March 29, 2005

first day of work

Seems like the end of the honeymoon period in Melbourne – first day of work today. A training day so the easy stuff. I also found a flat last night. Fingers crossed it all goes well – otherwise I’ve got about another week of savings left and I’d really rather not have to go crawling home early. The flat is a two-bedroom place with one other guy in his early thirties. It’s a furnished room in a clean house with a well-stocked bookshelf, and right around the corner from a railway station so several good points. It could get a bit isolating though – I’d ideally like to live with three or four other people and get a bit more social contact. On the other hand it’s OK for me to stay short-term so if something better comes up I can move on.

The job turns out to be a bit more sales-oriented than it first appeared last week – classic case of luring people in. No wonder it was so easy to get. It’s potentially quite well paid ($25 commission per signing), but the question is can I hack it? Of all the jobs out there sales is one I’ve always shied away from. This job starts off for the first six weeks door-knocking existing Origin Energy customers and getting them to sign up for ‘Green Power’, ie wind/solar/hydro electricity as opposed to coal (Australia has huge coal reserves and is also the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitter per capita – and has not signed the Kyoto Protocol - hmm). Green power costs an extra dollar per week, but shouldn’t be too difficult a sell. Then after the six weeks we have to sign up new customers, which sounds like more of a challenge. At least it’s something worthy that I can get behind (I’d happily pay the extra dollar myself), and is at least tangentially connected to my environmental/conservation interests.

It’s probably good for me to get out of my comfort zone like that. I do need to brush up on my social skills and meet people, especially in a new city. The Aussies have been pretty friendly so far – and they seem to look up to Helen Clark. One guy was going on about how great the NZ soldiers in the ANZACs were.

Sunday night Mike and I went to see the NZ band Sola Rosa at the Evelyn (seems to be one of the main local live venues) – I thought they were really good. Half the people there were kiwi. It was interesting how some cultural references, like the vocalist’s ‘Tino Rangitiratanga’ t-shirt, take on added meanings in another context. Apparently reggae’s not very big here. I heard some good Australian hip-hop the other day though – strong local accent, not trying to sound American at all and quite different from the Maori/Polynesian-influenced NZ stuff.

I could also go on about the large number of beautiful women here and how I haven’t connected with any of them – I seemed to discover an area of mental blockage, some kind of sexual complex in my head the other night. Something to do with the futility of going to a gay bar the night before? I could see people turning away from me. Mild paranoia from the (really good garden-grown) pot and alcohol (the beer’s mostly different which is good). But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean it’s not real. I have to be careful not to fry my brain too much.

On the other hand there were total strangers who I went up and talked to quite happily. I was probably dancing a bit spastically, had my eyes closed & didn’t care what I looked like. I’d been wearing my tramping boots all day (good for the long walks to get anywhere here) so took them off and danced barefoot. Conforming to the kiwi cultural stereotype maybe? I don’t mind since it’s a good one – if you go barefoot you can feel the earth.

A job should help keep me stable, hold the black dog of depression at bay. I want to give this one a good shot…

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March 27, 2005

Day at the beach

Better qualify what I said in the last entry about drug-taking. I don't think I can be bothered with crack cocaine or P or datura or any of those things with near-universally bad reputations either. And I was pretty tired and sore all over last night from the line of speed I'd had the night before - have to factor at least a day's recovery time into all encounters with it.

There's a poster of Johnny Cash on a wall in the flat where I'm staying - him in 1966 when he was a heavy speed user. He looks ten years older than he is, very thin and his hands look like those of an old man. Funny how Johnny Cash is so popular these days - dying must have given him a boost. I always used to run the other way from whatever was popular at the time - but I think Johnny Cash is great & discovered this objectively myself so I'm happy to go along with the cultural tide on this. His songs have great sound textures and a lot of meaning to them (the good ones that is - like most artists he did his share of mediocre stuff). The flat also has a poster of Gollum from LOTR in the toilet though - no escape.

Mike and I went to the beach at Sandringham today - nearly an hour's train trip from the flat. Good beach though, and it was great to hear the sound of waves. I didn't find any syringes - that's apparently a problem at some beaches here. It was great to have a swim, and do a little bit of yoga and some pressups. My head's clear and my body feels good again. The water's a pleasant temperature and seems to be saltier than NZ - so easy to float. I've also seen a lot of taupata trees around here - have to find out whether they're introduced from NZ or a local variety. There was also an edible plant very similar to our native spinach at the beach (though a bit too salty to want to eat a lot of).

I still have to find a flat here; that's proving slightly difficult. I had to decide against going to Confest so I could have the time to flat-hunt over the Easter break. I start work on Tuesday - great that that came easily.

Mental note: Writing posts on internet cafes is too expensive. I should write them on my laptop and save to floppy disc...

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March 26, 2005

Good Friday?

These Melbourne internet cafes are so overpriced - or maybe it's just the way things work here. Money seems to disappear pretty fast - I really hope this job goes alright; I don't want to go crawling home broke after a fortnight. Next big mission is to find a flat - the first one I looked at seemed perfect, hopefully they'll take me. The others I've seen have just been sort of OK.

I had a long Friday night - in fact it's still continuing as I haven't been to bed yet. I took some Ecstasy for the first time (paying $70 in NZ just didn't seem worth the bother). That was pleasant, fairly low key, sitting around a fire in the back yard with Mike and his flatmates and a couple of acoustic guitars. Mike's British flatmate John is a music teacher and gave me some pointers on hand & muscle relaxation - I haven't had musical training apart from a few guitar lessons when I was 16 so I've picked up ten years worth of bad habits in the meantime which it would be good to break through. I think that part was the highlight of the evening.

After that I got a lift into Collingwood to meet my other Wellington contact here, a mercurial lesbian girl Michelle who I'd done a paper with at university - she is/was friends with Elisa (I was out in town one night with them, feeling quite attracted to Michelle but got the ultimate pleasant surprise when Elisa asked me to walk her home - a great period of life-with-a-girlfriend bliss followed). So I went along to one of the city's gay bars and hung out there for a while, played a couple of games of pool - I was totally comfortable being there but I think if I had any gay impulses myself I would have known by now. It ended up being one of those evenings where seemingly everyone except me had sex (there was even a couple doing it in a tram stop as Mike & I were walking home the night before). I had a little bit of speed with Michelle so I'm still awake - I've spent the last couple of hours walking back to Mike's flat (two thirds of the way there now). It's a fine sunny day though so that's alright. I've probably earned a big hangover but don't seem to be feeling it (yet). I'll confess to a try-anything-once attitude to drugs, though drawing the line at needles. As far as addiction goes, I find chocolate far worse than any alcohol or drugs I know.

There's some kind of music & workshop gathering called Confest somewhere north of here - I'll see if I can borrow a tent and get the train up. 'Twould be good to see a bit of the countryside before I have to be back for work on Tuesday. And if I can find a place to live I'll be sorted here...

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March 24, 2005

eet's very beeg

I seem to have scored myself a job - the first one I applied for. It's for Origin Energy going around talking to existing customers about the switch to 'green power' (wind/solar). Commission-based but no selling, supposedly pays $600-$800 p/w. Best I've done in NZ was $16/hr for three months at DoC.

Melbourne feels OK as a city, plenty of green spaces. Some huge trees here, and bats flying around at night. The flat where I'm temporarily staying has a big pear tree and lorikeets feast there in the mornings. Also a couple of cute kittens running around - I doubt the wallpaper & curtains will survive them long. One of them tried to climb my leg this morning...

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March 23, 2005

Melbourne entry #2

Well my passport turned up so that's alright - some benevolent soul handed it in to the police. I've made contact with the two Wellingtonians I know. Saw some live improvised music last night - turned out to be Mike Cooper, an English guy who's visited Wellington a few times.

The city is very big but I'm beginning to get my head out. It's laid out in a pretty orderly fashion and has a good public transport network, so not too much risk of getting lost. You can't just walk everywhere like in Wellington though! Thornbury looks like a good place to live, fairly bohemian.

Next big missions: get a flat and a job...

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March 22, 2005

Melbourne entry #1

Getting my head around Melbourne - looks a bit like Auckland on the surface but seems to run more efficiently. Great public transport network. Big distances though! Hooked up with my friend Mike so have a couch to stay on. My passport's gone missing already - have to replace pronto!

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March 20, 2005

Last day in NZ

Man this packing up's a big job - it's taken the whole weekend. I'm in Masterton at the moment, have to leave here about 3am to get to the airport for my flight. I don't have much idea what's going to happen next - that's probably half the fun...

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March 15, 2005

monday, day of music

Kronos Quartet very good. Got to talk to one of them afterwards. Playing at Massey was fun - I've been starting to think about doing the jazz foundation course there next year? Half a year of intense practice to boost my skills up a notch - I've been doing good stuff recently but I have technical limitations. I've got the ideas though, and I'm old enough to know it's worth taking seriously. Technique can be acquired. I don't want to be going all suburban in my 30s - that'll be my prime. The Ascension Band worked; we're on the map in town.

Yesterday was a totally musical day - Ascension Band gig at midday, followed by acoustic guitar jamming & beer on the porch (great weather the last couple of days), and Kronos afterwards...


6 days til Melbourne.

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March 13, 2005

Monday matinee

I got back from the bush & discovered that I'd cut my internet connection off a week early. Seven days to go til I leave the country - yes, I'm getting nervous.

In the meantime, Ascension Band is playing on Monday at midday at the jazz conservatorium at Massey. I think it's free entry. So if you missed our award-winning Fringe show you have one more chance. Remember, this is my last gig in Wellington for some time...

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March 06, 2005

Going bush

Thanks to everyone who came to see the Ascension Band shows - they went off. I'm happy to say we covered our costs (over $800) and had enough left for a few beers afterwards. The only downer was that someone broke in backstage and one or two bags went missing, possibly stolen.

Ascension Band won the best music award for the Fringe Festival.

This week I'm going up to Otaki Forks for a DOC training workshop, doing some restoration work on a 1930s sawmill site. After missing out on tramping in January I finally get some time in the bush.

I get back out on Friday - no email til then sorry (gasp). Ascension Band is playing again at midday on Monday 14th at the Massey University Jazz Conservatorium.

And then a week later I'm leaving the country.

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March 03, 2005

Don't take my word for it #2

This from

Live Review -The Ascension Band’s ‘Evolution’
written by Baden on 2 Mar 2005

The Wellington Fringe Festival is choice. I never see as much stuff as I mean to see or go to the launch party like I always mean to. It sneaks up on you, this fest: just after the holidays but before the year has really started. Everything seems ages away in December and then suddenly it’s all there. Theatre, music, dance, people doing things on stilts and stuff like that.

I haven’t seen nearly enough of the Fringe this year, but I hear it’s been fairly successful across the board. Shows selling out and all that. I know that most of you guys missed the Ascension Band at Happy last week, so in the interests of making sure some of you get along next time, here is a selection of ready-made quotes for the band to use in their next promotional material.

“Imagine a Pixies song explained at length by Harry Partch.”

“With elements of punk, post-punk, jazz, classical, straight rock, opera and music hall, the Ascension Band are that rare thing: Something Wholly Other.”

“This is what Can might have turned out like had they ever gone flatting in Newtown.”

“The Ascension Band moves as one person: a person fit as a fiddle, sharp as a tack and mad as a snake.”

“The Ascension Band retain avant garde cred and still manage to rock harder than AC/DC.”

“Enticing. Exciting. Ethereal.”

“If you don’t think this is your thing, then you’re probably right. The music doesn’t want you anyway.”

“All id, no ego.”

“The Ascension Band can be justly proud of their performance. If that’s what people like this do.”

“Restraint is the key to the success of the performance. At one point I wanted to jump up and join in by plucking a string or two. My restraint was rewarded.”

“Evolution is a sprawling alternative experience for a wilted generation.” (Now THAT'S music criticism!)

“As far from reality TV, KFC ads and NZ Idol as it is possible to be without a time machine.”

I hope that gives you fullas some idea of what you missed. They’ve got a couple of shows left though, at the Newtown Community Hall. Check out their website at

We got through the opening night OK - now we've got our own venue for two nights in a row. It'll be even better than the Happy gig since we're having some opening acts and the main piece is now well refined. We've also got special guests Fran Mountfort on Friday and Chris Palmer on Saturday.

See you there hopefully (and then I can get out of promo mode and go back to bitching about my life's problems - I know it's what you really want me to be blogging about - honestly though, this gig is worth seeing)...

Ascension Band: Electric Symphony
Friday 4th & Saturday 5th March @ Newtown Community Centre, 7.30pm
$6 full price, $5 unwaged, $4 Fringe card

Live 2004’ DVD available now for $20
Visit or email

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