Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Acquaintance

"Without change, there can be no nostalgia"

The above bon mot is reported by Paul Theroux in the book I'm reading, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. The quote has become a bit of a theme for me in these last days of 2008, a year that has brought so much change globally and locally, and personally.

I don't generally think of nostalgia as a healthy thing. A sentimental longing for the 'good old days' can blind us to the things that were not right, and did not work. We need clear eyes so we can either keep up the good work, or go back to the drawing board if we messed up the first time.

So I'm not accepting the quote as a motto! I'm using it as a wake-up call, and a kind of anti-resolution for the New Year. Change must be embraced (we don't have a choice about that) but we shouldn't let it paralyse us.

We often find those rose-tinted glasses are whipped out from some deep hypocritical fob pocket when we look backwards, whether it's at a funeral for some paradoxical person in our lives, or at the end of a year or a decade, or an era. I guess it's understandable we might prefer the view through the vaseline-smeared lens. It's so much nicer for everyone if we all keep up the pretending.

My preference for a spiky analysis rather than a convenient collective amnesia, has led me into some uncomfortable places this year. As per usual.

I've been swimming upstream in the great DENIAL river when it would be so much easier to turn and float down with the laissez-faire drifters.

But it's not that lonely, and I'm not alone. It's wonderful to have so many fellow travellers on the journey, who give courage and good example, and share their wit and warmth and strength and wisdom.

There are plenty out there on the blogosphere too, who prefer to swim against the stream, in so many ways, and I'll be raising a "cup of kindness" tonight to toast all the auld and new acquaintance that makes my own journey so much more fun and more companionable.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It's the penultimate day of 2008, and I've been wallowing in holiday mood in freakishly warm Dunedin temperatures, in this zombie world between Christmas and New Year. The streets are deserted, and as I've kept away from shopping mall frenzy I've hardly seen a soul. I may as well have been in a far-flung mountain cabin. Staying in the city in summer is probably more relaxing than going to a crowded resort! I haven't even been playing the radio or the stereo much, as I've been savouring the unaccustomed silence, and catching up on the pile of unread books.

I've been reading for pleasure, knocking off at least one novel a day, the only rule being it musn't be anything that could be construed as work reading, and I have also enjoyed watching the ITV miniseries LOST IN AUSTEN.

How could I not watch Lost in Austen once I heard that it was a reinvention from the perspective of a contemporary reader becoming tangled up in the fictional tale? (Not just time travel, but travel between fiction and reality, shades of Woody Allen's hilarious The Purple Rose of Cairo.)

Normally I avoid the lavish costume drama or historical romance - they are really not my cup of tea. So I haven't been much of an Austen fan, due to the high romance quotient in her stuff, but because this version had a time travel take on the classic Pride and Prejudice story, it was a must-see for me.

It's not that I'm a snob and don't enjoy genre fiction - for light entertainment I'll read or watch a police drama, a whodunnit or a vampire story - but I just don't get the romance genre, and from my point of view the audiovisual Austen adaptations just feel like the same old sentimental improbable romance, even though the productions are labelled with a prestige literary pedigree. I don't know why I dislike romances so much, and because I just viscerally react against them I'm not motivated to examine my reaction either. Maybe it's their lack of a class analysis that rubs me up the wrong way, among other things. The lower class but uppity pretty girl always wins the heart of the rich lonely misanthrope sort of thing.

But throw in a time paradox and I'm there with knobs on - and I was charmed by this one. It had all sorts of angles to appreciate, including a fond mocking of the Austen industry. But I can see that even Austen die-hards might, after some initial alarm, find it an appropriate tribute to the great Pride and Prejudice.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Adoration of the Moggy - A Sort of Googlewhack

It's a pretty bad pun, so I Googled to check whether anyone else had been shameless enough to post it.

Results 1 - 1 of 1 for "adoration of the moggy". (0.05 seconds)

Only one result! That doesn't happen often. It's almost like the elusive Googlewhack (ie, just one Google result for a search combination of two dictionary words.

Trouble is, according to the boys (one assumes they're mostly boys) that make the rules, "adoration of the moggy" isn't a pure "Googlewhack" because it employs quote marks.

Now the phenomenon of the googlewhack is not dissimilar to the concept of schroedinger's cat.

Once you have investigated it, you have destroyed the phenomenon. There will never again be just one Google hit for any googlewhack, once you achieve it and report on the result.

Just as the paradox of the simultaneous aliveness and not-aliveness of Schroedinger's cat, depends on not checking inside the box.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Harold Pinter died on Christmas Eve. His whole life flashes before us now in the form of the obits darting around the traps.

Memories of his work and of his talk, go back to very early childhood for me, as my family was a drama-loving one, and we went to every play in town.

Any number of occasions over the years have been easily labelled, either deadly seriously or facetiously, and often with great frustration, as "Pinteresque".

What would we have done without that word?

Pinter is sewn into the fabric of our lives. He was the king of the silences between the phatic miscommunications, and so much more of course. And so influential.

One of the greats.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Freak Christmas cracker accident!

The first cracker in the box made a very loud bang, but the second cracker didn't make any sort of sound. So I started to pull the wrapping apart to investigate. It seems that by the time the charge detonated, my thumb was touching the exposed "tiny" bit of explosive.

It bloody well hurt. Fortunately I had some ice handy.

Cheap imported crap, and thanks to paranoid "anti-nanny" right wing hysteria against any kind of consumer protections, doubtless more and more of these kinds of potentially dangerous items, along with the toxic junk, will find their way to NZ.

Be careful out there folks!

The perfect present

It was a no brainer really. I'm a bookworm, and a train buff. And I did mention several times I'd like to get this book as a gift.

All the same, the best present is your presence - that's the gift that counts.

A Book of Hours

I've been leafing tonight through one of my earthly treasures - a very good reproduction of the 15th century Tres Riches Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry. Here's the glorious Nativity scene, and although I have a better image of it without the flash, I like the way the flash in the above shot bounced off the gold ink and made the starlight falling on the baby Jesus glow.

I love illuminated manuscripts, especially the rich colour blue from the ground-up lapis lazuli and the gleam of the powdered gold paint.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Putting the Christ back into Christmas

The Science of Santa

According to a news report this week, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering has solved two important Santa paradoxes: how does the old guy manage to get around the world in such a short time, and how does he manage to fit all those presents into one sleigh?

Forget magic: Santa "exploits the space-time continuum".

And as for the presents: "he uses nanotechnology to grow the presents under the tree".

Wishing all readers of this blog a very happy holiday however you celebrate it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dance Me To The End Of Love

OK OK I am grumpy about this Christmas, which is my first one as an orphan. But there are some bright lights at the end of the tunnel. Breaking news: this time next month I will be a handful of rows from the stage at a Leonard Cohen concert. Woohoo!

Once Were Anarchists

Rabble Rousers and Merry Pranksters: A History of Anarchism in Aotearoa/New Zealand from the mid 1950s to the early 1980s (Katipo Books)

The saying goes: "If you can remember the 60s (or the 70s) then you weren't there".

That's how I felt when I first looked at this book. I know that I was there for some of that stuff, and I was certainly on the edges of a lot of it, but I don't always remember the things I did witness in the way they're represented here.

It's fascinating how under the influence of a few informants, and a unifying theory, what had seemed at the time like a whole patchwork of different efforts and experiences, accidental and deliberate, and inspired by wildly different motives and philosophies, starts to reify - with the benefit of hindsight and anecdote and swayed by individual agendas - into an era definable and monument-like.

Apparently the Queen of England feels that way too when she reads memoirs written about her life and times. Sometimes she scarcely recognises the terrain as described by someone who was standing only yards away from her.

History, herstory, ourstory. Not an exact science.

Scratchy Season

Cats and Holly, by Louis Wain

OK this is officially the worst Xmas ever, for me. Even worse than the summer when I was six years old and broke my arm and I wasn't allowed to swim, but I had to go with the family day after day and sit on Takapuna beach and just watch while everyone else cavorted in the water, and be tormented with sand getting down inside the plaster cast and driving me mad with the itch. There's a photo of little me sitting on Santa's knee, sporting the white shiny plaster cast, and looking a bit glum.

There's just too much wrong with the world this year, and with my corner of it, for me to rustle up the requisite Christmas spirit. I've given up on the idea of sending cards and would like to just cancel Christmas. Can we just jump straight to Hogmanay? Now there's a festival I enjoy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Unethical Xmas Card

Dear _________

This message is to let you know I am not sending you a paper card this year.

I spent the money that I would otherwise have spent on cards and postage, on a nice big bottle of Chivas Regal.

I wish you all the best for the holiday season, and I assure you I'll be doing my best to have a Merry Christmas.

Felice Navidad,

PC x

PS Many thanks for buying that goat a new bucket. You're a star!

Be in touch this time next year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Summertime, and the living's easy

Today was the summer solstice - the longest day, and it was a grand mid-summer evening on the Otago peninsula, perfect for sharing an evening of carol singing in a house perched over the harbour.

There's plenty of wine, there's fine food and good company. And BYO music too - a voice and ears to hear.

In these southern latitudes the sun doesn't leave the sky until very, very late. Every last ray of light is almost wrung out of the sky before the children can be persuaded to come indoors.

And out in the shed a portrait of Micky Joe Savage smiles benignly on an exciting collection of 78 records.

Santa Claws

Or is that "Satan Claws"?

The Tabby had her regular toenail clipping today, pictured above being held down by the practice nurse as the vet trimmed the claws.

As usual there was a great hissing and spitting and growling, and the muzzle was called for.

There's plenty of life in the old girl yet, even though according a poster on the walls of the clinic, the Tabby is the equivalent in human age, of 92 years old.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The First Xmas after the funeral

If you're into Christmas, the first one after you lose a loved one is hard. This is a well known fact, and every year our neighbourhood funeral director helps out the grieving friends and families by offering a Christmas service for all those who were bereaved that year.

I have attended far too many of these events in recent years.

It doesn't matter how many months ago it was and how "well" you think you have dealt with it, the first Christmas without that person comes as a shock. Because the onset of the Christmas season with all its rituals and all its bonding gestures and exchanges of mutual obligation and gifts, is when it becomes painfully obvious if somebody who has been part of all that, is missing for the first time.

I've found that the Christmas memorial service can be comforting, and is full of good advice and also provides a sense of community for people who realise they're not alone in having other things on their mind when all around them seem to have nothing but shopping and planning beach holidays on their minds. It's cathartic anyway, I think, to admit your feelings, confront them, and release them.

The undertakers have a big Christmas tree set up at the funeral home chapel, and after talks and songs and meditations, the mourners are invited to come up and place decorations on the tree in memory of their loved ones. The beautifully and lovingly decorated tree is then donated to a rest home or hospital or hospice. The angel on the tree in the snapshot above was put there by some family in memory of their loved one. I don't know their story, but you can tell by the poignancy of that angel that their grief is keen. It's especially tragic when there are young children hanging baubles on the trees.

I took along a gold sun and a gold moon that I hung together on the branch next to each other in memory of Dad and Mum. Yin and yang, animus and anima, sun and moon; it seemed appropriate because they'd had such a strong unwavering connection.

The Christmas gift I'm favouring this year is the following book:

Moonlight: New Zealand Poems on Death and Dying, edited by Andrew Johnston (Godwit 2008).

It's a good book on a theme none of us can escape and the poems are well chosen. So often there is sentiment and platitude around death - or uncomprehending and embarrassed silence - but here in this book you find something much more meaty than that.

And a bonus is that most of the poets (and Estates) as well as the editor, forfeited their share of the profits in favour of a donation to Hospice New Zealand.

Of course it's not just death that leads to sad Christmases. Any kind of separation can do that too. I well remember the "after the divorce" pain of being the parent on Christmas Day, who was at every kind of unbridgeable distance away from their child.

Not everybody is bursting with good cheer right now so it's an ideal time for random acts of kindness.

Postscript: There's a beautifully written post at The Hand Mirror on the theme of the "Blue Christmas", from someone else who lost a parent in 2008.

Big Boys don't like being mocked by Kiwibank ads

Now that the right wing are in charge of New Zealand it seems it will become even harder to criticise them, even in fun. They're pretty sensitive about their privatisation agenda (which they know most Kiwis despise), and of course they realise that a public kept in the dark about their real plans to sell off Godzone to their mates, is much easier to manipulate.

Free speech? We didn't see much of that in the media during the recent election campaign. And it seems the Big Boys have been emboldened by their seeming victory - and their control of mainstream discourse - so they now seem ambitious to stifle all criticism.

The NZ State-owned Kiwibank markets itself as the underdog "resistance movement" taking on the dominant foreign-owned banks. There's a very funny but chilling TV ad in which a woman is broadcasting in a locked room, getting across the resistance message, until the bullies finally batter down the door to silence her.

And now a voice on behalf of the foreign banks really has spoken up in favour of silencing the message of resistance against foreign ownership!

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a small news item this week reporting these comments from Kerry McDonald, former chair of the Australian-owned "Bank of New Zealand":

"How do you think an Australian businessman [sic] feels, staying in New Zealand and seeing the Kiwibank ads?"

McDonald said the Kiwibank advertisements putting down the foreign-owned banks were "reprehensible and outrageous".

All part of the softening up process, no doubt, that we've been seeing recently courtesy of the negative press concerning ACC. The melodramatic couching of the cost of the non-earners' account as a "budget blowout" is clearly intended to justify a move to sell-off parts of ACC to private insurance companies.
This great cartoon by Mike Moreu appeared in the Christchurch PRESS 18 December 2009.

Now the propaganda spinners are starting on Kiwibank.

Both Kiwibank and the Accident Corporation of course, have been driving big business crazy because the lucrative parts of them could be delivering profits into private pockets.

Friday, December 19, 2008

'Tis the season

to wrap tinsel on your cat.

Otago University Press - 50 years young

Just two nights after finding myself amongst a happy throng of writers from Victoria University Press, I found myself at yet another celebration of a University Press - this time my "local" - the Otago University Press, was having a 50th birthday party at the University Library.
Among the authors at tonight's very pleasant gathering was Helen Leach - the "Pavlova Professor" who wrote the delicious looking book pictured above. Helen is also an archaeologist and I can certainly commend her teaching abilities as she was the Head of Department when I studied Anthropology as an adult student. I so loved learning about archaeology, and I do enjoy pavlova too -it's my favourite dessert.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I've never done one of these internet lists before, but I was in the mood, because it's nearly the holidays...

I found this List on Still Life with Cat. She'll tell you where she nicked it from.


Things you've already done: bold

Things you want to do: italicize

Things you haven't done and don't want to - leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog. [Well d'oh.]

2. Slept under the stars.

3. Played in a band. [School orchestra count?]

4. Visited Hawaii. [Lifelong dream not realised yet]

5. Watched a meteor shower. [Yes! And dragged other people up in the middle of the night to watch the Leonids too]

6. Given more than you can afford to charity.

7. Been to Disneyland/world. [Have been to LA but had no desire to see Disney]

8. Climbed a mountain. [But only little ones]

9. Held a praying mantis.

10. Sang a solo.

11. Bungee jumped.

12. Visited Paris.

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.

15. Adopted a child.

16. Had food poisoning. [after a village feast in Samoa, and I have never eaten under-cooked chicken again now I know what it can do to you!]

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. [Saw it from a bus]

18. Grown your own vegetables.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. [No just the one you see everywhere else]

20. Slept on an overnight train. [Often. Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok was the best]

21. Had a pillow fight.

22. Hitch hiked.

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.

[Au contraire - often I keep working even though I'm ill enough to take the day off]

24. Built a snow fort.

25. Held a lamb.

26. Gone skinny dipping.

27. Run a marathon.

28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.

29. Seen a total eclipse.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.

31. Hit a home run.

32. Been on a cruise.

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.

35. Seen an Amish community.

36. Taught yourself a new language.

37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.

39. Gone rock climbing.

40. Seen Michelangelo's David in person.

41. Sung Karaoke. [my Senior students at Semyung University threw an end of semester party at a restaurant that had a noribang - I sang "Words" by the Beegees]

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.

44. Visited Africa.

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.

46. Been transported in an ambulance.

47. Had your portrait painted.

48. Gone deep sea fishing.

49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkelling.

52. Kissed in the rain.

53. Played in the mud.

54. Gone to a drive-in theatre.

55. Been in a movie.

56. Visited the Great Wall of China.

57. Started a business.

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia.

60. Served at a soup kitchen.

61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.

62. Gone whale watching.

63. Gotten flowers for no reason.

64. Donated blood. [No mine isn't good enough - but I've been on the receiving end]

65. Gone sky diving.

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.

67. Bounced a cheque. [Once, but it was the bank's fault]

68. Flown in a helicopter.

69. Saved a favourite childhood toy.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.

71. Eaten Caviar.

72. Pieced a quilt.

73. Stood in Times Square.

74. Toured the Everglades.

75. Been fired from a job. [Walked out of a waitressing job once]

76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.

77. Broken a bone.

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.

80. Published a book. [as editor]

81. Visited the Vatican.

82. Bought a brand new car.

83. Walked in Jerusalem.

84. Had your picture in the newspaper.

85. Read the entire Bible.

86. Visited the White House.

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.

88. Had chickenpox.

89. Saved someone’s life.

90. Sat on a jury.

91. Met someone famous.

92. Joined a book club.

93. Lost a loved one.

94. Had a baby.

95. Seen the Alamo in person.

96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.

97. Been involved in a law suit. [Was a witness in a criminal case]

98. Owned a cell phone.

99. Been stung by a bee.

*Schroedinger saw the word "MEME" and wondered if it was pronounced "ME! ME!"

The House Adjourns

I went to Parliament this week to see democracy in action but overall it was a disillusioning experience sitting in the gallery. This new right wing government have in a short time made it clear they're not too keen on the democratic process.

These are the people remember, who signalled that if Labour had been able to stitch a minority coalition together they would challenge it on the grounds that they were the single party that had most seats - as if that were relevant in an MMP parliament!

I did shake off cynicism for long enough to witness and cheer on some strong and stirring maiden speeches from some idealistic and well-meaning new Labour Party MPs.

Good luck guys.

The Giant Squid

Visiting Wellington To Do List.

Giant Squid. Check.

A Litany of Literary Legends

Visiting Wellington To Do List:

Unity Books on Willis Street. Check.

And I'm glad I did make my usual pilgrimage to this wonderful independent book shop, because I stumbled in on a big crowd of book lovers gathered for a "literary do". I spotted many familiar friendly faces, and there was a good supply of wine and nibbles as well!

Several sterling Wellington writers were reading their work - what a treat. This was the line-up: Barbara Anderson, Jenny Bornholdt, Elizabeth Knox, Bill Manhire, Bridget van der Zijpp and Ian Wedde. Top shelf stuff.

The featured authors all had in common that they are published by Wellington's Victoria University Press, and editor Fergus Barrowman was there too, beaming proudly and with good reason.

One of the reasons for the event was of course to encourage us all to do some Christmas shopping at Unity. If we want to keep the best bookshops, we have to support them!

Among other purchases, I picked up Beauty of the Badlands, the new book by poet Cliff Fell.

The Earthquake House

This is one of my favourite places in the universe. It's the Earthquake House at Wellington's Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

It's a little house that simulates an earthquake every few minutes. It always reminds me of the Little Prince's home planet in Antoine de St Exupery's Le Petit Prince. His planet was so small that you could see a sunset every few minutes if you just moved your chair a few steps. One day the Little Prince saw 44 sunsets.

I can't visit that planet, but every time I'm in Wellington I try to get to the earthquake house.

While I was in Wellington this week I stayed on the 23rd floor of a central city sky scraper perched on the active fault line, and mother nature never sent a single authentic tremor my way. So of course I visited the Te Papa house for a seismic fix.

The tremor you feel is pretty lame compared to a real earthquake, and has none of the genuine spontaneity, but it'll do at a pinch. The earthquake it commemorates occurred in Edgcumbe in 1987, and measured 6.5 on the Richter scale. The real earthquake was 50 times stronger than the one you feel in the house. Even so there is a warning sign:

Please note: This is an earthquake simulation. We advise caution if you are pregnant or have neck or back disorders or have heart or nervous conditions.

Collecting Pandemonium

Visiting Wellington To Do List.

National Library. Check.

I'd heard there was a fabulous exhibition of rare Miltoniana at the Turnbull and was there ever!

What a great 400th birthday tribute it is.

I was of course fresh from the Dunedin Library celebration of Milton's poetry held on his birthday last week, in which a series of dedicated and experienced readers read poetry spanning his writing life.

The Alexander Turnbull Library holds one of the world's best Milton collections and it was a great pleasure to browse around such venerable items.

The exhibition is called Collecting Pandemonium and there's an online exhibition too.

It's so much better to go and be there in person if you can.

Pandemonium meaning "all the demons" was a word coined by John Milton for Satan's palace in Hell.

My visit to this exhibition helped me to gird my loins to cross the road to enter the nearby House of Parliament to watch the politicians in debate. The parallels are clear.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sleeping with the enemy

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Why your boyfriend could turn out to be a paid informant reporting on your political activities to the police.


This is why the Tabby is glad she was speyed.

The Tabby's left wing blog

The Tabby's blog has been identified as a left wing blog (it must have been the complaints about the anti-worker legislation recently shamefully pushed through in NZ in the middle of the night), and the Tabby couldn't be more pleased to stand up on the barricades and admit to being a pinko leftie bleeding heart liberal.

The Tabby's blog is also devoted to poetry, the arts in general, earthquakes, trains and of course cats. But left wing, yes, definitely.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Santa's Brush with Border Control

Yours truly is a resident of Dunedin, aka "the Edinburgh of the South" and occasionally the Tabby's household receives mail from a section of the family stationed in Edinburgh, or as we like to call that great city, "the Dunedin of the North".

A recent parcel contained a packet of organic Xmas cake, which contained fruit, which if it had been fresh fruit could have had other hitchhikers that may have been a potential hazard to NZ agriculture, so the posting bag was opened for examination by Ministry officials.

Fortunately for us, the edible contents passed muster!

Kill the Bill

Now that we have an anti-worker government in New Zealand, one that will pass Bills stripping workers of their rights without public scrutiny or input, then we're going to need to extend the range of protest techniques to show those employers who want to exploit these new unfair laws, that we're not going to stand for it.

The CTU have organised an "email the PM" campaign, but I don't personally see there is any use in that. The new PM, baby-faced multi-millionaire former money trader John Key, clearly couldn't give a toss about the unions or the workers and what they think and how they feel.

He is the "smiling assassin" remember? He can destroy your life and wish you a happy Christmas as he does it. Lovely guy.

He can raise your taxes, if you're a low paid worker, despite campaigning on a tax-cut promise, but if you're a lower paid worker and he's pretty sure you wouldn't have voted for him anyway, he'd rather take ten bucks a week off you and hand it on to his wealthy chums. They really needed their extra money and what could you do with an extra ten bucks anyway? You couldn't even buy a decent glass of Riesling with that. Stop grizzling.

The new WICKED SCHOOLMARM/RICH COUSIN STATE propped up by the MAORI ELITE PARTY (ironically the same Maori Party candidates who viciously accused the Labour Party Maori MPs of being "Uncle Toms" have themselves sold out in their first five minutes in office!)

No those hard hearts certainly won't be swayed by grizzling - they expect that, they thrive on it.

It's time for action - action that hurts the pockets of any unscrupulous bosses that might be looking forward to firing any worker who wants to join Kiwisaver, or who joins the union, or even who has hopes of working somewhere long enough to earn some holiday pay.

Dusting off the Old Boycott Strategy

Boycott was always a powerful technique. Wouldn't it be good if all pro-worker people refused to patronise any firm at all that required their workers to sign up to the new 90-day fire at will regulation?

Businesses who don't buy into abusing worker rights might be encouraged to have use of a sign that says "WE DO NOT EXPLOIT OUR WORKERS UNDER THE FIRE AT WILL BILL".

Then New Zealand's new right wing National/Act/United/Maori Party Government that is claiming to have a sweeping mandate to move the country back to the feudal system, might have to recognise that their mandate is not as wide and sweeping as they are claiming it to be.

Wouldn't it be great if we could identify and support the majority of employers who do have integrity, and support them and their businesses, and let those fire-at-will employers languish without customers?

Don't ya just love Google?

Twenty recent visitors to the Tabby's blog are indeed randomly spaced around the globe. As I have noted once before, many of these find the Tabby under false pretences via a Google search for information they'll never find here. I like to think that now and then somebody comes back for a visit even though they didn't find the deep scientific analysis they were searching for, or their long-lost Schroedinger cousin.

The latest Google innovation in New Zealand has been street view in which I discover it's time for me to trim the tree in front of my house.
I had a marvellous time when NZ's Google street view facility first came online a week or so ago, 'walking' around neighbourhoods where I once lived.

We should of course keep asking lots of questions about Google, and the ramifications of the fact it has pretty much taken over the delivery of information on the net.

Paradoxically, this question coming to you courtesy of a Google blog.

A Petition to the Governor General

The EPMU have organised a desperate plan: a petition to the Governor General begging him not to ratify the FIRE AT WILL BILL (in which for the first 90 days of employment a worker can be unfairly dismissed without the employer having to even give a reason for the dismissal).

The shockingly anti-worker Bill has been rammed through Parliament in its first week under urgency and with no recourse to the usual democratic processes.

The Governor General is asked in the union petition not to give "royal assent" to the Bill on the grounds that it contravenes New Zealand's obligations under international human rights treaties.

They have a good point, but do we really want to go there? Lets keep the Governor General for the really bad stuff. With a start like this, there are bound to be even worse atrocities coming.

Given that we're now under the rule of the Flat Earth Society of Climate Change Disbelievers, I expect the New Zealand right wing government will shortly find the need to secede from the United Nations, that pesky organisation that insists governments of the earth should try to save the planet and treat its people with humanity.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


And it's a sad sad day for New Zealand, as Labour's David Cunliffe has just been saying as the NZ Parliament sits late into the night, in urgency, to pass laws that will rob from the poor to pay the rich.

The new Government pushing controversial bills through without select committee process, and without even the courtesy of handing out copies of the Bills ahead of time.

It's a sad time for the Left, and for workers and people who aren't already rich. The Right wing, of course, their media flunkies and all, are creaming their pants in full view for all to see.

The National Government won power in NZ on the basis of a campaign that brilliantly had Joe public thinking that the concept of a "Nanny State" was a bad thing.

So Nanny's been locked in the basement.

How voters can have been fooled into thinking that a Grandma was a bad thing, is beyond my own comprehension. (Not that I accept the characterisation of the previous government as the overprotective interfering state it was portrayed as by the hired PR guns from Australia and the USA.)

So byebye Nanna.




Here to sell off the family silver.

Here to enslave the children of the house.

We already know you'd sell your own Grandmother.

Sad, sad days.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An Attitude of Gratitude

Have been sitting here working at my computer, and in the background Dr John Hale of Otago University, esteemed Milton scholar, has been talking to Jim Mora on Radio New Zealand, about John Milton's 400th birthday today.

If I can get all the emails out of the way I hope to attend the birthday party at the library later this afternoon.

To celebrate John Milton's 400th birthday, a programme of poems and passages form Milton's writing, devised and compered by Prof John Hale, will be held on Tuesday, December 9, at the Dunedin City Library, 230 Moray Pl, 4th Floor, Dunningham Suite.

Meanwhile during the conversation about Milton the phrase "an attitude of gratitude" caught my special attention. That's what Milton teaches us.

And isn't that worth remembering?

Happy Birthday Mr Milton!

For some reason my hyperlinks aren't working on blogger today, but here's something good to look at, from Stanley Fish:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Unethical Xmas Present #1

Although very attractive, a Tabby throw-rug is out of the question.

Positively Non-PC!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Muse that Mews

"If a fish is the movement of water embodied, given shape, then a cat is a diagram and pattern of subtle air."

- Doris Lessing

"As an inspiration to the author, I do not think the cat can be over-estimated. He suggests so much grace, power, beauty, motion, mysticism. I do not wonder that many writers love cats; I am only surprised that all do not."

- Carl van Vechten

"A dog, I have always said, is prose; a cat is a poem."

- Jean Burden

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guest Post

Today's comment comes from a guest blogger randomly encountered in a dandelion paddock.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Double Celebration

Poet Cilla McQueen reads from her work last night as part of a double celebration at the Dunedin Public Library.

It's the 100th birthday of the library this week. Today actually - so Happy Birthday to the Library! (Vanda Symon went to the birthday party and blogged it.)

It's also "Celebrate Diversity Week Dunedin" this week.

These two streams of celebration came together last night at the library in a diverse gathering of a group of some people with diverse abilities and diverse disabilities. Some of those people were authors and some of those people were musicians. And a great time was had by all, because some of those people were just the audience, and we also serve who just enjoy the show.

The event was called "OE Middleton and Friends" and a performance by esteemed author Ted Middleton (who has been referred to as "one of the Grand Old Men of New Zealand fiction") was a rare pleasure. Ted spoke to us and recited poems, and his wife Cynthia read one of his short stories.

Local identity and environmentalist David Karena-Holmes was a riot. It's always worth hearing him read his poems, and even his rambling introductions are intricate and learned, and fascinating, especially when he gets onto the link between Dante's Inferno and the first settlement of Aotearoa.

There was also a musical interlude by the aptly named Beethoven Trio, who played three movements from Beethoven's String Trio in D Major.

Excellent evening. Compere Mike Gourley was warm and witty, and the event was ably organised by David Howard who even made sure all the performers were paid for their efforts!

Chocolates were handed out to the audience by library staff and rustling paper signalled many takers and chewers.

The evening ended with a touch of the indie Dunedin sound as musicians Rob Lamb and Gavin Shaw of the New Zealots performed some arrangements of Rob's poetry.

It was good to hear Cilla read some of her classic poems including "To Ben, at the Lake" - written for her friend's young son to explain how for certain insects the surface of the water is "safe as / springy turf". The poem ends with the wonderful statement:

the world / is holding us up /very well, today.