30 March 2010

I love...

Mackerel sky, originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.

dreamy mackerel skies.

22 March 2010

I love...

Where I'd rather be!, originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.


And, for the first time in many years, this time next week I will be in the United States. I'm very excited!

17 March 2010

What I learned about myself by going to see the Pixies

1. I am old.
I was looking around and thinking that this is a very old crowd. I was looking at the band and thinking how they’d got old (Even older than me, of course. Sorry Pixies.), but probably do yoga and eat healthy food in an effort to maintain their youthfulness like many of us. Then I realised that the crowd was probably mostly my age. Damn!

2. I sat in the seats.
In the old days I would’ve made sure that I queued, overnight with a sleeping bag in the rain if necessary, to get tickets for the floor so I could be in the mosh. But it didn’t even occur to me to do that this time. Actually, a friend was the first one to find out about the tour and kindly offered to organise the tickets online. Good on her too, because this was about four months ago. I’ve never been that organised.

3. I find it hard to be at a gig and sit still.
I never understood the restraint it would take people to sit and watch a gig nicely in a seat. But then, I’ve always been a bit of a dancer. However, being up in the stands, it does feed the vertigo if you dance with too much movement, so I did a sort of half-dance thing so I could at least feel the music. The women in front of me were quite drunk on glowing cocktails, however, and were unrestrained by the vertigo monster.

4. I’m prone to bouts of nostalgia.
In the old days, every gig I went to would’ve been in a small venue, heavy with the scent of smoke and marijuana, sticky underfoot from spilled beer and rum and cokes, crowded, dirty, young, and with sweat raining off the ceiling. I would’ve been high on adrenaline, screaming every word from the top of my voice and felt one with the band and the crowd, never worrying about the fact that I’d be hoarse, deaf, and a couple of kilos lighter the next day. And I would’ve loved every minute of it.

5. My gig-going behaviour may or may not be changing (it could just be society)
At this show I put cotton in my ears to make things clearer and to save my, probably already damaged, hearing. I sang every couple of lines or so unless it was one of my favourites. I thought about getting hydrated before I went and didn’t end up having a beer at all because I was driving (and actually paid out for safe parking). The numbers on the floor were controlled with wristbands and each person was directed to their padded seat by a smiling usher. The venue was non-smoking (I’m not a smoker anyway), shiny and new, air-conditioned, and sold the aforementioned cocktails in plastic glasses that glow in different colours and make me think of Lady Gaga. No, I didn’t have one. I drew a line.

6. I’m not that old.
I found myself watching the floor crowd much of the time and wishing I’d thought to try and get tickets for that. I was totally jealous of those people jumping as a huge amorphous unit and becoming ensconced in the music like in the old days. I even saw a couple of people make an attempt at crowd surfing. I should’ve made more of an effort to get onto the floor. I might be old, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to sit down yet.

And here is 1 minute of Debaser for your viewing pleasure from a very long distance and in very poor quality. Enjoy.

16 March 2010

Auckland's West Coast Beaches

All you can do is follow the lines on the twisting road while you’re surrounded by walls of native ferns and the occasional house of some lucky soul who has dropped out of city life. But, you know you are getting close when you start to get those rewarding glimpses of the big space you are looking for, the open sea.

A nice little bonus of staying in Auckland is that you can get to a number of beaches within a short drive. The pick of the bunch are less than an hour’s drive to the west. Piha, Karekare, Bethells/ Te Henga and Muriwai are four beaches, each with their own character, that are well worth the drive over the Waitakere Ranges. It’s easiest to think of the beaches in two pairs.

Piha and Karekare

The dramatic thing about arriving at these two beaches is that you drop down from above. At Piha, there is even a popular place to pull over check out the view before descending. Make your own postcards here. And, you may recognise Karekare as the beach that The Piano was filmed on.Although the West Coast beaches are known for their volcanic sand, here it is a mix of black and the more usual brown sand that provides a tiger-stripe effect in some places and is very soft underfoot. The pounding waves that produce this fine sand are also the reason that these beaches are a perfect venue for the surf competitions that happen throughout the year. Surf comp or no surf comp, it’s great to soak up the atmosphere and have a picnic. If you aren’t keen on loading up the chilly bin with your own eats, at Piha there is a small takeaway place where you can get burgers, chips and ice cream.

To get to Piha and Karekare, you point your car in the direction of Titirangi village, which is nice place to stop for breakfast, lunch or a coffee en route. There is also a small supermarket where you can pick up picnicking supplies. Immediately after Titirangi you will come to a roundabout where you veer on to the second left known as Scenic Drive. After a short drive you will see the Arataki Visitor Centre on the left which is the gateway to the Waitakeres and provides good information on local flora and fauna as well as directions to the various walks and tramps in the area. From there, keep driving until you see the turnoff on your left for Karekare, or continue on to Piha.

Muriwai and Bethell’s/ Te Henga

Muriwai is characterised by the gannet colony that exists here. You can climb up to the outcrop and look down on the migratory birds from a viewing platform. Depending on the time of year, the birds may be sitting on what seem like impossibly large eggs or flying off and back to feed the fluffy chicks, which is always fun to watch. Fishing off the rocks is fairly popular, but it is not recommended as people regularly get washed off. Instead, take a walk along the dark black, sparkly, and very hot volcanic sand. Or simply just relax and watch (or join in with!) the kite surfers.Te Henga looks and feels very wild. You emerge between two large dunes to come out to a wide, and often windswept, beach. It’s great for surfing or a dip in the briny, but do have a look at the surf lifesaver’s board before venturing in as the conditions can be a bit rough sometimes. If in doubt, there is a great lagoon that is especially fun for children. Just bear in mind that if you choose the beach on the far side of the lagoon at low tide, you may find yourself on a bit of a hike to get back at high tide. You generally need to bring your own food here, but at some times of the year there is a little caravan cafĂ© that serves up good coffee and snacks.
Muriwai and Te Henga are the northernmost of the four beaches and can be accessed by going up Scenic Drive as you would for Piha, and then taking Waitakere Road to Te Henga Road for Te Henga. For Muriwai, continue on to Kumeu and travel west until you run out of road.

As with all beaches in New Zealand, on the west coast beaches what you see is not always what you get in terms of calm waters. There are a lot of dangerous rips and undertows. Be safe and swim between the flags. And if there aren’t any flags or lifeguards, it means the beach is closed so don’t risk a swim. But with a bit of common sense and a slathering of sun block, New Zealand’s clean, beautiful beaches are an experience not to be missed.

Note: While writing a recent article on Matador.com about What NOT to Do in Auckland, I realised that I really wanted to expand upon the information I gave regarding the west coast beaches. Since I'm now a student at the virtual campus of Matador U, I thought it'd make a great assignment topic. So, here it is. Fire away with feedback!

15 March 2010

I love...

Power breakkie!, originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.

Natto !

(I apologise to all those whom this offends)

08 March 2010

01 March 2010

I love...

the way my city embraces Chinese New Year.