Thursday, December 29, 2011

This office life

A funny time of year, this post-Christmas season; funny in so many ways, not all of them ha-ha funny. For a start, it is very difficult to get a pie. Most bakeries close on Christmas Eve, and do not open again until mid-January - the beaches of the Coromandel must be heaving with bakers, basking in the sun. The committed pie enthusiast must scour the city in search of sustenance, learning to accept continual disappointment as once-welcoming bakeries are found to be locked and barred. The only hope is Hollywood -  the oddly-named chain with branches everywhere  that keep right on throughout the dry season. Hollywood also serves the best vegetarian pie in town, possibly the only vegetarian pie in town. In this pie desert, greengrocers thrive, providing healthy foodstuffs at affordable prices. The nutritionists must be delighted - for once it is more difficult to poison yourself than to eat something good.

Oh well, at least you are not in an office.  This instructional video shows you that office life is dreadful. It also shows that Sleater-Kinney were superb, but you knew that already. Please do not try to make hang-gliders from window envelopes: the technology is as yet unproven.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

You really lost me

Gentle readers, after years of searching, I believe I may have found the Eldorado, or possibly the Pinto, of music television: the worst television recording ever made of a band playing a song. It comes, not surprisingly, from Germany, a country where people are very keen on both the Rock and the Roll but, because of cultural and economic circumstances, have never quite managed to be hip.

This televisual experience comes from the television programme "Beat Club," which in Germany was having great success in the Sixties. This recording was made in 1972; perhaps not coincidentally Beat Club was [ahem] canned in the same year. It features England's finest, the Kinks. For some reason they are playing a song they made eight years earlier and for some other reason they are mostly wearing red - against a blue background. It is all quite startling.

 Consider how this clip progresses. One camera operator seems quite fixated upon Dave Davies, perhaps because of that regrettable beard. While his brother Ray sings, the camera remains firmly upon Dave. Then, Ray suddenly appears, perhaps from another studio: the brothers' difficulties are well-known. Ray's appearance is brief, just filling in before the cross back to Dave and the bass player, John Dalton. But then, just as Dave's solo comes up, attention is directed to the hands of the keyboard player, John Gosling, and remains there for the duration of Dave's solo. Next we see Drummer Mick Avory - who either did not get the memo about wearing red or chose the wrong wash cycle; then a brief glimpse of Ray (nice bowtie) and more of the over-dressed Gosling, or is it John Peel? We see Ray again, almost out of camera and still with no indication that he is with the rest of the band. Then it is back to Dave.

 Still, it was nice that they went to all the trouble of wrapping the microphones in red plastic.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hitch, by Cock

I can’t count the times, down the years, that after some new outrage friends would call me and ask, “What happened to Christopher Hitchens?” – the inquiry premised on some supposed change in Hitchens, often presumed to have started in the period he tried to put his close friend Blumenthal behind bars for imputed perjury. My answer was that Christopher had been pretty much the same package since the beginning — always allowing for the ravages of entropy as the years passed.
There is nothing like a death in the family to bring out the nastiest in people, and so it is with the passing of Christopher Hitchens. Whilst others mourn, Alexander Cockburn seethes. Hitchens was a traitor, the man who changed his mind, the man who broke the circle. He also was a much better writer than Cockburn, which probably lies behind the resentment of the survivor. "As a writer his prose was limited in range," mutters Cockburn. Perhaps he is dimly aware that Hitchens would never write a sentence so deadened as that one, a sentence reminiscent of school reports or annotated bibliographies, typed and spiral-bound. Note also the clumsy and sub-claused sentences with which Cockburn began his  dirge. By contrast, here is how Hitchens began his last essay:
When it came to it, and old Kingsley suffered from a demoralizing and disorienting fall, he did take to his bed and eventually turned his face to the wall. It wasn’t all reclining and waiting for hospital room service after that—“Kill me, you fucking fool!” he once alarmingly exclaimed to his son Philip—but essentially he waited passively for the end. It duly came, without much fuss and with no charge.
Spot the difference. Yes, you see it: Hitchens wrote; Cockburn lectures.

 Here is an instructional video:


A life on the ocean wave

The oil prints featured in this exhibition were made with birds killed by the Rena oil spill. They are just two of an estimated 20,000 birds killed after the shipwrecked Rena spilled 350 tonnes of oil into the Bay of Plenty. The images are a stark reminder of the devastation an oil spill can cause.
No they are not. These Rorschach penguins are a stark reminder that Greenpeace is creepy and weird. People in that organization took dead birds and made prints with them, the way you made prints with half a potato in primary school. Greenpeace posts a video to show how it was done. Making a print with a penguin and the oil that killed it is very peculiar indeed, and oddly reminiscent of the bizarre blood cult that is Roman Catholicism, with its relics and vials of blood and images of its demigod impressed on handkerchiefs and shrouds; as I said earlier, it is (a) creepy and (b) weird.

 Scroll towards the bottom of the page. It deepens like a coastal shelf. At the end is a special offer:
Win A Ghost Bird Print! The prints made for the Oil On Canvas exhibition are all original prints made with the body of a little blue penguin and the oil that killed it 
following the Rena shipwreck in the Bay of Plenty. The prints are not numbered because each is an original. No more will be made. 
Some will be Contributed to galleries and some will be auctioned but we’re giving one away right here...
Each print is an original, you see. It is a monoprint. Most artists make monoprints with a woodblock or with lino. Greenpeace use penguins.

Like everything other thing Greenpeace does, this was a group activity. As the photographs show, many people were involved and they all had a special uniform. Whenever Greenpeace does anything, there is always dressing-up to do. They wear special clothes, fit for the purpose and identical with each other; just like the... no, let's not go there.

These people made art with with their penguins. Art is a collective activity - there is no artist, only the art - which serves the purposes of Greenpeace. Everything Greenpeace does serves its sole purpose, which is to promote itself.

There are many environmental organisations which go about their work of protecting the environment. Greenpeace is much better known than these organisations because it is not one of them. It is a media corporation. It produces media events, situations if you like, about the environment. These encourage people to support Greenpeace, so that it can promote itself further. It spends a lot of the money it raises on ships and inflatables, so it can make more situations.

Of course, to criticise Greenpeace is to invite complaint from the glassy-eyed trustafarians who make up its volunteer membership. These are the people who wear the uniforms on the ships and inflatables, the people who press the penguins on to the paper. These are the people who will pounce on you on the street, brandishing clipboards and photographs of dead animals. These people are very committed. There are other chuggers in Greenpeace who are paid commission, but they have lesser status because the are thought to be less committed. If they do not make targets for their chugging, they are sacked. The volunteers, the gilded youth of Greenpeace, go everywhere their masters demand and do everything asked of them, whether it be manning an inflatable or pressing a penguin.

Anyway, Merry Christmas and here is a Canadian woman with a ukulele and a dead bird:

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Managing above our weight on a world stage

My Waikato Management School degree is on the world stage. While studying they had the triple crown accreditation - achieved by only the top 2% of the worlds institutions, since they have improved to the top 1% - bundled in with Cambridge and Oxford - infact the only ones in a thousand years who were invited into the Cambridge debating chamber. If people think that the real debate occurs in the the debating chanbers of various parliaments they are wrong. What do you think has occurred for that thousands years in the Cambridge debating chamber - and are yo more interested in the results on GE crops from this chamber or the debating chamber of the a bunch of newbies in parliament?
Quite. Deborah Hill Cone writes a considered piece about the commercialisation and degradation of our universities, so JD leaps in to correct her, with news of the hitherto-unknown Cambridge debating chamber, almost as old as the Althing  and closed to all outsiders but the Waikato Management School. Cambridge celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2009. Do the maths. Correct the grammar.

Barely literate, under-informed and over-opinionated, JD is a shining example of the modern managerial class. Armed with a degree in Doing Things, trained but not educated, JD doubtless will go far - probably in a BMW. Whether JD will make any sense is another matter.

Here is a long piece full of difficult words by Keith Thomas in the London Review of Books, a magazine read by bookish people:
We are all deeply anxious about the future of British universities. Our list of concerns is a long one. It includes the discontinuance of free university education; the withdrawal of direct public funding for the teaching of the humanities and the social sciences; the subjection of universities to an intrusive regime of government regulation and inquisitorial audit; the crude attempt to measure and increase scholarly ‘output’; the requirement that all academic research have an ‘impact’ on the economy; the transformation of self-governing communities of scholars into mega-businesses, staffed by a highly-paid executive class, who oversee the professors, or middle managers, who in turn rule over an ill-paid and often temporary or part-time proletariat of junior lecturers and research assistants, coping with an ever-worsening staff-student ratio; the notion that universities, rather than collaborating in their common task, should compete with each other, and with private providers, to sell their services in a market, where students are seen, not as partners in a joint enterprise of learning and understanding, but as ‘consumers’, seeking the cheapest deals which will enable them to emerge with the highest earning prospects; the indiscriminate application of the label ‘university’ to institutions whose primary task is to provide vocational training and whose staff do not carry out research; and the rejection of the idea that higher education might have a non-monetary value, or that science, scholarship and intellectual inquiry are important for reasons unconnected with economic growth.
Now read on.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When we were young

Every day is a holiday

The morning after National's resounding victory she sent a strong message to Auckland mayor Len Brown, saying there would be a CBD rail link before a second harbour crossing "over our dead bodies". And the former broadcaster also affirmed her support for the Puhoi-Wellsford motorway extension. She attacked those who have labelled it the "holiday highway. "I refuse to use the `H' word. It will be an umbilical cord for the far north and its economy. "It is an arrogance for the critics to take money already set aside for this purpose and use it for something else.
Maggie Barry, the gift that keeps on giving; if she keeps up the pace she has set in her first week as MP for the Shore, we can expect a monumental sculpture of the Member on Takapuna beach before the next election. The sculpture will be designed by Weta Workshop, of course.

Barry might make the next three years bearable for us liberals. She will be our umbilical cord. She could be our healthy obsession, the Briscoes Lady of Parliament. Or would that be an arrogance?

In other news, the secret of Pere Ubu is that they are, in fact, a pop group. Other avant-garde bands try to be all weird and stuff, but Pere Ubu just make really good songs, really good but slightly odd songs. Other avant-garde bands could learn from this, but they won't. Here, Pere Ubu are introduced by David Sanborn on Night Music, 15th October 1989.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This office life

I saw a McDonalds advertisement on the television. It was for some sort of chocolate drink and it went like this: a young woman who clearly worked in some sort of administrative role bought a container of this drink and then waited for a lift, presumably to take her to the office where she worked. However, when the lift doors opened, a tsunami of brown liquid spilled out and upon her. She clearly found this experience to be immensely satsifying.

I don't know about you chaps and chapesses, but it was nightmares of this kind that persuaded me to abandon office-work for good.

Here's a film by Ken Russell about Shelagh Delaney and Salford. The moment when she answers the voiceover is marvellous.

Maggie's farm

Maybe the answer is a candibot, what you might call a robot candidate from the future. Labour could deploy the candibot to represent the party in electorates where it wants Labour supporters to vote for another candidate, such as Epsom. The candibot would do all the work of a real candidate - campaigning, speaking, performing stunts and so on - but would expire on the night before election day. Its final words would be "Party Vote Labour." The next morning, voting papers would need to be amended and the supporters would be forced to vote for another candidate. The Greens could do likewise, although their candibot would be made of hemp.

We would at least be saved the mutterings of party activists who are now complaining that their supporters voted for their candidates. All those Labour votes in Epsom, we are told, could have gone to Goldsmith and kept ACT out of Parliament. All those Greens on Waiheke Island should have voted for  Jacinda Ardern and thus dethroned Nikki K. So, Labour, riddle me this: why did you put up candidates in those electorates? If you didn't want Labour voters to vote for Labour candidates, why did you provide one?

No, don't tell me, I know this one: because you wanted more party votes, that's why. You know that people won't give their party votes to Labour if the Party has no presence in the electorate, so you put up a dummy candidate and then hint (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more squire) that the faithful should betray him. This time, you exceeded all known standards of idiocy by giving the dummy job to David Parker, the man who might be King, the potential future leader, the man many of you want to be Prime Minister next time. And then you tell the supporters in Epsom to vote for someone else, a Tory. And when that doesn't work, you call the party faithful stupid.

The candibot would lighten the progressive load, providing expendable candidates to bring in party votes, before becoming unserviceable and thus unelectable. Of course, this plan would only work if there is nothing in the Electoral Act which says that candidates must be human beings. Surely [obvious joke ahead] there can be no such clause, given the state of some of the candidates elected [it's all in the timing].

Take, for example, Maggie Barry. She was the obvious choice to represent the National Party on the North Shore. since she is famous and most people there have gardens. Since Mr Key's purpose in becoming Prime Minister seems to have been to know as many famous people as he can, Barry, who presented a gardening programme on the telly, was a shoe-in. The Shore being the Shore, there was no chance that she would not win the seat. Nevertheless, despite these advantages Barry managed to get in some self-pity and whining about people being mean to her. Nek minuit, she is sneering at former North Shore mayor Andrew Williams, for some reason or other.  Why do they all have this thing about Williams?

 Just for the record, although the Herald's headline for this article at 5pm was:
He 'only got 828 votes' - Maggie Barry takes swipe at ex-mayor
However, all day it had been
Garden supremo-cum-MP takes sly dig at Williams with lemon tree jibe
which surely must be one of the clumsiest headlines in the history of subbing. "Garden supremo-cum-MP" sounds like an unlikely porn movie, while "lemon tree jibe" sounds like a misheard Suzy Quattro song. And what was so sly about the dig? It was a bad joke and a sour one. But such bitterness [boom boom - bitterness, lemons, geddit?] in the bloom of victory is what we can expect from this lot. Entitlement heaped upon arrogance on a bed of stupidity makes for an astringent meal, one we shall be served often in the next three years.

 Eventually, we can only hop e, the electorate will tire of these ghastlies and realise what horrible people they chose as their elected leaders.  On the other hand, even more of the electorate might drift off into ennui and vapidity, preferring indifference to engagement - an option adopted by nearly thirty percent of the electors this time round.

The reduction, over the last three years, of political debate into a series of media opportunities for the Prime Minister can only continue, given Mr Key's attention deficit disorder and the inability of the media even to question his actions. That, and the culture of stupidity which dominates our age - one in which men are proud to be slightly thick and women to be terribly ditzy - can only produce less interest and thus less participation.

After all, doing something like voting requires an ability to take life seriously for at least some of the time, as well as the knack of thinking ahead, of considering actions and their consequences. Seen much of that lately? No, nor me.

Still, at least we have the girl in the photograph, the true unsung heroine of this election.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Fundy Post election night special

What a strange day it has been on Internet; the one day in three years in which one cannot talk about the most important thing that happening on that day, the thing for which we have been waiting and about which we have been talking for a month; you know, that thing. No, not Paul Henry's shirt, the election thing.

Still, Paul Henry's shirt will be worth watching. On TV3, after the screening of King Key vs Goffzilla, viewers were amazed, astonished and astounded to see that the panel of expert commentators included Mr Henry, a man whom most of the politically-aware class had considered to be a bit of a dork; quite a lot of a dork, in fact. Besides, we all thought he was going to Ausfuckenstralia, a move which seemed like taking coals to Newcastle (ooh, look there's a Coles in Newcastle).

Anyway, there they were, the commentators: Therese Arseneau in shocking green, Duncan Garner in all-over grey and Paul Henry in a pin-stripe suit and a purple shirt. Sadly, he had left his gold medallion in his dressing room but he managed to enliven the debate by flashing his Rolex constantly. He looked like a spiv. This is one more occasion we can add to our growing collection of things that we wonder why John Campbell puts up with. The estimable Mr Campbell of course was dressed impeccably.

 In other news, TVNZ reporter Charlotte Bellis beat up a real estate agent, for charity. That must have felt good.

Here's Haunted Love:


Friday, November 25, 2011

The premier is the message

  • 1) Is this the real life?
  • 2) Is this just fantasy?
  • 3) Caught in a landslide.
  • 4) No escape from reality
Tomorrow, you decide. People of New Zealand, tomorrow you have the unique opportunity to go to the polling station to choose between fantasy and reality. Use your vote wisely.

 All the polls indicate that fantasy will win this one. Is it any wonder? After all, that nice Mr Key has been campaigning for this election ever since the day after the last one. Remember back then? Remember when the Sunday Star Times asked Who is John Key? Andy did you hear about this one?
I can't remember whether Andy Krieger was buying or selling, it might have been selling with me, but at the time it would have reflected the economic fundamentals at play in New Zealand.
Ah yes, we remember it well: one of the first episodes of Mr Key’s memory problem. Was Andy selling with John, against the interests of our economy? Who knows? Mr Key cannot remember and in any case he didn’t really see it as a judgemental business. He was simply executing orders for people. Where have we heard that before? It is difficult to remember.

Phil Goff remembered that Mr Key had said, before the election, that he would not raise GST but then he raised GST. Gordon Campbell remembered, the TV3 archive remembered but the journalists forgot. Instead they reported that Mr Goff was standing by his allegation and they reported that Mr Key said he respected the office of the Leader of the Opposition.

The journalists did not report that Mr Key had said he would not raise GST, that he said “if we do a half decent job growing the economy then that won't be happening," but the Government didn't do a half-decent job and it did happen. Perhaps the journalists had forgotten.

 Much more important for the journalists was that Mr Key said to Mr Goff, “show me the money.” The journalists liked that. It was funny. They like it when Mr Key has a good time. They don't like it when Mr Goff is all grouchy and difficult. When Mr Goff came up with a list, all Mr Key had to do was say it was rubbish and the list was forgotten.

 It's like that time when Dame Kiri said that Haley Westenra couldn't sing; or that time when David Sell said that Haley is bland. It might be true (it is) but you just don't say that sort of thing. You see, this isn't about remembering or singing.

This is about being. Mr Key is there; you can see him, on every poster, on the bus, on the telly. He is everywhere. It is not about the National Party; it is nowhere. Mr Brownlee, Mr McCully and the Doctors Smith are nowhere to be found. The election is about Mr Key, just as the last government was about Mr Key (except when something went wrong).

It's not about politics. On the website of  the New Zealand Herald, politics is about a third of the way down. Politics doesn't really matter any more. There are more important stories, about crime and tragedy and Nickleback. And there are photographs of Mr Key: five of them in the first six pages of the print edition of today's Herald (which is covering the election). There were two photos of Mr Goff and one each of some other people who do not really matter. Mr Key makes a good photograph. Some might say he is one.

Mr Key is the perfect premier for our times. He is everywhere and nothing. He does not do politics or government. They are details. They are real. He doesn't do things like that. He just is. He is the photograph on the bus, he is the footage of the man on the bus. He smiles, he waves, he gets angry with the journalists when they don't ask the questions he wants to be asked. He is the Prime Minister because he wanted to be the Prime Minister. He is the Prime Minister because the media like him being Prime Minister.

After all, he is one of their own. He is media.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some call him Maurice

My apologies, gentle readers for not having posted much in recent weeks. I will try to be better. My only excuse is that I have been writing my latest detective novel, Merleau-Ponty of the Yard, in which the phenomenological detective, visiting foggy London Town on an exchange trip - solves the murder that has baffled the top men at the Met, while sharing his Gallic wisdom with the boys in blue:
“Bodily experience forces us to acknowledge an imposition of meaning, which is not the work of a universal-constituting consciousness, a meaning which clings to certain contents. My body is the meaningful core which behaves like a general function, and which, nevertheless, exists and is susceptible to disease.”
Gripping stuff, I am sure you will agree. In other news, there is no other news. Here's theaudience back in 1998 with young Sophie Ellis-Bextor pretending to be gritty and authentic:
I was unimportant when I travelled South They said "your home town's sunk And when you're drunk You've got a filthy mouth"
Sophie, sweetheart, your home town is Ealing; your mother presented Blue Peter and once appeared in Doctor Who. Still, nice shoes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Don't bore us, get to the discourse

On Thursday morning while having a chat with Kelvin Soh at Alleluya, the fire alarm goes off and we're all ushered outside. Kelvin mentions that he has always wanted to be involved in a fire evacuation. Earlier on, when I first meet up with Kelvin he is holding a triangular postage box. I find this box incredibly nice to look at. We have a conversation about the box, about how I've never see such a box in Australia. Later on that day I send an email to Kelvin:
Now read on. Apropos my previous post, Mr Charlie Sofo has published the text of his exhibit at Artspace, a text that includes a chat with  Kelvin who never has been involved in a fire evacuation - a remarkably sheltered life.

 Mr Sofo likes chats. As you will see from the comments on my previous post, Mr Sofo wanted to have a chat with me, with the hope that it might correct the bad information. I declined. I do not like chats, not of that sort.  It would have been the sort of chat you might have with your headmaster, rather than the sort you might have with Kelvin. What happens in this sort of chat is that someone like Mr Sofo tells someone like me that he is wrong, that he has the bad information. I would resist such a line of chat because in this particular case there is no information, only opinion.

A lot of contemporary artists and curators seem to have difficulty with the idea of opinion, perhaps because their work is never criticised. Contemporary art journals no longer contain criticism of the kind that says this is good, that is bad and that is throwing a pot of paint in the public's face (a comment which cost Ruskin a farthing). What you get instead is  interpretation, in which a critic will tell you what it is all about, at least by the critic's lights. In other words, you get artwank.

The domination of artwank (or, as it is known among the artwankers, critical discourse) has brought us to this pretty pass:

This, gentle readers, is the world's most expensive photograph. Yes, I know. Four point three million dollars US, that's what it cost; and it is not even unique: it is one of an edition of six. You might think it  the sort of photograph your mum would take. But nobody is asking you. Nobody is asking me either but, for the record, I think it is not that bad but not that good and certainly not worth that kind of coin.

So what's it all about then? Christie's says it is "a dramatic and profound reflection on human existence and our relationship to nature on the cusp of the 21st century." But they would say that, wouldn't they? They might also say it is a nice little earner.  And, by the way,  it has been shooped:
Gursky digitally erased buildings on the far side of the river from his picture. This manipulation enhances the image visually, giving it more formal coherence. Rather than the sense of a specific place, the picture conveys an almost Platonic ideal of a body of water traversing as landscape. Gursky talks about this image in terms of its contemporaneity, saying, ‘I wasn’t interested in an unusual, possibly picturesque view of the Rhine, but in the most contemporary possible view of it. Paradoxically, this view of the Rhine cannot be obtained in situ; a fictitious construction was required to provide an accurate image of a modern river’
Bet your mum couldn't do that. Or say that - the art of art is talking the talk. Gursky is good at that. Behind him is a legion of artwankers who will promote him in similar or more abstruse terms.  But there is nobody who says this sort of work is not very interesting, not that good,  not worth the money. And that absence distorts art, it allows the artwankers to do what they want without any reference to the rest of us. It leads to aimless exhibits like Mr Sofo's and to obscenely expensive photos like Herr Gursky's.

 What we need are a few more Ruskins (a few Whistlers wouldn't go amiss, either). We need to hear a little less of that guff about art being challenging to the viewer (anybody who has been to an opening will know that the professionals are not challenged by art, especially when they have had a few glasses of Merlot) and a bit more challenge to the artist. We need a whole lot of discourse going on.

Meanwhile Hennessy Youngman explains Relational Aesthetics:

Saturday, November 12, 2011


People say I spend too much time reading architectural theory, so much time that I find images like the above funny. If you too find this funny, there are more of the same to be found here.

In other news, this was what Punk was like:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A short post about the absurdity of architecture

It’s been said before, but Architecture is a narrative of interesting buildings, the ones we remember and debate, the ones we build stories around, the ones we dissect and recycle. Architecture is not a discipline, it’s a book club. It’s a book club where the illustrations are usually more important than the texts. Architecture is a sequestered jury. It’s a cultural bracket under intense pressure trying to produce diamonds out of dirt. And if it could have any autonomy it wouldn’t be formal or technical, it would be social; but it’s all temporary, I suppose. I know we’ll both forget this, but in the meantime, it’s comforting that we oddballs have each other for a little while to discuss and project possibilities, to try to convince each other (and the others) to see the world as it could be.
This is quite absurd and very true. It is from an essay by Michael Meredith of MOS; you can find it in Log 22, which he edited, or you can download it here.

Look Blue Go Purple:

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The cakes of wrath

But frugality is called for. So when the bank says you're stretched, and you own a house, an apartment and a bach, what to do? You don't want to sell because the apartment and bach are rented and bring in a moderate income. But you need more money to do them up, so the rentals could be higher. So you do what National's intending. You hold on to a majority shareholding of the properties. Then you tell your family they can buy shares in the remaining 49 per cent of the house, bach and apartment. With their investment money, you improve the properties, increase the rentals and the dividends go skywards.
Does this happen? Is this the sort of family financial transaction that goes on among the Coddingtons and their friends? I know, I know, you are going to say "oh Alice, come back, it's just an analogy," but I think it is reasonable to measure people by the quality of their metaphors. Most of us do not own three prop erties and most of us do not make deals with members of  our family.

But then most of us are not like La Coddington. We do not buy these family analogies because we bought them once before, in the eighties. We were told that managing an economy is just like managing a household budget. We were told that Margaret Thatcher was a household superstar, that she and her followers throughout the world would put everything back in balance. Thirty years on, we are in recession again and we are looking forward to twenty more lost years, to add to those already lost. For many people, all of those last thirty years were lost; for others, the going has been good but the next thirty years are dreaded.

Of course, none of the above applies to people of money. They can live in a silly fantasy world of ruched curtains framing trompe l'oeil landscapes, where the righteous are rewarded with riches while poverty is the wages of indolence. The people of money may well sell shares in their properties to their children, but that is because their hearts have been hardened by a thousand deals, because they are incapable of seeing life beyond profit and loss, because even their children are rivals. Despite the best efforts of the neo-liberals to turn us all into little businesses, most of us have not lost our humanity.

In any case, La Coddington's ridiculous analogy falls apart as it takes flight: "With their investment money, you improve the properties, increase the rentals and the dividends go skywards." Does she really think that this investment money will be used to improve our state-owned enterprises? No, it will be used to provide further financial incentives to people like her;  because the wealthy need constant incentives to become even wealthier while the poor need constant beatings, not to encourage them to become less poor but to satisfy the blood-lust of the rich.

Meanwhile, in another part of the woods, the Bridgester recalls an adventure:
Suddenly I realised my oversized Burberry handbag could have been interpreted as a symbol of rampant materialism but no one seemed bothered - not the friendly young woman collecting litter, the two men chatting quietly about how to change the system or the guy slumbering in the shade of a marquee.
Pausing only to ponder whether an oversized Burberry handbag could be interpreted as a symbol of a rampant chavette, we can at least award Bridgeman a merit badge for effort. At least she tried, she made the long journey from Rem to Town, she tried to find out what was going on.

And what is going on? More to the point, what's eating Ghastly Glucina? Here's the start of the piece what she wrote last week in her new role as a political pundit:
Jacinda Ardern may be nicknamed "The Teef" due to her giant gnashers, and her Labour colleague David Shearer of Mt Albert may despise his counterpart in New Lynn, David Cunliffe, but it's nothing on the Act scale of conflict zones. In Epsom, John Banks is fighting for survival. His hoardings have gone up with his name plastered across them, but the Act logo is barely visible. His leader, Don Brash, has spent the past week gallivanting in London
It goes on, and on; it doesn't get any sweeter. All well and ugly, you might conclude, but then you see the start of this week's dispatch from the bottom line:
Spare a thought for Jacinda Ardern. Her boss Phil Goff is so desperate to get her into bed, so to speak, he's prepared to splurge $1.2 billion. He says Labour would fork out that much for the Auckland rail loop. But this is just a clever way of getting around the funding rules and pumping money into the Battle of the Babes in Auckland Central. Meanwhile, there was a flurry of speculation this week about the whereabouts of Don Brash's mojo - just returned from a gallivanting trip abroad, it then went berserk in front of a TV camera.
Already we can see some issues with the appointment of Glucina as a pundit.  For a start, she is at best semi-literate, not a disqualification for gossip creatu res but normally considered something of a drawback in political journalism, at least on any other paper but the Herald. Then there is the unique quality of her punditry. Alone among the pundits, she opines that the proposed Auckland rail loop is nought but a cunning ruse to get round the funding rules. Alone among the pundits, Glucina detects a flurry of speculation about Don Brash.

The question many media commentators will be asking is one posed in different circumstances by Aretha Franklin: who's zooming who? What motivates Glucina's schoolgirlish attempts to slime all over Ardern and Brash? Did she suffer some slight from either or both from which she has never quite recovered? Or has someone with more than half a brain (but not much more) put her up to this?  I think we should be told.

Oh, one more thing: As an added bonus, one can see Glucina in Metro this month, in the special Rich White Celebrity Trash section. Call me a ferret if you like but she does not look like her Herald byline photograph any more.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Let's curate again (like we did last summer)

Sudden gestures or noises brings together the work of three artists in an investigation of the 'gestural' possibilities of contemporary art.

New Zealand-born, LA-based video artist Sean Grattan's Carmen San Diego: Out Of Work And On The Run (2011) subverts filmic conventions and the notion of goal-based behaviour, creating an essentially gestural production that is activated by its imperfection. Questions of success and failure, and of subjectivity and objectivity, lie at the heart of the work, which engages with its viewers' expectations whilst simultaneously resisting them.

UK artist Ed Atkins' Death Mask III, too, toys with the semiotic structure of cinema. Seemingly disparate audiovisual elements are enmeshed in a way that is both familiar yet highly unstable. Sudden shifts in tone and subject deny the possibility of a narrative interpretation; Atkins ensures that the gestural movements of the film remain the focus.

In addition to these works, Australian artist Charlie Sofo will produce a new body of work that responds both to the physical space of the Artspace gallery and to the strategic possibilities of the gestural in terms of the production of art.
Bollocks. What Australian artist Australian artist Charlie Sofo did was come here, talk artwank with art people, buy some stuff and pin it to the walls. He took some photos as well. He recalls his adventures in Auckland on two sheets of A4 which lie on a table in the room at Artspace where his works are displayed. These works include a triangular box from the post office downstairs, some shiny material and a ladder. This last is tied to the wall in what is probably an ironic statement on curatorial praxis; either that or some way to fill up the space. This ladder was bought for the artist so he could paint the wall beside it, in a rather ugly colour somewhere between Puce and Prosthetic Limb. In other news, Mr Sofo was treated to coffee by his hosts.

So, in short and not employing any artwank, what we got was what he did on his holidays. I hope he kept the receipts. He could probably make another body of work out of them and get some more funding.

Not surprisingly, Mr Sofo has a blog:
I am asking people to come to my Masters studio at the vca for CHATS. With me. That's it. There is an empty space waiting there, and I think you can help me fill it.

I'm going to send some emails around now, but if you don't recieve one and would like to have a lunch time chat please get in contact: charliesofo at gmail . com
I think not. I think I would find it a very boring experience. I think I would have to use artwank words like liminal and intertextuality just to keep myself amused and awake. When I went to the opening  I found myself looking at the clerestory windows of Artspace, which are lovely, just to avoid looking at the art, which was not. I left after two drinks. I was bored.

Of late, I have often found myself in a state of boredom when visiting Artspace. A couple of weeks ago, I attended this:

Jennifer Teets will be presenting "The alter self of Lady Lux", a lecture and reading on scripted choreography in the work of General Idea.

Jennifer Teets (Houston, Texas, 1978) is a curator interested in conceptual potlatch, future renaissance, and hybrid systems. She currently lives and works in Paris.
I suffered for my art. I found myself sitting on the floor of Artspace choosing between death and cake. If I stayed and listened further to Jennifer Teets I risked slipping into a coma; if I left, I could buy cake. I chose cake.

It was a wise decision. By this stage in proceedings, I could feel my hair growing. Ms Teets' lecture and reading was neither; it was more of a wreck and a rambling. Ms Teets did that thing that first year Art History students do: neglect preparation. Then she did that other thing they do, which is to think they can improvise. They can't. A J P Taylor could talk without notes for an hour and grip his audience throughout; Ms Teets had this member of the audience looking for an excuse to leave, such as a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. Unfortunately, the audience was too small to leave without being noticed leaving. Moreover,  it contained people I like, respect and fancy. In the Church of England, this is know as the Evensong Dilemma; in the art world it is known as the Performative Paradox; I am making up these terms as I go along but I am doing a better job than Ms Teets, believe me.

She seemed nice, she had beautiful blue eyes, but she had not done any work. She talked about W B Yeats and was not sure whether his name was pronounced Yates or Yeets. She talked about situationism and architecture, not for one moment betraying any knowledge of either. She had a page of notes that she should have left on the plane. She said she found things about the work of General Idea "interesting," just like the first-years do. "Interesting" means "I have no idea about what I am talking and please save me from this cold and lonely place into which I have stumbled," a cry for help that never is answered.

It wasn't really her fault. No, probably it was, but I am trying to be nice. The trouble with talking about the work of General Idea is that there really is not much to talk about. They were Canadian. They made videos. They questioned the values of the art world while trying their hardest to make as much money as possible from it. They were really Eighties. Two of them died of AIDS.

All the while Ms Teets was stumbling, a loud video made by General Idea was turning. Nobody thought to turn it down and give Teets a chance. To someone who spoke artwank that might seem an ironical gesture on the boundaries of performative injunction and ludic aphrasia. I found it annoying. In truth, I had only come for the conceptual potlatch; I hoped it might be cake. It was not.

How did it come to this? How is it that Artspace displays work that is neither provocative nor challenging but instead is rather dull? How does it lure a curator all the way from Paris to conceptual murder on the gallery floor? Perhaps it is something to do with the Director:
Caterina Riva (b. 1980, Varese, Italy) is a curator who has been based in London since 2006. She studied in Italy and the UK where she received her MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Over the past three years at FormContent, her artistic programme has focused on exploring curatorial and artistic strategies, combining exhibition making, independent publishing and the production of events and performances, to critical acclaim.
You see what she did there? She got an MFA in Curating. Her artistic programme has focused on exploring curatorial and artistic strategies. In the past, curators had jobs or careers; in the now, they are artists. And look how she has travelled: the curators are everywhere and nowhere (baby).

And there's the rub. Yer international curatorial practice favours artists like Charlie Sofo. He is just an MFA student but clearly he is walking the walk and (more importantly) talking the talk. There is at least a score of MFAs and PhDs doing far more interesting work than Charlie and far more original (in the sense of not having been done forty years ago) work to boot. What's more, most of them live on K Road. But visiting curators are expected to bring artists from overseas and they are expected to find stuff which is "challenging." They don't. They find stuff which fits the same old paradigm of international curatorial practice.  This is why our contemporary art spaces are like airport lounges: everything is sort of the same, wherever you go. It is never quite the same, but neither is it very different. It features videos and concepts and performances, all stuff which was done by the end of the '60s. The people who come to see this stuff are the MFAs and PhDs who live on K Road. Nobody else cares.

 Still, she will be gone at the end of the year, on to another gallery in some other country. She will be replaced by someone else, who will do much the same. And so it goes, and so it goes.

In other news, do you remember that time when the Style Council invaded the Soviet Union and tried to convince the mulleted workers that class war  is real and that there is something wrong with wanting a colour TV? Patronising gits:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Free all the monsters

Trouble started this year when theatre attendance took a triple hammering because of the Christchurch earthquake, the global financial crisis, and the Rugby World Cup, Ms Beaton said.

Four production staff were axed and the theatre programme was cancelled from the beginning of this month.

The only show now listed at Downstage is a three-day run of a dance work called Carnival Hound in November.

But the theatre was also being used for other activities such as rehearsals, workshops and dance classes, Ms Beaton said. "We need the [council] funding because we don't have audiences. Audiences are our major generator of income at the moment."
No, obviously they are not. If you do not have any audiences because you cancelled the programme, then audiences are not likely to be your major generator of income. I do not know what is going down at Downstage, but it does not seem to include thinking. Which is a pity, because not only does Downstage have a notable history but the Hannah Playhouse in which it serves is one of the best buildings in New Zealand.

But what really bothers me about this story is the scene where Ms Beaton says it is disrespectful to describe the funding request as a bailout. Of course it is a bailout. Contrary to Ms Beaton's financial analysis, Downstage's problems are not the result of the crash, the quake and the rugby. They have been going on for years, as this post from the estimable Grant Robertson's blog - dated 4th November, 2008 - indicates. At this time in the Theatre's history, a little less bluster and a little more humility on the the part of the CEO might be appropriate. Perhaps not having a CEO might be a good idea. Perhaps theatres and other arts organisations should be put back into the hands of the people who make art rather than being controlled by pretend executives. Just a thought.

Oh dear, this post is beginning to sound like an editorial. Here's The Bats, with a new song from their new album, a song which has the same name as the album:

Read about it here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Death and the Mehrtens

Diners in the Eden Park Pavilion were stunned when the man collapsed.

They were unsure about the man's condition and continued eating as St John staff arrived to help. The dinner was accompanied by a speech from former All Black Andrew Mehrtens.

Those in the Egmont Room at the pavilion included millionaire entrepreneur Seeby Woodhouse.

His business manager Karen Morfett said those enjoying the hospitality focused on their meals and Mehrten's delivery on stage in an attempt to preserve the dignity of the man being helped.
This has to be the creepiest story of the Cup. What better way to preserve the dignity of a dying man than by scoffing down dinner and listening to Mehrts? How many diners thought "I paid three thousand bucks for this; I am not missing it because some sod has corked it;" how many thought "will anyone notice if I take his main? What kind of people are these? Who pays $3000 for a meal and a speech? Who dines while someone dies? And what kind of newspaper runs the story with a request for diners to email its reporter?

In other news, my dinner included a packet of Copper Kettle BBQ Chips. They tasted like kettles. Really, they were horrible. Then in the morning I remembered this piece by the estimable Mr Judd. At least his tasted nice.

On a brighter note, there was that time when Can played disco on Top of the Pops:

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Theme from a summer Place

For longer than anyone can remember, Khartoum Place has been a sordid blot on Auckland's urban landscape. Its rebuild in 1993 did nothing to change that. Rather than make it an attractive transition between Lorne St and Albert Park, it achieved little more than putting colourful ribbons on a pig.
Welcome to Auckland, where a sordid blot looks like this. Yes, even our eyesores have running water.

I find myself at variance with the estimable Hamish Keith, a man who has done much to tell Auckland about itself and stop it from doing itself more harm. Still, this time he sees an eyesore, I see a fountain. But then he thinks the new and improved Auckland Art Gallery is brilliant while I think it looks like an office furniture showroom in a business park on the edge of Whangarei; à chacun son goût.

What is it with the Auckland art community and the Suffrage Memorial? "A recent poll, admittedly at the Auckland Art Fair, showed that 85% favoured a reconfiguration of the Place while only 15% wanted it left as it is." Yes, but this was the Auckland Art Fair, full of ghastlies who buy art for investment purposes, the sort of people who have a Terry Stringer in the gazebo. How many of these people would give a stuff about suffrage? How many of them would use Khartoum Place, or Mr Keith's Suffrage Square? And why is it that the great and the good seem so determined to take away this public space and replace it with a staircase?

You see, while Mr Keith paints a lurid picture of Khartoum Place which makes it seem like Bedford-Stuyvesant, it is in fact a nice place. People go there to eat lunch. It is one of the few places in central Auckland which provides shade in the summer, natural shade produced by trees. The waterfall is cooling. Occasionally, on high days and holidays, oicks add dish-washing liquid, but this is not the end of the world. Best of all, there are no cars there. While crossing Kitchener Street to get to the spiffing new Art Gallery is taking one's life in one's hands, in Khartoum Place one is safe. There should be more places in the city like this.

Besides, not many years ago a large amount of money was spent improving the Place, putting in new seats and so on. It didn't really need improving, but that was better than Plan A, which was to let Urban Designers ruin it, just like they always do. And there was Chris Saines, trying to get rid of the steps and the memorial because they spoilt the view to his Art Gallery. Fortunately, he and the art establishment did not win that time. But now they want to do it again. Of course, every stakeholder will be consulted, from the lowest civic nuisance to the wealthiest philanthropist, but nobody will talk to the people who use the Place, just like they never do. Anyone for Tilted Arc?

Besides again, why do we have to spend our money replacing things that don't need replacing? The steps do what they are supposed to do. There is nothing wrong with them. It is just that a bunch of powerful people want rid of them. Whilst such people simply adore street art produced by Elam graduates pretending to be oicks because it is so gritty and authentic, they cannot abide a work which is genuinely political and which seems to be very popular.

And look what they want put in its place: a fooking great staircase. So, instead of a simple set of steps and a fountain which work, they want something that could have been designed by Albert Speer. All it lacks is an equestrian statue of Chris Saines at the top, and maybe a few banners. Whilst the steps and fountain offer shade and water, the staircase will be accessible only to the fleet of foot (the people of money don't think about this, because they arrive by car, but infirm people appreciate having resting places on a staircase) and will bake its users in summer.

But then, the users don't matter. The purpose of the staircase is to add lustre to the Art Gallery. Of course, as you can see in the artist's impression, the staircase blocks access to the buildings facing the Place; but again their occupants do not matter. Nobody matters except the great and the good.

And what of Suffrage Square? Well, apart from being an ugly name which will challenge wearers of false teeth, what is the point? The Place is not a Square. We could condescend to women by getting a lady sculptress to make a statue symbolising the spirit of womanhood, just like they did in the Thirties, but we don't need another sculpture - Auckland has quite enough ugly realist sculptures. Besides, Mr Keith should know that public commemorative sculpture is not exactly the cutting edge of the avant garde these days. We would not get anything that would not make us cringe. In any case, while we are thinking of names, how about the Potemkin Staircase? The City could employ a woman with a pram in a performance piece to celebrate suffrage.

So how about we tell the great and the good to sod off and leave our public spaces alone? They got their Art Gallery. They have their atrium. The Gallery is quite bossy enough to keep the oicks away. So perhaps the great and the good could now ease off on the arrogance and leave alone something that belongs to the rest of Auckland.

Meanwhile, Mr Rudman also is on the side of the steps. Here is Haunted Love, who have an album, which is very good:

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Night of the living documents

This was unanimously voted on by all members of Occupy Wall Street last night, around 8pm, Sept 29. It is our first official document for release. We have three more underway, that will likely be released in the upcoming days: 1) A declaration of demands. 2) Principles of Solidarity 3) Documentation on how to form your own Direct Democracy Occupation Group. This is a living document. you can receive an official press copy of the latest version by emailing
It is over before it started. The Occupy Wall Street movement has turned out to be boring, bureaucratic and bourgeois, just like ever revolutionary group before it. It has manifesti: a declaration, some principles and a how-to-do-it guide. Soon, it will be like IKEA: branches everywhere, instruction leaflets, flat-pack activism.

Anyway, what do they want? They want revenge. Of course they do, we all do. Corporations are awful, Wall Street is dreadful, Madison Avenue is worse. But this list, which is not dissimilar to Luther's 95 theses, omits the greatest wrongs committed by corporations:
They have made shiny things that we really like.
They have made yummy things that we really, really like.
They have commodified sex, thus making it fun.
We could go on, adding to the list, dredging further grievances from the backs of our super-egos. Why don't we all go to your place and make muffins while we add to the list? Come on, it'll be fun:
They have made DVD boxed sets of all our favourite albums.
They have made yet another movie of Jane Eyre
They have filled our houses with junk.
They have made everything retro.
They have made documentaries about Late Capitalism.
They are Late Capitalism.
They have made Late Capitalism fun.
That's the problem with Wall Street. It keeps providing stuff that we never knew we really wanted until a branch opened near us. Future archaeologists will clamber over the remains of our civilisation (and what remains, Pip! Best middens ever) and wonder why we needed a Sunglasses Hut in every mall, why we went to such expensive lengths to make coffee just right, why we needed so many pictures framed. We could tell them now: we were buying souvenirs of our own lives. Or we could just not think about it; probably best.

Let us take a quick and lazy look at the people involved. Yes, you thought the same as did I: LATFH. These are the very same people who created a micro-economy where bikes without brakes or gears are worth more than bikes which work properly, the people who made deep shallow so they could sell it to each other, the people who spent a fortune on tattoos which already look silly. No wonder they are angry. And look at this firkin LATFH. It has a book already. Who would buy a book of a blog? Who would prefer to pay for a commodity that will be out of date before it arrives to getting something for nothing? Us, that's who. We're like that.

Painting: The White Slave by Jean Lecomte du Nouy; look, she's smoking! Next up, Andy Warhol makes a music video, with hilarious results:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Buttock-toning for pleasure and profit

The Federal Trade Commission said yesterday that Reebok, a unit of the German group Adidas, agreed to pay US$25 million (NZ$32.2m) in customer refunds to purchasers of its EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes.

The funds will be made available for consumer refunds either directly from the FTC or through a court-approved class action lawsuit.

Reebok falsely claimed that walking in EasyTone footwear had been proven to lead to 28 per cent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles, and 11 per cent more strength and tone in the hamstring muscles and calf muscles than regular walking shoes, the FTC's complaint says.
Gosh. They lied. How good of the NZ Herald to tell us so. But then, right next to this story is a link to this one from June last year:
They may look like a throwback from the 80s, but new toning sneakers can do much more than put the spring back into your step.

Two versions of the specially designed shoes have just gone on sale in New Zealand, with the makers promising they will improve muscle tone in the thighs, calves and buttocks.

Reebok's EasyTone and Shape-ups by Skechers, can also straighten posture, and help weight-loss.
Well, no. What happened was this: the Herald received some PR flannel from the usual sources and printed it, complete with minor-celebrity endorsement:
Gillespie, a breakfast DJ for ZM, said she noticed the difference as soon as she first started walking in EasyTones.

She said: "It would be like you've been to the gym and had a hammering on your hammies and glutes.

"The next day I felt like I had a huge long workout."
With the release of the FTC's findings, purchasers of these shoes might feel like they have had something huge and long. Herald correspondent Anna Rushworth - "I felt good bouncing along Queen St after work in my bright, white Reebok EasyTones" - might be wishing she had spent more time talking to Bruce Baxter, president of Podiatry New Zealand. The Herald might be wishing it sent its journalists out to do real stories, in sensible shoes; but then, probably not.

With thanks to André for noticing the contradiction.
Painting by Paul Paede.
Meanwhile, Richard Ashcroft feels really crepe barging along a street:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cat scratch fever

A man who crashed his trail bike, striking his groin on the handlebars, is lucky he wasn't injured somewhere more private.
Where? Home, the little boys' room, the corporate box? Why this coyness, why this story? Why the headline, Groin smash horror, when no such horror took place?
"He lost control at a low speed and the handlebar went into his groin area. It was actually just off to the side of the groin area, the upper thigh area - it wasn't quite in the private parts," he told APNZ.
Meanwhile, the Herald on Sunday pursues the stories that matter with investigative reporting:
When the Herald on Sunday asked Dixon for comment, he offered an opportunity to say one word. The reporter said: "Jonathan..." then he cut in and said, "Chloe Johnson, that was your word". And hung up.
Meanwhile in 1978, Ted Nugent risks trouser groin horror:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm on a wharf

No, I am not. I was on a wharf but I did not stay. I went to Captain Cook Wharf, the Official Overflow Wharf for the Official Fanzone Wharf, which is not to be called Party Central, no sir. It works like this: when everybody wants to get on to Queen's Wharf because everything is happening there but cannot because the wharf is not big enough for everybody, the authorities open Captain Cook Wharf. This solves crowd problems immediately.

No, you're right; it doesn't. What happens is this: everybody wants to get on to Queen's Wharf, so the authorities open Captain Cook Wharf. Everybody still wants to get on to Queen's Wharf, so they stand in a huge queue. Meanwhile, a few people go to Captain Cook Wharf. In the interests of actualité, tonight I was one of them.

I can report to you that Captain Cook Wharf is a very big wharf. In its present configuration as an overflow partyzone it contains four sorts of thing. These are a big screen, some piecarts, many portaloos and an infinite number of barriers. And that is it. There is nowhere to sit, nowhere to buy the Official Piss of Rugby World Cup 2011, nowhere to run baby, nowhere to hide.

You arrive. You pass through corridors of barriers. Your bags are checked by people in flouro to ensure you are not carrying any unauthorised item such as a gun or a Steinlager. A woman hands you a leaflet. It is too dark to read the leaflet. You buy cholesterol products from the pie carts and you stand in front of the big screen. If you are feeling adventurous you sit on the concrete. It is dark, apart from the security lights, which give a gulag archipelago tone to the evening. It is cold.

After a short while, you realise that all sense of purpose to your life is ebbing away. Besides, you no longer have any sensation in your genitals. You turn to leave. You pass the pie-carts. You reach the entrance. A man in flouro says that the way to the exit is back where you came from and round in a loop. You can see that this journey will take you to a point beside you and the man in flouro, a point you could reach in less than ten seconds by walking forward. But you have lost all will to resist. You go back. You go round; in a loop.

Back on the street, you find more portaloos. Thousands of these things are standing in lines all over the Queen's Wharf Demarcation Zone, or whatever it is called. It is like Checkpoint Charlie for the incontinent. Barriers, security people, women with leaftlets, portaloos: that is all there is to be seen. And yet nobody uses the portaloos. From my own experience, I can tell you that in my life I have never wanted to pee less. The feeling that one will be watched, prohibited or handed a leaflet removes any desire to do anything. The comforting realisation that one is still alive is balanced perfectly by the dreadful sense that everything around is entirely devoid of life. This place is Limbo, with lavatories.

The people around you, the teeming hoards of people trying to get into the other wharf, make many noises, none of which sound like speech. They seem to be shouting in a language that is beyond words, an esperanto for the young, witless and pissed.

So you run, back to the safety and calm of Queen Street. You run past the worst covers band you have ever heard, one of the nouveaux pasticheurs, those musicians who do not bother to learn the tunes of Hotel California, Sweet Home Alabama and the other songs they slaughter but just play the same chords in differing tempi. You run past numerous gangs of marauding evangelicals, refusing their tracts and their prayers. You run past the somnolent masses of members of the glue-sniffing community. You run past fifty kebab shops and then you wake up and it was all a dream.

That last bit wasn't true. It is all horribly real. If it rains, it will be even worse.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shirtlifters of the world unite

“David and I were sunbathing on a very busy beach, when, out of the blue, two men, one middle-aged and the other much younger, approached us. One spoke perfect English, the other perfect French.

“They seemed nice and invited us out for a very generous lunch and poured us vodka. David and I had consumed quite a bit of alcohol and may have been a little intoxicated when they began hitting us with questions. It all seemed rather strange.”
Golly. Two young chaps, on a beach far away from School in an exotic foreign land are approached by friendly foreign gentlemen. Fortunately, young Cameron was not going to be taken in:
“They were clearly trying to sound out our political views. David’s weren’t particularly socialist at the time. They quickly grasped that he wasn’t a Lenin sympathiser or anything like that. We were not going to make disobliging remarks about Britain or our prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.”
No, that would be treachery and, as we all know about the Soviets, their trade is treachery. Fortunately, the young chaps were not Lenin sympathisers or, as we know them, Bolsheviks.

Young Cameron showed something of the mettle that has made him Britain's most decisive Prime Minister since Sir Alex Douglas-Home:
He said Cameron’s relaxed demeanour swiftly changed as he became suspicious about how the men could afford to pay for an extravagant lunch, when they claimed to work in a hotel.
Together, the two chums decided to be discreet and not to turn up for dinner
We decided it was probably best to be discreet and careful during our two-week wander around Russia, so we failed to turn up for dinner. David’s words were: 'Let’s definitely not go.’
Many years later, Griffith and Cameron - long-retired from public service - would often recall their adventures in the Caucasus over a glass of whiskey after dinner. On one such occasion, as the sun went down and the shadows crept across the lawn, they talked again of those two men whom they had met on that beach. As their laughter subsided, Griffith turned to Cameron and - looking him in they eye - said to his old friend, "you know, it's never occurred to me before but, come to think of it, maybe those Russian chaps just wanted a shag."

Shoplifters of the world shut up

"I have taken responsibility for my actions and am being accountable for the fact that what I did was wrong. I do regret everything that happened," she said.
That's nice. In this day and age it is a rare thing to hear someone accepting responsibility for her actions.
However, she said the justice system treated her unfairly.
No, no, there's no however.
"I did apply for name suppression to protect my son but the judge said 'no, because the public had a right to know'."

She said she gave a false name and address to the clinic because she did not want anyone to know she was having the treatment.

"I gave the correct phone number and I never ran out of the clinic. I was parked nearby and had left my wallet in the car. I went to get cash out and saw an ex.

"We have bad history and I thought he was going to stop and talk to me so I bolted. I didn't want to deal with him," she said.
No, stop now. Please. Ask yourself, what have you gained? Everybody now knows you did the crime and that you are rubbish at making excuses.
"I am too young to have Botox all the time but I had it once before.

"I did think I needed it because I have a strong frown line but it didn't change the way I look," she said
Stop , stop, stop. Not only are you dishonest and vain, you are also quite boring. Go away, please.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Strange things happen everyday

The fathers of two US Eagles rugby players were among the occupants of a van who had a lucky escape yesterday when their New Plymouth-bound vehicle veered into the path of oncoming traffic
This is a news story. In New Zealand news rooms, potential news stories are judged by a triage journalist who looks for vital signs of tragedy, celebrity and property. The ideal news story would be something like that of an All Black and his weathergirl wife being killed by a falling housing market. These things rarely happen, so newspapers have to look for carnage on the roads, much as do magpies. Usually they find some dead teens, at least by Sunday morning.

However, this is Rugby World Cup time, when normal rules do not apply. Thus the fathers of unnamed Americans can be substitute celebrities, simply by the inclusion of the word rugby. And, as can be seen in this instance, one does not need tragedy; the avoidance of such is enough.

Other strange things are happening every day. Readers may have noticed the recent adventures in social commentary enjoyed by Rachel Glucina, while today an equal but opposite event occurred when Fran O'Sullivan drivelled:
Watching the former Cold War warriors toughing it out in New Plymouth the other night was great sport on several levels.

Particularly, the arrival of Miss Russia, Natalia Gantimurova, on a private turboprop with billionaire Russian Standard Vodka founder Roustam Tariko.

Good also to see our Prime Minister cosying up to Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, making one of those special connections that will assist New Zealand as we move to cement a trade agreement with that country.
A simple but terrifying explanation is behind these two phenomena. In the New Zealand Herald's secret laboratories, scientists have managed to fuse these two columnists into one supercolumnist, a being so powerful that no event, whether important or trivial, will remain uncommented upon. This being is known by the name Fran O'Glucina. Where is your god now?

On Later with Jools Holland, as it turns out. Here, Mr Holland and Mr Tom Jones sing Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Note also the woman at 1:35 clapping enthusiastically but out of time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Were you there when they crucified Len Brown?

Everything you need to know about the political management of the Rugby World Cup in Auckland can be found in this Rudman and in this photograph. Murray McCully, the Cabinet's Kenneth Widmerpool, is quick to take the credit and quicker still to avoid the responsibility, just like his Prime Minister. When it was all going swimmingly, Murray was in charge. When the going got tough, Murray was gone as soon as he could point a pudgy finger of blame at Mayor Brown and shout "you're it!"

The Dear Administrator also made sure the buck would stop nowhere near him, not this close to an election:
Asked if Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully was wrong not to apologise he said no. "Party central worked perfectly".The Government had responsibility for The Cloud the police and the opening ceremony. Most got to the game but a small group did not. Key said he was more than happy to apologise, but responsibility was with the delivery agents in Auckland.
Party Central did indeed work perfectly, for the simple reason that most people who wanted to enter it were kept out. Those people, tens of thousands of them, blocked the entire waterfront. Since Auckland's waterfront is also its transport hub, Auckland found itself hosting a very large party on its train, bus and ferry stations.

So, party out of bounds, who's to blame, who's to blame? Perhaps the blame lies with the person who thought it would be a smashing idea to create Party Central on the waterfront. That person would be Mr Key. Or perhaps blame lies with his creature, Mr McCully, who had the job of managing the event. But no, they blame the Mayor.

Pausing only to reflect that these are quite contemptible people, we might then look at what was happening in the middle of the city while chaos reigned at the waterfront. Not a great deal, as it turned out: Aotea Square, the public space recently refurbished at great public expense, was largely unused. It contained a covers band of the not-terribly-good kind, a face-painting facility and two Land Rovers. These last occupied most of the Square, which had been fenced-off to provide a space in which they could drive round and round, showing off their extraordinary ability to go over ramps. This could be done by a 1983 Corolla but then Toyota is not a Global Partner of the Rugby World Cup. And that was it. The centre of our city, recently landscaped to within an inch of its life, looked like the remnants of a third-rate A&P show. And it does to this day: as I write, those bloody Land Rovers most likely are still going round and round.

Pausing only to reflect that this shows how public space can so easily be corporatised - this is our public square, not Land Rover's car park - we might consider what went wrong. Here's a working hypothesis. Mr Key had a vision. He knew what had to be done. Mr Key has a can-do attitude. Unfortunately, he can't.

Mr Key's vision was rubbish from the start. Queen's Wharf, his envisioned site for Party Central, is - as its name suggests - a wharf. As such, it has characteristically wharfine features. It has four sides, three of which are bordered by water and only one that is attached to land. This means, as I am sure you have realised, that is has only one entrance from the land. It is also much longer than it is wide. So this happens: people go on to the wharf from the landward end. Of course, they cannot leave it other than at that end; in any case, they may not want to leave, since the wharf has a pub, huge television screens and Dave Dobbyn. However, lots of other people also want to experience these attractions but they cannot do so, because the wharf is full. So, they go elsewhere, but there is nowhere else to go, because this is Auckland. They fill up the adjoining bus and train stations as well as the small parts of the waterfront available for public use, including the ferry terminal. They walk up Queen Street, filling the pavements and then the road. Soon, nothing is moving - except the Land Rovers.

Then, some hours later, everybody with a ticket wants to go to the game. Despite official encouragement to walk, they all pile on the train, which cannot take the strain.

In retrospect, it may occur to Mr Key that the best place for public events is a public space. Aotea Square could not have held everybody but at least it would have kept them away from the transport system. The Domain would have been a better idea still.

But Mr Key had a vision. The wharf would be Party Central, as well as a cruise-ship terminal, which would be built in record time. What's more, the local authorities would pay for it. The local authorities were understandably reluctant to do so. There was no time to build the cruise-ship terminal. Instead, we wound up with a tent and a shed. The shed was there already; the tent cost $9.8. Unfortunately, both were on the wharf.

Build it and they will come. That they did. And they had drunk quite a bit before they got their drinking together, shortly before they really got into it. Having no idea what to do with a large mass of understandably drunk people, the event organisers - Messrs Key and McCully - had made no provision for them. Some could get on the wharf but most would have to go somewhere else. That they did. Chaos ensued.

Of course, there is no retrospect about this, not for Messrs Key and McCully. They have shifted blame and moved on, just like they always do. We, the citizens of Auckland, are left with the chaos and the bill.