Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dancing in a field

Last Trance - The Gathering 98/99. Photo by KT Ho. GOD how I want to go dancing in a field again! It's been faaaaar too long since I did that.

Regular readers may have noticed a comparative lack of posts this month - and for that I apologise. I've been somewhat distracted wallowing in memories of The Gathering. My iPod playlist is currently set to one I've named The Gathering, which is a collection of a bunch of my favourite dance tracks from those dancing-in-a-field years. Hallucinogen's awesome LSD has just finished, and now I'm on to Gamemaster by Lost Tribe. Sigh. Fuck I miss those days. We created magic, I was part of a great big wonderful family, there were moments of true bliss, true power, true angst and true joy and sometimes I wish... I just wish I could go back. Just for a visit.

Last Trance - The Gathering 98/99. Photo by Kylie Plunkett. I've spent the entire Christmas holidays so far building my new website - The Gathering - the Canaan Downs archives and it's turning into quite a mission. Thank goodness I was so thorough with the original Gathering website - I have all sorts of good stuff I can re-use. But it's important that this site has heaps of new stuff too. I think the stories and new photos are going to be pretty fascinating. I've been getting all kinds of tales sent to me already, and each one is a different take on TheG. I love it!

I've slipped into my normal holiday mode of (very strange) sleep patterns. I get up at 2 or 3pm, then I work on the website non-stop until about 4am, read in bed for a hour or so and then go to sleep at 5am as the day is dawning and the birds are doing their early morning sing-song. I'm really going to have to wean myself back onto somewhat normal hours soon, or I'll never get to work on time when we go back.

Star Gate - The Gathering 97/98. Photo by Grant Ellis. I was planning to do gardening and other "house" projects during the day, and the website at night, but this has not yet happened because this summer has officially (according to me) become the Worst Summer Ever (following the Worst Spring Ever and the Worst Winter Ever). It suddenly occurred to me the other day, as I was sitting at my computer wrapped in jumpers, icebreakers and thick socks listening to the wind howl around the house yet again, that we might not actually get any decent summer weather at all - this could be it - and then we'll be back to horrible horrible winter again. OhmyGod.

Anyway, so there are shitloads of things I need to do around the house and garden - like rescue or replace all my indoor plants that I have neglected over the past few months - and get pathway lights for my garden so I can actually see where I'm going in the dark - and tie back the large Leucospermum bush/tree which is leaning so far over that my flatmates can hardly get through their front door anymore - and tidy up the garden generally (heaps of weeding) - and get rid of the moss on the terrace (oh, for a deck!) - and throw out all the old dead pot plants and get some shiny new ones - and at least mow a pathway across my 2ft high lawn so it looks like it's an artfully created "wild meadow" thingy... you get the picture.

The Gathering G2000. Photo by Rob Lawn @ Loop. But so far this "summer" it's either been freezing cold, raining, blowing a gale, or a combination of all three. Even on the occasional sunny day it's generally blowing a gale which is no fun for gardening. Bleagh. Today was a classic NZ day. When I woke up (at about 2pm, ahem) it seemed like a lovely sunny day. "Crikey! Today is summer! Better get out there and make the most of it!" I thought. But by the time I had actually made it out of bed it was absolutely throwing it down, the streets were flooding and there was a nice icy breeze from the south. An hour after that, lovely and sunny again. This is such typical New Zealand weather. 4 seasons in one day - and any time you go anywhere you have to take gear for every possible eventuality - from sunburn to frostbite pretty much. Heh.

Anyway, ramble ramble - you can tell I haven't written for a while - I'm quite out of practice.

Last Trance - The Gathering 98/99. Photo by Monica Parsotam. I think where this began was that I WANT TO GO DANCING IN A FIELD AGAIN. I even had a look at the Uprising website last night - and the ferry bookings - but I've just left it too late (it starts tomorrow) - and anyway WebWeaver NoMates has no-one to go with, which isn't really much fun. Wish I had a single friend who'd be willing to do crazy stuff at the drop of a hat sometimes. Ah well. Maybe we'll keep an eye on how Uprising goes this year, and if it sounds good maybe I can persuade the gang (plus assorted sprogs) to all go next New Year and dance together in a field like we used to do.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A life in 65 words (or thereabouts)

On Wednesday we helped Barbara to decorate her Christmas tree. It was pretty vast, and she has more Chrismas decorations than anyone I've ever met. A great time was had by all, and Barbara and her family outdid themselves with the hospitality. Gracious hosts indeed.

Afterwards we took turns in reading each other's "Life in 65 words", and guessing whom they each belonged to. I thought they were so good, I asked permission to reproduce them here. It's a very interesting exercise - a bit like the ultimate short story really. Every word must count, every phrase must evoke a picture, a sound, a scent or a feeling. Each story must draw you in, while leaving you wanting more. Here they are:

We always thought we were poor because we got oranges in our Christmas stockings. It was the 1950s, everyone was poor, but none of us kids liked the orange reminding us. When I was 30 I found out it was an old English custom, but by then the damage was done. No one should inflict old English customs on kids. Especially not on poor kids.

I was born into what may be considered a pretty privileged position in the sibling pecking order in a close-knit family and one of my earliest memories is witnessing the entrance of the Apollo moon landing craft into the atmosphere from where we lived in the tropics. Also I know what "TARDIS" stands for.

My mother made all our dresses by hand. This was a good thing, labour of love and all that. But she would inevitably leave in a pin. Since she made us pants to match this was not a good thing. I hate to get all allegorical here, it's only a story after all, but from this I learnt the lesson of life. Sit on that.

Pink skirt, pigtails, tight black top. That was Simon ready. Remember my lines, "if you see a faded sign by the side of the road that says 15 miles to the L-o-v-e Shack". Got it. Remember my moves, step, step, twirl, clap together, kick. Fits of laughter, tape gets stuck. Time for the performance, clear the dining room, lights out. Oh, fuck off David.

Our father's garden was truly enormous. It stretched right down to the back fence. He had gooseberries and pumpkins, tomatoes and leeks. He had rows of corn we could get lost in. He grew potatoes and blackcurrants, carrots and peas. We visited recently after decades had passed. "Have you subdivided?" we asked the new owners, dumbfounded. "No" they said. The back fence was really close.

Jamie answers the door on crutches, blushes. Gaye's on the window sill, fag in hand. Little Leadbitters with their heads over the fence, all curls and glasses. Making éclairs, I'm only allowed to do the cream. Dinner tastes funny. Should have goe to Anna's. Playing tag in the street, hiding in the big tree. He's seen me, run like the wind.

The little girl stood on the wooden groyne, mesmerised by the steely water pushing and pulling itself over the pebbles. She knew what she had to do. It was like a string was coming straight out of her tummy, tugging at her, pulling her in. So in she went. The shock of the water woke her. Deep, but not over her head. Cold, but she knew she was alive.

My grandpop was a matinee idol. He smoked a pipe and looked exactly like Dean Martin, except less Italian and much better looking. He had thick silver hair and skin so brown that in the summer it would look purple in the folds, like an Indian. He smelt like tobacco and the olive oil that he baked himself in. Nobody else's grandfather came close.

There was a young lass from down south
Who occasionally enjoyed ill health
She popped many pills
To mask all her ills
And never was down at the mouth.

The absolutely best things about my childhood were Alexis Smith's clothes. Alexis Smith's family didn't go to church or tithe their money so she had patent leather shoes and dresses with collars and big wide sashes. Alexis Smith wore her party clothes then gave them to me. I got her T bar shoes that fastened with little leather buttons. They even came with the box.

Favourite brown car seat, in the back with Hamie. On the motorway, past the kissing poles, over the bridge, past the fort with the flag, not far now. Turn into the drive with the acorns. Up the orange path and past the plastic curtains. Up on the bench, lollie jar out. Crayons in a margarine container. Roast for lunch.

I miss my Nana.

One of the more interesting aspects about my life so far is that I used to be moderately psychic.
This was usually intriguing but on occasion scary. At times I found it difficult to decide whether I was knowing/observing things, or actually causing them to happen.
I grew out of this trait and missed it when it was gone.
It is possible I was sailing somewhat close to the wind.

There were two reasons why I didn't want to invite anyone back to my house. One was because we had no tv and had to go over the fence to Mr Walls house to watch the news. And the second was because my parents were in love and kissed when my dad came home from work and even if he drove off in the car.

This was the law of presents in our house. Each year, it was the same. Mum got a long box filled with tissue and a silky nightie. Ninon over none on Dad called them. Dad got a tie, sometimes socks. We got shortie pyjamas, bath salts from the aunties and one big present from Dad in a box. We always had to keep the paper.

3:30pm, come home, pack my bag. Clean undies, favourite pants, sun screen, tooth brush. Dad will be here at 5:30pm. Vegemite sandwiches and Teenage-Mutant-Ninja-Turtles then in the shower then get ready. Hair brushed, shoes on, bag by the door. 5:30pm. I'll wait by the window. Red car, here he comes, no, false alarm. 6:15pm, Dad's on the phone. He's in Hamilton and will see me tomorrow. Howl.

We met at University, became friends then lovers, and travelled the world together. I loved him with all my heart, and the night we parted he confessed his love for me. The day he got together with my ex-best friend was the last day of our friendship. They're married now. He was the love of my life, and losing him is my deepest regret.

There were eleven of us, growing up. It meant sharing everything, especially my parents. And even more especially, roasts. I has two sisters but there were all the others as well. My parents fostered kids and took in lodgers. I longed to have enough gravy for a second helping. Extravagance was a mortal sin. Going without gravy is far wose than not knowing about gravy.

Early memories... straight hair... didn't need a hair brush... wanted to smoke and wear lipstick like my Aunty Rita... very glam... then...

Listening now to Paul Kelly Glory to be God - remember as a child 'God is everywhere'... now... nowhere... miss some aspects of religion... such a part of the first 20 years... then I married and it didn't fit with my new life... I had grown away...

Defining moments... birth of my first child... anaesthesia... epidural... nursing... meeting my partner in life... now 30 years... things like pain dominate my life... my work... my career... my personal development...

Wine... music... children still... though growing up... sensual pleasure... self hypnosis... books... being still... refection... breadmaking... losses... colour... dreaming... young forever.

We had pet lambs as kids. My sister had a dog, a budgie, a rabbit and goldfish too till David Bolstead poured in the windowlene. But the lambs were the best. We fed them with baby bottles and laughed at how fast their little tails wagged. My friends Jossy Watson had her own big fat sheep called Bunty. She didn't even live on a farm.

Every year I waited for the Sally Army truck to come round and sing carols outside our house. Christmas carols were the best. At Sunday School I loved looking at people on either side of me so they knew I didn't need to look at the carol sheet. Glooooooooooooria. Hosanna in Exchelsius. Then I would look to see if they noticed how I pronounced it.

I didn't become to QOFE till I was 40 years old. Right up till then I was the QOFNothing. I was the QOFNothing all through school. Flat chested, nerdy and the girlfriend of my best friend's boyfriend, if I was lucky. I was crowned QODoubleFNothing on my wedding day. The I reached my glory days. I thought, hey, hey, ermine, niiiiice. Hand me my orb.

Hang on, call waiting. It's Miranda, can I call you back? I know, such a bitch. Whatever, he doesn't even think she's hot. Nah, you? But, like, don't tell her I said so. As if. Umm, yeah, the blue one with the white knee highs. OK, I'll wear mine. I've got beeps, wait there. I'm on the other line to Miranda, I'll call you back, k?

Technorati tags: , , , , .

Read the full post

Monday, December 18, 2006

First Wii Fatality - watching our video go viral

[Updated 17 January 2007: Please see note at the end of this blog post. Thanks.]

For the past couple of weeks Brian and Ross have been going on and on about the wonders of Wii, and how much they wanted to get hold of one. Soon after its release last week we started hearing about all the Wii accidents, where a player has accidentally let go of the Wiimote and it has smashed into the TV screen, shattering it.

The boys decided it would be quite fun to stage "The World's First Wii Fatality", film it, put it up on Revver, and hopefully earn a bit of cash with which to pay for their Wii. We did the filming on Friday night, after work, and Ross put it online straight away. Here it is:

For the first couple of days (over the weekend) nothing much happened, and when we arrived at work at 9am this morning the video had only had 5,000 views. Throughout the day we've watched it go viral. It's now 11pm and it's at over 45,000 views. The UK wakes up and goes to work in a couple of hours, and the US comes online a few hours after that. We shall see what happens next...

Here's the behind-the-scenes story of how we made the video...

Last week Ross spent a few hours making a couple of paper Wiimotes, with all the features printed on the paper, which he cut and shaped to match the real thing. He packed the three-dimensional shapes with tissue paper to give them a bit of strength so they wouldn't collapse when held, and put a coin in the end of the one he was going to use, to weight it. He attached the other one to the back of Brian's shaven head, and decorated Brian's skull with tomato sauce (which sadly didn't end up in shot because it was on the wrong side!).

We'd been playing on the Wii all day in our breaks, and so we had a pretty good idea of how the game worked when we came to the filming. Laura was in charge of the camera, and she and Ross practised a few dummy runs first to figure out what she should be aiming at, and when.

I'd been enthusiastically playing Wii tennis earlier, and they decided I should partner Ross in the game. I think it was just because I happened to be in the room when the filming started...

Ross and I were to play a couple of points of Wii tennis, then the "accident" would happen - all of which Laura would film.

Tom stood behind Ross and I, out of shot, with one of the real Wiimotes (I was holding the other one), and he played the shots for Ross, while Ross mimed the actions, holding his paper Wiimote as if it were the real one.

Ross and I were actually both standing on the wrong sides of the split-screen - I was controlling the player on the right while standing on the left, and vice-versa - but Ross/Tom needed to have the serve (which for the first game is given to the player on the left), so it was easier just to swap around, rather than have to play a full game with me serving before we got to Ross's service game.

After a couple of points had been played, Ross "served" again and this time he let go of the paper Wiimote, which flew out through the open door and out of shot. As the camera panned rapidly back towards the screen, Brian did his slo-mo face plant onto the ground, to reveal the Wiimote sticking out of the back of his head. Much screaming and appalling acting ensued, with the final words being given to Jon who yelled out "Somebody call 911" (we're mindful of our vast American audience, you see!)

We did three takes, with the last one being judged the best. No editing was necessary, we just got the timing right, and that was that.

What's interesting to me, (in addition to the fact that over 45,000 people have now watched me play Wii tennis badly and say "sh*t" on camera) is watching the thing go viral. We had good timing - it's the week following the Wii release madness and there's been quite a bit of interest in the "throwing the Wiimote at the TV" accidents - and we were also the first people to have the idea, film it, and get it up online. That's important. "The world's second Wii fatality" spoof video won't be quite so impressive.

This morning I googled around a bit and found a bunch of gaming and other blogs that had found the video and linked to it, but I get the feeling that this one's also been circulated by email - simply because I can't imagine 45,000 people reading those 15 or so blogs.

I think that's why we've had spikes throughout the day. This morning for example when Ross first looked we were at 5,000 views, then within a hour we were at 16,000. There were another couple of spikes this afternoon when the numbers seemed to go up really fast, and I'm guessing that was when someone else discovered it (or another country discovered it) and the email whizzed around another set of offices for an hour or two. By 6pm we were at 36,000. Europe's now at work, but the increase in numbers seems to be holding steady at between 1,500 and 2,000 an hour at the moment.

We shall see what happens tonight (NZ time) when America wakes up and heads off to work while we're safely tucked up in bed asleep. Ross and Jon reckoned we'd reach 50,000 by the end of the day, which I guess if we don't count again until 9am tomorrow, should be easily do-able.

Now I know that this is only a baby viral compared with, say, Where The Hell Is Matt? (currently at almost 5 million views) or the Free Hugs campaign (currently at almost 8 million views), but it's our video, and we had such fun making it (what an excellent team-building exercise!), and seeing as we didn't know if anyone would bother watching it, it's been a very fun few days indeed.

If you like it, I know Ross and Brian would be very happy if you clicked on the ad at the end of the video so they get their few cents from Revver - and I'll ask them if a bit of the money can go to homeless puppies and kittens or to saving the kiwi or something. They're nice guys. I'm sure they'll be up for that.

People who've linked to our video so far

[Updated 3 January 2007: I got one hell of a shock in the wee small hours of this morning, while idly checking my site stats. Instead of the normal 100-ish hits a day, the meter was showing over 2,500 hits yesterday and more than 1,300 in the last hour alone. Crikey! So welcome to visitors from The Inquirer - hope you like the video! Hope you like the rest of my blog too - have a look around! And leave a comment if you like... Comments are good...]

[Updated again 4 January 2007: A little over 24 hours later, and I've now had over 10,000 hits from The Inquirer, plus new links from a bunch of other forums that have picked up the link from there. Blimey! So now I really am blogging about blogging about blogging. Enjoy!]

[Updated 17 January 2007: It's hard for me to read this blog post in the light of the tragic death of Jennifer Lea Strange, who died of water intoxication after taking part in a radio station competition "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" in Sacramento, California. Our "Wii fatality" was a silly bit of over-acting, and none of us imagined that there would actually be a real Wii-related fatality - albeit one where someone was trying to win a Wii, as opposed to playing with one. I'd like to extend my sympathies to Jennifer Lea Strange's family and friends at this terrible time.]

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Kiwi mouse that waddled

Okay, for any of you evolutionary science geeks out there - this is amazing! This article was on the front page of the Dominion Post this morning, and it's pretty exciting stuff. (No, really, it is!).

They've discovered fossils of an ancient mouse (17 million years old) in a New Zealand lake bed, and it's an incredibly significant find for NZ and for evolutionary theory in this country.

Up until now, scientists were aware of only three native New Zealand land mammals, which all happen to be bats - the greater short-tailed bat Mystacina robusta and its close relative the lesser short-tailed bat Mystacina tuberculata, and the New Zealand long-tailed bat Chalinolobus tuberculatus. No other native land mammals were thought to exist at all.

baby kiwi. This meant that over a period of 80 million years, in the isolated islands of New Zealand, other native creatures, especially birds, were able to take over the niches normally reserved for mammals. This is why scientists believe that the kiwi, for example, lost its wings - and with it, the ability to fly - because it didn't need them any more. It had made its home on the forest floor, undisturbed by predators and without any competition from the mammals that would occupy that niche in most of the rest of the world.

Kakapo. New Zealand has a wonderful collection of flightless birds - some now sadly extinct like the moa and the Stephens Island wren, and others hanging on by a thread such as the kiwi, the kakapo (the world's only flightless parrot), the takahe and the Campbell Island teal.

Sadly, the characteristic which made them unique also made them terribly vulnerable to predators when man showed up, bringing with him introduced species such as rats, cats, dogs, mustelids (stoats, weasels and ferrets) and possums.

Phylogeny of flightless birds. Islands are amazing places for the development of unique species. Because they are isolated and separated from everywhere else by water, species can sometimes evolve down paths which wouldn't be followed on large continents. Many of the native species of New Zealand, Australia, and the Galapogos Islands, for example, are not found anywhere else in the world. Many are all also competely lacking in any sort of anti-predator characteristics, especially in New Zealand where there were no predators, and therefore no evolutionary need to develop ways of protecting oneself against them.

The discovery of this little waddling Kiwi mouse is fascinating, because not only is it a mammal in the "land of birds", it's also unlike any mammal ever found anywhere else in the world. It fills a gap in New Zealand's fossil history, but at the same time it opens up a whole host of questions, like:

How long did it exist in New Zealand? Are there other native New Zealand mammals we don't know about? Are there any descended from, or ancestors to, the waddling Kiwi mouse? Did it compete for resources with the flightless birds of New Zealand? Why did it become extinct? Could this mouse have been an evolutionary ancestor of our native bats?

Wonderful stuff. Let's hope they are able to continue the research into this exotic (and unexpected) find.

Here's the full article:

The discovery of fossils from a waddling, mouse-sized mammal in a New Zealand lake bed has stunned scientists, and could force a "rethink" on the evolution of this country's animals.

The bones from the primitive mammal, described as unlike any mammal alive today, were discovered in sediment at least 16 million years old. They suggest the mammal was mouse-sized and walked by waddling.

Kiwi palaeontologist Trevor Worthy, originally from Masterton and now based at Adelaide University in Australia, said the fossils were found in the bed of Central Otago's Lake Manuherikia.

The find in the lake, where crocodiles swam 17 million years ago, not only fills a gap in the nation's fossil record, but may also help scientists worldwide understand more about the origin of mammals.

Mr Worthy was a world expert on moa when he was effectively forced out of New Zealand last year when the Foundation for Research Science and Technology rejected his application for a $200,000 grant over four years. Largely self-taught after becoming interested in fossils as a caver, he helped unearth a treasure-trove of "mega-fauna" fossils in Otago in 2002, including ancient crocodiles.

His co-author, Alan Tennyson, a Te Papa palaeontologist, said the fossil discovery was incredible.

"This will cause a rethink on the whole evolution of animals in New Zealand, which has been regarded as the land of birds. There is no doubt these are among the most important fossils ever found in New Zealand. It ranks with finding dinosaurs."

The two jawbones and one thigh bone of the primitive "mouse" are the first hard evidence New Zealand once had indigenous land mammals. Their global significance is they are unlike any other fossil mammal found anywhere else.

Interesting links
Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Dance your way around the world

So there's this guy called Matt Harding, who one day decided he was bored with his life, so he gave up his job and began travelling around the world. He loved to dance, so everywhere he went he filmed himself dancing in front of famous landmarks and spectacular scenery.

He put the video up on the website he made to keep in touch with friends and family, and lots of people saw it. He became a bit famous as "That guy who dances on the internet. No, not that guy. The other one. No, not him either. I'll send you the link. It's funny."

A while later the people at Stride long-lasting gum saw the video and asked him to make another one. He asked them if they'd pay for the trip, and they said yes. At the end of 2005, Matt left on a 6 month trip through 39 countries on all 7 continents. In that time, he danced a great deal, and made another video.

Matt has a - shall we say - unique style of dancing which is very sweet and quite endearing. He also makes great videos. And here's his website.

2006 video

Original 2005 video

An awesome tribute video to Matt from Spanish fans

...and if you liked that tribute video, maybe you should visit Matt's 2006 video page on YouTube because there's about a gazillion others (okay, 65!) linked to it. Matt's original video on that page has been viewed almost 4 million times, been favourited nearly 27,000 times, and there are getting on for 10,000 comments on it. Not bad for a guy who likes to dance occasionally!

Yaay for Matt! (I think I have a teeny weeny internet crush...)

Technorati tags: , , , , , .

Read the full post

Monday, December 11, 2006

Calling all Gatherers!

This new year marks the 10th anniversary of the first Gathering dance festival at Canaan Downs. Were you there? Did you go to any (or all) of the first four Gatherings on Takaka Hill between 96/97 and G2000? Remember when....

The Gathering is a festival of freedom, dance, music and participation.
Your presence creates The Gathering.
Take care, we are all responsible for the environment.
Be nice humans.

I'm putting together an archive of The Gathering at Canaan Downs. I've already got tons of stuff from when I did publicity and organisation for The Gathering 97/98, 98/99 and G2000, and some bits and pieces from The Gathering 96/97, but I need more.

I'm looking for photos, artwork, media coverage (I already have a large collection, but any extra would be gratefully received), videos and film footage - and your stories.

Last Trance, The Gathering 98-99
The Gathering has become a piece of New Zealand history, and I'd like to put together as much archival material as possible, so that it isn't lost in the mists of time. There's hardly anything online about The Gathering any more, and I think that's a real shame.

The New Zealand Film Archive already has a copy of the first documentary we made at The Gathering 97/98, but I'm sure there's other film footage out there that doesn't have a safe home yet. I know gazillions of you took photos of the various parties - and I've only seen a fraction of them. I also know that there are a million and one stories out there about The Gathering, and I'd love to hear them and add them to the collection.

Those of you who crewed, DJ'd, VJ'd, played or performed at The Gathering between 96/97 and G2000 could also help me enormously with your photos, videos, stories, and factual information about who did what, when and where.

If you're interested in adding to the archive, please leave a comment on this blog with your email address or email me at and I'll get back to you asap with more info.

The Gathering at Canaan Downs was our Woodstock, and I'd like to ensure that there's somewhere that people can go to re-live those great memories, and to preserve some of the magic we all created together. I hope you can help. Please spread the word!

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Decorating the Christmas tree

Christmas tree ornament. I skipped off early from the mini-Webstock presentations on Wednesday night and went to my book club Christmas dinner instead. I'm so glad I went. The women at book club are soooo nice, and funny, and just plain good to be with. At Christmas we each buy a book, wrap it up, and after dinner we randomly pick a number which corresponds with one of the books. The book I "won" this year was Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. As it's one of my Top 5 Movies of All Time, I was very pleased to get it.

The other reason why I'm really glad I decided to go was an invitation from Barbara, to us all, to help her decorate her Christmas tree later on this month. I was inordinately excited to be invited, so much so that Barbara had to ask me why the wild enthusiasm?

It goes back to when I was a kid I suppose. Doesn't everything that's magical about Christmas stem from when you were young? I think so.

Christmas tree ornament. Sometime in December dad would come home one day with a great big Christmas tree, which we would set in a tin bucket with bricks around the trunk so it didn't fall over. We'd put it in the corner of the living room, and then, with great ceremony, we'd decorate it.

Dad would do his bit first, which was to arrange the strings of fairy lights around the branches, attaching the electrical cables to the branches with little plastic-covered bits of wire so they wouldn't fall off. Then it was our turn. Mum would have brought down the box of decorations from the attic, and we'd all dive in. The box was filled with other little boxes and old paper bags, and inside each box would be found (wrapped carefully in cotton wool or tissue paper) a single precious bauble.

Christmas tree ornament. You never quite knew what you'd get when you opened a box (although as we generally used the same box for each bauble every year we did come to recognise some of them eventually), so the whole process was hugely exciting, and full of tingling anticipation. I remember my sister ate one once. That wasn't so good. It was a really nice one! :)

I had two absolute favourites. One was a tiny little white ball covered in rough white glitter, with a tiny white pipe-cleaner stuck on one end which you hooked round a branch. It looked just like a mini snowball. The other was a larger double teardrop-shaped electric blue bauble (pointed at both ends and wider in the middle), which was very special because at the widest mid-point it sort of turned in on itself to create a round, fluted silver indentation. It was just beautiful.

There were little bird-houses made of wood, each with a wooden bird inside, old decorations we'd made ourselves out of egg cartons covered in glitter, funny little brightly-painted wooden figures, plus baubles and balls of all different shapes, sizes and colours.

In the paper bags we'd find the strings of tinsel we always used, and somewhere in the big box there'd be the Christmas angel (who looked more like a fairy) and a gold star. We liked the angel best so she generally ended up at the very top of the tree.

Christmas tree ornament. The final task, once everything was in place, was to throw on the silver rain. This consisted of long narrow strands of silver "stuff" (like the individual strands which make up tinsel only much longer) which you grabbed handfuls of and kind of "threw" at the branches, hoping some of it would entangle itself in the pine needles and stay there. If you were being careful you could place individual strands by hand, but that was incredibly time-consuming, so we generally did the throwing first and the hand-placing to fill in the gaps afterwards.

Once we were finished, and the boxes and paper bags had been packed away carefully to use again later, we'd stand back and just... admire. Once it got dark dad would perform the very solemn ceremony of Switching On The Christmas Lights, and we'd all ooh and aah because it was so pretty and sparkly. I don't think we had those fancy lights that blinked on and off - or maybe we did - it's quite a long time ago, now... but anyway, it was all quite magically beautiful.

Sometimes at night I'd creep into the living room when no-one was in there, and I'd switch on the fairy lights and just sit there, watching the tree quietly sparking to itself. It was lovely.

Christmas tree ornament. I haven't had a Christmas tree for years. Now I'm a grown-up, and because I don't have kids, it's never really been a priority for me. I'm the only one who would see it (apart from the cats) so I've never really thought it was worth it. Plus I have no decorations!

So... to have the opportunity to go to Barbara's house with a whole bunch of people I like, and to listen to Christmas music and help decorate her tree will be just lovely. She freely admits she's a complete control freak when it comes to decorating the tree - it has to be just right, the tinsel has to be just so, and you have to decorate "with depth". Brilliant! I know just what she means!

Instead of gifts she's asked us each to bring a 65-word story on My Life, which we'll read out at some stage and try to guess which story is from which person. 65 words!!! Blimey! I can write a single sentence that's longer than that! How am I going to cut out the verbiage I generally come up with and stick to only 65 words?

Christmas tree ornament. That last paragraph was 65 words, by the way. If you count hyphenated words as one word and not two. I can see I'm going to have my work cut out for me. What fun!

BTW, all the pictures on this page are of Krinkles ornaments. I found them while looking online for a nice Christmas tree picture (I don't have any pictures here of our real tree) and I think they are so cute and funny and whimsical, I decided to borrow a few. Angelic Dreamz Krinkles Shoppe. Merry Christmas!

Technorati tags: , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Monday, December 04, 2006

Clay's Christmas glory note in Merrillville

Clay hits the glory note in Merrillville: photo by PermaSwooned. Clay was in Merrillville last night, for the second concert in his Christmas Symphony Orchestra tour. The first night of the tour, the previous night, he'd not quite made the final note of the final song, a new one called All Is Well. Actually he mangled it quite badly, tried again, and missed it a second time. No-one in the audience much minded - we love him anyway - but I'm pretty sure he cared, and I imagine he wasn't too pleased with himself.

As the moment approached for the final song in Merrillville, I'm guessing there was more than one nervous person in the concert hall. I know most of the ClayNation not at the concert was glued to cellcerts, chat room screens and message boards with fingers, toes and pretty much everything else crossed. Clay had his fingers crossed on-stage, too.

It's an incredibly difficult song to sing - it begins very very low for the first couple of verses, moves into Clay's "normal" range for a couple more verses and finishes with the glory note to end all glory notes, which apparently is a high A which he holds for a full 8 seconds. It's a tough one, all right.

Here's how it was described by someone who was there:

He planted his feet, gripped the microphone stand and let it rip. Everyone all around me was leaning forward, afraid to breathe, almost willing him through it, and you could tell that he knew it. And when the time came, he grabbed the mic stand, planted his feet, squeezed his eyes shut and it just...came out. Wow. It was so gorgeous and so powerful. I heard a lot of gasps, and then everyone simultaneously jumped to their feet, screaming and applauding and jumping up and down.

Oh - you want to hear it? You want to see it too? Here it is on YouTube.

Thanks to the very wonderful jojoct for the clack.

There's more...

I have to admit on this clip I find Clay's face-scrunches a little full-on for my tastes, but hey - that's what singers do - especially when they're singing the most difficult song in the book and they screwed it up the night before. Anyway, it sounds awesome - as does this clip of Clay singing Mary Did You Know and Hark The Herald Angels Sing/Oh Come All Ye Faithful, also in Merrillville:

Thanks once again to jojoct for the clack.

Oh - and, as anyone who has seen Clay live knows, he's also extremely funny in concert. Rolling on the floor funny at times. Here's a montage by GooodBabyBrush of the funniest moments at Merrillville. Vids by jojoct and Scarlett, clack gatherers extraordinaire:

Now - you MUST go and read The Power of a Nation over at the ConCLAYve. It's a wonderful post by CB about last night's show, as seen from the heart of the ClayNation. It's lovely. The power of positive thinking, indeed!

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Free Hugs campaign

Following on from the "let me show you my favourite YouTube video" thing I mentioned in my last post - here's the one that moved me the most. In fact I had to try hard not to cry while I was watching it at Kurt and Briget's tonight. I just watched it again now I'm home, and it did make me cry. It's lovely, and heartwarming, and hopeful, and just plain makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. This particular version on YouTube's now been watched over 7 million times. Wow!

This is what peaceonearth123 (who posted the original video) says on YouTube:

Sometimes, a hug is all what we need. Free hugs is a real life controversial story of Juan Mann, a man whose sole mission was to reach out and hug a stranger to brighten up their lives.

In this age of social disconnectivity and lack of human contact, the effects of the Free Hugs campaign became phenomenal.

As this symbol of human hope spread across the city, police and officials ordered the Free Hugs campaign BANNED. What we then witness is the true spirit of humanity come together in what can only be described as awe inspiring.

In the Spirit of the free hugs campaign, PASS THIS TO A FRIEND and HUG A STRANGER! After all, If you can reach just one person...

Music by Sick Puppies. (Visit or for the music)

PS. The response to this video has been nothing short of overwhelming and touching. Hugs to every single one of you who messaged. There has been thousands of emails from all over the world by people seeking to participate in the Free Hugs campaign and asking for permission. You do not need permission. This is the peoples movement, this is *your* movement. With nothing but your bare hands you can make THE difference.

Imagine all the people.

Press/media contact:

But wait, there's more...

Here's Juann's story:

How it all started:

I'd been living in London when my world turned upside down and I'd had to come home. By the time my plane landed back in Sydney, all I had left was a carry on bag full of clothes and a world of troubles. No one to welcome me back, no place to call home. I was a tourist in my hometown.

Standing there in the arrivals terminal, watching other passengers meeting their waiting friends and family, with open arms and smiling faces, hugging and laughing together, I wanted someone out there to be waiting for me. To be happy to see me. To smile at me. To hug me.

So I got some cardboard and a marker and made a sign. I found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held that sign aloft, with the words "Free Hugs" on both sides.

And for 15 minutes, people just stared right through me. The first person who stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. I got down on one knee, we put our arms around each other and when we parted, she was smiling.

Everyone has problems and for sure mine haven't compared. But to see someone who was once frowning, smile even for a moment, is worth it every time.

Why Did it get banned?

Public liability fear and red tape. But its all okay now! Make sure to check your local laws before embarking on your Hugathon!

Special Thanks

I would just like to thank Sickpuppies for their incredible song "All the Same" which the free hugs campaign video would have never been the same without.

Free Hugs Campaign continued....

Free Hugs Campaign on TEN News Australia

Lovely, lovely, lovely! And a great song, too!

Juan's just been on Good Morning America and Oprah, and on Sunday December 3rd, 2006 from 1pm he'll be giving away Free Hugs in Times Square NYC. Bring Your FREE HUGS signs and help Hug New York!

Technorati tags: , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Playing YouTube at parties

We accidentally discovered a new party pastime today. It requires nothing but a laptop (with broadband connection to the internets, of course) and a group of friends with knowledge of YouTube. Not a difficult set of criteria to achieve, really.

We were at Kurt and Briget's house today, for a barbecue on their deck. Incredibly enough, today decided to be the first day of summer, and the weather was absolutely sublime. Not a cloud in the intensely blue sky, with a beautiful sparkly sun and barely a breath of wind (well maybe a very slight breeze, but that's nothing compared with what we've been used to recently), singing birds, sizzling barbecue (Kurt did a great job of being "dad") and great conversation on a wide veraiety of topics with people I've known and loved for years. It was a perfect day.

After the sun disappeared behind the trees we went inside and continued with the party. Someone wanted to look something up online, so Kurt brought his laptop into the living room. Very soon people were going "oh - have you seen this on YouTube? It's absolutely brilliant/hysterical/fascinating/bizarre" and suddenly we were all sharing our favourite videos, while at the same time carrying on with our usual sociological/political/state-of-the-world discussions. Very nice!

This is the one I shared. It's called Panda Sneeze and it makes me giggle hysterically every time I see it:

Technorati tags: , , .

Read the full post