Wednesday, November 29, 2006

bob dylan

here's an advert i just got from aj bell. he and derek lind and some others have put together a band to play bob dylan's gospel stuff. they are performing at parachute 2007. but before that, they are doing a gig in hamilton. aj says,

Kia ora good people of Aotearoa...not doing anything on Tues night 12th December???...fancy a trip to the megatropolis of Hamilton for the debut of the Bob Dylan Electric Gospel Band??? ...all yours for $10 in the name of TearFund ...along with poet maestro Arthur Amon and Jervais-inspired stand up...once only opportunity to catch this performance outside of the 2007 Parachute Festival.

Yours from the deep part of the river
Andrew Bell

whoa, this should be really good. and as aj hints, it includes my esteemed compadres in the poetry revolution: arthur amon and also ross millar! (click the ad to see it a bit larger)

on the headphones: 'no woman, no cry' by bob marley, from the album 'live!'

Sunday, November 26, 2006

U2 pt2

this post follows my review of the concert - so read that first if you haven't yet (below).

if you have a look at the comments on the review, you will see one from ben who got a lot closer to the action than we were and was much more blown away by the experience. immediacy is definitely something you miss out on in a big concert unless you are up close. which is also the reason why jamie, in an email to me, said he wanted to see U2 play in a 1500 seat venue one day!

i found this excellent photo gallery at that gives a better taste of what the band is like up close.

and to further complexify the question about what bono meant when he said "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed - all true", anna pointed me back to this excerpt from the book 'bono on bono' which i read earlier this year (my review is here). in what bono says there seems to be no doubt that he believes that jesus is supremely true, and he even speaks against the idea that jesus was just one of many prophets... [edit: also read a comment from ben, which i have since added to the end of this post too - he may well be right]

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.

Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep shit. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled… It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?

Bono: No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched…

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: [I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my shit and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

[edit: ben's comment...]

hey man i might be wrong but the way i heard it was "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed - its true, Jesus, Jew, Mohammed - its true. all sons, all sons of abraham" then he went on about the middle east and how the 3 religions of christianity, judaism and islam all came from abraham and are all congregated in that part of the world and how they all need to get along. he sung something about "father abraham look at your sons" or something along those lines. i think the "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed - all true" is what some random christian person heard and spread it round so thats what you are expecting him to say. pretty sure thats not what bono is saying. doesn't make sense if he goes from saying "all true" to "all sons of abraham"

Saturday, November 25, 2006

U2 auckland 2006

last night (friday) anna and i went to the long-awaited U2 concert at mt smart in auckland. i say "long-awaited" because i remember saying that U2 was my favourite band when i was 10 and this was the first time i have seen them live, and also "long-awaited" because they were supposed to come in march but had to postpone until november - that on top of a 12-year hiatus in touring to new zealand.

needless to say, i had hyped up the whole event quite a bit in my mind
beforehand, so i was ripe for anti-climax. when we arrived in auckland i was able to witness a whole new side of my wife when she was suddenly overtaken with a brilliant obsession for seeing the members of the band outside of the concert environment. that obsession was greatly fueled by finding out that our hotel was 5 minutes away from the hyatt - where the band was rumoured to be staying.

we spent a total of about 4 and 1/2 hours standing outside the hyatt over two days, before being treated to a fleeting glimpse of adam clayton and larry mullen as they left for soundcheck on friday. i didn't get a decent photo - my one shot on my little point and shoot was blurry. it must have been the heat of the moment, because all my other photos that day were sharp...

that done we got in the car and headed for the venue - arriving finally (after getting a park) at about 4pm.
there were no real queues so we splashed out on $45 tshirts.

the 5.30pm gate opening happened at about 6pm and i managed to 'smuggle' by c
amera in past an over-zealous security (they confiscated the plastic bottle tops off everyone's drink bottles... that is still a mystery - but as we had a plastic bottle, it caused a perfect diversion for my smuggling). i'm not sure how you were supposed to get into the famed 'ellipse' at the front of the stage, but we didn't get in there - we were about 15 metres from the front of the ellipse.

as is always the case at these things - our comfortable space was pretty quickly invaded by a more anti-social element. our part
icular bane were a group of drunk and dope-smoking university students from otago, followed by a group of four drunk pre-middle-aged blokes who barged their way through the crowd before stopping right in front of us. they endured a stunning burst of vitriol from the other punters who had been in the area long before them - and rightly so. i had a particular problem with a 6"5' member of the invading group who decided to stand directly in front me. lance was more perturbed with another member of the same group who decided to take piss in the middle of the crowd.

the sky over mt smart decided to follow suite and also leaked all over the crowd. the jacket, that i had been 50/50 about bringing, paid off.

kanye west opened the concert and i have to say that i was quite impressed with him. i would put him in the top three american intelligent hiphop innovators (knarls barkley and outkast are the other two). kanye struggled to work the more rock-orientated crowd, but informed us that of all the places
they had played on this leg of the tour, nz gave him the warmest reception. that being the case, my heart goes out to the guy for the way he must have been received in australia.

after that, U2 took blimin' ages to come on. but when th
ey did they erupted the stadium with 'city of blinding lights' and then 'vertigo'. i loved their light show - i couldn't see the stage. the aforementioned sixfootfiver turned around to me after a couple of songs to ask if i was feeling a bit happier now. i thanked him and said that i had an excellent view of his back. fortunately, because he was drunk, he swayed quite a bit - allowing me priceless glimpses of the on-stage action.

that aside, the concert rocked on nicely but seemed to hit a bit of a speedbump when bono began his sermons about poverty, justice and a
bout muslimchristianjews all needing to get along. i've been to a lot of christian concerts in my life, so i know what it is to have a concert interrupted for a quick sermon. and i'm in favour of makingpovertyhistory and justice, and for an end to religious violence. and if someone had criticised U2 in my hearing for the way they push 'the issues' in their concerts, i would have thought that that person was obviously shallow and had no idea. but at the concert itself, i found myself inwardly begging bono to just let the songs speak for themselves and just get on with the music.

i suppose that feeling wasn't helped by me not agreeing with at least one point that bono seemed to be making. he delivered his (in)famous "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed - all true" while wearing a headband that made the word 'coexist' out of a crescent, star of david and cross. quite apart from a tendency i have to lean heavily in favour of "jesus being true more than
the other two" (also a rhyme), it seems to me that bono's line is a throw-away when you consider that jesus's teaching contradicts that of mohammed, and that mohammed's teaching directly contradicted that of jesus and the jews. how could "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed - all true" be true? i would wholeheartedly agree if bono had stood up and said that we could learn something from jesus, jew and mohammed. but what does he mean by "all true"? was he saying that they are all equally true, completely true? am i missing his point? i can't see that secularists could have been particularly inspired by his dictum (other than to have their belief strengthened that religion is the main cause of the problem ) - and i am certain that secularism was the dominant religion in the crowd at the stadium last night. but you see that he has at least achieved one of on-going aims: to be controversial to generate discussion.

anyway, to get back to
the music: after that glitch, the concert picked up again. a highlight was when they performed 'one tree hill' - written about an auckland landmark. my favourite bono preaching part came later in the concert when, referring back to one tree hill and the fact that the actual tree had been killed by an act of vandalism years after the song was written, he said: "they tore down our tree, but you can't tear down poetry. you can't cut down poetry with a chainsaw." which brought a tear to my eye - i really did love that tree and really wish it was still there. but the place is still called 'one tree hill' despite the absence.

the concert closed with the obligatory encores where key U2 songs were played - including the impressive new 'the saints are coming' which was brilliantly done. i should also mention bono's rendition of 'miss sarajevo' in which he sang luciano pavaroti's part flawlessly. his voice seeme
d to be in fine form - despite the fact that i thought i had heard it declining on their last album when compared to earlier albums.

the concert finally ended with the song 'kite' from 'all that you can't leave behind'. and so there it was. the crowd lingered as we pushed our way out. the concert had been and gone - all that waiting, all the hype, and nothing left to do but go home. my personal feeling was a mixture of pleasure and disappointment. you don't want anything to tarnish something that you
have been waiting that long for. that being said - it really was a brilliant concert and they are a brilliant band. and if they ever come to nz again, i will go again (but next time i might get seats - far away from the rabble, but not so far away that i can't see them standing behind taller than normal drunk guys and getting rained on from all directions).

some pictures... (the first one's by me, the rest are by anna - click to see them bigger): (top to bottom) anna waits at the concert, the edge and larry, coexist, letting go...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

playing music over skype, israeli beauty queens

i was using skype for the first time yesterday, and it suddenly occurred to me how cool it would be to be able to play music off your computer in the background (or foreground) of the conversation so that both parties could hear it.

true to form, if you can think of it, someone is bound to have already done it. ideally i wanted a plugin for itunes, so that whatever was playing in itunes would also play in the background of the conversation. i didn't find anything like that, but i did find a software mp3 player that plugs into skype. called tunesup for skype (beta). it calls itself freeware but it does launch its own website in the background. also it displays an error message when you shut it down on my system - probably something to do with the "beta" bit...

but the program itself is pretty cool. there are mixer sliders for mixing the level of music compared to the microphone etc. it loads mp3 files and a couple of other file formats as well, and also loads m3u playlists.

unfortunately itunes doesn't save playlists as m3u. but more trawling the net uncovered this conversion wizard: SonglistToM3U. what you do is export your playlist out of itunes as a txt file (available under the export options in itunes) and then run it through the wizard. the wizard creates an m3u list out of that. so you and i are away laughing.

now for the bit about the israeli beauty queen that you've been waiting for. this from

Beauty queen downs arms to save legs - 17 November 2006

JERUSALEM: Miss Israel has been given permission not to carry her assault rifle during service in the Israeli army because she says it bruises her legs.

Reigning beauty queen Yael Nezri, a private who recently completed basic training, said the bruises were making it difficult for her to model in photo shoots. The Jerusalem Post reported that Nezri, 18, had been granted an exemption by her commanders during her two-year army stint.

Monday, November 20, 2006

little world, little room

i've been reading the excellent book 'contemporary new zealand photographers'. this morning i came across some nice imagery in the introductory essay by gregory o'brien that is part of the same general universe as my safe little world concept...

"The camera is a small room
large enough for you and me
but one of us
will have to stay outside...

The camera has four walls, a roof and a floor; it is a miniature house in which shutters are opened and closed; in which light and shade are constantly being adjusted... if the camera is indeed a small room, how has the architecture around it changed? And what about the neighbourhood?"

nz art has always been very conscious of the nz landscape - there is an on-going, however slight, sense of unease about our human intrusion on the nz wilderness. the nz landscape is often a place of frightening beauty. in part, my safe little world concept is about the suburbia we've placed on that landscape, and no matter how far suburban boundaries extend, our rugged nz wilds are just around the next bend in the road - the mountains, the bush, the sea.

i found out by reading o'brien's essay that there is a bit of an on-going theme of small structures in the middle of that wilderness (o'brien says that those structures can act as a metaphor for the camera itself). and the more i think about that the more i see that that is true. i am always drawn to pictures of small buildings in harsh environments - drawn as if i have no choice in the matter.

when i was young we used to go to our family bach on kawau island in the hauraki gulf north of auckland. that was a place of frightening beauty for me. we had a small two-storey house with the bush encroaching down a steep hill behind us. each summer dad, my brothers and i would pull tiny manuka saplings out of the hillside to keep them from growing big, to stop the bush from reclaiming our section. in front of us was the harbour. i think of rainy days when mist was hanging on the hills across the harbour and in the bush there was a kind of intense quietness. at night, unless the moon was out, it was completely dark. the wekas (like a kiwi but with a short beak) in the bush around us had an incredibly strange other worldly call that they used to sing in chorus.

as much as i loved that wilderness, there were times that because of its strangeness, loneliness and darkness, our little bach was a necessary sanctuary.

my favourite photo that i have taken so far is this one:

which, as you can see, fits very well with what i'm talking about. the location of this bird hide (a small building to watch birds from) is miranda on the firth of thames, south of auckland. my parents have managed to find another wilderness place to build - their house is further up the road. the firth of thames is another rugged strip of nz coastline - a place of strong winds and impressive skies. the hide in the picture looks across the firth towards the coromandel ranges - a mountain range covered in almost impenetrable bush. on the far side of those mountains is a playground for wealthy aucklanders. but those mountains are always at their backs, and the pacific ocean is always in front.

on the headphones: 'fitter, happier' by radiohead, from the album 'ok computer'.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

sigur ros

the sigur ros website is brilliant - not so brilliant looking, but it has loads of cool stuff on it to download - including a lot of free mp3s. if you're not familiar with sigur ros, they are a post-rock band from iceland.

through their website i also found these pictures of the band - on tour in iceland. they performed live with a local marching band... brilliant. i love their cool geekiness (if that isn't too much of an oxymoron). the pictures come from a small town icelandic newspaper. click on the images to see them bigger...

oh, and if you're icelandic (unlike me) and you'd like to read the blurb that goes with these images:

Sigur Rós í EdinborgSigur Rós kom hélt tónleika á Ísafirði þann 26. júlí í Edinborg á Ísafirði og voru tónleikarnir aðrir tónleikar sveitarinnar í Íslandstúr hennar. Áður hafði hún spilað á tónleiku í Ólafsvík og á litlum óformlegum tónleikum í Selárdal í Arnarfirði. Verið er að gera heimildarmynd um Sigur Rós og voru bæði hljóð og mynd tekin upp á tónleikunum í Edinborg. Gríðarlegur búnaður fylgdi hljómsveitinni og starfsliðið með tónlistarmönnum slagaði hátt í 50 manns. Er þá ekki talin Lúðrasveit Ísafjarðar en vel var til fundið hjá Sigur Rós að fá þá til liðs við sig í einu lagi. Þakið ætlaði að rifna af Edinborg þegar Lúðrasveitin birtist á sviðinu, Villi Valli, Höddi Þorsteins, Elli Skafta og öll hin komin upp á svið með heimsfrægri hljómsveit! Sjónarspilið var allt hið magnaðasta enda leggur Sigur Rós mikið upp úr sjónræna á tónleikum sínum. Hljómsveitin tók lög af öllum sínum plötum,sum hver í útgáfum sem ekki hefur heyrst áður. Blásarakvintett og strengjakvartett var með í för rétt eins og á öllum tónleikum sveitarinnar nú til dags. Meðlimir Sigur Rósar höfðu það á orði að nú muni fjölga enn á sviðinu því svo vel tókst til með Lúðrasveitina að það verður erfitt að sleppa því næst. Það er alveg á hreinu að aldrei áður hafa verið haldnir aðrir eins tónleikar á Ísafirði og langt verður í að það verði gert aftur. Ljósmyndari blaðsins var á staðnum og tók þar meðfylgjandi myndir.

on the headphones: 'softness, goodness' by starflyer 59, from the album 'talking voice vs. singing voice'.

the kiwi flies

i just came across this nice little animation (on one of my favourite blogs - drawn!) starring a kiwi in the lead role. it was done by dony permedi for his master of fine arts project at the school of visual arts, new york...

on the headphones: 'meo blodnasir' by sigur ros, from the album 'takk'.

Friday, November 10, 2006

matters of style

i'm not a big fan of presidential quotes, but i like this one:

"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

in other creative-orientated news, i've started keeping a digital scrapbook. any images or whatever i see on the net that inspire me in some way i am now pasting into an indesign file and keeping as a pdf. obviously, due to copyright there isn't much i can do with my scrapbook other than keep it for my own enjoyment, but according to a seminar on design i heard a couple of years ago, keeping a scrapbook is always a good idea.

today's additions to my scrapbook were found here and here.

can i also say in passing, how impressed i am with the new version of mozilla firefox? it includes inline spell checking when you type on the internet - which is brilliant for blog writing and stuff.

on the headphones: 'honey (azoia dub)' by tosca, from the album 'different tastes of honey'.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

all saints day

happy all saints day! for my money, i think all saints day (nov 1) would be much cooler to celebrate than halloween. you probably already know this, but another name for all saints day is 'all hallows day' - 'hallow' meaning 'holy' - as in the lord's prayer, "hallowed be thy name". "een" is actually "e'en" - a contracted version of "even" or "evening". so "halloween" literally means the evening before all saints day. so there you have it.

in other points of interest, the latest edition of cs news - nz's main christian arts magazine - arrived today. this publication just keeps on getting better. they are doing a great job. you can download or just view the entire latest edition here.

and now for another [mildly] interesting point. i came across an excellent contemporary fine art photography blog the other day, called
Conscientious. it is really worth checking out. the photograph below by olivia beasley caught my eye. she does these fantastic photos of commercial spaces at night, but i was also struck by the detail of the space she is photographing. i don't know where this building is, but it looks like it has curtains of images as a design feature. it kind of reminded me of a giant version of my postcard montages - one day i'll exhibit on that scale!


i just realised that the u2 concert that was postponed from earlier this year is happening this month! hurrah!

meanwhile, here is a story sent to me on email (courtesy of lance) - i have no idea about the truth of it:

At a U2 concert in Glasgow, Bono asked the audience for some quiet.

Then, in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands.

Holding the audience in total silence, he said into the microphone, "Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies."

A voice from near the front pierced the silence, "Well, stop f***ing doing it then!"

on the headphones: 'semaphore' by jakob, from the album 'Cale:drew'.