Monday, February 28, 2005

Everybody Stop!

I've been a bit disappointed with my blogging recently. I feel like it has dissolved into a series of badly written gig reviews, like the one I've just posted. I accept that I am my own worst critic, but I fear that if what I've read bores me, it's gonna bore everybody else. That presents a rather large question: just who am I blogging for?

I need to remind myself why it is that I started this in the first place. The point at the beginning was to explore some thoughts on community and see what developed. I've also wanted to blog about my responses to things, to develop my thinking about them and to try to understand my response. What I was trying to avoid was a blog that went along the lines of 'I did this and then I did that'. Reading through my previous entries does not fill me with much of a sense of satisfaction.

Now I question my current motivation. Do I now post because I fear that if I don't people will stop dropping by the blog? If that is the case two things are going to happen. Firstly I'm likely to stop posting because I won't enjoy it and secondly people will stop dropping by because what I am writing is rubbish. But then do I care if no one reads this? Probably. Does anybody read this?

There has to be room for light-heartedness and random crap as that reflects who I am. But there has got to be more to it than that.

Or does all this sound a bit angst-ridden and should I get over myself.

Stand by for another poetry review later on this week...

The Wedding Present

I seem to be spending an awful lot of time at the Zodiac these days. In the month of February I managed to visit it at least three times and I'm back there tomorrow night for the ladies slam. Last Friday visit saw me going to see shoe gazing band 'The Wedding Present' with Chris. Have to confess that I didn't know a great deal about them before I went. I'd heard their new singles on Radio 6 (we do adore that radio station, don't we?) and liked them. I also knew that the lead singer is David Gedge and I went to university with a Darron Gedge, which still amuses me. That was it. Now that I own a couple of studio albums, Take Fountain and Hit Parade (more a greatest hits than an album) I must observe that their live performances are a far superior beast. Without wanting to sound like a music wanker, this is a band that work really hard and they enjoy what they do. Lots of guitar and a very cute girl who replaces the guitar that Gedge has just used with a shiny new one. She then sits at the back of the stage and retunes the used one. All of this is, of course, irrelevant to this entry. What is slightly more relevant is that I stood next to a woman who was on her fifteenth visit to one of their gigs.

There was a final oddity when Gedge announced before the start of the final song that they don't do encores. He wasn't lying. I like that. There seems to be that ridiculous game we play at concerts where the band leaves, we refuse to leave, the lights don't go on and then the band comes back to 'treat' us to the couple of hit singles we were expecting and they haven't played. Then we all leave happy. I enjoyed not playing that game on Friday night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Movies I shouldn't watch

It's been an interesting evening. I was rung up by Radio 6 for a live interview about my ultimate gig on Jane Gazzo's show. Gazzo - what a great surname. I think I managed to sound engaging. I'm looking forward to listening to myself tomorrow via the streaming of tonight's show at work. We've also had a perspective flatmate round to replace Emma. In between I watched Whale Rider, a film made and set in Aotearoa. I probably shouldn't have watched it. Now I want to go home.

New Zealand. It's a beautiful place. You should go there.

I should go there again.

I need to go there again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Dark Side

I believe it isn't manners to ask or advertise a woman's age. But manners and tact are not something that come easy to me.

Today, Naomi turns thirty. Naomi is the person who got me started on this blogging lark, so blame her. While you're doing that, be sure to drop by her site and wish her happy birthday. She's also a wonderful human being.

Welcome to the dark side, Naomi. It's a fine place to be. And it doesn't mean you have to act any more responsibly.

Happy Birthday.

A Slam for the Ladies

The next Hammer and Tongue slam is downstairs at the Zodiac next Tuesday. Upstairs Fightstar are playing. Don't know who they are? Think Charlie from Busted. I think it will be fair to say that in the Venn diagram of people who would go to these events, only my flatmate sits in the middle.

There are more details about the slam here. Should be another good night out in Oxford. Tickets are £6 and the second edition of the Nail will be launched. You know that will be good because I contributed to it.

Humility, Richard, Humility!



Monday, February 21, 2005

The White Stuff

It is finally snowing in Oxford today. Just a little, but.

Being a kiwi, I like this white powdery stuff as I don't get to see it often at home.

And when the sun is setting through it the world turns all peachy.

Being myself is perfect

At the four nations slam, Barbara Adler read a poem that seems to be called several things, Music, First Sundays and Meow Meow Meow. When it was sent to me the file it came in was called the last, the header it came with said the middle, and Barbara says it's called the first. I suspect it's actually called Music. I also suspect that the title doesn't actually matter.

I resonated with a line in the poem at the time and so I asked Barbara for the words. She was kind enough to send me them this morning. The line reads "as if just being yourself was enough to be perfect". It reminds me of December when Buddy Wakefield read his poem at Hammer and Tongue that contained the line 'have you ever dreamed of living for a living'.

What I didn't appreciate at the four nations slam but do now, was the context in which Barbara wrapped the line. So here is the third verse from Music. I think it gives you the idea.

And this is the kind of easy
that is simple to snicker at in your 20s
the age of irony that is so ironic it has to point itself out as being irony
but despite this disability
I somehow got to hear the story
of how back in the 14th Century
when musical notes were first being standardized in the European monasteries
monks would be lined up in a row
and starting at the low bass they all sang
as far as they could go in their range
until they reached the highest note
each pitch matched to a monk
to make the scale so that according to this tale
C, or Do is actually Joe Monk from hundreds of years ago
singing at his limit
or rather setting it
as if just being yourself were enough to be perfect
and I guess there are some lucky souls
who spend their whole lives knowing this kind of bliss
but as my mantra has always been
please, make fun of me
I’m insecure and I like the attention
it doesn’t get much more mind blowing than this
imagining a world where the standards were based on you own limitations
so that for instance,
the definition of pants
would be that exact length of fabric
which precisely covers my leg
being good enough
without even having to try

Dinner with some Americans

This post is horribly late, but what it is about remains a significant event, so here it is.

(This post requires a bit of background information and I am nowhere near the skilled writer I would like to be, and can't work it all seemlessly into the post)
Back in May last year there was the big slam at Hammer and Tongue. Taylor Mali won by some distance. Subsequently at Hammer and Tongue there has become a bit of a tradition where the winner on the night has dinner cooked for them by a volunteer from the audience. This volunteer volunteers before the slam, so it's a bit of a lottery as to how winner and chef match up. I did this last December for Sophia and it was fun. In January, myself and Anita met and had dinner (by accident) with Taylor before he performed at Alchemy. We talked a bit about H and T and explained the dinner for the winner thing.

End of background.
I'm a person who does a bit of travelling for my job and it can be an overrated experience, lots of eating and drinking by yourself, and the delights of Travel Lodges, Ring Roads and business parks. I imagine that to some extent performing and travelling is a bit like that. I could be wrong. In response to those thoughts Anita and I decided to invite Taylor to dinner, part of an overdue dinner for the winner, but also to give him a warmer environment. Taylor replied ok, but asked if the rest of the US team, plus Jim and Steve could come. Seeing as it wasn't my house, but at the Slug, I said yes. Thanks girls.

So, the night before the four nations slam, myself and the girls (Kate, Emily, Caroline and Anita) cooked dinner for three quarters of the American team, plus Jim Thomas. I fear that Beau Sia and Danny Solis had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they came through the door! Taylor made the introductions, and we plied them with organic beer, New Zealand wine, lasagna, and these little things that were four cheeses wrapped in eggplant (I hate eggplant, but we'll let that go for the time being, suffice to say that this was a form of eggplant I could eat). Because Taylor kept running off to answer his phone (probably strategising for the event itself, or creating an excuse to pore through the girl's bedrooms - he did make the odd comment about the relative tidyness of them...), for a large part of the evening it was just Jim, Danny, Beau, the four girls and myself. Jim, Danny and Beau seem to get more comfortable as the evening wore on. They were such good company. I think Caroline's Septagon of Unfortunate Love was a useful catalyst... Later on Justice and Sophia joined the party. I guess to some degree some of us at hOME have idolised Taylor. (A bad word to use, but like I say, I'm not a skilled writer and can't think of a better one, although having said that I do do crosswords, so that excuse is not exactly watertight. Maybe senile dementia is kicking in. There, that's a better excuse.) We were mesmerised by his big slam performance, and we loved his Silver Lined Heart poem. I think fascinated by him is a better expression of our response to him, so it was good to hang out with him and the others and see them just be, just as we were just being too. It felt good to provide that environment. I wish someone would do that for me when I'm travelling for work!

I could hang out with those guys anytime. So... thanks Danny, Beau, Taylor, Jim and Sophia for your company.

It was a beautiful evening.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Smoking Gun

I was in Dublin over the weekend. I went to a pub on Saturday and it felt quite odd. I couldn't work out why, and then I realised that it was because Dublin is now smoke-free. It made for a very different pub experience. Somehow less enjoyable. Or familiar?

Later that night I was watching music tv. There was a video that featured a half naked woman simulating sex. No problems there. The next video was Blur's Beetlebum. In the video bassist Alex James (I think) is smoking a cigarette. This, of course, has been blurred out.

An Ultimate Gig

Radio 6 and Jane Gazzo are playing my ultimate gig next week. This is where you get to email in the three bands you would have liked to see at your ultimate gig.

Me, I chose the following and for the following reasons (call me sad if you like):

The Band. Sadly I was only two and living in New Zealand when they split, which made seeing them a little tricky. And now most of them are dead... Thank goodness for the Last Waltz and The Festival Express so I can pretend to have seen them live.

Dire Straits. It might be just a little uncool, but there is something about a five minute song followed by a self indulgant five minute outro. Brothers in Arms was the first album I bought and the first gig I ever went to was to see them in Auckland.

Pulp. Just because.

Time Management

There is a very interesting article from the Seattle Times about how we are increasingly becoming victims of our own technology. (I found the article while linking from Jon's blog to some guy called Stephen and his blog...).

Essentially the gist of the article is that we are increasingly susceptible to having our life being manipulated by the amount of information we receive:

"Some are concerned that the need for speed is shrinking our attention spans, prompting our search for answers to take the mile-wide-but-inch-deep route and settling us into a rhythm of constant interruption in which deadlines are relentless and tasks are never quite finished."

There's an interesting statistic about attention spans:

"Gloria Mark, a UC-Irvine professor, has been studying attention overload and multitasking among workers in a financial-services office. So far, she's found that the average employee switches tasks every three minutes, is interrupted every two minutes and has a maximum focus stretch of 12 minutes"

My first thought when reading that last statistic was "it's that long? Wow". What I do remember is that when I was studying for my Geography degree in the early nineties, I did most of research from text books, and I could go literally hours at a time without moving. When I did my engineering degree in the late nineties, at a time when I had far greater access to computers, I spent an awful lot of time fretting about emails, surfing the web etc. I got higher marks in my engineering degree, but twelve years later I tend to remember a lot more of the first degree.

I'm finding myself increasingly becoming a victim of both the information highway and my addiction to it. I completely resonate with this:

"Some of us get obsessed, checking e-mails while on vacation or late at night. We will e-mail to avoid talking and expect prompt reply, or fire off text-messages or gab on cellphones not because we have something to say, but because we can. (What? Am I interrupting?)"

I feel naked if I leave my house house without my Blackberry, and if I leave without my phone? I'll go home to get it. Although I do take comfort in that I do spend a lot of time with friends on a one to one basis. My housemates, however, tend not to get to enjoy such time with me. That's my fault!

It's a long article, but one that is worth the read. You may even read it all in one sitting (I couldn't) and it may take longer than twelve minutes.

There is a final observation about blogging too:
"Blogs — personal Web sites where people share information, commentary and feelings — have filled part of the void, keeping their audience current on topics of specific interest. But as Brown says, if all your information is tailored to what you want to know, you may miss that which you don't know you want to know, and should."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dublin Bound

This entry is being sent from my Blackberry. These little devices have been in the news a bit recently, mostly because Alastair Campbell didn't know how to use one and sent an abusive email from his. Apparently these things are a status symbol and only the top tier of management are supposed to get one. How I've got one is a mystery to me. Go MyCompany!

I'm being sent to Dublin to teach, and due to the course being Monday and Tuesday, I've decided to make a weekend of it. And I get to catch up with a friend I haven't seen in many years.

Last night Chris Langston and I went down to the Zodiac to see three bands; Pure Reason Revolution, Ambulance LTD and the Dears. I'm pretty sure I'd seen PRR before, I think they might have opened for the Boxer Rebellion at the same venue last year. They were loud, clearly influenced by Pink Floyd and really good. I think they've even performed at Greenbelt. Those who came late missed out.

Next on the bill were a band I've discovered on BBC Radio 6, the Beebs indie rock station, Ambulance LTD. These guys are good. Hard to say what they sound like. Indie. Rock. You can listen to a lot of their stuff on their website. The opening track is a six minute instrument, which is a bit gutsy, and they started the show with the same track. The tragically short half hour set also featured the devine Heavy Lifting and Primitive (the way I treat you).

Finally we had the Dears. These guys come from Montreal and to me sound a whole lot like Blur. Others have said the Smiths. I don't see it. Or should that be hear it. I went to the gig on the basis of having heard the single Lost the Plot on Radio 6. In that song, lead singer Murray definitely sounds like Damon Albarn. In order to be more informed, I went out on thursday and did some research. The research essentially involved wandering down to Astleys, one of Wallingfords two record shops (it also sells appliances) and buying the album, along with a few others (some Bob Marley, some Joy Division and, scarily enough, I don't remember the fourth one. Clearly it meant a lot to me.). The research then moved on to the "I've got a new album and I'm going to play it over and over again till I'm sick of it and then I'm never going to listen to it again" stage. I go through this stage a lot. I suspect that I will be repeating the exercise just before Jim and I go off to see the Wedding Present at the end of the month. And I still don't remember the names of most of the songs...

Half way through the gig we sang happy birthyday to Georgie, the Chilean drummer. They finished the set with, I believe, the Last Romantic, or something like that. We cried out for more, they duly obliged and by 10.15 my night out had come to an end. Just as well as I got up at 4.30 this morning...

Now we will get the muddled auto signature that the Blackberry adds on.


Sent from my Handheld Blackberry device

Friday, February 11, 2005

An Appropriate Response

I work in the water industry. My job has a slightly academic bent, and as part of the deal I belong to something called the 'Rivers List', which is an open forum for discussing ideas, questions etc relating to water resources and coastal processes.

Part of the discussion has inevitably turned to the Asian Tsunami. A couple of days ago, a member on the list sent an email saying that he had summarised a lot of the information. Amongst his email, he wrote: "New valuable informations include : engineering surveys and reports from the devastated coastlines several Japanese teams provided rapidly interesting technical data: the highest recorded runup height was 35 m in Western Aceh!!!

Which prompted the following from another member: " Through the rivers list I received your email about the tsunami. I think your remark about the highest recorded runup height was 35m in western Aceh (with 3 '!'s.) is totally misplaced. it is almost like you are talking about a world record in sports that we should be proud of, or so. I do not suggest that we should not look into the hydrodynamic aspects of this tsunami, but realising that almost 300,000 people were killed by this tsunami (many of them in Aceh) and many more suffered severe losses, I think the tone of the message should be very different."

Over the past few days these two emails have prompted a lot of healthy discussion about how we as an engineering and academic body should be responding to this disaster. Engineers spend an awful lot of time studying, interacting and modifying our environment. Sometimes it can be useful to remember who we doing this for and why we are doing, rather than treating it as an academice exercise. One of the more astute comments came this morning: "Obviously, cutting edge research and achievements are always interesting and necessary. But, at the same time, our responsibility is to implement our scientific intuition to have an influence on the system and the people as well. We should not stand apart." In addition to that, I would add the observation that we also need to understand the real nature of the problem we are attempting to solve. At engineering school we were taught theat we should usewhat became known as 'appropriate technology' when working on any project. Essentially that means we don't build a hydroelectric dam in an Indian village when all they need is a well. An extreme example, but I'm sure you get the idea.

As an engineer, I am immensely proud of my profession. OK, so some of the time we build the occasional monstrosity (we blame the architects when this happens), and in the past we have been guilty of a 'bulldozers and wrecking ball' approach to environmental management, but we have the power to create a lot of very positive change in this world. Increasingly this has become more evident, and we have got a lot better at wielding that power.

I'm encouraged by the simple fact that we in the Rivers List are having this discussion.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Truth

From Homer Simpson in the 'Hungry, Hungry Homer episode:

Homer: I don't mind being called a liar when I'm lying, or about to lie, or just finished lying. But not when I'm telling the truth!

Information Schminformation

I've written before about information overload, and information addiction. I'm pretty sure I've written about information being a substitute for action. Now someone at the BBC has put into words a wonderful observation about the first two. Now, read the highlights below, then turn your computer off and never visit my blog, or anybody elses, again.

(The full article is here.)

Spending an inordinate amount of time at my computer, using my broadband, I'm developing what I can only term an information habit.

Sit down to work. Ten minutes in, the new mail icon tempts me from the bottom of the screen. I'll just check. Nothing like a few juicy new e-mails. Click a few links. Scan a few websites. Oh 20 minutes has just passed. Better get back to work. Now where was I? Start work again. Feel like a reward. I'll just check See if anything's happened in the three minutes since I last looked. Follow a few 'related links'...

Half an hour has passed. I feel like I've done something, but actually I haven't. All that's happened is that I've been distracted by constantly rising info urges. I spend most of my day like this, divided between what I need to do and what the internet wants me to do - which is look at it. Constantly.

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Prague Slam

Patrick Seguin of the Alchemy literary group in Prague is going to put on his first poetry slam in the spring. He's never done this before and is looking for some assistance. If anybody out there can give him some tips, drop him a line at

Thursday, February 03, 2005

An Ocean of Information

Ok, I still need to process the slam, but I'm hoping that as I write I'll do some of that. I am giving myself twenty minutes. At 6pm, The Simpsons are on.

One of the things I've been desperate to avoid in this blog is have entries that run something like "I did this. It was good. Then I did that. I liked it." I pray that this blog entry doesn't do that. If it does, I'm sorry.

(This line was inserted part way through me writing this - I don't think this is a good entry. I fear it's a bit dull... it's a bit shit. Sorry. It kinda reads like I reviewed every song at a gig. But seeing as pretty much every poem was by a different poet, you can't really leave anybody out. You know what, if you feel inclined, and you actually make it all the way through this entry, you could give me some tips on writing. Go on, I'm open to criticism! For a short time only.)

But firstly, I'm going to list those that performed. Just so I don't leave anybody out...

(Drum roll and Michael Buffer calling out the names, please.......)

From the US we have....
Beau Sia
Taylor Mali
Queen Sheba
Danny Solis

And from Canada...
Barbara Adler
Brendan McLeod
Mark Berube
C. R. Avery

And from Ireland...

Barney Sheehan
Sonja Broderick
Robin Parmar
Rose O'Shea

And lastly the home team, the UK Team
Elvis McGonagill
Rachel Pantechnicon
Kat Francois
The brilliant Bard Of Bridlington: Niall Spooner-Harvey

Plus sacrifical poet, the de-fi-nite-ly b-e-a-u-ti-ful Sophia Blackwell, and MC's Rob Gee, Steve Larkin, who's just some guy. Providing the sounds in between was DJ Aeroplane Man. What fine sounds they were too.

Ok, there's your list. All of them quality. Nineteen poets and a DJ. Could be a good name for a band.

(Ten minutes till The Simpsons)

If you've read the blog before, you will know that I am a fan of these things. They float my boat, they rock my block and move my groove. And you will know that I have waxed lyrical about waxed lyrics in the past. So this time I am going to try a slightly different approach. It springs from the fact that I wrote a review for the Taylor Mali gig in January for the Hammer and Tongue Journal, the Nail.

Actually, I have no idea what the slightly different approach will be, which makes me deeply suspicious that what I write will be exactly the same as every other bloody entry.

The slam was organised like so:
(Note there was no dinner for the winner, although I did host the winning team for dinner the night before, see a later entry that I haven't yet written... It will hopefully make sense! And who says it was rigged??)

The four teams were divided into two semifinals, the US v Ireland and the UK v Canada. The winners of each heat played off in the final. The heat losers started drinking and relaxed.

(It's time for The Simpsons)

(Ad break. It's the Snake Whacking Day episode with Barry White)

To warm up the audience, Sophia sacrified herself and read a poem, and got a tasty score for her trouble. MC Rob Gee spat out one of his own, and then we were off. There was a toss, which the US won and the Irish were forced to go first. Barney was up first with a poem called Cry, my Belfast, cry. In reply, Taylor Mali, the US captain gave us What teachers make. Now, I've seen him three times before, but I have never seen him peform like he did on Tuesday. Normally he's a bit laid back, but he was aggressive, he had one foot up on the speakers, and he demanded that we as an audience know, no, understand, just what a difference teachers make. Seeing as I was in the corner where all the poets were gathered, it was fascinating to watch him after the peformance. He was always watching, always scheming and plotting, and, you'd have to say, masterminding the slam. This was clearly a man who knew what he was about. Seeing as he has won the US title six times, this shouldn't really come as a surprise... Rose O'Shea was next up for Ireland with a beautiful poem about her daddy. I had the priviledge of driving her back to the accomodation at the evening and what a lovely and warm person she is. When I get to Limerick, I am going to look her up. Queen Sheba was the second US poet, with Poetry does not belong to you. They say she is royalty, and whom am I to disagree. Third up for the Irish was Robin Parmer and then we had the amazing Beau Sia for the US. I spent a great deal of time with him on Monday night and he came across as a quiet man, quietly listening and wanting to help out round the house. But... not when he is peforming. "I'm so deep, that I am the iceberg that let the other iceberg sink the Titanic". Man, did he sweat when he was at it. He was breathtaking and hilarious. I really don't remember the last Irish poem, but I do remember the last US poem. Danny Solis was another person I got to hang out with on Monday night. He is a beautiful man with a great deal of depth. This wasn't revealed in his poem, which essentially was a play on the old 'size matters' myth, except he used a backyard fire as the metaphor for penis size. I know I'm a sucker for a bit of puerile talk, but this was genuinely funny. There was a marked difference between the two sides. The US team were all about the delivery, the Irish were all about the content. It's a tricky thing to delineate the merits of both approaches. I know what I would pay to see again, but I also know what I would pay to read.

After all that, it was time for a break.

One of the resounding reflections of the evening is that in four hours I listened to between 30-35 poems. Most of which were rapid fire. Granted that the material, the poets and the performances were top drawer, that is a hell of a lot of information to take in. I can't even pretend to do half of them justice. I guess this is where the performance comes into it. The poems I remember were the ones I knew, the ones where I knew the poet, and the ones with the large performance. I know that as I listened to some of the others, especially the one by Rose O'Shea, that it was important, but two days later, I fear that it had got itself drowned in a sea of information.

DJ Aeroplane then lay down some slamming tracks.

The second semi-final was between the UK and Canada. It began with a poem by Tony Blair. Sorry, Elvis McGonagill. Then we had something truly different. We had a group poem by the whole Canadian team, which was a first for a H&T slam. These Canadians are all from Vancouver, and they are slick. Pity the fool that has to follow that. Next in line was, at least in my opinion, the rather disappointing Niall Spooner-Harvey. I suspect that I found him disappointing partially because he followed the Canadians, but also his list of things that he is intolerant of didn't really sit well with me. It might have been self-effacing in places, but I was left with a rather uneasy feeling about it. This observation does make me wonder if I even remembered it correctly... Maybe it's one of the half I'm not doing justice. Second up for the Canadians was Brendan McLeod, with a poem about fighting ants. I think this one also falls into the bracket of not really remembering it well. I do remember the next three, however. The stunning Rachel Pantechnicon was, in terms of performance, my outright winner on the night. She can put garden gnomes on my 'elf shelf' anytime. The next poem, I am informed by it's author,Barbara Adler, and is simply called Music. There was a line in it with a reference to just being me being perfection. It resonated with what I heard Buddy Wakefield perform at the December H&T slam, where he asked had I ever dreamt about living for a living. Barbara, if you ever read this, please don't forget to send me the words! Third in the set, was Kat Francois with a poem about wanting a man who understood women. Kat, again, if you ever read this, can I have the title and/or the words? Please? The semi-final was finished by CR Avery. Now, amazingly talented is a brace of words that gets bandied about a lot, especially by me. So I'm going to preface this by putting the word 'outrageously' in front of it. A man who can be his own beat box while rapping has talent. As Tom Waits once said, "hunt this man out".

With the semi-finals wrapped up (pun intended - ka boom cha), it was time for another break with more slamming tunes from the Aeroplane.




Before Steve Larkin could announce the finalists he had to one of his own; the Midas touch in reverse. This was bullshit. He does not have the Midas touch in reverse. Everything he touched on Tuesday night was gold. Not the cliched kind, either.

It was not exactly a huge surprise to see that it was a US - Canada final. As good as the Irish and the British were, the North Americans were better. Now we got to see if Taylor Mali could strategise a win. The two teams took very different approaches in the final. With the exception of the two group pieces, Canada seemed to favour, and I really hesitate to say this, substance over style. Brendan McLeod and Barbara Adler kicked it off with a joint poem about friendship. The poem was wonderfully read, and the warmth and understanding between the two of them was very evident... which was riposted in outrageous fashion by Beau Sia with The Asians are coming. Loud, funny and delivered with bucketloads of sweat! Mark Berube was the second Canadian finalist with a poem that I think was entitled Scarred by Nuclear Heat and was a powerful look into the effects of Hiroshima upon his family and beyond. His grandfather had been a POW in Japan just down the road at the time the bomb was dropped. Danny Solis was the exception to the style rather than substance approach of the US. Danny spoke about holding his godson in his arms while recounting the story of a Palestinian boy dying in the arms of his father, and wondering if the father sang to his boy amidst the suffering. Brendon McLeod was next up for the Canadian with a moving poem about passing an HIV test, but the implications that someone else has got it for him, and then taking this metaphor to other aspects of life. If there is another poem I'd like to get my hands on, this would be a prime candidate. There's some stuff in there I'd like to think about. Mr Mali had obviously decided that there'd been enough gentle stuff, and brought the audience roaring again with his Voiceover America. The last Canadian poem of the night was a group effort led by CR Avery about child abuse. To finish the competition, Beau Sia accompanied Queen Sheba with a poem that sadly I really don't remember. Does that make me a bad person? Probably not. Beau barely had time to sit down before he was right back up with a set (by this stage it was 12.15am) while the scores were totalled. Twenty sweat-filled minutes later we had heard our final poetry for the evening, and we knew our winner. The US had triumphed by a gnat, and Beau, the Queen and Danny had all tied for highest overall scores, with 29.8/30. Not bad, really. Nadia whatsherface (that gymnast), move over.

It has to be said that when the poetry finished a large sigh of relief washed over me. It was an excellent evening, but my brain was fill... Without being I don't know what, I think it's going to be nice to talk about something else for a while. The next slam is a month away (1st of March) and I think I'm quite ready to go a month without one! Three poetry evenings in a month has been enough.

The last observation I'm going to make is that when I first started going to these about a year ago, it was a bit of a mystery to me. Then I discovered the big slam and Taylor Mali. That was something else, and his sheer performance really opened up my eyes to this stuff. Since then, I have also had the priviledge of hearing a whole host of overseas and local poets. There is a whole lot of talent out there, and I suspect that there is a whole lot more I haven't found. My point is this: imagine if you'd never heard music before and all of sudden you were taken to a Blur concert. You discover you really like it, and then find that there is also Oasis, Radiohead, Suede, Pulp, Ride, Supergrass, Blue Aeroplane and a whole bunch of other BritPop artists. Then you discover that there is also rock, rock and roll, jazz, rap, the blues, heavy metal, manufactured pop, classical, swing.... In some small and very badly articulated way, that is what the explosion of slam poetry has been like to me.

Here endeth the rant.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I'm not really sure why, but a couple of verses of songs by Steve Taylor (eighties and nineties Christian satirist and musician) have been floating around in my head. The first is from Harder to believe than not to :

They shiver with doubts that were left unattended
then they toss away the cloak that they should have mended
you know by now why the chosen are few
it's harder to believe than not to...

and the other is in the song Hero

when they ain't as big as life
when they ditch their second wife
where's the boy to go?
gotta be a hero
When the house fell asleep
from a book I was led to a light that I never knew
I wanna be your hero
and he spoke to my heart from the moment I prayed
here's a pattern I made for you
I wanna be your hero

Watch this space

Last night was the Hammer and Tongue Four Nations Poetry Slam. Held in the zodiac, some four hundred punters were exposed to four hours of some of the best slam poetry you could hope to find. I loved every minute of it. But it exhausted me and it's gonna take some processing.

Suffice to say, the US won, the Canadians came second (much to Meredith's pain) and while the UK and the Irish finished third and fourth, they were worthy contenders. As far as poems went, the ones by the UK's Kat Francois and Ireland's Rose O'Shea were beautiful and moved me, and for sheer peformance, the UK's Rachel Pantechnicon (the elf shelf) was nothing short of magnificent.

To say I have been blown away wouldn't be too far from the truth and that's why I need some time to process it. So watch this space.

But... if you were there, and you wanna say something, my comments page can be your scratchpad. Or does that just make me a lazy blogger??

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A humbling

Every now and again I get reminded of how generous people can be. Last night, the wonderful inhabitants of The Slug (not somewhere you will find in a pub guide to Oxford) allowed me to host five poets for dinner. And they did the cooking too! My thanks of a bunch of flowers seemed horribly inadequate.

So to Anita, Kate, Emily and Caroline (especially for allowing us to dissect the Septagon of Unfortunate Love), my heartful thanks. As the pumkins sang, "today is the greatest day...".

Then the generosity got a little overwhelming. Beau Sia, one of the poets above is going to Auckland next month and asked me to come up with a list of twenty things to do in Auckland. I asked some friends in Auckland to help me. Top of the list from Craig was this:

(1) and definitely worthy of top place: a 1-hour scenic helicopter flight over Auckland's CBD, with your friendly pilot/tourguide, Craigo! Seriously, I'd be really happy to do this. If your friend were willing to offer a small donation, it'd be greatfully accepted, but by no means compulsary.

What can you possibly say to that? I mean really?

I feel like having a wee cry.

Climbing the Ladder

My mother has been promoted from vicar to arch-deacon. I had to look up exactly what an arch-deacon does (apparently they are in charge of temporal and other affairs in the diocese, and have special powers designated from the bishop), but I figure any job title with the word 'arch' in it has got to be cool.

I wonder if it means she is also the arch-nemesis of somebody?

Anyways, well done my mum.