Soft Rock

Rock Formations

Among the soft aircraft carriers and canyon rock formations at Wainui Beach are bubbled masses of rock.

Rock Formations

Shapes in the rock suggested something sentient slowly coming into being. I tried sketching one amorphous mass to see if the abstract, fluid shapes would create their own sort of language – but the pattern was too irregular. My line was too cautious and the cartoonish, biomorphic shapes I wanted would not cooperate.

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Dakota Joe and the Jungle Demon

The jungle demon was slumped so long among the exposed roots of a tree, tendrils had snaked around its ankles. Vines that once bound the demon’s body hung from its neck, wrists and legs.

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Crude stitching that had knitted together its mouth had also long rotted. The demon could not close its eyes because its eyelids had been cut away.

One eye sat higher than the other anyway due to a tumble into the rocks of a dried river bed where the demon Arri had remained face down for several months. When the mud dried and turned to dust, the doll surprised itself awake with a muppety sneeze. Read more

Incident with cows

“Auckland Volunteer Coastguard rescued a man shipwrecked on Brown’s Island after getting confused between east and west. He dialled 111 from the island and said he was being attacked by cows, then turned his phone off when he thought cows would find him up the tree he had climbed.”
The Dominion.

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Mr Lee is packing his bags for his return (by plane) to China when I phone to inquire after his close encounter with cows.

“It was a very awful experience, in fact,” says Mr Lee. His accent has a faint American inflection.

“I can be very honest: I was very silly.”

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Das Kart

The brothers Olsen appeared at the end of the street shortly before midnight. Gaslight buttered the cobbles and narrow garrets peaked into the sky. The crunch of rat under wooden wheel softened the silence as the Olsen boys trudged into town, towing their ark of a cart behind them.

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Escape from Tahmek

The Yucatan town of Tahmek is not listed in Lonely Planet and it’s best it stays that way. There are no hotels or pensiones in Tahmek. It is a crossroads, an intersection, a transit point in the screeching jungle.
If it wasn’t for the bullfight in honour of the Pope’s visit to the Mexican peninsula, we would not have got off the bus.


We planned to see the bullfight as part of the Mexico experience, then catch the last bus out to Izamel. Read more

Bill’s Game

In the short film Staunch the Bleak Flow, former Gisborne man Bill Pauly played Mr Death.

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Sadly, Bill’s character came for him in March last year. He died of a heart attack in his Wellington flat. He was not found for a few days. He was generally reclusive and, it’s fair to say, non-mainstream.

Bill was articulate, sometimes anarchic, mostly broke. He had a degree in semiotics, the study of signs and symbols, but he lived eccentrically. His talent never really found a home. Read more

Country matters

Theatre as ritualised sacrifice surfaced in a fundraiser at the Gisborne Showgrounds a few springs ago. The horse-boy auction was held in support of women diagnosed with breast cancer but the unconscious paganism behind it was the stuff of country matters.

A grassy arena corralled by timber stalls at the Showgrounds made up the venue. Women in groups of 10 sat at tables in the stalls under tin roofs. At the centre of the ring, the MC was costumed as a circus-ring master and would be in charge of a posse of horse-boys – 12 young farmers in green shorts – when they arrived.

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Take me away

A few days after the 2007 earthquake, someone left a dinghy on the side of the road across from my place.

Painted on the hull were the words: Take me away.

They seemed a cruel and unusual taunt. The boat was one kilometre from the sea with no hope of getting back. It was beached as. The message could have been an existential cry. It could have been something oracular, except it was stuck on dry land and without a rising tide it wasn’t going anywhere. Even in the event of a tsunami generated by an avalanche in the submarine Hikurangi Trench 40km away, the boat wouldn’t have time to float. The first and last any of us in these parts would hear of that would be the match-stick snap of Norfolk Pines along Centennial Marine Drive.

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The beat goes on

Gisborne hospital’s echocardiography machine might not be art as we know it, but it lights up exactly the same parts of the mind regular art reaches.
The Echo uses ultrasound to lay bare in real-time, colour and 3D, a patient’s beating heart. Suspended in a fan-shaped ray of sonar, the solid form of the pulsing organ coalesces into a surprisingly clear form. The image can be rotated. Parts can be sectioned off as a cube. The cube can be turned this way and that. As if on a virtual Fantastic Voyage, in which a miniaturised medical team and submarine are injected into a scientist’s bloodstream you can travel through the heart’s walls, chambers and pipes.

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Mogadon, Lizard King

“Is everybody in? Is everybody in? Is everybody in?
The ceremony is about to begin.”


Jim Morrison and the boys were gone on peyote in the desert then Jim was hunched over the microphone singing, Ride the snake / Ride the snake, to the lake/ The ancient lake/ – and down in the front row of the cinema a kid whooped and there was Mogadon, Lizard King, aka Garnus, Moggie, the Mog, Mogadon, a Morrison look-alike, and  a primal screamer. Read more