Tuesday, December 13, 2005


The world seems to be spinning like a top; Christmases rush past, kid's birthdays pile up, weather happens and then suddenly we're into another round: just the same but different.
I've been sanding the boat, stripping paint, musing over it. I've already spent more than it's worth getting Stark Bros to rip out the rot in the port gunwale, replace the rubbing strakes (with two beautiful pieces of nut-brown hardwood) and fix some leaks.
Stark Bros have a cavernous shed next to the dry-dock, and right next to Awakeri was a fishing boat, just finished. Frank said it was a little bigger than is economical to build of wood, but they have to keep staff busy, so they build them on spec...
About 55 ft, and beamy, it looked ocean-going, though I gather it's aimed at the overnight/fresh fish trade. The bronze propeller gleamed in the dusky light. The caulking was fresh, awaiting its first coat of paint. I felt the world was a better place just in the knowledge that Stark Bros in Lyttelton were still building wooden ships.
They did a pretty good job on the Sigrid, but there's lots more to do. The trailer is a mess, the outboard is dodgy, and just the painting will cost a lot of time and another wad of money. But it's not really about money or equivalent value: I'm investing something else in her.
Starting work this Saturday, I loved the smell of it: some paint and saw-dust; a musty salt undertow. I'm pondering paints: everything has changed since the last painting- about a decade ago. Epiglass have become "International". You can't get "Cove Green"- or anything much like it, and I LIKE cove green... Two pot epoxy paints are the rage, but won't go over a one-pot first coat, and I'm not stripping everything back to wood.
But as I start, I'm thinking- she's going to look great. The new rubbing-strakes emphasise her rather graceful sheer. I'm going to fill in the nail-heads, and the cracks in the cabin roof. A beige/cream deck and top-sides, and either a darker green or perhaps royal blue hull.
She's gonna look smart. And I can already smell the salty wind; feel it on my cheek; envisage Godley Head slipping astern.

Friday, September 16, 2005

biting my nine-inch nails

election day tommorrow and it really is (chose cliche) too close to call/ a cliff-hanger/ a nail-biter etc.
personally i think brash would be a dreadful prime minister. oddly enough, i'd rather he was in power with the detestable peters, who he can't possibly get along with, but who is unlikely to roll over for a dry trickle-down monetarist economy.
in the nineties the economy stagnated, productivity did not grow, unemployment was relatively high. what did grow was the gap between rich and poor. that's the one thing brash's policies are certain to increase.
tax-cuts are hard to roll back, and national's proposed cuts would undoubtedly leave us with less government into the distant future.
they'd also move us into an america style polity: the rich richer, government struggling to provide services- and therefore the market as an alternative made to look good- and most of us defined as "not mainstream".
brash is clearly influenced by america. i've never heard phrases like "not one dime", "lousy" and "baloney" used in nz politics the way he uses them. i don't know where he's coming from but this language must be a clue. way out of touch.
as reserve bank governor, he strangled the nz economy in the nineties. on record as believing we need 6% unemployment to keep inflation down. on record as blaming the unemployed. go figure.
labour have run a poor campaign, considering. no inspiring rhetoric, no clear and defining vision, no devasting analysis of national and brash's (he's act's ninth mp...) woeful scenario.
but they do present a clear alternative. LPG would make a good government.
here's hoping.

Friday, August 12, 2005

don't necessarily do it yourself

I've been sweating over an appeal to the environment court about recent changes to the Banks Peninsula District plan. Not sweating 'cos I'm working hard, but because I feel so out of my depth.
And that's become a bit of a watchword. I have a mate who used to rail against the kiwi "do it yerself" mentality: specifically when he had to get his home completely re-wired on discovering the previous owner- a manic do-it-yerselfer- had turned it into a electrical death trap.
"Get a professional" he'd mutter whenever anything like that came up.
Well, we might reach for a lawyer here. The "new" district plan hit on Jan 1 1997; come 2005 and variation 2 is heading for the appeals court. It's been a schmozzle. Forests have been reaped, chipped, spewed forth from printers and dispatched far and wide. One package we got was about 8" of solid A4 - with maybe 5% of content- and at least 300 of these were sent out.
The problem here is the RMA- resource management act- which is (am I saying this?) perhaps too democratic. Everyone is entitled to their say, which is messy enough. But worse, it seems to be vague in crucial ways, so pretty much everyone interprets it to suit themselves.
Enter lawyers in yellow spats.
But what I really want to get off my chest is what a bitsy "little bit of everything and no real expertise" life I lead. Is this typical of the age? The place? Or just me.
At work I don't just shoot and edit video- I often also do sound, write scripts, make calls, fix computers, etc etc. And I like it!
Then when I want to make music... all of a sudden I'm the (mediocre) song-writer, lyricist, talentless talent, tuneless singer, bad guitarist, arranger, drum-looper, bass simulator, recording engineer, mixing engineer... the studio chief with full responsibility for buying gear and the sad geek (yeah, I really do love it) who has to learn and operate half-a-dozen programmes.
Not surprising I do these things poorly.
Then again, I don't have to feel too bad- 'cos I have other roles in life.
I'm not just a husband and father.
I'm a farmer, fencer, farrier, fire-wooder, and forester. I maintain (badly) 2 chainsaws, a brushcutter, two generators, a petrol-driven pump, an outboard, two mowers, and three motor vehicles. Oh and general repairs on a horse-float, an off-the-grid power system, and a whole bunch of water-tanks and plumbing disasters. Did I mention I'm also a shed-builder? And a sheep-dog (if you've never tried to round up a small mob of very elusive sheep on rough terrain without an actual four-legged sheep-dog- don't. Well, don't if your wife is the other part of the team and she's not in an exceptionally- as in just dropped six tabs of ecstasy- good mood.)
That's just a taste of the outside jobs- not counting track maintanance, spraying, native forest regeneration and- I'll shut up now.
Of course all this isn't done well. And it's often not done at all when it could/should be. Hey, there are meals to cook, dishes to wash, kids to look after. And the mouldering boat of my dreams ...
But as I've been reading up on the district plan, I'm also thinking about the resource and building consents I need to file for the sleepout and 3-bay farm shed (to be built by real builders- thank god.) And problems with the inverter. And I'm feeling just slightly s t r e t c h e d.
Not complaining. But I fear a tombstone that reads:
He did a lot. Most of it was inoffensive if ineffectual. But there WAS that HUGE stuff-up with the Envirnoment Court/sheep pen/time the wheel fell off the horse-float....

Monday, July 25, 2005

midi life crisis

I've been playing around with music on the 'puter. Essentially trying to get a bunch of old and new songs out of my head. Baggage disposal. And way fun too.
Anyway, I've got an assorted bunch of hardware and software and a heap of "projects" on the go and/or in my head. Recently I finally and hurriedly "finished" a song and posted it on garageband.com for review.
Garageband is a great idea. Anyone can put up songs/have a band webpage. There's a pretty serious competition for top spots- won by getting the best reviews- and a lot of good- and not so good- free music.
What you have to do in return for hosting and peer reviews of your music is review other people's songs- reasonably seriously, cut and pasters are anathema and get dumped. After 15 pairs of reviews- and this is a serious commitment if you do it with respect- then you get to post your own mp3.
Which- after a weekend of setting up, mucking around, and not feeling terrific, I did- a song I'd previously recorded, added some guitars, and was secretly pretty pleased with.
That didn't last. Wow did I get some bad reviews! Here's the very first reviewer:
"well, this is super amateurish. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But in this case I think that it is. For one thing, the levels - the mix - is just atrocious. But the biggest flaw here is that the melody is totally uninspired and the pitch is all over the place. I really don't have any idea what you are trying to do here. I mean what are you thinking to accomplish art-wise. Is this to be interpreted as commentary on the medium or something? Because if not, well, this just, taken at face value, is punishingly bad"
and a couple more...
"The song devolves into chaos and confusion. Meaning you had me at the beginning, but then you lost me in a big way."
"This song was different right out of the box, with the opening atonal, rhythmic groove. I didn't like the melody, which mostly existed on sing-song sounding vocals. The song never seemed pull togther into a recognizable meolody to place over a solid rhythm section."
"The chromatic half step thing is very unsettling. I can't just enjoy the music, it this for real? I guees you have to be pretty talented to song such atonal stuff, but I can't say It's fun to listen to..."
I quickly changed the "band" name (it was, I realised somewhat late, suspiciously androgenous) and I did get a few writers who liked it- even got on someone's podcast.
But most people who had some level of musicianship commented on how badly outa tune the singing- and, one noted, the rhythm guitar- were.
And they were right.
I've bought- it hasn't arrived, but I've been playing with a demo- a terrific audio programme called melodyne (I'm getting uno, the baby of the melodyne family). It DOES correct "intonation problems"- amazingly well- and that's not all. It lets you treat audio files almost as if they were midi- you can play with timing, change melodies, create harmonies, really go to town.
But it also reveals with ego-shattering clarity just how outa tune I was.
But just wait for the next one! Now that's bound to be good- and however banal the melody, the vocals are pretty well gauranteed to be "in" that tune.

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Autumn's early this year.
March 26 I took the three little kids down to the beach and we had a good swim, fossick etc under grey skies- but warm, humid, the sea friendly. On the 29th, it was cold. Still, after getting in and sprint-swimming the first few minutes, it was surprisingly pleasant. Certainly a corporal tingling upon egress, but- or perhaps because of this- uplifting.
Maybe I'm hitting an autumn phase in life, too. Grumpy. Taciturn. Quick to anger.
I feel I love the kids to bits- but I still yearn for time away. The weight of all the things I've started- all those unfinished, forgotten, or still slow-burning projects- there's a kind of panic. Time is slipping away, through my hands. I sense my "consciouness" burning time the way the world is burning oil- as if they weren't finite.

Monday, February 07, 2005

new life

involves waking about 6.
making school lunches.
waking kids.
vowing yet again not to swear at them or get too furious.
leaving late.
spending (this morning) 10 minutes inching towards one particular intersection.
dropping them late for school.
sitting around with oscar waiting for his taxi (which he's not happy with.... doesn't enjoy sharing it with a couple of teenagers i think.)
arriving at work about 9 feeling ready for a good kip.
it's been a weekend of heat and swimming and very busy leisure.... so the whole family's tired and grumpy monday morning. ahh well, there's always work to look forward to.
three or five lessons to cut/script/voice... 10am and already i'm dreaming of the sea. cool, blue, the way the wind ruffles it, the salty, deep satisfying smell of it, taste of it.