Monday, April 27, 2009

Oh Canada

One of the few pleasures left to us in these troubled times is in seeing PR people, Spokespersons and their political masters being turned on a spit of their own making, having been found saying things that are the opposite of true. At present, such pleasures can be found in Alberta, in Canada, where the Provincial Government chose to promote itself with a photograph of a beach in Northumberland, in Ingerland.

Northumberland and Alberta differ in many respects, not the least of which is that one has a coastline while the other is land-locked. So it was inevitable that the sleight of image would be uncovered. When the inevitable occurred, the Government might have said they made a mistake with the stock photography, that all they wanted was a view with a couple of those pretty but slightly spooky kids who probably go to a Steiner school, the sort of kids you see a lot in advertisements these days; but they picked a picture from the wrong country, but it was understandable that nobody spotted the error because Alberta's many lakes have so many beautiful windswept beaches. They could have said that; they could have been more direct and said what an employee eventually said: "we screwed up... we're sorry." But they didn't.

Instead, a Spokesperson tried to convince us that the picture “represents Albertans’ concern for the future of the world.” Alberta's Tourism Minister, Cindy Ady, made things worse by saying the choice of photograph added an "international flavour" to the campaign and "shows the province is engaged with the world." To make things worse still, the Premier himself, Ed Stelmach said, "It's more broad than Alberta ... because we do care, not only about Alberta's environment but the world." And to make things worse than that, the British papers attributed his Spokesman's remarks to the Prime Minister of Canada.

Meanwhile, the PR agency responsible for this mess refuses to communicate, hiding behind commercial confidentiality. And now everybody knows.

As Talleyrand said under entirely different circumstances and Idiot/Savant under others still, c'est pire qu'un crime; c'est une faute /it's worse than a crime; it's a mistake.

And here are some folksy Australians called Rand and Holland, performing a song which sounds, in a folksy kind of way, peculiarly similar to Yo La Tengo's Cherry Chapstick.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I am in love with my stalker

I liked me better when I was an alcoholic. I was skinnier and happier and I had more friends. Now I'm just lonely.
From SecretTweet: it's like a text-based real-time Postsecret, but you don't need Photoshop to play. Here's another:
I work at a group home for a disabled elderly christian couple, and sometimes I draw syrup pentagrams on their pancakes just for fun.
Here's a third:
I date new people mainly to rifle through their medicine cabinets.
And a fourth:
When I see I have a text, my heart begins to hope it's a friend who wants to see how I'm doing. But it never is. It's just twitter.
Oh. It's fun for about five tweets, then you realise how unhappy a lot of people are; and they don't even have Photoshop skills. And they let strangers comment on their unhappiness.

Heaven knows, I'm miserable now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Nation building for dummies

So what happens when your Prime Minister appoints an ACT member to be Associate Defence Minister? This is what happens: you get a Defence Review. And what, you may ask, is a defence review? Well, it's like this: the government starts with some ideological premises and then spends a considerable amount of your money finding facts and figures to justify them. It is like a study, except the results are already known.

And what about the premises? Well, the government is going to sell them. And then it will lease them back. Or, as Associate Defence Minister Heather Roy puts it:
"The Defence Force doesn't necessarily need to own everything. It could work in a partnership where somebody else owns the land or owns the buildings and they're leased back," she said.
Of course, some might object that the Defence Force already owns all the property it needs and does not need to sell it to some fly-by-night operation and then pay said operation for the right to use what it once owned. But this is the sort of sound business sense that we have already come to expect from this government. We do this sort of thing in our own lives, don't we? We sell the car to the neighbour, and then lease it back from him. After all, this may be a property-owning democracy but we don't have to own everything.

But wait, there's more. The defence review will also conclude that we need to have Voluntary National Service. ACT has been working on this exciting idea since 2007. Way back then, they already had concluded that it is a logical choice. So there is no arguing with that, is there? Look at the benefits:
A Voluntary National Service scheme would involve a closer integration of all areas of national security - including defence, police, civil defence and emergency services. The scheme could also be extended at a later date to include other areas of skill shortage and could include closer ties between national security and social policy areas.
Now, some might object that we do not want our defence force integrated with the police and other services, that such integration is the sort of thing which goes on in military dictatorships. Some might say that we do not want closer ties between national security and social policy areas, that the job of the military is not to solve the country's social problems and that social policy is best left to the professionals who know about such matters. But such objectors do not see the obvious benefits:
"The VNS concept - being developed under the working title of 'Your Country - Your Choice' - offers significant citizenship-building potential and would be the first scheme for decades that enables new arrivals to New Zealand to identify with their country, flag and anthem, and share a bond with those Kiwis who gave so much to build this nation.
And also share a bond with those students paying off their debt. There really is nothing sinister about this. We won't be calling these chaps Janissaries, will we? We will simply have an army of people who are serving to pay off debts owed to the government, or to gain their citizenship. These people will not be indentured labourers or mercenaries, will they? And they won't be just a military force; they will be integrated with all areas of public service. After all, in many countries the military takes on roles which were not traditionally associated with soldiering. We need only look as far as our neighbour,Fiji, to see this integration at work.

At ease, men.

Be your own post

From the freedom-loving Republic of Korea comes news that a blogger has been cleared of spreading false information; he was charged with this heinous crime, even though he was right about the Lehman Brothers. Incidentally, the Lehman Brothers have a lot of uranium.

You can now take these two amusing stories and assemble them into a weblog post of your own design, adding your own ingredients to taste. For example, you might want to observe that the Lehman Brothers are like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea: they have no money but lots of uranium. You might want to note the bloggers who could be charged with spreading false information if we had a law like that (caution: defamation is a very difficult and very expensive area of Law). You might want to make remarks about cabbage and metal chopsticks, but that would be rather cheap, wouldn't it?

So, there you have it. You have all weekend. On Monday, let me know how you got on.

Here is a music promo:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Le Rouge et le Noir

One little known fact about Folsom Prison, which is not mentioned in the lyrics of Johnny Cash's blues of that name, was that its prisoners were mostly Gingas, with a few Bruthas thrown in for local colour. Spire Christian Comics revealed the awful truth of Ginga criminality in its Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, [PDF] the raw, unvarnished story of The Man in Black's descent into redhead hell. It is not just at the prison either; everywhere in Johnny's life were redheads, beautiful, seductive pill-pushing redheads.

But not all gingas are bad. Johnny's own family was rusty, as were the Carter Family. Even Johnny himself went through redheaded phases. Or did Spire Christian Comics have problems with four-colour printing? Perhaps we will never know.

Or care. This comic's hair-colour bar is its most interesting feature. Of course, some questions arise, such as why his daughters were Asian. Otherwise, it manages the singular feat of making Johnny Cash dull. He sings, he drinks, he takes pills, he quits, he starts again. And so on and so on. Until it stops, when Jesus makes Johnny's life full. And that's it. Rock 'n' roll.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Of Nazis and knitwear

Speaking of Nazis, Hansi was the girl who loved the Swastika (PDF), at least according to Spire comics. Then, the dream became a nightmare; then she loved Jesus. Then she loved America. She had a lot to give.

How do you solve a problem like Hansi? She is so keen, so eager, so gullible. The Nazis give her books: she loves them. Americans chew gum: she loves them. Jesus does nothing for her: she loves Him. She is always cheerful; she even gives the blinded soldier a friendly wave and cheerfully tells him that they are nothing and the Reich is everything.

She didn't love the Russians, even though they don't rape her, unlike the other girls; but that was because she was so thin; but then, she was so thin because she had starved herself for the Fatherland; not that she looked any thinner than the others. But still, she leads her friends, a group of Hipsters with great hair and knitwear, out of the Russian camp. They meet a ferryman; for a fistful of shiny things, he will take them to safety, althogh not by ferry. He takes them to no-man's-land, which somehow survived the First World War. Unfortuntely, the Russians are waiting and they shoot all the Hipster girls, including Hansi's best friend, who had the best hair of them all. Hansi, it seems, is too thin to be shot.

Fortunately, Hansi and some recently-orphaned peasant child find their way to West Germany. Obviously, this happened before the Iron Curtain was completed, and before the invention of the twin-set. There, they find a farmhouse full of Americans, who chew gum and don't want to rape Hansi. They make her breakfast. She even manages to change her fashionable knits for the traditional peasant costume she had before all this trouble started. She speaks some German as well.

Anyhow, time passes. She teaches in the Bavarian Alps. Then she is reunited with her boyfriend, who was in U-Boats but now dresses in anticipation of Rock'n'Roll. He has found Jesus as well. And then they go to America, for no good reason other than their good fortune. There, they find the airport is full of hippies. America has sold its soul for a mess of consumer goods, including Hi-Fidelity stereo and food mixers. And the American youth are troubled. The prison is full of militants. But Hansi teaches them to love their country. She tells them that America is so unlike her homeland, where Russian tanks mow down angry Hipsters. And so the story ends.

Morally speaking, it is not the most straightforward of stories. Its message seems to be that it is alright to love America, because God loves America. Hansi loved Hitler, but whether that was really a bad thing is never made clear. At least she didn't love the Russians, who have neither God nor Hi-Fidelity stereo.

This story is the real-life autobiography of Maria Anne Hirschmann. It was published in 1976 by Spire Comics, who also published Jack Chick's tracts and the Archie comics. So now you know.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In Germany before the War

Above all, putting together and displaying such immense piles of loot demonstrated the personalisation of power that transformed German politics after 1933. In one of the most interesting passages of the book, d’Almeida examines the giving of gifts and the dispensing of favours by Nazi bigwigs. A customised policy of tax rebates was devised for the performing arts; the beneficiaries included the screen actor Hans Albers and the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, but also many less prominent figures from provincial centres. Cultural administrators and the artists themselves were left in no doubt that these were individual settlements, through which each beneficiary entered into a personal relationship with the holders of power. This had little to do with formal party membership; it was a variety of clientelism that transcended the party and its ideological support base. The same mechanisms were at work in the German army, where Hitler used huge gifts of cash and real estate to co-opt senior officers. Many of those commanders (Manstein, Rundstedt, von Kluge and Guderian come to mind) who later claimed that they had been restrained from joining the resistance by moral compunctions about their oath of loyalty omitted to mention that they had also been bribed with large, secret monetary gifts from Hitler.
More tales of the Nazis: sorry, but the Junkers were not opposed to Hitler and the most Nazi of professions was medicine; and the Hitler gang turned everything upside down.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why Jake blogs

The estimable Mr Jake Pollock of Pittsburgh, who doubtless will be known to you as a blog commentator of merit, has started his own blog. Of particular note is a post he has written on the subject Why I blog, which makes reference to posts on this very subject by il Dottore Tiso and by this author.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday night's alright for fighting

At times like this, I am glad I am not a psychiatrist. If I were, I might be wondering why everybody seems to have an opinion about the mental state of Tony Veitch, based on everybody's extensive background knowledge of what has been published in the papers, added to everybody's rich store of anecdote and unassailable prejudices.

I might also wonder why everybody seems so keen to throw around phrases like 'malignant narcissism' and 'ideation,' despite never having had to sit through a lecture on Psychology or having to sit an exam on same. It seems everybody knows about the workings of the celebrity mind and has an opinion to make about the causes of such workings. Someone ought to describe this phenomenon, and identify it as a Syndrome. Symptoms of this Syndrome might be the delusions that the celebrity's mind is so transparent as to invite immediate inspection and that the observer has the ability to make a diagnosis from newspaper reports.

Others might say that Veitchy was asking for it. Certainly his behaviour was very public and not very sensible. Having pled guilty as part of a package that allowed him to escape some lesser charges, he then made his last stand on the courthouse steps, claiming that he should have had his day in court, but that he did what he did for the sake of everyone involved, not the least of whom was himself. He went on to say that his day in court would have involved further besmirching of the woman he had pled guilty to assaulting. He then said he would be suing several media outlets which had besmirched him. Clearly here was a man who thought that his case had gone into extra time, and that he might still win by a penalty kick.

But is this the behaviour of a man suffering from whatever mental condition everybody wishes to assign to him? Because his madness does not seem to be a solitary condition; it looks more like a team effort. His counsel, Stuart Grieve QC, was is no mood to retire to the dressing room. Rather, he was on Checkpoint within hours of the verdict, telling Mary Wilson that, had the day in court been had, he would have delivered a "bruising" and that there would have been "blood on the carpet." Given the nature of the offence and the nature of the audience, these words seem insensitive, to say the least. Team Veitch appear to be an inadvisably pugnacious outfit, even in defeat. To them, a court case is obviously a game of three halves - which still can be won, long after the plea bargaining is over.

Whatever Veitch's mental condition, it cannot have been helped by his being surrounded by people who were so determined to carry on fighting, against the odds but in chargeable time. If I were writing a column for a Sunday newspaper, I might say something like this: the long road to Ngaruawahia began at the steps of Auckland District Court.

Thankfully for all concerned, I have no such column. Regrettably, Paul Holmes does. His explanation for the course of events is less psychological than theological:
I think that last year, with Tony on the verge of becoming the major New Zealand television presence, God said: "No, no, Tony. Not yet. There is something that has to be paid for. You have to pay for it and it's up to you to find your way back." I think Tony Veitch will find his way back.
Like me, I suspect you had no idea that Veitchy was on the verge of becoming the major New Zealand television presence. You probably thought of him as that man who read the sports results, and no more. Whatever the costs of this matter, which include several hundred thousand dollars and Veitch's mental health, it undoubtedly has made him a household name. To learn, from no less an authority than Holmsey, that this was all the work of Godsey, will no doubt give him some comfort.

Holmes said this too:
I will say this too. A radio breakfast guy on a Sunday night is nervous and tense, no matter how long he has been doing the job and no matter how successfully. A radio breakfast man on a Sunday night is getting ready to lose his freedom for five days.

A radio breakfast guy like Veitch, who was struggling with his breakfast job and finding it much more difficult than he had thought he would, as Veitch was at the time, is especially tense on a Sunday night. Sunday night is not a night to have a fight with a breakfast man.
We have, all of us, at least learned one lesson from this sorry tale.

Elton John, before he had hair:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Situation: root

"Our first choice is a fruit day," said Pierpaolo Petrassi, Tesco's senior product development manager. "We seek to avoid root and leaf days. It may be a little step beyond what consumers can comprehend. We have so many other things to educate consumers about. So many remain confused about screw caps, for example. We don't want to make it more complicated."
Further evidence that Ingerland is descending into imbecility: Tesco, the vast supermarket chain which effectively controls what remains of the British economy, has decided to open wine only when the moon and the stars are in the right aspect. Marks and Spencer has followed suit. The theory behind this practice was first suggested by Rudolf Steiner, here described as a philosopher-scientist; in fact he was neither a philosopher nor a scientist, but a crank. Steiner, like so many other cranks before and since, also attempted to be an architect, designing a few buildings in what he claimed was an organic style. That his hideous buildings lack any consistency of style has escaped his followers, who are mostly drawn from that section of the Middle Class which is prepared to believe anything so long as it is preposterous.

Not surprisingly, Tesco has chosen not to make any of this nonsense known to its customers, people who are confused by screw caps.

Pic unrelated

Monday, April 13, 2009

America (the Beautiful)

An appalling example of where huge campaign contributions for judges can lead is Caperton v. Massey, a case now before the Supreme Court of the United States. A West Virginia jury awarded damages of $50 million in a tort action against the A.T. Massey Coal Co. While the case was on appeal, Massey's CEO, Don Blankenship, contributed $3 million on behalf of Brent Benjamin, a candidate for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, either by himself or through a political action group. (That was 60 percent of all spending in support of Benjamin.) Benjamin was elected. When the court heard Massey's appeal, Benjamin declined to recuse himself from the case. The court reversed the damage judgment, deciding in Massey's favor by a vote of 3 to 2. Justice Benjamin cast the deciding vote.

The claim now before the US Supreme Court is that Benjamin's refusal to recuse himself denied Massey's opponents the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment: fundamental fairness. The Supreme Court evidently had difficulty deciding whether to hear the case, considering it at several conferences before granting review, and it is easy to understand why. Does the Court want to get into the business of deciding whether a state judge's refusal to recuse himself is a violation of the federal Constitution? How much of a campaign contribution should disqualify a judge from sitting on the contributor's case? If expensive judicial elections are allowable, where do we draw such lines? On the other hand, the claims of elementary justice here seem strong.
Say it again: the claims of elementary justice here seem strong. It is one of those Only in America moments. Only in America could a reviewer for a liberal, intellectual magazine make such a pale comment, when faced with a tale of outright corruption. Only in America could such a dodgy system as the election of judges be countenanced. Only in America could a Supreme Court be reluctant to get involved in a case of judicial corruption; no maybe not just America, maybe some countries with names ending in 'stan' as well.

The reviewer, who is something of a specialist in judicial journalism, has to ask the question "how much of a campaign contribution should disqualify a judge from sitting on the contributor's case?" How about a nice round number, say, Zero? Yes that would work: the Zero Bribes Option, they can call it.

Elsewhere in the NY Review of Books: the Red Cross Torture Report, available for Download; and Hilary Mantel's review of Marilyn French's History of Women; and John Gray's review of Margaret Atwood's Payback; and, what's more, you can listen to Atwood's Massey Lectures for nothing.

Jackson Browne:

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Coming into Ramallah now. Raja Shehadeh, a lawyer who lives here, says that it is Ramallah's greatest good fortune not to be mentioned in the Bible. For that reason Ramallah is left alone, of no interest to fanatics, because its religious significance is precisely nothing. Nothing divine happened in Ramallah. What a stroke of luck for any town that wants to survive! Not to be named in any Holy Book! And along the cement wall, as we enter the town, is the blossoming graffiti. Oh yes, there's a parallel here and it's being made with aerosols and poster paints, so that every visitor will be forced to think "Ah! Berlin!" The wall may be obsolete for Professor Lochery, but for the inhabitants of the West Bank, it's all too real, blocking out the sun, blocking out the view, forbidding passage. There are people here on the West Bank who have not seen a body of water—lake nor sea—for fifteen years. The wittiest graffiti by far, in enormous capitals, the instruction scrawled across six cement blocks, just the letters CTL ALT DEL. As if at the press of three computer keys, the wall might disappear. Not a wall, just a drawing of a wall.
David Hare

Saturday, April 11, 2009

There goes the neighbourhood

Proof, if proof were needed, that we are living in strange times: only 53% of American adults believe that capitalism is better than socialism.

Here's the New York Dolls with a song about Creationism. Life was so simple back then, when all we had to worry about was losing the Culture Wars.


This is the 500th post. Yay me.

This sort of milestone event involving a big round number usually provokes bloggers to do something silly, like write a "why I blog" post. I am sure you will be relieved to learn that you will get no such thing from me.

That said, Dottore Tiso issued me a challenge, to read all 181 thousand results of a Google search for the phrase "why I blog." I see no such need. His initial point concerned posts entitled "Why I Blog." Google, being rather primitive in some respects, cannot distinguish between titles and text. A more subtle search engine is Exalead, which allows searches on titles only. A quick search of such produced a mere 559 results. In no time at all, my task was complete; I had read all the "why I blog" posts.

So I can now reveal to you, gentle readers, why bloggers blog.

sanity compulsion Africa words sharing company catharsis security peaches hermeneutics knitting order orchids discipline Terri safety Jesus zeal sad verklempt God hypocrisy homeschooling snuggery writing tigers life mormons craziness dog you compulsion ? ministry book therapy racism lovecat sundae sex

I could go on. I still might.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and for commenting.

Here are Dan Ackroyd's friends:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Situation vacant

The 20th century is well behind us, but we have not yet learned to live in the 21st, or at least to think in a way that fits it. That should not be as difficult as it seems, because the basic idea that dominated economics and politics in the last century has patently disappeared down the plughole of history. This was the way of thinking about modern industrial economies, or for that matter any economies, in terms of two mutually exclusive opposites: capitalism or socialism.
Eric Hobsbawm

If wishes were horses

Cohen also confirms the key fact that not all Palestinians are the enemies of Israel – something I have documented for more recent times. This offers cause for hope; indeed, were the 20 percent of Palestinians who accept Israel expanded to 60 percent, the Arab-Israeli conflict would close down. Such a Palestinian change of heart – and not more "painful concessions" by Israel – should be the goal of every would-be peacemaker.
As a would-be peacemaker, it is your duty to convince Palestinians to accept Israel. It's a hearts and minds thing. On the other hand, you might prefer to ask how Daniel Pipes gets away with writing this sort of thing, and constantly referencing his own work while reviewing that of another.

Partyhat-tip to HTML Mencken

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A fish called Colin

After all this time, it turns out that Elton John and Bernie Taupin were wrong. Sorry does not seem to be the hardest word. The hardest word in fact is Pollack. Yes, it came as a suprise to me. It is going to be particularly tough for Jake.

One wonders, as one so frequently does, what drugs these marketing people are taking. Pollack is a perfectly respectable name for a fish. Colin is a name for a cat. Colin is one of those names which it is unfortunate to possess when one is a boy, like Keith or Nigel. Every class has a Colin - a rather weedy, quite nerdy boy who collects stamps and who gets jokes about fifteen seconds after everyone else. Colin's parents, who own a commercial stationery business, married late; he is their only child. His mother is over-attentive, much to Colin's embarrassment and the mirth of his schoolmates.

This characterisation of Colins is utterly unfair. Colins can be cool, and they can get to hang out with chicks, as the following musical interlude shows. Here, the coolest Colin of them all, Colin Blunstone, sings with his beat combo, the Zombies:

Of course, the marketing men will protest, the new name for the fish is not the English personal name but the French fish name, pronounced co-lan. This should not be confused with colon, the well-known unpleasant piece of anatomy, but it will be. Again, questions of pharmacy arise. In any case, have these marketing men not noticed two self-evident truths about the English: (1) they loathe the French, and (2) they cannot and will not pronounce French words correctly?

And, just to make sure their rebranded fish sinks like a stone, they have put it in "Jackson Pollock-inspired packaging" Oh yes, Abstract Expressionism; that will be popular with the housewifes at home.

So, why are they doing this? Because the British ate all the cod, that's why. Or, to put it in bouncy, upbeat marketing speak:"At Sainsbury's we're passionate about sustainable sourcing and protecting dwindling fish stocks. We want to help highlight that there are species to eat other than cod and haddock, which are just as tasty and often cheaper. Many people have said that they can't even tell the difference in taste between cod or pollack, so we urge everyone to try 'colin and chips' on a Friday."

Of course there are species to eat other than cod and haddock, such as cabbage and carrot. Since every commercial caterer thinks that fish is a vegetarian option, why not turn things around and pretend vegetables are fish? The marketing men could rebrand them. The Brussels sprout has negative connotations of Belgium, so let's call it Darren. Aubergine is a French word, so let's call it Leonard. After all, if Sainsbury's rebranding exercise is an unexpected success, there will soon be no more Colins left, so the English will have nothing left to eat but Darren and chips or Leonard fingers.

Meanwhile, in the Phlippines, the 41st Megamouth Shark ever to be sighted was sauteed in coconut milk.

But wait, there is one way to save endangered fish: call them sea kittens. Or, we could listen to a song about Nigel. Which would you choose?

With thanks to Sam for the lead.

Dumb and dumber

A statement released by Fox News said that the company and Roger Friedman had "mutually agreed to part ways immediately". The studio also weighed in to say that Friedman's behaviour was "reprehensible" and that it "condemned this act categorically".

That events should have come to this pass should not be too surprising. Not only did Friedman offer his opinion on the early cut of the film on his Fox 411 blog, joining the estimated one million people who have seen it since it first emerged last week, but he also praised the convenience of downloading films illegally and pointed out that the entire current US box office top 10 was available on torrent sites. "It's so much easier than going out in the rain!" he wrote.
In which a film critic makes a career decision.

Ghost town

Outside the shop, I meet a man named Peter Waldren, who runs a B&B a few doors down. He is keener to make the connection; he markets his guest house as being adjacent to the first woman prime minister's birthplace. Does it work?

He gets a few who are interested. Mostly foreigners. "This German chap came to stay a while back," he says, "and he said he understood he was staying close to where Margaret Thatcher was born." When the German expressed surprise at the fact there wasn't more of a memorial, Waldren explained to him how the former prime minister was not necessarily loved among her own people. The German visitor thought about this for a moment. After a while he said: "It is always the way with politicians in their own country. In Germany, it was the same with Hitler."
The Guardian visits Grantham.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Art beat

Whilst visiting Che Tibby's place (for Proust fans, that would be du côté de chez Che Tibby) I came across an invective against one of Wellington's public sculptures. And I thought of Auckland's public sculptures.

And, reader, I wept. I wept tears of sardonic laughter. For, while Tanya Ashken's Albatross may not be to everyone's tastes, it is at least recognisibly a work of art. Here in Auckland, we have a statue of Freyberg in the Airfix style, one of Dove Meyer Robinson which is best described as regrettable, a novelty rock and Spiky Red Thing. But, worse still, we have the Five Rams. These were a gift from our twin city, Guangzhou. In Guangzhou, rams look like goats and have udders (or unfeasibly large testicles; take your pick). I suppose it was a gift so we couldn't say no; and it is carved from granite, so it would take an awful lot of plastic explosive to destroy it (if you have an awful lot of plastic explosive, do let me know); but it is not even original: it is a copy. And it disfigures a very pretty park; the things we do for trade preference.

I could go on, but it is difficult to know where to stop. We win this game. When it comes to unintentionally hilarious sculpture, you can't beat Auckland. They should make a tour of the city's sculptures part of the International Comedy Festival. Come, one and all! See the light sculpture in the pavement which symbolises the river which once ran where Queen street stands - the light sculpture which isn't lit. Yes, ladies and Gentlemen, before your very eyes - kitsch abstraction; out-of-service kitsch abstraction! Marvel at the big pointy thing outside Burger King, which marks where the beach once was! Take the Waterfront Art Trail and be amazed by the burning twin towers and the giant hook. Fall over the one with the seabird on a rack!

Yes folks, in Auckland a sculpture of an albatross looks like an albatross. In Auckland, all public sculptures have to represent something, either with plodding realism or wispy abstraction. We can't cope with complexity in Auckland. We don't know much about Art, but we know a lot less about urban design. We like our sculptures to represent things, plainly, without fuss or thinking. So come to Auckland, where everything is obvious!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

But is it art?

We looking for young performer for special art and entertainment videos and chats.

What you have to do:

art performance and presentation in front of camera or webcam

We are searching open-minded women and men who will act as a performer in several art chats and videos.

We are located in Auckland Glendowie.

You can start asap.

Full time, part time and on a casual basis (it s up to you/working times to be discuss)

Salary is between 25,- and 45,- NZ$ per hour or 100,- to 250,- NZD per session/video

You don't need to bring any particular skills!

This advertisement, which appeared on Seek, gives some encouragement to art lovers in these troubled times. Not only is Performance Art alive and well and living in Glendowie (of all places) but it pays rather well.

Jacques Brel:

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The history man

Foucault alleges, for example, that the 1815–16 House of Commons inquiry into the state of England’s madhouses revealed that Bedlam (Bethlem) placed its inmates on public display every Sunday, and charged a penny a time for the privilege of viewing them to some 96,000 sightseers a year. In reality, the reports of the inquiry contain no such claims. This is not surprising: public visitation (which had not been confined to Sundays in any event) had been banned by Bethlem Royal Hospital’s governors in 1770, and even before then the tales of a fixed admission fee turn out to be apocryphal. Foucault is bedevilled by Bethlem’s history. He makes the remarkable claim that “From the day when Bethlem, the hospital for curative lunatics, was opened to hopeless cases in 1733, there was no longer any notable difference between the London hospital and the French Hôpital Général, or any other house of correction”. And he speaks of Bethlem’s “refurbishment” in 1676. In reality, it had moved in that year from its previous location in an old monastery in Bishopsgate to a grandiose new building in Moorfields designed by Robert Hooke.
In short, Foucault was talking bollocks. Andrew Scull shows how much bollocks he was talking. I only mention this because the work of Foucault came up in discussion, in another place. And because I struggle to see why people take Foucault so seriously. The errors of fact which Scull mentions here are not trivial. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of 18th Century English history could see them, and could see that they undermine his entire theory. He is simply wrong about the past. So why is Foucault constantly invoked as an authority and guide?

Answers on a postcard, please, to the usual address.