Cracker by Damian Christie




Happy New Year.

Goodbye 'noughties'. (How did we end up with that one? It's like that shit idea that stuck only because no-one else came up with anything better and then it was too late). Hello… um, "tweenies"? "teens?" Let's stick a pin in that one too.

I won't bore you with tales of how I've spent the past month or so, suffice to say it isn't half as interesting as one might have hoped – my plan to visit, dive and fish the Barrier over New Years sort of evaporated, along with most of my intended DIY projects around the house – although I did manage to vacuum the other day – in a haze of alcoholic afternoons and narcotic nights.

And so I begin 2010 ("twenty-ten" comes the instruction from the TVNZ newsroom, which I guess is at least shorter than "two thousand and ten", but perhaps not as cool as "two-oh-one-oh", especially if said with emphasis on the second syllable so it sounds a little bit like "nine-oh-two-one-oh") with the usual boring resolutions I've not come to associate with my mid-thirties. Quit smoking. Exercise more. Drink less. Pick up my clothes off the floor. Six days in and the first three are going well at least.

I have to agree with Russell about this year's Big Day Out. The line-up is such that forget buying a ticket, this year I can't even be arsed sending a blagging email politely asking for a freebee. Which is not to say I don't have mucho respect and affection for those individuals involved in putting it on – the organisation in recent years has been beyond reproach – and I think the local line-up is pretty good all things considered: There's just nothing on the international menu to make me want to spend my day sweating and pushing and drinking warm beer from plastic bottles. It's like the line-up for some mid-noughties (grrrr) Big Day Out got stuck in transit somewhere and has finally touched down. Lily Allen? Muse? Kasabian? I mean the Big Day Out has always featured a few anachronistic appearances, particularly in the electronic sphere – Crystal Method, Prodigy etc – but I just don't see anything new or interesting here. On some level though, it's not about the music, and I'm sure everyone will have a gay old time. I look forward to hearing about it, and I might see you there next year.

After booking a few days ahead to get decent seats, I finally got to see Avatar at the IMAX (Queen Street) last night. Wow. It leaves my Viewmaster for dead. Everything I'd heard about it – good and bad – was true, and yet this remains a must-see experience. Yes, it is Dances With Wolves in Space. Yes, it is Pocahontas meets the Lorax meets Fern Gully. In Space. Yes it did remind me a lot of a 90s black light rave (or Espresso Love on Ponsonby Road circa 1998). Yes, it is Smurf Porn – Hollywood has finally found a way to make its female leads taller and thinner than ever before. It is predictable, hammy and all those other things we associate with Hollywood Blockbusters. But it is 'Wow'. At least in 3D – I can't imagine anyone being impressed seeing it otherwise, which means DVD sales will theoretically be nonexistent – and go and see it at the IMAX if you can, you want this to be as big, as immersive as possible. Best seats are in the middle of the very back row, delay a few days if it means getting better seats.

I don't think this is a spoiler at all, but read on at your own discretion – my friend Ben and I both found the most affecting scenes, 3D-wise, involved the holographic computer screens they use – it's the sort of technology we've seen portrayed on screen ever since Star Wars, but the fact that it was finally 3D to both us and the movie character was cool. You can keep your angry dragons flying straight at the screen, give me a 3D monochrome computer monitor any day.

If you're still on holiday and looking for a few recommendations how to fill your time, may I recommend Magpie Hall, the second novel by the wonderful Rachael King, as a good way to fill some beach-time (even if its gothic themes might seem a little out of place when you're frying on Cheltenham Beach). I'm early into The Trowenna Sea by Witi Ihimaera & Co at the moment – my review copy came with a note, "the author is available for interview", an invitation which I believe was quickly rescinded. I'm not reading it for any reason other than at some point over summer I went away for a couple of days and needed something to read. And I'm enjoying it, although I find myself wondering which bits he didn't write, which doesn't exactly add to the experience.

Music-wise, the stereo is blaring Them Crooked Vultures, the Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, Josh Homme supergroup (from Nirvana/Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age respectively, just in case you're musically a bit illiterate, we don't judge…), a dirty rock album which seems after a few listens to be living up to its hype. They're touring Auckland and Wellington soon too, could definitely be worth checking out.

Or if you want something a bit more chilled, I'm still loving the fairly recent Opensouls album Standing in the Rain. It's about as derivative as it's possible to get of sweet, classic Motown, but the musicians involved, the quality of the songwriting and of course Tyra's succulent vocals makes it work beautifully.

Other than that, things are ticking over slowly but steadily here at Cracker HQ – Back Benches is in the midst of a summer tour – we've done Russell, Mangawhai and Whitianga so far, recording Tauranga this weekend with Gisborne and Napier on the subsequent two weekends (the show still broadcasts on Wednesdays as per though), so if you happen to be around any of those towns, come down and say hi.

PA Radio and Q+A are both on a break until February some time, so while I've got some downtime, I'm hoping to present a few of the best blogs I never wrote last year – there were a couple of trips overseas that passed barely without mention, and a few other nice little moments.

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