Monday, June 30, 2008

The lurgy and some laughs

Woke up with a headache to complement the sore throat. Had panadol for breakfast and went to work. Made an appointment to see a local homeopath on Friday. Then by lunchtime I felt decidedly shaky and nauseous so I called my GP and I now am officially sick, with the regulation antibiotics for what the doctor thinks is an upper respiratory tract infection. Maybe with the homeopath visit I'll have all my bases covered and be feeling better soon.
I slept most of the afternoon, letting the drugs full reign on me.

Then to put a grin on my chin I reviewed some favourite youtube clips and thought I'd share these two, both with a Japanese flavour....

Human Tetris game show

Bob with full orchestra at Nara, Japan 1994
This is very different to the early version of 'Hard Rain' with just his strumming and harmonica his voice seems to fill up and extend to meet the orchestra halfway.

I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin'......

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Mari !

Drogi Przyjacielu którzy doceniają jej jest dzień porodu...
Pragnąc Państwu bardzo wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji urodzin, i wiele więcej, ciasta wypełnione wszystkie opisy.
Miłość, Mandy

Mari in Kazimierz, chatting up the locals as usual.

This one from Cairns (2002)

Weekend nearly over

Friday evening I met up with Rina to see Sex and the City. It was a bit of a laugh, although every time Samantha walked in from the west coast the other 3 would throw their arms up and shout “Oh my God, look who it is!” which seemed to happen in every other scene. The cinema audience was 95% female, mostly drinking wine, and there were women gasping at the clothes & shoes which I found quite amusing.

Saturday was another wild, windy day. At one point we thought we’d get a walk in and headed to the coast, stopping for lunch at the Long Bay Restaurant. After 10 mins along the beach the skies blackened and we got soaked. On the plus side, the Salmon Potato cakes with poached eggs were superb. Back home to tidy the house and wait for unknown persons to turn up for the games evening I’d advertised in the Mensa magazine. It’s a good way to spend an evening and you never know who will turn up, as its an open invitation. Last night we had a couple of familiar friends and a few new faces, one with two little girls, 6 and 10. Apples to Apples warmed the gang up, then we played Ziggity for the girls, followed by Phase10. After the youngsters left, the hard core gamers played on until midnight: Ticket to Ride followed by Blokus which must be the world’s most annoying & frustrating game – don’t go there unless you have enhanced spatial skills. I joked with the other Mensa people that I wouldn’t be a member if the test had been purely based on shapes like this game. Thank goodness the Cattell test I took had a lot of verbal reasoning questions.

Sunday. Another rainy day - when will this end? Actually it did at 3pm and we had a nice walk in the sun around North Head – photos below. Finished off a small film scanning job, only 17 slides, but it was for a new customer, so I like to turn it around quickly in case they sent it for a test run and have more they want doing.

Spoke with Val on the phone this evening. Made her sing a belated happy birthday to herself due to my ongoing sore throat. She thinks I should see a homeopath.

Also had a TXT talk with Mari mainly about cakes and donuts. She is currently birthdaying in Kazimierz with friends Jola and Magda. It brought back memories of being there with them all last year. I must do something with all those photos…. I can feel a website coming along. It can’t be any harder than doing this blog.

1 - Rangitoto island from Cheltenham beach after the rains
2 - Cheltenham Beach looking towards North Head
3 - View from top of North Head
4 - Auckland city seen through trees on the south side of North Head

Friday, June 27, 2008

Storm damage and an epic poem

Had a call from one of the tenants last night, to say the beautiful old tree in the front garden had split itself in half during the storm, and was lying across her garden & driveway.
I went over there today to see what it looked like. Luckily it didn't fall on the house.

I'm hoping the TreeCare co. can salvage half a tree from whats left as it' s such a beauty in the spring with blossom all over it.

These are the 'before' and 'after pictures.

In lieu of lunch I made a huge bowl of fruit salad with Pineapple, Papaya, Pear, Plum and Mint. That will dispel any winter blues.

For the poets, (and Dylan fans), here is Bob reciting his amazing epic "Last thoughts on Woody Guthrie" from 1963. I'm not sure if the images here add or detract. I like to listen to this one with my eyes closed. It is available on The Bootleg series 1-3. The words are the business.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Val !

A prayer for my sister

Our Sister, who art in Dorking,
Valerie be thy name.

Thy doggies come, thy poohs be done,
on earth as it is on carpet.

Give us this day our daily kong.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who bark against us.

And lead us not into the neighbours garden, but deliver us from rabies.
For thine is the fridge, the freezer and the biscuit tin. for ever and ever. Woof Woof!

There was a Young Lady of Dorking,
Who had 4 large dogs for walking;
But their colour and size,
Caused such a surprise,
That she was famous all over Dorking.

(Apologies to Edward Lear)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A day at the office

I had to crank myself back up to speed today, for a spell at the day job. That is easier said than done as I've had a bit of a sore throat & cough that stopped me sleeping well for the last few nights. Anyway, my day job is at Auckland University's Clinical Trials Research Unit where I head up the data management team. We look after the researchers database requirements and also provide services to external customers such as local bio-tech companies, for randomising patients, collecting and cleaning data to FDA standards and so on. The Unit runs trials of drugs and other non-drug interventions such as new methods to help smoking cessation, or to improve exercise and nutrition. Today was spent partly in meetings and partly programming a nutrition calculator for one of our researchers to run against a database of best selling NZ foods.

All good stuff, however I've been working there for 15 years now in various positions and you tend to see the same sorts of issues repeating so it's not as interesting as it used to be. That - and also due to the "lets go live on a barge in France" plans that I've yet to blog about - are why I reduced to part-time in January this year.

Besides the day job there have been other things keeping me busy, and yesterdays wandering thru bookshops and scoffing in cafes was a rare treat (honest). March-April and half of May was spent renovating the aforementioned pension fund (rental property) after the tenants moved out. A quick makeover turned into a mammoth project, as these things are inclined to grow. I spent all my spare time organising tradespeople and weilding paintbrushes. Theres also the work for Filmscan. It's not consistent yet but we had a busy patch in March/April that helped with the renovation fund. Actually, its not too bad being paid to watch people's holiday photos and wedding pictures. I can think of worse work to do.

On a different note, temperatures plummeted last night, from an almost balmy 15-17C we had been enjoying for a few weeks. A pile of wood was carted in and we spent the evening enjoying the first open log fire of the season. TV news showed heavy snow further south. (It rarely snows this far north we just feel a bit colder at this time of year). Internally, we warmed up with a steak and Guinness casserole I had the foresight to concoct in the afternoon. I don't usually cook things that need more than 30 mins advance warning.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A walk around Devonport, with rain and prawns

(Rainbow over Devonport)

Once again my preferred exercise for the day is to walk rather than go to the gym, so wrapped up in leather coat, scarf and with brolly to hand, I sallied forth to Devonport for a bit of a coastal walk.

A brief detour on the way to drive past one of my pension funds (rental). It looked neat & tidy, with lawns mowed and no pile of rusting cars on the front lawn. It's nice and reassuring after all the finance companies that have crashed, to be able to drive past your pension to check its still there.

Arrived and parked a good half hours walk from the tempting cafes and bookshops so I couldn't choose to cut my walk short and dive in there if it rained, which it did but not too heavy.

The skies grew heavier still as I got to the village, and I decided to shelter from the cold wind in a cafe by the sea where I slurped on a hearty bowl of seafood chowder, complete with a prawn and scallop skewer and turkish bread.

Half way through the meal I realised all the other patrons in this cafe were pensioners. Of course there are hardly any office workers in this area, its really a day-trip place for Aucklanders and gets very busy on sunny weekends. I felt I had gatecrashed a secret society of those over 70 who are allowed to have a late lazy lunch on a Tuesday afternoon, or like I had bunked off school to be here.

(Auckland City from Devonport wharf)

Stomach replete I browsed for a while in Evergreen books and found 3 titles that look interesting.

Walking back around the coast, the sun came out and the wind dropped and the sea looked beautiful. But by the time I reached the car it was raining again and I had developed a dull ache in my hip which only served to remind me that I am closer to the rest of the Tuesday cafe clientele than to the naughty schoolgirl I had briefly sat there as.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Music (not Dylan)!

I added a list of my favourite bands/artists. Believe it or not, although I have >10,000 tracks on my iPod, only about 2,000 are Dylan (the bootlegs jack the total up for him). The only other artist I've downloaded boots of is Neil Young, and only two of those. I still like to listen to the great British prog rock bands such as Genesis, Yes, Floyd and Led Zeppelin and in recent years I've been going to WOMAD and blues festivals here in NZ and discovered some great music as a result. Here's a picture of South African singer-songwriter and poet-activist Vusi Mahlasela taken at Womad 2005 in Taranaki....he got the crowds dancing in the sunshine.

He is known in Africa simply as "The Voice" Here's a video of him singing at Live8 2005 in Johannesburg. And another illustrating his vocal range and guitar playing.

Almost midnight - too much web browsing and blogging (both mine and other people's) has made me sleepy. I'm off to bed to read another chapter of Barack Obama's biography.

Tuesday means no work tomorrow - hurrah!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why ‘Expecting Rain'?

There are only two websites I regularly look at. By regular I am talking at least once a day – the Guardian and ‘Expecting Rain’. Most people would know about the former, but I wonder if many Dylan fans know about the latter. I only found it myself late last year. I tripped over it by accident. Why is it so good? Well, 3 reasons really..

1. News
2. Discussions
3. Boots (no, not chemists or footwear but the other type)

More of that in a mo first the name. It is from a line in Desolation Row...

All except for Cain and Abel And the hunchback of Notre Dame Everybody is making love Or else expecting rain And the Good Samaritan, he's dressing He's getting ready for the show He's going to the carnival tonight On Desolation Row

The News page lists any item related to Dylan or his linked contemporaries, as posted in by fans around the world. So if an obscure newspaper in Latvia or Peru has some snippet of news related to Bob’s gig there the night before, it will appear here. Likewise, the up-to-minute set lists and reviews of the Never Ending Tour, posted as soon as the gig finishes.

The Discussion pages are illuminating. I downgraded myself in my own eyes to a mild Dylan fan when I read how engrossed and engaged a lot of others are. A lot of the discussion around the meaning of songs. For example, many pages were written in response to an enquiry whether the ending of Desolation Row that goes :

“Yes, I received your letter yesterday (About the time the door knob broke)”
Meant the letter was about the door knob or that it broke as he received the letter!!

There is a ‘Visions of Bob’ thread that has generated approaching 9000 replies and 589,000 views. It is where I found this one, for the gals…

There are threads which are ongoing games, such as ‘Conversation using only Dylan lyrics’, another where we post Dylan lyrics put through a language translator such as Babel Fish and back into English and the challenge is to identify the song. eg …
“One formulate professor' the s tongue is too serious to the fool spouts that
freedom is the equality in school " Equality, " I spoke the word, probably wedding ceremony pledge. But I then am very older, I' m young ratio now that.”

Then there are the bootlegs, many hundreds of files have been uploaded by generous fans willing to share the music. Since discovering this treasure trove I have downloaded about 50 shows spanning the early days e.g. 1963 at Carnegie Hall (a ‘trophy’ taping that only surfaced in 2008), through the gospel years (great music) right up to Bob’s gig in Warsaw last week. The quality ranges from poor to amazing. I just bin the bad ones. The good ones make it well worth while.

You have to eat....

Those rice paper sheets are damn sticky once softened, it was like rolling small pancakes coated with superglue. Unlike the pic in the recipe, mine did not look neat and secure as if they would hold together if lifted precariously towards the dipping sauce. BUT, they tasted very good when the sauce was spooned over, in fact I think this sauce would enhance lots of dishes. It was made of 2 tbsp of satay, 1 tbsp hoisin, juice of a lemon and 1 tbsp peanuts (unsalted, skinned, chopped & roasted). Deeelicious. The diners refused to go home without a copy of the recipe. The rolls were stuffed with mung bean vermicelli, shrimp, fresh mint leaves and chives.

After, we shunned the board games and played Canasta for a couple of hours concurrently filling ourselves up with Kim's lemon cake, ice cream and After Eight's. And a couple of nice bottles of a local NZ Pinot Gris helped it all along.

Today we went to Jaz's for brunch and took pressies for Mark's birthday. Jaz fed us on lovely french toast, crispy bacon and grilled bananas. Very satisfying on (another) rainy day.

This afternoon has been spent mostly on the sofa reading papers and catching up with the digestion of food.

Now we are past the shortest day of the year I can feel summer approaching. It's just a shame the worst of the winter hasn't happened yet.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rainy weekend with prawn rolls

Typically, the sun shone all week long and grey skies and rain roll up on Saturday morning. I tried to ignore Zappa's silent glaring from the bedroom doorway but I gave in at 9.30 and got up to feed him and Noodle. Unlike BotBot who used to yell the house down if a meal was 1 min late, he prefers the strong silent treatment. He does sing a little after supper though. I must also mention that since BotBot passed away I never have to hunt down and retrieve socks and other items from around the house. They are always where I leave them which sadly takes an element of surprise away.

John was having a server crisis today and had been upstairs in the office since 8am, so I cooked a mushroom cheese & tomato omelette (folded, french style I may add) and took a plate up to him then ate mine at my desk while browsing 'Expecting Rain'. (I'll write about the wonders of that site another post, including for the uninitiated, how it got its name.)

A couple of friends will be coming over this evening for dinner & games (board games), so I browsed a seafood cookbook and decided on Vietnamese prawn rolls to start and snapper with puy lentils and asparagus to follow. Mmmmmmm. Shopping followed, trying to avoid the angry rain soaked car-parkers at Glenfield mall after getting most I needed from the local fish shop & Chinese veggie store. I wouldn't have to go to the mall at all except John added 'HDMI cable' to the list at the last minute. When will guys learn that shopping lists are for supermarket stuff :-)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jakob can sing too...

Jakob Dylan (Bob's son) has been a key member of the Wallflowers for years and had quite a successful career. He has recently released a solo album called 'Seeing Things'. It is a spare, bare vocal album with beautiful yet ominous lyrics and it sounds great. He's currently touring in the US and here is a show you can listen to online courtesy of NPR.

Feeling peckish?

How about a little light lunch ... he he

You have a PXT from the beach

I just discovered how to send a photo directly from my phone to the blog. So I can do this from Vietnam, a daily pictorial update!

Idle Friday

Thanks, Mo, for being my very first blog commenter :-)

My 2nd day off during the working week. I work Mon/Weds/Thur. I had good intentions re going to the gym and swimming too, but I didn't sleep too well and decided on a therapeutic beach walk instead. Needless to say the beach has a cafe where even more therapeutic latte and porridge was partaken of... so exercise done, I can relax for the day without guilt.

A friend sent me this link to Jerome K Jerome's 'Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow'. I've read Three Men in a Boat but this gave me some new chuckles.

Another thought on the subject of keep-in-touch slackness, I decided I'm not too bad, not nearly as bad as T*e*s* in Oxford - yes, feel the shame - you've been outed on a 1 day old blog :-)

Uppers: Some great movies have been showing here... a few I enjoyed ...

Happy Go Lucky by Mike Leigh, master of social realism, lightens up with this one and it has great characters if little plot

Shine a Light Scorsese's rockdoco about the Stones at the IMAX theatre was very loud; it felt like you were right there at the front of the stage.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a very moving story - more so for it being true.

And of course, the long awaited (in NZ anyway) release of I'm Not There the surreal montage of characters loosely based on Dylans' life. Here is a 1 min trailer to pique your interest. One of the 7 Dylan-like characters is played by Cate Blanchett, another by the late Heath Ledger. If you like Dylans' music I strongly recommend the double CD soundtrack, it has many more songs & artists than appear in the film e.g. Cat Power, Richie Havens, Jeff Tweedy, Tom Verlaine & many more (34 tracks in total). Here is a full track listing, with some samples to listen to.

Here's a GREAT version of ISIS from the Rolling Thunder Review tour. It's so rare to see Bob singing without either a guitar or keyboard keeping his hands busy - amazing here to see all his elaborate hand movements and gestures being let out.


  • Knowing theres not going to be enough hours in the week to see all the Festival films I want to see

  • Our mail server has been bouncing real mail as well as spam. We think its been fixed now. Please re-send me any mail that bounced in the last few weeks (we are still here honest)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two more uppers for today

Someone sent me this youtube clip of 2 cats running on a treadmill - it is very funny - and something we should seriously consider for our 11kg Zappa see him over there >>>>

Also, I received the Auckland International Film Festival brochure yesterday and there looks like some interesting movies coming up next month, several hundred in fact. And, as I am now working part-time I'll get more of a chance to see some of the obscure daytime showings :-)

Here is a short compilation of work by my favourite short film/animator Czech Jan Svankmayer, his work is amazing, disturbing and surreal, but amazing to watch. Here and here are a couple more of his 'shorties' I really like.

Uppers and Downers

I was thinking on the drive home (20km across Auckland and over the harbour bridge), the reason to do this is to share news with friends & family. I'm not very good at keeping in touch with people, although I have the odd burst of activity on that front. So, I will deposity any newsy items here, either under 'Uppers' (the good, cheery, interesting stuff) or 'Downers' (the yucky bits). So those who don't want to read the bad news can just read the 'Uppers'. For example a recent downer would be losing BotBot after 16 years of her cuddles....

A current upper is the fact that John & I have just booked ourselves a 15 day tour of Vietnam. Here is the itinerary

If you read something here that interests you or want to comment on, PLEASE send me a comment

How does this thing work?

Greetings, and welcome to Mandys-spot!
This is my first attempt at a blog, encouraged by a friend who raved to me how easy it is to use Google's Blogger tool. Once I get the hang of it I shall include regular photos and news from here. I aim to blog once a week or more, heck, who knows it may be addictive and be a daily thing. Check out the Video bar at the bottom, and my favourite links on this side >>>

Dylan trivia of the week: The Barack Obama campaign video "Yes We Can" won an Emmy award and was produced by Dylan's son Jesse. You can view it here.

Dylan video of the week: Blind Willie McTell from 1983 - great song.

Foot Note:
One saggy boob said to the other saggy boob:
'If we don't get some support soon, people will think we're nuts.'