Wednesday, July 27, 2011

See You Zeg / Covers Playlist / Koru Milo / NZ Post Book Awards

Georgia on my mind

The other day I received an email from a friend currently teaching English in Georgia (the country in Eurasia rather than the US State) trying to introduce a Georgian word into English usage, at least amongst his circle of friends back here.
  • zeg = (n) day after tomorrow, in two days time.
Its brevity appeals. I also rather like the sound of it. ‘See you zeg.’ Sounds kinda hepcat, kinda Brave New World.

In my brave new world of working Monday-Tuesday and writing full-time Wednesday-Sunday, I’m often losing track of which day of the week it is. So promising to check the oil and water zeg means I can gloss over the fact I can’t remember if it’s Thursday or Friday.

Bi-fold playlist for a week in which you doubt your own originality

Side A: Originals Whose Fame Has Been Surpassed By Covers
Torn – Ednaswap
Nothing Compares 2 U – The Family
Tainted Love – Gloria Jones
Mad World – Tears for Fears

Side B: Covers That Make Being Not Entirely Original Seem Cool
You’ll Never Walk Alone – Gerry And The Pacemakers 
It Ain’t Me Babe - Jan and Dean 
Throw Your Arms Around Me – Neil Finn 
The Letter – Joe Cocker

Side C: Spotlight on Manfred Mann (& Manfred Mann’s Earth Band)
Do Wah Diddy 
Quinn The Eskimo 
Blinded By The Light
For You

Side D: Hey Joe. Hey Joe? Hey Joe! Hey, Joe? Hey! Joe!
Hey Joe - The Byrds 
Hey Joe - Patty Smith
Hey Joe - Brant Bjork
Hey Joe - Tim O’Brien

Kiwi As

What's more New Zealand than a koru pattern in a mug of Milo?
(And yes, my desk is normally this messy)

2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards

Tonight the winners of the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards were announced. Thanks to the live tweeter from the NZ Book Council (@nzbookcouncil) I can tell you that winners in the four categories were:

*  General non-fiction: Chris Bourke - Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of NZ Popular Music 1918-1964
Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918-1964

*  Illustrated non-fiction: Damian Skinner - The Passing World: The Passage of Life: John Hovell and the Art of Kowhaiwhai (also winner of most coloned title)
The Passing World, the Passage of Life: John Hovell and the Art of Kowhaiwhai

*  Poetry: Kate Camp - The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls
The Mirror of Simple
Annihilated Souls

*  Fiction: Laurence Fearnley - The Hut Builder
The Hut Builder

Chris Bourke's Blue Smoke also won the people's choice award... and the Book of the Year (so he cleaned up, basically). Congrats to Chris!

The short-lists for each category can be found here.

As I post this, there haven't been any press releases on the winners (embargoed until 10pm I think), so I'm like, totally breaking news here for you non-Twitters.  (The first book award winners were announced ages ago; press release here).

And now for the comment portion of this mini-post: Meh. It's late, I'm going to bed (before I say anything that I might regret; if not tomorrow, maybe zeg, or the day after zeg).

Friday, July 22, 2011

National Poetry Day 2011

Today is National Poetry Day in Aotearoa / New Zealand. There are plenty of events on in towns around the country, but for those of you looking for an instant fix, here's a poem from me:


The Sherlock Holmes of the Body
Eugen Sandow / Friederich Mueller (1867-1925)

He flexed on film for Thomas Edison
And wrote books with Conan Doyle
But it is in photographs,
Of which there are plenty,
That the shadow of Sandow is closest to
The man who willed himself into marble.

Take this one, from the Chicago World’s Fair.
See him dusted with chalk, posing in a box
Lined with a coffin’s black velvet,
Emulating Hercules or David or Samson
(the caption doesn’t say),
In a cheetah print loin cloth.
How much like death these photos.
How much like myth
Or like perfection.

And like all myths, all deaths,
All flashes of perfection,
One cannot stare too long
       the grain emerges
             the backdrop sags
                   the moustache irks.
So let us flick through quickly
Then pull the shade on Eugen Sandow.
Give the marble god a chance to blink.


You can see Sandow posing on Edison's Kinescope strip from 1894 here.

I wrote the first (much longer) draft of this poem back in 2008 when I was working on a series of poems based on Vaudeville and freak show entertainers from the late nineteenth / early Twentieth Century. In researching Sandow, I learnt he toured New Zealand for six weeks in 1902-03. The man was a sensation long before the days of YouTube and his visit was built up to such an extent that one woman in Wellington was famously overhead proclaiming: "Why, he's just a man!"

An early section of the novel I'm currently working focusses on the arrival of Harry Rickards' Vaudeville Company (also known as the Number 3 Company), of which Sandow was the headliner, to a small South Island town.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Slightly Peculiar Love Stories

'...the story of love fulfilled is no story at all; it’s in the gap between longing and completion that the narrative appears' -- Penelope Todd in the foreword to Slightly Peculiar Love Stories

As of 5.30pm NZT yesterday, y'all can buy a copy of Slightly Peculiar Love Stories in your preferred eBook format from Rosa Mira Books.

SPLS features stories from 21 authors from New Zealand, Israel, the Philippines, the UK, the USA, Greece, Argentina, and Hong Kong, including Tania Hershman, Tim Jones, Tina MakeretiMaxine Alterio and Sue Wootton.

Oh, and me!

My story, 'Statues', was written specifically for the anthology and may be more than slightly peculiar (an Italian farmer falls in love with the statue in his town's piazza). I wrote about the inspiration behind the story on Rosa Mira's blog last month.

Monday, July 18, 2011

All weeks are not created equal

Playlist for the week just been...

Nothing Ever Happens - Del Amitri
Nothing To Say - The Kinks
Nothing - Nada Surf (bonus points)
Nothing From Nothing - Billy Preston
William, It Was Really Nothing - The Smiths
Nothing Ever Happens Down Here - Gerry Rafferty
Nothing Ever Happens - Manfred Mann
Nothin' - Townes Van Zandt
Nothing Ever Happened - Deerhoof

And the song that was actually stuck in my head today but turns out doesn't have 'nothing' in the title:

Not all weeks are as interesting as the one described in my previous post. Take last week for example. No wildlife encounters or research expeditions outside the confines of my home office. No public appearances. No home videos worthy of posting on YouTube.

About all I can share is this link, which'll let you watch my panel discussion with Richard Glover, Brendan Cowell and Mark Dapin on ‘bromance’ from the Sydney Writers’ Festival back in May. (I actually knew about this prior to my last post and could have included it in my interesting week rather than my uneventful week, but I forgot). Thanks to the ABC (Australia) for making this and a number of other interesting sessions from SWF2011 available online.

What else? Um, I went to an engagement party on Saturday and didn’t know many people there. Word filtered back to me that someone was like, ‘Where do I know the guy over there standing next to the girl in the red top from?’ And one of the engagee was like, ‘That’s Craig Cliff, he’s—', and the guy was like, ‘The dude from the paper.’ He was then too shy to turn around for the rest of the night. I guess that means I’m famous, right?

Of course, the great thing about boring, uneventful weeks is that there’s plenty of time for writing. After a brief interlude in the present, I’m back in 1903. I should be finished with 1903 by the end of this week, then it’s back-back to 1869, the year the Suez Canal opened and the tea clipper trade collapsed, before whizzing through to 1921 (or possibly 1919…).

Things will heat up again the end of August when I'm off to Going West Festival in Titirangi, then Melbourne Writers' Festival the next weekend.  Not sure what I'm doing at Going West, but last I heard I was doing a reading with a bunch of other newer writers in Melbourne, then being on a panel called "New NZ Fiction" with Eleanor Catton. The festival programme may or may not read: "How do two of NZ's rising stars see the state of fiction in their country? Hear from award-winning writers Eleanor Catton and Craig Cliff as they discuss their books, and their relationship with fiction." Hmm, I think that calls for a reshuffle of the pile of books on my bedside cabinet.

The good news (in it's own strange way) is that I will still have the anticipation before reading Timequake for a couple more months...
Tim DoyleGot to Be Kind

Monday, July 11, 2011

The younger people with the ache of youth were eating all the cheese

The title of today’s post is a line from ‘Somewhere Else’ by Grace Paley. The rest of this post is stuff I’ve been up to over the last week (and has nothing to do with cheese).

Kay One Double-Ewe One

On Tuesday evening I went to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (aka Zealandia) to observe a researcher recording kiwi calls for a Dom Post column I’m writing. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a kiwi without a pane of glass between us (I saw five; the closest was probably a forty centimetres from my foot). It was also the first time I’ve been called upon to use radio telemetry (I picked it up quickly, apparently). I will withhold my ra-ra ‘the sanctuary is a precious asset’ carry-on for Your Weekend in a little under three weeks.

Appetite for Deconstruction

On Thursday evening I graced the podium at the Brooklyn Masonic Lodge. Twas a strange old place, secluded up a winding drive, the main hall had a small square dance floor (3m x 3m maybe) in the centre for post-initiation jigs and burning Dan Brown books (I guess).

But no goats were slaughtered on Thursday. There weren’t even any secret handshakes. No, I was there along with poet Jenny Bornholdt, children’s writer Philippa Werry and TradeMe guru and columnist Mike O’Donnell to talk about “Appetites” (however we chose to take that theme) in a fundraising evening for Brooklyn School.

The event was chaired by Radio National’s Kathryn Ryan (it was strange to hear her, let alone see hear, outside of the 9-noon window). There was mulled wine (it was a howling southerly), nibbles and a raffle (M. came along and won third prize: result!). Funds raised from the evening went toward buying books for the year ones and twos. Philippa Werry quoted Mario Vargas Llosa’s Nobel acceptance speech where he said that learning to read was the most important thing that ever happened to him. True, true.

I spoke about my appetite for basketball, which was stoked by the rejection encountered as a third former (Year 9) when I didn’t make one of my school’s three basketball squads, and how this passion is essentially the same as my passion for writing (basketball as a 13-year-old involved a lot of making up stories on my driveway while I wore through another nylon net, with regular doses of rejection when ever I came too close to the real world). To frame this discussion I read from my story-in-progress (or story-for-which-progress-stalled-some-time-ago) ‘The Wishing Cave’, which I included in my Abandoned Blog Posts post last month.

Time’s A Goon

On Friday I signed 1,020 stickers for the Commonwealth Foundation. The stickers will be stuck inside copies of A Man Melting (if they end up buying 1,020 that’ll do wondrous things to my sales figures) for the head of the Commonwealth Foundation to give as gifts (along with 2011 Best Book winner, A Memory of Love) to ambassadors and other embassy-types.

[Aside: In an abandoned passage from an abandoned novel, I once wondered what if every reproduction of a famous painting, say Lady with an Ermine, was another pair of eyes for the original artwork, which by virtue of it being a masterpiece possessed a kind of sentience. What would Lady with an Ermine conclude about humanity from its 1,000 vantage points and four centuries of surveillance? How would this differ from The Madonna of The Rocks' views? I was reminded of this 'What If' when considering what sort of hands my book might end up as a result of this Commonwealth Foundation gifting. Wouldn't it be a funky art project to install tiny spycams in the spine of each book and watch the goings on in consulate drawing rooms (and oxfam second hand stores)? Yes, but unfortunately it'd also be considered espionage.]

My brother flexed his photograpic muscle and made this timelapse film of my 67 minute signing vigil (an average of one signature every 3.97 seconds), complete with tracking shots and sunset over the bays, Kilbirnie and Miramar.

I asked Damien Wilkins if we could use a song off The Close Readers’ fabulous album, Group Hug. He replied: ‘Another of my goals achieved: to be background music!’ The song used is: 'What Did I Do Right?'. You can find out more about the Close Readers and buy their album here.

You know how sometimes your activities over a given period are coloured by the book you’re reading at the time (and how the book is coloured by what’s going on around you)? Well, the compression of 67 minutes of mindless, OOS-risking activity into a 1:17 timelapse seems to me emanently linked to the theme of A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, which I blogged about yesterday.

Below Ground Above Karori

On Saturday I went on a tour of the Wrights Hill Fortress, which was built hastily during WWII when fears of a Japanese invasion were at their peak. The tour was a tie-in with Wayne Barrar’s exhibition of underground photos from around the world, ‘An Expanding Subterra’ which is on at the Wellington City Gallery until this weekend. Barrar was there with his camera and tripod, but the tour was led by Mike Lee, the chairman of the society looking after and restoring the fortress.

 The complex is surprisingly huge. So huge that Lee and his dedicated team have only managed to restore one of the three gun placements (though no guns as they were sold as scrap to Japan (!!) in the 1960s) since 1989. We were also taken to the unrestored parts and the contrast was huge. I really hope that the unrestored parts remain that way. The wetas also seemed to prefer the decayed to the done-up.

If you’re looking for better photography than my snapshots, you should check out my brother’s new blog (he’s good with the photoshop, not so much with the proof reading; when our powers combine, we are Captain Blogger).

The Vestigial Ess

I’m not one of those editor-types who knows the hard and fast rules of grammar and keeps a copy of Strunk and White beside my PC. In musical terms, I learnt to write all proper-like by ear. As a result my foundations are always shifting. I go through phases with punctuation: at the moment I am emerging from a reliance on em-dashes (and finding room for parentheses); I once vowed never to use a semi-colon.
At the moment, without any scientific basis or proclamation from a higher authority, I find myself removing the terminal “s” from words such as “towards”, “besides”, and “backwards”. This is a recent evolution of my move away from “whilst” to “while”.

[Aside: There a dude who runs training courses at work who says “while-ist” which is incredibly distracting when you’re trying ever-so-hard to focus on what’s new in Microsoft Office 2007; it’s also inefficient.]

The thing is, I still type “whilst” and “towards” most of the time and I’m trying to take note of what I actually say in conversation (unconcious usage being the self-taught grammarian’s bible). But for now it’s farewell to those superfluous susserations and hopefully hello to a cleaner, simpler voice on the page.


On Sunday I spoke with a helicopter pilot and the director of a helicopter training and tour operator at the Lifeflight offices by the airport (they run the Westpac Rescue Helicopter). I had questions to ask about choppers because I’m writing a story for The Griffith Review (“the leading Australian journal of ideas and analysis” according to their own press, but this accords with my knowledge, especially from my time in Australia 2004-2007) sort of on spec. They asked if I had something that fit the theme of their next issue, which is “islands”. I said not really, but I have some unfinished pieces which I could scrub up. They liked the sound of my helicopter story and said I had till the end of July… which meant I needed to get my head around helicopters pronto.

The two guys I spoke to yesterday were generous with their time and most helpful (one even offered to read through what I write, though I'm not sure I'm up for that kind of technical scrutiny). This week I’m going to devote my AMs to chugging on with the novel (Parenthetical Progress Report: going pretty well right now, maybe 15% done with 3.5 months of amazing productivity ahead of me, hohoho) and churning out my chopper story in the PM.

Country and Western (Poetry)

Today (Monday) I walked to Te Papa in my lunch hour (it was surprisingly dry and unblustery) to listen to Jenny Bornholdt, Airini Beautrais and Bernadette Hall read and discuss their latest poetry collections, chaired by Bill Manhire.  It was the first of twelve Writers on Mondays sessions for the year and I hope to make it along to all that I can.

I've been meaning to do a poetry collection / anthology reading summary post since February... It's been so long that I've read two Airini Beautrais collections in that time (Secret Heart and Western Line) and haven't yet raved about them (though I did mention her in my interview on Unity Books' website).

The reading today was a bit, I dunno... umph-less. I'm not sure the experiement to have the other two poets comment on their favourite poems in the collection of the poet who just read worked. There didn't seem much scope for conflict or discussion.

It may have been the audience (and/or the lack of mulled wine), but I felt like Jenny Bornholdt got a lot more laughs on Thursday night; and I was expecting Airini Beatrais' charms and curses from Western Line to kill.
(When I read these poems, I tend to hear Kim Hill's voice rather than Airini's [Radio NZ interview here]; maybe the audience felt similarly confused).

Not a wasted lunchtime venture by any stretch, but something a little short of magic.

Trailing Off
Tomorrow I'm on the 6.30am flight to Auckland for work... School visits: yay! Early start: boo!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Finally, A Visit From The Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

This was a book I have been meaning to read for the last twelve months, ever since it started getting reviewed in the U.S. (e.g. this rave from the NY Times from July ’10), but then I had to wait for it to arrive in New Zealand and other books leap-frogged it in my reading queue.

Reason for my interest #1: In my bottom drawer I have an unpublished quasi-satirical rock'n'roll novel (which doubled as my MA thesis).

Reason for my interest #2: Structure. The book is basically 14 loosely linked chapters focussing of different characters, none of which would really stand up too well as a traditional short story.  The chapters deal with different times (from the 1970's to 2020's, but not necessarily chronologically), different places (mostly the US, but also an African safari and Naples) and employ different narrative approaches (first, second and third person narrators; faux-journalism; a girl's diary in powerpoint slides). How does something like this work? And why would something like this be attempted?

I now have some answers.

One could say the hub of the vortex of voices in the novel is Bennie Salazar, who we see at various points as an aloof boss, a struggling father post-divorce, a struggling husband pre-divorce, a teenage rocker, a hot ticket in the music industry and a pariah of the same industry years later.

Or perhaps his one-time assistant, Sasha is the hub (she gets centre stage in the opening chapter and her whereabouts drives the action of the novels final paragraphs, though the reader knows where she is from the preceding chapter).

Or perhaps there are two hubs, Bennie and Sasha, which seems perfectly reasonably.

But the true locus of the novel is its obsession with time. As one of the characters says, "Time's a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?" (Hence the title). The novel evokes an almost Proustian dread at the passing of time; the fact that things change so suddenly and arbitrarily, that security and succour aren't necessarily the recipe for happiness. No one character can be central in a book about the dispassionate river of time.

A Visit From The Goon Squad is about connections and disconnections, and the diffuse structure and disjointed narrative are how this is conveyed. Setting it in and around the music industry, which has always been fickle but over the last twenty years has seen drastic changes on the corporate side, the distribution and consumption of music, is genius.

I enjoyed touching down at various points in music history, be it the days of San Francisco hardcore in the 1980s (Dead Kennedys, Flipper et al), grunge (Bennie Salazar's big find, the fictional band The Conduits, were probably part of this wave in the 90's) and the near future where 'pointers' (pre-verbal children) buy music via handheld devices and drive the industry towards simplified songs.

This image from the NY Times Review from July 2010 is a better representation of the novel than any plot summary.

By the time I closed the book I had an appreciation for it, a respect even, and suspect it may creep onto my top ten list for books I've read this year...

But it was a book I hated at several points.

I hated the first chapter, where Sasha is lying on her shrink's couch and recounting her latest bout of kleptomania, which occurred on a first date with Alex (who will not feature in the book again till the final chapter, and even then he'll struggle for pages to remember her name and if they slept together or not). The reader is held at one remove from the action (we keep getting pulled back to the shrink's couch when we want to be there on that date) and it was a feeling that was kicked up several times throughout the book.

I hated the section told in the second person, because I hate everything written in the second person. Rather than pulling me closer to the story because it is about me (You do this, you do that) it re-enforces my distance from the narrative. Because no, my name is not Rob, I have not recently slashed my wrists with a box cutter and I never had sex with a football teammate in my car. Why was this chapter in the second person? Because there had to be a second person chapter in such a grab-bag novel. It just felt so mechanical, and cynical. But this is probably me reading with a writer's eyes, and is therefore this is invalid.

I hated some other, smaller moments like the unconvincing Scotty Hausmann concert in the final chapter which is supposed to come off as revelatory and uplifting but the reader is not given enough of a taste of the music or the moment to be impacted in any way beyond the native adrenalie we all feel when there are only a couple of pages of a book remaining.

But as I say, I appreciate the book now. Perhaps a second re-reading will iron out any of these wrinkles because I'll know that the contraption called A Visit From The Goon Squad is not interested in individual lives, not Bennie, not Sasha, not you/Rob, not Scotty Hausmann, because time doesn't care about them. (Hence the distancing techniques: Oh, I know you want to get close to Sasha, get inside her head and follow her for the next 200 pages, but that ain't the game we're playing).  And yet, as we see in the best chapters, there are ways to wrestle meaning from the abyss.

Such as the chapter told entirely with powerpoint slides. This may surprise some after my allergic reaction to the gimmickry of second person narration (but note: I've prepared a fair few powerpoints in my time in the public service). These slides, compiled by Sasha's daughter and telling, in their own way, the story of her autistic brother's obsession with pauses in rock songs, speak simply to the questions at the heart of the novel. How did we get here? Where are we going? The song pauses are false endings, reminders of mortality but also a temporary retrieve from it; a high concept metaphor which is made to work in the low concept powerpoint presentation. The drama in this chapter is ripe with the fact that parents were once children, and children will become parents. The family live on the edge of a desert that used to be lawns and parks and golf courses, and is now dominated by a forest of solar panels that must even capture the moonlight to power the powerpoint presentations of the world.

A Visit From The Goon Squad takes risks, tackles the big questions, has its successes and it failures. I do not think it is a great book. Yet.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bits of Babel, Books, Birds, Base/Bass & Basketball (#94)

Babel Building Blocks

The writer Isaac Babel is said to have asked women he met if he might rifle through their purses to inspect their contents. Some accounts have him paying for this privilege, fewer still suggest that he paid prostitutes for this (and this alone).


"A well-thought-out story doesn’t need to resemble real life. Life itself tries with all its might to resemble a well-crafted story."
— Isaac Babel ('My First Fee')


“How late I learned the essential things in life! In my childhood, nailed to the Gemara, I led the life of a sage, and it was only later, when I was older, that I began to climb trees”
— Isaac Babel


"I grew up wishing that someday, somewhere, a door would open and my father would come in. We would recognize each other immediately, and without seeming surprised, without letting him catch his breath, I would say: "Well, here you are at last. We've been puzzled about you for so long; although you left behind much love and devotion, you bequeathed to us very few facts. It's so good to have you here. Do sit down and tell us what happened."
— Nathalie Babel (Isaac's daughter, quoted here)



Today marks one year since the book launch for A Man Melting (and one year and one day since getting engaged; still a few months to go before November!!).  The book was officially released on 2 July 2010...

I'm working like stink to get a book together that might be able to come out in the second half of 2012, but there are a lot of things outta my control (and even the things that are in my control I might not be able to manage), so for now it'll do to look back on my first launch and the solid twelve months me and A Man Melting have had, including: 10 positive reviews (0 negative), 2 end-of-year best book lists, 1 "hot writer" appellation1 "best dressed", 3 appearances on radio NZ, two appearances on TV, a prize, a number of newspaper articles about me, 21 columns published in the Dom Post1 travel article published and 1 fiction review submitted and set to appear shortly. 


And 1

And it's nice (in a strange way) to have my words being picked up and mangled by spammers. Here's the latest:

"She was only a newcomer (her solo moody was 4 years later) and described herself as 'a pouch of potatoes'"
- misquoted here, original here.


The word and the image
a little thing, made big from not knowing when to leave off:
gone past all need except need, enough never enough.

I only started noticing starlings after reading Tim Upperton's poem, 'The Starlings', two years ago. Until then, I guess I didn't bother to distinguish them from blackbirds and thrushes, despite the fact this now seems ludicrous: the metallic glints of their feathers, their electro-squeals, the packs picking through seaweed or muscling out sparrow and chaffinch on the freshly sown lawn, even their silhouette (short tail, thin beak) - how could it be anything but a starling?

The pursuit of knowledge is like the starlings' drive to reproduce in Upperton's poem: never-ending and perhaps even pointless. But once you start, it's harder to derail a certain fascination.

It wasn't until this year that I took note of the difference between a summer starling and a winter starling. And it's all thanks to my new Canon 550D and its image stabilised 55-250mm lens which allows me to get close-ups of birds and capture them in motion while still keeping the images clear. Before this starts sounding like an infomercial... it's time for pictorial illustration.

Because I only got my camera a couple of months ago, I don't have any summer starling photos, but here's a nice illustration courtesy of

Winter starling (top) and summer starling (bottom)
In winter, a starling's plumage gets all spotty and they look a lot more sinister, to me at least. I think the sinisterness (?) is directly proportional to the starling's immediate environs...

In a tree: moderately sinister.
Peering down from a powerline: quite sinister.

3 puffed up brutes keeping lookout from a Sky aerial: highly sinister
Controlling the national grid: terrifying!

Okay, I know I've already lost most of you, but does anyone else think a starling in winter looks like a dalek? 

Am I right? Fine, next topic...


I like you're old stuff better than your knew stuff

When I lived in the UK I really enjoyed watching Masterchef, which was a 30 minute show every weeknight which pitch 6 amateur chefs against each other. Every episode there were 3 challenges and one person left standing at the end of the episode. Then it was quarterfinals, semis and a week long final where the final few went of the the jungle or something.

Now of course every country has their bastardised Masterchef - none of which I can stomach. The Australian one, which runs before the TV1 news here in NZ (so I am destined to catch the last 2mins of every episode) is the worst. At the moment they are working their way through the top 50, kicking out people every two challenges. On average it seems to take 1.5 episodes to finish one challenge (and these are 60 minute episodes). And the challenges seem to mostly be them all cooking the same freaking dish! No thank you.

So I was delighted to see this video on YouTube (via Twitter) today that took me back to the good old days old Greg and John on the original Masterchef:



Locked Out

The NBA has officially locked out its players as negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with the players union have stalled. has also gone into lock down mode.  It's looking like some or all of the 2011-12 NBA season will be lost. The last time a labour dispute affected a season was back in 1999, when they managed to come to an agreement in December and held a 50 game regular season (as opposed to the standard 82).

The maths is simple for most: a full season > a partial seasons > no season at all. Sadly, most might not include the owners (several of whom are losing money, so no season means less loss) and some of the players. But sucks for the fans.

It especially sucks for Sacramento Kings fans (like me), after the Californian capital managed to keep its franchise for one more season, but needs to increase attendance and get a deal for a new arena done in order to insure the long term viability of an NBA team in Sacto.  Add to this the fact that in the last week the team has acquired three new potential starters: Jimmer Fredette (#10 pick in the 2011 draft and the latest great white hope), John Salmons (via a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks) and JJ Hickson (via a trade with the Cleveland Cavs). And the Kings probably aren't done revamping their roster. Whenever the lockout ends and free agent signings can commence, they should be targetting another big man from Nene, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol, or resigning Samuel Dalembert.

I was talking to a friend the other day who said he just can't get into basketball because to him the game seems relatively static and repetitive. I can totally see this, but once you buy in to the narrative of American sports (in which statistics and economics play major parts) it's difficult to disentangle oneself. There's always some drama going on, most of it off the court, or between possessions.  The loss of an entire season does toss a wrench or two into the machine (how will the draft order be determined if no season took place? what happens to players in the final year of their contract who don't get a chance to play their butts off in 2011-12 to earn their big payday?) but it also threatens to break that narrative thread. The NBA could lose a lot of fans in the next 12 months as people find new time sponges.  I know I'll certainly notice the extra 2.5 hours 3 times a week that'll free up with no Kings games to watch on NBA league pass.  Will it make me more prolific? Meh, I'll probably just play angry birds.

But, while there's still some Kings news to report, I'll just wish Omri Casspi well with the Cavs. If only you were as devastating in purple as advertised!!