Sunday, May 30, 2010

Seen and not heard

One reader asked Latta for help on how to handle kids who "keep begging for more and more and wind you down all the time till u say yes and give in." Latta responded: "tell them that you're having a sit down and a wee rest and that the smart thing for them to do would be to go find something quiet to do." If they don't listen then pick them up, put them in their rooms, and close the door ... bolting it with the lock you've just installed." Then go sit down, have a cup of tea, reflect on the general serenity of the moment, soak up the vibe, and then when you're good and ready go let them out. Repeat as many times as needed."

Kids eh? Can't live with them, can't have your way with them:
Several of the former Centrepoint children interviewed revealed their parents had sexually abused children before coming to the commune, which, said the researchers, raised "the possibility that there were some parents who decided to go to Centrepoint because of the opportunities provided for paedophile activity". Potter rejected this, and accusations he had produced drugs at the community in order to help him prey on young girls there."Having my way with them came first. Then if they wanted to, if they were older, you could introduce them to LSD."
It's not just me is it? Nigel Latta does not favour the sexual abuse of children, but it seems to me that - when you regard them as objects to be locked away when they are not wanted - you are putting yourself at one end of a spectrum; Potter, who used children for his pleasure, is at the other end.

But, you might protest, Nigel Latta is a clinical psychologist and that makes all the difference. Well, no, not really. Latta is a showman. He has books to sell and television to make. Having qualifications in clinical psychology gives him authority, but his selling point is being politically incorrect, and thus out of step with all those liberal professionals and those soft parents, all those child-centred fools. The combination of authority, celebrity and notoriety makes him the sort of person our Government loves, so it was he who was appointed to lead the enquiry into the repeal of Section 52 and it was he, according to an adoring Herald, who delivered the final word: also sprach Nigel Latta.

Of course, our playtime Prime Minister just loves hanging out with famous people, and hanging on their every word. Mr Key likes nothing more than the smell of success. He is successful, Mr Latta is successful. And this is a no-nonsense, politically-incorrect world we live in; a man's world where successful men act on their instincts, where ivory-tower academics and liberal do-gooders are ignored and where children will just have to learn to man-up and take their punishment. If hard-working parents are annoyed by their children, then there is always a bolt on the door.

It is not as if they are anything valuable, after all.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Men who write too much

“We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”
Highlighted by 303 Kindle users
Change is hard because people wear themselves out. And that’s the second surprise about change: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.
Highlighted by 292 Kindle users
The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but about the process of reaching the outcome.
Highlighted by 289 Kindle users
“Thin-slicing” refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.
Highlighted by 288 Kindle users
To create a highlight: use the 5-way controller to highlight the content you want to clip and then press the 5-way to save your selection. The clipping is added to a file called My Clippings. You can transfer the My Clippings file to your computer for viewing and editing. To delete a highlight, navigate the cursor over the highlight and press the Delete key. .
Highlighted by 276 Kindle users

Am I right to feel dismayed that the 163rd Most Highlighted Passage by Kindle users is an instruction to create a highlight on Kindle, from Kindle Shortcuts, Hidden Features, Kindle-Friendly Websites, Free eBooks & Email From Kindle: Concise User Guide for Kindle 2 (US & International), DX, 1, iPhone & iPod (Mobi Manuals) by Aaron Steinhardt PhD? One would have thought... oh, never mind. Should I be concerned that Amazon is collecting this information, as is the Guardian's man? Or should I worry that I am not reading enough self-help books? Am I anxious enough?

It is difficult to know. Take, for example, the most highlighted passage, from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers - the Story of Success:
Those three things—autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward—are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.
See -
most people agree, but I don't; I think the most satisfying quality of work is sex in the office with colleagues. Does this make me an Outlier?

I must be an Outlier, because my wish is for effortless reward, simplicity and antinomy. Besides, I would not have highlighted that passage. I would not even have read it.

Yet still, I am worried. I am worried that so many people are reading such crap. Or, at least, highlighting such crap: many more might be reading Moby Dick on Kindle, but nobody would highlight "Call me Ishmael," because is it (a) very easy to find and (b) not very helpful. But I think not. I think most people on Kindle are reading e-books about Getting Things Done.
Here are three basic steps for developing a vision: 1 | View the project from beyond the completion date. 2 | Envision “WILD SUCCESS”! (Suspend “Yeah, but…”) 3 | Capture features, aspects, qualities you imagine in place.
Profit. You see:
Those are the only two choices. Win by being more ordinary, more standard, and cheaper. Or win by being faster, more remarkable, and more human.
Or lose; or don't compete.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and never read literature? You see, I think people should stop worrying and learn to love books. I think self-help books make you helpless, in the way that diets make you fat. Even if that last claim is not true (which probably it is not, since I just invented it; although Diets Make You Fat will be the title of my next book) it seems to have authority, and so makes you worried. "What (you are thinking to yourself) if I am becoming helpless by reading these self-help books?" You are in the Village. "Should I be reading Concerning Architecture: Essays on Architectural Writers and Writing presented to Nikolaus Pevsner?" You should, but you can't, because I have it. "Do I pronounce festschrift correctly?" No, and you spit. And so on.

If I were to write a self-help book (and I still might, one misty morning when I 'm straight) I would advise my readers not to read self-help books. Welcome to Paul Litterick's Antinomy Game, which is a bit like Bruce Forstyth's Generation Game but there are no cuddly toys, no conveyor belt and you have no idea what I am talking about, have you?

It's simple: read books, interesting books. You will become a more interesting person. You will stop worrying. Your colleagues will want to have sex with you in the office. Your rivals will read The Art of War alone.

Angsty but privileged, or so I was described by a woman within twenty minutes of our meeting: people of such perception do exist - or so I read in one of the highlighted passages in one of the books I have not read.

The Fundy Post children's drawing competition

Mount Everest. We learn about it when we are very young in New Zealand. Our own man, Ed Hillary, conquered it, the tallest mountain on Earth, we write in our primary school projects. We might add that Tenzing Norgay was with him.

Although the late Sir Edmund emphasised he was part of a large expedition - led and driven by the British - he came from a small country that has relished the individual glory he achieved from such a world-beating feat of exploration.

The cultural myth surrounding Hillary - the centrality of this towering figure to our concept of ourselves as a nation - has, understandably, fed the notion of New Zealand as a country that "punches above its weight".

So it is not surprising the idea two Britons, Mallory and Irvine, may have beaten Hillary and Tenzing to the top by 29 years, finds less resonance here than in Britain.

Kids, can you
imagine what New Zealand's sense of national self-esteem would look like if it turned out that Sir Ed was not the first to reach the top of Everest? Yes, it could be pretty scary. Why not draw your ideas in crayon or pencil? Then ask your parents or care-givers to post your artwork with a Five Dollar note to:
Art Department,

The Fundy Post

Chateau Anomie

Durkheim Street

Grey Lynn


The Editor's decision is final. Entry fees non-refundable. Prize-winners will get to design a national memorial to something or other.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our friends in the north

By mistaking this wholesome staple for a faddish dip - the sort of thing that the quintessential arriviste Abigail would have served at her ghastly party - Mandelson incontinently exposed himself as the effete, southern bourgeois that so many socialists (remember them?) believed him to be.
In which Will Self gets it wrong. Gentle readers will know that it is not Abigail who is the arriviste; it is Beverly; we never see Abigail, Susan's daughter and whose party is the reason Susan has come over from next door. Sadly, the guacamole story cannot be attributed to Peter Mandelson.

Here's the Spice Girls, up north among the quaint working folk.

Up Pompeii

And it's unlikely Pope Benedict will be paying a visit to the bath paintings, which climax graphically in a spot of man-on-man-on-woman-on-woman action. Just this week the pontiff told crowds in Portugal that gay marriage was a bigger threat to the human race than disease, famine, terrorism or natural disasters – including, presumably, volcanoes.

Dr Varone notes that the final painting of a foursome "is exceptional even for Pompeii". But he adds that, in ancient Rome, sex between men was considered "absolutely normal". "It's only since the advent of Christianity that this all changed and the element of shame and sin came in," he said.

Sex and the city.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Violence: the new solution to violence

Bob McCoskrie, the spokesman for lobby group Family First, claimed violent incidents in secondary schools this week were proof of a need for stricter punishments. He claimed that the removal of corporal punishment had resulted in "more dangerous" schools that were tolerating an unacceptable level of violence and offensive behaviour

Mr McCoskrie said that violence, indecent assaults and serious and sexual assaults would only continue if more "effective" punishment was not carried out in schools.
The question is, would you want Mr McCoskrie to teach your children? His enthusiasm for beating kids, at home and at school, seems just a little suspicious. He also has both correlation/causation issues and syntactical challenges. Would a good thrashing help?

Schoolgirl sailor not eaten by lesbian zombie pirates

Yes, I know the headline is a little dramatic, and I acknowledge that Jessica Watson never was in any danger of being eaten by lesbian zombie pirates; I am trying to give this story more news impact, in the hope of one day becoming a sub for one of our two newspaper conglomerates. However, Ms Watson should be aware that zombie IP lawyers will be waiting for her.

Anyway, what about those lizards? Here is some science:
Lizards, which include geckos, iguanas and chameleons, are often referred to as cold-blooded creatures but in fact their body temperature rises and falls with their exterior environment.
Yes, that would be because they are cold-blooded, wouldn't it?

Moving right along: Lesbians. Do they play softball? Apparently, this is an important issue. Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan has been compromised by a photograph published by the Wall Street Journal which shows her holding a big stick and wearing a lesbian hair cut. Not exactly hot girl-on-girl action, I am sure you will agree, but all this is apparently coded lesbianism. The New York Post has a lot to say, and accompanies it with pictures of women in sportswear and (for the gentlemen) a tribute to Lena Horne. Say no more, squire.

Another way to spot homosexualists is to look for acronyms. Queers love acronyms. So it is at the GLBTQ, which tells all about lesbian sports:
A telling example of the importance of sports to lesbian culture is the fact that softball teams are cherished institutions in many lesbian communities. Indeed, joining a lesbian softball team is often the first move a new lesbian in town makes to meet other like-minded women.
Ooh er, Missus. Somewhere in the vaults of the Simthsonian there must be a 1950s public information film which warns young women of the dangers of lesbianism by showing a new girl in town who joins the local softball team and finds herself surrounded by over-friendly and rather masculine women. If there is any justice in the world, that film will exist. There is no justice in the world, so we shall have to make it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pigs might fly

We have selected a “Top 10” of ideas for a sign celebrating the global success of Wellington’s film industry and want to hear how these ideas can be developed into a sign which will gain global recognition. When people arrive in Wellington, they will see a sign that conveys the messages of film, global and Wellington. The top 10 ideas are:

  • Lord of the Rings sculptures
  • Middle-earth or Frodo’s Land
  • Absolutely Positively Wellington
  • A film sculpture
  • Wetawood
  • A wind sculpture
  • A weta sculpture
  • Film. Global. Wellington. They are at it again: The People at Wild at Heart, the little airport that never grew up, have come up with a list of ideas to celebrate the global success of Wellington's film industry. Readers will recall that they wanted to have a big sign like Hollywood but saying Wellywood, because that would be ace cool and really funny. Then someone pointed out that it would be a breach of copyright, that someone being a lawyer for the copyright owners. Then someone else, well many people in fact, pointed out that it was a really crap idea.

    But that sort of thing doesn't stop Wild at Heart, where there are no setbacks, only opportunities. So they created one of those corporate Facebook groups, the sort that make you think less of your friends when they become fans (speaking of which: Infratril? You became fans of a corporation, just because it bought Shell's petrol stations. You know who you are). And - voila! They have come up with a new list, one which only goes to show what sort of person joins a corporate Facebook group. Let's take a closer look at some of the ideas that fans thought up.
    • Lord of the Rings sculptures; Hell, yeah - let's have Godzilla fighting King Kong as well.
    • MIRAMAR; it's not just a suburb, it's a way of life.
    • WELLYWOOD; I hear writs flying in.
    • Middle-earth or Frodo’s Land; look at us - we are so cute.
    • Absolutely Positively Wellington; heard it before - not clever and not funny;
    • A film sculpture; not really thinking that hard, are we?
    • Wetawood: mmm, yes, advertising.
    • A wind sculpture; at an airport - you must like disaster movies.
    • A weta sculpture; a giant insect to scare the tourists - excellent, dude.

    • That's what you get when you do the corporate social networking: idiots. Then you make things worse for yourselves by advertising that you have a bunch of idiots for fans and, worser still, you can't tell the difference. So you make a press release telling everyone you heard the voice of the people and you listened. Idiots.

      Listen. The Lord of the Rings was a film trilogy. A lot of people liked it; a lot of others thought, "so what?" Its says nothing about New Zealand in general or Wellington in particular, other than that we love it when people like what we do. In a few years, it will be largely forgotten, other than by the sort of people who collect action figures, the sort of people with whom you would not want to be trapped in a lift. By then, your sign will look even more silly in all its styrofoam glory than it does on paper now.

      Wait, there's more. Weta Digital - which is what you mean when you say "Wellington's film industry" - is a business; it can do its own advertising. It is also not that interesting, at least for people above the age of 12. It makes special effects. Ho; hum. Making such a big noise about this one company suggests that Wellington has little else to offer which is absolutely, positively not the case. Making this one company the centre of your little corner of the world suggests that you are rather dim and trying a little too hard. It is like a giant carrot, really. You could do a lot better.

      No? Let me try again. Have you ever visited an acquaintance's flat for the first time, and found that she has a huge collection of toy pigs, arranged on every surface and accompanied by many cartoon drawings of pigs on the walls? It is mildly amusing for the first few minutes, and then slightly disturbing. The next time you visit, it is not even funny. The pigs stare at you with their little piggy eyes and scream "I'M SO LONELY." It is a bit like that. Needy: a big sign that shows you are so much fun and which celebrates your global film success. Nobody is laughing or celebrating. They feel pity, and pity's travelling companion: contempt.

      Being the first city in the world to self-consciously make a fool of yourself is not much of a first. Real global cities do not have to make such a fuss about being global and to celebrate their achievements. They just are. And capital cities are not theme parks littered with visual jokes and bad sculpture. They have gravitas. It is bad enough that we have a stand-up Prime Minister and an evil clown in charge of local government. We don't need a comedy capital.

      Monday, May 10, 2010

      Events, dear boy, events

      Or, to put it another way, build it and they will come:
      John Banks: I often hear the lament that there are too many stadiums in Auckland. It is not the case. There are just not enough events. We need to fill our stadiums with great events that attract people and make citizens feel proud of the place they call home. I have no plans whatsoever to reduce the number of stadiums across greater Auckland.
      I don't know about you, but I fail to swell with civic pride whenever I hear that one of the many stadia that litter the isthmus has been booked by yet another 80s AOR band doing yet another global tour. Nor do I quiver in anticipation of the World Masters Games of 2017 being held at the Waitakere Trusts Stadium. This possibility was suggested by Mayor Banks in the Banksie Bulletin, his propaganda opportunity in the Auckland City Harbour News (the paper with three names where only one would do, and two editions each week when one would be enough; this week's front page story:
      Man Uncovers Well). Mayor Banks' vision for a truly international city is stadium-rich. Not only does he have no plans whatsover to close any stadium, but he dreams of a new convention centre which will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and the Melbourne Motor Show, a long way from Melbourne.

      The pressing need for more convention space is evident when one realises that the Telstraclear Pacific Events Centre Showcasing Excellence is now fully sponsored. It has an ASB Foyer, an AIAL Foyer, a Fisher and Paykel Foyer, the Lion Foundation Hall of Champions, the Genesis Theatre, the Sir Woolf Fisher Arena, the Panasonic Function Rooms, the Carter Holt Harvey Meeting Rooms, the Bayleys Board Room and the Lotto Plaza. There is no more room for private-public partnerships, enterprise agreements or revenue maximisation. It matters not how much money you have; there is not a naming right to be had. What can be done?

      The new convention centre would occupy Bledisloe Wharf, currently used for some mundane purpose of trade involving ships. According to a piece in the January/February edition of Metro (not online, but then nothing of Metro is these days), Mayor Banks sees things thus: Sydney has an opera house; we will have a convention centre. Visionary, I am sure you will agree. The vision of men in suits convening on a slab of concrete at the docks will show those Australian bastards what we can do. No motor show will be safe.

      It is not just about him, though. "The new international Exhibition and Convention Centre that I am committed to building will mean hundreds of jobs, improved infrastructure and benefit for local businesses. A greater Auckland Council will have a real opportunity to focus on attracting more international eyes and dollars." He goes on to note that "we will need a significant budget to compete successfully" and observes that Victoria "undoubtedly Australia's most successful events state," has an events budget of $96m, while the Auckland region gets by on a paltry $12m.

      That, at the end of the day, is what it is all about: making businessmen richer while cringing culturally. It is what they call the Bilbao Effect, but we don't get a gallery or a Gehry. We will get conventions and motor shows, in yet another Jasmax shed.

      Ingenio et Labore

      As many as 300,000 11-year-olds will find their national curriculum tests cancelled this morning.

      The estimate of the amount of disruption caused by a boycott of the tests – in maths and English – increased yesterday. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that the number of schools backing the boycott ranged from 30 per cent to 75 per cent from local authority to local authority. Overall, about half of the 17,000 schools due to sit the tests are set to abandon them.

      In short,
      balls to Balls, the Education Secretary who had "urged school governors to consider sending heads home if they refused to administer the tests."

      All power to the rebellious headteachers. SATs and League tables have nothing to do with education, other than to hinder it. They are the work of people who distrust teachers, despise education and disapprove of society. Their only purposes are to create a competitive market in advance of privatisation and to turn schools into factories for the production of drones. They tarnish education and corrupt educators. The teachers don't want them there and we should not have them here.

      In other news, this blogeur has made a small protest against educational bureaucracy. I have refused to complete something called the Doctoral Annual Report. As I explained to those whom it concerned:

      I came to this university to obtain a PhD, not to indulge the university's fascination with bureaucracy. I have no interest in goals, tasks, creative work stages, skill sets, feedback or any other management twaddle. I simply wish to do my research without the impediments presented by an incompetent and self-serving administrative machine.
      And no, the featured promo will not be School's Out or Hot for Teacher. It will be the Pretty Things, somewhere in the Netherlands at some time in the 1960s:

      Sunday, May 09, 2010

      Blade on the feather

      The extraordinary thing  about Mr Clegg is that he has to think about it. He has a choice between a party which at least has a history of progressive politics, if not a present of same, and this lot:

      Yet Mr Clegg is giving consideration to a coalition with Spandau Ballet, despite their offer of nothing more than a grand commission of inquiry into the proportional representation thing, the very thing which is the most important thing to the Liberal Democrats. Parson Brown is at least prepared to offer a referendum.

      Me, I don't think anyone really wants to work with anyone else. Worse still, I don't think anyone really wants to be Prime Minister, apart from Gordon Brown - and he only wants the job to spite Tony Blair. Everyone else knows that the next decade will be hideous for Britain and will destroy the reputation of anyone who has the misfortune to be PM, as well as making his party unelectable for the next quarter century (assuming that there will be another quarter century, given the nukes and the global warming and the disappearing bees).

      If they had any sense, they would agree to give the job to that woman from the Greens. Let her scrap Trident and regulate the banks; that should keep her busy for the first day at No 10. Then she will have to deal with the debt crisis, the education crisis, the chav crisis and all the other crises. Whilst she does all that, the major parties can get on with doing what they enjoy most: fighting amongst themselves.

      Subway Sect:

      Saturday, May 08, 2010

      From our Christchurch correspondent

      Architecture is the winner on the day: the University of Canterbury's plan for a bijou music school among the Mountforts has been rejected. Cynics had observed that the school's practice rooms would have been too small to rattle a tambourine within, but the design would have provided ample spaces for corporate entertaining. Sir Miles may be downhearted, but at least the Dorset Street Flats have been preserved (the bewildered should read Mr Matthews on Warren and Mahoney).

      Meanwhile on a campus nearby, Megan battles the grey robots.

      Friday, May 07, 2010

      And Arthur Negus has held Bristols

      The Conservatives' mission to "castrate the Labour party" by removing Ed Balls from his seat failed shortly before dawn, as the schools secretary held onto his seat with a margin of just over 1,000 votes. In one of the most eagerly-anticipated and tightly-contested results of the early hours, Brown's protege and arch-loyalist narrowly avoided being caught in a "reverse Portillo" moment – a reference to the potent defeat of Michael Portillo in 1997, when his expression of stunned surprise symbolised the Conservative party's catastrophic rout.

      Balls, castrate, "reverse Portillo:" if anyone had any doubts as to whether British politicians are anything but a bunch of smutty schoolboys pretending to be grown-ups, put them aside now.

      Moving right along, there is a Green seat far away, while Margaret Hodge saves Barking from fascism. Jacqui Smith, however, has just learned the full cost of the two most expensive gay porn movies in history.  

      This is Britain, so it is crucial to know which celebrities are endorsing which parties.  Meanwhile, David Hare announces the death of New Labour. We shall remember them.

      So, while we wait to learn whether David Cameron will be the 19th Etonian Prime Minister and contemplate the fact that Nick Clegg went to Westminster (as did Shane MacGowan) we turn to an unrelated but hilarious story, that of Dr George Rekers and Lucien.

      And finally, here is one of those parties with lots of drunken men trying to dance and one really hot girl:

      Thursday, May 06, 2010

      Heritage detailing for pleasure and profit

      Astor Hotel

      Large, rambling old building standing defiantly alone at the top of Symonds St while all around is being razed to the ground.

      The Lounge Bar (upstairs) has an aura of old-fashioned respectability. Large, comfortably furnished and unpretentious, many would see it as their "local." In a district starved of decent bars, it does a hectic lunchtime trade, then lapses into nonchalant mode before awakening for the evening. Across the passageway is an overspill room wherein dominates a pool table. Drab, and a little remote from the action, it does have access to the food bar.

      At ground level is the Public Bar. Even with the attempt at enlivening this barren area with partitioning, a melancholia pervades. Bottle Shop.

       Good and Bad Pub Guide to Central Auckland,
       Colin E Malden, 1991

      Defiant though it might have been The Astor Hotel was eventually razed to the ground, in 1997 - six years after this description was written and one year before this present author settled in Auckland. It must have been nice.

      The reason for the demolition was road widening. Here is a picture of the widened road:

      As you can see, the widening has not solved traffic problems. If you are especially observant, you might also notice the ghastly Città apartments, which the people at Resene describe thus:
      A stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of Queen Street, the Citta Apartments on the crest of Upper Symonds Street and Khyber Pass successfully meld urban location, convenience and modern, stylish design and finishing. Ground floor retail provides a shopfront to the project and protects residents from the passing vehicular and foot traffic while giving them a quick stop shopping option, while the enclosed courtyard is a quiet haven from the busy city. The building design blends heritage detailing with solid masonry and modern comfort
      Some points worth noting:

      1. You would need a pretty good throwing arm to hit this building from Queen Street, although the experience would be satisfying if you succeeded.

      2. The residents apparently need to be protected, by shops, from the traffic on the widened road and from passers-by.

      3. The heritage detailing and the building it details have replaced real old buildings.

      Buildings, especially old ones, do not stand much of a chance in Auckland. If it is not the ever-widening roads, it is the pressing needs of developers wot does for them. And so the local pub is replaced by through traffic, and its surrounding buildings, the places where the locals used to live, are replaced by heritage-detailed apartments for people who want to live in the city but be protected from it. To add insult to the city's injury, the successfully-melded apartments are named Città, a word you may pronounce as you wish. Incidentally, the guilty men and women responsible for this melding are the Brown Day group.

      Some memories of the Astor Hotel and its locality remain, at
      Jonathan Ganley's excellent point that thing, and in the art of Janine Randerson and that of Marie Shannon. Little else remains, although a piece of the hotel was relocated to Grey Lynn.

      Tuesday, May 04, 2010

      Cosiness, firmness and delight

      Modern architects have often been really bad at creating cosiness. Cosiness is one of the most essential of virtues in houses and yet so often, modern architects fear it as a one-way road to kitsch, which it doesn’t have to be.
      Oh yes; it is Alain de Botton again, this time on the NZBC (I know, I should have posted this ages ago; I forgot; sorry). What I want to know of M. de Botton is why he should think that it is only the Moderns who failed to create cosiness in their architecture. Was there any time in the history of architecture when cosiness was considered to be an essential virtue, save perhaps the inglenook-infested Arts and Crafts movement? Could the works of Brunelleschi, Palladio, Vanburgh, Hawksmoor, Adam (Robert and James) or any of the Wyatts be considered in any sense snug? I think not.

      M. de Botton's great achievement in the philosophy of architecture (about which I have previously written ) is to mangle philosophy and to ignore architecture. Instead he muses on the homely virtues, those found in the houses his readers aspire to own. It is all about how worn brick courtyards will make you happy. Many people think he is the cat's whiskers, so far as the theory of architecture is concerned. In part this is because the theorists of architecture are obscure and unintelligible, but mostly it is because people want their homes to make them happy. M. de Botton is clever and seems nice. He is a philosopher, or so it is claimed. He offers people the possibility of happiness. So they buy his books, which doubtless makes him happy.

      What's more, he likes our houses, with their indoor-outdoor flow and proximity to Nature. This makes us happy, because we like it when people from Overseas say nice things about us. If only M. de Botton knew how uncosy our houses are in winter.

      Monday, May 03, 2010

      A green hill far away

      When Cameron speaks of Britain’s ‘atomised’ and ‘broken’ society, and calls for a return to a ‘broad culture of responsibility, mutuality and obligation’, or Blond writes about the ‘revival of the associative society’, in which the ‘common good’ is ‘cultivated organically from within’, it’s Ambridge that they have in mind. The rhetoric of both men seems to be shot through with plaintive rural nostalgia for the small, self-contained life of the village; for a world where ‘frontline services’ are ‘delivered’ from within the community by the church, the WI and the Over Sixties Club, where no one dies unnoticed by his neighbours, the pub serves as a nightly local parliament, ‘ethos’ is reinforced by the vicar in the pulpit of St Stephen’s and ‘mutuality’ flourishes in the gossip at the shop. In the Ambridge I remember, everybody pulled together to win the Borsetshire Best Kept Village competition; in Cameron’s new Britain, he promises to appoint himself to the chairmanship of the Best Kept Nation committee.
      In which Jonathan Raban skewers Cameron's mentor; readers in New Zealand might care to note how similar the Blond ambition is to the inter-generational family rhetoric of the Maxim Institute. Look carefully and you might also see a likeness in Tariana Turia's Maori welfare surveillance state, where agencies will work  together and with community leaders to keep an eye on the clients.