Friday, 26 February 2010

Drought or flood - or, "many meetings"...

In the previous entry I was complaining about how nothing seems to be happening, then suddenly I am flooded with news, or potential news. Unfortunately, I'm so busy with tours that I haven't had a chance to do any digging but I thought I'd just report what I've heard from my spies and from what I've seen myself.

First, the biggest news item - Elijah Wood was spotted in the capital. Though heavily disguised with hats, sunglasses, and jackets, one of my most reliable spies spotted him. My spy unfortunately didn't get a chance to say "hi" to him, so I can't tell you why he was here. Could be he was on holiday, could be it wasn't him (I have no photographic proof) - but Elijah being in Wellington suggests to me that there are exciting things afoot - especially when I add his sighting to the others this week. There's no reason to assume he'd be in The Hobbit, but maybe there's another good reason why he'd be here, so close to the green light of the production?

For some reason or another I have been running in to some very cool people this week. Some of them weren't too surprising, others might have been coincidental as well. There's murmerings of lots of secret meetings taking place in the last two weeks, with big black cars parked outside, all over Miramar.

Apart from the unsubstantiated rumours from other sources, I can personally confirm that Shane Rangi is back in town, back from Australia where he's just finished filming a project. Unusually, he assured me he actually (gasp!) LIVED through an entire movie! Not like him at all, he usually dies at least once, and often more than once per movie.

I also ran into Gino Acevido. He's always pleasant and polite, and is a master at making people feel comfortable. He always appears to be very chatty, but afterwards I always realise he's not given anything away that he shouldn't have. Now, seeing him outside Weta Cave isn't that unexpected since he works in the same building a lot of the time, but I haven't met up with him for a while now. Could be just a coincidence.

I could at this point names-drop and mention that I've recently been speaking/emailing/facebooking/twittering with Richard Taylor, John Howe, Costa Botes, Ian Brodie (and sighted Jamie Selkirk), but it was all on unrelated matters, and unfortunately none of them mentioned anything related to The Hobbit.

John Howe did suggest that he may be releasing another artbook soon, and when that comes out he'll probably be autographing it down at the Weta Cave again (something the good folk at the Cave have also let slip) but I've heard nothing specific yet. John Howe has produced a number of very good books featuring his artwork in the past, and this one should be another excellent read.

While at the Weta Cave, I did notice that some of the illustrated LOTR and Hobbit books as well as a few Children of Hurin copies all had Alan Lee's autographs in them, so (a) he must be in town right now, and (b) if you want a rare Alan Lee autograph in a Tolkien book, now is the time to head to the Weta Cave.

Also, while on autographed books - the Cave still has Ian Brodie's LOTR Location Guidebook, and Paul Tobin seems to have been in recently, as the copies of his Crafting Of Narnia all had his signature on the front page. Furthermore, Scott Spencer's books on digital ZBrush techniques all had Scott's autographs in them as well! There can't be a lot of books there without autographs, surely!  ((ed: Sorry Scott, I don't have an IMDB link for you - mail me?))

I've been assured that there are a ton of new items coming from the good folks at Weta, including a number of LOTR related ones. One we're all waiting on of course is the new Hobbiton miniature collectible. I've got in on good authority that they are starting to look "very nice" (I was allowed to quote that much, and no more). But they haven't been revealed yet. I'm sure they'll be on the Weta site before they're on mine!

The final bit of news from Weta - the guns of District 9 were released, and almost sold out already. I did manage to get myself photographed with the last few samples though... enjoy!

The guns are quite heavy, and the detail on them is terrific! Little bits of alien gloop and elbow grease everywhere, scratches and dents everywhere. Very realistic. Let's hope they get the "Best picture" Oscar!

  - Jack M.

Monday, 22 February 2010

It's gone quiet - almost too quiet!

It's been almost two weeks since my last post, and although I've had to rush off for a week while my father was in hospital (he's doing good, by the way - and thanks to everyone for their well wishes, also via Facebook and Twitter), nothing much has been happening here in Wellington.

I've been pretty busy with tours in any case, so I've not had a lot of spare time, which is a great problem to have of course.

However, I have been working on and off on setting up some sort of mechanism to offer some souvenirs online - something I've been meaning to do ever since I started touring about six years ago. There's a link at the top of this page called "Precious Things" - I'd be very keen to hear back from people what you think of it. Do you like or dislike the shirt? Am I being too commercial? I promise not to start sending spam your way any day soon!

I'm using an online shop system called Zazzle, which seems to do a fine job of it, and they'll happily take your credit card details etc. The products seem good quality as well, which was my first concern.

Anyway, drop me a line and let me know what you think!

  - Jack

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Venture finally sunk

The King Kong vessel The Venture was finally sunk on Tuesday Feb 9th, around 12:30pm. Originally planned for Monday, the scuttling operation couldn't go ahead due to weather conditons (the last thing anybody wanted was the ship going down on the way there!) but Tuesdays conditions were as perfect as I've ever seen them in Wellington - mirror smooth seas and windstill conditions. Later on in the day I watched a pod of about 15-20 dolphins jumping around the Petone pier.

I couldn't make it out to the sinking, and missed it leaving the dock for the last time as well, but a colleague of mine managed to take a few pics before it left.

(Pictures by Bryn Lloyd)

One of the people who's shown lots of interest in the ship (and who has been involved with other local scuttling operations, is the appropriately named Marco Zeeman, who managed to get close enough to the sinking to document the event - there's a video of the final moments on the local NZ news site

I saw the lonely red tugboat return into the Wellington harbour around 4:30pm - red, like the executioner's axe.

  - Jack M.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Venture will be sunk Tuesday 8th

Today was going to be the final day on the surface for the King Kong vessel The Venture, but due tothe weather conditions, it looks like it's had a stay of execution by one extra day. According to the Harbour Master, on Tuesday morning at 7:00am, the tug will arrive at the dock, and will tow The Venture out to sea for its final voyage.

I'm working on a tour tomorrow but I'll do my best to get there before work starts, hopefully I'll be able to take a few last pictures of it as it leaves.

Here is a great shot of the venture a little while ago, taken by one of my readers, Tim Prebble. Tim, great shot by the way! It was obviously taken before last week, when it still had both masts! I love the fog behind it! (For those unfamiliar with the area - behind it should be the hills of Miramar, and behind that, the hills of the Hutt Valley)...

(photo by Tim Prebble)

As a side issue, I was interviewed by Radio NZ's Tim Graham last week about it, and although I tried to keep things as positive as possible, they managed to turn my 5 minute interview into three pretty negative sounding soundbites, which is, I suppose, the power of the old media at work. At least he pronounced my name correctly. On the whole though, the piece is well balanced, although it sounded like Peter Jackson was somehow to blame for not covering the cost of the operation...? It hasn't been his ship for what, 4 years or so?

For those who'd like a listen to the podcast, it's available on the Radio NZ website. The link searches on all things "King Kong" so there may be other choice items there (currently there's still an interview from Philippa Boyens there as well). You can also subscribe to the Radio NZ podcasts through iTunes.

  - Jack

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

King Kong's Venture mast removed

I got a call from the Wellington Harbour Master yesterday giving me a quick heads-up to "something I might not want to miss" - one lucky person has managed to secure quite a major souvenir off the now doomed King Kong vessel, the Venture. This morning the crew was due to remove the main mast off the front of the boat (as you can tell I'm not of the sailor ilk, or I'm sure I would have called it the bow or something. Or the aft? Can't remember which is the front bit).

Underway I picked up a few mates who might be interested in witnessing the historical event, and we arrived at the Miramar Wharf just after 8:30am, just in time to watch the proceedings.

As we arrived, the mast was still up, although the rope ladders to both side were already hanging slack. The crane arrived shortly after, and started extending towards the top of the mast. The mast was secured into place with the crane as well as a few other ropes from the side, so that it won't fall to the ground (or worse, on the wet side of the boat) after the cutting is done.

One of the workers started seriously cutting through the mast. The whole process took about a minute or so.

He left a few very small tabs connected, so that the crane was besically keeping it in place.

Here's the cutting process in action (let me know if it doesn't work; it's my first YouTube video) :)

The blue ribbon cable in the photo was one of the last support left, apart from the steel cable above it (not in this picture). Once that was removed, the mast was loose. Here's the final moments of the mast, for posterity;

And off it came. It was a bit of a sad sight, a mastless ship. Especially after seeing it every day, and pointing it out to literally hundreds of people over the last four years.

On closer inspection, the mast did have a few treasures still on it - two lovely glass lamps.

I'm hoping the new owners will put the whole thing upright again somewhere, possibly even in a publicly accessible place. They certainly looked pretty chuffed with themselves afterwards!


After speaking to the Harbour Master again, it looks like the final paperwork on the sinking of the vessel will be completed next Monday the 8th of Feb. After that, they will wait for the right conditions - less than a one meter swell, less than 15 knot winds, and two tugboats have to be available for the whole day (in other words, not on a cruiseship day, of which there are four next week). I couldn't help thinking that if we have to wait for a 15 knot wind (or less!) here in windy Wellington, it may not go down for a few more years! But I suspect I'm being overly optimistic (or pessimistic, about our weather).

In any case, its days are numbered. More updates as they come to hand!

  - Jack