Hamish McKenzie - journalism student, London, Ontario

Friday, July 29, 2005

A politically-themed post, for a change

So, the latest polls are interesting. A big swing in favour of Labour -- and this before their student loan policy king-hit. Like I said in my last post, it's stupid to read too much into any poll this far out from the election, but you have to admit it's bad news for National. Not only have they suffered a set-back, but so has their only potential coalition partner.

The Greens, meanwhile, might also be a tad worried. They've been hanging tough around the five percent mark for a while, but the Herald poll puts them at just 3.2 percent. It's worth noting, however, that the last Herald poll also put the Greens at lower support than others (the TV3 poll, for example, had the Greens at six percent). But shit, I don't want to be guilty of the same crime I'm accusing Farrar, Bhatnagar, and Jordan of. Let's just remember there are more than 50 volatile campaign days ahead of us. A lot can, and probably will, happen.

Meanwhile, TV3's deplorable decision to only have six party leaders for its debate will effectively decide the future of either ACT or United Future. As Peter Dunne told NZPA recently, exposure from televised leaders debates was the only way to make himself heard amidst the clamour and attention demanded by the larger parties. "I got the chance, on national television for the first time, to say what I had been saying for a decade," said Dunne. TV3 would do well to stop interferring with democracy and open up its debate to seven leaders. That would only unfairly exclude Jim Anderton, and no one would mind that.

In more important news, though, in a move of unprecedented daring, Aaron Bhatnagar has replaced his mug-shot with a more reflective man-of-leisure portrait. Perhaps this signals a new direction for he-of-the-exquisite-hair; a new quest for the deeper truth.

Lyndon Hood - BA and DipGrad (parents), Lower Hutt

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I was just getting ready to bow out of political issues and write about baking for the rest of the campaign. But it turns out the Labour actually has some policies, even if National doesn't (at least, not that it will admit to).

Gosh: no interest on student loans if you stay in the country. More allowances too, but, gosh. As a key pledge and therefore, based on this term's record, reliable. Probably instructive to compare the clusters of comments here and here.

I've often wondered what National would actually propose to stop the flow of our best and brightest across the Tasman* (apart from cutting taxes - which in the context of lower employee bargaining power probably wouldn't make much difference to net wages - at the same time as not thinking of 'making the country a nice place to live' as part of their job description). Anyway, I can't imagine it would work any better than this.

Labour's bold and unprecedented move to the Left is both welcome and, well, weird.

It will of course make the loans easier to pay off. It is the first Tertiary policy during my knowledge of student unions that said unions (and all the other Tertiary-sector unions) are actually happy about.

And it will be popular with students (who need all the encouragement to vote they can get), and people who know students, and people likely to give birth to potential students, and so on. It's looking big.

Now, while I'm not a great fan of Labour, whenever I've strongly disagreed with them on actual policy National has been worse. And the Nats and Brash don't show any promise of behaving better than Helen's mob in the general deportment stakes either. So, at a pinch, and leaving aside the electoral-death-by-Winston effect, I'll take Labour.

So yay the election-year bribe.

The weird thing is that it creates some perverse incentives.

Mmm, perverse incentives.

On an economic analysis, even if you happened to have the cash on hand, you'd still be better to pay with the loan. In fact, best to max out you account and invest the difference. And there's no incentive to pay it off any faster than you have to, long as you can stand to stay in the country.

The loan scheme has always been a bit odd when compared to what for the sake of argument I'll call 'real debt'. The fact that one only has to actually pay it off if one has the income makes the monstrous debt burden less monstrous of a burden than it might seem. As such, in a sane world, it shouldn't really effect people's chance of getting a mortgage or anything.

And then there was the interest write-off while studying. One hears stories now of people cunningly investing their free loan money, thus basically ripping off the taxpayer. But it's not a common pursuit. I think most people aren't so calculating about their loan. The amount they borrow is based on more immediate concerns and the actual loan balance is just a horribly large number best ignored. I don't think that would change too much.

And one also hears stories of people going bankrupt to avoid paying their student loans. Which is just stupid. Less incentive to do that, too.

Still: more borrowing. Increasing amounts of money really and apparently lost in written-off interest. Loan-funded entrepeneurs. By the standards scandals are made these days, it will be one continuous scandal.

But I can't bring myself to dislike it.

Partly for the 'getting Labour elected' reason cited earlier.

Also because, even with the side-effects, it's an improvement. We want an innovative knowledge economy so bad, or highly-skilled workers, we probably want a tertiary education system that doesn't scare people.

Or maybe I'm just in shock at a post-1990s Government actually proposing that kind of shit. Or I'm getting in touch with my inner leftie-random-spender; kind of in counterpoint to certain cheerfully self-avowed right-wing psychos I could mention.

Maybe not.

At least more people will pay the damn things off.

But it will take some mental adjustment in the short term: the man who has the Left taking fiscal conservatism, whose cupboard is bare for tax cuts, Mister Chastity Cullen, appears to have found rather a lot of millions rattling around in his pants ready for next April. And will no doubt whip out more over the coming weeks.

However, National's finance policy so far is mostly new spending and they're proposing to cut taxes as well.

Of course, we can't have that debate right now, no matter how hard the media tries, because they won't offer up a shadow Budget. Honestly. If it's playing games to not announce the election until you said you would, what is it when you say you'll release a policy and then delay it twice?

But still, I'll mention this now: Top of the economic cycle. Aging population. Oil crisis. Now is not the time to borrow. It's all very well paying for the costs of your infrastructure with the benefits you derive from having it. But it's a rare Government that actually does this, and if your income plunges anyway, you're a bit fucked.

I'll stick with Mike as the reliable one for the time being.

*These Tasman-flowees are of course made up for by carefully-screened immigrants from the rest of the world. But many of these people are brown, and therefore do not count.

Lyndon Hood - Bad Liar, Lower Hutt

Monday, July 25, 2005

NEW ...

...oh, who am I kidding...

OLD HOOD: An Election-Year Glossary

Are you weary of trying to decipher exactly what various parties will do if elected? Having trouble sorting out the scandals from the storms-in-tea-cup? Have you been left drowning and helpless in waves of catch-all buzzwords and empty political rhetoric, and that even though actual campaigning hasn't started yet? You are not alone! Your humble lexicographer is in much the same boat.

Read the rest at Scoop...

SLIGHTLY NEWER HOOD: Political Poetry Through the Ages

I have always maintained that the whole of human experience is reflected in literature. There is much to be learned from careful study of the great classics. To prove this point, I was inspired by this week's Poetry Day to sort through my own small knowledge of world literature, seeking works from the past that could perhaps shed light on our current obsessions.

Read the rest at Scoop...

The latter caused Bruce, of Waitako, to send me one of his poems. I am completely charmed. Not only do I have a reader, I am an inspiration! Think I'll publish it on my blog:
Remembering Roger

There once came a great prophet of a type messianic,
Who did preach the extinction of woes economical.
Yea he seized his great moment ‘mid political panic,
And did institute change of a type Rogernomical

This prophet of change and other protagonists,
Harked back to ideas from a previous time.
We thought not to question for all were good socialists,
And promised utopian pleasures sublime.

This knowledge that seemed at times quite esoterical,
Was followed by followers with fervour religious,
And preached by disciples in tones quite hysterical,
Who forertold this new age would bring wealth quite prodigious

For theory ‘twas not, ‘twas profound revelation,
And thus with such certainty boldly propounded.
We asked not for proof, nor for verification,
For on eternal truths it was thought to be founded.

And when with a faith that did seem somewhat mystical,
‘Twas claimed that ‘twould spread such great wealth through the land,
New converts ‘twould say, eyes aglow, “Its simplistical,
We merely employ an invisible hand”.

Thus great wealth would accrue by this means automatic,
There’d be no need at all for concerns altruistic.
‘Twas all said with a faith, ‘twas a faith so dogmatic,
And sweet music for those with plans opportunistic.

We’d give those poorly paid much less remuneration,
And sell all public chattels which progress impair,
Thus appeasing that demon whose name is inflation,
And finding salvation by means laissez-faire.

And when any questioned their claims hyperbolic,
And dared to suggest ‘twas all quite hypothetical,
From their lofty advantage they became vitriolic,
And called such unseemly behaviour heretical.

And when we did come to the land that was promised,
To savour the fruits of profound revolution,
No rivers of milk nor of honey were noticed,
Oh, but those fruits had been subject to redistribution.
Not an exact mirror of my sentiments, but pretty much. And well worth saying in these dangerous times.

Happy election-date-announcement-day, everyone.

Kelly Pendergrast - temporary worker, Wellington

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Metaphysical Graffiti
I’m no political commentator, but oh! How I love the lead up to general election time. The shifty tactics! The frantic policy-amending! The underhanded billboards! The juvenile graffiti on the aforementioned billboards!

Political party billboards really bring out the best in this country’s vandals. I’m sure there’s all kinds of subversive culture jamming afoot, but in my humble opinion the best defacings are of a far more low-brow nature.

Here’s a couple of recent favourites, both of these seen on the way out to Wellington airport:

1)Act’s new billboard. Ripping off National’s much-maligned red/blue "Iwi/Kiwis" campaign, but with a tri-partite red/blue/yellow colour scheme and Act’s Rodney Hyde perched on the end looking like a disgruntled rhinoceros. “Spin/Talk/ACT” it says. Fortunately, some ratbag has spray painted huge Ernie-and-Bert monobrows over each politicians forehead. It is funny.

2)A big’ol National billboard with Mark Blumsky’s cheerless face on it. Someone has painted over most of the letters so now it just says “B UM”. Good work fellas.

While I’m here, I may as well tell you about the recent evolution of my favourite ever Wellington graffiti.

Many years ago (well before my arrival in this burg) a maudlin graffitist painted:

on a wall on the way to Newtown.

Some time later, a heartless punk (actually, it probably wasn’t a punk) added to it, so it read:


This amused me highly, and I would smile every time I walked past.

However, recently the G and S were painted over, so it was back to its reverent self, with a new addition:


Very nice, very respectful. But can you imagine my unhinged delight when I rounded the corner last drizzly Sunday to see this:


Hamish McKenzie - concerned citizen, London, Ontario

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I must admit, I'm a little bothered by Nandor's proposed half-step to reform New Zealand's cannabis laws. This time he baulks at advocating full decriminalisation for cannabis; instead he proposes that users merely receive fines without accompanying criminal conviction.

I can only imagine this uncharacteristically weak proposal is in order to present a more 'moderate' face to mainstream voters, from whom the Greens would dearly love to glean a few more votes.

But it means Nandor, one of the few politicians with a spine, has apparently sacrificed a sizeable chunk of ideological flesh in the name of pandering to voters. Indeed, he could argue this represents a step towards full decriminilisation, but it looks more like a relenting of values for an issue that needs strong and intelligent debate.

United Future and National have come out with predictably hysterical responses to Nandor's Private Member's Bill.

Peter Dunne has said, "From day one, we have taken the position that drugs are a scourge on society and ruin young lives, so we make no apology for taking a hard line."

What he says is partly true. Drugs can ruin young lives, and are, to a minor extent, a scourge on society. Drug problems may even be escalating in our country. But the "hard line" he refers to, which has been practiced for, like, ever, hasn't done a thing to solve the problem. If drugs are such the problem in our society as parties like United Future and National assert, then that seems to be damn good evidence that drug prohibition has been an immense failure.

If Dunne and co. were really interested in fixing drug problems, they should be pushing for complete drug legalisation. That word, "legalisation," will certainly scare off a lot of the nanny votes, and reactionaries who don't want to sit out an explanation, but it's a word that would be key in actually addressing, rather than suppressing, drug issues. If only someone would give it a chance.

Legalising all drugs -- not just cannabis, mind -- would put the power in the government's hands. Then drugs could be regulated, restricted, controlled, instead of left in the hands of gangs and other irresponsible dealers willing to kill to protect their hugely inflated profits. Then we could properly educate young people about drugs, instead of just pretending no such things exist and hoping they don't find them by themselves. Then, instead of ignoring addicts with serious problems -- problems that pose a threat to society -- we would treat them, rehabilitate them, and -- who knows? -- maybe even make them useful members of society again. Then we wouldn't have to waste so many millions a year to fight an unwinnable battle.

If Dunne and National want to see how successful a "hard line" approach to drugs has been, they need look no further than the United States. You can read all about that mess in this 2004 Critic article, in which a former undercover cop explains why drug prohibition screws everyone.

In the meantime, I hope Nandor rediscovers that spine and takes the drug decriminalisation message -- although we need more than that -- back to the people.

Kelly Pendergrast - smiling politely

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

So I’m Kelly and I’m new here. Hamish said that if I write on Fighting Talk I will get more cred and more sex, which makes him a liar and me a sucker. I realised yesterday that I’ve been a resident of Wellington for over six months now, a half-year in which I’ve achieved remarkably little of any merit. I did meet the mayor the other day, but I was too star-struck to say what I really wanted, which was:

"Kerry, are you aware of the remarkable similarity between our names -- Kerry Prendergast and Kelly Pendergrast? If you were to say my name with a bad faux-Chinese accent it would sound like your own! I feel a kinship, Kerry, I really do!

I never got to ask her about it, though, because she was running off to attend a parade. Of course.

What city parades with more aplomb, or frequency, than the fair city of Wellington? Parades and marches, constantly. Two weeks ago I was working on Lambton Quay and I swear there were people parading noisily down the street four days out of the five. One lot of them even had drummers and ambulances with sirens. I mean, notwithstanding the fact it was the week of the All Blacks/Lions test and there were probably 5 zillion parades in honour of rugby, Wellington still has an abnormally high ratio of parades-per-capita.

Unfortunately, these parades are almost invariably boring like death. One day, as I sat in the library in the bit overlooking Civic Square, I was distracted from whatever old magazine I was reading by a small group of people assembled on the steps outside, arranging microphones and looking variously official and/or ready to break out in a powhiri.

An ominous sound could be heard in the distance. Was it a war-like enemy tribe? A belligerent army of percussionists? I was actually kind of excited.

The thunder approached, and into the square marched some faux-Carribean steel-drum-tapping fuckers with tinsel wigs lead by a man with an air horn. Bummer. Next came an army of bored looking people wearing SONY t-shirts, then a bunch of capoeira types doing their jumpy-flippy thing (it seems that some recent bylaw has decreed capoeira a compulsory part of all parades), then some photographers, then people carrying a Norwegian flag, and then a group of septuagenarians with green balloons and placards. It was a parade. I had no idea what was going on, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t like the look of it.

If you believe people like Mikhail Bakhtin (and everybody believes Russians), parades and carnivals were historically a site where the social hierarchy of the day could be overturned, urban spaces could be overrun, and the distinction between performer and audience was virtually nil. I’m sure a few contemporary parades live up to this anarchic ideal, as far as I can see mostly it’s more about being pushed onto footpath by a policemen so Santa’s float doesn’t run you over, or shouting tenuously-rhyming anti-war slogans at uncaring pedestrians. Either way, there’s not much in the way of social disorder or dancing in the street.

So what are these incessant parades for? I guess they’re for raising awareness (for good causes, for a new product), celebrating something (rugby, Christmas, being gay), or showing off your skills (usually capoiera). The whole thing’s kind of a drag, though. And who invited the people wearing SONY shirts? They pissed me off, they looked pissed off, and it would just be nice if they could be left to sell consumer electronics in peace and I could be left read back issues of trashy music magazines.

Hamish McKenzie - introducer, Ontario

Three's a crowd

Fighting Talk is delighted to welcome Kelly Pendergrast to the team. Kelly is just the second girl to join our ranks, and we sincerely hope she'll add more than just the one post our last representative of the XX chromosomes lent us.

Kelly holds an honours degree in film and media studies from Otago University and was last year the art editor at Critic. She has recently finished work on her very own short film: Why I Ate Myself. Later this year she'll be heading to San Diego to further her studies, this time in fine arts.

She has interests in media culture, bodily fluids, and styling her hair in the fashion of Janet Frame -- and she once made gelatine out of her own fingernail clippings.

We think Kelly's special.

Lyndon Hood - Farrar baiter, Lower Hutt

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Get Out of Jail Free

You've heard it from a whole bargin-basement of opposition politicians, the media have - as far as I know - bought it, and it's on the lips of bloggers who I vaguely recall were once not National hacks.

The private running of Auckland Central Remand Prison, they say, was better and cheaper than facilities run by the Public Prison Service. Thus, the fact that the Government has ended it is bad.

I'll leave the question of ACRP is as white as it's painted to people who have seen it (even if they are Matt Nippert - scroll down Farrar's post for his comments). As regards the "cheaper":

Confronted with this assertion, Public Prison apologists tend to point out that the place is new - better designed, fully up to date and, not insignificanly, easier to heat. Also that they seem to pay their staff less. All good stuff, but still...

A while back (in May 2004) the hearty folk at Scoop took the novel step of actually looking into the issue in any way. What do we find?

The figures this claim is based on originated, surprise surprise, with the company that runs the prison (part of the same group running certain Aussie detention centres).

And there are a couple of important problems with them:

- They don't include stuff like depreciation on the building, which PPS numbers do. The State is (was) in effect subsidising ACRPs rent.

- They were comparing the costs of Auckland Central Remand Prison, which, you may notice, is a remand prison, with those of a maximum security prison.

When you compare apples with apples then, despite all of the advantages mentioned earlier, everyone's model of prison privatisation costs about 20% or 35% more (with and without property overheads) than the equivalent public prison.

I'll point out the obvious: these numbers come from the Government. But methinks they are more reliable than 'what some guy said'.

More detailed analysis is in the original article. Also, if you want dirt on ACM (the company in question) try the associated interview with Matt Robson.

Update (15/7 10:51am): David Farrar - justly I think - feels the need to clarify his point. It's not about whether this particular private management was good, it's that private is now automatically exluded. Frankly, either position on this issue is 'ideological' (if you apply what Farrar seems to understand by the term both ways). It's just that the privatisation model is more radical and, as far as I know worldwide, less successful.

Hamish McKenzie - traveller again, London, Ontario

I want to add Montreal to my list of great cities, right up there with Mexico City and Berlin.

I was there for an unexpectedly extended weekend.


11pm: Arrive in Montreal with two friends; boy and girl. Meet with another friend. Go to party in a very stuffy apartment. Feel alienated because of French-speaking party attenders. Get groped by a buff guy in speedos with inflatable crab pincers. Drink first of many beers in Quebec.

Go to quiet bar for beer afterwards. Sleep at friend's apartment on a futon.


After lunch: Go to Old Montreal, a nice area by the river port with narrow cobbled streets. Very cutesy European. Very romantic. Very wet because of the deluge of rain. Walk with friend and her friend for a couple of hours. Get jeans soaked to the knees. Eat a Quebecan delicacy: Beaver's tail; fried dough smeared with sugar and cinnamon.

Early evening: The three of us meet guy friend at great punk bar in city. Its French name translates to "Electric Arse". Dine at one of the finest restaurants in China Town: Cristal #1. Fried pork and imperial roll with vermicelli for $6.50. Resolve to never return.

8pm: As rain clears, wonder into downtown to catch Jazz Festival gigs. Enjoy Raul Midon, a soul singer with a talent for percussive guitar playing and a mean lip-trumpet gimmick. His lyrics completely suck arse though. Nevertheless, expect him to be the next Ben Harper-esque soul-pop darling. He has Stevie Wonder -- an influence he draws heavily from -- on his record.

9pm: Revel temporarily in the lusty blows of trombones from a New Orleans jazz band on the next stage.

10pm: Join throngs at the Old Port to witness a stop-start spectacle of sometimes magnificent fireworks over Montreal's dark skyscape. This was just one night of Montreal's International Fireworks Competition. Fair to say it was quite good.

Midnight: After treacherously long walk, arrive at an indy bar called the Green Room. Be thankful for beer, tequila shot. Get drunk and dance to decent music. Generally act silly and happy.

4am: Resolve to climb Mount Royal. Join five other friends and take short cuts up the slippery slopes. Join other drunken stragglers and an early-to-rise cyclist to see the first of Sunday's light dawning on the city. Marvel at the sparkling river, the grand architecture, and the switchboard of city lights. Forget about tired legs. Forget that it's going to take a while to get home.

6am: Sleep on the futon.


Expect to return to London today.

Noon: Stroll slowly and hungoverly through Lafontaine Park on way to getting Indian buffet for lunch. Gorge myself at buffet.

7pm: Get in car with London friends and start eight-hour drive home. Get no further than a couple of blocks. Have car break down inexplicably. Get car towed to garage. Re-think plans.

11pm: Catch the final moments of Pat Metheny's climactic set at the Jazz Fest. Be part of a crowd of at least 100,000 on the street. Be very warm in the muggy conditions.

11.30pm: Sample another Quebecan delicacy: poutine. Poutine is a concotion of fries, gravy, and cheese. Greasy, great, and gross. Heart disease in a pottle. Fail to finish 'meal'. Poke poo-resembling gravy sludge with fork. Contemplate throwing up.

12.30am: Sleep on the futon.


Noon: Visit the headquarters of the world-famous Cirque du Soleil with friend who used to work there. See where they make all the funny hats, all the elaborate costumes, and the head-moulds for each of the performers. See some performers in training. Meet a New Zealander who's trialling for the circus as a high-bar performer. Struggle to wean anything out of him, other than the fact that he went to Otago Boys' High School and finds it interesting to go drinking with 40 vodka-swilling Russians. "No mixers!" he says.

3pm: Learn that no one in Montreal can even look at the broken car until tomorrow. Panic about how to get back. Start to get used to idea of having to pay $75 for a bus ticket.

5pm: Dine at a cool Mexican restaurant that serves fries instead of nachos. Drink sangria.

9.30pm: Drink at a Mexican-themed bar. Be happy at reasonably-priced beer.

Midnight: Ice cream! Two scoops, homemade, fresh. $5.40!


10.30am: Visit Montreal studios of CBC with friend who used to work there. Note funky little monitors by each desk in the newsrooms. Note plush carpet.

11.30am: Catch the bus at the last minute for depressing journey back to London. Be depressed about leaving a city anticipating the Just for Laughs Festival, a French-language music festival, and an African music festival.

Megan Armstrong - nanny, London, England

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The following is a guest post from Megan Armstrong, an Otago graduate now working as a nanny in London.

A post about the London bombings

Since moving to London nearly a year ago, you could say that I've taken this city into my heart. Sure it's polluted, the traffic is a nightmare to negotiate and the cost of living is appallingly high. But on the flipside of that, it's also the city where on any given day you can walk down the street and hear 10 different languages being spoken. It's the city where there's always something amazing happening, whether it's a street carnival in Notting Hill or a film premiere in Leicester Square. It's also the city that never seems to stand still, where everyone is constantly moving about from one place to the other as they go about their daily lives.

Last Thursday, July 7, the whole of London seemed to collectively slow down and pause for breath as the day's terrible events unfolded. In the space of a day, Londoners had gone from being in full-on celebration mode after winning the 2012 Olympic bid to watching in stunned silence as terrorism once again returned to their doors.

As is the case for most people I'm sure, the day started fairly normally for me, though I got enjoy a rare sleep-in as the girls I look after (I'm a nanny) were taken to school by their Dad. The first indication I got that something bad had happened came while watching This Morning - similar to Good Morning in New Zealand though instead of Mary Lambie they've got Phil and Fern. In the midst of their witty banter, a rolling headline appeared at the bottom of the screen, saying that there had been some sort of explosion on the Tube, and that it was most likely caused by a power surge. This happened at about 9:15 a.m., and I thought they would immediately cross over to the news, but instead they carried on with the show, leaving me wondering just what the hell was going on. I flipped over to the BBC who were slightly more up with the play, though they too reported that there had been three explosions on the tube caused by a power surge and that the entire tube network had been suspended indefinitely.

To be honest, my first reaction was not "It’s a terrorist attack," but "How am I supposed to travel around London?" Normally I have a car that I use to take the girls to and from school, but as it was in the garage being fixed I'd been picking them up on the tube. While it's not a huge distance from our house in Stockwell to the girls' schools in Chelsea, it would still take me couple of hours to walk there and get them. My next option was to take a bus, so I went on the Transport for London website to work out which one to take. It was while I was doing this with the BBC news channel going in the background that I heard about the bus explosion. Ok then, I thought, I guess I won't be taking a bus either.

From that point on my eyes were glued to the television, literally watching the news as it happened. As I sat watching the drama unfold before my eyes, there was a certain sense of unreality to it all. I'm not sure I can explain it very well but it felt like "I know that what I'm watching is real and that it's happening now, and those people who are bleeding on television are bleeding for real" but I guess because it's mediated through a TV screen your mind takes time to contextualize it.

I phoned my family in New Zealand at about 11 a.m. as I knew that the bombing was likely to be all over the late news so wanted to let them know I was ok. Mum and Dad were both out (typical) so I talked to my little brother and made him write a note for when they got home saying I'd called and was safe. I also collected the car from the garage, not that I was able to drive anywhere for the time being – the official advice from the police was to stay indoors as I suppose they didn't really know if the attacks were over. And to be honest, I really didn't want to get stuck in a traffic jam if there were bombs going off all over London.

There was never a point where I felt really afraid, though there was definitely a 'holy shit' moment when the news rolled across the screen that the tube station around the corner from my house had been cordoned off because of a suspected bomb threat, which later turned out to be a false alarm. At about 3:30 p.m. the news came through that people could go out in their cars if it was absolutely necessary and begin making their way home from work, so I set off for Chelsea to collect the girls. I went expecting to be stuck in traffic for quite a long time – my previous record was about two hours when Batman decided to pay the Queen a visit at Buckingham Palace last year (you see what a cool place London is?), but it actually only took me about 40 minutes because there were hardly any cars at all.

The pavements, however, were crowded with people making their way home, many sporting newly-bought running shoes rather then suffering the pain of walking lord-knows-how-many miles in high heels. It was quite a strange but uplifting thing to watch because normally when you're out in London people pretty much keep to themselves, not making eye contact and just concentrating on whichever direction they're headed in. It was different on Thursday in that, while the mood was definitely sombre, people acknowledged each other, sharing a smile and a few words as they trudged home, some stopping off in a bar along the way to hear each other's experiences from what had been an emotional day for all Londoners.

There is definitely a sense of resilience as we get through these difficult days after the bombings. I say "we" because, even though I'll always be a Kiwi girl at heart, I love London and feel like a Londoner – these attacks have affected me as much as any Cockney geezer from the East end who's lived here all his life. Yes, it is devastating watching the news as someone's mother or husband or friend holds a photo up to the camera weeping and begging for any information about their missing loved one, knowing in their hearts that they probably aren't coming home. And yes, we're a lot more wary, especially with those responsible for these atrocities still at large. But we are also determined to keep living our lives as best we can. Today I took the tube and a bus because it was the only way for me to get where I needed to go. I could have stayed at home rather than risk the possibility that something bad might happen, but then I would have missed out on a great day out in an amazing city.

In the end it was an easy decision to make.

Lyndon Hood - blog-top name-putter, Lower Hutt

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Here is Sir Humphrey's's response to my last.

Since my main point was that I generally don't have much patience with anything they say, I obviously won't respond in too much detail.

I will admit it was a fairly petty kind of post. After all, if I dissed every blog I consider to be written by aliens we'd be here a long time.

However, since PC picked up on it, I will say this: it was your blog, Lemur, that raises my blood pressure. And that's not retracting anything - the problem we have isn't my backing of my own opinions, so much as your reading comprehension.

Why didn't I write about London? Possibly because a special post to say that I didn't have anything to add might be a bit naff?

It's probably more complicated than that, and there might be a post in it later. Something for us all to look forward to.

UPDATE 10am, 13/7: (Look! An update!) Astigmatic Lemur is going around saying I have "completely rewritten" my original post. I presume he's referring to the way I removed an accidential letter 'c' from the title. Like I said, can't read too good. Would you buy and interpretation of local and world affairs from this man?

And now...

New Hood:NZ Politicians Care About Human Rights All Of A Sudden

Phil Goff today outlined the steps the Government would be taking now that they have suddenly realised that our cricket team is going to Zimbabwe.

"Naturally, we deplore Zimbabwe's human rights record and we will do everything we reasonably can to stop this situation recurring," said Goff, whose main achievement as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade is the opening of free trade negotiations with China ...

Read the rest on Scoop

Lyndon Hood - Not One to Bear a Grudge, Lower Hutt

Monday, July 11, 2005

I once said that, in looking at Sir Humphrey's, I found them "on average ... fairly reasonable". There was, for example (in fact, the only example I can think of), an appropriately alarmed comment on Phil Goff's Proceeds of Crime bill.

What I wanted to say is, if anyone concluded from my remarks that they are not a bunch of right-wing wackos who are generally to be found on the kooky side of misguided, I wish to unreservedly apologise.

Be aware that I'm about to do a lot of attributing the opinions of one author to the entire blog. I'm sort of sorry about that. I know I abused PC for it. But I don't want to look up who said what because reading that blog is bad for my blood pressure.

And they all like being called foaming-at-the-mouth right-wingers, so what difference does it make?

I had wondered whether Adolf Fiinkensein, Antarctic Lemur, Lucyna and - for heaven's sake - RightWingDeathBeast were evidence of the kind of divided worldview that was seen in the US elections - the tip of an iceberg of people whose understanding of the world had an alarmingly small overlap with, for example, my own.

Or perhaps they were part of the usual election-period insistence that, under the current government, the world will end.

But on reflection I decided to assume that it was just them. All tip, as it were, and no iceberg.

Nonetheless, I did sketch out a post in my head, where I would do battle with some of their notable hobbyhorses.

I would point out the methodological problems in their quest to prove that the media is consistently biased in favour of the left (though I can understand how it might look like that if you were to the right of ACT).

I would cast aspersions on the insistence that Labour is leading the country down the primrose path to totalitarianism when even PC has classified them as "centrist" (though, again: Phil Goff).

I would try to explain why someone who thinks the invasion of Iraq was perhaps not legitimate, sensible, well-planned and/or well-executed is different to someone who is a Saddam-lover whose comments should be deleted.

As an aside I'll also mention the idea being nurtured by the opposition that Labour's political control has reached out to all the functions of government. More so, presumably, than ever before. Apart from that press release from the Police telling motorists to keep left over Queen's Birthday weekend, I don't really see it.

Anyhow, I didn't write that post, mostly because:
1) It's not as if it would change their minds; and
2) Who actually cares what they think anyway?

Yet, weeks later, I innocently click on a link in a link in a pointed Three Point Turn post, and there they are, fucking me off all over again. Hence all these tears.

For those of you who've stayed with me so far, I'll share a theory related to me by an unnamed acquaintance (that is to say, he has a name, I'm just not going to tell you what it is). It goes more or less like this:

The weblog known as "Sir Humphrey's" is in fact run by lefty MPs. Keith Locke and Matt Robson are Adolf Fiinkensein and Antarctic Lemur, "taking the piss by inventing the most fucked in the head reactionary website". Lucyna is probably Sue Bradford. You'll have to work out the rest for yourself.

I find this idea strangely attractive - rather more so than the though that human beings seriously hold the opinions that the Humpers express.

I can see that blogs will be attractive to people who don't see their opinions reflected in the mainstream: Intellectuals, for example. The unusually well-informed. Social minorities. Narcissists. And, of course, crackpots.

These last can give their views some level of publicity at the same time as forming an intellectually incestuous community in their comments section, reinforcing said views and mobbing anyone who disagree. Not that that's unusual or anything.

Anyway, in the spirit of free speech, I'll offer them my congratulations. Thanks, Sir Humphrey's. It important we know that people like you are out there.

Hamish McKenzie - source withholder, London, Ontario

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Has a precedent been set?

A New York Times journalist jailed for four months for not divulging a source for a story she didn't even write. A Time journalist who's going to confess all with the last-minute support of his anonymous source.

But what will happen to Karl Rove? Any higher bids than nothing?

"If journalists cannot be trusted to guarantee confidentiality, then journalists cannot function, and there cannot be a free press," said Judith Miller, the jailed journalist.

Such simple, powerful words. Let's hope they aren't rendered meaningless.

There could be one good thing to come of this: Miller might just become a martyr.

Lyndon Hood - God botherer botherer

Busy Madeleine Flannagan, of the anti-lots-of-things (like abortion and prostitution) but pro-freedom and God Flannagans - former Christian Heritage candidates who it seems were more recently had a visit from the police about a $35 debt (as far as I can tell for putting anti-civil-union posters on David Benson-Pope's office) - was interviewed this morning on National Radio about Jim Peron.

I mention this because apparently she said Ahmed Zaoui was given the "red carpet" treatment by immigration.

Ha, ha, stupid Flannagan.

Hamish McKenzie - reveller, London, Ontario

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Not just a holiday

Fate dragged me to Ottawa in the weekend. (Fate and a rental car.) It's Canada's capital city, and, as I had been told repeatedly by classmates, a great place to celebrate Canada Day.

It was.

Canada's national day is actually a major day of celebration in Ottawa. People care about it. Thousands pour onto the streets, wearing red and white, sporting tacky temporary tattoos of the maple leaf. They wear big stupid Canada hats and drunken goofy grins and wave paper flags. People shout "Happy Canada Day!" and mean it. Musicians, actors, and artists perform on the streets. The Prime Minister makes a speech on Parliament Hill. Major stage performances from pop stars in the evening are followed by a massive fireworks display.

It's all very feel good. Almost sickeningly positive. But so much fun, and just a little uplifting. I joined in the revelry, wore a little maple leaf sticker on my t-shirt, and got drunk.

Inevitably, I found myself thinking, what does New Zealand have like this? When do we have a day to celebrate the good things about our country? After all, we've got just as much to celebrate as Canada does.

In the lead-up to the election, it's easy to forget that the sky isn't collapsing in on New Zealand. No, we don't have substantial income tax cuts, and we don't have a top-notch health system, but we do have a relatively peaceful, successful nation. We're not in the habit of helping in unnecessary wars, despite bullying from the US; we are, on the whole, tolerant and welcoming of a multicultural society, despite the Winston Peterses amongst us; and we're pretty good at chasing balls round paddocks and courts, despite our small population. Those are three pretty good reasons to be a little bit proud of who we are, even just for one day in the year. There is more to celebrate, of course, but this is a blog, not an essay.

As it is, we're often led to believe we're not good enough for some countries, or that we're not as good as Australia in, well, just about anything. It seems too often the emphasis is more on bemoaning our shortcomings than acknowledging what we're good at. There's no day, like Canada Day, Australia Day, or Independence Day, where we can really let loose with unabated enthusiasm for our nation.

What do we have? Well, Waitangi Day is the closest thing we have to a national day. That day is rightfully one of mixed feelings. Certainly, it is a time to recognise the forging of a unique relationship between colonisers and an indigenous people (one thing we were better at than the Canadians, the Americans, and the Australians), but it's also a time to recognise that many of those promises signed into the treaty were renegged upon. So, no dancing in the streets on that one.

ANZAC Day? That's one time when we can be proud to be New Zealanders (the atrocities of war aside, our soldiers conducted themselves with valour and courage), and it does in one way mark our coming-of-age. But ANZAC Day is a time for mournful reflection, a time to respect great losses, past differences, and selfless sacrifice. No dancing on the streets for that one.

Labour Day? Nope.

Any reason to party is a good one -- but it would be nice to have a day to remind ourselves there are some things we do right. But which day? The best I can think of is the day New Zealand, as we know it now, got true independence: November 25, 1947, the day we came out from under Britain's watch.

It's a good date for several reasons:

1. The weather would be warm, so it's a nice time to visit the park for a picnic.
2. It's a month out from Christmas, so gives workers a day off at a stressful time of year.
3. There are no public holidays in November (excluding anniversary days for Canterbury, Marlborough, and the Chatam Islands).
4. It marks the day when New Zealand became a fully-fledged independent nation, reliant on its own steam, rather than economic support from the Mother Country.

While I can't envisage something on Ottawa's scale, Wellington could definitely put on a decent show (see: the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King world premier), perhaps centred around Te Papa, which is one fine example of a celebration of New Zealandness. I'm sure we could match Canada for self-pride, street noisiness, and drunkenness. And I'm sure we could get used to the idea of having an extra day off.


In the meantime, on an entirely unrelated matter, if you'd like to read some interesting distanced analysis of the state of our economy, let me point you to this Economist article.

Lyndon Hood - Antiquarian, Lower Hutt

Monday, July 04, 2005

New Hood: Don Brash of La Mancha

Hamish McKenzie - the last time I'm going to do this PR shit...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Corner pub runs dry

Richard Meros has written to inform me his cornerpub email address has failed. He can now be contacted at richardmeros@hotmail.com. To all who have unsuccessfully tried to contact him, he apologises profusely, I'm sure.

In the meantime, keep your square eyes on this space. Fighting Talk will have some new arrivals soon.