Pirates stole my blog

So, internet pirates stole my website. Not the good kind of pirates. The bad kind. Like the ones that killed Sir Peter Blake. But on the internet.

He’s dead now. But his visage lives on in pencil sketch. Thanks to alleycatsgarden.com

Technically, the internet pirates did not so much steal it, as legitimately buy it when I failed to renew it. But still, I think I still have the upper moral hand. And am on the moral high horse riding on the high road.

Pretty sure this is Black Beauty. And the high road is the beach.

Who am I kidding? I am just jealous that the ‘Maximum Brooks Biz Centre‘ is doing a much better job of blogging than I ever did. Here is a sample of their sometimes-more-than-daily content:

  • Swimming pools are important grounds to spend our leisure time from. They serve our domestic needs and also the commercial needs as most swimming pools are created for commercial purposes to earn us a living. Could not agree more. Read further here
  • When I was ten, we used to have a backyard garden. My dad has a heart of a real gardener. My mom loves to cook sumptuous meal for us. Despite the hectic schedule at the office, they never forget to check the lettuce, green beans and those red tomatoes in our garden. Learn the rest of this heartwarming story here and then buy this great hydroponics product for less than $5000.


Anyway… all this means I need a new name for my neglected blog.

Current suggestions include:

  • classicbrooks.com 
  • ultimatebrooks.com or brookstothemax.com (thank you Chelsea of Aftermirth)
  • maximumbrooksplusinfinity.com (thank you Kate of Let’s Get Milkshakes)

If I do any of these, I will have to re-render the banner I painstakingly created with my bare hands on the internet.

The other alternative is that I go with the existing Maximum Brooks but append .co.nz or just let it do its thing in the wild right here on WordPress and not bother linking it up to any fancy domain name.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas?

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Working election day: some reflections.

I worked at a polling booth in New Zealand’s general election yesterday.

Armed with two training sessions, a bright orange jerkin, and my manual, I turned up at the Muritai School auditorium yesterday at 7:45am yesterday morning for a day of Democracy In Action.

I won’t blog the whole long day. Instead, three reflections:

Pop-up democracy

It is just remarkable how quickly a room can be turned into a instrument of democracy through the quick erection of a cardboard army of voting booths, information stands and ballot boxes. Cardboard is amazing.

People are fascinating

I spent most of my day at the door of the polling booth. Greeting people, helping the flow of the voters to issuing officers, special votes, answering questions, offering stickers to voters and their children to say that they had voted. People’s attitude shone through in these brief interactions. Largely they fell into these groups:

  • Totally stoked – happy to be there, happy to be voting. These people were often disproportionately happy to be offered a sticker – like it was the icing on a particularly delicious cake.
  • Angry at the world – “Those stickers are a waste of taxpayers money. Stop giving them out to everyone!”, “I think I can remember I voted, thank you very much”. These people would snort derisively when I offered them a sticker.
  • Otherwise engaged – These people were not unpleasant, they were just not interested or present to their surroundings. They barely engaged with me when I offered them a sticker.

Question: what would our society be like if children had the vote?

Overheard in Muritai School playground during my break:

Six year old: I want to go vote.
Other six year old: You’re too young! It’s illegal.
Four year old: Where’s the boat?
First six year old: There’s the voting sign! Let’s go vote!

Gang of children run off happily in direction of polling booth

The end.

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My name is Christine Brooks and I am a stalker

So, I discovered a new blog this week.  It’s called Heartbreak Pie and it is ‘life, love, and a food blog’.

The discovery came about in the twitter aftermath of Ignite Wellington. I tweeted that I would like to see more ladies taking the stage at Ignite (I would), @heartbreakpie responded, saying that my comment sounded like a challenge. I said that was exactly what it was. There was mutual following on Twitter, which involved me reading her Twitter description, clicking through to her blog. Before I knew it I was hooked.

As is occasionally my want when I discover something new, I obsess over it and consume it completely. Thus I have now read many of the entries and recipes contained within the Heartbreak Pie blog.

[Sidenote: Is that creepy? Does anyone else do this? It’s kind of like stalking. It’s a little creepy. I’m sorry. Seriously, does anyone else do this? If yes, does that even make it okay? I don’t know. Netiquette of the 21st century sometimes is beyond me. Somehow I feel like talking about my creepy behaviour openly online makes it less creepy. Is this true? Somebody help me in whatever way is appropriate for this situation.]

Here are some of my recipes I have tried. In bullet point form.

  • Roasted broccoli. This is the best thing ever.
  • This asparagus pasta dish. I added fresh dill and parsley. And roasted broccoli.
  • I was going to make a rhubarb crumble anyway but this recipe provided me with the magical idea to add ginger, cinnamon and vanilla. Result!
  • This caramelised onion and rosemary bread, which is hot out of the oven and is going to be packed up and taken over to Somes Island for tonight’s island adventure.

Here are some photos of today’s bread making process:

Caramelising the onions

Caramelising the onions was fun. I got to use my new-old cast iron pan that I got from last week’s (otherwise overpriced) Wellesley Gala for $3. Cast iron 4 evs.

The bread - just before it's put in the oven.

I deviated slightly from the recipe. We didn’t have any fennel for the dough, so I left it out. I also didn’t have any olives, so left those bad boys out as well. I did have a bounty of rosemary though, so I used heaps of that. Rosemary 4 evs.

The bread - just after it's come out of the oven.

I am looking forward to enjoying this with a few beverages on the Somes aka Te Matiu.

Thanks for all the inspiration Heartbreak Pie! Sorry for stalking you!


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How to be alone.

I love this video. It’s so beautiful.

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Improv and Other Drugs

I am speaking tonight at Ignite Wellington on the topic, Improv and Other Drugs.

Ignite Wellington is a night where a bunch of speakers have five minutes each to deliver a talk on their chosen topic. Each speaker must display 20 slides for 15 seconds each.

Preparing for this has been surprisingly stressful as I seek to confine myself to such a strict regime but this has all been part of the challenge.

I have no idea how it will go tonight – I am entirely open to the possibility that I will fail with epic grandeur. If nothing else, I got to search for and use this image in my presentation:

Rainbows and smiles. No!

Let the madness begin!

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Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig in an hilarious sketch

I love this sketch so hard. I can’t write anything else without giving away the magic. Just watch it.

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Invisible Tug of War

Last night, I set out to teach my improv class about failing gleefully.

I manage to demonstrate failure right off the top when I fail to remember (after five separate attempts) how the zombie name game goes. I could say this was a tactical move on my part to show as well as tell, but that would be a lie.

An exercise I do remember how to teach is Invisible Tug of War.

This is a photo from last night's class.

I have the class organise themselves into two competing tug of war teams. I instruct them to pick up the invisible rope.

What then ensues is a series of tugs of war, involving, but not limited to:

  • a magical elastic rope that gets longer and longer as both teams pull away from each other in their attempt to win the tug of war
  • a tactical play that involves one team letting go of the invisible rope resulting in the other group falling down backwards. Solid comedy gold.
  • one person hiding and then rushing in at the last minute to provide extra heave to their team, resulting in a convincing win as the other team topples in response to this gargantuan power surge.
  • at one point, a student at the very back of her team picks up the rope before the rest of her team do. Because she’s at the very back, the rest of the team don’t see her and they all pick up the rope but hold it on the opposite side to her. She, without hesitation, jumps over the invisible rope to get back on the same side as her team.  Complete physical acceptance of offer and commitment. Awesome.

When we talk about the exercise afterwards, we discuss the following principles:

Noticing the offers right in front of you

In a tug of war situation, you can really only see the person in front of you. If you’re at the front of your team, this means you can only see the leader of the opposite team. If you’re not at the front of your team, this means you can only see the person directly in front of you.

All you can do is react to what you can see directly in front of you. If you start trying to see what is going on everywhere, you miss the offer closest to you and suddenly we have an elastic rope on our hands and no-one is a winner.

Failure is fun

The class notice that it is much more interesting to see an outcome where someone ‘loses’ the tug of war (e.g. when one team let the rope go and the other team accept their offer by falling over) than it is to watch two teams fight for it and the invisible rope get longer and longer.

By one team yielding to the other and being prepared to ‘fail’ at the objective of winning a tug of war, we have a much more interesting thing to watch. More interesting and creative things happen. It’s more fun and it’s more satisfying.

We talk about what would happen if we weren’t so committed to ‘winning’ everything in everyday life.

Would we make more mistakes and take more risks? Would we have more fun? Would we do more creative and innovative things?

This reminds me of two quotes I like about failure and innovation:

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.    Albert Einstein

If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.   Woody Allen

My own lesson: The Long Weekend

I reflect that the lesson I have just taught using Invisible Tug of War is very similar to one I recently re-learnt while performing The Long Weekend at the New Zealand Improv Festival.

The Long Weekend is an improvised relationship drama about five old friends who go away for a weekend. It is basically an improvised play that is not aiming for comedy and is high risk improv.

I have creative leadership for the show and feel responsible for it. Turns out responsibility is my improv kryptonite. As soon as I feel responsible for improv, I start stepping out of my role of improviser on stage and start focussing on the plot, on what should be happening, which character should meet with whom and when and where. This ‘plotting’ is also being done by other members of the cast, resulting in us and our characters missing offers that are right in front of us on stage, creating the equivalent of an hour long tug of war with one giant invisible elastic rope. Enough invisible elastic rope with which to hang ourselves you might say. I just did.

It takes a fairly bad pre-show run and some fairly well placed feedback to bring this improv behaviour to our attention. Fortunately, we manage to get back to focussing on the person in front of us and letting the story emerge from the relationships, which ends up creating a much more satisfying and truthful show.

Oh, the myriad lessons learned from an invisible piece of rope.

By the end of class, everyone was a winner.

Posted in Improv, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How I push my drug of choice.

Last night I taught the first class of Improvisation: Spontaneity for the Theatre at the Wellington High School Community Education Centre. It’s a great group and I’m looking forward to seeing us all develop over the next eight weeks.

The course is presented by WIT and I was fortunate to be able to workshop and refresh the curriculum with Anton van Helden, WIT’s Creative Director of Training, before delivering the course last night. A few weeks back, we sat down at his place in Raumati South on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, ate mushrooms on toast, drunk coffee, and brainstormed.

Anton and I went back to basics, to what inspires us about teaching and performing improv. We both agreed that improv is very much an attitude and a mindset and to teach this is to awaken things in people that they can actually already do, to get them using skills they actually already have. It’s not a tick the box activity.

Key lesson: every brainstorming process is better with mushrooms on toast and coffee.

The thing that is tricky about improv is that it is a zen art. In order to do the improv, you must not think about the improv. But then, how then do you teach something that, ideally, you don’t think about, you just do?

Teaching not always conducted in sportswear or sepia. Image from WIT's 2010 Improv Band Camp and features WITsters Brenton, Ali and Paul. Photo by Jen O'Sullivan.

My process is to communicate, through experience, a series of improv principles. I like to have people experience the concept first through the exercise and then examine it and discuss it afterwards. What did they notice? How did they feel when they did x? What worked well? Why didn’t it work so well when they did y? It is important not to get too bogged down in the examination but to keep moving and experiencing the principles.

As a teacher, the thing about this approach is that you must also be willing to let go of your own ideas and improvise. I like to let the class organically discover the principles in the exercises. Most improv exercises can be used to teach a variety of different principles so it’s kind of like unwrapping a present when you see what this particular class takes out of this particular exercise on this particular day.

Last night’s class was titled ‘Meet, Greet, and Learn to Laugh Together’ and together we discovered the following:

Celebrating Failure!

  • Failure is an essential part of creativity, both on stage and off.
  • We practiced failing gleefully using the Circus Bow.
  • I modelled failing gleefully on a number of occasions.

Having fun and being playful

  • We had fun and were playful (and learned each other’s names) using Animal Names, which broke the ice and got us used to being silly with each other.

Being positive and inspiring each other

  • Making magic happen on stage (and in life) happens when we are positive and aim to inspire each other.
  • Last night we experienced positivity through Paper, Scissors, Rock Cheering Squad where, after losing, we instantly started supporting the winner.
  • We inspired each other by presenting and accepting gifts with positivity using the Gift Giving Game.
  • We noticed that we like it when people inspire us (evidenced by the number of people who referenced a gift they were given in Moment of the Workshop)
  • We noticed that it was fun to watch people being happy. This is very true on stage.

Making and accepting offers

  • On stage, anything can be an offer – physical or verbal
  • We practiced making offers, both physical and verbal, through the Gift Giving Game
  • We practiced accepting offers by accepting with joy in the Gift Giving Game
  • We noticed that it is important to be alert to offers in the Pattern Game (using colours, countries and cars)

Freeing up the brain and being present

  • The brain naturally finds patterns to help make things easier for us. We noticed this in the Black Box game
  • It is interesting to notice the patterns our own brain uses to try and help us.
  • Disrupting these patterns (e.g. by having someone prompt you to find something different in the box) helps to keep you in the present moment and not get fixated on your own track of thought.


  • Notice how you and others respond to ‘offers’ in real life. Are you/they positive? Are you/they negative?
  • Practice the circus bow when you ‘fail’. Even if you’re just by yourself. 🙂

There is nothing quite like the magic of giving people their first hit of improv.

Improv can bend space, time and colour. Image from 2010 Improvathon and features Javier Jarquin and I during 5am Improv Opera about teeth. Not our first rodeo but I think one worthy of the drug metaphor. Photo by Brenton Hodgson.

Posted in Improv, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

P.S. The company you keep.

I also feel duty bound to mention the following information so that you can be aware of the sort of company you are in when looking at my blog and make an informed decision about whether or not to continue.

Today’s top search engine terms that allowed people to find my blog:

  • city’s finest pants
  • fish with pointy nose mini swordfish
  • city’s finest pants

Yes. “city’s finest pants” appears on two separate occasions.

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Things that happened in my life today.

After the wildly popular* post “Things that happened in my kitchen today”, I bring you another glimpse into my life.

The price of eggs

Last night a large plastic container contained within a large plastic bag appeared on the kitchen bench after what was, I had thought, a coincidental unexplained absence of Brendon from the house.

I enquired into the providence of the plastic bag and container and was told unceremoniously: “It’s snails.”

It had been raining last night and the snails were out in force. On further enquiry, it seemed that those that gleamed too brightly on the path had been harvested for our chickens.

Such is the price of free range eggs.

Technology sleuth

The internet inexplicably stopped working a couple of hours ago. Being the technology sleuth that I am** I start on a coffee and cinnamon induced rampage around the house.

I quickly locate the source of the problem, which proves to be the modem router thing. It is not working.

I formulate a hypothesis: There has been a power cut.

I test the hypothesis: The fridge, lights and other electrical things are all working. All except one confined area of power sockets – the very sockets in close enough proximity to the phone connection thing that allows the router modem thing to be plugged in and the very internet to exist.

I form a conclusion: There has been a selected power cut.

I formulate another hypothesis: Carnivorous snails have got loose from their kitchen bench prison, have slithered into the walls and chewed their way through selected wires. Wires specifically selected by the snails to cause maximum disruption to my day. Disrupting my day in order to spite me, as representative of those humans who had, last night, enslaved them. Even though I had no direct part in their imprisonment I had, I now reflect, been guilty by omission of action as I unquestioningly accepted the necessity of the feeding of the snails to the chickens and thus their consequent capture as a disquieting yet necessary part of the circle of life, much as I had accepted these facts when explained to me years earlier by Elton John in the hit song “The Circle of Life”, a song which, somewhat ironically, is currently having life breathed back into it off the back of the re-release of The Lion King 3D, a movie I recently saw and which was my first ever 3D movie experience.  I’m 29 years old and I’ve only just seen my first 3D movie. They’re up to 4D now.

I test the hypothesis: Carnivorous snails are not loose. Wires, selected or general, have not been chewed through.

I get a text from Brendon who thinks it is probably not rampaging snails but suggests a fuse wire has probably has been tripped and maybe I should check the fuse box in the hall.

I form a conclusion: A fuse wire has been tripped. Evidence for this conclusion is provided by the fuse box in the hall.

I untrip the fuse. Internet is restored. And thus, I am able to bring you this post. It’s the Circle of Life, people.***

*Statistics may or may not back up this claim.

**Facts may or may not back up this claim.

***Logic may or may not back up this claim.

Posted in Daily Life, Uncategorized | 1 Comment