04 December 2016


61 Molesworth St, being deconstructed for safety reasons following the Kaikoura earthquake.

01 December 2016

Prince Buster

Both the brassy A-side and the dubby B-side of this 1976 Prince Buster rocker, to commemorate his death in September. Mandatory stacks of bass required. Via Mojo Magazine Playlist, December 2016 issue.

30 November 2016

The Feast of Fools

For most of the year [medieval Christianity] preached solemnity, order, restraint, fellowship, earnestness, a love of God and sexual decorum, and then on New Year's Eve it opened the locks on the collective psyche and unleashed the festum fatuorum, the Feast of Fools. For four days, the world was turned on its head: members of the clergy would play dice on top of the altar, bray like donkeys instead of saying 'Amen', engage in drinking competitions in the nave, fart in accompaniment to the Ave Maria and deliver spoof sermons based on parodies of the gospels (the Gospel according to the Chicken's Arse, the Gospel according to Luke's Toenail). After drinking tankards of ale, they would hold their holy books upside down, address prayers to vegetables and urinate out of bell towers. They 'married' donkeys, tied giant woollen penises to their tunics and endeavoured to have sex with anyone of any gender who would have them.

But none of this was considered just a joke. It was sacred, a parodia sacra, designed to ensure that all the rest of the year things would remain the right way up. In 1445, the Paris Faculty of Theology explained to the bishops of France that the Feast of Fools was a necessary event in the Christian calendar, 'in order that foolishness, which is our second nature and is inherent in man, can freely spend itself at least once a year. Wine barrels burst if from time to time we do not open them and let in some air. All of us men are barrels poorly put together, and this is why we permit folly on certain days: so that we may in the end return with greater zeal to the service of God'.

- Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists, London, 2012, p.63-5.

See also:
France: Paris chose to be self-centred, 1 October 2016
France: The Paris correspondent starts his day, 30 April 2016
France: City of Lights, 20 April 2009

22 November 2016

Looking for America, and not finding it anywhere

In March, the Washington Post reported that Trump voters were both more economically hard-pressed and more racially biased than supporters of other Republican candidates. But in September a Gallup-poll economist, Jonathan T. Rothwell, released survey results that complicated the picture. Those voters with favorable views of Trump are not, by and large, the poorest Americans; nor are they personally affected by trade deals or cross-border immigration. But they tend to be less educated, in poorer health, and less confident in their children’s prospects—and they’re often residents of nearly all-white neighborhoods. They’re more deficient in social capital than in economic capital. The Gallup poll doesn’t indicate how many Trump supporters are racists. Of course, there’s no way to disentangle economic and cultural motives, to draw a clear map of the stresses and resentments that animate the psyches of tens of millions of people. Some Americans have shown themselves to be implacably bigoted, but bias is not a fixed quality in most of us; it’s subject to manipulation, and it can wax and wane with circumstances. A sense of isolation and siege is unlikely to make anyone more tolerant.

In one way, these calculations don’t matter. Anyone who votes for Trump—including the Dartmouth-educated moderate Republican financial adviser who wouldn’t dream of using racial code words but just can’t stand Hillary Clinton—will have tried to put a dangerous and despicable man in charge of the country. Trump is a national threat like no one else who has come close to the Presidency. Win or lose, he has already defined politics so far down that a shocking degree of hatred, ignorance, and lies is becoming normal.

At the same time, it isn’t possible to wait around for demography to turn millions of disenchanted Americans into relics and expect to live in a decent country. This election has told us that many Americans feel their way of life is disappearing. Perhaps their lament is futile—the world is inexorably becoming Thomas Friedman’s. Perhaps their nostalgia is misguided—multicultural America is more free and equal than the republic of Hamilton and Jefferson. Perhaps their feeling is immoral, implying ugly biases. But it shouldn’t be dismissed. If nearly half of your compatriots feel deeply at odds with the drift of things, it’s a matter of self-interest to try to understand why.

- George Packer, 'Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt', New Yorker, 31 October 2016

20 November 2016

Infecting their enemies with their own sickness

When a leader is both boastful and indecisive, the leadership vacuum is filled by aides who feed into the posturing but compensate for the indecision. [Trump's National Security Advisor, Lt Gen Michael] Flynn fills that Trump-shaped hole perfectly.

But we know where this leads. [Dick] Cheney cherry-picked manipulated intelligence reports to build a case for the war in Iraq that was the single worst US national security decision in a generation. We are still living with its consequences today, with Isis and a global refugee crisis that is unthinkable without the Iraq war.

Condi Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, was unable to control the hawks inside the cabinet, even as she leaned towards the doves. Flynn doesn’t need to control any hawks, because he is leading the pack.

The opportunity for Flynn to cherry pick intelligence is almost limitless. With his public hatred of Islam and his desire to wage a war of religion, the case for military action will be simple inside the Trump West Wing.

It may be time to concede that one of the biggest winners of this election is the twisted and murderous worldview distilled by Osama bin Laden. Unlike Bush and Obama, Trump and Flynn believe we are engaged in a war with Islam, just as al-Qaeda and Isis believe they are engaged in a war with Christianity and Judaism.

The jihadists have infected their enemies with their own sickness. To be fair, this infection had been growing for many years before Trump started running for office. It broke out when Congress – Democrats and Republicans – voted against the closure of Guantanamo Bay. It is obvious in much of the world’s refusal to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis.

But now the sickness has given us Trump and Flynn to escalate a religious-fueled war that is unwinnable.

- Richard Wolffe, 'Michael Flynn will be a disaster as National Security Advisor', Guardian, 19 November 2016

19 November 2016

A fleet in being

International naval flotilla assembled in the Waitemata Harbour for inspection by the Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy, in honour of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal New Zealand Navy.  Viewed in light drizzle from the end of Princes Wharf.