Monday, November 16, 2015

Into the Abyss

There are times I can comprehend why Nikolai Tesla fell in love with a pigeon. Humanity can at times seem unloveable. There was method in Tesla's madness. His nemesis, Edison, was busily taking someone else's half-done inventions and patenting them for himself. Buggered if Tesla was going to confide his plan for ambient and infinite free energy to humans.

Dan Carlin's latest Common Sense podcast has brought these thoughts to the fore with his musings on Bill Gates' radical statement in The Atlantic, where Dan was enthralled by Gates' idea to speed up the innovation spiral.

The plot goes like this. Climate change is an existential threat to humanity. Without alternate forms of energy, we're all going to die as a species. If humanity can focus its brains and brawn like the Yanks did for the Manhattan Project, we might just live.

Carlin describes it as a big asteroid on a ten-year deadline to wipe out life on earth, or the nuclear arms race during WWII. If only humanity can focus its talents on this threat, we might get a pass. We should be so lucky.

My unbounded pessimism is well established. After the Copenhagen round of climate yakka, it was clear that capitalism and human nature had trumped collective action, responsibility and long term survival. In the long run, we're fucked.

We can't all live like Americans, yet they have set the gold standard for copious consumption. Energy is just one part of the puzzle, albeit a large one. Oil will still fill the middens with packaging and hollow marketing shill, regardless of whether we're walking on sunshine with pV cells or not. WALL-E and Idiocracy shared the same plot, with contrasting levels of profanity.

The other problem is climate change is more a slow boiled frog than a clear and present asteroid threat. Entropy is all whimper, no bang. Earth will be caught between flood and famine, alluded to here in a post which was popular with many spy sub-stations at the time. Tl;dr is there's life in the Westphalian nation state yet.

The TPP is precisely the opposite of a cure. Instead of freeing general knowledge, we have chained it, pimped it out for outrageous entry fees. Science has been privatised, ideas imprisoned for Life plus 70 years.

There will be no collective action. At least, not until we're utterly exhausted by resource wars. We've forgotten what a post-war consensus looks like. Looks like we're going to need another war to discover it again for the first time.

In the meantime, Indonesia is still on fire. There goes another carbon sink.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Casting the Nats for Futurama

Fry - John Key. I have a pizza for I.C. Weiner..?
Leela - Paula Bennett. Mutant former DPB Mum turned kung fu conservative.
Bender- Tim Groser. Booze fuelled robot of destruction.
Farnsworth - Maurice "Greatest American Hero was always groovy" Williamson.
Zoidberg - Nick Smith. Wrong planet, dude.
Hermes - Bill English. Spicy beancounter.
Zapp - Steven Joyce. Roads of National Significance against the peaceful poets of Horowhenua.
Kiff - Louise Upston. I can't can't imagine the shit she has to put up with.
Amy Wong - Amy Adams. Of course.
Scruffy- Chester Burrows. Soz the Courts reboot went sideways on you.
Mom - Julie Christie. I know what everyone wants. And I'm prepared to give it to them, for a price.
Morbo - Mike Hosking. I will destroy you! Happy days.
Linda Van Schoonhorn, Morbo's co-host - Heather du Plessis-Allen. Soz, darling. You're soaking in it.
Nibbler - Simon Bridges. Unseeable dimensions not pictured.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The False Flag Dilemma

As a long time activist for changing the flag, my conscience is prodding me to write something of substance on National's flag referendum. Elsewhere, I have accused John Key of going through the motions. Fucking the dog, as the Americans say. The insubstantial final four flag designs which to go to the people by postal referendum in November lends weight to this theory.

From the start, Key has held the thumb on the scales of fair go. He has unashamedly had a silver fern stamped on his forehead from the start. Little wonder then the flag quango served up three ferns and a monochromatic koru. Ignore the dictat at your own peril.

Key has shrewdly bet each way he can't lose. Entrench that lazy blue ensign for another twenty years or more, or he gets his Rugby Butter logo. The people don't come into it. This is Reality Politics. He has me snookered, that's for sure. All sorts of proxy fronts have formed, from the RSA to the Twitterati, threatening to spoil, sabotage or protest vote just to spite him.

This is precisely the opposite of what Lloyd Morrison had in mind when he kicked off the nzflag campaign over ten years ago. Instead of uniting under a common banner, we are a people divided and conquered.

Having grown up in the 1970's, I have always lived under the Common Market (currently re-branded to EU). I bear no allegiance to Old Blighty. Je ne suis pas an effing Brit. The Royal Union must go.

Accordingly, here's how I'll be voting in November's STV referendum, and why.

1. Monochromatic Koru / Hypnoflag. For starters, it's not an effing silver fern. Ferns are green. The silver is the spores under the leaf. Pungas have red spores. Give me pungas over silver ferns any day. Secondly, since the Board wimped out on Hundertwasser, this is the closest the vanilla people will let us get to truth.

2. Lockwood's Black and Blue Fern and Stars. Yes, it induces sportsball and domestic violence. But that's NZ, eh?

3. Lockwood's Red, White and Blue Fern and Stars. Fucking awful, but still better than

4. Inverted NZTA logo. Keep on rooting that corgi.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Window Dressing for Dummies

For a party professing one law for all, the National Party has a problem on its hands with its Health & Safety legislation.

It could be just coincidence that the really big avoidable tragedies have all been under a National government. Erebus was an orchestrated litany of lies under Muldoon. Cave Creek was systemic failure under Bolger. No one has been held accountable for the CTV building collapse and the Pike River entombment under Key.

The legislation before Parliament was a direct consequence of the Pike River disaster. Something had to be done. This is it. The public reaction so far ranges from worm farm Dune jokes and mini golf ridicule on Twitter, to secondary school principals freaking out about getting sued or thrown into jail.

Pat Walsh wasn't kidding on Morning Report when he said that schools would be looking closely at whether school camps and playgrounds were viable any longer. Too risky. Many school swimming pools are as dead as dinosaurs, yet NZers continue to drown.

Minister Woodhouse's reaction so far has been limited to passing a random greasy ball to local councils by sort-of-but-not-quite opening up Easter Sunday for trading. He's burdened local government with more things to be accountable for without funding. Calling it passing the buck would be too charitable.

I haven't read the legislation, but the biggest injustice appears to be the large Gerry-mandered hole excempting anyone with connections to the National party. You could drive a tractor through without it touching the sides. Maybe even a swamp kauri log, as long as it was longly. A rolling quad bike would have no problem.

Woodhouse is just the stunt muppet fronting it. The back office already knows what it wants. Same recipe as the Tax Property Register. The public are outraged. Nick some relevant patch from the Opposition. Water it down to homeopathic levels of utility. Add loopholes and lawyers. Done.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


As I type, a debate over whether the Hawke's Bay amalgamates into a single council rages at Napier Boys' High School, which was partly organised by one of the local rags, Hawke's Bay Today. I have come into this debate late and ill-prepared. Yet these are my thoughts.

I heard local Labour Napier MP Stuart Nash do his anti-amalgamation argument a couple of weeks ago at the Hawke's Bay Deaf Club in Taradale, where his booked adversary, Hastings mayor and head honcho of Local Government New Zealand Lawrence Yule, totally failed to turn up to rebut.

So it's some comfort to see Yule turn up tonight. He's not completely rooting the corgi over this. Nonetheless, I can't shrug the feeling Yule has been fed a reluctant Viagra on this argument. I have just moved out of the wellington region, which recently decided against amalgamation, resulting in Fran Wilde's head on a figurative pike. Yule's playing with fire and a fearful desire for not rocking boats.

Only Auckland is Auckland, and its problems are singular. As far as NZ local government goes, at least. Render unto Rome what is Rome's. Render unto the provinces what is theirs.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Six of the Best and Worst of Napier

I've been living in Napier a month. Here's six thoughts either way on the town so far:

Six of the Best

#1: Cycling. Apart from the waterfront paving that the local Rotary Club had installed, most arterial streets have cycle lanes. Sure, it's only paint, but the drivers are generally courteous enough to compensate. The cops are also not arseholes on people riding on the footpaths where practicable, nor on cyclists not wearing helmets.

#2: Climate. The weather is not half as shit as the Greater Wellington region. The Southerly still bites, but rarely with such gusto as the Wellington ones. Nor does it get smacked with sub-tropical downpours from the prevailing Westerly, as Auckland does.

#3: Landscape view. Combine #1 and #2 and you get stunning views across the Hawke's Bay as well as egalitarian public commons. The view is for everyone.

#4: Dense. Napier only became a city in 1950, a lifetime after Palmy was licenced as one, and it shows. The CBD is contained in a 4x2 block riddled with For Lease signs. Two Countdown supermarkets sit side by side across the road from a Pak n Save. Stand on Carlyle and Tennyson, you're a stone's throw from around a dozen fast food franchises. What nightlife is to be had has shuffled off to the wharves of Ahuriri, which reminds me of early days Courtenay Place after the '87 sharemarket crash freed up some land. The GFC of 2008 still weighs heavily here.

#5: Bus Service. Monday to Friday, the buses linking Napier to Hastings and everything in between runs time spans similar to Wellington, 6:30 am to last run at 11:30pm. GoBus also offers discounts for tertiary students and Community Services card holders, as well as the SuperGold Card set.

#6: He Tangata. The people. I haven't been mugged once, but have met a tolerant and kind cross-section of people.

Six of the Worst

#1: The Vanilla People. The other he tangata. Churchiness looms large on Napier's landscape. Art Deco is still a marketing buzzword. The RSA is the busiest place in town on a Tuesday night. Like Christchurch, all the power-brokers are conservatives living in the past.

#2: The Invisible Inequalities. The Christchurch vibe lingers. The pearls and twin set gentry live on the hills, the poor on the flats. Never the twain shall meet. At least, not in person.

#3: Unemployment. Napier appears on the cusp of recession. It isn't so reliant on dairy, and its pip-fruit industry is apparently going gangbusters, but it's essentially a rural support town for farmers. Seasonal work at minimum wage for commodity produce. Judging from the building signage, the thrivers are lawyers, accountants, land valuers, insurers, banks and other forms of dodgier lending.

#4: The second most hateful WINZ office in NZ, narrowly beaten by Auckland's Queen Street branch for the title.

#5: The statue dedicated to Len Snee next to the NZ Police building. Don't get get me started on the Molenaar tragedy. It didn't have to happen. Same old same old.

#6: There is no Number Six. On balance of probabilities, Napier isn't quite as shit as it could be.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Footrot Nats

Casting the National Party for Footrot Flats:

Wal: John Key. The lovable fallible everyman you'd have a beer with.
Cooch: Bill English. Stoic conservative sidekick.
Cheeky Hobson: Paula Bennett. Heir-dresser. 52's a specialty.
Horse, the Cat: Judith Collins. Not feral, merely fearsome.
Pew, the Magpie: Nick Smith. Black and white, red all over.
Old Cecil: Maurice Williamson. Knows where all the skulls are buried.
Murphy's Pigs: Steven Joyce, Gerry Brownlee. Troughers.
Rangi: Hekia Parata. Speaks in tongues in the finest tradition of Parekura Horomia.
Aunt Polly: Murray McCully. Not to be crossed. Knew Wal when he wore nappies.
Prince Charles: Todd McClay. Thick as a haggis.

Dog: Tricky. Simon Power was the big gamble before he parachuted into banking. Simon Bridges is being sexed up as the new Bright Young Thing, but nope. He's no Upton. Last year's voluminous intake of Nats hasn't turned up any bones there either. I see only muppets.

Soz, no punchline. This is where the metaphor collapses entirely. Move along. Nothing to be seen here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Next National Anthem

Artist Grahame Sydney was on NatRad this afternoon criticising the Change the Flag campaign when what we really should be changing is the National Anthem. Why can't we do both?

Surely, Sydney's soapbox has been made more relevant because of the flag competition? It's irrelevant anyway because I completely agree with him. God Defend NZ is a terrible dirge "saturated in god" as Sydney points out.

It was only made official in 1977 when the Queen came to visit for her Jubilee Tour and Muldoon had nothing to give her apart from a law making Thomas Bracken's paean to Anglicism compulsory.

The coin dropped for both Sydney as well as new Afternoons host Jesse Mulligan when they discovered that NZ has two official anthems. God Save the Queen is the other one. The original colonial song, so to speak.

You can see why Muldoon gave Queenie an old but new song as a present. During all future visits to NZ, Liz wouldn't have to listen quite so often to those most over-played bars of bad music. Is there an official record of how many times she's had to grimace through God Save the Queen at varying levels of musicianship?

The dual national anthem is an important precedent though. It shows a way Key could have sold the flag change without all the bad voodoo from the RSA. Two flags for the price of one.

It also shows how swapping out God Save the Queen for something more relevant and less anachronistic would avoid more spilt beer too.

I've had half a crack at a New National Anthem before. Others say Trinity Roots' Home Land and Sea should be it. Here's something I've been working on for a few months now. It still needs work and frankly I wouldn't be surprised if I don't win. It'll do just fine as an icebreaker though:

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
The only thing our old ones
Were guilty of was

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Through wind, rain and fine sunshine
Walk barefoot proudly
Into the future

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Our banner is not our cape
There's no religion
Except sport, of course

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Our wildlife will not kill you
But beware the land

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Our cops are the least fascist
The courts least corrupt
Bent, never broken

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Don't expect too much from it
You might just like it
One day ahead

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

Friday, July 17, 2015

Another Great Divide

A couple of days ago, Bastille Day in fact, I observed that it was 31 years since the Fourth Labour Government swept into power with a landslide victory. It was never boring, I cheered. Don't remember Labour cheering the 30th last year. Mind you, Cunliffe was in charge and Dagg knows where his head was at.

This year's Labour model appears to be terminally dog-locked to NZ First strategy. Way they're going, I wouldn't put it past Winston to attempt a reverse take-over. There can be only one populist on this pulpit, and the old werewolf knows his pressure points better than any of Labour's front row on the subject.

But you can't run a major party on that platform. The many hands of activism make Labour's light work. That's the crux of labour versus capital right there. You reckon Bob Jones spends his evenings cold calling party supporters to run some lines past them? Nah, fuck that. Here's $25,000.

As last year's electoral returns showed, Labour wasn't exactly getting showered with sponsors and patrons. They were outspent by the Nats and the Greens. Colin Craig even gave them a run for their money, if not in the spend per vote stakes. The unions short-changed the party in meagre donations yet somehow managed to wedge in a union-based leader, president and chief of staff.

So bit by bit, Labour continues to fight in ever diminishing circles, with an inexorably decreasing base to defend. It might yet disappear up its own fundament, sharting on the hard work of Labour luminaries such as Walding, Clark and company whilst doing so.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Watching the Detectives

The Judicial Review of the Hager raid by the police last year has finished Day One of an anticipated three day season. Jon Stephenson covers the high and dry of it here. At stake is truth, justice and all that jazz.

It has taken me some time to parse the whole Dirty Politics saga, soaking in it as I was all those years as a blogger. Reading Nicky Hagar's book on the subject, what surprised me most was not so much the tactics employed but the elaborate collaboration behind the scenes. The sheer stage-managed nature of it all. I felt like a complete Frankenfurter.

There was also the Key government to consider. I had seen the NZ Defence Force take a smack at Stephenson before, during and after his Eyes Wide Shut article in Metro magazine. Before that, accidental journalist Bradley Ambrose's recording of the Key/Banks tea party in 2011 and the resulting cop scrum that descended upon him and the MSM.

More recently, Dakta Green accusing some police of perjury has seen him crushed under a grand piano of scrutiny by them. You can't mess with the status quo and walk away unscathed. Quite how I've managed so far without liability, I attribute to presenting a small target as well as maintaining a variety of wild cards up my sleeves. Fiddling with asymmetries.

Suffice it to say, sub judice pending, that I hope the Judicial Review is successful. Ten hour fishing trips in a journalist's home when they are in absentia is disproportionate and has a chilling effect on reporting. There's evidence to suggest that police broke the court's sealing of evidence, which probably means the GCSB and SIS have been through the allegedly sealed documents too. Hagar had been worked on the Snowden leaks, and it doesn't take much to join dots there.

Without investigative journalism, all we're left with is press releases and native advertising. That's not a Fourth Estate. That's prostitution.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Missed Targets

We were somewhere on Auckland's North Shore when the bus ran out of diesel. Driver had forgotten to check the tank with the stick that morning. It was difficult to tell exactly where we were, as anything north of Takapuna and Glenfield looks exactly the same. Deepest suburbia, brick and tiled hills. No signs of life on the streets but the constant grind of traffic.

Auckland had grown so quickly in the last twenty years, most of these suburbs were farms in the 1980's. In the 1990's the Bolger government had the bright idea of loosening immigration criteria as a cheap way to pump skilled labour and someone else's capital into the economy. Cheap but not frictionless.

Brits escaping Thatcher/Major mingled with Afrikaaners fleeing the collapse of Apartheid in the ahistoric North Shore housing estates. Economic refugees fleeing Mugabe worked alongside political refugees from Iran and Iraq. Jews lived next to Arabs without all hell breaking loose.

Immigration consultants helped grease these wheels, including former Muldoon minister Aussie Malcolm and former Bolger minister for Immigration Tuariki Delamere. Their deep understanding of the law, as well as their contacts in the sector gleaned during years of public office, helped their clients squeeze the most out of NZ's immigrant points system.

In 2011, the Key government loosened the entry criteria. In essence, lump sum residencies were allowed. The easiest way to invest a lump sum once you arrive in the country is to buy property. That would explain when the Auckland bubble began to depart from the norm:

Bolger got away with it a bit in the 1990's, when NZers were still piling offshore to find a decent pay packet. The international student market was just taking off here, with ESOL schools not far behind. The only side-effect was giving Winston Peters a soapbox to bash him with.

But after the GFC, and a few years later when the bottom fell out of Australia's mining boom, Key's Auckland is fit to burst as natives stay put and new natives continue to pour in. The price is painfully clear.

See? Not a single dog-whistle in there, but three shots hitting National. None of that mucking about with surnames. I understand Singapore's full of ethnic Chinese.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Leaving Pook Farm; Generation Rent Edition

My suspicions were first aroused when my property manager told me not to panic. The absentee landlord in Australia had decided to sell up, but not until much later in the year.

That was late February. 28 days later, she wrote to say that the real estate guy had convinced the landlord to sell up right now. Within a week, any reasonable expectation of privacy at Pook Farm had been shattered.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 has this to say on the subject of when a landlord decides to sell a tenanted property:
47. Landlord to give notice to tenant of intention to sell
(1) If, at any time after entering into a tenancy agreement, the landlord puts the premises on the market for the purposes of sale or other disposition, the landlord shall forthwith give written notice of that fact to the tenant.

(2) When a landlord is offering residential premises as available for letting, the landlord shall inform prospective tenants if the premises are on the market for the purposes of sale or other disposition.
That's it. No mitigation for the sudden inconvenience. In fairness, this law was written years before all the cowboys rode into the landlord business following the Bolger government's state house sell-off in the early 1990's.

I had been living at Pook Farm for close to four years. For all its faults- threadbare original 1950's carpet, cardboard walls, an open fireplace I was contractually forbidden from using- it was a sweet flat.

A lemon tree out the back, along with a prodigious plum tree which rained fruit every January. My three chickens provided fertiliser for both, as well as omelets for me. Out the front was a raised vegetable patch, which I was half-way through installing when the house pimps sold me out.

The current landlord had bought the property as a holiday bach at the wild heights of the beachfront property boom in 2003. He had bought at auction at a wildly improbable price, some 120-150 thousand above valuation. He chose the same real estate agent who sold it to him, to sell it for him too. Welcome to the double-dipping world of realty.

Although bitter with the real estate agent, I won't name names. Their nefarious tactics go with the territory. According to the Readers Digest Most Trusted Professions Survey 2014, real estate salespeople rank 44th, worse than journalists but better than insurance and car salespeople, sex workers and politicians. Housing Minister Nick Smith's latest brain-fart of a Clayton's Housing WOF- no bark, no bite- entirely justifies this placing.

My excellent property manager had been keeping an eye out for another hovel for me to move to, but the Keynesian make-work scheme of the Kapiti Expressway had put a strangle-hold on rent prices, not to mention all the former Wellingtonian poor who had been squeezed northwards as the social housing stock in the capital was condemned as an earthquake risk.

Fatalistic as ever, my one consolation was that it would all be over in a month. My home would be on the auction block in the first week of May, and one way or another I'd know whether I was sold as a going concern, along with the land and chattels, or whether I'd be out on my ear with the legal minimum of 42 days' notice. Homeless with chickens.

Auction day came and went, where it failed to reach the vendor's minimum. He'd settle for a seventy grand haircut, but not an eighty grand one. I paid anyway. Every Sunday afternoon between 1:15 and 1:45 was Open Home eternal, where strangers tramped through my home, casing the place, weighing it up like a piece of meat.

Men from Porlock would randomly drive up to the gate in SUVs at every other time and stare at me staring at them. Bolder capital venturists would trespass the threshold, which wore thinner each time, to the point where my bark would set off the neighbour's dogs. Things were getting increasingly sweary.

There was no time to think, let alone write. Life on Vogshere is full of slappers. Time to leave. First thing to go was the chooks. They ended up out at an Otaihanga Farm, where they apparently amuse themselves now by breaking out of their pen and turning up at the neighbours' houses.

Next, there I went on reconnaissance for a new roof. After finding an alternative that did not completely suck, I moved. Yeah Napier, where I do not know a goddamn soul. For Lease signs for Africa through the CBD, but that's no different from most town centres these days. Box shops and free parking suck consumers out of the centres out to the periphery, while draconian liquor laws suck the remaining life out of the CBD.

At least there's hope, sometimes peace. But there's no rest for Generation Rent. We're the Walkabout People, the nomads.

Friday, July 18, 2014

One Thread

There is at least one fundamental thread woven through the fabric of recent scandals that seems to have been left out of the dialogue so far.

Whether it's the GCSB shitmagnet, the rape culture flavours of West Auckland's Roastbusters, Wellington's diplomatic thrusts, or other examples of official intransigence, such as the recent night raid on children in a Taranaki marae, there is at least one common thread.

I don't know if there's a Latin name for the principle, but it runs thusly: Citizens can do whatever they like as long as there's no law or regulation prohibiting their actions. The benefit of the doubt lies on the side of the citizen. Reasonable doubt, for example.

Conversely, government officials (military, police or bureaucrat) can ONLY do what the law or regulations permit (acts and omissions, blah blah). The onus is on them to prove they stayed within those regulated margins.

It's a concept that frequently eludes the powerful as well as the powerless. For instance, police union mouth Greg O'Connor regularly spouts that the cops can bend and break rules with impunity for the greater good. He's talking bollocks with a side order of smeg.

It's a lesson that might have to be learned the hard way. Beware the political backlash. Such things tend to over-compensate.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dogs of War

Back in the dawn of the 1980's, my old man tried his hand at running kiwifruit on a farm out west of Tauranga. We lived in caravans next to the shed, right across from the neighbour's battery chicken farm.

The neighbour's dog, a mangy beast with something short of a full Labrador in him, used to wander onto the farm and hassle our dogs, two German short-haired pointers called Kaiser and Rommel (like another certain disruptive entrepreneur, the old man liked his Germans). Kaiser was a 12 year old former gun dog champ, brown-coated and freckled with white patches of hair. Rommel was not even three, dark liver hair and whippet thin.

After a week of skirmishes between men and dogs, where the dog kept coming across the fence and my old man kept telling the neighbour he'd put a .22 bullet behind its ear, the day of the final dogfight arrived.

The old man was out on his tractor working on one of the nearer blocks. The dogs were with him, and it wasn't long before the neighbour's dog caused trouble. It had caught Kaiser unawares and had latched onto the old dog's throat. Out of nowhere, Rommel zipped in and nipped the dog firmly on its arse. The dog yelped out of pain or surprise, giving Kaiser his escape. It turned to see the source of counter-attack already halfway across the block.

Nor did the dog see the bullet that hit him. It yelped in receipt of it and retreated to less painful territory, limping badly and leaving the old man wondering whether the wound was mortal or merely a winging. Rommel and Kaiser preceded the old man on his tractor back to the shed by a good minute, seemingly none the worse for wear.

The old man put the rifle away and went across to tell the neighbour the news. The neighbour accepted the dog's fate, and we all went out searching the borders of both lands looking for the missing hound. I found him, curled up on a corner section under a tree as if sleeping. The neighbour took the dog away, to a grave or an offal pit is uncertain.

Kaiser and Rommel lived largely happy lives until they died. Kaiser was put to sleep aged 16 years after his legs gave up. Rommel went walkabout off the farm a few years after this summer skirmish, presumably ending up with a short life span in the illegal dog fighting circuit. He was always a better runner than a fighter.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Sex and Agriculture

The old man and I were walking along Mayoral Drive in the Auckland CBD one afternoon back in the '90s. Another even older man had just walked out of the Pan Pacific Hotel and headed towards us. My father, aged sixty-mumble, did something I'd never see him do before.

He lost the expression of a man wearied by sixty-odd years on the clock, and reverted to a mumbling child as he praised former child actor Mickey Rooney in person. This crinkly polite Yank - accosted on the streets in a strange land by some quixotic stranger in the three piece armour of an attorney - had brightened my Dad's day considerably.

Needless to say, Mickey Rooney's golden days of Hollywood were a bit before my time. Growing up two generations prior to my existence, the old man grew up on tales of conquest by proxies of the British Empire in books, as well as the pulp fiction churned out by Hollywood, leeched as it was of reality by the censors and purveyors of moral rectitude.

The Ten Commandments of Hollywood back then, summed up in one picture, were:

An artifact of this celluloid puritanism popped up last week, nicely raising the profile of Eva Green and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For in the process. In America at least, nipples are still considered Satan's cherries.

In contrast to the old man, all my heroes were outlaws. I grew up with '70s cinema and early '80s auteurs, the golden era of the film director. Years before the blockbuster killed the independent studios' diversity with superheroes and cloned plots, it was all Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bugsy Malone, the Blondini gang from Goodbye Pork Pie, Bruno Lawrence, Sam Lowry in Brazil, Buckaroo Banzai, David Lynch, etc.

Moral ambiguity, anti-heroes, irony and pathos were main ingredients. Ultra-violence was used as allegory or hyperbole (A Clockwork Orange, The Evil Dead), as opposed to today's serious yet CGI carnage purely for the sake of it.

But I digress. The Mickey Rooney intersection came into mind on Thursday, as John Banks walked out of court a guilty man. My old man shared airtime with Banks on Radio Pacific. Of all the things Banks could have said as Michelle Boag quietly photobombed away in the background, Banks had to come out with an esoteric 1930's song about standing in puddles. A man so pole-axed, the child came out.

Three days later, John Banks announces he is exiting the political stage once more. Up until this afternoon, it looked like he was blithely looking at hanging around in Parliament, upstaging the election theatre cast from Jamie Whyte to John Key, before crashing through the footlights head first into the orchestra pit.

Farewell then, John Banks. You will be forgotten. Cannabis will be legalised. Look who's stupid then. Auckland will one day reverse your rates poll tax (aka the Uniform Annual General Charge), as well as your puritanical Brothel and Commercial Sex Premises bylaw. Charter schools will be folded back into the integrated schools system, where state accountability sits in judgement over religious schools.

Everything John Banks did will be dirt.