underneath it. The machine had a mechanical arm that shot out with tremendous force and grabbed hold of anything that had the slightest bit of gold inside it, and for a moment, it looked like the answer to everything. But unfortunately, while the Professor was showing off the machine to the public at the sweet counter of a large department store, the mechanical arm shot out and made a grab for the gold filling in the back tooth of a duchess who was standing near by. There was an ugly scene, and the machine was smashed by the crowd.”

I bought and read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” today.

I haven’t read it since, oh, probably over 20 years ago (Eek!). The first time I read it (I was probably about seven or eight) I ploughed through it so fast that my mother accused me of not having read it properly and quizzed me on it. It was my favourite Roald Dahl book until I discovered his “Tales of the Unexpected” series, but those are for grown-ups.

Compared to the original film, which I can’t help but do, the book is superbly paced, especially compared to the pre-chocolate factory scenes in the films that take far too long to set up.

I was a little alarmed to be reminded that in the book, Charlie is starving and malnourished when he gets his lucky break. There are descriptive passages about boniness and constant hunger, but not to worry – Willy Wonka gives him a cup of chocolate river on the riverboat.

I think the original film had a better ending. Wonka was more of a bastard who had his faith in human nature restored by the good deeds of the boy. In the book he’s a nutty old man who picks Charlie as his heir because he’s the last one standing. There’s no evil Slugworth to tempt Charlie with the dark side.

I’m looking forward to the remake. It’s released here sometime in early September. I hear it’s better paced and – yes! – Willy Wonka has daddy issues. Excellent.

Homeboy

This is exciting. Gareth Shute has won the New Zealand Book Award for Lifestyle and Contemporary Culture for his book “Hip hop in Aotearoa.” Having battled through a few misconceptions, like hip hop fans are illiterate and therefore the book would never sell, Gareth managed to produce an impressive volume of an important part of New Zealand’s music history.

But what’s this got to do with me?

Well, a couple of years ago when Gareth was writing it, he contacted me after seeing my track-by-track analysis of MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave’s “What can we say?” album. This album does play an important part in the history of Aotearoa hip hop, but sadly is hard to come by in record shops these days, so Gareth wondered if he could borrow my copy. I was happy to oblige and am pleased that I could play a smart part in such an excellent book.

Sex, Drugs, and Emotional Discombobulation

I’ve just read Anthony Kiedis’s autobiography “Scar Tissue”. There’s a special place in my heart for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Back in ’92 when I sold my soul to rock ‘n’ roll, it was the Peppers who led me there.

And it was around that time that Mr Kiedis was on his newly-sober anti-drugs evangelism and that made a lasting impressing on me at such an early age that I never considered long-term drug use to be fun or desirable.

Ah, but then he fell off the wagon. In “Scar Tissue”, after detailing his childhood including his crazy dad, he gets stuck into the drugs. There’s a little pot and a shitload of cocaine and heroin. He details his drug use to the point that it ceases to be shocking or scandalous and just become another mundane detail of his everyday life.

And I think, in a way, that’s what any kind of addiction ends up being like. The addict uses their substance not to feel wonderful, not to get high, but just to feel normal, to be able to function normally.

So throughout the book he goes in and out of rehab, writes songs about it, has revelations, and just when it seems like he’s got it all together, he’s back in some seedy motel with a needle in his arm. Oh, but he’s ok now, kids.

The other common theme is all the laydeez. It turns out he’s a bit of a serial monogamist. He appears to not really have been all that interested in one-night stands with groupies, and more into long-term relationships with beautiful women (and he’s always banging on about how beautiful the women are), though he seemed to end up with ladies about as messed up and chemically inclined as he. But it all makes for a good read.

And, of course, there’s the story of his band. But very little of that was new. It was interesting, though, to see that story told from his perspective and to marvel at how a band can stick around for over 20 years with all the problems they’ve had and still keep moving forward.

The book is written with the help from another author, but Mr Kiedis’ voice is unmistakably the one telling the story. The book is full of sentences that are just so cool I will a few here:

“I had been reading a lot of books about whales and dolphins, and I had always been aware of social injustice.”

“Could you please inform the Dalai Lama that Anthony Kiedis is here? I know he must be busy, but I’d like to say hi to him.”

“We piled into Flea’s multicolored Mercedes clown car, which exacerbated the absurdity of my surroundings.”

“Another manifestation of my emotional discombobulation was the Slim Jim episode.”

“I was up all night with visions of Jack Nicholson smoking a doobie with my girlfriend. Arrrrggghh.”

But finally, the most fun bits for me were his observations of my sweet home of Auckland, New Zealand:

“As soon as we set foot in New Zealand, I fell in love with the place. It seemed like a home away from home. There was more plant life than I’d ever seen, and towering majestic mountains and very few people.”

After buying a million-dollar farmhouse on the Kaipara Harbour he gets it dead right as he observes:

“It turned out that I saw the farmhouse on one of the few days of the year when it didn’t rain. Three hundred days out of the year, the country just poured precipitation. It was cloudy, rainy, chilly, blustery, England-on-a-bad-day kind of weather.”

On Auckland’s drug supply:

“I remember being in Auckland on New Year’s Eve and seeing amateur party people on the streets doing cocaine and champagne. It looked so appalling to me. I was glad I wasn’t in their place. The truth of the matter was that there probably wasn’t enough cocaine in a small country like that to keep me satisfied for any length of time.”

And that sums up quite nicely why Auckland is good.