Random Play by Graham Reid

9

Life in the New Republic

Beloved Leader and No.1 Citizen Kim John-Kee said from Hanoi last night he was “relaxed and comfortable” at sweeping changes being made to the rules of Parliament which “will be necessary for passage of legislation crucial to the on-going well-being of the Republic and its citizens”.

The new rules will allow for the No.1 Citizen and No.2 Citizen Gerry Brown-Lee to have casting votes on all legislation, whether Parliament's votes be deadlocked or not.

These sweeping new powers -- “admittedly Draconian, but which will be exercised with care and caution,” said No. 2 Citizen Brown-Lee yesterday – have been prompted by the impasse over the passage of the Child Labour and Exploitation Bill.

This new Bill will drop the age of sexual consent to 12 and permit children to be employed for 14 hour days without a meal break.

These are the conditions insisted on by noted film director Romanesque Polanski who has offered to make a $1000 million series of three films in New Zealand “if the conditions for employment and exploitation of children were right”.

The films under the working title Precious Little Things are expected to employ over 10,000 children in sweat shop conditions but No.1 Citizen John-Kee said last night, “the many rallies of support for Mr Polanski held around the country have shown that New Zealand parents and care-givers are more than happy for their children to be thrown into servitude for the good of the economy.

“We applaud the parents and care-givers for their support of indentured labour and allowing children as young as 12 to be used as sexual slaves so we can secure the important economic inputs these films will bring.”

Mr Polanski is expected to begin shooting at remote locations around Westport and Denniston before Christmas although the exact sites of the camps for the children will not be disclosed. The film company will also be bringing its own camp leaders and it is believed New Zealand parents and care-givers will have limited access to the children during the year-long shoot.

“Yeah, no, we are thrilled that Samantha and Jack will have the opportunity to participate in such an important international series as this,” said Mrs Briar Fair-Reason of Grey Lynn whose two children, aged 11 and 13, have been accepted for minor roles in the Precious Little Things series.

“And that this is doing something for our fragile film industry and the greater economy just makes us even more proud. We feel we are doing our bit in these troubled times.”

The passage of the Child Labour an Exploitation Bill has been fraught since it was first discussed five days ago under urgency.

At every vote the two sides – dubbed “we Patriots, and the Haters and Knockers on the other side” by No.2 Citizen Brown-Lee – the numbers were tied and a casting vote could have have come from an unlikely quarter, the independent candidate for Somewhere, Mr Chris Carterton.

Mr Carterton – wearing a charcoal grey suit, and in bare feet – spoke a number of times during the debate, but only to himself. Despite overtures from both sides of the House, he declined to vote on any legislation which – according to No.1 Citizen John-Kee – has necessitated the changes to Parliament's rules.

Small rallies are being held today to protest the working conditions for children on the film shoot.

Secretary of the Combined Union of The People, Ms Helen Kel-Lee said last night, “We have always been very keen to continue dialogue and have a free and frank discussion to resolve this matter with the respected director Polanski -- but frankly this sucks big time and Polanski is nothing but a jumped-up little shit and nasty creep who hasn't made a decent film since Chinatown's Baby.

“That said, we still have the greatest respect for him and welcome an open and friendly dialogue with Mr Polanski.”

Invited to comment on Ms. Kel-Lee's statement No.1 Citizen John-Kee said, “I thought secretaries just took notes”.

And then smiled in a way that looked . . . oddly familiar.

Otherwise: A version of sanity reigns here

     
Graham Reid is the author of the book 'The Idiot Boy Who Flew'.

(Click here to find out more)

26

It's Kiwi music, but not as we know it Jim.

These are tough times to be an aspiring extra (sorry “background talent”), in the game of television or that falter-foot world of politics.

So let's be having with none of it.

Next week Chris Bourke launches his terrific book Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918-1964 (AUP).

I have had the pleasure of reading it, running my hands lovingly over the historic photos and old albums covers reproduced in it. It is as good a production job as a work of historic and enjoyable importance.

And so with that in mind . . .

Chris has unearthed a lot of local music which would have otherwise been left to languish in the dusty halls of academia or the fading memory of old-timers.

But there are still quite a number of Kiwi singles out there which very few people have ever heard of.

So over at Elsewhere here I have started itemising some of these Great Lost Kiwi Singles – and I invite you to add your contributions with a brief description simply by using the Post a Comment link.

By way of example of rare Kiwi songs here are some that I know of . . .

D.D. Smashed, Outlook for Thirst Day: After the boozy Bliss, Dave Dobbyn briefly fell prey to commercial interests from breweries and threw his lot in with an Irish metalhead pub band. Liberally applied sponsors’ products resulted in this rather off-key single which Dobbyn later reworked to greater effect.

Chris Knox, Address to the Third Soviet Congress 1921: Those who were there say it was late and the background noise intolerable, so perhaps Chris misheard. But being a Beatles fan he felt he had to immediately record what he took to be the lyrics of a previously unreleased Lennon song. The 37-minute cassette-only single began with unpromising line: “Comrades and fellow party members . . .”

Swingers, Counting the Sheep: Terrific folk-rock song hampered by lyrics that were clearly drawn from the band's rural isolation on a high-country run in the South Island. A move to Sydney saw a toughening up of the band’s attitude (the bagpipe solo was dropped) and lyrical rewrite. Remaining copies of this early version ruthlessly sought by Phil Judd and the Bats.

You get the picture. Let's have some fun . . .

PS: Next week at Elsewhere -- for subscribers -- the Neil Young giveaway.

     
Graham Reid is the author of the book 'The Idiot Boy Who Flew'.

(Click here to find out more)

48

This land is your land . . .

Some decades ago, after my dad and I had returned from an extended overseas trip, we were having dinner with some friends of my parents.

At some point one of the guests – perhaps annoyed we had been banging on about some interesting places we'd been – spoke up for the beauties of Auckland and said, “In what other city in the world can you be swimming in the beautiful sea in the morning and go skiing in the afternoon?”

My dad, quick as flash-lighting said, “Beirut”.

I was reminded of this when the kerfuffle blew up over The Hobbit and Peter Jackson said they'd just shift the whole production to Eastern Europe. It might have sounded petulant and a threat – but it is also the reality in the international world of film-making.

The union issue isn't my concern here – although I thought it howlingly funny that letter to the Herald in which some guy complained you couldn't support a family on what they pay for an extra.

I have been more inclined to think about our magnificent landscapes as seen in the Rings trilogy and how proud we are of them. On talkback radio people were saying it was unthinkable The Hobbit could filmed anywhere other than in our beautiful mountains.

I'm sure I heard one guy say “There's nothing like them anywhere else in the world” which rather overlooked their name: “The Southern Alps” which implies there are northern . . . Yep.

We are rightly attached to our Alps, Muriwai, the Hokianga and so forth – but just as the Japanese discovered when Taranaki stood in for Fuji, landscape is malleable in the lens and, frankly, it's everywhere.

No one should be in any doubt that while our country is gifted with beauties so are many other places. We aren't unique in that regard.
And they all scrub up on film.

Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey was on the radio the other day saying enthusiastically that West Auckland bush could be used as a stand in for . . . and then he listed some places (the Amazon? I forget.)

It's true – but I was lucky enough to spend some time on Kaua'i – the “garden island” in the Hawaii group – and that too stands in for just about everywhere. I took a four-wheel drive tour of various movie locations on that island not much bigger than Great Barrier and saw Jurassic Park, Vietnam, Cambodia, Tahiti, Australia, Africa and even Fantasy Island.

You also don't have to be too long in Vancouver, Canada before you stumble over a Hollywood crew.
This site lists over 200 films shot there and the city has stood in for Boston, the Bronx, Chicago, Washington DC . . .
The reason they are there? The lower Canadian dollar, proximity to LA, the infrastructure established and the support the city gives to film-makers.
And that, as well as the scenery, is pretty much why the Rings trilogy was filmed here – except for the proximity thing perhaps, but maybe distance was what Jackson also wanted.

But these days everywhere formerly remote can be in touch with the rest of the world. I visited a production studio in Auckland and basically they were e-mailing the day's cuts of various television series and movies shot in Auckland to the LA studio for overnight approval. (“A bit more red in the faces.”) Instant.

So the brutal truth is that Jackson may well go to Eastern Europe (these guys aren't talking small change after all) because landscapes there are perfectly suitable for filming.

And of course they probably aren't unionised . .. but that is a quite separate issue.

Sometimes I think people like Jackson,- and Neil Finn, in this instance, – are trying to wake us from sleepy complacency and self-satisfaction, but we immediately go off-message.

Our natural landscapes are undeniably breathtaking and beautiful, but we aren't unique in that regard.

What is unique is our response to our landscape – as unique as the Ethiopians, Spanish, Kurds and so on are to theirs.

In 1995 Simon Schama wrote a wonderful and provocative book Landscape and Memory about how we find meaning and myth, symbolism and metaphor in landscapes. Ours informs not just art and culture but how we define ourselves – and maybe how we wish to be seen by others.

In those towering mountains which gave character to the Rings trilogy we maybe wanted to see something of ourselves -- a rugged individualism perhaps, if you can make it there you make it anywhere. Think how we have mythologised the “Southern man” – or at least ad agencies have, and brewers and cheese-makers have done the rest. Oh, mate.

Great tracts of our landscape have a rough-hewn and imposing solidity which makes us ponder – even if just for an instant – the transitory and fragile nature of our brief existence. The Christchurch quake – along a fault-line no one seemed to know even existed – simply reinforces that feeling of uncertainty in these Shaky Isles.

We rightly brag about the part of the world we live in – it can take your breath away, even on film – but you can also swim in the sea and go skiing on the same day in many places.

And a Hobbiton – and this isn't a threatening or petulant observation, just an uncomfortable fact -- can be built anywhere.

3

If you're happy and you know it . . .

Possibly because I spend far too much of my life taking the cynical adult world seriously – you know, disingenuous self-serving politicians like Hide and Carter, the blanket coverage of the Carmen case et al --- I have forgotten the delight of hearing an honest emotion expressed without guile.

Last night I was reminded how refreshing that can be.

“I'm really happy,” said Janine Foster – and she was. Delightfully so. She beamed, glowed, was embarrassed and slightly awkward about it too – but she was genuinely happy.

She'd just been announced the winner of Auckland Uni's School of Music's annual Songwriter of the Year competition.

Held at the Maidment, this competition had six diverse finalists and – far from the manufactured bullshit of competition and doing the other contestants down we see on model and cooking shows -- this was an event where all the contestants might have wanted to win but you could feel the camaraderie and mutual support on stage. And from the enthusiastic audience of friends and family.

All the finalists are in the school's Popular Music Programme, so it's a fair guess they not only know each other but have given their peers (and now competitors) encouragement along the way. And in the nature of this competition they could, when presenting some of their original songs, call on others by way of backing musicians or vocalists.

Last year's winner Jocee Tuck – a real talent yet to fully emerge, see here and here was there as a back-up singer, and some of Artisan Guns (one of my favourite young Auckland bands, and also music students) helped out.

The audience – encouraged by MC Timothy Giles – bayed their support and approval and so when Foster stepped forward to collect the award she really was happy.

Not that some in that adult world I mentioned would think much of the prize. Those middle-managers losing their jobs in the supercity but taking big handouts – see you again in a year when we learn you're all back as “consultants” huh? – wouldn't think $1000 worth of MusicWorks products, a single produced at Beaver Studios and interviews on Juice TV and Kiwi FM added up to much.

But it does for these young people.

And this was about young talent taking its first steps on a road which chief judge Jan Hellriegel noted would become a rewarding and interesting life.

We on the outside have a lot to look forward to: Rose Howcroft and Martin Paris are fine singer-songwriters in the making (well, made already actually); Chess Countess (aka Tamsyn Miller) brought a sense of theatre to her production of her songs which included an elaborate costume and terrific choreography (her background in theatre was evident but deployed in a pop context) and . . .

Then there were Phil Kim and Earl Ho (aka Edward Sans): Kim first sat at piano (with a harmonica brace) and sang a lyrically mature and affecting ballad, and then pulled out strong pop performances when backed by fellow musicians (including some from the jazz programme).

And Ho . . .

Well, he's some kind of star already and was undeniably popular. His songs are unusual (Night-time at the Zoo appears to be a metaphor for death by corporate job?) and when given the chance he rocked out, rolled around on the stage and drove the band into stadium-directed pop-rock. Terrific.

But Janine Foster – who appeared last year and gave Tuck a run for her money in my book – was something special.

She works with synth loops and guitar to create sound beds for her songs – and she has a voice which can shift from delicate in the ballads to quivering soulful emotion (the Gin-type belting pop of You Stole My Heart which could be the breakout single of an album she should record real soon).

But the song of hers which won me was the engrossing Ticking Clocks – which she had to deliver again as her encore because she hadn't prepared anything else. I was real glad to hear it again.

Actually, to be honest, I thought the repeated line which was a great hook wasn't “these ticking clocks when you're not there” but “he's taking drugs when you're not there”.

That, I'm sorry to report, is the adult cynicism which has afflicted me. Gotta get over that.

Today though – after a night which reminded me again how many talented, wonderful and mutually supportive young adults we might never see command a headline through speeding from cops -- I'm really happy.

Not as happy as someone I could mention though.

More: Did a quick search and both Rose Howcroft and Chess Countess have MySpace pages here and here respectively.

And I didn't mention that while the judges were deliberating the joint winners of the high school songwriter competition performed: Massad Barakat-Devine from Sacred Heart (pop-rock with whistling on Forget About Me) and Jayme Fitzgerald (nice line introducing a song about her future husband, “he's going to be a lucky man”).
Both are 16 and as MC Giles noted he didn't want to think about what he was failing at when he was their age.
UE for me.

And Elsewhere: Thrives with new music, the different, rare and strange and much, much more. Enjoy. Be happy.

     
Graham Reid is the author of the book 'The Idiot Boy Who Flew'.

(Click here to find out more)

39

So. I'm off Te Radar again

Even though some may prefer to presume otherwise: I don't know Te Radar.

Yes, he and I have met briefly on social occasions in the company of mutually reprehensible friends, but I have always been uncomfortable with that notion that because you might have a “name” or media presence – and I would lie if I pretended that once upon-a-tilly-ti-to I didn't – that you all sorta “know” each other.

In fact a person whose work I once admired on television walked across a wide room (I saw his company-sponsored double-breasted coming) and said, 'Hi Graham” and then talked like we'd been longtime intimates.

I extended my hand and said, “ Hello, my name is . . .”

I hate that.

And worse: some fuckwit famous American in the early 70s/feminist browbeat days who inaugurated political polling here before the Dawn of Rob/Helen once said to me, as I was being politely formal, “So you're one of those guys who shakes hands, are ya?”

I – quick as a flash, which surprised me afterwards for my rare aggression but deliberate insensitivity to the times – said, 'Oh yeah, and you're one of those cunts who doesn't?”

So, as the American might have said if he'd been fast enough, “Sue me”.

But to return to our mutual non-acquaintance, Te Radar.

No, I don't “know” him, and I am confident he would say he doesn't “know” me.

But once he and I met over rather surprising common ground: Thomas Brunner, that 19th century explorer who tramped around the top and middle bit of our South Island. Brunner came up in boozy conversation. (Just think about that for a moment.)

My feeling has always been that we, as a “young country” (copyright), take our history with such a po-faced attitude we forget the ridiculous nature of it: Shitfuck, history – here, there and everywhere – has always been about accident and idiocy. And in conversation Te Radar and I met on that common ground.

In this country we would like to pretend otherwise however: because, let's face it, it suits some people to believe there was a guiding Pakeha and/or Maori ideology.

But mostly they were all stumbling into unknown territory: for the English-educated coming from the Home Counties on the promise of a idyll worthy of Watteau; or innocent Maori who would pretend they always resisted land purchases (and vessels to Sydney and the blankets were for . . . ?)

History, huh?

We'll always see it from our own disadvantage point: I like Detroit rocker Bob Seger's worldview: “Take it calmly and serene”.

That's Zen to me. Slow down and receive our “history” with a pinch of scepticism and humour. There was probably no guiding ethos, folks.

So, Te Radar and I had the briefest of encounters over a mutual appreciation of accidental encounters, and the journal of Thomas Brunner (1821-74). And that, as they say, was that.

But on that occasion he also told me of his next . . . what? . . . performance/show/appearance . . which was about Brunner and his journals, which I guessed to mean some kind of comedic and angular presentation of ol' Thom.

Well, as Lawrence Sterne once wrote, “digressions is the soul and art of wit”, so it sounded interesting to me and said to Te Radar, “Wow, let me know . . .”

And, of course, he said – as musicians always do in my experience – “I'll put your name on the door”.

My three sons (copyright) were in rock bands in Auckland and – because I know more than something about that world from considerably damaging experience – I would always tell them that rock'n'roll was “pay at the door”.

I am sure I said as much to Te Radar about his kind but familiar invitation as I always do: “I'll pay at the door.”

Then I got an e-mail from Te Radar inviting me to Eating the Dog. My name was on the door.

Frankly, I was astounded he would have remembered our brief conversation let alone my interest .. but I gratefully accepted the double pass to his show in the Comedy Festival at the SkyCity Theatre.

It was as as funny as a historian-on-hooch and I vowed to myself I would write about it on Public Address to encourage all others . . . etc.

But before I found control.alt.save an send I learned the show I'd seen was a one-off.

I was, in the words of Mandarin-speaker I know, “dumb-shocked”.

Eating the Dog was one of the most informative, funny and digressive one-man shows I've ever seen in this country (and I've seen more than a few one-woman shows too)

Eating The Dog is, in my opinion, a performance everyone should see if they can . . . because they'll get to laugh, learn something and walk way with a new view of our history.

We've had serious.history, earnest.history, and of course alt.history.

But Eating the Dog for me, was just history as we know it in the present tense. We live in this world with all its foibles (that prick Chris Carter), the madness (the SCFinance bailout) and the inane (“our”/”your” TVOne “news”).

We have people on the margins who dramatically impose themselves onto the media-mediated view of this country (bastards like red-light runners and property developers) . . . and once upon a time we had Those Real Others; like the foolhardy, courageous and probably heroic/inspired and silly Thomas Brunner.

Eating the Dog may remind you that this has always been a slightly mad, bad, but always interesting country . . . and it was always about what happens on the margins.

These days we get Big Important and Award Winning History.

Eating the Dog addresses our very wide margins. I think it should be adapted for television (easy, it is like Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth with its mix of stand-up, powerpoint and footage)

So why would I mention this now seemingly apropos of nothing?

Because my friend Te Radar (joke!) is presenting Eating the Dog on tour again at these places .

Christ-onna-bike I hope he reads this and I can see him in Howick or somewhere close and I can drive there fast, through red lights and drunk coz that's whut we do inna Auckland.

And then not have to pay at the door.

(If you've been reading carefully that is a called “A Joke, Joyce”)

Eating the Dog is "important". Not a word I use lightly these days.

By the way: Nothing more to be said about my one-man music/travel.arts Elsewhere website other than this: I 'm reliably informed it is one of the top million websites in the world. And if you think that doesn't mean much, I agree.

Except . . . there are billions – and more – websites out there. So I'm glad – and yes, proud – my free cottage industry is among that top million. Hmmmm.

“Irregardless” as they said on The Sopranos, it seems my ducks are all on the same page as they say at Corner.Gas .

Chur bro'. I'm going to open a bottle and . . . [not] eat the dog. See you at Te Radar.

     
Graham Reid is the author of the book 'The Idiot Boy Who Flew'.

(Click here to find out more)