Friday, April 21, 2017

Waikato Times letters of the week #76

Yes, letters of the week. All four letters to the editor of the Waikato Times yesterday, 20 April,  were in response to this column in the 17 April edition by Hamilton poet, novelist and art writer Peter Dornauf about his recent visit to Tauranga. Quote unquote:
At the Citizens Club I had to sign a register – odd in itself, I thought, but I conformed: Name, signature, place of origin. What more did they want? Fingerprints? A mouth swab? But then came an inexplicable request from the ageing receptionist. I was asked to remove my hat!
Mockery ensued on Twitter, started by Elle Hunt and abetted by Ashleigh Young (“The funniest thing is how he buggered off and ‘drove back immediately to Hamilton’, thus expressing the full scope of his rage”), Toby Manhire (“A lot to like but I’m especially keen on all purpose par2 ‘The reason for these opening remarks will become apparent further into the text’.”), Giovanni Tiso and others. It is a very funny thread, turning that par 2 into a meme that rewrites the openings to Pride and Prejudice, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Star Wars.  
  
As always, spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic in the letters are exactly as printed in the Waikato Times. The punctuation (and associated spacing) in this batch is especially noteworthy.
Dornauf’s hat
So Peter Dornauf (Monday, April 17) used up nearly half a page of the Waikato Times to tell us that he has bad manners and no respect for other people’s wishes.  I was taught by my parents to remove my hat when entering a person’s house , church or any building that requested it. Also while serving in the royal navy anyone entering our mess would, as a courtesy, remove their cap, officers included, unless on official business rounds etc.
It is also a rule of the RSA and the Australian RSL that you sign in and remove your hat, so maybe you should brush up on your manners in case you ever need to enter these establishments.
Geoff Yeend
Matamata
Dornauf’s hat 2
What a brilliant and topical column on “Hat police” by Peter Dornauf this Easter Monday.
The column being written by such a word-master as Dornauf was excellent of itself . . . yet it probably was also a metaphorical masterpiece to associate with the desperate anachronism still being perpetrated by some local authorities to prevent general commercial trading on “holy days” over the Easter holidays. The leaders of such councils pretend to pay homage to the fact that their duty as councillors is secular, and thus divorced from the imposing of religious dogma upon our secular society. They clutch at straws to maintain an almost clerical authority over our holidays, by claiming that the restrictions are to prevent the exploitation of “the workers”. The workers are protected by the common-law assumption that no employee can be penalised for not wishing to work on public holidays. If there is any doubt on that matter, it could be removed by a simple amendment to the Holidays Act. I guess that many would support what Mr Dornauf seems to be stating metaphorically on the matter, which is, “We are the pop culture of the new millennia . . . Beethoven’s Song of Joy and Onward Christian Soldiers, are not the anthems of secular councils” . . . nor should they be.
Dennis Pennefather
Te Awamutu
Dornauf’s hat 3
For many years I have read Mr Dornauf’s column, often with pleasure. However, this morning’s column showed him to be pretentious, egotistical, self-centred and just plain ill-mannered and rude. Who does he think he is to DEMAND to wear his hat indoors? Maybe I’m a few years older than him BUT a gentleman always removes his hat on entering any premise, maybe their were no “ladies” present but does that give him cause to be so uncouth? Perhaps his self-importance is such that he thinks he should ride rough-shod over the minions at the club/restaurant! I am so pleased he left — what a thoroughly objectionable person to have to eat with!
N E Devantier
Hamilton
Dornauf’s hat 4
It must have been a sad and slow day in Peter Dornauf’s world that he manages to dedicate 14 paragraphs of a 17-paragraph editorial to his moral outrage about having to follow a couple of minor rules.
It appears the crux of the matter was not being allowed to wear his fedora, “which has become part of my identity “, all a bit vainglorious methinks.
He states: “I am a grown man, no longer six years old and nobody tells me what to wear any longer” (actually states this twice), so clearly does not drive a car (wear your seatbelt), nor drives a bicycle or motorcycle (wear your safety helmet) or works in an environment where the wearing of personal protection equipment is a necessity.
Well I hope you feel good about your high-handed stand there, Peter, and the poor person at the club merely doing his job had to put up with your arrogance. (Abridged)
Saen O’Brien
Raglan
So here is Etta James performing Randy Newman’s “You Can Keep Your Hat On” at the 1991 Newport Jazz Festival.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

In praise of: Barry Ashby

Regular readers will remember Barry Ashby from his contributions to the QUQ series of Waikato Times Letter of the Week. They didn’t always make sense (for example this and thisbut he was obviously a good bloke, as is clear from this obituary for the Waikato Times by Charles Riddle of the Wintec School of Media Arts. Quote unquote:
Son Craig noted at his funeral that a young Barry would spend long hours at Mt Albert Grammar being forced to rewrite assignments.
“We saw this again much, much, later in the way he wrote his letters to editors of various newspapers – they were not instantaneous creations. I saw him spend many hours rewriting and rewriting, sometimes to the point that I felt they completely lost their meaning.”
Barry set out his philosophy in a suitably rambling and jumbled memoir. “A guiding suggestion is, so long as you are living in one of these rather lax democracies, never to be frightened to question authorities but, wherever possible, always put it in writing.”
He certainly took his own advice, perhaps most memorably, when the Adult Adoption Information Bill passed into law in 1985. The law allowed parents who had put children up for adoption to veto any later request as to their identities. Barry, whose wife Tricia was adopted and never able to trace her birth father, felt strongly on the issue. Each year for more than 20 years he wrote a personal letter to every politician deploring the veto, finally giving up in 2008 on Tricia’s death.
On a second occasion, he certainly went further than most in questioning those in power. Invited to make a video link submission to a parliamentary select committee on replacing the Privy Council, Barry was taken aback, at the start of his submission, by what he perceived to be three or four committee members nodding off. Not wanting to waste his allocated 15 minutes, he demanded they all stand up and wave their hands. The startled chairperson took exception, but Barry said he would name those asleep. They all stood and waved.  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What I’m reading #143

At Popbitch, a reader writes:
My brother once organised a talk and book signing with left-wing journalist and documentary maker John Pilger at Waterstones back in the late 90s.
The Q&A afterwards was a bit  quiet, so I stuck my hand up and asked if he thought that the internet would be useful for investigative journalism. He looked at me like I was deranged and dismissed the idea with a booming “NO.”
Last I heard he was hanging out with Julian Assange. My brother got a job with Amazon and that branch of Waterstones has closed down.
The second insight is that while international trade seems to involve competing with foreigners, it’s often more illuminating to see it as a battle between domestic producers. My home town of Oxford makes Minis, which we can export in exchange for camembert. But what if a post-Brexit government decides to hammer the camembert trade? It’s not impossible: cabinet minister Liz Truss did once describe the UK’s reliance on foreign cheese as a “disgrace”.
There are two ways to make cheese in the UK: the obvious way, using cows, and the indirect way, by making cars and then trading the cars in exchange for cheese. The British cheese industry is, in a very real sense, directly competing with the British car industry. Protect one with a tariff, and you hurt the other.
 Aidan Hartley who writes the “Wild Life” column in the Spectator is a farmer in Kenya. It is grim because of weathers and poachers. Quote unquote:
Around the farmstead itself is a high security electric fence with thousands of volts pulsing through it. I’ve seen a baboon climb over it — and I know a leopard got through it one night — but unless the wires are cut there is no way a human can breach the line without triggering loud alarms and flashing lights. The first alarm goes off at about 9 p.m. I go out with the fencing team until we find the cut wires, fix them and restore power. We have an askari defending the barn, where our last hay reserves are stored for the farm’s cattle. It’s just a matter of time before the invaders try to either steal it or burn the barn out of spite.
At midnight the alarm goes off again. Wandering along the fence line in the dark with the team, the hairs on my neck stand up. People outside the fence are watching us and I wonder what arms they carry and if they will use them. The cut is found and fixed. At 2 a.m. the alarm sounds again — and then again at 4 a.m.
At the Spinoff, the distinguished Katherine Mansfield scholar (also poet, novelist, librettist, dramatist, biographer, anthologist etc) Vincent O’Sullivan on dem bones, dem bones of KM and the plan to disinter them and bring them to Wellington. Quote unquote:
In our capital city one is able at times to see a lock of hair; the shawl that covered a coffin; the typewriter; the manuscripts with their lines of text like distant tangled wire. (An image I draw from her childhood in Karori.) So what a deft mayoral instinct this seems to be – we must own the bones. Are our corporeal remains no more than our pure water, to be given free to foreigners? Yet the recumbent, a niggler says, didn’t she choose France as where she preferred to live? Ah yes, the mayor says, to live! He has us there! But who would prefer to lie, forever, near rackety Versailles, when Wellington is still on offer?
Poets to the left of me, versifiers to the right. Here, at Open Culture, is TS Eliot reading The Waste Land and The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock. Hard to tell that he was from St Louis, Missouri. Fun fact: he wrote Prufrock, possibly the most middle-aged poem ever, when he was 22.

How to speak British: dialect coach Andrew Jack demonstrates the regional variations of English plus Scottish, Irish and Welsh. I am not convinced by his Yorkshire, which to my ear depends not so much on vowels as on stressing the surprising syllable, often the first (to be fair, he covers only South Yorkshire), but the others are brilliant. I detest the English prejudice against the Welsh – it is non-trivial – but he is amusing when he concludes: “Come down the west coast [from Liverpool] and you’re in Wales, North Wales where it’s breathy like that, and South Wales where you get much heavier and Welsh people who sometimes even sound a bit drunk.”


Economist letter of the month: a modest proposal from Ted Stroll of San Jose, California. Quote unquote:
There is a simple solution to the Brexit conundrum, one that will allow Britain to have its trade cake and eat it too: the UK need only become the 11th province of Canada. Canada and the EU recently concluded a trade agreement and the UK would accede to it as a Canadian province. It would also join NAFTA and enjoy liberal trade terms with the United States.
Adjustments would be few and easy. Canada’s provinces have wide powers and by treaty the UK’s could be even broader. The queen would remain head of state. As a provincial flag, the Union flag would still be flown, with the Canadian flag a discreet presence on government buildings.
More from Open Culture: George Harrison on why everyone should play the ukulele, which I had to learn so I could teach the children. (My wife, bless her, thought it would be easy for me because I can play the guitar. Wrong: different number of strings, different tuning. But I had performed Joni Mitchell songs in her weird tunings – every song a different tuning! – so I was a half-step ahead, I thought. Wrong again.) Quote unquote:
“You can’t play it and not laugh!”
Possibly true – Miss 13 plays “Smoke on the Water” on it, which does make me laugh.

So here is the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, Bret McKenzie on vocals, with Randy Newman’s “Short People”. When this record came out I had a girlfriend who was 1.82 m tall. She thought the song was hilarious. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

You walrus hurt the one you love


This photograph by Rick Beldegreen “was taken from a bluff overlooking several thousand walrus on a beach along the Aleutian Peninsula on the Bering Sea in Alaska. I was lying on my belly looking straight down on the herd.” Via Mick Hartley.

So here, inevitably, are the Flaming Lips with “I Am the Walrus”:

Monday, March 20, 2017

What I’m reading #142

I can’t see who the interviewer is but this today at VUP with Bill Manhire is very good. Quote unquote:
Some people think collaboration is tight cooperative teamwork. I’m happy if it’s less intense, even long-distance. One person does one thing, and the other adds to it and transforms it, and then there might be a bit of to and fro. With Ralph [Hotere], it was a friendship thing, a temperamental affinity – we both enjoyed sitting quietly in a room and occasionally grunting. Well, I did.
 I might have posted this before but if so it bears repeating: a PDF of 10 Principles for Fair Contracts by the International Authors Forum. The AIF is a very good thing and so is this (I spent 25 or so years – unpaid, because that’s how we roll – advising NZ authors on contracts so this is one of the few subjects I know a bit about). I don’t agree with all of it – yes to defined time limits; lump-sum contracts which they don’t like work just fine for some authors e.g. me on occasion; but as principles these are solid. Any author presented with a contract that doesn’t meet them should challenge it.

Robert Gottlieb in the Paris Review on the art of editing. Quote unquote:
Editing requires you to be always open, always responding. It is very important, for example, not to allow yourself to want the writer to write a certain kind of book. Sometimes that’s hard. My favorite of Heller’s books is Something Happened. When we are working on a manuscript, Joe is always telling me (rightly) that I want him to write Something Happened again, and that he could only write it once. Inevitably you will like some of a writer’s books better than others. But when you’re working on a manuscript, that can’t matter. You have to be inside that book and do your best to make it as good as it can be. And if you can’t approach it in that spirit, you shouldn’t be working on it.
As Parker’s quintet walked onto the bandstand, trumpeter Red Rodney recognized Stravinsky, front and almost center. Rodney leaned over and told Parker, who did not look at Stravinsky. Parker immediately called the first number for his band, and, forgoing the customary greeting to the crowd, was off like a shot. At the sound of the opening notes, played in unison by trumpet and alto, a chill went up and down the back of my neck.
They were playing “KoKo,” which, because of its epochal breakneck tempo — over three hundred beats per minute on the metronome — Parker never assayed before his second set, when he was sufficiently warmed up. Parker’s phrases were flying as fluently as ever on this particular daunting “Koko.” At the beginning of his second chorus he interpolated the opening of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite as though it had always been there, a perfect fit, and then sailed on with the rest of the number. Stravinsky roared with delight, pounding his glass on the table, the upward arc of the glass sending its liquor and ice cubes onto the people behind him, who threw up their hands or ducked.
Fiona Pitt-Kethley, a poet and travel writer, on how even a successful writer can struggle to get an agent. Quote unquote:
Over the next few years, I asked a few well-known agents to represent me but they all said no. Many said, either truthfully or tactfully, that they were taking no new clients. The novelist Wendy Perriam suggested I ask some others who might at least take me out to lunch. I never got a lunch out of it. In one case I was asked to meet up in London and the agent failed to show. I wrote to him afterwards and he said there was a reason but never gave it. From then on, it was all downhill.
Francis Wheen on how Heywood Hill survives as an independent bookseller in London. Quote unquote:
Not long ago, hearing that the Duke of Devonshire was going to New York, [Heywood Hill chairman] Nicky Dunne asked him to act as transatlantic delivery boy for a paperback that had been ordered by Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue. The duke tells me proudly that he took the little parcel—tied with blue grosgrain ribbon, like every Heywood Hill package—all the way from Mayfair to Manhattan and “into her holy of holies in the office.”
Good as they are, you don’t get that level of service from Auckland’s Time Out or Wellington’s Unity Books.

The Guardian on how UK bookseller chain Waterstones bounced back – by running each store like an independent (for a certain value of “like”). More Paper Plus than Whitcoulls, I guess. Quote unquote:
One reason for the turnaround in the chain’s fortunes has been the stagnation of the ebook market. It stopped selling Kindle e-readers in 2015 in a move that was regarded as a watershed moment in the battle between physical and digital books. Sales of children’s books have played a big part in its resurgence, and data from market researchers Nielsen Bookscan revealed that, far from embracing the digital revolution, young readers were among the most resistant, with 75% of children favouring physical books and 35% refusing to read digital copies at all.
I came out of reviewing retirement to do CK Stead’s new short-story collection The Name on the Door is Mine, which gathers his greatest hits and adds a few new ones. For the review I re-read all the originals — I have a complete collection of the works of CK — and compared them line by line with the new versions. You won’t believe what happened next.The best joke in the review was edited out so I will post the full text later.

Via Mick Hartley’s excellent blog, Richard Morrison in The Times on La La Land:
What’s most disturbing. . . is how the critics have accepted, almost without a murmur, the underlying racism in the film. I mean casting a white actor, Gosling, as the pianist who — alone, it seems — can save jazz, the quintessential black art form, from disappearing or being diluted by populists. Yes, there are great black musicians in the movie, but in the crucial scene where Gosling introduces Stone to his favourite jazz club he obliterates their performance by blathering a monologue over the top of it. After all the criticism two years ago about the glaring absence of Oscar nominations for minority-ethnic actors, you might have thought that Hollywood would have learnt a few lessons about diversity.
Tom Cox offers a brief encyclopedia of his record collection. Quote unquote:
I am the opposite of fond of the term “guilty pleasure” but I often enjoy music wrongly bracketed within it. What people mean by the term “guilty pleasure” 99.5% of the time, when talking about music or anything else, is “something genuinely joyous that pretentious dickheads told me not to like”.
There have been many great GIFs on the Twitter following the Merkel-Trump meeting. This was my favourite for a while, Dr Merkel incredulous:


But this is my new favourite:


So here is Alison Krauss live in 2002 with Union Station (Jerry Douglas on dobro!) performing “New Favourite”:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Waikato Times letter of the week #75


From the edition of Thursday 23 February. As always, spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic are exactly as printed in the Waikato Times.
Animal instincts
Racism, arrogance, bigots, religious and political intolerance. Ethnic hatred and the differences that lead to all these human reactions and behaviours, are usually centred on belief systems where intolerance of differences becomes of group importance that will usually lead on to anti actions and behaviours. We humans tend to hide much of our behaviour behind the notions espoused in various religions, Pseudo Darwinism and the survival of the fittest, as excuses and explanations. Walking in the village today I noticed once again, Mothers attending to wee babies. No intelligible words were spoken, but the behaviour of these mothers was one absolute reinforcement that they would kill to protect their babies and all other children belonging in their I think protection. And we live by the ripping fang and the tearing claw. We are after all just animals.
Barry Ashby 
Raglan

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What I’m reading #141

Not a lot to be honest, can’t read much when I’m editing, but this review in the Economist of Kapka Kassabova’s new book stood out like dogs’ thingummies. It says:
Kapka Kassabova’s poignant, erudite and witty third book, “Border”, brings hidden history vividly to light.
I am sure it does. I am sure it is poignant, witty and erudite. Kapka is all of the above. But it is not her third book.

I edited two novels by her, Reconnaissance (Penguin, 1999) and Love in the Land of Midas (Penguin, 2000). There had already been a terrific first book of poems, All Roads Lead to the Sea (AUP, 1997) which I tried to get shortlisted for the Montana Book Awards but my bone-headed co-judge (name available on application) wasn’t having it, and its successor Dismemberment (AUP, 1998). 

That’s four books so far, isn’t it? Kapka’s website is, how shall we say, economical but does list the tango book Twelve Minutes of Love, (Portobello, 2011), the third novel Villa Pacifica (Penguin, 2010) – which I have never seen and had no idea existed – and the memoir Street Without a Name (Portobello, 2008). There are also the Bloodaxe collections Someone Else’s Life (2003) and Geography for the Lost (2007). 

Seems to me that Border is her 10th book. But hey, I only got up to Stage III maths. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Anton Chekov and Jeremy Corbyn

The influence of Russia upon Western politicians has a long history. It didn’t start with the Donald: Chekov is a clear style influence upon Corbyn.

So here is Eric Dolphy (along with Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson and Richard Davis) on his 1964 album Out to Lunch! with his Monk tribute “Hat and Beard”: