Friday, November 23, 2012

The most democratic town hall in the world

p7 For all our virtues, we citizens of Greater Christchurch have our foibles, not the least noticeable of which is a penchant (those who do not care for us might even define it as a mania) for arguing the pros and cons of civic developments to a point where progress is slowed, or even halted. Examples of projects over which differences of opinion, ranging from polite disagreement to bitter wrangling, have occurred are almost legion. Among them are the siting of roads, railways, tunnels ports, canals, statues, memorials, sports facilities, an art gallery, a floral clock - and Town Halls. If this is democracy at work, then the magnificent Town Hall which this booklet commemorates is surely the most democratic town hall in the world. 
Let it be clearly understood, however that once the present site was nominated by an overseas expert, Metropolitan Christchurch witnessed an accord unsurpassed in the city's history.
It is almost incredible that the oldest (by charter) and largest actual city and, at least musically and architecturally, the leading cultural community in New Zealand should have existed without an adequate and publicly-owned town hall for the whole of its 122 years.
Now, at long last, we have provided ourselves with a real Town Hall, it has proved in site, concept, design and construction, an architectural gem. This Town Hall complex, the first stage in what will ultimately be a magnificent Civic Centre, has features unsurpassed in this and, dare we suggest, in many another country. It may be selfish but entirely understandable to be glad that a smaller, less striking building was not erected twenty, forty or eighty years ago.

Brittenden, William James Arnold.
  A Dream Come True : The Christchurch Town Hall.  
Christchurch: Christchurch Town Hall Committee, 1972.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Property values

Don't try and get inside the owner's head - it doesn't really matter. Be cool and detached, don't appear enthused and don't express admiration. Make an impression on the vendor that the house is a liability. Some of the choicer questions; "I'm only really interested in the land" "Do people really live here? And if the property is really rough; "How long do you think, before it's going to be pulled down?"
Harrap, Neil. 
Buying and Restoring a House.  
Wellington: N. Harrap, 1981. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Villa people

Over a quite tolerable glass of port and some coffee afterwards Dale, a New Zealander by birth but trained in England, began to talk. 
Yes, it was a good country, he explained, for the man who had land, for the businessman with energy and ideas, and for the lawyer and the doctor. It was even pretty good for the working man, though they had their share of labour troubles in New Zealand and the Liberal Government had rather spoilt the labouring classes to catch votes. it wasn't so good for the architect. Not yet at least. 
But surely, I said, those houses we've seen, most of the residences in the city, and a good many of the business buildings, they're made of wood. Won't they want buildings in something more solid? 
'Not the way their minds work here, at least yet awhile. Wood is what they've got plenty of, so wood is what they build with. Not only that. They've got plenty of space as well. So they build outwards, not upwards. A passage, two rooms along each side, a kitchen, a wash-house, that's what the average man wants. That's the basic pattern and anything more ambitious is just an extension of it or another floor on top of it. And there's always the veranda, of course.' 
'Yes, I noticed them. Shelter from the sun and rain, I suppose?' 
'That, and habit. The veranda's got itself established in every young couple's mind as the thing and so a veranda it must be. But that's not the worst of it, my boy. The trouble is that the formula for the average house is so simple that the chap who builds it sees no case for an architect. Everyone here is accustomed to one man being able to turn his hand to everything. So the builder as like as not is the architect as well.' 
And all these people who've made money want somehow or other to establish something that's going to last. They're still not convinced that they're here at all, that the whole thing isn't a mirage. They're frightened they'll wake up one of these days and find the bush is back where it used to be. A house is something solid.' 
They've got about as much idea of architecture as a horse has of caviar and without their wives to bully them they're a pack of skinflints who can't see why the design of two matchboxes laid on top of each other won't do as well for a town hall as for a dog kennel. If it's their own house nothing but the best will do, heart of kauri seasoned for a year and the rest of it. But a public building? White pine and single brick smeared with cement.'

The life and opinions of an architect in the early years of the last century, as imagined by Dan Davin in No Remittance.  (London: Joseph, 1959, 24-27)

Here is a promo, directed by the estimable Jonathan King, for the Close Readers, Damien Wilkins' popular beat combo. You can buy the music here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

One of our broadcasts is missing

During Operation Corporate, the British campaign to regain the Falkland Islands from the Argentinian military dictatorship that curiously enough had a lot of support from British leftists once it had invaded those islands, the Royal Air Force launched a mission to make the runway at Port Stanley unusable. This was necessary because the Argentinian Air Force was using the runway to launch its own missions to make the Royal Navy a lot smaller than it had been before hostilities broke out. The RAF chose for this mission one of the oldest aircraft in its inventory, an Avro Vulcan. This crew of this aircraft had to fly the length of the Atlantic Ocean, drop some bombs on the runway and return. History will record that the Vulcan's crew completed parts one and three of this mission with great success. They flew their aircraft from England to the Falkland Islands and they flew it back again.

Unfortunately they made something of a cock-up of the dropping bombs part of the mission. You would have thought that it would be quite easy for the pilot of an aircraft - any pilot, any aircraft - to find an airstrip and fly over its length, given that lining up a plane with an airstrip is the essential conclusion to any flight. But no, after coming all that way from Blighty to the Falklands, the Vulcan's crew came at the airstrip diagonally. So, instead of dropping twenty-four iron bombs down the length of the airstrip, rendering it useless, the Vulcan dropped twenty-three bombs into the soft grassland surrounding the airstrip and only one into the tarmac.

Today's broadcast of Saturday Morning with Kim Hill was quite similar. The plan was simple. All Kim Hill and her producer, Mark Cubey, had to do was to fly to Frankfurt and make a radio broadcast from the Book Fair. Surely nothing could go wrong. But, just to make sure there was no possibility of error, Mr Cubey was sent ahead on a Pathfinder mission, lighting up the target for Ms Hill. Guests were booked, a venue was found. And a broadcast was made, a four hour live broadcast from Frankfurt to New Zealand. Here is how it was described on the Radio New Zealand website:

Kim Hill broadcasts live from the James Bar of the English Theatre, Frankfurt, on the occasion of New Zealand's Guest of Honour 2012 visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Gentle reader, I am sure you have seen already where the plan went wrong. Having taken their radio show from Wellington to Frankfurt, Hill and Cubey set it down in a pub; at a book fair; on a Friday night, in Germany. The programme can be heard, if not listened to, at the link above. It is a remarkable broadcast. It was all over, bar the shouting, as soon as it started; this for the simple reason that it was set in a bar and there was a lot of shouting.

Already, art historians are speculating that it may have been a form of conceptual radio, a broadcast rendered inaudible by ambient noise, noise made by the people, drunk people, who were surrounding the presenter and her guests but not listening to them. Here was a radio show about a cultural event that the people behind that event made impossible. Here was a cultural event that is terribly important to New Zealand that could not be heard in New Zealand because the New Zealanders at that event were pissed and noisy. Here was a radio broadcast  about a book fair that made the listener want to turn off the radio and read a book.

All  over New Zealand (all over Kelburn, at least) people who went to bed sober and woke up refreshed developed Saturday morning headaches. Meanwhile the Twitter stream continued as if it were any given Saturday and everything was normal. This was their finest four hours, as someone once almost said of another almighty stuff-up.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Paging Dr Wigley

Openbook, one of the most entertaining sites on Internet, was shut down for legal reasons, according to Wikipedia, one of the most annoying sites on Internet; the developers, though, say they had moved on to other things - which confirms what Wikipedia says. This is a pity, since Openbook was an insight into the world of people who cannot manage their Facebook security settings. I might start posting my archive. In fact, I will.

Kurrently does much the same thing, with Facebook, Twitter and something called Google+.

In other news:

KATE Middleton‘s topless picture scandal might stop her from becoming Queen, it has been claimed.
According to America’s Globe magazine, Prince Charles‘ scheming wife Camilla cruelly taunted Kate, and made her cry, hocking photos of the beauty sunbathing topless exploded around the world.
“Camilla screeched at Kate and how Prince William rushed to comfort his distraught wife,” a source said.

This, of course, is rubbish. The succession law does not work like that. Anyway, the last sentence of that paragraph does not make sense. And now, following the topless photos scandal, there is a bottomless photos scandal, which is just as dull. Quite why a magazine from Denmark, where almost everybody gets naked at any opportunity, should be interested in grainy photographs of someone who will never be Queen because her grandmother-in-law will live past 100 and her father-in-law will then be King for his prolonged dotage is beyond me.

Fun fact: Mark Wigley plays for Girlington in the Spen Valley Association Football League. Is there no end to what  can do? My next project shall be a comic called Wigley of the Rovers, in which the boy form Palmerston North deconstructs Association Football. On a related note, Peter Eisenman can can name all the teams in the Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga,

This is funny:

Saturday, September 22, 2012


More than a third of primary school children are failing writing standards because they don't read enough and are confused by texting language and slang, say experts.
RLY? Sez who? Sayeth the Principal of the New Zealand Writers' College:
"The language they are hearing is all jargon. There is a lot of slang and it's almost phonetically based and not spelling based." "So when they have to sit down and write something, it is completely alien to them."
So, what kind of expert is this Principal?
Nichola Meyer started her career as a freelance writer in 2001, and has written feature and cover articles for several leading magazines, among them O: The Oprah Magazine, Femina, Your Baby, Essentials and Child. With a university Major in English, Honours (magna cum laude) and a Masters Degree (cum laude) in Psychology, Nichola has a special interest in reporting on issues of interest to women and parents.
She has written for Oprah. She is that kind of expert. And what is her College all about?
Choose from over 30 writing courses tutored by professional, award-winning writers. Learn to write from the comfort of your home from anywhere in New Zealand. You will receive one-to-one support, guidance and mentoring from an expert in the field, every line of the way.
So it is a correspondence school, where you can pay to be tutored by professional, award-winning writers: who are these people? What do they want? They are mostly South African. The Copywriting course is tutored by one Mandy Speechly, who is Head of Copy at the AAA School of Advertising in Cape Town.  The novel writing course is tutored by one Sonny Whitelaw, whose oeuvre is in the novelisation of Sci-Fi TV series. The course tells you all you need to know, including – at the very end – a module on the lifestyle of the working writer (Protip: we go to lunch and complain about not having any work) and an assessment of your partly-completed novel; if you want to know how to finish it, you will have to go on the Advanced Novel Writing course. And oh look, there's Sarah Lang; she at least is well-known and local.

This college is virtual and unaccredited. It teaches adults how to write, in writing, so long as they part with large sums of money: the poetry course costs more than you will ever earn. The Principal has degrees in Eng Lit and Psych. She did some teaching, a while back. In what way is she an expert on children's writing abilities? Of course, if you keep reading, you will get to hear from a real expert,
Professor Judy Parr, head of the Auckland University School of Curriculum and Pedagogy; but that is way down the inverted pyramid, where there will be few readers still reading. So what happens in this story is that the opinion of someone who had no apparent expertise in this field is favoured over one of its leading experts. Of course, Ms Meyer's opinion is a commonplace – it is all because of the TXT MSSGNG. Professor Parr says something that all writers will know: in order to write, you have to read. And that means parents have to take responsibility for providing their children with books, rather than blaming Internet and schools.

But what of the stats? What of these national standards that so many children are failing? Well, it is funny you should ask, because the journalist who wrote this story – Vaimoana Tapaleao – also wrote this one:
Many people referred to the data as "ropey" - a reference to a word Prime Minister John Key used earlier this year when he described the national standards information as "ropey at best".
So there we have it: many people who know what they are talking about (and the Prime Minister) think these standards are (to use a technical term) tosh. They are not standards at all, because the data is not standard. So why do we have here a story about children failing, when the evidence for this failure is so  suspect? Because fear sells papers, that is why. It is easier to frighten people with the prospect of their children failing and the school system producing a nation of idiots than it is to do a properly-researched story about education.

Broadcast, singing about writing:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The letterbox as metaphor

Island Bay, Wellington was used for the cover image on the Winter 1975 issue of the literary periodical Islands, accompanying Duggan's last and posthumously published story 'Magsman Miscellany,' which both is and is not a self-portrait. Two weatherboard houses abut at an odd angle. The gap between them and the sharply receding diagonals, produce a vortex-like perspective. In the right foreground there is a letterbox with a narrow rectangular slot, which looks almost animate: a blank face staring back. Could this also be a metaphoric face of New Zealand suburbia, so often stereotyped as bland, boring, featureless? 

Christ, Len Bell writes a load of bollocks. This is from Marti Friedlander; Auckland University Press, 2009.

In any case, why ask these ridiculous questions? Why not just ask the photographer? It is not as if she were dead five centuries. Go on, Len, call her:

"Marti, did you mean that letterbox in the Duggan photograph to be a metaphoric face of New Zealand suburbia? 
Marti, are you there?"

And what on earth is a vortex-like perspective? You can see the photo here and decide for yourself, if you must. And then you could ask yourself, how is it that art historians do not know the first thing about architecture but persist in talking about it?

Pic unrelated, of course. Here are the Neo-Kalashnikovs, exploring New Zealand domestic architecture. It both is and is not a self-portrait:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cherry Chapstick

And that is the most galling thing for intellectuals who abhor her. Intellectuals find normal people offensive. Intellectuals spend ages trying to learn about culture and making themselves read boring books and struggling to show they are better than other people. Imagine how miffed they are to see those blithe, dumb ordinary types who seem quite happy doing normal stuff like having sex and putting on lip gloss.
Oh no Hill Cone. Does this mean we have to watch them having sex?

 I think I have a book to read.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Winning in the nineties

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all, particularly those people who have travelled some distance to be here. In fact, I would like to make this the mother of all welcomes. Thus spake Bernard Fenton (President, BOMA NZ) in his opening address to the 1991 conference of the New Zealand Council of Shopping Centres, a conference on the theme of Winning in the Nineties.

The mother of all welcomes! It almost creates an expectation.

But the nineties are not just about winning. It is a time of civil disobedience by superannuants: "There is no way the pensioners were going to be helpful in filling out the forms."

And who else but Mr Bernard Fenton has the courage to stand up and ask why the people of Wellington are so quite?

And yet we all new of the abuses within the social welfare system and the changes that needed to be made.

So what is the relevance of all this? The Christmas period is normally the retail lifeline. This year, 1991, Mr Fenton believes that Christmas will not fulfill this function. It is not going to be an easy year but for those of us who can display leadership and communicate, it will be a year with its rewards.

You read it here first.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

French Disko

Here in France, like New Zealand, same-sex marriage is presented to a puzzled population under the banner of equality. And who can fight against equality? 
Well, some French friends put the notion of equality under examination. They say same-sex marriage "n'est pas l'egalite, il s'agit de la liberte". It's not about equality; it's about liberty. 
Governments who choose to redefine marriage seldom understand what they're doing. "Il a toute la laideur de la fierte." It has all the ugliness of pride.     

Gentle reader Craig Young discovered this curiosity from the ODT, written by none other than Bruce Logan. We have not heard from him for a while. Its seems that Bruce fetched up in France, like Oscar Wilde. Or perhaps, like Tony Hancock, he heard the barbarians at the gate and fled to Paris to realise his dream of being an artist. But there he seems to have fallen in with the Lettrists and decided to stop making sense.

Anyway, here's Stereolab again. Please excuse the writhing dancers, but this is from The Word, an often annoying mid-90s show that nevertheless had some top musical moments, of which this is one.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

This Britain

Minor members of the Royal Family – including the Earl of Catford and the Hon Humphrey ffoulkes-Thynne, Thegn of Thanet – join the popular music combo One Direction for a spirited rendition of Spem in Alium.  As they sing, five hundred female students of Eng Lit commingle with an equivalent number of City types, forming into pairs for a spirited display of synchronised spanking that both pays tribute to Britain’s latest literary sensation and symbolises Britain’s dire financial straits. Members of the Bullingdon Club look on and snort. As an old London Pea Souper fog rolls across the stadium, the reddened buttocks of the students glower with such instensity that the form of a Remembrance Day poppy appears, one that can be seen from the Shard.

The fog clears, to reveal a desolate civic centre in the Festival style, where the pound shops have been undercut by the 99p shops, where the only food is fried and on a stick and where the At-risk Youth Secure Accommodation Facility is now called an academy. Suddenly, the eery silence is broken: a vast rubber johnny billows up, from within which can be heard a cacophany of young voices, all of them complaining about something.  Dramatically, the condom (designed by Zaha Hadid) splits and out of it tumbles a host of chavs and chavettes. Dressed by Adidas and Burberry, they slouch towards the Social Security office.

For today is Giro Day. And this is Britain, sea-girt and rather desperate.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Englishman in New York

Many of you may have worried that literary Brooklyn wasn’t macho enough, what with all the female authors, and the important female editors, and all the attention paid to ladyissues, and all those memoirs you heard about from those women who read comic books when they were kids in Brooklyn and then something something. Let me tell you: Martin Amis just pulled your fat out of the fire, who doggie! He’s mannin’ up the borough right and left! He gestures out the window of his brownstone “Out there, it’s Arcadian,” he said. “It’s prelapsarian. It’s like living in the ’50s.” 
You know what I love about the ‘50s? The rigid racial apartheid. That’s the best part, seriously. Oh, shit, no—I messed up—the crippling sexism and hatred of homosexuality. No, no—goddamnit! I’m going back to the rigid racial apartheid thing I said just now. That’s the best. It’s like having 3 favorite flavors of evil! That’s why the ‘50s are so tempting and delicious: just far enough away to see recognizable humans betraying their dearest in the service of ideology, just close enough that you know they knew better.
Oh my. Look at that leap. With one mighty bound the author (Belle Waring,  the sort of name that an Amis character might bear) takes leave of her usually finely-honed senses and lands in a student newspaper editorial about the unfairness of it all. All it took was for her subject to mention the 50s and Ms Waring is in the Twilight Zone, playing that old family favourite, Guilt By Word Association.

I suppose she must have seen a lot of those movies where the villain is always handsome, cultivated and English. Perhaps it is Marty's use of words like Arcadian and  prelapsarian that frighten Belle so.  Perhaps it is that she finds herself agreeing with him. Perhaps she fears a terrible beauty being being born in Brooklyn, that Marty will take them all back to the '50s and she will have to wear a girdle and cook with spam.

But then, this always happens. Marty has a new novel out and folk get frit. Hordes of scribblers denounce him for his many transgressions, sins that began back in the '80s with having his teeth done and which have multiplied since. The scribblers go to the cuttings, to find records of what he said during previous launch periods, sayings with which he can be condemned. They point fingers, they accuse. His book sells.

This time it is worse. Marty and his wife, Isabella Fonseca, a native New Yorker, have moved to Brooklyn. For his British critics, this is betrayal; for the Americans, it is colonization. No wonder Belle is so unnerved. He is now amongst them, in New York. He has bought a castle in Brooklyn. He gestures out the window of his brownstone.
Look, Fenton; see how innocent it all is. These little people, going about their little lives. They only want what is due to them: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They know noting of our ways, of we literary people. They know nothing of Oxford or the New Statesman. The know still less of the fate that shall befall them soon, of what we shall do in   this little town.
Do you feel something in the air, Fenton? It's fizzing, isn't it?
Or something like that. What is it about Marty that moves the scribblers so?  Why are they so frightened of him? Few of his critics, I hasten to add, are bookish types. It is not the quality of the latest novel nor its content that troubles them. Few appear to have any knowledge of his writing or indeed of literary fiction in general; I learned of this particular diatribe from a local bore who reads nothing more demanding than the novelisations of science-fiction TV series. Yet all of them have opinions about Amis fils. No other living writer causes so much fuss, just for the fact of his existence.

What can it be? Is it that he is clever and funny? Do the authoritarian left dislike him because he might make fun of them? Or is it that he is a better writer than his critics? Nobody likes a smart alec. Or perhaps the cause lies in that second paragraph Belle quotes from the NYT:
At a certain point Mr. Amis unwedged himself and slipped out to smoke a cigarette on the sidewalk, looking vaguely menacing under a street lamp. “I’ve sort of hung out with a few thugs all my life,” he said later. “I love thugs. I’m keen on them.”

No, not the thugs; the cigarette: Martin Amis is the only living smoker in New York. That is the problem. Everybody else gave up years ago but still yearns for a cigarette. And there he is, on the streets of New York, smoking. Oh, the temerity.

Stereolab, again:

Monday, July 16, 2012

whipping up spanakopita

Facebook fans beware - the days when you could snoop through your friends, former partners' and work colleagues' pages anonymously are due to end 
The social networking site has announced that it will soon let users see who has been snooping through their pages. The move is expected to dramatically cut the browsing habits of hundreds of millions of users. 
The change to the website - which has more than 900 million members - applies to group pages; meaning users can see who has visited any group which they are a member of. 
But already there are suggestions that Facebook may unfurl the technology across the site, meaning the naughty-naughty-stalky-stalky generation may soon see their fingerprint-free snooping habits curtailed, or face the embarrassment of their ex's new boyfriend/girlfriend realising they were too curious to resist an online-curtain twitch.
There are suggestions; made by whom, one wonders? Made by the author of this piece, one suspects. "The change to the website ... applies to group pages; meaning users can see who has visited any group which they are a member of," she writes, poorly. But then she leaps to her suggestions and descends to  sub-Glucina puce prose: "the naughty-naughty-stalky-stalky generation may soon see their fingerprint-free snooping habits curtailed"

No, Vaimoana Tapaleao, they won't. You made it up. You have no sources, no facts. You are not writing journalism. You have taken an unexceptional event and made it salacious. You have invented a story and found some witless university student, mostly likely one of your friends, to pad it out with her breathless Oh-My-God-this-is-the-end commentary. The paper for which you work (if that is the appropriate verb) has descended from being a source of news and opinion to a purveyor of title-tattle. That is why they employ you, as can be seen from your history.

All of which is a shame, because only a couple of years ago you won a Qantas, for real journalism. Yet now you are making up stuff, and writing about celebrity hair.

It is time to go. Get a real job doing journalism. If you stay at the Herald you will wind up like Shelly. See what she has just done: she has found the 2012 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce by the "US-based Environmental Working Group" and made a scare story about it, in her own particular way: "Cannelloni stuffed with spinach is my Sunday night go-to dinner and I often whip up spanakopita too. I'll be tracking down organic spinach for sure."

But what, you may be asking, has this to do with New Zealand? Well, nothing, since it is not a survey of New Zealand produce. Who knows what fruit and veges are covered in chemicals here? Shelly certainly doesn't.

Worse still, you might end up with friends like Shelly's. They are not terribly bright, you see. They get fooled by Internet scammers. Yes really; you can read all about it here:
"I just felt so grateful for his help," my friend said later when she'd cancelled her credit cards and generally tidied up in the aftermath of unwittingly providing her passwords and bank details to the con artists. "And I felt so clever each time I managed to do whatever he asked me to do," she added, aware too late that by following his step-by-step instructions she was actually helping him gain remote access to her computer.
Yes, that dumb. And what about her dinner party hosts?
Our hostess answered the telephone. "It's for you, darling," she said and promptly handed it to her husband. "There's something wrong with my computer?" he asked as he wandered into his study, presumably to switch on his laptop.

"This must be a serious matter, darling.  The Computer Company wouldn't phone unless it were important, especially at this time of night. I had better deal with it right away, before it gets worse."

"I always leave this sort of thing to him. He is so good with technical things and I'm just a housewife. Would you like some more cashews?"

I should advise you that made up those two lines of dialogue, just in case you thought it must be true because you read it on Internet. It would be an easy mistake to make.

Stereolab, une fois de plus

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Spy vs Spy

Spy: Lets cut to the chase, was Sonny a good lover?Jaime: (blushing, hard) I'm not answering that!
Spy: Sally, was your bedroom next door, could you hear the athletic love-making?Sally: (also blushing, mildly outraged) No! I was downstairs!
Spy: Okay, and this is fair, Jaime, was Sonny a good kisser?Jaime: Yes, he was a good kisser.
Sally: Do you know what, I have to say, Sonny spent a lot of time in our home and he was a beautiful person to have in the house. Not just visually, but in terms of his aura, and personality.
Jaime: Mum! Not just visually?
Sally: Hehehee. No, but seriously, he was amazing with my kids Astin, Oclane and Boston. Chicky (Oclane) used to call him Sunny Bunny and Boston just thought he was the coolest guy ever. He is just lovely. Such a nice guy. The one thing that fascinated me about Jaime and Sonny was the age difference. When you spent time with them together, there was no age difference. Jaime was 18 and Sonny was 26. I mean come on.
I mean blurgh. What is wrong with these people? Who asks questions like that? Who answers them? People who give their children names like Jaime, Astin, Oclane and Boston; that's who.

Of particular note is the exchange over the entrées:

At this point, as the first course of dinner was served, Ricardo, Sally and Jaime remembered that the three of them had appeared together (with 10 other celebrities) on a Metro celebrity cover shoot in 2011.
Sally: Drama! There were some nasty people on that shoot. Rachel Glucina and Denise L'Estrange-Corbet. I shouldn't say Denise is nasty, because I don't know her, but .....
Spy: Denise is lovely once you do get to know her. Though she isn't afraid to speak her mind, it's true. Do you know Denise's daughter Pebbles?
Jaime: I haven't met her, but she has tweeted some horrible things about me. She won't tweet me directly but makes jokes about me. If you're going to say that stuff, why not include me in the tweet?
Indeed, why not? Why not let us all hear what one teenage girl has to say about another? All the news that's fit to print, as someone once said.

The aforementioned  Rachel Glucina, of course, is the former editor of the Spy, the Herald on Sunday's trash-to-cash celebrity gossip page in which this interview appears. Glucina is now editor (if that is not too professional a word) of The Diary, the weekday Herald's serving of figs, waffle and custard, a page in which she regularly airs her obsession with Duncan Garner. She is also the author of prose like this, also to be found in today's HoS:
I spent a surreal four nights in the company of the legendary ladies' man. There was copious amounts of flirting and rigorous banter.
No, she won't win a Pulitzer; but she is a colleague and it is quite extraordinary that the mystery diner who writes under the Spy banner should print the Ridges' snarlings and make no attempt to defend her.

But then,  they are all horrible, the lot of them. If one found oneself dining near them, one would ask to be moved to another table. These people could make the soufflé of the season turn.

One other question: who the hell is Ricardo?

Encore de la Stereolab:

Monday, July 09, 2012

Against interpretation

      Upper Harbour Local Board chairwoman Margaret Miles says the board was concerned it would take up car parks and commuters would not have time to stop and look at the tower.

"I'm sorry but if you're wanting to catch a bus in the morning I don't think you've got the time to start reading about what this structure is," she says.   
Auckland needs faster art, sculpture that can be interpreted in no time at all or, better still, sculpture that can interpret itself. Some sort of boil-in-the-bag aesthetic is required here. At the same time, such sculpture will need to be flat, to avoid taking up valuable parking spaces. It's a tough call, making art in a competitive, high-paced,  commuting environment.

Are New Zealand's young artists up to it? Maybe they could just paint the parking spaces with meaningless, empty, gestures. Or would that be too challenging for a Monday morning? What kind of art will meet the needs of today's motorist, today's commuter?

Where is this post going? Who knows? Why don't we stop right now and instead listen to Stereolab?  But before we go, we must thank David Slack for the story. Allons.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

This sporting life

There is a general antipathy to any kind of change in the Lea Valley among psychogeographers. Elsewhere, Self has written that the Olympic Delivery Authority ‘may make compulsory purchases, tarmac over the sports pitches, roust out the travellers’ encampments and tidy the urban detritus under their magic finance carpet, but very quickly it will all come tumbling back, the steely weeds of a city that has defied everything that God, men or even planners can throw at it’. In architecture, in the built environment, Self sees the hubris of mankind.
See, that's where you went wrong, Seb. You thought the Lea Valley would be a safe place to put the Olympics but it turns out to be a nest of psychogeographers. They are all over the place, wandering around, muttering about everything, writing books. Look, here's Self and another one, that Iain Sinclair, on Australian television of all places. Some might say that Olympic Park was put there just to make Sinclair feel even more alienated than usual.  Chris Petit will probably make a film about it.

And here's that Will Self again, on Newsnight.  As we learn here, the Westfield shopping centre that forms the entrance to the Olympics (yes, it is difficult to understate the vulgarity of the people behind this nonsense) will include an academy to train the young to become retail workers, a school for shopgirls.

In scarcely-unrelated news, Eric Hobsbawm's daughter has become a Visiting Professor of Networking at some business school the University of London never knew it needed until every other university started getting one.

Meanwhile, my own alma mater, the Courtauld Institute of Art, is now led by not a mere Director but a Märit Rausing Director. Indeed yes, the job title includes a sponsor's name and the current incumbent is not even an art historian.

And back to the Olympics and back in New Zealand;  the contract for the all-important team formals uniforms was given to middle-management outfitters Rodd and Gunn, manufacturers of comfortable clothing for men of dismal taste, men who imagine themselves trout fishing and taking long walks on the beach with their labradors.

In keeping with the mores of our time, the design was done by a Czech in Australia, who found the material in Italy and had the uniforms run up in Turkey, China and Italy. In keeping with established tradition, Denise L'Estrange-Corbet is outraged, as should we all be. To add insult to injury, the design is based on that of the 1948 kit, made in an era when New Zealand had a textiles manufacturing industry. The contract for the team's casual wear was given to Peak, an Italian company.

So, sod off New Zealand.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Mostly dead plankton

By smashing protons together at the speed of light in the huge underground tube near Geneva they have isolated a new particle that existed in the collision for a trillionth of a second, then shattered. 
In that moment a 48-year theory became a fact. The glimpse of the 'Higgs boson', or something like it, allows minds to boggle on the existence of "dark matter" and the possibility there really is a dimension to the world that is beyond human sensory perception.
Who knows where that knowledge will lead? Next they will work out how to control the particle, then they will remove it to enable things - people - to travel at the speed necessary to explore the galaxy.

Science!  Who knows where this ignorance will lead? I do. It leads to the bottom of the page, that's where. And there in the depths of John Roughan's resentment can be found environmentalists, the greens who stole science:
  It is a distinct crustal mass ridged and pitted with mountain ranges and basins and over eons of geological time a constant rain of organic matter, mostly dead plankton, will have settled in the basins. There it would have been buried by mud erosion from the mountains and fossilised into oil or gas trapped in layers of rock.  
Geology says we should let oil prospectors go looking for it, environmentalism says we should not.
Oh well, at least we have Geology, the science that says "go west, young man!"

But what about those bosons? What will will do with them once we have extracted them to make massless astronauts? Should we keep them for the astronauts' return? Are they stackable? Will they shatter?

I think we should be told.

The Raincoats:

Friday, July 06, 2012

Keeping the arts industry vibrant

Creative New Zealand is trying to encourage philanthropy as a way of keeping the arts industry vibrant. The government agency has set up Creative Giving, a three-year, $1 million programme helping arts and cultural organisations find and increase funding from private donors.
Hmm; another way of putting this might be "Creative New Zealand is trying to encourage private donations as a way of keeping the arts alive, since more Government money looks increasingly unlikely." But then again, Creative New Zealand is no stranger to philanthropy, being a major supporter of arts industry businesses at home and abroad. The extent of CNZ support in the visual arts was revealed by Over the Net recently:
14 the number of visual arts grants 
25 the percentage of the total funding given to the visual arts
43 the percentage of visual arts grants given to offshore ventures
Stop right there. Visual arts account for a quarter of CNZ grants and almost half those are for offshore ventures. What, you be well be asking, is an offshore venture; who ventures offshore; baby, baby, where did our cash go? Now read on.
$15,153 Hopkinson Cundy towards the presentation of a solo exhibition by Ruth Buchanan at Liste 17, Basel 
$23,347 Michael Lett Gallery towards a solo presentation by Simon Denny at Art Statements, Art Basel.

Yes, Sibyl, Basel - so far offshore it is landlocked; Basel in Switzerland where people have huge amounts of money and only cuckoo clocks on which to spend it. And the lucky winners of an all-expenses paid trip to this land of cheese and bankers are... Hopkinson Cundy and Michael Lett. The lucky winners are art dealers.

Yes, that's right art lovers. Our money is being given to art businesses, members of trade that is not traditionally known for being short of a bob or two, to take their artists to Switzerland.

What is going on? What is this Art Basel? Well, it is a bit like this:
Founded by gallerists in 1970, Art Basel stages the world's premier art shows for modern and contemporary works, sited in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Defined by its host city and region, each show is unique, which is reflected in its participating galleries, the artworks on display and the parallel content programming produced in collaboration with the local institutions. In addition to ambitious stands featuring leading galleries from around the globe, each show's singular exhibition sectors and artistic events spotlight the latest developments in the visual arts, offering visitors new ideas, new inspiration and new contacts in the artworld.
Art Basel is what - in any other business but the art business - is called a trade fair. Galleries from all over the world go to Basel to sell their wares.  Most of these galleries, I suspect, have to pay their own air fares. In New Zealand, however, Michael Lett Gallery receives a government subsidy to represent one of its artists.

And what is Liste 17? It is all about the  zeitgeist, Sibyl: 
Since its inception in 1996, LISTE has set about the task of introducing exclusively galleries of a new generation that are involved in the zeitgeist and represent important young artists. In this way, LISTE has made a consequential and important contribution to the promotion of emerging artists and young galleries.
At Liste 17 Hopkinson Cundy exhibited three works by Buchanan, "a new curved curtain, a vitrine, and a large-scale photograph."

And where, you may ask, can I find these artists, Buchanan and Denny? Well, it is funny you should mention that; Berlin, that's where you'll find them. Both Ruth Buchanan and Simon Denny live and work in Berlin.

Berlin and Basel are about 688 kilometers apart. A couple of return flights from Berlin to Basel can be had for less than $NZ800. But instead we spent $38,500, so that Hopkinson, Cundy and Lett could leave Auckland and fly across the world to a trade fair, for a reunion with their artists and the opportunity to sell their work.

Buchanan and Denny live overseas, doubtless for professional reasons; they are artists from New Zealand rather than New Zealand artists. Hopkinson Cundy and Michael Lett are businesses: they sell artworks. Yet CNZ pays substantial sums so that these businesses can go to trade fairs in Switzerland to represent their Europe-based artists.

What, you may we wondering, is in it for us? Buggered if I know. I think we should be told.

Meanwhile, there are a whole bunch of artists in New Zealand who could do with some of that funding, who might use it to bring art to local audiences. Funny old world, isn't it?

And what does this tell us about Creative New Zealand? Perhaps this: the worst characteristic of contemporary art bureaucrats in New Zealand is their desperate need  to be international, to prove to foreign people that we are global players like them, to hang out in New York, London, Paris, Munich. Few attitudes could be more pitiful and more provincial.

The Bats

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Several ways to avoid discussing the Scott Guy verdict

By feigning a narcoleptic episode;
to sleep, perchance to dream.

By talking about Feilding;
"David Slack, the noted wit,  attended Feilding Agricultural College, don't you know?"

By talking about the Higgs boson;
"it gives the universe mass, and without mass there would be no Feilding or anywhere else."

By talking about Steve Braunias;
"the funniest writer in New Zealand is reading from his book on Nine to Noon this week."

By pretending to be Martin Amis;
"I am unaware of this case but the literary world is fizzing with talk of my new novel, you know."

By pretending to be a tree;
there really is no answer to interpretative dance.

By quoting Žižek
“Word is murder of a thing, not only in the elementary sense of implying its absence - by naming a thing, we treat it as absent, as dead, although it is still present - but above all in the sense of its radical dissection: the word 'quarters' the thing, it tears it out of the embedment in its concrete context, it treats its component parts as entities with an autonomous existence: we speak about color, form, shape, etc., as if they possessed self-sufficient being.” 

By listening to The Raincoats;