John Ralston Saul - Matt Nippert, New York

Sunday, May 29, 2005

UPFRONT: Matt Nippert talks to John Ralston Saul [non-rationalist]

Caught in limbo between photo shoot and interview, chitchat with John Ralston Saul ranges from drink orders to preferred titles. Either "Your Excellency" (his wife, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, is the Governor-General of Canada), "Dr. Saul" (Ph.D. from Kings University), or just plain John. He prefers a flat water, and John. Why flat water? "There is this assumption everywhere in the world that you're going to want artificially carbonated French water. It's a sign of advertising that you'd actually want water from the most polluted continent in the world because the advertising tells you it's chic."

In their 1995 listing of 100 visionaries, the Utne Reader described Saul as "An erudite Toronto gadfly whose bete noire is the abuse of thought and language at the hands of arrogant elites". Recognition for Saul came from his pair of savagely critical essay collections, Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, and The Doubter's Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense. He only made it to 86 on the list, but considering those above him - Fritjof Capra (18), Noam Chomsky (20) and Spike Lee (56) - he wasn't in bad company.

Saul is here promoting his most recent book, On Equilibrium. The book represents a break from his past work, he says. "Voltaire's Bastards, The Unconscious Civilisation and The Doubter's Companion are about twelve to fifteen hundred pages of critique - just saying look, this is the problem, this is the way it works, this is where it counterfeits. I've told you why I think reason has gone off the tracks, and why it doesn't work, and how it leads to corporatism. So, what are the mechanisms that we have that we can use to think about something different?

"I think you can basically say that globalisation is dead. Period. It's just dead." Saul wonders why we judge our fellow citizens more harshly than free market policies. "It's failed three times, with enormous social costs; in the lead-up to World War I, the Great Depression, and in the last twenty years ... Even economic theories die when they fail enough." For a social construction - and "globalisation", he points out, is neither a force of nature nor a scientific law - social disbelief is nothing short of a mortal blow.

If globalisation is dead, then, we must be watching the wake. "They [the elites] just can't figure how to get out of it, can't figure out new language yet, new ways of handling things. It's an interim period."

These days, Saul is more interested in where the tide takes us, whether the vacuum of power is filled by nationalism, or a cogent, public, discussion. Like an optimistic Orwell, he seeks to move debate away from pro- and anti-globalisation rhetoric, and toward the creation of a new language to describe the future.

On Equilibrium* promotes the importance of ineffable, non-rational, human qualities such as common sense, ethics, imagination, intuition and memory, in addition to reason. Not too many intellectuals use sporting analogies in their analysis, but Saul aptly quotes ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky on the importance of intuition: "you must skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is."

The marginalisation of non-rational knowledge is the problem, Saul argues. "We do use our intuition, we do have a memory - but we have to dress it all up as if it's rational. So we completely waste all this time lying to ourselves, and often can't do it well because the lie takes us off track, so we do something intuitional - reach into our imagination or intuition to decide something. Then we desperately have to call management meetings to come up with paperwork to justify what we've just done."

Economic rationalism, he says, is hardly the clinically rigourous sciecne it pretends to be. "Think about over-the-top romantic comedies - that's the marketplace. It throws itself into enthusiasm, it falls madly in love, and throws money desperately in one direction and gets itself way overextended and collapses."

Democracy, Saul argues, is threatened by the strictly "rational" view that it should be efficient. What it should be, he contends, is a mattress (or padded walls, depending on your perspective) for the market to operate within, providing stability and insulation from its extremes. It may not be efficient, but it is effective. "Government can deliver effectively, but the process of democracy is supposed to be slow, inefficient, repetitive, overlapping, expensive, time-wasting. That's what it is supposed to be, that's what democracy is. Dictatorships are efficient." Mussolini made the trains run on time, but democracies laid the tracks.

So Saul advocates a slow, meandering approach to decision making. Take the debate on genetic engineering, he says. “\"The uninformed public wish to have an open, relaxed, unclear conversation about the pros and cons, listen to what people think and gradually, bit by bit, make up their minds. Not because they understand it, but because they've heard a debate, and they've found their place in the debate...I'd like to slow down, because I think I have a right to a long, slow, open public debate. It may turn out to be the best thing since sliced bread. But since we haven't had the chance to talk about it, who knows?"

The lack of such open, public talk is due to what Saul calls the "employment contract" - "the single largest limit today on freedom of speech."

"When people come out of universities and get jobs, particularly if they're in any kind of managerial, scientific, [or] specialist areas ... they end up working for governments, corporations and universities. And really what the employment contract says is that in return for paying you a salary, we get total ownership of your knowledge, your understanding in your area of specialisation.

"In other words, they're basically getting from you ownership over the area where you have the most to contribute as a citizen. It becomes virtually impossible in our societies to have sensible conversations about complicated issues because the people who have some interesting things to say can only feed the information through interest groups."

Debate deteriorates into "opaque salvos" from competing corporate groups, in the form of self-interested press statement, supported by a work-force of experts removed from the public sphere. This is doubly ironic, as Saul points out, when these specialists have been educated in the public system for the public good.

I point out to Saul that the lack of nuclear physicians in New Zealand hasn't stopped it from forming clear views on the implications of nuclear power and technology. "There's a feeling outside of New Zealand of, 'how dare they make an uninformed decision. Are they experts? We are experts!' It is this feeling of ownership that corporations or governments own understanding of nuclear fission and no democratic society is allowed to make up their mind about it. ...[Thus] the ability to have a really open and relaxed conversation about nuclear fission is very, very difficult, so we've never been able to have one."

A waiter delivers drinks to the table. Bottled water. Bottled French water. Foreshadowing, synchronicity, or mere coincidence?
"You see now there you are. No." Saul says firmly.
The waiter is taken aback. "No?"
"Just some water," Saul insists.
"Some plain tap water?"
"This is my joke, you see. Here you are in a country filled with clean water tables, clean water literally spurring down mountainsides, unpolluted and nuclear free. Nuclear free," he says with emphasis. "And here," pointing to the plastic French bottle, "is water from the most nuclear dependent country on earth."

* ON EQUILIBRIUM, by John Ralston Saul (Penguin $24.95)

Published June 22, 2002, New Zealand Listener.

Lyndon Hood - Thespian, Lower Hutt

New Hood: On The NZ First Chorus Line

I am something of novice reader of parliamentary press releases, but from time to time I see something that I am sure would interest even the most grizzled veteran. For example, I was intrigued to note that Winston Peters had written audience responses into his Budget speech ...


Hamish McKenzie - outraged, London, Ontario

Friday, May 27, 2005


The press release for Richard Meros' book On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover was deemed to breach Scoop's 'good taste' standards. It was duly removed. Click here to see the blank space where the press release used to be. [See below for the release in its beautiful original entirety.]

Apparently, this release from Maxim, cheering on the removal of filibusters from the US Senate, was not seen to breach Scoop's standards of good taste. Go figure.


STOP! If you have standards of good taste, read no further. The following press release mentions nipples, squinted eyes, and Ken Shirley. Proceed at your own risk.

Outrageous new book imagines PM’s love-life

Never before has an author so audaciously propositioned the Prime Minister through print.

On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover, a trail-blazing work by Richard Meros, is set to rattle chains in New Zealand’s highest echelons.

First-time author Meros wrestles with desire, the difficulties of courting a major political figure, and “physiological considerations for young lovers” in a book that will raise the pulse of any self-respecting Head of State.

Positing himself as the Prime Minister’s ideal toy-boy, Meros openly fantasizes about attracting Ms Clark with his taut nipples and squinted – yet unfocussed – eyes. He muses aloud: “This young lover will embody the veracity and lust so often attributed to youth, re-invigorating Helen. She will be like a vampire who has stumbled into a nursery.”

OTCAPOHCTMAHYL moves from essay-like beginnings to heady narrative in five rampaging chapters, merging scholarly interrogation with barely-contained ravings.
Discussing such intricacies as the “erotic Zen of ken Shirley,” societal power relations, and the potentialities of clipped muff, OTCAPOHCTMAHYL aims to both entertain and provoke.

No book will make a greater impression this year.

For further information or book orders, contact the author at meros@cornerpub.com. Books are $10 each.

Hamish McKenzie - critic, London, Ontario

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover
A new book by Richard Meros

"How do the rulers wake in the morning and how does their coffee differ to that of the rest? Is it ground by malnourished peasantry two worlds over or is it ground by a live-in maid who'd much prefer to be grinding other things, elsewhere? And... how do modern rulers take on young lovers?"

We all have our fantasies about the Prime Minister. Those smouldering eyes; that searing intellect. That power. We all have questions about her private life -- what's she really like? -- and some of us wonder who grinds her coffee in the morning. Who among us, however, has the courage to put those thoughts into ink? Who has the audacity to illustrate those ruminations in prose? Is there a man or woman amongst us who has the conviction to behave in accordance with their ideologies on such matters of Prime Ministerial desire?

There is. His name is Richard Meros.

On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover. If the book stopped right there it would be a triumph. Meros' great gift to us, though, is that he gives us a further 83 pages of such gold. A unique convergence of critical theory, memoir, and fantastical narrative, On the conditions muses chiefly on the question of just how a young man might fashion himself as the Prime Minister's toy-boy. This book (for want of a better word -- 'novella' ignores its scholarly import, and 'academic text' doesn't encompass its imaginative elements) fuses academic discussion with self-indulgent fiction and comes up with a bastard of a product that really has few parallels (although the author does go out of his way to name-drop Borges and Zizek).

There are three distinct parts to the book. The first is given over to a scholarly interrogation of desire, speculation on Helen Clark's desires, and an outlining of the requisite elements for maximising the chance of romantic encounter with the Prime Minister. In the middle section Meros contemplates the various physiological aspects required of young lovers in today's era. The book's final chapters, hopelessly off the prescribed trail, spiral into fantasy.

OTCAPOHCTMAHYL is a flawed book. Meros exhibits an uncomfortable relationship with punctuation, and he is on the losing side of a violent feud with the apostrophe. It will become immediately apparent to the astute reader that this book is in dire need of a good editor -- hell, any editor would do. There is also the odd factual error -- for instance, Meros mistakenly claims that Bill Clinton wasn't in office at the time of his Lewinsky affair (he literally was). But such flaws only add charm to what is really a delightfully idiosyncratic tract.

Meros is also prone to digressions. Long, probably irrelevant, digressions. But they're so much fun. Consider the following, where Meros recalls and laments a non-encounter with two lucious young girls at a Timaru gas station:

"What was I to do; proposition a threesome and fuck their sweaty white twisting bodies from angles imaginable and un-? Well, that sounds pretty damn good now -- but at the time I must have had other refreshments on my mind. That actually sounds very fucking good now."

Another digression sees Meros embark on a page-long footnote, which discusses -- amongst other things -- "The erotic Zen of ken Shirley!"

Colourful digressions aside, Meros' finest moments come in the chapter called 'Physiological considerations for young lovers'. In the delightful subsection 'Nipples -- I don't care what they say', Meros is in full flight. After praising the virtues of erect nipples -- those "stark revolutionaries" of the body -- he offers: "For Helen my body will speak its mind. My nipples, like sonar, will set her two points and she must trace the shortest route. My body will tell her I am ripe and she is a cheeky orchard worker."

The Prime Minister herself must blush at the thought.

It is in this chapter, too, that Meros displays a talent for challenging societal assumptions. Consider his analysis of body odour: "Odour has no denotative elements that hint towards unpleasantness. Odour is neutral. Yet adding body makes it unpleasant."

From here he moves from ringworm to a criticism of this year's Newspaper of the Year to his conclusions. Somewhere in there his thesis goes AWOL and he ends up on imagined journey with Ms Clark, which ends with him sitting on her lap reading to her from On the conditions. I would say it is the stuff of magic mushrooms, but it's so odd-ball that it can only come from one place: regular field mushrooms.

And now, in the hope that my comments may someday grace the hot-pink cover of this book in aid of shifting copies, I shall unload hyperbolical adjectives on Meros' work: Appalling! Scandalous! Fantastic!

* Disclosure: Richard Meros is my friend.

* To order a copy of 'On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover' contact the author at meros@cornerpub.com. Books cost $10 each.

Lyndon Hood - housekeeper, Lower Hutt

Monday, May 23, 2005

Things I've Been Meaning to Bitch About 2, 3 & 4

It's happened in the past that I've put a "1" or and "I" in the title of a post; as if to say, "This will be but one in a series or similarly-themed postings". That kind of talk seems to be some kind of e-hubris, to be punished in my case by niggling guilt that I've never got round to writing part two.

Consider this a break from tradition.

Things I was reminded of in the last couple of weeks that have got on my wick were:

Garth McVicar of the "Sensible" Sentencing Trust for being wrong about what constitutes a good idea. I try not to post on news if I don't have anything to add, so here goes: Remember that Kingi thing? Well it was either a really callous April Fools joke or he seems to have quietly dropped it.

On a related theme, a recent Listener story by Matt Nippert (who you might remember as a failed blogger who's too cheap to get his own homepage) quoted Corrections Minister Paul Swain on the practical necessity for the justice system and wider society to accept and fund rehabilitation (on account of it working so well). What this reminded me of is: Phil Goff and the attitude that accompanied his prisoner compensation bill. It's remarkable that they're in the same party, considering that apparently they're not on the same planet.

In local opinion-shaping news, Hutt South National candidate Rosmarie Thomas has been organising a petition calling for more police in the Hutt. She told the local paper she keeps the party politics seperate - she doesn't want to discourage anyone from signing. Yet phrases like "thinly-veiled" still leap to mind. I don't have a problem with someone going from social campaigning into politics, but this one seems to be the stinky way round.

And, this isn't to say she has no point, but by the time people were happy with the number of police, I suspect there would be far too many police.

There. Now I can go back to posting about flowers and sunshine and so forth.

Oh yeah, there's this too ...

Does This Mean We Have To Elect A New Benson-Pope?

During the last week, pressure from the opposition in Parliament unveiled the depravity of the current Government. Not merely in the perfidy of one Cabinet Minister, but also the manner in which he was supported at the highest levels. I submit that, in repeatedly using the word "refute" as if it meant "deny", the Labour-Progressive coalition has forfeited the moral right to govern...

Read the rest at Scoop.

Lyndon Hood - Being Counter, Lower Hutt

Monday, May 16, 2005

Things I've Been Meaning to Bitch About 1

Saturday's Dom Post ran a story from The Times. That is, the newspaper some journos refer to as "The Times of London", presumably lest listeners mistake it for the Times of Otago Daily.

It was about a particular result - among many others - of the UN Iraq Living Conditions Survey 2004:
The 370-page report said it was 95 per cent confident 29,000 ... This figure is far lower than the 98,000 deaths estimated in British Medical Journal The Lancet...
The author doesn't seem to follow statistics too good anyway - what the study actually found was that the "data indicates 24,000 deaths, with a 95 percent confidence interval from 18,000 to 29,000 deaths" - but Mr of-London also makes the same bloody mistake everyone commentating the Iraq casualty figures seems to.

The UN study was counting "war related deaths" in the year following the invasion. The study in The Lancet was considering the before-and-after difference in overall mortality rate due to any cause, including the effects of generalised lawless violence and a collapse in hygiene, health and infrastructure or who knows what (commentary at Crooked Timber, for the which a tip'o'the hat to - yes - Hard News).

You would expect that number to be a lot bigger than the war dead. The fact that Iraq is now a horrible place to live is pretty much supported by the UN report's other findings. In terms of survivability, Iraq is a worse place than it was before the invasion.

Whichever count you prefer, bear in mind that both use data from are year ago or more. Particularly in the case of the Lancet numbers (the latter from a team who made "conservative assumptions"), it will have kept going up.

Iraq Body Count, which totals "Civilians reported killed by military intervention in Iraq" also gets an inevitable mention. In some respects IBC was propelled into mainstream fame as a conterpoint to the Lancet study - as in this other Times article. I'l put it in IBC's own words (and their own emphasis):
Our maximum ... refers to reported deaths - which can only be a sample of true deaths unless one assumes that every civilian death has been reported.
Since they need two independent approved sources before they rack it up, and journalists are rare outside the green zone, you can imagine that 24,415 (at the time of writing) might be on the low side.

These are of course just numbers. Whether they have any bearing on particular ethical conclusions - about the justification for the war (as proffered before and/or after the fact) or the level of foresight involved in its planning and prosecution - is another matter entirely. Or indeed, whether there are issues of process and justice (on either side of the argument) where the particular consequences matter little.

Frankly, questions of how to use number like these - for example, what one should compare them with - can get very complicated and arbitrary quite quickly.

All I'm saying (for the moment) is, if certain people are going to throw numbers about, they should try to remember what they were counting.

Lyndon Hood - poster boy, Lower Hutt

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Hamish McKenzie - journalism student, London, Ontario

Bust out the pitch-forks

Vigilante justice on the West Coast? I can believe it. "We usually run people out of town who just won't fit in and this guy will never fit in here," the local publican said.

A convicted child sex offender thrust back into society always gets the emotive claptrap rumbling. And so we get such clangers as this from a Blackball resident: "It has imprisoned the whole community". Even a reporter has been compelled to contend that Blackball's residents have been "cowering behind closed doors" since they got wind of their new neighbour. No chocolate fish for guessing which side The Press's Paul Madgwick takes on the argument.

My question to Blackball is this: where do you expect him to live? It's understandable that you feel uncomfortable with a sex offender living in your town, but how does that make you any different from any other part of the country? No matter where this guy goes in New Zealand he's going to be near other people. Surely wherever he sets foot he'll leave a trail of people "cowering behind closed doors".

I wouldn't expect that, being amongst the country's most despised people, he'd be too keen on trotting down to the local pub for a pint. Nor is it likely that he'd even go to the corner dairy for a loaf of bread. In a town like Blackball, where I have no doubt that locals will quickly single him out, it'd be impossible to entertain the prospect of becoming a part of society. There'll be a gaggle of pitch-fork-wielding locals determined to prevent that.

There's a similar case here in Canada, where Karla Homolka, who helped sexually torture and then murder two teenage girls, is about to be released from prison. Funnily enough, people aren't too cool about having her live near them either.

These offenders have committed horrible crimes and have been, and will continue to be, penalised. Going to prison for a long stretch of time -- and by informed accounts prison is not a nice place to be -- is only part of that penalty. Once they're out of there they can look forward to a life of freedom characterised by continual abuse, banishment, and the odd bout of vigilante justice. But they have to live somewhere. It might as well be Blackball.

Hamish McKenzie - anthropologetic, London, Ontario

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Canada versus New Zealand: A Comparative Study

During my extensive stay (two weeks and counting) in my new homeland of Canada (yes, I am a citizen; and no, I don't know how I pulled that one off), I have noticed a few key points of difference between this New World colony and the colony of the Long White Cloud (which, since it's clearly newer than New World, must have to be considered a Pak 'n' Save colony).

Informal studies, which haven't really been conducted so can't really show anything, haven't really shown that the following things aren't really true.


New Zealanders, in general, are a friendly lot known for their hospitality, easy-going manner, and meat pies. There is the occasional red-neck racist, but these are mainly confined to isolated economic backwaters like Gore and the National Party. New Zealanders aren't at all like their more conservative neighbours, the Australians, except for the fact that they share a similar accent, culture, and proclivity for buggering sheep.

Canadians, in general, are a friendly lot know for their hospitality, easy-going manner, and maple syrup. There is the occasional red-neck racist, but these are mainly confined to the remote provinces of Alberta and the USA. Canadians aren't at all like their more conservative neighbours, the Americans, except for the fact that they share a similar accent, culture, and proclivity for cheeseburgers.


New Zealanders tend to have a minimalist approach to language, preferring to use it only when absolutely necessary -- such as when discussing the likelihood of Anton Oliver missing the upcoming Lions series. The language spoken by the majority of New Zealanders can most closely be described as a kind of English, although linguists are divided as to whether it is merely a dialect or a completely different tongue. Research has indicated that most Kiwis prefer tongue. Strange words have infiltrated the New Zealand vocabulary over the years, including the confirmative "ow" (as in "It wasn't me, ow", or, "Ow is a difficult expression to spell, ow"), the borrowed Maori expression "tu meke!", which can be rougly translated as "too much!" (as in "That Nathan Rarere is tu meke!", or, "I think I've drunk tu meke again"), and the recently introduced "shiznuts" (as in "Georgina Te Heu Heu is the shiznuts"), which was mistakenly coined by a former Critic editor with a huge ego.

Canadians tend to use language liberally and loudly -- particularly when discussing details of their sex lives on cellphones while riding public transport. The Canadian accent, although varied, closely resembles the American, with one particular exception: the pronunciation of the joined-vowel sound "ou". Thus, words like "about" and "gout" become "aboat" and "goat," which can be rather confusing when it comes to discussing systemic diseases in goats aboard sea vessels. The expression "Eh" is universal in Canada and can be adapted to fit almost any sentence ("These fat-filled burgers sure are good, eh", or simply, "Fuckin' eh!").


Although it's widely held that New Zealand is a primitve nation lost somewhere deep in the South Pacific, few realise that the little-country-that-could has been making rapid advances in technological circles. Well, okay, so technically maybe they've just been going in circles rapidly. But for a country of just four million people and a mere handful of Starbuckses (hey, come on, at least I can pluralise "haiku" [scroll down]) New Zealand is surprisingly with the programme. For instance, the small town of Alexandra boasts its own set of traffic lights (albeit safely within the confines of the cycle park) and when it comes to the Compact Disc revolution, the country at least compares favourably to Bulgaria [scroll down].

Canada, on the other hand, with the advantage of being so close to the civilised United States of America, is one of the most technologically advanced states in the Third World. For instance, in London, Ontario (a town that compares to Christchurch in terms of both population and completely nonsensical city layout) it is common for student flats to be equipped with highspeed internet, a dishwasher, and a functioning washing machine. On a more practical level, however, Canada is not so advanced. The lids on margarine containers, for example, are unnecessarily difficult to remove, mainly due to the fact that the little rimmy bit on the lid doesn't stick out far enough over the edge of the container.


Since the induction of the Labour government New Zealand has been experiencing a cultural renaissance. Because of the PACE scheme, artists no longer have to kick their heroin habits, which means the creative juices can still flow. Musicians in particular have found their voice again on the New Zealand scene. David Kilgour, Martin Phillips, and Annie Crummer have all experienced something of a revival, and Shihad have reverted to their original name after briefly entertaining a whim to identify themselves with a small rubber object that babies suck on. Meanwhile, everyone's hoping that NZ Idol winner Ben Lummis maintains his association with the Destiny Church so he'll never be in danger of getting taken seriously.

Canada, too, is enjoying a particularly rich vein of musical talent. Montrealians The Arcade Fire have cemented themselves as this year's Franz Ferdinand, although this was only confirmed this week when much-reviled Critic Music Editor James Dann rated their album Funeral an astonishing 9.5 out of 10. "A work of art that can provoke intense feelings," Dann opined. Hip-hop artist k-os continues to impress, despite being, you know, a bit politically aware; and there's apparently a great band called Broken Social Scene, but this writer hasn't got around to listening to them yet. Meanwhile, the world is still struggling to forgive Canada for Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, and Motutapu local Shania Twain. Iran reportedly still refuses to engage Canada in trade talks because of Alanis Morissette and the album Jagged Little Pill.


The ruling centre-left Labour party in New Zealand is doing its level best to implode in the face of a blistering campaign of unrelenting attack from the Leader of the Opposition. No-one can remember his name, but insiders suspect it is Winston Peters. Despite this, the Labour party clings to a lead in the polls -- but it could well be that to form the next government they'll require the support of proclaimed sex-symbol and worm-fiddler Peter Dunne whose United Future party has reportedly merged with the rambunctious Progressive Coalition to form something akin to Christian Heritage.

Canada's ruling centre-left Liberal party is doing its level best to implode in the face of a blistering campaign of unrelenting attack from just about everyone in Canada. Pretty much all of Canada is pissed off with the Liberals for swindling millions of dollars through some obscure practice called 'Adscam'. The Conservatives are demanding an early election, but the Liberals won't let them put a No Confidence vote to the floor -- they insist it be hung from the roof, right alongside the ineffective Leader of the Opposition, whose name nobody can remember.

Stuff I wrote - Matt Nippert, anywhere

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Not resuming, just a resume

This post, I hope, will become an evolving portfolio. It comes in two parts - mainsteam pieces followed by blogs. (The perceptive of you may note an inverse correlation over time.)

To Victoria ... and Beyond a profile published in my old stomping ground, and written by the up-and-coming young Turk Geoff Brischke. Salient, Issue 18, 2005.

Mainstream (complete - bar several pieces lost in Stuff)

Veteran of the Middle East Dinner with Robert Fisk. December 10, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Pickup tricks Don Juan in New York. October 29, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Stings like a slug Chrisopher Hitchens meets his match. October 1, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
First I take Manhattan Column: Steel-capped combat boots are not practical in a New York heatwave. September 24, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Black gold For miners, the Raglan seafloor is a new frontier, but locals are worried that there are no regulations in place to mitigate environmental impacts. September 10, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Drug money Are celebrities' coke habits funding al-Qaeda or organised crime? August 6, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Hunt the terrorist In the cat-and-mouse game of counter-terrorism, progress is being made. July 23, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
League of gentlemen Exiled Zimbabwean cricketer Henry Olonga appeals to the Black Caps and the International Cricket Council. July 16, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Off the sidelines Never mind the Lions, who's winning the clash of the rugby commentators? July 2, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Bomber Upfront interview with Martyn Bradbury June 25, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Shore thing Musicians mark the anniversary of the 1985 sinking of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour by re-recording a Kiwi classic. June 25, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Born Bad? Cover Story Are the most hated criminals simply evil or can they be rehabilitated? May 21, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Te Radar Upfront interview with comedian. Piss taken. May 14, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Take it in TV Review The diary of a late-night channel-surfing insomniac. May 7, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Zimbabwe Boycott? Cancellation of the cricket tour would be seen as a real slap in the face for President Mugabe. April 30, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Democracy Run Out Cricket boss Martin Snedden makes a call on the Black Caps' tour to Zimbabwe. April 16, 2005 New Zealand Listener.
Levitating the Pentagon Book Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats, by Jon Ronson. April 2, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Dr Claudia Orange Upfront interview with Treaty expert and Te Papa's history director. March 12, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
It's a Family Affair Nepotism has far more practitioners than defenders. March 5, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Preschool Excellence Sidebar on the cutting edge of early childhood education. February 19, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Polls Apart State-of-the-nation speeches by the Green and Act leaders neatly illustrated the philosophical chasm between the two minority parties. January 29, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
A Hitch in Time Column on the joys of sticking ones thumb in it. January 29, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
The Golden Generation Cover Story: With opportunities aplenty, today's bright young things expect to be rewarded, and they want it now. January 22, 2005, New Zealand Listener. (Co-credit with Nick Smith)
Dizzy Heights "Popera" poppet Yulia Townsend's career is taking off so fast that she hasn't had a chance to make any resolutions. January 18, 2005, New Zealand Listener.
Picking Porkies Ah, Christmas. Everyone loves their gifts, welcomes relatives with warm, open arms, and wishes goodwill to all humankind. Can you spot the lies? December 18, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
The Power List The 50 most powerful people in New Zealand revealed. December 11, 2004, New Zealand Listener. (Co-credit with Tim Watkin and Nick Smith)
Hitting Home Cover Story on the likely effects of climate change on New Zealand for the next generation. December 4, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Chris Butcher Upfront interview with Halo 2 lead engineer and Kurow wizz-kid. December 4, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Hello Trees, Hello Mountains Profile of Monty Python funnyman Michael Palin. November 27, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Pieces of Green Book Review and Interview with Greenpeace co-founder Rex Weyler on his book An Insider's Account. November 20, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Kings of the Hill Mavericks in newsrooms, from Hiroshima to Auckland, break stories and budgets. Interview with John Pilger over his book Tell Me No Lies, and investigative journalism in New Zealand. November 20, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Dodging Bush Column on granting Americans political asylum so that they can escape theirs. November 20, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Nothing in the Tank As oil prices climb, New Zealand discovers scandalously low reserves. October 30, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Clio Cresswell Upfront interview with Australian professor on her book Mathematics and Sex. October 9, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
The Simpsons of the South Pacific The hopes for and prospects of upcoming Pacific animated sitcom bro'Town. September 25, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Neither War Nor Peace After the Beslan massacre, what are the chances for Chechen independence? September 18, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Back to Room 101 Book Review and Interview with Stasiland author Anna Funder. September 18, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Foot in the Door A Hollywood career beckons James Napier Robertson. September 18, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
GE Free or Busted Despite scant media attention, eco-activists have been conducting semi-legal campaigns up and down the country. September 4, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Sir Robert Jones In My Experience interview with property magnate and humanities patron. August 28, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Mass Market Penetration The fifth annual Erotica Adult Lifestyles Expo represents the "tasteful" side of what is a growing domestic industry. August 21, 2004, New Zealand Listener. (Co-credit with Patrick Crewdson)
The Spying Dame Former MI5 head Stella Rimington was the model for Judi Dench's "M" – she's a shaker not a stirrer, which is why her former employers okayed her new foray into terrorism fiction with At Risk. July 31, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Safe as Houses Cover Story: Our burglary rate is declining, so should you still be worried? July 24, 2004, New Zealand Listener. (Co-credit with Mark Revington)
Islands of Silence Book Review of Martin Booth's new novel. July 24, 2004, Canvas: New Zealand Herald.
Please Don't Mess with this Sign The unlikely symbiosis between advertisers and those who hijack their campaigns. July 17, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
All About Oil Interview with host of upcoming BBC documentary Meet the Stans. July 17, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
The Maxim Gun Will a trend towards saturating publications with emails subvert the letter-writing process? June 26, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
Greg Proops Upfront interview with Whose Line is it Anyway? regular. April 24, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
When the Human Zoo Outgrows New Cages The high price of New Zealand's overcrowded prisons. April 17, 2004, Review and World: New Zealand Herald.
Guerrillas in Our Midst "You plant them, we'll pull them," they say of GE crops. But does that make them terrorists who should face long jail sentences? February 14, 2004, New Zealand Listener.
GM Troops Set for Action Where the GE debate will go after the moratorium has been lifted. January 18, 2004, Review and World: New Zealand Herald.
John Ralston Saul Upfront profile on Canadian philosopher and author about French water, nuclear power and his book On Equilibrium. June 22, 2002, New Zealand Listener.

Blogs (selected)

Number of the Beasts, Blackshirts, fighting and the Big Day Out. March 15, 2005, Fightingtalk.
Clowns and Mirrors, On introspection and small beginnings, PLUS an editorial on being a political sapper. December 13, 2004, Fightingtalk.
I Palin Comparison Transcript of interview with Michael Palin. November 27, 2004, Fightingtalk.
Pilger's Progress Transcript of interview with John Pilger. November 15, 2004, Fightingtalk.
WANTED: Journalistic protégé to acerbic and elegant New Conservatives spokesman An open letter in reply to media commentator David Cohen. October 3, 2004, Fightingtalk.
If you stand outside and it rains... Testy correspondence and the perils of blogging. September 14, 2004, Fightingtalk.
Young Junkies Rejoice A look at shaken-up student media facing competition from outside. August 10, 2004, Fightingtalk.
The Maori Queen in White Pants A television review: Eating Media Lunch. June 2, 2004, Fightingtalk.
Compromising Values Column on Mediawatch item on the state of student media. May 17, 2004, Fightingtalk, Salient and Critic.
Cracks in the Media Windowpane, Review of the film Shattered Glass. May 2, 2004, Fightingtalk.
Random Chunks from the Bottom of the Barrel Musings on Studs Terkel, death and Greg Proops. April 20, 2004, Fightingtalk.
Man of Letters Who is Stephen D Taylor, and why do you have the feeling you know him? April 16, 2004, Fightingtalk.
The dangerous dogs of war, in the wild, wild West Iraq PMCs and the rise of mercenaries. April 13, 2004, Fightingtalk.
Long Live the King Last broadcast interview with historian and author Michael King. April 1, 2004, Fightingtalk, Scoop, and Public Address. (Co-credit with Simon Pound)
Damned Dams and Bloodsports The implications for environmentalism on campaigns that are too successful. March 31, 2004, Fightingtalk.
Welcome to the Human Zoo, Penal policy and a visit to Pare D block. March 28, 2004, Fightingtalk.
Standing Tall on the Low Road, Interview with Whale Rider author Witi Ihimaera on the eve of the Oscars. March 1, 2004, Public Address.

Lyndon Hood - Scoop leader, Lower Hutt

Hamish McKenzie - comic sans'd, London, Ontario

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Back to skool

After a year as an editor of Critic, with an Honours degree under my belt, and with public speaking experience at various engagements (ASPA Awards, 21sts, weddings) I wouldn't have thought standing up in front of a group of strangers to introduce myself would be so hard. Difference was, I was standing up in front of a group of Canadian strangers, and I wasn't drunk. I think the latter factor had more of an influence.

All I had to do was be like everyone else: get up, tell them who I was, where I was from, and what I graduated with. I was hoping there would be a few more international students in the Master of Arts Journalism programme at the University of Western Ontario. I didn't want to be the one that was 'different'. Well, I did, but I didn't want them to find out like this... "Ummmm, my name's Hamish McKenzie" -- and this is the first time in memory that I can remember actually feeling my heart pounding against my chest (it was as if it wanted out of there) -- "I graduated from the University of Otago, which is in Dunedin, New Zealand". Cue whispers: "He's from New Zealand? Oh, we have a New Zealander..."

I don't know, it's not something that would usually make me nervous. Actually, I have to admit I like having a different accent over here: it's often a good conversation point, and usually it makes people more interested in you than they otherwise would be. But I knew that everyone would stare at me, and I knew that as soon as I opened my mouth I would reveal myself as being not one of them. It really made the 'first day back at school experience' real for me -- I totally felt like I was the new kid in town.

So I stayed shy for a while. Didn't talk to people, hid in corners, curled up with a blanket in the sick bay, poked my tongue out at the pretty girl with the pig-tails. Luckily we had lunch at the Grad Louge, which luckily serves beer on tap. (Fuck, I should warn everyone contemplating coming to Canada: beer is expensive here. Even the cheapest shit is about $8 for a six-pack -- and it was $6.50 for a pint of Stella in this "reasonably priced" bar. Then you've got to tip the bargirl, which I always forget to do...) The beer loosened me up, and thankfully a few others, and now even I have friends to play with in the weekend.

Really, the beer (only one, mind) is one of only four things I can remember from my 'orientation day' (being postgrads, we don't get a week of it like the freshers do in September). The nervous introduction is the second thing. The third thing is that I found out my intensive one-year 'you're-not-going-to-sleep-because-the-workload-is-so-heavy' programme actually starts on Monday -- not in a week-and-a-half's time like I thought. The fourth thing, and so far the most depressing aspect of the course, was that the information sheets they distributed to us were printed entirely in Comic Sans. It's enough to turn a man to $6.50 beer.

Sarah Barnett - Moved to post, finally, Auckland.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Scene: Wellington. Day. A girl, who looks younger than her years, sits with the YELLOW PAGES. She is on the phone, halfway through a conversation.

Girl: So the movers will be there Friday morning?
Secretary: [voice heard over phone] Between 9 and 12, yes.
Girl: Cool. Could you make sure that they ring if there are problems? I nanny in the afternoons, so I would need to make back-up plans.
Secretary: Of course, but they’ll be there in the morning.
Girl: And my stuff will be delivered in Auckland on Monday?
Secretary: Yep, just ring the Auckland office on Monday morning, and they’ll be able to give you an ETA. I’ll send your paperwork out to you. And finally, can I ask how you heard about us?
Girl: You were in the Yellow Pages.


Int. The Moving Company office. The SECRETARY sits at a HUGE DESK. She is inscribing STRANGE RUNES on the TABLET in front of her. She is clearly pleased that the Yellow Pages has, once again, provided the perfect cover for their hellish operation.

Secretary: That’s great, thanks for calling. I’ll get your paperwork in the mail.


Girl’s flat. Friday. Day. Too late in the day. The Moving Company has just called to say they will be there “around two”. Her last day in Wellington is in ruins and she is unhappy. She paces, PRETTILY. She sends some ANGRY, but MORDANT and WITTY, text messages to friends. She looks at the clock. 2.10.

Moving Guy: Hey, sorry we’re late, eh.
Girl: [aware that these guys are just mules for a far bigger cartel] That’s cool, but I need to be out of here before three…
Moving Guy: That’s cool, eh. But we forgot your paperwork. Do you have some paper we could borrow?
Other Moving Guy: Eh.
Girl: [unpacks box to find paper] Here you go. Could you get The Moving Company to send a copy to me?

Furniture removal MONTAGE ensues. It’s 2.50. They’re finished. Mules are good guys.

Moving to Auckland MONTAGE ensues. Girl plays HALO 2 one last time, gets DRUNK, cries PRETTILY in the pub toilets. The scenery in Auckland is a stark contrast to that in Wellington: FLAT, BLEAK. Clouds gather over the SKY TOWER. Pathetic fallacy.


Auckland house. Day. It’s Monday and the Girl is ringing the Moving Company for her ETA.

Auckland Secretary: [voice on phone] Oh, your stuff’s still in Wellington, don’t know when it will be in Auckland.
Girl: [laughs] Oh, you moving people and your hilarious ways.
Auckland Secretary: Seriously. It’s in Wellington. We would never have told you your stuff would be delivered today.

Girl closes her eyes, breathes deeply and rings the WELLINGTON OFFICE. Skip to the middle of the phone conversation. It is clear this has been going on for some time and getting nowhere. Probably because the Branch Manager is a MONUMENTAL CRETIN.

Wellington Branch Manager: [voice on phone] No, we never would have told you that your stuff would be delivered today.
Girl: Well, your secretary just admitted that she told me, and apologised.
Manager: No she didn’t.
Girl: Oh, you’re right, I imagined all the things she said to me about moving.
Manager: Oh, don’t feel bad. It happens to the best of us. Let me explain the policy to you again.
Girl: Oh, I understand the policy, but it’s not much use to me now that all my shoes are still in Wellington. I really should have been told it before I moved.
Manager: You were.


The Manager’s office. It is a festival of CHROME and OBSIDIAN. We can only see The Manager from BEHIND. He sits in a LEATHER executive chair. There is an ELABORATE, FRUITY cocktail on the desk, and a huge FLUFFY CAT on the right arm of his chair. An industrial-grade SHREDDER grinds away next to him.


Girl on the phone.

Girl: Whatever, so you’ll deliver my stuff on Saturday? And please send me my paperwork.
Manager: Of course.

Another furniture removal MONTAGE ensues. Everything is going swimmingly, then:

Girl: Where’s my stereo?
Moving Guy: I don’t know, eh.
Girl: Well, I’m not signing anything until I get my stereo.
Moving Guy: Oh yeah, we don’t have your paperwork, eh.

A series of unsuccessful phone calls are made, messages left.

Moving Guy: The Auckland Branch Manager will call you on Monday, eh.
Girl: I can’t wait.

Living in Auckland MONTAGE ensues. Girl sits on the Devonport ferry, surrounded by women having the world’s most boring hen party. Girl walks along K’ Rd. Clouds gather over the Sky Tower. Girl gets accosted on Queen St by a mad man asking for love life advice. Girl goes to work and comes home again.

The MONTAGE is punctuated by EMAILS and PHONE CALLS between the Girl and the Wellington Branch Manager. Snatches are shown on screen or heard in voice-over. Her emails start “Dear sir,” and become more painfully POLITE as time goes on. His emails continually PROMISE to send paperwork. His final email says:

Wellington Branch Manager: [voice over] …our records show that we delivered your stereo with the rest of your stuff…


Girl’s apartment. Night. GIRL sits in SILENCE, doing the CROSSWORD and drinking GIN. It is clear that lack of aural stimulation has led her to turn to mother’s little helper. She is beginning to look all of her 23 years. Her CD TOWER sits next to her SPEAKERS, whose cords trail off to nowhere. Occasionally she looks at them, and does another shot. PRETTILY.


Manager’s office. Night. The MANAGER and his SECRETARY are KNOCKING BOOTS on a pile of SHREDDED paperwork. The CAT is watching them from the arm of the chair. The secretary is READING ALOUD to the manager while they’re at it.

Secretary: [quoting Girl’s email] “Surely if you had actually delivered my stereo, I wouldn’t be asking you where it is?”
Manager: Oh God yes.


Girl’s cubicle. Day. It is clear from the calender that three months have passed. The phone rings.

Auckland Branch Manager: [voice heard over phone] Hey, we found your stereo.
Girl: [with quiet dignity] You’re shitting me.
Manager: No, it was about to go the the UK with another family’s stuff. Hahahahahaha.
Girl: That is, indeed, hilarious. When can you deliver it?
Manager: Well, we’re pretty busy this week…


Auckland Moving Company office. The Manager sits in an enormous, empty, warehouse. TUMBLEWEED blows across the floor. Against the distant back wall, you can just make out the MOVING GUYS huddled in a CAGE. Two of them are out, TRAINING. They move a BABY GRAND to and fro, pointlessly.


Girl’s office. She is still on the phone.

Girl: …so next Wednesday? Thanks.


Girl’s apartment, Wednesday. She comes home after work and there is a Moving Company box on her floor. She falls on it, sobbing. The BOX is covered in SYMBOLS of a CRYPTIC nature. She reaches in and pulls out her stereo… and one big stainless steel CASTOR, not hers, that clearly belongs to a LARGE piece of furniture. Puzzling.


Ext. House in Bayswater, London. Day. There is an International Moving Company van outside.


Int. House in Bayswater, London, night. A couple, clearly exhausted after a long-haul flight from New Zealand and a day’s unpacking, jump gratefully into bed. The bed COLLAPSES comically, due to having only THREE castors.

Man: Worst Moving Company, ever.


Girl’s apartment. Night. She walks to her CD tower and we can see the CASTOR, mounted like a TROPHY on it. She reaches for a CD and smiles. PRETTILY.

Hamish McKenzie - serious drinker, London, Ontario

Boozer losers

When I was a teenager growing up in Alexandra, I made a habit of getting slaughtered in the weekends. It was par for the course. Each weekend we'd end up at some kid's house whose parents were invariably away, we'd trash the place, and half of us would end up vomitting on the sidewalk. It was ingrained in our culture -- and I wasn't the worst. It was never difficult to get booze. Usually we'd just get our 18-year-old friends to go down to the liquor store to get it. This was pre-1999, before the legal drinking age was lowered to 18, but ID checks were really just an inconvenient impediment to business for liquor sellers.

I was a happy lad, then, when the government changed the law in 1999. I was 18, and it meant I could go to the pub to celebrate finishing my bursary exams. It meant that next year, in my first year at Otago University, I could drink without fear of impunity -- save vicious hangovers, memory loss, and poor beer-goggled decisions. It made sense to me: at 18 I was old enough to live by myself, old enough to go and kill other humans on behalf of New Zealand for the armed services, and old enough to pollute my insides with the poisonous smoke from cigarettes.

But it looks as though that law change that pleased me so much has caused damage. According to ALAC, since the lowering of the drinking age young people who do drink are drinking more heavily, more often, and start drinking from an earlier age. Research has also suggested an increase in teenage drinking-related hospital admissions, and more teenage drink-driving convictions.

So, Matt Robson of the Regressive Coalition -- and apparently a few others -- want to raise the drinking age back to 20. The proposal, which includes limiting alcohol advertising on TV to after 10pm, has been drawn from the ballot to be heard before Parliament. Many MPs will be in favour of this quick fix 'solution' to a drinking problem that has received constant publicity ever since the law change took effect.

It's a quick fix that won't change shit.

It's not surprising that young people are drinking more from a younger age. Look, for a start, at the advertising of alcohol. DB Export's rampantly successful "Export Yourself!" campaign, for instance, is slick, brainless, and it's patently clear that it's targetted at the younger set of drinkers in society. Same with the tedious "Yeah Right" Tui campaign that frequently references popular culture (Example: "There's Nothing Wrong With Miriam. Yeah Right." It took me a while to figure this one out...). Added to this is the fact that drink companies are successfully packaging their lolly-water RTD drinks to look sweet, harmless, and fun -- not too dissimilar from a bottle of, say, Coke, or Red Bull.

As well as this, young people these days seem more inclined to fuck themselves up in general -- they're not just turning to the drink. I know it's a little old -- though it should at least be an indicator for a trend -- but a 2001 study showed that, from 1998, there was a 5% increase in the number of 15--17-year-olds who had used marijuana in the last month. Increases in the use of any stimulants for the same age group ranged from 1.6 to 5.3%. Marijuana use in New Zealand is illegal for everyone (medical use aside), but that hasn't stopped the rising youth 'drug problem'.

I can accept that there are more young people drinking, and from a younger age. And it's probably true that the lowering of the drinking age has made alcohol more accessible for younger teens. But raising the age to 20 isn't going to make it much harder for the young ones to get their hands on the stuff -- I had no problem as a 16-year-old getting whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted; and even though weed is illegal, it's pretty much freely available. On the other hand, it would quite likely result in more young drinkers (particularly 18- and 19-year-olds) out on the streets, in parks, and other public places.

The question, then, should not be "should 18-year-olds be allowed to drink?", but "how do we make it less desirable for youngsters to drink?" We could start by looking at ourselves: 635,000 Kiwi adults drink at least once a week and binge. We have role models like rugby player Norm Hewitt, MPs like Winston Peters and Dover Samuels, and former Police Commissioners like Peter Doone. We so freely partake in this culture of drinking yet are clueless as to how to prevent our younger citizens becoming just like us.

Simply making the demon drink illegal for those under 18 seems like such an easy way to deal to the problem -- it requires no effort or responsibility for most of us. Yet I would hazard a guess that the move would only fuel teenage desire to get even more loaded even more regularly. As Dr John Orley, Chairman of the unfortunately-named Clifford Beers Foundation (no, it's not a brewery; it's an International Centre for Mental Health Promotion) argues:

"The more alcohol is demonized and the more it is presented to young people as a prohibited drug of abuse, expected to be taken in excess, the more its consumption appeals to their 'reckless' side... On the other hand, where moderate alcohol consumption is culturally acceptable, young people's drinking patterns and perceptions of alcohol may be less geared toward excess."

Orley points out that young people in societies where alcohol is treated ambivalently -- like in New Zealand -- tend to get drunk more frequently than in alcohol-producing nations like Italy, Portugal, and France. The drinking age in France, by the way, is 16.

Robson's proposal does have one good point: ban alcohol advertising on TV before 10pm. In fact, I would go even further -- let's ban alcohol advertising all together, like we do for cigarettes. After all, alcohol is not necessarily a lesser evil than cigarettes. And I hate to keep harking back to it, but weed seems to do alright without any advertising at all. I'm sure the mighty alcohol lobby wouldn't be too happy about, but it would be nice to not see drinking portrayed as a sexy and harmless activity.

And here's a suggestion for lowering the teen drink-driving convictions: raise the legal age for driving to 18. It's an easier law to enforce, it would get rid of a whole number of boy racers, and it would reduce the number of teen road accidents. Trust me, a testerone-pumped 16-year-old boy doesn't need to be boozed to drive like an idiot.

Lyndon Hood - honestly trying, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Fighting Talk Threatens Not to Sue Fictional Monkey

Hopefully, regular readers will be aware that I'm generally quite nice. In fact, most of you have probably met me.

And I like to think I'm reasonable skilled at noticing when two people are talking at crossed purposes,

I guess some folks just weren't meant to get along.

Shortly after my 'defense' of Matt, Sir Humphrey's's Antarctic Lemur noted my response (so far PC has not deigned to acknowledge our continued existence). And told everyone what his Statcounter log said I'd done while I visited their site.

That particular revelation wasn't at all sensitive and would have been about as surprising as an Investigate scoop. But you will gather I didn't like it being published and I don't think it's any way to treat personal information.

So, in my second ever blog comment, I complained.

Now, the reason I said "I'm not going to sue you or anything" is because otherwise, they might have though I was threatening to sue them. Later that day on Sir H ...
A threat levelled at Sir Humphrey's
Posted by Antarctic Lemur at 8:37 PM

... For whatever reason, Mr Hood has decided to level a threat at Sir Humphrey's ...

Comments please. In particular, what exactly does Hood consider to be defamatory about the initial post? ...


In my third-ever blog comment, I issued a clarification.

I'm actually more than a little ambivalent the whole idea of defamation suits. At the moment I'm definitely leaving them to holocaust deniers and former police commisioners.

Well, that's that one over with. It's never as much fun as I imagine.

The Humphries have, on average, been fairly reasonable and, as I scoured their writings for references to myself, I have occasionally read stuff I agree with.

At least there's not much risk of me discovering they're some kind of relative, what with the pseudonyms and everything.

Lyndon Hood - minim, Lower Hutt

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was about to post about the Maxim Institute.

The short version goes like this: when assessing their feedback from 'community meetings', bear in mind that the publicity specifically asked for people who were bewildered by newfangled things like civil unions and were prepared to pay $10 ($15 for couples) to be lectured by the Maxim Institute.

Oh, and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation has given them a prizes.

The Templeton Freedom Awards Program celebrates the contributions of non-profit research institutes (or “think tanks”) to the public’s understanding of how to achieve a free society. The program specifically honors promising young organizations, especially in difficult parts of the world where there are few independent voices advocating economic freedom, individual liberty, and limited government under the rule of law.
In further evidence of the freakshow alliance between economic liberalism and moral conservatism, Maxim got one $10,000 prize, plus an additional $5,000:
New Zealand’s Maxim Institute receives the second place Templeton Freedom Prize for Social Entrepreneurship for its advocacy campaign around a Civil Union Bill that threatened government intervention in the intimate relationships of private citizens.
If the Atlas people actually believe that, then Maxim's scored its biggest PR coup yet. And of course that "advocacy campaign", well, failed.

Seeing as their arguments tend to have a flavour of bullshit (though, God help me, I agree with their stance on hate speech legislation), and it's not clear that they actually represent anyone, I still don't get why Maxim is taken seriously.

I guess you can get away with a lot if you put a bikini model on the cover.

And now, the bonus feature...

New Hood: We Must Prepare to Invade Turkey Immediately!

As we reflect on ANZAC day and give rememberance to the men who gave their lives on foreign fields, we must ask ourselves one question: Why haven't we given those Turks the lesson they deserve? It's been 90 years, already!

We should work diligently for peace where appropriate. But we dishonour the memory of the ANZACs if we are not continuously at war with our enemies, hardening our armed forces for a final, successful campaign to retake the Gallipoli peninsula ...

Read the rest ...

Lyndon Hood - authoritarian, Lower Hutt


Patient readers will have deduced that Matt doesn't live here any more. Looks like that his abdication was taken as a signal to attack.

It's faintly possible he'll be back for revenge - like that bit in the horror movie five minutes before the end when everyone thinks the creature is dead. So I'll keep my spade sharp in the meantime.

There rest of us are still here. However, Hamish is off hobbing the great nobs of the world and as far as I can tell Sarah is a figment of Patrick's imagination. So for now I'm answering the mail and I've got a couple of fuck-you-too cards to hand out.

It was so cute watching the people at Sir Humphrey's trying to work out what the deal is with Fighting Talk. It's like trying to talk modern history with someone who wasn't alive in the Eighties.

Don't patronise me about how to run a blog until you're out of short pants.

Anyway, I think Lemur misunderstood Matt. I'm not saying this was a hard thing to do, dealing as we are with gonzo blogging at its longest-nosed and most purple.

Matt is not a delicate flower (in fact, for some reason the word "weed" comes to mind). And traffic is not the issue. In fact, if he'd had more than one reply to his competition, we might have had to watch him pluralise "haiku" again, and that's not a pretty sight.

Matt was barely posting anyway, even by Fighting Talk standards - he writes for a living and can't be bothered. Looks to me like he decided it's better to blow hard than to fade away, and offended as many people as he could manage in the process.

Still, best not to psychoanalyse Matt. You don't know what you'll find.

The torch, at this point, was picked up by not PC, burning with righteous indignation based on, well, whatever the hell was going on in his head.

In fairness, I don't believe anyone has ever followed the declaration that they were 'not PC' with anything intelligent or interesting. But it looks like this guy's going for the record.

Where did all this third-person-plural shit come from? You stupid, stupid man. Even the Lemur worked this one out. We are not all Matt Nippert and we are not all taking our toys and going home.

Don't accuse people of not being able to write when you're unable to think. Just because it's dressed up in grammatical sentences doesn't make it coherent.

Seems to me there are just two things to be said on this topic. And Peter, since you seem to have trouble understanding joined-up sentences, I'll type slowly.

The first is personal: You're a tosspot, I'm not. Eat that.

The second is that, unless you've singlehandedly discredited some fraudulent memo lately and I didn't hear, don't be so smug.

I still got love for the streets*. As far as media goes, there's lots the web has that the mainstream doesn't. There's actual source material (that's not you, Peter), actual reporting from new perspectives (not you) and genuine expertise (not you either). There are blogs that trawl through that apathy-inducing mountain of information for stuff that's credible, relevant or interesting (still not you). There are blogs that combine events, experience and intelligence to generate actual new ideas (sorry, no).

And then (I'm talking about you now) there are blogs that are the electronic equivalent of pissing against a tree to say you've been there. And just because someone sniffs it doesn't make you important.

You want to see mediocre? Look in the mirror.

Don't be sad that you're crap. The world needs all the shitty blogs in order to support the good ones. It's like fertiliser or something.

And spare me the 'I know you are but what am I'. I don't have delusions of grandeur. For a long time I was writing posts just to provide some structure to my week, so I'm entirely aware I'm not on a divine mission.

Just to be clear, there are as many good reasons to keep blogs as there are reasons to read them. For example, I happen to know that FT has entertained a lot of complete strangers.

Isn't that nice?

*In fact, I love The Streets more than I used to. 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' was much more accessible than the previous album.