Tuesday, December 30, 2008


On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith. (Let’s just be thankful that Cézanne didn’t have a guidance counsellor in high school who looked at his primitive sketches and told him to try accounting.) Whenever we find a late bloomer, we can’t but wonder how many others like him or her we have thwarted because we prematurely judged their talents. But we also have to accept that there’s nothing we can do about it. How can we ever know which of the failures will end up blooming?
Malcolm Gladwell on progidy and its opposite.

Monday, December 29, 2008

How to rebuild an atomic bomb

The single, blinding release of pure energy over Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, marked a startling and permanent break with our prior understandings of the visible world. Yet for more than sixty years the technology behind the explosion has remained a state secret. The United States government has never divulged the engineering specifications of the first atomic bombs, not even after other countries have produced generations of ever more powerful nuclear weapons. In the decades since the Second World War, dozens of historians have attempted to divine the precise mechanics of the Hiroshima bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, and of the bomb that fell three days later on Nagasaki, known as Fat Man. The most prominent is Richard Rhodes, who won a Pulitzer Prize, in 1988, for his dazzling and meticulous book “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” But the most accurate account of the bomb’s inner workings—an unnervingly detailed reconstruction, based on old photographs and documents—has been written by a sixty-one-year-old truck driver from Waukesha, Wisconsin, named John Coster-Mullen, who was once a commercial photographer, and has never received a college degree.
From the New Yorker

Daddy’s girl

I was raised to be independent and career oriented. My schooling included a strong academic program, which left no time for learning domestic skills. You wouldn’t think it now to look at me. I’m 24 and am living at home. I help my father in his ministry and assist my mother at home. But it was not so long ago that my ambition was to be the first woman prime minister of New Zealand. And it was even less time ago that I was working a highly paid legal executive job for a prominent solicitor. The Lord has done quite a work in my life since this time. He has turned my heart to my father, my family and my home.
Genevieve Smith describes her reasons for bringing it all back home. Since writing this testimony, she found reason to leave home: her husband.
My loyalties had to undergo a change. I was used to thinking that Dad knew best. Now I needed to learn to think that Pete knows best. I used to do things and invest my time in projects according to what I knew Dad would want me to do. Now I needed to be guided by what Pete wanted me to do. When faced with a problem or an option I couldn’t think, “What would Dad have done in this situation?” Now I had to think, “What would Pete do in this situation?” These were exciting times and difficult as during this state of flux—learning to replace one man’s vision with another—the devil would come around and say, “But what about what you want? What about what you think?”
Daddy, by the way, is Craig Smith, the man behind Family Integrity.

Hat raised courteously to Feministing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The girl of the golden west

... I have boiled down my top 10 story wish-list for 2009 to just one issue: How to ensure that New Zealand - a young country that many of us love - draws once again on that frontier mentality which spurred our forbears to make the radical reforms that will be necessary to secure both us and our children a strong future in a changing world. Given the extent to which so many Kiwis have been glued to the State's welfare teat, this won't be easy.
I am grateful to Mr Brown for drawing my attention to the latest completely hatstand outburst from Fran O´Sullivan. I believe it explains the curiously disconnected tone of Ms O´Sullivan´s many essays on political matters: obviously she is living in some parallel New Zealand, a place which once was much like Oklahoma, the musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, but has since fallen into decadence. In this other New Zealand, the inhabitants once had a frontier mentality, while we lack even a frontier. In this Bizarro New Zealand, her people were self-reliant and adamantly against government dependence, even while `swaggies´ turned up at her mother´s door. In Bizarro New Zealand, people need to be weened off welfare, during the recession.

Meanwhile, in Real New Zealand, we recall that we have the World´s oldest democracy and the world´s second-oldest welfare state (the oldest is Germany, a country which has been driven to Third World status by the rampant welfarism of its feckless citizens). In Real New Zealand, the citizens realised that they would have to work together and help one-another; and they realised that theirs was an economy that was unstable and vulnerable to periods of depression. So they created a system for pensions and the like (offer did not apply to Asians and immoral women). Then Michael Joseph Savage came along and created a comprehensive system, which included really good state housing and dental nurses. This endured for years, until a bunch of nasty men (which included Roger Douglas and Phil Goff) took over the Labour Party and remodelled the system to inlude such moral values as spite and suspicion.

Over in Bizarro New Zealand, removing the welfare system is just the thing to do in a recession, a necessary Reform. In Real New Zealand, people shudder when the word `Reform´is used; they recall the Reforms of the 1980s, which opened up previously unplumbed depths of despair, while making nasty men very rich.

But, in Bizarro New Zealand, such things do not happen. People come to the door, men go to war, women become strong, members of Generations X and Y want it all and they want it now. Tra la lee. What were we saying? Oh, never mind. Oh look, over there: the roll call of scientist dissidents has not snowballed. Oh well, at least we have capacity to take delight in life's simple pleasures instead of being captive to a consumerist affluenza with all its attendant dissatisfactions. And when we were children, staying at the archduke's, my cousin's, he took me out on a sled, and I was frightened. He said, Marie, Marie, hold on tight. And down we went. In the mountains, there you feel free.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter. Ours is a young country, which many of us love.

Because, in Bizarro New Zealand, there is no such thing as a non sequitur.

Sushi madness

A 43-nation commission has public-trust management authority and a mandate to conserve. But the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas has for its 40-year history merely acted as the fishing industry’s official, tax-funded conglomerate. Think of it as the International Conspiracy to Catch All the Tuna, and its record starts making sense.
From Yale Environment 360.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Art and the man

That so many of Bacon’s motifs derived, in complex, vigilant ways from photography and film is entirely consistent with his acute awareness that these new art forms had rendered representation in painting obsolete, and with his horror of mere “illustration”. This was not to say that painting should not deal in “fact”: just that fact comprehended more than what is “seen naturally”. “One wants a thing to be as factual as possible and at the same time as deeply suggestive or deeply unlocking of areas of sensation other than simple illustration of the object”, as Bacon put it to David Sylvester. He was also one of the most literary of painters, an admirer of Ulysses, an avid reader of poetry and drama who saw that the Oresteia and T. S. Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes were blood relations, who liked to quote lines from both yet who repeatedly and sometimes fiercely repudiated attempts to read “a story” into his own work.
Alan Jenkins on Francis Bacon, from the TLS

Friday, December 26, 2008

Capitalism: my part in its downfall

Oh dear. It seems I am a traitor. You see, I thought I was clever to shop smartly and save money, but I was wrong. The New Zealand Herald has decreed that shopping is not just a feeling but is a social duty, one which I have failed to carry out adequately.

That´s the trouble with us pinko intellectual types. We always think we are being clever but we just help the enemy in doing so. Only this evening, I was in the supermarket for the sole purpose of saving money on Christmas goodies. I found Classic European marshmallows, from Guatemala, on sale for one Dollar - a quarter of their price two days ago. I found mince pies at a third of their pre-Christmas price and discounted Bournvita; boy, are we going to party tonight. But we party at the expense of the Economy. You might have thought that putting off buying Christmas stuff until Boxing Day was practicing restraint and delaying gratification; but no, it amounts to economic sabotage. If we all did that sort of thing, it would lead to Communism, or at least the collapse of everything we hold dear.

And a dogma is not just for Christmas. Those of us who buy the budget tinned tomatoes, because we know they are just the same as the tins with colourful labels and fake Italian names, are not being prudent; we are being too clever for our own good and that of the Nation.

It is not just us bohemian types who are the cause of trouble. Much of the blame can be laid at the doors of ordinary people with jobs. As the Herald notes, with its usual compassion:
People do not spend freely when they fear for their jobs.Yet the less they spend the greater the risk may be to their jobs. Business starts a vicious spiral with lay-offs and consumers continue it when they take fright. There is no point saving money in a recession. Prices are low, builders, electricians and the like are available again. There is no better time for households to stock up, do repairs and extensions, afford some luxuries.
Yes missus, this is no time for prudence. Putting your money away for a rainy day is not the thing to do. Think of the Economy. Get yourself that Dralon lounge suite you have always wanted. Besides, your money could be useless if you cause a recession by not spending: before you know it, you will be pushing a wheelbarrow full of millions of Deutschmarks to the baker´s, just to get a loaf of pumpernickel.

If ordinary kiwi battlers don´t spend money, the Government will. That sort of thing leads to a social market economy and, before your know it, Auckland will have an underground railway.

Fortunately, we now have a Government that won´t squander your money on an integrated public transport network. No, this Government has put its hope in consumers and will redistribute wealth from the public sector to kiwi mums and dads. In fact, the Government has so much faith in ordinary taxpayers that it is prepared to borrow money on what´s left of the international money markets, just to redistribute it as tax cuts. It is also going to cut the Wellington bureaucracy, putting out of work people who save much of their inflated salaries to send their children to Art School and spend what is left on opera tickets and hand-pressed Extra Virgin olive oil.

Now, more than ever, decisions to spend or save are crucial. In the past, you will have heard that we spend more than we save, giving us debts second only to Iceland. Under the old Government, this was considered a Bad Thing. But too much saving makes shop-keepers fearful, which is a Worse Thing. So the responsible thing to do, socially, is to spend your money like there is no tomorrow (which there probably isn´t, anyway).

And don´t listen to the doleful predictions from supposed seers. Cancel your subscription to the Economist, ignore the Financial Times, shun the Wall Street Journal. All this pessimism about a so-called global recession causes panic and disorder. In any case, much of that money we don´t have any more was inflated asset wealth, things like the value of your house or your grandmother´s life savings. So get yourself a new ranch-slider or a spa pool, for the good of the country.

Better still, follow the example of our Prime Minister and buy a mansion in Parnell. In fact, he bought three and knocked them into one, keeping lots of builders and electricians in work. And he has three other houses, so he probably spends a fortune on velvet curtains and porcelain figurines. He is doing his bit, so how about you?

Most of all, don´t listen to those cupcake-munching liberals in their op-shop clothes who sneer that Herald Editorials must be written in crayon. That sort of talk only leads to responsible journalism.

I dream in beige

According to Disney, the shape of things to come can be found at Pottery Barn, with a quick stop in Restoration Hardware for “classic future” touches and a trip to Target to get throw rugs and cheap Japanese paper lanterns.
P J O´Rourke visits the Innoventions Dream Home and finds the future is beige. To compare and contast, here is the 1957 House of the Future, while here is the Innoventions Dream Home, in a piece that seems to have been written by a machine.

The way we were

When I sit down to write a letter or start the first draft of an article, I simply type on the keyboard and the words appear on the screen. For six months, I found it awkward to compose first drafts on the computer. Now I can hardly do it any other way. It is faster to type this way than with a normal typewriter, because you don't need to stop at the end of the line for a carriage return (the computer automatically "wraps" the words onto the next line when you reach the right-hand margin), and you never come to the end of the page, because the material on the screen keeps sliding up to make room for each new line. It is also more satisfying to the soul, because each maimed and misconceived passage can be made to vanish instantly, by the word or by the paragraph, leaving a pristine green field on which to make the next attempt.
From the Atlantic Monthly of July 1982; the author discovers the joy of computer ownership.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Fundy Post's Christmas message to the Commonwealth

Gentle readership,

I think the following words convey, in a very real sense, the sentiments I feel towards you, especially at this time of year. The message is not mine own; in fact, I found it on the window of a branch of Renkon, the Japanese soup kitchen. Nevertheless this simple missive touches all our hearts and saves me having to write something original.
This year, thanks to the vigorous supports of all of you, we have spent a joyfull time with you. I hope that next year, too, you will display your abilities even more and walk the path of victory, for your own sake of a wonderful life without regrets.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Teenage kicks

Until high school, my Jewish pride had never really been challenged. Except for the occasional fanatic who insisted that I would burn in hell, things were generally pretty calm. I remember the day that it all changed so clearly. Cheerleading practice began like any other: rehearsal of dance routines, me being thrown into the air in a stunt, and a lot of overly confident teenage girls arguing. Then came the water break.
For Hanukkah, the Fundy Post brings you the story of a Jewish cheerleader in the Bible Belt.

Fleet Foxes:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

They're reading our crap, over there

Our little secret is out. Garth George has reached an international audience, first at Feministing and now at About.com. So, there goes our liberal reputation.

Meanwhile, one Mark Driscoll has written Porn-again Christian, a "frank discussion of pornography and masturbation" which is illustrated with a skull and a pistol. Pastor Driscoll prefaces his work with this warning:
Because I am speaking to fellow men, my tone may not be well suited for some women and, therefore, I would request that they not read this booklet, unless they are a wife whose husband has read it first and he can discuss its contents with her in love.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The empty page

In response to a previous post, a reader from Morningside asked for moar. Samuel, here is some moar.

Readers of course will be following the discussion chez Dentith, of Celts, Fascists and Satanists. For those who have not been paying attention, it goes like this: Martin Doutré, a conspiracy theorist, believes that the Celts, the woad and coracles people from Europe, discovered these islands long before Polynesians got here. He also has some connexion with Kerry Bolton, a local fascist luminary. Mr Bolton is also a Satanist, according to a Masters Thesis by one Roel van Leeuwen. The University of Waikato is reviewing this thesis after complaints by Mr Bolton. The thesis is also the subject of sustained attack by a blog called Satanism in New Zealand, which reprints parts of it.

Here is one such part, in which Mr van Leeuwen speculates on the meaning of the name assumed by one local Satanist:
‘Thorsten Moar’ is not so easy to unravel, but it can be speculatively suggested that it is based on the etymology of Thorsten as a traditional Scandinavian name meaning “Hammer of Thor” and Moar being a contraction of ‘more’ and ‘roar’ and used on the internet as an expression of frenzy and passion...
I put on my robe and wizard hat, to speculatively suggest a more simple explanation:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Welcome to the working week

Let me get this right, in the interests of truth and beauty: the Government has decided to revisit the Emissions Trading Scheme, in part because the enabling legislation was rushed. At the same time, the Government will be making a substantial change to the Employment Relations Act, under Urgency. Is it just me who senses something unsettling about this twin-track approach to the truth?

So, what's the rush? Apparently, the Employment Relations Act is such an impediment to people getting jobs that it must be amended by Christmas; it's a Christmas rush. Under the Government's No Santa Left Behind policy, the employment prospects of the marginal members of our community will be enhanced by allowing employers to take them on and then sack them after ninety days. However, this offer only applies to employees of firms that employ less than twenty staff.

Yes, I know: that last bit is rather peculiar. Apparently, it is really, really important, Urgent even, that employees should not have any job security in the first ninety days of employment, but it is only so if they are working for a firm which employs nineteen staff or fewer. I not entirely sure how this works. Do employers of less than twenty staff have especially poor judgment when it comes to hiring? Is this why they employ less than twenty staff - because they cannot trust themselves to make the right decision without a ninety day money-back guarantee? Do these employers hire illiterate signwriters, purblind photographers and headless hatters, realising their mistakes only after the contract is signed? On the other hand, do larger employers have special powers that enable them to discern character in an instant? I think we should be told. And Mr Key, the Smiling Assassin, is the one who can tell us. But he won't.

Of course, there are those who might say that there is no evidence to support this law change, that it is based on anecdote and grumbling, that it is no more than a sop to bad employers who want to hire and fire at will, or worse employers who want to fire staff members who won't have sex with them (you think I am making this up; I am not). You might think that Mr Key is pushing through this amendement because he is tired of being button-holed by Rotarians or that he is rewarding all the panel-beaters, armature-winders and spot-welders who gave him their support. You are probably right.

You are probably right because the sole reason for any legislation that is to be proposed by the Government is to maintain Mr Key in his position as Prime Minister. People have spoken of Mr Key having a Secret Agenda. They are wrong. His agenda was quite open: he wanted to be Prime Minister. Now he is Prime Minister, he wants to remain so. This is not to say that Mr Key is unprincipled. No, principles do not come into the matter. Becoming Prime Minister was the fulfillment of an ambition. Mr Key wanted a bicycle, he wanted to be a millionaire and he wanted to be Prime Minister. He achieved all these ambitions in turn. There is nothing he wants to do, now he is Prime Minister, but he will do anything to remain in that position.

This Urgent legislation is one such action. There will be no consultation. There is no need, since we already had the opportunity to comment when Wayne Mapp proposed the same legislation as a Private Member's Bill. Cynics might say that it is a rum state of affairs when a Private Member's Bill is subjected to more scrutiny than a Government Bill; they might go on to say that it is more rum still when a Government Minister (Kate Wilkinson, for the record) says that consultation can be cancelled out because it has already taken place in a previous Parliament. But Cynics are like that. Pay no attention to them; this is Urgent. It is important that Mr Key is shown to be doing something. It does not matter that this legislation was not previously on the list of Urgent matters promised to the electorate during the Election, because the electorate no longer matters. It is the Rotarians (and the Masons, the Buffaloes and the Elks) who matter now. They must be assured that Mr Key is Doing Something, to assure their continued support. The electorate have played their part. But now is the time for action, to force through unnecessary legislation to keep the supporters happy.

Meanwhile, the Maori Party still think they matter, poor dears. Somebody ought to tell them.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Only when I'm blogging can I feel this free

The word blog is a conflation of two words: Web and log. It contains in its four letters a concise and accurate self-description: it is a log of thoughts and writing posted publicly on the World Wide Web. In the monosyllabic vernacular of the Internet, Web log soon became the word blog.

This form of instant and global self-publishing, made possible by technology widely available only for the past decade or so, allows for no retroactive editing (apart from fixing minor typos or small glitches) and removes from the act of writing any considered or lengthy review. It is the spontaneous expression of instant thought—impermanent beyond even the ephemera of daily journalism. It is accountable in immediate and unavoidable ways to readers and other bloggers, and linked via hypertext to continuously multiplying references and sources. Unlike any single piece of print journalism, its borders are extremely porous and its truth inherently transitory. The consequences of this for the act of writing are still sinking in.
ZOMG: Andrew Sullivan has written a Why I Blog post and, in the tradition of the genre, it is deadly dull. You can read it if you like, but I wouldn't recommend it.

The question, of course, on the lips of sensitive readers like yourself, is "why is Andrew Sullivan (in case you didn't know, Andrew Sullivan is gay, Republican and loved by liberals: he is like our Gay Friend and our Right-wing Friend rolled into one) writing a Why I Blog post?" Surely he is too old for this sort of thing. The Why I Blog post is for self-obsessed would-be professional writers, not grown men. The combination in Sullivan's piece of soppy-stern gravity ("the monosyllabic vernacular of the Internet;" LOL) and juvenile enthusiasm is quite unsettling. It is like watching a bearded man on a skateboard.

For the benefit of the hard of reading, I will pick out some choice cuts:
We bloggers have scant opportunity to collect our thoughts, to wait until events have settled and a clear pattern emerges. We blog now—as news reaches us, as facts emerge... [and while our Team Leaders are out of the office]

But a blog is not so much daily writing as hourly writing. And with that level of timeliness, the provisionality of every word is even more pressing—and the risk of error or the thrill of prescience that much greater.
Yes, that would be it: the risk of error,the thrill of prescience; it's a roller-coaster, helter-skelter dice with death, this blogging life; yet how sweet the rewards, when you say something that nobody had ever thought before, like totally never.
It was the spring of 2000 and, like many a freelance writer at the time, I had some vague notion that I needed to have a presence "online." I had no clear idea of what to do, but a friend who ran a Web-design company offered to create a site for me, and, since I was technologically clueless, he also agreed to post various essays and columns as I wrote them. Before too long, this became a chore for him, and he called me one day to say he'd found an online platform that was so simple I could henceforth post all my writing myself. The platform was called Blogger.
Quaint, isn't it? It is like an eminent music critic describing his first impressions of the Compact Disc Player. And Mr Sullivan appears to assume that readers of the Atlantic Monthly would never have come across a blog before, that probably they are unaware people write on Internet at all.
Eight years ago, the blogosphere felt like a handful of individual cranks fighting with one another. Today, it feels like a universe of cranks, with vast, pulsating readerships, fighting with one another. To the neophyte reader, or blogger, it can seem overwhelming. But there is a connection between the intimacy of the early years and the industry it has become today. And the connection is human individuality.
If any of you are pulsating, please stop, now.
The reason this open-source market of thinking and writing has such potential is that the always adjusting and evolving collective mind can rapidly filter out bad arguments and bad ideas. The flip side, of course, is that bloggers are also human beings. Reason is not the only fuel in the tank. In a world where no distinction is made between good traffic and bad traffic, and where emotion often rules, some will always raise their voice to dominate the conversation; others will pander shamelessly to their readers' prejudices; others will start online brawls for the fun of it. Sensationalism, dirt, and the ease of formulaic talking points always beckon. You can disappear into the partisan blogosphere and never stumble onto a site you disagree with.
Or, to put it another way, (and to employ "the English style of crisp, short commentary" which Sullivan extols but avoids) blogging is a load of cock. Because it is clear that by blogging, Sullivan means political blogging, the sort of opinion-rich blogs written by prematurely middle-aged young men, who are convinced of their own rectitude and the infamy of their rivals. This am serious blog.

It's a guy thing. The serious blog is the work of the provocateur, the contrarian, the would-be political journalist, and most of these bloggers are men. They do guy stuff: they form gangs, they start fights, they leer at girls. Politics is important; it is the arena where they get to fight with the other guys from across the street.

As part of its election night coverage for the previous round of Congressional elections, CNN got a whole load of serious bloggers into a room, to give the audience some of those instant reactions to events as they unfold. The conservatives were on one side of the room and the liberals on the other. They looked like the blogging equivalents of the Jets and the Sharks: the conservatives wore Ralph Lauren, the liberals wore Abercrombie and Fitch. And none of them were women.

I don't know about you, but I find this sort of blogger to be rather dull. There are a few blogs about political matters which are worth reading, but the majority are just waffle. The author's pronouncements on the issues of the day and the ensuing daily fight with his critics is a circus act. I would rather read someone who can say something about a topic which most writers have overlooked, and do so with some style. And that someone is often a woman.

The blogs I enjoy most are written by people who can write about a whole lot of other stuff besides politics. Their audiences are not necessarily vast and pulsating and are not spoiling for a fight. They are people who have things in common and who enjoy each others' online company. Semi-professional trolls like Redbaiter and Dad4Justice avoid such blogs, because there is no sport to be had. Rather, the blogger and her readers have a conversation, conducted in civil terms.

I haven't done the sums, but it seems that a fair proportion of the blogoshere is of this kind. Writers have interests; they share them; others comment. Meanwhile, the serious bloggers have issues, which they share with their fans and their foes, who then squabble. The serious blogs get all the attention, because they make a lot of noise. But a lot of the thinking happens on the other blogs. You get more from a conversation than a fight.

My point, such as it is, is that there is a lot more to blogging than fussing and fighting. There are a lot of good writers out there who might otherwise not be published. For the most part, they are not professional writers nor professional politicians. They are not trying to win an argument or to advance themselves professionally. They just write about their interests, for the joy of writing and reading. And they do it rather well.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Almost famous

I could have been a contender.

The BBC World Service sent me an email on Saturday morning. The writer had seen my recent post on climate change and wanted me to participate in a debate on whether it is too late to save the planet. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to join in: the email had been sent at 1.30am our time and the broadcast was at 6am. To my loss, I had an early night; so I slept through my chance to speak to the world.

Oh well, it was nice of them to think of me.

Buddy Rich and his lovely daughter Cathy:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Kiwi: a flightless bird

What I am about to say, about the Government and its reaction to the Bangkok Airport Crisis, may seem to you churlish, perhaps even harsh. I do appreciate that we are in the wait-and-see period for the new Government and should not be too hasty to reach judgment. However, the Honeymoon Period is now over, officially ending when Mr Key announced the deal he had made with Mr Hide - a deal made in haste so that Mr Key could get on a plane to Lima and wear a poncho with the grown-ups. In fact, so keen was Mr Key to wrap up a deal that apparently he offered Mr Hide two seats at the Cabinet table, but Mr Hide turned them down, preferring to stay outside Cabinet so his hands would not be sullied. This reminds me of a comment made by the great Ned Sherrin when the Marquis de Sade's chateau came up for sale - that the Masochists offered twice the asking price but the Sadists rejected their offer. Anyway, back to the point: we are now in the wait-and-see period, waiting to see whether it all turns out as horrible as we fear.

So, to the airport; or rather, not. Because (and here is where I might seem churlish, even harsh) it seems that the Government is unable to make a decision about what to do. The problem is that two hundred New Zealanders are stuck in Thailand (the New Zealand Herald, with its usual restraint, today had a banner saying that "hundreds" of Kiwis were stranded; I suppose, technically, two hundred is hundreds, but only just). People from other countries, such as France and Australia, are also stranded; their governments are making efforts to get them out but ours is doing... nothing. Yes, that would be it: nothing. The Government is having its own wait-and-see-period.

This is a funny state of affairs, given that Mr Key was touted as being decisive, the man who played the Forex markets and won because of his decisiveness and quick-wittedness. But no, he apparently is "assessing the situtation." This may take some time.

So serious is the situation that Mr Key allowed one of his Ministers to speak about it, a rare occurrence. Mr Brownlow was on Morning Report, where he explained why the Government was taking time to assess the situation. The reason is quite simple, I think you will see: the Government wants to find out how many of the two hundred New Zealanders have left Thailand without the Government's help, before it decides what to do with those left behind. I am sure that you, being an astute reader, will appreciate the cleverness of this strategy: the longer the Government spends Assessing the Situation (or, as cynics would have it, doing nothing) the less they eventually have to do: people will find other ways of getting home, so eventually there will be no problem to solve. Here is a perfect exemplification of the principle 'that government is best which governs least.'

Mr Brownlow's thoughtful answers explain some of the difficulties of moving two hundred people from Thailand. Although it may seem that the Australians are doing a much better job, moving many more people while we assess the situation, it seems that this is a misapprehension: in fact it is much easier to move more people than fewer, and we simply do not have enough stranded tourists to make this task easy. Logistics is, I am sure you will appreciate, an Art, not a Science.

The task is made more difficult still because Air New Zealand aircraft do not regularly fly to Bangkok. This is a very subtle difficulty; Mr Brownlee, a thoughtful man in more than one respect, thoughtfully saved us the strain of an explanation which we may not understand. It might seem, at first, that the point is irrelevant, given that any scheduled flight would not be possible; if it were, there would be no problem. But perhaps there are other difficulties which we have not considered. For example, the runway at Bangkok International Airport might be curved; or perhaps the Air Traffic Controllers only speak Rumanian. Perhaps Owen McShane has advised the Government that Thailand has different air levels to the rest of the world. Or perhaps Air New Zealand is caught in a logical paradox: that it cannot fly to any place it has not previously visited.

It is a pity that such difficulties, if they exist, are preventing the Government chartering an aircraft, because now would seem the best time in a long while to do so. After all, airlines are falling down like flies in this recession, leaving a lot of aircraft to charter. Air New Zealand apparently has eight percent of its own aircraft lying around doing nothing, due to lack of demand.

Perhaps the cause of the Government's apparent inactivity is more simple than Mr Brownlee is letting on. Perhaps, Mr Key, under his agreement with ACT, has to consult Mr Hide whenever he wants to spend some money. And perhaps Mr Hide has refused Mr Key's request, reminding Mr Key that it is a central principle of ACT (a party of principle) that the Market does things much better than does Government: the Market will decide how these people get home, if at all.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Birthday to us

"We're only here," says Russell Brown, editor of Planet, at 32 the father of two and no longer a youth, "because of new technology. And a sense of community."

The potential of this new technology is such that Brown expects to have portions of Planet available "on-line" within a year, giving computer users access to sections of the magazine on-screen through Internet, an information superhighway with an estimated 40 million patrons. One day, he would like to move into CD-ROM technology, allowing Planet punters not only to read about music but to listen to it and even to watch video extracts on screen.
From Computers, Coffee, Contacts - an article in the October 1994 issue of Metro by Andrew Heal. You will note not only Mr Brown's prescience but also the correct form for the word Internet.

In other news, the Fundy Post is now two years old.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The boys are back in town

Nothing would happen to them, because they would not be allowed to be a part of our society. Homosexuals, like Marxists and other undesirable elements whose lifestyles or beliefs are unnatural or contravene the goals of our community, will not be permitted to reside within the borders of this new nation. We don’t care where they go, but they will have to leave.
As reported by the 100 word blog, the National Front are back; and they are new and improved.

Meanwhile, the National Democrats seem to have sold out.

Update: The National Democrats are gone.

The tide is high (except for viewers in New Zealand)

A reader from Morningside (an area of Auckland which contains at least two Fundy Post readers and therefore could be considered a demographic cluster for this blog) draws my attention to the latest utterance from Owen McShane, prompting the question "why does the Herald publish this crap?"

Mr McShane's intent is to to discredit Brian Rudman, one of the few remaining Herald commentators inhabiting a mental space this side of barking, for his opinions about climate change. Mr Rudman made the modest suggestion that it is hardly necessary for Parliament to revisit the emissions trading scheme, given that the scientific questions are settled. Not so, says Mr McShane. You see, global sea-level rises are no more than a statistical artifact, an offing that does not apply in New Zealand, where tectonic plate and earthquake movements (apparently, these are not the same thing) are more important. What's more, "local sea levels are falling rather than rising."

Now, correct me if I am wrong, but does not the world 'global' mean global? And does not water always find its own level? Allowing for the differences caused by tidal pulls, is it not the case that, if sea levels are rising, they are doing so everywhere? What I mean to say, if I have not made myself clear, is that all the seas are connected and that any increase in the amount of sea will be distributed throughout the seas. Of course, I may be wrong; I am but an humble architectural historian. But something tells me, something connected with those school science experiments with beakers of water, that Mr McShane is talking bollocks again.

Or do local conditions mean that New Zealand is exempt from global changes, that our local conditions mean we can continue to have beaches and baches while the rest of the planet drowns? This is an important question, particularly if the Maori Party wants Parliament to revisit the Foreshore and Seabed legislation. After all, if global conditions prevail, there may be a lot less Foreshore and a lot more Seabed before too long. However, if Mr McShane is correct, we will still have a lot of coast to argue about.

Of course, there is a lot more to Mr McShane's argument than water. He notes that carbon credit trading was invented by Enron. It is important to note in this respect that margarine was invented by order of Napoleon Bonaparte. Moreover, Hedy Lamarr invented frequency hopping.

Mr McShane also notes that the previous Climate Minister relied on the evidence of "a small beltway group that controls climate issues within Niwa, the Royal Society of New Zealand, and most of our country's input into the UN's IPCC;" a small beltway group of climate scientists, that is. The Minister disregarded the evidence of independent climate experts, by which presumably he means such men as the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. Incidentally, I was at Prep School with the 3rd Viscount's younger brother, a fact which almost makes me an independent climate expert.

Given my new-found status, I feel I should report to Mr McShane my own observations of local sea-levels. Although they do fall every day, they always rise again. However, I find I am still unable to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this paper: why does the Herald publish this crap? Perhaps I should ask a critical thinker.

Mutton Birds:

Have your party on TV

While online viewers watched a police officer prodding the Florida teen to see if he was alive, their chat comments ranged from OMG to LOL.
From Wired, a story of online suicide and its responses, which are less than profound. Meanwhile, Wired also reports the macabre case of a teenager driven to suicide, by adults.


Monday, November 24, 2008

New Zealand, a boxing fish

John has managed to reiterate the importance of global free trade and not re-implementing restrictions because of the global downturn. He is meeting leaders as the new prime minister of New Zealand and trying to seal some relationships. New Zealand is a fairly small fish in the scheme of things although we have always had a reputation for being able to punch above our own weight on the world stage, take sports for instance.

You can't blame John for being enthusiastic in shaking George Bush's hand, he was one of the most powerful figures in the world. He is networking and that's what it is all about, pressing palms. Like they say, much business has been done on the golf course. Networking is the key !
New Zealand Herald readers comment, in a feast of mixed metaphors.

The man who nearly was

I went to National's website today, to try to find out more about Cam Calder, the man who was a list MP for a week, before the counting of the specials gave the Greens one more seat and National one fewer. I obtained this result, a page that can be read in so many different ways.

The truth about Dr Calder can be found on Te Waha Nui. He's a dentist, you know.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ma non troppo

Sorry about the lack of blog this week. I have been busy marking exam scripts and discussing chickens and other matters with Giovanni, for whom I bring Monty Python:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates

From the New York Times, via George:
Thirty miles to the north, in Salt Lake City, adherents of a religion called Summum gather in a wood and metal pyramid hard by Interstate 15 to meditate on their Seven Aphorisms, fortified by an alcoholic sacramental nectar they produce and surrounded by mummified animals.
And you thought it was just the Mormons.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blast off for kicksville

"It's just their supplier, Pete. And his number one chick. And a new guy looking for kicks. Forget it, man and get with the countdown. Shake this square world and blast off for kicksville."
From Cracked, via my Facebook Friend Brad Schmidt, some public service announcements.

Thought for the day

Yes, the public may one day come to rue the change they sought on Saturday. But if and when they do, there is no guarantee that a paternalistic Labour would be the only, or best source of relief. The Greens, now that they are finally free from any structural ties to Labour, will be trying hard to supplant them as the most effective opposition party on the left. On industrial relations and beneficiary issues, the Greens have already been making much of the running in recent years. If Labour remains intent on projecting a kinder, more efficient brand of centrism, they could well be overtaken significantly on their left - and the risk will be increased if Act does manage to pull National further to the right.
So says Gordon Campbell on Scoop, which apart from providing some of the best commentary on the Election, seems to be the only news outlet on the web still taking an interest. After a brief flirtation with serious stuff, the Herald has now returned to questions such as whether Lindsay Lohan is a lesbian.

Modern Life is Rubbish

So, where were we? The Charlatans played the Power Station last night, as will the Headless Chickens and Spiritualized. Such delights as Gerry Brownlee, Lockwood Smith and Maurice Williamson are in power. Yes, that would be it: we're in the Nineties.

Despite the election of engergetic, vibrant Nikki Kaye as the Moppet for Auckland Central, despite The Minister for Tourism's new suit and winning smile, National cannot keep its monsters hidden in the attic (or the closets) for much longer. They are angry and they are hungry. The Minister for Tourism might be able to placate Maurice by making him Minister for Newness (with special responsibility for maintaining the Government's Bebo profile) and doubtless Lockwood will get the sought-after Hairdressing portfolio, but Gerry Brownlee (living proof that John Donne was wrong: here is one man who is an island) needs to be fed. The Tragedy of the Commons is that they are Gerry's lunch. And look what is first on the menu: the Waitakeres.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Slave to the rhythm

A few nights ago, a friend suggested that a really good way to get back at the Tories would be to send them images of coffins. After I explained that such an action would be a death threat and thus (strictly speaking) illegal he modified his proposal. I suppose I should have added that, in order to comply with the Electoral Finance Act, a death threat would probably have to bear the name and address of its authorising agent. Nevertheless, this idea got me thinking.

So, what should we do? Here's one idea: let's beat our Greens. This offer applies to registered voters in electorates such as Auckland Central and Ohariu-Belmont, where the combined votes of the Labour and Green candidates are more than those of the winning candidate. You are smart people, so I don't need to explain this much further, but the people in these electorates are either not so smart or have some sort of death wish. If you know any of these people, sit them down with a nice cup of chamomile tea in and tell them "you voted National, you idiot."

You might then like to club them with something heavy and with a huge carbon-footprint, like a truck axle. They might protest that do not like Judith Tizard or Charles Chauvel; they might complain, in relation to the former, that they do not like Section 92a of the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008. Don't let these objections stop you.

You might also add that the Green candidates did not want these people's electorate votes. They asked for Party Vote Green, not "vote for me and ensure a Labour loss." Of course, it may be that some people who vote Green would otherwise vote Tory, if it were not for Hector's Dolphin. It may be that some people really believe Nikki Kaye's claim to be some sort of Green Tory. Or it may be that they just don't understand how the electoral system works. They vote Green because it makes them feel good. It is now our duty to make them feel bad by explaining that they voted Tory.

Still at least they tried. On Sunday morning, I met a man - a father of three - who not only failed to vote but did not know how the election had turned out. I suppose I should respect his democratic right to be stupid but, frankly, I felt like clubbing him to death like a baby seal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bad company

Sometimes I worry about the company I keep. Tonight, I staggered home from the recording of Media7 (where the back of my head sometimes is shown in the closing titles) to find that our host, Mr Russell Brown, is the Seventh worst New Zealander, and has been so since February 2006.

I suppose I should console myself that Mr Brown is not man-hating, anti-family, and hostile to marriage, as is the worst New Zealander, Margaret Wilson. And at least Mr Brown is a better New Zealander than Helen Clark and Tim Barnett. But then, Judith Tizard is a worse New Zealander than Mr Brown, although not quite as bad as Ms Wilson.

I suppose I should also seek consolation in the fact that this is not August 1968 and I do not know Gale Olson, Playboy Playmate of that Month, whose mother was from New Zealand (according to Wikipedia, which, of course, does not exist in 1968). This brazen hussy is possibly a worse New Zealander than any of the above. Frankly, I think I had a lucky escape.

Who me? Look, I am just trying to promote New Zealand on a world stage. It is my duty, now that our Prime Minister is also our Tourism Minister.


So yes, we face challenges. But we will rise to them, because as a country we have tremendous advantages.

Our capacity to produce food for the world, our landscapes, and scenery, and maybe most of all the incredible Kiwi ingenuity.

So we must make the most of our advantages. Because the state of the global economy and the global financial crisis means the road ahead may well be a rocky one.
At least we have Rocky Road. I quote, of course, from That Nice Mr Key's Victory Speech, a menage of mixed metaphors which exhorted us to work together and show "a willingness to use our smallness to our advantage, to be nimble, sure-footed and flexible." There may be trouble ahead, so let's face the music and dance. At least he has Rodney on his team. In addition to being fleet of foot, we must be on top of our game and also pull in the same direction. The future will be athletic, nay gymnastic. I am exhausted already.

I hope we will have time to enjoy the landscapes. I expect Mr Key owns several: local scenes depicted by local artists in a post-post-Impressionist style. I expect Mr Key enjoys them while listening to Brooke Fraser's Albertine.

Anyway, enough of this day-dreaming; back to work. Mr Key has made himself Minister of Tourism. Fusty old Helen Clark was Minister for the Arts, promoting all that Modern Dance and those modern artists whose landscapes that do nothing to promote New Zealand on a world stage. Mr Key will have none of that; he will be in charge of scenery. I hope they give him a cap and a badge.

And with our kiwi ingenuity, there are new opportunities, such as cake-growing. As Mr Key told the Tourism Industry Association, his being Minister of Tourism "is a tangible way of showing New Zealanders that their new Prime Minister is truly going to be focused on growing the cake rather than just on different ways to hand the cake out."

Far be it for an humble blogeur to critique a man who has realised his childhood ambitions to be a millionaire and the Prime Minister, but I think Mr Key has neglected one industry that shows real prospects for growth: satire. Within days of his election, huge resources of Lulz are being found everywhere. The Fundy Post will strive to be a market leader in this growing sector. We shall strive to produce world-beating satire. We have landscapes, scenery and cake. We have Mr Key as Prime Minister. What more do we need? Let the smirking begin.

Human League:

Somewhere to hang your coat

An art gallery will not face any legal action over claims it displayed an indecent statue of Jesus Christ.

The artwork was part of an exhibition at Gateshead's Baltic Centre featuring several plaster figures with erections.
From Craig


The Campaign to Save MMP will be an independent, non-partisan effort to inform voters of the benefits of MMP and show them the downside of other electoral systems. Our first meeting is at Auckland University Students Association executive chambers, 7pm Thursday the 13th of November. Anyone who wants to get involved with this campaign is welcome to come along, or contact Stephen Cooper at aotearoa.guy@gmail.com or on 0211072520.
Whilst we wallow in despair, the estimable Mr Cooper is first off the block with a campaign that might just make a difference.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Revenge of the nerds

The Fundy Post (fundypost.blogspot.com) has great Battlestar Galactica news, photos, videos and more
This is what happens when you mention Sci-Fi on your blog: you get assimilated into the Borg, or something like that.

Do they read this crap? The Fundy Post does not have great Battlestar Galactica news, photos, videos and more. The Fundy Post hates Battlestar Galactica news, photos, videos and more. The Fundy Post has been savaged on teh System for its forthright opinions about Battlestar Galactica.

I do not refer, of course to the original Battlestar Galactica which was ridiculously camp and quite enjoyable. I refer to the new and improved Battlestar Galactica, which is ridiculously kitsch (there is a difference between camp and kitsch, which we must discuss later) and quite dismal. Please don't read any further if you are an easily offended geek, but I have more than a few difficulties with this programme.

For a start, it is so serious, while its model was so flippant. The story is much the same (I realise that somebody will tell me I am quite wrong here: sosumi) but the treatment is so different. The original knew it was just a fantasy; the copy takes itself seriously.

Which brings me to my second point: the new Battlestar Galactica is an allegory. And we all know, or should know, that allegory is the worst form of fiction: This goes with That; look folks here is a hidden story that is not so hidden. You can Learn from This.

Which brings me to my third point: the allegory is about America (the Beautiful) finding itself; correct me if I am wrong but I think you will find I am not. There are good guys and there are bad guys, who used to be with the good guys and are not so bad anyway; and anyway the good guys are not so good (I take it you are still with me, so I will continue).

Which brings me to my fourth point: it is a Western. Nothing wrong with that but, in Westerns, chaps should be wearing chaps. Like many sci-fi, space opera, whatever stories the setting may be some distant galaxy but the format was made for the Old West. Don't get me started on Firefly. No, get me started: I saw both Battlestar Galactica and Firefly at the behest of a particularly literal-minded and semi-educated former friend who did not know enough about narratives or the history of Cinema to realise he was watching nothing more than reworkings of Wagon Train and Stage Coach. I suppose he got some childlike pleasure from hearing an oft-told story told once again.

Fifth point: constellations are not real, they are optical illusions. If you found a rock with a plan of the constellations on it, you could not navigate your way home by it.

Sixth point: the hot chick with the arrow. Now, I may not know much about art students, but I know what I like; and I know that art students, the really keen ones who carry their work around with them in the hope that somebody will take an interest in it or them, carry said work around in plastic tubes just like the one in which the hot chick carries her arrow. What I mean to say is that the makers of this programme spent gloads of money on special effects but, when it came to choosing something in which to put the magic arrow which is apparently so important to the plot, they went to their local stationery warehouse and fought their way through hoards of fourteen year-old girls to grab a plastic tube which ought to contain delicate watercolours expressing the artist's inner turmoil.

I suppose I could go on but it's just a song about cylons. Besides, I am really only writing this because I am so depressed about the incoming General Election results. Judith lost, Nikki Kaye is my MP and I am out of wine. Feck.

Feck, feck, feck.

Sneaky Sound System:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Over being over

McCain also was reluctant to use Obama's incendiary pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright as a campaign issue. He had set firm boundaries: no Jeremiah Wright; no attacking Michelle Obama; no attacking Obama for not serving in the military. McCain balked at an ad using images of children that suggested that Obama might not protect them from terrorism; Schmidt vetoed ads suggesting that Obama was soft on crime (no Willie Hortons); and before word even got to McCain, Schmidt and Salter scuttled a "celebrity" ad of Obama dancing with talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres (the sight of a black man dancing with a lesbian was deemed too provocative).
While you try to figure out the black man-lesbian thing, I will announce formally that the period of the Fundy Post being over Obama is now over. Your blogeur spent Election Day #1 lurking in the Public Address epic thread, which continues yet, long after the party ended (although it must be noted that the conversation has been diverted to Battlestar Galactica, a children's sci-fi adventure that is surprisingly popular with people whose views I normally respect). Anyway, this blogeur is now back on-message and has rejoined the hivemind to be wildly enthusiastic about Obama, at least until the Great Disillusionment (date to be confirmed). I know you will be relieved.

The blockquote above comes from the Huffington Post and is a teaser for Newsweek's Special Election Project. It shows that John McCain is a man of integrity, as we all knew. Other news shows that his running mate is an idiot, as we all knew.

Herewith follows what might be the silliest music promo ever made.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Over Obama

Fundy Post: over Obama

1. The purpose of these note is to explain to readers why these notes have been written. The post-literate will not need these notes. All they need is the slogan: Fundy Post: over Obama.

2. Readers of this blog may have become accustomed to reading sentences here, which make arguments (admittedly, often rather flippant ones) and come to conclusions (admittedly, often rather perverse ones). Clearly, in the present political climate, this will not do. We need to reach out to the undecided voters, people who are too stupid to make up their minds or to comprehend a sentence, let alone a paragraph. Fortunately, these people are too stupid to know that we know how stupid they are. However, for their benefit, we must talk in slogans. And we must repeat them, often. Fundy Post: over Obama.

3. To explain, this blogeur has become disillusioned with Mr Obama. This blogeur appreciates that this disillusionment comes long in advance of the normal disillusionment season, which begins six months after the landfall victory. This blogeur is ahead of the curve in this respect. Fundy Post: over Obama.

4. To put it another way, this blogeur is heartily fed up with the whole thing. American sporting contests are all of them long and tedious, but this one especially so. It has been going on months on end. Granted, it will end soon, but that is no compensation for the time wasted. Fundy Post: over Obama.

5. This blogeur is also somewhat tired of all the talk of Mr Obama's Vision. Somehow, nobody seems to have noticed that he does not seem to have any Policies. Fundy Post: over Obama.

6. This blogeur is underwhelmed by the thirty-minute infommercial produced by Mr Obama's campaign. Naturally, this blogeur has not troubled himself to see it, but then he is not of the target demographic: stupid Americans. Fundy Post: over Obama.

7. This blogeur is not alone in this respect. Most of the inhabitants of New Zealand do not have a vote in the forthcoming Presidential Election. Yet, we seem to talk about little else. Fundy Post: over Obama.

8. Most of the inhabitants of New Zealand do have a vote in the forthcoming New Zealand General Election. Yet we seem to be so enthralled with events in America and so besotted with Obama, that we have little interest in our own political future. Fundy Post: over Obama.

9. To conclude, Fundy Post: over Obama.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sex and the city

"I think a lot of ads are so sexualised now and completely over the top - not that I am a prude or anything."

This leads to an inevitable question - does he like sex?

"Arr ... err ... hello, that guy took interest in what you just said," says Davis, referring to another pedestrian.

Well, do you like sex? He mumbles for a moment. "Well that is a personal part of my life ... and I don't want to talk about that."
Is it just me, or is Carolyne Meng-Yee's interrogration of Peter Davis in the Herald on Sunday creepy and weird? Let me check that. BRB.

No, it is not just me. The interview is creepy and weird. Ms Meng-Yee is fixated on the sex life of Professor Davis and the Prime Minister. Amongst normal people, a remark about the sexualisation of advertising does not lead inevitably to a question about the speaker's sex life. Normal people can discuss grown-up issues without such prurience. Normal journalists do not ask the Prime Minister's husband whether he shares the shower with her. But this is not normal journalism. This is the Herald on Sunday. And this is Auckland: when she is not hung up on sex, Ms Meng-Lee is gagging for property valuations.

I am lost for words. Fortunately, Homepaddock also comments, as does Fairfacts Media.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A different kind of tension

This blogeur today is too hungover to post anything new. So here is my review, from Craccum, of the new book by Peter Peryer.

Peter Peryer is a New Zealand photographer who photographs things. Here, for example is a sequence of photographs about a third of the way through the book:
26. Donkey, Legoland, 1997
27. Bulls, 2006
28. Punakaiki, 1997
29. Owl, 2003
30. Sand Shark, 1991
To explain, the donkey is life-size and made from Lego bricks. The bulls are of indeterminate size; they are six plastic toys. Punakaiki is represented by a rock formation of dense horizontal layers; again its size is indeterminate. The owl on the facing page appears to be real; the pattern of its feathers is similar to the rock formation. Although in nature there is a fish called a sand shark, this one is a shark made of sand, on a beach.

There are many more photographs of things in this book. Some are named directly: 8. Apple Tree, 2004; 9. Aerial, 2005. Others are named obliquely: 51. Trinity, 2007 shows three single-engined aircraft flying in line, against the sky; 72. MOTAT, 2005, shows a display of models of seven World War II single-engined aircraft, against a painted sky; the nylon cords which hold them up are visible, as is the painterliness of the cloudscape.

Some of these things are not like the others. Some are very large, others very small, but others still are difficult to judge, size-wise. Such are the facing pictures of 32. Yellow Eyed Penquin (Enderby Island) 1989 and 33. Macraes Flat 2007. Penguins are perfect for this kind of ambiguity of scale: they all look alike but come in a variety of sizes. Peryer's Yellow Eyed Penguin might be very small or very large or somewhere in between; it is difficult to tell and Peryer does not give us any other objects to help us. Macraes Flat is similar. It shows two dumper trucks climbing up a road on what seems to be the wall of a quarry. But it is difficult to decide whether the quarry is real or not. Those could be monster trucks or they could be a child's toys.The last plate in the book 80. Home, 1991 is at first sight a house but, at second, a model village house.

Things are difficult. Not in themselves; these are mostly commonplace objects, both man-made and biological. They become difficult when a photographer photographs them and puts them in a book such as this one. One cannot help but look for clues. Some of these photographs of things seem to have been put next to one another because of some resemblance, or at least some sort of visual assonance, such as 52. Roots, 2005 and 53. Headless Chicken, 1995, where the exposed roots of tree stumps and the scrawny flesh of a plucked chicken seem to suggest each other. Others things seem to have no relation to anything else. 44. Porcupine Fish, 2007 is what it says on the label. Facing it is 45. Major, Minor, 2006, which could be any one of a number of things: a form of seaweed, some kind of vegetable, a decorative something-or-other.

Then there are other things, only a few of them scattered throughout the book, which are quite straightforward, literal even, such as 48. Waterfall, 2002. These are puzzling, more so than the peculiar things. They are the the stock images of art photography, which is a business that Peryer otherwise seems to want to avoid. One finds oneself trying to decode these images, to find some reason they might be here in this book. Some of his photographs do not look like his photographs, or even the work of a professional photographer: 18. Stairs Oamaru, 2007 shows a staircase with a livid floral carpet and ceiling of inexplicable shape with a violent floral wallpaper. Several of the images like 19.Conus, 2007 are out-of-focus; or rather, they are not focused precisely; others like 55 Barbed Wire, Kansas USA, 2000 are patterns as much as they are representations.

Clearly, Peryer is not an everyday photographer. He is not of the Craig Potten school of enhanced tourist pictures, nor is he a nature photographer of the introspective gnarled-tree-stump-on-a-beach variety (although 58. Inlet, 2003 does show a tree-stump on a beach). He is not a photographer of Kiwiana, either, although many of the things he photographs are unique to New Zealand. More importantly, he is also unlike the photographers who defined New Zealandness in their work, the likes of Ans Westra and Robin Morrison. They photographed place and people to show the peculiarity and particularity of New Zealand. Peryer hardly photographs people at all, although many of his images suggest human forms and many of his forms are the work of humans.

The absence of people in this book does strange things to the viewer. Looking at 5. Kereru, 2006, one cannot help but think that the bird on the telephone wire is looking back. Over the page, 6. Skull, 2001 shows a skull of some mammal which looks very human, until one realises that humans do not have teeth like that.Peryer is a bit like Charles Fearnley, who is largely forgotten but who photographed details and patterns with intensity.

So what is it all about? I think it is about the substance of things, their being, their thingyness. There is in these photographs a lot of texture, a lot that is tactile. They are flat multiple reproductions contained in a book but still most of them give a sense of how the objects they depict might feel.

To help reveal the puzzle of these pictures (if any puzzle has been intended, which is by no means certain) Peryer has written a memoir and Peter Simpson, who teaches English at Auckland University but has appropriated for himself the role of Art Historian, provides an essay, with footnotes. I have not read either, but will do so at some time. For the time being, the pictures seem to be enough, without words to help.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Too late to recycle

So, it was like this: I was in the audience at a candidates debate, one organised for the Auckland University Debating Society by the estimable Mr Max Harris (who, incidentally, shares his name with an Angry Penguin and the first tune on the first Dead C recording, from their early "cohesive" period). And the man sitting next to me asks me something about my position on sustainable development or something like that. And I reply that it is too late, that we are all doomed anyway. And he replies that my stance is a "let out."

Well, I never. No, really, I never. A let out? I have spent years cultivating my environmental pessimism and I am not letting anyone claim that it is just a means of avoiding meetings on sustainable transport strategies (although it does help). No, seriously, I think we are doomed. It is not just the methane escaping from under the frost formerly known as perma (it was in a more confident age that they named it permafrost). It is not just that James Lovelock thinks we are nearing the end of the golden weather. It is that we are human. Even if we had a really good idea to save the planet, we would stuff it up. And we would do so because we would rather carry on doing things as we have always done them.

I am trying to think of times in human history when people put aside their differences, disregarded their petty concerns and worked for the common good:
  • Good Old Blighty during Hitler's War - nah, mate; there was a thriving black market throughout the war and a high rate of industrial action: even on the last day of the war, the London Underground drivers were on strike.
  • Before the War, in March 1939, when Hitler began expelling the Jews of Bohemia to any country which would have them. And who would have them? Nobody. Poland and Rumania took the opportunity to announce that they wanted to get rid of their Jews as well.
  • Live Aid, when everybody got together to feed the World and watch Status Quo rockin' all over it - I think not; It was just a big gig which did not quite end poverty
I could go on but it is all rather depressing. When have we ever made a genuine sacrifice for the benefit of others or humanity as a whole? And what must we do to save the planet from the effects of climate change? Now you see why I am a pessimist.

Really, the only way we are going to get off this train is if the oil runs out. Even with the price going up, we keep on buying the stuff. We still use it to make lots of plastic crud which we don't need. We give ourselves a warm glow when we drop the plastic containers into the recycling bin, but we don't ask ourselves why we bought the plastic in the first place. And then we worry about Peak Oil. But it is the only hope we have.

One more thing. The plastic crud that does not make it to the recycling bins makes it to the sea, where it circulates in huge gyres. The sea of plastic would destroy the fish population, had we not fished it out of existence.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The shopping news

We are lucky that nothing interesting is happening in the news right now, that the General Election and the global financial catastrophe are such trivial matters. Otherwise, the Herald would not have been able to find space on its front page to tell us that Dan Carter has got a brand new shop. Mr Carter, who played Rugby Union for Canterbury, is now in the rag trade. He also has a new Rugby team, in France and a luxury seaside home, chosen by his team's management. He is a busy man.

Meanwhile, another bit of retail news, of lesser importance and therefore on an inside page: Real Groovy has gone bust.

Mama's got a brand new bag:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

These are the things we could do without

What is it about the coming global recession that is so appealing? Of course it will cause untold misery to countless numbers of people but, even so, everybody seems to be looking forward to it. Let's look deep into our black hearts and ask ourselves why; and let's answer that question with a list, because everybody loves a list: it beats thinking.

  • Bush will be buried
    For eight years, that bastard wanted a legacy, and look at what he is getting. Even Hoover was remembered for his dam.

  • America, the not so beautiful
    We know that they are good people but we also know they are weird. Their Liberal equates to our Conservative, only with better teeth. All we want them to do is realise that perhaps Woody Guthrie had a point, that's all.

  • Fuck the golden youth
    With their trust funds, their perma-tans and their boundless self-confidence, rich kids make us all feel a bit passive-aggressive-Marxist-Leninist. But never mind, because soon they won't have the trust funds. So, get a job, Remuera Boy; that's if you can find one.

  • Schadenfreude seems to be the hardest word
    But so much fun when you can pronounce it. We may be suffering ourselves, but so will lots of other people, many of whom we do not like: those scissors-thin women with their annoying little dogs; personal trainers; brand managers; those men who are always talking loudly on their phones; pilates consultants; life coaches; interior design consultants; girls with really big handbags; anybody who drinks at Sponge; the list goes on.

  • The bullet point stops here
    Because its all about lists. Once we had newspapers full of news, which was written in sentences. Now we have frippery, written in lists; and we only have that because it keeps the advertisements apart. Once we had jobs where our managers treated us as adults; now we have Team Leaders, who patronise us with PowerPoint and bullet points. Everything has been reduced to one-line idiocy. Let's hope that it all evaporates with the money supply; perhaps in the ruins of the global economy we will find some books to read and so rediscover the Joy of Thought.

Tears for Fears:

Will this do?

For Giovanni, seeing as he asked.

Don't lets be beastly to the Greens

While other blogs, such as that of Mr Slack, mock the Tories for their posters, only the Fundy Post is prepared to risk disapproving looks and muttered comments from our peer group by taking on the Greens.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Turned out nice again

They are publishing our idiots, here. Yes, it's crazy but it's true: Muriel Newman is being cut and pasted by the Heartland Institute. And it's all about the Royal Society of New Zealand, which "beggars the imagination" (this must be the poverty of desire, one supposes) of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. As you will read, the coalition of the unwilling has identified a clear conflict of interest among most of the scientists who sit on the Royal Society's climate change committee - they work for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. That is to say, they are experts who are employed because of their expertise by a body which does atmospheric research; thus they are tainted.

If you can be bothered to read to the end of Muriel's piece, you will find that the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition describes those scientists who agree with it as 'Rationalists.' Call me old-fashioned, but I thought scientists were meant to be Empiricists.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Almost grown up

I know that a recent survey revealed that 45% of so-called adults play computer games daily, but that still leaves a slim majority of us who choose to make some effort at being grown-ups, who do not demand constant entertaining and who strive to see the world as it is rather than dwelling in a fantasy land of computer-generated bloodbaths or Disney fibs or lifestyle choices or Oprah Bloody Winfrey or low-fat gyms or positive thinking or fundamentalist religion or five-plus- a-day or Lotto or advertising lala-land or any of the other infantilising tosh that is spewed out to generate money by encouraging us to remain in nappies.
Joe Bennett gripes and mistakes Iceland for comic-book Greenland.

To Sir with love

It is harder to undermine Western cultural values when doing so entails promoting illegal acts, e.g. promoting homosexuality when homosexuality is illegal. It is much easier to promote things that are legal, e.g. when homosexuality was legalised in 1986 it enabled homosexuals to go into schools and and lecture students on all the practical details of homosexuality, thus affecting the values of future generations.
Kiwi Polemicist recalls the good old days of the '80s, when school children were give a bottle of milk every day and a thorough grounding in Practical Homosexuality.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Night of the plastic knives

Sorry, chaps and chapesses, for the lack of blogging recently. I have an excuse: I have been mad. I will explain sooner or later.

Meanwhile, kudos to Dave Crampton for breaking news about Bob McCoskrie, who suffered a garden makeover: four women dressed in black stuck around 1000 knives in his front lawn. Further investigation by the MSM reveals that the knives were plastic, while Dave followed his scoop with an apology from the women in black.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the garden wall when the McCroskies returned from their trip. How did they react? "Oh my gosh, darling, we've had conceptual artists," perhaps. But notice how quickly McCroskie takes advantage of the situation, blaming the EFA for revealing his address (welcome to New Zealand, Bob, where everyone knows where everyone else lives). And what of the neighbours, who "said they had seen four women dressed in black on his lawn, but thought they were putting candles out?" Does that sort of thing happen so often as to be unremarkable, du côté de chez McCroskie?

And what sort of woman dresses in black and sticks plastic knives in a lawn? And where can I meet one? Do these people have funding from Creative New Zealand? Does Et Al have anything to do with this? Is this the work of passive-aggressive ninja assassins? Or are they just too politically correct to use real knives?

I think we should be told.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Early Days of Channel Fuhrer

As noted by an anonymous commentator to my earlier post, Reading the Maps describes an astonishing night of talkback mayhem. Astonishing not just because the callers were spluttering about the Jewish Conspiracy but also because the hosts were Karen Hay and Andrew Fagan. And if you wade through the comments on Maps' post (how is it that that these nutters have no shame about posting thousands of previously published words written by a more respectable nutter, as if it proved their argument? No, don't bother telling me) you will find a comment by Andrew and Karen's producer (incidentally, I despise the affectation of calling celebrities one does not know by their first names) who says:
That's what talkback is. Not the right, wrong, black or white. It's an open forum for learning, expanding & entertaining the mind.
Oh yes, that is what it would be. Horansome could put it a lot better than I, but I think it fair to say that conspiracy theories do not add to knowledge. And conspiracy theories about Jews lead to Jew-bashing.

It is a shame that none of the callers seemed to have commented on Mr Fagan's surname. There was a poster to Ian Wishart's old site who spotted undercover Jews everywhere, usually by their craftily-adapted surnames. Those, like Dr Michael Cullen, who did not appear to be Jewish he called "cryptos:" Jews so cunning and devious that they convince others they are Christian Gentlemen. This commentator once travelled to Twizel, where he found every shop was owned by cryptos. I forget his name.

And whilst we are on the subject, I note in passing an old post by Ryan Sproull, in which he cheerfully admits his ignorance of why Israelis support their government's treatment of the Palestinians, but carries on to give his unqualified opiion: "I suspect it's a combination of compulsory military service and parental conditioning." It's those Jewish mothers with their chicken soup, that's what it is; not those Palestinian mothers who strap bombs around their sons' bodies and send them off to the bus stop. Not, of course, that Ryan is racist: he couldn't possibly be - Israeli chicks give him a stiffy.

I am not sure which I find more appalling: the traditional Jewish-conspiracy nutjob or the armchair anarchist combination bigot-and-sleaze.

Ceci n'est pas un promo:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bruce Logan is risen from the grave

It is all very well you having your human rights but, mark my words, it will lead to sodomy (it's alright; it's Safe For Work, honest it is; just click that link; you know you want to). So says Dr Muriel Newman, whose brief history of Human Rights takes the reader on a breathtaking ride from the last stop before the Finland Station to the Rainbow Room of the New Zealand Parliament. Sorry, is it just me or is it really (a) cheap and (b) nasty to exploit the natural homophobia of your readership to get their attention?

And what is this "human rights movement" of which Dr Newman speaks? Was there some Vast Liberal Conspiracy that demanded and got Human Rights for the Homosexualists? Or did the gays themselves go out and themselves the simple right to not face criminal charges for acts of consensual sex? And let us not forget, while we are at it that the Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed into Law only in 1986, which was not long ago: the year of the Pet Shop Boys' West End Girls, Europe's The Final Countdown (sorry Sam, sorry everyone, for the earworm) and Swing Out Sister's Breakout.

And what exactly is Dr Newman's point? Well it is this: apparently there are two forms of Human Rights, the Anglo-American kind and the Continental sort. The rugged, manly Anglo-American notion of Rights is about ensuring that people of money remain rich. The cowardly, snivelling Continental strain is about such fripperies as education, welfare, pensions, health care, public housing and the like. These are all well and good but can lead to Socialist Capture (oh capture me, you Swedish Model, you).

And it is not just the pooftahs who benefit from these Rights. It is also the Wimmins: "who could have imagined, for example, that those early calls for an end to discrimination against women would have resulted in feminists successfully undermining marriage and the family, not to mention marginalising boys and men." Ah well, at least those marginalised boys and men can do gay things without being arrested.

But read on further and you find that Dr Newman's intent is more evil still: she has put Bruce Logan back together and look, he walks! The celebrated word thief is risen from the grave and hark, he still prattles on about the United Nations. Not that he makes much sense – "Human rights are derivative they are not foundational – but at least he is using his own words.

Craig has more to say about Mr Logan.