Sunday, August 31, 2008

A New England

Why is radicalism in Britain so conservative? I only ask because I was reading a Guardian piece about the Kingsnorth Climate Camp when I came across this indigestible paragraph:
The continuum of this culture of resistance, of a struggle for a commons, for control over one's own and one's family's life, for non-alienated labour and social interaction, stretches back to the Diggers, Levellers and the Luddites – English radicals struggling against the monarchy, taxes, land enclosure and austerity measures designed to empower a new industrial class, funded by a feudal and colonial land-grab and slavery.
It is always the Diggers and the Levellers and the Luddites, horny-handed sons of toil who achieved precisely bugger-all sometime in the dim and distant past. It is always like this. It was thus at all the meetings I attended in Red Lion Square, the Methodist Central Hall and various other locations: the English radical tradition, the making of the English Working Class, blah, blah, blah. The lefties in England care more about the past than the Tories. The English Radical Tradition is as quaint as Morris Dancing and cream teas. It is continued by earnest men in moleskin jackets and with beards, who write interminable pamphlets and sing insufferable folk songs. Things wouldn't be so bad if the English Radical Tradition were merely quaint, but it is also defeatist: we shall be overcome, like we were last summer and three hundred summers before that.

It is also batshit insane, as the article by Ms Jasiewicz attests: she describes a "controversial presentation by George Monbiot, in which he endorsed the use of the state as a partner in resolving the climate crisis." Yes, this is a place where the notion that the state might attain the modest status of a "partner" in "resolving" the climate crisis is regarded as controversial. That's right, the world is going to be saved by a bunch of crusties who reject the commodification of living space, and embrace collective enjoyment, dance and music.

Monbiot's response can be found here

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I write this crap so they don't have to

I suppose I should be piqued (observant readers will notice the fabric connotation in my choice of verb) that the Aucklandista should use my tagline of old as a headline for one of its posts; on the other hand I could be flattered. Either way, they have saved me the trouble of writing about the August edition of Metro, particularly its how-to-find-a-lawyer-to-get-you-off-anything article. Yes, you, Metro Reader can afford a shyster who specialises in helping people like you avoid a drunk-in-charge conviction. This means you can carry on drinking and driving; and they won't take your Audi away; meanwhile, you can continue ranting about those South Auckland kids, how they need discipline and to learn respect.

One further thought: should not Robyn be a Wellingtonista by now? Answers on a postcard to the usual address; the winner will receive a Bakelite telephone by return mail.


Geoffrey Perkins, who created Mornington Crescent and was behind everything funny on the BBC in the last thirty years, has been killed by a van.

As a tribute, here are the Hee Bee Gee Bees, who came to fame on Radio Active, with subtitles in Foreign.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Just as the monster Grendel in Beowulf is unable to communicate in the Soviet system was self-indicted by its own putrid and paralyzing and unintelligible jargon. The invasion of Czechoslovakia was a "fraternal and peace-loving" action, aimed at "normalization" and "the restoration of order." Peaceful resistance by citizens in Prague was a "provocation." Protests from other democratic countries were no more than "heating up the Cold War." And behind this shabby, lifeless, wooden rhetoric was an arsenal of lies. Polish and Hungarian soldiers, rushed across the border under Red Army orders, were told that Czechoslovakia had been invaded by West German aggressors who had to be repelled. The only German soldiers they found were from East Germany, a state founded on the premise that no further invasions would ever be launched from German soil. In a very short and intense space of time, every slogan ever uttered by the Communist system had been exposed as the sort of scabrous lie in which only a fool could believe.
Christopher Hitchens, in Slate, remembers Prague Spring

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rip her to shreds

Domestic violence is a game of two halves. Here is one half, brought to you by the New Zealand Herald, and entitled Water assault charge for Veitch. The charges, you will agree, are trivial:
The Herald on Sunday has obtained details of some of the police allegations and charges against the 34-year-old.

According to police, one relates to an incident at Mangawhai sometime between April 2003 and April 2005 in which he allegedly pushed Dunne Powell on to a bed and threw a glass of water into her face. Another charge is understood to refer to confining Dunne-Powell in a corner.
The other half is brought to you by the Sunday Star-Times and entitled The Veitch saga: what Kristin told police. And this is what Kristin said:
Kristin Dunne-Powell has told police that broadcaster Tony Veitch kicked her on three occasions during their four-year relationship before the incident which injured her back.
While both papers seem to have obtained their information from the police, it seems the Herald either was not told about the charges relating to the kickings or has chosen not to mention them.

It's a funny old game, innit? These papers go to such lengths to capture the female readership with all those pull-out and throw-away sections about lifestyle issues and all the treat-them-like-idiots non-news stories. Yet when a woman gets a kicking or three from one of the boys, they fall over themselves in their efforts to help him.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Cherry Chapstick

I did not join the protesters who marched ahead of the Boobs on Bikes parade. Nor was I among the throng of spectators who came to watch Mr Steve Crow's annual display. Instead, I attended a rather good seminar, given by one of my fellow PhD students, about Manet – an artist who once scandalised Paris by painting two implausibly naked women not eating lunch with two implausibly nonchalant men.

My preference for Manet over mammaries or marching was not prompted by ethical concerns but by aesthetic ones. I fully expected Mr Crow's event to be tacky. I am sure I was not wrong. I understand that it involved disproportionate women seated on Mr Crow's Bentley (which he has had painted in the style of a boy racer's Honda Civic), on an AFV and on the pillions of oversized motorcycles driven by grizzly old men. I doubt I would find any erotic interest in such a combination.

It is all a matter of taste. Mr Crow's idea of sexuality shows that he and his audience have none. Everything he does, from shaving his head to producing his magazines and films, makes me feely vaguely queasy. His notion of the erotic involves big things: big breasts on big vehicles. It is all too loud.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (whose own sexual taste, for those who are prurient about philosophers, apparently was for rough trade with toughs) once wrote (gnomically, in the opinion of one of his commentators) that "ethics and aesthetics are one." I think I know what he meant and I don't think he was right, entirely. I think there are purely ethical considerations and purely aesthetic ones; but the two values meet somewhere in the middle. In the case of pornography, the purely ethical concerns include the possible exploitation of performers, the possible debasement of sexuality and the possible link between porn and sexual violence (feel free to subtract from or add to these categories, according to your ethical tastes). The purely aesthetic concerns involve the lamentably poor qualities of porn: bad photography, bad film and the endless repetition of a handful of jaded characterisations: schoolgirls, secretaries, cheerleaders and so on. Somewhere in between is the uncomfortable notion that we don't like porn because it reflects the tastes of the lower orders.

Pornography, of the kind that Steve Crow produces, is vulgar: hugely breasted bottle-blondes on top of a Bentley Cialis Turbo, a Harley Davidson Viagra or any other mechanical admission of erectile dysfunction. We do not want such vehicles or such women. We want a Prius and a Vespa; and we want to share them with women who went to art school. Porn is proletarian; we are not.

At this point, someone will object that what I am describing is bad porn and that there is good porn. If you are that someone, you have a point. There is good porn; it is the porn we like. By we, I mean us: educated, middle-class liberals. The porn we like, we call erotica. We like erotica because it is tasteful. Erotica is middle-class porn.

By which I mean to say (before you tell me to Foucault) is that we, being the ruling class, determine what is tasteful, in matters of aesthetics as well as ethics. We want images of sexual interest to be artistic – which usually means serious-looking women photographed in black and white and lots of shadow. Erotica is a serious business. Porn involves too much glossy colour and too much common pleasure: porn people seem to be enjoying themselves far too much.

Of course, it might be objected (by some of us, because we are nothing if we are not self-reflecting) that we are attempting to disguise our sexual interest behind an apparent artistic taste – that we want to pretend (to ourselves as much as to others) that we are appreciating art, not looking at dirty pictures. Maybe so, although I think such a pretence is self-defeating: it would be difficult to look at any image involving nudity without some element of sexual interest; we are hard-wired to respond to naked flesh in that way. Some have tried to make nude images that are not sexual: Stanley Spencer was one, Robert Mapplethorpe another. They both got into trouble for their efforts: funnily enough, people thought they were making porn.

But even if we admit that our erotica is primarily of sexual, not artistic interest, we should acknowledge that it is a very nice kind of sexuality; quite genteel, in fact. It has none of the sweaty heaving of porn, or of sex (although porn's relationship to sex is equally tangential; but on another tangent).

But then, you might object, there are Suicide Girls. One might say that Suicide Girls are good porn but they are not erotica. They are Alt Porn. You might say they are ethically good porn because they are not shopgirls being exploited but Sociology Majors expressing their sexuality. You might also say they are aesthetically good porn but not erotica – good photography, in colour and the Sociology Majors seem to be enjoying themselves. I think you would be wrong; I think Alt Porn is a new flavour of erotica in the making. Although it does not pretend to be artistic, it does pretend to another virtue: authenticity.

Suicide Girls are real women: they are not acting, they are comfortable with their sexuality (and we all like a woman who is comfortable with her sexuality). Although they are not that far away from the sex-crazed co-eds of dirty old porn, they have the justification (and the added erotic appeal) that they are doing it for real. Authenticity is a capricious value, a mixture of the the ethical and the aesthetic which might just prove Ludwig right. It is real; therefore it is good, both ethically and aesthetically speaking.

Likewise, the cosy Australian suburbia that is Abby Winters: fewer tats, but just as many tits and just as real. These are indy chicks getting naked. Likewise Nekkid Nerds: girls in glasses who listen to Sebadoh and take off their clothes, for pleasure and profit. And an added bonus: all college-educated women under Thirty are bisexual (this is probably a result of all the soy milk they drink).

Not that I object to such follies. I would much rather see a woman in knitwear than leather. But that is a reflection of my middle-class tastes. Our erotica is tasteful and authentic; their porn is vulgar and false. Of course, it may be true that girls who like Yo La Tengo do not wear cherry chapstick and nothing more. It may be true that our erotica is just as false as their porn. And it may not be artistic at all (Pro Tip: it isn't). But it is probably best not to admit that to ourselves. We don't like it when our high-minded erotica is exposed as mere porn.

Which brings me back to Manet. One of Edouard's stunts was to put vulgar imagery (street musicians, working girls) into high Art. And he did the opposite trick: taking the nudes out of classical mythology and putting them into the here and now, enjoying their lunch break with a couple of dandies. In doing so, he made them naked rather than nude. But that is another story, perhaps.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

P, breakfast of celebrities

A certain married media high-flyer is having to deal with rumour that he has gotten a florist pregnant.
If the study of Grammar were to become popular again, sentences such as that above would be ideal for parsing. I am sure you will not be surprised to learn that I took it from About Town, Bridget Saunders' section in the Sunday Star-Times. Far from denigrating this sentence, I find it has an irresistible rhythm; I particularly like the form of "he has gotten a florist pregnant."

The question, though, is to what this is about. The one aspect of both Ms Saunders' gossiping and that of her rival, Ms Glucina, that I find perplexing is that most of us will have no idea as to the identities of their subjects. I can understand that the handful of people who might be able to make a connexion between a married media high-flyer of their acquaintance and a pregnant florist whom they also know, might gain some satisfaction from realising that the pregnancy of the latter is due to the virility of the former. For most of us, however, the knowledge that there is rumour about an unnamed but married media high-flyer and the pregnancy of an unnamed florist is inconsequential. We do not know these people. Bridget has not named them. So why does this gossip about unknown people fill up space in both Sunday papers?

The obvious answer is that if Bridget or Rachel were to name the subjects of their gossip, their respective employers would face Action of a legal kind (Ms Glucina proudly claims that they won't sue in the masthead for her gossip – of course they won't: nobody knows who they are). So, why not print nothing? Publishing the gossip without naming the celebrities seems pointless. An essential element of gossip is knowing the subject. If we were able to recognise the subject, then the subject would be able to sue. But if we cannot recognise the subject, what use is the gossip?

At least Guessing The Celebrity is a game we can all enjoy (not suitable for children under 18). Just for fun, try this one:
Which high-profile media man is widely believed to enjoy the 16th letter of the alphabet with his media mates, to the detriment of his career?
I am not as coy as Bridget, so I will give you a hint by telling you that the 16th letter of the alphabet is P, the name given to a popular narcotic substance.

So who is it, then? Most of them, I would have thought. Isn't that why television is so bad? Only people strung out on amphetamines could think that back-to-back forensic cop shows could be a winner. Only speed fiends could make such sitcoms as that one set in a backbackers – you know, the one that was supposed to save local comedy, the one without a single funny line in its entire run. Surely, nobody in his right mind would make such decisions.

In any case, all celebrities are on P, are they not? Whenever a celebrity encounters Tragedy (and lets face it, Tragedy haunts the lives of the rich and famous, as any reader of the women's weeklies will know) the 16th letter of the alphabet will not be far away. It is either the cause or the effect of Tragedy. Celebrities fall apart because of a P habit or they pick up a habit because the centre could not hold. Why they choose such a tawdry drug with which to ruin their lives is beyond me; perhaps there is not enough coke around, or perhaps they are just tawdry people.

Ah yes, that would be it. They are tawdry people, all of them. It doesn't matter that we don't know the identity of the P fiend or the florist-impregnator, all that matters is that each week we read the stories of media people doing bad things and so we are confirmed in our belief that these people are all despicable. And yet these are the people who make the media we consume.

What a strange world it is where media people make the media and are the subjects of it, when their peccadilloes are partially revealed to a slavering public which barely knows any of them as individuals but groups them together as a contemptible whole.

It is like having a priesthood of paedophiles – no, forget that; I meant to make a smilie. It is like having an aristocracy - people who control our lives but whose own lives are deplorable. Yes, that would be it: a media aristocracy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Synchronised beating

I am beginning to ask myself whether I was unduly harsh on Tony Veitch. After all, the Sunday papers had some pretty conclusive evidence in his defence: his wife didn't like his ex-girlfriend. And that's not all: the Sunday Star-Times has been told that "medical reports suggest two vertebrae [of Kristin Dunne-Powell's spine] were damaged in the attack but the crack to a third vertebra was an old injury."

You will understand my doubts, I am sure. Clearly, this Dunne-Powell woman is exaggerating the whole matter. Obviously, there is a huge difference between Mr Veitch cracking three of Ms Dunne-Powell's vertebrae while kicking her down the stairs and his cracking only two - a difference of a third. This should give us cause to ponder.

Curiously enough, it is not just medical reports that are suggesting that Ms Dunne-Powell is a bit of a cry-baby. No less an authority than Glenda Hughes, the "powerful media fixer who also has a soft spot for oddballs and outsiders," has doubts.

Ms Hughes is profiled on the first two pages of the Focus section of the very same Sunday Star-Times. Her profiler is Anthony Hubbard. He reveals that Ms Hughes knows from "sources" that Ms Dunne-Powell was "walking and visiting people" not long after leaving hospital. You will see that there is cause for concern here: only two vertebrae cracked and she was up and about in no time.

Ms Hughes knows about this sort of thing, as it turns out: "now I am not saying she may not have some fractures in her back or whatever. She might have some. I certainly know I have. I have mistreated my back horribly and I do know."

Of course, Ms Hughes would never sanction a man hitting a woman but "I do accept, having dealt with lots of domestics in my time, that you can be driven to actions, that violence is not always about physicality."

You see, the Dunne-Powell woman drove him to kick her down the stairs, with her non-physical violence. She mistreated her back horribly.

It comes as no surprise that Ms Hughes, the media fixer with a heart of gold, is representing Mr Veitch; but she is only doing so because she personally believes he has been wronged.

Mr Hubbard explains, on her behalf, that PR people like her are not paid liars, as many journalists think. In fact, as Mr Hubbard admits, there are many bad journalists. Fortunately for Ms Hughes there are enough good journalists for her to rely on. And she has an ideal "media encounter" in mind, one that runs like this:
the honest PR agent, helping their client towards clarity, and their intelligent conversation with a well-meaning reporter who in turn conveys a complex truth to the world.
As Mr Hubbard concludes, "it's certainly a great picture. And one rarely seen."

Well, Mr Hubbard, there is a reason for that. This great picture is a fake. Ms Hughes is a liar for hire. Her job is to make her client, the violent assailant, look like the injured party and to make his victim look like the villain of the piece. Mr Hubbard's job, as a journalist, is to see through the hall of mirrors put up by Ms Hughes and every other PR agent, but obviously he cannot or will not do that. So he writes two pages of flannel, an advertorial for Ms Hughes and her current campaign to denigrate Ms Dunne-Powell.

It is not as if the Veitch camp needed any further help. By bringing in the long-suffering wife, they managed to get their story in both that day's Sunday Star-Times and the Herald on Sunday. Mrs Veitch's role was to portray Dunne-Powell as a bit of a flake, as did the previous witness – the flatmate who recalled Dunne-Powell turning up at all hours asking for Tony. Zoe Veitch also clutches for our sympathy by telling us that John Campbell turned up unexpectedly; yes, a real journalist – it must have been difficult for her. And of course there is the suggestion that the police have got it in for her, not only tipping off Campbell and rummaging through her drawers but revealing their obvious bias against the accused (Jafapete comments further on this).

As predicted by the SST, Veitch was charged the next day, putting all this media work into context. It is crucial for Veitch that his victim be kicked again and again, to move public and jury opinion against her. Both the HoS and the SST seem willing to do their bit to help.

I met Glenda Hughes once, at one of Russell's Media7 gigs. I thought she was alright. She was representing the woman who had been raped anally by Tea Ropati, a woman who was denigrated in the media by the rapist's wife. I guess this case is different.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Brief lives

It never ends: whatever the Prime Minister does, the likes of Ian Wishart will always find some way to insinuate blame or a conspiracy. The latest instance is the TBR spin on the news that the PM's friend died while guiding her and others at Lake Tekapo, a sad event which Mr Wishart interprets as Death on PM's watch. How long will it be before some rightist does what was done to Hillary Clinton in the early years of her husband's Administration and suggest that a string of seemingly inexplicable deaths can be associated with the PM?

Meanwhile, Mr Young comments on the hidden agenda which Mr Wishart and Family First have uncovered, the one at the top of the slippery slope which leads to polygamy.

This may have relevance to our previous discussion of Fleetwood Mac.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Weather with you

I know some blogs have a Friday Night Free For All, where the bloggers and their posters chat idly about nothing much in particular. We don't do that sort of thing round here, because Fundy Post readers have Lives. And you read the Fundy Post on weekdays, at work, which is the right and proper thing to do.

That said, I know that many Fundy Post readers do Science and I have a question for you boffins. It is about Fleetwood Mac. When Stevie Nicks sings "thunder only happens when it's raining," is she meteorologically correct? Is there a necessary relationship between thunder and rain? To put it another way, if Fleetwood Mac had been a Logical Positivist band (and not just a bunch of hippies who had married each other far too often for their own good) and were A J Ayer chosen as lead singer rather than Stevie Nicks, would he be singing "thunder only happens iff it is raining?"

Or am I being obtuse? Could it be that the word thunder means, to Stevie, something other than its normal meaning? Does she have a private language? After all, she also sings "you can go your own way, you can call it thunder." Well, you can't really, can you? Not if you expect anyone to understand you. I am amazed they manage to get away with this sort of inconsistency.

Maybe I am expecting too much from Fleetwood Mac. They were good in the Sixties, but then Peter Green got mad, Jeremy Spencer got religion and poor Danny Kirwan got drunk. Then, later, along came Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham and they stopped making sense.

Anyway, answers on a postcard to the usual address; in the meantime, here is Graham Parker and the Rumour.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Young folks talking 'bout the young style

On Morning Report yesterday, Dr Nick "mad for Nelson" Smith told of his encounter with a young person who claimed to be a Young Nats supporter but who Dr Smith believes was the mystery taper of cocktail party conversations. Dr Smith was suspicious because this young man was dressed in an "alternative" fashion.

In order to help Dr Smith with his investigations, herewith attached is a photograph of the current Young Labour Executive. As you can see they are, to a man, strangers to Country Road.

The Fundy Post does not seek to excuse this taping incident, but believes there may be mitigating circumstances: Jet Boy stole their baby.

Irresponsible media

Would you go to all the trouble of being oppressed if you could have the authentic taste of state-controlled media in the comfort of your own home? Well, now you can, thanks to the New Zealand Herald! Yes, it's true! The paper that brought you the authorised unauthorised biography of John Key now brings you takeaway propaganda. The Herald has specially selected Auckland-based Chinese journalist Jing Jing Wei to be its embedded blogger. To celebrate China's Olympics, Jing Jing Wei will bring the Party Line direct to your home.

Jing Jing doesn't mind about censorship. The Firewall is her friend. She doesn't know what the terrorists want – they are probably just threatening money-grubbers – and she is not going to find out. What she does know is that conscientious and patriotic Chinese are cooperating in hosting the Olympics. While local bloggers are being censored and arrested, Jing Jing Mei brings you the stories that irresponsible media won't tell.

Her commentators agree: writes Wendy Zhou of Hillcrest, "medias like BBC are the biggest 'terrorist' in the world, the damage they made is far too big than those of a suicide bomber, they damage people's mind instead of their body." Peter of Singapore whole-heartedly criticises Prime Minister Helen Clark for signing a free trade agreement but not attending the Games. And Fay Chang of Beijing says "I am feeling a littel bit more lucky since I am living in this city and can feel the Olympic air everyday." Yes, Beijing: the city with air you can feel.

Jing Jing Mei probably won't want you to read about Humiliation & the Olympics.

Death cab for Cutie:

Monday, August 04, 2008

Some assembly required

Mr Finnemore sent me this image. Its point might be blunted, given that we do not have IKEA in New Zealand. Which is a shame, since IKEA is a source of constant amusement; but it does give me an excuse to tell y'all about the coolest meme: IKEA hacking. Great ideas can be found here and here, ideas such as this coffin.

If this were All Embracing but Underwhelming, I would put some links here. Instead, here's Game Theory:

Friday, August 01, 2008

Strange things are happening every day

Sometimes, despite sceptical leanings, it is tempting to agree with Sister Rosetta Tharpe that strange things are happening every day, things even stranger than home-made non-videos posted on You Tube. Today, while walking to Varsity, I was passing a line of bright yellow wheelie-bins. A gust of wind suddenly took them and they all moved towards me. Every childhood fear instilled in me by Dr Who came back.

Stranger still, Mr Finnemore has been reading the National Business Review, as has the estimable Mr Archie McRiff and the good people at Lost Otter. Between them, they have found this curiosity by Michael Coote. To save you the trouble of wading through Mr Coote's rather dense prose (remember, we read this crap so you don't have to), here is a brief extract.
Which feckless, taxpayer-funded bunch of collectivist lickspittles - red or blue - one wants to preside nominally in Parliament over the country's true entrenched ruling class of expropriating bureaucrats and other species of mis-named public servants, is all that anyone will be turning out one upcoming Saturday to vote upon. Those who expect the unelected ruling class to be disestablished as an outcome of the election would be wise to hedge their bets by launching a petition for Pharmac to undertake full funding of psychiatric drugs to be available without prescription in supermarkets.
You will note, doubtless, the use of the term lickspittle - the favoured perjorative of that legendary troll of mystery, Redbaiter. Should you choose to read it all, I feel obliged to warn you that Mr Coote's polemic is laden with medical metaphors that migh upset your Friday afternoon extended lunch. Should you be enjoying such a lunch, you might want to pass over the next blockquote, which is intended as a further example, but only for those with strong stomachs:
The essential insight of the collectivists was that there was no longer any need to act directly to subvert democracy and capitalism. Rather, like the lentivirus HIV or the interspecial disease scrapie, all that was required was to corrupt by largely unnoticed suborning and subversion. The red thread throughout for this class of tapeworms sucking blood from the guts of society was to get themselves on the public payroll in order to pose as the agents of solution to problems.
It is all quite distressing: such cynicism about the body politic, and published in a journal read by the business elite. But who, you might ask, is this Michael Coote? Why, he is none other than the Campaign Manager for Dr Jackie Blue, List MP and National's candidate for Mount Roskill.

Poor Dr Blue. Although an estimable woman, she is condemned to life on the List which, I have heard her say, she abhors. She failed to obtain the Auckland Central nomination, the Nats there having preferred failed kayaker Nikki Kaye. Now she is contesting the unwinnable Mount Roskill and her campaign is being run by a man with a darker view of politics than Joseph de Maistre, who believes that Blues are closet Reds.

Strange things indeed. Stranger still, Gospel on my Fundy Post? It's alright; religion is OK when it is sung by old black women, particularly one who plays a mean guitar: