Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Crossing

As my friends have left New Zealand they have often given me things that they could not take with them on their departures. One of my friends happened to give me a worn paperback book; a copy of Secrets in the Cellar by John Glatt. I had never heard of the book and was not immediately interested in it (the tag line reads "A true story of the Austrian incest case that shocked the world). I became intrigued when I noticed that a business card sized piece of paper had been taped to the front cover of the book. The card had an illustration of a book with arms and legs that appears to be running and the following text:

"I'm a very special book. You see, I'm traveling around the world making new friends. I hope I've met another friend in you. Please go to and enter my BCID number (shown below). You'll discover where I've been and who has read m, and can let them know I'm safe here in your hands. Then....READ and RELEASE me!"

This is one of the coolest concepts I've ever come across. And I've never had a book be so friendly and personal towards me. I logged on to the site hoping to find that my book was an accomplished traveller and had been all over the world. I was disappointed to find that it only had one previous reader, who left the book on a bench in Queesntown Gardens. I think I'm going to leave it at the Wellington airport when I'm through and try to get it out of the country. I won't be able to start this book until I finish The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, but after I read and release it I will be able to track it at this link

I had amassed a small collection of paperbacks in Queenstown but per the standard operating procedure I gave them to friends before I left. I'm definitely going to take the handful I brought with me and start them on world wide journeys.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Girl

I bought my first ipod at some point in 2005 and it came with a free subscription to For a few months I received free digital downloads of audiobooks from a nice sized library of selections. After that I paid a reasonable monthly fee to keep the books coming and was able to build a nice collection. I lost interest when it was time to renew the committment after the first year, but reactivated my audible account before I left the states to download some material for the long flights and travels ahead. While perusing the material available from audible I found The Girl with Dragon Tattoo under the most popular downloads page. I'm pretty sure it was number one actually. This was pretty much a no brainer for me as I'm a big fan of girls, tattoos and dragons so I downloaded it without any knowledge of what I was getting into.

I first started listening to GWDT in Auckland and found that it was narrated by an older man with a heavy swedish accent. It was a little bit difficult to listen to and I kept falling asleep in the first chapter. I switched to Phil Lesh's autobiography and didn't think about the girl for a while. In Queenstown, I was given a paperback copy of The Girl who Played with Fire by a travelling American who was passing through. She only relinqueshed the book to me when I promised her that I would actually read it. So I made myself get through the first chapter of the dragon tattoo. Once I finished it I couldn't stop. I'm wore my headphones for three days straight listening to that book and it did not come close to putting me to sleep. It was reminiscent of the first times I read Jurassic Park, The Firm and The Da Vinci Code. I blazed through played with fire and after a short break in the trilogy I'm now halfway through The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

The Girl story is everything that it's hyped up to be. A truly original and thrilling crime drama that puts the reader in a choke hold from the very beginning and doesn't let up. The late Stieg Larrsonn's villains are as dreadful as I could possibly imagine, but his genius shines through in his protagonists. Michael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander are hardly a stereotypical hero and heroine. They come packed with character flaws and failures. Blomkvist is a terrible father who sleeps around. Lisbeth smokes, cusses, and sets her father on fire. This couple is a far cry from Robert Langdon and Sophie Last Sion. Larsson's characters are believable and act more human than typical novel characters. This comes alive in the film version of the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If this movie had been made in the states it would have starred Brad Pitt, or Leonardo DiCaprio or whoever else is commanding 30 million dollars a picture these days. Lisbeth would have been played by Kristen Stewart or Anne Hatheway or Miley Cyrus and there would be rumblings of academy awards. The swedish version with english subtitles keeps things simple and in doing so creates a powerful movie. With the exception of The Godfather, it is probably the closest book to movie conversion I've ever seen. Looks like I'll be back at the theater tomorrow seeing the girl who played with fire and then counting down the days until the final film is released.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take along some of your favorite things, cause you're gonna need em

I don't have to pull up the blog post I created last December when I arrived in Queenstown. I remember most of what I said. Queenstown is beautiful, you can walk everywhere, the bars never close, the sun never sets, everyone has a pet unicorn, and so it goes. I don't retract any of my statements. Queenstown IS one of the most beautiful places on the planet and you can walk everywhere and the bars never close. The sun does set a lot earlier in the winter. In leaving Queenstown, I feel like I need to add some clarity to my writing. Queenstown is not unlike a barbie doll. Physically and aesthetically, it is perfect, in every way. But just like Barbie, Queenstown has no intellectual substance. It has no identity or defining characteristic (except of course for the beautiful scenery). Queenstown breeds instant gratification. It's a whorehouse; a place for international travellers to arrive, get their kicks, and leave in a hurry, tired and broke. And the inhabitants of Queenstown reflect this mentality. Ask a typical Queenstown resident who they are, where they've been and where they are going and you are likely to get a blank stare. Ask the same person how much they had to drink last night and you'll get a 5 minute uninterrupted monologue.

I embraced this culture for a long time. I'm all about instant gratification. Hell, who isn't? Is pizza not the ultimate instant gratifcation. I mean can you think of anything else that is so pleasing when you consume it and provides absolutely no value whatsoever after the fact? But after 8 months, I'm ready to expand my societal requirements. I need better live music than the GC's covering "Sex on Fire" every Thursday night. I want a better cheeseburger than Fergberger has to offer. I think I can handle a little bit more in depth conversation that goes outside of the number of times someone rode through the ski park. And for heaven's sake if the Buffalo Club is the best night life that Queenstown has to offer, I am certain there are other bars in the country that can do better.

Alas, here I go again......bashing, ripping, thrashing my beloved Queenstown. I really do have a talent for bitching. Of course I can't project all this negative generalization on the entire town. I met some amazing people in Queenstown and formed lifelong friendships with some of them....Or at least they have the potential to be lifelong friendships. My two roommates certainly have intellectual substance and don't deserved to be grouped into the barbie doll category. Same thing goes for my old boss and a handful of the Winnie's staff who I will certainly miss. Those people really went out of there way to give me a proper send off and I won't forget it anytime soon. But as a whole, Queenstown is plastic and while everyone loves a good barbie doll, I think I'll go searching for one who talks.

Flash forward to Wellington, where I arrived on the 10th of August. The two most common phrases associated with Wellington are "windy" and "cafe culture". I know what wind feels like and I can't contradict this association. The wind is powerful and mighty in Wellington. I'm learning more about the cafe culture as I go along. I haven't had the word "hipster" pop into my head since I lived in Austin, but I find it very applicable in Wellington. The capital city of New Zealand is highly cultured and diverse. While I'm already missing the simplicity of living in a place the size of Queenstown, I can't deny it is good to be back in a medium sized city. With the exception of outdoor activities, Wellington offers alot more ways to spend my time and money. There's a stage adaptation of the Great Gatsby playing as well as the ongoing tour of the Wellington Ukulele Orchestra ( I plan on attending both. I'm not entirely convinced that the people of Wellington are all that different from those of Queenstown. These barbie dolls are just dressed in thousand dollar plus suits and scowling into blackberries as quickly shuffle through the CBD. Either that, or they spent 200 dollars at some trendy clothing store to appear as though they bought their entire wardrobe at a thrift store, so they can be the coolest person sipping a triple shot latte outside the coffee shop on a Tuesday afternoon. So where do I fit into this big pot of gumbo? Who knows? But I'm sure i'll enjoy trying to figure it out.

The Happy Wanderer likes:
  • Inception - It appears that Christopher Nolan can do no wrong. He's created a directing style that is fresh and provides intense entertainment. He uses the same formula in all his movies, but yet it never feels like you are watching something that's been repeated, like a Guy Ritchie movie. While Inception is not nearly as good as The Dark Knight, it's a solid movie that kept me completely engaged from start to finish.
  • Band of Horses - Compliments - Every Band of Horses album has one song that is heads and shoulders better than the rest of them. This is the song from there latest album. 
  • The new Arcade Fire album The Suburbs. Arcade Fire cannot be put into a genre because nobody else sounds quite like them. They don't skip a beat in delivering their third killer album in a row.
The crusty cynic bitches:
  • Do I really have to take Shia Lebouf seriously? I mean Michael Douglas reprises one of the greatest cinematic characters of all time to share the screen with the transformers kid. Give me a break.
  • "I just looooooove Robert Downey, Jr." Ummm, no you don't. You really liked the Iron Man movies and Sherlock Holmes. But you haven't even seen A Scanner Darkly or Wonder Boys. You like popcorn flicks like everyone else.