Thursday, March 31, 2011

Death of a psychedelic diplomat

In which the Herald pays tribute to Professor Sir Denis Mclean by showing a photograph taken during his time in Andy Warhol's Factory.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The thick end of the slippery slope

It’s not just Justice. Justice is the issue we want to be focused on. Because I see the role of law and order gives direction of where ultimately your country’s going to end up. So if you’ve got liberal law and order policies that don’t hold people accountable for their actions then in my opinion, you’ll end up with more of the dysfunction. So I see the role of law and order is to give direction of where you country wants to ultimately end up. We focus on the justice system. We see it as sort of the best measuring stick of how society’s performing, as the level of crime, in particular violent crime that you have, so if you’ve got a high violent crime rate, you’ve got dysfunction further down in society, dysfunctional families, that type of thing, and I meant to sort of give evidence of that, you do any research on any of the offenders that we’re dealing with, most of them come from dysfunctional homes, dysfunctional families. So our reason of focusing on the justice system was, if you can get changes at that level you can ultimately change the way society and our country goes. So it was never to me just about changing the justice system, it was about trying to get some boundaries and values and that type of thing back in to society.
In which Garth McVicar reveals his hidden agenda. It is not about justice. Did anybody think it was about justice? We thought it was about revenge. Still, we were wrong. It is about boundaries and values and that type of thing; otherwise, we get more of the dysfunction.

In other news, Suri, the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes co-production, features on the cover of Woman's Day, again. This time, the headline reads "Sad Suri's Confused World: X-Rated lollies, cupcakes for breakfast and dinner at 1am." As confused worlds go, this one sounds like fun. Clearly, Suri is going to be a hipster when she grows up

In other, other news, two textbooks used in Virginia turn out to be a load of tosh, containing many errors and revisionist myths about black soldiers serving in the Confederate army. Here are some of the errors:
George Washington did not preside over a Continental Congress in 1785, he presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

• Eleven states joined the Confederacy, not 12.

• There wasn't a Battle of Richmond in the Civil War.

• The number of casualties in the two battles at Bull Run was more like 30,000 - not 6,000.

• America joined World War I in 1917, not 1916.

And here are the Raincoats:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sensing Morons

During a show at the Regent Theatre in Palmerston North last month, British clairvoyant Lisa Williams gave the names of two men she claimed shot the dairy farmer.

Police said they were aware of the names and were checking them against their suspect list.

Williams claimed to be "channelling" Guy - speaking to him from beyond the grave - and was told his killers' first names were Mark and Joey.
Williams has names, I have pictures:

Here are Mark and Joey. They were the members of the British National Party who caused a fuss when they were interviewed for Newsbeat, the news programme on the BBC yoof channel. They claimed England footballer Ashley Cole was not really British - although it was obvious he must be British, since he had a wife called Cheryl. As it turned out, Mark and Joey were not just members but a couple of Obergruppenf├╝hrers. Thank you officer, I am glad to have helped you with your enquiries.

Of course, they may not be responsible, they may never have visited New Zealand and other Marks and Joeys should be eliminated from your enquiries. Perhaps you could ask Ms Williams to ask Guy to be a bit more specific; I sometimes wonder why the denizens of the spirit world are so vague about everything. Or perhaps you could charge her with wasting Police time. That would be fun.

Of course, the Police have only themselves to blame for this sort of nonsense. It was they who decided to interview the stars of Sensing Murder:
Sensing Murder producers say psychic Deb Webber had named a person involved in the Kaye Stewart inquiry. Her revelation "could go down in New Zealand policing history".

But Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy said police who interviewed Webber and fellow psychic Kelvin Cruickshank had already discounted that person, and other publicly unknown information revealed by the pair had failed to produce any fresh leads.
It didn't go down in New Zealand policing history, did it? It made the Police look silly and it gave the charlatans who made this idiotic programme another flag to wave. Why would the Police bother with these clowns? The psychics of Sensing Murder may have sensed many murders but they did not solve one. This is unsurprising: a psychic has never solved a murder. What's more, a half century of worldwide scientific reasearch into psychic phenomena has failed to produce any evidence that such phenomena exist. If the Police just told these people to plod off they would have more time for policing.

As a matter of fact, it is not just the police who are to blame. We can also blame Nigel Latta, which in itself is a fun past-time for all the family:
Keen to silence the sceptics once and for all, Sensing Murder: Insight opens the entire filming process up for scrutiny. Nigel Latta works actively with the New Zealand Police profiling criminals. He is an expert in detecting deception - if anyone can spot a cheat or a fraud, Latta can. He is invited to observe an entire psychic read and all the behind-the-scenes action, as Australian psychic Deb Webber tunes into a particularly difficult test case where it was not even certain that the victim was actually murdered. Latta started the day a complete sceptic… but after watching Webber at work, he was unable to offer a rational explanation for how she does what she does
That is because there is no rational explanation. What Deb does is not a matter of reason. And Nige is in no special position to test her claims: he is a psychologist and, more importantly, a television personality. An opthalmologist would be no better nor worse at explaining what Deb does. Of course, Nige might have been able to offer some insight on the delusional psychosis of which Deb must be suffering if she sincerely believes she has magic powers. But that wouldn't be part of his brief. His brief is to be a television expert, which means he gives authority to the claims made by the people who pay him money.

Incidentally, you might not have noticed, but those hotlinks in the Throng article lead not to useful links but to an advertisement for psychic services: tacky, tacky, tacky; and usually a sign, one that says the publisher is desperate for advertisers and will soon go out of business.

Anyway, back to Nige, the psychologist; the psychologist who uses words like 'mental' to describe teenagers. Confused? You won't be once you have read a few choice words by Chris on Bipolar Bear. You might also care to read the comments, which flooded in after the Herald picked up the story. I am particularly taken with this comment:
mate – it’s people like you who complain about this type of stuff that’s steering this place to where it’s headed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making up things

This would ideally suit a homeopathic/naturopathic student or someone with experience in the natural health industry.
Responsibilities include:

• Helping to manage the dispensary/clinic which includes cleaning, re stocking, making up products to sell and administration
• Customer service/Retail of products
• Answering the phone and taking bookings
Job opportunity: fill jars with water; sell to clients; be passionate about empowering others to move towards health and wholeness within their lives.

Robyn Hitchcock wearing a surprisingly restrained shirt:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ask a homosexual

People who criticise gay sexual relations for religious or moral reasons are increasingly being attacked and vilified for their views, a Vatican diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said the Roman Catholic Church deeply believed that human sexuality was a gift reserved for married heterosexual couples. But those who express these views are faced with "a disturbing trend," he said.

"People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex," he told the current session of the Human Rights Council.
Another day, another Cardinal whining about Catholic bashing. It is silly enough that the Vatican can pretend to be a real country and have diplomats, but when they start complaining they are oppressed it all becomes a bit tiresome.

Besides, isn't it true that the seminary is a breeding ground for homosexual activity? I don't know; let's ask a Catholic:
Some seminaries may be, both Protestant and Catholic. The Anglicans have accepted homosexual clergy, as have other mainline Protestant denominations. The colleges of the U.S. also try to give orientations to their students in which they promote homosexual activity, as does the [UN] United Nations and [PP] Planned Parenthood, as you can see from this week's story about a UN/PP presentation for Girl Scouts. In one report, a majority of homosexuals have admitted to a preference for younger males.

Attempts are being made by homosexual organizations in the US, and have been successful in other countries, to lower the age of consent to 12 or 14. Sexual abuse in the Church is primarily same-sex, but the problem of sexual abuse is not a Catholic one, it is a societal one.

It is popularly identified with the Church because it can be sued and because it is unified. Public school districts, for instance, have as many sex offenders transferred around, but they can leave one district and go to another, and no overarching authority can be held responsible.

Mary Ann
Well, I am glad we cleared up that matter. But - to quote the Desperate Bicycles - as one door closes, another shuts. Is not "Mary Ann" an early 20th century term for homosexual man? It says so in the Shorter Oxford.

Besides, I want to make sense of this rather peculiar passage by Michael Fowler in The New Zealand House (Auckland: Lansdowne Press, 1983)
The 1930s Spanish bungalow - cement plaster on netting over dry construction on timber framing - and 'hey presto' - the Costa Brava arrived on the Waitemata Harbour. It may well have been Queen Anne at the front but probably Mary-anne at the back, for the parapets usually disguised a single pitch roof shedding to the rear.
What does Mayor Fowler mean? Are single pitched roofs a queer thing? I do recall that, in the 1980s, the classified advertisements section of London's Time Out magazine contained many insertions by men seeking sexual connexion with other men who were roofers or who looked like them. Perhaps someone can explain.

In the meantime, here are The Homosexuals:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Design partnerships for pleasure and profit

In March 2010, Blee and his design partner, Lee Halligan, completed the final renovation transforming the last structure into a 215-square-foot cabin for two. After prefabricating the timber framing in sections scaled to fit into a Renault van, Blee and Halligan drove through the chunnel to construct the interiors on-site. With no access to electricity, plumbing, or other utilities, the duo turned to the land for materials and to the sky as a source of energy.

Design partners:

"Does it bother you, this partnership thing?"


"Well, sometimes when I am talking to a new client, I mention you as my partner and the client gives me a knowing sort of look?"

"What sort of knowing?"

"The look that says 'I know you are gay and I am alright with it,' that sort of look.'

"Oh that look. I used to get that, so I started referring to you as my design partner; it makes all the difference."

"How so?"

"Clients now give me a look that says they are apologetic for presuming we must be a gay couple because we are designers. We get a lot of business from that guilt."

"Still, I wouldn't want anybody to infer anything from these photos"

"Me neither; we had better sit apart"

"And look bored"

"Does this recliner make me look manly?"

BTW, you cannot drive a van through the chunnel: it is a rail tunnel. Here's more from the Fundy Post's favourite Wykehamist:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Philosophy now

Lindsay Perigo is back with a brand-new interview show

Thursday, 24 March 2011, 9:36 am
Press Release: SOLO Media Center

Lindsay Perigo is back with a brand-new interview show.

Surrounded by the excellent classical Greek philosophers in Raphael’s glorious recreation of the School of Athens, Lindsay is in the company of true greatness – a fitting backdrop to the in-depth conversations on philosophy, politics and culture that he will be having with a special guest every week.
Now read on...

Island life

This must be the strangest place on earth:
Pulau Pejantan is a remote island of Indonesia. Nick-named Sand Forest Island, Pulau Pejantan is a unique island with extremely unique geographical features and bio-diversity. Virtually undiscovered till June 2005, the island boosts a treasure trove of unique species that is found no where else in the world such as the bizarre sand worms which moves about like packs of snakes around the island's dune to the Lantern Fish which greets you in the sea before you reach the island.

Our scientists are still developing a comprehensive theory to explain Pulau Pejantan's rich and unique biodiversity and the island represents one of the Institute's key area of research.

Isolated in the Pacific Ocean, about 70% of the estimated 600 species found on the island exist nowhere else on the globe. The island is home to such evolutionary oddities as the Ghost Hare, a black and white hound like animal, pale-white reptiles and birds which has adapted to the sand dunes and forest habitat, spiny burrowing ant-eaters, and the rock pheasant, a bird that lives in the sand dunes.
How about the weather, then?
Conditions are difficult for observation on the remote island. Its peculiar hydrological activity and location in the doldrums of the equatorial region along the Java trench combine to produce a thick blanket of fog that covers its landmass essentially from sunrise to late afternoon, 365 days a year; as a result, much of the work must be done in poor light.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

All we need to know

Land tax.
Capital gains tax.
Earthquake levy.
Who will pay for the recession, for the recovery, for the tax cuts? Why, us of course; just like we always do.

Next question: what's perspex?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Highway to cheese

Prime Minister John Key says rebuilding Christchurch must not come at the expense of Auckland "grinding to a halt" as he prepares the country for a flatline Budget

There were concerns a fortnight ago that some major roading projects - including the Puhoi-to-Wellsford road and Waikato Expressway - would have to be delayed for at least a year to free up money for Christchurch.
Yikes, that was close. For a moment we thought the Cheese Highway might be be no more. But fear not; soon it will be possible to drive from Puhoi to Wellsford in no time at all.

What's more, the long-awaited Expressway to yr Cows will also become a reality. Auckland will not grind to a halt. Citizens will be able to travel both north and south along roads, roads which will be straighter and smoother, more high and more express, than those currently in place.

This is the future, now; or soon, so long as the Govt can raise the money.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Where there's turf there's brass

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully announced last week the government would pay the $4.1 million needed to fix the turf at AMI Stadium, but questions are being asked as to why the pitch was uninsured and why the government paid up given its tough position on uninsured homeowners, a stance that saw more than 700 people declined assistance after the September quake.

"What I don't understand is why [stadium owners] V-Base and the council weren't insured when Eden Park and others are," Labour earthquake recovery spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said.
Hmm, tricky one, Clayton; this could be a three-pipe problem. BRB.

Yes, I think I have it. Maybe Eden Park's hallowed turf was insured because Eden Park is run by a trust, which exists for the good of the stadium. The trust realises that the turf is essential to the playing of rugby and cricket, and so insures it. V-Base on the other hand is a business (and one with a silly name I might add, one that sounds like some awful 80s synth-dance act) and as such is interested in profit. Interested in profit but not familiar with it: V-Base does not make any money on this stadium and loses a lot. It seems that V-Base tried to reduce its costs by taking a gamble on the turf, a gamble which it lost.

Obviously V-Base is not a very effective business - it has become a non-proft organisation. As such, it really should be bankrupt - put out of business; a business in this situation needs to do something about its debts. However, V-Base has seen a way to make money without doing anything about its debts - it has asked for what is called a cash injection from Christchurch City Council. Some people - Christchurch ratepayers for example - might call this bludging.

But clearly, while it may not work on Christchurch City Council, asking for a cash injection is an effective means of raising funds from the Government. The Government is composed largely of men who love sport and who love business. They don't give a toss about Art, which perhaps is why COCA is now displaying a test card. But a sporting business is just the sort of thing which they think deserve a few stray millions; turf is "psychologically very important."

So a business which owns turf but cannot afford to insure it can get some millions to replace it. People, on the other hand, who own a house but cannot afford to insure it get a "a very strong message."

You might like to think about this further, Clayton. You might also like to ask yourself whether the Government can get away with this sort of thing because the Opposition is as wet and wobbly as a liquefacted football pitch.

Here's some Radio with Pictures, from Christchurch and Dunedin:

Reality intrudes

Childfund New Zealand has apologised for screening adverts showing the plight of African orphans on children's channel Nickelodeon.

Two complaints were laid with the Advertising Standards Authority, one from a woman concerned the appeal was shown during morning ad breaks.
Wut? Yes, rly: here is the decision:


Chairman’s Ruling

16 February 2011

Complaint 11/005

Complainants: K. Whittaker and B. Greiner
Advertisement: ChildFund New Zealand

Complaint: The television advertisement for ChildFund New Zealand showed the plight of orphans living in slums in Africa. The voiceover in the advertisement said, in part:

“In the slums of Africa rain doesn’t always bring relief. It brings death.
Rain spread disease that kills a child every 20 seconds.

Right now orphan children here are dying. You can help them

Complainant, K. Whittaker, said that “This advert has been shown in nearly every advertisement break on Nickelodeon this morning since 8.30. My young daughter has become distressed over the fact that she is expected to sponsor a child and isn’t. I do not feel that the tone of the advert is appropriate for a channel that is designed for children. The advert appeared to state that if you do not sponsor a child then they will die – or this is what my daughter and her friends have gained from the add.”

Complainant, B. Greiner, shared similar views.

The relevant provisions were Basic Principle 4 and Rule 6 of the Code of Ethics.

The Advertiser, ChildFund New Zealand, apologised for any offence the advertisement caused to the Complainants and their daughters. ChildFund New Zealand also said that it was not their strategy to purchase media time during children’s programming, however, the times the advertisement appeared and which prompted the complaints - during children’s programmes - were bonus placements provided by Sky Television. ChildFund New Zealand advised that the advertisement had a G rating from the Commercial Approvals Bureau, which means that the advertisement had been rated as suitable for all audiences, however, the agency responsible for purchasing media time on behalf of the ChildFund New Zealand - Bloodhound Media - will request the relevant television networks not to place any bonus advertisement during children’s programming. ChildFund New Zealand apologised again and added that “as a child-focused agency”, causing distress to children is clearly not their intention

The Chairman noted the Advertiser’s sincere apology to the Complainants and their explanation that steps had been taken to ensure that bonus advertisements were not placed during children’s programming. The Chairman, noting this self-regulatory action, said that it would serve no further purpose to place the advertisement before the Complaints Board. The Chairman ruled that the matter was settled.

Chairman’s Ruling: Complaint Settled
In other news, SpongeBob SquarePants isn't real; and children continue to die because of poverty. What's more, many parents find ways to deal with their children's understandable distress on learning of the suffering of children in other parts of the world. Such parents talk to their children and suggest ways that children can help others. Not these two mothers, though: they want it all blocked out. And they have succeeded, for a while.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The urban spaceman

Magician Alan Watson said he had known Ring since the forecaster worked as a magician called Mr Goodtimes in the 1970s.

Ring was former president of the now-defunct New Zealand Society of Magicians and is described on as a lecturer, speech therapist, author, actor, clown and magician known as Mathman.

He is co-author of Pawmistry: How to Read Your Cat's Paws, which teaches ways to read a cat's mood and "explores the psychic influences that numerology and the zodiac have on your cat".
Oh yes. But here comes the twist: Mr Wrong performed his magic tricks to the Skeptics, of which he was a member. He was also a member of the Rationalists and Humanists.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Doors to manual

Royal Wedding sick bags available here; story from the BBC, complete with loyal subjects, here; more tat here; tattoo here; twee here; wrong prince here; undies here.

Friday, March 18, 2011


The estimable Mark Harris observed, on the Twitter, the similarities between this NBR article and this media release: another hard day in the office for Niko Kloeten and another shameless piece of puffery by a pharmaceutical company.

What is the significant number of calls received from people wanting iodine? I think we should be told. I think the PR flacks should be ashamed of themselves for exploiting this catastrophe to push more product. I think the NBR should be ashamed for publishing this twaddle.

I think we should listen to Wendy Cope:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rabbits, comfort and status

Before I became one with the Starbucks brand, I used to find comfort and delight in a cup of coffee from my corner deli: There were no changes and no surprises. It was sustainable and utilitarian. It did its job. Then came Starbucks, that great paper cup of coffee that came in three different sizes, a huge range of flavors that could accommodate any mood, and that was available any time of day. What a concept! It was a cup of coffee that came with great music, free Wi-Fi, and the opportunity to support worthy causes. Who wanted the old beat-up cup of coffee anymore? A cup of Starbucks coffee gave comfort and status.
This is real. There are people who talk like this sincerely; and at least one of them is an architect.

In other news, here is the Verlaines promo to which Lyndon alluded and Russell referred earlier; you can tell it is shot in Dunedin because people are wearing coats indoors; besides, you can see their breath. On Perfect Sound Forever here is an appreciation and on Point That Thing here is a photograph.

Bonus track: Catherine Bennett warns Kate Middleton.

It's not about us

Former All Black Pita Alatini and his family were evacuated from their home close to the epicentre of the 8.9 magnitude Japan earthquake.

The former test player was in Kamaishi, one of the worst hit areas, with his wife, popstar Megan, her mother Barbara Kirchner, and their two youngest children Tiara, 7, and 6-year-old Trey.
This is the news. Here is the front page of last week's Horror on Sunday. In Japan, thousands of people were missing, the death toll was thought be as high as ten thousand (it is now thought to be much higher) and a nuclear power plant was in a very bad way (it is now worse). What's more, twenty New Zealanders were among the missing. But look on the bright side: a former All-Black, his popstar wife and their children are safe. Here is a video showing something of what happened in Kamaishi. Many died there, but at least two Kiwi microcelebrites were not among them.

Or, to put it another way: when Christchurch had an earthquake, Japan sent some of its people to help. Now Japan is suffering, the HoS might have shown some solidarity, some compassion. But no: what matters is celebrity, however small. When weighed in the media balance, the lives of thousands of Japanese people are lighter than those of two New Zealanders who had been famous for a while.

Worse still, the front page of the Herald website displayed a page link with this text:
Best video from the quake / tsunami
A compilation of some of the most unmissable video
to emerge from Friday night's disaster in Japan
That's entertainment, folks; disaster porn at the click of a button; don't miss it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's my thesis and I'll descry if I want to

Apropos The Bats, I have decided that my PhD thesis (which is on the subject of the representation of New Zealand architecture in non-architectural media) should include discussion of Flying Nun music promos. This may seem arbitrary, even perverse, but look at them: usually the promo is not much more than the band playing in a room, which means an architectural setting by default. Besides, it gives me an excuse to watch lots of '80s promos, such as this one:

BTW, Flying Nun will be making a Christchurch fundraiser.

God defended New Zealand

Since God has nothing to do with the advent of earthquakes - or fires, floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis for that matter - I rather prefer the legal term "force majeure", which defines "an event that is a result of the elements of nature, as opposed to one caused by human behaviour." So after the latest Christchurch upheaval, I thank God that in a city of nearly 400,000 people, in which an earthquake struck at its busiest time of the day, the death toll is likely to be only about 200 and many square kilometres of the city are still standing and largely unaffected.

Compare that with the Lisbon (population 250,000) earthquake of 1755, in which 100,000 citizens died and six magnificent cathedrals were reduced to rubble, and the Kobe quake of 1995 in which 6700 people perished, and we surely have cause to be grateful. And to whom can we express gratitude, save to the creator and sustainer of the universe?
Oh Garth, what a splendid and flexible God is yours, one who is not responsible for Acts ascribed to him by the law, yet who saved a relatively high proportion of Christchurch's citizens from the example of such an Act which occurred on 22 February. Are we to learn from this deed of relative mercy that the New Zealander is favoured by God over His other creations, the Portuguese and the Japanese? Should we look into our hearts and ask ourselves what more we might do to improve our standing with Him, to reduce future death tolls to zero. Should we pray more, for verily we are praying above our weight on a world stage, yet might we not be praying enough?

Perhaps Thomas Babington Macaulay knew something of which we are only dimly aware when he wrote of London in the future ''and she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's.'' Yes, we win: in 1840 Macaulay prophesied that London would be in ruins but at least one New Zealander would be around to go there on his OE.

Artist's impression by Gustave Dor├ę; I am grateful to Michael Higgins for advising me that this promo for Block of Wood by The Bats includes scenes of Christchurch as it was:

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A time for euphemism

It's not demolition; it's deconstruction. It's not a loan, it's a deferred payment system.

It works like this. Mediaworks is a private company which owns huge chunks of the media landscape. It can do this because we don't have controls on media ownership here in New Zealand; no sir, that sort of thing hinders
free enterprise. Unfortunately, Mediaworks has become a non-profit organisation. Fortunately, New Zealand has a government which is very generous towards people and organisations that fail in the making of money, so Mediaworks received a deferred payment system. This is an appropriate business model, given that the owners of Mediaworks include Goldman Sachs and the Royal Bank of Scotland - financial organisations that failed at finance but were helped by their governments with vast amounts of public money.

So, thanks to us, Mediaworks can continue to produce media of a quality which we have come to expect, untroubled by threats of bankruptcy or purchase.
Meanwhile, the government - which also been very helpful to Sky Television - has decided to stop funding our remaining public television channel.

Still wondering how capitalism works? Well, here is a film which might help: we needed weenies; Mr Brown had weenies - it's as simple as that.

The sort of thing that happens in Peter Greenaway films

Until 31 March 2011, the Audi A3 Sportback and Audi A4 ranges are available at the remarkably low finance rate of 4.9%. Which means you can drive away in an Audi from as little as $719 per month*.

As attractive as this is, it actually gets better. When you buy one of these superb vehicles, you will also be in the draw to win a one-off experience with BLACKCAPS captain Daniel Vettori, restaurateur Michael Dearth, or architect Richard Naish.
A one-off experience with a cricketer, a cook or an architect? Which one would you choose?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

No commodious building

What's around the corner? Life, as Thomas Hobbes wrote, is brutal and short.

But Hobbes' Leviathan was profoundly depressing, and we have no choice but to rebuild Christchurch. The whole country must help pay, regardless of financial circumstances.
No, no, no, Deborah: Hobbes is describing the natural state of man - before government, before society. It's like this:
"Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short
How do we get out of this mess? It says here: "The only escape is by entering into contracts with each other—mutually beneficial agreements to surrender our individual interests in order to achieve the advantages of security that only a social existence can provide." Deborah may find that profoundly depressing but we call it society.

Anyway, going forward:
Anyway, as right-wing blogger Cactus Kate wrote, ultimately capitalism will rebuild Christchurch

Than capitalism can pay for it. Why should we give up our coffee and cigarettes if capitalism is going to do the work? Anyway, would we not be depriving hard-working baristas and dairy-owning mums and dads of their rightful income, if we were to adopt this socialist policy of abandoning our usual consumption and instead giving the money to deprived people? The only escape for Deborah is in the stars:

Suppose a space shuttle pilot did pour all his energy into catching up with the speed of light. He'd fail, but his energy must go somewhere - it gets squeezed into mass, or matter, and viewed from outside, the solid mass of the shuttle starts to grow and the shuttle swells.

So mass can become energy, and energy mass, and the speed of light, squared, is the link.

I think you can see where this is going.
As a matter of fact, no; I think Deborah needs to read books more carefully - but where this is going is another matter, or mass. Here is where this is going:
The theory of relativity - energy pouring into a moving object creates mass - can be reversed. Mass never disappears, it becomes energy.

So it is with people. Their energy pours out, becomes matter, and eventually goes on to become energy in, I like to think, someone else.

Nobody ever really dies.
Oh. Is that all there is? All we need to do is reverse the theory of relativity and then we will achieve immortality. Can capitalism do this? Do we still need to go without coffee?

I think we should be told.

Friday, March 04, 2011


Surely, when your father first bought this business for you, it came with a user’s manual of sorts

In which architect Catherine Siu writes herself out of her job.

In September 2009, US diplomats were told by Libya's national economic development board: "The NEDB is cooperating with the UK government and the London School of Economics, among other UK institutions, on an exchange program to send 400 'future leaders' of Libya for leadership and management training."

In which economist Sir Howard Davies leads himself out of his job.

This is the way the world turns. RMJM was founded in 1956 by Robert Matthew and Stirrat Johnson-Marshall. They were based in Edinburgh and designed some of Britain's best modernist buildings, including New Zealand House in London. But somewhere on the way between then and now, the firm became a limited company and then was bought by Sir Fraser Morrison, who installed his son Peter as boss. Hubris, next exit:

Today, in an industry that rewards gray hair, the man running one of the world's largest architecture firms is just 34. Peter Morrison has no formal architectural training and no built structures in his portfolio, but he could reshape the business of design.

"Our goal is to become a superpower in the architectural industry," says Morrison...

... Today, Peter Morrison calls the group's business model "evolutionary." It boils down to organizing management responsibilities so designers are freed from finance, legal and other administrative tasks to concentrate on creating buildings.

Morrison would like to see that model change, and earlier this year RMJM donated $1.5 million to Harvard University Graduate School of Design to establish a program to train architects to integrate business management, advanced technologies and design skills.
Unfortunately, it seems that Morrison did not organise management responsibilities so designers would get paid. That $1.5 million would come in handy right now. Here's some more hubris, from Harvard:

Morrison delivers his speech, which he has memorized. After some polite praise of the school and its professors, he visibly relaxes as he warms to his theme: the architect of the future. “I believe the architect of the future will be much more than a stylist,” he says. “Instead, he or she will be a leader … The architect of the future must regain the status of master builder.” He lauds RMJM's collective process as superior to “the media-created phenomenon” of the “starchitect” before moving on to some “hard truths” of the industry as a whole: first and foremost, that the financial reward for architects is “miniscule,” so that the agent who sells a building will often earn a higher fee than the firm that designed it (a fact that Morrison will point out to me multiple times over two days in Cambridge). He wonders why a top-tier design firm can't command the same respect and compensation for its “intellectual capital” as McKinsey, the famed management consulting company, does.
Perhaps it is because McKinsey can do management. RMJM could do architecture and should have stuck to it, rather than repositioning itself as a global design brand.

Meanwhile, the once-mighty London School of Economics and Political Science is reduced taking Gadaffi's money and providing management courses for his goons. More hubris here:
The LSE drew attention to an episode last May, when Saif gave its Ralph Miliband memorial lecture, and a protester was allegedly assaulted by one of Gaddafi's associates. Professor David Held introduced Saif to the audience to deliver the lecture, an annual occasion dedicated to Labour leader Ed Miliband's father who taught at the LSE and remains one of its most revered figures.

Held, an academic adviser to Saif when he studied at the LSE, was also on the board of the LSE's North African research programme, funded by the Gaddafi charitable foundation. He told the audience: "I've come to know Saif as someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values as the core of his inspiration." Held is said to be appalled by Saif's "last bullet" speech.
Well, yes; it is not exactly the Third Way, is it? For Sir Howard, it is exit pursued by an inquiry; one that will look at many things, including
"the academic authenticity of Saif Gaddafi’s PhD thesis."

You would have thought, would you not, that all these managers and leaders would learn. These sorts of things repeat themselves time and again: owners who get greedy, colleges which take dictators' money. But no, the men with the knighthoods and the MBAs stuff up time and again. They probably won't have to accept the consequences, because the world is not made like that any more. But at least we have people like Catherine Siu and the assaulted protester to speak a bit of truth to power; people with courage and principles, the things they don't teach you at Harvard Business School.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Poetry is a destructive force

Writer, philosopher, spoken word performer, personality, theorist, free thinker, entertainer and above all else, truth seeker.

The quality work of David Icke has been progressing in both diversity and popularity at stealth speed. If you are a long time Fan/reader or follower of David Icke you would know that he has produced thousands of hours of research in the form of videos, interviews, books, documentaries, right through to the finest details of his on stage LIVE presentations.

His shows/speeches are presented with the utmost clarity, direction and structure. You could expect to sit anywhere from 2 to 3 hours (he will be speaking for 7 hours per event), while David Icke interactively draws the crowd in shedding light on topics with extensive ideas towards the challenges and circumstances of our world today.

All never without a comedic approach that never ceases to keep you engaged.

Watch out reptiles, here he comes; at stealth speed and all never without a comedic approach.

With thanks to @pbmcbeth for the warning.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Chronicle of a death unforetold

I haven't written about Christchurch, because there is something about blogging in times of strife that makes perfectly normal amateur writers become self-obsessed and needy. As soon as something happens to some other people, bloggers pump up the bombast. They tell their long-suffering readers in detail of the how they heard the news of the disaster and how they reacted: "as soon as I got the text I knew that something must be terribly wrong" or "I don't usually watch television in the daytime - it is all so trashy; but something - I don't know what - made me turn on the news. I'll never forget what I saw that day." What follows is paragraphs of drivel about how the author feels about the suffering of others, or how the author imagines how he would feel if he were in a similar situation to those suffering, or what the author thinks the suffering people must be thinking about.

But then I read the Herald on Sunday:

A British backpacker wrote forebodingly of his earthquake fears a few hours before he was killed in Christchurch.

Ex-soldier Greg Tobin had been on a round-the-world trip with two friends when he was crushed in the quake.

In a Facebook post on Monday, he wrote: "Just felt the scariest earthquake of my life so far, compared with the little ones I've felt in the UK, that actually scared the s**t out of me! Haha awesome.
Hello daftness my old friend, as someone nearly sang. Parents, show this to your small children and ask them if it makes sense. Does "haha awesome" equate to writing forebodingly of fears? I think not.

Worser still was the work of the Herald's billboard people, which announced this story as the lead, despite it appearing briefly and deeply within the paper. The billboard's take on the story was
Soldier Foretells His Own Death
What I mean to say is: how bad can it get? We have a city in ruins, we have many dead, we have more than enough true stories of suffering. And yet, the HoS cannot resist embellishing, it cannot ease up on the tragic irony, it cannot help but wallow in the spooky. Look, see, he posted on his Facebook page about earthquakes. It was an omen.

No it wasn't. It was just one of those things. He came to Christchurch and felt an aftershock. It happens. Then there was an earthquake. Sadly, that happened. Sadly, he was killed. Sadly, so were many others. There was nothing foroboding, there were no omens. It just happened. One moment Christchurh was a city getting on with its life, putting itself back together after the last earthquake and coping with the aftershocks. The next moment, the city fell down. People died; Mr Tobin was one of them. Part of the sadness is that there was no meaning. Had Mr Tobin had been killed when he was a solidier, killed by an enemy, a meaning could have been found for his death. Had Mr Tobin sought out danger, deliberately taken risks by going to a place where another meaning could have been found.

But there was none. There was no meaning in the death of Don Cowey, a good architect and a good man. There was no meaning in the death of Murray Wood, a good businessman and a good man. What matters about these people and many others is not that they died tragic deaths but that they lived good lives. The papers should say more about the living and less about the dying.