Popcorn Maker Video – To Stay in Christchurch

I’ve been working with Mozilla‘s new Popcorn Video project to create a videomix, including a music video I shot of Darren Tatom performing his song ‘Stay’ at the Gap Filler Pallet Pavilion on Durham Street in Christchurch, along with some photos and accompanying text of the city at the time of the concert. You can make your own popcorn video by playing with it here 

To watch To Stay in Christchurch (the embed code doesn’t seem to work, at least not in wordpress)


The God Tree



God, to me, has nothing to do with the creation of the universe, the origin of life, the fates of men, or the rules of the game of some extraterrestial creature. God, to me, is the spirit of the wonder of all things. I love these weeping willow trees along the Avon River at Park Terrace at Hagley Park in Christchurch. They make me think of my feeling of God, and I thank them for the blessing of being a part of it. We leave here in a few hours. I’m just happy we were able to come. Highly recommended :}

City Minus Center

Over the holidays we went on a trip south to the city of Dunedin. There, in the middle of the city, we found a very cute and lively city center! Not so surprising, right? Every city has a city center, a downtown where there is the architecture and definition of the city, where the people go when they go “to the city”. After all, what is a city without one? The answer to that is Christchurch, New Zealand 2012, where we’ve been living for the past few months.

In February, 2011 a major earthquake struck here and since then it’s entire downtown has been fenced off, and one by one nearly all of its buildings are being demolished. There aren’t that mant remaining at this point. I was never here when the city center existed, so I cannot really compare before and after, only comment on how strange it is to live in a city that in this one sense does not even exist.

There are still many, many wonderful parts of Christchurch. The rivers still flow and the parks are beautiful and many. There are beaches and wildlife reserves right in the city itself, and many neighborhoods surrounding the center which are still full of people and shops – though many homes and businesses were damaged and many remain in limbo due to insurance bureaucracy and government incompetence. Thousands of homeowners here are still in a terrible position.

But the city has no center. From the chain link fences holding it in you can watch the cranes and the claws ripping apart what little is left of it. You can compare old photos with the ruin and devastation that defines it even now, after two years.

Imagine New York City without Manhattan. San Francisco without Market Street from Civic Center to the Embarcadero. Imagine your own city with its downtown utterly destroyed and out of bounds. This is a real dystopia, and the funny thing is that life goes on. Buses are re-routed. Shops are re-located. Offices are moved. And you get quite accustomed to the absence in the heart of the place.

Naturally there are big plans, great plans, fantastic ideas for re-building the center of this city and it’s really a once in more-than-a-lifetime opportunity. Yes, many lovely old buildings had to be demolished, but many more hideous newer ones have also been removed. The waxy buildup of a hundred and fifty years of random haphazard development is gone and in its place a more considered, more ecologically friendly, more sensible, more modern downtown will come into existence. No, it will never be the same, but there will be a heart of this city once again, in a few more years. In the meantime, temporary measures. There are any number of “Gap Fillers“, artful projects that are occupying empty lots, such as the Palette Pavilion around the corner from our apartment, where live music concerts are being held, free to the public. There are also Art Beat projects going on at the Shipping Container Mall, and other random art projects such as the Firewall, and the Cardboard Cathedral, and the giant Container Advent Calendar,

It’s no wonder that Lonely Planet recommends Christchurch as one of the Top Ten cities to visit in 2013 – not despite the fact that the city has no center, but because of it, because of all the innovation and experimentation and liveliness and change that’s going on around here. Unfortunately, I am going to miss it. We fly home to California in a couple of days, so we won’t be here for 2013 and beyond. I hope to return in the future, and maybe by then the city will have a center once again.  But I can’t complain. I’m going home to San Francisco, which Lonely Planet is recommending as the number one city to visit in 2013!

This experience has meant a great deal of input flowing directly into my mind and my heart and I expect the influences to last a good long time and emerge in unexpected ways.


Fire Rainbow

A “rainbow cloud” was spotted in the skies above Christchurch today.

One reader, Michael MacAskill, said he believed it was an example of a circumhorizontal arc, colloquially known as a fire rainbow.

“They form when the sun is high in the sky and shines through ice particles in high-level cirrus clouds. The ice particles act like tiny prisms,” he said.

“They can only form in Christchurch for about 400 hours a year in mid-summer when the sun is high enough in the sky.

“But even then, there has to be cirrus cloud in just the right place too, so they are quite rare.”

Blue Skies meteorologist Tony Trewinnard said the unusual cloud was caused by “iridescence”. 

“It’s an optical illusion that results when light is reflected by droplets in the cloud,” he said.

“The sort of effect is seen in bubbles, or on wet surfaces or on the surface of a compact disc,” he said.

Iridescent clouds were an optical phenomenon caused by small water droplets or small ice crystals individually scattering light, he said.
Canterbury was a good place to see iridescence in clouds as the atmosphere was often dry, which meant clouds were more often thin and semi-transparent, he said.

“Newly forming clouds often produce the brightest and most colourful iridescence,” he said. 


We saw this double one tonight at sunset.

There’s a Story in Here Somewhere

In today’s local news, a secret underground room was uncovered at one of the many demolition sites in Christchurch (my “Goldilocks” city), a room that had belonged to an old house  long ago torn down and had an office building put over it. If they hadn’t had to tear down the office building, the room would never have been found. As it is, they uncovered hundreds of artifacts from the nineteenth century that had been buried under there all this time.

Underground Overground Archaeology director Katharine Watson said the find was “amazing and surprising”.

“It was under a multi-storey office building so we didn’t expect to find a thing. You don’t expect much to survive construction of those buildings,” she said.

A story could be built on top of this, an unexpected story lying buried beneath a completely different story, one that would have to fall apart completely before it revealed this other, hidden tale. A fictional structure modeling the physical architecture.

One idea that occurred to me was that everything in the room would be old except for maybe one single item, something which have to be quite recent, yet there was no possible way for it to be there. A mystery, possibly with some elements of the supernatural, ensues.

Another idea is that the room contains some information that completely changes a perspective on something – whether it’s a family memoir, a photo, some historical document. A more traditional novel ensues.

Many other stories,and kinds of stories, could be built on top of this layer.

Ongoing Christchurch Notes

Outsider observations, really.

One thing that’s taking some getting used to is the way most teenagers here will smile and greet and old coot (like myself) in passing with a friendly g’day or ‘afternoon’. As opposed to the ignoring, sneering or snarling one encounters more often back home (USA)

The women here are not necessarily ‘modest’ – they’re not afraid of crazy haircuts or to show their legs no matter what shape they’re in, but at the same time they don’t show cleavage and don’t appear to be hung up on barbie-like image ideals. It’s refreshing.

Anyone here is ready to strike up a conversation about anything at any time.


Reading List

Still enjoying Jose Saramago‘s “The Cave“, today I made a rare stop and a bookstore and bought a couple of paperbacks – both on the recommendations of Goodreads people. One is China Mieville‘s “The City and The City“, and the other is “The Scarecrow” by Ronald Morrieson (a New Zealand classic, apparently).

I was also looking for “Bartleby & Co” by Enrique Vila-Matas, and “Blindness” by Saramago – the store had other books by these authors, but not those. I was impressed, because this was a tiny bookstore – Scorpio Books – temporarily housed in a shipping container in the Re:Start Mall downtown, yet it had a better selection (for my personal tastes) than the ginormous Barnes & Noble back home in San Jose