Sunday, October 30, 2011

To Melbourne

Another overdose of exasperation, and fatigue, from trying to get everything done before getting away, you wonder if it's worth the effort.
But the work gang dont mind going elsewhere for a week while I go walkabout, and Brent, at the car dealer's, where I'm having the Cherokee checked out before the drive to Auckland chips in, don't worry about the work, it'll still be there when you get back.
Mate Peter, some time back suggested how about joining him for the "First Tuesday in November", on his way home to Pennsylvania.
The Melbourne Cup..., never been before, I say OK, fluke a seat with AirNZ through my airpoints and internet booking on much better terms than the travel agent quoted some time earlier, so its done and dusted.
Something of a becoming well worn track we do the pre-flight overnight at Gold Star Motel, Kirkbride Rd, Mangere, where manager David Charteris, well known ex-Wanganui actor and playwright, will term-park your car and shuttle you to and from AKL International all for the room fee of $95 a night.

Easy flight over, Boeing 777, I'm right down the back with my cheap carry-on-bag-only fare, last row, where the narrowing fuselage determines only 2 seats on the outside, so I get plenty of leg room, and somehow the seats feel bigger than on the long-haul 777 to LA and SanFran.
Even better, I manage to squeeze 2 in-flight movies into the wind-assisted 3-1/2 hour trip.
The first was "Secretariat", the story about Penny Tweedy/Chenery and her journey with Big Red to the US Triple Crown, one of only a handful of horses to ever accomplish it, and in the doing win the last leg at Belmont, outclassing by some 30 odd lengths, his grudge rival in the preceding Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Sham, a top horse in his own right.
Anyone with racing connections should love this movie, Diane Lane and John Malkovich do outstanding work in their roles as owner and trainer, and the crowning star, the horse. Actually, Peter says, five horses were used to composite Secretariat, but you wouldn't know it. The camera and sound work is a treat, and the opening and closing voice-over recitation is a real stir, taken from Job39, there's all sorts of translations, but goes something like this:

            "He paws the earth, rejoicing in his mettle
              laughs at fear as he runs to the battle
              He does not turn back from the sword
              He does not stand still at the trumpets sound
              He scents the battle from afar
              the yells of the captains and the thunder of war
              In  excited rage he races over the ground"
Breeding and racing has more than its share of ups and downs, I'm going to buy this DVD for inspiration and encouragement when things aren't going so good.
Still an hour and a half to touchdown, so I search for a short movie and find "Red Dog", one hour 20, that'll do, and another treat unfolds.
It's about an Aussie red kelpie and his exploits in a Dampier, WA, mining community, an intelligent heart-string tugger, if ever.
My first dog was a red kelpie, and I've had one in my team ever since. They're an intelligent little dog, clean, and fantastic company.
I wont say anything about this movie, tongue in cheek, sympatico humour, just go see it.
Melbourne materialises behind the wing, the CBD high-rises tower out from the sprawl, its sunny with a bit of wind says the captain, as the last vestige of guilt at work left undone flies out the cabin window.
Aussie here we come.
Picking up a paper in the terminal, along with a few items from the pharmacy I couldnt take on board in my cabin bag, waiting for Peter's flight, I come across an item mentioning "Red Dog"s growing popularity.
Not surprised.

Monday, October 24, 2011

RWC: All Over Bar the Shouting

The nation chewed its nails for 30 minutes while the AB's held desperately to a slim lead to take the RWC.
Several of us think France were deliberately playing possum with their holding back of top players in their first pool clash with the AB's, so called dissension between team and coach, and their losing to Tonga, (although it must be said Tonga played a blinder in that win).
So did France in the final, arriving there without the same debilitation the AB's got in their semi against Aussie. Now that was a game, unfortunately for the Wallabies, coming after their really tough quarters grind against the Springboks.
Have to comment on the grace of the Wallabies in defeat in the semi, applauding the AB's off the field.
Its amusing to note the Eden Park noise-ometer almost flat-lined over the last of the final as the French played the game to a standstill, the wildest oscillations coming after the final whistle and at the awards ceremony.
Our little party group at Wharf 69 made a bit of noise too.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Movies: The Millennium Trilogy

While RWC has generated a lot of excitement over here, I have to admit I went to sleep during the Aussie vs Wales Bronze decider, and on coming to at the final whistle, flicked over to Rialto Channel to catch "The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo", followed by "The Girl Who Played With Fire", the first two of Stieg Larsson's Trilogy.
It was after 1am when the latter wound up, but there was no way I could have dozed off for this lot.
Good thing too, the RWC Final is tonight (Sunday), and not last night when Rialto ran the 3rd in the series "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest", otherwise there would have been some serious viewing conflict.
Its reported Hollywood have their mitts on a series remake with Daniel Craig as the male lead. I'll probably go out of curiosity, but cant help thinking what a sacrilege a Hollywood version of it will be.
Nooni Rapace's portrayal of Lisbeth is masterpiece, a fascinating and fantastic act that defies duplication, and makes the whole of each of the films.
The Scandinavian backdrop and the subtitling enhances the authenticity and uniqueness, (I've never been put off by subtitling of a foreign film).
David Fincher, director of the Hollywood effort has chosen a lesser face from his "The Social Network" to play Lisbeth.
Best of luck to him. As original director of the series, Niels Arden Oplev, says, Nooni Rapace "was" Lisbeth, in expression of his disappointment. Couldn't agree more.
11 out of 10, and thanks Rialto, for the privilege of viewing this classic entirety, before.... who knows what.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Movie: Three Musketeers 3D

Around they go again, jees, how many manglings now of this classic French novel.
And did I say recently, all art, including movies, is a political statement?
Not sure what the politics of this is, but its definitely an aping of the "Pirates" series, with an ending leaving an opening for the next episode.
A cliche from beginning to end, but hell's teeth, total entertainment, plenty of action, great stunts, good camera, no heavy emotional or political grind, and no swearing and no sex!
The world needs more shit like this, it beats a night of TV hands down, but save it for discount Tuesday.
The credits at the end were fascinating, through the 3D goggles they sort of hung mid-air, then slowly moved forward like they were hovering over the pews just in front. Whip the goggles off, and they blurred back into the screen.
Then I noticed I was alone in the theatre, everyone had buggered off!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Frizzell Comes to Town

Other highlight of the week in Wangas was the visit of artist Dick Frizzell, promoting his new book, "Its All About the Image", with a lecture at Alexander Library.
Was fortunate a year or two back, to be invited to make up numbers for an art weekend at Pukeora Estate, Waipukurau, where 10, mainly rural gents, completely unschooled in the finer points of painting, were delivered to the care and tutelage of Dick, to have us create an art work before the weekend was through. This, all part of the Arts Channel series, "Artland NZ", where several artists were commissioned to "do their thing" for an episode each.
Self dubbed the "Pukeora Picasso's", it was rather fortuitous that Pukeora Estate is now a winery, and all being rural blokes with a dab hand at knocking up a feed, we each contributed to the food basket, to round out a great weekend, and learn a new hobby.
While we'd all freely admit the non-likelihood of any of our works getting into the National Gallery, we were all immensely surprised at what we achieved with a bit of solid tuition, and simple pointers on how colour might be mixed and moved around a canvas.
What I learned was never to be intimidated by any work of art just because one might not feel in the same class, it is really, all about the image, and what the individual perceives as important, as, after all, all art, whether painting, verse, prose, or movie, is a political statement.
Dick has quite an irrepressable mischief, albeit good mannered, about his journey along his road of appreciation and learning, and I was fortunate to have been levered into it his way.
This is a great read if you want to know how to appreciate art, as a racehorse breeder, there are similarities.
My first go at painting a picture

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

RWC - Final Week Rolls Down

Agony of the Semi's week has to be the red-carding of Sam Warburton.
Who knows what spectacle a Wales vs All Blacks final might have been.
With the Springboks moaning about the refereeing of the quarter final against Aussie, the poor old ref's are getting it in the ear.
Tell me about it, such pinings are lost on us Kiwis after Wayne Barnes' job on the AB's at Cardiff 4 years ago. And Wales had, what was it, 5 kicking chances to get points ahead, which if they had been got, we'd have had to cope with headlines proclaiming a courageous and mighty win, but that's tournament rugby folks, there's nothing to stop an AB getting red-carded in the final against France, (particularly if Sonny Bill gets a run-on), LOL.
Had a chat to a rugby-head this morning who thought the AB's got well treated by the ref, relative to the Springboks vs Aussie clash, so who knows. Us mere mortals can only sit back and enjoy the roller-coaster ride.
Back to the spear tackle. It was a dangerous tackle, and surprising Clerc wasn't seriously hurt.
Rather symbolically, almost the same day, I noted the death notice in the local rag of old acquaintance Tony Taylor, fine young man taken out in his early 20's in a friendly match while doing his OE in UK, spent the rest of his life in a wheel-chair.
Serious accidents do happen in this hard and fast game, and I think its better we dont lose sight of the need to keep it safe in our quest for entertainment. That gladiator shit went out with the Romans.
Another thing you'll see in the replay is a Welsh player taking out a Frenchman in an off-ball tackle, at least 5 or 6 metres from the Warburton/Clerc incident. Nothing annoys me more than off-ball play, the Aussies and the Boks are masters at it.
I think Wales got their beans. France are the forgotten outsiders of the play-offs, and deserve justice, even if they over-milked this situation. That said, I hope soccer's academy award mentality never establishes in this, at present, greater spectacle professional rugby.
Some of the commercial folk are lamenting the expected visitor spending hasnt eventuated. I could have told them so. After cruising round Europe in July basking in the strength of the NZ dollar, enjoying accommodation and booze cheaper than what it costs back here, even before some RWC hydraulicking, you couldn't blame tourists keeping their hands in their pockets, or seeking out cheaper avenues.
It so annoys me when cities evaluate events in terms of dollars into their financial communities, they're like a bunch of vultures, probably more focussed on screwing the extra dollar, than simply ensuring the visitor has an enjoyable experience.
Or maybe its that media again, starved of news in this small populace, inventing some self-effacing controversy.
Speaking of media, have to pay some compliment to the likes of ex-English fly-half, Stuart Barnes, stuck in the Sky commentary studio for the best part of 7 weeks, sheeesh, what a marathon, and some excuse for the rattiness that crept into the pre and post-match comment. But well done anyway, your commentary was appreciated.
Ditto for the appearance of Matt Gitteau and Nick Farr-Jones, my opinion of Aussies has got back to how it should be after listening to these guys knowledgeable contributions, and seeing the gallantry of the Wallaby side as they guard of honoured the AB's off the pitch on Sunday night. I can tell you, a stadium blacked full of serious Kiwi fans is a pretty formidable encounter, and they will have been rue-ing the Quade Cooper affair having got so out of hand. Personally, my maori-ness registered some slight at Quade batting Richie on the back of the head after the Wallaby victory last year, (heads are supposed to be sacred territory to maori, and I was further suprised to see his Tokoroa mother supporting him all the way), but it was laughably ironic to see the AB's counter strategy at work in Sunday's semi, as they batted a Wallaby every time they winkled a penalty or scrum out of the enemy.
Great to see Piri Weepu and Aaron Cruden acquit themselves so well, both these guys were discards 12 months ago, and Ma'a Nonu dropped from the Hurricanes as well.
And another plaudit extended in surprise after seeing him on the Sky team, has to go to Jake White, ex coach of the Springboks. Seriously, I wouldnt mind if this bloke one day coached the AB's.
Significant to mention, 3 of the 4 semi-finalists have Kiwi coaches. What's wrong with a rugby family, southern hemisphere, IP inter-change.
As usual we booked into our party cafe, Wharf69, this time I had the chowder as an entree, jees, how they can pack so much kaimoana solids into a $10 soup I dunno, then followed up with the spare ribs main w/ veges, phew, no wonder the health commission or whoever it is, is today warning about the dangers of RWC indulgence finding its way to the national waistline, booze and pies the main culprit, so that excuses me, LOL.
Plus we knocked off a couple of bottles of Whitecliff pinot, Hawkes Bay product, bit smokier and velvety than the Central Otago brew, but OK nevertheless.
Joined the traffic scurrying home after the game but never saw a cop. My in-glove-box breath-tester read 25% under the limit so figured I was OK.
Roll on the Final and another night at Wharf69.
Its never over till the fat lady sings, we've been ambushed by France so many times before.
They're a very athletic team, back three good under the high ball, powerful loose forward trio. Going to be as good a match as the Semi was.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kahungunu Seafarers Weigh Anchor in Whanganui

Been an interesting week here, outside of RWC.
Monday night was a lecture/video evening presented by Awhina Twomey and Hannah Rainforth, who earlier this year spent several weeks on board a traditional design double-hulled ocean going waka.
There were a fleet of seven such canoes navigating, using revived traditional methods of the 1100-1600 AD period, from Auckland NZ to San Francisco CA, each of them crewed by different cultural groups representing Aotearoa NZ, Fiji, Samoa, Hawaii, Cooks, and the other two Pan-Pacific.

Use of pacificvoyager photo acknowledged
On account of not wanting to knock down fourteen 200 plus year old trees to carve the hulls out of, the 33 metre waka were cast in fibre-glass here in Auckland. Sails were also conventional material, but one waka did carry tradional pandannis sails.
One novelty of construction was a solar panel bank mounted over the prows, which charged, I presume, batteries to drive twin swing-down propellers, auxilliary power is a mandatory requirement of all ocean going sailing vessels.
The waka had 8-bunk water-tight crew compartments in each hull, a small galley on deck, plus a head.
All crew had life jackets and clips to attach themselves to a stanchion line for safety purposes.
Steerage was effected by a steering oar, sometimes requiring 3 men to handle. Sails were twin mast, inverted keeler.
Apparently, there was only one man left in the whole Pacific, who had been raised in traditional sailing culture, a Marquesan, and its fantastic of him to share his knowledge with the new school of navigators.
The system uses stars, sun, moon, wind, cloud formations, ocean current and wave direction, drift matter, seabirds and fish, to steer by.
The ancient sea-ways were pretty well established in the Pacific Triangle bounded by NZ, Hawaii, and Easter Island, (NZ Maori tongue is highly similar to that of Easter Island, Rapanui, being the two most isolated corners), but the presence of a North American Indian welcoming committee at San Francisco exercising recognisable protocol leaves one with the strong impression contact with the American coastline did occur throughout those times.
These young women had a fantastic experience. A documentary was shot during the mission, with an environmental message theme, and is due for release in due course.
The whole exercise had funding assistance from German industrialist/philanthropist Dieter Paulmann.
An excellent website including GPS tracker progress of any of the waka offers more extensive detail:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rugby, Rugby, Rugby...................

We're having a total hogging of it out here.
You'd think we'd be getting rugbied out by now, but far from it, every game has its own interesting drama.
For us Kiwi's I think part of the fascination is watching other nations bring their game to the table.
This weekend just gone was quarter finals play-off, Wales bt Ireland, France bt England, Australia bt South Africa, and the AB's bt Argentina.
Wales v France, and Australia v NZ make up the semi's draw this coming weekend.
Anybody could win this Cup. The nice thing about it is all these four play with some creativity and flair.
I dont know what we're going to do when its all over in a fortnights time, life wont be the same.
We've got a General Election getting off the blocks straight after, and while it's often said incumbent governments win or lose on the success or otherwise of the All Blacks, I predict the election will be a big yawn no-event, we're going to be well off in rugby la-la land till at least the start of 2012 Super 15, with the Wellington Seven's in Feb to navigate beforehand.
Last Sat us locals also had the 3rd tier Meads Cup final played at our Cooks Garden field, against East Coast Ngati Porou. The big game trappings have rubbed off all round us provincials, with Sir Colin (Meads) and NZRFU President BG Williams arriving mid-field by helicopter, local 11yo St John's Hill schoolgirl Bella Maua doing a fantastic rendition of the national anthem, and dress-ups by the crowd, locals decked out as home-side mascot Barrie the Butcher, complete with cardboard choppers, and the Ngati Porou's in the South Stand bedecked and ballooned in their blue and white strip.
We even had the tarantara ole' trumpet, but not enough people to start and sustain a Mexican wave.
What we'll mostly miss with the end of RWC is the party atmosphere, people have come from all round the world to enjoy themselves.
Last night 20 odd of us booked into local cafe/bar Wharf69 to watch the two Sunday quarters.
The Thai soup got good comment, I had Beef Bourgignon, a hot-pot of beef and mushroom in I guess like a red wine cass, with a pie crust, crunchy brocc and cauli, and potato sauce.
Others had the always value fish and chip meal, and the surf and turfers were well catered for.
A couple of weekends back a few of us went to the pool games at Wellington, France v Tonga, and NZ v Canada. The Stadium audience was 50/50 French/Tongan, both very vocal, but so much like being back in France. Out on the street and in the bars you could strike up a conversation with, at one turn a couple of French people, and at the next a Welsh couple.
Sundays game the capacity stadium was a lot more serious..... black, with the odd fleck of Canada red here and there.
We got a reasonable price pint and a watchable TV of the Auckland games at Chicago Bar on the waterfront, on the Saturday, tried the Royal on Lambton after the game, quiet enough to watch the next game on TV, but no seats available, finished up at Matterhorn Restaurant on Cuba for dinner, tapas menu that late at night but top food, honey-glazed baby pork ribs and spicey chicken drums, with the fries and garlic bread.
Sunday before the game we lunched in the Thistle, one of Wellies oldest pubs just across the road from the Stadium fortunately before it filled to over-flowing with pre-game tipplers.
Have to comment Wellington's done pretty darn good coping with the crowd, cafe and bar staff near run off their feet but delivering. The transport system's functioned well, we got a taxi at one stage and were dropped off right convenient, quickly and for a very reasonable fare. Actually, right at the permanent pie-cart anchored just outside the railway station, where you can get juicy battered oysters and chips, all-be-it $10 a punnet this time, (I'm sure I got them for $6 at the AB's v SA test a couple of months back).
We stayed with friends at Waikanae and caught the train in to town, about a 3/4 hour ride, but plenty of capacity and service running till well into early morning hours. Its just a 5-10 min walkway to the Stadium.
The crowd spirit was great all weekend till we got home to Paraparaumu Monteiths Brew Pub, where a brawl broke out during the NRL final between Manly and the Warriors, that's league for you, complete with cops, ambulance, and broken glass. The feed there wasnt bad, monster burger and chips, but dear enough at $20.

Anyway, roll on Wellington Sevens!