Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My drug Hell

An Auckland advertising agency has apologised for sending a letter to hundreds of people, including Prime Minister John Key, inviting them to try the drug P. Attached to each letter was a bag of rock salt. The agency, CreativeBank, said it was acting in support of the Stellar Trust and its anti-drug campaign.
Is it just me, or does anyone else have difficulty in seeing what is the problem here? I can see so many possibilities. For a start, it is not P. It is rock salt. You can tell right away that this is a discourse between middle-class wankers: they use rock salt. Sprinkle that on your rocket, as they say in the Remuera Ghetto.

Then there is the "crudely written" (a bit rich that one, coming from the Herald) message, with its obvious suggestion that people who take drugs are semi-literate and possibly lower-class: "don't know if u ever tried P before but lots of Kiwis have and they cant get enough of it. its such awesomly mind-blowing stuff!" Awesome. My drug hell: I was so addicted, I had to sell my copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage.

Then there is the confused message: "on the street this much P is worth $1000!!". Like, which street, dude? On Paratai Drive, maybe, but there are some girls at St Cuths who will cut you a really good deal. But what's your problem? It would be so easy to make P cheaper: just make it legal.

So, the problem; what is it?
One recipient, who did not want to be named, said: "It's one thing to have a charity and try to push what he's trying to push but that's disgusting." The man said his firm would no longer be dealing with CreativeBank and had filed a complaint with police.
Let's turn the irony right down low now and ask ourselves, in all sincerity, WTF does this mean? How is this bag of salt with a message written by a copywriter trying to sound cool disgusting? Lame, yes; disgusting, no. What will the Police do with this complaint - divert all cars and arrest the admen for being prattish in a built-up area? Officer, they work in advertising: they are all like that.

But then, suddenly, it all becomes clear: "In his apology, Mr Marinkovich said the letter was sent to support the Stellar Trust's campaign, A P Free New Zealand." So, you might ask, what is wrong with the Associated Press? No, you fool, look: it's the Stellar Trust. That is what it is all about - it is the Stellar Trust getting high on hysteria (like they did last summer).

In case you are unfamiliar with the Stellar Trust, please allow me to introduce you. The Stellar Trust is fighting the war against P. Among its arsenal of weapons is cake. But its main activity is getting terribly worked up. It asks questions such as is my child using? Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of meth use in teens :
Increased level of self confidence and euphoria
“Wired”, restless, excitable and anxious
Noticeable change in sleeping patterns
Irritability or aggressiveness
Drastic mood swings
Dizziness or confusion, disconnected chatter
Hanging out with a different group of friends
Negative change in appearance, greasy hair, skin sores
Change in attire, clothes that highlight/advertise/portray drug use
Deteriorating relationship with family
Noticeable mood swings, hostility or abusive behaviour
Chronic fatigue, loss of interest in favourite activities, hobbies, sports
School problems – slipping scores, truancy
Yes, your child is a teenager.

You might meet a P user, but not know what signs to look for. It is important to note that some of the symptoms are not confined to P users: excessive excitation, excessive talking, false sense of confidence and power, delusions of grandeur, aggressive and violent behaviour - these apply as much to Paul Holmes as to Millie Elder.

On the other hand, P is better than Pot: "Note that if teens are using marijuana before trying meth, the changes you observe might (at first) seem positive. They may go from being negative and unmotivated to self-confident, energetic and positive. They may begin to complete schoolwork and jobs around the house without their previous habit of complaining;"

If you want to set up your own P lab, here are the things you will need. And remember, if you want a cigarette, smoke outside. You don't want to be in breach of the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act 2003.

One could go on, but this sort of thing is what happens when you surrender your drugs policy to the Rotary Club of Auckland East.
This deceptive and very addictive drug has no social boundaries. It is the modern day plague causing major damage throughout all layers of our society. Courts are seeing a major increase in violent crime as a consequence of P usage.

The resulting destruction in the family unit causes a domino effect on the most innocent of victims, our children. They are becoming collateral damage of a scourge, the likes of which the world has never seen.

The domino effect flows onto our workers striking at the heart of our nation’s productivity with the consequences of this loss of productivity and social damage thought to run into billions per year, a cost we all ultimately pay for.

The trust aims to foster a change in New Zealand society’s attitude and behaviour towards the drug P – for the public to say “Enough – usage of P must stop!”
On the other hand, the public might read all this and say "where can we get some?" At least we would get some housework done.

You see, the Menace of P is something the Rotary Club of Auckland East apprehends only dimly. I am down with the cool kids, so I will let you, gentle reader, in on the secret. Keep this to yourself: P is really quite nice. It makes you bright-eyed and bushy tailed, sociable and busy. Loads of people take it without any ill effects. If I could attach some P to this post and send it to you, I would get into an awful lot of trouble. But you might have an awful lot of fun.

I could tell about that time I was at the Schooner; Matthew Crawley was playing and everybody was wearing knitwear, so it was like any other night. And Helen said she and her friends were going to K for some P (K is what Radio New Zealand announcers call Karangahape Road) and would I like to come. And I said I was quite tired and would go home for a nice cup of tea. Why are all my drug anecdotes like that?

Unfortunately, it's all fun and games until somebody loses a personal fortune. As the Rotary Club says, P knows no social boundaries; it could not be confined to Bohemian types. P spread like wildfire, from the centres of our cities to the suburbs. There it was consumed by people who never had been to art school. The results were disastrous. If the stories told in the Herald on Sunday are to be believed (and why should they not?) the victims were mostly property developers. They had big houses on the Shore with lots of outdoor lighting and infinity pools. They lost it all. This was a Bad Thing, since the development of property is crucial to New Zealand's economy; on the other hand, if you want a big tacky house, now is the time to buy.

So, there you have it. P is a Menace, a Scourge, a Domino Effect. But only for les nouveaux riches. People who read poetry and listen to Cat Power have no problem. One day this will be proven by scientific methods, but remember you read it here first. No wonder the Rotary Cub of Auckland East is worried.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Uses of literacy

The guidance, which will be sent to nurseries from January, will include advice to set up role-play activities tailored to boys' interests, such as builders taking phone messages and writing up orders, post office employees writing on forms, and waiters taking orders from customers.
When you're a boy in Brown's Britain, it is possible to fail at three, your future having been decided for you by a woman, a woman who changed her opinions from deepest red to dusty pink and powder blue in the space of a few short years, a woman who is unafraid of educationalists. For you, dear boy, there is a future, one of taking orders. For that is what education is all about: getting you to read, write and rith to a standard sufficient to play a menial but useful role in New New Britain. You will receive your orders from people of Primarolo's calibre, people who hold whatever opinions are optimum for the present contingency, people who ensure that they are the leaders and you are the managed. You will not need to concern yourself with reading or writing for other than work-related purposes. You will not need the university education that Ms Primarolo and others of her generation enjoyed free of charge; you couldn't afford it, anyway. You will not be getting much education at all, little man, since your Government has committed your funds to Trident. Perhaps you should think about running away to sea.

Those of us who had the good fortune to be educated rather than trained can enjoy Mr Challinor's thoughts on this matter.

The shop in Lone Kauri Road

A stoush is unfolding in the Coromandel over a food stall which has opened at remote Cathedral Cove. The Department of Conservation is being told Cathedral Cove is no place for a shop. Locals are appalled DoC's granted a permit for a food stall to operate at the remote Coromandel tourist spot, which is accessible only by boat or by a half-hour trek
About time. The decision to provide business opportunities in Cathedral Cove sends a clear message to the Environment that the free ride is over. For too long the wilderness - described as slovenly by business executive and poet Wallace Stevens as far back as 1919 - has been allowed to run wild. And clearly it has gone to seed, requiring expensive maintenance. At Cathedral Cove, rocks have been falling and ongoing work is necessary. Moreover, the car park - an amenity necessitated by Nature's failure to provide conveniently situated flat spaces - needed repair. It is about time that Nature started paying its way.

A bright future lies ahead, one in which Nature will make a realistic contribution to its own development, tourists will never be far from a refreshing carbonated drink and entrepreneurs can enjoy the full fruits of their enterprise.

It is a time for greatness.

On an unrelated note, here are the Small Faces with PP Arnold:

A heartbreaking story for Christmas

We decided to spend Christmas in Switzerland. How difficult could that be? On Sunday, we went off to Gatwick to catch an EasyJet flight. Went through to the departure lounge, and suddenly all flights to Switzerland were cancelled. On to the laptop, and I booked one highly expensive flight to Basel with BA the next day. "We'll stay in Basel overnight," I said. "I've never been to Basel! And it's only three hours to Geneva after that."
Donchajustlove privileged people who complain about their Christmas holiday experiences? No, I thought not.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Onward Christian elephants

Were these elephants summoned by God? One would wonder, as it was in the month of August a year ago around 7-8PM that Christians in this same area began to run for their lives while their homes were being destroyed by anti-Christian rioters. Exactly one year later, at the same time of the day, the persecutors are now running for their lives, from nothing less than a herd of wild elephants! These elephants first attacked a rock crusher machine owned by a key leader of the persecution movement. They then went on to destroy his house and farms. Gaining momentum, they rampaged through other non-Christian homes demolishing gardens and singling out the homes of persecutors, leaving Christian homes untouched. People ran to the police station to report the disastrous news. In one case, a police jeep that attempted to drive away the herd was attacked and the occupants barely escaped. Truly, God is the avenger of the helpless.
God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform; as reported by Batholomew.

Coeds go wild

I never believed those stories about university students until I went to Canterbury's accommodation site and saw this photograph:

I think we can all imagine what happens in the next frame. Please send suggestions on a postcard to the usual address. Extra points will be given for drawings.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Let's get outraged again (like we did last summer)

Say what you like about the Nazis, but they at least had really great uniforms and motorcycle-sidecar combinations. Germany before the War was one nation under a homoerotic fantasy. And they were not all barbarians, you know.

But that is not good enough for the grumpy old RSA, which once again is offended. It is that time of year, when there is little real news and thus ample opportunity to make something out of nothing. In this case, the RSA disregards the three strikes-and-you're a bore rule of media releasing, and takes offence for a third time about people who clearly are not Nazis doing something silly. And this event is the least silly of the three: a military re-enactment society having a dinner. Admittedly, the portrait of the F├╝hrer was a yucky touch, and the idea of marking the Armistice by playing soldiers is a bit odd, but people who dress up in SS uniforms are hardly a threat to our democracy.

Of course, the RSA's day in the sun is drawing to a close, so they must make hay while the sun shines because at the end of the day old soldiers never die, if you get the mix of my metaphors. In short, their numbers are dwindling. The members of the wartime generation are not being replaced, because fewer people had military experience once conscription ended. This, of course, is a Good Thing. War is a Bad Thing, and the fewer people who are involved in it, the better. But the RSA sees itself becoming irrelevant and, eventually, extinct. So it has promoted the nostalgic militarism which has infected this country in the last decade or more: all those dawn services, the belated acquisition of an Unknown Soldier ninety years after his death, the absurd apology to our Vietnam veterans, the association of national identity with military adventure (of course, the last Labour-led government, to its shame, had a leading role in all this; lest we forget).

Having done everything in its power to keep us reminded of the Second World War, the RSA can hardly object that some people choose to remember it in other ways. Old soldiers like to go on parade, while young nerds like to dress up as Nazis. Perhaps it might be a bit different if we were to cease the flannel about sacrifice and the ANZAC spirit; instead we might remember that the majority of those who died were civilians, that they were killed by both the Axis and the Allies and that they have no memorial.

In other news, Dirk wears white socks

Being Galen Strawson

Strawson holds that our selves are much more short-lived than we normally take them to be, and that the subjective experience of the self does not require that it persist beyond the lived present, which lasts for less than a second. That may be good enough for sea-snails, one might think, but what about us? Here Strawson offers his most startling observation: he himself does not have the sense of subjective persistence that, I assume, most people have. It does not seem to him that the self which is the subject of his present experience existed in the past, or will exist in the future. When he remembers something from the inside, it does not come with the sense that it is he who was the subject of the remembered experience. He claims that this is true even when he feels embarrassed at the memory. ‘The episode of consciousness is certainly apprehended from the inside, and so I take it for granted that it is mine, if I care to reflect: I take it for granted that it is an episode of consciousness of the human being that I am. But there is no sense, affective or otherwise, that it was consciousness on my* part.’ (The asterisk indicates the use of ‘my’ to refer to the subject of present consciousness.) ‘My past is mine* in the sense that it belongs to me*, but I don’t feel that I* was there in the past.’
Adventures in the specious present, from the LRB.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Fundy Post's Christmas Message to the Commonwealth

Don't be a dick.


1. Really, that is all there is to it. It is a simple message of peace, suitable for the season.

2. Oh well, if you must, here is an example: that St Matthew-in-the-City business. Here speaketh Ven Glynn Cardy:
Archdeacon Cardy said the billboard was designed to let people outside the church realise that many Christians and church leaders did not believe in the literal virgin birth, and didn't believe that was the true meaning of Christmas. "We're not out just to deliberately stir the pot. We're out to critique the idea of a male god impregnating Mary and the literalism of the virgin birth. The topic is ... something the church has talked about for centuries, but what is new is that we have the audacity to laugh at something quite so ridiculous as a male god sending sperm down to impregnate Mary."
You see, he is critiquing again, like he did last summer. I beg to differ. I don't think that is what Ven Cardy is doing at all. I think he is being a dick; in a very real sense.

3. It is not my job or inclination to defend the religious beliefs of fundamentalists, Biblical literalists, Bible-believing Christians, call them what you will. But the fact is they hold those beliefs and they hold them sincerely; and the Virgin Birth (which is not the same as the Immaculate Conception, incidentally) is pretty big among those beliefs. And this is Christmas, the season of goodwill to all men and even women. St Matthew-by-the-Carpark might have made a sincere and inoffensive message for their Nativity billboard; but no. For verily they hired Saatchi and Saatchi to make a joke.

4. You see, St Matthew-by-the-Carpark is a progressive church, which means it is a middle-class church, which means it has a God-given right to be, in a very real sense, a dick; because dickishness is next to godliness. So it goes a-critiquing. It decides the Virgin Birth that the ignorant, stupid, literal-minded Christians believe is a thing to be laughed at. After all, those little people do not have Theology degrees. They do not understand that modern, even post-modern, Christians do not believe that literal stuff; clever Christians, middle-class Christians, long ago discarded such old-fashioned beliefs; so those beliefs must be mocked.

5. And so it came to pass that the church erected its billboard, which depicted the rather smutty thought of some adman. And certain shepherds saw that it was (a) not clever and (b) not funny.

6. So the billboard was set upon by violent hands, those hands belonging to people who doubtless strongly disapprove of vandalism when it is committed by teenagers. And the church felt persecuted; yet the Bishop saw that it was dickish.

7. It is to be borne in mind that progressive Christians critique only the beliefs of non-progressive Christians. To critique (that is, laugh at) the beliefs of other faith communities would not do at all. To do so would be racist, or at least culturally insensitive.

8. It is also to be borne in mind that progressive Christians, while not believing that literal stuff, reserve the right to use any of its manifestations as and when they see fit. For example, although J S Bach might have had old-fashioned beliefs, he wrote a couple of neat Passions; the performance of either (John or Matthew) is like a flame to middle-class moths. People who have not seen the inside of a church for years flock to a good Passion. Progressive Christians like all that Christmas stuff: the holly and the ivy etc. They don't believe the Gospels - at least not in a literal sense - but they don't mind the trappings.

9. So - you might be asking -what do they believe? Here is Ven Cardy again, talking to an imaginary girl:
Dear Isabelle,

As I think you know by now I don’t believe in a god who is a super being, who makes things and breaks things, and who determines how and what things happen. In times past many people did believe in such a god. They prayed to such a god for fine days and wet days, and they believed that this god considered their prayers and answered either yes or no or cloudy.

Today there are some people who still believe in such a god. ‘Evolution is a theory that is wrong’ they say. ‘God made the world in 7 days’ or something like that.

Then there are people who don’t believe that god has anything to do with making the world. Solely by evolution and chance the world has come to be.

Then there are other people, probably most Christians actually, who believe in both evolution and god making things – working together you might say.

What I believe is a little different from all those. Part of what I call god is a creative energy, a spiritual energy, which is within and around living creatures on our planet. That creative energy is a part of the ‘making’ of the world.

You could think of it like baking scones. You put in the flour, butter, cheese, salt, baking powder and milk, and then stir. The milk and the baking powder react together, creating a new ‘energy’ when in the oven, that makes the scones rise. Try making scones some time without the baking powder and spot the difference!

That spiritual creative energy, best called ‘Love’, is what makes life worthwhile and satisfying and rewarding.

Your friend,
Revd Glynn
10. You will see that Revd Glynn (who in fact is Venerable not Reverend, being an Archdeacon) does not believe in a god who is like God. So far as he is concerned, people who do believe in that God are the sort who believe the world was created in seven days - the sort of men who wear beards but not moustaches and who name their sons Seth or Clym and who do not know girls called Isabelle. They are easily dismissed. Ven Glynn prefers to belive in creative energy, which seems be something like static electricity or Ether; or, for that matter, baking powder.

11. So, in short: Virgin Birth - laughable; creative energy - laudable.

12. Griddle scones are made without baking powder.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

She's behind you!

Amy Winehouse has been charged in connection with an alleged assault at a theatre, police said today.

The singer was arrested after she attended Milton Keynes police station voluntarily with her legal adviser. The 26-year-old, from Hertfordshire, was charged under the name Amy Civil with a public order offence and common assault following an incident at Milton Keynes theatre on Saturday night.

The star is alleged to have lashed out at a theatre manager after disrupting a performance of Cinderella. She was formally arrested yesterday. The singer is due to appear in court on 20 January.
Christmas wouldn't be the same without an Amy Winehouse story, and this one's a cracker. Disrupting a pantomime in Milton Keynes must be as petty a celebrity could get in terms of bad behaviour. According to the Daily Record story, succinctly titled, Amy Winehouse hits out at starlet god-daughter in row over ex-husband, Ms Winehouse went from hitting out at her starlet goddaughter to the theatre, where:
While watching Cinderella, she allegedly shouted "F**k Cinders, Prince Charming, marry me", called the Ugly Sisters "bitches" and screamed "He's f*****g behind you", upsetting kids in the audience around her.
And they call her Civil.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ennui Zealand

Mr Key says that, from an overall perspective, the talks fell well short of the hopes and aspirations that people went there with - but New Zealand's negotiators were seeking changes to forestry rules, and good progress was made in that regard.
"We want to have the rules altered that would allow us to harvest forests that are pre-1990 and replant them in other parts of the country," Mr Key says. "We'd also want to have the position where we can lock up emissions where wood is harvested but used for the production of furniture and the like."
Oh well, it could have been worse: the Copenhagen talks failed to produce a Carly Binding result, but at least we made some progress on escaping our obligations. It is just me, or is that nice Mr Key quite parochial?

No, it is not just me. Look at what Mr Key has lined up for the visit of the Prince William: a harbour cruise on a yacht, some rugger, a barbecue. In short, Virginia is for lovers; New Zealand is for dullards. In return the Prince William gets to open our new Supreme Court building. The establishment of our own final court of appeal is almost our final release from colonial bonds, so giving the job of opening the building to the future King of New Zealand is both singularly tasteless and utterly appropriate for Mr Key's vision of a New Zealand society of the spectacle.

It is to be hoped that the Prince will be provided with a ridiculous uniform and a pith helmet, of the kind that Lord Mountbatten wore when he declared India open for business or Chris Patten wore for the handover of Hong Kong to tyranny. The Prince William (whom nobody any longer describes as having his mother's alleged beauty, now that the genetic traits of his Saxe-Coburg-Gotha ancestry are making themselves apparent) will fix the locals with his empty eyes and say something vapid. He will then go to Australia. It is to be noted that the Prince wanted to go there, but is coming here at the request of our Government, which really wanted HMQ to do the job.

It is all rather sad. The next-but-one to the faded throne comes here because his granny told him to do the job. Nobody in Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace or Clarence House would have had so much as a thought about New Zealand, were it not for our Minister for Tourism, who doubles as Prime Minister in the same way that the cashier at a provincial cinema will also be the projectionist and the usherette. For reasons of his own, our over-friendly concierge thinks that having a Royal Visit would be a grand thing, in fact so grand that it is worth both Facebook and Bebo pages.

Incidentally, what is it with Mr Key and Bebo? Does he not know that if you are over 15, male and have a Bebo account, you fit a profile, that you are probably the sort of person whom the Sensible Sentencing Trust would like to have castrated?

Anyway, that is about it for New Zealand this year. We will be closing down for the Summer, just as we always do. Not much happens here at the best of times - that is why we live here; but in the Summer months, news stories are inconsequential and just tail off without any real ending or even proper punctuation

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Banking with the bankers

Both for families and for society as a whole, looking after children could not be more important. As well as providing a valuable service for families, childcare workers release earnings potential by allowing parents to continue working. They also unlock social benefits in the shape of the learning opportunities that children gain outside the home. For every £1 they are paid, childcare workers generate between £7 and £9.50 worth of benefits to society.

Although the role of an advertising executive has high status, the impact of the industry has always been a point of controversy. It encourages high consumer spending and indebtedness. It can create insatiable aspirations, fuelling feelings of dissatisfaction, inadequacy and stress. In our economic model we estimate the share of social and environmental damage caused by overconsumption that is attributable to advertising. For a salary of between £50,000 and £12 million, top advertising executives destroy £11 of value for every pound in value they generate.
Is it me, or is this bollocks? I am not a social scientist, but it seems that every year, usually about this time, progressive think tanks in Britain, like the new economics foundation, produce reports of this kind. Such reports seem to be designed to fill the seasonal gap in real news and to capitalise on feelings of good will that abound. Such reports usually are produced by the sort of think tank that looks like a design agency, spelling its name in lowercase sansserifs with unusual word-spacing, and employing people who are media-friendly to the point of clinginess.

Of course, none of the above has any bearing upon the quality of the research in such reports; but still it seems to me, more than a paragraph on, that such reports contain high levels of bollocks. This one is no exception. In fact, it is an exemplar.

What is the methodology? It seems to be something like this: first, identify your pre-conceived notions about the value of certain occupations; put monetary values on those notions; write a report; distribute to the media. Not surprisingly, hospital cleaners turn out to be good, and bankers to be bad. Hospital cleaners make hospitals clean, thereby preventing the spread of disease. This is a Good Thing. Bankers, on the other hand, brought the global financial system to the point of collapse. This is a Bad Thing.

Using similar methodology, I have done ground-breaking work on the Pantomime Scale of Values. This study compares (and contrasts) the relative merits of various characters who appear in pantomimes at this time of year. For example, my rigourous methodology and research shows that pigs are little and good, while wolves are big and bad. Pigs contribute to the economy by building their own homes, thereby stimulating the housing and construction markets. Wolves depress those markets by eating two-thirds of pigs in any given sample, whilst making no equivalent economic contribution [insert some figures here]. So it follows that pigs are good and wolves are bad.

I could go on, but I have proven my point and now must move on to my next project. This will show that clothing which is hand-made in natural fibres (the sort of clothing that people like us wear) is economically and environmentally superior to all those nasty cheap clothes that proletarians wear.

In the meantime, here is the theme music to this post, provided by the Smirks: a band which completed its only album over thirty years ago, but has yet to release it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The book of Paul

The language of golf has been ruined because of Tiger Woods' philandering ways, says Paul Holmes.

I was not going to write about Tiger this week. My wife suggested I leave him alone and the rest of the world should too. But what else is there? ACC levies going up next year? The Easter Bill being defeated in Parliament? The Labour Caucus being completely united behind Phil Goff? Hardly.

The sudden, incredible destruction of the career and image of Tiger Woods just continues to amaze. In terms of destruction it is rivalled only by the Titanic. It is the human equivalent of the giant, unsinkable ship colliding fatally with the iceberg in the dead of the cold black night in the wastes of the North Atlantic, to lie within a couple of hours dead, 3000 ft below the frigid ocean floor.
OK, stop right now, thank you very much. You should have listened to your wife, Paul. But you didn't and now you have made a dick of yourself, once again.

Shall we count the ways? Let us. For a start, one thing about which you might have written is Copenhagen, wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, salty old queen of the sea. There's a riot going on over there. You might have written about the ACC levies, the Easter Bill or the Labour Caucus; they are all interesting and important subjects. But no, you had to write about Tiger Woods; because nobody else is doing that.

Then there is the imagery. The destruction of this career does not rival the Titanic. Lots of people were killed on that cold black night; in this case the only physical damage was to an SUV and some street furniture. Incidentally, the ship did not lie 3000 feet below the ocean floor, but on it. And it is not a good idea to use the word frigid in this context, because it has a very specific meaning.

Then there are the women.
And who are these women? Cocktail waitresses, fast Las Vegas woman, a nightclub woman. Main chance women. Women with a bit of the groupie about them, I guess. Women with a little taste for fame. Women who could not wait to tell people they threw Tiger into the sack.
It is the women wot get the blame. Woods is a sex addict, a victim; they are predators. "The temptations must have been tremendous. None of us can imagine the power of those. If a pretty young woman was persuasive enough after a hard golf tournament in a faraway place, who knows how any of us would react."
Standing on a golf course, dressed in P.V.C.
I chanced upon a Golf Girl, selling cups of tea .
She asked me did I want one. Asked me with a grin.
For three pence you can buy one, full right to the brim.
So of course I had to have one. In fact, I ordered three. So I could watch the Golf Girl, could see she fancied me.
And later on the golf course, after drinking tea, it started raining golf balls, and she protected me.

Her name was Pat
And we sat under a tree
She kissed me
We go for walks
In fine weather
All together
On the golf course
We talk in morse
Who, indeed, knows? Who, indeed, cares? But the women, you have to beware of them. Take this story, Paul, from another part of your paper, a story entitled When Bridesmaids go Bad:
But that pales in comparison to some behaviour Shirley-Ann McCrystal, a wedding consultant and celebrant based near Taupo, has seen. The worst case was the maid who slept with the groom on his stag night. "The bride found out about two days before the wedding. There were a few tantrums and no one was talking to each other at the rehearsal the day she found out, but the wedding still went ahead," says McCrystal. The guilty bridesmaid carried on with her duties but "there were a lot of dark looks", she says. "The bride must have been a very forgiving girl."
That poor groom, lured into bed by that hussy; after a hard stag night in a faraway place, who knows how any of us would react?

And who was that woman you talk about in your autobiography, the one with whom you were dining, who handed you her knickers? After a hard smorgasbord in a faraway restaurant, who knows how any of us would react?

So what's it all about, Paul? "Tiger Woods has upstaged Copenhagen, the greatest meeting of world leaders since Versailles. The whole world is chuckling about the salacious adventures of Tiger with that string of gorgeous, naughty women." No, Paul, the whole world is not doing that. Fatuous people like you are getting excited about the thought of Tiger with all those gorgeous, naughty women. The rest of us have more important things to do.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who ate all the pies?

"People do not quite realise the scale of the issue," added Bevan. "This is one of the most serious problems that science has ever faced." In Britain the lives of hundreds of thousands of people will be threatened by food shortages. Across the globe, tens of millions – if not hundreds of millions – will be affected.
Britain faces a bleak future of food shortages. The food was never very good, but soon there will be less of it. There will also be more British people, which is bad enough in itself, but worse when they are hungry. Soon, cannibal chavs will be roaming the streets of Romford.

The tragedy for the British is that they have become too stupid to understand the horrors that await them. The media in Britain is entirely dominated by celebrity - people who have become famous by having some sort of showbusiness career - and by reality - people who have become famous for being ordinary, in most cases downright vulgar. Even the quality papers are obsessed with these ghastly people, although they pretend their interest is merely "ironic" or "cultural."

So there is little space for the discussion of the impending disaster, and only a handful of people still capable of understanding it. The British shall starve to death, uncomprehending, helpless and probably hoping that Jonathan Ross or Jeremy Clarkson will be along in a minute to save them. Thus will end a proud, stupid and defeated people.

We in New Zealand will do our best to help them and to profit from the situation. The vast dairy factory we have become in the last decade will continue to grow, producing more milk products and killing off what remains of Nature. Meanwhile Dr Don Brash and his deluded millionaire friends will continue to demand that we destroy what remains of the welfare system, so they can become even richer and so we can catch up with Australia by 2025. Meanwhile, Australia will have become, by 2025, a desert. Like the British, we will not understand these circumstances, because we will be distracted by shiny trivia of all kinds.

If anyone survives, they might look back upon our age as a remarkable one, dominated by an economic dogma which gave great importance to single measurements like M0, but which ignored the obvious fact that all economic activity occurs within an environment, one which we were steadily destroying. The survivors might also realise that we destroyed ourselves because we allowed ourselves to become stupid.

The best-kept secret in the West

The e-mails also showed a stunning disdain for global warming skeptics. One scientist practically celebrates the news of the death of one critic, saying, "In an odd way this is cheering news!" Another bemoans that the only way to deal with skeptics is "continuing to publish quality work in quality journals (or calling in a Mafia hit.)" And a third scientist said the next time he sees a certain skeptic at a scientific meeting, "I'll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted." And they compared contrarians to communist-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Somali pirates. They also called them out-and-out frauds.
Well, you would, wouldn't you? The first review of the emails from East Anglia, by the Associated Press, has been published and - hey nonny, nonny - there was no fraud, no conspiracy, no deceit. Scientists did science and the deniers tried to stop them, that is all that happened. The world is no better than it was.
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny, nonny
So can we expect an apology from my Lord Monckton, from Sarah Palin or from our own Jim Hopkins? I doubt it. The deniers have their reasons, after all. Their obsessive pursuit of scientific malpractice, I suspect, is denial in the Freudian sense: they know the truth, they know it is devastating, not only to all of us but also to everything in which they believe. So they do everything they can to prove the science and themselves wrong. It is not surprising that one of the scientist-botherers mentioned here is a former trader. It is no wonder that most deniers are on the political right: left-wingers have less at stake.

It would be nice if this were an end to the matter, but I doubt it still. As our own Mr Hopkins has shown, denialist ranters will always be published somewhere. And, as that unfortunate business of Mr Garth George's plagiarism showed, there is no need for integrity in such matters.

Hey nonny, nonny.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ladies' Night

Rape educators want to train New Zealand's bar staff to intervene when they see "predatory males" plying women with drinks during the Rugby World Cup.

Rape Prevention Education (formerly Rape Crisis) has teamed up with the police, Accident Compensation Corporation and the hospitality industry to train 130 bar staff in Auckland and Wellington in a pilot programme this year.

Director Kim McGregor said she hoped the other agencies would help to extend the programme nationally in the lead-up to the World Cup, which kicks off in September 2011.
Surely it would be easier just to confine the rugby teams to their hotels. But at least something is being done: the people who serve drinks at happy hour, who serve alcopops and shots which get people drunk fast, who offer free entry to women on Ladies' Night, are being asked to look out for predators...

Am I the only one who sees a conflict of interest here?

Lost for words

A colleague working in astrophysics was expressing bemusement to me yesterday about why the reputation of British science was apparently under threat, given that no evidence had actually emerged of scientific misconduct. Her specific question was: "Has anyone found evidence of an error in a published paper or dataset?" If they had, then of course the error would need to be corrected, which happens in science all the time.
Myles Allen makes a point that really needs to be made, that the supposedly scandalous emails from East Anglia have yet to reveal a scandal. As he says:
Take, for example, the "trick" of combining instrumental data and tree-ring evidence in a single graph to "hide the decline" in temperatures over recent decades that would be suggested by a naive interpretation of the tree-ring record. The journalists repeating this phrase as an example of "scientists accused of manipulating their data" know perfectly well that the decline in question is a spurious artefact of the tree-ring data that has been documented in the literature for years, and that "trick" does not mean "deceit". They also know their readers, listeners and viewers won't know this: so why do they keep doing it?
Indeed: the journalists know perfectly well that... oh, hold on, I think I have found an exception that proves the rule. Myles Allen, meet Jim Hopkins:
Because we're numb with despair. Because we feel hopeless, bludgeoned by shonky science and dodgy data into a state of abject grovelment - ashamed of our sinful selves and terrified our delicate little planet is going to hell in a (very hot) handcart.

It isn't and it won't. She's a tough old Mother, Earth. She's endured many truly enormous indignities - the cosmic collision that created our moon, the enormous asteroid that did for the dinosaurs, a rent in the land in Siberia that leaked lava, like blood from a wound, for one million years.
Mr Hopkins, I hope you will understand, is an idiot. He is not deceitful. He does not know the truth of the matter, yet ignore the facts to make a sensational story. He is sincere; and he is stupid. You can see that, by his reasoning; funny thing is, the Editor of the New Zealand Herald can see nothing of the kind. Mr Hopkins thinks that everything will be alright because the earth has already experienced mass extinctions, yet still is here.

Yes, I know.

You have to read this piece several times to fully appreciate how stupid is Mr Hopkins, as well as to navigate through the various meandering diversions that take him to ruminations on cricket and to writing doggerel. Mr Hopkins appears to believe that a mass extinction will not be a problem, because we have had them before. But it doesn't matter anyway because the scientists faked the data. But it does matter because it has made us unhappy and so disinclined to spend lots on Christmas.

This is not the first time that a denier has claimed that the science is fake so there is no warming but the warming doesn't matter. It is merely the first time that somebody so utterly cretinous and utterly unfunny has taken on such a complex subject and lost so clearly. Lost clearly, that is, to everybody but his Editor and the Herald's robot subs. It is a first for New Zealand. We are head-desking above our weight on a global warming stage.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Brevity is the soul of wit

1. So, how about those Atheist buses, then? You wait for ages, then none come along at once.

2. I, for one, am impressed that a Humanist has managed to make a statement about God that can fit on the side of a bus.

3. All I want for Christmas is Masterpiece Comics:

Sunday, December 06, 2009

What I did on my holidays

I have been away; sorry, I was busy. I was working on my conference paper,which I have now presented and is now published. The conference was called "ponderously pedantic pediments prevail ... good, clean fun in a bad, dirty world": New Zealand Architecture in the 1980s: a one day symposium. It was a lot of fun. Mine own contribution was a modest piece called 
"At Home He's a Tourist: New Zealand's Architectural Culture in the Eighties." Readers will notice that my title is bifold, in accordance with normal academic practice. Hipsters will notice the use of a Gang of Four song title, while Moderns will notice that the use of hip music titles is quite common in architectural discourse these days, since we architectural history types want to be hip. At least one member of the symposium noticed the reference.

Anyway, in the absence of any other blogging and in response to one reader who asked for more architecture on this blog, here is the modest piece:

New Zealand, as the tourist guides so often remind us, is a land of contrasts. So it is hardly surprising that an architectural tourist, clambering over the published remains of the 1980s, should find stark contrasts and even some conflicts in the discussion of architecture. This particular tourist guide aims to draw the reader's attention to some of them.

Its scope will be confined to the general media: to books, magazines and television programmes that are intended for the general public, or at least not intended specifically for the architectural profession. Instead, it looks at those instances where architecture is discussed in public. Its purpose is to attempt to discover what the New Zealanders of the 1980s made of architecture, what status it had and how it was presented to them by the media. In short, it looks at New Zealand's architectural culture in that decade, in the broadest terms.

In the crude terms of the amount of media produced, the Eighties was a good decade for architecture. Never before had so much been written, photographed or televised about the buildings of New Zealand. Books were published about architecture, about buildings and about towns. The decade saw publication of the first biography of a living architect, Gerald Melling's Joyful Architecture: the Genius of New Zealand's Ian Athfield; and the second, the same author's Positively Architecture!: New Zealand's Roger Walker. The Historic Places Trust published its guides to the Historic buildings of the North and South Islands as well as regional guides to the buildings on its register. Several local guides were published, such as Peter Shaw's Art Deco Napier. Publications of local history, often were concerned with buildings. Many institutions reached a hundred years of age during the Eighties, and celebrated their longevity with centennial books. Among these are publications about the Auckland City Art Gallery, Columba Presbyterian Church in Oamaru and St Joseph's Cathedral in Dunedin.

In the magazine trade, the Listener continued to examine society from its lofty position; it remained New Zealand's most popular title throughout the decade, although its circulation peaked at nearly 376,00 in 1982. It was joined by several new titles, one of which - Auckland Metro - took architecture quite seriously. The Listener continued to publish articles about architectural topics, rather dutifully and at a rate of about sixteen articles a year;  Metro, on the other hand, took to architectural criticism with vigour, allowing architects to write on what was right or wrong about Auckland's architecture; its regular Cityscape section included opinion pieces by Pete Bossley, Pip Cheshire, Ivan Mercep, Marshall Cook and David Mitchell. Metro did not stop there, exposing the deals of property developers were exposed and criticising local eyesores.

Then there was television. David Mitchell's The Elegant Shed was a six-part series about New Zealand Architecture since 1945; it was accompanied by a book with photographs by Gillian Chaplin. New Zealanders were presented their architecture by an architect in a documentary which was lavish by today's standards. Architecture made other television appearances as well, including City and Suburb - Hamish Keith's 1983 documentary of two parts over two hours about New Zealand's housing, Peter Beaven's Capital Punishment and a Kaleidoscope interview with Dr Mark Wigley, our first Post Modernist architectural theorist -  an interview which prompted letters to the Editor of the Listener.

Architecture thus was better represented than ever before in the Eighties, and possibly since. However, the story told about New Zealand architecture is largely one of homes and sheds. Vernacular architecture and domestic architecture dominate the discourse. It is noticeable how infrequently public architecture is discussed, that a feature on a single building is a rare thing indeed and that architectural history is largely absent.

Public architecture usually only makes an appearance when it is a matter of controversy. Such was the fate of the design for Auckland's Aotea Centre, criticised in Metro by Peter Shaw as "adequate but tame," pitied by Marshall Cook as "tucked away in such an unpleasant environment around Aotea Square" and included in a feature on Lost Opportunities. The Listener waited until 1988 to discuss the building and then only to note that it would probably not be completed in time for the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre fared somewhat better, with a colour feature in the Listener. It was accompanied, however, by an assessment (by political scientist and art critic John Roberts) entitled One Man's Monument... May be Another Man's Folly. The Listener also featured the new National Library, but said nothing of its architecture; instead it spoke of the "resentments and rivalries among the guardians of our books."  Otherwise, public buildings did not feature in the Listener. Despite this apparent lack of interest, the Listener decided, in a 1987 feature, that architecture was a public issue.

Examination of a single building, a critique of architectural merit, is more rare still in the Listener. On one of these rare occasions Warren and Mahoney's New Zealand Embassy in Washington, was praised generously; but the author was American and the article reprinted from the Washington Post. Cultural cringe seems to be at work here, as it is in the Listener's publication of David Mitchell's piece about Noel Lane winning a competition in Japan for a design that made imaginative use of Helensville's town dump. The New Zealand characteristic of worrying about how foreigners think of us is most stark in another Listener article, As Others See Us, which poured scorn on New Zealand House in London, as well as on some tower blocks in Auckland and Wellington.

Being praised or beaten up by foreigners is a recurring theme. Both can been seen in Architectural Indulgences by Talentless Hacks, a letter from a Toronto architect published in Metro which thoroughly condemns Auckland's new Harbour Board building, but also praises local architects. To be fair, Metro also took the opportunity to beat up both foreigners and Aucklanders when the Sheraton Hotel, designed by the Hawaiian firm of Wimberly, Whisenand, Allison, Tong and Goo, was built. Peter Shaw's article, entitled Blandness on the Edge of Town, was critical of both the design and of Auckland for having allowed it. Metro also allowed David Mitchell to write a scathing review of the new Bank of New Zealand Building - The Nadir of Bad Taste: Another Nail in the Queen Street Coffin, and a very complementary piece about the Harbour Board's new Straddle House. 

Such praise or criticism is rare. One other place where it can be found is in Gerald Melling's columns for the National Business Review, some of which were published as a collection, The Mid-City Crisis and Other Stories, in 1989. Melling's topics include the Auckland University Music School, which he described as "one of the most refreshingly eclectic essays in New Zealand architectural history"; the National Library, "an enormous lump of serrated concrete"; the demolition of the Wellington Club  and the homes of the newly-enriched. Like the Metro writers, he gives both approval and its opposite, creating a small space in the media where architecture is taken seriously.

Architectural history is conspicuous by its absence. Landfall published only one piece about architecture during the decade, an essay by Ian Lochhead about 1930s Modernism in New Zealand. Antic, one of the little magazines that appeared and then vanished during the Eighties, published Don Bassett's Third Empire? Variations on a Nineteenth Century Theme in New Zealand Postmodern Architecture , which comments on the fashion for mansard roofs on contemporary buildings.

The only magazine to publish architectural history consistently was Art New Zealand. Over the course of the decade, nine essays on 19th and early 20th Century New Zealand architecture appeared. Art New Zealand also took an active interest in the preservation of architecture. Ross Fraser's editorial in the Spring 1982 edition talks of "the disgraceful destruction and displacement of old Auckland architecture of rich association and aesthetic importance..."   while an article by Roger Blackley in the same edition, entitled The Continuing Demolition of Auckland, discusses Partington's Windmill, Victoria Arcade and the threatened demolition of the Supreme Court. A 1988 piece by Peter Entwhistle, The Battle for Old Dunedin (one of the few articles published anywhere that recognised the existence of the city) claimed that "the demolition of old Dunedin is the destruction of New Zealand's biggest surviving work of art of that time..."  Also published was a memorial to Auckland's recently-demolished His Majesty's Theatre in the form of a photograph by Charles Fearnley.

Art New Zealand had no interest in contemporary architecture, other than museums and arts centres: The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, the additions to the Auckland City Art Gallery, the new Waikato Museum, and the Auckland Customhouse (renovated as an arts centre) are all featured.

Architectural history had further exposure in books. Many of these publications were not academic and most were not written by architectural historians, but at least they concerned themselves with old buildings.

The frequency of discussion of buildings in mainstream media is one possible indicator of the health of architectural culture. Another is the discussion of individual architects. In both cases, such discussion seems to show that architecture and architects have a significant position in cultural life, that they are worthy of attention and that readers will be capable of appreciating them. In the mainstream media of the Eighties, it was not often that an architect was interviewed or discussed. The Listener spoke to David Mitchell in 1981, to Peter Beaven in 1985 and to Sir Miles Warren in 1987. Metro asked Sir Miles his opinion of recent Auckland architecture in 1989, and received the reply "the central city has been crushed on the anvil of Post-Modernist architecture." In 1987, Metro published Men of Style, subtitled "trendsetters in clothes, hair and architecture." The architectural trendsetters were David Mitchell, Jack Manning, Noel Lane and Richard Priest. Hairdressers and fashion designers are not usually the artistic company which architects keep but this was the height of the financial boom. For those who benefited from the boom, style - whether it be in clothes, hair or houses - was desirable and could be bought.

The Men of Style feature was published in August 1987; two months later, on Black Tuesday, the boom turned to bust. Architecture was one of the casualties of the crash, not just in financial terms but also in its reputation. Architects had built the office buildings and the ostentatious homes of the new rich. Their work had transformed Auckland and Wellington. They did not make themselves popular.

The reputation of architecture in the Eighties inevitably was associated with construction and demolition. Auckland and Wellington witnessed the removal of buildings that had stood for years and their replacement with glass towers, often of dubious merit; as one Metro article commented "Buildings continue to sprout like asparagus spears about town. Very few, however, are as well-designed as that elegant vegetable." In a Listener article of 1987, Finlay Macdonald wrote that, as buildings and streets disappear, "so does a city's collective memory." Architects were blamed for their part in the alienation that resulted.

Most of the leading architects, though, were aware of the dangers of unregulated development and had warned of it before others had noticed. As early as 1981, Pip Cheshire had written - in an article entitled Shag-piled Accountants' Hutches: 
the stunted buildings we have may be a metaphor for a town struggling for the trappings of urbanity and not yet having the confidence to aim for the stars, but seen in  the light of the paucity of concessions made to us streetwalkers, the developers' attitudes seem either short sighted or cynically arrogant toward the city's population, upon whose wealth and patronage the buildings' success ultimately depends.
In 1982 Anthony Ward, then Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Auckland University, wrote: "Auckland's environmental heritage has been squandered over years of atrocious development characterised by callous, cynical buildings, each one having progressively less regard for human well-being than the last."

Peter Beaven also had made continued pleas for city architecture of quality; shortly after the crash, one of his letters to the Christchurch Press was republished by the Listener, which made it part of a feature on the problems of architecture. The feature, the single most sustained examination of architectural issues in any general magazine of the decade, was introduced thus:
New Zealand architects are boxed in by greedy developers and condemned by people forced to work in the artificial air of ugly glass towers. Still the fever of demolition and construction continues to afflict our cities. On these pages leading architects Ian Athfield, Sir Miles Warren and David Mitchell lash out at a system where people come last.
Architects lost both ways: criticised by the public for their part in the problem but frustrated by their inability to influence development with architectural values.  It did not help that one of the civic leaders who had been most closely associated with redevelopment - Wellington's Mayor, Michael Fowler -  was himself an architect. Fowler had devised a somewhat draconian scheme to make Wellington safe from earthquakes: existing buildings had to be modified to resist earthquakes or be replaced by new buildings. As one Listener article put it: "most cities wait until the devastation and then rebuild... Wellington is doing the reverse..."  Inevitably, many of the city's older buildings were demolished.

In this fervour of development, it is understandable that New Zealanders should seek solace elsewhere. One of the characteristics of the decade is a turning away from the city and from the present, towards the regions and the past. The objects of attention changed became the home and the shed. Rather than architecture, writers talked about buildings, often those which had never seen an architect. But, even when a house is new and designed by an architect, often he is absent from the discussion.

New Zealanders looking for a new home had long been catered for by Home and Building, the NZIA publication which aimed to gently persuade its readership to choose an NZIA member to design their home. The Eighties also saw the first publication of Trends, which soon sprouted various offshoots, magazines devoted to particular types of house or to particular rooms of the house.

Architect-designed houses were also presented in two books by Stephanie Bonny and Marilyn Reynolds, books intended for those looking for ideas for a new home. In Living with Fifty Architects of 1980, Bonny and Reynolds (who both had worked in architectural fields) show houses that architects had designed for themselves, with photographs and plans, as well as a photograph of the architect. The introduction says:
Houses that architects have built for themselves and their families have been brought together in this book for a number of reasons. Architects' own homes should reflect more clearly than most houses the underlying cultural and social values of their time. Other houses built for general sale represent what is currently merchantable, or they are built for specific owners who are anxious to conform with the fashionable expectations of what a house should look like. Architects designing a home for themselves can generally ignore these constraints.
Their 1988 book, New Zealand Houses Today, takes a different approach. The houses featured are grouped according to location and size: the sections are called Built in the Country, On the Edge of Town, Larger Houses, Smaller Houses, and City Sites Redeveloped. There are no photographs of the architects and no mention of them, other than in an index at the end of the book. The accompanying texts suggest the houses have been chosen not for their freedom from constraints but for their conformity.

New Zealand Houses Today is far from unique. The traditional way of discussing houses had been to talk about them as the work of architects, observing how the architect faced and solved problems of the site, how the design related to his other work and the influences upon his style. The Eighties way was to ignore the architect. In New Zealand Houses Today, Bonny and Reynolds discuss the designs in a neutral manner, avoiding mention of who did the designing. In North and South the architect is replaced by the client. From 1989, the magazine ran a regular feature, Living in Style. Each month a different house was featured. Although these are often designed by architects, the architect usually is scarcely mentioned. Instead, the story of the clients is told. It is usually a story of people who escaped the city or who had returned to New Zealand after years overseas and who were looking for somewhere to nest. Article titles included A Sense of Place, Country Comfort and Grandma's Legacy.

North and South was a new kind of magazine. First published in 1987, it proclaimed itself to be "New Zealand's Lifestyle Magazine," Lifestyle being a peculiar invention of the Eighties. It did not concern itself with architecture, other than homes. Only once in the Eighties did it look at houses as architecture, in a feature entitled Our Houses - Now They're an Art Form. The text begins:
We are into an area of experimentation in new home design unparalleled in this country's history. If the architects are to be believed, there is no typical new house anymore - at least not at the top end of the market. House design is being turned into what many architects have maintained it should be - an art form.
On this occasion, the architects at least were mentioned. They are: John Blair, Gordon Moller, John Scott, Marshall Cook, Auckland; Pip Cheshire, and Simon Carnachan. 

North and South also ran a regular feature called My Home Town, a nostalgia piece in which writers recall their childhood days. A representative example is Cambells Bay - Baches by the Sea, by Rod Melville. Naturally enough, houses feature often - baches, childhood homes, farm houses. These houses are central to the story but also incidental: they are a setting for the stories of their inhabitants. To some extent, the houses in the Living in Style section are similar.

Houses are a substantial subject of architectural publishing in the Eighties. They are presented not just as desirable places to nest or as ideas for the prospective client, but as symbols of New Zealand identity.  A recurring theme in writing of the period is the artful balance of old and new. Take, for example, an article from the short-lived magazine The New Zealander, entitled Old fashioned space ... a new design for Living, which  begins "For about 16 years, Sue and Hamish Keith's Auckland villa has coped with their changing work patterns and family needs – becoming not to much a house but more a way of life." That people should set themselves the challenge of living modern lives in old houses is never questioned; it seems to be enough that they can do it, a demonstration of Kiwi ingenuity. Living in old buildings, restoring them and adapting them to modern living became a middle-class ideal in the Eighties. It was not just a house but a way of life, the run-down villa found in the inner suburbs, bought for next to nothing and lovingly restored. 

Restoration even had official approval: the Government Printer published Restoring with
Style: Preserving the Character of New Zealand Houses
in 1985. The cult of the villa exasperated architects. In an article for Metro, The Tyranny of the Victorian Villa, Nigel Cook wrote: "Most of the praise for the "colonial" style that has filled the media for the last twenty years comes, I'm afraid from the fevered minds of lady correspondents. The list of advantages laid out for ignorant readers has been endless, and most of it have been nonsense." Elsewhere, Metro encouraged the Villa fetish and the fashion for living in old suburbs, with prose such as "Devonport is like no other Auckland suburb. A place where time seems to stand still. But a place too that may represent the future."

Homes also made for glossy books. Michael Fowler's The New Zealand House of 1983 mixes historic, vernacular and modern houses; state housing is barely mentioned. The Otago Daily Times published three volumes of Lois Galer's collected columns from the paper, which again include some modern homes amongst the old houses. In other publications, the old house is joined by another building type of great symbolic value to New Zealand, the shed.

The old home is the private space - rescued from the past by its new owners. The shed occupies the public space - a picturesque building that remains from the past, apparently belonging to no-one and to everyone. Sheds feature prominently in such picture books as  New Zealand Odyssey: A Graphic Journey, for which the authors travelled the land, looking for buildings to draw and photograph. Their book is whimsical, mixing works of architecture with oddities of building to evoke some notion of national character. Much the same is done by David McGill (an author who has made a career of 'kiwiana') and illustrator Grant Tilly, who collaborated on three books of written and drawn observations. Photographer Jane Ussher and writer Fiona Kidman collaborated on Gone North, which shows the decaying buildings of the Far North, and which is both picturesque and poignant. 

Then there is Corrugated Iron in New Zealand, a collection of photographs made by John Maynard and Warren Viscoe, apparently the result of ten years' work by each. The book includes an essay by David Mitchell and one by Geoff Chapple, who writes:
New Zealand is a nation of primitive builders, and like primitive builders across the world we've shaped whatever cheap material is to hand for our purposes. Corrugated iron has been slapped together for beach baches, for temporary fences which linger, for dog shelters you couldn't dignify with the name kennel. The modern middle class, finding permanance and tidiness more attractive, would rather not know. But corrugated iron has now been built into our way of life, and without it the country would collapse.
Mitchell concludes his essay, a history of corrugated iron building, with the observation:
Surprisingly, iron has reappeared as part of an architecture based on nostalgia. The post-modern manner, avant-garde in the 1970s and fashionable in the 1980s - is full of formal and stylistic references to the architecture of earlier times. It is not the efficiency of iron that has caused its renaissance, but the visual reminders it has given us of the buildings of our past.
Together, Chapple and Mitchell crack the code of corrugated iron: it is a material of nostalgia and of authenticity, never respectable but always genuine.

What is remarkable about Corrugated Iron in New Zealand, however, is the photographs. Depicting some very mundane buildings and some very peculiar ones, they have an eery quality: all these buildings are made from the same material; many appear to be abandoned; no people appear in the photographs. The photographs seem to  undermine the warm tone of the texts, which place corrugated iron in the comforting history of Kiwi can-do. These are buildings in heartland New Zealand: they are old and worn and they should be picturesque; but instead they are menacing. These buildings may be of corrugated iron, but they are gothic.

This is another, darker, side to New Zealand architecture. It is found often in the work of photographers and artists. It can be seen in the work of Laurence Aberhart, such as his photograph, Lodge Concord #39: a small piece of Neo-Classicism set in an indifferent suburb of brick and timber. Architecture here is an oddity, out of place with its surroundings. In another photograph from the same collection, a shed stands at the edge of a deserted cemetery, the only sign of habitation being the graffito which mars its white paint and demands "death to disco." In the next photograph, a bulbous caravan blocks out the house of its owners. In an another, home is represented by the ugly furniture and mawkish, badly-hung, pictures of a sitting-room in Russell.

Robin Morrison made a living from photographing buildings; his reputation was largely established by his 1978 book, Images of a House, which studies Gummer's Tauroa in Havelock North. Buildings feature often in his photographs. But his views on New Zealand architecture are stark:
There is little tradition in our white culture of blending the architecture from 'home' with the landscape of the new culture, and the resulting warts express a great deal of our feelings towards the land. We have imposed upon it, and the more definite we make our architectural statement, whether through colour or oddness, the more comfortable we seem to be. We are not going to let this country dictate to us how we should build. And if architecture is the mother of art, then the New Zealand landscape is our gallery.
If one had not noticed already, this statement reinforces that there is no comfort to be found in Morrison's buildings.

The painters offer little consolation, either. Peter Siddell's views of Auckland's older suburbs seem to be quite cheerful at first sight. They are colourful, they feature well-kept weatherboarded houses. But again, there is nobody about and the buildings are uncomfortably mute. George Baloghy painted Auckland street scenes. But again, there are few people on the streets; the cars seem threatening and the buildings hostile.

The buildings of New Zealand's photographers and painters are, to paraphrase Sam Neill, an architecture of unease. Some people might call them home, but there is no shortage of unheimlich. They are a long way from the home of one Metro article, which enthused, "right now, it's that cool continental look with lots of glass, sharp exterior angles, discreet roofs, Mediterranean colours and plaster wall. For the moment, the woodsy look is passe." They are distant, as well from the cheerful photographs of Michael Fowler's Buildings of New Zealanders or the elegant sheds presented by David Mitchell.

Architectural culture in Eighties New Zealand is a peculiar thing: major public buildings which are barely mentioned, historic buildings that are not noticed until they disappear in the night, run-down buildings that gain iconic status; then there is the architect, as hero, as villain, as iconoclast, as gentleman and as mayor. For the historian, this can all be quite infuriating. It is difficult to find a pattern, a theme on which to create a history. Perhaps one must admit that there are many stories. Perhaps, we must also admit that a decade which often is characterised as glib and materialistic has deeper and darker qualities that are revealed, in part, by its attitudes to architecture. This is, after all, a land of contrasts.