Saturday, December 29, 2012

Poptimist ahoy

Earlier this month, I spent a few days in Hobart while attending the IASPM-ANZ conference.This is my favourite photo from the trip, taken on the first afternoon during a random walkabout. In the background is the conference venue, the UTAS School of Art - a converted jam factory on the waterfront.
Old rockers never die, they just move to Hobart :)

Brightly painted fishing boats and floating restaurants dominate Hobart harbour - rather a nice change from the hulking great container ships that are prominent in Lyttelton. It was also nice to spend some time surrounded by old buildings again, wandering anywhere the mood suggested and not having to constantly worry about cordons, road closures and demolition sites.

Great trips always feature the unexpected - that moment or place that will stay with you for ever. This trip had two - a moment and a place that were both surprising and memorable.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012 Days of Xmas

Another year, another version!
(a bit late in the season, but never mind... cheers!)

On the first day of Xmas, my true love gave to me...
A payout from the EQC.

On the second day of Xmas, my true love gave to me...
Two shining rainbows, 
and a payout from the EQC.

On the third day of Xmas, my true love gave to me...
Three fearless leaders, 
two shining rainbows, and a payout from the EQC.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Radio With Pictures

I spent most of last week thinking and talking about music, radio, music, documentaries, music, research and more music. With a little bit of 'life-after-devastation' thrown in for good measure. Many people I spoke to asked how the rebuild was going, and most were taken aback when I replied that, for the most part, we aren't up to the rebuilding bit yet - we're still in the demolition phase.

The ongoing effects of disaster don't usually filter through to overseas news outlets. People living in other countries would be forgiven for thinking that we must be over it by now. We've got funky container shops and a new sports stadium - we've even hosted a rugby test - so if Lonely Planet says we're cool, then it must be all better, right?

I wish it was.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

In transition

The house-building process is kinda like any human relationship except that the equivalent journey of  meeting/dating/planning a wedding is squashed into a much shorter timeframe, with a few different people involved.

There's the courting phase in which you check out all the suitors/building companies, spending considerable time eyeing them all up and comparing their good points. During this phase your potential partners are all on their best behaviour, calling regularly to see how you are, emailing you with updates and options, and always excitedly looking forward to the next meeting.

As you head towards formalising your relationship, you may find yourself under a reasonable amount of pressure to 'put a ring on it' and sign the contract. Like any pre-nuptual agreement, this document needs to be carefully worded and thoroughly checked. Cynical friends may tell you that your future partner is only interested in the ring/contract and won't be nearly as attentive afterwards but you brush those thoughts aside and head off to another catering meeting/material supplier. So many choices need to be made at this early stage of planning the event that the momentum of constant decision-making carries you along.

You may sense a change in your partner after the signing of the pre-nup/build contract, a growing gap that wasn't evident earlier in the relationship. There could be phone calls that aren't returned, emails that aren't responded to, or questions that go unanswered.

Monday, October 8, 2012

For Want of a Nail

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where this blogger is?
 A demolition survivor in my garden

Apologies. For a while there, life got well and truly in the way. But, having emerged (just yesterday) from the binary black holes of house and marking, I finally have time for an update.


There have been a couple of notable anniversaries since I last wrote... the most obvious being the second anniversary of the Sept 4 (Darfield) earthquake. It was the first weekday observation - the original event was early Saturday morning, and the first anniversary was on a Sunday. Being the middle of term, I was busy with tutorials and workshops at polytech for most of the day before dashing across town to the university for a meeting. I barely had time to stop that day, but it was lurking in my thoughts the entire time. 

Although it was noted in the day's news bulletins and current affairs shows with the predictable two-years-on stories, the fact that this original event has since been overshadowed by the Feb 2011 quake will see it fade sooner from the nation's collective commemorative moments. I don't think it will be too many years before the Sept 2010 quake becomes merely a footnote to Feb 22nd, and those of us who suffered most in the original event will forever be pointedly reminding people that we got munted first.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Power to the people

For the third time in just over a year, I've felt compelled to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. It's a good outlet for venting, for publicity, and for offering a counter-argument to articles/other letter writers. So far I've written letters about waiting for insurance decisions and the Save TVNZ7 campaign. Now I can add "disputing other academics' research" to the list (if they print the letter, I'll scan & post it). Oh dear, I'm turning into that archetypal over-educated suburban noisemaker who likes seeing their name in print.

It's not that I think the research in question is wrong, it's just narrowly-focused. It's not what's in the research, it's what isn't. I shifted from Media/Communications across to Cultural Studies because I felt I needed to understand and look at not just media, but the wider social environment in which it operates. The research in question (from a Marketing lecturer) looked at the use of social media during and after the Chch/Canterbury quakes, and found that social media platforms served as virtual community spaces where people could meet and share information.

Which is all well and good - if you have access to this electronic world. My own research in this area also found some positive uses for social media and the internet but, overwhelmingly, respondents reported difficulties in accessing any kind of electronic media - mainly due to lack of power. It's hard enough to watch television (let alone surf the 'net) when you have no electricity, and some respondents to my survey were without power at home for over 8 weeks.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Putting it right

The Press have a weekly column called 'Putting it right' in which they note the errors of their ways, as pointed out by readers. I was in that column a few months ago, after a reporter corresponding by email assumed I was male and wrote an article quoting research by a 'Mr' V. I'm not convinced that as many people would've seen the correction as read the original article, but it's the putting right that counts... right?

Assumptions can lead to problems. I remember being told at primary school that you should never assume, for you will only make an ass out of u and me. Since that day I've never forgotten how to spell the word, but I've fallen prey to its meaning many times.

For example, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I haven't been updating much recently because I've been busy grading tests/exams/assignments or planning and delivering lectures. Which is true, to a certain extent.

You might have assumed, as did I, that there would have been regular, excited updates on this blog at every stage of the build & fitout process. Believe me, that was the intention in the beginning, and I have been taking lots of photos.

But then again, you might assume that when you contract a design-&-build company to build your house, they have robust systems and procedures for the entire process. Systems that have been tested and proven over the many years they have been operating. You tell them what you want, they design it the way you want, and then they build it for you while you sit back and pop in once a week for a quick look-see.

You might also assume that a simple, single-level dwelling on a flat, suburban section would not present an extraordinary challenge.

You would possibly even assume, when entering the final week before hand-over, that the list of things to do & issues to sort out would be dwindling, not growing.

But, during this build, there seem to have been a number of assumptions made at various points - by many different people in the twisted chain - that have turned round to bite us in the ass, one by one. And sometimes, just for fun, the screwups hold hands and gang up on us, arriving in groups of three or four.

Friday, July 27, 2012


...where did that month go? Oh, I know.
Teaching starts in July, and before the teaching comes the prep and the organising and stuff.
Thesis proposal is due on August 1st, and before the submission comes the reading and the writing and the meetings and the thinking and stuff.


Monday, July 9, 2012


I went for a wander down Manchester & Madras Streets this afternoon, so here are some random things of note (or not)

Parking, parking everywhere, and not a thing to do...

But wait, there's MONOPOLY!
 $240? Might not get much trade at that price, love...
Call me back when you've upgraded to a hotel...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dr Foster

Doctor Foster 
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again!

We've had a few 'Dr Foster' moments recently... some of those wheel ruts on the building site are deceptively deep, and there's been more than one person cursing & swearing after stepping in the wrong place!

In honour of Dr Foster, we decided to head into town and wander down the newly re-opened Gloucester Street. First we stopped in at the Re:Start mall to check out the recent changes in the area. Our first sight was this massive crane working on the Clarendon Towers demolition.
Still life with Bridge of Remembrance (side view) & crane

Sunday, June 17, 2012

O for Awesome

'O for awesome' may be a bit of a local joke for local people... so if you're not from round here (or are too young to remember) go here, here or here.

But anyway, onto the awesome!

The newly minted "Ministry of Awesome" continues to gather ideas like these:
 Bike rack by Knowhow Shop, LA
Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, South Korea

Imagine the possibilities! All we have to do is get people thinking outside the square - conceptually and literally. The Square is not the totality of our inner city, and we have more public spaces and opportunities than are tied up in that one bit of land with its soon-to-be-demolished neo-gothic ex-cathedral. Let's move on already, and get creative!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Snow daze & battling bastards

Snow Daze

The snow has almost completely gone now but in our amateur-weather-predicting defense, it was a rather warm weather system that dumped it on us. The complete lack of wind meant the snow clouds remained parked overhead, dropping snow straight down in a sweet, floaty kind of way.

So, as you do, I went wandering with my camera on Thursday to capture some of the neighbourhood winter wonderland...
 Looking down Strickland St towards the Port Hills

 Snow dandruff on the statue at the Beckenham shops

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


There's been a lot going on over the last couple of weeks including the odd winter sniffle. Luckily most of the snottiness has passed me by, inflicting most of its damage on the male members of the household.

Which is just as well, as I've been far too busy to get sick - organising protest meetings about public broadcasting, making my thoughts heard on the UC Arts proposal (votes/results here), working my last shifts at the Quake Box and doing some fill-in production work a few days a week... you can see why my thesis proposal is still very much a work-in-progress.

The house has been moving on at pace.
 The foundations were laid on Monday May 21st, then the framing arrived on the Friday.
On Monday 28th, the walls started going up... this is where it starts to get really exciting, where the shapes we've made in our heads/on paper start to come to life.  The more housey it gets, the harder it is to wait out the remaining time until it's completed.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The news game

Tim the weatherman checks his appearance in the mirror, carefully skews his tie slightly off-centre and tussles his hair once more. Wearing his trademark cheeky grin like a badge of honour, he waits for the right moment before turning to face the camera.

The floor manager makes his standard hand movement (index finger raised in a classic ‘up-yours’ gesture) and Tim turns around with a well-rehearsed air of surprise.

“Hullo Noo Zild, gosh it’s nice to see you. Been a bit of a cold old day up & down the country, but we’ll find out more about that a little later on in the bulletin. I’m off for a cup of Bell Tea and a Gingernut and I’ll see you in about 20 minutes. But right now it’s six o’clock.”

As the credits start to roll, Tim looks over to the news anchors with two fingers up in the air.
“And that, boys and girls, is how you do it. Two points for me & we haven’t even started yet.” With a smirk, he turned on his heel and sauntered off to the green room.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Scenes from a mall

For the last month I've been spending 2-3 days a week working at the Quake Box in City Mall. This little stint has now come to an end - the Quake Box gets moved to a new location this weekend.

It's been... interesting. So here, in no particular order, are some random incidents and photos from the central city in recent times.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Congratulations! It's a...

... hole.
Yep, we're now the proud owners of a hole in the ground.

Given that in the whole of last week we only added a fence, it's nice to see some progress. Already we're a day behind schedule - this digging was supposed to happen last Friday - but at least it's a glorious, muddy start.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ready, Set, Build

It seems like just the other day I was lamenting the lack of rebuilding going on... oh wait, it was! That may be true for the city centre, but around the edges and out in the suburbs, repairs & new constructions are getting underway.

Just across the road from my PO Box used to be a bookstore, art gallery & dairy. This is what it looked like on March 17, 2011...

Here's the same site today...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Memories on Madras

During a break in the recent Music & Crisis conference someone approached me and asked how the rebuild was going.
'Rebuild?' I laughed. 'We're not up to rebuilding yet, we're still in the demolition phase.'

And every week, it seems, another notable building gets added to the demolition list, some to predictable outcry and plaintive petitions wanting signatures. Other petitions have already been sent off in protest

However, on Monday we reached a milestone - the reopening of Madras Street, from Tuam St onwards. Traffic was reportedly busy all day long, and has been ever since too. But I wanted to walk not drive, so I could take some pictures and contemplate the empty spaces at my leisure.

The journey started at C4 for a compulsory coffee, after which I headed towards the freshly-opened roadway.
It's the latest craze in inner-city abandoned sites - the open-air basement bath-house. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Telling tales: How NOT to eat Vegemite (or Marmite)

So I've just got back from spending a few days with a friend in San Francisco - yep, I went from Shakeytown to the Shakey State. Go figure. But I suppose if you only considered destinations based on perceptions of risk & safety, no-one would ever go anywhere.

My friend, who shall remain nameless, works at an independent grocery store - the kind that reacts to customer requests and is willing to stock oddball products such as wasabi mayonnaise and Vegemite. It's not quite Marmite (if it was, it might be worth a fortune: see 'Marmageddon') but it's close enough to feature in this story.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, and in honour of my impending visit (yeah, Vegemite is Australian but never mind), my friend decided to try this Downunder taste sensation at his work recently. Or, to put it more accurately, he was dared to. Some of his co-workers had found a jar of Vegemite underneath a shelving unit, and it was dangerously close to its expiration date. So they dared my friend to try it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Coming out

Over the last few years I've come to the realisation that I'm not what I thought I was. Sometimes I guess it just takes a while for it to sink in that perhaps you've only been acting in a certain way because that's what was expected of you.

But what if all you are ever exposed to are thoughts & theories that keep reinforcing those notions, never exposing you to anything different, never sharing ideas that may challenge your perception of what is 'right' and 'normal'?

I was one of those people. I followed a certain path because it seemed logical, because it was a natural fit with what I knew of the world, and of my place within society. It could be expected, given my background, my experience and my professional life, that I would follow the path laid out before me... one thing leading on naturally to the next, in a logical sequence.

But life's not like that.
I'm not like that.

I should know that by now, as I've been living in this skin for nearly 40 years... surely this should not come as a surprise, to me at least. Can I even pinpoint the exact moment that I decided to stop pretending otherwise, to allow myself to stand up and be counted as part of this group? I mean, there's no real incentive to do so (despite the rumours, there are no toaster ovens on offer), and in fact, opening up in this manner often causes people to question your sanity, your intelligence, your purpose in life, and whether or not it (or you) will ever really make a difference to the world.

But I feel that the time is right, and that if people like me don't speak up, then we run the risk of becoming totally invisible, to the point of extinction.

Ah-heh-hemmm... here goes:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Third time lucky

On Friday (and Saturday) night hubby & I were at the re-re-reopening of one of Lyttelton's few surviving drinking holes - the Wunderbar. Hopefully it proves to be third time lucky... even though each reopening party has been a hell of a good time, we're all hoping there isn't going to be a fourpeat.

The first reopening party was way back in 2010, after the September earthquake. I almost made it - I did get to Lyttelton that night, but at the exact moment I arrived in town, the Wundy was absolutely packed and heaving to a raucous heavy metal band. After bumping into a good friend of mine on the footpath, we decided to head over to the Lava Bar & hang out there for a while. It was good night, and one of the last times I set foot in the Volcano Cafe/Lava Bar before the February 2011 earthquake caused fatal damage to it, and other buildings. It was subsequently demolished, along with a large chunk of London St.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lost and found

Sing along now, you know the tune...

Oh bring back, bring back, bring back my suitcase to me, to me
Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my suitcase to meeeeeeeeee...

If you liked that little number, here's a few other fun numbers to consider:

25: The number of days since I've seen my suitcase

20: Days left to make a claim against the original carrier for lost luggage

15: Days remaining until my next trip, when I'm gonna need that suitcase (and those clothes)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dancing in the rain

On Wednesday the call went out: We need dancers!

One of GapFiller's many projects, the Dance-o-mat, was about to be filmed as part of a project by/for Gehl Architects. Gehl have been involved in our central city rebuild plan, and are helping to make people-friendly cities around the world. Our little Dance-o-mat was to be featured as part of... well, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure what the topic/story of this film is, but it was a good excuse to get off my arse and check out the Dance-o-mat. Especially when they said there'd be free champagne ;)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A week of it

 ...or perhaps, a week without it.

A week without earthquakes, a week without Kiwi accents.
A week without decent coffee, and a week without my luggage.

Yes, in yet another demonstration of the perversity of the universe, when I arrived in the USA on March 3rd en-route to my conference in Orlando, my luggage was nowhere to be seen. This situation was not entirely unexpected however, as it had not been a smooth trip from the beginning.

The trouble started when my very first flight from C-city to Auckland was delayed, and I missed my flight from there to LA. No worries, I thought to myself. This is why I book complicated trips through a travel agent, so that it's all one continuous journey, and issues like this have to be resolved by the carrier that stuffed it up (*cough* AirNZ). After calls to my travel agent, followed by multiple presentations at various customer service desks and check-in counters, I had done everything I could to make sure my travel was sorted and my luggage was re-tagged & ready to follow me on my new flight path via San Francisco.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Are we there yet?

Green/yellow, aka T.C.2
Is better than being green/blue
But the headaches it brings
Over all sorts of things
Makes it an equally unfortunate hue

10 Simple Steps to Rebuilding in Shakeytown

Step 1: Arrange for an earthquake or ten (thousand) to render your existing home uninhabitable.

Step 2: Wait a few months for a decision from your insurance company. Go through more major earthquakes, and wait a few more months for insurance company to deal with the sudden deluge of new claims.

Step 3: Ponder your future, your navel, your sanity. And then do it for a while longer until you finally get confirmation of demolition from insurance company.

Monday, February 20, 2012

On yer bike: PMT, PCS & SOS

It's two-for-the-price-of-one time... two (or maybe more) different topics being squished into one post thanks to the general chaos & busyness that is life in Shakeytown. Well, my life anyway - I can't claim to speak on anyone else's behalf.

But no matter how much is going on, it's important that we remember to make time to stop and smell the roses. Even here in the land of the empty lot, there are events taking place that are worth making an effort to get to. One such gig was the recent Cycle Powered Cinema, another Gapfiller project making use of empty space to fill up our empty time.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Clowning around

I nearly didn't go to the protest on February 1st at the CCC. By the time protest-day was drawing near, Mr M had sort-of handed back his payrise and the government had announced a glorified babysitter would be sitting at the council table in an effort to make everyone get along. Whether this appointment has any legal standing or not is debatable, but then again, what point is there in quibbling over details when it could probably be quickly & easily written into the CERA legislation somewhere. Who knows what's already covered in there... some of the councillors don't seem to have a clue.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The little gig that could

I called in to see hubby at C4 last Wednesday...

"See that woman sitting with the laptop down the back?"
I nodded.
"That's Amanda Palmer, lead singer for the Dresden Dolls. She's got tattoed eyebrows, likes strong coffee, and..." He leaned over the counter with a glint in his eye and a huge grin on his face.
"...she's married to Neil Gaiman."

Now that was indeed cool. My inner book geek squeed with delight, while my outer self retained (I hope) its calm facade. I'd heard of the Dresden Dolls, and had read that Amanda Palmer was doing a gig for the Occupy Christchurch camp while in town, but Neil Gaiman needed no introduction, he's someone whose work we've both enjoyed many times over.

I thought nothing more of it until I got home from uni, when hubby announced that he'd got chatting with Ms Palmer later on that afternoon, and she'd put his name on the door for the gig that night.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Your 15 minutes starts now

To those of you who have just joined us, welcome aboard and thanks for flying Shakeytown Airways. Please buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

If you've boarded this flight thinking it's going to be non-stop hilarity, you may wish to leave the aircraft before takeoff. Those of you who are frequent flyers will know that the movie selection on board tends to be a little moody, going up and down with the movements of the planet, the local council and anything else that is encountered along the way. Sure, there's some funny stuff scattered among the angst but it's humour that stems from frustration and bewilderment, and there really is much more of the latter.

Contrary to what you may have been lead to believe by the Press article, this is not a satirical blog. Some days it's just easier for my seismically-charged synapses to approach a serious issue from a sideways angle, to write in verse, to twist words into new shapes, to take an absurd situation and make it even more so. We are never short of ideas and role models round these parts - there are plenty of absurdities, and satirical responses to them. Joe Bennett has a lovely running gag involving a cross-dressing Bulgarian hitman named Angela, who has become quite the star in high heels and combat gear, fighting the council-imposed eviction notice.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Storytime in Shakeytown

Gather round and get yourselves comfortable, cos it's time for a little fairy story*. This one comes from a mystical town that may seem familiar - the Land of Containers, Hardhats, Cracks & Hazards... or Chch for short.

The boss council worker - let's call him Mr Moustache - had only just come back from holiday and already things were going horribly wrong. He went to see the big cheese, his dear friend and close adviser, Smiley Bob, to see if he could help cheer him up.
What Mr Moustache & Smiley Bob might look like...
Image: The Press

"Smiley Bob," he said, "it seems no matter what I do, the people no longer like me. I've tried to be reasonable, to defend my actions and to explain how much it hurt to be absent while the city was bouncing like a trampoline. Look!" he cried, pointing to his right knee. "I was at the beach when I heard the news and, because I got momentarily distracted, I forgot to put sunscreen on this whole leg! I thought the newspaper would use a stock photo for the article, not snap me in my shorts & t-shirt on my first day back. My suit trousers rub on the sunburn, it's not my fault!" And with that he sat down on the couch, staring sadly at his one pink leg and the five pink toes peeking out of his jandals.