The well-tempered volcano

Betty is laid on one side, figuratively, with labyrinthitis, so this will not be a wordy review. It was a lovely night out, though. The superb Groupe F transformed the side of the Auckland Museum into a giant seismograph, and let it run…

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It was awesome. A merry band of yobbos behind us narrated, which only added to the atmosphere. At one point a bunch of animated frogs marched out and destroyed an innocent rainbow, which was a terribly bipartisan thing to include. There were human Catherine wheels and kapa haka dancers and picnic rugs and an excellent tomato-spud slice and good wine from rubbish glasses and a gatekeeper who didn’t mind that Betty’s client had provided tickets for the previous night. What more could we ask?

It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage

Where long walks are concerned, necessity has always been the mother of any kind of motivation; Betty’s natural mode is one of inertia, adroitly held in tension with an irresistible homing instinct; the only way to ensure she gets a nice long walk is to abandon herself at some remote location and let her baser brain guide the way back to the nest, as it were. This has worked really well at certain times – for example, when she used to work at the home for the bewildered in the mornings and have to be at university in the afternoons (one hour’s walk) and then, of course, home (another hour). Or when she was a muscularly dystrophian caregiver in a relatively distant suburb during the day and had to be at the studio in the evening (one hour and a half). Or, and this still rankles, when she used to finish supervising meds for the gloriously unwell at ten in the PM and the bus wouldn’t come (also one and a half, but extra points for the pitch darkness and the homicidal rage). It hasn’t been working so well since she has been working ten minutes’ walk from home, which is five on a bike, barely.

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Her saviour, walking-wise, has come in the form of an app – it’s called Zombies, Run!, and its premise is simple. You are Runner 5, a stranger choppered into a small township that has been holding off zombie hordes for a wee while, and it has unceremoniously become your job to prove your worth and identity by running around the base to perform various tasks – retrieving supplies, distracting packs of undead scavengers, rescuing children, that kind of thing – at a nice, steady pace, through an unfolding series of missions. You are directed by radio contact from the base through your headphones, and you can set a playlist of music for running (or walking, which is what Betty does, or even something related like cycling or rowing, in a pinch). In between your usual Django Reinhardt and Babylon Circus and the Klezmer Conservatory Band, you get harried updates from the survivors of the zombie apocalypse, saying motivating things like “Oh, dear,” and “Just put on a burst of speed, now!“.

Of course, things are not all as they seem, et cetera, and it becomes quite exciting to learn dribs and drabs of the full story as the missions progress. There are about thirty missions in the season, but a few are supply runs which are quite replayable, and there’s a Radio Mode that kicks in at the end of each mission to continue the ambience, and you can do an entire run in Radio Mode, if you wish. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even enable zombie chases, and they will appear all groaning and heaving and make you go faster.

The only drawback is that Betty doesn’t have a smartphone, so the rather clunky iPad has to come along on these long walks. This precludes its use on proper slogs, but it has still been perfectly fine for those walks on which Betty would have taken a bag anyway – coffee runs via the beach, for example, or inter-suburb commutes.

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All in all, it’s a tremendous app, and it has certainly increased Betty’s walking habits by a considerable margin. Zombies for the win. We might have known.

Parachute 2010: Ruby, NewWorldSon and Switchfoot, o my

As readers will know, Betty made the annual pilgrimage to the Parachute Festival on the weekend. Betty’s sister, who loves Parachute inordinately, had a most excellent time.

First, she figured out a plan for the day. It began with the morning meeting, a giant worship service in the sun. A visiting Greek guy from England spoke about Zephaniah 3:17, which explains how God rejoices over his people, quiets them with his love, and exults over them with loud singing (according to the speaker, the last part in Hebrew indicates that God spins round and round like a top in delight over us).

After the morning meeting, Betty and her sister went to another seminar (terrible, sadly), and then perused the foodstalls. Betty’s sister, for readers who are not familiar, is well-known to approximately every fourth person she comes across; she met countless acquaintances and friends of friends, and pointed out the identities of a considerable number of people who were walking past. Finally, she went and bought a shaved ice cone: the proprietor served her and remarked, “You’ve been here before”. Betty’s sister nodded and chatted for a moment, while Betty stood back in some amazement: neither of them was at Parachute 2009, which means that this woman remembered Betty’s sister from a shaved ice purchase two years ago.

After that, they went to the Deluxe stage, which is lovely and cool and dark, and listened to Ruby Frost. Ruby (whose real name is Jane) is a mightily talented wee slip of a thing with a voice like Goldenhorse only tuneful; she sang some original songs and did a lovely medley of “Sweet Dreams are Made of This” and “Beautiful Nightmare”.

She also upped the cute factor in a big way.

Every Parachute, in Betty’s experience, has a surprise. This year’s was absolutely NewWorldSon. Betty had never heard of this band, which was listed in the programme as Soul/Pop; it hails from Canada.

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