Random Play by Graham Reid


The Seduction of the Strange

There’s something utterly bonkers but appealing about the plan to build a miniature replica of the Taj Mahal in the middle of semi-suburban Auckland.

I like nutty stuff like that.

I have photographs of myself in the Oval Office of the White House (in Austin, Texas), of the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty in Las Vegas (there are many Liberty statues in Japan, and one on the Seine of course) and in my book Postcards From Elsewhere I wrote about how I graced the occupants of Graceland Too with my presence (mad Paul McLeod whose home isn’t so much a replica of Graceland as a worryingly obsessive homage to Elvis).

At Travels in Elsewhere I have just posted a piece about getting on board a biblically proportioned Noah’s Ark (in Hong Kong), and I have been photographed towering over the Great Wall of China (at Miniature China in Shenzhen near Hong Kong). I enjoyed bizarre Huis Ten Bosch just outside of Nagasaki, the whole town is Dutch with windmills and canals, and they sell hearty Dutch food. I wrote about that in Postcards From Elsewhere also.

In my new travel book The Idiot Boy Who Flew I write about a strange slice of Muslim art and architecture near Honolulu (once the home of a filthy rich and fascinating multimillionairess), and of Stonehenge . . . in Oregon.

Travel and tourism these days must account for all tastes and I find it as interesting to go to where Jurassic Park was filmed and where Elvis got married at the end of Blue Hawaii (both on the island of Kaua’i incidentally), as I do rooting out a dark and musty museum of Native American art, a nasty bar full of sad stories in a run-down part of San Francisco or spending a day looking at half a dozen Goya paintings in the Prado.

What is the poet said, “I contain multiples”? We all do.

So the idea of mini-Taj seems to me to be perfectly rational in this irrational world. I do question the placement of it however: right there on the site of the Gandhi Centre on New North Road at the most difficult and narrow part where cars come at you from all directions? That seems ill-advised.

Yes, of course it has to be accessible for both the Indian community and tourists but my guess is the planning permission people of Auckland -- an unreliable bunch at best if the urban disasters around us are evidence -- should think very carefully about this. That would be as bad as having a rugby stadium right in the middle of the suburbs and . . . .


Some questions, genuinely asking:
Were you at all surprised at the cost overrun already on the Rugby World Cup? Is there a sweep going in which we can bet on the final, fully inflated figure? Or will we never actually know the “true cost”, just that we will somehow have to stump up for it.

Sex and the Stats Just what is the believable statistic on sexual abuse? In the past few days I have heard one in four women, then one in three. To me, innocently asking, these seem extremely high ratios not to mention significantly different. I am increasingly sceptical about such figures: when the hat is being passed around it is always one in 10 who suffer from whatever, the one in five New Zealanders who have whatever. Again, just asking.

Helping hand-out Why do people send an e-mail asking for your assistance but then have some weird block on your reply. Yesterday I spent half an hour typing in great detail a lot of helpful stuff for someone’s career (a complete stranger just asking for advice) only to have it repeatedly bounce back at me. It has happened before far too often. The soft touch days are over, but know this Kerry. I wasn’t some arrogant dickhead who ignored you. I tried and tried. You career in journalism won’t get far, and not because you didn’t get my advice and suchlike.

This is worrying: It’s not often I hear anything that Miley Cyrus says let alone sings (not a note in fact) but she seems to be on the money about young people spending too much time in cyberspace. I lecture in music at Auckland Uni and one student asked if instead of reviewing a live concert he/she could do one that was posted on You Tube. Maybe the real world is a bit too real and 3D for people used to screenlife?

Music of the spheres What I guess to be the first local review of the new Flaming Lips album is now posted at Music From Elsewhere.along with dozens of other CDs. There are also DVD reviews, travel pieces etc around the site. Check out the clip for the Canadian telly series Corner Gas which were aren’t screening here. It has dry, droll and lowkey Flight of the Conchords appeal. The Timothy Leary track with the Gonzo DVD review is worth hearing: sampling (illegal) from about 1970.

The clash of civilisations? I recently returned from Sydney and Crave -- a festival of food, art, culture and so on -- and I had a terrific time. I said so to someone and felt I had to immediately apologise. I was told that Sydney was all right, but Melbourne would have been “better“. I don’t know how people determine such things, but it would have been hard for me to imagine a better five days in Melbourne than the five I had in Sydney.

Melbourne we are repeatedly told is more artistic, but I found dozens of galleries and exhibitions in Sydney no trouble. I don’t get this Melbourne Vs Sydney thing that people here (mostly Aucklanders I have to say) get into.

I think it was Paul Kelly who said to me he didn’t understand New Zealanders: “they complain about the weather here then go and live in Melbourne”. Fair point.

I also don’t understand Auckland Vs Wellington or Auckland Vs The Rest (actually it seems mostly vice versa in the latter case). Mark of small minds or defensive people? Dunno, just asking.

That said we are going to Wellington shortly for an overnight stay and to see some Big Art Stuff, and because Wellington is a place I rarely go (and no, it ain’t personal) I’m curious if anyone can recommend a decent, modestly priced and slightly different place to stay in the centre of the city.

It will be all the more enjoyable if it looks like The Oval Office, Graceland, or the Taj Mahal of course.

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

(Click here to find out more)

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