Friday, March 27, 2009


(I managed to string together four consecutive weekends of awesome music experiences. This one took place in Dunedin on February 27th.)

It started unassumingly enough, at our friend Heather's house in November, where either Karen said to me, or I said to Karen, you know what would be good? A Guided By Voices cover band. An instantly brilliant idea, that seemed predestined to join the heap of many other wonderful ideas I had that would never eventuate.

But this one did. Is there something in the water in Dunedin? Maybe there is. Dunedin is notorious in New Zealand for being the launching ground of hundreds of bands, including many that are uniformly considered to be in the upper tier of NZ's great bands, and others that are more contentious but no less beloved (at least by me). Karen plays in one of them, Onanon, with Donald, who I worked with at NHNZ, but apparently one band wasn't enough for her.

(I'd soon discover that it wasn't enough for me, either.)

And so a month or so later, in an Indian restaurant around the corner from NHNZ, she pulled up a spreadsheet and we worked out which songs we'd try to play, who we'd try to get aboard, and so on. And I realized that if I didn't stop this, this was actually going to happen, and I'd be back behind the drums live for the first time since October 2003.

I didn't stop it, and Donald was sucked into the GBV vortex, and so too was Rob, another Dunedin musician who was passionate enough about GBV that he'd had a custom hoodie made with their name on it, and had actually drunk beers with lead singer Robert Pollard when both were in Osaka. We needed a name, and modeling off the previous successful GBV tribute band I'd seen (Giant Bug Village; the story of the night of the dueling GBV tribute bands is a bit too much to get into at the moment), we decided to keep the acronym. Bouncing off variations on the name until we reached homeostasis of a sort, we arrived at Gelatinous Bleary Vampires, and arranged a tribute night, where like-minded fans could also cover GBV songs. To give us the greatest amount of prep time, we arranged it for my last night in town, February 27th.

But another story runs concurrent to this, where I'd met another NHNZ editor, Chris, and started playing music in the NHNZ basement with him, first in wide-open free jams, and then honing to a small group to try to get a focused sound. Chris enjoyed, as do I, the semi-improvisational song structure, where rhythmic journeys can be interrupted by seismic noise. Ears and sensibilities aligned, we decided we also could play a show; when the date was picked for GBV tribute night, it made sense that we could play as well. Even though we didn't play any GBV songs, somehow I was enough of a connection. As the date approached, our lineup solidified, and we had a second connection: Donald joined our band, which somehow picked up the name The New New Randoms (UK), an elaborate inside joke based on our attempt to name the group The Randoms, only to discover it was taken. Thanks to my trips to Auckland, Don's membership in about three other bands, and limited access to the NHNZ basement, our practices were severely restricted, but we worked out four song structures, mostly for acoustic drums, electric drums, and guitar, with some variation.

The location for the show was a matter of debate. There were a couple options floated, the leading two being a venue in town and Chicks' Hotel, out in Port Chalmers (a 10 km drive from the center of Dunedin; a negligible concern for people from larger places, but a major journey for Dunedinites). I posed a simple question: Which was more awesome?

Chicks' was more awesome, there was no question, and so the show was booked for there.

From my perspective, the show was a big success. Lots of people came, in the end, despite concerns that it would be too much trouble for our friends to get to Port Chalmers. Our co-worker/local singer-songwriter Bill Morris threw in a couple countrified versions of GBV songs, and another trio threw in their versions of "The Official Ironman Rally Song", "My Valuable Hunting Knife", and "Back To The Lake". The New New Randoms (UK) unleashed 20 minutes of smoke machines, strobe lights, audience participation, tongue clicking loops, and general anarchy mixed with enough rhythmic coherence that nobody got too frightened; and Gelatinous Bleary Vampires unleashed a 45-minute set that was full of the hits and lots of instrument swapping from our default line up of me on drums, Karen on bass, and Rob and Don on guitar, and lots of shared singing:

"A Salty Salute" (extended 3-minute version; me on bass, Karen on drums)
"Teenage FBI"
"Watch Me Jumpstart"
"I Am A Scientist"
"Game of Pricks"
"Back To The Lake"
"Alright" (Karen/Doug 2 person version)
"Tractor Rape Chain"
"Surgical Focus"
"Motor Away"
"Hold On Hope"
"Blimps Go 90"
"As We Go Up, We Go Down"
"Atom Eyes" (me on guitar and vocals; Rob on bass; Karen on drums)
"Awful Bliss" (me on guitar and vocals; Karen on bass; Rob on drums)

And then we said goodbye to most of the NHNZ crew, who were ready to tuck in, but we weren't really done playing music, not by a long shot, and decided to give another go at some of our favorites, jamming out extended versions, different tempos, what have you, and rolled on until we were done.

And then we said goodbye to each other, not just for the night but for the foreseeable future, and I went home, at a surprisingly reasonable hour, a small mercy given my journey to Christchurch the next day, and I decided I must never again go 5 1/2 years without playing music live.

Monday, March 23, 2009


(I managed to string together four consecutive weekends of awesome music experiences. This one took place in Auckland on February 20th.)

Unlike David Byrne, I have seen Iron Maiden before. And, sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment. I loved Iron Maiden as a teenager; would always mow the lawn to POWERSLAVE or SOMEWHERE IN TIME, two of my most cherished tapes from the Columbia House music club. And I'd seen LIVE AFTER DEATH, and knew about Iron Maiden's larger-than-life stage antics. So when they arrived in Detroit on the NO PRAYER FOR THE DYING tour and announced they were going to go "back to basics", and proceeded to play their set with a minimum of stage fare, I felt like I'd missed out. Sure, they were fine musically (well, except for the bit where Bruce Dickinson lost his voice on "Run To The Hills"), but what I wanted was to have my mind blown.

I haven't thought a lot about Iron Maiden since then. Like many musical loves from my teenage years, they were indiscriminately tossed aside when I discovered punk rock and college radio. But I always would smile when I heard them in passing, and would tend to discover that a disproportionate number of my friends also grew up on Iron Maiden, and never lost respect for them. I mean, yeah, they're a heavy metal band, but they write 13-minute songs based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge poems! And their singer is not only a fencing champion, but a professional pilot, flying the Iron Maiden jet and even occasionally rescuing people when extra planes are needed and he's not on stage!

And then there's the fact that they're IRON MAIDEN. This cannot be understated, and it's more than just a tautology. It doesn't mean anything to be, say, Metallica, not in the same way, because Metallica twenty-five years ago was a very different enterprise, one that would have been embarrassed by what they've turned into. What makes Maiden different - and more awesome, in my scientific opinion - is that Iron Maiden has never strayed from what they are. They don't say, okay, now it's time for a ballad, or let's add keyboards, or play with a symphony orchestra. They're geeks who love fantasy, war stories, sci-fi, and horror, and mine it relentlessly for material, then set to music played with a deep ear for musical theory that they render almost invisible to anyone who's not into theory. And they've maintained a graphical identity, not just with their logo, but with their mascot Eddie, that's incredibly popular. I've never been to a show, ever, where so many of the people were wearing shirts by the headlining band. Here, it was 80%, easily.

Prefatory ramble done and dusted, how was the show? Freaking awesome. Earlier showers in the day had left me fearful, but they parted and we got to our standing area location ten minutes before the band started; perfect timing. (Some rain happened later; mostly, it evaporated before it landed on us, the air around us was so steamy.) A video intro, and then into "Aces High", the first track off of POWERSLAVE. A huge stage with multiple levels, fireworks, pyrotechnics, various scrims with images off their various records (and, for the 13-minute rendition of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", a ship's deck), myriad and sundry wardrobe changes for Bruce Dickinson (a British army coat for "The Trooper", some crazy Egyptian mask for "Powerslave", and so on), and even a 12-foot puppet Eddie (SOMEWHERE IN TIME-era) for the climax.

And the song selection! I knew going in that this was largely pulling from my favorite era of Maiden, but I wasn't fully expecting that, given that I hadn't heard a new Maiden album since 1990, there would only be one song that I hadn't heard before ("Fear of the Dark", which I think hit in 1992 or something; an epic piece that instantly earned its place on the crowded setlist). "Two Minutes To Midnight"; "Wasted Years"; "Number of the Beast"; and, of course, "Run To The Hills". (Which a smiling Bruce Dickinson introduced by saying "If you don't know this one, you're in the wrong place.)

It was an expensive show and a big stress getting back to Auckland for the show (I flew back to Dunedin the day after the David Byrne show for work), and every moment of stress and frustration was wiped clean. My inner 13-year hasn't been so happy in years.

Friday, March 20, 2009

An Incredibly Scary Thing I'll Probably Do Again

So, between my last day in Dunedin and my scheduled ferry to Wellington at the start of March, I had a week to kill. Originally, my plan was to visit Stewart Island, which had eluded me my whole time in Dunedin. For those not in the know, Stewart Island is south of New Zealand's South Island, a mostly unpopulated wildlife paradise. Also, by virtue of being closer to Antarctica than the rest of New Zealand, pretty cold. And as the end of February approached, and Dunedin evinced a complete inability to produce even a halfway decent excuse for a summer, I decided I was freaking sick of the cold, and that it was time to head north.

Where to? Golden Bay is a perennial favorite, and was on the table for a while, but surely there was someplace new I could go. Akaroa is on the Banks Peninsula, southeast of Christchurch, and off the beaten path. I'd only ever wind up there if I was farting around in the South Island with time to kill and could easily afford the time for a sideways detour.

Yep, that fit the bill. And so, after a detour for my friend Andrew's birthday in Christchurch (a late-night double feature of grindhouse absurdities), I headed out there.

Akaroa is not incredibly scary. But as I arrived, mostly with the plan of sleeping a lot, I started forming the balance of my plan, which was to get my advanced scuba certification in order to be able to dive shipwrecks while in Vanuatu. Which meant heading further north to the Marlborough Sounds, an area I'd never explored at all. In amidst sleeping, hiking, and nice meals, I called ahead to book my course, with a dive shop that also dives the biggest post-Titanic shipwreck, the Mikhail Lermentov. As it turned out, the boat wasn't doing the Lermentov the Wednesday or Thursday - which, truth be told, was pretty fine with me because, not having dived for 2 1/2 years, I wasn't remotely prepared to do a challenging dive - but I could do the course those two days. Sounded great. Sounded like a plan.

So I arrive in Picton and pick up my advanced text, and have a brief chat, and learn that, in fact, we ARE diving the Lermentov, because the people who had wanted to go on Tuesday couldn't go because of bad weather. So I'll be diving it the next day. Still tired, I read the requisite coursework about wreck diving and deep diving, most of which reads to me like YOU CAN DIE SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS IT'S NOT FUNNY blah blah DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER DOING A PENETRATION DIVE UNLESS YOU KNOW YOUR SHIT AMAZINGLY WELL blah blah LIKE REALLY ALL THIS IS INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS, WE'RE NOT KIDDING blah blah OH BY THE WAY, IT'S EVEN MORE DANGEROUS IF YOU HAVE ANXIETY OR ARE FATIGUED OR INEXPERIENCED.

So I have anxiety about being fatigued and inexperienced, and then have anxiety about having anxiety, and manage to wake up every single hour between 1 am and 6 am, and get picked up at 7:15. Meet the other divers, load up the truck, take everything down to the boat, take the boat out.

On the way out, the light is beautiful, transformative. Any idea that I had made a mistake is lost from my mind, watching reddish-gold light reflected off the waters. Suddenly, the boat drops to a near-halt. Our laconic captain informs us that there's traffic. I look in front of the boat: dolphins. All around us, groups of dolphins, jumping in and out of the water. In the distance, a playful dolphin trying to keep up with the passenger ferry as it comes into the bay. I had passed up the chance to pay money to go see dolphins on a boat in Akaroa, for reasons not entirely clear to me at the time, but subconsciously I remembered: go out for a scuba dive, and you get all that for free.

And after we resumed our trip, and reached the tail end of the 2-hour boat trip to the Lermentov wreck, I was informed that we'd be doing a penetration dive on the Lermentov.

I should probably pause to mention what a penetration dive is, though perhaps it's obvious: basically, a penetration dive is any dive on a wreck where you go inside the wreck. In the case of the Lermentov, most of its structure is still there, minus a lot of missing windows; it just happens to be on its side (well, and at the bottom of the ocean, but you knew that). The deepest point we hit on it was about 26 meters; I'm sure there's deeper parts.

I should also repeat a couple key phrases from my text (paraphrased), running through my head:

I should also mention that I do not consider myself a lucky diver, thus far. When I did my training, we learned various procedures for air emergencies. I asked my instruction how often she used them; she said she'd been on 100 dives and never had to use them.

My buddy had an air emergency on my very first post-training dive. Which is to say: when people talk about the worst shit that can happen on dives, I don't think "Oh, that's something that will never happen"; I think "Wow, that's another thing that could happen".

If everything inside me wasn't clenched like a drum, I probably would in fact have shit my pants.

Do I go? Of course I go. Of all the stupid things that I let fear paralyze me from doing, backing out of activities I've spent money on isn't one of them. Some part of me, that I rely on for moments like this, takes over the body and just goes through the preparation autonomously; and the boat captain has dived this wreck hundreds if not thousands of times, and assures me that as long as I stay right by him, everything will be fine.

And so, five of us descend, 26 meters, to our entry point to the Lermentov.

What none of us knew, before we went down, was just how bad the visibility would be. Visibility is highly variable, and the single variable that can separate a great diving day from a bad one. Particulate matter in the water can do a lot to reduce visibility. And on this day, the visibility on the Lermentov was about 5 meters. Put differently, roughly 2 1/2 body lengths.

Another little scuba fun fact. Generally, everybody starts with the same amount of air, but not everybody goes through it at the same rate. Lots of different factors, but a huge one is inexperience. If you're unnecessarily panicked (because, say, you're under 25 FUCKING METERS OF WATER AND INSIDE A SHIPWRECK AND HAVEN'T DIVED FOR 2 1/2 YEARS), you are apt to breathe heavier as well.

Conversely, on a deep dive, you can't come up particularly quickly, because you need time to decompress, so you have to have a decompression stop. Now this stop does have air, if you need it; you just have to be comfortable taking out your regulator and putting in another one. For experienced people, I'm sure, ain't no thang.

All of this is to put you in my shoes as the five of us enter the swimming deck of the Mikhail Lermentov, turned on its side. Ahead of us, a bar on its side. As we get close, I can see the one remaining bar stool that's still attached. And then, per our plan, we go up - which, in terms of boat layout, is sideways - to the deck at the side of the craft.

Which is windowed in.

And as I guzzle air, and we swim along, and I can barely see past my instructor in front of me, I realize I have no idea how long we're going to be in here, or how I'm going to get out if something goes wrong. We pass under window after window, but they all seem to be intact.

I eye my gauge warily. It's going down. Too quickly for my liking. How far do we have to go?

But wait for a moment. Because this narrative is oversimplified. To say this is an exercise in fear is accurate but incomplete. It is also an exercise in beauty. The beauty of decay is something I love; I take heaps of pictures of rusted and demolished things everywhere I go. The beauty of light through water is something else I love. And here are both, and as we pass through, and fish pass atop the windows I swim under, and light bounces off the silt in front of me, and as I look at the ship walls, walls I can already barely recall in the face of the surreality of the whole experience, I appreciate it is all, despite the compromised visibility, incredibly beautiful.

Which doesn't keep me from imagining horrific outcomes.

Finally, we reach an escape point. There's another passageway, going down into the ship, into darkness. (I should mention I'm the only one without a flashlight, on the entirely reasonable grounds that being the least experienced I'd be the most likely to drop it.) The captain and I briefly confer, with the limited sort of sign language and sharing of displays that's symptomatic of underwater communication, and I make it clear that I think I'm going to run out of air if I stay down, or at least make it clear that I want to go back up. (If we could talk, I would have said "How far is the next bit and do you seriously think I have enough air for it?". In lieu of that, I wasn't about to take a chance. So the rest of our party continues and, after our decompression stop, I come to the surface, still with about 70 bar left. (I left with 200 bar; generally, surfacing at 30 bar is a good target.) I talk with the captain, he says it's the worst he's seen visibility on the Lermentov this year, and is convinced we should do the second dive of the day elsewhere.

In the day and a half since then, I've done four more dives, including two on other shipwrecks, and now have my advanced certification. And the paralyzing fear has largely dissipated, replaced by imagining how I could handle the Lermentov with more skills under my belt and in better visibility. As I said goodbye today, I mentioned that I'd love to see it sometime with better visibility. Brent, the captain, said September's a great time for visibility.

Somehow, I'm actually considering it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Awesomecation Postcard #2: Brisbane International Airport

Radiohead and latte machines are in the background and I am on the Internet. This is suddenly alien, because three nights ago I was in the outback, kinda. Chillagoe is an awesome place at the edge of nowhere with caves, an abandoned smelter, no Internet, lots of kangaroos (they get everywhere, even infesting the graveyard - to quote Mitch Hedberg, cutest infestation ever), and generally about as much outback feel as you can get without renting a 4x4 and doing river crossings.

In about an hour my plane for Vanuatu boards, and I'll be heading to Louganville, in Espiritu Santo. It's a diving hub, and our first 2-3 days will be spent diving. The grail is an old wreck called the USS Coolidge, but it remains unclear how much of it we'll be able to see with our limited experience. But there are numerous other dive sites, both wrecks and reefs, and the notable Million Dollar Point, home of thousands of kilos of weapons and machinery dumped into the sea after WWII.

Apparently there are a few Internet cafes in Louganville, and even more in Port Vila. Whether they operate at anything resembling a reasonable rate remains to be seen. Wow, that's a lot of r's in a row. It's really early. Breakfast time!

Monday, March 16, 2009


(I managed to string together four consecutive weekends of awesome music experiences. This one took place in Auckland on February 14th.)

Seeing David Byrne is something I've had a chance to do before, and avoided. I'm a huge Talking Heads fan - STOP MAKING SENSE is firmly in my top ten albums of all time (will post full list if anyone cares), and he's had his solo moments, but the idea of seeing him do stuff from just the solo albums seemed like it had to be, necessarily, disappointing.

But when the latest tour was announced, and songs from classic-era Talking Heads albums like FEAR OF MUSIC, REMAIN IN LIGHT, and SPEAKING IN TONGUES was guaranteed, I decided it was worth taking the plunge (even springing for a flight to Auckland).

What I didn't know at the time I bought my ticket was that David Byrne had just realized what would turn out to be my second favorite album of 2008. With the help of Brian Eno, EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY knocked me in the stomach with an unexpected helping of heartfelt emotion when I first put it on; combining gospel and soul elements with Eno-style electronics and plaintive Byrne melodies, plus an emotional directness to the lyrics. Go find "Home" somewhere if you can. It was the song I was most looking forward to by the time the concert rolled around, even more than any Talking Heads material.

"Home" did not get played. That this was barely a disappointment is partially due to the fact that I'd snuck a peek at a previous set list, but it was largely due to the fact that, apart from a great selection of material, the show was one of the best concert experiences of my life. Byrne came with, in addition to a standard backing band, three backing singers and three modern dancers. In general, the choreography of the dancers was very relaxed and naturalistic; evocative without being incomprehensible, and often deeply playful. Byrne would seem to stand alone from the antics, but then would have his legs positioned just right to allow a dancer to slide through, or turn his back just in time for a dancer to springboard off it, or fall backwards and let a dancer catch him.

(A side note for Talking Heads fans: it's amazing how much Byrne has changed as a performer since the STOP MAKING SENSE days. I love that movie, but Byrne is the inscrutable intellectual at the center of it, standoffish, making it seem that everything is quite deep, never admitting pleasure. These days, while Byrne hasn't lost his sensibility, he's deepened it with a straightforward joy, smiling often, taking simple pleasure in what he does. I can understand someone saying they don't "get" STOP MAKING SENSE; I can't understand somebody saying they didn't "get" this show.)

Is it heresy for me to say I enjoyed this more than I would have enjoyed a hypothetical Talking Heads reunion show? Possibly. But no Tom Tom Club, no late-era mediocrities included for the sake of balance, no simmering resentment on stage, and a whole new collection of great songs (including some, like "I Feel My Stuff", that really came alive on stage in a way they didn't on record); and I still got up to dance to "Burning Down The House". Plus we got "Once In A Lifetime", "Heaven" (with special guest Neil freakin' Finn), "I Zimbra", "Houses In Motion", "The Great Curve", "Life During Wartime", "Take Me To The River", "Crosseyed and Painless" ... and left with the sad beauty of "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today", a lullaby to a night of joy that left us speechless.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Awesomecation Virtual Postcard #1: Cape Tribulation, Australia.

Hello from the incredibly inaccurately named Cape Tribulation, resting in the shadows of Mt. Sorrow. I can only assume that James Cook had some bad news from his girlfriend or some such when he landed here, because this place is awesome, crocodiles, poisonous spiders, and all.

A rough thumbnail of what I've done since I got here:

WEDNESDAY: Arrived in Cairns. Got picked up by Randy. Hit a beach, discovered a local barman who directed us to a swimming hole under a waterfall. We found, we swam. Ate dinner. Slept early.

THURSDAY: Had a leisurely morning in Cairns. Checked out indoor zoo, saw lovely fatal things from behind plexiglass and the like. Headed up the coast, stopped at Barron Falls, a very seasonal falls that was very active. Can't wait to show you the pictuures. Made it to Port Douglas in the afternoon, checked in, leisurely evening around town. Ate kangaroo. It was kind of like gamey beef. Probably won't have it again.

FRIDAY: Scuba diving day 1! On Opal Reef (boat was Calypso). Visibility wasn't ideal as a cyclone passed nearby not too long ago, but was still THE GREAT BARRIER REEF, and full of heaps of amazing coral, iridescent fishes of many sizes, small nudibranches, and just general overwhelmingness.

SATURDAY: Scuba diving day 2! On Agincourt Reef this time, and a completely great day of diving. Helped to have a day to get comfortable under water, but then we saw so many special things: a sea turtle quietly feeding, a giant Maori wrasse, sharks, clownfish ... on and on. And I did my first drift dive ever. Fantastic day.

SUNDAY: Drive up Queensland to Cape Tribulation, deep in the rainforest. Stopped at the Discovery Centre along the way (unnecessary and overpriced; avoid). Did much more interesting bush walks, a crocodile-hunting river cruise (saw one at a distance, but the mangroves were worth price of admission) made our way to our paradiscal lodging at the Cape Tribulation Farmstay, and headed up to Emmagen Creek, a beautiful stunning freshwater swimming hole refreshingly free of deadly things.

MONDAY: Tropical fruit breakfast. Walk along the beach. Find $50 in the sand. Go back to Emmagen Creek, take pictures, snorkel, find fresh water turtle. Head back down, go to special tropical fruit tasting thing which is surprisingly AWESOME. Then to internet cafe/bar and here I am.

Hope you all are awesome.

Friday, March 13, 2009


In this book, the word "decoy" means "person". A person is always camouflage for something small and soft and possibly buriable.

A one-sentence review: this may be my favorite book I've ever read, and I'm not sure I can recommend it to anybody I know.

Okay, a bit more. Ben Marcus wrote another book I loved, THE AGE OF WIRE AND STRING, a perplexing book written as a series of brief essays where ordinary words are repurposed for different uses to unlikely and surprisingly evocative results. Unlike many of his peers, Marcus doesn't write sentences with particularly difficult words or structures; he writes sentences that are difficult because they raid our vocabulary for such unexpected results, and rewarding in equal measure to their unexpectedness.

Which may lead you to ask what the fuck am I talking about. Fair enough. For instance, a brief excerpt from a subsection of NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN, the second (and thus far only other) novel by Marcus, by turns more conventional and much more deeply strange, called System Requirements:

This book is unfortunately designed for people. People are considered as areas that resist light, mistakes in the air, collision sweet spots. At the time of this writing, the whole world is a crime scene: People eat space with their bodies; they are rain decayers; the wind is slaughtered when they move. A retaliation is probably coming.

The paragraph continues, but it's worth noting here, apart from the awesomeness of this writing as stand-alone arbitrary brilliance, that unlike many practitioners of contemporary literature, Marcus isn't just throwing some amusing shit against the wall to see what sticks. I had no idea the first time I read this, but virtually every idea in these sentences is refracted elsewhere in the book.

The lead character of the book is named Ben Marcus, and two of the other lead characters are his parents; one of them, his father, is being kept underground in the back yard while he is assaulted with language through a tube, and the opening diatribe is written from his point of view; the closing epistle, meanwhile, is written from the point of view of his mother, who outlines her parenting plans for Ben (and her husband's enforced role in them), amidst her attempt to achieve true silence.

That probably doesn't make much sense, nor would it make much sense to tell you that many pages are devoted to stuffing different fabrics into mouths to absorb emotions, the medical effects of various names upon Ben's sister, or instructions on proper diet while reading the novel.

Does this all sound silly? Occasionally it is; I laughed out loud, quite a few times. But it's also a deeply sad, passionately felt questioning of the entire enterprise of self-improvement and other-improvement, of the scientific method; of what we do to each other and how we do it.

All that said, I can't imagine that most people I know would be excited to stick with it; it hurt my brain deeply during the opening half, trying to adjust to reading normal sentences that didn't seem to make a damn bit of sense, and I fully appreciate why most would not mistake that for pleasure. But if anyone has read it or does read it, let me know what you thought, and if you found it as awesome as I did.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Awesomecation: A Brief Overview

In a normal year, a trip across New Zealand, with stop-offs in Marlborough Sound for wreck diving, Akaroa for chilling out, Wellington for jazz festival, and New Plymouth for Len Lye sculpture seeing, plus two of the best movies I've seen in ages (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and HUNGER) and one of the most amazing, entrancing failures I'll ever see (WATCHMEN - I mean every word of that as a compliment, and could go on for ages about it), travelling with my good friend Jonny, would be a great vacation.

But this is the Year of the Awesome, and therefore that is the prelude.

Tomorrow I fly to Australia for the Awesomecation, with my friend Ransom (who I met in Portland and now lives in LA). It looks roughly like this, with the caveat that part of the nature of the Awesomecation is leaving room to find out awesome things on the ground rather than overplanning and not having room for unexpected awesome:

11 March - W
arrive in CAIRNS
get over jet lag

12 - 14 March - Th - Sa night
go diving

15 - 16 March - Su - Mo
exploring beautiful coastal land, more diving?

17 March - Tu, 18 March - W - TBD
exploring inland Australia - Tablelands? Outback?

19 March - Th
return to CAIRNS fly to -> BRISBANE
(just a brief overnight so we're well positioned for next day flight)

20- 25 March - Fr - We
diving, snorkelling, beach lounging, caving

26-27 March - Th-Fr
fly to -> TANNA, VANUATU
see another island! volcano! cargo cult! more!

28 March - 1 April - Sa - Th
to the big, action packed island! not even sure what we're doing, too many awesome options - figure it out as we go.

2-3 Apr - Th - Fr
in the evening. day or two in Brisbane to rejoin civilization, check out a zoo, chillax.

4 Apr - Sa
back home! for real!


reports and general Internet connectivity will be scarce, I assume. Will post virtual postcards when I can, and will try to set up some auto-publishing on some retrospective posts on some of the awesome activities that I've enjoyed this year tonight.

Take care.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

the briefest summation of previous and forward-looking awesome.

Saturday, Christchurch, Andrew's birthday double feature of THE PSYCHO LOVER and THE ORACLE: AWESOME
Sunday, Christchurch, MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D: mind-numbingly stupid except for the gratutious use of 3-D in pickax murders etc. which was AWESOME
Monday, Akaroa, chilling out, catching up on sleep, and having amazing meal at Ma Maison: AWESOMELY RELAXING
today, Picton, Dive on the Marlborough Sound of the shipwreck Mikhail Lermentov: THE SCARIEST THING I'VE DONE IN MY LIFE AND COMPLETELY AWESOME

tomorrow: more diving
Fri-Sun: jazz fest, Wellington
Mon: New Plymouth
Tue: Auckland
Wed: fly to Australia for three weeks of awesome with Randy in Queensland and Vanuatu!
and then: fly back to Auckland, get back to work, start making movie!

Expect updates to be scarce, I will try to write some more detailed things when I don't have to learn about enriched air diving immediately!