Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Green is good

We are good people. We drink soy, not milk, because we want to save the planet from cows and soy is natural and therefore good. And importing soy helps little people in poor countries (here is a chart showing New Zealand's soy production by year).  So we drink soy in our coffee,  even if it is genetically modified and uses lots of energy to produce. Besides, who really needs forests, or Paraguay? But can we do more to make our lives sustainable? Yes we can:
If sustainability is going to mean anything, it has to mean business. Chris Morrison knows this, and has made it a reality by playing an instrumental role in the creation of Pheonix Organics, All Good Bananas, the Kokako coffee roasting and café company, the Clean Planet eco-cleaning company and, his latest venture, with Nice Blocks Fairtrade ice blocks.
Rly? Yes, rly. Our planet has been completely stuffed up by over-production and consumerism but there is hope: entrepreneurs will save us, but only if we help them by buying their products. Yes, it is that simple. We don't have to stop buying things we do not need, like soda and ice blocks. We just have to buy the right soda and ice blocks. And then everything will be just fine.

Also, go to the gym: "Health is an important aspect of sustainability. You can’t keep much of anything going without it, and a healthy attitude to our own bodies leads us logically into looking after the well-being of the environment around us." I think we all know someone who has become an altruist and an environmentalist after a few sessions at the gym, don't we? Philip Mills, gym bunny wrangler,  has explored the connections between personal and global wellbeing. And this is what he found:
It is an absolute no-brainer. The future of the world is going to be defined by scarcity and more and more affluent people competing for resources. The opportunities are going to be massive for sustainable energy and New Zealand has lots of core competency in those areas.
See what he did there? He found a way to make money out of misery.  ¡Zumba! Yes, New Zealand can pump above its weight on a world gym floor by exploiting scarcity and affluence. Millions of people all over the world will be going to his gyms as the water rises around them. Many more people, of course, will have no need to go to the gym because they will be starving to death. But there is certain to be business advantages to be found even there, so long as they can afford to pay. They probably can't afford anything, what with their homes and livelihoods being destroyed; but if sustainability is going to mean anything, it has to mean business.

And, in this hour of need for our planet, let's not forget fashion:
An artist and ethical fashion designer, Miranda Brown incorporates sustainability as a core value in her eponymous brand. Committed to principles and practices such as ‘cradle to cradle’ and quadruple bottom line, Miranda’s nature-inspired artwork includes fashion, interiors, art commissions and public art.
See, you can carry on indulging yourself.  You can buy a t-shirt and free the sea. It's a campaign, you see. You buy a $55 t-shirt that makes you feel better about being affluent and $5 goes to a good cause, leaving $50 to cover Miranda's overheads and pay the people in Bali who make the shirts (there is probably a perfectly good reason why the shirts cannot be made in New Zealand - probably a fair wage here would be a lot more than one in Bali, something like that). And let's not forget, silk worms are sustainable.

And remember, it is all about our pure advantage:
A successful business needs a competitive advantage. A successful country is no different.
New Zealand’s economic and environmental performance is sliding, and with it our single greatest opportunity to lead the world. It’s ours for the taking if we can improve our green credentials, foster our high value exports and build industries that will thrive in a rapidly changing global economy. We need to build a sustainable competitive advantage. Our Pure Advantage. Join a group of business leaders determined to deliver world-leading improvements to our economy, our environmental performance and the living standards of all New Zealanders. Green Growth for greater wealth.

So come on New Zealand! It's time to spend lots of money on ourselves and make lots of money from foreigners. And save on thinking by using fewer words more often: in this article, the word  passionate was used four times while sustainability and its variants were used twenty-six times. We are all passionate about sustainability aren't we? That's why we buy high-value products that provide added value. And that's why we love ecopreneurs.

You see, in today's brand-led economy, feeling is just as important as doing. You could decide that the sustainable thing to do would be to buy second-hand stuff and things made in New Zealand. You could decide to buy fewer things. But that wouldn't feel nice, would it? Because buying stuff, expensive stuff, is really all we have. Not buying stuff just does not feel nice. Fortunately, though, we can make an emotional offset. We buy things that make us feel we are doing good. We thus offset, emotionally, all the bad stuff we buy. A shirt with an indigenous-style image of an aquatic mammal is emotionally equivalent to all that tuna we ate every lunchtime last week. Even reading this article on a Monday is emotionally equivalent to the weekend of over-indulgence we have just enjoyed.

This way, we can cope.

Human League:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lives of the artists

Gentle readers doubtless will be following closely the adventures of Caroline Flack, a television presenter,  who presents a show called the Xtra Factor in Britain, a show seemingly unlike the Krypton Factor. No, nor me.

However, since this is a slow day, I shall persist.  The Xtra Factor is a behind-the-scenes show that goes behind the scenes of the X Factor (a talent show) to give you extra scenes, from behind.You might just be dimly aware that Ms Flack is living the dream and loving every minute of it or that she experienced an A&E dash.  Fortunately for the British, their lives are so close to perfection they have leisure to watch spin-offs of talent shows, while taking a close interest in the lives of the presenters.

I'm not boring you am I? If I am, I do apologise, and suggest you leave this post at the next exit, which happens to be an interview with Marty, who has written a novel about England's celebrity obsession.

So, where were we? Oh yes, Ms Flack is also well-known for having been  involved with one Harry Styles - a member of One Direction, a popular music combo.

Yes, I know, its not the same as sneering at the bad taste of the rich and beating up epistemologists. But still, there are some out there who are interested in this sort of thing and, while they are not exactly in the demographic for this blog, I do have a scoop for their titillation. What you will read below has not been found by any other media outlet. You see, unlike most observers of the celebrity relationship scene, I have advanced skills in architectural analysis, skills seldom of much use. However, on this occasion, I have been able to uncover, using nothing but my ability to recognise buildings, the celebrity relationship story of the year.

Take a look, if you will at the photographs of Ms Flack in this story in the Mail. Do you notice something about that house? No? Then let me remind you of my story about Lana del Rey, of not so long ago. Do you see the photograph of Ms del Rey and her cat? Do you see that it is the same house? Yes, gentle readers; based on the evidence of mine own eyes, I can reveal to you my conviction that Caroline Flack and Lana del Rey are living together, possibly in Frinton-on-Sea.

Yes, yes, I knew you would be started, shocked, even scandalised. But the truth will out. Of course, none of us know the exact nature of their relationship and it would be vulgar to speculate. But also it would be fun. Perhaps Ms Flack and Ms del Rey are just housemates; perhaps they are in a Boston marriage; perhaps there is more, much more. Perhaps Ms del Rey goes to the kitchen to sob quietly whenever Ms Flack brings home a boy band. Perhaps Ms Flack hoped her association with Ms del Rey would give her the indy cool for which she always longed. Perhaps she is wondering whether the cat has been fed.

In other news, award-winning songwriter Ed Sheeran (no, nor me) is related to Krypton Factor host Gordon Burns.

Here's Sleater-Kinney with one of the best power-pop songs ever made and one of the best promos.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Plenty more Cavendish in the sea

To Countdown Metro, in search of snacks; I find myself looking longingly at a display of a new product - banana bread - and asking myself "what took them so long?" But my desire is soon checked by a reading of the ingredients, a list which ends with the following warning: "may contain traces of fish." Really? It just might? An accident involving fish and bread might occur? Some fish might have swum into the cake mix, is that it? Or do fish migrate in bananas? I think we should be told.

In other news, the resistance to Instagram begins here. We take heart from the news that Facebook has introduced its own camera app, called simply Camera; this after buying Instagram for one billion dollars US. Clearly, Instagram is not in safe hands; it is in the hands of an overgrown frat boy who has had an extraordinary amount of luck and now is stuffing up everything. We (and by we I mean all of us who enjoy photography) can only hope that he makes a complete hash of his purchase and his app, so that,  soon, we will no longer have to endure distressed photographs of meals posted on Internet by their proud makers and eaters.

At right is a real photograph made in the past. It depicts Golden Lane Estate in the City of London, designed by Chamberlain, Powell and Bon. It comes from a book published in 1963. You will note that the photograph does not have any arbitrary shadows creeping in from the corners: cameras were really very good in 1963 and could produce images of high quality. Nor is this image slightly out of focus: photographers in 1963 were often highly-trained professionals. Nor still is the image saturated in a yellow wash: photographic film manufacturers in 1963 made stock that did not discolour easily. So, it just goes to show, the past was not like Instagram at all.

Still puzzled? If you want to what the past looked like, try taking a look at Between Channels. You'll be glad you visited.

What's that, you are still not sure about photography in the past? Well then, take a look at the work of Fred Herzog, who photographed Vancouver in the late 50s and 60s. You might notice that Herzog did not waste film taking photographs of his dinner. His images are clear and bright. They are about the city and its people. They are not self-obssessed.

So, put your phone away and eat your dinner.

Here is an aptly named song from the Go-Betweens:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How they brought the bad news from Dymchurch to Bromley

My sister and I had a very disapointing visit to the Neptune yesterday. The barmaid was devoid of any customer skills. She only answering our queries of food and coffee in an abrupt way. Not at all friendly and never smiled once. She made us feel like we were inconveniencing her. We ordered coffees and one ham and one cheese baguette to be told there may not be any ham - although there were quite a few meals on the board that included ham!!! We paid nearly £15. The coffee which came from a machine was putrid. After waiting for almost 40 minutes and enquiring how much longer, to be told in an abrupt way by the barmaid "she, is doing it"! As we were the only customers, I found this quite unbelievable! Eventually, two small (both finely grated cheese - no ham) baguettes with a measly helping of lettuce, tomato and transparent cucumber. I said the the barmaid that it was quite discusting for the price we had been charged and she said "thats what a baguette is"!!! At this point, we just could'nt wait to get out of there. The music was blaring, the pub was grotty and the windows were filthy. We should have followed our instinct when we pulled up in the car park as my sister commented on the state of the window and said "I think the pub has shut down". But, having spent a lot of time in the area last year my sister and I had visited the Neptune several times and had many lovely meals there. We had also recommended the place to friends and family. NO MORE.! I do not see my sister very often and having decided to drive to Dimchurch from Bromley was a completly wasted day!
Quite. I like especially the barmaid's retort, "thats what a baguette is."  I remember the Neptune Inn quite fondly as one of the many pubs between the Saxon Shore and the sea where I misspent my youth,  and because recently I met someone who had worked there a few years ago; she told me tales of its decline. It used to be quite nice.

In other news from Dymchurch, here are some Lavatory videos (surprisingly SFW but also quite peculiar) including one from the same Neptune Inn. Meanwhile, film fans can enjoy an exhaustive description of the various retellings of the story of Dr Syn.

Finally, late news: Robert Browning is 200.

More Go-Betweens:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Your town

To put another spin on it, I am interested in the collegial and the communal aspect of architectural culture. In this I am very influenced by Juan Pablo Bonta’s teasing out of the mechanisms through which buildings enter the canon. He emphasises that that is a consensual, communal process which happens over time and through the input of many and varied voices (and that publication and photography are crucial to it). These are important points. Again it doesn’t deny us individual agency, but it points out that we also act within larger contexts, and in relation to many others.

Yes: Justine Clark in conversation with Andrew Mackenzie. This calls for some Go-Betweens.

This is the Manchester Unity Building in Wellington. Here, amongst other buildings, is the Manchester Unity Building in Melbourne. Here is the Manchester Unity Building in Greytown.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Notes and theories: The anxious edge

Here, if it is the edge that speaks, it is an edge that, paradoxically, speaks with the authority of an empty centre: an edge too anxious, too edgy, to speak of itself. An edged figure from the edge of the world, it hedges the edge of its site. "Like an intact catastrophe that redeems the accident beyond common sense", it speaks of the enigma of the threshold, the limit.

Furjan, Helene. 
"Crossed Lines: 
Drawing Threads from the 1991 Venice Prize." 
Interstices, no. 2 (1992): 195-201.

Tour of lifts at Maidstone Hospital, Kent; one lift has the same voice as the Piccadilly Line.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Louis Crimp, man of actions

"Every opportunity the Maoris get they have to do this war dance, whether it is for a funeral or something happy or a wedding. They feel they have to take all their clothes off, stick tongues out and wave spears. That's not New Zealand."
So who is Louis Crimp, the ACT party benefactor who has set tongues wagging and spears waving in the wake of his comments to the New Zealand Herald? Mr Crimp is a businessman. Here are some of the people with whom he has had professional relations:

GM Designs owner Graeme McMillan said he had carried out work for Mr Crimp for 25 years. He said he was difficult to communicate with and was not available for serious decision-making. "He can give away millions but not pay the cents that count," Mr McMillan said, adding that he believed Mr Crimp would, like the Invercargill City Council, wait on the sidelines until the government forced action to be taken.
Invercargill businessman Louis Crimp, who owns the building and reclaimed it this week, said he thought any "vengeance" would be against him personally rather than against the house.
Crimp had been heard in a cubicle with a woman making noises which disturbed other guests. … Crimp had explained he had been helping a young woman who was having an asthma attack.
Internal Affairs
Mr Crimp is in no position to rail, with any integrity, against the foundation's use of pokie proceeds. He has, himself, been one of the grandfathers of the pokies industry in Invercargill, albeit in rivalry with the trust. So his contempt can hardly stem from holding the machines themselves to be an intolerable social harm. Far from overbrimming with sympathy for the problems of pokie addiction, he wrote to our public opinion column in April referring witheringly to "the suckers who addict themselves to poker machines". Much as he criticises the foundation for "making donations to doubtful charities" it has never been pinged for doing so. In fact, the ILT skites, and not without evidence, that it is regarded by governmental watchdogs as a role model for returning proceeds to the community. By shabby contrast it is Mr Crimp who has been caught up in notorious and inglorious misuses of pokie funds. This was in the 1990s, and involved decisions so imperious that they offended rules that were less strict than they are now. The Southland Pool Players' Club, upon whose executive Mr Crimp had been a member, dispensed the money from pokies at one of Mr Crimp's most high-profile establishments, Players' pool hall, for a team of nine members, including Mr Crimp, to attend a pool competition in Australia. This was just part of what Internal Affairs inspectors described as "gross misapplication of proceeds". Undaunted, as he so often is, by official disapproval, Mr Crimp had then stuck his hand out for Players' pokie profits to help pay the 1998 election expenses of Southland Action, a group of candidates which he led into the Invercargill City Council election race.

The Clash:

Careless talk costs sales

Recently, people have been spreading false rumours about instant personalisation. This program was introduced in April 2010 and if you choose to disable it, none of your information can be shared when you or your friends arrive on these websites.By confirming, you will no longer immediately see customised content and friend activity on partner websites.
False rumours, I tell you. Was it you? Were you talking about Facebook's instant personalisation? Shame on you.

Note that Facebook describes Scribd as social reading, not as copyright theft.

The Animals, live at the NME

Notes and theories: deconstruct this

The awards are for conceptual designs, but one of the judges commented, "one of the most alarming factor in judging the 83 entries was the disservice many of the entrants did to themselves by the over-verbose and complex written texts which accompanies their entries. Many of these seemed determined to deconstruct the argument before revealing it."

Bourke, Chris.
 "Cavalier Bremworth design awards."
Listener, 11 December 1993, 42.

The Clean:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Notes and theories: welcome to the rubber dome.

The first spring was here and Arthur, an elderly family rubber plant, died quietly in the house, the result of an uptight house-guest's bad 'vibes' from prolonged and bitter telephone hassles.
Meares, E N.
"Napoleon Who...?" 
no. 11 (1978): 12-14.

This story has a happy ending. Placed in a geodesic dome by his spiritually-aware owners, Arthur returned from the land of the dead.

Notes and theories: don't look now

Arts Horizon readers have the chance to buy these beautiful black and white art prints at a special price. Joan E. Thomas, an Auckland infant teacher, is the artist. For the Old Auckland Houses set of prints she has used a very fine tipped pen...

"Special Art Prints Offer." 
New Zealand Arts Horizon 2, 
no. 4 (1976): 8-9.

The Cannonball Adderley Sextet, for Ben McNicoll

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Notes and theories: like with Works of Art

In this transient age, fewer buildings are being developed with long term prospects in mind. Ours, however, are rather different. Like with Works of Art, we believe people in our position have a responsibility to help develop a worthwhile tomorrow. Unlike many, our building developments are here to stay. And equally as pleasing to the eye now - as they will be in years to come. Perhaps that's because the type of investors we attract appreciate the value of Works of Art. 
Caption: Mural in foyer of Mayfair House, carved from native timbers by Brian Verry, depicts elements of artistic interest within Auckland. 
Caption: Winning design by Sinclair Johns Architects retains the Queen's Head Tavern facade for Mayfair Development's 20 storey project on Queen Street, Auckland

Advertisement for Mayfair Development
"Works of Art Are Portrayed in Our Buildings." 
Pacific Way, September - October 1987, 65.

Twelve years later:

‘IT’S A BIT like putting an old Daimler in the garage and not driving it for 10 years,” says CB Richard Ellis agent Jonathan Ogg of Mayoral Towers, the Queen St tower which has stood mostly unoccupied since completion in 1989. 

Mafair House, Mayoral Towers, ACG House and whatever else it has been called is now known as Sofrana House. The Queen's Head Tavern is now a Korean restaurant. Photos here and here 

More wild flag:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Revenge of the Philistines

Thousands of Christchurch citizens squirmed uneasily in their breakfast chairs when they read that the Government Life Insurance Department intended to erect a nine-storey office block on a site in Cathedral Square. It was a squirm of instinctive reaction - nine storeys were surely going a bit too far! As the days passed many of the citizens became convinced that it was going far too far - and what was more they could offer some reasons why this was so.  One letter to a newspaper pointed out that a building of such tremendous height would throw a shadow right across the Square, and as a result the winter frosts would have no time to thaw. I overheard a neighbour protest that the Square would never take the weight - surely everyone knows that the centre of Christchurch was once a bog! But the citizen who really delighted me was the one who, in another letter to the newspaper, pointed out that the proposed building would be completely out of keeping with the present architectural dignity of the Square. It reminded me of the look of wonderment on the face of an English friend who stood with me once beside the Godley statue and gazed around him. Finally he said, 'All this Square needs is a modern block of offices and an Eskimo igloo, and you'll have the lot.' 

With the Government Life Building, our collection will be almost complete.

Smyth, Bernard. "Christchurch: Milk and Dignity." Comment 3, no. 3 (1962): 15-16.

And now it is going. I liked it.

Wild Flag

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tomorrow is another day, possibly

An email is received from the Save TVNZ 7 campaign:
Just clarifying - the Auckland Public Meeting is tonight (Tuesday) at the Freemans Bay Community Centre from 7-9pm. 
The last email we sent saying it's tomorrow was sent last night, hence the confusion. Our apologies. See you tonight hopefully. 
Save TVNZ 7
This is why days have names, to avoid this sort of confusion.  Anyway, you should go: tonight, Tuesday, Freemans Bay Community Centre, Auckland, New Zealand; hopefully.

The Kinks, of course:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Board on the run

Gentle reader, you may be thinking of undertaking a course of postgraduate study at the University of Auckland.  If so, I suggest you read this recent correspondence between this author and the University of Auckland's Dean of Graduate Studies, Associate Professor Caroline Daley. Since this is a complicated matter, I suggest you keep beside you this link to a PDF of the University's Statute and Guidelines for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Another Art History PhD once thrust a copy of the Statute and Guidelines into my hand and told me to keep it with me at all times; it was the best advice I have received at this university.

 Dear Professor Daley,

I am writing to you in your role as Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies. This email is an appeal, Under Clause 10a(ii) of the Statute and Guidelines of the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, against a decision of the Board. I did not make this complaint within the usual three month period since I feared further victimisation by the University if I made a complaint.

I am now appealing against the Board's decision,  described in the attached email by you of 19th December 2010, to note my 2010 annual report but neither to approve it nor reject it. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not see any place in the Statute and Guidelines that allows the Board to merely note my report.

I object most strongly to the Department of Art History Postgraduate Studies Committee rejecting my report. That committee has no authority under the Statute and Guidelines or in any other capacity to approve, reject or even see my report. It is the Head of Department and the main supervisor who should consider the report. The Board was failing in its duty under the Statute. The Board also allowed my right to confidentiality to be breached.

I further object to the false reporting of my academic record. I discovered, some time after the Board had decided not to make a decision, that my record said my report had been accepted. This was a deliberate perversion of the truth. If the Board cannot make a decision, it should have the courage to say so.

Finally, I wish to object to the Board's failure to ensure that my report was properly managed. My Head of Department  and the Associate Dean  deliberately prevented me completing my section of the  report - of responding to the fabrications made by my former supervisor. I was also denied supervision for a full academic year. The Board, which should have been prompting the HoD to provide my report, did nothing. Again, the Board failed in its duty. I suffered a year of harassment and a year without supervision because of the Board's inaction.

I provided detailed, written evidence to refute the claims made by my former supervisor. The Board should have considered this evidence and made a decision.

I wish my appeal and my objection to be made known to the Board and for my appeal to be considered. If you refuse to properly consider my appeal, I shall be taking legal action against the University.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Litterick

Professor Daley's reply:

Mr Paul Litterick
Department [sic] of Architecture and Planning
Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries

10 May 2012

Dear Mr Litterick

Re: Appeal made under Clause 10a(ii) of the 2011 PhD Statute

In response to your email of 21 April 2012 I have considered your appeal as to registration (Clause 10a(ii) of the PhD Statute).

You state that you did  not make your complaint within the usual three month period because you feared further victimisation by the University. However, I note that in your 2011 annual report, received by the Graduate Centre on 20 June 2011 (but signed off by you on 28 April 2011), both you and your supervisor state that your doctoral studies are progressing well.  In your extension request, received by the Graduate Centre on 2 February 2012 (signed off by you on 24 January 2012) it is noted by your supervisor that you are making good progress. The extension request was approved. In your 2012 doctoral annual report, received by the Graduate Centre on 14 March 2012 (signed off by you on 6 March 2012) both you and your supervisor state that your doctoral studies are progressing well. The details set out above clearly indicate to me that, since at least April 2011, there has been no reasonable basis to support your claim that you feel that you are suffering or subject to any ‘victimisation’ from the University, yet you are now seeking to appeal a registration matter from 2010.

On the basis that you have not established grounds for your claim of victimisation in the period since April 2011, and over a year past the end of the normal 3 months allowed for an appeal is beyond any reasonable extension of the appeal period,  I must advise that your appeal will not be considered.

Yours truly

Caroline Daley
Dean of Graduate Studies

See what she did there?  Not surprisingly, my appeal has been rejected. Not that there was anything wrong with it; my appeal was rejected because it was too late. But had I appealed earlier, I would have taken the risk that my next Annual Report might be rejected and my PhD terminated.

Because I now have an excellent supervisor and Head of School who has not abused her power, unlike my previous supervisor and my previous Head of Department, Professor Daley insists I have no grounds to fear the University would victimise me had I made a complaint.  Yet the University had victimised me for making a complaint.  As things turned out, I was not victimised again. But how would I know that? Had I made a complaint to the Board of Graduate Studies, it might have victimised me.  After all, the Board does not feel bound by the Statute; it might do anything. But now, I have completed my last Annual Report, so I am relatively safe.

This is what happened when I first made a complaint. I complained to the Dean of Arts about the Head of Department of Art History, Dr Caroline Vercoe. My complaint was one of unlawful discrimination. I made this complaint because Dr Don Bassett, my then PhD supervisor, told me that I had been turned down for a position tutoring his students because of my age and gender - a clear case of discrimination; Dr Vercoe was the chair of the selection panel for that position; Dr Bassett and Dr Robin Woodward were the other two members.

 Not only did I make a complaint to the Dean of Arts, but I told Dr Bassett that I no longer wanted his supervision, which is reasonable, give the circumstances. Dr Bassett accepted my decision.

Dr Bassett then wrote my annual report, despite having been on sabbatical for the second half of the year and thus unavailable to supervise me. His report was not pleasant. Dr Vercoe responded by refusing to allow me to reply to this report, as I was entilted to do - in fact, required to do - by the rules for Annual reports. Not only was I denied the opportunity to respond, I was denied supervision and told I must write a 10,000 word chapter before I would be considered for supervision. I refused. Dr Vercoe had no right to make such a demand, no right under the Statute.

As it turned out, I received no supervision during that entire academic year. Dr Vercoe - with the connivance of Associate Professor Lee Wallace, the Associate Dean (Postgraduate) whose responsibility was to administer the annual reports - victimised me. The Dean of Arts looked on and did nothing; the Board of Graduate Studies did nothing. Caroline Daley knows this: it was only when she took up the post of Dean of Graduate Studies and intervened in this matter that I was given the opportunity to leave Art History and go to Architecture, given the opportunity, that is, to have the supervision to which I was entitled. She has also made enquiries into what the Department of Art History did; she has taken action, although she won't tell me what her enquiries revealed or what action she took.

Not only did Dr Vercoe breach her responsibilities under the Statute, but my fate was put in the hands of the Department of Art History Postgraduate Studies Committee, a body that has absolutely no statutory authority whatsoever. By which I mean,  doctoral supervision and reporting are governed by the Statute and there is no provision in that document for a Postgraduate Studies Committee to interfere in the reporting process. The reporting process is the concern of the candidate, the supervisor, the Head of Department, the Associate Dean (Postgraduate) and the University's Board of Graduate Studies.

Now, as the estimable gentle reader Peter of Dundee has argued, Postgraduate Studies Committees can be a force for good; but my point is that the  Department of Art History Postgraduate Studies Committee has no role, no right to be involved. Despite this, the Department of Art History Postgraduate Studies Committee was allowed to interfere and to prevent me receiving a report, getting a new supervisor and leaving the Art History Department. Eventually, I was allowed to complete my annual report: to comment on the remarks that Dr Bassett had made about me, to make my own comments.  But then, the Department of Art History's Postgraduate Studies Committee rejected my report. Must have been something I said.

Worse still, Caroline Daley supports this involvement. On 13 December 2010, she wrote to me thus:
1. What authority does the Department of Art History's Postgraduate Studies Committee have in this matter? Clause 5 of the PhD Statute (2008) outlines the Annual Review of Registration process (5 d). There is no requirement under the Statute that departmental postgraduate studies committees are involved in this process. However, the practice in Art History is that the departmental Postgraduate and Research Committee considers all doctoral annual reports and provisional reviews. It is common across the University for such committees, or sub-committees, to do so. The intention, supported by international Higher Education research, is that the involvement of people other than the candidate and main supervisor in such processes leads to better educational outcomes.
"There is no requirement under the Statute," she says. No, it is more than that: there is no mention of such committees in the statute; the committee has no statutory existence, no right to exist, let alone be involved, let alone to prevent a PhD candidate receiving supervision. But then, Professor Daley thinks  "the involvement of people other than the candidate and main supervisor in such processes leads to better educational outcomes." Professor Daley talks a lot of flannel like that.

The Committee was not even authorised to see my report, yet it did so and it rejected it.  And, because of this rejection, the Board of Graduate Studies chose to avoid making a decision. Yet the Statute rules that they must make a decision.

To put that last point another way, the Department of Art History Postgraduate Studies Committee had no right to accept or reject my report, yet rejected it; while the Board of Graduate Studies was obliged to accept or reject my report, yet made no decision.

How about that?

Worse still, the Board of Graduate Studies attempted to hide it cowardice -  its unwillingness to stand up to an unauthorised committee and to do its duty - by falsifying my academic record. I found this had been done some time later, when a copy of my record was sent to me by a member of the administrative staff of the Graduate Centre. The record said my report had been accepted.

The Board of Graduate Studies has not apologised for breaching the University Statute and for falsifying an official record. It has done nothing. I was obliged to make an appeal, because that is the only statutory right I have. I am obliged to act within the terms of the Statute, even when the University's statutory body is breaching it.

And the Board, how does it respond? It responds by finding an excuse to avoid responding, a procedural means of avoiding responsibility. These men and women on the Board are some of the University's most senior staff, but they lack the courage and integrity to take responsibility for their inaction.

So, gentle reader, this is my warning to you. Should you chose to undertake postgraduate study at Auckland University, be aware that none of the rules really applies, none of the guidelines will guide you anywhere, none of the many Postgraduate policies, guidelines and forms is worth the downloading. The University will do what it likes. Or it will do nothing. Whatever suits.

Yo La Tengo:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Plenty to go round

"The way I see it, by the time Centrepoint got started, he'd figured out how to set himself up as alpha male. He'd surrounded himself with an awesome bunch of strong, capable and desirable women, and this attracted a number of on-to-it men who could see that there was plenty to go round."
Bert Potter's son eulogises. You can see where he gets it from. You too can get it from the Government or the Herald on Sunday:
Labour's David Shearer wanted to know why young fathers were not being "called to account", which was both impractical and failed to focus on the actual problem.
No, men are not the problem; sluts are the problem. However, Paul Little, a man, disagrees;
The really noxious component of the whole proposal is its extension to the teenage daughters of beneficiaries who are over the age of consent. It would be comforting to believe that this plan was not meant to be a slur on women on the DPB. Yet the inference is unavoidable. As is the implication that being a trollop is hereditary. There's a slut gene that gets transmitted from solo mothers to their daughters. If your mother was a slut, you'll probably be one, too. Maybe not, but let's not take any chances. These second-generation sluts can't help themselves. Only long-term invasive contraception can counter the effects of the gene.
If you see them on the street, tell them Raoul sent you (yeah, Raoul).


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hang up and try again

Gentle readers will doubtless groan to read that I am still going on about Auckland University and Wot it Done to Me but the University has yet to admit it did wrong. Worse still, it continues to break its own rules in order to try to avoid taking responsibility. I shall now make public the details of these acts of avoidance, on this very blog. As a primer for younger readers who have not heard this sorry tale, here is a letter I have just written to Mr T Greville, Secretary to the University Council, which includes a long description of what has been going on, a description with which longer-suffering readers will be familiar. Having posted this, I shall in further posts try to amuse you all with tales of the absurdities of Auckland University. In doing so, I shall try to make good on my promise to the estimable Mr Steve Braunias that I would tell all.

If you do not want to read this again or ever, I quite understand. You can, if you wish, scroll to the bottom of this post where you will find a new song from Guided By Voices.

Dear Mr Greville,

I wish to make a complaint to the University Council about the abuse I have suffered, as a PhD candidate, at the hands of senior University staff. The basis of my complaint is in the attached document, which the University has chosen to ignore. Could you tell me how I go about making such a complaint? 
Yours sincerely,

Paul Litterick

A complaint about unresolved issues

1. Admission

I applied to the University of Auckland for admission as a Doctoral candidate in late 2007, with the intention of studying in the Art History Department. It was my first application to the University. More than twenty years earlier, I had achieved a Class 2.1 BA (Hons) from Nottingham University and an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art at London University. I had also been accepted as a PhD candidate at Cambridge University to study under David Watkin, one of the world's leading architectural historians - an offer I did not accept. I had been awarded a three-year British Academy Scholarship. Added to these qualifications, I had seven years experience as the founder and Registrar of the Ministry of Defence Art Collection in London, among other career achievements. I had also established a growing reputation as a writer in New Zealand. In short, I was a high-calibre applicant.

I was treated like dirt by the admissions office. Admissions had not heard of the Courtauld Institute and was not prepared to find out about it. Art History had to obtain a letter from my former supervisor at the Courtauld, who had since retired. I was humiliated.  My application took from late November 2007 to the beginning of March 2008. I lost money because of the University's stupidity: I could not take a job during that time because I did not know if or when I would be admitted to the University.

One of the issues by which Admissions delayed my enrollment was its staff's inability to understand the Courtauld MA grades. These were only two - Pass and Distinction; Professor Rankin instructed the Admissions Office of this difference from most universities. I had obtained a Pass: no bad thing when it comes from the best school of its kind in the world. Yet Admissions was incapable of understanding that and so decided to invent a Grade Point Equivalent for me. They decided on a GPE of 6 points. At the request of Art History, a single point was added to that score to acknowledge the quality of the school where I had obtained my MA. Since the University website said that a GPA of 7 was the minimum requirement for a scholarship, I did not complain.

2. Scholarships

I had thought I was eligible for a scholarship, but then my Supervisor, Dr Don Bassett, told me that only graduates of New Zealand universities - those with a Grade Point Average were eligible. I believed him. So I did not apply for any scholarship during most of my first year: I missed out on several opportunities for University or Faculty of Arts scholarships. Then I discussed the matter with Professor Elizabeth Rankin, my co-Supervisor and HOD. She spoke to Dr Jennifer Curtin. Associate Dean (Postgraduate), who revealed that my GPE was the same as a GPA, so I could apply. I was encouraged to apply for scholarships by Elizabeth Rankin and Dr Curtin. Since the University website said that the minimum GPA was less than my GPE, I applied for scholarships. I was unsuccessful each time.

I was never told why I was unsuccessful. In 2010, I asked this question of Associate Dean Postgraduate Lee Wallace, Dr Curtin's successor. She gave me a reply that was curt to the point of rudeness and did not answer my question; she also refused to tell me the criteria by which applications were judged and closed the correspondence. Later, I asked the same question of  Caroline Daley, the Dean of Graduate Studies. She told me, on 27th September 2010, that my scholarship applications would be judged on the two most recent full-time equivalent years of study prior to commencing the PhD; she also told me that my GPE was unlikely to be enough. So, after almost three years at the University, I was finally told what everyone else knew all along: that the scholarship was rigged in such a way that I could not obtain one. Not once did anyone say that my GPE would not be enough. Had I known that, I would have gone elsewhere - to the Courtauld, to Cambridge or one of many universities worldwide that could have provided proper funding and much better treatment than I received at Auckland.

The fact of the matter is that I was deceived. I had a high-enough GPE and other qualities to meet the requirements mentioned on the University website. I was not told that a higher standard was applied, which would be the main criterion for selection. Elizabeth Rankin, Jennifer Curtin and Lee Wallace all deceived me, as did the University website. 

3. Supervision

My Supervisor, Don Bassett, turned out to be lazy, incompetent and bullying. I made several complaints about him to Professor Elizabeth Rankin, HOD and my co-Supervisor, who did nothing. I described my experiences in my Annual Report for 2009, which consequently was rejected by various parties, none of whom had the right to be involved. I suffered a year without any supervision because of those people interfering in the reporting process.

I had been granted about ten supervision meetings in three years in the Art History Department. Meetings were infrequent and always prompted by me. I had no supervision during University vacations. In the second semester of 2009, when Dr Bassett was on sabbatical and Dr Rankin was my main supervisor, I had one meeting. I have described my experiences in my 2009 report, which I shall include with this statement. 

I had a lengthy meeting with Professor Rankin about Dr Bassett's shortcomings. She promised to speak to the School of Architecture about the possibility of having a co-supervisor from the School to make up for Dr Bassett. Nothing came of this. Later A/P Len Bell made a similar promise: again nothing came of it. I could have had suitable supervision during 2010, but clearly the Art History Department did not want me to have it. Of course, they would have lost money if my supervision had changed, so they had every incentive to do nothing.

4. Supervisor's retirement  

I learned that Dr Bassett was to retire from one of my peers, at a gathering for graduate students in December 2009. Subsequently, an undergraduate told me that in -March 2009 - Dr Bassett had told students of his plans to retire. Dr Bassett did not bother to tell me. It seems also that his retirement plans were known to other members of the Department, including Professor Rankin. She told me, eventually, in late December 2009. Had I known that he was retiring earlier I would have gone elsewhere. The information, it seems, was deliberately withheld from me. I suffered a further year in that awful Department, with little supervision because Dr Bassett, Professor Rankin and others chose not to tell me.

5. Application for GTA position

I applied for a GTA position for two courses Dr Bassett was teaching in 2010. Dr Bassett made his hostility to my application quite clear.  

However, I needed the money and the teaching experience. I was clearly the best-qualified candidate for the job and had already marked papers for one of the courses. I faced a hostile interview panel. Dr Bassett said very little throughout the interview, which ended with the three members of the panel - Drs Bassett, Vercoe and Woodward - laughing at me for having asked a question that was quite reasonable.

I didn't get the job. Caroline Vercoe's letter said that I was turned down because I lacked tutoring experience - although I had such and had said so during the interview. Another candidate for another GTA position had no tutoring experience and an overseas academic history like mine, yet she was given a GTA job in a course that was quite unrelated to her PhD research. But then, she was Dr Vercoe's student. She told me she had approached Dr Vercoe before the interviews about tutoring Dr Vercoe's course but Dr Vercoe had already decided on a GTA. So the other post was probably her consolation prize. The GTA process is rigged.

Later Dr Bassett told me that I was not selected because I am a middle-aged man and the panel wanted young women to do the jobs.  Elizabeth Rankin had said much the same when I spoke to her about my rejection. The Art History Department is riddled with cronyism and outright discrimination. 

I complained to the Dean of Arts.  She and the staff she appointed to investigate my case chose to ignore the evidence I presented about the other GTA candidate. They also gave Drs Vercoe and Bassett the opportunity to make some new and abusive comments about me, my imaginary lack of tutoring experience having been forgotten.

I took my case to the Human Rights Commission but I could not prove it - Dr Bassett had lied about his original statement - so I was obliged to drop my complaint. I asked the Dean of Arts to help me obtain another supervisor - I had gone months without any supervision - but she did nothing.

The GTA post was not just a part-time job (as the Dean of Arts so condescendingly claimed at the meeting with the Human Rights Commission). It was an opportunity for teaching experience. By discriminating against me the Department has damaged, if not ruined, my future academic career prospects.

6. Annual Report

After Dr Bassett told me why I had failed in my GTA application, I dropped him as my supervisor.  So he used the Annual Report as an opportunity for revenge. His report is a pack of lies. I could have proved he was lying but was prevented from doing so by Dr Vercoe and A/P Lee Wallace. They did not wait for me to complete my part of the report but demanded I write a 10,000-word chapter for them. I refused, since they had no authority to make such a demand, they had no right to interfere in my research and doing such a task would amount to admitting that Dr Bassett was right. 

So Vercoe and Wallace denied me supervision. Dr Vercoe appointed A/P Len Bell to deal with the matter, as she was then under investigation for my GTA complaint. A/P Bell pretended to be an impartial mediator. I later discovered from A/P Caroline Daley that he chaired the Art History Department's Post Graduate Studies Committee, and that other members were Dr Robin Woodward, Dr Erin Griffey, Dr Gregory Minissale and Dr Caroline Vercoe.  This committee, of which A/P Bell had said nothing, was preventing my report going to the Board of Graduate Studies. It is notable that Dr Vercoe was a member of the committee. 

The Art History committee had no authority to be involved in my report. Further, my privacy was violated by the members seeing the report. Almost every member of the Department had seen my report, most without any entitlement to do so. None of those involved had any right to interfere with my report, yet nobody prevented them. I believe they wanted to conceal Dr Bassett's shortcomings. I have still not received a report: A/P Caroline Daley prevented it from being approved.

I had thought that the annual report was to be used supervisor and candidate to discuss differences. Yet Dr Bassett used it to make demonstrably untruthful allegations against me. 

It is also noteworthy that, on separate occasions, both Dr Vercoe and A/P Bell asked to see the work I had been doing - the compilation of the most comprehensive annotated bibliography on New Zealand architecture; yet when I asked each in what format I should supply the material - as a database or a document - neither replied. I think both Dr Vercoe and A/P Bell were trying to catch me out, to find grounds for failing me. 

I also believe they were trying to delay taking any action to provide me with supervision because that would deprive the Department of income.  I endured four pointless meetings over an extended period with A/P Bell, in which he made promises - such as speaking to the School of Architecture - he did not keep. At the last meeting, which Professor Rankin also attended, he told me the Department had decided that Dr Rankin - who knows nothing of my subject and has never troubled herself to learn anything of it - should be my sole supervisor. 

I went without supervision for the entire 2010 academic year. It was only when the new Acting Head of Graduate Studies- A/P Caroline Daley - became involved that I was able to get out of Art History and go to the School of Architecture. She promised to investigate the matter but then, seemingly having found out what was going on, refused to tell me the result of her investigation. She also put the blame on me, for "resisting" the demands of Dr Vercoe and A/P Wallace. Further, A/P Daley insulted my intelligence by claiming that the vetting of my Annual Report by the Art History Postgraduate Studies Committee was in line with international best practice. 

7. Environment

The Art History Department is a thoroughly unpleasant place. Most PhD candidates stay away; most have nothing good to say of their supervisors. Cronyism is rife. So is malice: certain members of the academic staff never miss an opportunity to say something nasty about their colleagues or, far worse, their students.

Here are some examples. At one of the rare social events in the Department, a rather dismal party to celebrate Professor Rankin's departure from the post of HOD and Dr Vercoe's accession to that post, another member of the academic staff told me that Dr Vercoe would be just as bad in the job as Professor Rankin had been. At the Department's postgraduate conference in 2010, one academic staff member told me that one of the PhD students, my colleague and friend, was "strange." After a departmental seminar presented by a student, one academic staff member took the opportunity to mock that student once she was out of earshot. I too have been the subject of gossip by members of academic staff, who have spoken to students about me.

This sort of vicious and juvenile behaviour is astonishing. Not surprisingly, the Art History Department has a very poor reputation within the Arts Faculty and in the art world. Often I have met former graduate students who have had unpleasant experiences in Art History. Often I meet academic staff who express their contempt for the Art History Department and their pity for its students: one senior Faculty member described Art History to me as a "basket case."  In three years I have never met anyone with anything good to say about Art History. The Department is toxic. I was subjected to three years of abuse there. 

Monday, May 07, 2012

The late show

TVNZ7 was always something of an anomalous relic in broadcasting. It was established by TVNZ to run "public service" programmes, which generally means worthy programming which only a few people want to watch. In this context it turned out to mean a mildly liberal agenda of plenty of stuff about novelists, sculptors, painters and the like, some routine Leftish navel-gazing about the media and formless chit-chat on politics, and nothing to speak of on, for instance, finance, business or singing the virtues of, or even explaining, the economic system that dominates so much political discourse nowadays.

That would be it. That is why TVNZ7 has failed. It is all liberal stuff by arty bohemian types and lefty media people. It has nothing for the men who run this country, nothing manly at all, nothing about post neo-classical endogenous growth theory, either for or against. This is why our country is quite literally going to the dogs or even to Hell in a hand-basket. Rather than provide instructive short films about matters of commerce and finance, TVNZ gives pansies free rein to prate about significant form and unreliable narrators. This sort of thing led to the fall of Rome, if not Carthage.

Fortunately, the chaps who run TVNZ are not going to put up with this nonsense any more. They have decided the space in the spectrum occupied by this situationist spectacle will be better used by playing the night's TV One broadcast programmes an hour later. This will give men who have come home to their loving wives and children after a long day in the office the opportunity to catch up with news and current events, as well as the useful programmes about finance and business that TVNZ would broadcast if there were any demand for that sort of thing.

Never mind, here's Mr Cholmondley-Warner: