Thursday, December 22, 2005
A Man Called Peters by Adrian Heyter (Hodder and Stoughton, 1977)
Jacket design by Errol McLeary
I have a chocolate fish on offer for the best novel written to match this cover.
The actual book is, according to the dust jacket, "basically a story of conflict between the human and spiritual world and the machine-dominated, impersonal world that could be developing now". A world that apparently involves copious amounts of computer punch tape.
Says Heyter: "This book like my previous four is autobiographical, and also a mixture of fact and fiction. I leave each reader to decide, if necessary, which is which; but to me all of it is true. The central character is my friend Peters who I hope will demonstrate what I can only express, that 'something more than total', with the help of which others may succeed where I have failed."
For all I know this could be a piece of political fiction of equivalent magnitude to Atlas Shrugged. But right now, I don't intend to read either.
Just so you know, his first book, "Shiela In The Wind" was about sailing solo from England to New Zealand.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
The CityLink Courtenay Place webcam also has its own stream (which is just as well, cos it seems to be 15 minutes between Jpeg updates).
Entertainment starts now-ish New Zealand time, celebrities at 6 and movie at 7.
So I saw King Kong last night. I don't think I've had such a viscerally enjoyable and exciting movie experience since I was a kid and every movie was magic. And this one has that magic for grown ups! If it made me come home and engage in a "Who would win in a fight between King Kong and Aragorn? What about Voldemort? Or Aslan. Sauron?" conversation, I can only imagine the state it will induce in my 10 year old brother. (For the record, Kong would win them all, except maybe if Aragorn had the army of the dead with him).
I won't get into a proper review, or give away any spoilers, but I did want to say that I think Peter Jackson made a big mistake sacking Howard Shore as the movie's composer. The final soundtrack was bland, boring, and totally forgettable; probably not James Newton Howard's fault, since he only had a couple of months, but disappointing nonetheless, given the central role Shore's soundtrack played in the Lord of the Rings movies.
Otherwise, look out for the giant wetas, the Sumatran Rat Monkey reference, Moira from Shortland Street, Mel from The Strip and Jackson's trademark cameo (which I have to admit I missed). And if you're not in Wellington you can follow the action at the premiere tonight with this webcam.
It's nice to have a Peter Jackson movie at Christmas time again.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
But now there's all this hue and cry about whether 'not remembering' something is consistent with thinking it didn't happen.
What's the other option?
Let's suppose someone asks you about a particular event.
Let's suppose that you really do have no recollection of it.
If it's something you think you would remember if it had happened, you might say, "It didn't happen".
If it's something you consider implausable, you might say, "It didn't happen".
Of course if you were being unfailingly intellectually honest, you would in both cases say "I think it didn't happen" or just "I don't remember".
And yes, you might also say the latter if you felt it was something that could have happened and that you might have forgotten. Or you might say "I don't know".
All I'm saying is that not remembering and saying it didn't happen utterly consistent and since DBP hasn't backed down from either he hasn't - as far as this goes - been caught out.
If you think something didn't happen it goes without saying that you can't remember it.
I can't believe I felt the need to write that down.
The fact that a parliamentarian would bother trying that one on is another reason why the Privileges Committe would make a lousy court of law. Of course, if they're just trying to break him, i tprobably doesn't matter what shit they come up with.
Seeing as I've raised this - it also applies to the students' testimony. I'll say now that anything below is based on something other than the police reports because I haven't really read them.
First, in that saying it "didn't happen" amounts, in the circumstances, to saying you don't remember, but more assertively.
Second, in that anyone not remembering supports the contention that it didn't happen. It's the opposite of corroboration - the absence of evidence that (allowing for what follows) should be there.
One: People could just say they don't remember to make the police go away.
Two: They might have actually forgotten. This of course hinges on the idea that such an event could actually be forgettable.
Those involved seem to agree that the tennis-ball thing - at least as initially presented in Parliament - would have been well out of the ordinary at Bayfield at the time. I get the impression word would have gone round the school like wildfire. You would have thought that people would remember if it happened.
On the other hand, there is the possibility of an actual incident, but less blantantly traumatic - something one could be in the same room as with some equanimity.
I do think a lot of people not remembering is very meaningful. Mind you, so is a lot of people independently remembering.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Robert Fisk came to my school a couple of weeks ago. I was going to write an article about him, but my planned interview fell through and then I got lazy.
But in today's Harper's Weekly I read the following line:
it was reported that Iraqi militants, before they carried out raids or suicide bombings, were taking a methamphetamine-based drug called "pinky" that made them feel superhuman
It got me to thinking about something Fisk said about suicide bombers. In the two descriptions of suicide bombings he'd heard, the bombers were reported to be very happy. He thought it was because they were already imagining better lives among the virgins in heaven. But perhaps the drugs had something to do with it...
Anyway, here's how Fisk, hungover and tired from the night before, described those stories to us, a small crowd of students and lecturers in an almost empty lecture hall.
He starts by talking about his friend who worked for an Arab TV station (Al-Jazeera's competitor)...
He had his new BMW. First time for work, he parked his BMW outside the office that morning -- so you know what's coming. He was going out with two women who worked in the kitchen at the TV station, and he made a habit of driving (them home) because they were poor -- he used to drop them off so they didn’t have to take taxis or buses.
He went up to the car, and a man with a big red vehicle, Saudi accent, with the window down, playing Koranic recitations very loudly on his tape deck in the car, asked my friend if he could please move his car back a bit -- he wanted to park next to the wall. So my friend moved his car back a bit, and then said, "Ah, I left my laptop in the office, I'll just go back and get it."
He walked round the back of the building, in the back through the kitchen, to go the back way to the office, and the roof came down. It was the guy in the vehicle blowing himself up. Most of the two women were atomized. One of the heads was found on the roof two days later.
Fisk finished that story by saying his friend could remember the bomber was very happy.
Another grisly anecdote:
Another Iraqi I know well as a friend was passing by a police station... and there was a man in the street, clean shaven, but laughing, and dancing, and singing songs about women. My friend went around the corner, got in his car. BANG! Up went the bomb. That was him. He was already dead, you see, he was already preparing to enjoy the virgins of heaven, or whatever.
Fisk believes that suicide bombers -- once they've decided to kill themselves, or once they're induced to do it -- kill their souls first:
They can go afterwards, tell their parents they love them. They can hold their little daughters or their sisters, and they’ll still go off and they’ll see the people they’re going to kill.
[Fisk makes a clicking sound like someone switching a detonator]
And they'll know they're going to -- they're executioners. But I think by then you can't redress the situation.... They're dead already.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Come to think of it, if I felt better I would be out improvising. But let's pretend.
Anyway, I'll give you something to be going along with. We start with the presumption of innocence. We do this even if we're not a jury, because otherwise the moment someone was accused they would suddenly be found guilty.
Then you try your best - in a manner not unlike the scientific method - to disprove the case against the accused.
This has consequences for Africa.
The worst offence against process I've noticed was Rodney Hide. On the radio this morning he said that the evidence in the report was why Benson-Pope had been "convicted".
But many of the arguments over the questions of fact in the case that I've noticed have started - subtly or otherwise, knowingly or otherwise - from a presumtion of guilt or some other fallacy. In ways that I may mention in that 'well person' post we discussed earlier.
Not that people aren't allowed to say what they like. I couldn't even tell you if their conclusions are wrong. I just don't think it's especially fair.
Conversely, all of my arguments unimpeachable.
Anyway, since we're not talking about the disputed facts:
It looks like Benson-Pope is, as I proposed in June, being tried by the media. Unfortunate, considering that the media has neither the training, inclination or performance record for the job. And that he (or his staff) have just royally pissed the media off and added the spectre of breach of confidence and hamfisted attempts to decieve the New Zealand public to an issue that you would have thought wouldn't - for better or worse - have been so huge issue if it hadn't all been tied up with Parliamentary privilege.
Cullen's 'more-on-anger-than-in-sorrow' defence in Parliament last week probably wasn't that helpful either, though both sides have attempted to distort the meaning of prima facie, which is kind of amusing.
With what's in the police files, I'm inclinded to think, from a procedural point of view, he should go before the privileges committee. Will be disappointed in Wilson etc etc.
But I'm not very dogmatic on this, because the result would be a farce. A political committee is not the body to decide question of criminal guilt or innocence. Which is what they'd effectively be doing, if only for the public record.
Should he resign anyway? His credibility with the public has surely been gutted. Dover did time in the wilderness in the face of less evidence. But it would be sad if a minister of the crown had to resign in the face of what is still, technically, just an allegation.
I've been waiting for when all the evidence was out before blogging anything definitive but as far as I can see things have just gotten more uncertain.
But perhaps that's the paracetemol talking.
Bit off topic, but does anyone listen to that guy Hooten on Linda Clark? He the one that's "from the Right". He seems to think that people's political memory get reset every election cycle. It seems the foreshore legislation is all Labour's fault. Or the shabby way Te Wananga o Aotearoa was treated, just because it was a maori success story. And not, for instance, the way National was there demanding something more draconian in both cases.
Sneery man. Makes my fists itch just listening to his tone of voice. Bit like Tony Ryall, in that respect.
Also claimed Benson-Pope not being charged was political. I think thats ... not correct. But that kind of thing will only get worse when they don't charge Hodgson.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Northland Farmer Hillburn leaped to the front pages of our nation’s papers after killing three local dogs that he discovered toileting themselves in his illicit marijuana patch. At his trial, Hillburn claimed that he had not intended to kill the animals and that he was hopped up on P at the time. The dogs, two border collies and a schnauzer, were the pets of neighbours Samuel and Sarah Hohepa, aged 5 and 7. This situation led to a tearful episode on TV One’s Close Up where the children were gifted replacement pets by the show – Lois Davey, the Otago Daily Times' TV reviewer, called the episode “the most moving and important TV I’ve watched all year”. Ratings soared.
Most importantly, nobody lost out in this incident – which must be seen as one of the feel-good moments of 2005. As a child, nothing makes a new pet so precious as knowing that your last one was decapitated by a frenzied neighbor wielding a spade. Important lessons about the fleeting nature of life were learned and shared on Close Up that night, and child psychologists agree that it is developmentally important that children learn to deal with feelings of grief. Hillburn’s remorse over the incident is a sobering lesson to all those who think they can consume drugs like P without it affecting their personalities or their lives. A stark contrast to the blasé attitude exposed in popular culture by De Ja Voodoo’s song ‘P’. featuring the lyrics “I smoked P and I’m ok”
Hillburn was not imprisoned for his crime, and is currently residing in Westport where he has found work as a school caretaker.
She wanted to know if it was real or not, because she was "just reading it and thought 'Ooh, that would be a good story'".
Ugh. I've just been through this. Another f***ing (fucking) election. [Hat tip for expletive censoring rip-off: Duck, a.k.a Patrick Crewdson.]
This morning's Globe and Mail, five long days into the campaign, was packed to the gunnels with election coverage. The wildly unpopular Conservatives want to cut the GST from 7% to 5% over the next five years (i.e. much longer than they'd ever stay in government if they somehow accidentally got elected), saving consumers up to 8c a hamburger. Making them slightly less wildly unpopular. Conservatives, that is, not hamburgers. Hamburgers will always be popular in this country -- like ice hockey, the expression "eh," and telling foreigners that they haven't truly experienced cold until they've been in Canada, as if cold were some claim to national brilliance rather than an annoyingly restrictive social impediment.
The Liberals, meanwhile, say cutting income tax is a better option, and demonstrate this by making promises of doing just that. I would quote the figures to you if I had bothered to read the stores in the G&M. But, frankly, I've read enough stories about tax-cut-promising campaign rhetoric.
It is interesting to note, however, that in the retarded realm of Canadian politics where everyward is backwards, it was the wildly unpopular Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney who introduced the GST in 1991, while the Liberals opposed it. Shoes have since changed feet, as the Liberals here have realised (or realized, as they say in Canada) that it doesn't really matter what they do or say 'coz they're gonna get elected anyway.
Which, incidentally, is probably what's gonna happen in this election, coming January 23.
A quick catch-up for those who would like to care more about this insignificant North American nation's politics:
- Everyone hates the Liberals at the moment, because, as the revered Aaron Bhatnagizzle correctly pointed out a few months back, a few years ago they were involved in a corrupt kickbacks scheme that unfairly favoured a chosen few ad companies. It's much more complicated than that, but you don't want to hear any more. Just take my word for it that it was very naughty and cost the country a
$1 million-ish. If you really want to know more, Google "Adscam." whopping
- Actually, I'm on the side of the fence that would like to see the Liberals punished for those indiscretions. Even if it means giving up the leadership to an equally personality-less, dysfunctional and alarmingly similar opposition party. Things are just too boring and predictable otherwise. And the Conservatives would only last a year and a half.
- Despite this almost unforgivable transgression, Canadians can't bring themselves to vote for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who is infinitely less lovable than the appropriately-named-yet-somehow-cute Mr. Dithers.
- Well, actually, there are a few people that automatically vote for Harper. But since they all live in oil-rich-but-lightly-populated Alberta, no-one cares too much about them.
- There's a third party, the NDP, who are to the left of the Liberals and prop them up occasionally, provided the Liberals make budgetary concessions. They'll likely steal a few votes from the Liberals, making them even more of a force in the first-past-the-post House.
- And then there's the Bloc Quebecois, which is basically going to win all of the Quebec vote, because Quebec is where the Liberals perpetrated their fraud. They side with the Conservatives when it comes to bringing the government down, but only because it brings them more strength.
- The intriguing Green party over here, which figures itself as neither left nor right but "front," hovers just below 5% of the national vote, which is meaningless because to get into Parliament they need to win a riding (translation: electorate), which probably won't happen. Actually, they're an interesting party, because their main campaign platform is the environment, but in the last election, Greenpeace rated their environmental policies as inferior to the NDP's.What does it all mean? Another campaign. And I don't know if I've got the strength to go through with it. I think I'll go away for a while and come back when it's all over.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Over recent weeks the public has become more and more aware of a major risk. One that threatens the stability of our country. One that stikes unexpectedly and leaves the helpless victim - though he might not know it for months - as good as dead.
It has already shown its potential to attack the highest levels of state. If it strikes again, our country could be left leaderless in the midst of a crisis.
We must ask: is our Government doing enough to fight tennis-ball related accusations?
Read the rest on Scoop.
... or, if you would prefer to cast you mind back a little ...
Somewhat dated Hood: Parliament Decries State Interference in World Cup Bid
Parliament, meeting today for the first time after New Zealand's successful world cup bid, decried it as another example of Labour party political interference.
Flexing its muscles against the minority Government, the House passed a motion condemning the Prime Minister's open support of the bid and the proposed large-scale state funding of the event.
Read the rest on Scoop.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
I've been mulling over this business with Air New Zealand and Qantas banning male passengers from sitting next to unaccompanied children for the last few days, and I'm finding it problematic.
To be clear, I think it's a stupid, discriminatory policy that shouldn't be implemented. Not only does it demonise all males as potential paedophiles (a New Zealand Herald editorial defending the airlines tells us "most paedophiles are male", to which the obvious response is "most males are not paedophiles"), it implies that all female passengers are lovely jubbly maternal types who won't mind helping out an annoying kid during their flight. And it stupidly implies that the fact of being male is a higher risk factor for criminal behaviour than any number of other factors - such as ethnicity, income level and mental health - which is patently ridiculous. We would never ban Maori or Pacific Islanders from sitting next to unaccompanied children because there is a higher instance of violent crime amongst their population. At least I hope we wouldn't.
Also, the assessment of what possible danger these children are in during their flights has been lacking. Let's say 1 in 1000 male passengers are unsavoury types who you wouldn't really want your kid sitting next to. What are they actually going to do to them during 1 hour domestic flight? Unaccompanied minors are highly supervised by airline staff - accompanied on and off the plane and regularly checked during the flight. What's the risk? That they will be kidnapped by a madman? Sexually assualted right there on the plane in front of the other passengers and airline staff? These scenarios strike me as pretty unlikely.
So why was my gut reaction to the news "good idea"?
I'm not pleased with myself for thinking it, but there is something about the idea of an unaccompanied child and a strange man which makes me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps its the "stranger danger" message I had drummed into me as a small child. I distinctly remember being grilled by my mother after talking to an unknown man on a raft I had swum out to at a beach one summer holiday. Watching powerless from the shore, she had wanted to know what he had said to me, in minute detail, when I eventually swam back in. Aged about 9 at the time, I couldn't understand what the problem was. Now, I think I do. If it was my own child - or, for a more realistic frame of reference - my 13 year old sister, I'd be inherently concerned and suspicious as well.
I'm no doubt influenced by the unfortunate attitude which has prevailed in New Zealand since the Peter Ellis witchhunt. I totally decry this attitude, wish there were more male teachers, and support the men (even the crazy one who climbed into a tree for 22 hours) who are protesting against this policy. But for whatever reason, I must have bought into the rhetoric somewhere along the way, because I'm left with a yucky taste in my mouth. Is it unjustified? Yes. Am I the only one? Definitely not.