Who’s blogging? by underground
March 9, 2009, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Journalism, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , ,

Blogging is the internet version of newspaper’s letters to the editor and radio’s talkback. Rather than the media dictate what comments and opinions are aired or published, these formats allow for feedback from the general public. But who is talking? Who is it that writes to the editor? Who rings up the radio station? Who keeps an active blog?

At our community paper with a readership of around 25,000, we get a steady stream of letters to the editor. A vast amount, however, are from familiar names. Typically, but not always, these people have a lot of time on their hands as they are retired. Their gripes are usually with council, many are valid, many are the products of idle minds.

The same people get on the phone calling up late night talkback, complaining about anything and everything.

So who’s blogging? Who are the people behind the most active blogs, many updated as often as daily?

My last post was a month ago, and even then it was a book review. As a reporter I spend most of the day in front of the computer either writing the news or reading the news. In my spare time, doing the same thing but for my blog is hardly appealing. It has to be something I want to get off my chest or something on my mind I want to put online that spurs me to put up another post. Last year as a student I could put up as many as a post a day. Readership skyrocketed! But now I simply do not have the time nor the energy. So who does? And why do they?

I’m not quitting my blog. I’m just writing when I want to, not writing to keep the weekly ratings above 300. Next post might be some time away!

Review: Auckland Big Day Out ’09 by underground

A notably smaller crowd filed its way around Mt Smart Stadium on Friday January 16 for Australasia’s premier music festival. Headlining this year was veteran rocker Neil Young, a surprise choice which aimed to pull older music fans, but risked deterring younger fans. As it turned out, Young was one of few highlights as unenthusiastic bands struggled to impress an uninterested crowd. Well that was my take anyway!

Most the early bands were unremarkable, although Clap Clap Riot were an early highlight, with catchy upbeat songs. The Naked and the Famous were the first of many indie bands to disappointed, particular as the sound was so poor. For many bands of this genre the bassist had an awful distortion effect on their set up, while the guitarists abused a lineup of pedals. Either that or the sound guy hates indie bands. What might work on a studio recording doesn’t necessarily sound good live.

Not just awful on the radio, the Ting Tings were best avoided live. With few options we headed to the main stage to check out Welsh metallers Bullet for my Valentine. An unexpected breath of fresh air, Bullet for my Valentine offered a reprieve from the uninspiring indie bands that dominated the event’s bill. The sane were safely tucked away in the stands, far from the mayhem in front of the stage. As if possibly the largest circle pit ever wasn’t dangerous enough, for the final song the vocalist asked the crowd to part through the middle, before giving the word for the insane to close the gap in a hail of fists and feet.

The boiler room leaked onto the main stage with Pendulum reminding non-ravers that drum and bass hasn’t changed much in the past decade. The fluro-clad masses were pleased nonetheless, with a huge hands-in-the-air crowd filling most of the football field getting their groove on.

TV on the Radio was the epitome of what was wrong with this year’s event. Like so many in their genre, TVOTR lacked energy, enthusiasm, and sounded poor. The vocalist was the only band member with any stage presence, the guitarist spending most the time with his back to the crowd. It took several songs for the band to really get going and the crowd, apart from a few die hards, hardly got into it. As an up-and-coming band TVOTR disappointed many fans who had come to the event to see them, playing almost only their new album.

Next year I’m bringing my own food. Following my $3.50 slither of watermelon, I splashed out on a $6.50 “lamb” burger. I should really contact the consumer complaints people, because there was definitely no lamb in the sausage tasting patty slapped between a slice of tomato, beetroot and buns. Needed to be washed down with beer. The beer was good though.

Showing all before him how it is done, Serj Tankian put on a true performance. Having seen System of a Down twice before I had high expectations, although was not too sure what to expect. Like most in the crowd I didn’t know any of the songs, but was absorbed by Tankian’s theatrics and phenomenal voice nonetheless. Two days later, I bought the CD. Brilliant. Would love to see what the Lebanese-born American-Armenian Piha-resident has planned with the Auckland Philharmonic Orhestra in the near future.

The Living End played the “Shihad slot”, performing a typically impressive and entertaining set. Unfortunetly the D-barrier requires fans get in early to see a big band before the enclosed area is closed off, meaning the crowd in front of the Living End were mainly Arctic Monkey fans. Chris Cheney’s attempts to get the crowd involved fell flat on its face with only sections of the crowd singing along. Still the Aussie trio gave their all, not letting an unenthusiastic crowd dampen their spirits.

Those who squeezed past my during the Living End to see the Arctic Monkeys must have been disappointed by their performance or have never witnessed a decent band play. Perhaps because the only song I know is upbeat and danceable, I expected a fast and exciting set, but instead the Arctic Monkeys were laboured and boring. Knowing where to find a real live show, I left early to see the Dropkick Murphys.

All the reviews I have read so far have failed to mention the Dropkick Murphys, which is a shame because the Boston punk band put on one hell of a show. Even if you are not into punk, these guys are worth checking out, as they are arguably the best dance act of the event’s bill. Playing with the passion lacking from most bands’ sets, the celtic-influenced Dropkicks had the considerable crowd on their feet with their folk-punk ditties. I never thought so much Irish jigging was possible until I saw the Dropkick Murphys. Superlatives fail. Extra credit for the lead vocalist’s Tino Rangatiratanga t-shirt!

Back to the main stage for the headlining act Neil Young who, as many have already said, showed many of the preceding bands half his age how to perform. I’m not a fan, but I can appreciate and respect the talent of the man. However good Neil Young was though, he clearly wasn’t the crowd puller organisers had thought, with the field and the stands only half full and the D barrier area still open. A year ago Rage Against the Machine had the whole stadium packed and singing (screaming) along to every word. Young simply isn’t most young fans’ cup of tea, and perhaps Young fans weren’t keen on mixing it with young fans.

In the end, despite a handful of special performances the overwhelming mediocrity of many bands ensured this wasn’t the best Big Day Out.

What I want from 2009 by underground
January 2, 2009, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Life, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Happy New Year! Another year has been completed and a fresh year is upon us. 2008 was a bad year for most people, particularly with the economic recession. I had a good one, obtaining a graduate diploma in journalism, making great new friends and moving to a small New Zealand town with my incredible girlfriend to work at a community paper. Life couldn’t be better. So what would make 2009 perfect?

I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions. You tend to forget about them by February 1. And I don’t think I need to change anything major. I might want to eat healthier or do more exercise, but I can take it or leave it. Maybe I could swear less. I think I expect from others than myself this year.

I want to see more people smile in the street. I want more people to say hi to strangers. I want to hear less racist insults. I want all religions to either cease to hate, or cease to exist. I want sweat shops to close. I want rainforest logging to stop. I want cluster bombs banned. I want secret detention prisons closed. I want the death penalty banned. I want children to stop being sexualised or turned on to violence. I want intelligence valued more than ignorance. I want battery chickens banned. I want SUVs off the road. I want whaling stopped. I want people to stop abusing children. I want people to stop treating other people like shit. I want people to stop treating themselves like shit.

I want Barack Obama to prove me wrong. I want him to come down hard on Israel, to stop arming the illegitimate state to the hilt and blocking every international attempt to stop them bombing and massacring Palestinians imprisoned in an impoverished land like shooting fish in a barrel.

I want John Key and the National Party to prove me wrong, to take global warming, workers rights, minority rights seriously and put the well-being of all New Zealanders above the wealth accumulation of a fortunate few. National’s pre-Christmas undemocratic rush indicate where there intentions lie.

I’m sure I’ve left a few things out.

I think 2009 may be disappointing…

One billion reasons to make shit up. by underground

Not for the first time I have just had an argument with someone about the validity of “historian” Gavin Menzies’ work. Despite selling copies of 1421 by the shelf load, his theory that China discovered the world has been well and truly dismissed. The criticisms of established and respected historians make for hilarious reading. The fact his ‘ancient’ maps are written in modern Mandarin is comical. His follow up 1434 is refuted with equal ease. It truly is a wonder anyone swallows a word of his writings. So why do people believe his theories?

People love conspiracy theories. It’s fun to think there is more going on. Man never landed on the moon, Elvis is still alive and aliens crashed at Roswell. Some like to think the authorities are lying to them. Often they are, and there are countless proven examples. But almost as if they doubt their credentials, perhaps jealously of their vast intellects, some love to dismiss academics. Slated for being out of touch with society in their ivory towers, people believe scholars are pulling the wool over their eyes. Global warming? Hoax. Evolution? Lie. Established history? Bullshit. Each with their own motive, academics spin a web of deceit, enticing society to follow a tall tale which influences their worldview.

Menzies is in good company. A certain David Irving flew in the face of criticism and denied the Holocaust. And no doubt there are a few sales to be made from neo-Nazis, even though, like Menzies’, Irving’s theories a based on dodgy evidence and outright lies. But the more academics that criticise it, the more nutjobs that buy it. Ian Wishart clearly knows the formula too!

Menzies must have made a killing from his books. They have been hugely popular in China and have even been quoted by Chinese President Hu. And with China’s massive population, and the potential sales, there are one billion reasons to make shit up.

The true meaning of Christmas by underground
December 28, 2008, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Life, Philosophy, religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As an atheist, I am fortunate enough to get to see Christmas for what it truly is, or rather what it ought to be. It is not just a repackaged pagan festival, or an over commercialised advertiser’s dream. Christmas is more than lying to Children about Santa and Jesus, more than losing years of your life due to the stress of malls and more than satisfying the greed of spoilt Westerners. It has been said before and it is as simple as it sounds, but if Christmas is to have any redeeming qualities it is as a reason for people to get together, putting aside any animosity or rivalries, stresses or difficulties and enjoy a good meal. Maybe seeing each other for the first time in the year, some having perhaps traveled to get together and share their experiences of the year, Christmas is a good time to put your feet up and relax from another hard year of work or whatever.

To me, this is far more important and meaningful in today’s hectic and troubled world than turkey and carols. What I have described above is universal, unless you know no one. Most of the existing Christmas traditions are either outdated or counterintuitive. Christmas should either be de-Christmasised or another day should be set aside for unsullied getting together. Who the hell really likes Christmas carols anyway? Most are absolutely terrible songs, so why put ourselves through hearing them almost nonstop for over a month intensively each year? And must we stuff ourselves sick? The cost is considerable, the stress of preparation no doubt insurmountable and the waste unimaginable. When a modest meal would suffice, why suffer through a dry turkey? Let us share a good meal (don’t get rid of trifle just yet!), but is glutony mandatory? And yes, I appreciate all the incredible presents I got, but I hate to think what stressful episodes my family had striving through malls buying these things. I know I didn’t enjoy shopping!

I’m not really one for traditions that cannot be justified. Of course the magic of Christmas is great for the kids, we need not take that away, but perhaps Santa could stress the importance of time spent with good friends and family as opposed to stuffing down chocolate and demanding the flashest new gaming console.

I’m not even going to start on the religious aspect as I need not to, as fewer are celebrating their own brainwashing with every passing Christmas.

Christmas should be about family and friends. There is far more to be gained by valuing them than any outdated Christmas tradition.

The tranquility of disconnecting by underground
December 10, 2008, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Life, Philosophy, Quotes | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s hard to run a blog when you haven’t got internet at home. In fact I haven’t got a lot of things at my new house. Ever since moving to Thames, a small Coromandel town with a population in the tens of thousands, from Auckland, which has over a million residents, I have had to live without a few things.

Some things you only appreciate when you have to go without it. Standing in the shower with my clothes on, I imagine how convenient a washing machine would be. Still, washing my boxers in the shower was marginally better than standing under the house in my flat’s outdoor laundry, washing my clothes with dishwashing liquid like I did the night before. You can’t get grass off cricket pants with dishwashing liquid no matter how hard you try. Still I’d go without a washing machine rather than a fridge. A week of buying ice every day to go into a chilly bin has me yearning for the luxury of a fridge freezer.

The lack of some luxuries allows you to experience life not plugged into the electronic grid. When you don’t have a tv you have so much more time to read. Without internet you find time to enjoy nature, or good company.

Perhaps being deprived of household luxuries is exactly what this 24-year-old needed. Having lived at home with my parents all my short life, I have become accustomed to the luxuries of wireless internet on my laptop and Sky TV on a plasma screen. Leaving the home finally and living outside of Auckland for the first time in my life, I am loving the change of scenery in Thames. Despite its lack of some electronic necessities, my house is a nice wee little set up.

There is a lot to learn and I’m learning it. I made the mistake of leaping into the shower immediately after the power got turned on. I’m learning about bills and the price of milk. I’m learning about how people in small towns are so much nicer than in Auckland. I’ve never said “hi” to so many strangers.

Eventually I’ve caught up with the 21st century. The fridge is running smoothly – no more food poisoning. And the TV I’ve borrowed off my brother works well, apart from the fact we are only getting one channel. Still, the Playstation One plays okay. And I’ve finally got the internet at home. Dial up though!

Still got to get myself a washing machine though…

Slaying Springboks – on and off the field by underground

I enjoying the sight of a deflated Springbok, defeated by a superior All Black team, especially if I’ve woken up at three in the morning to witness it. But I don’t like the thought that there may no longer be a Springbok team for my boys to beat. The recent announcement that the South African Rugby Union has decided to abandon the famous emblem of the country’s world champion rugby side for a less controversial symbol will end a 102 year tradition. But this is just another episode in the politics v sports saga.

The small gold antelope leaping on the left chest is apparently to some, like street names, place names and other emblems, a reminder of South Africa’s painful history. The Springbok side was once whites only, barring even non-whites from touring. Even a former rugby board once said blacks would never be allowed to wear the emblem because they have their own symbols. Butana Komphela, chairman of parliament’s Sports Portfolio Committee, has insisted the change be made to the Protea, which is the emblem for all other South African sports.

“The Springbok divides us,” he said. “We have a responsibility to unite our country on one national emblem.” Continue reading