Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Dear Morgan,

Thanks for your email asking me 20 questions.   Did you imbibe a bit too much brandy over Christmas?  The reason I’m asking you this as you actually sent me 21 questions, not 20.  I’m worried that something somehow affected your ability to count.  Or did you grow another finger or toe?  It happens you know – some people actually have 6 toes on their feet, or on one foot.  I’m pretty sure you’re like me and count on your fingers and toes!

Anyway – I’ve answered your 21 questions and the answers to them are below.  I look forward to seeing the answers to mine!

1. What was your biggest blonde moment in 2010?
Getting up at 6am thinking I hadn’t turned the water off on the garden.  When I got to the tap, everything was soaked and I was kicking myself for leaving it on for so long, to find that the tap was already off.  It took me another minute to realise it was pouring with rain, and that was the reason why it was so wet.  Then I realised, standing in my PJs at the garden tap, when it was barely light, that I also was being heavily rained upon!  I was too wet to go back to bed!!!

2. Your photography is stunning. What would you advice be to beginners as to how to know when they have a great shot?
Look at the shot carefully, if it can be improved – improve it.  If it can’t be improved, then it’s probably a great shot!  Seriously though, a great shot is often quite flukey.  When all the elements are right, everything is lined up for you, and you happen to get the right angle and perspective.  Other times, when you work at it, you won’t be able to achieve the same result.  It’s a mystery to me!

3. What reaction do you get from people when you tell them you are an atheist?
The biggest reaction at the moment is that I should say ‘non-believer’ because the word ‘atheist’ sounds so horrible.  No matter how I explain that the word ‘atheist’ means ‘non believer’ it makes no difference.  Obviously ‘atheist’ conjures up visions of devil worship and witches in some people’s imaginations.  Most likely because that is what they’ve been told (a case of a christian upbringing or brainwashing) .  The other comment that is made is that I won’t always be an Atheist, and that eventually I’ll  ‘go back into the fold’.  In other words, they believe that somehow I will suddenly start believing in ‘miracles’ rather than ‘coincidences’, or that I’m sitting on the fence and if something happens, I’ll immediately re-convert.  Not a chance!

4. What is something the world would be better off without?
War.  Greed.  Jealousy.   Oil Barons (see 2nd word).  Mobile phones! Anal probing aliens!

5. If you could be a famous person for a day who would it be and why?
Kate Middleton.  Cos I’d like to shag a prince ! lol  Oops – that was ‘snag’.  Honest!

6. How many books did you read last year and which ones do you recommend?
I didn’t indicate ‘year’ in my list, but since March 2009, I’ve read 126 books.  I’ve actually read a few more than that but forgot to update the list!  Still – that’s an average of 2 per week so not actually a bad result.  The book I most recommend is ‘Tears of the Desert’ by Halima Bashir.  Absolutely brilliant.  The reason it’s so good is that I can’t stop thinking about it.  When a book affects you in that way, then you know the writer has achieved something rare and good.  I’d recommend it to anyone.

7. What do you feel are the most amusing aspects of my personality and of yours?
The ability to laugh at ourselves and our quirky personalities.  My most amusing is my competitiveness.  My ability to turn reading into an olympic sport!!  I can’t even help myself.  A friend of mine won’t even play Scrabble with me anymore!!!  Sigh!

Yours is the amusing way your imagination can go wild with marshmallows and elephants.  Whatever you are on, I’d like some !

8. How do you think we (humans) got here (on earth)
Sigh!  Didn’t you know?  You have to ask?  Well, it started with Planet Oxeon (or planet Ox for short).  The inhabitants there were once called shemanhunians.  They lived in utter peace and contentment.  They were only 4 feet tall, and all weighed 300 pounds.  All their food was on trees.  Even a cake tree.  When they mixed the leaves of any tree with water from their lakes, they could change the taste of that water to anything they wanted, depending on the leaf.

One day there was a terrible storm. It raged for two weeks, and when it finally abated, the leaves of all the trees had been stripped bare.  Gradually all the trees started to die.  Terrible food shortages were experienced, and the weakest began to die.

They sent SOS messages in bottles that they threw into the air.  These travelled in tiny worm holes to the outer regions of space.   A kind Minocthican from Planet MXcoen came across the bottle with a message, and sent out a party to Planet Oxeon to see what they could do to help.  The situation was so dire, that in the end it was decided that their planet had to be abandoned.  So Planet Oxeon was evacuated.  Airships were sent down and one by one filled up with Shemanhunians and taken to Planet MXcoen.  Each airship was filled with 400 Shemanhunians.  There were 396 airships altogether.  (MXcoen was a wealthy planet).  Many Shemanhunians chose to stay on their planet choosing death over life somewhere else.

All airships except one made it to MXcoen.  Airship 281 was accidentally sucked into a giant wormhole and deposited in our solar system, where they eventually found Planet Aerth (now spelt Earth because of poor education and mobile phone texting).  The Shemanhunians gradually adapted to life on Earth, grew taller because of better food.  They spread out and populated all the world.  In some countries they have maintained their weight, and in others became healthier and slimmer.  They became known as Humans.

And that is how Humans got to earth!

9.  …and what do you think the purpose of life is?
Purpose of life is to keep improving our lot generation after generation, and to have fun while doing so.  Not sure if this is what happens though!

10. Do you think there are aliens in outer space and if so what might they be like?
See question 8!

11. How would you describe the best way to spend a day?
Exploring new places with a camera, especially where very little people are. As in very few, not little little people!

12. What qualities in people really really really frustrate the hell out of you?
When I see bullying, meanness, oneupmanship, dishonesty, exaggeration, braggarts.

13. What is the most oddball thing (that isn’t true) you have believed in and how did you find out it wasn’t true?
A friend of my brothers came for dinner and told us that the little beetle that eats the hole in macaroni had some sort of virus, and was dying out.  This was affecting the crops and soon there would be a terrible shortage of Macaroni.  I believed him.  In my mind I pictured fields of macaroni with no holes blowing in the wind and little beetles getting fat by eating the out holes inside.

The next day I told my friend about this, while in a elevator full of people.  She laughed (as well as all the other people in the elevator) at my seriousness and earnestness and my emphasis that it was true!  She told me I had been ‘had’. but I didn’t believe her!!!

The problem is that I was about 22yo!!!  I am (still) so gullible!

14. If you could wave a magic wand and make the world perfect, what would it be like?
Everything would be free.  People would help each other because they want to, not for money.  Cars would run on air with no pollution.  Humans would love animals, revere them always.  There would not be a need for religion, people would be good and kind always.  There would be no hatred.  No one would be hurt or disabled, deaf or blind.  If they were, it would only be temporary as there would always be a ‘cure’ on hand.  Water would be clean everywhere.  Everyone would be vegetarian.  The sun would not be dangerous.  You could go freely around the world wherever you wanted.  There would be no borders.  There would be no war.  Without war, wealth could be spent where it was needed, in research development, space exploration, and humanity.

And the most important… everyone would have a burmese cat or 3.

15. What’s something you’ve done you’re really proud of?
I built my own vegetable garden with nails and hammer.  (and wood).  I’ve managed to grow vegetables!  Today I picked ONE brean,two tiny tomatoes, and ONE courgette.  I have ONE carrot left.  Gee – I’m not sure I’ll survive a disaster yet!

16. How important do you think science and reason should be to society?
Incredibly important.  In fact, it stand to reason that this is the one thing that people should base their education and facts on all the time.

17. What scares you (apart from sharks in swimming pools)?
Horror movies.  I won’t watch them.  Gremlins see… My other blogpost

18.  If Kass the cat could suddenly talk what do you think she’d be saying to us?
At the moment, she would be scolding me for going away so often.  She would also probably be telling me how she hunts, and decapitates her baby rabbits, and the reason she does it.  She would tell us about the three nasty magpies that keep dive-bombing her.  Right now she would be telling me that the wind is cold.  She would tell us what time we should go to bed, what food she wants and doesn’t want.  Moan about how bored she is when it rains.  She’s quite an intelligent cat, so she would probably give us her theory of relativity and discuss aliens.  She would probably tell us that Mika was abducted by aliens, and she was too, but after the anal probe how she got away! (Just had to get that in there somehow)!

19. How do you manage to get so many things done in one day (and am always amazed by this)?
By only putting my head in the clouds after they are done!  Lists.  I write lists.  I have them in my computer.  On the bench.  In my head.  I get great satisfaction of crossing things out once they are done.  I also imaginarily pay myself.  I imagine myself getting a salary for the jobs I do around the house.  If I don’t do the vacuuming, I won’t get imaginarily paid.  Works a charm.  Always have had a great imagination.  If I’m too tired, I try and imagine all those things getting done.  The only problem is imagination lets you down time and time again!  I’d like a genie.  Or fairy godmother.  Or George Clooney in a French Maids outfit, complete with fishnet stockings.  He’ll look into my eyes with those gorgeous eyes of his, and say.  “Where do I plug the vacuum cleaner into?”  Sigh!

20. Describe the perfect man and where you get one.
There is no such thing as a perfect man.  Only perfect women!  So you can’t get a perfect man anywhere.  You can try at www.yourperfectman.com What did it tell you?

Server not found?

I rest my case!

Yet www.yourperfectwoman.com will lead you to website where they will be found!

21. What are your aspirations for 2011?

  1. To get Morgan to visit me
  2. To get my foot fixed
  3. To pay off more of my mortgage
  4. To somehow save and get to see my daughter who is living in europe.
  5. To look at selling my car and buying a 4×4 to explore the back and beyond
  6. To keep trying new things photography wise,  and improving my photography.

Cheers
Robyn

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Dear Robyn,

Today I tried out some of the finalists for the “Do Us a Flavour”  Chip competition Bluebird is running at the moment. The one where they let the public loose on designing winning potato crisp varieties. I entered it myself – my flavour was “Pan Fried Rainbow Trout with Lime”.

So now that there are four finalists with chips out in the stores I thought I’d put in my vote so I have been trying them – so far three from the four flavours;

Paua Fritters with Lemon Wedges
Sunday Roast (the Crispy Bits Left in the Pan)
Butter Chippin
Cheesy Garlic Bread

It’s quite remarkable how fast Bluebird got these flavours out. Do they have “crispy bits from the Sunday roast” flavour lying around in the lab somewhere? Just in case?….

The first pack I tried was Paua Fritters. I was quite keen to try this since my own flavour was also a seafood with citrus and to be honest I wasn’t convinced that could work on a chip. But surprisingly it does! Sort of like seafood dip does. And the chips really do taste like Paua. I’m quite impressed with this flavour because any kind seafood is my favourite food – EXCEPT Fugu (blowfish which the Japanese eat and is deadly poisonous if prepared wrong and I am not brave enough to play Russian Roulette with a fish) and Paua! Every time I’ve eaten it in the past I’ve thought “hmmm, great flavour, shame about the bits of rubber truck tyres”. Problem solved, bung the flavour on a potato and bingo – edible Paua without any automobile parts. I quite like the exciting, exotic flavour of this one and that you can’t get Paua anywhere else but NZ. So so far this one is getting my vote.

Cheesy Garlic Bread is not bad either. Actually also tastes pretty much like it’s title – mild cheesy flavour that’s been briefly shown a garlic clove. Just enough so it doesn’t run away screaming. It could easily be anything else though – chicken for instance. I am wondering if this one will win because the flavours are not particularly overpowering and it’s pretty easy to blob in front of the tele with a bag and realize you’ve munched most of it while you weren’t paying attention even though you swore you would only eat a few. The Paua one by contrast is quite citrus tangy and smacks you in the head so you can’t really think about anything other than what you are eating.

The last one I tried was Sunday Roast. I think this is a great idea for a flavour but don’t think Bluebird pulled this one off unfortunately. If it tastes like a roast then it’s a roast containing mostly pumpkin that someone cooked by accidentally putting it in a Tupperware container and melting it in the oven! And forgetting to put in the roast while they were at it. I think the spare chemicals Bluebird had lying around in the lab might have been “Sunday Roast With The Crispy Bits From The Pan Make By Your Inept Flatemate (606).”  Ate two chips and then felt sick so I’ve left the rest for Phil to polish off. Will be interesting to see what he thinks as foods always taste 100% different to him from what I think.

So that just leaves Butter Chippin which I haven’t seen in the stores. But it sounds interesting as it’s supposed to be based on spices like cinnamon, chillis, ginger and coriander which I love. So looking forward to seeing how that one works.

Anyway, what do you make of my Photoshopping efforts with the trout? You had to supply a “photo” with your entry but I don’t have ready access to Lake Taupo or fishing gear to land a fish for a photo so I grabbed a painting of one online and a photo of some swimming pool water and did some morphing to make it look somewhat like a fish underwater. After a bit of messing around with the components below I got the image at the top of this page.

Anyway, if you happen to try any of the chip flavours I’d be interested to hear which ones you like or think will win!

Morgan 🙂

Dear Morgan,

I finally posted your webcam off today. You should get it tomorrow or Wednesday. I put it in a little white envelope with your name on it. I wrapped it up in bubble wrap three times over, and taped it down with bright red and yellow polka dot sellotape. I also put a gremlin in there. Yep. A gremlin. The Gremlin is brown and fuzzy, with orange dots and goes ‘Meeeeeeeeep Meeeeeeeeeeeep’. If you give it water, it grows into a supersized gremlin and starts eating birds. You might like to try and avoid giving it water if you value your canaries and budgies’ lives.

You really need to be careful though, as it can choke on feathers, and if it chokes, it vomits up purple gel. Which is a pain as it can stick to everything, and if gets onto your hair, it’ll turn your hair permanently bright purple and you’ll never get it out, not even with other coloured dyes. However, if you collect this purple gel in icecream containers, you can roll it all up and make very very bouncy rubber balls. When the bounce, they change colours. These balls have super powers. Depending on what colour it turns, they have the power to change something around the world, like turn Christians into Atheists, or make idiots grow a few brain cells, and sometimes they can put criminals into prison.

You have to be careful of these gremlins as when you’re asleep, they can put their fingers up your backside and they can make you feel like you’ve got worms. Not a pleasant experience by any means. This in turn will make you start dreaming strange things, like being abducted by aliens, and can even make you wake up giggling uncontrollably.

The Gremlin I sent you is Bright Green, 2 inches high and weights 300 pounds. She responds to the name ‘Blob’. You must not feed the gremlin Egg. Egg is bad for gremlins. If they eat egg, they turn bright pink and start dripping bright pink everywhere. Like the purple vomit, you can’t get rid of the pink in anyway. Everyone will not only be able to tell you have gremlins, but you fed it egg!  However, if you collect this bright pink substance, wearing black sequinned gloves, and put it into blue glass, leave it for 2 hours, you can then stretch this pink substance out as it becomes very very stretchy. If you then poke this stretchy bright pink substance into your electrical sockets around your house, the power companies will think you’re supplying them with power, and start paying you. The problem is, it’s PINK POWER. and it’s no good. No good at all. It stuffs up all the electrical currents around the world. If they find out that it’s coming from you, they’ll start charging you double. The only way to stop the power companies from finding out it’s coming from your home, is to coat your house with raspberry coconut icing. This puts up a barrier.

Lastly, keep cat food away from your gremlins. You do NOT want your gremlin to eat cat food. They get as high as a kite. When the gremlin gets high on cat biscuits, it starts crawling around on the ceiling. You have to be very very careful as it will suddenly unscrew a lightbulb an throw it at you. But first it blows on the lightbulb, turning it into a cream pie. It gets, well, messy! There is no point ducking as it has an aim like nothing else. No matter how you bend, or where you hide, it’ll get you. If you say the word… ‘camnamathodrianothan’ while the cream pie is being thrown at you, the pie will turn into a chocolate pie. Just before it hits you, and you manage to also say ‘thanomanogrampianodian’, it’ll not only be a chocolate pie, but it’ll get fresh strawberries and rich raspberry sauce on top as well. Now, if you try to eat it, but you haven’t said ‘squerialicalomaniacious’, you will turn bright yellow with green and red dots for 48 hours. After 48 hours have passed you will begin to fade, but it’ll be 10 days before you’re totally ‘normal’ looking again. So you must learn those three words. They are vital if you are to survive a Gremlin high on cat biscuits.

If you forget these three words totally, and the cream pie hits you, you will end up in a Cream Pie Coma and sleep for 10 years. The only thing that will awaken you out of this coma, is if a sexy German guy comes in with a Bazooka, shoots out Seven windows (Windows 7 is fine), high fives the gremlins, bounces one of the rubber balls around the room for 10 minutes, (and you just hope it doesn’t fly out one of the windows he has just shot out), unplugs all the Pink Power out of the electrical sockets, looks at you, and asks…

Are you..

By any chance…

a……

INTJ?

My advice for you is to just play it safe, and keep the Gremlin in the bag it came in. Do not open!

Cheers Robyn

Inventions and Technology

Posted: October 1, 2010 in Computer, Fun, Humour, Opinion

Dear Morgan,

I only have a vague recollection of asking you those two questions about inventions and technology, so I must have have asked you a fair while ago, when I was very young!  I have spent a week dreaming up all these weird and wonderful inventions that I would like, so here they are:

1).  I’d like to invent a perfect man.  One that tells you you’re wonderful.  One that brings you breakfast in bed every morning.  One that is prepared to forgo the rugby game to take you shopping with a visa card with no limit!  Perfect men don’t exist at present, which is why I’d like to invent one. The Perfect Man would be able to fix anything that needed fixing, keep the house tidy, keep up with outside chores and still have lots of energy for ‘later’!  There are a few more things on this list that these perfect men would do, but I’m not sure of our exact reader age, so therefore will leave it to your wild imagination (which I know you have!).

2). I’d like to invent a hand-held machine that would ‘hear’ any conversation then ‘instantly caption’ speech anywhere, anytime.  So where ever I am, or whatever I am doing, I can have full access around me by being able to read my ‘machine’.  This would also be fully equipped to translate any language, which would then be a boon for travellers, travelling around the world.

3).  I’d like to invent number 2, just for being able to understand animals.  An animal interpreter machine. Just the other day a magpie cawed at me, and I’d like to know which swearword it was so I could say it back to him!  I’d name this machine the Doolittle Translater.  Like #2, this machine will have to translate English back into the animalspeak so I could explain to the cat just WHY she doesn’t need the electric blanket on when it’s nearly summer, and why she really doesn’t need a litterbox when outside is lots of garden and dirt that can do just as well!  I’d also like to know why she continually tries to bury her food in kitchen, and would like to explain to her that I would prefer her plate left where I feed her, and not in the middle of the kitchen floor where I trip over it! This machine just may save someone’s life.  Mine!

4). I’d like to invent the instant teleporter, so I could choose to be anywhere, anytime in the world instantly.  Going to London for the day would be a reality.  Heading to an erupting mountain somewhere off the beaten track with my camera would be a walk in the park.  There would be no need to find housesitters as you could be home in time to feed the animals.

5). A pill that I could take that would instantly restore my hearing to perfection!

So those are my inventions.

Technology?  Anything?

1). Adobe CS5.  Photoshop.  The mother of all photoshop versions.

2). a Canon 100-400m Lens for my bird photography

3). a Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens for my landscapes

4). An electric car.  I hate the price of petrol.

5). Solar power right through my house (I hate the price of electricity).  Do you think we could have solar powered cars too?

6). A Mini Laptop for travelling.  (My current laptop is too big to lug around)

7).  A ride on lawn mower.  Although if my invention for a perfect man came off, this would be redundant in the technology section!

8). A utility bed.  Yep – A bed in my room where at the touch of a button, a TV screen pops out at the end of it for me to watch.  Another button and a computer comes up from underneath.  Another button and there’s tea making facilities and/or unlimited champagne.  If my invention for a perfect man comes off, there would be no need to get out of bed!

9). A printing press for all my artwork I’m just getting into now.

10). An electronic piano.  One that looks like a real piano, but does a gadzillion things electronically in terms of music. They’re only $17,000 or so new!

11). The latest cochlear implant complete with remote control, in bright pink!

12). A new fridge.

13).  A nice big spa pool.  Complete with book holders, drink cabinets and holders, computer holders for waterproof laptops.

14). A computerised treadmill.

15).  A computerised watering system for my garden.

I’m sure I have more technology that I want, but can’t think of the rest right now.  I love gadgets, so anything new on the market I want to try anyway!

Cheers

Robyn

Dear Robyn,

I was chatting with someone on formspring yesterday and I came across two questions you asked me on there some time ago:

1) If you could invent something, what would it be? and
2) If you could have anything technology wise – what would you choose?

They’re cool questions. But I never asked you so I am wondering what your answers to them are!

This is what I wrote (man, you wouldn’t think I was a geek or anything…)

I’d like to invent:

  1. A Munchkin style card game where Aliens attempt to take over the world and Men In Black try to stop them. The Aliens are only allowed to communicate in crop circles and the MIB are only allowed to speak in secret code. Alien and MIB characters can be spawned or killed using Conway’s “Game of Life” mathematics, control their spaceship and weapons using Turing Machine style state registers, move strategically like chess men, fool each other with Poker style bluffing and if there is an uneven number of people playing one person becomes a spy for any side they choose and no one knows who they are playing for or when they are going to switch alliances! OK, no one will play this unless they are Sheldon from Big Bang Theory but it will be funny to make it anyway!
  2. A guitar overdrive effect that spits randomly like a Rally car. At them moment all overdrive FX seem to just go RRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH! as one ear splitting, continuously homogenous cacophony.
  3. Consciousness, Artificial Intelligence and self determination for a robot. (Followed very closely by “Empathy For Living Things”, “Don’t Do That” and “Go To Your Room” modules….)
  4. A self interpreting programming language for the internet that anyone can use without being a programmer to make sites (or anything else) they like intuitively, and that can interpret itself perfectly without needing any other 3rd party browser.
  5. The computer program that passes the Turing Test

If you could have anything technology wise – what would you choose?

  1. A robot with a personality you can change with a screwdriver to suit your mood
  2. An alien spaceship
  3. A Mercedes MacLaren SLR supercar or Ford Mustang for when #2 is not available
  4. A professional Canon digital SLR camera like yours with a Macro lense to do high speed close up photography of miniature, split second things that happen in nature we can never see with our own eyes
  5. A private space jet that goes from Auckland to space and lands in Blenheim in 2 minutes so I can visit you whenever I like (hmmm, I predict that by the end of our lifetimes we’ll think this is ordinary!)
  6. An intergalactic wormhole that connects Auckland to any other city or planet I feel like visiting instantaneously (I hear the latest version comes bundled with #2)
  7. A newer bass guitar than the 25 year old one I have now and bass FX that can make a growling sound like Marilyn Manson’s voice
  8. A guitar rig that’s as awesome as my Tremonti Signature axe.
  9. A keyboard that is easier to program than my existing demon KORG and sounds less like it was designed exclusively to produce dance music for nightclubs – a bit disconcerting considering I hate nightclubs!
  10. The latest version of Cubase or Protools recording software
  11. Adobe CS5 Web Premium software (because, I am not quite smart enough to invent the self interpreting language in one lifetime)
  12. An alarm clock that plays a nice tune instead of BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! (which at 6am in the morning sounds more like Marilyn Manson going RRRAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!)
  13. An iPhone or similar with all of Muse’s songs and Govenor of Poker on it (hmmm, maybe this has a friendly alarm clock that will play Muse perhaps?)
  14. A recording studio with a monster desk that’s so long you need to roll your chair from one end to the other to reach all the buttons
  15. Chairs with NASA grade castors for withstanding the abuse at #14
  16. A more grunty computer that can tolerate all the work and Muse crap I put in it and allows attempts to create robot brains
  17. A memory chip and GPS for my own brain so I can remember stuff longer than 2 seconds ago and will no longer get lost walking around my own flat
  18. A microscope that can see things as small as those proposed in Superstring Theory (oh look! That’s where I left my keys…)
  19. A time machine that pauses time indefinitely so everyone can eventually make all the weird inventions dreamed up they can never finish in one lifetime.

What are yours?

Morgan 🙂

Image courtesy of Iva Villi

Dear Robyn,

I did a naughty thing this week. I splurged some cash on a CD. Not sure if you have ever heard Crowded House or Muse before but being two of my favourite acts (and Neil Finn and Matt Bellamy my favourite songwriters), I thought it about time I bothered to review their latest albums. This year has seen new releases from both of them – “Intriguer” from the House and “The Resistance” from Muse.

The albums have a few similarities. Both Matt and Neil own recording studios and the albums were recorded therein, releases came with great DVDs, both have stunning artwork and both are written by excellent songwriters who are articulate, intelligent and have a knack for extracting emotions from the dark fringes of your imagination that you didn’t know resided in you (the whole point of writing songs in my opinion). Being a recording nut of course I have to have a serious drool over any studios… I like Matt’s the most being all neat and tidy and seriously “pwoper” and all but Neil’s looks very “intriguing” with an oddball artsy touch you don’t expect in a studio. I hear it’s world class and the website is super cool.

Years ago when Crowded House didn’t even exist, I was a teenager in highschool and Neil Finn had only just taken over at the helm of Split Enz, I somehow accurately predicted that he was going to leave and do something big with his next band – whoever the hell they were. And I turned out to be right – which is just as well because I went on and on and on and on about it in our music dept ad nauseam and drove all the teachers bonkers. I have to say when I saw Neil Finn recently and that he had apparently grown a small rodent on his top lip (is he competing with son Liam for a prize in facial hair pet growing?) I started wondering about my judgement. And then he started on about the Intriguer;

“a mythical character that we have felt his presence for quite a number of years now whenever life has become difficult and problematical but strangely fascinating, you sense the Intriguer’s presence and you only catch little glimpses of  him, in fact it’s very hard to say who or where or what he is but when he’s not there life becomes boring, predictable and plain.”

I did start to think that perhaps Crowded House had lost the plot. My intuition about musicians is usually spot on but thankfully for once I am completely wrong. Crowded House have not lost it even if the musings of their frontman are a little out there. The album is brilliant.

Neil Finn’s lyrics are always a mesmerizing encounter – like sitting out in the sun beside a river and watching the water gently flow past in an endless stream of fascinating reflections and shapes. They are gorgeously crafted and lack the jerkiness of poetry with lines that jarringly rhyme at the end of every cadence and break your reverie. I’ve always been fascinated how he can make words appear to flow together with a circularity that simultaneously remains coherent and structured whilst painting the vision of something distinctly ethereal and formless. But the most fun about them is they lead you off on a journey of blissful random imagery and just when you get comfortable jolt you back to reality with some poignantly personal line that Paul Hester remarked once would always make the band say to him “Neil, do you really want to say that?!” upon first hearing it at rehearsal. I love those moments.

You arrive like a dragonfly
Float above the grass
Trembling still
Think you might
Open up your heart
One day you will
There’s always a way
To end this isolation

The music is great too. It doesn’t exactly smack you in the face with some wild revelation that leaves you dazed for six months, but it is charmingly magical and addictive to listen to. If you don’t care about having your mind wander absentmindedly off into la la land (not looking at anyone in particular) then this is the album for you. The most intriguing thing comes in the song Isolation, most pointedly in the video of the live version at the Auckland Town Hall (my favourite local haunt for gigs). All is going swimmingly fine in the usual Crowded House way until the second verse when suddenly the voice of a Goddess appears out of nowhere and immerses the hall in wonder. This is Sharon, Neil’s wife who is shyly hiding behind a speaker cabinet on the side of the stage like a session musician who has been hired by a small band to fill out their sound live while remaining firmly sequestered in an unlit portion of the stage! What a pleasant surprise. She has a youthful and unique voice which seemlessly melts together with Neil’s. In my opinion this is the prize moment on the album. Perhaps if we are lucky there will be a Mr and Mrs Finn album sometime.

While Neil Finn will take you on a journey akin to floating down a river made of elegantly constructed poetry and tangental hook lines, Matt Bellamy will remind you there is every reason to believe you should be feeling paranoid and looking sideways at everyone above you. Muse’s new album “The Resistance” comes from a guy who has two years supply of freeze dried lasagne, 50 cans of beans and an axe stored in his basement for that “just in case” moment when “THEY” – the upper echelon, or chosen few who are plotting to suppress the masses, take over. And his preparedness even extends to killing his own chickens. (But at least they can be comforted by the thought that when he executes them it will be with the same talented hands that created masterpieces on the guitar like the riff from Plug in Baby he is so famous for. So they will be honoured chooks). It’s easy to scoff but when the universe collapses down a super massive black hole, or there is a carefully constructed zapping of half the world’s population from the HAARP site we will all descend upon him in a starving heap – the guy who planned so efficiently for every imagined eventuality (See – must be another paranoid INTJ with a wild imagination…).

The Resistance is an album about Romeo and Juliet quality love, liberation and sticking up for the right thing with a vengence. I give this guy full credit for alleviating the nagging, apathetic feeling induced by reading 1984 (which he read as part of the inspiration for The Resistance). I am sure there are many other people like me who have read 1984 and gotten excited at the moment Julia and Winston discover each other and make passionate plans to overthrow Big Brother’s hold on them. I remember reading that as a teenager and being excited by the idea that they were going to win big time and the book would have a liberating, driven ending. Instead it ended depressingly with Winston spinelessly screaming “Do it to Julia, Not me! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me!”. A reminder that when the moments like this come many of us are spineless wimps and will abandon each other – at least according to George Orwell. Apparently this is not good enough for Matt Bellamy and the album boasts of a neverending commitment and loyaty – and with the idea that love is the most powerful force in the universe, ascends in a neverending conquer the world vibe instead….

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious!

Well, it does end with sending a lone guy off into space who will never be able to return and who must rescue humanity from a dying planet … but that guy is victorious also. Unlike Crowded House this album has more of an epic quality complete with Floydish sci-fi cover art, a conquer anything plot and Dr Who synth sounds. The nice thing is that for all the seriousness on there, Muse are also adept at taking the piss and there are lots of hilarious moments embedded in the song too – like their screaming Queen harmonies for one.

Adam Clayton from U2 recently remarked that Muse are a tight operation and would give them a run for their money at Glastonbury. That’s true. I thought many bands were superb until I heard Muse. And then I realised those bands actually are superb – but Muse really needs a word invented of it’s own for “way the hell above everyone else”. You don’t really notice this until you listen to them for a while and then go back to something you thought was excellent previously and discover the gaping chasm. This is their best recorded album and remarkably they did this one completely themselves, learning about much of the technical process on the way. Add to this feat a symphony recorded with a real orchestra and the last 3 tracks of Resistance (Overture, Cross-Pollination and Redemption) become a vast expanse of inspiration that soars off into the future, sending Mr Man off on his mission to save us all…. may he win.

In short, both these albums are fantastic and deserve an 11 out of 10.

Morgan 🙂
To listen to or watch either band;

Muse: www.muse.mu
Crowded House: www.crowdedhouse.com

Dear Robyn,

OK real real short one. What do you make of this? (video at end of post – if anyone needs captions I can make some but the donkey is the only one with an sort of intelligence and he doesn’t really say much…)

This morning on the Breakfast programme news they ran a story about an animal cruelty investigation in Russia where some beach hooligans strapped a donkey to a parasail and power boat and sent it for a fly around the beach (just like the tourists do). They are now likely to get two years in jail for this thoughtless act and good job too! Cruelty to animals is a horrible thing.

Hosts, Pippa and Paul Henry’s reactions to this were classic. Pippa of course thought it was mean and didn’t find it funny at all but predictably Paul cracked up completely in hysterics and I confess to replaying the article a few times just to watch him lose it! And I am ashamed to say that despite my (sometimes overly) kindhearted nature with these sorts of things, a hurtling donkey in space does look pretty hilarious and I joined the “rofling” party with a disturbing lack of restraint…  (rofl = rolling on floor laughing)

But it got me thinking that it’s interesting how we perceive things. It’s easy to agree with Pippa that the beach goers’ actions were cruel since the experience for the donkey would no doubt have been pretty stressful. But would sending it for a fly have earned those “hooligans” the same cruelty charge if the situation had been very different? What say there had been some sort of natural disaster and it was stranded on the beach and likely to drown if someone didn’t act? What if those same guys saw it’s predicament, harnessed it to a helicopter and sent it into the air in order to rescue it? Perhaps risked their own lives to do it? The donkey would still have been scared witless but  those guys would now be getting media attention for their kindness instead and we’d be calling them heroes not hooligans!

The bottom line though is donkeys were not built for flying. It’s pretty mean to send them into space for no good reason. Sheep and cattle were not designed to be hurtled down a motorway at 100 kph, crammed into a rattling, dusty truck full of manure and other nervous, frightened animals for hours on end either but we do this sort of thing to them every day in the name of dinner without batting an eyelid. We don’t care. It’s called farming. On the other hand, if  “hooligans” were to do the same thing by borrowing a sheep from a paddock, stuffing it into the back seat of their souped up Nissan Sylvia and go for a jaunt around the block for half an hour before returning it, that would easily grab the SPCA’s attention and get everyone fired up with cruelty accusations!

Kind of weird how things look to us in different contexts huh?

Morgan 🙂

Here is the video for anyone who wants to test their cruelty <–> hilarity meter… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x1G_e_0GIw or here…