Gene Banyard in Prometheus Bound

PB Poster DraftI much enjoyed the UoC Classics Department’s production of Prometheus Bound last night. Gene Banyard’s performance in the lead part was fantastic. It’s on tonight (11 Dec) and tomorrow (12 Dec), so if you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend that you do. It’s $10 or $15, 8:00pm at the Old Queens Theatre near the SW corner of Hereford and Colombo streets, Christchurch.

I am no classics scholar, but I found Robin Bond’s translation lyrical and dynamic. The venue is urban and gritty. The austere set, lighting and music evoke the stark horror of Prometheus’ predicament. The supporting cast are somewhat variable, but mostly with convincing and fluent delivery. Tracy Scarrett stands out with a forceful and expressive performance as Io. The chorus provide an elegant physical and narrative presence.

Of the hour and a half that this performance runs for, I’d guess an hour is the lead part of Prometheus. Gene Banyard’s slight physique and ragged costume create the impression of pitiful vulnerability. Despite this, he fills the auditorium with his presence. Prometheus, as Hermes points out, is all but relishing his plight. He is wronged but he is not beaten. He regales his guests with heroic and gory tales and prophecies. He rails in defiance of Zeus. He receives and dispenses both honour and contempt with equal facility. He is prepared to suffer for an eternity before his redemption.

Gene Banyard delivers a formidable performance as Prometheus. As you return from the Old Queens to ordinary life, it is hard to imagine that he is not still holding forth from his icy peak.

True Meaning of “Mountain Bike”

Annoyingly, my much-loved Peugeot single-speed bike got nicked the other day. I am still nursing hopes of its return, but in the meantime, I need a bike. Well, i have Deb’s bike, actually on loan from Alistair. But it’s a bit granny for me. Thin tyres. I decided to have a go at restoring my 1980s mountain bike.

It’s a World Rider, made in Timaru, I believe. I bought it from Lawrence Blackburn in about 1990, and he’d got it well-second-hand. It’s made of steel, with alloy castings. An early example. I always thought you could drive a truck over it. Ed rode it into a parked car and bent the forks, but he turned them backwards and bent them back by slamming the front wheel into a wall. Amazingly a couple of years ago, the handlebar snapped without provocation. You could still ride it, and Ron did. Unfortunately, it got vandalised and both gear changers got smashed off, but the tyres were still really good and the wheels were only slightly buckled.

I was ready to take it to the “super shed”, in the hope that someone would take pity on it. I had a bike that was ideal for my requirements. But then I didn’t. My old bike was a former multi-gear mountain bike, stripped down to a single speed, which is all you need for around town in Christchurch.

By removing the front gearshift mechanism, I got the chain to stay quite happily on whatever front sprocket you put it. The back one was more problematic. The springs kept shifting it back to the outer sprocket in the cluster, which had lost its grip on the axle and just turned without turning the wheel. The rear gear cable was fortunately still fixed to the wreck of the gear-shifter, however, so with some non-stretch cord, I manged to contrive a string gear shift. You can change gear by untying a knot and tightening or loosening an adjustable hitch. It works just fine for getting the chain in the right place on the right gear.

That left the problem of the broken handlebar, and the general rustiness. I took it to the mower and bike place around the corner. They were dead helpful and found a $30 handlebar that didn’t quite fit. Its main problem was that it was worth six times what the bike is. They wouldn’t weld it, which is understandable, I suppose, but the handlebar actually still kind of worked because the stay piece was intact. I’d ridden the thing to their shop hadn’t I? It was pretty wobbly.

So on the scrounge for a second hand handlebar, when in one of those quiet or distracted moments that invite flashes of inspiration (perhaps I was planning the camping trip we’re taking next week), I realised that manuka would be ideal. It’s a little irregular, but then so is the bike. It could hardly make it more out of balance when, if you let go the handlebars for a second, it skews strongly to the left. Manuka is particularly hard and strong. I have made many walking sticks, a shovel handle, a hammer handle and a mallet out of it, as well as tent poles (a whole set of internal ones, once – another story), and components of several urban washing line systems. With a manuka handlebar, the rust would look totally in-keeping. And, I happened to still have, carefully dried, two fine straight stems of young manuka, that I harvested en route to one of the major camping missions of the nineties.

I selected a suitable section, by looking at it longways and fitting it to the head-clamp (whatever you call that bit). I sawed it off, and clamped it in and could ride the bike straight away (holding onto the old broken handlebar with the brakes on it). The brake levers and even the hand-grips came off the old bar quite easily. Getting the brake levers onto the manuka was a bit tricky. They have cast grips with not much flex in them. Holding on the the tip with a rag, I used my Opinel knife as a spokeshave and thinned down both ends of the bar. Then I got slightly impatient and whacked the casting on with a mallet, using a 20mm ring-spanner to transmit the blows once it went down over the end of the stick.

Amazingly, the first one didn’t break. It didn’t even need its screw done up. The second one was on the thin end but was still a bit tight, or perhaps had a manufacturing flaw. Anyway, there was still the screw, so it clamped on quite well, even in two pieces. The two original yellow hand grips (a nice touch, I think) fitted on easily, and the job was done.

A quick tweak of the brakes, adjust of the seat, and pump of the tyres, and I’m away!

Visibly Bursting

As spring bursts around us, my dear friend Walter appears to have found his voice, and it is in Thousand Sketches. It’s a project to put a thousand sketches on the Web in one year. I love the sketches that are there already, and I love the blog where Walter is making his process as visible as the sketches, and where sketches of that process are born, too.

This project is of the Internet. Most of the works are sketched on a tablet PC using simple software. Many are of everyday things, flowers, people and animals. But they are also sketches of sketching, of sketching a thousand sketches. Every click that lands on a sketch will appear in a sketch somewhere. Every comment about the sketches, either on Walter’s blog or somewhere else on the Web will end up in a sketch. Every purchase of a “sponsored link” will change the project. The Internet is creating this project, as it affects and emerges from Walter.

Walter, I love seeing you burst like this into something so simple and beautiful that is flowing so freely. It seems right.

Vinyl Girls

People said they liked my writing. I noticed that I liked writing. I got a little motivated to write, but what? This blog is easy, with my muse, the dead Jane Spears. What else could I write? How could I enter that void of creating something from nothing? It has always fascinated me how writers do it. How they create a compelling story, characters, texture, all from nothing. So I decided to give it a go. I signed up for the writing team on Blood Lovers and that was easy! We had constraints. I had my sister to fight with! We wrote our hearts out for three hours and then saw our work taken and transformed by a team into the movie. I got the bug.

I teamed up with Ron, booked the loan of a camera from Bede and started to think what the hell are we going to do? People were all in the media about MySpace and Bebo and their daughters looking like Manchester Street or being preyed on in their innocence. Danah Boyd came to NZ talking sense and Russell Brown published it in the Listener. I intervewed my kids and they said ‘get over it’, ‘it doesn’t happen’ and ‘if it does, we’re more than capable of handling it’. So Ron and I had a lunch over how we’d handle this. Worked up and rejected a coupla dozen ideas then booked to meet and write on the Friday nite. It ended up starting at about ten, with me phoning the vinyl idea through about half an hour earlier.

By the next afternoon, when the cast, Elsie and her friend Kayla became available for their brief window, we had a rough script, basic props, shooting schedule, lights, camera and action. We shot, directed, stalled Kayla’s mum and got what you see today. Some quick pickups the next day and editing with the most basic shit, Windows Movie Maker. Did the job.

So here it is, my first video, Vinyl Girls (view on YouTube). Enjoy:

Snippet of Futurism

A few snippets of enjoyment and a foray into futurism, amidst my misery.

I have joined a team that is entering the 48 Hours film competition this year. Hanna and a bunch of the folks working on her movie are in it. At least one of the team was in the group that won the South Island section last year with Bruised Gold. It’s just one of the many excellent short films on Cactuslab‘s nzshortfilm.com.

Not a film but a (Flash) movie, this ragdoll model of Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung is virtual about as visceral as I’ve found – and a heap of fun.

But the thing I’ve rewatched the most in the last couple of days is this nicely made short movie of They’re Made out of Meat, a short story by Terry Bisson.

I’ve been experiencing a rejuvenation of my interest in the social forces that drove the development of the abnormal brain size that humans have among primates. It seems to me that the social patterns of our lifestyle in the Web world have more in common with those of hunting or raiding in bands than with furrow-poughing, and pyramid or ship-building. It’s just that the scale of the connections is expanding so rapidly that we can barely cope. It makes sense, therefore that we are building machines (Google, etc) that can aggregate the responses of hundreds of millions of people and make them discoverable.

The only catch is that even what is discoverable will soon (five decades?) overwhelm us. The accelerating edge of the rate of change will impinge more and more closely until these precocious jungle animal brains can no longer cope, even with abstractions. Just as well life, or at least something we’ll probably recognise as like it, as it whizzes by, is emerging in the mediated environment to surpass us in sentience and, probably observe us with incredulity and, we hope nostalgia, rather than detachment.

Being Where?

So the Israelis busted applying for NZ passwords online with foreign-sounding accents (we’re so ‘e’) were doing it to get Al Quaeda. Well, that makes it alright, then? Er, no.

Who says ‘Al’ even exists? If GW is, as CTHEORY suggests, a simulacrum (akin to Chauncey Gardiner in Being There), then maybe Osama is a Kaiser Soze-style construction, convenient to drape our fears and prejudices on?