Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Of blogs and bath houses

Craig Young now has a blog, which is PoMo and witty and gay. You should read it.

Whilst loitering on Craig's page, I could not but help notice the advertisement for Centurian, Sauna for Men, which apparently is "now air-conditioned." I am not familiar with the gay sauna scene and I don't like to quibble, but it strikes me that air-conditioning a sauna would be somewhat counter-productive. A sauna is meant to be hot and humid; a gay one especially so, I would have thought. Surely, air conditioning would ruin the party.

Perhaps the answers to this and other questions can be found on the GayNZ blogs, which can be found here.

pic unrelated

Word of the day: Vaffanculo

Please allow me to introduce to you Miss Welby, a blogista who posts in both English and Italian. She pretends to be the secret daughter of Piergiorgio Welby, the Italian poet who fought a long battle for his right to die and, after he achieved his wishes, was denied a religious funeral by the Catholic Church (in case you are puzzled by his not-very-Italian surname, Welby was the son of a Scottish footballer).

From Signorina Welby I learned of the death of Miles Kington, who is also remembered by Michael Bywater in the Independent. Kington's writings for the Independent are here, and he also wrote the paper's obituary of his editor at Punch, Alan Coren, which includes this fond memory: "A couple of days before the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, I heard Coren saying on The News Quiz, in answer to a question on her and land-mines, "I don't know much about Princess Diana or about land-mines, but I do know that you poke either at your peril..."

Speaking of Italy, The New Yorker has a long letter about the efforts of comedian Beppo Grillo to bring about reform of the political culture and the efforts of the state to stop him and his followers, which include extraordinary restrictions on Italian bloggers. Meanwhile in Connecticut, the latest thing is taser parties.

And finally, which of us could resist a story with the headline runaway lawnmower kills monk or a blog called Nicest Girl and Destroyer of Planets?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On the naming of parts

At last, the Owen Glenn Building at Auckland University is officially open. The business school is open for business and the nation's future middle managers now have a place they can call home. And the name of the donor will be remembered for ever: Mr Glengarry (or was it Mr Glenross?) has been immortalised in plate glass and steel.

Whatever his name, he seems to have made a shrewd deal: for a mere seven million bucks, he has naming rights to a building that cost a great deal more, $220 million. Back in the day, the likes of Carnegie, Mellon and Gulbenkian had to fork out huge amounts of dosh, paying for entire buildings, while Mr Glenmorangie has achieved a leveraged naming. I suppose it is this sort of business acumen which put him in the position of having seven million to give away.

As for the rest of the bill, it has been paid in part by others who also have ensured that their generosity is remembered. So the school has an ASB Atrium and a Fisher and Paykel Appliances Lecture Theatre. Quite why only one division of Fisher and Paykel has been honoured is a mystery; staff in the other division, which deals with medical stuff, must be wondering what they did wrong, especially since they make most of the company's profits. There is also a John Hood Plaza, to remember the man who made it all possible and who is unlikely to be so honoured at Oxford, where he has made himself very unpopular very quickly. The Government has contributed $21 Million, but has its name on nothing.

Elsewhere in the University, opportunities abound: there are many places that have yet to be named after a corporate sponsor. My own Department, Art History, is housed in a building that appears to have no name at all. If you, dear reader, have some millions to spare, you may wish to consider having the building named after me.

Also seemingly nameless is the space outside the main library. It was once occupied by the building which housed the Philosophy Department. For some reason (perhaps a coup by Immaterialists) the University decided to remove the building and replace it with nothing but some seats and some plants. I find this behaviour very peculiar, removing a perfectly usable building and replacing it with a void. The University also removed a perfectly good footbridge nearby, which crossed Alfred Street and connected the library with the Student Union Building. Quite what good was achieved by removing the bridge and so exposing the students to the elements and to the traffic is a mystery.

In any case, the space outside the library remains nameless. I suggest it be named the Dewey Decimal Plaza.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dig for victory

Last night, I was at a party, where I met a Fundy Post reader, who was lovely. She and her partner live in Waterview, where Transit New Zealand is considering building a motorway tunnel. I say this not only to make you aware that I do have a social life and to reassure you that you are not the only reader of this blog. I say this also as a preamble to my detailed analysis of the free copy of the New Zealand Herald I was given today, in which the building of the motorway tunnel figures large.

One cannot help but think that somewhere in Fran O'Sullivan's contract with the NZ Herald is a clause absolving her from any responsibility to have a relationship with facts. She is free to give any opinion that pleases her, regardless of inconsistency between her views and the truth. Take, for example, this thought from Ms O'Sullivan's opinion piece in today's paper about boring:
But Clark can rest assured. Transit NZ's decision to plunge a 3.2km twin tunnel deep under her Auckland electorate, rather than the much more cost-effective above-surface option, gets her off the hook.
Now, compare and contrast, if you will, Ms O'Sullivan's opinion with the news story by Mathew Dearnaley, also in today's paper. Here we find no mention of an "above-surface option," only a choice between a tunnel and a trench, the latter being more expensive and more disruptive than the former. Quite what Ms O'Sullivan means by an "above-surface option" is not something she clarifies, but it is clear that Transit NZ never considered carrying the motorway on majestic arches high above the voters of Mount Albert.

Unless Ms O'Sullivan knows more about the secret life of Transit NZ than she is disclosing, it would appear she has invented an option, one that is far more cost-effective (being entirely imaginary) than the choice made by the road-builders. In doing so, she insinuates that the Prime Minister has made a far more expensive choice because of her fears for her seat in Parliament.

It is important at this stage to take a deep breath and recognise that virtually all of Ms O'Sullivan's essay is conjecture. As a newspaper reader, you are probably accustomed to reading op-ed pieces that are based on facts, so this new adventure in journalism might come as something of a shock. Your emotional discomfort might be intensified further if you can remember the days when Ms O'Sullivan was a very capable business journalist, who probably would not have dreamed of making up stuff about the business folk who were the subject of her writing. But it seems that it now is her job to invent facts and imagine motives.

Such is the lot of a Herald opinion writer. Ms O'Sullivan is not alone. Ever since the paper's ridiculously overwrought campaign against the Electoral Finance Bill, almost all the op-eds in the Herald have been of a similar timbre. The job of a Herald writer is to snarl and attack; her target will be the Government and she will use every weapon at her disposal. The snarling is now unremitting. The Herald no longer has any character, depth or colour. It has a single dimension and a single purpose. It is no more than a National Party hack sheet. No wonder they have to give it away one day every week.

Elsewhere, Mr Brown relates another story: he gets a TV show (yay!) and the Herald writes about it in terms of "Government supporter gets Government-funded show."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Say a little prayer

Mr Key is at it again. This time, as faithfully reported by the ever-faithful New Zealand Herald, he is having a dig at the PM over attendance at Waitangi events. Mr Key went to the dawn service, you see, while the PM did not. Mr Key wants us to know that he was invited to participate by a kaumatua: "He just really made the point that the leader of New Zealand wasn't here today and so there was an opportunity for me to say a few words and I just simply offered a prayer and acknowledged the opportunity I had to offer that prayer."

And that prayer would be to whom? Is this not the same Mr Key who does not believe in God, who said “if you define God as some supreme being that when you die you go through the pearly gates, then I don’t believe in it," whatever that is supposed to mean? It is that man. This is the same Mr Key who only goes to church because “the kids go to schools that demand that (I go to church) as part of my parenting responsibilities," and who only sends his kids to such schools so they can "decide what role religion plays in their life," and no doubt so they can benefit from expensive private education. This is the same Mr Key who puzzled the Herald (in the days before it developed its huge crush on him) with his response to the God question when it was posed by Agenda: "I mean I go to church a lot with the kids, but I wouldn't describe it as something that I ... I'm not a heavy believer; my mother was Jewish which technically makes me Jewish. Yeah, I probably see it in a slightly more relaxed way."

Yes, relaxed, in the sense of opportune: Mr Key says that he will routinely take part in the dawn service at Waitangi and return to Te Tii marae, if elected prime minister. He's just doing it for the kids, and the Maori voters. But he's not fooling the fundies.

Here's 'Retha:

Image provided by Abbie Hoffman