Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Enemies of Awesome: "Fine."

I saw a movie last night that was nominated for a bunch of Academy Awards. It was fine.

And by being fine, it was, arguably, at a complete extreme from awesome.

What was wrong with it? Basically, there was nothing wrong with it, apart from a slightly strange overreliance on dutch angles. But in some ways, that was the most interesting thing about it - an unconventional choice, albeit a misguided one, that indicates some measure of directorial personality.

Everything else was, well, fine. Ten years ago, I would have raved about the performances (Oscar-nominated, and sure, they probably deserve it). I would have thought one of the plot choices was particularly brave. I would have applauded the fact that it takes on a big ethical question, avoids easy resolution.

But I've mostly already forgotten it. I expect in a year, I'll have a hard time remembering that I saw it.

And that's the difference between something fine - something good, even - and something awesome.

The awesome lingers, often in strange and unexpected ways. Whereas the good is a closed system, to be admired, nodded at, then walked away from.

One might choose a brief excursis on "fine" art here. I won't, but I will note that if you ask someone how they are, and they say "fine", they are usually lying. I know it's my default answer when I don't feel like discussing how I am, and I usually don't discuss how I am at times when things are Not Awesome.

I don't know how to end this, other than to note my resolve to try to avoid experiences this year that will end with me saying: "That was fine."

Like the sheep race I saw on Sunday. But that's another post.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

YotA Book #2: Lawrence Weschler, A WANDERER IN THE PERFECT CITY

Lawrence Weschler is a writer whose restraint in prose couldn't contrast more with Hunter S. Thompson (the author of the last book I read), but whose prose serves as a container for real-life stories of absolute awesomeness. I first discovered him via Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders, his profile of the creator of the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, which is a perfect example of the sort of story that Weschler is attracted to - a man (thus far, they're always men) who develops a sudden, specific, overpowering passion, and dedicates his life to it, shunting practicality to the side.

So you have, for instance, the story of Akumal Ramachander, an Indian teacher who discovers an overlooked abstract expressionist painter, Harold Shapinsky, and sets to making sure the world knows about his art. For the first half, I was sure that it would all end in tears; or, perhaps, that there was an elaborate hoax involved. But these aren't the sorts of stories Weschler is interested in telling.

Something specific and wonderful about Weschler's writing style: he lives in little asides that others would leave out. His article on Nicolas Slominsky, for instance, has him follow up for a paragraph with an old acquaintance, whose comments are followed thuslike:

Mrs. Rosenbloom paused for a moment, then sighed. "Oh," she said, "I do thank you for calling. I've got into a wonderful mood just thinking about all this."

Completely unnecessary in terms of Slominsky's life, but absolutely emblematic of the sort of experiential piece of fabric that Weschler includes, and that others would choose to omit, and the inclusion of which deepens the richness of the reading experience - in fact, inclusive is a fantastic word to describe Weschler's writing style.

Another thing specific, that starts off not so wonderful and becomes wonderful - you tend to discover what the point is or what's interesting in real time with Weschler. This creates a couple stories where you're not really clear why you care at the start, only to have a certain point where the penny drops. I'm thinking specifically of "Gary's Trajectory", which contains page after page of mind-numbing detail on financial markets and rocket science, details that even Weschler clearly finds confusing, only to contain a rather abrupt shift in focus, about which I will say no more. "Slominsky's Failure" contains a similar structure - for the first ten pages, I just wanted to know who the hell this guy was and why I should care.

Weschler wanders, and lets his subjects wander, accruing details like Julius Knipl, real estate photographer, whose creator, Ben Katchor, is also profiled. But the wandering is an end in itself, not just the means. It is how they experience the world. They all see things differently from the rest of us. They are fascinating. Every time I think ill of humanity, I will try to remember this book, and remember that all of these extraordinary people are out there; not just those who are profiled, but the author himself, skimming across the lives of extraordinary people in his wander.

up next: Ben Marcus, NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN. Might get done with the McSweeney's book first; it's at work.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Other Awesome Goals.

I was going to post a series of posts, each more spellbinding than the rest, about the other goals I have for the Year of the Awesome. But I haven't, so I'll just mention them here, as well as taking suggestions for other ways to make the year more awesome.

In no particular order:

*Play live music again. I haven't played music on stage since 2003, with The Jet Effect. Thanks to the Awesome efforts of Karen (of Onanon), I've already got one gig booked for this year, playing with our Guided By Voices tribute band on February 27th at Chicks Hotel, which will double as my going away party from Dunedin. There may be other things in the works. I will be circumspect for now, you know the saying about one's mouth writing checks one's ass can't cash.

*Play 8 video games to completion. This one may seem bizarre; it may help partially to explain that I basically haven't played video games since 1992 or so, give or take a little bit of MIDNIGHT CLUB 3 for the PS2. I've become increasingly convinced that the average video game these days has more thought, more creativity, and overall more awesomeness than the average movie, and that further my job will somehow converge with video game creation. So I've bought an XBox, and begun my first game, BIOSHOCK, which supports all of my theories right now. I've got DEAD SPACE, MASS EFFECT, and BURNOUT: PARADISE cued up; further recommendations welcome.

*Go scuba diving 6 times. I got certified in 2005, fell in love with it, and promptly never went. This is mostly because it's a lot better if you have someone to go with. I'm rectifying this slightly by going to Vanuatu and the Great Barrier Reef in March with my friend Randy; I'm hoping to do additional dives with my brother when he comes to visit.

*6 new outdoor activities. I've sort of made up this number, and hopefully I'll come up with this many that I actually want to do. I've got 1 under my belt (paragliding). Skydiving is definitely in the cards, and undoubtedly other things will come up in Vanuatu - parasailing, jetskiing, and other suchlike things are being discuss. I was going to try surfing lessons down here, but there's a bit of a problem with Dunedin's propensity to pour poo into the ocean and for people to get sick as a result, so the beaches are close. (Ah, Dunedin? This is Not Awesome.)

*Find my photographic voice. Photography is my new hobby/obsession. I'm certain I'll take lots of different pictures, but I'd like to really develop a certain style that I focus on. But there's lots of interesting things to look at:

Long exposures?
Raglan fireworks

Low light exposures?

Very brief exposures?

Gig photography?

Macro photography?
Dragonfly on thumb.

Abstract nature?

Slice of life?
 Raglan parade

Or something else? We'll see.

*Get a new tattoo. The proviso is that it has to be at least as awesome as my current tattoo, which I'm still very happy with 4 1/2 years later. I won't get one for the sake of getting one, but I would love to find another one that I like as much as this one.

*Consolidate/sort out my web presence. I've got blogs, facebook, myspace, twitters, dougdillaman.com, other random domains, and soon I'll want something for the feature that I'm doing. Lots of these are outdated and unmaintained. Need to deal with it.

*Go on a date. Maybe even two. I mean, it's been almost three years.

*Get my health and diet issues sorted out. Obvious. Been procrastinating on this, which is Not Awesome. I apologize for this dereliction of duties in the pursuit of Awesome.

I also have vague ideas about awesome goals for reading, music, and TV and film-watching, getting my room to be awesome, planning my follow-up feature, something about work, learning to draw (at least well enough to make basic storyboards) and planning a big long trip for the future (2010 or 11, maybe?) to Southeast Asia.

That seems like a lot. But that's the goal: always, please, More Awesome.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Dunedin, NZ
18 Jan, 11:52 PM
np: Superchunk, INDOOR LIVING

You know what's awesome, possibly the most satisfying moment for a screenwriter?

Typing the words "THE END."

You know what's more awesome?

Typing them two weeks ahead of schedule!

Feeling very, very excited, nervous, scared. I've written some scenes that I'm scared to direct (and that will definitely not be comfortable viewing). These may change/morph as the rewrite process kicks in.

But mostly feeling awesome.

And I finished Season 3 of THE SHIELD this weekend! And saw butterflies! And took some awesome pictures! (Will have to share later - still on my camera, and it is Late.)

Anyway, will try to have more writings about thoughts on awesome this week - my writing energies have been directed elsewhere, as you can probably guess ... but also going to finally go watch a movie at some point, something I haven't yet done in 2009. (I actually watched the first 90 minutes of A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE the other night, but went to bed. A whole season of THE SHIELD is a lot of watching, though, to be fair.)

okay, to bed, if I can stop jumping around and celebrating and singing along to Superchunk. Which is unlikely.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Awesome Hypothesis #2: Mind Follows Body

Throughout the year, I'll be testing various attitudes, behaviours, et cetera, to see if they make my life more awesome.

So, the no worrying thing. That was going pretty well for a while, then it started going a bit less well (although nowhere near as non-awesome as, say, the average day of 2008) over the past few days. There's two reasons for that.

One is trying to decide how to deal with non-awesome things. I knew that they would happen, and they are happening, only mildly to me directly thus far, but severely to people around me, and of course globally. Finding an appropriately awesome response to these things is, to put it mildly, challenging. I suspect that the most awesome thing to do is to do precisely as much as is in your power to do and move on, but I am pretty terrible at gauging what is, precisely, within my power. And also, I certainly don't want to be completely tone-deaf and inappropriate like - oh, yeah, that Gaza thing sucks, but hey! Year of the Awesome!

(Memo to Israel, and anyone else unclear on the concept, by the way: bombing civilians is Not Awesome.)

Then there's the other thing, which has been a bit of a dip in health. I felt my glands getting swollen-y on the way back from Christchurch, and ran a bit ragged in the subsequent days anyway. I'm not sick, but I am tired, and I find that as my body wears down, it informs my emotional response.

So: time to focus on my body.

Step 1: doctor's checkup. Last year, I discovered I had fatty liver. I cut back my drinking for a while, and then scaled it up a bit (though still far back from my heights). But at this point I'm shooting in the dark i/r/t my liver function, my cholestorol, and probably many things I don't know. Get some bloodwork done, calibrate goals for the year.
Step 2: exercise. Part of the reason I felt great over my holiday was that I was *doing* heaps of shit - kayaking, swimming, walking, paragliding. Now I'm sitting 8+ hours a day with minimal breaks. You know what's sad? I work next door to a gym. Not "next door" as in down the block; next door as in, literally, next door. I'm not sure if I'll join that for a month, but tomorrow I'm going swimming after work; see how that goes.
Step 3: sleep. Catch up on it, indulge in it. Take naps. Naps are Awesome.
Step 4: diet. Informed by step 1, but I know that I need to cut back on simple carbs again. (I cut them out last year; felt great; brought them back in, felt worse.)

So let's see if a. I can do all that, and b. it helps improve my ability not to worry.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Dunedin, NZ
10 Jan, 11:25 AM

So on Tuesday, I was faced with a difficult decision. My favorite new band of 2008, The Dodos, were coming to New Zealand, and arriving in Christchurch on Thursday.

Problem: Christchurch is a five hour drive from Dunedin. As I'm working Sun-Thu at the moment, that wasn't an issue, but getting there in time, doing that much driving, et cetera was all worrying. Plus, three different friends from Auckland were coming into Dunedin Friday night, so I couldn't even make a weekend of it - rush up, rush back.

I asked Alastair whether it was more awesome to go or stay and do writing, and he pointed out clearly it was much more awesome to go see a band you've been obsessed about all year instead of wishing you had gone.

So I went. The show was fantastic; I may write about it more in detail at some point, but I urge anyone reading this in Auckland to see them tonight at Kings Arms or (better option) tomorrow night at Leigh Sawmill. A few notes about the rest of the trip, with attendant photos here:

* On the drive up, there were some amazing clouds, which I took photographs of. Apparently the cloud formations are unique to the Canterbury region. Really? Wow.
* I stayed in jail, which seemed like the most awesome option. It was okay; friendly people and comfy beds, a bit noisy and not enough parking. In general, I'm pretty indifferent to lodging, so I'm fairly confident it was the most awesome outcome.
* On recommendations, I ate dinner at Dux de Lux, which was ... pretty good. It doesn't quite get an awesome, but I may have ordered the wrong thing. Trying alcoholic ginger beer was interesting; I expected it to taste like the non-alcoholic version (like a sweeter ginger ale, for Americans reading this), but in fact it was like a normal beer, only ginger flavored.
* The venue, Al's Bar (website currently mucked up, apparently) was really awesome, spacious, friendly barstaff, generally recommended.
* I took a bunch of pictures during the show as well. I was nervous about this, as I've never really done gig photography before, and didn't want to have it impede my enjoyment of the show, but I did want to take pictures for an article I'm working on (plus, you know, playing with the new toy). As it worked out, the opening band was The Ruby Suns, who I'm not a big fan of, so it was a good chance to take some pictures and figure out a few things without impeding my enjoyment. I didn't intend to take pictures during the Dodos, despite securing a frontal position in advance, but found myself wanting to do so, really enjoying it, and getting some photos I'm really happy with.
* The next morning, after effecting my jailbreak, had breakfast at Honeypot Cafe, which was much more friendly than the reviews at that link give it credit for, and got the biggest plate of bangers and mash I've ever seen.
* Then I did some music shopping at Christchurch's Real Groovy and Galaxy Records. Picked up a couple things for an awesome soundtrack for a ride home:
Nigeria Disco Funk
The Necks: The Boys
Sons and Daughters
... as well as DVDs of Einsturzende Neubauten and Pierre Henry.
* Also stopped in Alice in Videoland, which is a very cool video store, though mostly focused on rental.
* Had a quick jaunt through the Christchurch Art Gallery, where last time through I was fortunate enough to see a Giacometti exhibition. Nothing so awesome this time, though I was taken by the drawings and sculptures of Zina Swanson, who seems to share some of my obsessions of the intersection of the natural and manmade in a way that resonates with me. (None of those drawings are as awesome as the ones on display; that's probably why those are for sale instead of on display.)
* On the way home, dropped into Christchurch's Dress Smart and stumbled into the only Merrell outlet in the country. I think everybody in my family wears them, but I'd always been skeptical, and also not somebody to spend much money on shoes. But outlet prices! And they're in my size! Bought two pairs and retired my long-suffering current pair of shoes; if I'm not mistaken, my parents got them as a birthday gift for me in 2006. Suddenly feels like I'm walking on air.
* Stopped at a giant salmon, which was used as a cover for Gate's LOUNGE and thus topical to the article I'm working on, and in addition to getting pictures of that experimented with fast shutter speed photography.
* Stopped at a farm and got some fresh berries. They weren't as tasty as the berries I had the other day, but pleasant enough.
* Also popped into my favorite cheesery in the world, Whitestone in Oamaru, and picked up a hunk of their awesome Windsor Blue. I'm a huge fan of their Island Stream, which hasn't been on the shelf for years now; I found out that they have another batch in production that should be available shortly, although how widespread it is will depend on the amount of sheep's milk they can procure. Regardless: I see a road trip for cheese to Oamaru next month in order to take advantage of this (awesome) news.
* And got back in time to spend a great evening with Brendan, Luke and Tabitha (my Auckland friends); randomly wound up in a bar with a bunch of NHNZ people, so everyone got to meet everyone else. A great night.

I'm reasonably confident that even the greatest scientists couldn't have fit more awesome into the previous day and a half. Today, had a great breakfast with Luke and Tabi, and have a scuba re-certification, jam, and either a show out in Port Chalmers or more writing to look forward to. We'll see which one seems more awesome as the time approaches.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Awesome Goal.

I have a long list of goals, actually, which I'll post about individually over the next couple weeks. But I'm going to call most of them "Aims". Because the truth is, apart from the general "Make the Year as Awesome as possible", I have one specific goal that is important enough that all the other goals are secondary.


I have been talking about this for an embarrassingly long time. Thirteen years if it's a day. I have come precariously close to actually doing it, once or twice, but not following through, for various reasons. Various non-awesome reasons.

This being the Year of the Awesome, it is time to change that.

My first milestone is to complete my first draft by the end of January. I'm currently on page 25. This is very doable, apart from one basic challenge: the fact that it stays light til 10 pm in Dunedin at the moment and the outside world beckons, with all of its awesomeness.

But investing in writing time now means much more awesomeness later, and I will get heaps of sun in Australia and Vanuatu, and the truth is if I'm disciplined about it that deadline should be easy, as I already have a pretty detailed outline.

Nonetheless: any awesome strategies you have for self-discipline are welcomed.


Dunedin, NZ
04 Jan, 11:24 PM

stuff I've been doing:
- taking lots of pictures in nearby graveyard and cemetery
- working on list of goals for year of awesome
- cleaning out old tasks and old e-mails
- figuring out ways to simplify things (like using rules to auto-folder heaps more in my e-mail)
- planning Mar/Apr trip to Australia (Great Barrier Reef) and Vanuatu
- playing Bioshock on the XBox.
- writing on my feature script.
- and, of course, my job.

Also, if I'm honest, farting around a bit more on the Internet than I should. I think I spend an un-awesome amount of time on it as a default activity, and am trying to come up with the most awesome way to make sure I don't. Normally my strategies involve me trying to make myself feel guilty, which succeeds in making me feel guilty (which is unawesome) but fails in actually getting me off (which is also unawesome, and worse than if I just farted around without feeling guilty.)

I spent five days largely without Internet (two brief stops at a cybercafe, 10 minutes all up) in Raglan, and it was kind of great. But I don't want to be a Luddite about it. Hmmmm.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Awesome Hypothesis #1: No Worries.

Throughout the year, I'll be testing various attitudes, behaviours, et cetera, to see if they make my life more awesome.

Worry is something that drives me nuts in other people, and as is the case so often, it does so because I recognize it as something I don't like about myself. I am a worrier, nervous by disposition, prone to panic at the earliest provocation. Or at least I am in my head. I tend to internalize a lot. (Possibly another thing I need to work on, but that's for another time.)

Worrying is useless. Caution is useful: it prevents you from making mistakes. Preventative actions and decisive actions are useful: they prevent negative outcomes. But worrying is just empty mind-space. Will something bad happen? Possibly. Will the likelihood of it change through the act of worrying? No.

I once worked with a very laconic joker of a guy, who also happened to have been a civil engineering student. One day the office started shaking. I immediately looked at him, assuming he was playing a practical joke that I hadn't quite worked out. He, in turn, was quietly but intently headed to the safest place in the office, underneath a support beam, as he knew what was going on: we were in an earthquake.

There was something about that quiet efficiency that always struck me: after all, few are more aware of the potential catastrophe of an earthquake than a civil engineer. And yet here he was, not screaming, not fretting, not worrying: just doing what was necessary to avoid the most non-awesome possible outcomes.

(Again: I can't speak for what he was doing on the inside. But the outside is what I saw.)

Conversely, I have worked with many worriers, and been one myself in many other situations. I'm pretty sure it's never done any good in and of itself. (I encourage anyone with counterexamples to mention them.) On one show I worked on, I spent months worrying that our team wouldn't make a deadline. Then it became clear to everyone else that we wouldn't make the deadline. Then everyone else panicked. My worry clearly did nothing to prevent the problem. If I worried less in general, would sternly worded caution have helped to prevent the outcome? Don't know, but when the guy who doesn't worry speaks up, people listen; when the guy who worries speaks up, he's just being a pain in the ass again.

Or such is my experience, anyway.

So going forward, I am consciously attempting to short-circuit my emotional "worry" reaction whenever possible, through a combination of preventative actions and emotional channeling. These are phrases I just made up, so they probably deserve clarification.

As to the former: yesterday, I flew back to Dunedin. An hour before I left, I started packing, calmly, to music. There was more I would have liked to do in Auckland, and I could have possibly done more, but then it would have been a mad rush, and I would have started worrying about missing the plane. By not setting myself up for an impossible situation, I didn't have to worry about getting out on time.

As to the latter: I did some maths on the way to the airport, looking at the time, and realized I could possibly miss the luggage boarding time. I kept thinking three things:

1. The bag will get there eventually, one way or another.
2. Nothing you can do will change this.
3. You're driving around with friends on a glorious day listening to SINGLES GOING STEADY by The Buzzcocks. Be here. Enjoy this.

And then I booked like hell when I got out of the car, and got my bag on the plane with 2 minutes to spare.

No worries. It's been easy so far this year. Now that I'm back to work, hopefully I can maintain it. I am confident I will have greater things to worry about through the year; I strive to be equally confident that I will choose not to worry about them.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Dunedin, NZ
03 Jan, 08:00 PM

It's time to write some goals. Almost.

But first, to settle back in to my Dunedin flat. Calmly. One thing I am learning, or have decided, is that the Year of the Awesome is not about overloading on doing something CRA-ZY and EXTREME! every day. Doing a new adventure sport every day is not only expensive and unsustainable, but it obliterates a whole other class of subtle and free but equally awesome pleasures.

One of my favorite memories of Houston was a day when my roommate* Andy and I both came home on one of those days when the weather was turning fierce, and the humidity was approximately 100%. You could feel the storm coming. We got two cold Shiner Bocks out of the fridge, put on Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain", and sat on the porch, waiting for the rain to hit, watching as it did, until finally the wind was so fierce it was time to go inside.

It may lose something in the retelling, but it was instantly a moment that we'd never forget, unlike hundreds of other rainstorms in Houston I can't recall.

Today I sat in the Christchurch airport, waiting for my delayed flight. It was delayed because of lightning and hail. But I'd deliberately set up my flights so there was no stress on when I arrived (well, as long as it was tonight sometime.) So I alternately read from my current book and practiced taking pictures of the tarmac with the new camera. A non-awesome situation promptly had its non-awesomeness negated.

You can't do intrinsically awesome things all the time. But you can do a lot to increase the awesomeness of normal things.

Time to put on disc 7, make a salad, and write some goals.

*cultural difference: in NZ, this would be "flatmate", as we did not share a room. It's rather strange writing cross-culturally about past events. I have yet to determine the most awesome solution.

YotA Book #1: Hunter S. Thompson, BETTER THAN SEX

I intend to read more this year, because reading is awesome. I will try to write something about every book I read here.

Does Dr. Hunter S. Thompson need an introduction? Quite possibly, if only because his writing is more varied and intelligent than he gets credit for. Being relatively uninterested in reading page after page of drug-addled nonsense, I ignored him for far too long, until, interest piqued by the positive opinions of many intelligent and awesome friends, I picked up The Great Shark Hunt at a used bookstore one vacation. It's the perfect introduction to HST: a sprawling work excerpting everything from serious early journalism to his later gonzo style writing, and it's a satisfying reading on its own.

Better Than Sex is the fourth book I've read by him, falling a good twenty years after Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and returning to the same topic. To be honest, I prefer the earlier book: while HST was deep into his gonzo phase already, he was also on the road, getting the stories, and writing long flowing streams of prose, albeit with his usual tirades, sideways turns, and, well, personal touch.

By the time of this book, narrative flow is replaced by a series of short bursts of writing punctuated with fax pages - his preferred form of communication - all told, creating the (accurate) image of HST as a man hiding in Colorado, watching a political nightmare unfold while blasted off his tits, and spurting out spasms of unshaped genius, free-associating into the depths of conspiracies.

To which I can hear a voice saying: "You're saying that like it's a bad thing." And independently, it's not. Objectively, it's a pretty fascinating book, and certainly worth the time of anyone remotely interested in HST. But overall, despite some genius flights of fancy, I didn't find it as rewarding as his earlier work.

At the end of Better Than Sex, though, is a eulogy for Richard Nixon, if the term can be applied in this case. It's a relentless, relentlessly incisive, brutal piece of writing, and one that lays the sensitive heart of HST bare. Behind the drugs, guns, insanity, and self-caricaturizing was a man who cared more about this country than even his supporters really imagined.

The final paragraph:

He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

The combination of passion, incisiveness, and imagistic obscenity in one short paragraph is Thompson at his greatest, and why he is, well, awesome. I'm saddened to think of what we lost with his suicide: his writing would have provided a fresh, much-welcomed perspective during the Obama/McCain campaign.

Next book: probably McSweeney's THRILLING TALES anthology.

a few notes about an awesome dream.

3 Jan 09
Auckland, NZ, 8:31 AM
np: fridge hum, birdsong

I used to think I never dreamed because I could never remember them, bar one dream around 12 years old where I was flying over my hometown to the comic book store. Then I took a psychology class where we were forced to keep a dream journal, and I managed to remember three dreams that week. Which is about average these days, but I usually forget them instantly, even the awesome ones.

This morning, I remembered a particularly vivid fragment of my dream when I woke up, and started to try to piece everything together.

  • A rotund Michael Moore breaking down a door at a friend's house to retrieve a DVD of ROGER & ME.
  • Robyn Hitchcock performing a live, standup-bass only set at an intimate venue. The version of "Birds in Perspex" still glistens in my head.
  • Japanese saxophonist Kazutoki Umezu performing some conceptual piece that began with six bikini models playing unruly noises on bass saxophones while rolling onstage. Somehow, a tent materialized. I went in, and in the front of the tent (which was massively large) was a hostess who had a 42 Below drink on offer, after which a second drink was queued, after which I would go to the next room and sit with Kazutoki Umezu and ... something would happen. (At which point I woke up)

Dreams are awesome. This one would have been even more awesome if I hadn't spent half of it worrying about paying for parking.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Raglan, NZ
02 Jan, 12:26 AM
np: Radiohead, OK COMPUTER

Spending two hours with Alastair going through over 1000 trip photos, deciding which are awesome, putting them in a iPhoto album and sharing them with Al's mum: awesome.

iPhoto crashing and losing track of what we put in the album before Nicole could see it and before we tweaked all the photos = decidedly NON-AWESOME.

In point of fact, I am completely sick of iPhoto, and if anyone can offer an alternative Mac photo browser that imports existing iPhoto albums, this would greatly increase the amount of awesome in my computing life, particularly as I intend to spend a lot more time playing with photos in 2009, both because of my new camera (a Canon D40, my first digital SLR) and because I'm starting to think of awesome things to do with some of my pictures.

Regardless, there is no way that iPhoto can negate the awesomeness of a day in which I paraglided for the first time.

again, posted belatedly from Auckland because I couldn't be bothered finding a wi-fi spot in Raglan.


or, how I failed to jump out of a plane but still landed in the air

The Year of the Awesome, when conceived, needed a grand sendoff, and the plan for New Year's Day took hold one day in a kebab shop in Dunedin: jumping out of a plane.

I'm not a big believer in the ceremonial, but if any year would be an exception to the rule, it should be this one. And reaching terminal velocity while jumping out of a plane seemed to be the ideal way to shake off the demons of 2008. And, better still, a friend works at a skydiving company in Taupo! I called Alastair, and had a conversation like this:

"What do you think about jumping out of a plane on New Year's Day?"
(pause) "That would be ... awesome."

A simple, elegant plan, and one that came all too easily undone. It turns out that they didn't do dives on January 1st, and with a flight back to Dunedin impending later wasn't realistic. Eventually, begrudgingly, we settled on a date of December 30th, planning a day trip from our retreat in Raglan 3 1/2 hours east for an afternoon dive, then returning that night. I crossed my fingers that 2008's final surprise wouldn't be a parachute failure at 7,000 feet.

And then December 30th came, and the weather was pissy and miserable, and it became obvious it wasn't going to clear up anytime soon. A few texts later, confirming it was the same in Taupo, and that plan was cancelled.

To add insult to injury, around 3 pm the sky cleared and the day was as lovely to hope for. While I didn't confirm the same was the case in Taupo, I suspect it might have been, and we could have skydived after all.


On the 31st, a beautiful day, we went to the beach. Lying in the sun, unconsciously inflicting sunburn upon ourselves, Al paused and said: "We should be up there."

Above us, paragliders.

I went on a lengthy expedition, and finally found a paraglider, a Russian traveler who had already been accosted by an eager Indian who also wanted to fly. The Russian was bemused. He, like the others in the air, had come here on his own, an independent paraglider with no ability or interest in taking others with him.

Defeated, I trundled back, cursing 2008 under my breath, when I noticed three confused-looking people getting out of a van and an older, not-at-all-confused looking guy holding what looked like paragliding equipment.

A brief conversation, a plan set for the next day: mission successful.

Raglan paragliding: takeoff

takeoff, part 2

crossed wires

over the ocean


(Video and more photos to come someday.)


Raglan, NZ
01 Jan, 12:56 AM
np: The Dodos, VISITER

The Year of the Awesome has started auspiciously here in Raglan, where my friend/flatmate/partner in crime Alastair's mother is hosting, him, me, my flatmate/Al's girlfriend Nicole, and some other fine folks. As 2008 dwindled to an end, things looked decidedly non-awesome, thanks to a lack of sleep, a sunburn, and general malaise, including a complete inability to find a mutually satisfying soundtrack for the evening. With an hour to go, however, a soundtrack change to the evening (a compilation of lounge singers - Dean, Frank, Sammy, etc.) boosted the mood, as did strawberries and misc. snacks. The New Year in Raglan was seen in with fireworks, our own soundtrack of Debbie Harry cueing us in. I experimented with the new camera, taking many unusable shots but a few reasonably awesome ones, I believe. A boost of energy, a bit of spontaneous dance invention, quick texts to a few friends and a chat with our absent flatmate Alessandra (seeing the fireworks in Auckland), and then everything chilled out reasonably quickly. Fun without intensive destruction of sleep patterns is, for me, awesome. Probably a sign of being old, but anyway.

The weather turned pissy once the fireworks ended, and hopefully it will clear up tomorrow. Al and I intend to properly inaugurate the New Year by paragliding, but we'll have to wait til the morning to see if that's plausible. In the interim, I will let "Fools" by the Dodos play out, then attempt to sleep with my decidedly horrific sunburn on my shoulders, a last painful lingering reminder of the horrible year of 2008 as I enter the Year of the Awesome.

posted late because of no wi-fi connection in Raglan, or at least none that I felt like looking for.