On Friday after work, I wandered up to Albert Park, and was just in time for the opening of the lantern festival.

I stood around with a group of people looking at a stack of double-happies rigged to go. In the distance someone was making a speech about diversity. Then a series of bangs echoed around the park, and the double-happies exploded. People took photos of them, but, well, you can’t really photograph loud bangs. Visually it was a giant cloud of smoke.

The lights came on, so I wandered around and took photos. My amateur advice for taking photos of decorative lanterns at night boils down to these four points:

  1. Deactive your flash. Your camera may be jonesing to flash, but remember, you’re taking a photo of a light, so you don’t need to bring any more to the party.
  2. Get up close to the lantern. Don’t zoom in from afar, physically walk as close as you can get. That’ll help use all the light from the lantern and make nice bright, colourful photo.
  3. Don’t get in the mode of documentarian. Often small features of the lanterns are more interesting than taking a full-length photo.
  4. If you’re getting blurring, go with it. There’s sure to be a Flickr group that is hot for Chinese lanterns with a bit of artful motion blur.

As I was walking around, I heard a middle-aged woman talking to her husband. They were passing a line of Chinese-clothing-shaped lanterns that were strung along as if on a clothes line. “Clothes line – a bit of a Kiwi touch there,” she commented. Yes, because they don’t have clothes lines in China.

There was a stand called No Chinatown, where visitors were invited to fill in a survey about whether Auckland needed a Chinatown. It could have easily been run by the council or a community group, but it was actually an art project. OMG – edgy. It seemed like they were taking the piss out of the idea that for Auckland to be a world-class city, it needed a Chinatown. Hey, forget a Chinatown – bring back the Hobson Street opium dens!

There was a stand giving out free books on Buddhism. I saw a group of 40-something woman all snap up one called “Diet and Health”, which attempts to entice punters to the world of vegetarians with such anecdotes as, “When I first started on a vegetarian diet, I had blisters on my chin. They contained a very toxic liquid waste causing sores whenever it came into contact with the skin.” Toxic waste?! What, was she eating veggies from the Love Canal farmer’s market?

But most importantly, the pork buns were good, in a food stall kind of way. And that is as good a way as any to see in the year of the fire pig.

Moving stars 2

Night light

I spent most of the lantern festival wandering around taking photos. Other people did this too.

Here’s a hint: if you’re taking photos of lanterns and you want them to look all glowy and wonderful, remember to disengage the flash. A pair of zebras demonstrates the difference.


Flash zebras

And no flash:


But I realised that if I spent all the time looking through a viewfinder, I’d start to miss things. So it was time to engage in the peripheral business.

I enjoyed the karaoke. There were some really awful performance, including a good-awful rendition of “Let It Be” and two girls in short shorts who did a nervous, wobbly bad-awful ballad. (To put it in NZ Idol audition terms, he’d get flamboyantly rejected on-camera by the judges, but the girls would get weeded out on the first day.)

But there were good, entertaining performances some guy did a crowd-pleasing version of Spandau Ballet’s “True” (which even prompted screaming from the audience), while two ladies did an enthusiastic rendition of Blondie’s “Call Me”.

As for the food, I had an adequate vegetarian pad Thai, a refreshing passionfruit slushy thing, a superb pork bun, and a pearl milk tea. I couldn’t finish the pearl tea. There’s something a little unnerving about sucking on a straw and having a succession of sweet li’l balls firing into my mouth.

At fireworks time, Teh Matt and I ventured across to the Wellesley Street overbridge and put our cameras exposure settings to work, before crossing to the other side and watching the fireworks spurting above the trees in Albert Park.

More lantern festival photos here.


I made it to the lantern festival tonight. I saw two of my fellow mind control cult attendees. One was doing some kung fu, the other was there as a spectator. And I saw Andy, who yelled out “Robyn Gallagher”. This is my favourite way of having my attention grabbed. Most people just say “hey” or “Robyn” or “hey, Robyn”. But when someone says “Robyn Gallagher,” that is very cool.

I had a spring roll, and it was very cabbagey and greasey. Then I had some candy floss (!) and a beverage called a lychee slush. One or more of those made me feel a bit sick, so I had some really good laksa to counter it.

But it wasn’t just about the food. There was lanterns. When I arrived it was still sunny, but the sun soon went down and the lanterns glowed. There were some sheep lanterns. I like it when New Zealanders embrace the tacky sheep identity of this country. The fountain had some really pretty floating flower shaped lanterns.

There were also people. I wrote this down as I was having a break on a grassy bank:

drag queens & the family with a white father, an Indian mother and two lovely girls & the guy with the shirt with “Renaldo” on the back & the little kid trying to get a pushchair and two chairs down a grassy bank & the goth guy wearing a Chinese straw hat & the two Polynesian guys enthusiastically working their way through a plate of mussels & the really good looking Asian couple & the pregnant mother looking styley in black and grey & the elderly couple walking along each holding a spring roll & the laughing women & the young man giving his friends a cynical commentary during the Akido demonstration & the little boy crawling up the grass band & everyone

Dylan, James, Morgan, Claire and Daniel (and I could link to their respective web pages, but I can’t be bothered) were there, so I watched the big fireworks extravaganza with them. The fireworks were so close that ash and grit rained down upon us. Now that’s an extreme extravaganza.

I was giving Dylz a ride back to the Shore. Two lanes of the harbour bridge were closed, so there was a minor traffic jam. It was at that point that DJ Sir Vere, on his Mai FM show, was giving a brief history of 50 Cent. At the end he played a couple of skits where 50 Cent makes fun of Ja Rule. They were fake ads for a recording called “Ja Rule Duets”. So there’d be some popular song with a Ja Rule impersonator rapping stuff like “Uh, yeah. Ja Rule. Get the party started” over the top. I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. I laughed so hard that it hurt. I laughed so hard that I actually wanted to pull over and regain my composure, but I was in the middle of the Harbour Bridge in really slow traffic. It was hard, but I managed to calm down and take the Stafford Road exit. And that is why I listen to Mai FM, baby.

Throw wool

Last night I decided that I’d go to the anti-war march today if I woke up in time. This morning I was woken up by my neighbour talking on the phone outside my bedroom window. She was saying how she’d heard there was this anti-war march today, but she didn’t think that she was the sort of person who’d do that (but she was planning on going down to the Viaduct and seeing the yachting). I looked at the time. It was just after 10.00 am, perfect timing for the march.

I joined the march just past Vulcan Lane. At the front there were people holding signs and chanting stuff like “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your bloody war!” but further along was a group of drummers doing what I think was samba drumming while people around them chanted, “no war!” to the rhythm.

I’m not sure how many people were there, but it was a big crowd. I saw a report on NZoom estimating it as at least 7,000. When the front of the parade at reached Mayoral Drive, I looked back and I’m sure I could see people still down by Victoria Street.

The march ended up at Myers Park. The original plan was for it to end at Aotea Square, but like the construction in QE2 Square, the organisers apparently hadn’t counted on the weekend markets in Aotea Square. Myers Park turned out to be a better venue because there’s trees and grass, not just vast expanses of concrete and a big TV screen showing yacht racing.

There were various speakers, and the organisers had very wisely limited speeches to three minutes each. An Iraqi nun was the first to speak. Most speakers reminded us that the war was for oil, that Bush, Blair and Howard are dicks, and that innocent children are going to die if this war takes place.

Yeah, there were some hippies there, but there were thousands of ordinary people.

After the March I headed to Aotea square. I had coffee from the Kokako stand, which I think might just have to be the next installation in the Coffee From Places That Aren’t Starbucks series. It wasn’t necessarily the next closest coffee place, but it was a sunny day and I wanted to go somewhere outside. The coffee was good, in the way that coffee is good. The sign said it was organic coffee. Word up.

Then in search of air conditioned comfort I saw “Chicago”. I saw it on Thursday as well. The difference being that this time a dude came in and sat two seats down from me and took half his clothes off. That was pretty cool. I’m glad musicals are coming back in fashion, because a good musical is fun to watch. I saw “Evita” about four times at the movies (twice with a gay guy, yeah) and “South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut” three times. I only saw “Moulin Rouge” once, but I hear it’s more fun on DVD than in a cinema. The thing I liked the best about “Chicago” was how the musical numbers took place in fantasy, people didn’t spontaneously burst into song. The costumes were so good and the hair styles were brilliant. I totally want to go and get my hair permed and bobbed. (No, bad idea).

Dylzno and I were going to see the Chinese Lantern Festival, but the streets around Albert Park were packed and there was no parking to be found so we went to the Turkish place on K Road and had kebabs. They have hookahs there. At the next table there were some guys smoking from one. I don’t know what is being smoked, though. It’s not tobacco or pot. Lack of people passed out on pillows or waking up and writing epic poems suggests it’s not opium. How very mysterious!