Doof doof fight fight

1. Jesus pop

I like it when unusual songs end up in the pop charts. A couple of weeks ago a song called “I’m in Love with Jesus” by Arise church turned up at number 29, wedged between Katy Perry and Drake.

Arise is a big charismatic church group. They’re based in Wellington (and use the Michael Fowler Centre for their Sunday service), but they have congregations in Hamilton and Christchurch (“the three main centres”, sez the church’s website). That enough people bought the single to get it into the top 40 is either an indication of the power of Arise church, or a sign that you don’t have to sell many copies of a song to get into the bottom end of the top 40 these days. Or a bit of both.

The single sounds like a fairly ordinary contemporary pop song with synthy flourishes. I’d maybe compare it to the Naked and Famous, but with less edge and more pop.  It’s about a minute too long and gets really repetitive near the end, but I suspect for the song’s biggest fans, it isn’t long enough.

The strangest thing about the song is the choice of words for the chorus: “I’m in love with Jesus”. To me, “in love” suggests romantic love. It’s how “I’m in love with my wife” is sweet but “I’m in love with my mum” is weird. But maybe that’s how things are in the world of Arise – everyone in the church is in a romantic relationship with Jesus, accepting him as their personal lord, saviour and boyfriend.

The YouTube comments are, as to be expected, very entertaining. There are boring teen atheists who think Christians shouldn’t push their beliefs on everyone, but there are also Christians who think the song is disrespectful to Jesus. Most of the comments, however, are from fans of the song who think it’s the most amazing uplifting song ever and it makes them sooo proud to be a Christian and/or a New Zealander.

“I’m in Love with Jesus” charted in the week of 18 November. The following week it had dropped out of the charts entirely.

2. Straight up

pink-toolbox

Nothing written on this paper is a euphemism. This is the reality of my surroundings.

3. Home alone

Recently I’ve been playing a video game called Gone Home. It is (according to Wikipedia) a first-person interactive story adventure video game. The most important part of that description is “interactive story”, because that’s what it mainly is.

The game is set in 1995 and you play Kaitlin Greenbriar, a young woman coming home from college. It’s a dark and stormy night and she returns to her family’s new home to find her parents and younger sister are both missing. So the aim of the game is to figure out what’s happened to the Greenbriar whanau.

The TV weather report confirms it is indeed a dark and stormy night.
The TV weather report confirms it is indeed a dark and stormy night.

The house is a spooky old mansion, and much of the  game involves wandering into dark rooms and trying to find the light switch. If you’re a wuss like me, you will find this enjoyably terrifying.

As the game progresses, as room are unlocked, secret passages explored, Kaitlin discovers more about what’s been going on with her family. Having the game set in 1995 means there’s a substantial paper trail offering clues – diaries, invoices, memos, books, letters. If the game was set today, Kaitlin would just be looking through at her family members’ computers,  discovering porn on her Mum’s laptop and getting all icked out.

Another bonus of being set in the ’90s – cassette tapes. It turns out Kaitlin’s younger sister Sam is well into the riot grrrl movement and various rooms have tapes with songs from Heavens to Betsy and Bratmobile that can be played as a bit of spirited music to accompany your searches for clues. That’s also a strong hint that the game passes the Bechdel test and wouldn’t end up getting critiqued in the Tropes vs Women in Video Games series.

The game has a really sweet and somewhat emotional ending. I like games like this – ones that involve exploring and thinking and aren’t all doof-doof-fight-fight.

Fruity

1. Pineapple

Selling pineapples at Franklins fruit shop, corner of Queen Street, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-11653-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23072683
Selling pineapples at Franklins fruit shop, corner of Queen Street, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-11653-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23072683

I like pineapple as a fruit, but I also like portraits of pineapple. New Zealand doesn’t have a rich history of pineapple art, like Hawaii or Queensland, but there are still goodies to be found.

I had a delve into the collected archives of Digital New Zealand and have created a set of pineapple photos. This includes pineapple art and history from Te Papa, pineapple press from the Alexander Turnbull Library, and assorted pineapple propaganda from various region museums. My favourite is the 1947 photo of an aeroplane full of pineapples. They’re not in crates or anything – just a massage pile of pineapples inside an aeroplane.

2. Seagull

seagull

Sometimes Google Street View offers up random moments of wonder. Here’s the Stone Store at Kerikeri. It’s 180 years old and is the oldest stone building in New Zealand (the oldest building, Kemp House, is right behind it). On this occasion the Street View car captured a couple standing outside the building – man in relaxed travel clothing and a woman in a full-length dress, looking like a Brethrenette or some other variety of Christian that believes in modest dress.

But more importantly is the seagull. It doesn’t care that it’s in historic Northland or that it can’t see the lady’s tempting ankles. It’s just going for a sky-hoon, probably only concerned about food.

3. Secret Santa

I’ve signed up for the New Zealand Twitter Secret Santa now. This year it’s run NZ Post now with the twist that if you don’t sent a present, you won’t get one in return.

I did the Secret Santa in 2011. It was challenging. I didn’t get a present from whoever was supposed to send me one, and I had a bit of an experience trying to pick something for my Secret Santa recipient.

I looked at the Twitter account of my giftee and discovered a young woman who didn’t tweet much. But when she did tweet, it was about one of three topics:

  1. Photos of her and her mates out getting drunk.
  2. Offering to have sexual relations with Zayn from One Direction if he were to follow her on Twitter.
  3. Comments about how much she hated her job, friends, the woman at the petrol station, etc. She hated a lot of stuff.

What do you get someone who hates everything except booze and Zayn from 1D? Wanting some inspiration, I looked at her street on Google Maps. It offered no gift clues, but it was a brand new suburb full of McMansions, just like the street in the opening shots of Lorde’s “Royals” video, released a few months later. She was probably angry about that too.

In the end I picked up on one thing – she liked getting drunk. Well, she was angry about that too, but it seemed to be something that also gave her a tiny bit of pleasure. So I bought her some sort of cheap-arse party tumblers from a cheesy gift store.

She did not tweet about receiving her gift. But if she did, she probably would have been very angry about it.

This is breakdown town.
This is breakdown town.

Rotorua

Detail from Volcanic Plateau painting by Juliet Peter
Detail from Volcanic Plateau painting by Juliet Peter.

I went to Rotorua earlier this year. It was during the drought, where the sky was always blue and the landscape was always brown and everything was hot and dry. I took The Shell Guide to New Zealand (of course), where Juliet Peter’s artwork depicting the Volcanic Plateau chapter includes trout, Maori carvings, state houses, bulldozers, pine trees, a volcano, a power pylon and a butterfly.

1. Hell’s Gate

The Volcanic Plateau chapter begins with a quote from George Bernard Shaw, who visited the area in 1934: “Tikitere, I think, is the most damnable place I have ever visited and I would willingly have paid ten pounds not to see it.” So obviously I had to find this place and go there.

It turns out Tikitere is the tourist attraction otherwise known as Hell’s Gate, a thermal wonderland of sulphur, steam, mud and other delights. But here’s the weird thing – Hell’s Gate is hot for George Bernard Shaw.

I went to Rotorua and all I got was this giant cloud of steam.
I went to Rotorua and all I got was this giant cloud of steam.

The place takes its name from a comment he made, and indeed many of the hot pools were named by him. Like the two erupting pools named Sodom and Gomorrah.

Was he actually walking around like a 1930s Jeremy Clarkson slagging the place off? But because he was George Bernard Shaw, internationally renowned playwright and wit, the locals were like “Lolz! That’s an awesome name, GBS! We will call it that!”

I’m willing to cut GBS some slack. While the blooping mudpools and clouds of sulphurous steam are quite fun, there’s a lot of walking involved and some pretty bleak landscapes.

And in Shaw’s day, there wasn’t a mud foot spa to relax in. Maybe if he’d been able to do that, then participate in the fun Maori carving activity, he wouldn’t have been so miserable.

2. Maori Jesus

“At opposite ends of [the] city,” writes Maurice, “are [the] Maori villages of Ohinemutu and Whakarewarewa. I’d been to Whakarewarewa many times before, but somehow Ohinemutu had never been on my radar. Ohinemutu also features in Steve Braunias’ book Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the World, so I figured it was time to make a visit. Literary men tell me so.

The star of Ohinemutu village is Saint Faith’s church, a 19th century church on thermal ground down by the lake shore. It’s a splendid old building, but the best thing about it is the Maori Jesus window.

I was slowly walking around the chapel when suddenly there it was. A large picture window overlooking the lake, with a magnificent Maori Jesus etched into the glaze, making it look like he’s walking on the lake. If I was religious I’d have probably felt closer to God. Instead I got my architecture buzz – the same feeling I got when I saw the Beehive for the first time. It was like the scene in North by Northwest where Roger and Eve are running through a forest when they suddenly realise – OMG! – they’re on top of Mount Rushmore.

The Maori Jesus window is amazing for many reasons, but I really like that it’s a giant picture window in a church. Churches are usually very inwardly focused, with either small or stained glass windows obscuring any view of the outside world. But this window acknowledges that there’s a big lake out the window. Maybe the church figured it couldn’t compete with the lake (which, after all, God made) and so make it part of the experience. So if you want to attend a church service but stare out the window all the time, then that’s probably ok with God.

maori-jesus

3. Tudor Towers

Admission to Rotorua Museum is $20 for out-of-towners, which is by far the highest public museum admission charge I’ve come across in this fair country. So it had better not be a rubbish museum, yeah?

Well, they’ve put the money to good use, with an extensive section dedicated to the history and culture of Rotorua, as well as the old bathhouse section (which now seems really grotty but still fascinating ). But the part I enjoyed the most was hidden away on the mezzanine level – a tale of the previous incarnation of that part of the building, as the Tudor Towers restaurant and cabaret in the 1970s and ’80s.

It was the '80s - everyone wore raspberry berets.
It was the ’80s – everyone wore raspberry berets.

At one point Tudor Towers was the only venue in town that could open late, so there’d be a nightly stream of pissed locals and tourists staggering through the gardens to dance the rest of the night away up the Tower.

In the ’80s the house band was Kairo (or Cairo, depending on who’s telling the story), and they did quite well for themselves. Te Ara has a video profile of the band from the 1980s. It just makes everything seem magical – classic Rotorua entertainment crossed with modern pop.

Downstairs there’s a exhibition devoted to Te Arawa, including a hall of fame. Sure, Sir Howard and Temuera Morrison are showbiz legends, but there’s just something so much more romantic about a funk-pop house band playing in the improvised upper level of an old bathhouse in the middle of a scenic garden in the mid-1980s.

Postcards

1. A postcard

Late last year I signed up for Heather Champ‘s postcard project, where she decided to mail out one postcard per day for the whole of 2013. I’m #297, a picture of some mylar balloons floating over a pleasant American street. So I took a photo of the postcard in a pleasant street in my town.

postcard

And here’s the postcard being posted in San Francisco.

I was inspired by this, thinking that I should do an epic, long-term project. But then I realised I already have one.

2. In the house

The 2013 Australian series of Big Brother has recently ended. The series ran for 101 days, and in that time the housemates had no news from the outside world. During the final episode, the two remaining housemates were shown a video with a summary of the important news events that had taken place while they were in the house.

  • Tony Abbott was elected the new Australian Prime Minister
  • New South Wales was ravaged by bushfires
  • The United States federal government shut down for 16 days
  • Miley Cyrus twerked at the MTV Video Music Awards
  • Miley Cyrus called off her engagement with Australian actor Liam Hemsworth
  • Hawthorne won the AFL grand final
  • Sydney Roosters won the NRL grand final
  • One of the housemate’s boyfriends was in the winning racing team of the Gold Coast 600
  • Lou Reed died
  • Kim and Kanye got engaged
  • Miranda and Orlando split
  • Royal baby George was born

Mirada and Orlando’s split got the biggest reaction.

3. A reverse Warholian expedition

I’ve been having a play with Lady Gaga’s Artpop app, a promo device for her new album. The app store description promises a “reverse Warholian expedition”. That sounds intriguing and amazing, but all it means is  if Andy Warhol put pop into art to create popart, then Gaga is putting art into pop to create artpop.

So what does the app offer? Well, after a complicated introduction in which the user answers a bunch of marketing questions, an “aura” (glowing fuzzy ball thing) is created by the Gaga-voiced guide. With my newly formed aura, I explored the app and discovered it was mainly a tool for creating works of artpop. What were these works of art pop? Animated gifs.

gaga

Yes, check out the rotating floral print camera. I artpopped it myself.

There’s also section where you can listen to the Artpop album (and buy it, of course), but that didn’t seem to work for me, possibly due to geographic restrictions. But really, if Artpop had a single as glorious as “Bad Romance”, I’d be out listening to the album and not mucking around making lame animated gifs.

Raging, gaming, lobbying

Blogs, eh. What do you do with a blog in this modern world, where the signal-to-noise ratio of writing stuff online is noisier than ever? I figured the thing to do is to write about stuff one likes. Here are three things.

1. The Neo-Kalashnikov’s burning fire of desire

There’s this reasonably good New Zealand rock band called the Neo-Kalashnikovs. They’re best known for getting British actress Helen Flanagan aka Rosie from Coronation Street to appear in their “Gorgeous Baby” music video, ensuring an admirable bit of hooha in the tabloid press. But they’ve become increasingly known for the angry online outbursts by one of the band members who can’t understand why the rest of the music world doesn’t think the Neo-K’s are as brilliant as the band themselves reckon.

This has resulted in some fierce online explosions at complete odds with the band’s cool, laid-back sound. There’s the review of “Gorgeous Baby” over at The Corner, but the best outbursts come from the band’s own blog, complete with a ’90s-style design. Recent posts include:

Prime Devastation were angry, but they were never that angry. It all reminds me of the olden days of NZmusic.com, the young bands who were so convinced of their greatness that they couldn’t accept criticism as being anything other than haters trying too cut them down.

They’ll get over it. No one stays that angry for long.

2. Device 6

There’s this iOS game called Device 6. It’s text-based, but it also uses sound and images, and it has a lot of fun with the extra dimension afforded by scrolling on an iPad. As far as genre goes, it’s kind of a thriller (all the best video games are), but with adventure and puzzle aspects as well. It’s unusual, in the best way.

The game is made by Simogo, a Swedish game developer, based in Malmö, which just happens to be where Eurovision was hosted this year. And given that Swedes tend to be really good at pop, it’s very pleasant that all the music in the game is really good. (Good music in video games is important. Monkey Island 2 got it right, whereas I am still traumatised by “Girl in the Tower” from King’s Quest VI.)

I don’t want to say too much about Device 6, because for me, part of the enjoyment was exploring its strange world without knowing much about it. Here are some screen shots:

And here is the trailer:

3. Hoyts Metro

There’s a new movie theatre in Hamilton. It’s actually the old Village 7 cinema given a makeover into the fancy new Hoyts Metro. It’s not an art house cinema or a “gold lounge” type arrangement, but it seems to be aimed at a mainstream-hipster demographic, if that makes sense.

hoyts-metro-2The decor of the old Village 7 was a generic ’90s multiplex. Hoyts Metro gutted all that and replaced it with something said to have been inspired by a New York subway. (I bet cinemas in New York don’t look like New York subways.)

This choo-choo theme came from the historical fact that the cinema is on the site of the original Hamilton railway station, as if designing a movie theatre lobby like a train station somehow makes up for there now being no central Hamilton train station.

hoyts-metro-1The lobby design even uses shipping containers, but rather than having a practical use, like, say the Re:Start mall in Christchurch, they’re just used as decor. The end effect is like the set of an am-dram production of West Side Story.

And then just to make things even weirder, there’s faux Banksy graffiti and the sort of uplifting slogans that are usually seen on Tumblr and/or workplace kitchenette noticeboards.

The brand new toilets are nice, though. Lots of tiles and quality fittings. That’s really important.

The cinemas themselves are much better than the funhouse lobby. The seating has been changed to a stadium layout, the seats are comfortable and when I saw One Direction: This Is Us, I had a very pleasant experience. The best bit of the film was when Niall dressed as an angry Scottish roadie and berated 1D fans for liking such a shite band.

And end sentences with a comma,
And end sentences with a comma,