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.