Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shock and Ore

Readers following me through Blogger might well know by now that I've been conducting some sneaky back-fill this past week and before the year ends, more in the interest of putting completed posts in their allotted place than bumping up the numbers. No, really. Yes, there may be more to come. Sorry.

Anyway,  strike me pink with black and white striped heavy metal pants if by sheer coincidence I actually made some kind of deadline. Just as I was putting my review of Iron Maiden's The Book of Souls to bed, I read on the internet that the same day, Christmas day 2015 (Boxing Day here in NZ of course) marks the fortieth anniversary of the band's original forming by Steve Harris in Leyton. Blimey.
Hair of the Dark! The band in 1976 (Steve Harris far right)
Early Maiden is an almost unrecognisable thing to the casual fan, and I'm not claiming to be anything beyond that, myself. No Bruce Dickinson, of course - nor even a Paul DiAnno. Also, no Clive Burr or Dave Murray or even Des Stretton. Just 'arry and a line-up that was borne, replaced and eventually formed itself into the 1978 version that brought the band to a wider audience than Stratford's Cart and Horses, their first residency. Eddie, presumably, was still a fever dream in Derek Riggs' head, of whihc more, surely, in a later post.But there's the name, the imagery, and the beginning of the whole story, and I find it rather fitting that an ensemble which took its name from a line uttered in The Man in the Iron Mask would be the one that stuck: a fictional torture device invented by antiquarians evoking fear and dread - a bogey. It remains one of the most recognised, influential and yes, iconic band names in rock history.

Documentation of those very very early years is still a work in progress, as this year saw the release of Origins of Iron, a compilation of tracks featuring former IM members, plus there's a unoffical book out there, somewhere. There always is. We have, apparently, this era to thank for 'Wrathchild', 'Transylvania' and 'Prowler' - small acorns, indeed.

Happy anniversary, Harry!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dark! The Herald Angels Sing

It's that time of the year again! Time for a Yuletide video while the pavlova cream turns in the summer sun.
What luck to have this arrive, somewhat sooty and crumpled in the fireplace for Christmas Day. Courtesy of the Last of Our Kind Deluxe Edition, it's another Darkness Christmas song! Now, 'I Am Santa' by no means finds the dizzying heights of the mid-2000s 'Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)', but it has a certain wonky charm like the best Darkness ballads. It has Band Aid's clanging chimes of doom, a lovely retro mimed TV Special video, new drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor and his cracking big bells, and guest vocals by Santa himself to cap off a great year for the band. There's little turkey here, to be honest - but do tuck in.

And a Very Merry Christmas to all of you at home!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Alarmed Forces

[This review is synched with Jamas' over on The Truth Behind. Check it out!]

Hello, and so I done saw That Star Wars today.

Spoilers! You've now been warned , thankyou :)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Wars Awaken (Prequel posting)

Tomorrow I'm going to see Star Wars The Force Awakens. I'm keen to see it - I won't lie, but, you know, my days of being a super huge Star Wars fan are still nearly forty years in my past.

I've posted on that thing before, so I won't rehash it here, but inevitably, this road towards the first original post-Lucas instalment in the Star Wars saga has involved me watching the original trilogy with Jet Jr.

It's been a really interesting exercise; although I own the DVDs (special editions) of the original trilogy, I haven't watched them that much, and never realy watched the moies uch outside their cinema screenings. I remember the surprise and bewilderment I felt when I missed a video night at some friends' place and they reported they'd watched the 'entire' trilogy on VHS in one sitting. Why? What could be so interesting in that? It was that far off my radar.

Jet Jr is currently Star Wars mad, the phenomenon having elbowed superheroes firmly aside, it no jostles shoulders with Thunderbirds. But like a lot of kids his age and a little older, his reading of the series is different - it's definitely for him the story of Anakin and Luke, and the Anakin/Vader connection - once encountered - is just second nature. On the other hand, me watching it with him made me watch The Empire Strikes Back in particular in a way I hadn't properly since maybe 1981 or so. And even then I was convinced Vader had to be lying. It's been... educational. Whereas Darth Vader was the definite (ultimate?) bogeyman of my childhood, to Jr he's the most interesing character in the series, bar the two main Droids of course. Of course, he's not seen ALL of the movies yet...

So, tomorrow the new chapter opens and I'm seeing it with my brother in law under the guise of 'due diligence' for our kids' sake. One reason Jr and I haven't seen the prequel trilogy is because I'm not sure he'd react that well to its darkness, so if the new movie is aimed more at mature fans (and the front page of the local paper somewhat depressingly illustrated this in photos of last week's local premieres)  then The Force Awakens might wait awhile before the young man gets to see it. It won't change things, and it won't change his love for the movies he has seen, I'm quite sure of that.

As for me? We'll see...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Red Pique

So then, we have a contender for a new flag for New Zealand, though many of us did not ask for one, and many of us who would like a new one did not pick this particular choice. Still, that's STV voting for you, and as Cardinal Borusa said, there is only truth in numbers (and Jamas breaks down the whole fatal exercise with statistological swagger here!)

NZ Herald's Rod Emmerson provides his take on the process.
For what it was worth, I was a Red Peak man. Aaron Dustin's Red Peak, or 'First To the Light' to give it its formal title, completely passed me by in the top forty line-up, and like a few others I'd say, it completely won me over during its social media campaign to at first get on the ballet at the eleventh hour, then into the running for the final vote. Ah, but we Peakers lost and the tea towel / clip art / T20 cricket uniform one of Kyle Lockwood's two submissions (TWO! Two colour options of the same flag account for fifty per cent of the final four? I'm still astounded at this) was the winner on the day.

A popular image, flipped for continuity's sake. 
The final vote, it seemed, was always going to be about the fern - that problematic emblem that the Prime Minister repeatedly said he preferred, featured on all of the original four finalists, apparently immediately identifies us and makes other countries think we like feathers. Oh, honestly, don't get me started. I had a favourite for the first time, and it lost. I may take some time to get over it.

But when Red Peak emerged via a concerted social media campaign, it seemed at the time that the closest thing to a public nomination from the forty finalists as opposed to the Panel's four picks) had materialised - and when I read its story, I pretty much fell in love with the whole thing. But one mans treasure is another man's 'Lefty anti-Key rag' or similar, and it seemed that amidst the criticism of the final four, even a new pretender couldn't get a break. The lesson here, as a sage on Twitter remarked, is that social media is no replacement for mass engagement.

Essentially I liked Red Peak for many of the same reasons other did. It didn't opt for lazy Kiwiana symbols, it didn't kowtow to cringing concerns about identity or history, and it actually is a great design that sufficiently fulfils the criteria set by the Flag Review Panel: it was simple, versatile, timeless, had elements of symmetry, reduced well, looked great at rest and flying, and unlike the Lockwood flags, it didn't look like a make-do collision between the past and the future. I short, it looked like it had actually been thought through and designed afresh (Lockwood's is ten years old in its three iterations), and - yes, it tells a story. The creation story woven into (but not intrinsic to) Red Peak evokes Rangi and Papa, and may not be to everyone's tastes, but I like it. Maybe now we can have the flag for Paparangi?

Moving on, the final vote, between Lockwood's fern flag and the existing ensign takes place in March. I'm dreading it as a believer in public engagement, someone who is at best ambivalent about the existing design, a fan of a losing flag, and a detractor of the new alternative. I think I'll hold my nose either way, and fear I'll vote for the existing standard out of equal parts spite and good design.

Let's try this again in 25 years, for the bicentennial, shall we?