Happy! New! Yeah!

Every year around December 31, there used to be an avalanche of tweets from people declaring that year to have been so shit, good riddance to it, and bring on the new year.

This year, however, there has been a distinct lack of those tweets.

I suspect this is because 2011 has been a dramatic, eventful and sometimes tragic year. No one wants to be the drama queen/king who declares 2011 to be the worst year ever, only to have someone say, “Yeah, well you’re lucky. My wife was killed in the earthquake.”

Christchurch people seem to be counting their blessings and not solely dwelling on the destruction of the quake.

In shit times, we don’t have the luxury of wallowing in misery. 2011 is the year that gave everyone perspective on how good we’ve really got it.

Happy new year, y’all!


talent-showI was mesmerised by the BBC documentary I Had The X Factor… 25 Years Ago. It looked at six people who were finalists in the 1986 grand final of the “New Faces” talent show – three singers, two comedians, and a violinist. They all enjoyed instant fame from the show, but with varying amounts of success. And that’s where it got interesting.

It seemed that most of them got work off the initial buzz from the show. But eventually that buzz faded away. Soul singer James Stone got work touring pubs and clubs, but his nice old lady manager kept his earnings from him. Comedian Vinny Cadman suddenly found himself unable to get the high-profile gigs he’d previously had. There are tales of divorce, alcoholism, childlessness, bankruptcy and sleeping in dumpsters.

It seems that for all of these contestants, once they had a taste of fame, of performing in front of an adoring audience, they were hooked, completely unable to go back to normal jobs, even when the showbiz gigs had completely dried up.

Has anything changed today? Are the contestants on The X Factor somehow immune to this fate?

Singer James Stone is also revealed to have been a semi-finalist on Britain’s Got Talent in 2008, his second shot at fame. He impressed the judges, but three years later he is revealed to be penniless but reasonably happy. He seemed like the sort of person who had a lot of personal problems that would always keep him from sustaining a career in showbiz.

I guess that’s what it comes down to. Talent is only one part of the equation. Showbiz is hard. It takes a certain type of personality to survive it, to negotiate the minefield of trends and competition. Maybe that’s the true X-factor.

Vanilla Ice’s pants

vanilla-iceVanilla Ice is appearing in a pantomime in the UK this Christmas. He plays Captain Hook in Peter Pan. It sounds quite cool, yeah? So I was tweeting about this and I typed “Vanilla Ice’s panto looks like fun.” However autocorrect decided this was wrong and helpfully changed it to “Vanilla Ice’s pants looks like fun.” I came *this* close to tooting it.

But do you know who actually thought “Vanilla Ice’s pants look like fun!” Madonna, that’s who. They briefly had a thing in the early ’90s, right at the time when Madonna made her notoriious “Sex” book. There are images of them together, sans pants.

Who would be more fun to party with today? Captain Hook Hook Baby or Old Madge?

Le quake

After the earthquake
My bedroom after the quake, with the books flung from the shelves.

So, there was that earthquake thing last night. I was watching the One Direction documentary when suddenly I felt the familiar sway of my building when an earthquake hits. But unlike the usual baby mini quakes that usually hit Wellington, this one went on for longer and got more shaky. Some books and objet d’art started falling off the top two shelves of my bookcase, which has never happened before.

My first and strongest instinct was to put on some pants. Yes. Because I figured I could deal with going barefoot in only a sportsbra and t-shirt to a refugee camp, but I couldn’t survive without pants. But instead of doing that, I found myself standing in my bedroom doorway. I’m not sure why I did this, but it seemed like I’d decided to leave the room and turned that into the classic earthquake protection spot. Standing there, I thought “I do not want to live in Wellington any more,” which is my standard reptile brain thought in such situations. The shaking stopped and the building slowly swayed its way back to stillness.

On Twitter, Wellington people were saying stuff like “Arrgh! This is the worst earthquake I’ve experience in 30 years living here!”, while Christchurch people were all “Woteva. Harden up, bitches.”

It was easily the most alarming earthquake I’ve experienced in Wellington, but it was nowhere near as shaky or long as the big on in Tokyo, or indeed the two big aftershocks I experienced there. There were no Izakaya bars or Asahi to comfort me this time, but 15 minutes later, Courtenay Place was about as normal as it ever is for a Saturday night.

And the earthquake also, uh, dumped a bunch of my clothes on the floor? My fear has always been that this bookcase would tip over, so I’m glad this is all that happened. This was less disruption than what I came back to in my Tokyo hotel room.

True romance



Things I have discovered about people I went to school with, based on about an hour snooping around on Facebook

  • A strangely large number of people have at some point had a profile pic of them looking all fancy at the races.
  • It’s an odd experience to see a photo of a bald, wrinkled man with a weird moustache and to think, “He used to be so beautiful when he was 16.”
  • Pretty much all the hot guys are no longer hot. They’ve either turned into boofhead sports dudes or have just got nerdy around the edges.
  • The weird girl with the mousy brown hair now has luxuriant blonde tresses.
  • Women whose profile pic is them and their dog = single.
  • Lots of people are Facebook friends with the cooldude music teacher.
  • Whoa, my primary school friend’s sister had a party where everyone came in blackface! Arrgh!
  • Some people look older than others, but that’s mostly down to fashion rather than biology.
  • Hardcore Christians have lots of Facebook friends. As do people in showbiz.
  • As usual, the really interesting people are the ones who aren’t on Facebook. (Or if they are, they’ve locked their account right down.)

Bewitched, bewooded

I had an intriguing encounter with a mysterious fellow today.

I was doing a session in the NZ On Screen box. It was a cold, wet morning, so there weren’t many people out and about. Suddenly this dude appears, maybe in his late 30s. He had long blonde hair, a backpack and a line on his face that was either a scar or some blue ink.

I demonstrated the interactive wall, and let him have a go. He sounded German, or at least from that region of Europe. Usually most people play a few clips then leave, but he was really engrossed in it. In the “Heroes and Icons” category, he asked where his nemesis was, so the other staffer and I tried to figure out which of the NZ heroes would have been his nemesis, but the guy couldn’t pick one.

The guy then just started circling his arm in front of the wall, which – using the motion-detection controls – would just randomly start playing clips. It went from being weird to hilarious to weird to a serious mash-up live VJ performance art piece and then back to hilarious. It was at this stage I decided he was awesome.

Some other people came in and so he moved away and started talking to me. Things we discussed:

  • A waka on the lake in Rotorua.
  • The difference between ‘boat’ and ‘ship’.
  • He did not remember how long it was since he was in Rotorua and so he would have to go away and think about it.
  • The way a waka in Rotorua was presented.
  • He had passed through Hamilton but would not go there until he had family there.
  • Different ways to use the word ‘built’.
  • “Carter Holt Harvey – do you know this company?”
    “Yes, I think they’re a timber merchant.”
    “Are they a New Zealand company.”
    “I think so, yes.”
    “No, they are actually Australian owned, but I suppose you only know of them in New Zealand so that is all right.”
  • It is a tree when it is growing, wood when it is cut down and timber when it is milled.
  • If you can ‘smooth’ something, can you ‘wood’ something?
  • How he was reluctant to touch the wall because normally he is a very clean person.
  • If you can say ‘bewitch’ can you say ‘bewood’?
  • If you do something with your hat, do you ‘hatten’ with it?

Eventually our conversation came to its natural conclusion, and the guy declared that this was one of the best conversations he’d ever had (same!!!!), but he had to leave to go and do creative things. I do not know his name, where he came from or where he is going, but he thoroughly bewooded me.

Of shark eggs and dad-love

King's Arms toilet graffiti 2

The largest eggs in the world are laid by sharks.
The largest woman in the world is laid by your dad.

So, four years ago – and I mean exactly four years ago, September 29 2007 – I went to the King’s Arms to see Blam Blam Blam play. At one point I was in the ladies loos and saw this amusing graffiti in a cubical. I took a photo of it, uploaded it to Flickr, and didn’t give it much thought.

But it turns out it’s taken on a little bit of a life of its own. It’s become a minor internet meme, starting on toilet graffiti lolz websites and moving into the realm of general internet lolz. One blogger even uses the text as a tagline on his webiste.

But it tickles me that while the joke seems to be mainly enjoyed by dudes, the Shark graffitier, Dad graffitier and photographer were all ladies.

The art of the scrunch

Before: the innocence of 2011
After: Power hair, power suit, power earrings of 1986

I first learned the womanly art of hair and makeup in the mid-late ’80s – around ‘86 and ‘87 when I was 11/12. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom practising, and I came to the realisation that I could probably still do those things.

Big in the ’80s (for the ’80s were big) was scrunching. This involved squirting a ton of mousse in the hair and then scrunching it as you blow-dried. This is pretty much the complete opposite of straightening with GHDs, as the end result was that of someone who’d woken up after falling asleep in a park on a humid night.

As for the makeup, it was all big and bold, complete with sideburns of blusher. If you blushed naturally only on the side of your face, you’d probably see a cardiologist. Because blue frosted eye shadow doesn’t exist any more, I had to fake it by mixing blue with silver. Hey, u have blue eyes – the frosted blue eye shadow will make your eyes look really pretty!!!

End result? I look like a man in drag. Or I look like a 50-year-old high-powered business woman. I want those reports on my desk asap. Either way, this is not a look I want to sport on a daily basis. Evidence that only women with delicate features can get away with strong makeup. I am thankful I was never an adult in the ’80s.

Life before cellphones

A Quora topic asks: What was daily life like before almost everyone had cell phones?

You know what I remember the most, kids? Making appointments with your friends.

Cool, I’ll be upstairs in the magazine section of Borders. See you there at 7.00.

Let’s split up and then meet back at the Bucket Fountain by a quarter to.

There was no “I’ll give you a text when I’m on my way”. You had to be prompt, but also a little patient if your friend was late. I kind of liked it better that way.