Random Play by Graham Reid


Walk this way

So, with people struggling and the price of food (milk frozen, but at a high price anyway?), who would be a concert promoter these days?

Well, if you pick up the paper or search online the answer would seem to be, “Just about everybody”.

Yes, we are spoiled for choice, perhaps because acts which aren't selling CDs are getting back out on the road. All kinds of reasons – but also all kinds of artists too.

Like Grace Jones. Anyone name her last album? (It was Hurricane in 2008Anyone care to guess how many, or how few, it sold?

Not that it matters, Grace Jones is a creature to be seen – and today I spent an hour out at the Puhinui Reserve in Manukau – just 25 minutes from my house near Eden Park – which is the site of the Grassroots Festival where Grace will be appearing, live as that extraordinary personage.

Most people won't have ever been to the reserve even though it was the site of the last Sweetwaters Festival (I didn't go, I was in Australia and was told not to bother coming back as it might not be going ahead). So I was curious about the site.

And it's real pretty. Rolling acreage – publicly owned, yours in other words – right beside the Manukau Harbour.

The reason for going was a media briefing about the festival which takes place over Easter Weekend – the Saturday and Sunday, more on that in a minute – and promoter Michael Chugg was there to talk it up in that rather dismissive and amusing way he has.

He noted that the ticket price – $130 a day, $299 for the two-day VIP package – worked out to less than $10 an act: there are 31 in total, 18 of them Kiwi.

What was most interesting for those tempted to drive out daily or pitch a tent was this: “We're not expecting 20,000,” he said, “though if you split [the acts] up you could probably sell 20,000 [tickets]. But we want to get a comfortably sized audience”

Festival director Manolo Echave told me they were looking at just 15,000 over the two days. That sounds very pleasant and comfortable to me.

There will be all the usual things – foodstalls, a market, toilets, Eftpos facilities, parking and camping – and they are putting in extra roading for access/egress.

There will be buses from Auckland central and Manukau.

And Grace Jones headlining on the Sunday night: on at 8.20 and off by 10pm. Not a late night for those wanting to go home immediately after.

On the way back we were talking about this festival – a “grassroots festival” with Grace Jones, we are laughing still – and how cleverly thought out it is.

At Easter most people would hit the road on the Friday night or Saturday morning for beaches and baches etc, and return Monday afternoon or night.

This festival sits right in the middle: it starts noonish on the Saturday and Sunday.

Clearly the promoters want to secure future bookings on the site by providing a good experience in a lovely setting: “Where else but New Zealand would you find a rural setting on the water?” asked Chugg expansively. Answer: Lotsa places.

There will be two stages and it seemed to me the second stage was about 500 - 600 metres from the main one.

Not far.

FAR ENOUGH? Although if you believe these people, 500 – 600 metres is akin to a major hike.

Sorry, but while I accept some people who find walking difficult for whatever reason think 500 - 600 metres or so is a long way, it isn't.

We live right by the western line and while I don't have much sympathy for the railways when they start working on the line at 7am on a Sunday morning, or drivers blasting their horns while heading to the city (not a crossing for maybe a kilometre?) it seems the transport organisers can't win on this one.

From Morningside Station to Eden Park is an almost flat walk down Morningside Drive then Rossmay Terrace which takes you Sandringham Road right near the park.

If you get off at Kingsland – and okay, if you are coming from the west it now seems you won't be able to – it is certainly a little closer: but if walking is a problem it sure ain't easier. There will be steps – and crowds in the narrow stairwells at Kingsland Station. That strikes me as poor option. Better to walk at your own pace from Morningside Station (roads will be closed, plenty of ambling space) I would have thought.

But there you go. Big issue? Something to be “disgusted” about?

Don't think so.

ALMOST FINALLY. For your amusement: about a week or so ago we got an e-mail from the REDgroup regarding sales of my book The Idiot Boy Who Flew through Whitcoulls. They were more -- many more actually -- than I had expected and I was very pleased. We invoiced as they requested.

The following day I took the newspaper to Megan, held up the front page and bellowed “Noooooo.”

We have now received a letter to say we are unsecured creditors and there is a meeting on March 1 at the Ellerslie Convention Centre.

As it happens we can't go – but I can appoint a proxy.

If there's anyone going and would like to be my proxy – basically I suppose it's “Give me my money. Oh, you have none?” – then flick me an e-mail and we can discuss it.

FINALLY FINALLY: One of the most interesting albums of the year is by the UK singer Rumer. I have an interview with her at Elsewhere here – along with all the usual (and unusual) new reviews (Gang of Four etc) and the daily posting of one-offs, oddities and lost classics at From the Vaults.

Since you last looked . . . the actual King's speech, old Dylan reconsidered, Son House, Galaxie 500 covering the Rutles, cult stuff and more. Have a trawl.

I must get round to posting that Rumblefish track from '92 which I have scheduled onto my slot on Kiwi FM.

It's them doing Grace Jones' Pull Up to the Bumper. Differently.

Just heard as I was posting: this seems frivolous in the light of Christchurch. Sorry, but I got this far so . . . Hope you are all well, safe etc.


The dawning of the Age of Precarious

A little over two weeks ago – as people were gathering in what is now known as “Liberation Square” in Cairo – I started reading Genesis, a young-adult fiction thriller by Wellington writer Bernard Beckett.

It's an interesting book – great twist in the final pages – and I can see why it won a number of awards.

It is set in what is the now standard world for science fiction writers, that post-apocalypse future -- but also quite specifically in what we might call Fortress Aotearoa in 2075.

Before the end comes a great visionary (Plato) moves his investments to Aotearoa and by the time war is declared he has convinced the residents that they need an effective defense system. Hence the Great Sea Fence of the Republic, complete in 2051, so that by the time of the first plague in 2052 Aotearoa is effectively sealed off from the rest of the world.

By 2053 it was “widely believed within The Republic that theirs was the planet's last habitable homeland”, writes Beckett.

“The refugees were expected, of course, and when they came they were dispatched. Approaching aircraft were shot down without any attempt at communication, and in the early days the people gathered on cliff tops to watch the spectacle of ghost ships exploding on the horizon as they drifted through the mined zone.”

At the time Genesis is set the guards patrolling the Great Sea Fence are seeing few refugees. Aotearoa is safe from outsiders and their poisonous influence.

As I was reading this I remembered back some decades when C.K. Stead was talking about his Smith's Dream, saying that a New Zealander's ideal was that little bach where you could just bloody well get away from it all, just be left in peace.

It is what Smith seeks when his marriage breaks up. That's his dream.

Well, in both Genesis and Smith's Dream that outside world still rudely intrudes.

Yesterday I was thinking about this as people gathered in Cairo – and around radios and television sets across the planet – to wait for Egyptian president Mubarak (do he and Berlusconi share the same plastic surgeon you reckon?) to finally resign.

And what a momentous day this was going to be.

That morning I'd heard National Radio mention “the infamous Muslim Brotherhood”: The evidence for this characterisation would be? And Mubarak's regime wasn't? So I wondered how this historic event would be interpreted by commentators here. After all here was a great nation which might actually be the first domino to fall in what some call that “arc of instability”.

And so last night I turned on One News expecting to hear what was made of the fact that, at that time, Mubarak hadn't stepped down as was expected, and how experts might interpret this. Already there was talk of Egypt “erupting”.

I needn't have worried, in Fortress Aotearoa this wasn't the main item on the news.

The big story was some kerfuffle over the All Whites being given a Halberg Award and a judge resigning in protest.

Don't get me wrong, I think this is an interesting story as it plays into the hands of those who – and someone actually said this – think this “PC gone mad”.

But was it the most important news of that day?

I think not. But that's just me.

I'm sure many couldn't give a toss about what is happening in Egypt.

They might be the people who like going to the bach to just bloody well get away from everything – and might welcome Plato and his Great Sea Fence of the Republic.

But the world, like it or not, will still rudely intrude.

As I write this Mubarak has gone and I curious about what the lead item on the news is tonight.

Hope Richie McCaw hasn't pulled a hamstring.

CHEER UP THOUGH: If you still need an escape over at Music From Elsewhere there are many album reviews posted, From the Vaults (new tracks posted daily) throws the strange, interesting and beautiful at you in a random fashion (Laibach muscling up to invade Poland to Is 'e an Aussie is 'e Lizzie? from the Thirties), and there are interviews with diverse musicians here here and “cultural” stuff here here for you to lose yourself in.

Almost as good as getting away from at all if you, like me, can't afford a bach?


And here was the news

A tough year, no doubt. The recession that was “over” started to roll in and my guess is next year it will bite even harder. We are being warned, but maybe we aren't listening. Or simply feel helpless in the face of more layoffs, tighter budgets and fewer opportunities.

It was a good year if you were in the “news” game: stuff just kept happening – and when it didn't you could just make it up. Were we as a nation really so exercised about a new flag back in February, or did the Herald just whip that one up on a slow day? And whatever became of that pressing issue?

Was the nation as gripped by the search for Carmen which commanded day after day of headlines and bulletins, or was that just another emotionally-driven space-filler?

Fortunately we always have weather in the place of real news (rains, floods or droughts, take your pick), or can fall back on the street entertainers (this year's contenders Michael Laws, Chris Carter, Paul Henry, Pam Corkery) who are guaranteed to say something, even if it is just any old thing, and get on the “news”.

It was a year when every process was “robust” (increasingly the buzz word of the evasive) and people were “devastated”. Some – those in Christchurch, miners' families and so on – had good reason to be so devastated. Others very little. But it was a word used on a nightly basis.

Frankly my quote of the year came from an ordinary citizen who summed up so much of the “news”.

It came after the media stalked David Tamihere. One woman, a neighbour of the family to whose house he had gone, said to the Herald she now at least had something to talk to her husband about over the dinner table.

Sort of puts “news” into perspective, huh?

And "news" like that which really grabbed your attention this year?

Have a great, safe and enjoyable holiday season.

If you are curious I have posted my top 30 albums of the year at Elsewhere here. And I'm guessing there will be a goodly number you haven't heard of.

It isn't news, but may give you something to talk about over the dinner table.


Alt.Republic: The rolling mall

At a packed community meeting in Sandringham last night before Auckland Supermayor Les Brown (and his band of renown councillors), the property developer Luigi Whitebucks of Melbourne and Dubai outlined plans for the development and expansion of the Westfield St Lukes shopping mall.

The plan for the suburban mall on the intersection of two crowded roads will make the make it the largest in the country, a fact Mr Whitebucks said the local community “should be very proud to take ownership of”.

Prior to the meeting Mr Whitebucks greeted local residents at the door with gifts of a $50 bill for each person attending, “just a little acknowledgment of them coming out for such an important meeting to discuss how this development will be taking over their neighbourhood”.

Mr Whitebucks outlined the case for the massive expansion (“it's an environmental and fiscal synergy out of which all retailers will become beneficial stakeholders”) and offered surveys and anecdotal evidence of widespread community support around Sandringham and Kingsland for the project which, he suggested, may have already received planning permission.

“We wouldn't be spending this much money, and I wouldn't be here, if we weren't persuaded this project will be going ahead as we have planned,” he said to loud shouts of disapproval from the audience of 350.

“The other day I had my driver stop just up the road and I got out and asked an old lady in her garden if she ever went shopping at St Lukes. She said that it was too far away for her to carry her shopping back.

“I was able to reassure her that rather than her go to St Lukes it was now coming to her. And she was delighted, if a little bewildered. But she did appreciate the $20.”

Mr Whitebucks also said criticism the railway stations are too far away to be of any appreciable use for shoppers carrying purchases was ill-founded.

“I have had a couple of people walk to Morningside and Kingsland stations and they reassure me that any match-fit young man carrying a bag of apples, a large bag mind you, and some biscuits could make that walk easily.”

He also noted that during autumn leaves falling from trees in the avenues nearby could cause a hazard to those walking “and so in the interests of public safety and with the backing of an OSH report which I have in this briefcase, we will be removing all those offending trees and replacing them with fresh tarmac for the expected 5000 new vehicles a day which will be coming into this area.”

A spokesperson for Westfield St Lukes -- who preferred not to be named but admitted that, like the attending councillors he didn't live in or even near the area -- said he was delighted to announce that a whole new range of fast food outlets would bring dining diversity to the expanded mall, and that on recent surveys people in the mall had indicated they wanted more and "better food outlets in the foodcourt”.

"So we are going to bring an increasingly ethnic diversity to our foodcourts to respond to the changing cultural and racial demographic of Aotearoa New Zealand. We see that as being in the nature of a responsible retailer and in line with some Treaty obligation or Human Rights thing.

“And I remind you that St Luke was the patron saint of butchers, so we will be expanding our meat department by way of tribute to a great Catholic. And I'm sure all Catholics, lapsed or otherwise, could not in all conscience object to that.”

At the end of the meeting Mr Whitebucks thanked the volatile crowd and before he was escorted out by his security personnel for his flight back to Australia he said “this has been a useful, robust, thought-provoking and worthwhile discussion with people in the affected areas”.

“I have taken on board their concerns and will think about them carefully in the next few minutes. . but this project is going to go ahead, no matter what these shits say. This isn't about neighbourhoods, it's about money. These pricks need to get real.”

Mr Brown was not available for comment afterwards but a spokesperson said he didn't take the $50 “although I can't speak for some of the others, or those in the planning and approvals departments who were unable to attend tonight because, frankly, this is just far too far from where they live.”

The Real World: is here with a dozen new CD reviews (Springsteen, Giant Sand, Renee-Louise Carafice, punk, disco and more), DVD reviews (Brian Wilson, America Before Columbus) and the daily one-off songs From the Vaults. Enjoy. Subscribe. Post A Comment. Share . . .




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


(Click here to find out more)



Alt.Republic: Here is the news

CHRISTCHURCH: A new study by a Christchurch research unit has proven conclusively that the rising number of liquor outlets is having a beneficial effect on neighbourhoods and communities, and have more cost benefits for the taxpayer.

The three-year, latitudinal study by the Canterbury Health Research Institute of Science and Technology found while the rising number of cheap liquor outlets lead to more drinking in the home, their proliferation also reduced road accidents and was more cost-effective to the taxpayer than having people driving while over the limit.

“Certainly the research shows that moderate drinkers will become binge drinkers over time because of the ease of access to alcohol,” says research leader Dr Adrian Bateman, “but it also shows that people are doing it in their own home which therefore reduces the cost of policing, traffic problems and anti-social behaviour in public.

“In fact there is a good case to me made for having more, not fewer liquor outlets, as people will walk to bottle stores rather than drive home drunk from the pub.”

A cost analysis showed that during the three-year study which involved 500 households in each of the main centres (but not Hamilton) the cost saving in terms of policing and drink-drive prosecutions was estimated at $550 million.

Adult members and teenagers in the chosen households were all given a pedometer, maps of their local district indicating liquor outlets, and when a new bottle store or pub opened they were introduced to its location by text message and Twitter.

In the period under study the number of liquor stores in each area more than tripled and in some areas of Auckland a new liquor shop was opening every week during the last year of the study.

“And the result has been that people might be getting tanked up,” says Dr Bateman, “ but they weren't hooning it up on the streets or taking the car for a spin and fleeing from police roadblocks. That has got to be good news for everyone.

“I think if there is anything we can take from this it is that at the moment we are only hearing one side of the story from the anti-booze lobby and local communities. We need to do more research.

“But right now I think it would be fair to say CHRIST says 'Yes' to binge drinking and more booze outlets.”

BIG DEALS: Auckland City Supermayor Les Brown says it is “not a good look” and people “should be taking a long hard look at themselves” when told of a car parked in a spaced reserved for the handicapped near the Aotea Centre.

Supermayor Brown has promised to be “hands-on” when it comes to the small matters “and that way the big matters will look after themselves”.

At a specially called press conference to discuss the issue yesterday Supermayor Brown said “in many instances like this I think we will find the answer is in what I always say at any opportunity, 'He tangata, he tangata, he tangata, it is people, it is people, it is people'.”

No 1 Citizen Kim John-Kee said was “relaxed” about the parking issue but was pleased that Supermayor Brown was taking the small things very seriously.

THE EASTE WILL RISE: Outrageous Fortune co-writer and producer James Griffin confirmed yesterday he is working on a new television series which will be ground-breaking for its challenging content.

“It's a no-holds-barred look at a family of sleazy criminals and rip-off merchants, and it's about people with no taste or moral compass. These are the lowest of the low, people you just don't want to have in your community let alone your life.

“There will be lawyers and investment bankers, a few of those so-called 'property developers', some Act MPs and the odd car dealer and insurance agent. We are going behind the scenes to see the wheeling and dealing these people do, and how they shift their money – or more correctly your money.

“And we'll be looking at their flash-harry lifestyles behind the high walls they build around themselves in their plush but tasteless homes.”

The series, tentatively titled Mine For Me will centre on a family living in St Heliers called the Easte's, the father running a finance company, the wife a property developer who tears down heritage buildings and puts up apartment blocks.

It is believed the son and daughter in the series will be university students, one studying Comparative Religion with a view to starting her own church as a tax dodge.

Griffin confirms that the story starts with the David Easte's Gold Chip Diamond Investment Ltd going down the drain and taking $560 million of investors money with it “and from there on its a roller-coaster ride through lives without conscience or consequence.
“We get to see them plotting and scheming so at one level it will be like My Diner With Andre meets Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. . . but with a little of Grand Designs thrown in as they are redeveloping their own property to create a 27-room mansion with indoor pool, cinema – and in-house car valet service run by Matthew Ridge who will play himself.

“There will be other cameos by various politicians and white-collar criminals also as the series rolls out.

“It's like all your nightmare scenarios of the past decade rolled into one.

"Believe me, these people are real bastards who make the Wests of Outrageous Fortune look tame."

GAME ON: Dean Cameron, the sprinter sent home from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi after having a “couple of quiet ones with the boys” says he is sorry that his indiscretion has cast a shadow over his silver medal in the 100m and a personal best of 27 beers plus three vodka-based RTDs in a two hour post-event drinking session.

Cameron, who has been on-form after some drinking incidents last year confirms he is getting help from some former All Blacks and Blues players and expects that by this time next year he will be able to concentrate fulltime on his chosen career.

His coach Dave Churches said yesterday “Dean's a good bloke but took his eye off the ball in the past year or so. But now he's back on track and I expect that within a few months we'll see him breaking that 30 bottle mark, and we're hoping to up the RTD count as well. SprintNZ care about its athletes so we are giving him 110 percent support in this, and to hell with the consequences.”

RADIO DAZE: Auckland radio shock-jock Ian Scruples said last night he had no regrets after getting involved an illegal cage-fight last weekend in which he climbed into the cage and taunted the two fighters as being “pussies and no-hopers”.

From his hospital bed last night he said “People are always picking on me for these minor indiscretions -- but no one goes out and checks on those Silver Ferns who are just a bunch of skanky ho's.

"You should see them hit a bar after a game, it's dancing on the tables, tops off, lap dancing and fagging it up out the back. Yet you never hear a thing about that, do you?

“Most of those girls are on P or working as 'escorts', if you get my meaning. I wouldn't be saying this if it wasn't true --- or in a ratings period.”

THE CROWD GOES WILD: Police have expressed their disgust at the behaviour of the crowd at last night's concert by Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees who was one of the opening acts on the farewell tour by Christchurch band the Bilders.

“People were throwing tomatoes and bottles at him,” said Senior Sgt Sherry Roper after the wild behaviour at the Vector Arena, “and fair enough too. He was bloody awful, off key most of the time and actually he sounded more like Ringo than Robin.

“He did sing Saved by the Bell though which was his big solo hit, but nothing could save this concert.

"Pity too that the backing tape for the Pointer Sisters broke and they had to do their whole set a cappella, but that's rock'n'roll in the 21st century I suppose.”

Gibb cut short his performance and the Bilders, lead by mainstay Bill Direen took the stage early and settled the crowd with a selection of their hit Do the Alligator.

It was a final farewell to the Bilders and Bill Direen entertained the crowd with jokes and poems, as well as witty and literate songs from all parts of their 30 year career.

“The Bilders were one of the great Kiwi bands,” said Herald reviewer Scott Baillie after the show.

“They combined the wit and angularity of Split Enz with the energy and lo-fi sound of the best of Flying Nun. Bill [Direen] is a genuine Kiwi music legend for his tenacity, style and intellect – and wry sense of humour.

“To see 15,000 people getting off on his music was a sheer pleasure. Gibb were rubbish though.”

CORRECTIONS: In the report on the Christchurch study the final quote should read “CHRIST says “Yes' to responsible binge drinking.” The error occurred in editing.. . . . As the paper was going to press James Griffin denied he was making a television series entitled Mine For Me. Mr Griffin says he has no such intention and has never spoken to Alt.Republic. We regret the error and we'll probably blame it on editing if he gets litigious . . . The farewell concert by the Bilders took place at the Kings Arms on Sunday, not at Vector Arena. The crowd was estimated at 15, not 15,000. The error occurred in editing . . . Robin Gibb really was rubbish though.

THE REAL THING: Just like totally heaps of new (and old) music, books and films and such here

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

(Click here to find out more)