Sunday, October 31, 2010

You in that dress

The jury members were asked to consider several other questions.

Could Ms Masters really have forgotten that she was holding her champagne glass, which smashed into her adversary's head, when seconds earlier she had flung its contents at the silver dress?

The difficulties were compounded by evidence from five highly inconsistent witness accounts.

The most "balanced, reasonable and accurate" witness, according to the prosecution, had consumed only five vodkas and, in her own words, felt "pretty fine".
Life among the ghastlies is so often like this. And it gets worse: "after her acquittal, Ms Masters was overwhelmed with emotion and mistakenly walked back into custody." These are the sort of people who fill Courtenay Place and Ponsonby Road almost every night of the week, the people who keep our hospitality industry thriving and our accident wards full. The likes of Ms Masters are so often overwhelmed with emotion and so rarely overwhelmed with judgement.

Fotunately, she has supporters and a box of tissues.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Which shall it be?

"The corporate sector remains an embarrassment for New Zealand in terms of diversity of governance, at a time when women are increasingly consumers, customers, clients, employers, employees and investors," the report says.

"It is perplexing that boardroom doors are shut to women at a time when global business requires transformation."
Yes, yes; but do you ladies really want to be on a board? If you read on, past all the complicated stuff about equality and fairness, you will discover that:


"I had three months off. Once I got into a managerial job I knew I couldn't take any more time off [for maternity], so I made a conscious decision not to have any more children.

"I think I would have liked to have had at least another one, but you study and then you get some traction in your career ... You just have to make a decision whether you are going to take significant time out, or keep going."

Her daughter went into daycare at a carer's home after the three months of maternity leave, then to a daycare centre as a toddler.

Don't say you were not warned.

Bad taste of the town

Lee has strong tastes of his own. He says he pointed out to John Hunt that the "golden age" of cruise ships coincided with the early 20th-century period of art-deco design, and asked whether there were any art-deco entries. Hunt, he says "virtually shuddered."

Wilson, Simon.
"The Waterfront Wars."
2010, 40-49.

Apparently, this incident occurred during the competition for the now-forgotten Party Central on Queen's Wharf. John Hunt, Professor of Architecture at Auckland, and leader of the expert panel for the competition was questioned by Mike Lee, leader of the Auckland Regional Council. The Professor's reaction is understandable. Clearly, my previous support for Mr Lee was misguided. Anyone who could wish Art Deco on the people of Auckland is clearly not the man for the job of running the supercity.

I only mention this now because I am stuck inside writing a paper about Napier, the Art Deco city. My argument will be that everything you know about Art Deco is wrong: it is not a legitimate style of art, still less of architecture; even if it were, the buildings of Napier would not be examples of it. Art Deco was invented in the Sixties and became acceptable in the Eighties. What the citizens in fancy-dress are preserving is not the architecture of the Thrirties but the tastes of the Eighties.

It will be rad. Now all I have to do is write it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday crush: Anita Loos

"Human works can be summed up in two actions: destruction and construction. And the bigger the destruction, the more human work is nothing other than destruction, the more it is truly human, natural and noble. The concept of gentleman cannot be explained otherwise. The gentleman is a man who only carries out work with the help of destruction. The gentleman comes from the peasant class. The peasant only produces destructive work... Who has never desired to destroy something?"

Indeed; I desire to destroy the architectural writings of Adolf Loos, because they are all like this. On and on he goes, ranting about his petty concerns, especially the problem of Ornament: "I have therefore evolved the following maxim, and pronounce it to the world: the evolution of culture marches with the elimination of ornament from useful objects." Pompous ass.

Gentlemen prefer gamines. So, this week's crush is Anita Loos [no relation], author of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and numerous screenplays, the woman who once said:
I'm furious about the women's liberationists. They keep getting up on soapboxes and proclaiming that women are brighter than men. That's true, but it should be kept very quiet or it ruins the whole racket.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Buy me this

Go on, you never buy me anything.

Usually I sneer at people who buy their t-shirts on Internet, but for once I have found an in-joke so in that I want to wear it. For the baffled, here is a partial explanation; for callow youths, here is the other part.

And can someone explain to me what is funny about a More Cowbell t-shirt? It is not the sketch; at best it is a reminder of the sketch. Is it meant to tell the wearer's viewers that the wearer has a great sense of humour? If so, it doesn't work: it says the wearer is trying too hard.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A theory of aviation

A widow wants pilots to stay away from a helicopter involved in 30 crashes in six years in which nine people have died, including a double fatality this month.

The Robinson R22 and its sibling R44 are New Zealand's most popular helicopters because of their low cost.

But their popularity and low performance - the R22's capacity is two people at up to 83kg each including baggage - have caused them to stand out in crash statistics.
Is this a job for Obviousman? These are the most popular helicopters in New Zealand - over half those registered are Robinsons - and they are involved in a lot of crashes. They are probably involved in a lot of sightings as well - you are more likely to see a Robinson than any other type of helicopter; but this does not mean they are more visible than other helicopters.

I have published my theory of aviation elsewhere but, since it is a slow news day, I shall repeat it here:

1) By application and industry, men get rich, but not that rich.

2) These men want spend some of their riches and live large, by doing what very rich men do.

3) What very rich men do is have expensive toys, which are fun to use and status-enhancing. These toys include yachts and helicopters.

4) So these rich (but not that rich) men buy the cheapest helicopter they can find - the R22 - and learn how to fly it.

5) Unfortunately, helicopters are quite difficult to fly: it is all about torque.

6) So some of these men have unfortunate experiences with their toys.

On the bright side, all this keeps capital moving through the economy.

Anyway, back to Game Theory:

Museum of Hopelessness

243 Parnell Road, Parnell
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday
10am to 5pm

Some really stunning Afghanistan nomadic jewellery which is not meant to be admired only for its aesthetic beauty, but also for its powers of healing.

Metro Guide to Auckland :
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Auckland but Didn't Know Where to Find Out!
1989, p31

I was just thinking: if we could still get this stuff, teh wimmins could wear it at Te Papa, to compensate for the power of the taonga.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No coffee for me

First, what is a "café?"

Let's stick to the cheap and cheerful tag and thereby eliminate the bars and grills and brasseries and keep them for a separate section. Thus you won't find the French Café here.

The most authentic cafe in the city is Andy's Cafe which is to be found in Market Place by the city vegetable markets. There, early each weekday, you can mix with auctioneers, fruiterers, truck drivers and market gardeners and in a very small space hear perhaps 15 languages spoken. There aren't many places in Auckland where you can do that. The food is basic, eclectic, cheap and comes in very large quantities.

Up to Ponsonby and you'll find the famous Fed Up near the corner of Sumner Street and Ponsonby Road in a former Hutchinsons grocery shop. This place has had its ups and downs over the years as ownership has changed, but at the time of writing it was back in its original hands and was going through an "up" period. The food ranges from huge toasted sandwiches to excellent steaks and the rightly famous moussaka. Servings are huge and prices reasonable. The clientele is best described as "Ponsonby." Fed Up serves Auckland's best gazpacho.
Metro Guide to Auckland :
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Auckland but Didn't Know Where to Find Out!
1989, p79

So what is a "café?" It seems that, according to Warwick Roger (for it is he) in 1989, a café is place for cheap eats, in large portions and without pretension; there is no mention of coffee. The Metro Guide to Auckland was published shortly before espresso madness took over Auckland. You went to a café for nosh. On Ponsonby Road were several places where people could eat good food at little cost. The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

How different were things five years later when Grant Sheehan and David Burton produced Character Cafes of New Zealand. By then, a café was a place to take coffee; and by then, coffee was of such importance in New Zealand that it could merit a book. According to said book, Treasury issued a press statement in 1993, "expressing concern at the foreign exchange being swallowed up" by the importation of espresso machines.

I was not in Auckland at at the time, so really I am just pimping nostalgia for gentle readers who were here, but these are Warwick Roger's recommendations:
Cafe Niche
Java Jive
Cafe Iguana
Expresso Love
Ponsonby Pies
Mexican Cafe
Chinatown Restaurant
Java Jive and Expresso Love (named after a Dire Straits song) allude to coffee in their names but Roger says nothing about the coffee they serve. He does mention the Expresso Love noticeboard "where lesbianese/vegetarian/Scorpio/re-birthers advertise for flatmates and judging by the look of the clientele, probably find them." He also mentions the juke box at Ponsonby Pies, the second-best in Auckland, apparently. He says of Fed Up, a café still fondly remembered:
Up to Ponsonby and you'll find the famous Fed Up near the corner of Sumner Street and Ponsonby Road in a former Hutchinsons grocery shop. This place has had its ups and downs over the years as ownership has changed, but at the time of writing it was back in its original hands and was going through an "up" period. The food ranges from huge toasted sandwiches to excellent steaks and the rightly famous moussaka. Servings are huge and prices reasonable. The clientele is best described as "Ponsonby." Fed Up serves Auckland's best gazpacho.
Fed Up was gone before I arrived ten years after this book was published, as were most of those named by Roger. Ponsonby Pies was still around, but went the way of all flesh a few years back, while Expresso Love trades under a different name. The Late Night café (which Roger does not mention) hung on for a long time, but has been replaced by yet another clothes shop. Only the Mexican Cafe is still with us, but is now the haunt of office-party ghastlies. Cheap and cheerful food is a thing of the past. It went the way of Alternative Auckland (current location, The Wine Cellar) Bohemians and everything else which was local, individual and fun.

Test card

Before the murder trial, the Herald understands, Meads was given bail, and was living at his parents' Te Puna home near Tauranga.

He later moved into a three-storey beachfront home at Mt Maunganui, which his father, Howard Meads, bought this year for $1.4 million.

The house - next to another million-dollar-plus home up a long driveway - overlooks a white, sandy beach and the sea.

Neighbours said Meads lived there with a young woman who was not his daughter.
A man charged with the murder of his wife is given bail and lives in luxury with a young woman who is not his daughter. The Sensible Sentencing Trust should be really angry about this. I expect they are working hard on a press release to express their anger. In fact, it is surprising that they did not comment earlier: they usually have so much to say about violent crimes. Still, I expect that, any moment now, they will unleash a stinging response to this outrage, just like they do when people of less money commit hideous crimes. It is just a matter of time, I am sure. We just need to be patient.

Whilst we wait, here's Charters and Caldicott:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sport, time and architecture

Mr Waller said the stadium had been designed with the possibility that the West Stand might be demolished, although there were no plans for that to happen.

"If you go right up on the edge of the South Stand, at the west end you can't see a bit of one corner of the paddock," he said. "We've known ... that's why they're not included in seat counts for Rugby World Cup.

"It's just trying to future-proof the stadium ... at some time Eden Park may wish to develop the West Stand and when that comes down, you'll get a good sight line all the way around. It's just a little area ... it's a very, very small number of seats.

"We've known about it for a long time. It's just one of those things. We're trying to think about the future, as opposed to just now.

"When you're doing any redevelopment you want to make sure you don't preclude other options for the future.
The Rugby World Cup and Architecture are not getting along, are they? Who to blame? Normally, sporting disasters can be blamed on The Men in Blazers, those middle-aged former sportsmen who become administrators and live very well at the expense of their sporting codes. But this Mr Waller is the Chairman of BNZ and a board member of Fonterra. Like most board members, he sits on several boards: it is a cardinal principle of business that only the people who are suitable for top jobs are those already in top jobs, people who just happen to be white middle-class male accountants.

This simple and ineffective strategy falls apart when it comes to architectural projects, which require some insight on the part of patrons and do not require men who use godawful phrases like "future-proof."

Of course, if Mr Waller had any nous he would have defended the stand as a Work of Architecture, likening it to the deconstructivist theories of Mark Wigley and the projects of Peter Eisenman, such as his House VI. He might have told critics that functionalism is a dead weight around the neck of Architecture, that in a post-modern world the expectation of being able to see the game from the stand is hopelessly outdated, that the stand is not intended to facilitate the viewing of rugby but stands for itself. Of course, he would be talking rubbish but it would be high-quality rubbish of the sort talked in architecture schools.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sail on Sailor

Deckhands - part time & fixed term positions

360 Discovery offers a range of cruises in the Hauraki Gulf for both tourists and locals keen to get out and about.

360 prides itself on delivering the very best experience to our customers. Our services are operated by a small fleet of well-maintained modern high-speed catamarans.

Your role is key in ensuring our customers are comfortable and well looked after while onboard with us.

Duties include but are not limited to:
• Rope work & ensuring boat safety is adhered too
• Customer Service
• Bar & Cafe work
• Cleaning of the vessels
• Following the instructions of your Master
It seems like a nice job, right up until that last duty, when it all turns creepy and weird and it makes you wonder what they mean by rope work.

A la recherche du geeks perdu

For a museum of a quite different sort, visit the Space Station Museum on the corner of Victoria Street West and Nelson Street. It is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm and has a series of well presented and painstakingly detailed models of characters from all the most popular science fiction films and television shows including Star Wars, Dr Who, the Fantastic Voyage and Thunderbirds. At present the museum is only in its first stage of development. Future plans include a life size replica of the bridge of the Enterprise and another gallery of models.
Metro Guide to Auckland :
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Auckland but Didn't Know Where to Find Out!
1989, p31

Is anybody out there? Can anyone remember this place? What was it like? Where did it go? Was it quite as ridiculous as it seems?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address. And remember: in Space, nobody can hear you wince.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Without even an hello another KiwiSaver scheme has clambered aboard seeking salvation. So here's a belated welcome to the BCF KiwiSaver scheme, which officially joined the party on September 2 this year.

The bland three-letter-acronym title throws a thin disguise over the ultimate creators of this scheme but it has been revealed unto me that the BCF KiwiSaver scheme will be run by the Exclusive Brethren - a religious organisation renowned for secrecy and taking Don Brash to lunch.
If you want news, go to the business section. The Exclusive Brethren are allowed to use computers these days (usual story - the leader had a revelation) and this is what they do with their new-found powers - set up an investment scheme.

The ascent of Man

A rugged piece of North Island farmland is said to be the battleground between two international rock stars with deep pockets. The deer farm, bordering three Rotorua lakes, is New Zealand's answer to Africa's Ngorongoro Crater dubbed the cradle of mankind.
Could this be the weakest story of the year? In what way can this deer farm be an answer to the "cradle of mankind?" And what sort of story begins with a claim that this farm is "said to be" a battleground between two international rock stars, one of whom is unnamed and the other who was in town at the time and might have hovered over the crater in a black helicopter? The weakest sort of story, that is what. There should be a Qantas category for this sort of story. In fact, it is so weak that I cannot be bothered writing about it any more.

More airborne Françoise Hardy, this time on inflatable furniture:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Based on a true story

Wishart argues in his book that Johnston may have killed the Crewes, as well as fabricating evidence to frame Thomas for the crime.

He claims that Johnston was nicknamed "The Fitter" and had a reputation for threats and violence.

Wishart - who admits he has no evidence to support his theory - suggests that Johnston, who investigated a reported burglary at the Crewe's house in 1967, may have realised it was an insurance job, instigated by Harvey.

"Perhaps taking a shine to Jeannette, he confides at some point that he knows Harvey did it to claim the insurance, and that if Jeannette doesn't do him some favours or pay him some money he'll arrange for Harvey to be arrested and maybe even her also.

"Jeannette caves in to avoid the scandal, leading to her increasing fear of being in the house alone."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday crush: Françoise Hardy

Another Friday, another chanteuse: Françoise Hardy, star of song, screen and matchbox labels. Regardez this video, in which the camera operator becomes, ahem, distracted. But wait until the end, mes amis, when Mlle Hardy gives us that look.

Uses of literacy

p24 Because of the dearth of professional architectural historians in this country [Australia] who are not architects, it would be pointless to analyse their contributions to Australian architectural history. Most architectural writing of any sort has, of course, been written by lay people who are, or have been, practising architects. Some have realised that the two are incompatible. The rest, I believe, should not attempt to write history, despite Humphrey McQueen's opinion when I mentioned the title of this paper that, on the contrary, they ought to be encouraged since it keeps them from designing buildings.

Joan Kerr: Why Architects Should Not Write Architectural History

Leach, Andrew,
Antony Moulis,
and Nicole Sully.
Shifting Views :
Selected Essays on
the Architectural History of
Australia and New Zealand.
University of Queensland Press, 2008.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Second that emotion

The only child of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe has broken her silence to ask the police to re-investigate the unsolved murders of her parents 40 years ago.

Rochelle Crewe - just 18 months old when found crying in her cot five days after the Crewes were last seen alive - has written to Police Commissioner Howard Broad to request that the case be reopened.
Stop. Now. This story fills the entire front page of the New Zealand Herald: a story about an unsolved murder committed forty years ago, a story prompted by the reaction of the victims' daughter after reading a book by Ian Wishart, a book which puts the blame on a man who is now dead and which offers no new evidence.

So, what reason does Ms Crewe (called throughout the Herald's story by her forename) have for asking that the case be opened again?
Rochelle told the Herald that it "concerns me that the Solicitor-General unilaterally usurped the role of the court".
No, he did not. There was no court. The Solicitor-General looked at the evidence and decided it was insufficient to prosecute the policemen. That was his job. The Herald should know this. But in a tear-stained editorial the Herald concurs with Ms Crewe, apparently believing that it is just and proper to prosecute people without sufficient evidence, on the grounds that it would get everything out in the open. And the Herald persists:
The Police Commissioner may respond to Rochelle Crewe by suggesting there is no new evidence to warrant a new investigation. If so, the Minister of Police should appoint an independent investigator to re-examine the evidence. The chances of the truth being uncovered may be slim. So slim, in fact, that there is little point in pouring taxpayer dollars into the likes of another royal commission. But Rochelle Crewe is surely owed one last effort to try to find the truth before it is too late.
We owe it to Ms Crewe to spend millions of dollars pointlessly re-examining insufficient evidence, it seems.

Meanwhile, important stories - about South Canterbury Finance, the Telecom sale and arming the police, among others - fester on the inside pages.

But then, a story about a orphaned baby found in her cot who grows up not knowing who murdered her parents has so much more sob value, as well as an outrage bonus. So hold the front page.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The empty page

Mr Key said yesterday he would not comment about Mr Liu until he received more advice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Clown story

"Did you anticipate this kind of reaction?" I ask them.

"No," sighs Violent J. "I figured most people would say, 'Wow, I didn't know Insane Clown Posse could be deep like that.' But instead it's, 'ICP said a giraffe is a miracle. Ha ha ha! What a bunch of idiots.'" He pauses, then adds defiantly, "A giraffe is a fucking miracle. It has a dinosaur-like neck. It's yellow. Yeah, technically an elephant is not a miracle. Technically. They've been here for hundreds of years…"

"Thousands," murmurs Shaggy.

"Have you ever stood next to an elephant, my friend?" asks Violent J. "A fucking elephant is a miracle. If people can't see a fucking miracle in a fucking elephant, then life must suck for them, because an elephant is a fucking miracle. So is a giraffe."
So, how about that? It turns out that the Insane Clown Posse were fundies all this time. I guess we should have spotted the clues in their lyrics: the violent misogyny and hatred of learning might have given it away.

No, I shall not be posting one of their videos. This is a family-friendly blog. So here is something wholesome from France Gall:

Work song

Stables, who was meant to begin a new job on Radio Hauraki today after two years off air, will not be working because of the injuries he said he sustained. He claimed the altercation began when a Jetstar check-in staff member told him that he was too late to board a flight to Wellington on Saturday.

He claims he was attacked after he told the worker he was a loser "with a loser airline" and started to walk away.

Stables said it took three airport security staff to pull the man off him.

He was in Wellington hospital on Saturday night with a concussion, and he claimed he was finding it difficult to urinate. "I'm not well at all. It's not good. I can't hear and I can't even urinate. It was a totally vicious attack."
Boo; hoo. That's the magic of radio: you can abuse strangers and, when they come back at you, cut them off. Real life is not so simple. Call somebody a loser and he might just lose it.

Here's Julian and Nat:

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Crush: Gillian Hills

She was big in France. She sang cute and clever songs of the sort that French people like, at one time with Serge and a Sunbeam Alpine.

She was The Blonde in Blow-Up. She was in Clockwork Orange, The Owl Service and Il Mio nome è Scopone e faccio sempre cappotto.

Then she gave up the movies and became an illustrator.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Totalitarian rugby

RNZ 2011
Total Rugby
Spirit of Rugby
Rugby NZ 2011
World Cup Shop
World Cup 2011
Rugby World Cup
Rugby New Zealand 2011
Rugby Football World Cup
Or, to put it another way, sod off. Somehow, we have a law, The Major Events Management Act of 2007, which controls our use of language. Not that phrases like total rugby or spirit of rugby are either commonplace or other than ridiculous. But we could make them so, just to resist these corporate fascists.

More Wishbone Ash:

Decoratively correct

Modern Classics
p12 It is only in the last couple of years that New Zealanders have been able to buy any of the modern classics in furniture - furniture by designers like Bertoia, Marcel Breuer, Arne Jacobsen, Mies van der Rohe and Eero Saarinen. So pre-occupied have we been with our English past that we have completely overlooked the history that was being made in the twentieth century. Yet these are the names that will become as well-known as those of Chippendale and Sheraton.

The furniture is characterised by the skilful use of modern materials, laminated wood, steel and by new techniques in construction. It looks best against an uncompromising twentieth century background of raw concrete or painted concrete blocks.

Perhaps because of an underlying New Zealand cautiousness which makes us reluctant to accept anything new and unusual, it has been used in private homes by only a sprinkling of architects and designers, although it can be seen in some outstanding office interiors. To many people, the shapes seem stark and too geometric, the colours and materials too cold. Yet this extreme simplicity is far more suited to modern New Zealand homes than are chintzy English styles.

p13 Eclectic decoration is much cited by experts as being the ultimate in skilful interior design in the twentieth century. Certainly one has to be skilful to use it successfully.
The difficulty lies in the very thin line between what is stimulating and what is in bad taste. A crystal chandelier in a Scandinavian style is bad taste, an abstract painting in a traditional home is not.

Lamp Shades
p17 Off white shades are always decoratively correct.

Walls and windows
p43 Walls are an inevitable element in any decorating scheme - there’s no getting away from the fact that they’re standing there and you’ve got to do something about them.

p46 There is a general belief that the range and quality of New Zealand-made papers is not as good as those obtainable in other countries. This is a long outdated fallacy. Frequently designs and patterns from overseas are made available by local manufacturers only a few months after their release in London. These are backed up by many well-designed New Zealand papers.

Jim and Judy Siers, and Vivien Shelton.
A Guide to Home Decorating in New Zealand:
A H & A W Reed, 1971.

In case you are wondering, I publish extracts from this long forgotten but pioneering book because it fascinates me. Here is a decorating book which concerns itself with issues of national identity, international standing, modernity and tradition. It is the DIY of unease, to paraphrase Sam Neill (shown here calling for calm, unaware that he is about to be savaged by a giant owl). Only in New Zealand could so much angst be prompted by interiors. Not that it was a bad thing: Shelton and the Siers made a serious book, discussing issues in the text which usually are subtextual. These days we have Trends and countless other magazines in the home and garden sector, each putting on its happy face every month to tell the readers the same story once again, always avoiding the dismal truths: that everything is fake and most readers will never be able to buy it anyway...

Good grief, I am making myself miserable just thinking about it. Here's Wishbone Ash:

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Harsh seventies reality

Dining Rooms

p64 This style of furniture, known as the "Mediterranean Look," is beginning to be seen in furniture shops in this country although it is not yet established as a trend. Originating in the USA, its formal look has been loosely copied from old Spanish designs.

Playrooms and Rumpus Rooms

p70 An indoor barbecue is invaluable in a playroom in areas where weather conditions are unpredictable.


pp 84-85 Books can work wonders for a decorating scheme, giving it warmth, an intimate atmosphere, and a variety of colour and pattern in the jackets that is hard to achieve in any other way. When they are combined with other objects, books can become the focal point of a room. A wall of shelves filled with a display of books and decorative objects, that are a record of your hobbies, travels and work, is always interesting.

Here's a sundry list of the sort of things you could include: hi-fi, ceramic animals, model ships, birdcage, carved wooden box, clock, doll in national costume, venetian glass, copper tray, pottery, candlestick. There is no end to the possibilities.

Jim and Judy Siers, and Vivien Shelton.
A Guide to Home Decorating in New Zealand:
A H & A W Reed, 1971.

Three points worth making:

1. The Mediterranean Look could have been stopped before it became established as a trend, like other imported pests. All it required was people of good will to burn down the furniture shops. But nothing was done and now it is everywhere.

2. Grumpy Old Men and pop psychologists are always complaining that children today are over-protected. If these people are from a time when playrooms were equipped with indoor barbecues, one can understand their cultural dislocation.

3. There was an end to the possibilities. It came in 1973 and was called the Oil Crisis.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Letter to the Editor

Rusty writes:
Big In Japan - so was this pre- or post Alphaville?

Dear Rusty,

thank you for your enquiry. We don't talk about Alphaville round here, because they were unbelievably naff. Big in Japan, the band, came first; Alphaville took the name for their song.

The short story of Big in Japan is that everybody was in it and John Peel liked them. I heard them first on his show. The slightly longer story is narrated here, by John Peel:

But this will only lead to further questions from gentle readers such as "Dalek I Love you?" Yes, Dalek I Love You. Here is a song to help. The short story is that Dalek I Love You were really good but hardly anybody has heard of them. Fortunately, gentle readers can download an entire album, Naive, from their rather sparse website. Gentle readers can also read this far from sparse fan site.

Gentle readers are requested to tell of these discoveries to all their cool friends who are in synth-pop bands.

Yours aye,


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Growing forward

One of my most treasured possessions is a coffee mug I found in the dysfunctional tea room here in the Department of Anomie. It bears an inspiring message - "GROWING FORWARD" - and, below it, "THE FACULTY OF ARTS." To which Faculty of Arts this mug refers is a mystery - clearly is was designed for internal use only. The mug also bears a logo, which looks like nothing on earth, certainly nothing growing. It might be an illustration of wattle and daub, or possibly some form of crochet. I do not think the mug comes from the Arts Faculty at the University of Auckland, which is the 51st best arts faculty in the world but which lacks an inspirational motto or an unidentifiable logo.

I find myself enamoured of the idea of an arts faculty which grows forward. I wish we had one. It might be like one of the various moving cities designed by Archigram, although they would give the design job to Jasmax. Like most things at the University of Auckland, it would be slightly disappointing. Still, if it grew forward it might at least overwhelm the Business School.

In other news, the Dean of Arts will be away from the University from Wed 29 September until Monday 4 October attending a Deans of Arts conference in Australia. In this contemporary corporate university environment, it should be no surprise to learn that Deans of Arts have conferences. I hope she gets a mug.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Welcome to the working week

The 'Great Moderation' was actually a Great Fraud perpetuated by financial engineers in Manhattan and London who targeted massive short term bonuses by creating financial instruments that gave the appearance of reducing risk, but actually massively increased risk.

These investment bankers exploited all sorts of holes in financial regulations and in the way pension funds are allocated to enrich themselves at the expenses of middle and under classes in developed countries. The created a long term mess for short term gain. They privatised profits for themselves and socialised the losses for us all.

They worked in tandem with the managers of often publicly listed multinational corporates who specialised their operations in different countries, often moving manufacturing and services to lower wage economies in an endless hunt to lower costs and increase profits (often for their own personal benefit).

This seemed like a good idea at the time and even seemed noble, spreading the wealth around. But all it did was reduce real wages for the middle and under classes in developed economies, who then promptly borrowed more to keep spending as if they were richer. It was a recipe for instability.

All this debt-fuelled consumption growth in the developed world that was funded and supplied by savings and production surpluses in the developing world.

It could not last. Like any Ponzi scheme, eventually the debt keeps rising until the interest bill overwhelms the ability of the borrower to pay.

Once asset values start falling then we find out who has been swimming naked.

This exposure and collapse of a giant fraud is what we have seen in the last two years. It has expressed itself in the usual way.
Bernard Hickey finally gets it. It's a funny thing: I don't write a column for the business pages and I do not have a website which advises people of money about their financial decisions, yet I knew that which has just dawned upon Mr Hickey. Many other people, such as my friend Clive, knew more than me; yet none of us were ever invited to write for the business pages or to give financial advice. And now the world economy is stuffed. And people are getting angry. Things are so bad for Turner Prize winners that Tracey Emin may be forced to sleep in a tent (brilliant animation by David Shrigley here). And the finance companies continue to make money disappear.

Oh well. I suppose we have the grim satisfaction of knowing that we were right and the financial advisers were wrong. But it is not much fun watching the people of money helping themselves to our common wealth while we have to pay more tax on every purchase we can barely afford to make.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday crush - Delia Derbyshire

A fan writes: "In 1959, on approaching Decca records, Delia was told that the company DID NOT employ women in their recording studios, so she went to work for the UN in Geneva before returning to London to work for music publishers Boosey and Hawkes.

In 1960 Delia joined the BBC as a trainee studio manager. She excelled in this field, but when it became apparent that the fledgling Radiophonic Workshop was under the same operational umbrella, she asked for an attachment there - an unheard of request, but one which was, nonetheless,granted. Delia remained 'temporarily attached' for years, regularly deputising for the Head, and influencing many of her trainee colleagues."

Living, as we do, in the Age of Dumb, where stupidity, ignorance and nastiness are among the valued traits of the throngs of celebrities and nonentities who appear on our television screens, it is easy to forget that nice, smart people were once valued for the useful things they did. One such person was Delia Derbyshire, who made beautiful music on beautiful electronic gadgets, for the BBC. Here is Brian Hodgson's obituary . It is also worth noting that smart women are really quite hot, especially smart women with synthesisers.

For the full hip experience read about Derbyshire in French, with photographs of early British synthesisers. Added bonus: play spot the Pink Floyd.

With kudos to Deborah whose excellent Friday Feminist/Womanist/Activist series inspires us all to talk about women on a Friday.