Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011 Garden Bird Survey

10 waxeyes (aka silvereye, tahou)

It's that time of the year again Kiwis, to count the birds in your garden! Just for one hour, sometime this week. Here is all the info at the Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua web site:

Including a beautiful downloadable identification chart with pictures of the most common 'native' and 'introduced' birds.

There's an option for online data entry.

The New Tabby is a keen bird watcher and is all for counting the birds. We do all we can to make sure he leaves it at that, including restricting his hours outside and always putting a noisy collar on him when he does go out. We have had to stop our habit of feeding the wild birds because it just makes them sitting ducks for his attention.

Schroedinger has also been observed climbing into a large tree to drag the Tabby down off the lower branches, trying to discourage puss from heading higher where the birds hang out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Warning belles

The agency cat is a trifle spooked by the sound of its own two-bell collar. The ever present jangle/tinkle seems to have worked so far. No sign of any dead birds. The tuis don't even seem alarmed.

Like a red rag

Now I have been known to rail on this blog and elsewhere, about how disappointing it is that so much that we as a society gained through feminism, appears to be slipping away... The rights of women to be treated and regarded as equal to men can not be taken for granted and feminism is not over.

Is it because there's such a rabid right wing government just now in New Zealand that these attitudes are flourishing? Or vice versa? (There was a distastefully anti-woman flavour to much of the gutter campaign to turn the hearts of New Zealand against the much admired and respected Helen Clark. The "death by a thousand cuts" that felled one of our most popular prime ministers largely used a sword of women-hatred to draw the blood... if you don't believe me, you weren't paying attention.)

The sexists and misogynists and their attitudes are being trotted out more and more and yesterday to the shock of even mainstream NZ an extraordinarly archaic, medieval even, opinion was aired and has caused a fury of outrage and embarrassment across the political spectrum. Even the libertarian Hilary Calvert wasn't impressed with the suggestion that women deserve to receive less pay because they take time off every month because of menstruation difficulties.

Now clearly the dinosaur who expressed this wrong-headed notion has been so emboldened by the ascendancy of right wing discourses across the news media that he has felt that he and his patriarchal capitalist mates are now bullet proof. There is a stranglehold. Key journalists and commentators are clearly enamoured of Mr Key and his henchmen and do all they can to smooth the way of the 'reforms' that are underway to destroy New Zealand's social welfare system and sell off its assets to profit barons. It is deeply biased ideologues who are beaming at us from the news reports, spinning like crazy, and it's very hard to hear an opposing view to the right wing agenda.

The CEO of the Bosses and Overlords - chief advocate for the proposed deeply unfair extension of "youth rates" up to age of 24 years old - made one mistake in making his proclamation to the effect that women are poorly every month and that this decreases their productivity and thus is a reason why they receive lower wages than men.

Click here for TV3 Coverage

Sexism doesn't fall uniquely on to the right of the political spectrum. It is probably happier there, but it can be found across society. It's a crime against human rights, not just a matter for the "socialists" and the "PC brigade" (as he lamely tried to argue later on) and it's easy to predict that this chap is going to find himself on the wrong side even of his own former supporters.

Alasdair Thompson has been declared a red zone and the only option will be to demolish.

("Fears of red zone waste lands")

Meanwhile I'm hoping the blokes on the left wing will resist the temptation to use this opportunity to air their favourite tampon jokes, or they might discover that this is one issue that doesn't necessarily run along class lines.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Damn lies and statistics

New Zealand's current Prime Minister John Key is, notoriously, a former currency trader, and his rabidly right wing elitist rich folks laddish Maori Party/National/Act/United Party Government, while pretending to be centrist, has been speculating with foreign exchange and interest rates under the guise of urgently borrowing overseas money to shore up their deficits. They've been borrowing 380 million dollars a week, and until recently using this terrible burden as their excuse to make preparations to hock off the family silver to repay the debts they were piling up. Turns out they needed far less than they were borrowing (100 million a week was being piled up somewhere, stockpiled), the word is they were just second guessing that future rates might cost them more (but hello, they'vre stacking up the interest NOW even if the rates do rise, they're racking up fees before they're necessary!) (More details on this con at The Standard.)

I wouldn't put that guy in charge of my household let alone a country.

This is not the only instance of poor maths in the "smiling assassin" (he got that nickname in the cut and thrust of the world of the money changers). Nothing personal mind, he's even a good bloke so his cronies say. And he's a multi-millionaire. But here is his priceless rebuff when he was challenged on the poor record of New Zealand's protection for the environment:

Is New Zealand really, as advertised, 100% percent pure, BBC's Hard Talk asked John recently.

Said Key, yes it is 100% pure "for the most part"...

"For the most part" NZ is 100% pure.


He was also 100% going to get the Pike River miners home to their loved ones.

He was also 100% not going to raise GST, but he did.
(Link to his election promise not to raise GST)

He's also 100% behind Christchurch and that could be the reason why they're munted.

Just who and what falls through the gaps if 100% doesn't mean 100%?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Longest Night

Well there goes mother nature restless again. Just a few minutes ago another major Christchurch 'aftershock' that rocked the whole South Island as you see above by the quake drum.

I have to say it looks worse than the 5.3 it has been provisionally declared.

Oh Christchurch, what is to be done with you on the longest night of the year, with power cuts again?

Here's the ChCh drum, looking like the place is in constant motion:

And here's Dunedin's nearest available drum image showing that here further south we've gone out in sympathy:

Wishing everyone a safe winter solstice. Or summer solstice, if you're on the other side of the planet.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'The Understanding' by Sandra Bell

Thanks to Sandra Bell for giving me permission to reproduce this poem, and to Phantom Billstickers for their wonderful 'Poetry on Posters' initiative.

Sandra was due to read this poem at the Poetry on Posters Phase 6 Global Launch held last Friday night in Christchurch, but, oddly enough, because it mentions a volcano, her flight from Auckland was cancelled because of the volcanic ash cloud and she couldn't make it! The poem was read out at the event by her friend and fellow musician and poet Jay Clarkson who also has a poster in the series.

More Tuesday Poems at the blog:

Super 8

This film seems to polarise reviewers, but I enjoyed Super 8 very much. But then I wasn't expecting Tarkovsky. It was a retro romp, a homage to the great Spielberg kid's movie, and also an affectionate tribute to all those children who have grown up wanting to be actors and film makers. Lots of movie references not just to Spielberg, every trick and set piece in the book, and being a little kid at heart I loved it. I was convalescing from surgery when I went to see it (yes, thanks it all went well and I'm fine now) and it was "just what the doctor ordered". Even not too scary although it kept trying to be. Sometimes you just want to have fun. The train wreck was fabulous.

NZ Post Book Award finalists

The finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards were announced some weeks back, and many fine books are there, as usual. Some of my favourites from the last 12 months of publishing in NZ are included, and some are missing. As usual. Awards are like that. They have judges, and the judges choose. It's not American Idol.

It's incredible, given the current economic climate, and the state of publishing in general, and challenges to booksellers, that so many fine books are still published in this tiny country with its population of only about 13 (stats derived from The Daily Show).

The list of books included (and excluded) for acclaim is a credit to everyone in the NZ publishing industry and to all of us who actually still buy books. Long live the book!

As usual there are some gripes and grizzles about omissions, and it is always interesting to look at who is complaining, and why they might be complaining. Or not.

I quite liked Stephen Straford's commentary on his blog Quote Unquote concerning the continuing controversy over the slashing of NZ Post Book Award fiction & poetry shortlists from five to three. His seemed a lone voice of dissent in the otherwise loud - and sometimes hysterical - objections to a short list.

Publishers will of course wish that more of their books would bask in the limelight. You can take their squeaks with a grain of salt. Booksellers don't want the buying public to be disappointed by being tricked into trying a hyped up lukewarm product. There's a conflict right there. But given that awards are (usually) about quality books, not the crap that generally sells well, the booksellers will also be reluctant to *waste* primo shelf space on worthy but hard to push books.

If I had a say in the matter, it's the diminishing of the non-fiction categories I'd want to change. Biography was always a strong and interesting group and it's a shame to see the likes of Paul Millar's terrific biography of Bill Pearson up against Neville Peat's exquisite book about the Tasman Sea, for instance. And why was Tasman not in the "illustrated" category?

And there's a significant poetry anthology within the poetry category, and another substantial poetry anthology in the "general non-fiction"... What's with that? (Well, I can see that 99 Ways wasn't intended to be an "anthology" but unfortunately the effect of the book has been to create a canon, for good or ill, and if it is to be assessed then in my opinion it is Mauri Ola that it should be standing up against...)

Whoops - there, you see, I'm starting to gripe... So what else bothered me?

No sign of what was in my opinion the best New Zealand novel published last year, The Collector's Dream by Pierre Furlan. It would not have been eligible I suppose because the author is not a Kiwi. But he does have strong enough ties here to have written and published (in translation) a marvellous NZ story. Shame it could not have jostled for a gong.

No sign of my favourite novel published in NZ last year, Quinine by Kelly Ana Morey, a ripping transgressional postmodern/historical yarn, a vibrant but flawed text with more vitality and creativity in one chapter than in the whole of many of the other local novels I read.

But of course, all this is deeply subjective. The three finalists in the fiction section are all excellent. One might be sad to see a personal favourite missing, but one can hardly say there is a book in the final that doesn't deserve to be there.

Phew. Who would want to be a judge in this online poll climate where everyone feels like they know better?

There was only one genuine surprise for me, and that was the overlooking of Bill Manhire's latest volume The Victims of Lightning for the poetry shortlist. That does seem astonishing. Could it be that after training up generations of clones of himself in his writing academies, that Bill Manhire's work is now so indistinguishable from parodies and imitations, that it no longer stands out as unique?

I tried to imagine why a precious Manhire text might not have made the grade. The only disappointment I had felt in reading that book, which has some marvellous poems in it, as always, was the inclusion of a section of song lyrics. Which are not, in my opinion, poetry, are rather tedious on the page, and pretty skippable for poetry purists. The songs themselves are probably a lot of fun if you're at the live gigs, enthusiastically attended by the rest of the writing school gang, no doubt, but the inclusion of the lyrics did tend to weaken the overall effect of the book. However, along the lines of my comments about the Morey novel, I do personally prefer the quality of the content over all else. And that book has some great poems in it.

Back to Basics

Gratuitous pussy shot.

you can hide but you can't run

It's a happy bloggy birthday to Schroedinger's Tabby born three years ago today, and we at Tabby mansion are celebrating with a plate of digital jellymeat as we speak.

The Tabby blog is pretty much defunct lately as is possible to see, and we can partly blame Facebook for that, it's so much more interactive and easy, and provides instant gratification.

But any excuse for a Party even on the empty dusty stage of a half-abandoned blog...

Actually I have been thinking of deleting the whole shebang, and still not sure what to do and where to go. People are apparently still reading the Tabby though, according to blogger stats, but there's a fair bit of tut-tutting I gather and who wants shit like that? Life's too short... (A post of mine was called "abusive" on another blog this year, which was a bit rich, because the accusation was made by someone who is apparently an apologist for an abuse I was railing against!)

The word *abusive* is being abused. By the way. (Note for a future blog meditation.)

More to the point, my accuser didn't just attack the Tabby's right to free speech (she being from the School of policing the right of her and her own to do and say what they damn well please as long as it doesn't hurt anyone in their social and professional network), she also outed the Tabby publicly. So she attacked my right to remain semi-anonymous.

Now the identity of the Tabby's author was never much of a secret as such, but until then it had been a reasonably safe place for me where I hoped that the psycho stalkers that I inherited might not find me. They're all over my other blog, the work one, that is part of the job.

The Tabby was meant to be an escape for me from my job, somewhere where I could be myself without the spectre of my professional responsibility overwhelming the other things that are important in my life: cats, train rides, politics, poetry, my own ocasional poetry scribblings too, contemplation, science fiction... food. etc. There was only one major 'rule' for the blog and that was it was to "not mention the war..."

Unfortunately I did mention the metaphorical 'war', because like all messy fields of conflict it isn't something I can turn off at 5pm, it does invade my real life, it is my real life as well.

Which is why Facebook has been enjoyable for me, a place where I've managed (so far) to more or less integrate many facets of me and what I do (admittedly while also having to block the key *trolls* that were harassing and stalking me around the internet - the ones who had led me to attempt to resort to an anonymous forum in the first place). On fb I have also been able to judiciously unfriend or otherwise avoid a handful of frenemies and bullies who seemed to be trying to silence or manage me.

Anyway I did sometime earlier this year break the cardinal Tabby blog rule and make a statement - a personal one, about my hurt and outrage at the crass exploitation not just of a great New Zealander, but of someone I knew and loved as a person, who was being grievously misrepresented... I howled this painful cry of anguish on the Tabby blog..

Mistake. It's my own fault I was outed. There are 'laws' of physics, and self-imposed rules, and there are social codes. I broke one of them at least, and I think the cat in the box might be suffering rigor mortis as a consequence.

Of course it's like raging against the tides, and against the movement of seismic plates, to rage against the natural processes of appropriation and mythmaking. But the Tabby is about a cry for justice among other things. (It has also been about celebrating really good pudding.)

And of course it always pisses the bullies off when their freedom to steal and cheat and lie is challenged. That's not surprising, and I don't shy away from that kind of aggro. But, more insidiously, stepping out of line also annoys the queen bees of the social network who rule the universe with their "squeee" and their stiflingly imposed and sickly cultivation of hive mind, if anyone questions the loveliness and loveiness of their world, or criticises something they have decided to promote, whether or not it stinks.

Anyway. Mea culpa. Etc. *stuffs mouth with more cake* Squeee!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Otago Settlers

When I first came to live in Dunedin 25 years ago today, I arrived in the wee small hours of the morning at the art deco NZR bus terminal that now has been incorporated into the Settlers Museum, currently under redevelopment but with a visitable web site:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Moving Words on the MRT

The poem pictured above is called "The Degenerate South" by Chia Hwee Pheng aka Xi Ni Er.

"A nation in the south, but the heart lies north"

It appears as part of MOVING WORDS: Singapore's version of "Poems on the Underground" - Commuter Poetry on the MRT written in (or translated into) the four official languages of Singapore (English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil):

Singapore poet Madeleine Lee came up with the concept: “A few times on the MRT, I was caught with no reading material - so ended up reading only ads!"

Presented by the National Arts Council and SMRT, Moving Words is organised by The Literary Centre in conjunction with the Singapore Writers Festival 2011.

"Marrying technology and the literary arts, a free Mwords iPhone Application developed by Singaporean mobile developer 2359media will also be available for download from 25 May 2011 to generate interest in creating poetry on the move. Playing on the notion of magnetic poetry, users will be able to rearrange words from a bank of 400 words which will include commonly used Singlish phrases as well. Users will be able to upload their finished poems onto, and also share it on their Facebook and Twitter accounts."

For a complete Tuesday poem, and links to many more, visit the TUESDAY POEM blog here.