Saturday, October 31, 2009


Doctors from London University have revealed details of what they believe is the largest amount of ecstasy ever consumed by a single person. Consultants from the addiction centre at St George's Medical School, London, have published a case report of a British man estimated to have taken around 40,000 pills of MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, over nine years.
So which member of the Happy Mondays are we talking about? One factor that is not considered in drugs policy is that Ecstasy is very popular amongst members of the Moron Community, although expert opinion is divided as to whether it is the drugs that make them stupid or their stupidity that makes them takes the drugs. One thing is certain: nobody has ever managed to enjoy House music straight.

Meanwhile, Her Majesty's Government's drugs advisor has been sacked for advising Her Majesty's Government about drugs. It seems that he made the mistake of telling the truth rather than sending a Clear Message about the dangers of drugs.

Meanwhile again, the squaddies are all over Afghanistan but cannot stop a bunch of peasants from growing most of the world supply of opium there.

Who needs drugs? The world is strange enough without them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Architecture in the age of unreason

Mr Dentith reports that one Richard Gage AIA (no less) will be speaking at Te Papa (of all places) on the topic of how it was quite, quite impossible for the Twin Towers to be taken down by mere aircraft.

Further information is available here. Mr Gage AIA, the founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, will also be interviewed by Kim Hill. Apparently, it was all done with "nano-thermite, a highly-engineered explosive recently developed by the military."

The question is, why is he bothering us with this startling new evidence? Don't we have enough to bother about already, what with the Celts and the Spaniards and the Norsemen who discovered these islands long ago? And then there are the UFOs and the secret military installations. And then there is the question of why they chose Te Papa for a venue; answer: to give themselves academic credibility. Which leaves the question of why Te Papa is prepared to risk its reputation by hosting this nonsense.

Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Almost famous

Last week I won an award, second prize in the Auckland Architecture Association Urban Eye competition, for a short essay about architecture in Auckland. Here is said essay:

One of the simple pleasures of living in Auckland, until recently, was the view from the top of Queen Street where it meets K Road. Queen Street falls away towards the harbour, running in a straight line until it turns and disappears behind the Civic Theatre. Much of the city centre is visible, but so was a glimpse of the harbour and of the peninsula on its far side.

But then Deloitte came and took away the view. The management consultants have their new headquarters on Queen Street, a green glass tower with metal trim. It is not an ugly building, but it is a tall one. And as it rose over the last few months, that glimpse of the harbour gradually disappeared. It wasn't much - other office towers built over the last thirty years had steadily eroded the view - but it was all we had. Now it is gone. The last view of the world beyond has been blocked out.

Auckland is a city that steadily is being enclosed by its buildings. Every building that is demolished is replaced by one that is much taller. Each new development takes away another piece of the sky and cuts us off from our surroundings. On Beach Road, the Scene Apartments offer their residents views across the harbour, but take away the view once enjoyed from the street. Further up, on Symonds Street, new apartment blocks have taken away what remained of the view to Rangitoto; the same has been done by the office buildings on Shortland Street. It is not just that these buildings are tall, but they stand on elevated ground, on the ridges that surround the city centre. As architecture, some are quite appealing. But whatever their merits as buildings, they seem to have been constructed with little thought for the city.

A particularly sad case is that of Myers Park. Buildings constructed in the last twenty-five years have hemmed it in and darkened it. It always had buildings on its perimeter, but the most recent are taller and more imposing than their predecessors. The latest is the redevelopment of the Chatham Building on Pitt Street. A two-storey building which had stood for a century was taken away and replaced by eight storeys of apartments, leaving only the original facade. From the park another segment of sky has been taken away. Doubtless the views of the park from the apartment balconies are part of the realtor's pitch to prospective buyers, but the park has lost for their gain.

Of course, tall office and apartment buildings are inevitable in a modern city of. Space is at a premium; businesses need places to work and people need places to live. The prestige of a tall building is also at a premium: although much of a corporation's work might be done in nondescript buildings in business parks on the edges of the city, having a headquarters building in town is important to the corporate mana. Although the corporation might occupy only a few floors of the building, it has a presence and a place to display its logo. The apartments, too, offer much for their occupants, especially the convenience of being in the heart of the city. But the cost of these benefits is in many respects felt by the city as a whole.

Auckland City Council used to produce picture books about the city to encourage tourism, at least until the 1960s. The Auckland they show is bright and cheerful. Queen Street especially seems much lighter than today. The pictures were always taken on the best days of summer and were carefully selected to show the city in its best light, but still it is obvious that the city centre is a darker place now. The tourism books also tried to show that the city as part of a larger environment . They always included photographs taken from high points to show the city set beside the harbour. Today it would be difficult to find places to take those photographs. Auckland's setting can only be seen from the gaps between the buildings.

The city always has had a difficult relationship with its surroundings. We live beside a vast natural harbour but we cut ourselves off from the sea by building a port. The landward sides of the city are bounded by motorways and surrounded by suburbs. But our recent building has isolated the city centre still further. It has closed the city in upon itself. We have built concrete barriers around us, preventing us from seeing the place in which we live.

With thanks to Mr Finnemore for telling me about the competition.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dearth of a Spokesman, redux

But he denied he breached the policy over two contacts he had with TVNZ this year. He said he believed the policy stopped him from making statements but not from contacting media by phone.

Dr Salinger said one of those contacts, a call to One News weatherman Jim Hickey about rain he saw on the West Coast while on holiday, was a call to a friend made as an individual rather than as an official Niwa spokesman.

He said the other call to a One News reporter was followed up by him seeking approval from a staff member to have an interview.

Mr Churchman said Dr Salinger had been disingenuous about handing Mr Robinson a media release from last year which reviewed climate patterns when Niwa was unhappy about him commenting to TV3 on predictions for the following season, for which another scientist was the spokesman.
How unlike the home life of our own dear Queen, or rather, how like mine own life as Spokesman of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc) - they appointed you their Spokesman, but now they don't want you doing any spoking. Of course, there the similarities end: NIWA is (or was until this juncture) a highly respected organisation, while the NZARH has always been a bit peculiar; if proof of such were needed, it is shown in the HTML: by their frames shall ye know them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Worth noting

According to the estimable Dunedin School, John Key is the Antichrist. They are Theologians, so they should know.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You'll never see a merchant banker on a bike

Kelt, a merchant banker, was driving a 1994 Toyota Corolla in St Aubyn St East, central Hastings, about 8am on May 4.

As he entered a roundabout he failed to notice a 13-year-old cyclist on his right and collided with him.
Is this a sign of the sea of troubles in which the finance industry is sinking - A millionaire merchant banker drives an unwarranted 1994 Corolla owned by his company? Or is it merely further evidence that rich people think the law does not apply to them? And they would be right on that score, given the sentence in this case: a $500 fine against a millionaire, a sum which probably he would recoup in interest earned while walking from the bank to the magistrates' court, and the careless driving charge dropped.

Doubtless the Sensible Sentencing Trust will not be spluttering about this case, given that the perp is rich and clearly not a member of the criminal class. Besides, he gave the kid a new bike, so what's the damage?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

News from Absurdistan

Gentle readers in the Old Country are forbidden to read the following:
60 Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the Court of Appeal judgment in May 2009 in the case of Michael Napier and Irwin Mitchell v Pressdram Limited in respect of press freedom to report proceedings in court.

61 Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

62 Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will (a) collect and (b) publish statistics on the number of non-reportable injunctions issued by the High Court in each of the last five years.

63 Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what mechanisms HM Court Service uses to draw up rosters of duty judges for the purpose of considering time of the essence applications for the issuing of injunctions by the High Court.
The questions (which I have copied from the estimable Lefthandpalm) are taken from the House of Commons Order Paper. The Guardian has been prevented by injunction from printing these questions or reporting anything about them, save that the case involves Carter-Ruck Solicitors, which has sued Private Eye (Pressdram) more times than anyone can remember. No Right Turn also has irredeemably liberal comments to make on the matter.

Make of this what you will.

Thought you were smart when you took them on, But you didn't take a peep in their artillery room:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Is Paris burning?

So, how about those awards then? What a week it was: not only did President Obama get the Nobel Peace Prize but Ladyhawke won six Tuis at the New Zealand Music Awards. And the Nobel Prize for Literature was won by somebody we have never heard of, let alone read; so, nothing remarkable there.

Mr President getting the award is truly remarkable. I think it safe to say that this is the biggest prize for trying in the history of award-making. President Obama, who has been Mr President for less than a year (during which time he has failed to stop the two wars in which his forces are involved), has made it known that he wishes the world to have no nukes. Towards this end he has

  • made a speech in Prague
  • overseen the passage of a resolution at the UN
  • made another speech, to the Security Council
  • negotiated with the Russians
  • called for a summit.

Commendable though these efforts surely are, they have not resulted in the reduction of a single nuclear weapon. They may yet, but only time will tell. Meanwhile, two hopeless wars, which the United States of America are losing, have come no closer to an end. It is not much to write home about, is it? Yet the Nobel committee (perhaps tiring of making the award to the UNHCR for the want of anybody else) has gone all dewy-eyed about Mr President. Of course, when one considers that the roll for this particular award includes the likes of Begin, Arafat and Kissinger, we can at least take comfort in the fact of this year's winner not being a mass-murderer.

Then there is Ladyhawke. Who she, you might ask? Well, she had a hit single Overseas, and that counts for a lot round these parts. So they gave her awards for album and single of the year, international achievement, best female solo artist, breakthrough artist of the year and best dance/electronica album. She will now never be heard from again.

I suppose this is what happens when voting is done by a bunch of industry insiders who call themselves the Academy. They vote for mainstream middle of the road acts with just a touch of cultural cringe. Your correspondent, who is a few years older than the target demographic for this sort of music, had difficulty keeping awake while reading the nominations. It is music like this that keeps me out of shopping malls.

And finally, the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Herta Müller. No, me neither.

The Dead C

Cruel to be kind

Police say the couple responded to an email from a man who said he had access to oil stock investments but needed money to get to them.

The couple, who did not question his credentials, believed the man's story because he claimed to belong to their church.

"There was every possible indicator there that this was a scam but they simply didn't want to believe it," a police spokesman said. He described the couple as "very, very gullible".

"Police had a heck of a time convincing them they were the victims of a scam. It's unbelievable. In the end police had to send them a formal letter with very strong wording telling them what was going on."
To what extent is it the responsibility of the Police to protect people who are (a) stupid and (b) greedy from themselves? After all, 419 scams have been happening since the early 1990s. People who are still being fooled really need to get out more often, although then they probably would be persuaded to play Find the Lady by card sharps, or tricked into buying a pig in a poke or magic beans.

But then, the stupid will always be with us and perhaps we do have some social responsibility to ensure that they do not pauperise themselves by simple acts of cretinism. However, must we protect them from their greed? After all, most 419 scams involve a variant on the old Spanish Prisoner story: the mark is asked for a large sum of money which will be used illegally to obtain an even larger sum; the mark's reward will be a cut of the loot. Usually, the mark is asked to provide money for bribes or other expenses that will be incurred in removing money from the state bank of an African country. So, these victims - who will now be protected by a specialist police unit - are people who are quite willing to advance money to facilitate the illegal expatriation of public money from a Third World Country, in order to enrich themselves.

Don't the Police have better things to do? Far from helping these people commit imaginary crimes, should not they be confiscating their savings before they do any more damage?


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

At home he's a tourist

Parish notes: I shall be presenting a paper, at a symposium, on New Zealand Architecture in the 1980s, on Friday 4th December 2009, at Victoria University's Centre for Building Performance Research, in Wellington. My fellow speakers are eminences in the world of ArchHist. Do come.

This will be my subject:

I would like to discuss how architecture was presented and received during the 1980s in the non-specialist print media: magazines and books intended for the general public. During the decade, both the magazine and book publishing industries enjoyed unprecedented growth. The magazine sector saw the dominance of the New Zealand Listener challenged by new titles. Of these, Auckland Metro is the most interesting for architectural culture, since it published regular critiques (by the likes of Peter Shaw, Hamish Keith, David Mitchell and Pip Cheshire) of buildings and of town planning in Auckland. It also documented the rise and fall of the property developers, while arguing for the protection of historic buildings. Equally remarkable, though, is how Metro's interest in the civic aspects of architecture waned during the middle of the decade, as it became less concerned with politics and more with 'lifestyle.' It emphasis shifts from public buildings to private houses, and discussion of these houses is centred more on the client than the architect. At the same time, individual architects are pictured as men (and sometimes women) of style, alongside fashion designers and hairdressers.

This movement towards lifestyle can be found in other publications of the period and represents a withdrawal from the public square to the private space. Architecture is represented less as a public concern and more as a personal desire - about finding the ideal home. This acquisitive and aspirational interest in architecture is represented most clearly in the Trends family of publications, but also in books of the period.

A contiguous development was a growing interest in historic buildings. These are shown both as desirable places to live, but also as representations of New Zealand identity. Old buildings also became an important aspect of New Zealand's tourist industry. One important part of this representation is in the work of art photographers, such as Robin Morrison and Laurence Aberhart.

Parallels obviously can be made with the political climate of the decade, with its emphasis on personal gain and the dismantling of the public sphere by privatisation and de-regulation. Equally apparent is the contradiction of New Zealand discovering its heritage at a time when the historic buildings of its cities were being demolished. During the decade, buildings, architects and architecture become totems of larger forces in New Zealand society: of a nostalgia for the recent past, of progress to a brighter future and of a rediscovery of collective identity.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Small earthquake in Glenfield: not many dead

At the next Qantas Media Awards, the clear favourite in the That's Rich Coming from Him category ought to be Chris de Freitas. In his opinion piece in today's Herald, The high cost of being unprepared, Prof de Freitas warns that we should not be unprepared for a tsunami in Auckland. This, you will recall, comes from somebody who spends his spare time arguing that human-assisted climate change is not happening.

Should you not have the patience to read the Prof's warning, I can tell you that the high cost of being unprepared is that the clip-ons on the Harbour Bridge may be damaged, thus leading to traffic chaos. Since traffic chaos occurs on the Harbour Bridge at least twice every day, this seems to be irrelevant. I was hoping for a higher cost, such as the Harbour Bridge collapsing and the North Shore being cut off, thus keeping the ghastlies who live there out of our city for months. Once again, I was disappointed; oh well - back to the demolition guide, then.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Scandals of Rome

So, who's to blame? Well, the Gays, of course. Look, it says so right here:

The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the US and abroad was a matter of homosexuals preying on adolescent boys, not one of pedophilia, said the Vatican's representative at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. It is "more correct," said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males, than pedophilia, in relation to the scandals.

"Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90 per cent belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17," said Tomasi. His statement is backed up by a report commissioned by the US bishops that found that in the overwhelming majority of cases the clergy involved were homosexuals, with 81 percent of victims being adolescent males.
See, it is not the Holy See's problem at all; it is those homosexualists who infiltrated the Church to practice their ephebophilia; that's who it is. In any case, the Prods are just as bad.

So, there we have it. We were all wrong; it is not the Roman Catholic Church that is to blame. It is the homosexualists and the Protestants and everybody else. Cripes. Who would have thought it?

In related news, Monsigneur Tomasi has a blog. In the picture above, he can be seen explaining what homosexualists do.

Black Spaniards

And we're back. My apologies, gentle reader, for the absence of posts last week.

So, how about that Letterman blackmail case then? This has to be the worst blackmail threat ever: "give me money or I will write a screenplay about you." Did the perp not think about how difficult it is to get a screenplay in front of a producer? And then, even if he sold the rights, the project could be stalled in pre-production for years. And then, just as the film finally goes into production, somebody else will release a film about Conan O'Brien's private life.

And don't even think about getting a book published. Books these days are all about vampires, wretched childhoods or running away to a village in Tuscany where the locals are hilariously infuriating but the food is wonderful. If you can combine the three you are on to a winner. But revelations of a celebrity having sex with interns are, like, so 20th Century. Besides, using a book for blackmail will get you nowhere as fast as that screenplay: "you better pay, Letterman: I already have an agent looking at my synopsis. She's suggesting a rewrite and we haven't got a deal yet; but, by the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair you'll so be in trouble."

But then stranger things have happened. As the Guardian report reminds us: "In December 2005 a judge in New Mexico granted a restraining order against Letterman to a woman who claimed he was sending her coded proposals of marriage through his television show."

Moving right on, the Ig Nobel prizes have been announced and the prize for Literature goes to the Garda:
Awarded to the entire police force of Ireland for issuing more than 50 penalties to a man they supposed to be the most persistent driving offender in the country: a Mr Prawo Jazdy, whose name in Polish means "driver's licence". An investigation held earlier this year revealed officers had mistakenly taken down the wrong details from motorists' documents.
And finally, the Spanish Prime Minister has a Goth family. The Guardian may be too coy to print the photograph, but Goths in Hot Weather has no such qualms.