Friday, 21 December 2007

Be good or the Krampus will get you!

I've been learning German for three years now and every year around this time we invariably end up talking about the tradition of St Nikolaus, supposedly the Bishop of Myra (circa 300 and something) who used to give to the poor and needy every 6th December. The son of rich parents, he had pockets sewn into his clothes so that he could fill them with mandarins from the garden and take them to give out to the poor outside the city gates (rich people didn't need pockets I guess because they had servants to carry everything for them). It would be nice to think it is goodwill and kind-heartedness that is behind the spirit of Christmas but somehow this character has morphed over time into the overfeed jolly Santa fella who now graces Coke billboards and hangs out in Shopping Malls provoking people into some sort of duty bound money spending frenzy. Consumerism apparently is the real meaning of Christmas. This fat guy is supposed to keep a list of which children have been naughty and which ones have been nice during the year too as a means of getting them to behave but he must be lazy since they still seem to get their PlayStations either way.

Now, if you are a kid in Europe, particularly in some places like Bavaria and Austria you don't get it so easy. In some of these places (particularly rural) St Nick is accompanied by a terrifying looking dude with devilish goat horns covered in black fur who drags around rusty chains and clangs cow bells called a Krampus. He trundles around after St Nick on the 5th December visiting children's homes. If the children have been good they get gifts from St Nikolaus but if they've been bad the traditional story is that the Krampus will punish them by putting them in his sack and running off with them or chase them with a switch! I bet there are some good children living in Krampus territory!

This is something that has come from pre-Christian pagan times and is closely related to another tradition of the hideous Perchta who looks almost identical and runs around during Winter Solstice driving out any evil spirits associated with the winter months to ensure the locals don't freeze or starve to death before Summer! Not something many of us have to worry about in the 21st century since all our crops are grown for us inside a Supermarket by invisible farmers and electricity homogenizes the seasons.

These days there are Krampus events where there are competitions for the best carved Krampus mask and young men dress up in the black sheep skins roaming the streets in packs of 10 scaring children and adults alike. I'm sure they get less and less frightening though as they go from house to house getting more and more drunk and uncoordinated! A Krampus staggering around giggling like a girl and singing drinking songs I am sure looks pretty ridiculous.

Anyway, I reckon these are pretty funny. And I think they would have been a more appropriate icon than friendly Santa to place on Coca Cola's advertising. After all, Coke is dark and hideous and can be used to clean your car engine so it's no more friendly than a Krampus!

If you want to see some in action here is a good movie.

Merry Scary Christmas everyone!


Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Where do Nerds come from?

Some kind person called me a nerd this week. Charming! It's someone who shall remain nameless but whose name can be constructed with the letters o r y n b... According to this person a 'nerd' is a computer geek who wears glasses, stares at a screen all day, drinks copious amounts of coffee and probably talks a lot of nonsensical garbage. OK, well I do fit that description.

Anyway this did get me wondering where 'nerd' comes from. And surprisingly not where I thought. It first appeared in a book written by one of my favourite authors...If I Ran The Zoo by Dr. Seuss, a story about a boy who invents a zoo with all the best animals in it..all imaginary. I have a collection of Seuss books but this is one I missed. Probably spending too much time looking at a screen to notice it was one of his most popular books. So it is Theodor Seuss Geisel who is credited with inventing the word 'nerd'.

They are first mentioned in the lines

And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo
And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo
A Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!

and refer to some characters wanted for the imaginary zoo. No doubt a nerd was something warped and blue with ten legs, a fluffy tail, a beard and a goofy smile judging by his other drawings. I must get a copy of this book now.

How 'nerd' migrated from the imaginary zoo to this is anyone's guess but I suppose it could be worse. Modern day nerds could have be referred to as something else from the book. A "Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill" perhaps!

(The world's biggest bird from the island of Gwark
who eats only pine trees, and spits out the bark).

I'm off to visit the second hand book store. Want to join me Robyn?...

Another good place to visit: Seussville

Monday, 5 November 2007

Next Generation Finn

Over the past few days I've been listening to this brilliant album from a guy who I'm tempted to describe as a much younger Neil Finn but with a really incredible beard! He's got the same trademark Finn family songwriter qualities too, brilliant lyrics, beautifully crafted songs, interesting chords, fantastic melodies, unusual instrumentation and most essential ingredient - intelligence. And surprise, surprise he does happen to be Neil's son. You couldn't mistake him as anyone other than himself though. Definitely a Finn but with his own distinct sound. This guy has to be one of NZ's most interesting songwriters.

I'm dying to see him play live. I heard that he can play an entire gig all by himself by using just a loop pedal and a stage full of guitars, drums and other effects he plays one at a time himself - but all together at once!!! Gig goes something like this:

Start playing as few bars of bass line through the loop pedal (using guitar through octave fx), kill bass sound, add guitar riffs over the top of the already revolving bass
line, then with new guitar layer laid over the top ditch the guitar for a stint on drums and add in a bit of singing. Instant one man band! I couldn't imagine how this could possibly work. Not for an entire song!
It's hard enough in my band with just two people to play everything! But I finally saw proof the other day on YouTube that this actually works really well! Don't know what we are grumbling about in our band after seeing this!

So if you want to see something truely entertaining check out the video links below. A one man band example which he plays in a very animated style. Never seen anyone play drums with this much enthusiasm before! And see if you can figure out how the Parnell Chapel video is done because I can't! Very clever. Did he do a lot of running around the camera or is it just clever digital effects? A bit of both maybe?

Apart from that this album is really really really good! So get out and grab a copy! It's brilliant. And if you want to read more, you can see a great Liam interview (and ahem! these photos again) in NZ Musician mag.

Example of loopy one man band gigging
Gather To The Chapel Video
NZ Musician interview

Sorry, you'll have to click the back key to come back here coz I'm feeling too lazy to make new windows.

Friday, 2 November 2007

What is Bronspeak?

Bronspeak used to be a shy and retiring cryptographic cipher text encryption thingummy that lived a very private life somewhere on the north island of NZ safe in the knowledge that all it's darkest secrets were secure from prying eyes and that it could keep any information it wanted completely to itself without ever being found out...which was a good thing because it was an INTJ cryptographic cipher encryption thingummy and didn't ever intend to share it's closely guarded secrets with the wider world. Unfortunately for this particular cipher thingummy it happened to cross paths one day with an evil but brilliant programmer by the name of Evil Clive who cracked it, discovered all it's secrets and then made it world famous by publishing it on the Anarchy Golf site for ravenous programmers everywhere to devour. Alas, now it is a World Wide Superstar with no private life what-so-ever, no weekends and worse still, no secrets....

OK, it's not really that popular, but if there are any other ravenous programmers out there who want to have a go at cracking it feel free to visit it at this site and please get all your other geek buddies to do the same so that it can become a celebrity of gigantic proportions!

Unfortunately this fame thing has gone to it's head and now it will stop at nothing until it is bigger than Kennyspeak and ROT13. So if you start receiving emails or seeing blog posts (or worse, vlog posts) that look something like this:

Shot lerkt shi vurlf-vodi qiliesi ig u mix bryptugrephod rystin dus sixv lissegit.
Brecl shi budi unf empliminv xuas iwp angoni!

then you will know that it has succeeded!