Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christian mud wrestling

In the episode of the TV3 reality series, broadcast at 7.30pm on Friday, 20 August, contestants posed for a female photographer, wearing bikinis and accessories, with their bodies covered in mud.

However, some of the girls posed topless, although their breasts were covered in mud and concealed by steam rising from the pools.

One 16-year-old girl, series runner-up Michaela Steenkamp, said as she prepared to pose topless that though she was a Christian, "I don't think that's going to stop me from a lot of things as long as I have confidence in myself and confidence in the Lord."
Passing over Ms Steenkamp's prediction that her faith will not stop her doing a lot of things, I am impressed by the serendipity of the steam rising from the pools concealing the models' breasts. It reminds me of Pete and Dud:

- You haven’t seen the Rubens? There’s one over there. Yes, lovely, he does all the fat ladies with nothing on. Great big fat ladies, except for a tiny little wisp of gauze always lands on the appropriate place, if you notice that. Always the wind blows a little bit of gauze over you know where, Dud. See it down there, can’t you.

- Of course it must be a million-to-one chance, Pete, that a gauze, you know, lands in the right place at the right time on his painting.

- Of course it is, yeah.

- I bet there’s thousands of paintings that we’re not allowed to see, where the gauze hadn’t landed in the right place, but on the nose or something.

- Well, I suppose if the gauze landed on the wrong place, Dud, you know, landed on the nose or the elbow or somewhere unimportant, what Rubens did was put down his paint and went off to have lunch probably.

- Yeah, or have a good look.

- Of course you don’t get gauze floating around in the air these days, do you, like it did in Renaissance time, there’s always gauze in the air in those days.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The reassurance we need

A new Government bill paves the way for paedophiles to be put in charge of children, Labour education spokesman Trevor Mallard says.

But Education Minister Anne Tolley calls his accusations "hysterical".

She says the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) only gives some childcare centres the same status as Sunday School or Scouts.
Proof, if it were needed, that you couldn't make Anne Tolley up.

Smartly dressed men meet with ridicule

This sort of thing happens all the time to me, you will realise.

Found on Found Objects

What we know

Among scores of disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:

• Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme...

• Inappropriate remarks by Prince Andrew...

• Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government...

• How the hacker attacks which forced Google to quit China in January were orchestrated by a senior member of the Politburo...

• Allegations that Russia and its intelligence agencies are using mafia bosses to carry out criminal operations...

• The extraordinarily close relationship between Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister...

• Devastating criticism of the UK's military operations in Afghanistan by US commanders...
Sorry to interrupt, but have we not read all these stories in the Guardian Weekly?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Knock before entering

The house consists of three bedrooms, two with en suites. Whoever is luxuriating in the master en suite’s free standing Philippe Starck designed bath can look right through and see the open fireplace and the distant living room.

Should you being paying a visit to 190 Pumpkin Hill Road, Tairua, with the intention of decking the halls with boughs of holly or bringing the good news about Jehovah, do please be aware that the occupants might be luxuriating in the bath.

This has been a public service announcement

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A short history of Scotland

The Lord was advised (at least on an occasional basis) by a Council. Dean Monro, who wrote a description of the Western Isles in 1549, described the membership as consisting of four ranks:
* Four "great men of the royal blood of Clan Donald lineally descended" (Macdonald of Clanranald, Macdonald of Dunnyvaig, MacIain of Ardnamurchan and Macdonald of Keppoch)
* Four "greatest of the nobles, called lords" (Maclean of Duart, Maclaine of Lochbuie, Macleod of Dunvegan and Macleod of the Lewes)
* Four "thanes of less living and estate" (Mackinnon of Strath, MacNeil of Barra, MacNeill of Gigha and Macquarrie of Ulva)
* "Freeholders or men that had their lands in factory" (Mackay of the Rhinns, MacNicol of Scorrybreac, MacEacharn of Kilellan, Mackay of Ugadale, Macgillivray in Mull and Macmillan of Knapdale).

In practice, membership and attendance must have varied with the times and the occasion. A commission granted in July 1545 by Domhnall Dubh, claimant to the Lordship, identified the following members:
* Hector Maclean of Duart
* John Macdonald of Clanranald
* Ruari Macleod of the Lewes
* Alexander Macleod of Dunvegan
* Murdoch Maclaine of Lochbuie
* Allan Maclean of Torloisk
* Archibald Macdonald, Captain of Clann Uisdein
* Alexander MacIan of Ardnamurchan
* John Maclean of Coll
* Gilleonan MacNeil of Barra
* Ewen Mackinnon of Strath
* John MacQuarrie of Ulva
* John Maclean of Ardgour
* Alexander Macdonell of Glengarry
* Angus Macdonald of Knoydart
* Donald Maclean of Kingairloch
* Angus Macdonald, brother of James Macdonald of Dunnyveg
Thus, the Western Isles came to be run by an heriditary lord who was advised by a committee, most of the members of which were related to one another.

You will not be surprised to learn that this did not end well.

Armchair heroes

Armchair OSH apologists in the media and in Sci-blogs have been trying to justify the lack of a rescue in Greymouth because of the dangers from gases.

I'm no mining engineer, so I stand to be corrected, but like many others I am increasingly cynical about NZ's ability to handle a disaster.

Like Mr Wishart, I too am no mining engineer, so I too stand to be corrected, but I believe no mining engineer has criticised the handling of this dreadful accident. Nor have criticisms come from experts in disaster management, policing or counselling. However, many commentators who know nothing about any of these areas of expertise have rushed in where angels fear to tread. Indeed, many - including Messrs Wishart and Laws - have stated their willingness to go into the mine, where rescue parties fear to tread.

Had they done so, they would have died. But then, they would not have done so. I stand to be corrected, but I believe none of these commentators ever has made good on his heroic promises. I did not see newspaper columnists and talk radio hosts clamouring to get past the police cordon so that they could plunge into the mine and rescue the miners. Nor were their readers and listeners, those energetic makers of comments and calls, to be found on the road to Pike River. Not one Grumpy Old Man turned up at the pithead, equipped with a torch and a breathing apparatus. Perhaps they were all too busy commenting.

I am no mining engineer; nor am I a sinologist: but I know a paper tiger when I see one.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Greetings from Asbury Park

Miller testified that his wife had an affair with a male assistant at his Neptune, N.J., church - often with him present. He said the man's wife was also sometimes present.

"I mean between the four of us," Miller said. "It was just, I mean there was touching, there was … it was crazy, it was as wrong as wrong could get. Yes."

"Okay, it was sex, correct?" a lawyer asked.

"Yes," Miller said.
Two points worthy of note in this matter:

1) the phrase "his wife had an affair" hardly seems fair on either the wife or the assistant, given that both their spouses were present and involved.

2) Bible study appears to be a more effective means of getting it on than Facebook.

Bruce, with beard and hat:

Look and learn

A generation ago, the very idea that a British politician would go to Ireland to see how to run an economy would have been laughable. The Irish Republic was seen as Britain’s poor and troubled country cousin, a rural backwater on the edge of Europe. Today things are different. Ireland stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking, and that is why I am in Dublin: to listen and to learn.

After centuries of lower incomes, Irish average incomes are now 20 per cent higher than in the UK. After being held back for decades, the productivity of Irish companies — the yardstick of economic performance — has grown three times as quickly as ours over the past ten years. Young Irish families once emigrated in their millions to seek a better life overseas; these days it is young people across Europe who come to Ireland to find good jobs. Dublin’s main evening newspaper even carries a Polish-language supplement.

Ireland is no longer on the edge of Europe but is instead an Atlantic bridge. High-tech companies such as Intel, Oracle and Apple have chosen to base their European operations there. I will be asking Google executives today why they set up in Dublin, not London. It is the kind of question I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer was asking.
George Osborne, writing in 2006.
It's called the Double Irish arrangement, and it's often combined with the "Dutch sandwich". Take the classic case of Google, as reported by Bloomberg. Google cut its taxes by a phenomenal $3.1bn over the last three years using the "Double Irish" trick to put most of its foreign profits through Dublin and the Netherlands to Bermuda. That reduced its non-US tax bill to just 2.4%. Ireland allows Google, Facebook, Microsoft Corp and many others to shunt profits around subsidiaries so that they escape even Ireland's own low tax rate.

Ireland allows them, quite legally, to pass the profits on to other tax havens that levy no corporation tax at all, paying only tiny sums in passing: Google put 92% of its billions of worldwide non-US profits through Dublin, and it paid Ireland just £18m.
Polly Toynbee, writing in 2010.
Ireland turned away from making and exporting goods as the source of its new well-being toward the evanescent world of money and debt. On the one hand, Dublin became the single largest location outside the US for the declared pre-tax profits of American firms. On the other, Ireland’s balance of payment figures slid into the red. “Being prosperous would be replaced by feeling rich” is how [Fintan] O’Toole memorably captures the hidden agenda—hidden, perhaps, even from its initiators. Ireland was far from the only country to embrace it, but by O’Toole’s argument the other countries that did (including the UK) had longer and more robust traditions of relatively clean governance and civic behavior.
Ian Jack, also writing in 2010.

Boomtown Rats:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Almost famous

I am in the Sunday Star Times today, talking about Kevin McCloud, below a profile by Mr Grant Smithies. This, gentle reader, is my first paid piece of writing under my own name; if I could frame this piece of Internet and hang it on my wall, I would. Instead, I shall buy the paper like folk did in the olden days.

I shall also dine out on my story of having spoken to Mr McCloud, who is widely adored - and so he should be: he is a jolly nice chap. Should anyone be looking for an architectural historian to make a television series, please note that I too have posh vowels, erudition and a shabby-genteel wardrobe.

Subway Sect:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

And the over-friendly concierge

Actually, the real Zuckerberg didn't break up at all - he's been dating the same girl since 2003. But since when has Hollywood ever let facts get in the way of a good screenplay?
Indeed; it seems you don't have to be dead to be misrepresented by a movie. But then it turns out the real Zuckerberg was just as bad as his screen equivalent:
The geeky founder of Facebook does admit he knows what it's like to be dumped by girls. It's also true that in the pre-Facebook era, in his sophomore year at Harvard, he created a vicious website called Facemash, which subjected female students to male ridicule.
What was that Pavement lyric about "you've been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your life?"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Scenes from an engagement

In which Ingerland turns to mush
Speaking as they stood arm-in-arm before photographers, and later as they gave a TV interview, Prince William said giving Kate his mother Diana's distinctive sapphire and diamond engagement ring was "my way of making sure my mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement".

He stressed that no-one was "trying to fill my mother's shoes". Miss Middleton paid tribute to the princess as an "inspirational woman".
Doomed, doomed, doomed from the start; St Diana will haunt the wedding and the marriage. I suppose we should have seen this coming. Ever since the Tragic Accident, people have been saying how young William had his mother's beauty (a beauty which itself is contestable; more a case of being expensively dressed than naturally blessed) and that he would inherit her virtue (again, questionable). So it is inevitable that her shade should be hanging around still. Giving your bride the engagement ring from your mother's failed marriage, however, seems like a bad omen and in bad taste.

She was raised in a modern five-bedroom detached house in the Berkshire village of Bucklebury and her family, who are self-made millionaires, run a mail order toy and party goods company.
Oh dear, new money. Courtiers are sneering, apparently, although the Daily Mail's correspondent defends her from the accusations of commonality, observing that the Middletons were big in Leeds; I am sure she is grateful for the support.

And then there is the matter of the venue; a Royal Correspondent writes:
I don't think William of all people wants to do a rerun of his parents' ill-fated marriage and for that reason I think the wedding is unlikely to be in St Paul's Cathedral.

The Guards Chapel, which was the setting for the 10th anniversary memorial service for his late mother, I suspect, may be too small, given that we are talking about the marriage of a future king.

That's why inevitably, I suspect, the wedding will be at Westminster Abbey where, of course, his grandmother the Queen married in 1947.
I think the Royal Correspondent needs to think outside the Square. This is a modern marriage and these are straitened times. Indeed, such are the times that the Royal Navy's next aircraft carrier, named for our own dear Queen, will have no aircraft and will be in use for only three years.

An extravagant wedding would not do. Besides, all the roayal chapels are associated with Diana. Instead, let's put on the show on right here in the barn. Why not have the royal wedding in the Royal County? The service could be held at the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin in Bucklebury.

Then they could go on to a local hostelry for the reception. Sad to tell, but the Cottage Inn at Upper Bucklebury is now closed. It had a family dining area and patio seating; it also had Greene King beer on tap, which is splendid stuff. But never mind, there is always the Bladebone Inn. It has a full menu, which includes soup (with rustic bread) and fishcake. There is a selection of sides and salads, while the pudding list includes Eton Mess, a reminder for William of school and being seperated from Mummy. And then they could go back to her parents' place for the reception. And perhaps her parents could provide decorations at a discount rate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Together we shall build a new world

The Genio del Fascismo by Italo Griselli was erected in the EUR district of Rome in 1939. After the fall of the Fascist regime boxers' hand wraps were added to the figure and it was renamed 'Genio dello Sport.'

Text from
Fascismo Abbandonato
by Dan Dubowitz;
photograph by

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ingerland, their Ingerland

If one news story could summarise the fact of Britain having become a ridiculous, anxious, provincial country it might be this one: a man makes a lame joke on Twitter about blowing up something called Robin Hood Airport and is convicted under a law designed to protect female telephonists in the 1930s.This is what the man said:
"Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"
And this is what the Judge said:
Jacqueline Davies called the tweet "menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed".
Any ordinary person, it seems, would see that and think
Oh.My.God. Shirelle, look at this. That man is going to blow up the airport if it does not get its shit together by next week and a bit!! You can tell he means it by the way he used two shock marks!! This is so alarming!! What's on telly tonight?
The only good to come out of this is that we all now know that there is such as thing as Robin Hood Airport, which turns out to be the former RAF Finningley and is really called Doncaster Sheffield Airport. Apparently,
DSA is branded after the UK national icon ‘Robin Hood’ who is known to have spent much of his life around the Doncaster area, particularly Conisbrough and Tickhill Castles. Robin Hood is a well-known and well-loved character the world over, and one who is undeniably associated with this part of the country. The Robin Hood brand has enabled DSA to inform people about what the area has to offer, as well as providing a ‘personality' for the Airport.
Will somebody tell them(a) that Robin Hood was not a real person, still less a branded icon, and (b) that his imaginary life was spent near Nottingham? Perhaps Stephen Fry will do it, since he knows so much about so many things and he has involved himself in this matter as the Honorary Grand Master of Twitter.

Anyway, use of the Lady Telephonists (Protection) Act has not been confined to this one case. Seizing upon the precedent, the Police in Birmingham have charged a Tory Councillor who made a comment about stoning to death someone called Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, after she had "questioned whether any British politician was morally qualified to comment on human-rights abuses, including the stoning of women," according to Time. She considers his remark to be an incitement to murder, racist and all the fault of Jeremy Clarkson.

Why are the English like this? Perhaps it is because they take so much cocaine, perhaps because they eat so much junk, perhaps because even the Liberals are lying to them. I would comment, but I am probably not morally qualified to do so.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's a funny old game

And we're back. We go now to edited highlights of the Herald's coverage of the Mealamu incident.

The duo's contrasting fortunes has irked McCaw, who argued Mealamu and Hartley should have either both faced a hearing - or neither.

McCaw was pinned in a ruck in the 65th minute of the All Blacks 26-16 victory when Hartley - the Rotorua-born [traitor] rake [libertine] with a chequered disciplinary record [loose cannon]- clouted [clouted, I tell you] him with his elbow and forearm, an act that triggered a heated [and entirely justified] response from All Blacks enforcer Brad Thorn.

French [say no more] referee Romain Poite did not take action [cheese-eating surrender monkey] , other than issuing a warning and then penalising [unfairly] Jerome Kaino for an unrelated [but worth mentioning] infringement.

International Rugby Board citing commissioner John West, the former Irish [say no more] referee, charged Mealamu with striking after reviewing footage of the incident but surprised the All Blacks management but taking no action against Hartley, a former schoolmate [guilty by association] of Liam Messam who was banned in 2007 for six months after eye gouging England teammate James Haskell.


Mealamu is latest All Black to queue before a northern hemisphere judiciary [they have it in for our lads].

Sione Lauaki was banned for two games at the 2007 World Cup for a dangerous tackle on a Romanian opponent; in 2008 Tony Woodcock was suspended for a week for a punch during the Irish test and last year Daniel Carter was also outed for a game after being found guilty of a supposed [imaginary] high tackle - a verdict that still rankles.

Footage of Mealamu's contact [not a beating, contact] with Moody appears [appears] damning although his defence team will claim [quite reasonably] it was a legitimate clean out at a ruck and the 82-cap veteran [one of the best of men] made contact [quite unintentional] with Moody via the shoulder, not forehead.

Teammates, led by McCaw, launched a spirited [and entirely justified] defence of the 82-test veteran though his captain feared the incident would not be deemed unintentional.

"I think everyone knows what's Keven's like and the type of guy he is [disregard the footage].

"You know he didn't do that intentionally [of course you do] but when you end up in front of the judiciary [inconsistent, biased Europeans] anything can happen, .... history shows not many guys get let off too lightly in this part of the world [kangaroo court]."

See, you don't have to use unhelpful words like "headbutt;" nor do you need to suggest that the All Blacks reaction has anything to do with the forthcoming game against Scotland. In fact, all this is an attack on the man's character.

The iceman cometh

In a statement, Lady Hillary said she was "very confident" the museum would "care for these items appropriately as their custodians for all New Zealanders".

"And I know they'll display them with pride as reminders of Ed," she said.

Museum officials said the gift would be displayed "in the heart of the museum", in the atrium foyer and stairwell.

The artefacts would be "visible to all who visit the museum".
Relics, dear boy, relics: the sacred artefacts of Sir Ed are being distributed, as far from his children as is geographically possible. Future generations will be able to worship Sir Ed here, in the foyer and the stairwell. It will remind all of us of what it is to be a New Zealander, apparently.

Meanwhile, time is running out:

Ms Stamilla said she was becoming nervous, because making the full-size sculpture and casting the historic moment in bronze would take eight months.

"We've made it clear that if [Eden Park management] don't hurry up it's not going to be made.

"Wellington is well on the way to getting a sculpture built, and I think we are going to miss out.
I expect you can see the trick here. Ms Stamilla has designed for Eden Park a sculpture which it never requested and now tells everyone that that the trustees had better accept it pretty damn quick or it will be too late. This is the marketing style of those "you may already have won" offers which used to come through the post. Not only will we miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime offer but Wellington will have one and we won't.

Before the trustees make this fateful decision they need to make a simple visual observation: the proposed sculpture is hideous. If it were built in Wellington, people would say it represented a man being blown away by the wind. Since it is intended for Auckland, people will expect it to rotate or glow in the dark, or something similarly gaudy. But without added extras the design is gruesome enough. Before we go any further, can we look around and see in what countries statues of this kind are to be found? Here is a clue: their names usually end in -stan.

Ms Stamilla's feeling for sculpture is somewhat archaic, to say the least. I am quite sure she did not learn this sort of thing at Elam. But never mind: she has other skills. Like Leonardo and Michaelangelo, she is quite versatile:
Natalie Stamilla art and design is a versatile business, with experience in signwriting, painting, graphic design and sculpture. What ever the design or art project, Natalie Stamilla can aid the process from concept to completion. There are always a range of solutions to suit every budget.
The citizenry should be asking whether Ms Stamilla's skillset includes engineering or health and safety. How would this horrible thing stand up; what would happen if it did not?

Thankfully, we have other options going forward. The trust could simply buy the Herald's rather peculiar photograph of the Ms Stamilla, her maquette and cardboard cut-out man. They could call it Jones and the Giant Head. Or they could get Dan Arps to gather together some non-organic rubbish and dump it in the car-park.

Monday, November 08, 2010

It's always sunny in Onehunga

My last commentary on the Herald on Sunday having caused gentle reader Boganette an adverse reaction, I have decided it might be wise to avoid the Herald and instead reprint selected highlights from the Onehunga Community News

A glance through the doorway of Lil'e Roma will confirm there have been no half measures in the design and build of this wood-fired pizza restaurant.

Gleaming at centre stage Chef Parvis Jahanrakshan's Italian eatery at 359 Onehunga Mall is a pizza oven like no other.

Adorned with exquisite marble tiling the oven will, as Parvis has it, provide customers with that authentic, slightly smoky flavour that all wood-fired pizzas boast.

A last minute flurry of activity has put further nails in the coffin containing the Friends of Monte's aspirations to keep the school on its current site.

Have you heard of Hemeobotanicals? This innovative new therapy combines the potency of homeopathy with reliability of herbs to bring about a gentle, effective form of healthcare suitable for the whole family. Hemeobotanical Therapy uses physical and emotional symptoms and vibrations within the body to achieve results.

The first big event on Onehunga's Christmas calender is the inaugural Santa Parade organised by the Onehunga Business Association. This splendid traditional harbinger of Christmas will feature local community groups, schools and businesses marching, singing, riding in floats, playing music, dressing up - all entertaining the crowds.

Why me? Why is it hard to get to work on time? Why is it hard to get to sleep at night? Why do I never get around to doing something I promised? Why does one room always feel cold in the house? Why is the bank account still empty?

Energy is the core of all things. Stuck energy can be in a place or in a situation, or in and around you too, and it really can prevent you from moving forward, leaving you feeling like you are trying to run through quicksand. Some people even fear they have a curse on the family as they feel like a run of bad luck is affecting everyone. When you feel stuck, lost, or disconnected Energy Healing is often all that's needed. Just one session can be extremely helpful. We shift and refresh your energy using Energy Healing.

Arms and the suit

Like some other special forces around the world, the SAS has aligned itself with top-performing New Zealand organisations to share leadership skills with high-calibre and high-performing New Zealanders who strive for excellence.
It has come to this. I don't mean the misuse of public funds, the possible disclosure of official secrets or allowing management to fire guns. It is the striving for excellence which bothers me. Who would have thought that we would hear this sort of management-bilge spoken by our Defence chaps in connexion with our elite special forces? Aligned itself, top-performing, high-calibre, high-performing striving for excellence; it's like an MBA in Utter Tosh.

It is bad enough that our SAS should be entertaining Darren from Sales, who had an uncle who was in Vietnam, and Keith from Accounts, who would have joined up himself if it were not for his dodgy knee. But to talk about the troopers aligning themselves with top-performing orgainisations is not going to help morale one bit. They join the Special Air Services to do special things, not to be part of New Zealand Limited, to take flabby middle-managers on team-building exercises. What must it have been like?
Direct Capital invests in companies including Rodd & Gunn, Bayleys Real Estate, New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, King Salmon, Triton Hearing Clinics and Go Bus, but the company wouldn't say which businesses sent staff.
The worst part must have been the cocktails. One of the office wallahs would have said something about wanting a slow comfortable screw, and everyone would have to pretend he was funny. Then they would have wheeled in Corporal Apiata, who normally would not be allowed in the Officers' Mess. Poor bloke: one single act of heroism and he is condemned to a life of public relations.
A Defence spokesman said the "interaction" was just a discussion around "enhancement of leadership, culture and team dynamics... the SAS culture, ethos and values".
No the worst part is the after-match pretence, the lying about leadership, culture and team dynamics. And the worst part of the worst part is that this sort of flannel is entirely plausible. All these suits will have read selected parts of The Art of War and maybe even a little Clausewitz before bedtime. They believe themselves to be mighty warriors in the war for increased turnover.

But then, it is all about Leadership, isn't it? Just as an officer can lead his men into a firefight with the طالبان , so can a manager lead his team into a change scenario. There is very little difference. The principles of management are invariable across the broad range of organisational structures, in both horizontal and vertical alignment. To take one paradigmatic exemplar, at Rodd and Gunn they are literally battling to retain their share of the smart-casual male apparel sector. It's war out there, in a very real sense.

So, for a mere $500 each as a contribution to the Widows and Orphans fund, the managers get to learn about the culture, ethos and values of the SAS. And when the boring bit is over, they get to fire some guns.

They don't teach you that at Harvard Business School

Sunday, November 07, 2010

This sporting life

He is an amazing father and a supportive husband. If you are a friend of Andrew's you are a friend forever. He loves getting out with our son, loves the outdoors. He has always been keen on camping and tramping.
Don't forget the shooting. He was so keen on shooting harmless animals that he went out one night and killed a harmless human being. And don't forget that shooting from a public road at night on DOC land is dangerous and illegal.

No let's forget it. Let's lie back and let the Meng-Yee effect take the strain. For this is the work of the reporter who brought us such classics as Plans reveal layout of Mark Hotchin's mansion, Woman targets All Black with private tweets, Pain of P for Keisha and Night club clash may end top model's career. So, back to the loving wife:
We love spending time with our son, we love taking the dog for a walk, we love seeing family at the beach.
Yes, but what about the dead woman, the one who was out enjoying the outdoors when she was killed by hubby? No, it's not about her.
You know from the day I met Andrew I knew he was going to be an amazing father. Just how loving he is. We have seen each other through so much. And he has really supported me. I have been through some tough times. I recently went through post-natal depression but something like this puts your problems into perspective you know.
Yes, perspective: post-natal depression or death - which would you choose? But enough of that; we have more wallowing to do:
Andrew will live with what he has done forever. I could never ever picture Andrew as the 'bad guy'. To see him in this light where he is copping a lot from people who want to put their two cents in and don't know the facts or Andrew...
The facts: shooter shoots camper dead, while shooting illegally - at night, from public road, on DOC land.

And there's more:
What has been on my mind is that Rose will never have the opportunity to get married and have children.
Well, no; the number of opportunities for dead people is zero, but at least the killer's wife can speak of the victim as if she knew her.

And finally:
We are not seeking pity.
Yes you are. You are not going to get any, but that is what you want, that and a lenient sentence.

Of course, it helps that a newspaper will do anything for an exclusive. But you have to wonder what is the Herald on Sunday's policy on death. For the very same issue includes Widower tells of 'hatred' for driver, a story which tells us nothing of the driver's feelings, nor of those of his loved ones. Perhaps the Herald has a wheel of fortune in its Tragedy Office, which the Editor spins to find out what angle will be taken on the story. Or perhaps they just wait for the PR flacks to call, promising exclusive interviews. Who knows?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thank you for the music

Several women interviewed for the book claim they had sex with the King. Indeed, after one big dinner ­celebrating a successful elk hunt, he is said to have enjoyed sex with two women at the same time.
I am grateful to the excellent Mr Stratford for sharing this story. I am also grateful to the Daily Mail for its pretence of naïveté in matters sexual. I am further grateful to Sweden for being consistently funny in such matters.

I am grateful to Tess for the unrelated video which follows.

It is a pity about the elks.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Acceptable in the Eighties

In response to the overwhelming clamour from two gentle readers, herewith is my paper on art deco, my Napier papier. I presented it yesterday at the Department of Art History's inaugural Art History Postgraduate Conference and it was well-received. I shall probably never eat lunch in Napier again, at least not without food-taster, but that is the price of scholarship. Someone at the conference asked me what I was doing with my thesis, to which I replied: "making enemies."

At last happy, normal buildings:
the invention of Art Deco and
the reinvention of Napier

The title of this paper is in part a paraphrase of the title of Richard Killeen’s 1978 work At last a happy, normal painting. Killeen’s title appears to satirise the angst-ridden nature of New Zealand painting, while the painting appears to offer an alternative; I have borrowed it in order to suggest that the enthusiasm for Art Deco in Napier might be motivated by more than an interest in historic buildings, that what goes on in Napier might be a very peculiar yearning for normality.

Napier is the Art Deco city. We know this to be true because we are so told by the City Council, by tourism promoters and by the Napier Art Deco Trust. We are also so told by architectural historians, although they speak with less certainty than the others. However, the uncertainty of the architectural historians is more than compensated by the enthusiasm of overseas experts, such as Sir Neil Cossons, the former Chair of English Heritage, who has stated “Napier represents the most complete and significant group of Art Deco era buildings in the world and is comparable to Bath, England as an example of a planned townscape in a cohesive style.”

But what exactly is Art Deco? I only ask because the Napier Art Deco Trust asks the very same question, and helpfully provides an answer:
The style we now call Art Deco originated in Europe in the early years of the 20th Century, and its heyday was from 1920 to 1940. It became widely known following the great Exposition des Arts Modernes Decoratifs et Industriels, held in Paris in 1925 and from which its name was ultimately derived. By the late 1930s it was in its streamlined phase and after World War 2, the International Style, devoid of all decoration, held sway. Not until the late 1960s did people begin to rediscover it and take it seriously.

The Trust continues in its explanation with a list. Art Deco enthusiasts seem to like lists. They like to categorise, to identify characteristics. This list identifies the “decorative themes” which the Trust says can be found in Art Deco. These include:

* Sunbursts and fountains - representing the dawn of a new modern age.
* The Skyscraper shape - symbolic of the 20th century.
* Symbols of speed, power and flight - the exiting new developments in transport and communications.
* Geometric shapes - representing the machine and technology which it was thought would solve all our problems.
* The new woman - revelling in her recently won social freedoms.
* Breaking the rules - cacophonous jazz, short skirts and hair, shocking dances.
* Ancient cultures - for oddly enough, there was a fascination with the civilizations of Egypt and central America.
We are then told that all these themes are represented on the buildings of Napier. This last claim perhaps goes a little too far. The New Woman has yet to be found in Napier. Nor are cacophonous jazz and shocking dances represented on the walls of Napier’s buildings. There is a fountain but whether it represents the dawn of a new age is questionable. In the absence of the new woman and other themes, can we be sure that these buildings truly are Art Deco?

We might consult the Art Deco Design Guide, prepared in 1992 by Ann Galloway for the City Council, a book which
provides building owners and prospective developers with a ready reference to the key principles of Art Deco design in general and Napier's Art Deco in particular. It can be used as a source of ideas for redevelopment - so existing buildings can recapture their original style - and for new developments so that new buildings respect the scale and style of their 1930's neighbours.
This book we might regard as the authority on the subject, given that it was published by the city council and has a forward by His Worship the Mayor. However, its definition of Art Deco is not very helpful:
"Art Deco" is now used to describe a wide range of design, from the vivid "jazz" designs of the 1920s to the streamlined architecture of the late 1930s
The term "Art Deco" when applied to architecture refers particularly to the decorative elements of buildings, as well as to their age, shape etc.
It does not explain why the various buildings in Napier described as Art Deco are so unalike. and why they appear to have little in common with other buildings at home and overseas which also are described as Art Deco.

Perhaps then we should seek an academic authority to clarify this matter. The catalogue of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s 2003 exhibition, Art Deco 1910-1939, would seem to be a good place to look. After all, it runs to forty chapters by numerous authors over four hundred and sixty-four pages. If anywhere could provide a definition, surely this must be the place.

However, the exhibition curators reveal in their introduction:
Given that contemporaries themselves associated 'the new spirit in design' with the fleeting, the frivolous and the nakedly commercial, it is perhaps not surprising that some later commentators have doubted whether Art Deco was a style at all.
They go on to quote Rosanna Bossaglia, whose book L’Art Deco was published in 1984:
The critical re-evaluation of which Art Deco today is the object, cannot deny that it consists more of a taste than a style, and this is also responsible for the slippery way it resists theoretical categorisation.
Dottoressa Bossaglia is also quoted in the chapter on Art Deco architecture:
The first question to ask about Art Deco architecture is whether it is legitimate to apply to buildings a definition and concept clearly born in a different context and with a different purpose... specifically that of the decorative arts
The question “what exactly is Art Deco” seems to be impossible to answer, since it does not appear to be exactly anything.

This is a very rum state of affairs. We have a city in New Zealand which declares itself to be an Art Deco City, perhaps the most Art Deco city of them all; and we have a large exhibition mounted by no less than the Victoria and Albert Museum called Art Deco. And yet doubt remains about whether Art Deco exists, one of the doubters being the author of a book called L’Art Deco.

Would that this were the only problem concerning Art Deco Napier. For it seems that Napier has not only this problem of aesthetics, but another of ontology. Although Napier’s questionably Art Deco buildings were built following the earthquake of 1931, it seems that Napier did not become an Art Deco city at that time. The questionably Art Deco buildings seem to have been ignored, possibly forgotten, until recently.

Whilst recent publications about Napier emphasise the Art Deco buildings above anything else the city has to offer, older books say nothing of them. Take, for example, Hawkes Bay in Colour, a picture book published in 1975. Most of the photographs are agricultural in subject matter and only a handful show Napier. None of these show the Art Deco buildings. In 1975, a performing dolphin and a painting contest were considered more worthy of mention.

Take, as another example, Impressions of Napier, a book of drawings by Patricia Dick, a local artist, a book which had the support of the city’s Mayor, Peter Tait, who wrote its forward. She depicts modern buildings, such as the Civic Centre and Victorian buildings, such as the church of St Andrews of the Spit, which recently had been demolished. But of those buildings that were constructed after the earthquake, she draws only one, the Rothmans building.

In case one might think that this forgetfulness is purely a local phenomenon, there is the example of James Siers’ New Zealand, published in 1980, which dispenses with Napier in one small photograph.

The Art Deco buildings fare scarcely better in the official history of history of Napier's first century as a municipality, published in 1975 - Story of Napier, 1874-1974 : footprints along the shore. Here, some buildings are mentioned but not illustrated. Significantly, they are not once called Art Deco. So far as I can tell, the name Art Deco is not used anywhere to describe Napier’s post-quake buildings for the first fifty years of their existence.

So, you might be wondering, when did Napier become an Art Deco city? 1982, that’s when. It was in that year that the Ministry of Works and Development published The Art Deco Architecture of Napier. Its principal author, Heather Ives, was an architecture student who had been commissioned to write the book by the District Architect, who had been impressed that a visiting group of officials from UNESCO had been themselves impressed by the local architecture. As always, it took the intervention of people from Overseas to change the way that New Zealanders see themselves.

The Art Deco Architecture of Napier itself depends heavily on an Overseas influence: Bevis Hillier’s 1968 book Art Deco of the 20s and 30s. Hillier was the Arts Sales correspondent of The Times, the man who covered the London auctions for his paper.

He could not be accused of being a dry academic: he describes the Twenties as "a period of tubular steel, Eton crops, cacti and sexual frankness". And he can be credited effectively with inventing Art Deco. It was he who made the name popular and created the rather vague notion of an art style that is attached to it.

Hillier’s book draws together a diverse, some might say motley, range of objects and gives them a single history. He gives the impression that these objects were made with a single purpose, as if their makers were part of a movement, with a manifesto, as the Futurists had been, or of a school, like the Bauhaus. The truth is otherwise: these objects are the products of individual craftsmen and women. They have no theory. They have no common purpose.

For the future history of Napier, two aspects of Hillier’s work are important. First, he includes buildings among his melange of Art Deco things. Second, his definition of Art Deco is so indistinct that almost anything produced between the two World Wars can be included in this category. That the buildings he illustrates look scarcely like any in the streets of Napier mattered little to Heather Ives or the civic enthusiasts for Art Deco. They can be Art Deco, just as anything else of the period which is neither trenchantly conservative nor daringly futurist can be.

The Art Deco Architecture of Napier brought a new self-awareness to Napier, as well as a new forgetfulness. All of a sudden, the post-quake buildings became the centre of attention, while those that had been cherished were forgotten. The worthy municipal Modernism of the Civic Centre and the War Memorial Hall was abandoned and Art Deco, whatever it was, became the official style of Napier. In the following three years the Napier Art Deco Trust was formed, Peter Wells and Stewart Main made their documentary, The Newest City on the Globe and Art Deco tourism began.

The earliest instance of Art Deco tourism promotion seems to be an article published in the December 1983 edition of Skyway, the Air New Zealand domestic in-flight magazine. It’s author was Peter Shaw, an architectural historian who subsequently would write the official guide to Art Deco Napier. In-flight, Shaw writes of Napier:
Publicity usually concentrates on its maritime aspects: the Marine Parade with its Aquarium, its salt water swimming pool and, of course, the coyly smiling statue of "Pania of the Reef." Now the city is promoting a new attraction - its distinctive architecture.
Warming to his theme, Shaw continues:
Napier, in its appearance brings back memories of the inter-war years of the "bright young things" - those people who were dedicated to forgetting the horrors of World War I and enjoying what remained of their postponed youth.

The current fashion for revivalism, or "nostalgia" has brought the visual styles of the Thirties back with a vengeance. Napier allows the visitor to appreciate the Thirties in their most positive and enjoyable aspect and the city fathers could even contemplate a new promotional slogan - "Napier - Art Deco Capital of New Zealand."
The rest, as they say, is history. Shaw had a central part in that history. His guide - Art Deco Napier: Styles of the Thirties - was published in five editions between 1987 and 2002. His carefully worded subtitle - Styles of the Thirties - indicates what his book makes clear: that the post-quake architecture of Napier is in several styles and that to call it all Art Deco is an historical and architectural inaccuracy. In particular, he draws attention to the Spanish Mission buildings. Spanish Mission was a Californian offshoot of the American branch of the Arts and Crafts movement, a style associated more with sandal-wearing vegetarians than with bright young things. The Spanish Mission style dates from the early 1890s in America and made its first appearance in New Zealand in 1914 at Auckland Grammar School. By 1931 it was scarcely bright and young.

Shaw also observes that Louis Hay, the most original and influential of the Napier architects, was himself influenced by the turn of the century work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. That observation has done little to alter the civic enthusiasts’ unshakeable faith in Art Deco, other than to persuade the Napier Art Deco Trust to categorise Hay’s Work as either Chicago School or Prairie Style.

Incidentally, the Napier Art Deco Trust is based in the old Fire Station, designed by Hay: so it inhabits a building which, on its own admission, is not Art Deco.

Shaw’s caution and discernment have had little effect. His comment about Bright Young Things and his suggestion for a civic slogan have had far more influence. Napier is now officially an Art Deco City. Its civic life is dominated by the Art Deco Summer Festival, when middle-aged men and women dress up as Bright Young Things and when the Harsh Thirties Reality of unemployment is recalled by the Depression Dinner - a Saturday night soup kitchen.

It is pointless trying to argue that the Eton Crop and the flapper dress were out-of-date by 1931. It is hardly more productive arguing that there is no such thing as Art Deco architecture and that, even if there were, Napier does not have it. Napier is in the thrall of enthusiam and of tourism.

However, in the past twenty-five years, moments of disclosure have occurred, when the curtain is pulled back. These are some of them.

1) The 1992 Art Deco Napier Design Guide by Ann Galloway seems like a good idea. It begins with a introduction by His Worship the Mayor of Napier, who writes of “Protection of the Art Deco heritage by controls within the District Scheme” and of the forthcoming establishment of a “Heritage District” and within this a “Conservation Area, to be known as the Art Deco Quarter”. His Worship concludes:
The outcome of the various initiatives is a City unique in self-awareness and pride in its special heritage, where residents and visitors alike can experience not only a sense of the past by the excitement of the present and a vision of the future.
Ann Galloway’s guide appears at first to be written in this spirit of Protection. She writes, for example:
Depending on its age, your building may have Art Deco elements which could be restored or used as inspiration for remodelling. These could be easy to see but possibly will be hidden by later "modernisations.”
All well and good; but then Galloway goes on to say
Perhaps your building was built in the 1930s but has no distinguishing architectural features. In this case you may be able to give it some Art Deco character by borrowing a motif or group of motifs from a building which has since been demolished or using them as suggested by the following guidelines.
It dawns on the reader that Art Deco Napier is not a matter of preservation but of presentation. The owners of buildings are encouraged, by an official publication, to reveal every Art Deco feature in their possession; if they have none, they are advised to create some. In short, if you’ve got it, flaunt it; if you ain’t got it, fake it.

It gets worse. Discussing the original colours of the buildings in the Thirties, Galloway says
Paint colours were typically pale; buff,cream, white with accents of green, brown, maroon and even mauve. To liven up the downtown area, departures from this well-mannered but uninteresting palette are recommended.
So, it is revealed that the colours of Napier’s Art Deco Quarter buildings are false. Rather than being faithfully restored to their former status, the buildings of the Deco Ghetto have been painted in cheerful sherbet colours.

Even the green dome of the T&G building is not what it seems. Peter Shaw explains that the “copper dome was originally stained green and its present colour scheme attempts to reproduce that effect.” So the dome is not green because of verdigris - the copper chloride that results from exposing copper to air and seawater - but because of a coat of paint.

2) Typefaces:

The Signage section of the Design Guide includes a “selection of suggested lettering styles:”

A brief history of these typefaces is instructive. Avant Garde was designed as a logo for a new magazine of the same name in the mid-60s. Baby Teeth was created by Milton Glaser in 1968 and first used for a Bob Dylan poster. Broadway is authentic: Morris Fuller Benton designed it in the late 1920s; so is Koloss, designed by Jakob Erbar and released in 1930. Roco was designed by Collis Clements and released by Letraset in 1973. Sinaloa was created by the Swiss designer Rosemarie Tissi in 1974.. So, four of the six recommended typefaces were unknown in the 1930s.

3) If this is not enough, take a look at this building,

which Galloway tells us “has been given a deco-inspired facelift, using a combination of glass bricks, new windows and decorative plaster in ziggurat shapes, emphasised by two tones of one colour and a darker, contrasting colour.”

Since this building appears to be a nightclub, we might pause to reflect that Art Deco was the house style of Saturday Night Fever. We might also compare and contrast it with the historic buildings of Napier and conclude that it has almost nothing in common with them. We might then consider that it has a lot more in common with a work such as Michael Graves’s Plaza dressing table with stool, designed for the Italian design firm Memphis in 1981.

Having listened so far, you may have satisfied yourself that Napier is not an Art Deco City after all. You would be wrong. For Art Deco is not a style of art from the Twenties or Thirties; Art Deco is a sensibility about those decades, one held by the generation that came after them. Bevis Hillier begins his book with the observation that “to us blitz-babies of 1940, the twenties and thirties were represented by our parents as a golden age... Giulia Veronesi, who published her book on the period in the same year as Hillier’s, makes a similar observation. Art Deco is a child of the Sixties. It is a retro sensibility.

Elizabeth Guffey, in her book Retro : The Culture of Revival, describes retro thus:
Representing neither a formal nor an academic attempt to preserve memory, retro embodies a communal memory of the recent past. To preserve it, a new kind of 'freelance' historian has developed outside the mainstream of artistic and historical thought.
Their memorialization of the recent past emerges not through traditional historical research but through the identification and acquisition of objects from the recent past, as well as the replication of its images and styles.

Guffey also quotes Jean Baudrillard, who termed Retro the "the death pangs of the real and of the rational"

Art Deco grew up in the Seventies and became a style in the Eighties. Art Deco was the style of expensive, exclusive and faintly absurd objects, such as Yves-Saint Laurent’s Kouros, "the fragrance of the living gods." It is the style of acquisition, and of a decade which made the acquisition of Style one of its core values.

It is quite fitting that Napier should have become an Art Deco city in the Eighties. This was the decade when New Zealanders rejected the social democracy of their parents and its Modernist architecture in favour of privatisation and Gloss. This was the decade when the real and the rational were replaced by the apparent and the subjective. That Napier is not really authentic is of no matter: fake is the new real.

What mattered is that architecture embodied Values. In Napier, Values were and remain those of an imagined past, stripped of its unpleasant realities and repainted in the colours of confectionery. These may serve the tourist industry well, but they also served the citizenry. At last, happiness and normality could be achieved, by pretending that today is the yesterday that should have been.

Video here