Saturday, September 29, 2012

Paging Dr Wigley

Openbook, one of the most entertaining sites on Internet, was shut down for legal reasons, according to Wikipedia, one of the most annoying sites on Internet; the developers, though, say they had moved on to other things - which confirms what Wikipedia says. This is a pity, since Openbook was an insight into the world of people who cannot manage their Facebook security settings. I might start posting my archive. In fact, I will.

Kurrently does much the same thing, with Facebook, Twitter and something called Google+.

In other news:

KATE Middleton‘s topless picture scandal might stop her from becoming Queen, it has been claimed.
According to America’s Globe magazine, Prince Charles‘ scheming wife Camilla cruelly taunted Kate, and made her cry, hocking photos of the beauty sunbathing topless exploded around the world.
“Camilla screeched at Kate and how Prince William rushed to comfort his distraught wife,” a source said.

This, of course, is rubbish. The succession law does not work like that. Anyway, the last sentence of that paragraph does not make sense. And now, following the topless photos scandal, there is a bottomless photos scandal, which is just as dull. Quite why a magazine from Denmark, where almost everybody gets naked at any opportunity, should be interested in grainy photographs of someone who will never be Queen because her grandmother-in-law will live past 100 and her father-in-law will then be King for his prolonged dotage is beyond me.

Fun fact: Mark Wigley plays for Girlington in the Spen Valley Association Football League. Is there no end to what  can do? My next project shall be a comic called Wigley of the Rovers, in which the boy form Palmerston North deconstructs Association Football. On a related note, Peter Eisenman can can name all the teams in the Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga,

This is funny:

Saturday, September 22, 2012


More than a third of primary school children are failing writing standards because they don't read enough and are confused by texting language and slang, say experts.
RLY? Sez who? Sayeth the Principal of the New Zealand Writers' College:
"The language they are hearing is all jargon. There is a lot of slang and it's almost phonetically based and not spelling based." "So when they have to sit down and write something, it is completely alien to them."
So, what kind of expert is this Principal?
Nichola Meyer started her career as a freelance writer in 2001, and has written feature and cover articles for several leading magazines, among them O: The Oprah Magazine, Femina, Your Baby, Essentials and Child. With a university Major in English, Honours (magna cum laude) and a Masters Degree (cum laude) in Psychology, Nichola has a special interest in reporting on issues of interest to women and parents.
She has written for Oprah. She is that kind of expert. And what is her College all about?
Choose from over 30 writing courses tutored by professional, award-winning writers. Learn to write from the comfort of your home from anywhere in New Zealand. You will receive one-to-one support, guidance and mentoring from an expert in the field, every line of the way.
So it is a correspondence school, where you can pay to be tutored by professional, award-winning writers: who are these people? What do they want? They are mostly South African. The Copywriting course is tutored by one Mandy Speechly, who is Head of Copy at the AAA School of Advertising in Cape Town.  The novel writing course is tutored by one Sonny Whitelaw, whose oeuvre is in the novelisation of Sci-Fi TV series. The course tells you all you need to know, including – at the very end – a module on the lifestyle of the working writer (Protip: we go to lunch and complain about not having any work) and an assessment of your partly-completed novel; if you want to know how to finish it, you will have to go on the Advanced Novel Writing course. And oh look, there's Sarah Lang; she at least is well-known and local.

This college is virtual and unaccredited. It teaches adults how to write, in writing, so long as they part with large sums of money: the poetry course costs more than you will ever earn. The Principal has degrees in Eng Lit and Psych. She did some teaching, a while back. In what way is she an expert on children's writing abilities? Of course, if you keep reading, you will get to hear from a real expert,
Professor Judy Parr, head of the Auckland University School of Curriculum and Pedagogy; but that is way down the inverted pyramid, where there will be few readers still reading. So what happens in this story is that the opinion of someone who had no apparent expertise in this field is favoured over one of its leading experts. Of course, Ms Meyer's opinion is a commonplace – it is all because of the TXT MSSGNG. Professor Parr says something that all writers will know: in order to write, you have to read. And that means parents have to take responsibility for providing their children with books, rather than blaming Internet and schools.

But what of the stats? What of these national standards that so many children are failing? Well, it is funny you should ask, because the journalist who wrote this story – Vaimoana Tapaleao – also wrote this one:
Many people referred to the data as "ropey" - a reference to a word Prime Minister John Key used earlier this year when he described the national standards information as "ropey at best".
So there we have it: many people who know what they are talking about (and the Prime Minister) think these standards are (to use a technical term) tosh. They are not standards at all, because the data is not standard. So why do we have here a story about children failing, when the evidence for this failure is so  suspect? Because fear sells papers, that is why. It is easier to frighten people with the prospect of their children failing and the school system producing a nation of idiots than it is to do a properly-researched story about education.

Broadcast, singing about writing:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The letterbox as metaphor

Island Bay, Wellington was used for the cover image on the Winter 1975 issue of the literary periodical Islands, accompanying Duggan's last and posthumously published story 'Magsman Miscellany,' which both is and is not a self-portrait. Two weatherboard houses abut at an odd angle. The gap between them and the sharply receding diagonals, produce a vortex-like perspective. In the right foreground there is a letterbox with a narrow rectangular slot, which looks almost animate: a blank face staring back. Could this also be a metaphoric face of New Zealand suburbia, so often stereotyped as bland, boring, featureless? 

Christ, Len Bell writes a load of bollocks. This is from Marti Friedlander; Auckland University Press, 2009.

In any case, why ask these ridiculous questions? Why not just ask the photographer? It is not as if she were dead five centuries. Go on, Len, call her:

"Marti, did you mean that letterbox in the Duggan photograph to be a metaphoric face of New Zealand suburbia? 
Marti, are you there?"

And what on earth is a vortex-like perspective? You can see the photo here and decide for yourself, if you must. And then you could ask yourself, how is it that art historians do not know the first thing about architecture but persist in talking about it?

Pic unrelated, of course. Here are the Neo-Kalashnikovs, exploring New Zealand domestic architecture. It both is and is not a self-portrait:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cherry Chapstick

And that is the most galling thing for intellectuals who abhor her. Intellectuals find normal people offensive. Intellectuals spend ages trying to learn about culture and making themselves read boring books and struggling to show they are better than other people. Imagine how miffed they are to see those blithe, dumb ordinary types who seem quite happy doing normal stuff like having sex and putting on lip gloss.
Oh no Hill Cone. Does this mean we have to watch them having sex?

 I think I have a book to read.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Winning in the nineties

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all, particularly those people who have travelled some distance to be here. In fact, I would like to make this the mother of all welcomes. Thus spake Bernard Fenton (President, BOMA NZ) in his opening address to the 1991 conference of the New Zealand Council of Shopping Centres, a conference on the theme of Winning in the Nineties.

The mother of all welcomes! It almost creates an expectation.

But the nineties are not just about winning. It is a time of civil disobedience by superannuants: "There is no way the pensioners were going to be helpful in filling out the forms."

And who else but Mr Bernard Fenton has the courage to stand up and ask why the people of Wellington are so quite?

And yet we all new of the abuses within the social welfare system and the changes that needed to be made.

So what is the relevance of all this? The Christmas period is normally the retail lifeline. This year, 1991, Mr Fenton believes that Christmas will not fulfill this function. It is not going to be an easy year but for those of us who can display leadership and communicate, it will be a year with its rewards.

You read it here first.