Saturday, 2 April 2016

A large piece of writing about The Man Who Sold The World.

I doubt I'm the only one who's been listening to a bit of David Bowie recently. Bowie is one of those artists who released so much music over the course of 50 years that it is always difficult to really get any perspective on it all, and gain some overall understanding of him and his career.

I'm the type of person who will read the first book in a book series, or the first episode in a TV series, and then have to continue to the end of the series, no matter how badly the story might deteriorate. I've got to have the sense of closure. I need to get to the last word of the last page of the last book to really feel like I can make up my mind whether it's

a) genius, and I can think of ways it's made my understanding of life better
b) an entertaining use of my time
c) a waste of my time, because I didn't get anything from it.

Which is why I've always found David Bowie a real challenge, because there are so many things to prevent a person born 15 years after his first album was released being able to grab it all in their arms and get it into focus. (Different phases, personalities, genres, not to mention 26 albums spanning nearly 50 years, weaving into very different parts of time, place and opinion).

Over the years, I've realised that the fun with Bowie is that you can just jump in at any point and see what you find. The main Bowie bays I've been floating around in have been the 70s Bowie (Hunky Dory, Ziggy, Aladdin Sane) and the more recent albums of the late 90s onwards. Both highly rewarding. Both very different eras.

Being a teenage Nirvana listener, the first time I heard The Man Who Sold The World was on the musical door-opening MTV Unplugged album/video. And later, through my exploration into Bowie's back catalogue I was able to hear and appreciate the original. I always enjoyed the way the song sounded in my ears, and the mood it created with the music, but up until recently I have always somewhat unfairly had the song pegged as a "pre-genius" Bowie song (released in 1970), as it's from before what I think of as the period when Bowie's songwriting went into the stratosphere.

Last night, I saw this video of Michael Stipe singing The Man Who Sold The World and it made me think about the song again in a fresh way, as is generally the case when listening to a cover version of a song. And what I realised was that I'd never really listened to the words of the song and thought about what they meant. So I went and found them and they were these:

We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when.
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend,
Which came as a surprise. I spoke into his eyes.
"I thought you died alone, a long long time ago."

"Oh no, not me.
I never lost control.
You're face to face 
With The Man Who Sold The World."

I laughed, and shook his hand. And made my way back home.
I searched for form and land. For years and years I roamed.

I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions there.
We must have died alone. A long, long time ago.

Who knows? not me.
We never lost control.
You're face to face
With The Man Who Sold The World

Is the man he passes on the stairs is another him, another personality or part of him, a past version of himself?

Then, I was ready to listen to the original David Bowie recording of the song again. With headphones on, of course. (Don't every try to listen to something seriously through laptop speakers. You're not doing yourself or the music any favours). The chord progression is interesting, as it gets you thinking that it's going to be just the two opening chords repeated, but as the story in the lyric unfolds, the chords get much more complex as they move off into an unpredictable direction until the refrain (and title) is sung.

And as I listened, I realised that, though I'd head the song a hundred times before, I'd never listened to the instruments. Every sound in this recording is interesting, from the weird chorus/doubling effect on the vocal, to the murky fuzz of the bass, to the crispness of the acoustic guitar, and repetitive, hypnotic, unrelenting lead guitar line.

Combine the words with that music, and you get the unsettling, haunting fantasy that is The Man Who Sold The World. Grab your headphones.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Cooking with Expired Items from the Fridge.

The following is a set of instructions to make the worst possible thing ever. I call it Expired Soup, and it's really easy to make. Here's what you do:

1. Systematically look at every item in your fridge and separate out anything that's expired, or things that you just can't eat anymore. Sauces, condiments, relishes, preserves, etc. All are welcome. Assemble these items on the bench.

 Here's my collected ingredients. Quite a healthy selection of dressings, pickled items, and leftover weeks-old baking.

2. Now that you've collected all of your ingredients together, you now need to find a bowl of a suitable size to hold all of it. Lastly, you need something to stir it all together with.  A wooden spoon, or something of similar physical attributes will do. I actually used a soup spoon.

 Pro tip: Get yourself one of these handy fume masks from your local hardware store. You might find that it helps you to keep your gag reflex under control while you are assembling your Expired Soup.

3. Be sure to stir as you go to ensure you don't get a build-up of solid things such as prunes, olives, and old bits of vegan brownie. Mine looked a lot like a delicious Indian curry, but yours may look different, depending on your ingredients.

 Mine looked like a nice creamy curry, though looks can deceive. It smelled like someone had opened up the gates of hell. Even now as I write this, the memory of the smell is enough to make my stomach turn.

4. Now that your concoction is thoroughly mixed, for the last step you are only limited by your imagination. You can cook it into a loaf, microwave it into a kind of cake, freeze it as popsicles, or simply garnish with some parsley and serve it up as a cold soup. I went with the latter option, and it was a real success as far as ensuring I'll never ever have dinner guests around again.

Here's a close up of mine. I think the capers really added a certain je ne sais quoi to both the colour and texture.

I'd love to see the results of your Expired Soup, so send in those pictures and stories. Let me know what ingredients really worked for you!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Aratiatia Dam - Damn Cool

We were driving from Napier to Whakatane, which is a silly drive since you either have to go all the way east via Gisborne, or all the way west, via Taupo.  We went through Taupo since it was only a 3.5 hour drive rather than a 4.5 hour drive.  Anyway, as interesting as all this is let's get to the main part of this rant.

We'd been tipped off by some seasoned NZ tourers that, when in the Taupo area, it's sweet to stop off at the Aratiatia Dam.  It's the first dam on the Waikato River as it comes out of Taupomoana (that's Lake Taupo.  I don't want to get into the "whys", "whos" and "hows" of it all, but what happens is that at 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm every day the dam opens up and a big bunch of water is let through.  This turns a small stream into a freaky whitewater nightmare in a matter of minutes.

Here, just look at the before and afters.

This is looking from viewing spot #1:

And this is from the bridge, looking away from the dam.

It was free, and quite awesome.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

28/12/12: Wanganui to Napier

On the way to Napier I got lost in this massive city. I forget the name of it but a someone once told me that it's the capital of central Hawke's Bay.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

27/12/12: Lower Fu#k'in Hutt

I saw this guy at Westfield (the huge mall) in Lower Hutt and I knew I had to dedicate a blog entry to him. I followed him for ages trying to get a good shot but I felt like a stalker so this is the best I could get. He was carrying his toddler around with him.

I'm a sucker for a well written character.