Thursday, May 22, 2008

The politics of dancing

Hey you! Yes, You! Are you one of the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who have had a gutsful of our MMP electoral system and who, when they are given the chance, will say so loudly and clearly? No? Well, do you know anybody who is one of that number? No, nor me; funny, that.

You see, Garth George proclaims loudly that indeed there are hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who indeed have had a gutsful of MMP. I wonder where they are. One would have thought some of them might have written letters to the Herald about it and that Garth George, when he was Letters Editor of the newspaper, would have published them. One would have thought also that the issue would have featured prominently in other parts of the Herald's op-ed pages, where strenuous argument over the merits and failings of MMP would have taken place.

Well, its funny I should mention that, because I have just done a search thingy on the Herald's website. And what I found is that the Herald hadn't published any op-eds on MMP this year, until this week; the MMP fox was started by John Key promising a referendum. As it happens, the Herald favours MMP, as does its columnist Brian Rudman, who notes that a majority of respondents to a recent poll also preferred it.

I am sorry to keep on about this but when Mr George says "there are hundreds and thousands of New Zealanders who have had a gutsful of MMP as it stands and who, when they are given the chance, will say so loudly and clearly," one must reflect that the newspaper for which Mr George works could have given them that chance, were such legions to be found. I am not a morning person and so I might have missed the demonstrations; nor am I an idiot and so I do not listen to talkback radio; but I think I would have read about the wailing, and the gnashing of teeth, in the papers - were such wailing and gnashing apparent.

But why should mere facts stop Mr George? The imaginary hundreds of thousands "understand only too well that far too much legislation has been forced through Parliament by MMP governments, both National and Labour-led, in the face of widespread public opposition." O'reilly? I wasn't here at the time, but wasn't MMP introduced because of widespread public opposition to legislation - such as the dismantlement of the welfare state - forced through Parliament under FPP?

But then, Mr George's column is not about facts, but about the Adoration of John Key. It's not just about MMP; it's also about climate change. Mr Key understands, you see, that there is no hurry to pass legislation; that's the kind of guy he is. You will also see that:
in view of all the evidence which has been gathered in the past six years showing that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are not a cause of climate change, the Kyoto Protocol is as out of date as last week's racing guide.
Oh dear. It was all going so well. Mr Key was presented as a man of courage and integrity; but then it turns out that his Boswell is barking. Mr George came to praise Mr Key, but buried him.

Different for girls

It turned me into a REAL MAN

If you've never realised your own potential for a fine attractive build... if you're not satisfied with the way your body looks and want a really masculine, handsome body - one that makes the chicks look twice and the other guys envious - then you owe it to yourself to put the Hercules Superdyne System to the test now.
I found this advertisement in the Listener: 24th January 1981, in case you want to make the other guys envious.

If you are wondering what had happened to real men, it seems they are in Kerikeri, where the Police know what to do: the men who harrass a woman go unpunished, while their victim, "not an unattractive looking lady," is taken to the station.

Meanwhile in Christchurch, Mayor Bob Parker gets coy. Having attended a party for online women's magazine Slynkey and handed out prizes which included a vibrator, Mayor Parker then objects to a photo of the presentation being posted on Slynkey's web site."It was perhaps a lapse in taste and judgment by the designer of the site," says Parker; obviously it was not a lapse of taste and judgement by the Mayor, who describes the vibrator as a "prize of a dubious nature."

And finally, Mr Brown tells of this week's Media7. This blogeur attended the making of said programme and learned that Girlfriend magazine is far from coy. You can see Russell talking about sex with women (perhaps that would be better phrased as talking with women about sex) here

And here is Joe Jackson:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Of pork and men

The unveiling by the NZ Herald of its porkometer must have caused concern among some male readers; surely they are not going to measure that? But no, as Mr Slack explains, the porkometer is not a device for determining shortages in the trouser department, but a tally of spending commitments by the Government and of promises by the National Party. The Herald presents the information as if Government expenditure and National's promises were equivalent, thus giving the impression that National is thrifty and Labour is spendthrift.

One could, if one were not the NZ Herald, look at the sums in a different way: policies = spending. The Government (which the Herald reminds its readers is Labour-led, just in case anyone had forgotten) responds to problems by creating initiatives which require expenditure. Meanwhile, the National Party has ideas which will require expenditure if ever they are realised. Idiot/Savant makes this point better than I could.

According to the Herald's sums, the Government has twenty initiatives, while National has three ideas. Government expenditure plans amount to $3.999 billion, while National's ideas would cost $1.635 billion. Looking at the components of the expenditure plans, one notices that National has one big idea, Fibre, (which Mr Brown analyses better than I could). According to Mr Key, other ideas will be rolled out in due course - he has made promises about his promises. Of course, Mr Key also has an even bigger idea - tax cuts - which will cost lots of money but which are strangely absent from the Herald's sums, perhaps because Mr Key has not yet said how much he would cut.

Meanwhile the Government is trying to buy votes with such obvious pork-barrel measures as a revamp of Mount Eden Prison and the development and maintenance of an electronic medicines reference book. No wonder they are behind in the polls.

Of course, cynics will say that the Herald is trying to persuade its readers to vote National. You may well think that but I couldn't possibly comment, other than to notice the Herald's eulogy to National's candidate for Auckland Central and the correspondingly sniffy piece about Judith.

Meanwhile, pedants might take issue with the Herald's claim to have invented the porkometer, given that another Herald, the Sydney Morning one, had its own porkometer for last year's Australian elections. One might also take note of the somewhat NSFW blog of one Mr Pinsky, who was using an entirely different porkometer way back in 2006.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Scenes from clerical life

My pursuit of happiness, knowledge and a PhD has taken me to the NZ Listener, in the back issues of which I am now fossicking. My purpose is to find articles about Architecture but constantly I am diverted by items like this one, a letter from the issue of 6th September 1980:
Sir- I do appreciate art, and I like Salvador Dali's imaginativeness. But can't I buy the Listener (August 9) without having to shove one of his nudes under the shopgirl's nose, and exhibit it in the lounge for a week? Art is art, and nudes can be culturally enriching, but I still don't want to have one displayed on the coffee-table when visitors arrive.

(Rev) Ray Galvin
Speaking of the pursuit of happiness, a few weeks back I was making my way to the library when I saw a message chalked on the footpath. It said just that: "the pursuit of happiness", in large colourful letters. My heart missed a beat: or a moment I thought that Canada's finest had reformed to play on campus. Then I realised the message was a advertisement for a meeting of the local stealth-evangelical group, Student Life. Bastards. Here is a song and a video of which they would not approve:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An Art Historian writes

I don't know if this blog is read by whoever is responsible for technical support at the Office of the Children's Commission but, if it is you, I implore you to stop reading right now and take immediate action: go to the Commissioner's office, take away her computer and install Symantec Anti-Bollocks before she can write any more submissions to Parliament like this.

Normally this blogeur is sympathetic to the work of Dr Cindy Kiro and her team but, clearly, something has gone wrong with the operating system. The Commissioner might simply have stated her opinion that the law "does not need to be amended to deal with the issue of tagging and graffiti," but instead she has to tell us about Art: "for some people, graffiti and tagging are seen as legitimate art forms." Oh. Really? The last time my front door was tagged, my reaction was not to think to myself "oh my, someone has gifted me an example of a legitimate art form." My first thought, ungrateful though it might seem, was "some bastard has vandalised my door." I think my reaction is not uncommon.

I also think such a reaction is not confined to one's own property. Take, for example, Rationalist House (64 Symonds Street, Auckland), a building where I used to live and work, and for which I was responsible. It is one of the last surviving buildings of its kind in Auckland and, some years ago, it was restored by the NZARH at great expense. When I was there we spent a fair amount more, having legitimate works of art removed from its exterior. Unfortunately, it now seems that the NZARH have given up the struggle and the walls are covered with such works of art. Perhaps Dr Kiro might like to stop by some time and appreciate these works. She might find she is the lone art lover: the aesthetic appreciation of tagging is still a minority taste.

Lest I seem too harsh on Dr Kiro, I do acknowledge that she acknowledges "that graffiti and tagging can have negative connotations and outcomes for some people." It is a fine and generous sentiment on her part, to acknowledge that the some people can experience negative outcomes. Obviously, in reaching this conclusion, Dr Kiro bears in mind the many people of whom she knows who experience positive outcomes when they see tagging, people for whom this legitimate art form has nothing but positive connotations.

For such people, the experience of walking the streets of Auckland must be like that of Ruskin when he first saw Venice. Such a person, wandering through Myers Park on a Sunday morning might there chance upon the copy of Michelangelo's Moses and notice that it had been freshly adorned with a tag. Doubtless such a person would stand in mute contemplation, thinking to him/herself "how sad that the great Michel Angelo knew not the joy of the spray can, that he might have garnered his own creation with these wondrous marks; but how happy are we, that some angelic child has been seized by the Muse and added to the Italian's marble forms some delicate strokes from his can, thereby bringing to perfection the art of five hundred years past."

Such a person, his/her soul filled with the joy of discovery, might then tarry longer, to consider the history and social commentary which lie behind those designs. S/he might discern the alienation from public spaces felt by the young artist. Being perhaps of a progressive cast of mind, the observer might relieve the frown which by now has marked his/her brow by thinking of solutions to appropriately balance the rights of property owners and the rights of children and young people. "If only," s/he might think, children and young people were to be included in decisions relating to the use of public spaces."

Would that it were. Instead, we live in a land where nobody appreciates the art work of alienated yoof and where many people think that the Children's Commissioner might better spend her time doing something to prevent far too many children experiencing the negative outcome of being bashed to death by their parents.

What Philistines are we. And here is Not the Nine O'clock News:

Friday, May 02, 2008

Celebrity skin

Oh dear. It was all going so well. For some years, Google never put a foot wrong. Ever since the brothers G first introduced their search thingy with its simple interface, every Google project has been elegant and efficient. And we loved them all. We knew they were taking control of our lives and that ultimately they would dominate the planet, but we didn't care because their web things were so nice and pretty; and at least they are not Microsoft.

But now it is all over. Google, in a fit of aesthetic vainglory, has introduced Artist themes. Yes, from now on you can have your Google searches in a theme of your own choosing, made by such illustrious artists as.... well, nobody, really. The only professional artist chosen by Google to adorn its search engine is Jeff Koons, the well-known complete prick. Of course Rolf Harris makes an appearance as well, as he effortlessly hurtles towards ridicule by the simple tactic of thinking himself a serious artist.

The other artists include Ronnie Wood; as the blurb says, "if Rock and Roll is his night job then painting is certainly his day job." Give up your day job, Ronnie. Also appearing on behalf of the music biz is the ubiquitous Coldplay, whose notion of doing Art is to rip-off a painting by Eugene Delacroix. There must be something curiously satisfying about being utter crap in two distinct fields.

The rest of them are mostly pimps, poseurs and prats: "NIGO® is the founder of the rapidly expanding Tokyo streetwear brand A Bathing Ape®, or BAPE®, as well as a DJ in the TERIYAKI BOYZ® and owner of the music label (B)APE SOUNDS®." So, he pleads guilty to being a tosser® on three separate counts. Various other proponents of airport lounge art and Asian urban hip-hop hilarity, all of them too insignificant to mention, flout their mediocrity on this page. And who, of course, could forget Lance Armstrong, try as we might?

And that is that. As of today, Google's cool is at an end. Perhaps if the brothers G has just stuck with the the Beastie Boys or the Wiggles we might have forgiven them. But sacrificing their clean interface to the daubings of the international aristocracy of talentless vulgarity is too much. Perhaps it is time to go back to Alta Vista.