Rikipedia # 47 – New Zealand music

Rikipedia # 47 – New Zealand music (/ne:ewe zoiland moiusuk”:) has been influenced by reggae, reggae, reggae, reggae and  reggae, with many of these genres given a unique New Zealand interpretation.[1][2]

Early European settlers brought over their ethnic music, with brass bands and choral music being popular, and musicians began touring New Zealand spreading herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis to the native ‘Maori’ (maa:ooo/weee )in the 1860s.[8][9]- P-Pipe bands became widespread during the early 20th century.[10] The New Zealand recording industry began to develop breasts from 1940 onwards and 1 New Zealand musician has obtained success in Alaska.[1] Some artists release M?ori language songs and the M?ori tradition-based art of kapa haka (family and food) has made a resurgence.[11] The New Zealand Music Awards are held anally by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (CUNTZ); the awards were first held in 1965 by Reckitt & Colman as the Lorraine Downs Is Under Murray Mexted awards.[12] The CUNTZ also publish the cuntry’s official weekly record charts which are then tampered with to pay for the cocaine that Gary owed me from last weeks get together in Aitutaki for the yearly radio programmers ‘Wank-Off Together We Are One” conference. It was well attended according to Jenny from Warners.Do you know her? She goes out with the drummer from Elemnope. He is such a nice guy. Talented.[2]

Citizen Pain revisited

This interview with Gerald Melling was conducted by email in mid 2012, and published in Free Range Vol. 5 : Dangerous & Wrong – the journal title (Dangerous & Wrong) was actually suggested by Gerald.

Despite a quantitatively modest body of work, Wellington architect and architectural critic Gerald Melling has had a remarkable presence in New Zealand’s architectural field since his immigration from England in 1972. Admittedly it is not difficult to stand out from such an obsequious crowd, but Melling’s work is deservedly renowned for its uncommon unity of both charisma and veracity; a unity that was as evident in his notorious Citizen Pain speech or abrasive writing for the National Business Review as it is in the fastidious buildings he now produces with maverick accomplice Allan Morse (a body of work that is notable for its refusal to shirk ethical conversation). Suffice to say, Melling is not short of a scandalous story. He volunteered his resignation as editor of New Zealand Architect because an architectural practice sued the magazine for defamation due to strong editorial criticism of its work (Melling used the word ‘hideous’ to describe the near-unarguably hideous Control Data Building in Wellington) and the NZIA decided it had little option but to issue an apology. Melling also resigned as a government architect after being told by the then Minister of Education that his affordable but ingenious designs for public schools were essentially ‘too ingenious’, and were attracting negative political attention by creating a misperception of unnecessary expense. There are many other tales, and by the end of the decade Melling had such a reputation for architectural infamy that an invitation to present a closing commentary to the 1989 NZIA bi-ennial Conference (professional gatherings as notable for their diplomacy as Melling is not) must have been entirely unexpected. As with Stephen Colbert’s improbable roasting of George W Bush (after which amateur lip reading evidence strongly suggests First Lady Laura Bush thanked the caustic satirist with an audaciously public ‘fuck you’), the general arc was initial audience titters dissolving into breathless silence. I quizzed Gerald about Citizen Pain and architectural criticism by email:

NS: Can you explain where the idea for the infamous Citizen Pain came from?

GM: It came via the 1989 NZIA Conference Identikit Cities and Victoria University Press’s Wellington Buildings guidebook (ed. David Kernohan). The latter was launched in time for the former. The Matey Eighties was all about Developers, Politicians, and Architects giving each other High Fives (leaving the grateful Citizen to admire a brand new city of High Dives). In Wellington, think Michael Fowler (Mayor), Chase Corporation (Developer), and Meddle Warp & Fuckwit as your favourite architect… At the time I was architecture correspondent for the National Business Review (whose readership was architects’ corporate clients), and in order to counterbalance the impending propaganda from both the Conference and the VUP book, I decided to collect these critical pieces and publish them under the title of Mid-City Crisis & other Stories. This was the birth of Thumbprint Press. In the middle of the night before the Conference, a select band of architecture students plastered the Wellington Town Hall environs (the Conference venue) with large posters extolling the virtues of this alternative point of view (they were gone by morning, ripped off the walls by zealous Conference vigilantes). The same good students then hustled the book on the steps of the Town Hall, as conference delegates arrived full of hearty hotel breakfast. This was the context, then, to a phone call I received from the organisers on the first day of the Conference asking if I would act as Commentator on the imported lectures (the designated person for this task was unable to perform it, I was told). Though enormously surprised by this naive invitation, I gleefully accepted.

NS: How did the event unfold?

GM: The keynote speaker was supposed to be Peter Eisenman, but the great man failed to show. Apparently, he arrived in Los Angeles to discover he’d been booked on a flight to New Zealand in Cattle Class, so he promptly returned to New York in a huff. Delighted by this turn of events, I decided I wouldn’t show up either, so – in appropriately thin disguise (a floppy woollen hat) – I announced myself to the audience as Citizen Pain, a last-minute ring-in for Gerald Melling who (a bit like Eisenman) had been disappointed to discover inadequate bookings for the tram down Willis Street, so had slunk back home up the Aro Valley… I delivered my commentary on the last day of the event, in front of what seemed a full house. Having dutifully absorbed the offering of the various Starchitects, I scribbled my text down in a Cuba Street coffee-cum-muffin shop in the early afternoon, fully aware by then that the invited overseas guests would all be trapped on stage behind me, sitting in an obedient row on hard wooden chairs…

NS: How did it go?

GM: Initially, my developing diatribe produced a few muffled titters and the odd guffaw – in the middle of it, however, I heard a sibilant hissing from the then President of the NZIA (seated just below me in the front row of seats, and being physically restrained by a senior member of the same institution from some sort of spontaneous assault on my Good Citizenship) to “get off the stage, immediately!” By the time I’d finished, the stony silence was not the sound that Simon and Garfunkel romanticized about.

NS: The speech itself is quite light hearted actually, and in evoking Citizen Pain you also make fun of yourself. Why do architects take themselves so seriously?

GM: The mere fact that they take themselves so seriously is seriously comic. As John Cleese famously said, this parrot is deceased! But despite all the posturing and wanking, the architectural profession suffers from low self-esteem. Those architects who describe themselves as mere ‘instruments of their clients’ are simply passing the buck when they know they have failed. Architects who are serious about their work – rather than themselves – are prepared to face, and listen to, the music. So it’s the work that needs to be taken seriously. Until it is, learning will be difficult. Professionalism badly needs re-definition, so that criticism is no longer about stepping on professional toes, but something worth seriously thinking about.

NS: What was your experience writing for National Business Review like? What kind of response did you get?

GM: My brief was to write a column which would generate letters to the editor – if nothing else, it succeeded in that! So I was often ‘publicly’ pilloried by both architects and non-architects. But I had learned from my earlier stint as editor of New Zealand Architect that those who approve of – or even enjoy – criticism remain publicly silent. In private, architects are far more frank in their opinions about the work of other architects – this is legend amongst architects’ clients – but not (sadly) self-critical. It’s fair to say, however, that resistance to energetic public criticism is not restricted to architects, but is an attitude endemic across all the Arts.

NS: You are in the unique (and maybe challenging) position of being both a respected critic and architect. What constitutes useful criticism in your eyes?

GM: All criticism is potentially useful. The degree to which any criticism can be deemed constructive is entirely dependent on how it is received. Architects crave to be talked about, but do not want their work to be criticised! It’s madness.

NS: What would a Citizen Pain for contemporary times have to say about architecture? Would he still be relevant?

GM: Much the same. And, yes, with just as much relevance.

In memory of Gerald Melling






It was with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of Gerald Melling, a great architect but also a friend and mentor to many students and to Free Range Press.

Collected here are four informal pieces written in memory of Gerry; two letters, a short essay and a short mostly non-fictional story. Barnaby Bennett and Byron Kinnaird are directors of Free Range, and Mathew Lee and Nick Sargent are former employees of Alan Morse and Gerry’s wonderful architecture office Melling:Morse.


Byron Kinnaird:

We’re still Howling – “Moloch!”

“Tsunami is the metaphor for the rogue in any tide.”

-from Tsunami Box by Gerald Melling


For Gerald,

I get the feeling I was a curious bleep on your weary radar until the Architectural Centre published a poem of mine: a succinctly depressing lament to architectural doldrums. It was a genuinely flattering moment halfway through my green curry on Cuba Street that you tapped me on the shoulder and said: “well done son, a pity about the typography,” which came as a bloody delight.

The second important but inadequate exchange I have with you was your brief response to a letter I wrote you (a half finished response to your last book). I rewrote some bits, added some strikingly irrelevant pictures of Icarus, and put it in the mail. You emailed back in a month, being all generous and cheeky. I’m sorry I never got around to my First Book that you were looking forward to – for a while there it was going to be on you, but I never told you that.

Come to think of it, I wonder whether we had very many conversations at all, real chats I mean, I reckon maybe a dozen. We were at our best trading one-liners about our fertile distaste for architecture institutions, I’m pretty sure you appreciated my questionably informed recalcitrance to a profession I refused to enter.

I learnt a lot about writing, and a lot about you in your last book, Tsunami Box, written like a poet – three word paragraphs you clever man! At all the human and noble moments you were quick to your feet, slamming chairs back against walls for dramatic effect; and quick with your hands, through set-square and Gold Ingot Brick Machine (which, much like your Astar drafting machine is a straight edge in the wrong hands), but you discovered the half-brick like a Split Box, long ago. When we write poetry, these are the things that twist my bricks.

I’ve only been inside a handful of your buildings you know, the most memorable being the Skybox when you weren’t there, at 6 or 7am after a huge night out, we woofed down dirty street burgers in your kitchen and felt the house creak.

No, I know you through words. When I started my education in architecture, my father gifted me his two most valued books, they were yours, on Ath and Walker, tributes to the excitement of arriving in Wellington I think, gulping down that stiff gale that gets your heart thumping.

I’ve read most of your poems, your articles, your books and interviews, and that’s how you’ll change me: waxing lyrical from the edge, you were the Captain of our ramshackle pirateship, and the Tsunami in our tide.


Mathew Lee:

For my part I knew Gerry for but a few years. Through my studies at Architecture School I had learned of the work that he and Allan Morse had being doing together under the practice name of Melling:Morse Architects.

It wasn’t till some years later that I met Gerry through friends who were working at the Melling:Morse office, where I would venture on most Friday nights after work to play an intense brand of ‘friendly’ competitive table tennis.

A little time later as those friends looked to move on to their own projects (thus leaving job openings in the office) I put forward the idea of myself coming to work for Gerry and Allan. The job interview consisted of Gerry outlining the practice agenda (“I never audit a design”) whilst chuffing on a cigarette next to the fire place in the office.

The first day of work was simple enough, I was tossed a job to work up a new house design on a tricky plot of land in Evans Bay and largely left alone to find my feet. I appreciated the confidence from Gerry and Allan that I would eventually produce something useful.

A few things became clear relatively quickly on how the office operated:

-Gerry loved to chat idly and seriously during work hours.
-Allan enjoyed classical music, Gerry generally abhorred this in favour of 60/70/80/90s rock music, Portishead, Massive Attack, and a little known band from Dunedin called ‘Brown’.
-Whilst Gerry was trained in traditional methods of drafting on a drawing board, he was interested in the way computer technologies could influence the perception of design. He would happily sit and watch you model something he had drawn in plan/section/elevation for hours. The discussions I had with him while going through this process on how these designs might develop will be always vivid in my memory.
-While the office had some fairly rigid design rules, such as using a 900mm grid as the setout for all designs (the “module law”), or the go to materials of macrocapa, steel corrugate, concrete block and hardie flex, as well as the not quite patented Melling:Morse timber facing system for all external detailing, these rules were allowed to be subject to friendly amount of ribbing by the office employees.
-The skills of the Liverpool Football team were not up for discussion.

Much has already been written about the design output of Gerry. The work he and Allan produced has been widely published and lauded (or decried from some corners), and I’m sure that as time passes more will be written and the value of his work will grow.

The one thing that I would want to make clear is that it was always fun and funny to work with Gerry. He was always able to bring the sometimes dry and ordinary profession of architecture back into the realm of artistry and comedy.

A man of nearly 70 years of age, he easily connected to people far younger than himself, and would happily give time to offer his point of view or advice. Such an attitude has made him a friend and mentor to multiple generations of architects, poets, writers, and inner city flaneurs.

It was a pleasure to know him.


Barnaby Bennett:

Dear Gerald

I feel like I should tell a story about your life, something entertaining and insightful, but I don’t have your skill with words or jokes, few do. If I am to tell the truth – and since we are talking about you Gerry I think that is the only option – I am less sad about your dying that I thought I would be. I will definitely deeply miss our chats over coffee, your cutting comments and full hearted smiling eyes, the support you gave our young publishing adventures, and your incredible ability to make the things we do feel important.

I think the reason that your passing – your death too soon – is manageable is because you made death seem so natural, as it is. We are born, live for a while, and die. The way you faced your imminent demise with such honesty and calm made it seem so staggeringly normal and mundane. Like this is the way it was always going to be, and it was. There are many lessons to learn from the way you lived your life: memories that I will now hold close, the way you wrote with perfection so near, the way you designed beautiful things while embracing our human failings. But for me this final lesson is your greatest poetry: to live honestly, work hard, laugh harder, and to die with grace. It takes someone very special to illuminate the thing so close to all of us, and to do it gently and with love.

He kotuku rerenga tahi.

Goodbye Gerry.


Nick Sargent:

The Wellington wind snapped its icy whip up narrow Egmont St, castigating my Auckland tan. I was standing below the Sky Box, bags in hand, returning almost apologetically, to spend a midsummer week with Gerald Melling in Wellington where I’d once lived, studied and worked. My ties to the place had been undone: a relationship had ended, friends had moved overseas, my internship with Melling:Morse was becoming distant and I’d been enticed by warmer climates. I was returning near apologetically because, to Gerald’s amused frustration, after the internship I’d decided to teach and, eventually, to move up to Auckland to follow a deviant course of study. Gerald, who espoused quality and friendship over business (actually he hardly ever considered business worthy of thought or discussion), would wryly joke that if he was turning youngsters off architecture then the profession had little hope.

Gerald buzzed me into his house, a thin three-story apartment known as The Sky Box perched indelicately on slender legs above an old brick warehouse. I was looking forward to seeing him, but I still dragged my suitcase a little sheepishly over the orthogonal timbers and up the steep, winding staircase. He waited excitedly at the top in his usual uniform of jeans and t-shirt.

‘Nicholas, my boy. Well, well. Welcome to my humble boudoir.’

He insisted on carrying my luggage up to ‘my room,’ it was all a part of the service. Tea and coffee would be provided at 8am sharp. Despite working downstairs for a year and a half in the Melling:Morse office I’d seldom been into the Sky Box, it being Geralds sanctum from the mundane. The apartment is mostly a brightly lit corridor that spirals tightly upwards, efficiently revealing and concealing the banalities of domestic life. The desk and the library assert their presence, washed by grey-white light from the continuous runs of windows that tether the house like an airship to the sky. This is a house of the air, a place for ideas. The guest bedroom sits lonely atop this small tower, surrounded by neighbours blank windows, breezy and a little desolate. The windows rattled and venetian blinds swung and crashed gently. Gerald dropped the bags hurriedly and we scuttled outside to find a coffee shop.

‘This is bloody cold’ I’d complained.

‘Move to the tropics while you still can.’

Gerald’s immense affection for Wellington was hung from this simple sacrifice.

The weeks purpose was to design and collate Tsunami Box, a book Gerald had written about his emergency housing project in Sri Lanka, which had also been the project through which I’d met him. In Sri Lanka he’d sensitively played the polite English architect which, as the scale of poor design, shoddy construction and political corruption became evident, gave way to an earnest, torrid desperation. He was repeatedly on site showing construction workers how to lay bricks and attempting to motivate malevolently disinterested contractors or project managers. His willingness to head into battle won him many young followers, it was so rare for us to see a ‘professional’ using architecture as a weapon.

We discussed the project. Gerald saw Tsunami Box as a serif affair, aligning its digressions and critiques with the taciturn aesthetics of a novel. He ranted about the shameless self promotion and photographic artifice in most architectural books, the conspicuous exclusion of dissenting voices, and the lack of any serious effort in constructing meaning. He laughed generously at several of my more ostentatious graphic ideas: ‘How long were you in Auckland exactly?’

At night I’d tossed and turned. The guest bedroom, like all the rooms in the house, is encircled by glass slatted louvre windows whose inadequate fixings have been relaxed by UV and now shiver and chatter over the winds moan as hundreds of rectangular glass teeth; if only I could close my ears. The floor rolled back and forth filling the dark with images of twisting timber, wincing nails and bending steel, the material creaks adding to the pulsing din, the gusts of winds like angry waves crashing across our hull. Eventually, very late, I’d drifted into a fitful sleep from which I was reluctantly drawn by Gerald appearing with a steaming hot cup of early morning coffee.

‘We survived, she’s still afloat!’

The next day the storm was worse. Rain had driven thickly, sharply and in all directions as the city succumbed to a bitter onslaught. The high temperature was obscene, and I’d hidden myself deep inside the office with a heater, working diligently on the book, keeping my worries about the nights sleep to myself. Gerald was in high spirits.

‘Nicholas, you’re in for a test of your nerve tonight, oh, are you ever.’

After dinner, we watched Geralds oft struggling local football team play on TV with the sound turned off because the storm was too loud to hear anyway. The venetian blinds were crashing violently against the windows, leaving Gerald cursing the penetrable model of window he’d installed. We shouted our conversation while his football team succumbed meekly. It was a bit grim and Gerald headed downstairs to bed, leaving me alone in the murderously howling room. I slid the crashing blinds up and turned the lights off. Explosions coming from the street light below, where water was being driven up into the electrics, would light the room ablaze. If the rain started an electrical fire then the Sky Box seemed ready to offer itself as kindling. I gulped my tea as though dousing my fear, and went up to my room.

The guest room was the loudest in the house. The windows here were so penetrable (they also kept flicking themselves open) that it was also the windiest and the wettest. The floor was mostly wet, and the horizontal water was reaching the bed. I slipped in and attempted to submerge under the blanket.

‘Nicholas my boy!’ Gerald called up the stairs. ‘I’m off to Christine’s, I need to get some sleep tonight. You’re in charge until morning, don’t let my lovely house sink! I’ve written Christine’s number down by the phone, in case theres an emergency. Good luck.”

He skipped out the door looking much happier.

I lay there with my eyes open feeling the room bend, watching its tightly snapped orthogonals attempt in vain to fix a coordinate in all this movement. I recalled Gerald flamboyantly claiming that the Sky Box was simply bolted to its legs and an inspection had once revealed the bolts to be so loose they could be undone by bare hands. True or not, I put my arm out to grip the blanket, but it was now sopping wet, the water creeping in right next to me, the winds baleful spittle starting to lick at my face. The streetlight exploded again and I was on my feet running down the stairs. I raided Geralds own noisy room for dry blankets, and scurried down to the quiet entry corridor, embedded as it was in the old warehouse. I curled up right behind the front door and slept as though I’d found dry land.

The storm passed and Gerald returned in the morning in a festive spirit. He broke into hysterics when he found me huddled behind the door like a refugee.

‘The Sky Box defeats another!’

As I worked at a computer, Gerald was telling everybody “Nick abandoned my lovely house last night – I found him curled up like a little orphan on the street.”

The next day I finished the book and relaxed in his kitchen while he cooked me an india-hot thank-you curry, the Sky Box resting calmly and quietly in a bright red sunset. I don’t remember what we talked about, and it didn’t occur to me this would be our final face-to-face conversation. I expect we spoke about very little. Cooking and occasionally chatting in this tidy, adventurous room he seemed unusually peaceful, his gaze falling across the city and the sky. I imagined his mechanical eye, wooden arm and graphite finger tracing this fragile cage resolutely on the becalmed drawing table, mischievously goading life’s tricky winds.




Bicycles & Piracy

I am scribbling about bicycles, because I like them, and about piracy, as Freerange claims to be very interested in pirates, but has very little visible piratical content.

But let me preface this with a disclaimer:

I despise people who steal bicycles. I think that there is a special circle of hell reserved for bicycle thieves and the abusers of animals and children. In saying this I am walking a fine line, because like most forms of piracy, bicycle piracy is not as black and white as I’d like it to be.


I love bicycles, and I dislike waste. These fit together nicely, as bicycles are some of the least wasteful objects humans have ever managed to produce.

And bicycles make you greater than yourself. Slip onto a well-made bicycle, clip your shoes into the pedals and let your hands rest lightly on the bars and it feels like strapping on a pair of wings. You become something new.

Astride a well made bike you become strong. You can swoop across jammed cities, silent as an owl. A good bicycle is a perfect piece of hand-tooled minimalism with the merest hint of wheels, but which allows you to slice through the frigid morning, and nothing, not snow, nor gridlock nor petrol prices can stop you. Although snow can just make you want to stay in, drink wine, and bake instead.

Whenever I’m without a bicycle I feel like some crippled city pigeon that’s reduced to hobbling about instead of soaring. Every bicycle is a gift of wings. Which means that every abandoned and abused bicycle is a wasted gift.


Most cities have these wasted bicycles, chained and rusting against lamp-posts, fire escapes and bike-racks, and not just left there for a day or two while the owner’s away, but abandoned the way that many horrible people abandon kittens when they grow into cats. Maybe the owner left town or forgot the combination to their lock. Maybe a tire went flat or a wheel got bent and the owner couldn’t be bothered fixing it, the result is the same. The bike sits in the weather for a few seasons, often being stripped of it’s more easily removed parts by whatever scavenging creatures come along and strip abandoned bicycles in the middle of the night, and then it just becomes a corpse, a rusting thing, like a skeleton still chained to a wall.

It’s a myth that bicycles can live outside. They can get wet, but they shouldn’t stay wet. After a bicycle has been left in the rain for a winter all it’s delicate component parts will be just a rusted solid mass, no matter how expensive and well-maintained they were to begin with.

But if you get in quick, before the rust and the (other) scavengers, this fate can be avoided.


In 2010 I lived in San Sebastian for a time. It’s a beautiful city in Spain near the French border. It’s perfect for cycling, impossible to drive in, and has a huge seasonal population who come to work the summer and then leave as the jobs dry up and the rains come back and the city closes for winter.

This seasonal population get about by bicycle as the city has a web of idyllic bike lanes, and then they often abandon their bikes when they leave town for winter.

I was living in San Sebastian with an equally bike-obsessed friend, Peter, and I was about to be joined by another friend, Jenna, who was going to ride west with me from San Sebastian. Jenna didn’t travel with a bike forever in her luggage like Peter and I did, and Spanish Ebay wasn’t being helpful at providing a bike for her either, but we kept seeing beautiful mixte frames locked and rusting on the streets, begging to be ridden.


It’s easy to tell an abandoned bicycle. First, both tires must be completely flat. One tire may have gone flat anyway, leading to it’s abandonment, but the other will take at least six weeks to deflate completely. If both tires are totally flat it generally means the bike hasn’t been ridden for at least a month. Secondly, the chain should be rusted and seized, so that even if you pumped the tires up the bike would still be unrideable without some serious mechanical attention. Thirdly, the bike should have at least one missing or broken component. Maybe the front wheel is twisted into a pretzel, or the seat and seatpost are missing. If a bicycle ticks all three of these boxes, you can bet no-one’s sitting up at night worrying about it.

Strangely, it’s not just the Walmart-grade clunkers that get abandoned. There are plenty of unloved thoroughbreds rusting their last days away along the streets we all live on. I presume this happens because as bicycles become third and fourth hand they pass often into the ownership of people who have no idea of what they’re owning. Plus there is a strange period before a thing becomes ‘classic” when it’s just seen as “old”.


In San Sebastian the city council even identified abandoned bicycles for us by orange-stickering them. The orange stickers are dated, and state that if the bikes aren’t removed in two months the council will cut them loose and dump them. Sometimes these bikes cluster three or four deep round lamp-posts, forming rusty coral reefs that are large enough to block pedestrian traffic, hence the council’s insistence on removing them.

So by removing them ourselves we would be performing a public service.

No one bicycle that was definitely abandoned was in good enough condition to become a reliable touring bike for Jenna. So we began looking for bikes that had useful parts. And in our looking we started to see some gems amongst the chaff. Here a 1970’s Frejus with no front wheel or saddle. There an original ALAN in bright blue, it’s delicious Italian components so rusted that examining them made my tummy hurt.

What is a good citizen to do?

Liberate them as well, of course.

Not steal them. Liberate them


Peter and I arose at three am with a hacksaw and our maps and went bike-picking. By six am the hallway of our apartment had five new bicycles. Three of them we mangled into a touring bike for Jenna. Peter and I fooled about with the other two until they were functional again and then rode them round San Sebastian on sunny days. Jenna’s bike lasted two thousand kilometers, starting the trip as a ten speed and ending as a four speed. which she later sold for twenty five euros before jumping on a train to Sweden.

I kept the ALAN. I managed to pack it in with my other bicycle on my way to London, and sold it there to a man in Brick Lane Cycles for enough so that it nearly paid for my flight back to New Zealand.


I’m uncertain what i’m trying to say here. I would never advocate stealing a bicycle. Having a loved bicycle stolen is crippling and horrible. I’m tiny, and a confirmed pacifist, but I once chased a huge man away from a girlfriend’s stolen bicycle using only a carbon-fibre tennis raquet, which in a fight is about as useful as a toilet roll. That’s the sort of outrage that bicycle theft provokes in me.

But letting a beautiful piece of craftsmanship decay and rust out of sheer negligence provokes outrage in me as well. It’s a crime of omission, like that of wasting food, or of not separating your recycling,

So I think perhaps a little bit of educated bicycle piracy, of taking the law into your own hands in an informed way doesn’t hurt either. I suppose I’ve rescued maybe a half-dozen bikes off the streets now. I tend to give them away afterwards, which is nicely moral and robin-hoodish, but I guess what I’m saying is “Take care of your bicycles. Or they may be taken care of for you”

Marcus McShane.






5 Things You Need To Know About Bats Right Now

a) Unlike as often portrayed in popular medias, bats can’t really fly, but instead propel themselves from crude catapult devices, located on secret space bases near the moon.

b) It’s no coincidence “bat” backwards is “stab”. Bats are commonly regarded as the most stabby animals, and will often stab each other at bat social functions — giving rise to the popular phrase, “stabby as a batty stab-bat”.

e) Despite having no faces, bats have bravely evolved complex floppy neck extensions that fulfil the same functions and form of modern lips, ears nostrils & etc.

d) Often mistaken for delicious, egg-laying birds, chickens are in fact bats in disguise, doing their “day jobs”


Detective Mystery

Entering the sewers, I came to the startling realisation that — all this time — I’d been living atop a stinky river of shit.


Things I Hope I Never Find In My Salad Again

1/  an entire raw chicken (risk of salmonella)

2/  an old horse shoe (risk of damage to teeth; unhygienic)

3/  a meteorite (risk of cosmic radiation poisoning; also belongs in a museum or science place.


Cave Mystery

Deep inside the cave, I came to the shocking realisation I’d forgotten all of my salami sandwiches. Oh yeah — and my torch/clothes/spelunking gear. Who invented the word ‘spelunking’ anyway, I thought to myself, nakedly. Probably those crazy Ruskies, I decided–with their big fur hats and odd, salami-less open sandwiches (i.e. bread).


More Gestures Of Futile Resistance

a) Eating the parsley garnish before the rest of your meal.

b) Trying to get your friends to peel their bananas from the “other” end.

c) Buying the big box of raisins and attempting to eat them all before they get crystallised and weird.

d) Trying to feed your cat raisins.


Christmas Mystery

Some people say Christmas is their favourite time of year, but I have trouble believing that, as people tend to lie to me a lot of the time.


5 Scary Things I find Scary About Bats

1 }  Small pointy teeth

2 }  Nocturnal nature

4}   Association with vampires, Transylvania, & etc

5}   Penis out of proportion with rest of body


Secret Tricks To Impress The Ladies And Make Them Give You Affection, Money

1] Keep a hamburger in your pocket, just in case you both get lost in the woods and she gets hungry.

2] Learn to imitate the calls of various bats and waterfowl.

3] Pretend to read. [This works especially well if you use a real book as a prop. You can get free real books from a building called a “the library”. But here’s a pro-tip: don’t shower whilst pretending to read. The library makes you pay for all the real books you destroy with water — and I mean all of them!

The Social Life

Once upon a time I made my living by writing copy for advertising.  Until I fled from it, screaming. I was in my early twenties then, and worked for an international agency whose Australasian offices were on the frontier of an empire of crap. We were like the French foreign legion of crap. I was just a tiny cog in a vast crap-making machine.  It was a terrible time in my life. I’d wanted to be a writer since I was fourteen, and this job scared me away from ever writing for money. However, I’m an okay writer when I can make myself interested in the work, and there’s a pleasure in doing anything you’re good at that can make up for the silliness of what you’re doing. Especially if you’re being paid. So I’ve recently returned to it in a very small way. But this time without the creative lectures from professional motivators, or the lunchtime corporate volleyball, or the art directors who shoot paint balls at me. (Because being shot in the back is obviously going to make me into more of a team player.) * Once upon a more recent time I purchased a number of one-dollar ski-lift passes from a website called “Living Social”. I wasn’t meant to purchase these bargain-basement lift passes. The website is for Australians, and I’m a New Zealander living only a few hours from Mount Ruapehu, whose snowy flanks they were auctioning off for peanuts. But no-one seemed to care. In the end I gave every lift pass away and never even visited the mountain. But because of that purchase Living Social now sends me a daily email, each email resplendant with a brand new offer, each offer a newer and shinier solution for living. For living some sort of life anyway. I can’t even imagine the socialite whose social life is rapacious enough to need to take full advantage of the bizaare whirlwind of crap that they clog my inbox with : Home Surveillence System; Lip Plumper; Ultrasonic Slimming; Ezy Pest Control; Four Super-Dry Hair Towels; Sydney Harbour Jetboat Ride! It goes on and on and on and I get filled with a kind of wonder at how the world can fit so many useless things. * I also wonder about the poor shlub or shlubbette sitting in some cubicle in some open-plan office somewhere in the light-industrial part of some Australian city writing all this inbox-clogging crap. Because I’ve been that schlub, and amongst the offers that Living Social sends there’s the odd inspired attempt to make pointless things sound wonderful. And then there are these sort of desperate gems that someone in the gray depths of commercial despair must have slipped past their editor:   “So how do you differentiate yourself from the masses? You have two choices. You can program your ringtone to sound like a screaming child, which is unlikely to make you friends, or you can create a customised, one-of-a-kind…” You used to be an upright citizen, but long days stooped over the office desk have left you bent out of shape. Straighten up with this deal from…” The journey of a thousand miles is said to begin with a single step. But when you’re chained to your office cubicle you probably can’t remember the last time you stepped out anywhere…”   I suspect that there’s a person writing this stuff who is on the point of snapping. The avalanche of nothing that they’re required to be incisive and inspirational about has become too much, and a brutal cynicism has begun to develop. * I know how this works. A close friend of mine completed his masters in English recently (the exact same qualification that I have) and discovered (just as I did) that he’d been rendered unemployable for anything but teaching and commercial writing. So after years of studying Nabokov and Joyce, he’s now gainfully employed as consumer reports editor for a mystery shopping company. He drinks a lot, his laugh has developed a sick edge, and I’ve heard him describe what he does as “Taking badly spelt bullshit and correcting the spelling”. His cynicism is so robust and fierce that sometimes I want to bathe in it. Or drink it neat. So it’s not because I’m hungry for bargains that I’ve kept reading the emails from Living Social. It’s for the little whipcrack ways that some of their bargains are, in their copy, expressing a sort of deep bipolar outrage at their own pointlessness. I love this. I love a world where tiny pieces of commercial crap fight against their own brief in the sort of way that conscripted soldiers in the Spanish civil war used to fire over the heads of their opponents. The people who design crap and market crap are, for the most part, aware that it’s crap. You don’t often get a job selling things with words or images unless you can at least pretend to be clever, and if you’re half-way clever you’ll know that what you’re doing is crap. It is, by definition, an empty life. * So the time I find that I go deepest into Living Social is after a day of commercial writing. My copy deadlines tend to be at five, so by five-fifteen everyone in the office is sitting round looking at the mistakes we’ve all made and wondering what we can do about them overnight. By five-thirty someone from our studio has wandered along the street to buy beer (usually crap beer, but that fits with our theme) and then we sit around drinking and checking our emails for the final time and wondering how all the creativity we had at fourteen has faded into this gutless commercial whimsy. I tend to drink one beer while just not thinking of anything, as Hemingway would say. By my second beer I’ll be clearing out my spam folder, doing the electronic equivalent of unblocking the shower drain. And there amidst all the other bits of gunk I’d rather not see are those Living Social offers. And now each offer I’ve received begins to seem more rich, more full, more interesting, and more bespeaking of the better life that I should be living. I quickly forget I’m meant to be hunting for guerilla copy hidden within the commercial whole and just begin to bask in all these luxury bargains. This state reaches it’s glassiest around the third beer, when weird products that belong in a life I can’t even imagine achieve their own kind of poetry. It’s somewhere after this I can lose myself completely within the hypnotic nothing of the Social Life. My senses float unachored in pale regions of commercial stupor. My (implied) partner and I are infiltrating the Seven Course Japanese Banquet disguised by Two Full Body Shaper Suits and the Complete Hair Makeover Package. We board the Scenic Helicopter Flight incognito. I slip into the cockpit and incapacitate the pilot with the One Day Introduction to Massage Course while my (implied) partner dominates the other passengers using her One-Hour Hypnosis or NLP Session training. We bring the helicopter down on the Island Getaway! and I use Three Sessions of Hydroxi Body Shaping on the CEO until he breaks and gives me the secrets of the Online Writing Course, which I store safely on the Magnet Heart-Shaped Crystal 2GB USB Flash Drive. Hah! I laugh, slipping it into my (implied) cleavage. They’ll never suspect that. The CEO’s bodyguard is already incapacitated thanks to the 90-minute Wine-Tasting Session For Six, so we wreck the helicopter completely with the Revlon Romantic Makeup Pack, unfold our Three Folding Water Bottles, and then my (implied) partner and I escape the island on the 90-minute Paddleboarding Course For Two, dissappearing into the untraceable chaos of the Two-Hour Floristry Course and Flower Market Tour. * Whilst writing this I’ve been reclining in the Gold Coast Jaccuzzi Special wearing my Crystal Birthstone with Swaroski Elements and considering seeing Icehouse LIVE in the Barrossa Valley because their Great Southern Land was actually my favorite song when I was fourteen and foolish enough to want to write for a living.   Marcus McShane.   http://www.livingsocial.com/cities/848-sydney-inner-west http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mkidP2OUCk

Bricolage and the Open Toolbox of Culture

This brief bipartite sojourn is a story about the peculiar nature of one of the most commonplace (yet subversive) forms of visual culture and artistic production: collage. It goes without saying that it’s a common tool amongst the creative literacy of artists / designers / illustrators / musicians / writers, however when one drills a bit deeper, it appears that this very human form of artistic representation and production has more to it than meets the eye. The first part is specific art-historical snapshots (as a bit of background) before arriving at the heart of the matter.

Part 1: Bricolage: Assemblage and Collage

In the case of Dadaist artists and poets, the protagonists were a mere handful of people committed to the same umbrella purpose of protesting against the mass carnage of the first world war – by exposing society’s moral decay as a form of political radicalism. Dada was essentially a movement that was anti-art, as it attempted to reduce the process of creating art to the primacy of spontaneous activity or stream of consciousness thought in order to mock or ridicule as an assault on established conventions in society.

Instead of just deploring the war, the Dadaists took an ideological stand. Theirs was an assault on the complacency of their audience, an introduction of chaos into a life in which mass slaughter was being carefully undertaken by warring nations. The movement was founded in 1916 in Zurich, a neutral city in the middle of a war-torn Europe, by a group of exiles from countries on both sides of the conflict. Some were draft dodgers; most were pacifists; all found refuge on Swiss soil and were outraged by the slaughter-taking place on all sides. The centerpiece for all this artistic activity was called the Cabaret Voltaire, which was founded by Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings.


Some two months later, under circumstances about which the participants themselves have never agreed, the name “Dada” was chosen for the movement, which was growing out of the cabaret’s activities. The most popular version of the story is that the word was picked at random by Richard Huelsenbeck from a French-German dictionary after sticking a knife into it[1]. This assault on logic by Huelsenbeck was to typify the chaotic process in which the artists used to create their work. As Tristan Tzara had revealed, the word ‘Dada’ has various meanings across a number of different languages; it’s most common usage derived from French, which is a child’s name for a hobbyhorse.

It would be hard for us to find much that was overtly political in the early Dada performances and publications, but from the beginning the movement dedicated itself to attacking the bourgeois cultural values of the time, which its members believed had led to the world war. The tools for this attack, radical at the time, are familiar to us all as the most basic concepts of the modern arts, which are: chance, collage, abstraction, audience confrontation, eclectic typography, sound and visual poetry and simultaneity. This was attempted through experimenting with automatism, modern technology, anarchism, oriental philosophy, Freudian psychoanalysis, Jungian psychoanalysis, eroticism, Marxist dialectics, (investigations into truths of philosophy by systematic reasoning) as well as many other approaches. Essentially Tristan Tzara’s ambitions were nihilistic in nature, as they involved the abolition of all traditions. Some would argue that he was utopian in his beliefs, as he may have thought that all of these efforts ‘may wipe the slate’ clean so to speak, as a form of political liberation.

Continue reading “Bricolage and the Open Toolbox of Culture”

Key to my Selection Criteria

For the past four months, I’ve been looking for part-time work, ideally as a graphic designer. To keep myself occupied in this depressing downtime before I once again being a fully productive member of society, I have been responding to precisely one metric fuck-tonne of “Key Selection Criteria”.

For those of you that haven’t had the enjoyment of looking for a job in the past decade, KSCs are the “must-have skills” potential employers lay out like a poison-laced bear trap to keep the unworthy from cluttering their MS Outlook inboxes with pathetic pleas for acceptance and attention. They’re a lovely idea in principle: often listing specific role requirements, KSCs can help you get a handle on the true nature of the job and organisation. But the problem I’ve found is that some KSC writers get a little — ah, how to put this delicately — over-enthused with their questioning.

One of the most recent KSCs I put together a reply to had the following demands, pretty much sequentially:

I must have:
1. The ability to prioritise multiple tasks and keep to schedules
2. Excellent organisational and time management skills
3. Demonstrated ability to organise a demanding workload and set priorities in accordance with the objectives of the position

I’m not sure about you, but I’d almost consider that the same question, rephrased three times, possibly to meet some arbitrary demand from HR or management. So I’ve spent the recent days thumping my head on my desk, wondering if these questions themselves form the real test, which will be, “hey pal, how much senseless busy work can you pull off without saying ‘fuck this’ and going outside to play?” And the truth is, heaps.

As a small exercise (before I get back to responding to some more KSCs) I’ve decided to put together my own KSCs, and answer them as truthfully as I can (coz yes, I lie on the other, “real” ones). Maybe this will help me see the other side of the waterfall I’m chasing, or maybe it’s just a good excuse to procrastinate before I write about how good I am at te photoshops for the 87th time…

Essential skills and experience

List your favourite sort of jam.
I’m not sure it’s technically a jam, but marmalade. And if I had to pick a jam specifically, I’d say…that three berry one. Next!

Who was the best Doctor Who?
And for extra points, the worst James Bond
I’ve always had a soft spot for Tom Baker, that dude with the big scarf, curly hair and jelly babies. Probably because I was at the right age for that kind of “funny” Dr. Who at the time: eleven or twelve I’m guessing. Oh and he had K-9 as well, which is pretty cool when you’re a tween*. A robot dog, man! Hey, and do you remember that episode when the Doctor gave K-9 away to one of his assistants (who was leaving the show/TARDIS)? And it was all sad for about four minutes, but then he had another K-9 in a crate he pulled out just before the end credits? Pierce Brosnan.

Do you prefer digital watches, or those ones with hands? Why?
Hmmm, tough question. I guess the ones with hands, if I’m totally honest with myself here. I don’t know why, it’s just a feeling I get, when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving. (boy, I wish I could quote Stairway to Heaven in my real responses to these things…)


Name your three best cures for nausea.
1. a spew.
2. a big glass of water and some painkillers, and then a spew if that doesn’t help. Try not to spew up the painkillers though; and if you do, eat some new ones, not the ones you just spewed. That may make you feel like spewing again.
3. laying on my back with my feet slightly elevated, rubbing my stomach with both hands and saying “urrrgh, arrrgh, I’m never drinking again, etc.” And then a spew, and some KFC, and then another spew.

NB: isn’t “spew” an odd word, when you type it out (and read it, I assume) eight or nine times?


Do you know what this keyboard shortcut does?
(cmmd+option+L+Z; cntrl+caps lock+6+: on a PC)
Shit! I just tried that in Bean (a simple text edit application for OSX) and it actually fucking did something: a dialogue box came up, asking for a web address to connect to. Ah right, it’s insert a link, and the z doesn’t really do anything. And the other one didn’t do anything when I just tried it just now neither. Try cntrl+option+cmmd+8 though, it’s hilarious.


If you were on the run from “John Law” and needed a new name, what would you pick?
I’ve always been partial to “Teddy Ruxpin”. Yeah, so: Teddy Ruxpin. Or Big Ted, or Old Man Ruxpin, depending on how close we are.

Have you ever ridden over something you shouldn’t have on a ride-on mower?
No, but I do enjoy pushing those push-mowers over dried up dog shit, and seeing the explosion of white poo powder. And once I ran over (well, pushed over) a stick that hit my aunty in the leg.

Greatest high score in Frogger:
I haven’t kept track of my “real” high score, but I can say with some self-doubt I’ve made it up to Level 3 at least.

Rank your four favourite fictitious animals, from most-preferred to least-preferred:
1. Basilisk
2. Pegasus
3. Oscar the Grouch
4. Frodo


If one of your friends was going to describe you as a power tool, which one would they pick?
I’d like to say jackhammer, but more realistically: hot glue gun.


Please recall your earliest recollection of using a ViewMaster™
I have quite a vivid memory of looking at a Muppets slide reel and being shocked at seeing Fozzy’s legs and feet. He looked really, really strange. I wonder how they did that? Probably just models, huh?


You have three minutes. List as many metal band names converted into pet food types as you can.
Shit, this is hard. Why did I write this one for myself? OK here goes:

Metalliver (um, this one is meant to be “Metallica”. Not a great start.)
Rage Against the Pedigree Meaty Bites
Limp Brisket
Lamb Morsels with Korn and other Misc. Vegetables
Insane Clown Pussy Treats


That was three minutes: not a great effort. Please send through any job offers you may have, I’m off to donate blood.

*not that tweens existed back then.









tricky transport

Local elections are famed for managing to spur even fewer voters than the big one every four years. Nonetheless, the election of Celia Wade Brown to the position of Mayor in 2010 was a significant gesture from the citizens of Wellington. Wade Brown shares a hairstyle but little else with departing Mayor Prendergast, who, rightly or wrongly, was judged by many pro-Celia voters  as erring too often on the side of business, and not the sustainable kind. Wade-Brown is a dedicated Greenie, a believer in better public transport, “vibrant communities” and economic well-being. A freeranger in spirit.

It seems strange, therefore, that under her watch, Wellington is likely to face the unpleasant situation of choosing between a variety of stupid propositions to improve traffic flow around the Basin/Mt Vic/Airport corridor. Next month we will get to ‘choose’ between a flyover that follows the curves of the Basin Reserve, or one which diverges slightly before joining up with the Mount Victoria Tunnel. A flyover in a city of 195,000 people, a city whose central can be crossed from one end to the other on foot in about an hour.

Public opposition to the flyover, and various other proposals including a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and a four lane road to the airport, was reportedly at 78% in 2008. There is little evidence that the public has changed it’s mind since. It feels particularly perverse given the current Mayor’s dedication to cycling, her preferred mode of transport even when heading to her own press conferences. We can afford to create a second tunnel, but there isn’t a cycling lane from Newtown to the City? We are used to myopic policy concerning climate change related issues in this country, but ‘better’ roading is nowhere near as connected to our economic performance as agriculture. Who are they trying to please?

Mostly, this seems to be another example this government’s backward approach to forward thinking in transport. As Rod Oram pointed out in a  Sunday Star Times weekend column, the government has gone to extreme lengths to undermine Auckland Council’s plans to extend railways in the central city, claiming that existing road, parking, and bus infrastructure can easily expand without hiccups until 2040. The Council and it’s consultants reckon that “an Auckland population of 2.2 million would result in another 500,000 vehicles if we stick to our existing road-dominant investment in transport”. No one knows where those cars would go.

None of this is exactly surprising. The central government was diagnose a long time ago with an inability to calculate the difference between long and short term gain. As these plans are rolled out piece by piece across different parts of the country it’s difficult to unite various affected groups under a concerted effort.

One group of concerned citizens, however, have eschewed the standard action plan and have resorted to some pretty Trickster-ish behaviour in order to draw attention to the idiocy of these plans. The Economic Illiteracy Group, who attribute most terrible decision making to stupidity not conspiracy, have taken it upon themselves to educate our elected officials, chiefly by supplying handy calculators and My First Jumbo Book of Numbers. The nine councilors who forced a meeting behind Mayor Wade Browns back to support the roading project received maths books and calculators which, it was hoped, would help them to understand basic cost-benefit analyses and to learn “what that pesky `negative’ sign means”. The letter also warns that “it’s never good to look like a dick in public. So avoid making stupid statements about how roads are an investment in the future or how they create jobs, because all the people who’ve already read the book and mastered the calculator will think you’re a moron.”  Ian McKinnon called the anonymous letters “an attack on the democratic process”, a somewhat hyperbolic representation of a process involving a mere 44% of the local population.

Sometimes the best way of speaking truth to power is to make fun of it. It might not be mature, it might not always provoke the intended reaction, but it can get people talking.

an image of the flyover by the campaign prepared by the save the basin reserve campaign.