30 April 2008

Coldplay free download

For those of you who hadn't heard, the new Coldplay single is a free download from here. There's a bit more balls to this song, kinda. Seems to stop suddenly tho. Reminds me a bit of Genesis (I can't dance - I think it's that one anyway). I guess that's not too bad. Sort of.

Anyway, back to random iTunes strangeness (Bowie, The Killers, Oscar Peterson, Porcupine Tree, Gram Parsons - when will the metal turn up?!)


27 April 2008

Of movies. tv, restaurants, Anzacs and music

I was thinking of dividing this into a number of posts, and that may still happen, but let us kick into things and see what happens.

My current rant consists of the commercialisation of Anzac Day. There was blanket coverage of various ceremonies, documentaries and 'we will remember them' ad nauseum on Friday. It will come as no surprise that I'm against war - but my major issue with the coverage was not so much the glorification, as the lack of perspective. All of the doco's were focussing on the 'heroics' of people running around in the line of fire, killing gooks/krauts/*insert offensive racist epithet d'jour*, without critiquing the twats who were sending them there. There is no-one out there who would describe the British generals in WWI as 'competent' particuarly those in charge of the NZ/Aus forces. So why not rip the crap out of them? Why focus on a bunch of ignorant displaced kiwi's who had never been out of the North/South Island who figured they were supposed to run into a hail of lead?

My other major problem with Anzac Day as it stands, is the insistence that it was the beginning of our nation. WTF? Stoically running into bullets at the behest of a bunch of dumb Brits doesn't sound nation defining to me. If a number of them had point-blank refused to leave the ships due to the stupidity of the operation, then yeah I would support that as nation defining. The fact that our government was so happy to send our youth over to fight a war is, I guess, noble, but selling it as everyone has to do their duty and go fight Harry Hun? Nah, not buying it. That way leads to radicalism and chauvinism (in its original meaning), which brings to mind a current conflict. During WWI/II this led to white feather postings (also see Marillion), but to my mind that would be a far better definition of a country - separating us from England.

This does raise questions as to what could define NZ as a country. I'd suggest something from: Sir Ed climbing a mountain; an early All Blacks team; John Walker; Peter Snell; possibly Katherine Mansfield; Colin McCahon; Douglas Lilburn. Aside from the sports examples, which do typify New Zealands focus, the others are all examples of where NZers began using their own voice, rather than reflecting a British focus.

Hmmm that rant went on a bit. Oh well, no major surprise there :)

Movies wot I watched over the weekend. First up was Charlie Wilson's War. First up, I avoided watching this at the cinema as it has Julia Roberts. And she is, as usual, mindblowingly bad and ugly. The best thing I can say is that she is a fantastic example of horrendous casting. Aside from that the movie is interesting and does critique America (sort-of). It's a lot better than I thought it would be, and largely enjoyed it. Philip S Hoffman and Tom Hanks work well together. It's like a hollywood version of Syriana (Syriana-lite). 7/10 (when I was expecting a 3/10).

I've already reviewed I bought a vampire motorcycle, so #3 was 'Conspiracy' which looked at the Wannsee Conference where the Nazi's sorted out the Final Solution for the Jew's. My there were a lot of capitals in that sentence! Brilliant performance by Ken Branagh as Heydrich who was running the meeting. At times a bit disconcerting hearing the British accents, but a fantastic movie. And should be compulsary for all budding meeting managers out there. Nicely laid out giving people the opportunity to complain, then gradually either pulling them in or bullying them in to get a consensus. Superb. Almost in real-time as well.

We went out to Charlie Bills for dinner on Saturday for S's birthday. It had a great write-up the other week. But all in all I can't say I'd rave about it.

Entree: Hot smoked salmon on a sweet potato parmentier, with an apple and cashew nut salad and curry vinaigrette The salmon was excellent, really good subtle smoking, but was over-powered by the curry vinaigrette which was disappointing. Even if it hadn't I'm not sure how well the two flavours would have combined anyway.
Main: Bûche de chèvre and basil pesto pastry parcel with manuka honey roasted pumpkin and cumin lentils This was very good. Nice strong flavours from the pastry parcel without being overpowering, and the lentils were excellent and added to the flavour nicely.
Dessert: Sweet cream cheese soufflé with cassis poached pears, spiced cake and hazelnut ice cream Yup this was great. Probably the best of the three.
Service was fine, food was good. But it was all lacking something. The entree smacked of the bad aspects of fusion, and the main was lacking a wow factor. Although I was impressed that their limited menu they had a vege option and a fish option, so half of the entree and main menu wasn't red meat. Cool.

Music: just been posting stuff overseas, the new Sam Flynn Scott, Shihad and Odessa. So I might review them soon. In the meantime I should review the new Mesuggah and Dimmu Borgir. Maybe later.

me xxx

25 April 2008

Of bikes, vampires and food

Word association time, I say Neil Morrissey, you all respond with 'Men Behaving Badly'. Prior to MBB Neil was in a Brit horror (?) flick called I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle. The plot is summed nicely by the title, although not quite as succinctly as Snakes on a Plane. An occultist is killed by a rival motorcycle gang, and bleeds into his motorcycle leaving his blood and the demon he was summoning. A motorcycle courier buys the bike (Neil Morrissey) and discovers it only really runs at night, and does 'odd' things. Including taking on the entire gang who killed it's previous owner. There are some peachy keen one-liners in it and the eating of a parking wardens hand is just wonderful. The bike doesn't like crosses or garlic either, and there's a nice smattering of sexist 70s Brit dialogue, although the movie was made in 1990. 

The movie could have been absolute crap, but strangely it works - it's funny, it doesn't take itself seriously, and the priest scene describing demonic possession as being 'out of vogue' and Neil saying 'my motorcycle has turned into a vampire' is worth it. the priest yelling 'let's go kick some bottom' before the exorcism... even S enjoyed it. Dunno if i'd call it a b-grade, the scripting is actually OK and the editing isn't too bad either. There are big tributes to The Exorcist, and a variety of other horror movies of the 70s, but all done with cheesy goodness. 
For those of you wanting the movie - AroVideo, but note that it's on video.

The last two nights dinners have been tasty. Last night was a fish, scallop, green tea soba noodle in a seafood broth which is one of my favourite dishes, it's very light and tasty. Filling without being too strong or overpowering. Tonight was a nice artichoke, cheese and rocket salad (I added other stuff I had lying around, tomatoes, avocado etc) was also refreshing, tasty, and probably would have benefitted from some blue cheese. Sadly I'd eaten most of the blue during the week.

And I've only had one beer tonight.

23 April 2008

Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte Whisky

Wow, fascinating tasting this one with the usual suspects of Blair and Nick. Preconceptions shattered and scores all over the place. Stupidly I left my tasting notes at Regional (gosh, it's like I was drinking!), but I grabbed Nick's. This was the first time I'd tried Bruichladdich (pronounced Brookladdie) and I'd never heard of Port Charlotte before. So yup an interesting time awaited us.
The original distillery was closed in 1994, reopened in 2000 and the distillation is looked after by Jim McEwan (ex Bowmore).

Port Charlotte is on the location of the Lochindaal Distillery that closed in 1929, and uses equipment salvaged from another distillery.
Being an Islay there was expectation of iodine/salt and bacon flavours, but Daniel had warned us that Jim has been doing some interesting things and has carte blanche on how the whiskys are made and finished...

So let's start with the biggest surprise, my first 4 (out of 10) -the first time I've 'failed' a whisky (to be fair, we didn't go to the Whisky's of the world, where things were so bad the tasting group had a whiparound to get a decent bottle).

Yup, the 35yo 40.1% 125th anniversary American oak finished in Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal. A snip at NZ $560. I thought the nose was good, certainly suggested age, but the taste - it had gone. Nothing - it was like drinking water. Shockingly bad in fact. Nick and Blair didn't finish theirs (I don't seem to suffer from that...).

So my second favourite: Bruichladdich Rocks, I gave this an 8.5-9. Complex nose, wonderful taste, strong and huge finish. Really good complex malt this one and at NZ $90, excellent value. I found strong overtones of cognac in there (described by website as 'red wine' or 'bourbon') and it felt lovely in the mouth. Very creamy in fact.

But the pinnacle, and the first 10 I've given (in retrospect the Brora 24yo I reviewed sometime ago deserved a 10 rather than a 9.5), was the Port Charlotte PC6 6yo 61.6%. Think about that for a moment, the distillery has only been going 6 years - this is the oldest whisky they have. Last year they released the PC5 (which we didn't have) - sense a pattern? This whisky had everything. We (the three of us) couldn't believe the complexity, the intrigue, the sheer volume of different things happening. Sure it tasted strong, but not as strong as some cask bottles I've had. Very creamy. Long lingering developing finish, salty strong nose (Islay!!!). And at NZ $165... for those of you who want a cask strength whisky go buy this (if you want a cheaper one, Glenfarclas 105 10yo would be my pick).

I can't get over the variety present here. There were unusual tastes in many of the whisky's and we noticed Jim McEwan is refusing to put age on many of his malts - as he's mixing quite a few together (Rocks being an example) with excellent results. And with the most expensive whisky being one of the worst I've tried (well TBH 'boring' rather than 'worst') it emphasised that the most expensive is not always the best, and at more than 25yo you seem to be risking a lot on whether the whisky will be any good or if it will have lost its character. But still, if anyone reading this wants to buy my a 40yo Black Bowmore, I won't say no.

For those of you interested we tasted:
Port Charlotte PC6 2001-2007 6yo 61.6%
BL Rocks 46%
BL Links 46% 14yo
BL 3D 2nd edition Moine Mhor 50% -- tasted and smelt like a 10yo Laphroig
BL 15yo (our mystery malt)
BL 18yo 46%
BL 1970-2006 40.1% 35yo


20 April 2008

So you've recorded an album...

For the ultimate in music cred, press on vinyl. Thanks to Nick for this link.

Our MMG is trying to work out what songs would work for a quartet of: harmonium, tuba, banjo and guitar.

Suggestions welcome. Smoke on the Water springs to mind...

b x

19 April 2008

Sam Scott and beer

Today, as I've mentioned, is Record Store Day where we celebrate the beauty, wonder and perfection of the Independent Record Store. They have a store, they know about music, they care about music, and they are more than happy to chat about music. I even selected my t-shirt with care, Tonefloat Records an indie vinyl pressing company which does a lot of PorcTree and offshoots vinyl albums.

I've been in love with Slowboat for years. Back when I found Slowboat there were more indie record shops in Wgtn, another 2nd hand store (just up from Slowboat), the one in Cuba Mall where I used to get all my Queen vinyl and found a vinyl copy of Marillion's Afraid of Sunlight . Which is my favourite album. It's perfect. And then there was Alan's (later to be SmokeCDs) in the AA Centre. Ahhh good times.
But most of these disappeared, leaving Slowboat alone to carry the Indie flag for Wellington. So that's where I do most of my CD and vinyl shopping.

So when Slowboat announced that Sam Scott from Phoenix was going to be doing an instore appearance for Record Day it was a no-brainer whether I'd go or not. Sam has a new album coming out on Wednesday called Straight Answer Machine on Loop Records. The gig was interesting with Sam and Ponies only playing stuff from the new album without (as the band said) much practice. The gig was loose, rough and wonderful. The new stuff has, on first listen, strong rockabilly influences, some lyrics were Dylanesque, elements of alt-pop (if indeed that's a genre) - sounds promising. Thanks to a delivery issues there weren't any CDs to purchase, sorry Neil!! but it'll be in the mail on Wednesday afternoon. Very relaxed gig and the lack of practice showed but it tightened up during the gig, it was similar to Phoenix gigs of a few years ago where excitement often consisted of who would finish together and what key they'd be playing in (awesome gigs tho' loved them!).
Good turn out of impassioned music fans, hopefully a sign that Slowboat will continue to do well.

Now beer: having a 10 minutes to fill in, I wandered into Rumbles wine sales to have a look at their beer and whisky. Whisky selection was reasonable, but the beer was interesting - different from Regional Wines (my local indie booze shop), I found Milestone Brewery "Dark Galleon". The rum overtones are quite prominent in the nose, as are the choc dark malt. Taste: a bit weak, choc dark malt taste is strong, but the body is weakish, more typical of an ale than a dark beer - although it is a dark bitter rather than a stout - so you wouldn't expect it to be too heavy. It's reasonable high alcohol (5.4%) for a bitter, but this isn't obvious in the taste - it tastes more like a standard British ale. It's quite drinkable, and I'll certainly try and find some on tap. Cost (in NZ) was $8.50 which is steep for a beer (admittedly 500ml) and if you have no standards bottles of wine (at 12%) can be found for less. Using that as a comparison, the beer looks much much better. I would drink again, but I'm not blown away by this one. I will try to get others from this brewery tho'. Their list on the website looks interesting.

Love, B

18 April 2008

Fun night

Wrestling (blog to follow), now cheese (top quality blue - details to follow), chimay (2006 blue), and Edradour 24yo. Watching Bones.

Woohoo. if slighlty pished.

International Indie Record Shop Day

Is tomorrow. Go support the local indie shop. Buy something. Chat to the nice people behind the counter. If in Wgtn go to Slowboat and catch Sam Flynn Scott.

In other news, I've started reading Joyce's Ulysses. I'm enjoying it so far, will let you know if that position changes.

B. x

16 April 2008

More video

Ok so the video is stupid, but this one is for the lyrics.

Worth listening to.

14 April 2008

Phoenix Foundation

Mainly for Neil, but the lads have put out a video for the second single "Bleaching Sun".

Enjoy. B.

AppleTV Take 2

Given my post on how I hacked my AppleTV v1 was, according to Google Analytics, my most popular/viewed post, I've decided that I'll recount my experiences for AppleTV Take 2.

I'd been putting this off for a bit until a few more of the apps I like were available for Take2 (which is just Apple's name for v2). So this past weekend seemed as good a time as any, so I kicked in to it.

Firstly: many of the websites mentioned that the upgrade from v1.1 to v2 would delete any AVIs sitting on the machine, and since these were the only copies I had of some of the stuff I decided backing them up would be a good idea.
Turned out that the upgrade left them all alone, so you may want to skip this stage.

Useful command time: rather than dragging things across using Fugu (for an SCP connection) I decided to do a bit of hunting and find commands to all of the backup in one foul (slow) swoop. The directory I had previously created on the AppleTV was 'Movies' under the user frontrow so the command you want to move them all across to the local computers Movies folder is:
scp -1 -r frontrow@appletv.local:~/Movies/ /Users/USERNAME/Movies/

Allow a long period of time.

Having backed everything up I ran the update, took about 5 minutes to download everything and then 10-15 to install it all. Not very exciting seeing small white bars move across the stage, but eh. It didn't break anything. And all my music was available and I could surf YouTube. Woohoo.

However I couldn't connect to the box so needed to install SSH. Again a patchstick seemed the easiest way - as it's non-invasive and I was watching a DVD at the time. Rather than going through the tutorial again, the best description I found on the web was here. You'll need a 512mb USB drive, 10.4.9 combo updater (link on the site to download), AppleTV 1.1 (link on site) and your MacOS 10.4 install disks - the ones that came with your computer are fine. Or steal from somewhere.
the process is quite simple and went pretty quickly, so I soon had an SSH enabled appletv.

Connecting to the appletv using terminal and ssh -1 frontrow@appletv.local (or ip address) suggested all of the files I'd backed up were still there which was exciting.

The next step was to enable Sapphire (the AVI browser). Now the method to do this on appleTV1.1 was to load ATV Loader, sadly thats not compatible with Take2. So I had to load Sapphire manually. Reasonable instructions are available here. I found it easier to use Fugu and dump the downloaded files across to the AppleTV using that.

After a reboot etc things were rocking along, well I could see the files. Admittedly no codecs had been installed so I couldn't actually watch anything! So next step is codec installation.

Again found a good tutorial for this here. And that seemed to work well. I now have a Take2 AppleTV which is working nicely with my AVIs. I did have to delete off some Sapphire settings: (frontrow - Sapphire - @TV - and levels below that from memory) then got Sapphire to rescan the AVIs I had - which put them into the Movie and TV lists that the new version of Sapphire has.

Quite simple, painless and impressively didn't lose any of the files I had left on there.

Woohoo. And all while I watched Pollock, so arty and geeky. !!


12 April 2008

Red Road (2006)

Given the number of crap movies out there, the relief of finding one that is good, let alone excellent, is almost palpable. Red Road is one such movie. The characters are based on ideas from Lars von Trier, with other writers/directors doing the story/movie. This particular movie made in 2006, is set in Glasgow. In keeping with most movies in Glasgow it's not the glamourous pretty arty side, rather it's the gritty dark grotty side most of us are used to seeing (sorry Neil).

The main character, Jackie, works as a CCTV operator and recognises a man, interestingly the story is not fleshed out quickly - it's developed slowly, who he is, what he did to her, and how she's going to deal with things. Rather than ruin the story, I'm going to leave discussion of the plot.

What I absolutely loved about this movie was the story development. Nothing is clear cut, nothing is laid out, nothing is obvious. The slow release of Jackie's backstory, the guy's backstory, his future, her future and how the two will intersect. The acting is superb and I cannot get over how engrossing the character development was. It was incredible how the levels of empathy as a viewer changed towards both Jackie and her protagonist. Given what the man did do to Jackie (which is eventually revealed), the scripting to manipulate the viewers impression of him, the act, and Jackie is brilliant. Her confrontation, his response, his flatmates response. The casting is perfect, the acting perfect, the scripting perfect. The setting is fascinating given rants I've had (see November last year) about the Big Brother surveillance in the UK. The setting is interesting and adds to the character development, allowing them to respond to what is a basically a bleak hostile environment.

Basically if you like character based stories, which are brilliantly developed and showcase what movies are capable of, go see this movie. It's certainly going down as one of the highlights of my film watching.

Very impressed, B.

6 April 2008

Mummy, I have a temperature...

Dear, Mummy will have to take your temperature. would you like your special thermometer?
"Ohhh yes Mummy, it makes me want to get a cold!!!"

Get your beloved offspring - A Spongebob Rectal Thermometer!!!

This has been a public service announcement.

5 April 2008

Reptiles, the Wahine, and anything else I can think of

Heh I forgot daylight saving ended this morning, but as a plus it means I've been incredibly productive and it's only 1045am.

I watched the first two episodes of the David Attenborough/BBC doco series 'Life in Cold Blood' - all about reptiles. It's like reptile p0rn. Actually it is reptile p0rn, and amphibian p0rn, it's herp heaven! Readers of the blog may remember the golden frog that waved? Well that's in the second episode - it's sooooo cute. And the chameleon's? Awwww I want one!!! Sorry, need to find tissues now...

The Wahine disaster has been dominating the DomPost recently. Or rather the 40th anniversary of the sinking. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm bored to death with it. I can't see how it was a defining moment in the development of NZ as a nation (as can be argued for Chanuk Bair). Am I missing something here? And really, is 40 years a good number to celebrate? I have my doubts about CBair too, it seems to be celebrated for introducing the world to the taciturn emo stunted NZ bloke. Choice.

oh well, I have wrestling to watch this afternoon which promises to be excellent (Wrestlemania 24). The lads, the beer, the cheese, the grapes, the men-in-tights man-handling each other!

me xx


Yes, a whole post devoted to science.

First up, following a conversation about the nightmare that is the three gorges dam, I came across a really interesting article in Scientific American summarising the problems associated with the project. And the number of deaths already attributable to the lakes...what appears the most disturbing is the potential for earthquakes. the dam is located on two fault lines, and apparently dumping loads of water on top of these induces more/larger quakes. This isn't a new finding, the Americans observed it when they built a dam on a faultline. Let's not start on the effects to flora and fauna if this monstrosity breaks...but its not all bad news, there's also potentially terrible news: another 12 dams are planned for the Yangtze. Perhaps this could be a good distraction from the Olympics?
Worth reading that article. Possibly not if you are depressed...or like dolphins/pandas/flora/fauna/history/people.

In other news: I got asked to review a paper for a journal. After telling the Editor I didn't have my PhD yet and hadn't done this before - which he was fine with - I got the paper. Quite an eye opening experience. the writing was poor, the structure largely absent, and aside from one new fact was a repeat of early 70s work. Why would someone submit that? Oh and most of the major papers in the field had been ignored. Good move!!! So I reckon I learnt a lot from that and feel substantially better about my writing now!

Love, me xxx

1 April 2008

dino rock - Mesozoic Mind

A vid today, Mesozoic Mind. The main vid starts about 2min30sec in, so hang on til then...


Science, Music, Reptiles and handbags

it's link time today kiddiwinks!

First up, for the muso's in the readership. I like old musical equipment and stuff, hence my harmonium. And old recordings, I used to have a good collection of 78s until someone threw them out. Grr. Anyway, Phonautogram's are the worlds oldest sound recordings, predating Edison's recordings by a good two decades and were made by a Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. His invention etched soundwaves onto sheets of paper previously blackened by smoke. How cool is that!! A summary of the recent decoding of the sheets to music is here on the NYTimes website. The group who did the work is here, and sound samples here.

Next up, thanks to my fav disease babe, whats that under your arm? A crocodile purse...careful it bites.
Someone wandered out of a Norwegian aquarium carrying a crocodile under his arm. Awesome! A midgit croc called 'Spike', this stuff just writes itself...more info on the croc species here and here.