Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's all about the tsunami

Ever since I was texted late last night from the Blue Mountains, to warn of possible tsunami in the Pacific Ocean, thus potentially threatening the low-lying Dunedin coastal community where I live, it has been all about the getting of information. Fascinating. I've been struck by the way some nations, some authorities (and some people) choose to opt for denial as their first line of defence.

Nope. No. Not at all. Not likely.

But I'm a civil defence junkie. I immediately remembered the last Chile tsunami alert (I was five years old then and living by another NZ harbour) and I remembered that there were tsunamis that day too. And deaths, elsewhere in the Pacific.

Fortunately we get a long lead-in, from a Chilean tsunami. We were ready by mid-morning, and we evacuated, just in case the lottery threw its dice our way...

It seemed I had lost the small bet I had entered into, that emergency personnel would blare sirens and evacuate us. But we did all agree that it would be wise to get away from the high tide mark anyway.

Eventually, the nation, the authorities and the individual skeptics came around to the idea that "this is not a drill". And our neighbourhood was evacuated, in our absence.

So I won the bet. But even better, everyone is safe.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dragon Dance

Today we followed the dancing dragons on their parade to the Dunedin Chinese Garden to celebrate the close of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy Birthday

My calendar tells me that some sections of the Muslim world observe Mohammed's birthday today. A bit of Googling tells me that not all Muslims agree with the practice. I was reminded of the stern lecture I was once given by an elder relative - who belonged to a strict and obscure Christian sect - about the frivolity of celebrating Christmas, and especially Easter.

"Jesus Christ died for our sins and once and once only," she insisted. "There's no need to wallow in reliving it all. Just accept Him as your personal saviour and let youself be born again."

I guess that the remembering and honouring and commemorating of religious and life events is only human though, isn't it? We're not all angels and ritual can be a comforting and uplifting process.

Anyway I didn't want to argue about whether or not it is a good thing for believers to observe the birthday of the Prophet.

I wanted to share something I read recently - that some people like to say that the "M" on the Tabby's forehead is there to remind us of Mohammed's own name, because he loved cats so much.

I knew the Tabby was special!

(There's also a lovely "Islamic legend" about how Mohammed didn't want to disturb his sleeping cat so he cut off the piece of his cloak that the cat was resting on!)

Before I leave the subject of birthdays, I'd like to mention that New Zealand's former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark is 60 years old today.

Happy Birthday Helen - we miss you!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Silver linings

The massive forest fire near Dunedin has provided two nights so far, of beautiful sunsets.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A velvet fist in an iron glove

Ah, what a pleasure - a really good new book of poems to read. The Worm in the Tequila by Geoff Cochrane, one of the finest New Zealand poets writing today.

OK I should here declare an interest and admit that I got an advance copy. I don't know the author at all well but all the same this book delivered an almighty buzz for me in that I do have a small walk-on part in one of the poems!

(I doubt that I'll ever publish a novel or a book of poems myself, but due to the company I keep, the list of books is growing where I appear in the background as an "extra".)

Woohoo! But even before the shock of stumbling over my own name, I was humming with Cochrane's compelling sense of rhythm - he has the true poet's ear.

So much of our verse is tone deaf in comparison.

The music the music.

One of the pleasures of reading Cochrane is his virtuosity with the one-liner. Courtesy of his work, I've added a brace of new proverbs and sayings and just wonderful lines, to my repertoire.

But he's not just smart and succinct. He can also haul out the big guns when he wants to.

All of life becomes a poem. The style and the sound of it seeming random, but tracing the mind and the imagination.

Some gems from this new book:

I like to use my stapler. I staple this to that with a tinny blenk and feel I'm making progress.

(from 'An Italian Notebook')


Being me is hard. Or easy. Or hard.

(from 'August: a Broadsheet')

Monday, February 15, 2010

Word play

Ah well, OK they're pretty lame efforts. But the literary festival itself looks like it'll be fun.

Wellington, mid-March-ish, 2010

Happy New Year of the Tiger!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A month of Mondays

Towards the end of last year I was thinking ahead to the time of New Year's resolutions, and decided that for 2010 I would resolve to make one day a week meat-free. I had heard about the "Meat Free Mondays" campaign somewhere, and thought, why not?

Actually I'm not a great meat eater anyway, and I already probably had more meat-free days than meat-eating days in any case, but making a special point of choosing a particular day to take a stand - once a week - seemed to be another little relatively painless thing that I could do for the planet. A gesture.

As it turned out, just before Xmas I fell ill with a severe infection that adversely affected my entire digestive system. I have been recovering, but slowly. I've been making baby steps from liquid diet to light diet, and beyond, gradually adding more complex foods as I can tolerate them.

At times I looked at the items in the baby food aisles in supermarkets, and much of the stuff they give babies and children these days seemed far too challenging for me!

So until this week I haven't been able to eat any meat, any day. In fact I've probably had the equivalent of a year's worth of meatless Mondays!

But as I said, I am on the mend, and the other day I tried some meat. Not too much pain and discomfort. OK - phew - another of the hurdles overcome.

It wasn't until later in the day that I suddenly realised. I'd eaten the meat on a Monday.

Smoke and mirrors - and broken promises


Otago Daily Times (10 FEB 2010)

The ODT is at it again with today's prominent front page headline: "Key promises tax cuts for all."

Ah, you might think, that wonderful generous man Mr Key. How we all love him. What a hero!

But hang on a minute: didn't John Key and the National Party already promise tax cuts for all?

When they were campaigning in 2008?

Was the Labour-led government not drummed out of office because they were said to be not offering tax cuts for all? Because the media with almost unanimous voice characterised Labour as an unfairly high-taxing regime?

Well Labour were nothing on the high-taxing GST-raising National/Act/Maori Party Government!!

In fact Labour GAVE everyone a tax cut, which the new National/Act/Maori Party Government took away from those at the lower end of the spectrum!

I personally pay MORE tax since National changed the tax structure after they took office! (Yes I kept the old IRD tables so I can prove it!)

Where were the promised tax cuts for all? Where are they?

That promise was broken, and the only tax cuts given were those at the high end. (And don't forget, it was Labour that gave them!)

And now the promises have further morphed into the nightmare spectre of a raised Goods and Services Tax. So the poor will be further taxed disproportionately through their grocery bills to pay for tax relief for the wealthiest New Zealanders. Those tax rates for the highest earners in NZ are already far lower than Australia's!

And now the Rodney Hide, John Key and Tariana Turia Government has signalled there will be cuts to benefits and tinkering with the much-needed relief offered by Labour's Working For Families.

How the Maori Party will survive this attack on ordinary workers and on beneficiaries I can't imagine, once their constituency realise they've been sold up the river for some flags and a blanket.

I suggest a new headline for the ODT that more accurately describes the John Key/Pita Sharples/Roger Douglas Government's intentions for the NZ economy:

Stealing from the poor
to give to the rich

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mellow yellow

It's easy to see there's a yellow theme. The spur winged plovers, with their comical yellow plastic stick-on bills, have started visiting, and the sunsets have been positively Turnereseque.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

This Jaam's a real honey

A literary magazine not requiring courage to pick up and read.

Some of my favourite writer/bloggers appear in this issue of JAAM: Mary McCallum, Pauline Dawson, Martin Edmond, Tim Jones.

Excellent stuff. But wait there's more!

Plenty of good work in here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Spin Doctors on High Rev

It's always fascinating to see how the right wing PR flunkies in the media will spin the latest clear sign that National's management of New Zealand is Not Working.

The latest sign of course, is the "shock" huge rise in unemployment. Here in Dunedin South we could have told the boffins about this.

But how did the deeply conservative Otago Daily Times manage this terrible news? Ah - by ignoring it of course. On the front page today, we have a picture of a sheep that nobody has shorn recently (a Shrek wannnabe) and a photo of a woman who shoots herself out of a cannon. Nothing about the fact that the jobless rate leapt 18,000 in 3 months.

Perhaps there's a message, buried there?

On page 2, on the inside front cover, there is a headline:

Key plays down jobless

Well, of course he would. But isn't it the job of a journalist, to challenge the obvious attempt to fob off criticism and discussion?

The unemployment rate for Maori is 15.4%, for Pakeha: 4.6%

18.4% of our young people (aged 15 to 24) are unemployed!

Anyone who voted for National (or Act, or for the Maori Party), and who has now lost their job, or who counts among their loved ones someone who is unemployed, may well be considering now, why the Labour Party is called the "Labour" Party.

Because it's the party that advocates for workers, and it's the party that works for workers, and it's the party that works to protect and encourage jobs.

The right wing on the other hand, prefer higher levels of unemployment because then the workers, being on the back foot, will accept lowered wages and conditions, and the profits can then line the pockets of the capitalists. Simple stuff for an old socialist, but clearly there are a lot of ignorant people out there still answering opinion polls based on the lies they are fed daily.

Last week the ODT also ran a story about the huge leaps in jobless figures, and again it wasn't on the front page.
On page 2 of the issue for Tuesday January 26, the headline read:

Jobless increase not expected to last

How comforting! Until one reads the article - or rather reads between the lines - to discover that the actual news was that the number of people in the Southern region of New Zealand on the unemployment benefit had more than doubled in one year!

One would expect the headline might reflect the facts, but no - let's deny it happened and promise it'll be better soon. Otherwise the idiots out there who still admire John Key's sunny smile and his laid-back style, might start realising it's all a sham, and twig at last to the fact that he's the benign face of a regime hellbent on making the poor poorer and the rich richer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bring 3D to Dunedin!

Why not? There's even a spurious Facebook Group started by Hoyts Dunedin promising to instal 3D if enough people sign up.

Anyway I saw Avatar yesterday at Rialto. In 2D because I live in Dunedin. At Rialto because neither of our mainstream cinemas have 3D but at least at Rialto you don't hear the noises from the next door movie like you do at Hoyts.

We will have a Stadium, one day, in Dunedin, but precious little else, including "3D".

Although there was once a fabulous group - ah those were the days - hanging out in Dunedin, called the 3Ds. And they're still out there - on Myspace.

Meanwhile in 3D-less Dunedin, we're hurtling towards bankruptcy so quickly, it's becoming more likely that the Stadium will never be completed. And if it is, all it will be good for is car parking. Or a Farmer's Market.

(Got that joke about the stadium only being good for a Farmer's Market, from an old Simpsons episode I saw the other day. The cliche of a hick small town with incompetent and desperate city fathers scraping to build monuments in order to "make something" of their community, while the actual team and audience are fading into obscurity, if non-existent, has been a hoary chestnut everywhere else in the world, for a long long time. So it goes like this: the old boys hell-bent on a stadium construction contrary to all rational advice, actually drain all city resources, and destroy the current infrastructure. The town becomes a slum. This is so well known there was even a Simpson's episode featuring it. All the Springfield Stadium was good for, was for the Farmers markets. D'oh!)

Anyways, so, Avatar? How was it? Agreeable nonsense. Overlong but entertaining and perfectly escapist. It fit the bill for the day I was having, the "my cup is not only half empty but it also has a crack in it". Today I'm back to being Pollyanna. Ish.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

It's Groundhog Day in the USA. I don't even know what a groundhog is, we don't have them here: the nearest thing we have is probably the Tabby. She would probably know whether winter will be over soon or not, but would she tell? I doubt it.

So in my world where it is summer at last anyway, and there are no groundhogs, the term "Groundhog Day" can only refer, thanks to the charming and paradoxical movie of the same name, a favourite of mine for a rainy not-feeling-well day, to that other cliche, "Deja Vu All Over Again" - or, the classic case of the blahs. Have we been here before? Yes, once too often and frankly I'm sick and tired of it.

So what we have here is definitely a case of the blahs. Slightly more than jaded, and approaching grumpy. Not without justification.

I have all sorts of Political gripes - from local to global and in between - but today it's Personal.

My illness is ongoing, unpleasant, requiring further investigation, and apparently, according to the latest news, of autoimmune origin. In otherwords it's Mutiny. Deja Vu all over again. Which organ would my own antibodies care to attack next? Who knows. Wait and see. And stay on the pap diet meanwhile just in case.

Now where did I put that DVD? Time for some escapism...