Monday, December 07, 2020

"I am bottom of the pile here"

 Not so long ago I heard somebody in the grove of academe prating something to the effect of racism being something that only white folks did, that this was axiomatic because of the hegemony of the orientalist nexus in the post-colonial discourse, or words to that effect. Then I remembered Martin Jacques:

That evening the duty doctor came to see her. I asked him various questions and received only evasive responses. I had been anxious for the medical staff to be aware that I was white; in Hong Kong my colour commanded deference and respect, the opposite to how they saw Hari's beautiful deep brown complexion. When he left, I said to her: "A fat lot of use that was." She replied: "I am bottom of the pile here." Her words travelled through my body like an electric shock.The hospital staff were no different to the rest of Hong Kong. Prejudice was ingrained and systemic. Hari's words were all the more disturbing because they were so uncharacteristic. She was uncomplaining, patient and extraordinarily compassionate. She would see prejudice as an affliction of the perpetrator that needed her help and kindness to overcome. But lying in hospital, vulnerable and unwell, was a different matter. She uttered these words with a sense of resignation. When I asked her what she meant – expecting her to give examples – she simply said: "I am Indian and everyone else here is Chinese." The staff were no doubt unaware that Hari was fluent in Cantonese and could understand the racial epithets they were using to refer to her. I told Hari I was going to get her discharged. I went to see the nurse, debating in my mind whether to take her home there and then or in the morning. I opted for the morning because she was still unwell. It was the worst decision I have ever made. 

The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus:


Monday, October 26, 2020



'Historical understanding is always situated and necessarily coloured by our present values and interests. Historical accounts are stories we tell to provide a coherent narrative about who we are and how, through interacting with each other and the world, we got here. Such stories are inherently retrospective - each community in each age will tell the story differently - and they are constructed. The only sense in which a historical narrative can “gets things right” is by telling a story which proves to be both acceptable and enabling to the members of a community; and the only sense in which one such narrative can be “better” than another is not by offering a more faithful description of the objective sequence of events, but rather by redescribing the events in a novel and helpful way.’  

James Conant. ‘Freedom, Cruelty and Truth: Rorty versus Orwell’. 
In Rorty and His Critics, edited by Robert B. Brandon. 
Oxford: Blackwell, 2000, 276.

Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus

Saturday, October 10, 2020


 'The mere possibility that something of value will not fall under the rule of time - and here we need not raise the question of how that value originated, whether inherent or the creation of interpreters - is the real justification for our continuing the clamorous, opinionated conversation.'

Kermode, Frank.
 Forms of Attention
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1985, 91.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Tracking and tracing

In the war against the coronavirus, many stories are told of heroes and heroines fighting for humanity. The Fundy Post, a blog of record, will serve to tell the lesser-known stories of entitled pricks who are concerned only with themselves. Here, for a start, are some reactions to a report in the New York Times: "Last week, doctors on Long Island in New York started treating Covid-19 patients with estrogen in an effort to increase their immune systems, and next week, physicians in Los Angeles will start treating male patients with another hormone that is predominantly found in women, progesterone, which has anti-inflammatory properties and can potentially prevent harmful overreactions of the immune system."


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Caveat vendor

Someone in Palmerston North attempted to sell a guitar on TradeMe, unaware that one of his neighbours is a man who will not take no for an answer. This could be the start of a horror film. They Are Out There could be its title.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Friendly reminder

Many bearded men on Twitter issue friendly reminders, seemingly at random, to ensure we remain fully aware of something terribly important to them. Often these men are called Tyler. Here is one. 

Tyler want to remind us that white privilege exists and is not up for debate. White people have privilege. This is  so important  that he turns on the caps lock and writes PERIODT, a spelling  appropriated from black culture.

Right on, Tyler.

But then, in comes Tim, with a reminder about two other privileges, straight/passing and male. Tyler cannot tell Tim to bog off and write his own friendly reminder, because that might appear homophobic, or transphobic. So Tyler falls in line, and Tim parades his privileges.

But then in comes Nicky, who asks difficult questions. And I come in, just for the fun. Tyler sees an opportunity to parade his virtue, so at the end of the day everybody is happy in a very real sense.

The Tyla Gang:

Friday, April 17, 2020


Coleman is, apparently, all things to all men. According to Martin Williams, who wrote the liner notes for this album, his playing "will effect the whole character of jazz music profoundly and pervasively". An advertisement for a concert he is participating in refers to him as "the new alto saxophone sensation”. A jazz disc jockey calls him the "most talked-about musician in town". And in the "Goings On About Town" section of The New Yorker, he is "Ornette Coleman and his perhaps mortally wounded alto saxophone.
I will be more than happy to leave technical discussion of Coleman's music to Williams' liner notes, for he seems to have a much better grasp of the situation than I.  
The instrumentation of this group will suggest the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, but the only point of similarity is that Coleman's musicians have taken harmonic advantage of the absence of a piano, while Mulligan's thought in such a harmonically conventional way that the piano might as well have been there all along. 
In reference to the various quotations above, it will be interesting to see what happens to the career of the first new prophet to appear since the publicity machinery of jazz has gotten itself in full swing. Coleman's is an authentic attempt, and the initial praise for it came from musicians. Now it seems, everyone else has climbed aboard for what may be a long, long ride.
What I hear from this group (Coleman, alto sax; Don Cherry, trumpet; Charlie Haden, bass; and Billy Higgins, drums) is almost completely different on fast and slow numbers. The uptempo selections are nerve-shattering unrealized fragments, departing, it would seem, from Charlie Parker at the time of KoKo. On slower numbers, Coleman, who sounds much like the late Ernie Henry, is capable of composing strange melody lines that stick naggingly in the mind for days, and, on his solos, playing isolated phrases that have an instantly affecting beauty.

American Record Guide 
Vol 26, 1959, 339

Thursday, April 16, 2020

'St Disgustin’s', the charladies called it

Notes taken from Nicholas Taylor ’s "Sir Albert Richardson: A Classic Case of Edwardianism”, in  Alastair Service’s  Edwardian Architecture and Its Origins (London: Architectural Press, 1975).
445 His myth, as the obituary notices sedulously repeated, was that he had been 'The Last of the Georgians.' He was no such thing. His love of fast cars and (in his early days) of long-distance bicycling, his crowded accumulation of high quality bric-a-brac, his experienced courting of the world of big business, his outrageous use of the verbal pun, his rotund oratory, his smoking of equally rotund cigars - these were the essence of an Edwardian 'card,' a dining club man par excellence.
I was fortunate in spending two Saturday afternoons with him in 1963 (aetatis suae 83) and, at the first of these in particular, his generosity and enthusiasm and remarkable memory were in full spate.

446 J. Alfred Gotch had already published his Growth of Early English Renaissance Architecture ("A student asked, 'Have you got Gotch's Growth?" The bookseller answered, 'God help me, I hope not’.") [Here, Richardson has confused Gotch’s Early Renaissance Architecture in England with his Growth of the English House, combining them into a single title]

447-8 Richardson admired this church and also Pearson's St Augustine, Kilburn ("It was very High Church - 'St Disgustin’s', the charladies called it") because they displayed a 'classical' handling of the Gothic.

448 Moreover, [Leonard] Stokes had turned to a severe stripped classicism for domestic work, after his marriage in 1898 to Miss Gaine, daughter of the general manager of the National Telephone Company, had brought him a rich harvest of telephone exchanges.

Stokes sat in an end room making sketches and sending them down to be drawn out. His pupils and assistants ('Damned Colonials' and 'Damned Scotsmen' were his two main descriptive labels) frequently felt the whip of his tongue ("One day he was swearing at the top of his voice - and the ceiling of the office fell in. He fell on his knees, prayed and crossed himself, gave cheques to all the assistants - and was worse the next morning.") The assistants used to retreat to the lavatory, where they read the Daily Mail until their master shouted for them.
The freedom from Gothic detail that led to the 'free architecture' of Lethaby and Voysey had led simultaneously, and much less satisfactorily, to the development of a relaxed, undisciplined English Baroque manner by architects who had been trained as Goths, but who had large regular practices in the City where clients demanded representational grandeur.

449 Then there was Aston Webb, yet another ex-Goth and an ambitious competition-winner ("He was the fox, the sneak, worked for himself entirely and against others").

451 Selfridges admittedly alarmed students by its vulgarity ("'Don't you be so Selfridge,' we said" muttered Richardson).

456 In the '20s, alas, most of these leaders lost their way somewhere between bypass Tudor and jazz modern.

Richardson’s home, Avenue House in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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Neil Young and Crazy Horse:

Monday, April 13, 2020

Bad British Art

This is something I wrote years ago, but did not publish because it had a paragraph about New Zealand which would have caused Trouble. That paragraph has been removed. If you can understand the relevance of the photograph, please send your answer on a postcard to the usual address.

Oh dear. The Guardian is trying to create a fuss with the old "why don't we love our intellectuals" ploy, overlooking the obvious answer that most public intellectuals are also insufferable pricks; it goes with the job. Of course there is a list – there is always a list. This one was compiled by taking an earlier list and adding to it people who have contributed to the London Review of Books or the New York Review of Books. It is a list filled with the usual names; well, it would be, wouldn't it? It is after all a list made from an earlier list and from contributors to the two most prestigious literary magazines.

The surveyor, John Naughton, then makes his own gloss of this self-fulfilling list, with such searching questions as these:
The philosopher Onora O'Neill has influenced the thinking of many of us with her coruscating insight. But so too has the playwright Michael Frayn. Both have had a significant impact on our culture. But who has been more influential? Impossible to say. Similarly, with his Radio 4 series In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg has done sterling service in injecting serious ideas into public consciousness. Is he therefore a more significant public intellectual than the unobtrusive editor of the London Review of Books, Mary-Kay Wilmers? Who knows?
Who indeed? And what of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir? They were French and horrible; nobody reads them anymore. Other French intellectuals decided they preferred Martin Heidegger instead. He was German and horrible. He was also a Nazi, but that did not bother the intellectuals. Of course, there were British intellectuals as well, such as Bertrand 'Dirty Bertie' Russell, the well-known Rationalist and sex predator.

Meanwhile the Independent covers the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Portrait Painters, and in doing so suggests another answer: the British prefer tweedy celebrities to thinkers. So, in short, the British do not like clever-dicks, modern art or the French.

They don't like accordions, either:

Sunday, April 12, 2020


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