Thursday, November 27, 2008

Milk - we want it now!

One of the movies I’m most looking forward to seeing over the next few months – or whenever the hell it reaches New Zealand! – is Milk, which chronicles the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man voted into U.S. public office who was assassinated in San Francisco in 1978. Directed by Gus Van Sant and starring an Oscar-worthy Sean Penn, this sounds like one hell of an important film, especially in the light of the recent Prop 8 madness. Check out some of the reviews:

Rolling Stone
There's really no maybe about Milk, directed with a poet's eye by Gus Van Sant from a richly detailed script by Big Love writer Dustin Lance Black. It's a total triumph, brimming with humor, heart, sexual heat, political provocation and a crying need to stir things up, just like Harvey did. If there's a better movie around this year, with more bristling purpose, I sure as hell haven't seen it.

New York Magazine
Milk is a hagiography, but there’s nothing wrong with that if you believe, as director Gus Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black obviously do, in the gospel of Harvey Milk. And queer hagiography is bracingly different from that other kind, in that it’s often, so to speak, ass-backward, the road to rebirth leading through the flesh instead of around it. There aren’t many life stories of saints in which the hero’s salvation begins with picking up a studly young Midwesterner in a New York City subway station on the eve of said hero’s 40th birthday.

What sets this film entertainingly apart from most civil rights sagas, though, are a slew of relaxed, offhandedly persuasive performances, along with the flamboyance of hippie-era San Francisco. And of course there's Penn, who's so engaging, physically loose and just plain smart in the title role, he's bound to top everyone's shortlist come awards time.

The New Yorker
[Milk] wants what straights take for granted: the ability to live without shame. By casting a famously macho actor as Harvey Milk, Van Sant has made the central humanist desire for self-acceptance and pride newly powerful. Giving himself utterly to the role, Penn takes an actor’s craft and dedication to soulful heights, making a demand for dignity that becomes universal.

The Los Angeles Times
There's nothing terribly wrong with "Milk," it's just that its celebration of a culture and a neighborhood, its valentine to the early days of gay rights activism, is mostly more conventional than compelling ... It's impossible to see "Milk's" anti-Prop. 6 demonstrations, to read signs saying things like "Gay rights now" and "Save our human rights," without thinking of the very current battle over Proposition 8 and its ban of gay marriage. This graphic demonstration that the struggles are far from over gives "Milk" a harder edge than its otherwise self-congratulatory tone could manage.

The Boston Globe
The movie makes it hard not to see in him a little of Barack Obama or vice versa. The similarities are chilling at times. They both ran as agents for change, a message that drew people to them, especially the young, and managed to win the support of folks in spite of their own bigotry. What you're able to see is how far the country has come in four decades and how far it hasn't. The day of Obama's victory, voters also supported gay marriage bans in three states. Go figure.

Monday, November 24, 2008

PIE In Our Sky

They Know How To Throw A Pie Party

How perfectly circular it is to see Simon "Glass Half MTV" Oosterdijk' and Markus Hofko's [go the Euro heritage] new Pie newspaper. At only $4.00, yes $4.00 and not $3.99, Pie is quite simply a visual treat and it's newsprint neat in texture, feel and floppiness. For this, the first issue - Pie celebrates the absolute fabulousness of the circle characterised by a smiley face cover. Oosterdijk was born a creative force, a natural conceptualist. His studio, The Wilderness, has long been at the forefront of graphic, design, conceptual and creative development and their partnership with the Semi-Permanent forum speaks volumes of the company's creative output and collaborative style. Pie is an idea. Pie just exists - and exists gleefully free of advertising and sponsorship. Pie is the sky...

Check it out here if you can't grasp a real copy....

Pie, Issue O. The circle features The Moon, NASA visions of circles, yin and yang, the wheel, black spots, rings, Mt Taranaki, emanations, a round ping-pong table and considerably more roundness in general. What comes around, goes around. We can't wait to be hit in the face with more Pies...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Two Dublyas, Two Stores, Many Pictures

The last time Matthew Williams and Karen Inderbitzen-Waller held a joint photographic exhibition, they did so in a single character space, with a well-attended and exceedingly enjoyable opening. The difference in the pair's work was both obvious and complimentary and worked well enough that they are back again this year - but with twice the concept. Utilising the suitably stylish Crane Brothers and Gubb and Mackie store environs, the "Two Photographers, One Show, Two Stores, One Week Only' exhibition will be a must-do in Auckland in the coming week.

Cool Aid

Next Sunday, November 30 falls on the eve of World AIDS Day and Positively Glamorous, an utterly fabulous event held at Studio 340 on K.Rd aims to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS. Organisers Mint Condition have pooled some of New Zealand's top fashion designers together to create fashion inspired by the global icon for AIDS awareness, the red ribbon.

The designer selection is comprehensive: • Alexandra Owen • Blak Basics • Carlson • Chelsea Thorpe • Cyb√®le • Deborah Sweeney • Hailwood • Jaeha • Jimmy D • Juliette Hogan • Kate Sylvester • Lonely Hearts • Madame Hawke • Miss Crabb • Moochi • Park • Ruby • Stolen Girlfriends Club • twentysevennames • Zambesi

Performances on the night will include: Charlie Ash, Booby Tuesday, La Beat Debauchery and T-Bones and entry on the night will be by donation. All funds will go to Positive Women Inc and the Torrens Fund, a charity that sends HIV+ children in New Zealand to Camp Goodtime in Australia.

So go on, you might think your chips are down in a recession, but you are probably not a child living with HIV. Attend, donate and be positively fabulous...

Sunday 30th November @ The Studio 340 K’ Road Auckland. Doors open @ 7.00pm.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Graceful....Hurricane. Grace Jones returns with her voice, her weapon of choice.

You are like a Hurricane Grace Jones. And you blew into our lives last week after 20 years as though you had never left - levelling every preconceived idea of what a stylish, I'm-so-eternally-hot-you-can-park-your-cadillac-on-my-bum 60 year-old music and fashion icon should do with a comeback album in the process. Hurricane is so perfectly...familiar, in a good way, that we find ourselves rolling it over and if we had always been listening to it. The album is well produced with contributions from Brian Eno [legend], Sly & Robbie [legends], Tricky [legend] and could easily have been made in Massive Attack's kitchen [yep, they're legends too] circa 1989 - when they were shooting the video for Daydreaming and creating the seminal Blue Lines. Grace harmonising with Shara Nelson of course.

That's a lot of legends, and iconic status can sometimes breed derision amid the naysayers.

There have already been your usual, largely Pommie, sad-arse detractors suggesting on supposedly notable English sites that Hurricane is shite, humdrum, had-it. Here is Pete Paphides [who? yeah exactly...] from the Times Online “This is a plate/ This is a cup/ This is a story I didn’t make up,” she intones, deploying a rhyming style last popularised by the Shamen’s Mr C over what appears to be a digitised instrumental of the Um Bongo advert. Already we’re in the thick of a problem that afflicts much of what follows. Like other larger-than-life pop women – Cher and Shirley Bassey spring to mind – everyone agrees that having Grace Jones around is probably a good thing. But figuring out how best to channel her star quality in 2008 is another matter. Mr C? The Shamen, Cher...Yeah. Right. But then you get that with some of the no-name wannabees that tend to populate the flatulent hill country of the English Music Press landscape. It's a long way down the insipid fells of the next Big English Thing.

We think the people themselves have taste and will vote accordingly. Hurricane is set to become a valiant return to form for the ultimate diva of groove. A music, fashion and culture figurehead forever. Perhaps Grace herself best sums it up when, for just a few bars, she sings...

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Not Lost On Us...

...Sara Smeath's fabulous new line of shoes and bags intriguingly named Lost Not Lonely that is. The clever Northland native is putting a background as the inaugural winner of the Air New Zealand and Karen Walker “Inspiring New Zealanders scholarship” award, and months travelling the world in a 'lost, but not lonely' state, to good use. Her first range is a collection of refreshing and suitably adventurous designs that utilise a mixture of high quality soft leathers and on the bags, solid metal chains.

The range is titled "lower Valley Locals' in reference to the 50 year-old family trucking business which Sara and her business partner, brother Darren Smeath, grew up within. "Dust, diesel, and dirty trucks are not the the ideal backdrop for creating imaginative, rousing designs" she suggests but we beg to differ. Darren, who has a background in management in Brisbane and is an industrial chemist by trade sees a big future for the label both in Aotearoa and Australia where the company intends to do plenty of business. We eagerly await the development of a brand, the first-up quality of which will be lost on few...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Swing High Smooth Chariot

You gotta hand to Savage and the entire Dawn Raid crew - big time. It seemed only yesterday that a press release announcing 'the inevitable closure' of Dawn Raid records crossed our digital desk. Given the importance of the label in establishing not only Polynesian music but a large chunk of self esteem in South Auckland, it was sad news. But as we know too well, good things don't die and fast-forward to today's email from their parent record company Universal and the warm glow of admiration envelopes us. You may or may not know that Savage has blown up big time stateside with his hit Swing and Dawn Raid are rising with him. Check the facts: 1.1 million sales (so far) made up of more than 800,000 in digital singles and well over 300,000 in mobile singles. Sales of Swing have now surpassed US-released singles by Crowded House and OMC, and as sales of the track increase week to week it’s shaping as the highest selling single by a New Zealand artist in the United States ever. This week alone has seen a 20% increase in sales from last week. Swing is currently enjoying its highest position on the Billboard Pop chart at #35. Congratulations to all concerned! Here's the vid.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rules, what rules?!? We're Viktor et Rolf!

In truly typical modern style Viktor and Rolf have once again broken all the rules in presenting couture. With past collections they've shown their clothes live in black and white [using light and make-up to create an optical illusion], created a life-size doll's house featuring themselves as the puppeteers of a giant marionette show - and had models pass down the catwalk on a giant conveyor belt - like so many objects in a game show. Innovative presentation is integral and as easily as important as the product itself to Viktor and Rolf. Perhaps this is best explained by their first perfume, an ornate empty bottle sold in department stores and boutiques, now a collectors item. The duo's latest collection challenges an elitist notion; a privileged few viewing their clothes in advance of the public. They instead send out an open invitation for the world to log onto their official website and see an especially-made presentation of their Spring 2009 collection - featuring Shalom Harlow as the only model. Shalom walks the digital catwalk, by herself, over and over. The show, an entirely digital cavalcade, features multiple Shaloms and then dissolves them into a Shalomonist ether at the end of the show. The collection itself features crystal and organza detail that nods again to pixelation and pattern. So fine, so digital, so Viktor et Rolf!

The show is available to view on the innovative official site

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Great, Great Songs Number 6

20th Century by Brad 1993

When the 'grunge thing' suddenly no longer became the actual grunge thing, just a sad takeover by the old school record company truncheons...around about 1993 to be exact...those at the forefront lost interest and passion. Witness Nirvana. Which is exactly why this song by Brad is so good...a mix of sounds, ideas, grooves and concepts that nobody else in that early nineties, Seattle-based scene ever came close to. 20th Century features possibly one of the greatest, simplest basslines of all time. Bomp, bomp. Change Key. Bomp, bomp. And, the coolest meandering guitar and percussive rhythm...and most especially, a vocal by Shawn Smith which is right up there amongst the best of the era..."raise the roof, let's get out of this, my friend.."

Video of the song here...

Brand New Math Added To The Ghost Of Sum Cold Street...

...i.e this great local band are opening up for Headless Chickens at the Powerstation, Friday November 28, 2008 for a once only night of musical excellence, old new and indigo blue. We were taken with the Brand New Math performance at the recent Huffer party, in a big cold room with bad acoustics...loads of energy, great songs...and can't wait to see them with a grunter PA in the best rock room in New Zealand...The Powerstation. Tickets at

Mag Nation Magnanimously Make [defunct] Magazinno [space] Magnificent...again


It was heart-warming to see Auckland's oldest dedicated specialist magazine store space - Magazinno on Ponsonby Road - resurrected a few weeks back by the clever folk at Mag Nation. Founders Ravi, Suchi and Sahil have built a great Australasian retail success story with flagship stores in Auckland's Queen Street and Elizabeth Street, Melbourne and six stores in NZ and Australia in total. Recognising that hardcore magazine fans had been coming to the Ponsonby store for years in search of titles that matter, titles of class and quality, the team descended on the failing, iconic mag store on October 10, re-doing the signage and re-stocking the old lady on the fly. One month later and the store is already up and humming with high quality magazines, periodicals and books from around the world - most of which you won't find elsewhere in Australasia. We can't speak highly enough of the store, brand and business. Oh, and of course they stock Black... Check Mag Nation online here.

Auckland CBD
100 Queen Street
Auckland City

mag nation Ponsonby
123 Ponsonby Road
Ponsonby Auckland

Sylvia Park
Shop 72
Sylvia Park Shopping Centre

Melbourne CBD
88 Elizabeth Street

Greville Street
110-112 Greville St

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I First Met Obama....

Young Obama ripping it at Mt Eden Ramp

...when he came to Aotearoa on a skateboarding trip in the late 70's with his parents who were itinerant academics. My friends and I were hanging at Malborough Park building a plywood addition to the otherwise lame bowl at the bottom of the council-built first-in-NZ skatepark when he arrived. Dressed in a Hawaiian-style OP silky shirt, with purple shorts and knee-high yellow Adidas socks slotted into white vans, and topped off with a cheeky 'fro - Obama stood out. Skate-Hendrix. He jumped on his yellow G&S flexi-board with Gull Wing trucks and Road Rider wheels and carved the bowl seductively in a low-slung Bertleman style.....

...Ok....I obviously made that up. The photo [and description] above is actually of a Maori fella from Whakatane called Elroy Ainsley. Elroy really was stylish, rocked a mean 'fro and was a hard-out rad skater, but from photos I have seen of Obama in his teen years in Hawaii, dressed in OP shirts, or with a 'fro as per this photo...

..he could easily have been someone the world once knew, went to school with, played basketball with or borrowed a push bike from. And that is what makes Barack Obama unique, and his victory yesterday all the more special. At long last, someone we can all relate to. Someone the world feels comfortable with is finally behind the desk in the manager's office.

And the people have spoken. The people put him there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

ACK! We Hear The Artist Sing...

Black Magazine congratulates ARTSPACE who, in turn, congratulates Peter Robinson - the recipient of the 2008 Walters Prize which is quite simply New Zealand's most prestigious art award - and it isn't the first time that the prize has been granted to exhibitions that originated as part of ARTSPACE’s exhibition programme. Peter Robinson’s winning work ACK was initially shown at ARTSPACE. The 2006 Walters prize went to Frances Upritchard for Doomed, Doomed, All Doomed, her 2005 exhibition at ARTSPACE. For the 2008 Walters Prize, renowned international curator Catherine David selected Peter Robinson’s work:
ACK is multi-layered, engaging and universal. It is clearly the work of an artist at the peak of
his career,” says Catherine David. Peter Robinson will receive $50,000 plus an all expenses paid trip to New York to exhibit his work at Saatchi & Saatchi's world headquarters. While we are passing out congrats, then let's big up the following finalists: Edith Amituanai, Lisa Reihana, and the inimitable John Reynolds. Their work will be exhibited at the Auckland Art Gallery until 23 November, 2008.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Beyond The Pail

I walk down Newtown's Enmore Rd twelve to fourteen times a day, but it wasn't until Thursday that I finally saw a light on in the new art space that I'd been peering into for weeks.

Curiosity well and truly aflame, I followed a trail of interesting creatures into the cosy (read: small and welcoming) space known as Oh Really Gallery.

Rewarded for my patience, I guess, I was lucky enough to stumble across the venue's first solo show. Titled Translocality, the work by Sydney's Baden Pailthorpe was mesmerising, with sizable prints and copies of the artist's self published book.

According to the Oh Really website, Translocality pays homage to Jack Kerouac's 'Lonesome Traveller,' and chronicles Pailthorpe's own travels to countries such as France, Iran and Turkey. They're the kind of photographs I'd love to have on my wall - beautiful, intelligent, intriguing, and with a gravity that remains long after the images have left your line of vision.

Having found my new favourite gallery, I'm hoping that the light's on a lot more often from now on...

See Translocality for yourself until Thursday, 6 November at Oh Really Gallery, 55 Enmore Rd, Newtown.

For more information visit