Friday, March 28, 2008

Would you like wormwood with that?

Aux armes, citoyens! M. Le Brun of Point Chevalier has noted the dispatches made by M. Idiot-Savant of Palmerston Nord about l'absinthe. They make for alarming news. If you are too drunk to follow these links, I shall summarise.

Dr Paul Hutchison, who speaks for the National Party about something or other in the House of Representatives, has asked several questions of the Minister of Health about the consumption of l'absinthe by les jeunes. It seems he is worried that the young folk might be drinking it as a substitute for party pills (incidentally, at Auckland University Orientation Week, the men from ACT on Campus were selling party pills for one Dollar each; the side-effects included waking up later with an ACT Party membership, which at least is marginally less unpleasant than waking up with an ACT Party member).

Dr Hutchison's particular concern is that victuallers might be making RTDs (the favoured tipple of sixteen year-old girls) with l'absinthe, a chilling thought for all those who appreciate their drink. Rather than ask a sixteen year-old girl, he wastes Government time asking the Minister Questions like this one "Is he aware of any drinks on the market that contain Absinthe; if so what is the Absinthe content?" To which the obvious answer would be "Yes, Absinthe contains Absinthe; the Absinthe content of a bottle of Absinthe is one hundred percent."Dr Hutchison has further questions, such as "Further to the reply to question for written answer 01791 (2008), is he concerned that people could develop unwanted side effects by drinking Absinthe; if not, why not?" To which the obvious answer would be "Taken in immoderation, Absinthe has the same unwanted side effects as any alcoholic drink; these include, but are not limited to: singing Come on Eileen, attempting Borat impersonations and falling over.

Quite why Dr Hutchison is concerned that young people might be obtaining a perfectly good drink, which is really is far too grown-up for them, is a mystery. Of course, l'absinthe was banned in several European countries before the Great War, because it was thought to cause madness and Symbolist poetry. In recent years, the prohibitions have been lifted. The dread of l'absinthe was based on nothing more than speculation. Perhaps Dr Hutchison has not had the time to keep up with the medical literature. Or perhaps he has been looking at too many French Impressions. Perhaps he is worried that drinking l'absinthe leads to this sort of thing:

Perhaps next he will come across William Hogarth's Gin Lane and demand the abolition of Bombay Sapphire.

I am sure Dr Hutchison could concern himself with more important matters. He might trouble himself with the cigarette tins that are being given away with an RTD called Cody's, which allow smokers to discard the cigarette packets that now come with gruesome illustrations of the effects of smoking. Or perhaps he should be concerned that his colleagues, Dr Jonathan Coleman and Mr Simon Power, fell in with a bad crowd a while back.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

¡Gotta catch 'em all!

Right, let's get this over quickly and then we can all pretend it didn't happen. Here is Pokeclipse, a discussion board for people who believe in Pokemons. They believe not in the sense that they liek Mudkipz a lot but in the sense that they think the Pokemon world exists, in a universe parallel to our own.

I suppose our only consolation is that these people don't get out that often.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

And the crowd goes wild

And we're back. You're reading the Fundy Post Worldwide World of Sport World, the world's first written sport broadcast, in the world. And not just that, but we are the first sport broadcast to target the "don't care about sport" demographic. And remember, we may be crap but at least we are not sponsored by Hyundai.

First up, the Olympics. And New Zealand athletes have come out with some hard-hitting comments about the situation in Tibet. Here's rower Mahe Drysdale:
I'm focussing on my sport. The way I look at it, China is hosting a tournament ... I don't want to get into the politics of it. I don't necessarily agree with what China is doing but Americans are doing bad things as well. It's not what I'm about."
"Americans are doing bad things as well ..." a thoughtful analysis of world events, I think you'll all agree. And here's sailor Dan Slater to show that New Zealand punches above its weight not just in the sporting arena but in the bar-room brawl of world opinion:
I'm going to compete, be an athlete. Whatever is going on politically is beyond my control. I've spent a long time getting to this point. Me saying my two cents worth won't solve anything. What are we going to do? We're four million people down here. China's a huge nation, they own half the world. We rely on China for all the trade that goes on. You've got to be careful about what you say and do. I don't think we're big enough to make a stance.
Quite right. And in 1492, the Chinese built a fleet of huge ships and discovered New Zealand. They are that huge. Really. Who are we to complain about what they do in some other country that they invaded and colonised?

But then, should we be so indignant about what China is doing? They have done some bad things in Tibet but the Tibetans are not playing cricket here. They are attacking other citizens of Lhasa. What should the Chinese authorities do when members of one part of the population are attacking the others?

And what should the left do? The organising, protesting left, that is. Should they care about Tibet? No, of course not; all that matters is the bad things that Americans do. Its all about Iraq and Palestine, Cuba and Venezuela. ¡Scorchio!

But then again, politics is game of at least two halves, possibly three or more. Who are we to tell sportspeople they should not be doing their sport because we have a problem with the country they are doing it in? Perhaps it is up to the readers at home to choose not to watch the Olympics and opt instead for a slim volume of poetry or some atonal music. Perhaps we should also stop buying all that cheap crap China produces and buy more expensive stuff made at home, if we can find it.

So there we have it. Funny old game innit?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It pays to increase your word power

Join the Freemasonry of Poetry

A New Zealand Branch of the Poetry Society (Inc) has been formed, and membership is invited from all interested. This is a link-up with an organisation extending throughout most English-speaking countries, with headquarters in London... Remember "Where there is no vision the people perish!" Help this branch to become a worthy tool in the structure of Peace and Goodwill by lending your active support.
An advertisement in The Arts in New Zealand Dec 1944 - Jan 1945, p2.
It was, I think, Fatboy Slim who once said (somewhat ungrammatically and repeatedly, over a background of big beats) "the illuminati, a secret society, do exist" but clearly Mr Norman Cook (whose real name is Quentin, incidentally - nobody under 60 is really called Norman) was unaware of the power and extent of the Poetry Society (Inc). Added to which, they write good copy; unlike the authors of this advertisement, which came to me via Google:
Your kid love cricket?
They'll need to be good at Maths!
Get the world leading Maths program

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Do you want your coffee straight or ex-gay?

Following Craig's discoveries about Gloria Jean's and Mercy Ministries, I was intending to write a serious picece about the fundamentalist attitude to women and homosexuality. But then I followed the link Craig sent me to an article by Ruth Pollard in the Sydney Morning Herald. And then I saw the photograph there of Sy Rogers, an "ex-gay" Christian. And then I was felled by the quiet comic genius of the sub-editor who captioned the photo "Sy Rogers ... no longer gay."

I know one shouldn't hold to stereotypes, I know that gay people come in all shapes and sizes and I know enough gay people to avoid making any assumptions based on appearance but, all that considered, it would be difficult to look any more gay than Sy Rogers. He might have "reformed" and married a woman, but his God-given gayness remains.

And its not just Sy. Remember Ted Haggard, the Pastor who was disgraced by the revelations of a male prostitute; Ted who took a cure and within ninety days became completely heterosexual? Just look at the photos.

Whilst we are on the subject, consider the story of the ex-ex-gay who found he couldn't leave. Again, look at the photo.

Just in case this nonsense takes hold in New Zealand, here are some resources from The Southern Poverty Law Center, from Ex-Gay Watch and from Truth Wins Out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

If you're Oirish, come into the pub

So, that was St Patrick's Day. Much green was worn, much beer was drunk, much craic was had, much crap was spoken. Some became Irish for the occasion, while others claimed they were Irish all along, having ancestors from County Mulligan. Their Irishness will last as long as their hangovers, but will be rediscovered again next year. What a way to celebrate a Saint's day; what an excuse to get drunk on a Monday night.

Of course, they are not really Irish, all those revellers. They are Oirish, at least for one night a year. Oirishness is a neither a nationality nor an ethnicity. It is a state of mind. It is also a state of inebriation. People tend to become Oirish over the course of an evening, developing distinctive brogues and a tendency to be best friends or deadly enemies with complete strangers - sometimes almost simultaneously.

Oirishness can be acquired almost anywhere with an alcohol licence, but is most readily available in a Traditional Irish Pub. These establishments can be found all over the world, even in Ireland. There was one in Perugia when I lived there. The city did not have an Irish community to speak of, but that was unimportant. The local tourist industry operatives could go there if they wanted a night off from being traditionally Italian, while the tourists could find a home away from home where everything was as fake as everywhere else designed for tourists.

The Traditional Irish Pub differs in almost every respect from the Irish bar, which traditionally is a mean little place, about as wide as your outstretched arms; but don't go outstretching your arms, because someone will think you want a fight. Usually it will be one of the sour old men who sit at the bar all day, recalling all the reasons they hate everyone who is different from them, while reserving their deepest hatred for those who are most like them: other Irishmen who happen to have slightly different opinions about the interpretation of Scripture.

By contrast, the Traditional Irish Pub is an expansive, welcoming place. It is similar in many respects to the equally bogus Traditional English Pub, although it could just as well be a Traditional Malaysian Pub for all that it makes any difference. What matters is that the designers can create a plausible approximation of what might pass for traditional, Irish and a pub, to people who have never been to Ireland and could not care less anyway. For reasons known only to the designers, this bogus traditional Irish character is expressed by hanging agricultural instruments from the wall, as if gangs of farm workers had come in for a swift pint and parked their tools on the wall to avoid any nasty accidents.

Irish pubs can become Oirish. In Auckland, Murphy's, a pub that was Irish in the sense that it had been a centre for the Irish community for the best part of a century, was turned into a Traditional Irish Pub. Later, just short of its 100th birthday, Murphy's was renamed Father Ted's, the name of a fictional character in a British comedy series which makes fun of Ireland.

Establishments of this kind provide much Guinness which, as the ubiquitous pub bore will tell you, is not as good as the real stuff in Ireland. Traditional Irish Pubs also provide Traditional Irish culture: a covers band with a fiddler. This band will play traditional melodies, such as Pride in the Name of Love, Brown-Eyed Girl and Sweet Home Alabama. They might also attempt other songs in the style of The Pogues, the band formed by traditional Irishman Shane McGowan, who was born in Tunbridge Wells and attended Holmewood House Preparatory School and Westminster. Strangely enough, Irish pub bands never play anything by The Corrs.

You will always find a welcome in a Traditional Irish Pub. Remember the old saying: there are no strangers, only sociopaths you haven't met yet.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Demon bean

I am sure that Fundy Post readers are people of discernment who would never drink what passes for coffee at Gloria Jean's. On your behalf, I tried it as research for a future article on café simulacra and I can tell you - it is awful. However, if my word is not enough and you still feel tempted to try an extra-large decaff frappucino with vanilla fudge and raspberry ripple, consider this: Gloria Jean's sponsors sadism.

Yes it's crazy but it's true. Gloria Jean's raises money from its customers for Mercy Ministries, which provides "opportunities for young women to experience God's unconditional love, forgiveness and life-transforming power," by scaring the crap out of them. This "holistic client-focused approach" involves blaming every problem on demons. It also provides Mercy Ministries with opportunities to experience the benefit payments of young women with serious problems. It is, of course, anti-gay. According to Gloria Jean's, every Girl is born to fly, I hope as far away from these mediaeval creeps as possible.

Gloria Jean's also sponsors Hillsong, the odious Australian megachurch founded by a paedophile from Lower Hutt, which has tried to influence voting at State, Federal and Australian Idol levels.

So now you have no excuse but to drink grown-up coffee in local shops run by their owners.

Thanks to Craig

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A schoolgirl writes

Which celebrity gossip columnist is a semi-literate hack who cannot write for toffee? Well all of them, but especially Bridget Saunders of the Sunday Star Times, who writes like a fourteen year-old girl and uses too many exclamation marks! Look, here's an example of her writing, from last Sunday!
Met Trinny and Susannah last weekend and I had to bite my tongue not to blurt out "Mygodyourarebeautiful" to Trinny. I didn't though. Thank heavens. I didn't want to hurt Susannah's feelings. It must be hard for her working alongside Trinny who really is a great beauty. I found them to be chatty and charming but a friend who worked alongside them while they were here said Trinny (who is Liz Hurley's best friend) is excessively controling in that "I know better than you do about everything" way. And Heil World War III! Susannah reckons Germans are the world's worst dressed people (worse than us - which is all that matters!)
Ohmygod! Do you reckon she submits her copy in exercise books or by TXT? Does she have a Bebo? I bet she has, like, a huge crush on Trinny and is really really jealous of Susannah! Like, totally! Friends 4 life!

As for the events she covers, could anyone give a toss? This week's edition includes the Mac Chancery store reopening (for the benefit of readers from Hawkes Bay, Mac is a cosmetics shop for women of a certain income bracket and Chancery is a part of Auckland where they tore down all the real old buildings and replaced them with pastiche old buildings), a winery tour and the inevitable horse races. And (to quote Evelyn Waugh) who are these people and what do they want? Perhaps I spend too much time in the library but somehow I have never come across Tatum Savage, Yasmine Ganley (there is always someone called Yasmine in these photographs, but never in real life), Jules Tjauw or Grace Barcelos-Owen. I don't know of them and I suspect most readers of the SST don't either. I suspect these people and the non-events they attend are photographed because we don't really have celebrities in New Zealand or a glittering social calender. Most of the people who really do stuff and deserve to be known are quite normal IRL: the last time I saw Carol Hirschfeld (photographed here as a judge of the Mercedes Derby Day Fashion Finals; mares eat oats and does eat oats but little lambs eat ivy) was at Foodtown.

And in case you think I am all twitter and bisted because I don't know any of the celebs, yah boo sucks to you: actually, I know three of the people photographed (not telling) but they do real jobs and they are way cooler than the most of the others, who aren't even famous for being famous.

And why does Bridget Saunders go on and on about Dancing with the stars? I spent the last three weeks trying to work out who the stars on the posters for the show are. No I didn't: I couldn't be bothered. And why does she ask questions which her paper's lawyers obviously won't let her answer, such as "which civic presence enjoys a practice which is illegal in Muslim countries and [for] which - even in the West - people were once burned at the stake?" What is she talking about, blasphemy or sex with goats?

I think we should be told.

Monday, March 10, 2008

O Tea, O Mores

A casual browser of the women's weeklies might have been a little confused by the main headline of New Idea a couple of weeks back: "Why I stand by Tea." Although this appears at first sight to be a testimonial for the drink which refreshes but does not inebriate, closer inspection reveals it is attributed to Vanessa Ropati, whose husband was, until recently, not in Guatemala but in a whole lot of trouble. However, like so many League players before him, Tea has escaped the rape charges made against him and now his wife is free to tell the media about her nightmare experience, presumably for a fee. The headline also is evidence that sub-editing has gone south and obviously is in the hands of people whose cultural knowledge is so slight that they do not recognise their unintentional pun on the title of a well-known song; but that is by the by.

So why does Vanessa stand by Tea? The obvious and possibly unfair answer is that she has no choice: without him she is nothing. She is a trophy wife, whose role at times like this is to defend her husband. Of course, that is not how her testimonial puts it. She stands by her man because she loves him and because his "infidelity" was just one of those idiotic things that men do.

Yes, that's right, "infidelity." Although celebrity interviews in the weeklies usually are as similar to one another as their subjects, being in all probability produced by a Quark plug-in rather than a writer, this one stands out for its glibness. After all, the beloved Tea was not prosecuted for infidelity but for rape. The case collapsed not because a great miscarriage of justice was revealed but because of insufficient evidence: the complainant had been so inebriated at the time of the incident that she could not remember what had occurred.

New Idea puts the matter differently: Tea, that loveable rogue, went to a bar (the Whiskey on Ponsonby Road, which used to be quite agreeable until trash like him discovered it) and met some people; these included the complainant, who had partaken both of drink and cocaine. She and Tea got on very well very publicly. Later, (as they used to say in the News of the World) intimacy took place.

Although New Idea is at pains to mention the complainant's state of intoxication and her age range (dirty Thirties, the trollop) the interview is quite coy about the exact nature of her complaint; perhaps they did not want the servants to read this sort of thing. No mention is made of the rectal injuries she sustained in the course of this intimacy. No mention is made of Mr Ropati's brother threatening a private prosecution against the complainant for her cocaine use. However, New Idea does find space to mention his charity work and her fashion line.

One might have thought, given that New Idea's readership is mostly women, that the editor might have some concern for women like the complainant, who get drunk, get stoned and get into trouble. Whether that trouble, in this particular case, was at the hands of a lounge lizard or a rapist is something we shall never know; whatever the facts, similar experiences are had by many ordinary women, who do not have the benefit of money or celebrity to make their case. One might have thought that a women's magazine might stand up for ordinary women; but then one would not think it for a moment. In these times all that matters is celebrity. The winners take it all.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What is this thing called, love?

There are many unanswered questions in the world of popular music, such as "why do fools fall in love," "where do you go to my lovely," "who put the bomp" and "how did Oasis get away with it for so long?" Mr Ian Wishart, in the current issue of Investigate, poses another question which may not have occurred to us hipsters: "is John Lennon in Hell?"

It makes you think, doesn't it? It makes you think "how can Wishart hope to retain any credibility when he prints crap like this?" But then, he knows his readership better than we do. They love crap.They love Hi-Fi as well: Investigate always carries advertisements for expensive stereo systems. I am not sure how gullibility and high fidelity go together, but they do.

Anyway, back to Hell. Apparently a group of Colombians who had recently converted to Catholicism (I have my doubts about this detail: surely everybody in Colombia is Catholic by default) were rewarded for their faith by none other than Jesus himself: He took them on a guided tour of Hell and Heaven. He is that sort of guy. And what was even better about this tour is that they didn't even have to leave Colombia: Jesus gave them a collective vision, so they could have the whole Heaven and Hell experience without leaving home; and, better still, they didn't have to bother stopping off at Limbo, since that doesn't exist anymore (I wonder what happened to the inhabitants, all those unbaptised babies and pre-Christian worthies; perhaps they were upgraded to First Class, after what seemed like an Eternity and would have been, if God hadn't changed his mind recently).

So I expect you are wondering what Hell is like. Unfortunately, the Colombians cannot remember much. It's not that they weren't paying attention, just that Heaven was so good it made them forget most of the details of Hell. What they do remember is that it was really nasty in a carefully stratified bureaucratic way, much as it was when Dante wrote about it. Some things never change, although these days society does have a very different attitude to a grown man having a huge crush on a fourteen year-old. Unfortunately, many Roman Catholic priests have yet to catch on to this aspect of moral relativity.

Anyway, it turns out that John Lennon is in a department of Hell where he is forced to fall to bits and then pull himself together, then fall apart again, over and over again. This constant disintegration and reintegration is rather irksome with Lennon, who pleads with Jesus for mercy. Jesus, who obviously has not got over the whole Yoko Ono thing, turns his back on Lennon.

And that is about it. The Colombians have nothing to say about anybody else in Heaven or Hell, it seems. Their only memorable encounter was with a rock star who once asked us to imagine a world without either Heaven or Hell. Apparently they did not notice or cannot remember what happened to all the really important people; useless tossers.

Some might say (some really cynical people, that is, who probably have a section of Hell specially reserved for them) that all this Heaven and Hell business is just a revenge fantasy. They might say that Hell is just a place where you wish all the other people who are different from you would go. These people would draw attention to the photographs which accompany this article, showing John and Yoko doing leftish things like protests and sleep-ins. They might say, those cynics, that Mr Wishart is a dreamer, who imagines there's no lefties, that they will all have gone to special places where they will suffer for their sins, for Eternity. But he's not the only one; Internet is packed with fundies describing their visions of the Last Judgement, where all the atheists and pinkos and queers and weirdos will get what they deserve.

The whereabouts of Linda McCartney remain unknown.

Here's Nick Lowe: