Music from the present

From all accounts, the Wellington Karajoz Great Blend on Thursday was splendid, so this created a precedent that the Auckland Great Blend on Saturday had to at least match.

I was a bit late to the Dalmatian hall, so I missed William Cooper’s interview, but I was in time to enjoy the funny MrBrown from Singapore give a presentation of his video and audio podcasts. He specialises in political satire, which is a rather bold thing in a country like Singapore.

The panel discussion, which centred around the future of public broadcasting in New Zealand, was interesting, but I found it kind of hard to concentrate on things. You see, I was really excited about the L.E.D.s, who’d come all the way from Christchurch to play. Eventually the panel finished and the L.E.D.s took to the stage and all was good.

Their music seemed more energetic and powerful live than it does on their album. It added another dimension to their songs, and made it hard not to want to dance, dance, dance.

When I was in Nelson, I read the Christchurch Press so became au fait with the goings on in the Christchurch mayoral campaign. This meant that when Blair L.E.D.s introduced “Rumba” with the question “Do you need a beard to be the mayor of Christchurch?” I laughed.

It’s kind of common at Great Blends for the geekier folks to leave the room when the band comes on, but I hope that at least some of the geeks stuck around to experience the L.E.D.s.

The L.E.D.s rock out

And a big thank you to the other Mr Brown, Russell, for organising yet another great Great Blend.

After the Blend, I ended up going along with the hardcore stragglers to the PR Bar on Ponsonby Road to see Bill Direen play. He’s one of those Flying Nun musicians who I’ve heard about for years, but I’d never actually heard any of his music or seen him play. All the lads were excited and for good reason – he was brilliant. He just got up on stage and sang songs, sometimes just him and his guitar, sometimes accompanied by another singer, other times with a bass and drums. He’s such a good song writer, and it was cool to see the guys in the audience yelling out requests (“Monsieur Le President!”) and having Bill play them. I feel really lucky to have been there.

Then the group ended up going to this guy’s place, where we sat around and listened to records, man. “‘Bee Thousand’ is like the indie ‘Sergeant Pepper'”. Yeah, one of those gatherings.

What an excellent night.

More blending

Last night was another Public Address Great Blend event. This time it was held at the brand new venue atop the Auckland Museum. Initially the splendid panoramic views of Auckland city offered consisted of grey, rainy streets, but once the sun went down, the city lights looked completely awesome.

First on the evening’s programme were Matt Heath and Chris Stapp, who did a look back at a good 10 years of “Back of the Y”. I was delighted to learn two things:

1) The first film Matt saw on video was probablyClue“. This is one of my favourite films and one of the few I can quote dialogue from. (“Communism was just a red herring!”)

2) The first “Back of the Y” TV programme on Triangle TV was based on/inspired by the Mega Memory infomercial from the mid-’90s. The infomercial was centred around “The Danny Bonaduce Show”, which seemed to exist for the sole purpose of promoting Mega Memory. The house band, The Critics, were the vile inspiration for Deja Voodoo, and history was made.

Then it was time for the panel, this time discussing online media. The panellist were Ben Goodger from Google, Kristine Garcia from the Herald Online, Rob McKinnon of TheyWorkForYou.co.nz, and Rick Ellis, CEO of TVNZ.

So it was an interesting discussion, but a lot of the time it was Rob hassling Kristine and Rick. There’s a bit of a gap between the geek idea of how online media would ideally work and how things happen when big companies make it so, but it seems that people are moving in the right direction, albeit rather slowly at times.

After the panel we were treated to some dancing! The lights went down and a small group of dancers came out wearing LED suits, looking like something out of Tron. It was completely awesome and tickled the arty and geeky parts of me.

And then it was time to stand around and talk with everyone, which is often the most fun part of these events. The evening wound down and I wandered off into the night, inspired and stimulated, and with renewed motivation to work on my new website thing.

But, hey, where were the saussies this time? It just isn’t a Great Blend without a barbecue!

Great Blend photos

Interested parties can out examine photographic evidence of the Great Blend.

Seeing them reminds me of when I got up on stage it was suddenly a bit hot under the lights, so I took off my jacket. Then suddenly it got cold, but by then the discussion had started so I didn’t want to disrupt things by putting my jacket back on. Also, I had a bottle of water, but didn’t want to put it on top of the table, so I was holding it underneath and fiddling with the lid. Yeah, there’s some exclusive behind-the-scenes gossip pour vous.

Oh, and there’s also this one of me and MySpace Matt posing. How embarrassing.

Everyone’s space

I had a rather good time at the Karajoz Great Blend last night. I arrived to hear that due to the fog at Wellington airport, guest speaker Danah Boyd’s flight had delayed, but that she was – probably – in the air.

I had a sausage (organic) and a beer (Monteith’s Golden) and said hi to Moira, James, Mark, Amanda and Darren and soon enough Danah arrived and the evening’s events got underway.

First on the programme was a screening of Star Lords, a video mash-up involving bits of Star Wars cut together with Lord of the Rings to make it seem like they were fighting each other, and then there was some breakdancing, lolz. I dunno. I don’t think I’m enough of a fan of either of those films to really get it.

They showed a few other clips including one that was a montage of American flags and possibly made a political statement, but may have also just been a guy mucking around with editing software. Either way, the New Zealand flag says more to me about my life.

Next up was Danah Boyd, who gave a brief version of her “Why teens heart MySpace” speech. The thing that surprised most of the audience was that most American towns now have curfews for teens, meaning they can’t go out on the streets after around 10pm. They can’t hang out at the mall or outside the 7-Eleven, so they hang out on MySpace.

After the break it was time for the panel discussion, so I took to the stage. Russell gave me a really nice introduction, running the gamut of my interweb life, including the David Hasselhoff Experience to Sensible Erection. WTF.

I was joined on the panel by Danah, Peter McLennan, Justin Zhang and late addition MySpace Matt who has – at last count – 5496 MySpace friends, and is a caricature of a MySpace emo boy. I’d surely hate him if he weren’t so open about his, well, fakeness.

The panel discussion was mostly centred around MySpace. There hadn’t been much of a Q&A session after Danah’s speech, so people still had plenty of questions for her. However I got to talk about how internet communities are different now to how they were then, and also how people still use IRC these days, but less because stuff like MSN and AIM are easier to use. Not to mention texting. I was a good discussion, but there was a lot of stuff I didn’t get to say, so I might write that up later.

Afterwards SJD played, but I kind of wandered out of the main hall and didn’t get around to wandering back in. Instead I had a nice chat to various people I’ve known online and offline for years.

I ended up going to a cold Chinese restaurant with Morgan, Claire, Lin and Simon and had some rather good food and conversation. (I came away from it with an excellent idea for a novel, so now I just have to get around to writing it.)

It was all a good way to spend a chilly winter night in Auckland. Arigato, Mr Brown for organising another great Great Blend.

great-blend-2006

Panelising

If you are one of those Auckland-based interweb types who is a regular reader of the Public Address blogs and is subsequently planning on going along to the Great Blend event this Saturday, you will be no doubt be excited and delighted to learn that I will be now part of the panel discussing internet communities.

I’ll be joining danah boyd (internet communities expert who’s being shipped over from America especially for the event), Justin Zhang (of New Zealand Chinese community website SkyKiwi), and Peter McLennan (who was one of my fellow panellists on the National Radio show last year). We’re going to be discussing various aspects of internet communities.

I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been on a few panels over the last few years, and have discovered that talking about stuff in front of an audience is rather fun.

The event is full so I don’t need to try and talk it up to make people come along. However, I will say this: if you were to show up to the Grey Lynn Community Centre on Saturday at around 7.30, and if the place didn’t look like it was so full of people that it might be considered a fire hazard, and if you were to nonchalantly wander on in, probably no one would notice, if you get my drift. Right on.

Sausages and stimulation

Tonight I went to the fourth Public Address Great Blend shindig. This one was at Hopetoun Alpha, which is a splendid old building with panoramic views of the city sweeping over to the North Shore.

Anyway, the theme of this Great Blend was something along the lines of television and the internet and intellectual property – a few of my favourite things.

The special guest was Ashley Highfield who is the BBC’s director of new media and technology (yeah, I cut n paste that), who had apparently been flown out here courtesy of the British Council especially to talk to New Zealanders who spend too much time in front of computers.

The evening started with a short performance from Ladi Six. It was just her an an acoustic guitar and it was generally lovely, but she seemed a bit apologetic and unsure of herself, even after she’d warmed up and had people in the audience stealthily grooving in their chairs.

Next Russell Brown did an interview/discussion with Ashley Highfield. It was very interesting, because the BBC are doing some very interesting stuff. Fo’ example, they are trialing a system where viewers can download TV programmes to watch up to seven days after they have screened.

This sort of thing really excites me because I miss out on so much excellent TV that isn’t on at a time that suits me. There is no longer this massive urgency to watch TV show. In 1986 I might have made sure that I was in front of the TV to watch an episode of Macgyver because if I missed it, that was it – no DVD release, no BitTorrent, and certainly no ability to download a missed episode from the broadcaster.

But now, missing an episode of, say, “Lost” doesn’t bother me so much because I know that sooner or later it’ll come out on DVD and I can watch it at my leisure.

After that was a panel discussion that went into those topics of discussion a little deeper and with more relevance to New Zealand. It seems that the wheels of progress and innovation can move rather slowly around these parts, but there are some really good ideas and people to want to do good things, so that makes me glad.

The evening’s entertainment concluded with a performance from Pitch Black, but it seemed that most people ended up moving outside to engage in some debate and discussion about the night’s events.

I was so caught up in too many interesting conversations that I didn’t even get to do the rounds and say hello to everyone I wanted to. A sign of a good evening, I think.

I’m amazed that such an excellent and informative event can take place at no cost to the audience – and not only that, but there were free sausages, which, in my book, is the hallmark of a good time. A bloody good time indeed.

Hear, hear

I had to work today, but that’s ok cos working on a Saturday never quite feels the same as a regular weekday. I have come to the conclusion that the cancellation (voluntary ending?) of “Everyone Loves Raymond” is a blessed thing indeed.

After work I ambled along Hobson Street to the Maritime Museum where the third Public Address Great Blend event was being held. The function room at the museum (where, back in the Xtra days, I recall attending an event involving a Power Point presentation and drinks) is very tastefully decorated, with not a a ship’s wheel or mermaid in sight.

The audience was treated to clips from a three-part documentary by David Herkt about New Zealand’s history of illegal drugs. He noted that older people were more open to talking about their drug use. I suppose there’s less fear of the cops bashing down the door of a pensioner who admits to smoking pot in the ’60s than for a 20-year-old who did so last weekend.

The documentary looks very interesting, though it also seemed to be going to pain with the editing style in order to be really really dynamic and undocumentary-like, though the bit that really hooked the audience was Graham Brazier’s frank account of the first time he shot up.

Then there was a panel discussion on blogs and the media, or something like that. It should have been longer, because it felt like just as things got going, it had to be ended.

Oh, yes. There was the woman in the audience. She seemed to be in a state where she was acting like everyone on the panel was having a personal conversation with her and so she commented in response to things that people said. Most of the time it was, “Hear, hear,” or “Definitely, definitely.” But, for example, after Russell Brown mentioned how David Lange’s Oxford Union speech would be included in his book on New Zealand essays, she said something like, “Good, yeah, that’s a really important one.” As annoying as she was, there was also an odd entertainment value attached to her remarks.

Next up the Phoenix Foundation played. They are a magical band. They all look like they should be waiting in line to get Star Wars tickets, or sitting at home painting fantasy figurines, but there they are in a really cool band, making incredibly good music. They made me want to race out and buy their CDs.

The other attendees were of a slightly different make-up due to this Great Blend being part of the Readers and Writers Festival. I’m not normally down with the Readers and Writers Festival, but it’s good for the online side of things to be acknowledged with more than a “Ha ha!!! Bloggers!!!!” kind of thing.

This reminds me – the ninth anniversary of my website is coming up. How does one celebrate almost a decade of online writing?

Beans

I went to Raggiz for the weekend and got a lift back to Auckland with my Dad. From Ngaruawahia to Rangariri we drove along the other road, the one that runs along the other side of the Waikato River. It’s really nice and scenic without any of the usual mad SH1 traffic.

Dad asked me if I missed having a car. I said I didn’t really, that Auckland’s semi-decent public transport system usually got me where I needed to go, but that occasionally a car would be really useful.

Then just as I got back to Auckland, I had one of those moments. I needed to get from Mt Eden to the Grey Lynn Bowling Club for Public Address’ Great Blend 2 shindig. I got the bus up to Symonds Street, but it was Sunday and connecting buses to Surrey Crescent didn’t appear to be frequent, so I power walked the rest of the way.

Righto, GB2 was cool. I arrived as one of the Def Poetry Jam guys was performing. It’s pity that in order to internationally tour a bunch of performance poets, they have to be given the awful awful name “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam”. But I suppose it gets a bigger audience than “A Bunch Of Performance Poets” ever would.

I grabbed an organic sausage from the barbecue and ate it with a somewhat non-organic slice of white bread and tomato sauce. Mr Slack read a funny excerpt from his new book, a wry of observation of a service at Destiny Church, and then it was time to mingle.

Lin accosted me and seated me with her posse up the front of the room. We talked for a bit and then the Checks started to play and my entire life changed. One of the reason I’d gone to GB2 was to see the Checks. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding them at the moment, so I wanted to see them live. Let me list what is good about the Checks:

  • They have Strokes-like bandwide hotness (even though they look like they’re all 12 years old.)
  • They dress really well without looking styled.
  • They have really awesome on-stage energy.
  • They are competent musicians.
  • They play really good, surprisingly well-structured, rock n roll songs.
  • And (this is the most important part) even though they were playing in the early evening to a half-empty bowling club, to an audience that didn’t necessarily care, they put on a brilliant show.

I would also like to note that I was sitting so close to the stage that I was able to observe that the lead singer’s fly was undone by about an inch. How ’bout that, huh?

Then there was a panel where Noelle McCarthy, Gemma Gracewood, Russell Brown, Damian Christie and the head of news at TV3 (standing in for John Campbell) talked about the media. It was interesting and a few cool anecdotes were revealed, but I wanted it to go on for longer.

I got a free bag of coffee beans (What? I don’t have a coffee grinder), chatted with various people, then went home. And, as I realised yesterday, it’s nice to now be able to go to an event where people meet off the internet and be surrounded by really interesting people and not the kind of geeks who showed up to such things in the olden days.