Sunday, May 30, 2010

Have we come that far?

Wow long time between drinks on this blog.  

A couple of related pieces grabbed my attention over the last few weekends.  Obviously what has been front page news is  Andy Hayden thinking that there is some kind of racial quota for 'darkies' with the Crusaders.  

While his thoughts are absolutely bat shit crazy, his casual racism is unfortunately still prevalent in our fair nation.  Haden relayed how it was ok when he played back in the 70's and 80's, he was called 'honky' etc etc so its somehow ok.  Former team mate Bernie Fraser thinks it is 'PC gone mad' to find that offensive.  I find Fraser's comments ultimately more disturbing and sad than Haden's.  Fraser is Fijian born.  Bernie I will refer you to the late great Richard Pryor.

It got me thinking about how much rugby and New Zealand society has changed over the past 25 or so years since people like Haden and Fraser were playing.  These were times when the country was still divided over playing rugby with an openly racist nation, and a good proportion of people supported touring there.  It is not surprising that both Haden (who helped organise it) and Fraser were paid to play in apartheid South Africa.  This is now thankfully a bygone era.  But if you look at the team, they still remain strong parts of New Zealand rugby.  

In a recent article with questions to John Key from prominent New Zealander's I was shocked to see at the top of the list:
1. Sir Colin Meads, former All Black: Do you think you are doing too much for the Maori people? Is it just to keep their votes?
Call me a 'tall poppy', but someone who is a national icon, held up as a treasure and a 'classic New Zealander' can get away with openly racist comments?  I was less shocked to discover who the coach of the Cavaliers in 1986 was.  It all makes sense now.

But have we come that far.  I see this morning that Sir Ian McKellan remarked when here on how good race relations were in NZ in a conversation with then PM Helen Clark. 
"I congratulated her on the public's enlightened attitudes towards racial issues, but she disagreed. She said to me that New Zealand was really a very racist country, and she was determined to do everything she could as prime minister to change that. I thought that was a very bold, honest statement to make to a foreigner, and I really respected her for that."
While we have come a long way, unfortunately she did have a point.  After all we are subjected to racists on a weekly basis in our news media.  We get our knickers in a twist over added a correct spelling to a town name.  My parents constantly get get questioned over why they would want to live in Rotorua.  Helen Clark unfortunately also succumbed (somewhat) after Don Brash's Orewa speech. 

While we have become a much more open, multi-cultural and tolerant nation, I think we still have a way to go.  You don't hear it clearly in  the big cities areas such as Wellington or Auckland, but you only have to go to our 'heartland' (or Christchurch) to find it.  I grew up in Napier, I know all about it.

At least I guess we are on an upward trend. While people such as Mic(h)eal Laws still have a following, they are becoming more and more marginalised.  I am impressed that there was such widespread outrage in most parts of the country to Haden's comments

Then again Haden has just kept his job as a RWC ambassador.  Like I said, still some way to go...

Ted Henry has come out and said what a load of racist nonsense it all is.  Good stuff Ted.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

You say you want a revolution

As most people would know it was recently the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock festival in 1969. I have the documentary on VHS (and remarkably still own a working video player), so thought I would break it out as I hadn't really watched it since my university days. It is a great movie, but right through the feeling that I got was:
a) Gosh the hippies were so earnest thinking peace and love could bring down Nixon;
b) We are so cynical now to think that it couldn't.

The documentary is fantastic. There are of course the classic performances from Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker (showcasing the invention of the air guitar). And some moments of unintended hilarity; Arlo Guthrie talking in hippie code "I was just rapping with the fuzz.. can you dig it?", the announcer trying to discourage people from taking the brown acid.

For me the best band there was The Who, for the shear fact that they didn't buy into the hippie ideal. They simply blow everyone else off the stage. At the time, Tommy had just been released and they were at the peak of their powers. To see Townsend playing so hard his fingers were bleeding, is the dictionary definition of rock'n'roll. Nothing was going to stop them that night. Not even Abbie Hoffman, the famous hippie radical, who ran on the stage and stole the mic for a polemic, got a smack to the head by Towshend's guitar for his troubles.

I can dig it... The next fucker who comes up on this stage is going to get fucking killed... Gold.

The documentary itself is a great snapshot of the hippie ideal, and while their hearts were mostly in the right place, it shows what an absolute sham most of it was. Free love mainly entailed guys wanting to have sex with women without committment. A large amount of the hippie dream was about getting high, which was bound to end in mindless ramblings and narcotic addictions.

To contrast how the hippie dream failed you only need to look at the video's below.


Became this:

Indeed. Just over ten years later the same people at Woodstock and settled down and voted for Regan and were listening to some of the same bands playing pale versions of their former selves (including The Who).

Still, hindsight as they say is 20/20. At the time, it probably would have been amazing to be in such a worldwide movement, when so many things were turned on their head in such a short space of time. Youth culture now is so fractured, music is so commercial, it is hard to imagine their ever being another festival like it, much like there will never be another band as popular as the Beatles.

I guess, going back to my point before, it is a measure of how cynical we have become that some of these ideals are dimissed as 'hippie dreams'. And maybe that was the failing of the 60's generation, they failed to realise that given time they would settle down and become their parents. But once again in hindsight it is very easy to judge.

Thirty years later we had Woodstock '99, a festival marred by riots, violence, rape, overpriced commercialism, and Limp Bizkit. So which concert would I have rather gone to? Stupid question.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The making of a great compilation tape is a subtle art many do's and don'ts

I was talking to friends the other day about the ancient and long lost art of making a tape. This used to be something that I took great love in doing. And yes I have given a few tapes to girls in the past.... Indeed I used to make a tape for every month I was at university and right into 2004, when I still had and used a walkman.

But obviously I made the huge step up to a discman and finally, an ipod. While I live on ipod playlists, it just isn't the same feeling as making a tape; writing the songs out, not knowing how many songs would fit on the tape and really having to think about what would make the cut for the month of music I was listening to. And tapes couldn't be erased by an accidental delete of a playlist. But for a present for someone I decided to put together a CD of my (at this present time) all time favourite songs. Now I have limited time on this, bascially jut under 80 minutes (what can fill a full CD). These aren't songs I have on high rotate at this present time, but rather songs that I think truly mean something to me. By putting together this CD whoever the lucky person who gets this gift, it will be random, can listen to this music and hopefully either get turned onto some music they haven't heard, or better still find the music has some kind of positive effect on their life. Or they may hate it....
Either way I present 16 songs.

1. Teenage Riot - Sonic Youth
(Daydream nation)

The ultimate song of rebellion, this was released in the 80's as a rip on Reagan's dystopia, but is as fresh today as it was then. Anyone with a guitar, bass and drums and a tune can change the world.

2. Baba O'Riley - The Who
(Who's Next)

While CSI seems to have ripped the meaning out of some pretty amazing Who songs its great to sit back and just rock out to this song. The Who at their absolute peak

3. Keep the Car Running - Arcade Fire
(Neon Bible)

This is the newest song on my list. I find this song to have a similar feeling to Born to Run (see below), that is the feeling of moving on with your life and never looking back.

4. Common People - Pulp
(Different Class)

Social commentary at its finest. Jarvis Cocker has put down one of the best lines in "You will never understand how it feels to life with no meaning or control and nowhere left to go." For any politician who says the understand the people while sitting in their Epsom mansions. You will never have a clue.

5. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
(Born to Run)

For me, the most awe inspiring song I have heard. If I am ever feelign down I onyl have to put this song on and within moments I am jumping around punching the air.... Thanks Boss.

6. Rearviewmirror - Pearl Jam

My old teenage angst song. "I gather speed from you fucking with me." Enough said.

7. Clampdown - The Clash
(London Calling)

How The Clash could make such a anti fascist song drawn from history into such an upbeat song still amazes me.

8. Love will tear us apart - Joy Division

Similar to the Clash, I am struck by how Joy Division could set such dark and depressing lyrics into such an upbeat song, which makes you want to dance around the room.

9. Here comes the sun - The Beatles
(Abbey Road)

"it seems like years since it's been clear. Here comes the sun and I say it's alright...."

10. Protection - Massive Attack

It sounds cheesy but this song always makes me want to be strong for my better half. "You can change the way she feels you could put your arms around her."

11. The man who sold the world - Nirvana
(Unplugged in New York)

It takes a truly great band to be able to take a good song by a truly great artist and make it better. But that is what Cobain did here.

12. Jenny - Sleater-Kinney
(Dig me out)

They can't all be uplifting, this is probably one of the most harrowing break up song's written. "Didn't we almost have it, didn't you want it?"

13. This is a low - Blur

This, for me, typfies the genius of Damon Albarn and Blur. Being able to turn the shipping forecast into a song about love and depression will always continue to amaze me. Plus Graham Coxons guitar. Perfection.

14. God only knows - The Beach Boys
(Pet Sounds)

Like here comes the sun, a song of true beauty, with just enough menalcholy to make it that much more interesting.

15. This is the one - The Stone Roses
(The Stone Roses)

My favourite song of all time. That is all.

16. Find the River - R.E.M
(Automatic for the people)

This sound's morbid but this is the song I want played at my funeral. Not because it is sad but because it sums up, well, life. "The ocean is the rivers goal..." we are all here on that river, we will go fast, slow, take many bends but in the end we will all get to the ocean.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Is it better to burn out than to fade away?

You can't really go anywhere this weekend without running into wall to wall coverage of Michael Jackson's death. Some say it is tragic, but there was a certain inevitability to it. And it's a funny feeling really.

For me (and no jokes are intended) he was a symbol of my childhood. I think for anyone that was born between about 1970 and 1985 he was your first music idol. One of the first music video's I remember was Bad. One of the first Cd's I got was Dangerous, which got thrashed for a good period of time. I don't think people who were born after that period truly can imagine what a superstar he was at the time. I heard it said that imagine how much attention Britney spears gets. And now imagine she was talented. That was Micheal Jackson.

Of course not long after he was dogged by controversy of his private life. That's all been said and gone over a million times. I had serious doubts about him, but really we will never know. He was raised in the glare of stardom, and that he became one of the only child stars to actually become more famous is testament enough. But, again, it raises questions about the media and the notion of celebrity. It the end it seems as though he was a seriously talented but disturbed man.

And his music. I mentioned about loving his music as a child. Much of his music lost it's meaning for me when I became a teenager. Was his death as tragic as John Lennon? Not for me. Even though John Lennon died before I was born, his music has had much more of an effect on my life than Michael Jackson's. The Jackson Five had some classic Motown hits such as I want you back, and, in my opinion, two classic albums Off the Wall and Thriller. Bad was hit and miss, and by Dangerous (apart from being a personal childhood favourite), the rot had well and truly. He had fallen from being the epitome of cool, to being a bizarre, self promoting, demagogue sailing giant statues of himself down the Thames. By the mid nineties he was increasingly irrelevant, while a slew of younger RnB stars borrowed from him on their way to stardom (Justin Timberlake I am looking at you).

I have always thought that if Micheal Jackson had died after Thriller or Bad he would truly be remembered as the most famous musician of all time, leaving at the peak of his fame. But this was a human being and as much as we want to gloss over the subsequent bizarre behaviour, we cannot. So while, like Neil Young said, Its better to burn out than to fade away, unfortunately Micheal Jackson did fade away, but his music never will (unfortunately that means we will might have to hear Heal the World again.....)

So kids I present Micheal Jackson, when he was all that was cool.

So very cool

Should have kept the afro... and the nose... and the skin....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Live feeds - How I loathe thee

I was watching this clip from Media 7 recently, and it got me started on one of my bugbears in the media here.

Namely, live feeds or crosses. You cannot get through the first twenty minutes of the news on TVNZ or TV3 without crossing live to a 'breaking story'. Even if there is absolutely nothing happening where the reporter is, there will always be a young boffin (good god I'm the youngest curmudgeon around) straight out of journalism school on the ground talking about 'what the feeling is' etc etc. Grrr. What happened to putting together a proper report so you can get a proper story rather than just standing someone and talking to someone live in a studio.

Example 1 (as shown the the clip above): last month when swine flu first hit New Zealand, on a Sunday night they had a report for TVNZ standing outside Rangitoto College at 6pm in the dark. Who was in the school. No one!

Example 2: Two weeks ago both TVNZ and TV3 put two poor reporters out in the middle of a storm hitting Wellington. One looked as though hypothermia was setting in.

While I think in some cases it is important to be where the news is (the David Bain trial being one) . Do we need to have reporters standing by passing cars when talking about accidents. I wouldn't think so. Far better to actually spend more time investigating the story.

News, particularly television, seems to be obsessed with getting in their first or getting the scoop on a story. For example tonight John Campbell mentioned that "I watched David Bain supporters watch the verdict first on TV3." Shameless. Similar to those short lived "we don't just read the news, we get it," with newsreaders emoting with long dramatic pauses about being in Lebanon, or ANZAC day parades. Once again shameless.

I understand we live in a fast paced world with information at our fingertips, but do we need to hear our newsreaders to name drop themselves. And do we need pointless live crosses to people 'on the scene'. arent TVNZ and TV3 meant to be saving money?

Shooting. Fish. In. A. Barrel:

(sorry for the quality)

And this just in......