Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gone for a soldier

Like all Officer Cadets at Sandhurst, Prince William considered a number of regiments before applying to join The Household Cavalry. He based his decision on the variety of roles which the regiment undertakes, from reconnaissance support to airborne forces, right through to ceremonial duties. The Prince was also attracted by the Regiment’s outstanding record in recent decades, most notably during the Falklands Conflict, the 1991 Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, in Iraq and in Northern Ireland.
Sub-Lieutenant Wales, as he is known in the service, will spend the next three weeks undergoing basic naval training, to learn core skills such as navigation and sea safety. The remaining five weeks will be spent aboard the frigate HMS Iron Duke on duty in the North Atlantic where he will join patrols searching for drug runners in Caribbean waters.
Prince William has successfully completed the final phase of his RAF helicopter flying training and is now a fully-qualified Search and Rescue pilot. Flight Lieutenant Wales recently passed the last stage of the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) course at Royal Air Force Valley, Wales and will join Number 22 Squadron, C Flight as a fully-operational pilot flying the Sea King Mk3 helicopter after his graduation in mid-September.

Prince William, though a serving search-and-rescue helicopter pilot with the Royal Air Force in Wales, wore the dress uniform of the Irish Guards regiment for his wedding yesterday to Kate Middleton.

The decision apparently caused some surprise within the RAF, but the prince’s role as colonel of the Guards is the highest position that he holds in the British armed forces.
So, let's get this right. Prince William (Eton, St Andrews) goes to RMA Sandhurst and chooses the Household Cavalry; but then he goes to BRNC Dartmouth and trains for the RN; but then he goes to RAF College Cranwell and trains for the RAF. Finally finding a Service that can rely on him, he trains as an SAR pilot. But then, when it comes to marrying his long-term on-and-off girlfriend, he turns up in the uniform of the Irish Guards, a regiment with which he has never served but of which he is a Colonel. One would have thought he would have worn his RAF dress uniform but clearly, this man has commitment issues.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan:
As Prince William gets ready for his wedding, members of his former squadron in the Household Cavalry Regiment have been out on patrol in Afghanistan.

D Squadron has been based in Helmand province since last September, maintaining security in and around the town of Gereshk alongside soldiers from the Afghan National Army (ANA).
James Blount (Harrow, Bristol), on the other hand, served as a Captain in the Life Guards, prevented the outbreak of World War III and went on to lose his O and to sing about being in a club in 1973, the year before he was born.

Billy Bragg (Barking Abbey Secondary School) completed basic training for the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars, there being no Queen's Republican Irish Guards.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eats peas, roots and leaves

The process now is for Don to join the party. His membership will be accepted by the Board on Saturday. I have asked our whip John Boscawen to organise a caucus for Saturday where Don will have my full support to be leader, and the Board will reconvene that afternoon to ratify his leadership.
Paging Dr Kübler-Ross... I cannot help but feel sorry for Rodney Hide. Not only is he replaced by a carpet-bagger, he feels obliged to write this rambling farewell Had I been him, I would have just said "arse" to the lot of them.

But then, that is the nature of ACT: not so much a political party, more a cult. Convinced of their own rectitude and charged with the duty of saving New Zealand from itself, ACT members are an odd bunch. Most of them don't seem particularly well off, yet they are in thrall to the mysterious plutocrats who finance the party. Mr Hide may have erred but Dr Brash really has nothing to offer, nothing but huge amounts of dosh:

In the afternoon, Ms Calvert and Sir Roger meet Dr Brash in his Auckland apartment. Among the issues discussed are Dr Brash's position on the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori issues in general. This strikes a chord with Ms Calvert, who has been a fierce opponent of the Government's position on the foreshore and seabed legislation.

Dr Brash also talks about the considerable funding he is likely to bring to the party.
What indignity for Mr Hide: wrong-footed by the ghastly Sir Roger and the imbecilic Calvert, replaced by a man who has never won a popular vote in his life, who could not even unseat Bill English, who wouldn't recognise loyalty if it was printed on the banknotes, a man without a reflection.

And what this awful bunch seem to have forgotten is that Mr Hide won an electorate, took it from the Tories and held on to it. He also has a sense of humour and some humility.

No wonder they got rid of him. Rodney Hide is a human being.

Image shows Dr Brash among the pods containing others of his kind. From deep space the seed is planted. Here's the Charlatans:

Porta Maris Portus Salutis

During a Facebook discussion in which he said he wanted to "settle down with someone decent", Mr Tamiz claimed it was "impossible to find someone with morals and a bit of self-respect".

He continued: "It's the ones that look respectable and decent but underneath it all are complete sluts that you got to watch out for."

Payam Tamiz made the comments before he was a Conservative Party member.
The University of Westminster law graduate also said women in the area were "completely shameless".
Mr Tamiz may have done more for Margate than he could imagine. Not only does the town have a new Turner Contemporary Gallery designed by David Chipperfield, it also has, if Mr Tamiz is right, completely shameless women: the perfect weekend getaway-and-have-it -away. Margate also has the highest number of closed shops in the country, so there will be no vulgar commercial activity to distract one from the pursuit of beauty. As Mr Tamiz says, It's the ones that look respectable and decent but underneath it all are complete sluts that you have to watch out for; oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.

Speaking of which, the surprisingly and sadly short-lived Stroppery managed to tell us of the forthcoming Slutwalk Aotearoa before it closed down.

In other smut news, The picture of Dorian Gray is now available with even more mephitic odours:

"it is a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Decadents – a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction,"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cultural anxiety for pleasure and profit

This mass cultural shift towards the desire for "educated taste" has led to historic levels of cultural insecurity. Who can doubt that many of the people who drag themselves through a Booker winner are doing it out of a sense of "self-improvement" rather than a real hunger for literature? Similarly, a significant portion of the audience sitting through any production of Krapp's Last Tape are there because it makes them feel a cut above.

Are things different abroad? It's difficult to know, but I suspect that the French and Italians, say, are far less worried about what people think of their tastes. This is partly cultural arrogance (they know they are classy while the English live in dread of their own crudity), but also blissful ignorance. Many Europeans, steeped in a superior history of painting and music, are still clear about what they mean by "art", in a way that we are not. But then, those same cultures are not necessarily up to speed where the cultural lines are more confused. Could Tracey Emin's My Bed have been created, and received such a response, by an Italian artist working in Florence? It's doubtful.

Is Tim Lott talking rubbish? It's difficult to know, because this is perhaps the most hesitant and confused piece of writing on matters of taste to have appeared in years; but it probably is rubbish as well. In fact, I am being too kind: it is rubbish. It is nothing more than sneering at stereotypes: aspiring middle class people, the cultural elite and sophisticated Continentals. And how are the record levels of cultural insecurity among the middle class measured? Does the Arts Council have devices; is there a recognised scale?

There is a simple reason why Jack Vettriano's paintings are not held by any public art gallery in Scotland, or anywhere else for that matter: Jack Vettriano's paintings are crap. They are crudely-painted illustrations of forced quirkyness; so, so surreal, so empty, so what?

Teenage Fanclub on the other hand; now there's a real work of art:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Last year in Maidenhead

In Madonna's recent videoclip, "Open Your Heart," she performs as a stripper inside a room surrounded by spectator booths. The spectators presumably pay to view for a certain period of time; the blind on their window raises. When the pay period is over, the blind descends. I hear there really are such facilities somewhere, one of the more bizarre variants of the commodification of desire predicted by Lenin as symptomatic of late capitalism.

My Essay on Postmodernity
Eric Michaels
Art and Text 25
June-August 1987

In a spirit of admiration for Robyn , who has studied all Madonna's videos, I thought I would share with you this passage. Being critical thinkers and theorists, you will notice the characteristics of late 1980s academic discourse: the subject, the distance from it assumed by the critic and the use of the term late capitalism. Bonus marks will be given to gentle readers who noticed that the author failed to notice the reference to Paris, Texas in the Madonna promo.

The author, Eric Michaels had been an editor of Screw magazine, so his innocence of peepshows is surprising. Sadly, he was lost to us by that other discovery of the 1980s - AIDS. The field of Madonna Studies has passed into legend, occasionally appearing in rants about the decline of educational standards.

A little bit Rorty, a little bit Rock 'n' Roll

What, then of the place of the philosophical profession in the culture as a whole? For philosophers who think of themselves as quasi-scientists, this is not an important question. Analytic philosophy has little influence on other academic disciplines, and little interest either for practitioners of those disciplines or for the intellectuals. But analytic philosophers are not distressed by this fact. It is natural, given their scientific metaphilosophy, that analytic philosophers are content to solve philosophical problems without worrying about the source of those problems or the consequences of their solution.

By contrast, non-analytic philosophers typically dislike the thought that philosophy is (or is only) an academic discipline, merely one more Wissenschaft. They would like their work to be continuous either with literature on the one hand or with politics on the other, or both. Insofar as they succeed in making their work continuous with literature, they cease to belong to a separate institution: they are simply writers who happen to be familiar with a certain literary tradition (a tradition that starts with Plato and runs up through Hegel to the present). Thus there is little point in drawing institutional lines between the study of Sartre's treatises, of his critical essays, and of his stories. There is equally little point in worrying whether Nietzsche counts as a figure in the history of German literature (as he used to, before Heidegger helped him to a place in the philosophical canon) or in the history of philosophy. Anyone who is interested in Derrida's treatment of Socrates in La Carte Postale is likely to be interested in Valéry’s treatment of him in Eupalinos and Nietzsche's in The Birth of Tragedy, and is unlikely to know or care that only one among these three great writers earned his bread as a philosophy professor.

When it comes to attempts to make non-analytic philosophy continuous with politics, however, things become more complex and problematic. For non-analytic philosophy is, with some exceptions, dominated by a Heideggerian condition of the world rather than by social hope. Because the typical member of this tradition is obsessed with the idea of ‘radical criticism’. when he or she turns to politics it is rarely in a reformist, pragmatic spirit, but rather in a mood either of deep pessimism or of revolutionary fury. Except for a few writers such as Habermas, ‘continental’ philosophers see no relation between social democratic politics and philosophizing. So the only sort of politics with which this tradition is continuous is not the actual political discourse of the surviving democratic nations, but a kind of pseudo-politics reminiscent of Marxist study-groups or of the thirties - a sort of continual self-correction of theory, with no conceivable relation to practice.

Rorty, Richard
Essays on Heidegger and Others.
Cambridge University Press, 1991;

This is why we can't have nice thoughts; this is why some Analytic philosophers take pride in not having read Nietzsche and why Continentals prate on about Late Capitalism. It also shows that Rorty was smarter than the lot of them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Without thinking or knowing

It is unfortunate that some people, without thinking or knowing, labelled this the plastic waka or the Tupperwaka when in fact the materials being used are all technologically sound. Rather than be disrespectful to Maori culture I would suggest the waka building is a pointer to the place Maori will take in our society in the coming decades.
In which Sir Ron Carter, the Patron of something called The Committee for Auckland, misses the point. It is not the technological soundness that is at issue; it is the cultural naffness.

Without thinking or knowing, I would suggest the waka building is a pointer towards self-pastiche. New Zealand is littered with buildings that look like things that are not buildings. They are neither clever nor funny. The waka is worse still: it is neither clever nor intended to be funny. It is deadly serious, a rather sad attempt to represent Maori culture with what might be an oversized copy of a toy floating in Pita Sharples' bathtub.

The powers that be might have chosen an architect, perhaps a distinguished Maori architect (PDF), to design a building that would represent Maori culture as progressive, innovative, those sorts of things. Instead, they chose a big, dumb literal thing. It's like Britain representing itself with images of the Household Cavalry. You don't really find it anywhere else but here and in the Old Country: other cultures have enough wit, courage and trust in architecture to choose new ideas.

Here, we hand the opportunities to make public sculpture to movie model makers and engineers and we fill our landscape with giant vegetables, so what hope for architecture?

Dog: Tirau

Lest we ask

Just five days before Anzac Day it was revealed that SAS troops were part of an operation in Afghanistan last August in which nine Taleban fighters were killed. Critics of New Zealand's deployment there have sought to portray the operation as some sort of "revenge killing" following the death in action of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell. This suggestion was not only incorrect but was also an affront to the SAS.

Undoubtedly SAS troops would have been angry at O'Donnell's death but these soldiers are also part of one of the most professional and disciplined military forces in the world, which does not undertake unauthorised revenge or rogue operations.
In which the Press not only claims to know the purpose of the SAS mission but the motives of its members, and tells its readers that to question either is an insult to the SAS. This "don't ask, don't tell" policy would seem to be at odds with the notion of an independent media which asks and tells but, clearly, even to think that Our Brave Lads of the SAS would do something bad is tantamount to treason. So unthink that thought and hang your head in shame.

But wait, there's more:
Less edifying over the past week has been the renewed controversy over where the Anzac poppies are to be made in coming years. The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association have opted to buy poppies manufactured in Australia from Chinese components.

This will undoubtedly be hard on locally based Kilmarnock Enterprises, which has employed intellectually handicapped people to make the poppies, the more so as the Christchurch quakes have already impacted on its operations.

But today is April 25. On Anzac Day the priority must be to remember the sacrifices made by heroic New Zealanders in past wars and those serving overseas today, not to wrangle over where the poppies that symbolise our day of remembrance are made.
Today is not a day to think of solidarity with intellectually disabled people, those who have made poppies for years, doing work that gives them an income, a sense of purpose and a sense of pride. Today is not a day to think of solidarity with workers in China, many of whom are virtual slaves and many of whom are actual prisoners. Today is not a day to consider that many returned servicemen suffered head injuries that left them in similar intellectual states to the people who work at Kilmarnock. Today is not a day to consider that the freedom for which heroic New Zealanders fought many years ago is still denied to people in China. Today is a day for quiet reflection, but only of the right timbre and on appropriate topics.

The motto of the Press is “nihil utile quod non honestum” or "nothing is useful that is not honest."

Bohuslav Martinů - Thunderbolt P-47:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The fag end of life

"Retail tobacco displays impact on vulnerable consumers, such as people still experiencing nicotine withdrawal, and can prompt impulse purchases."

Apa wrote that the "key aspect" of her paper was to minimise costs to retailers and "allow for flexibility" over compliance methods.
One would have thought that the key aspect of her paper would be the vulnerable consumers, otherwise known as addicts, what with Ms Apa being the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Health and not DG of the Corner Dairy Preservation Society.

And what's with this "tobacco companies are looking at Facebook and YouTube to promote their products if New Zealand introduces new anti-smoking legislation?" Where is the evidence for this claim? It cannot be found here:
"There is also a risk tobacco companies will divert their marketing efforts into unregulated channels, such as internet social networks and product placement in entertainment media, such as Facebook, YouTube, films and video games," the paper said.
There is a difference between saying something might happen and saying that it will. The fag companies are drug pushers and have the morality to match; they probably will push their products on social media, given the chance; but they haven't done it yet and Mr Reid (him again) cannot say that they will do it, yet.

Speaking of smoking, Christopher Hitchens can no longer speak, as this letter reveals (H/T Russell). Here is Martin Amis writing about Hitchens; and here is Amis talking about Hitchens, and causing difficulties with his own smoking habit:

And since this is Easter, here is Hitchens talking about God in Virginia (where the tobacco comes from).

Discipline and punish

Calling all gays, calling all gays. Does this image look straight to you? I only ask because it is the cover of a new book published by Mr Ian Wishart's Howling at the Moon Publishing. I suppose the image is designed to make readers fearful of the menace of criminals stalking our streets but, at the same time, that dangerous criminal does have a white singlet and lot of muscle tone.

Anyway, the book received an extensive puff job, sorry in-depth analysis, on the cover of the Sunday Star Times. Gentle readers might notice the absence of any opposing viewpoint. We can only suppose that Neil Read, the author of this story, was too busy to contact anyone from the Howard League for Penal Reform or any other organisation which might have a view about the imaginative idea of throwing criminals into jail. Gentle readers might also notice that Mr Read describes Mr Fraser, the author of the book, as an international law and order expert in the first line of his story, only later revealing that, by this, he means Mr Fraser worked as a probation officer and then as an analyst for the NCIS in Britain. Probation officers are hard-working and decent people but their expertise is in probation, not in the efficacy of locking up the crims and throwing away the key.

Gentle readers might further note that this book has two forwards [insert rugger joke here], one by the ubiquitous Garth McVicar, the other by the equally ubiquitous Theodore "not his real name" Dalrymple. So, this is a book written by a retired probation officer and forwarded by a farmer and a retired prison doctor. I guess they couldn't get anyone with expertise in crime and punishment.

That last comment wasn't ironic. They couldn't get anyone with expertise; nobody who knows about this subject, who works in the field, believes that prison is a solution to crime. That pretty boy on the cover is a model and his gun is a toy, just as crimes, for the most part, are not committed by dangerous professional criminals who swagger round the photoshopped streets of an imagined metropolis with guns. Prisons are full of people who should have received help with their various life problems a long time ago, before things got really bad for them and for the rest of us.

Perhaps if Mr Reid were to talk to someone who knows about this issue, rather than assisting Mr Fraser et al to frighten us, we might start making some progress. But that wouldn't happen because fear sells more papers than thinking.

Here's a really rough video of the original lineup of The Heartbreakers, with Richard Hell on bass, vocals and coolness.

Relational aesthetics

Her art history tutor barely remembered her at all. "She did nothing to draw attention to herself," was his judgement. "Very discreet." Her final-year dissertation on Lewis Carroll's photographs sounds promisingly controversial (are all those raggedy-urchin girls the fantasy portraits of a closet paedophile?) but she "dealt with the issues sensitively and intelligently".
The Independent, the paper founded on the principle of ignoring the royals, succumbs to wallowing in the wedding. The Telegraph has the whole story about the Art History Years:
Professor Peter Humfrey was head of the art history department when William and Catherine were undergraduates. He was obviously very aware of the future king right from the beginning, but he barely remembers Catherine until she took the final-year course he taught, Titian and His Age. 'It included architecture,' he told me, 'and I think I'm right in remembering that she did a paper not on Titian or painting but on a Venetian palace called the Palazzo Corner.
Meanwhile our own Paul Holmes has been found in a rambling, incoherent state - in the Weekend Herald, as usual. In another part of the woods, someone with the improbable name of Wendyl Nissen writes parvenu fan fiction. When will it all end?

And what of truth and beauty? How is it that Ms Middleton has become beautiful, in the last few days? You probably didn't read much of Paul Holmes' essay, and for that you are blameless, but somewhere towards the end he makes this incisive argument:
In fact I heard Kate's voice for the first time the other evening and was shocked, Kate sounds posher than he does. God knows where she got that voice. Never mind. She's beautiful, already one of the most beautiful royals ever, international opinion seems to think.
The voice thing is easily explained. Kate Middleton speaks Received Pronunciation. RP is usually received from an elocution teacher; it is unknown in the wild. Prince William speaks the Lower Devonian accent which is popular throughout Ingerland and which at least is better than Estuary English. She speaks up, he speaks down. Sorted.

The beauty thing is more difficult to explain. It seems that Miss Middleton, never before regarded as beautiful, has become so by force of Internet. Recently, she became the Third Most Beautiful Royal in History, because of a poll. This revelation might throw aestheticians into something of a tizz, since no theory of beauty accounts for the event of someone becoming beautiful overnight, still less over a tea break.

But the aestheticians should remember the other royal wedding, where Diana Spencer was transformed from Quite Pretty to The Most Beautiful Woman in the World without her appearance changing in any major respect. It is also worth noting that all the Most Beautiful Royals in History were born in the 20th century and that none of them was born royal. Further, it should be noted that Grace Kelly is the only one who was really hot; not coincidentally, she was the only one with a personality.

Of course, Prince William was once considered beautiful; but then he grew older and the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha genes took their revenge. Regrettably, he has no personality to compensate for his Windsor-pattern baldness.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The rights of man

About a month ago, I was in a line of traffic with three vehicles inside the diamonds indicating a pedestrian crossing. Without warning, a lady pushing a pram walked straight across the road without looking, almost causing a three-car pile-up. Who is in the wrong, the motorist or the pedestrian? I was under the impression that if motorists are between the crossing and the diamond, they have the right of way.
John Brough, Auckland.
A lady, that's right; a lady with a pram; what some might call a mother, with a child or children. But that is beside the point, because this lady with a pram blatantly pushed her pram across the road while John Brough of Auckland was inside the diamonds. John Brough of Auckland thinks that this lady with a pram was IN THE WRONG, because he, John Brough of Auckland, was INSIDE THE DIAMONDS and had the RIGHT OF WAY.

Fortunately for humanity, the estimable Phoebe is no lady and tells him where he can stick his right of way.

Ad found on The Hairpin; female mechanic now on duty

Monday, April 18, 2011

A riches to even-more-riches story

Mr Hayward, who described himself as BP's "sacrificial lamb", could have sat back and enjoyed the benefits of the £1m payout and £10m pension pot awarded him on departing BP, together with the $150,000 (£91,000) he is paid to sit on the board of TNK-BP, its joint venture with Russia's third largest oil company. Instead, he is discussing a new financial enterprise with the multimillionaire Nat Rothschild that could see him rake in millions.
Yes, gentle readers, Tony Hayward could have retired to a life of counting his money and whining about how badly he had been treated, but he wanted to be even more rich, so he called Nat Rothschild, who put him on the right track to riches. But wait, there's more:
Last week, also saw Mr Hayward take a giant step to redemption when he landed the rewarding role of senior independent director of soon-to-be-floated commodities giant Glencore, which is expected to net him more than £100,000, plus expenses.
Redemption, that's what it is all about. Members of the Business Class redeems themselves not in the Mediaeval way of performing acts of charity or sacrifice but by making even more money.

And there is yet more good news: smart investors in BP stock made a killing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Swedish model

We also think that, for copyright to be granted, there should be a requirement that technological measures (or DRM) are not employed to restrict the use of works. If works are restricted by technological measures, their use, and therefore their contribution to the public good, is limited, which goes against the justification for granting copyright.
Ladies and gentlemen: the relentless logic of the Pirate Party (NZ).

It works like this: if you are a creator of a work of art, a cultural artefact or even a reality TV show, you will have the rights to it for ten years. This won't prevent others from copying it without your permission, because you won't be allowed to protect your creations by technological means. To add insult to injury, the people who will take your creations will refer to them as content. The will also claim that they are taking your work in the cause of liberty, not because they want it without paying for it.

If you are an inventor, you will be in much the same position, although with the added insult that your tormentors are this stupid:
Patents restrict the use of certain ideas (which have direct practical applications), even if people arrive at these ideas independently. Because inventions are often made possible by the emergence of other ideas (including those that might not themselves be patentable), it is not unheard of for people to independently arrive at the same patentable idea within a short time. In the case of the laser, for example, there is disagreement about who arrived at the idea first.
But then, there is a note at the bottom:
Core Policy originally taken from the Swedish Pirate Party and adapted to the concerns of the New Zealand Pirate Party.
Perhaps something was lost in translation.

Harry Potter and the catacombs of grievance

Fantasy author Stephen Hunt, who organised the protest, commented, “The sneering tone that was levelled towards commercial fiction during The Books We Really Read was deeply counterproductive to the night’s aims of actually encouraging people to read novels. The weight that was given to the single sub-genre of literary fiction in the remaining programmes was unbalanced and unrepresentative of all but a small fraction of the country’s reading tastes. And closest to my own heart, the failure to feature a single work from the three genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction was a disgrace. The official World Book Night list included Philip Pullman’s fantasy novel, Northern Lights. It is a shame the BBC could not.”

Hunt went on to say, “There have been weeks when one in three books sold in the UK were Harry Potter novels, or more recently, Twilight novels. The sweeping under the carpet of the very genres of the imagination which engage and fire readers’ minds shows a lot more about the BBC production team’s taste in fiction than it does about what the general public is actually reading...
Actually, Mr Hunt, you should have stopped at Philip Pullman. Nobody ever won a literary argument with Potter and Twilight on his side. Nor is your cause helped by the authors' note at the bottom of this page: "We still remember the sneering attitude of the presenters and the talking head guests towards The Lord Of The Rings during the BBC’s coverage of The Big Read a few years back, even though it won a public vote to find Britain’s Favourite Book." Yes, that would be because The Lord of the Rings is a steaming pile of cliché.

Besides, if the British cookery programmes did what you want of the book programmes - reflect what people are really consuming - then they would all be about curries, KFC and meals for one.

And I cannot help but notice that Iain M Banks signed the petition but Iain Banks did not; and that Steven Lundin wrote as Steve Erikson when signing, while Phyllis Irene Radford signed as both P.R. Frost and C.F. Bentley.

Oh well, at least nobody mentioned Margaret Atwood this time.

Spot the balls

A suggestion the All Blacks should wear a red fern for the Rugby World Cup was quickly dismissed - but that hasn't stopped the Labour Party stealing the idea for election year.


The logo was made by advertising company Barnes, Catmur & Friends. Co-owner Daniel Barnes said it took six to nine months to finalise the design.
Oh dear. Do you remember the old days, when you had to do some work to ridicule a Herald hack? You had to check sources, look at other stories, sit in public library reading rooms with malodorous old men. It was tough back then, but satisfying; at the end of a hard day, you felt you had worked for your lulz.

Now, it is too easy. The Herald Hack provides the contradiction, for the few readers who persevere to the end of the story. Labour stole the red fern idea, which was ideated a month ago, for their logo; the designer of the logo said it too six to nine months to create the design.

Why do I bother?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Scenes of rural life

An Englishman, when he first travels on the Continent, with every disposition to discover and confirm the superiority of his own country, particularly remarks, as one of the causes of that superiority, the comparatively small number of suburban villas which are to be seen in the vicinity of even the largest towns, and which form such a delightful feature in the landscape scenery of England. On minute inquiry, he finds that this difference arises from the peculiar habits and character of the people; and that a German, who has realized an independence by trade, or any other pursuit, instead of retiring into the country to enjoy it, removes from a small town or village, in which the fortune was made, to a larger one; whereas it is the exact reverse with an Englishman, in whose mind the idea of retirement from business and a country life, are inseparably united: and thus par eminence, England becomes the country of suburban villas.
Thus wrote Samuel H Brooks in his snappily titled Designs for cottage and villa architecture : containing plans, elevations, sections, perspective views and details for the erection of cottages and villas of 1839. It is to be noted that an Englishman goes to the Continent in order to discover and confirm the superiority of his own country. This is to be found, among other causes, in the multitude of suburban villas at Home. However, it must be said that cottages are another matter:

pvii An English cottage is proverbially characteristic of internal comfort and exterior neatness; it must however be observed, that in the style of architecture adopted by our forefathers in the erection of their country dwellings, a taste for picturesque beauty was very little consulted, and a uniform and monotonous character imparted to them, which appeared rather as blotches than ornaments to our landscape scenery.

Why is it, you will be asking, that this discrepancy occurs, that England is blessed with villas but sullied by cottages? Fortunately, Mr Brooks has an answer to that very question
pviii The art of arranging villas in England is far better understood than the construction of cottages; the reason of this is, that the occupants of the latter description of residence have hitherto been deficient in that degree of cultivation which is necessary to the display of what is considered good taste, and have neglected to call in the assistance of professional men. The occupiers of villas, on the contrary, have not only possessed more cultivation and taste than the others, but, from their wealth, have been able to command the services of all who possessed an ability to render them assistance.
You see, those cottagers, being rude forefathers, lacked cultivation and thus failed to consult an architect about the design of their hovels. Thus they not only let themselves down, but they did a disservice to England. I think there is a lesson to be learned here: always consult an architect, whatever your circumstances.

Images of country folk by William Henry Midwood and by George Morland. English Villagers was a wartime propaganda publication about Laycock. The Young Knives are from Ashby-de-la-Zouch:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When bloggers attack

Tasini complained that "Huffington bloggers have essentially been turned into modern day slaves on Arianna Huffington's plantation" and said he was bringing the action because "people who create content ... have to be compensated" for their efforts.
No they have not; no they don't. Huffington Post bloggers submitted copy of their own choice. Privileged liberals who write for blogs are not in any sense equivalent to slaves. Slaves have no choices.

Just in case this distinction is not apparent, here, also from the Guardian, is a video about slaves from Nepal in the UAE. The people in this video do not have blogs.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Sounds like us

Radio New Zealand is looking at selling news to the private sector and has eyed up an odd-couple contract with the highly commercial broadcaster MediaWorks.

A key issue will be ensuring the state broadcaster does not breach obligations under its charter, says spokesman John Barr.
Also sprach Drinnan on Friday Friday; and today is Saturday and we learn:
Prime Minister John Key has done an about-face after denying he had a discussion with MediaWorks bosses before the Government decided to give the company a $43.3 million helping hand.He has now admitted meeting then-MediaWorks boss Brent Impey two months before, when Mr Impey pressed his case for a scheme the Government initially turned down. The scheme, announced in October 2009, allowed radio companies to spread payments on 20-year broadcasting licences over five years, instead of one lump-sum payment.
See, it works like this. Mediaworks, a for-profit organisation which owns a lot of radio stations that once belonged to all of us, cannot make a profit. So the boss goes to the Prime Minister for a chat. Later, The Prime Minster lies about this chat, or forgets it, or makes a genuine mistake; you choose. In the meantime, the Government has given Mediaworks a deal, which amounts to the Government becoming a loan shark, lending at at 9.5 plus inflation - a deal which shows that Mediaworks must be in the deepest of doo-dahs. Meanwhile still, Mediaworks is in negotiation with our national broadcaster to take over news services. So, we the people are paying a failing corporation to take over a substantial chunk of what remains of our public media. And our Prime Minister is economical with the truth about his part in the deal.

The whereabouts of the New Zealand Labour Party remain unknown.

Before it is too late, you might want to try designing a radio for the Radio New Zealand competition. Speaking of competitions, it is now Day Two of the Fundy Post Spot the Architect competition and we are still waiting for an entry to pour in. See if you can spot the architect in this promo:

Friday, April 08, 2011

I'm on a boat

For the record, forensic research by the estimable Toby Manhire confirms that is was I who coined the word "Tupperwaka" to describe what might otherwise be called Sharples' Folly or even Pita's Posa. I am recording this contribution to the architectural discourse in the 'major achievements' section on my Doctoral Annual Report.

Meanwhile, the estimable Graham Beattie reprints a section of my essay on bookshops in the current edition of Metro, which you really should rush out and buy. Of course, had I known that this would be Metro's Sex Issue, I would have scandalised the book section by writing about the joy of sex in the library of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists.

Since it is Friday, here is a special treat: the Fundy Post Spot the Architect Competition. Answers on a post card to the usual address.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

It's their party; you can cry if you want to

The $9.8 million Cloud at the Rugby World Cup "Party Central" in Auckland will host trade displays for New Zealand industries while Cup revellers are left out in the cold.

Details of the business focus of the taxpayer-funded structure became clear yesterday after it was revealed that a $2 million plastic waka was planned for Queens Wharf to promote Maori culture.

Rather than being a party venue, the opaque-roofed, steel and glass Cloud will house displays touting New Zealand's agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
In which Party Central becomes a trade fair, after all that was said by Nice Mr Key; after that vast, unwieldy and unprofessional pseudo-competition for the design, after all that utter bollocks from our Government, what we get is something we cannot have, not that we would want it. Droves of leisurewear-clad businessfolk we be able to browse the aisles and enjoy the hospitality, while the rugby fans will be kept outside, in winter, watching the games (which they cannot afford to see live across town) on monster TV screens.

In other words, they don't call it Business Class for nothing.

There is a busker on K Road who sets up his amp, his guitar and a mic in the morning, to catch the commuter traffic. He thanks his non-existent audience between songs. This morning he was playing this, one of the best songs ever, so badly that it was almost unrecognisable. Thanks, busker, for spoiling my morning.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Scenes from the class war in St Mary's Bay

While out-of-zone positions at the highly sought-after decile 10 school are few, changes to enrolment rules mean Mr Chisholm's children have a slightly better chance of selection than in previous years.

While some say giving priority to children solely because of the school their parent attended is unfair, it's a position he is happy to be in for the sake of his sons' education.

"We are very much in favour of it, anything to give you an advantage over the next guy is probably worth taking isn't it?"
Yes, that would be it. It's all about getting ahead, getting advantage. If Harry can get to Grammar because daddy is an Old Boy, then Angus will get to Grammar because Harry is a current boy. Of course, there is a school nearby which Mr Chisholm understands to be quite good, but it doesn't have the advantage, does it?

What's more, it has girls. And girls overachieve, excelling at all that girly-swot academic stuff, which is bad for boys' self-esteem. It is better for boys to go to a sporty school, one with built-in advantage. That way, they'll always be ahead.

Look at the quite good Western Springs College. Look at its mission statement:
All students, inspired with a love of learning, are challenged to discover and develop their unique personal strengths so that they are well equipped to contribute to the building of a just society.
Love of learning, unique personal strengths; who needs those when you are a Grammar OB? And why would a Grammar OB want his sons to contribute to the building of a just society? We have a perfectly good unjust society, where privilege is inherited and passed on to future generations. They don't even have to pay fees to gain advantage - everyone else contributes to their advantage. That's something worth taking, isn't it?

Things to do with a Media Studies major

This critical paroxysm against Sucker Punch is quite possibly the most colossal collective misreading of satire since Paul Verhoeven was accused of being a fascist for Starship Troopers. With this film, critics are making the same mistake of confusing depiction for endorsement, but more importantly, they seem continually befuddled by Snyder's manipulation of one of the most powerful cornerstones of mainstream cinema—the fetishized image.
See, it's not exploitation; it's satire. It's all about the fetishized image:
The primary tactic in Snyder's repertoire is decontextualization—stripping an image's connection to other images and concepts, and working purely within the realm of the surface. When his films make heavy use of slow motion (as in the opening titles of Watchmen), it flattens the characters into icons, charged with emotional power on the surface but emptied of internal complexity. A similar emptying occurs when fetishized imagery is deployed: both uniforms and eroticized costumes contain all their meaning on the surface, and these kinds of images often crop up in propaganda and pornography, which this film invokes in equal measure.
You don't understand. You think Suckerpunch is just wank-fodder for teenage boys and their fathers. But you didn't do Media Studies, like our author, who has done a reading of this text and can see through the obvious (breasts, thighs) to the concealed reality. But you wouldn't understand, would you? After all, you thought Starship Troopers was a load of cock.

Mind you, somewhere in the print edition of the New Zealand Herald, someone said that Suckerpunch "did for schoolgirls what 300 did for Spartans." No, nor me.

Meanwhile, in the peculiarly similar Spiceworld, the only crime is being old:

Another kick in the guts

'We can all get caught up in the emotional image of young men booting a young woman in the stomach to cause her to abort her baby, but these were two young people … she got pregnant, he was way out of his depth, and he did a really cruel and dumb thing.

''He was caught in the moment, and what he did was the equivalent of a young man putting a noose around his neck because his girlfriend tossed him out. He has to be allowed to move forward and put his life together, and I think the ability of the NRL and the Warriors to take this young man in and help him do that is role modelling and something they should get credit for.''
In which social justice advocate and author Celia Lashlie puts the boot in. Social justice, it seems, is only for boys.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tosh and its double

After the publication of 'Architecture and Transgression,' a reader complained that Tschumi had failed to cite Thomas Kuhn's book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, although he had, without any doubt, almost integrally copied a passage from it. A comparison of the paragraphs revealed that Tschumi had simply replaced the word "science" from the original text with the word "architecture" in his own. He had then slightly transformed Kuhn's prose to make it fit into his own article. Through this operation, Tachumi's text acquired an immediate depth. Without the quotation marks, the idea developed by Kuhn in the field of science was integrated in architecture and could be seen as an original theoretical concept. Once the appropriation was discovered, Tschumi's text remained autonomous, although it could also be read as an invocation of Kuhn's authority.

A verification of his sources reveals that Tschumi made extensive use of this procedure in the construction of his texts. That he did so consciously may be seen in another example, taken this time from 'Questions of Space.' Here, Tschumi introduced his solution to the "paradox of architecture" as a proposition perhaps unbearable for scientists, philosophers, and artists alike. This description, however, employed the exact words that Philippe Sollers used to characterise the work of Bataille. With full awareness, Tschumi was trying to transpose into the realm of architecture the effects sought by Bataille in literature.

Although Tschumi publicly apologised for the "oversight" after he was discovered, these articles may be read as the site of a systematic operation inspired by another prominent element of Tel Quel's theory of the text: the concept of intertextuality. In his article for the Encyclopedia Universalis, Barthes, responding to the question 'What is a Text?' summarise the theory. For him, the notion of "text" emerged after the critique of the sign, when the sign entered into crisis. He attributed to Julia Kristeva the epistemological definition of the text, which incorporated several theoretical concepts including that of the intertext. Barthes explained that all texts are made of fragments of other texts and are thus necessarily intertextual. The production of the texts is a permutative operation of "deconstruction-reconstruction" of former texts. But the intertext is that which, in the text, is given, without quotation marks, as anonymous, unconscious or automatic fomulae. Barthes argued that the intertext gives to the text a productivity that is not mere reproduction, because the intertext cannot be conceived as a voluntary imitation or a visible filiation.

After his reading of Bathes, Genette and Kristeva, Tschumi conceived his texts as collages, palimpsests, composed through the intentional juxtaposition and superimposition of fragments of other texts that were often reduced to mere objets trouvés whose origins and contexts of emergence were blurred. Together with Tschumi's technique of substituting one word with another - the title of 'Architecture and its Double' directly referenced Antonin Artaud's Theatre and its Double - this operation was an extreme and provocative use of the concept of intertextuality.

Louis Martin,
Interdisciplinary Transpositions:
Bernard Tschumi's Architectural Theory
Coles, Alex, and Alexia Defert.
The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity, 1998

A pedant writes

What is with this end of story thing? It's everywhere. Look, it's here in a Listener editorial:
Bullying is unacceptable. End of story.
But it is not the end of the story. Seven hundred and fourteen words follow this statement. If it were the end of the story, it would look something like this:
Bullying is unacceptable. End of story.

The Fundy Post, like all people of feeling and good will, congratulates Fiona Rae on taking charge of the Listener's web page. Here is a barely relevant Portlandia clip, embedded here just to show that this blog is hip:

Monday, April 04, 2011

Fools: Rush In!

Not for the inexperienced buyer, this stand alone townhouse built in the 1990s is a good opportunity to remedy the mistakes of the past and reap the rewards.

Bought as a family investment in 2001 our vendor did not ensure the council requirements were completed and hence this property will be sold without CCC.

A comfortable three bedroom entry level home on a cross lease section there is a real opportunity here to get on with the living now and deal with the council later.
Or, in other words, this could be the worst decision you will ever make. There is something breathtakingly glib about the suggestion that the prospective buyer should "get on with the living now and deal with the council later." There is something quite peculiar about the fenestration: the windows are in all the wrong places and do not align with each other. There is something quite nauseous about the lashings of cream paint throughout the interior. And there is something ominous about that cross-lease.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Everything is business

I have always said using Facebook successfully is not about the size of your community – anyone can pay for Facebook ads and rent a crowd – but it is first and foremost about engaging your community and providing a platform for conversations.

Facebook insights are a really valuable tool, and if you’re ignoring them, you may as well be ignoring your community.
Facebook isn't fun; its your brand. You must nurture it. You must cultivate your community. You must ruin everything for everybody else by being ambitious and calculating. It is all about insights:
To access insights, you must have a branded page on Facebook – not a profile. You shouldn’t use your brand as a profile for several reasons: It limits you to 5,000 connections, people think it’s naff, it is against Facebook’s terms and conditions, and most importantly, you can’t access the insights unless you have a branded page.
No, that's wrong. Most importantly, people who use Facebook to promote their tawdry little money-making schemes are annoying, insincere and untrustworthy. Everybody else is enjoying themselves, sharing their lives, helping one another; but you and your brand are there to make money. You are like a real estate agent at a funeral. You never stop, you never let go. For you, everything is an opportunity; the slightest acquaintance, the chance conversation, the introduction to a friend of a friend: all are potential for new business.

And you are there 24/7. You are always posting links, just so that everyone will notice you. You pretend to be interested in other people as people, when all you want is their money. Of course, you cannot bring yourself to mention money, not because that would be impolite, but because it would be bad for business: people would realise what you are about. You cannot talk about selling stuff either, so you talk about your community and about providing a platform for conversations.

The worst thing about you is that you believe this crap. People like you really believe that you are doing good, that the world is a better place for your brands and your conversations. You are wrong. It is not. Go away.

While others talk of LCD Soundststem, I shall play Sneaky Sound System. That's the way I roll: