Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Money's getting shallow and weak...

Dylan the prophet wrote this in 2006...

The buyin' power of the proletariat's gone down
Money's gettin' shallow and weak
Now I'm down on my luck and I'm black and blue
Gonna give you another chance
I'm all alone and I'm expecting you
To lead me off in a cheerful dance
Got a brand new suit and a brand new wife
I can live on rice and beans
Some people never worked a day in their life
Don't know what work even means

"Workingman's Blues #2" from 'Modern Times' LP
A gorgeous song for the times we live in.

"Seen from a fair garden, everything looks cheerful. Climb to a higher plateau, and you'll see plunder and murder. Truth and beauty are in the eye of the beholder. I tried to stop figuring everything out a long time ago." - Jack Fate, 'Masked and Anonymous'

Monday, September 29, 2008

Little red pills (may) cure all known ills

The Polypill trial just launched after many problems and delays made the front page of the Guardian today. Known here as 'PILL' (Programme to Improve Life and Longevity) - it is an international study designed and managed by the Clinical Trials Research Unit where I work here in Auckland. Today's launch is the pilot phase.

The tablets we know as "Anthony's little red pills".
Photo: Professor Simon Thom

The polypill combines aspirin, a statin to lower cholesterol and an ACE inhibitor and a thiazide to counter high blood pressure in one tablet. If this is shown to work it could save millions of lives particularly in developing countries - and without making megabucks for big Pharma!

Lets face it, if the choice was taking individual swigs of vodka, bacardi, tequila and grenadine or having them ready mixed and shaken, I know which I'd prefer!!

Note! Do not contact me for medical information or advice, I only look after the database & website side of these research projects. Besides, I am liable to tell you blatant lies or propaganda.

Note! Yes I do listen to Dylan while working.

No other excitement today. It would have been daylight until 7pm but for the dark rain clouds that dulled the sky before that.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

You talk to her. She's your lover now!

Dylan is using his smooth and ironic voice here. Recorded with 'The Band' during the 1966 'Blonde on Blonde' sessions, "She's Your Lover Now" wasn't officially available until The Bootleg Series 1-3 in 1991. A theory is that Dylan had exorcised his hurt over breaking-up with the crazy woman in the song by writing this and was no longer interested in releasing it or that it still held too much personal pain for him to do so.

Dylan said of those sessions: "It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold.."

Amazing song. Brilliant lyrics. I love this.

Yes, you, you just sit around and ask for ashtrays, can't you reach?
I see you kiss her on the cheek ev'rytime she gives a speech
With her picture books of the pyramid
And her postcards of Billy the Kid
(Why must everybody bow?)
You better talk to her 'bout it
You're her lover now.

His voice is brilliant. It's a shame the session ended before he'd finished. There is a solo piano version, recorded around the same time that has the complete lyrics for the fourth verse here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blackbird, three jabs, one vibrating lobster

Blackbird, the play we saw last night at the Maidment theatre was good but not the gripping psycho-drama the reviewers hinted it to be. Maybe I've been 'gripped' by too many great Berkoff plays like East, West, Greek, Kvetch and Decadence. I'm looking forward to seeing Mr Berkoff perform his two short plays Dog and One Man next month.

This morning I wasn't looking forward to getting vaccinated for Vietnam. Three jabs later I was protected against Hepatitis, Tetanus and Typhoid. A slightly sore arm but no other side effects noted. We also stocked up in the travel shop with handy items like compression socks, self filtering drinking bottles, 'Armed Forces' strength mosquito repellent and compact spindle-less toilet rolls. You never know when they'll be needed.

Feeling hungry after the puncturing, we sped to nearby Takapuna to the new(ish) beach cafe imaginatively called The Takapuna Beach Cafe. They have great food, and million dollar views so are always busy. Today we tried out their novel booking system. You turn up and tell them you want a table, they give you a red plastic lobster the size of a large banana and tell you to go for a walk. After a few minutes, halfway along the beach, the lobster in your hand vibrates and red lights flash to tell you that your table is ready. Great fun. You then march into the bustling cafe, wave the flashing lobster and get taken to a table by the window with the best views. Top notch food & coffee too.

Our clocks go forward tonight - Summertime is here!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Bert!

My father, Albert William Oatley known to most as Bert, would be 103 this week.

Despite being an older Dad to me (he was 56 when I came along and Mum was 40), he was always full of fun and mischief and tall tales. I'm pretty sure I get my sense of humour from him, at least I think I have a 'GSOH' but maybe my friends just think I am weird.

Dad never travelled outside the U.K., although I took him to South Wales for a weekend once. His family bought him a car when he was quite young. I think it was before he was 20. It would have been quite abnormal in 1925 to own a vehicle. He'd had polio as a child which left him with a 'gammy leg' (his description). Cars were his life.

In the 1930's he ran a "High Class Car Hire Company" from Cecil Ave., Wembley (he was the Chauffeur). I have some letter head paper stating the phone number "Wembley 2346 Day & Night". In the 1970's I went to school in the same street.

He must have enjoyed driving the hoi polloi to the races and suchlike - he was full of tales of those times. His stories include carefully following the tram tracks home one night in a thick 'pea-souper'. Close to home he was surprised by people shouting and hollering at him. He had followed a branch line into the depot building and was driving over the tram inspection pit!

During WWII he was an air raid warden and ambulance driver in the Wembley/Harrow area of North West London. Some members of his family (aunts and cousins) died in a direct hit on their house in Sudbury Town. He worked until his seventies, the last job as Supervisor of a maintenance depot that looked after a fleet of those little blue-green invalid vehicles that you used to see around England.

He had a remarkable skill - he could diagnose most car engine problems simply by listening and smelling. People would leave their engine running and Dad would poke his head out the kitchen door and tell them which spark plug to change!

I remember as a little girl bouncing up & down on the sofa under the front-room window of our council house trying to catch sight of his 1950's pale green Ford Popular arriving home from work. Then I would bother him all evening with unanswerable questions like "why is water wet?" which he always tried to answer. One time we drove past a field with cows in and he said "Look at the pussycats" and we had a big discussion about what they were called which kept me entertained.

I think about him, and his life from 1905-1987 lived solely in one part of the country, with no knowledge of the strange new world to come - his high-tech pride and joy was a record player that would lift it's own arm up at the end of the side - and I wonder if he's paying attention to this blog or even if they have broadband where he is....

Unusual hobbies

The Guardian has a section of photos showing death-defying stunts - this one amused me.

Jeffrey R Werner uses a special Hulcher camera that takes 65 frames per second to catch a bullet shot by John Richmond, just as it pulverises a watermelon on top of his brother Ken's head Photograph: Jeffrey R Werner/Barcroft Media

A song that you don't so much listen to as feel in your bones - probably much the same as having a watermelon explode on your skull.

'I Want You' from live at Budokan (1978).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Marmite is Our Mate

Mmmm marmite! I grew up on it, so a cheese sandwich is incomplete without a smear of the black gold.

But whats that little fella doing lurking behind the real Mcoy.....

In this country, the brand 'Marmite' belongs to 'Sanitarium' - an Australasian food company that is owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They sell something they have the cheek to call Marmite (albeit in a charmless straight sided plastic pot) but their brown goo doesn't look, smell or taste like real Marmite. It is foul and bland with the consistency of mud. Here's their ad - with a kiwi twist.

This sad situation led me for many years to cajole friends and family into stashing jars of the real product in their suitcases for me and once I came back from London with a huge Costco family size bucket which lasted close to a year.

Now a new development.... lurking at the very top of our supermarket shelves, almost in the heavens we spied this little fella called 'Our Mate', dressed in the manner we know and love - the podgy, round black suit with a yellow hat. I know not how or why this happened but as you can see, the little one has a good role model to live up to in our kitchen.

For the uninitiated.

Interesting footnote: In 1923 an enterprising Australian merchant, Fred Walker, decided to provide Marmite with some competition. He developed a new product which he called Parwill, on the basis that if "Ma might", "Pa will". This didn't work but resulted in the Kraft product now known as Vegemite.

I once was lost and now I'm found...

It was one of those "faith in humanity" moments. I'd gone back to the classroom I was in last night, inspected the sofa in the foyer at close range (pulled all the cushions off), spoken to several receptionists and security guards, rang the police station and the gym. No luck.

At 2pm I stuck up several signs in the street, in the building and on the parking meter where I had parked - making sure to keep my cellphone within reach just in case it rang.

At 5pm I took a call from a friendly security guard who had been handed a set of keys. I described mine to him to make sure. The most remarkable feature is a plastic head of a smiling buddha that I bought in Taipei 10 years ago when I was visiting Mari. Needless to say this sealed the deal. The plastic buddha is obviously a lucky thing to attach to your keys, I can recommend it.

I reckon that’s about $300 saved as the bunch has 18 keys and an expensive Mitsubishi transponder thingymajig. I'm so chuffed that I am rewarding myself with a tall gin and tonic, the first for months... and a prawn and vege stir fry for dinner.

Crawling out of windows

I nearly had to do it tonight. I lost my bunch of keys, all the house(s) plus car keys and my gym swipe card. Luckily most can be replaced, except the car transponder which will cost about $250. I will spend tomorrow retracing my walk through the streets near the University and ringing police stations and the gym in case they've been handed in.

Meanwhile, I was saved from having to do the crawling. This is an unreleased version of 'Can you please crawl out your window' from 1966(ish) bootleg called 'Thin Wild Mercury music'. I love the images of bloodhounds that kneel, and especially the line "if he needs a third eye he just grows it" ...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mississippi acoustic style

The lead up to the release of Dylan's 'Tell Tale Signs" (Bootleg series #8) on Oct 8th, or 7th or 6th depending which part of the world you are in, sees Sony/Columbia offering another teaser. The Guardian today has a free download of a bare, stripped back acoustic version of 'Mississippi' which first appeared as a solid rocking track on Love & Theft. I've loved this song in it's original form. Listening to the new version takes some getting used to, but it's still a great song. Grab it today as it may not be there tomorrow.

Well my ship's been split to splinters and it's sinking fast
I'm drownin' in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it's light and it's free
I've got nothin' but affection for all those who've sailed with me

Everybody movin' if they ain't already there
Everybody got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now

Meanwhile on Expecting Rain, the deluge of complaints about the pricing of the new release rampages on, with as many counter complaints poking at the whinging middle-class who can afford to whine about the price of a deluxe CD collection from their state of the art laptops when others cannot afford to pay their rent or feed their kids. I am torn between wanting the 3 CD version but not wanting to let the Co. think it is OK to charge US $140 for it.

Anyway - its all about the music - not the rip-off fleecing of fans for an extra $100 by adding a fancy package with booklet, poster, keyring etc, so I may just wait & see if a straight 3 CD comes out at a regular price.

For those who missed it, a new track 'Dreamin of You" is free to download here. Great lyrics, atmospheric, and it has an addictively rythmic bass line.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Van bans cans while owl sings for ham

Monday. Work. Traffic. Etc. Sunshine & bluesky but not warm enough to shed trousers & boots.

I spotted this in the Guardian...
I'm a big fan of Van Morrison, but what is he thinking!! Come on Van! If you don't want to see people move around just stay at home.

We've been honoured the last few days with a particularly vociferous owl who sings at night time and sometimes in the day too. he sounds pretty close to the house and his call really does sound like "More Pork!!" hence its name. I've never seen it but apparently it should look like this.

The morepork is a New Zealand native bird of prey and protected species. More info here.
Etia anō āku mata me te mata-ā-ruru e tīwai ana
Me te mata kāhu e paro noa rā kai te tahora!
My eyes are like morepork eyes turning from side to side,
Like the eyes of a hawk who soars over the plain!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A manta ray, dead bunnies and election(s)

It was such a lovely morning here we couldn't be bothered to do more than sit out under the garden umbrella and eat a decent plate of bacon & eggs. Again a family of red and green lorrikeets flew squawking around nearby. I spent a couple of hours reading the Weekend Herald with my feet up so the sun could give a hint of tan to my pale winter legs. It was 1pm before we thought about moving anywhere and dragged ourselves away from our bush haven.

The lure of boats must be getting stronger as we found ourselves wandering around Half Moon Bay marina which is way over the other side of Auckland.

While walking around eyeballing boats of various size and shapes we spotted a black manta ray gliding in the shallows at the waters edge. Quite rare apparently to see one in a marina. We took some boaty photos and had a refreshment stop at a cafe then onto Musick point for a look at the reserve. Signs at the park entrance declared "Warning! Rabbit Poison" so we fully expected to see dead bunnies lying around - but no!

An art-deco style building, built in 1939, sits surrounded by green fields at the end of the peninsula and looks very out of place until you read the signs that it was a radio transmitting station - presumably during the war.

NZ is having an election the same week in November as the USA. I will be on holiday in Vietnam so will organise a postal vote.

Brief bio of
our Helen who is seeking a rare 3rd term in office, and the guy we are hoping will change something.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Raw fish and global dancing

Did my penance errr, exercise, at the gym then had coffee with fellow gym-mate Judy before meeting up with the Blue Galactic Monkey (aka Tamsin) for lunch at Rikka. The sashimi boat was delicious. We yakked away for 2 hrs and then I dropped the Monkey back at her motel so she could continue her wheelin & dealin.

Got home and found the deck awash in warm sunshine so I ignored all distractions and potential chores, grabbed the hammock cushions and lay out there for a couple of hours reading and listening to Dylan bootlegs with the backing track of squawking tuis and lorrikeets flitting from tree to tree above my head. Two cats joined me, drowsy and happy in the warmth. At 4.30 the sun dipped behind the trees telling me its not yet summer.

I don't know if this is old and I missed it on it's rounds of the net but I found it quite uplifting to watch Matt do his happy dance around the world (including Auckland).

If like me, you can't help but ask "why", you can find out here...

The Monkey and the wicked lunch.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Great Gig in the Sky

In memory of Pink Floyd founder Rick Wright

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
I think you had to be there - or be stoned. I was only 7 at the time, so I was neither, but interesting rare footage anyway.

Great Gig in the Sky (from Dark Side of the Moon)

PS. I saw the Floyd, some years later than this, perform "The Wall" live at Earl's Court (I think it was 1980).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gyming, swimming & scanning...

Despite a feeling of tired laziness, I spent 2 hrs at the gym this morning determined to get my moneys worth. A hundred $ a month sounded a lot when I joined but now I pay that much to fill up my car. I did the works today: cyling and rowing to warm up followed by the weights circuit, swimming and a steam in the sauna. Am thinking of trying the boxing classes.

Was ravenous afterwards despite having a bowl of porridge for brekkie so I scoffed a healthy lunch at home and then this afternoon I caught up with a film scanning job and also keyworded some of our photo library submissions. The sun shone all day. I can feel summer now - it is very close.

"Gonna get me a new Bob Dylan - and use him"

This is a great clip from 'No Direction Home'. One of my fave songs. It cuts to Bob backstage complaining that he can't go on tonight....

The close up of his face at the end is brilliant - cheeks blowing harmonica, nose pointing to the crowd.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A paperback mountain

Recently I have been acquiring books at a faster rate than I can devour them. This is the pile by my bedside.....

and is about a year's worth at my current reading rate. I think I need a lengthy contagious illness to give me an excuse for some catching up. Then again summer is approaching and I do have a little-used garden hammock waiting patiently for an occupant.

I was very good yesterday. Despite accompanying John to Borders to spend his Fathers Day voucher from Paul I managed to leave the store virtuously empty handed.

We spent most of Sunday researching the costs of boating in Greece and spreadsheeting a budget for a year there. Boat management is Johns' area of expertise as he's lived on one before. For example, the fuel needed to go from A to B requires you to factor in distance, engine size, speed of travel and possibly some other factors such as waviness of the water. As you can tell this is not my specialty. Apparently you need to keep the fuel tanks fairly full as otherwise they rust. So I think it maybe best to stay parked in a marina.

Our 2 moggies kipping in a nicely synchronised position on the sofa...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A walk in a park and a cheery phonecall

Friday night we watched the Coen Brothers film 'No Country For Old Men' and really enjoyed it. OK there is quite a lot of gratuitous shooting but I found it both funny and gripping.

Saturday we were trying to stay in denial about the house needing painting so we wandered around the Domain after a brunch in Mt Eden. Walking there reminded me of working close to the hospital when Theresa would meet me after work 2 nights a week to go power walking up and around the museum and down to the old Parnell railway carriages. I decided to call her up in Oxford for a chat. It cheered me up no end as we always have a good laugh and I'm happy to hear they are planning to come to NZ for a holiday in February.

Strangely too, Theresa is living proof that it is indeed a 'small world' as whenever we talk (admittedly not very often these days) she manages to tell me some snippet of gossip, about some person or other I work with here in Auckland, that has travelled via Sydney to Oxford and I hear it from there! Amazing. Or, maybe I am just not a very good gossip magnet. It has to go around the world three times before I pick it up.

Richard, a cousin who has retired to live in France, I haven't seen for years (possibly decades) is also planning a trip over here. Great. Love having visitors. Come all yee friends & family in the next 12 months or we may not be here. You may have to track us down in the Greek Islands instead.

Above and below are pictures taken in the Auckland Domain and in the very spring-like winter gardens.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Disappointingly only Human

It's intriguing to hear about some new method of defining people's traits such as Star signs or Chinese zodiac animals. Well I find it intriguing. I'm always keen to know if the 'system' makes sense and can highlight some aspect of 'me' that I hadn't put a handle on before. Well this week I learnt that I am a "Yellow Overtone Human" in the Mayan Galactic calendar. Tamsin told me so it must be true.

I'm actually quite disappointed as there are some great sounding Mayan 'types' such as 'Red Crystal Skywalker' (Jasmine), 'White Magnetic Wizard' (Rina). 'White Solar Wind' (Mari) and Tamsin herself is a Blue Galactic Monkey as I mentioned the other day.

I was hoping to be something monkey or ape like. So with all the exotic possibilities out there, being a 'Yellow Human' just sounds dull. Tamsin reassured me its quite good but I won't find out more until I see her next week when she's promised to fill me in.

Interested in finding your own sign? You can do so by putting your date of birth into this calculator. If you do, let me know what you are and I can quiz Tamsin about what it means and whether we are compatible. Val - you are a 'Blue Planetary Storm'!!

By the way I am a "Rat" with supposed characteristics: "Intelligent, adaptable, quick-witted, charming, artistic, sociable" and born under the sign of Aquarius ... "Loyal, eccentric, creative, rebellious problem solver" - it's all true! I bet this 'Yellow Human' thing is gonna be a bad sign :-)

Incredibly 106,000 aluminum cans are used in the US every thirty seconds.... there are some interesting 'volumetric' images at this site.

One thing I love about Auckland is the great sushi on (almost) every street corner. My yummy lunch today....

St Pierre's makes the best sushi.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dreamin of George Orwell's daily life

I found that George Orwell's original diaries covering 1938 - 1942 are being posted on this blog day by day exactly 70 years after he wrote them. From documenting the imminent meltdown of Europe into world war to domestic details of what was had for breakfast - they make fascinating reading. Thanks to Spatula forum for the link.

Bob's people whoever they are (Sony, Columbia, Managers) have released a short video of the song Dreamin' Of you from the upcoming 'official' Bootleg Series 8 - release date 7 Oct. It has Harry Dean Stanton (I think its him) travelling the USA following Dylan gigs with a caseload of taping gear and bootleg tapes. Quite amusing as it shows they do really know what is going on!

Right. Off to work.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dressed to impress

Oh No! The rain came back. After I had allowed the hopeful sunshine of the weekend push the rain sodden despair away.

Working from home this morning I realised I cannot focus properly on work stuff at home unless I dress for work. On my normal days off (Tues/Fri) I only idly check work email now & then when I feel like it. But on a work from home Monday, I needed to get into top gear and do some proper work, I had to put the right clothes on or else my mind wasn't up to the job. Track pants and sweatshirt wasn't going to do it. Why is that? Why do we have to dress up to persuade mental functions to kick in properly?

Actually, I had to put on a smart black jacket as I was working on a presentation to give at AUT (Auckland University of Technology) titled "Whats happening with e-Clinical Trials" which I did this afternoon with a colleague who covered the Bio-Statistics angles. So with PowerPoint readied and PowerSuit deployed we powered off to the North Shore campus to impress and educate!

Some images from the weekend wander around North Head and Cheltenham beach...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Boat plans change direction

Those who know us know that we've been scheming for the last couple of years to buy a Dutch barge and go cruising through the French canals for a year or two (or ten). For some time we (well mostly John) have been searching for a barge that meets our size, shape and financial goals; some parts of the French canal system being quite challenging (in terms of lack of air draft), and some boats being quite pricey. This weekend we started considering buying a 'normal' boat and cruising around the Greek Islands instead.

I think for this I could put aside my 'No Waves' ruling about boats, and go along with the plan on the grounds that there are lots of islands close together and the proportion of time we'd need to spend dealing with things wavy and wet would not be too bad. The added advantages are better weather, more hummus and olives, and the chance to adventure to places such as Cyprus, Turkey, and then further afield to Morocco even. The type of boat required seems to be more affordable than a barge. I think the photo op's would be more diverse too than being on the French canals.

Just need John to sell the business and we will be off like a shot. A few more weeks like the one just gone and I think he'll be highly motivated to move ahead with the planning. Hope all our friends will come and visit us??? Apart from dreaming and scheming the weekend melted away pretty quickly. Yesterday the whole day we gardened and pressure washed driveways and decks, and trimmed back wayward neglected pot plants and pulled creeping bindweed from the real plants. Today we walked around North Head soaking up some sun rays and then Jaz and Paul came over for a Fathers Day lunch. Afterwards, I stretched out on the sofa with a belly full of eye fillet in blue cheese sauce, reading Kate Atkinson's 'Not The End of the World' - short stories that you wish were longer.

"John McCain was a prisoner in Vietnam. So was Gary Glitter, and I'm not voting for him either." (Seen on Expecting Rain, its 'Long Johnny's' footnote). Thanks LJ.

Below: Bob and Tom Petty (1987) - for all those seeking shelter from crazy weather..

Friday, September 5, 2008

Day as a tourist

Its nice to be a tourist in your own locality sometimes. I had the excuse today as Tamsin was visiting from the South Island (or as some Kiwi's call it 'The Mainland'). Since she left our work early this year we'd kept in touch by email and it was good to catch up with her in person and hear about all her "wheeling and dealing" adventures around the country and hear her distinct signature vocal noises.

We drove north for the day to explore Matakana and Goat Island. The rain mostly held off. We stopped on the way to gawp at the bees and taste unusual varieties of honey at the Honey Shop, and to see the beautiful pots and glass work in Morris & James and on the way back we enjoyed a late lunch in the sunny courtyard of the Leigh Sawmill Cafe.

While taking photos of the gnarled, twisted sun-whitened trees at Goat Island Marine reserve I was caught off guard by an extra fierce wave which soaked my suede rockport shoes. I managed to dry them and the one wet sock while we were eating lunch at Leigh. Later at home Zappa took a liking to my salty shoes and licked them clean.

In true Tamsin fashion, she announced that she is a "blue galactic monkey" due to the date she was born in the Mayan calendar and that this is hugely significant to know. I am waiting for her to look up what I am as I feel I must surely be a purple ballistic orangutan

Below Tamsin, Elvis the cow and some other images of the day ...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hope the Levee don't break tonight

Sunshine continues to thaw us and inspire us into believing summer is around the corner.

Busy at work, so much so that I've had to bring some things home to finish on my 'day off' tomorrow.

Fingers crossed that New Orleans doesn't get too hammered by Gustav tonight, I have a soft spot for the place since I spent a week there in 2004.

If it keep on raining, the levee's gonna break
If it keep on raining, the levee's gonna break
Everybody saying this is a day only the Lord could make

This blogger has an interesting post on the history of songs about the Mississippi flooding and how Dylan's 'The Levees Gonna Break' from the Modern Times album is based on an old blues song 'When the Levee Breaks' by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie which was about the 1927 flood. There's a nice YouTube video link on Ramblings' site too.

Here are some of my favourite pics I took of "Nawlins"...