Gathan Beaga

playing with Octopress

Predictably, nothing much has eventuated thus far from my firm post-Webstock resolution. Whatever.

Even more predictably, I am now considering moving this blog to a new platform. I have my eye on Octopress.

Octopress is a set of Ruby scripts that more or less takes a folder of text files, in Textile or Markdown, on your local machine, converts them to HTML, wraps them in a nice template and uploads them – via rsync – to your webserver. There’s no PHP, no CGI; nothing has to run on your webserver. All the heavy lifting is done locally. This makes it pretty secure as blog platforms go, and better yet, it lets the webserver get on with very very quickly serving static files.

But the disadvantages of this approach over more popular systems such as Wordpress and Textpattern are many:

  • With no PHP or similar server side scripting available, there’s no built in commenting system. While Octopress does integrate easily with Disqus, a pretty nifty third-party comment service, I’d still be ceding content to a place not owned by me.
    • On the other hand, I get very few comments these days.
  • There’s no built in image processing services: no automatic thumbnail generation and the like.
    • On the other hand, I hardly ever need that kind of thing – I tend to use Flickr (though I want to pull back a bit there too).
  • Customisation of the built-in templates will take a bit of learning – there appears to be yet another abstraction on top of the CSS. The existing template is very nice, but as most installs seem to have kept it unchanged, my install will need to be modified significantly if my blog is not to look like almost every other Octopress install.
  • Importing of old postings from my existing blog is proving… interesting. I am not a Ruby hacker but I may have be soon.
    • On the other hand, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Exporting of old comments from my existing blog to Disqus, and association of these with their equivalent new postings in the Octopress version of the blog, just may not be possible at all. This is actually a bit of an issue as some postings, such as this one and this one, have built up little communities there in the comments which are still useful to their participants even to this day. I may be able to torture Textpattern, Octopress and Disqus into working together, but I am not at all sure I can.
    • On the other hand, how responsible do I need to feel here?
  • Matching of the URLs between the systems also may not be possible. This means that any bookmarks or links to existing pages will be broken (and this affects me more than anyone else, given how much cross-linking between blog postings I do).
    • On the other hand… do I care? Google will re-index everything within a few days; and I can emplace URL redirects for the more popular pages, just as I did when I switched from Movable Type to Textpattern all those years ago.
  • The local heavy lifting required for large Octopress blogs can be quite intense. Apparently a few hundred postings can easily take several minutes to rake generate and rake deploy, so there’s no instant posting/instant feedback like one gets used to with Textpattern or Wordpress.
    • On the other hand, this is an unavoidable consequence of the technology. (And ironically so – how I used to complain about Movable Type back in 2003 doing much the same thing!) There may be some workarounds available though – for example, some older content may be best placed into a static structure that Octopress (or at least, my working install of Octopress) never touches.

So why would I do this?

I’ve been thinking a lot about content ownership as it relates to the cloud and that, in general, I should never put anything onto the net that I don’t have a copy of locally.

This sounds a little pretentious in the context of what is a pretty inconsequential blog read by very few people. But it’s mine, and there’s a lot of effort tied up in here; and this remains important to me if no-one else. So having a whole lot of stuff exclusively stored in an opaque database somewhere on the internet makes me nervous.

(I mean to think some more about this – does this mean I should, for example, be saving all my tweets? Probably. Does this mean I need to think carefully about what services I use on the Internet? Always. Am I over-thinking this stuff? Yeah, most like.)

With Octopress, whatever I do starts out locally, before being upstreamed (channelling Dave Winer’s Radio Userland a little there) to the Internet. If I have to switch hosts for any reason, it’s a simple change to some text files, followed by redeployment. I like that the primary repository of my content is local (and that for added safety, I can set up a Git repository to hold the off-site backup).

So now I’m happily experimenting away, seeing if there is a way I can bend this thing to my will. And as always, it’s nice to be learning something completely new.

resolution

There’s barely a morning left as I write this, tired but now human after sleep and some coffee.

The last few days I’ve been at Webstock, whose after-party ended late last night. I went home on the bus clutching my very own giant plush Pinkie Pie (long story) and sat up later still, buzzing away. I may write about this too.

In the meantime though, I want to say this: I want to try to pull back from the Twitters and the Four Squares and all those other sharing apps. I’m reconciled to sharing – I even enjoy it… but it should really be on my terms and owned by me.

It’s not that I’m suddenly rage-quitting all that stuff, just slowing down and realising they’re a tool, not an end in themselves.

And I do want to return to this blog, which is now nearing its 10th year. It may take a little more work to express myself here, but it’s mine.

That morning has passed now. Better make some lunch.

spring, damp and green

Spring, damp and green

Unusually for Wellington, today is a day of vertical rain. The sun pokes through from time to time but generally it’s a soft light, a growing light. Sadly for our tree, the sparrows have returned again this year: it is they who account for the fallen blossom, not our wind. We are lacking a tuī to take a stand and own the tree against all comers.

And I regret now the freakshow filter I put on this hastily shot iPhone photo. But here are plenty from earlier years to make up for it.

Previous springtimes:

how I learned to stop worrying and love the RWC

rugby world cup 2011I’ve never been much of a sports fan. This is partly related to the fact that I am terrible at every sport I ever tried except the one that involved a good deal of lying down (small-bore rifle shooting, before your mind runs away with you).

At our country primary school there were two sports available in winter: netball (for girls) and rugby (for boys). Our school was very small, and there weren’t many boys in mine and the adjacent year groups, so it was semi-compulsory to play just so a team could be fielded.

I never really enjoyed it. I was much smaller than the other boys, and my lack of speed, complete unco-ordination, and poor eyesight (I couldn’t wear my glasses playing) meant that often as not I was placed on the wing where I could trail around after everyone else without being expected to either catch the ball or pass it on, two things I was pretty hopeless at. Many games I did not even get to touch the ball, and any attempt of mine at tackling the opposition usually resulted, at best, in being shrugged off like an errant piece of dandruff.

On the plus side, there was always the pie and fizzy drink at the end of the match. But the attractions of these were not enough, and I refused to play in my last year at primary school1. The next year, at boarding school, despite the plethora of new choices available, I again refused to play any winter sport. At one point I was threatened with the cane unless I took one up (they were very interested in keeping the boys gainfully occupied at the weekends: sport on Saturday mornings, church on Sunday mornings) but by keeping a very low profile out of view of the masters I was able to quietly read books instead.

That year was the year of the Springbok Tour. A prefect, the same one who in the interests of science had once attempted to fold me into a small cupboard above a wardrobe2, now visited each boy in turn, asking them pointedly as to what their views on the tour were. There was little doubt as to what the correct answer should be.

At that time I had no view (and at the age of 13, why should I have had?), but I resented being forced to have one under threat of violence. So then, and more so over the next few years as I came to an understanding of what happened in 1981, rugby became associated for me with fascistic compulsion, mindless violence, racism and societal conflict. I came to hate it.

That was a long long time ago. It became OK to like rugby again, after the so-called Baby Blacks won the inaugural 1987 World Cup (even though over half of the players in that team had been on the rebel tour to South Africa the previous year). And I have to admit to having enjoyed watching the occasional game over the years: many sports, when played at the highest level, can have a beauty and power that transcends their form, and rugby is no exception to this.

But even today I find myself disinclined to be interested in the upcoming Rugby World Cup, in a way that never happens for any of the other quadrennial sporting events that pass by. I am disturbed by schools having Rugby World Cup teaching programs; school holidays being moved to accommodate it; the government having a minister for it; sponsors trumping the rights of free speech; ad campaigns of unprecedented, though amusing, idiocy; tenuous but intrusive product associations; endless parade of “Official Providers” of this or that; the expense of the tickets; and the general implied assumption that all New Zealanders love the game and should be so jolly pleased to have the Cup here (and stop your moaning: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things).

I feel like I have to give a shit: I am writing a blog posting; I am thinking about it. I don’t want to.

Countering all this long and complicated personal history, baggage, and (I admit it) general whining though: maybe I should just lighten the fuck up. R. and the girls carry none of this and are more interested in rugby and the tournament generally than I am. For example, B₂ proudly told me the other day that she had asked to play in a “tackle-rugby” tournament for her school3; while R₂, out of the blue, explained to me who her favourite All Black is (Conrad Smith). Their excitement is uncomplicated and true, though perhaps borne of the hype that surrounds us like air at the moment.

Why should I be the wet blanket then? The Rugby World Cup is an Event, the likes of which we shall not see here again. Soak up the atmosphere; join the party; submit to the inevitable. Don’t think, enjoy.

So I relented and booked tickets for us all to see a game4; and the girls are very excited at the prospect.

I’m a little bit excited too. Just a little, even though I don’t really want to be. I will probably summon the kind of coolly logical interest that, with a bit of infectious situational enthusiasm supplied by others, leads me to follow the Football World Cup every four years with a degree of closeness. We’ll have fun at the game; we’ll stick up a wall chart and follow the teams we saw on the pitch. I may even come to know enough to have a passable conversation about rugby at work.

Let RWC Inc. chalk up a small victory.

And though I may be crushed, I am not completely bowed. A small piece remains mine. Yes: nothing, ever, will make me like Heineken.

1 The one exception to this was in a weight-graded tournament – probably the only time I ever enjoyed playing the game – where I, at 12, was captain of a team of 9 year olds, and for once better co-ordinated, faster, and harder than my team mates and opposition. Not that it resulted in much winning, of course.

2 I did not fit: my head stuck out. Even slamming the cupboard door repeatedly did not seem to alter this fact. (But I should also say that this sort of thing was pretty rare and in especially in later times, I was no innocent victim either. This was nothing like the Rugby School of Tom Brown’s Schooldays.)

3 Although the tournament is weight-graded, she has not played any contact sport before. And she’ll be playing against a whole lot of boys who have. I suspect she may have an idealised view of what all this will involve, in which case participation may prove traumatic. But I would be happy to be proved wrong.

4 Though not one with New Zealand in it as that would have been too expensive: we’re off to Tonga vs. France.

raketa domino

Last month I realised I hadn’t yet spent my birthday money from a few months back. This realisation coincided nicely with a resurgent interest in those ever interesting and cheap Russian watches, of which I have blogged about several times here, here, and here; and which now I track on a dedicated board at Pinterest.com.

Anyway, all this mindless cataloguing of stuff led to an inevitable purchase with those “spare” birthday funds, and yesterday the postman delivered the parcel1.

Here it is, as modelled on my twig wrist:

New Raketa (4)

As you can see, the day of the week is indicated by the red dot. I have decided that the week starts on Mondays, so for me the sixth dot shows it’s Saturday. I like the large and clear numerals, and the elegant fine hands. The overall design is that of a stainless steel rectangle overlaid by a black circle – very simple and strong.

It came with all its original papers, which seem to indicate it was made in September 1992. So a long period in storage may account for its stiffness of winding. Some of the sellers on eBay also caution that watches transported by airmail may need servicing afterwards – presumably the oil evaporates in low pressure environments. And then, this morning I noticed it had lost about 10 minutes in less than 24 hours. So it may have to go in for a lube and adjustment2, even though it’s actually brand new (or in eBay’s parlance, NOS – “New Old Stock”).

Despite all this I am very pleased with it. It’s a lovely piece of engineering.

New Raketa (5)

And yes, it has a lovely tick.

1 Poor postie had to come down all our steps to get me to sign for it, for which I apologised. Great service though – typically the courier drivers just dump stuff in the letter box and bail, regardless of signature requirements.

2 The next problem is that the major local watch servicing outfit refuses to handle Russian watches.

obscurity uncovered (iii)

Last year I ripped all my CDs. And I posted about it here and here. The (friendly) advice received was that I was doing it wrong (or at least, not to a sufficient bit rate if I was insisting on not ripping to FLAC). So I started from scratch. And now I’m finally there and I can pack the CDs into the ceiling space and never think about them again.

As before, I’ve found the need to take photos of a small proportion of CDs whose cover art doesn’t seem to be widely available. Given that most of the cover art I do use comes from the net in one way or another, I thought it best to give back: and so the following are roughly 200×200 pixel thumbnails linking to each roughly 1000×1000 original.

Abbasalutely: A Flying Nun Tribute to The Music of Abba Abbasalutely: A Flying Nun Tribute to the Music of Abba —oh how we laughed at the irony of it all as we purchased this CD, secretly pleased with the chance to reconnect with the music of our primary school years. Of course now, we just buy the 66-song Thank You For The Music from iTunes. For the kids, right? Just for the kids.

Baddiel & Skinner and the Lightning Seeds: Three Lions Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds: Three Lions —arriving in the UK in time for Euro ’96 I got this song the first time around. Not that it helped the English team very much: “30 years of hurt” is now “45 years of hurt” and counting.

Björk / David Arnold: Play Dead Björk and David Arnold: Play Dead —following on from her Debut, this is a lovely piece of sixties-inspired film theme music co-written with Jah Wobble (and so with a lovely big slow beat behind it).

Black Grape: England's Irie Black Grape: England’s Irie —and this was Black Grape’s Euro ’96 single, done with Keith Allen and Joe Strummer. That summer every man and their dog were doing football songs1 but you have to like the vocal layers of Ryder’s casual‘s chant of “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” with Keith Allen’s2 “We live in a land of crass hypocrisy / We’re gonna win the National Lottery”. Yes!

Black Grape: Fat Neck Black Grape: Fat Neck —Not one of their best.

Black Grape: In The Name Of The Father Black Grape: In the Name of the Father —this is more like it: the woozy dance drug-thuggery of the Happy Mondays tightened up: “Well I don’t do what you do / and you don’t do what I do / but you should do”. Er. no thanks, Shaun.

Black Grape: Kelly's Heroes Black Grape: Kelly’s Heroes —I love this cover. And if I knew more, I’d be able to tell you what pose Shaun is aping through those bilious Central Station Design colours.

Black Grape: Reverend Black Grape Black Grape: Reverend Black Grape —This is a brilliant single. “There’s nothing more sinister / as Ministers in dresses” is another great throwaway line—Shaun would not appear to be a fan of the Catholic Church—but I can’t really make any sense of the rest of the lyrics. Luckily the music carries it all the way home.

The Blue Hearts: Train Train The Blue Hearts: Train Train —I first heard this track in 1990 as the theme song to a Japanese tv programme. Not that I remember anything of the TV show, but I really liked the tune. Apparently The Blue Hearts were Japan’s answer to the Clash, and the song certainly sounded punky enough for me to insist on it getting into the playlist of Radio One in Dunedin when I came back from Japan.

Bluespeak: Late Last Night Bluespeak: Late Last Night —Auckland jazz-lounge featuring the multi-talented Greg Johnson, the standout track being about an obsessive women who makes sculptures out of fingernails.

Christine Anu with Paul Kelly: Last Train Christine Anu with Paul Kelly: Last Train —Another of those singles you like the sound of, so you buy. And then never get around to listening to because it’s not part of an album that you also own.

Cinematic: Cinematic Cinematic: Cinematic —Christchurch janglepop band, and former crew of our leader at the Wellingtonista, James.

Grant Lee Buffalo: Mockingbird Grant Lee Buffalo: Mockingbird —So memorable I’m having to play the song just so I know what it sounds like. At one point I had the album this single came from, but it’s long sold in the face of declining listening interest on my part. [Later: actually, it wasn’t bad, was it.]

The House of Love: Babe Rainbow The House of Love: Babe Rainbow —These guys were alt-MoR, now that I think about it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but maybe that’s why their albums remain lower on my playlist many of their contemporaries. I need to revisit them.

The House of Love: Untitled [a.k.a. The Butterfly Album] The House of Love: Untitled [Butterfly] —this was their first on the major label they went to after Creation. It’s actually pretty good (as I skim through it to reacquaint myself).

The House of Love: Untitled [a.k.a. A Spy In The House Of Love] The House of Love: Untitled [A Spy In The House of Love] —If I remember rightly, this is an album of outtakes and lost tracks assembled from some abortive studio sessions between the previous two albums. It’s not as good as either, though it has its moments.

James: Laid (single) James: Laid [Single] —Probably James’ best known track (even more than Sit Down3) it is now more tragically known as that song in American Pie.

James: Seven (single) James: Seven [Single] —Just as with the previous James single, this is the confusingly named single from which the album takes its name.

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Blues From A Gun The Jesus and Mary Chain: Blues From a Gun —another single I brought home from Japan, this one is one of those fiddly three inch CDs. And I just happen to have lost the adapter that would let me rip it. Bother. Because this has a nice cover of My Girl on it.

Jean Paul Sartre Experience: Precious JPS Experience: Precious —in which former art-pop Flying Nun types go all crunchy indie-dance-ish and start affecting Thames Valley accents. This was a weird, but quite listenable transition.

Jules Issa: Dangerous Game Jules Issa: Dangerous Game —a declaration of intent from the Deep Grooves people. who went on to produce a rather awesome album of groovy tracks from many New Zealand artists.

Keeping The Faith: A Creation Dance Compilation Keeping the Faith: A Creation Dance Compilation —the change triggered by Andy Weatherall’s radical reworking of a jingle jangly Primal Scream b-side into a monster dancefloor hit was cemented in with this, an actual dance music compilation from Creation Records. There are a great number of awesome tracks on here. And I’ve burgled the intro to the Farley remix of Loaded herein for my ringtone.

Kenickie: Millionaire Sweeper Kenickie: Millionaire Sweeper —London, oh London! There I was, working a boring job in the photocopier room of Britain’s largest architectural firm. The highlight of my week was walking around the corner to the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street and seeing what the cheap new release singles were. And this is one: second string brit-pop; but lovely all the same.

Morrissey: Everyday Is Like Sunday Morrissey:Everyday is Like Sunday —I would rate this single as one of the best things ever released by Our Moz. It has four beautiful songs on it, products of that wonderful immediate post-Smiths era4 when he worked with Vini Reilly from my long-time faves The Durutti Column.

Morrissey: Suedehead Morrissey: Suedehead —Not as good as the previous, when considered as an EP. The standout b-side for me is I Know Very Well How I Got My Name, a typically epically titled yet mostly acoustic and whiny Moz song5.

Morrissey: You're The One For Me, Fatty Morrissey: You’re The One For Me Fatty —surprise! Another Morrissey single!

The Muttonbirds: The Heater The Mutton Birds: The Heater —Continuing the theme of human-appliance interaction which started with that Front Lawn song about the bloke marrying his washing machine.

New Order: Round And Round New Order: Round And Round —Not sure why this was in the pile to have a photo taken. It’s another of those cursed 3” discs, so I haven’t managed to rip it yet. There’s yet another football song on here, of a sort: apparently it was a theme song the band did for a TV program on football, hosted by Tony Wilson.

One Dove: White LoveOne Dove: White Love —Contains an unbelievable 10 minute version, all squalling quitar, sweet vocals and Weatherall beats. Just brilliant, it used to be one of those listening-with-headphones-in-the-dark type songs for me.

The Shangri-Las: Leader Of The Pack The Shangri-Las —When I was a kid I’d fossick through my Mum’s collection of 7"s, bought (I think) mainly during her years in London in the early sixties. Thinking about it now, I bet some of them are collectable! Anyway, I always loved The Shangri-Las Leader of the Pack; hence this, which is another of those 3” discs awaiting ripping. It was one of a series issued in the eighties, each containing four of the best known songs of some sixties pop group. I really should have bought a few more.

I hope that’s the last time I have to do this job, fun though it it to listen to all these old tracks.

1 I also have the one Primal Scream did with Irvine Welsh and The Barmy Army; the latter being mostly those members of Tackhead responsible for one of the best Football songs ever written.

2 Who co-wrote both New Order’s World in Motion, a rather crappy song for the 1990 World Cup, and the amusing but appalling Vindaloo. He has form, does Mr Allen.

3 Whose best version, the rattlier, more acoustic original, may be found on Youtube here.

4 Viva Hate, the album, is a bit uneven. But I will use this footnote to announce that I once had a copy of the mis-printed Viva Hate called Education In Reverse, apparently its original title and the name on the first pressings in Australasia. Naturally I took it to London and sold it for profit (along with my lovely green vinyl 12" of The Cure’s A Forest). Sad, eh.

5 This song gives rise to one of the Holy Grail collectables for Durutti Column fans: an outtake called “I Know Very Well How I Got My Note Wrong” in which Vini epically flubs a note and both him and Moz get the giggles. In the roaring days of Napster I procured a copy of this song, since lost of course (and nowadays too low a bitrate). Luckily Youtube does provide.

two favourite things… (ii)

…both of them made by humans.

This is the second:

Vostok Automatic Watch (1)

So, some of you will have seen this before, not long after I got it. It’s a watch, a cheap Russian watch, one of several such I own.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, bear with me here, OK?

It’s seen a bit of wear in the last four and a half years. Last year I broke the ricketty bracelet, and had it replaced with a decent leather strap. And even earlier, the numeral 6 fell off and stopped the minute hand from travelling. I had to send it back to Russia to get fixed because the local watch repairers refused to touch it (snobs!).

So I’ll make no pretensions to class for this watch. It is what it is.

And what it is, is engineering magic.

It’s an automatic; in other words, it winds itself. If I wear it every day, I generate enough kinetic energy to power it, and I never have to think about it, never a battery to change.

All I have to do is put it on in the morning. But before I do that, I’ll have a peek in the back, where the workings are exposed behind glass:

Vostok Automatic Watch (2)

Sometimes I take it off so I can look at it, and be soothed by the sight of cogs and wheels; mainsprings and rubies; meshing together and never stopping. A tiny, precise, and wearable machine that announces itself by a gently fragrant ticking.

I think I like this about it best of all: I can pretend that if worst came to worst I could fix it myself. It’s just a complicated piece of mechanics after all, no electricity involved; like an old car there’d be a hope of me pulling it to pieces and building it back again. This is an illusion to cherish!

And a wonderfully cheap thrill compared to a quality Swiss Automatic, which typically start at 10 to 20 times more than this one cost me.

Maybe one day I’ll find a better automatic watch: it will have a 24-hour dial; it will be classier; and of a smaller diameter; and higher quality… but there’s no way it will be as good value as this one.

And anyway, the way this one’s going, maybe I won’t need another.

two favourite things… (i)

…both of them made by humans.

This is the first:

Moahunter's knife (1)

(Apologies for forgetting to take the camera off 1600 ASA. Duh!)

It looks like some flake of rock, maybe volcanic, but its purpose is clear once picked up:

Moahunter's knife (3)

One summer, about 800 years ago, a group of people came up from the coast and camped in the hills of what would one day be called Central Otago. They brought with them rocks of a peculiar and rare type found around the naturally burning coalseams closer to the coast: rocks made of a cooled and somewhat glassified melted clay.

Where the hills’ ridges narrowed to a waist they’d sometimes build a pit, and make a brush fence on either side. Then they’d hunt their prey down the ridge, possibly with the large-jawed dogs whose remains have been found in the region, and trap them in the pit.

And then they’d feast.

They were moa hunters. And this is a blade, possibly for a left-handed person, knocked out on the spot from those special rocks and used for skinning or butchering the large birds. Later, it was discarded; just one out of place rock chip among thousands of others on that hillside.

Hundreds of years later the land was ploughed for pasture, the mark of ages smoothed-over pits and ovens a clear black against the otherwise brown soil. A small boy could wander there, and did, finding many pieces of ancient rubbish.

I liked that I could find things once touched and shaped by the earliest inhabitants of the land.

This one in particular I liked because it was the only black one I ever found, and one of the most shaped (the few other shaped pieces I have are light grey, or brown; and the rest are just chips, the complement to something shaped that is lost). It feels nice in my hand, though it’s probably too blunt now to be much use, except maybe for skinning.

It’s been with me everywhere, even to the antipodes. And held in my hand, it reminds me of my other home, not far from that Central Otago hillside.

another coffee experience: Cona Siphon

Over on the Wellingtonista I’ve written about the some of the various and interesting coffee-making methods being employed in cafés around Wellington these days. In theory this is all in pursuit of different shades of coffee flavour and feel… but I’m shallow: my favourites always seem to be ones involving elaborate glassware.

So today, on my weekly visit to Customs Brew Bar to pick up some more of their fresh Harrar beans, I was very happy when Ralph invited me to stick around for a little bit, as he was going to crank up the Cona Siphon.

Yes: yet another siphon brewing device, but this one is surely the coolest looking coffee making device (outside of, arguably, a balance brewer) available today.

Here’s a video of the action1 taken with (and lashed together on) the iPhone:

Cona Siphon @CustomsBrewBar from dubh on Vimeo.

Oh, and the coffee tasted great too. Thanks Ralph!

1 Because what the world needs, of course, is more videos of people making coffee.

a modest proposal

Too often, when it comes to the hard choices, New Zealanders just take the easy option. And too often, the small minded among us object to the transformative and visionary changes required to position this country for the 21st century.

Such small mindedness is evident in Wellington right now with the controversy over Wellington Airport’s plans to place a 3.5 metre tall “Wellywood” sign on airport-owned land above Evan’s Bay.

Yes, you heard it right. 3.5 m tall!

Well, there’s your lack of ambition right there. The airport company has the Kiwi disease: lacking in vision, they’re just not Thinking Big enough. With so many thousands of Rugby World Cup visitors descending on the city in a few months we need to create something they’ll never ever forget: a Really Seriously Fucking Big Sign!

So here’s my proposal.

What we need is a large, preferably flaming sign spelling out “WELCOME TO MORDOR” on top of the Orongorongos. Because there’s nothing more innovative than fiery letters a couple of hundred metres high on top of a mountain range – it’s something no other city has ever done.

Below I lay out some of the advantages of my proposal over the Wellywood pygmy. In each case, you will see that my proposal is absolutely Bigger, and Better:

Attribute Wellywood sign Mordor sign
Visibility: who can see it? Only visible to rich house-owners in Hataitai, and visitors on the left hand side of aeroplanes landing at Wellington Airport in a southerly. Visible to most of Wellington, and also Space, thus widening Wellington’s promotional reach to the nearer interplanetary regions.
Appropriateness: does the sign reflect Wellington? The film industry: what everyone in Wellington pretends they work in when they talk to people outside Wellington. Government, Wellington’s real industry.
Derivativeness: what or who did we copy in order to come up with this idea? Inspired by a sign above an American city. Inspired by the creations of a deceased English professor.
Hated by: who will attempt to destroy it? Hipster graffitists and petty vandals. Al Qaeda.
Design: how quality is this? Boring white capitals as used in both Mosgiel and Hollywood. Fiery Glowing Marker Felt (because Comic Sans is, for some reason, no longer cool).
Local: what of New Zealand’s natural resources can we demonstrate being consumed in this sign? Letters probably made on the cheap in Shenzhen by oppressed Chinese workers. New Zealand artisan chippies and brickies will build it, with the fiery letters themselves powered by the finest Southland lignite coal. (A secondary option could be the collected methane of millions of dairy cows.)
Branding: does this enhance Brand Wellington? Positions Wellington alongside Mosgiel as the premiere New Zealand exponents of the Hollywood-style miniature hillside sign. Branding in its most literal sense: the fiery letters will be seared into the seismically trembling flanks of the Orongorongo mountains.
Size: how empowered will it make Wellingtonians feel when they gaze upon it? Monumental, but only for mice. Truly huge, and maybe even a little bit engorged.

I’m sure you can add some more reasons in the comments below.

And for inspiration, below is an artists impression (without the smoke) of my sign as it will appear from across the harbour at Frank Kitts Park:

The Fiery Sign

After all – we want everyone to read the fiery letters.