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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Free Press or Free to Repress?



I know its old news but Bryan Gould once again raises the spectre of Bradley Ambrose and the Teapot Tapes over at the Herald.

The police will support threats issued by the executive to deter the media from publishing material that as far as we know was lawfully obtained and that was of substantial public interest.

Lawfully obtained? I'm sure that hasn't been proven yet, Bryan. So does Bryan advocate the fact that most politicians speech and communication should be recorded because its of "substantial public interest"? And who then defines "public interest"? Should we just record everything and then appoint a panel to review whats important? We could call this panel a "central committee" - for the people and by the people.

I'm still wondering why few people have made the connection between the fact that Bradley was the poor bloke just caught in the middle, trying to do his job and the fact that, apart from John Key's security detail, was  probably the only person there trained in covert surveillance.

Awwww Crap, Here We Go Again.

It seems like it still hasn't finished:

Aftershock activity moving back to the west of Christchurch is a sign stress still needs to be released from near the Greendale Fault, scientists say.


Sounds ominous.



"But the area west of the February rupture – typically a bit east of Rolleston – does seem to rejuvenate a bit each time another segment goes.
"How these will play out is unclear to me, but ... it is reasonable to say that it is an area of the crust that still has not released its stress to the same degree that the main Greendale Fault has, so it still is unstable.
"You guys can't buy a break."



Says it all.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pacific Princess: Captain Stubbing or the New Hong Kong

  Tim Watkin over at Pundit does an excellent job of laying out the events that are unfolding in the Pacific at the moment. It can certainly be said that its "all on for young and old" in our parts.

" Accordingly, while the US military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. Our relationships with Asian allies and key partners are critical to the future stability and growth of the region. We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security."

 However, when asking us to consider the implications for New Zealand of the growing geopolitical significance of the Pacific, he comes out with:

"We should be the voice for democracy, the rule of law, mediation and human rights in this region that encourages the rise of new powers, but respects the role of the old actors as well."


He then goes on to end with:

"Our top priority must be helping to manage relationships from a position of independent friendship so that the Pacific remains an ocean of peace."

  Heady stuff indeed and I commend Tim to Barrack Obama to produce the next version of his "Yes, We Can" speech for the forthcoming election (I think it'll need to be a pearler, Tim).  But really, do we need to be the South Seas Switzerland? Or more like Hong Kong in it's heyday - a confluence of cultures and ideas that melded to become the jewel of the Orient. An enclave where enemies and friends could meet to thrash out solutions and agreements under the thrum of the commercialism and trading that came to define Hong Kong in history. Or perhaps we should be like good old, dependable Captain Stubing who was always the voice of reason on the good ship, Pacific Princess? Solid, unassuming and modest, we could the the uncle that nations always trust and go to for advice. Then we could wait for the benefits to roll to us. Like a snazzy white cap with accompanying cool uniform.

Howdy folks! Justa come on down here an have y'selves a ball!

  We have endured our irrelevance in the world for years. You remember what it was like when you did you O.E., Tim. How many times did you hear "Everybody likes New Zealand and her people"? And it is true. You could, and still can, go places in the world that Americans, British or French can't and not be waylaid or molested in any way by virtue of our irrelevance. Sure, we've muscled onto the world stage a few times at the UN and punched above our weight in area of diplomacy and policy (i.e. human rights and anti-nuclear disarmament and proliferation) but have we tangibly profited by that . The Tyranny of Distance has under-mined our advancement as a nation so much that it has had more of an effect on our national psyche - our number eight wire mentality - than any other factor. A good example is the amount that we owe to refrigeration and the effect this has meant to us - both historically and today. It literally changed the face of New Zealand and, once our markets were defined, changed our prosperity in quick time.

Well I say "Bollocks", Tim. We should use and parlay every bit of advantage, political and geographical, into good hard solid coin. Sure we should disguise it as an earnest and reasonable representation for "peace in our time" however why should we be the nice guys? Or gals (perhaps I should have said "nice peeps" just to avoid the handwringing)?

  Now the world is coming to us. Sure we are on the outer reaches of the Pacific geographically wise however our strategic and tactical influence within the region is huge (N.B Directly after finishing this article, I'm going to apply for a job in the army, preferably the position of "General" after whipping that last sentence out). One only needs to look up our Wikipedia entry to see how much we have affected history throughout our region. Or if you are really serious redo 5th Form History (sorry guys, dunno what "Year" that is). 

  So this is not the time to become the "Brussels Downunder". No, this is the time to become the Hong Kong of the South. Lets use everything, every opportunity and chance that presents itself to increase ourselves. Both China and the US are great examples of empires and the way they ebb and flow in the river of history (See what I did there Tim? Lyrical like you, eh). Britain and France 200 years ago were the major forces down here but they've gone by the wayside.

  And check out Switzerland. They've been neutral for years however you don't see them buckling under the strain of the European Financial Crisis (yet). They've been quietly working away, letting others beaver along within their theatre of operations (Perhaps a generalship is aiming too low?) getting into mucky conflict after conflict, all the while keeping their wicks dry and building their nation in to the shining light of Europe. They don't particularly care if people make assertions about their nature, demographical make-up or past actions such as some questionable moral conflicts with Nazi's during WW2. They just do it. They are the Hong Kong of Europe.

  So we can be nice and pleasant and fluffy like Tim  suggests - full of great intentions and even greater models of hope and diplomacy. Or we can look at this as the opportunity that it is. Finally the Tyranny of Distance can be overcome as the big boys come to play in our back yard. And they can pay for the privilege, thanks.

 Decision time New Zealand: is it to be Captain Stubing or Hong Kong?


Now This is Cool!

I want one of these!

Fantastic range, speed and usability means energy efficient modes of traffic are gaining traction (pun fully intended).

Website is here

Well done Picycle - love your work!

Only in New Zealand......

....I suspect, would this be a leading news story and also the leading contender for Headline of the Year 2012.

"

Man drives flaming tractor into lake

NICCI MCDOUGALL AND GWYNETH HYNDMAN"

From Stuff.co.nz here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

We Could Be Heroes.......

  I'm sure I lived in an age of heroes.

  My teens were 20 years ago now (god thats sick!!!) and it seemed to be around that time that there was heaps of heroic stuff going on. People were still doing amazing, brave things like going around the world in a helicopter (always a dicey proposition at the best of times), going up in space then gliding back to earth two weeks later in an un-powered brick that had the aerodynamic profile of an elephant and the drag coefficient of a wet box of tissues or walking all the way to the North Pole......... backwards - stopping only to apologise to the disgruntled penguin, whom you just tripped over. There were still records to be set (and don't give me that "well they're still setting them" crap cause I've seen that Guinness Records show and you know its crap too!), places to see and frontiers to explore.

Heroism is defined as being of special bravery, warrior-like spirit (in the Homeric sense, that is), someone worthy of great deeds and having an inherent nobility. These people have some extra, intangible quality that radiates like golden light on the rest of us poor moths -so much so that we circle these people in a mad rush to bathe for a moment, just a small moment in their reflected glory, hoping that a little bit of their light will shine on us.

  Often , heroism was most commonly displayed on the battlefield (Sorry ladies, you actually had to dress like a man, go win a war then be lighly fricassee'd to be counted as heroic in the old days) where songs would be sung of glorious battle, of sacrifice and even a divine nobility that blessed great men with the honour of being remembered throughout time.

  Most of the time it was bollocks, though.

  The stories of glorious death turned out to be rather inglorious (Basterds!, how dare they make all that stuff up) as we've come to find that war was not the great enterprise we all thought it was and instead turned out to be a bit of a drag really. In fact its not very nice at all. Sacrifice is a bit of a pain in the arse too because it seems that a great many nice people go away and then never come back so that isn't so great. And who really wants a song made up about them if they are not around to hear it? I'd be jolly annoyed if someone went to all the trouble to make up a good tune and put in some good lyrics and I never got to listen! I did all the work didn't I? And good luck rhyming with XChequer - but if anyone could, please be Eddie Vedder! (huh, chequer.....vedder).

 So, war has turned out to be a fizzer.

  Politicians? Nah, lets not go there. The Clergy? They've been venerated for years, haven't they. But mostly by other clergy, so I don't think that really counts. Knights! Now, theres a goody! Heroes of old were knights. The common man aspired to knighthood by worthy deed. They were lauded they were.......eh? Oh, yeah. War again. Bugger.

So where are our heroes then? Where are the people that we used to look up to - who gave our lives a centreboard, a keel by which to help sail life by? If our parents were the hull of the ship, the framework from which we'd start our voyage (this metaphor is starting to make me be a little vomitously ill now) then weren't heroes the people that gave us aspiration to start out on our own? We had their pictures plastered on our walls, we read about them in books and imagined ourselves doing the same things they did - only with us in their place. Aside from sounding like a fatuous boy scout who's just taken some cranking peyote, does any one think like this anymore? Or am I just a relic?

  These days the cupboard seems a bit bare. These days our heroes (it all seems a bit flaccid, really, to even call them that) are vapid - and vampiric - movie stars who do..... well they make us feel good but do they actually do anything heroic? Other heroes are business people who stamp their mark by........... by...... making a lot of money (if you say this out loud, it really doesn't sound that heroic does it?).

Or are the heroes still there but because I'm now older, I don't know about them or identify with them? I think the world is a better place with  heroes in it but are we now so sophisticated that we don't need them?

That would be a shame.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Should Auld Aquaintance Be Forgot?



In the rush of the season just past, it's good to take a minute out and remember those that didn't make it this far. Perhaps they weren't the most famous but all are memorable.

RIP Kristian

A Sanctuary of Self

 For some unknown, and slightly disturbing, reasons, I decided to walk home after last nights mash of noise, colour and violent tones that constitute a "typical" Kiwi New Years Eve get-together.


 Unknown because I'm still trying to understand my decision. So are my cruciate ligaments.


 Disturbing when you think that it's not a normal thing to do. A person normally stays the night so one can drink and remain with friends as long as possible. All the better to amortise the collective good will that the season carefully grafts from the days leading to Christmas and that finishes with New Year over as long a period as possible. And there's a good chance someone will be doing a cooked breakfast in the morning.


 Disturbing also because it is a long way to walk. Like....... really long. 


 One of the problems with living in the country is that you are quickly inured to distance. That is, when you say that you are just going to pop down to the dairy for some milk, it's not like the dairy is just at the end of the road. And if it is, the road is 20 kilometres long! You think nothing of the fact that when you "pop" over to see a mate, the "popping" part might mean a 25 minute drive.


 And that is how far it is to Sid's place by car while mostly doing a hundred "kays" an hour. This was where we had New Years.


 Regardless of how it happened, the decision was made and about 1 am, it seemed to be a good time to say "Bye" and slip away. The sun was just getting out of bed four and a bit hours later , putting its slippers on and thinking about coffee by the time I made it home and collapsed on the bed. While I was sleeping,  my leg muscles  put the downtime to good use to think of the many and various insults that rushed to my brain when I woke and tried to move. All day I've been able to maintain the impression of a ninety year old, double hip replaced pensioner who has lost his zimmer.


Then I tipped to a couple of articles - one by local writer Claire Browning - that made the groanings of my  body slide to the background. These articles, Claire's and another, dealt with something I had had during my epic trek - simplicity and quiet.


 Two am in Canterbury during a cool, summer night is an amazing time and place. There is no moon but the sky is so clear even the stars are enough to cast a shadow. Thank goodness I chose white shoes tonight so I match my footsteps to the centreline of the road. Wind caresses hedgerows of gum trees, occasionally shaking just to keep the possums on their toes. The only pollution is some bugger with a hole in his muffler miles away beating the police cordon home and a sometimes glimpse of the dirty orange haze that means a substantial city. 


 And a cacophony in my head.


 I have a year of experience, of memory and richness rolling on my mind like storms upon plains. It washes over me after the events of the evening - music, food and conversation. Shared reflections and far away looks are the common theme as memory is revisited or emotion re-worn. And for the first hour of my walk this riot occupies me as well. It's a stereo turned all the way up to 11. I pace the remembered path home as landmarks are so much different at night having no depth and only outline. I don't really hear my own footsteps as my inner monologue hounds me in Dolby quality.


 Gradually, however, I realize that as I walk, I'm listening less to myself and more to the outside. For the first time I trouble to look up and am rewarded for the effort as a line of light is lit across the sky. Somewhere, some celestial event has happened, some stupendous moment in time and size that makes the trials in my head seem trivial in comparison. I wonder why, in fact, stars do seem to twinkle. Intellectually I know that there is no on/off switch being constantly played so what makes them twinkle? And why haven't I noticed before?


 A movement to my right, a gum tree creaks and the leaves on the branch thrash a little as the possum moves to get a better view of the crackpot human walking past at this un-natural hour. As if by signal, other leaves and branches sympathetically shake and soon I realize the bloody night is full of the furry bastards - all secretly giggling to themselves at the near-blind bugger walking past.


 So for the next three hours its just me, the possums, the road and the stars. My ears hear only the regular "crump, crump" of my rubber soles confronting asphalt and the occasional sigh of wind. I see three more shooting stars - I don't remember seeing that many ever in my life! - and so many stars that I can almost see into the tonsils of the cosmos.


 And "upstairs" in my head there is blessed quiet. Peace. There is purpose, in that I know where I want to go but at the same time, serenity in knowing that I'll get there. I realise that I haven't allowed myself this break all year - a sanctuary of self. No noise or clutter. No constant narration to life and moments. No analysis of events and contingencies planned. Just me and the world. Just like it ought to be, I guess.


New Years resolution: save yourself some trouble, give your self  a break and turn off the noise in your head. It's the best present I've ever had.


That, and the number of a good physio.