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Bland subject line [21 April 2010|10:12 pm]
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[Current Music |'Opiate Sun' by Jesu]

It's funny. The last time I wrote an update, I found it quite enjoyable and it reminded me how much I used to like writing regularly here. So I thought "I really need to get back into this habit". What happened? Well, that was March, and here we are moving slowly into the arse end of April.

At least I have an excuse. I was in New Zealand from the 1st to the 9th, and part of that time was spent up in the Far North with no Intarwebz access at all. Charlotte and I had a fantastic time and found some truly beautiful locations. We stayed in Kohukohu on the north side of the Hokianga Harbour, though our favourite location was Waimamaku Beach south of Omapere. I took ten bazillion photos, though if they are uploaded sooner than Australia votes the Greens into power, you should be impressed. Can't believe I haven't made any progress on the backlog of Europe photos for months. I even managed to injure myself in Waiotira photographing the railway junction and former station there - only scraped up my hands, and managed to save the camera from a nasty fall.

Charlotte and I then came back to Melbourne, though it wasn't to relax - I was moving into my new flat. Thank god Charlotte was here (and that alisaura was kind enough to lend her assistance and her car on a couple of days too), or else I don't know quite how well the move would have gone. I am now comfortably settled in at our new place, though still with plenty of unpacking to do. It's wonderful to have a more modern kitchen, some outdoor space in the form of two balconies, and enough power points, just to name a few things. You don't realise how important power points are until you try to run your whole computer and TV/entertainment set-ups as well as a fish tank, a couple of fans, and an electric guitar off just TWO power points. I now have so many that I'm only using one multiple adapter.

Most to my amusement, my old place is being hocked off at a monthly rental almost $100 higher than what I was paying when I left and $250 higher than when I moved in just three years ago. Did you know inflation had risen that much? No, nor did I. The best part is how hilariously misleading the promo blurb is. It claims the clapped out old shoebox is "modern" (what, because it has electricity?), that there is a "kitchen/meals area" (if you can squeeze any kind of meals area into that kitchen, you're a master of geometry), and that the front door that never locked and the carpark gate that hasn't closed since early 2007 constitutes a "security entrance". Oh, and apparently the common carpark constitutes an "outdoor area". What a fool I was to never set up a barbecue and some garden furniture there!

Charlotte is back in New Zealand this week, and I head over early next, after seeing Sleepmakeswaves and The Bats in concert. Most disappointed Charlotte's university commitments meant she couldn't stay long enough for the gigs. I'll be over in New Zealand until mid-May, when I come back to Melbourne to see The Chills live and liaise with my thesis supervisors, then I'll be back in New Zealand again - including, finally, a trip or two down home to Wellington and the Kapiti Coast.

I had more I wanted to write about, but this is long enough. Maybe I'll come good on the intention to write again soon this week? Don't get your hopes up.
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How often have I used "I'm not dead yet" as a subject line anyway? [29 March 2010|11:17 pm]
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[Current Music |'Pure Narcotic' by Porcupine Tree]

I think it's about time I made my once-every-couple-of-months entry. A lot has happened since I updated in January. That seems like a very long time ago, actually.

The big news, of course, is that Charlotte and I are now a couple. We both pretty much knew this was the most likely outcome of our jaunt following Porcupine Tree around Australia, but as is my habit, I didn't say much of anything beforehand. I realise you folk here on LJ are largely a different friendship group to that on Interference, so most of you don't really know Charlotte and wouldn't have noticed since late last year that things were really taking off between us. And in any case, I've always kept to myself with these things (in the seven years I've maintained this journal, I think almost every reference to romance has been either cryptic or downplayed). Anyway, this is us, as taken by Alison outside the Porcupine Tree gig in Melbourne. And yes, that is my 2008 PT tour shirt that Charlotte has stolen. I'm pretty sure she gets more wear out of my band t-shirts than I do.

Charlotte is living in Auckland until June or July, so I will be popping across the Tasman frequently during that period. Works out nicely with my PhD research actually! Not to mention I haven't been back home since 2008 (not that Auckland is even vaguely part of the New Zealand I consider "home" home ... I guess anywhere in the 1846-53 province of New Munster is "home" to me). My first trip is over Easter, featuring Jakob and Crowded House concerts, and I'll be back over in early May; in between, Charlotte will be here for a bit.

This leads to my other piece of news, which is that I am finally moving out of my shoebox into a larger, nicer apartment just up the road. I would have done this anyway, as I desperately need more space and haven't liked my flat since the moment I moved here (I only took it because I needed somewhere and I couldn't really afford anywhere else until this year). But with Charlotte being here from June, a new place is an absolute imperative. While my family were in town earlier this month for my graduation, we looked at a handful of places, but I didn't intend to get really serious about flat-hunting until Charlotte was here and we could choose somewhere together. However, I submitted an application for one flat in an ideal location, and much to my surprise, I was offered the lease on Friday. I move next month, probably on the 12th or 13th.

Since I'll be in New Zealand until the 9th and will lose 9 days of potential packing time, the move feels terribly soon and I've been busy putting all my stuff into boxes today. I really don't like this part of moving. I've moved a lot in my life (I think this is my 10th move in the last 13 years) and I always find packing depressing. I don't expect I will miss much about the shoebox, but it has been part of my life, part of a very significant period of my life, and it wasn't all bad (I rode out some awfully hot summers here in more comfort than you'd expect with just a fan). The really depressing aspect though, and I would feel this regardless of how brilliant a place I'm relocating to, is the process of packing up basically my entire life. There is something soulless in converting a lived-in, comfortable, familiar backdrop of everyday life into boxed and packaged items ready to be carted around.

But I really can't wait to be in the new place. I'll have so much more space. It's a two bedroom unit, so I will be able to convert one bedroom into my study. I can see the trams from my balcony. I'll turn into an enormous dugong, possibly even a Steller's sea cow, because I will be literally across the road from my favourite pizza shop. I'm looking forward to it, all the more since it will really be a home once Charlotte is here permanently.

That's about it from Axverland for now. I know I don't update or comment much any more, but I tend to still check my friends page daily or more often, and I care about how all of you are doing. Until my next update in a few weeks/two months/a bazillion years, have a good one!
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(no subject) [31 January 2010|11:43 pm]
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[Current Music |'Disappear?' by The Church]

People! How's it going? Yes, my intermittent posting has become even more woefully intermittent. I'm not sure that's going to change in the near future either, but for those who care, here's a little bit of an update on life, though probably not the universe and everything.

I am now a doctoral candidate, supported by a scholarship, and I have two absolutely sensational supervisors. My PhD thesis will be on the history and demise of the provincial system of government in New Zealand, a topic about which very little work has been done since W. P. Morrell's politico-legal history of the provinces in the 1930s. I could not have asked this to go any more ideally than it has. In a couple of months, when my mother is in Melbourne and the real estate market doesn't have the early year pressures of students looking for accommodation before the university year begins, I'm going to look for a new place to live. The scholarship means I should be able to afford to get out of my shoebox.

How did BA Honours go? Well, uh ... stunningly well. My thesis got the highest mark in History. I'm still pretty proud of it to be honest. I had harboured a quiet belief it would do decently, but I hadn't expected such a high mark. I think I am still beaming from one of the markers (and, as it happens, the man I consider Australia's leading living historian) describing my writing as "incisive and often eloquent". I'm starting to have some belief in myself that I really can make it as an academic historian. As an aside, my graduation ceremony is hilariously on St Patrick's Day. I ... think we all know what I will be doing afterwards.

Beyond university? Life's been pretty good lately. I turned 23 earlier in January; it was fairly low key but good times were had and food experiments were conducted. Fairy bread and pizza make for a surprisingly effective combination, let me tell you. As for the immediate future, I am off to follow Porcupine Tree to their three Australian concerts on 5, 6, and 7 February with Charlotte from the Superthread. I'm heading up to Brisbane on Tuesday the second, so that I can show Charlotte the sights, then she is staying with me for a week after the Melbourne gig to see some of Victoria, catch A Place To Bury Strangers in concert, and have a bit of a Superthread gathering with the rest of the Victorian contingent. If we can pull the gathering off the way I'd like, it will be the largest one we've had yet.

What else? I'm pretty let down by the summer of cricket. The Australian cricket team is far below its best and would have been given a lesson or two by a number of other countries, but instead they've received subpar opponents, especially Pakistan, who've done sweet fuck-all. The final ODI against Pakistan tonight was, as it happens, the only truly exciting, riveting game of the entire ODI series. Pakistan's loss in the second Test was inexcusable, and just proves my point that any real opposition would have left Australia reeling. I'm looking forward to the rugby and Aussie rules seasons commencing soon enough. My life has also been absorbed by the World Domination part of Stick Tennis, which is hilarious given I didn't even watch even a whole minute of the Australian Open. I only ended up playing Stick Tennis because of Stick Cricket!

That will do for now. Hope you're all keeping well, and I'd love to hear from all of you. I'll be around.
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Concerts and other things [4 December 2009|07:12 pm]
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[Current Music |'Yearning' by Mono]

Every time I write one of these updates, it seems to begin with "hey, I'm still alive" or some sarcastic insinuation that I am in fact typing from beyond the grave. What happened? Anybody remember the time when I updated this thing daily? I scarcely do.

I've finished university for the year, and with it, I have completed undergrad. I am now nervously awaiting whether or not I have been accepted to PhD. I've got supervisors lined up and I should have sufficient marks (all those currently known to me are good enough, but I won't know my Honours thesis mark for a week and a lot hinges on that). My main paranoia is that I stuffed up some part of the application and I'll get screwed over for administrative reasons, but you'd hope that they would contact me if some aspect were unsatisfactory. Or maybe I shouldn't expect so much from a soulless bureaucracy and its harried minions.

At the moment, it is concert season. In November, I saw Tim Finn, Dimmer (current band of Shayne Carter, ex-Straitjacket Fits), Pearl Jam (I primarily went for one of the openers, Liam Finn), and Opeth. All gigs were excellent. Perhaps the highlight was Tim Finn's gig, when I yelled for him to play Hermit McDermitt ... and he did. Easily a favourite concert moment of my life; he could recall the chorus but not much of the verses (of course, in the excitement I blanked out too), and amazingly, Eddie Rayner on keyboards remembered it too.

Right now, I am in the midst of a run of three concerts in three days. Yesterday was Boom Crash Opera, for alisaura's birthday, not to mention a nostalgia trip for me too. Tonight is post-rock awesomeness in the form of Mono supported by Laura. Laura played one of my favourite gigs of 2008 and it looks like their support slot will be an hour long or thereabouts, so I can't wait. And seeing Mono makes up for stupidly not going when they visited these shores in 2007. Tomorrow, I wrap up the run with a gig by The Church. Should be good times, especially as I peeked at The Church's setlists and they're doing a good number of my favourites. I should write some reviews of these gigs ...

February 2010 looks like being epic concert season. Porcupine Tree are coming to Australia, and of course I am going to all three shows. I'm looking at eight gigs in the space of twenty days at the moment - PT x3, A Place To Bury Strangers, The Shadows (with Cliff Richard, ugh), The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Wolves In The Throne Room (!), and Isis (!!). I'm eyeing off a few others too. Funnily enough, WIITR are playing two Melbourne gigs a week apart. If the first one dominates, I shall go along to the second.

Now, goddamnit, Agalloch and Russian Circles, the two of you need to get the fuck down to Australia.

As for me, I better make a move to Laura and Mono.
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(no subject) [19 October 2009|01:07 am]
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[Current Music |'Drive Blind' by Ride]

Rumours of my continued existence are completely baseless.

With that aside, I would like to report that on Monday the 12th, I submitted my Honours thesis on the role of infrastructure in the development of the New Zealand state. I am now working on a research proposal for my PhD application, due at the end of the month. I've managed to score the two people I most wanted to be my supervisors ... I won't name them here, as I keep full names of people in my personal life out of my public blog posts, but let's just say they're two very eminent historians and I'm having a hard time believing that I've had such astonishingly good luck.

Other news? What is there to tell? Regular life has been pretty dull since my return from Europe in August. I saw Sleepmakeswaves play their first ever headlining gig on Friday the 9th, and it was quite sensational. I was suitably impressed and can only hope they return to Melbourne for another gig post-haste. Forthcoming are Tim Finn, Opeth, and Mono and Laura. I'm agonising over whether to go to Cynic ... I've always wanted to see Cynic since they reformed, and I never expected them to come to Australia, but they're sharing the bill with fucking Edguy. Whoever thought of putting Cynic and Edguy on the same bill is a complete moron. It's not even clear if they're co-headlining, or if Cynic's slot is just support. In any case, almost $80? Well, I guess seeing Cynic play a truncated set is better than not seeing Cynic at all, and I can bail early, before my tram stops running for the night. Guess I've talked myself into going to the gig, haven't I?

Not too much else happening in Axverland. Need to convince myself to do a few things, but that's probably the story of my life. Hope you're all well.
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(no subject) [21 August 2009|07:39 pm]
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[Current Music |'Station' by Russian Circles]

Hi folks.

Still here. Hope you are all well. Last month must be the first month when I failed to update at all since I first started this thing back in 2003. Well, at least I have an excuse, since I spent most of the month travelling around Europe. Unfortunately, I am now back in Melbourne; have been since the 9th of this month.

My itinerary at a glance was:

06/07-10/07: England. Spent most of that time based in Cornwall, which was lovely. Certainly wish I had spent longer there.

10/07-13/07: Paris. Took the Eurostar there from England and achieved one of my railfan goals of travelling through the Chunnel. Saw U2 twice in Paris; will go down as the worst U2 concerts I've seen. The first halves of both shows weren't bad, but after Sunday Bloody Sunday, I could have gone home and not missed anything.

13/07-17/07: Switzerland, based in Geneva. AMAZING. Highlight of the trip for me, really. The food, the scenery, the efficiency of the railways ... consider me impressed. Found this blackberry chocolate stuff in Zurich that is the best thing I have eaten in my life. Oh yeah, and I took the TGV from Paris to Geneva, thereby achieving another one of my railfan goals.

17/07-19/07: Liechtenstein, which basically counts as part of the same highlight as Switzerland. Gorgeous little country. We went up to Malbun and found SNOW. Not much, mind you, but when you live in Australia, any snow is impressive snow.

19/07-23/07: Netherlands. Saw U2 twice in Amsterdam. First gig was not much of an improvement on Paris, but the second was very good, equal with some of the better Australian Vertigo shows (e.g. Sydney III; a bit below Melbourne II). Tour debuts of Elevation (who cares), Until The End Of The World (hell yes), and Bad (FUCK YES).

23/07-31/07: Ireland, based in Dublin. Saw U2 three times. First show was the best of the seven shows I saw this tour. Second was back to Amsterdam I level. Third show was pretty good, but after the soundcheck, I expected more ... if only they had played some of the songs we heard them soundchecking, I might have finally been blown away. U2 were good, but never blew me away. Last tour, they blew me away five times out of ten (Boston II and III, Melbourne II, Auckland I and II). This tour, zero out of seven. Anyway, as for the other time in Ireland - great! Especially loved the trip we did to Northern Ireland, a tour of the coast of County Antrim. Giant's Causeway and the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede were two of the best places I went on the holiday. Also had a very nice afternoon in Galway.

31/07-08/08: Back to the Netherlands. Needed a couple of days just to rest after the madness of the previous month. Then we spent some time visiting places like Amsterdam and Utrecht, and it was all very nice. I naturally loved the railway museum at Utrecht. It was kind of funny whenever I became conscious of being a good few metres below sea level ...

I have loads of photographs to upload; all in good time. I want to go back now. I want to go back yesterday. Australia just doesn't feel the same. I love Melbourne, but ...
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(no subject) [14 June 2009|07:46 pm]
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[Current Mood |listlesslistless]
[Current Music |'Hallways Of Enchanted Ebony' by Agalloch]

Still here. Still wasting my life, sitting in front of my computer as if something's going to happen. Well, actually, that's not entirely true - I've been to Hanging Rock on a photography trip, then I spent last weekend's long weekend in Castlemaine, checking out the steam trains, Bendigo trams, and a cidery with alisaura. I have loads of photographs to sort through and upload. Will do that sometime.

But for the most part, I've sat here at my computer as if something's going to reach out, pull me in, and be all terribly exciting. Doesn't happen. I've been slogging through the last of my coursework essays for the semester, awaiting the opportunity to work on my thesis from Monday next week. Writer's block has been afflicting me something shocking this past week or two.

Writing History can be astonishingly difficult. I would venture to say it is one of the most difficult forms of writing there is. I miss having time to write fiction, because that's easy. As long as you've an idea, you're set - beyond that, it's as difficult or as easy as you choose to make it. I always make life easy on myself by using fictitious towns in regions I know; I can then take complete licence with the details. Even if you end up writing historical fiction, perhaps the genre that demands the most of an author outside of actual writing ability and technique, the research is of a more basic variety - acquainting yourself with the period so that your fictitious representation of it isn't glaringly inaccurate. You certainly have no debt to real people, real events, and real processes to represent them accurately (misrepresentation, intentional or not, can easily be justified in the name of a good story). Furthermore, you do not actually need to deeply analyse and synthesise the past, nor do you require a familiarity with the depth and breadth of relevant scholarly literature.

Of course, those things are sheer necessities for any historian who wishes to be taken seriously and who does their job responsibly. Your room to manoeuvre around obstacles and obligations is extremely minimal. In the time it would take me to write a page of fiction in my favoured genres, I'm lucky to have written a paragraph of History - or, for that matter, sufficiently read the relevant historical texts and contemporary scholarship to enable me to write anything that sounds even halfway informed. People just have no idea what goes into History, and it's disheartening the way it's just casually dismissed as "boring names and dates" by lazy and uninformed cretins who probably haven't even read a page of any academic history.
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(no subject) [25 May 2009|03:45 pm]
[Current Music |'Gas In Veins' by Amesoeurs]

I waste my life.
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Speaking of history ... [8 May 2009|01:17 am]
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[Current Music |'Endless Life' by The Verve]

As I've mentioned in posts before, New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote, and the only country to do so in the 19th century. Now, take a look at some of the publications on the topic and see if you spot the pattern:

A Fair Field and No Favour: The Story of Margaret Home Sievwright, 1844-1905, Maxine McGrannachan.
Kate Sheppard: A Biography, Judith Devaliant.
Maori Women and the Vote, Tania Rei.
Maud and Amber: A New Zealand Mother and Daughter and the Women's Cause, 1865 to 1881, Ruth Fry.
Out of the Home and into the House: New Zealand Women's Fight to Enter Parliament, Sandra Wallace.
The Suffragists, Women Who Worked for the Vote: Essays from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, ed. Claudia Orange.
The Vote, the Pill, and the Demon Drink: A History of Feminist Writing in New Zealand, 1869-1993, ed. Charlotte Macdonald.
The Woman Question: Writings by the Women Who Won the Vote, ed. Margaret Lovell-Smith.
Women's Suffrage in New Zealand, Patricia Grimshaw.

Yes, the pattern is that without exception, every single author is female. There are 28 essays in the collection from the DNZB edited by Claudia Orange; not a male author in sight. Looking more internationally, authors on women's suffrage remain predominantly women. In the women's suffrage centenary issue of the Victorian Historical Journal, for instance, just one of the fifteen articles is written by a man.

I mentioned this in my last post, but I am considerably dissatisfied with the fact that your typical A History of New Zealand and A History of Australia (works typically written by men) brush over women's suffrage with just a paragraph or two. There are some exceptions, but even in the case of the exceptions, the treatment is still grossly insubstantial, and comparatively pathetic to the treatment given to other subjects. I was impressed to see that Manning Clark gave two whole pages to Louisa Lawson in his epic history of Australia, and in multiple other places references female suffrage and provides a touch of actual analysis rather than just bland chronology, but his history does extend to six whole volumes, so it's still comparatively a pittance.

Why have male historians been so utterly disinterested in women's suffrage? I personally consider New Zealand's enfranchisement of women to be one of the country's greatest historical moments - in fact, I cannot think of any other national achievements that I would consider in quite the same league. The whole movement fascinates me. This little country, barely 53 years old in Pakeha terms, located in one of the most far-flung and isolated parts of the planet, did what no established national polity had dared to do. So why the lack of interest? I can understand that the majority of historians writing about the event would be women, given it was feminist historians who seriously revived interest in the event in the first place - but an (almost total) absence of men? Come on, guys.

As a Kiwi male historian, this troubles me deeply.

Moreover, it's an issue I plan to do something about.
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On history and History and Ax the historian [7 May 2009|06:42 pm]
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[Current Music |'Station' by Russian Circles]

In which I write at length about history, History, self-identification of myself as a historian, and associated content.Collapse )
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