Friday, May 24, 2013

Well, the timing of this article could not be better: 48 hours in Auckland I think I'll put this on my calendar for days one and two.

In the meantime, I'm busy reading travel guides, perusing maps, watching films and reading fiction and non-fiction about/by New Zealand/Kiwis as I prepare to visit this wondrous land.
Here is a sampling (in no particular order):

Fairness and Freedom: A History of Two Open Societies by David Hackett Fischer
This book is a fascinating comparison of the politics and philosophies of NZ and the US. A recommended read that offers up history and politics in byte size bits with a fair share of philosophy to round out the sampling... perfect for pre-travel inspiration. I am so impressed with the political system in NZ, by the way.

Rain (2003), Fireworks Pictures, Directed by Christine Jeffs
I'm listening to the soundtrack now. So lovely.
Anyway, I own this film and have enjoyed watching it several times over in spite (or maybe because) of it's dark overtones. It is a coming of age story set in (1970's?) NZ. Sensuous sepia scenes of no-boundaries parties on the beach intercut with difficult family dynamics - all viewed through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old girl (played so well by Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki).

Top of the Lake (2013), A mini-series by Jane Campion
Wow! I'm still digesting this one. It's Twin Peaks meets X-Files set in high altitude NZ bush country (backwoods). Feminist retreat group vs. meth lab gangsters with an alternately strong/fragile female lead brilliantly played by Elisabeth Moss (aka Peggy Olson from Mad Men).

Two Paddocks blog
I've been following actor Sam Neill on twitter for over two years now and I have to say, he is the most hilarious, insightful, down-to-earth actor that I have ever known. His blog on the Two Paddocks website  is SO funny... Oh, and he has a great "disco" section where he asks famous actors and musicians to list and comment on their favorite recordings (so entertaining).... and in case you didn't know, Mr. Neill is the proprietor of Two Paddocks vineyard in Central Otago, NZ.

And speaking of twitter, I'm following a number of Kiwis, including @JenLongshaw, who is an artist and animal lover living in Hawkes Bay (North Island). She's also very funny and has great pics of her goat Stig and various other animals on her blog. I began following her and Sam Neill on the same day (and they both followed me back the next day... so gracious).

This YouTube channel offers a great sampling of Kiwi music, although, it seems that it hasn't been updated in 5 years. Highlights include rare old footage of Split Enz, a cool hip-hop video by Twin Maori (?) sisters - Sisters Underground, and more.

Lots of great NZ music missing from this channel, but well worth checking out: Finn Brothers (and solo work by Neil Finn and Tim Finn), Bic Runga, Sean Donnelly, Conan Mockasin, Lawrence Arabia, Ladyhawke...

I could go on, but I promised myself an early bedtime, so off I go to dreamland...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Himalayan clacks

What is a 'clack'?

What exactly is a 'clack'?

Well, I was wondering exactly the same thing one fine day in May when Neil Finn posted a comment about them on (see diary post for 10 May 2013). So I wrote to him @NeilMullaneFinn and asked if 'clacks' were:

  • The sound of tourist ducks?
  • The echo of sunlight bouncing off a clear lake's surface?
  • Traps that capture rogue musicians?
I was stumped.

As it turns out, 'clacks' are "clouds that cling to rocks" (according to Neil, anyway). And where do you think you'll find such lofty clouds? In the mountains, of course. Very high, very lofty, stunningly beautiful mountains occasionally dressed for company in the most sublime clacks you will ever see. New Zealand is full of them. 

I am heading to Aotearoa/New Zealand in no less than 26 days (count them)... and believe me, I am counting them because I have wanted to visit NZ for at least 20 years now. This year, 2013, will be the year that I do. And when I get there, what do you think I'll be seeking? 

Clacks, of course. 

What else is there more worth seeking in The Land of the Long White Cloud?