Monday, June 29, 2009

Let's just take a minute for a quiet cup of tea...

... and a lie down.

Well, the lie down's not necessary, unless there's a warm body nearby.

David Lange once famously suggested we pause in our pell mell rush to reform the over-regulated financial sector, and it turns out that he may have been right. (I can hear Roger Douglas' missing moustache bristling now..)

It occurs to me that our deecision-making skills are being over-burdened. Not with the quality of decisions we are being expected to make, but the speed in which we must make them.

Back in the days before penicillin and good oral hygeine (the so-called "good old days" when the average male would have been expected to die at age 50 ) the world had the leisure of being able to take a day or two to make a decision.There was no email demanding an instant answer: instead, there was a hugely unreeliable snail-mail. A letter was received, read, put aside, thought about,re-read, set aside for afternoon tea, discussed, set aside for a stirring game of croquet, discussed some more, then answered. Seven drafts would have been made. (Remember Mark Twain? He said something along the lines of "If I'd had more time, I'd have written a shorter letter.") Even so, he wrote with an early-design typewriter, laboriously. Each word was thought about.

In the financial sector, which globally managed to ignore the few wise men who raised their voices, hollering "The market has no wisdom! Market forces are a sham!", millions of decisions are made every minute ... by imperfectly programmed computers. We know they're imperfectly programmed, because they were programmed by people, and people always bring their prejudiceds, peccadilloes, facial twitches, and ugly personalities to all endeavours.

When I'm writing blogs, sending emails, grafting and drafting away on Facebook (yes! I know two things about Facebook now! Yay! Still can't put a photo up, but nonetheless progress is being made) the temptation is to rush into print. To answer qauickly, thereby demonstrating my extraordinary wit. Naturally, one is more likely to demonstrate one's remarkable half-wit.

The wheels of justice, they saw, grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. Legal decisions, especially ones that set a precedent, are made slowly. That's because they will impact on a vast number of people's lives. Yet financial market decisions that affect millions, perhaps billions, of dollar - and therefore tens of thousands of lives, are made in a micro-second. Often, by a machine. With no oversight. We allow it to happen.

Let's take a day or two to think about this. Then let's take to the time to draft a strong letter to the powers that be, asking that something be done to the fiunancial sector. I'm not advocating a return to the hide-bound, stuffy, over-regulated days of the pre-1980s. But I am suggesting that we set some rules in place that makes it impossible for a Madoff to steal up "up to US$150 billion dollars" in a Ponzi scheme. Yes, there are fools born every minute: people who will make bad or foolish decisions. But society is judged by how it protects its most vulnerable.

As an aside: Madoff stole between $US65 and 150 billion. It is worth noting that the money did not disappear. Unless Madoff got the physical cash, made a paper mountain of it, and burnt it - it still exists. The bean-counters and book-keepers may not know where it is, but it's still in circulation. A little de-valued, but still there. And you know something? Not one red cent of it is in the hands of small investors. The oft-touted trickle-down theory is wrong in one aspect only: the direction of the trickle.

READING: Went to Dymock's sale, and bought John Connolly's latest, "The Lovers". The man is incapable of writing a bad sentence.

LISTENING TO: Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends", their most complete album.

WORD OF THE DAY: Dad. My son is about to become a Dad, I lost mine a few months ago... and last night I dreamed that all four generations were together: George, Allan, Adam, and Georgia.

Time for some more Henry. Enjoy.

Of course, the one thing that Henry would want for, he couldn’t have.

Mary was still at school: this was to be her School Certificate year, and she would, of course, pass it with a breezy grin, and paint on her knuckles and nose.
Every morning, except for the time he had tonsillitis and the time she had measles and mumps, together, at the same time, measles and mumps, my word she was a sick puppy, every morning for ten years Henry had stopped at Mrs Pickering’s home to walk Mary to school. He had, of course, been teased by his schoolmates, but hey, he felt good when he walked with her, so they could all just boil their bums. Mary and Henry talked about this and that and everything in between, they sang the current pop songs and some of the old ones too, and they usually held hands. Well, he had to. He was caring for her, wasn’t he?
He didn’t always walk her home. As time went by, and as he grew, Henry began to take an interest in sports. He became a fine cricketer, fast-bowling an excellent and consistently deadly line and length, batting nicely at number three, and enjoying the risks of fielding at Silly Mid On. He grew up to be a tall, well-built boy, and was very fast on his feet – so he made both the Northridge Intermediate and High School’s athletic teams, as well as the First XV rugby teams. This, of course, meant he stayed at school after-hours for training, which he didn’t find easy at first, not knowing how Mary was, walking alone. But, of course, Mary had her friends, went to play at their homes, and also developed a keen interest in Netball and Badminton – sports she excelled at. She was a terrier on the court, scavenging and returning and passing ball and shuttlecock alike with passion, verve, skill, and total exuberance.
For ten years, rain, hail, and shine, Mary and Henry walked together to school. For the school holidays, they had spent more and more time in each other’s company, and in the company of each other’s friends. Eventually, Mary became one of the boys, while Henry could only become a stiffly formal outsider with Mary’s girlfriends.
Then came the summer Henry went to Wellington, and everything changed, was unmade, and then remade.
It must be said that despite having the appearance of someone who is slightly too tightly buttoned, Henry is a good-looking lad. In the summer of 1979 he reached his full height of six feet, two and a three-quarter inches, and his musculature was nicely defined, thank you very much. His face was losing its adolescent softness, and the angular planes and angles of maturity were starting to find their resolution. His dark brown hair was wavy and cut shorter than was fashionable, and he had a definite fondness for the browns and blues that made up his wardrobe. His white underwear was neatly folded and put into the second drawer down, beside his socks, with his rugby clothing in the third drawer, cricketing gear in the bottom drawer. His wardrobe was equally organised: summer to the right, winter to the left. Shirts first, then trousers, then his two good sports jackets, then the rainwear. Scarves and ties on a hanger, shoes and boots on a rack on the floor of the wardrobe.
By appearance, Henry was a prime candidate for the Young Nats, that hotbed of reactionary sheep-farmers’ sons and daughters. However, in those days Henry he leaned more to the left – and there was one young lady who discovered he also dressed that way.
Northridge is not a large town. In fact, in 1979 it barely qualified for township status. Things have changed now, of course, but when Henry left Northridge for the hellish sin-pots and stews of the big city, he was, to put it bluntly, naïve and gauche.

His head was easily turned.

Her name was, and quite probably still is, Hazel. Dark and exotic, with long, free hair, eyes that mimicked her name, a passion for running, and an easy manner, Hazel Anderson met Henry on the sports-field, and – after three months of teasing – introduced him to two things. No, three. Two he maintained an interest in, while the first – marijuana – simply made him sick. At the age of 45 Henry is still an avid Jethro Tull fan, and he still enjoys sex, but only a lot.
Hazel started meeting Henry at the caff at lunchtime: she knew his schedule, and made sure she was there. Yes, she chased him. Well, with his little woolly head stuffed with Business Management and Mary and Accounting 101 and Mary, he wasn’t about to go chasing her. So a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.
Only one of Henry’s old school chums had come to Vic with him: Spot, who was destined for a sticky end.
Spot had become a bit of a larrikin, a tearaway, a proper caution. He was flamboyant, made Boy George look like a Bavarian cigar-rolling nun, and was probably gay, but who can say now? It was Spot who told Henry that Hazel had the moists for him, and initially Henry laughed. It was nonsense! Why, Hazel had seen the photo of Mary! She knew, she knew – but then there came the lunchtime that Hazel asked Henry to the movies. Hazel was doing her anthropology thing, and that evening they were re-screening that old 1970 flick, “Love Story.”

Damn that Ali McGraw!

The poignancy, the melodrama, and Hazel’s warm left hand on Henry’s warm right thigh had an overpowering effect. Henry invited her home, put some music on the stereo, and Hazel opened a bottle of wine.
The rest, your honour, is history.
Henry was guilt-racked, and loved it. He continued seeing, being with, laughing with, and sleeping with Hazel for three months.
And then she moved on, and Henry went back to Northridge for the summer break.
Henry has never watched “Love Story” with Mary.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Scribbles II.

... as seen from Monday's perspective.

I have been almost at the point of admitting the brick wall that's in front of me is a little too high to climb, too thick to punch through, and far too wide to walk around.

In other words, I've been snivelling, and on the verge of giving up. No more.
This weekend has been one of various people caring enough tokick me in the arse. We had a visitor on Friday - the excellent PK - who reminded me once again that I'm a writer, and therefore am capable of ideas.

Last night, Chris and Lyndsay perfomed the encore: it was a bravura performance, and with their encouragement I resurrected an idea that just may work. All I need now is the necessary half-million dollars, but hey: why not?

So, I spent a relatively sleepless night, coming up with astonishingly good lines for a short TV programme "Around New Zealand in 80 Taonga". The stuff I was thinking up was blisteringly funny - of course, in the cold hard light of day I find all memory of these rib-splitting lines has gone. However, I have the germ of a workable idea, so will spend some time on it.

A short blog this morning -more of a diary entry, I suppose. I'll be back tomorrow with Some Thoughts.


Ted Dekker, "Adam". I read the odd Dean Koontz book: good, well-constructed, but mindless stuff. Ted Dekker belongs in the same brigade...

Robert Ryan, "Early One Morning". Very easily read adventure yarn, with some nice human interaction: a better class of potboiler. The man knows how to write about machinery.

I'm listening to Janis Ian's "Billy's Bones". Sweet heartache.

Scrofulous. Rough, untidy... a skin-diseased person, flakey and leprous, without any of the pleasant side-effects.

Here's more from Henry:

There are sirens now, and Henry’s feeling quite dizzy and detached. Six months. He notices James getting up and staggering away, but can’t focus on stopping him. His leg now hurts, sharp knives of pain razoring red-hot through the muscle and up into his back. I’m shot. How stupid.

Six months.

He could have killed me, and it would have been two minutes. Two seconds! And I didn’t tell Mary this morning. I didn’t tell her I love her. Well, she went out before I got a chance to. She told me, though. She told me she loves me, and I didn’t tell her, and six months. Why is everything happening so slowly? Blacked out. Yes. Six months. That little bugger just shot me, it could have been now, not six months, what are all these people doing here, who’s that, is that Wally? Yes, by gum. Wally. What are you saying, Wally?
“Mr Talbot, oh please Mr Talbot, we need to get you to hospital.”
Things clarify, crystallise, come into focus. Six months! Henry wets his lips, looks young Wally in the eye, licks his lips again, and says “Fuck off!”
Hell, that felt good. Charlie! Charlie, good of you to come. I think someone’s committed a crime. Right. Get the head together, I’ve got something that needs doing. I don’t have time for lollygagging, for wool-gathering, I mean look at this it’s no worse than a cut. Six months. I’ve got something to do, yes, and it’s got to start right now.

Chapter Four.
Love Songs of Old Girlfriends.1

At seventeen years of age, Henry went to the capital city, to partake of life at Victoria University. He would probably have preferred to go up north to Auckland’s fine centre of learning, but Henry’s Dad Henry went to Vic, and Henry’s Dad’s Dad, who was also a Henry, went to Vic, and sometimes the weight of the family’s history falls on reluctant shoulders. So it was that Henry the last hopped onto the overnight express and chugged off, with the hopes and dreams and aspirations of his family following him, and a fine New Zealand Railways meat pie and cuppa tea under his belt.
Well, that would be the romantic way of telling the tale, but in fact what happened was the entire family were shoe-horned into the Holden Kingswood, watch that paint Charlotte or by gum you’ll be washing her for a year, and drove Henry down. A bed-sit cum flat was found on Upland Road, we’ll not have you in those dormitories lad, hotbeds of sin they are, and a rather large amount of money was spent on making sure Henry would want for nothing. He had the stereo, the TV, the bed (single, of course), the desk, the bookshelves, Mum made sure the phone was connected “no, I want the phone connected here at 147 Upland Road by tomorrow, and the bill’s to come to me at 22 Talbot Terrace, that’s T-A-L-B-O-T, the same as my name, no not Augustine, young man: Talbot, at Northridge.” and Dad surprised him by giving him the model of the Mark VI Spitfire they’d made together when he was twelve, and a half-dozen bottles of beer as well. Mum wept copiously, the girls shrieked and giggled, baby John bellowed, and Henry put a photograph of Mary on the desk, and so they left him there, fiddling with the little dip-pen with the ivory handle with a little lens through which you could see a picture of the 1940 Exhibition.

Of course, the one thing that Henry would want for, he couldn’t have.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book of the Year - so far


Joseph O'Neill.

Joseph O'Neill is an Irish lawyer living in New York. "Netherland" tell the story of a cricket-playing expat Dutch banker who moved to New York shortly after 9/11.

I never thought I'd see those five words in conjunction: cricket-playing expat Dutch banker. But that's what Hans van den Broek is: he points out that cricket's been played in the Netherlands since the early 1800s - and that, in fact, cricket was a hugely popular sport in the USA in earlier times. There are, in fact, a numbe of cricket clkubs in New York, although the facilities are far from being the best. However, with a Caribbean population close to a million, New York would seem to be a breeding ground for a resurgence of the game.

But cricket itself, while important to the ethos of the novel, is almost incidental: O'Neill uses cricket as a McGuffin to delve into the heart of his baffled protagonist, who is struggling with the dissolution and resurrection of his marriage. Cricket is used as a metaphor for both New York and England (where Hans was living before moving to NYC with his English wife and child). The events of 9/11 are also a side-show, and are used mainly to provide a surface reason for Hans' wife, Rachel, to return to London.

The book goes a long way to dispelling the mythof the sturdy, stodgy Dutchman. Hans is introspective, yes, but certainly not a clog-footed plodder. And he is a technician with a cricket bat.

"Netherland" is not a particularly easy read. There's an idea and beauty in each sentence that means the reader must read, and re-read at least one paragraph on every page.

But O'Neill's writing is transcendant. The pages fairly glow with the luminescence of his words. Grace, beauty, and charm rub shoulders in every phrase.

I'll share one sentence with you, taken from a passage in which Hans is discussing the difference a poor American outfield makes to the game: "This degenrate version of the sport - bush cricket, as Chuck more than once dismissed it - inflicts an injury that is aesthetic as much as anything: the American adaptation is devoid of the beauty of cricket played on a lawn of appropriate dimensions, where the white-clad ring of infielders, swanning figures on the vast oval, again and again converge in unison towards the batsman and again and again scatter back to to their starting points, a repetition of pulmonary rhythm, as if the field breathed through its luminous visitors."

The book is at once a love story, a drama, a social commentary, a murder story, and a cultural comparison. It's sublime.

LISTENING TO: Well, the radio. Early in the morning, and Jenny's still asleep. But I do think I'll be listening to Pink Floyd a little later.

READING: Dan Simmon's "Hyperion", until it's finished. I've read this book at least a dozen times: it is, in many ways, a modern Pilgrim's Progress - and a critiquing of Keats' famous poem of the same name. Dreamy, vicious, and altogether stunning, it's hard science fiction mixed with a liberal dash of religious mockery. Lovely.

WORD OF THE DAY: Snaffle. We don't hear this word often these days, and it's such a brilliant sound. Snaffle - to take, surreptitiously.

Henry continues....

Chapter Three.
The Art of Being Slower Than a Speeding Bullet.

Getting shot in Northridge is, under normal circumstances, quite extraordinarily difficult to accomplish, and, to tell the truth, Henry hadn’t been looking to be one of the few Northridgians to bear the distinction of being a plugee.
Here’s how it happened.
Henry has been closeted with Joseph Know for half an hour, looking at the black and white pictures of the interior of his lungs and head. The conversation they’ve had is intense, and more than a little bewildering. It seems that Doctor Know suspects that Henry has a cancerous tumour in his lung, or at least a shadow which could well be a cancerous tumour, one which has which has spawned a related growth deep within his brain.
“But wouldn’t I have been in pain, Joseph? How can this thing, these things, grow inside of me without me knowing?”
“Cancer’s not always painful, Henry. In the latter stages, yes, many cancers do call for an intense pain management regime, but in the earlier stages – it’s as individual as your fingerprints. There’s often no telling. This one here, in your lung, the readers of the C.A.T. scan runes tell me that’s probably been growing for a couple of years.”
“Why didn’t they pick it up last time, then?’
“Too small. A tiny cluster of cells. And you’ve had no blood tests. I haven’t even seen you in the past two years. Professionally, that is. Apart from this potentially life-threatening shadow, you’re as healthy as a horse.”
“Six months, you reckon.”
“It could be a year, it could be – look, I’m just a G.P. you really need to see an oncologist. I’ve set up an appointment with Lake, Arthur Lake, up at Green Lane. Day after tomorrow. He’s really very good, an old friend, and –“
“But Mary, Joseph! Mary! Jesus!”
“Look. This may be a storm in a latte cup, it may be nothing. It could be a glitch in the machine.”
“But you don’t think so.”
“No. It needs looking into, straight away. Yesterday’s too late, Henry. Mary will be all right. You’ll not be doing her any favours if you –“
Yes, yes. All very well for you to say, Joseph, but I’ll be leaving Mary. I can’t. I mean, I can’t! I can’t leave Mary, she’s, her, she –
A strange panic starts to overtake Henry. He breathes deeply, calms himself, and says, “Yes, all right, Joseph. Tomorrow?”
“Day after tomorrow. Afternoon. 3.30. Henry – Mary will be looked after. God, I’ll marry her myself, a minute after your funeral.”
“Won’t Grace have something to say about that?”
“Grace?” All innocence, and a broad grin.
“Your wife.”
Henry’s calm now, but there’s a moth of fear beating in his belly, a twitching of spiders. He makes a conscious effort to ignore them, swallows, and stands, his face pale.
“Will you be all right, Henry?”
“Well, I shouldn’t think so. But I’ll be OK. I’ll head on home now, I think. Need to have a few words with Mary.”
The two men smile at one another, nod, and shake hands. Henry pockets the appointment card, and walks away from the pictures, those beautiful pictures that display the fragility of his life, those black and white pictures that may well spell his doom, and steps out into the street.
Doctor Know shakes his head. He’s never seen Henry Talbot come unglued before. Henry was the stalwart of the rugby team, the quiet centre at the bottom of the ruck. He was the man you could depend on to guard his wicket when all others were falling about him. Know looks down at the street as Henry leaves, and scrubs his face with his broad hands. The he walks to his credenza, and pours a cup of coffee.
To Henry, the street looks ridiculously normal. There’s Fred Warrington over there at the bookshop, buying his girlie magazines, Mona Stack coming from the Jean Shop, it’s about time she left that drunkard of a husband, by crikey if ever a man needed locking up it’s Jack Stack. There’s Bill Anderson looking at my car again, no Bill, I’ll not be selling it, not this year, and not to you. Mind you, you may only have to wait six months. Oh – got to pick up some stuff from the Supermarket. Cat food, dunny paper, um, stuff. Need some brandy and scotch, too. Better get some money from the ATM.
Card in, six months, PIN, I wish people wouldn’t say PIN Number, six months, the N stands for number doesn’t it, six months could be a year could be nothing, savings account, three hundred should do, what the dickens?
A sharp bang, and the bank widow cracks, a small hole appears between the t and p of Westpac. A man wearing a balaclava backs out of the bank, a gun in his hand, a revolver, and a black plastic garbage bag, in the other, he’s shouting, screaming.
“Stay down, everybody stay down!’ He raises the gun and fires twice at a security camera, and turns and there standing in front of him is Henry.
“Here. Do you want my money, too?” asks Henry. What do you think you’re doing, Henry? He’s got a gun in his hand! A gun! Damned if I know what I‘m doing, he thinks. But I’m doing it. He waves the slim wad of twenties, then flings them over the robber’s head.
Anyone, even a priest, would watch the money, and that’s what the robber does. His eyes go up, and Henry hits him three times with bunched fists, left to the face, right to the heart, left to the head, he’s going down, what –
As the robber falls, he squeezes the trigger on the gun, and the .22 bullet tears through Henry’s right leg, digging a clean hole through the meat of the calf-muscle, then spanging into Henry’s car’s headlight. Oddly, Henry doesn’t know he’s been shot until his leg collapses under him, a half-minute later. As it is, Henry bends down, grabs the robber’s balaclava, and tugs it off.
“Oh, Jimmy! What’s your mum going to say! She’s going to go crook about this, no mistake.”
It’s James Fletcher, from down Te Awe Street. He’s been in a few scrapes before, but this one takes the biscuit. Henry knows him from the Rugby Club, where he’s a lifetime member.
Now Henry’s leg gives way, and he falls beside the dazed boy. Well, no boy: Jimmy’s in his late 20s, and oh, for Pete’s sake, look at that!
“James! You shot my car! What did you shoot my car for?”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'm all a-Twitter

I joined Twitter recently. And went absolutely nowhere with it. I realised fairly early on that one really needs to stay looking at the screen 24/7, or carry around a cellphone answering Twittery-texts. Neither of which I'm prepared to do.

But I am reading an awful lot about how marvellous Twitter is: the social connectedness that lets one tell everyone else that you're having sliced banana with your cornflakes and yoghurt for breakfast is, apparently, an empowering thing.

Actually, I can't see it, myself. I couldn't care less what my friends, rellies, and favourite enemies are having for breakfast. Nonetheless, the challenge of writing pithily in 140 characters or less is intriguing. So, if I were to be someone who Twote on Twitter, here's what I'd tweet today:

Every time I approach a pedestrian x-ing in AKL, the traffic stops for me. Never saw that happen in Taupo.

Jenny read the first 20 pages of "Quiet Woman" the novella yesterday, and loved it. Will finish it, and get back to work on "47".

It just struck me: the new drink-drive crash commercial is a rip off of my short story, "47". Except my characters aren't drunk, or male.

Clio, our calico cat, has become very clingy since Spike died. The male cats next-door are becoming bold: have bought a water pistol. Splat.

Can't even get a job as a sh*t, p*ss, and blood courier driver. It's getting very annoying.
But Jenny may have a job! Yay!

Three days a week is better than nothing, and better than I'm doing: I've gone too long without work.

If you see me on a TV commercial, will you still respect me in the morning? Look for me on Shortland Street, a new Lotto commercial, and a new one for a telecommunications crown.

Be nice when they pay me.

Am listening to Antony & The Johnsons. Thought: are they the Johnsons that get swivelled on?

Have scored a couple of months free gym membership: body suffering, but arthritic pain going. All is good.

Am wondering if I'm running low on courage. I think I am. Will feel better after writing another 2,000 words of "Quiet Woman".

Have read "Transmetropolitan" comix. Add Warren Ellis to list of great comix writers.

Have looked at home bookshelves for something to re-read. Alexander pope recommends a re-read as being the best thing you can do to a book. Checking Adam Hall - better than Le Carre.

Thinking about Jenny: at 58, she's not beautiful. But she is the loveliest person I know.

Hmm. It seems you can get quite a lot communicated with just a few words. But is this stuff my precious friends, rellies, and favourite enemies need to know? Frankly, I doubt it. I can't help thinking that I just ain't that interesting.

WORD OF THE DAY: Melliferous. making or producing honey. Nice that it's so close to melliflous.

READING TODAY: I want to finish the O'Neill book (Netherlands) today, but probably won't. I keep putting it down and gasping. I'll tell you about it in the next post, but as an advance hint, here goes: it is, by miles and streets, the best book I've read this year. I'll give you a snippet from it tomorrow.

LISTENING TO: Antony & The Johnsons, "I'm a Bird". Sublime.

More about Henry.... and Mary, of course.

“Yes’m. He’s all right.” What’s up with her, then? Still, it is her brother.
“He’s all right? He’s been shot! What the hell’s Henry doing, getting shot?” Jesus Christ on a bloody pole!
“Don’t know, Marm.” Safe, that.
“Where?” Tell me, tell me he’s really all right.
“In the –“ God I don’t know, in the, in the, vague movements of the hand, pointing here, indicating there, flittering like a wounded sparrow’s wings, then settling on the backside. It, too, is cute.
“No. Whereabouts. What street. Where?” Snarling, very feral now, by god I’m a cop, I protect people like Henry, I don’t let people like Henry wander about getting shot. Shit. Shit. Shit!
“Ugglesworth Street, Miss. At the bank.” I’m the messenger! Don’t shoot m – oh.
“Marm.” A short bark. The, “ Which bank?” Christ! Henry?
“There’s only one bank on Ugglesworth Street, Mi- Marm.” Help!
“Ah. Right.” And Charlie is off, trailing Chanel Number 5 and the bittersweet tang of hot ginseng tea, which is soaking her blue slacks. Her car is a clapped-out Falcon, only four years old, come on you bitch start, start! On the way. What the hell has Henry been doing to get himself shot in the arse at a bank? Should have stopped to get more info. Watch the speed, watch the speed, don’t want to kill a kid.
Two more turns, and she’s on Ugglesworth Street, stopping clear of the cluster of flashing lights and noise and turmoil. She bullies her way through the crowd, accidentally oh so very sorry putting her entire weight onto the heel that crushes Jason Timmings’ in-step and makes him yelp in pain and almost but not quite drop his camera. Oh well, bad day at the paper, Jase?
Timmings is a journalist, and is Charlie’s second ex-husband. He is also an utter prick, and cares little that the victim is Charlie’s brother. Charlie breaks through the crowd, and sees Henry on the ground, sitting, leaning back against a lamp-post, and clutching his calf. Ah. Not in the bum, then. A paramedic, young Wally Simpson, who couldn’t blow his nose if his brains were dynamite, is trying to tell Henry that he needs to get on the trolley.
“Mr. Talbot, oh please Mr. Talbot, we need to get you to hospital.”
Upon which Henry says something, which he has never said in all his life, no, not for the whole 45 years, two months, one week three days and yes, 14 hours 7 minutes and timing of being.
He said, quite simply: “Fuck off.”

It’s strange how a sudden silence can deafen you.

Henry is quite possibly better known in Northridge than the mayor. Henry was born there, attended three schools there, joined the Scouts there, buried his father there, got married there, has lived with and loved Mary there, raised a son there, played cricket and rugby there, and almost everything else important in Henry’s life has been done there. But there two things Henry has never done there: one, he’s never gone to prison there, and two: he has never sworn. Not in public, not in private, not even when he thumps his thumb with a hammer. Well, almost never. More about that later.
Henry smiles, and licks his lips, as though savouring the flavour of the words.
“Yes, Wally. Fuck off. I am not going to hospital. I have a tiny wee hole in my leg, I am going to Doctor Know’s little surgery, and he will patch the tiny wee hole up. Ah, Charlie!”
Charlie is frozen. If Jason Timmings had copped a feel of her left breast she couldn’t have been more astonished. “Henry?” she says.
“Come on, Sis. Give me a hand up.”
“Did your jokers get the boy who did it? I thumped him pretty hard, but I’m afraid I don’t know –“
“Yeah, we got him, Henry.” This is Senior Sergeant Barry Thorndike, Charlie’s boss, and one of oh, about seven thousand men in Northridge who thinks Charlie has a terrific rear end. “We need you in hospital, mate, and I need a statement.”
Henry’s feeling rather good. “But I don’t need me in hospital, Bazza. So you can fuck off, too. If you want a statement, come around to my place in, say, an hour. Make it two. I’m feeling all weak, dazed, and girlish, and am in no fit state to be talking with coppers right now. And bring some Scotch with you. You owe me several gallons.”
Charlie helps Henry to his feet, and together they limp across the road to Doctor Know’s rooms. Tiny drops of blood mark their progress. Henry stops, turns around, and calls back to Thorndike.
“And malt, Bazza! The MacAllan!”
Charlie gets Henry to the doorway, and asks, “Henry? Are you all right?”
“Actually, Charlie, I really don’t think so, right now. I have to say that this being shot business hurts like, like –“
“Like hell?” She grins. Jesus. I’ve never seen Henry so unbent. Should have shot him years ago.
“Exactly. No: it hurts like fuck, dear girl. Now listen. Drop me off here at the Doc’s, there’s a good girl, and could you and Wolf get John and pop around home tonight? There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Wolf Schmidt is Austrian, and is also Charlie’s third husband, and it does look like a case of third time lucky. There’s a very good possibility that a man has never been so ill-named. He’s a weedy little man, a good foot shorter and 20 kilos lighter than Charlie, much given to wearing lederhosen at Christmas, smoking twisted cigars that are made by Bavarian nuns, and laughing recklessly at moody 1960s Scandinavian movies that drive everyone else to thoughts of self-immolation.
“Bullshit,” says Charlie. “I’ll wait here with you, and that’s fi-“
“You’ll do as I bloody-well ask, young lady!”
“Eh?” Charlie doesn’t know whether to be shocked or offended. This is a side to Henry she’s never seen.
“Please, Charlie,” conciliatory now. “It’s important. Hello, Madge.” This last to the good Doctor’s receptionist, who is looking horrified at Henry. “Sorry about the language, and get Joe into your patch-up room. Now.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Talbot.” says Madge. She flees, and Joseph Know makes his presence felt.
“Och, we-eell, noo, and whut are we havin’ here Janet?”
“Oh, lord,” Henry’s request for on-high comfort is not answered.
“Back so soon, Henry? Och aye the noo! Charlie! Long time no see, and I’m all the poorer for it. Has Henry told you about his –“
“Later, John,” snaps Henry. “Time to stitch me up, and we’ll –“
“But you will tell –“
“Would everyone for fuck’s sake belt up?” Henry’s is delighting in the word, and is relishing the power of it. Charlie sits down.
“Charlie – about Wolf and John? Please – get them together, and come around home in a couple of hours. No. No. Better make it tomorrow. Have them come tomorrow. You too. No. Not then. I don’t know. Bother.” That’s more like it, thinks Charlie. Henry carries on “Can you come around tonight, alone? There’s something I need to get sorted, and I think Mary will need you. Yes. I’ll do the report thing with your boss tomorrow morning. Oh – and call Alison, next door, and ask her to look in on Mary, and to stay with her until I get home. Or better yet whip round there yourself, there’s a love. Let her know I’m all right, and it’d be nice if you were there to kick Jason Timmings in the arse if he shows up.”
“OK, Henry.”
“It’s important, Charlie. Really important.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Murder's not easy to contemplate...

Murder's not easy to contemplate, but I find myself harbouring homicidal thoughts every day. And none of your namby-pamby single shot to the heart, Mrs Plumbags, it were painless when young Bertie died, you can take some comfort there.


I'm talking the rending of flesh, the tearing of limbs asunder from their neighbours. I'm considering the wielding of blades. Large ones, preferably not too sharp, and with a nice degree of flaky rust. Just to increase the pain factor. I want no boiling in oil - I want a nice slow poaching, in diluted suphuric acid. I want pain, and gibbering victims.

And who is that so annoys me? Well, tv commercials will do as a starter for five. That fellow from the Tower Insurance commercials deserves to die a death of a million paper cuts. Mind you, that could be personal: I am convinced that the chap or chapette who wrote the thrice-damned scripts must know my ex-wife, and certainly saw us in action. Me crawling, her condescending. Which ex, I'm not saying... just in case the right one reads this. I'm no fool.

Tony, the screaming banshee from the tyre shop deserves the chop. No, not the lamb chop with a nice dribble of mint sauce. The chop from the headsman's axe. Starting at the soles of the feet, slicing off a centimetre at a time as he works his way up. Chop. chop, axeman! If there was ever a commercial designed to send people potential customers ruishing in droves to Beaurepaires, it's the Tony's Tyre Service ones.

Then there's the dozey ones for some European heater. It says I can install these heaters. Well, whoop-te-do. It does not give me a reason for doing so. It says I can fit these heaters in my living room. Yippee! What a novel thought. It tells me they were designed. I nearly fell off my sofa at that. Fancy - a product that's been designed. It tells me that these European heaters (I still haven't actually remembered what the product name is..) will - wait for it - yes, heat my home. Actually, it says they can heat my home. There's a potential, but no promise.

What utter morons.

Then there's the hopeless hacks who write the tv "news". The quote marks are unfortunate, but apt. I believe that the words television and journalist, when put together, constitute this generation's oxy-moronic answer to the 20th Century's "military intelligence". There is now bugger-all news on either TV1 or TV3's week-night commercial offerings. What there is, is pandering nonsense. And badly written scripts for the pretty actors to read, and never consider what they're saying. We were shown shots of the annual money-fest that's Wimbledon tennis. the VO guy blithered that Roger Federererer had handily won his sixth Wimbledon opening match against China's Shan Li Tuck... or whoever. Actually, this was the first time RF had played against the hapless Chinese gentleman. His previous five opening Wimbledon matches had been against other people. Perhaps if the comments person had been Keith Quinn, who vilely told us while commentating the Beijing Olympics opening that he couldn't tell one Chinese person from another, I would have understood the oafish statement. Unfortunately, sports journalists in particular make this error. The sentence should have read "Roger Federerererer easily beat Shan Li Tuck in his opening match at Wimbledon. This is Federerererer's sixth Wimbledon tournament."

Then there's the hapless and hopeless people who write the real estate ads for their "marketing" magazines: Harcourt's blue book, etc. These people are, at best, semi-literate. And we entrust them with our properties, worth a decade or more of the average wage. What the?

And we put up with it. Commercials written by dickheads. Commercials that present us with half-facts, opinions, and cliched characters. News written by drooling English-as-a-second-language simpletons. Fools like me who turn over their hard-earned homes to venal belly-crawlers to sell at ridiculously deflated prices....

Ah well. At least tonight's news didn't feature a "something happened on a passenger aircraft today, and no-one was hurt" story. What's with that? I didn't break my legs today, but that didn't make it to the news...


The sclera is the white of the eye. There's only one animal that shows the sclera at all times - yep, humans. OK, OK, it's not on display when the eyes are shut, but you know what I mean.


Raising Sand. little Bobby Plant and wotsername. Led Zep it ain't. Really nice, it is.


OK, just finished the del Toro book, "The Strain". It's the first of as projected trilogy.. and is seriously scary. Wonder if they're going to make it into a movie?

Speaking of which, I mentioned Gaiman's "Coraline" yesterday, and suggested it would make a good movie. Ten minutes after posting, I was looking through the NZ Fillum Festival booklet.. and there it is. Not directed by Jackson, obviously... but it looks good.

Here's the next installment of "For the Love of Henry". Look - we made it to Chapter Two.

Chapter Two.
The Ties That Bind.

At six feet and three inches in his rugby socks, Henry’s brother John towers over his older sibling by a quarter of an inch.
John and Henry’s parents, the third Talbot owners of 22 Talbot Terrace, raised four children there. Henry is the oldest, and he carries the burden and occasional embarrassment of that appointment with dignity. The Talbots, with some precision, spaced their children 5 years apart, so the order goes as follows: Henry, 45; Sybil, 40; Charlotte, 35; and John, 30.
John has been a representative rugby player, and once trained with the All Blacks. He claims to be glad not to have made the grade to play with the world’s finest rugby team, but is also cheerfully aware that everyone knows he is lying through his teeth. His rugby career is now over: he broke his right leg and hip while tackling a spectacularly ferocious South African lock two years ago in his first, and only, Super Twelve game, a laughable three minutes after taking the field. His consolation was that he stopped a certain try, and that he got to keep the jersey, which he now wears while tending his motorbike.
Unlike his three siblings, John Talbot is unmarried. Charlotte married her third husband last year. Being a cop, she says, is bloody murder on relationships. It was Detective Sergeant Charlotte Schmidt of the Northridge Police who phoned John to tell him of Henry’s being shot.
The older sister, Sybil, is on her second marriage. The first lasted less that a year, and was already a distant memory when Sybil graduated from Victoria University, a Master’s degree with honours in her hand, and a desire to forget everything she had ever discovered about Etruscan pottery. Sybil lives in Wellington now, with her 50-year old husband, Micah, who has four, yes four, PhDs to his name. John calls him a double paradox, not realising the joke is older than the one about the Englishman who walked into a bar and said “ouch.” It was John who called Sybil to tell her about Henry’s extraordinary afternoon adventure of being a shootee, and it was Sybil, in turn, who called the old lady of the family, Mother Gussy Talbot, to tell her of her older son’s celebrated courage and holey state.
Mother Augustine “call me Gussy, darling, everyone does,” Talbot lives on a small Greek Island, and has been there for 18 years in splendid widow-hood, comforting her grief with a succession of local and exotic lovers. The current one, much to Sybil’s chagrin, is an Etruscan potter. For a woman of 62 years Gussy Talbot is very well preserved, passing for 47 if the sun is on the horizon and she‘s in front of it, and she can drink most men under the table. When Sybil phoned, the old lady said “Well, fuck me!” laughed, and called out to Adam, Henry and Mary’s son, who had been spending the summer with Nana Gus for two adventurous years. Adam, who has the best features of both his parents, poured a glass of grappa, and toasted his perforated parent.
Detective Sergeant Charlotte Schmidt (Charlie to her friends, even the ones behind bars) had been engaged in the very serious business of making a cup of ginseng tea when word of the shooting went through the Northridge Police Station. Initial reports were somewhat garbled, and Charlie was pleased that she was coming off duty when the call came in about a bank robbery and shooting. Charlie had been on duty for over fourteen hours now, and was, to put it bluntly, knackered.
“Let some other simple bugger take it,” she thought. There was the usual clamour, the moments of panic when a serious crime was about to be attended, along with the vague terror which accompanies the thought “Is / are the bad guys still there?”
Charlie was about to take her well-earned first mouthful of ginseng, ah yes, so nice, when the tousled and impossibly cute head of the 19-year old office girl, wossername, Jill, stuck itself around the door frame.
“Um, excuse me, Miss –“
“Marm,” snarls Charlie. It doesn’t hurt to keep the little buggers off guard.
“Marm. Um, the um, victim, the um, well –“
Charlie is in a particularly foul mood right now. Hers hasn’t been the best of days, and it is now in the process of being properly buggered up.
“Yes? What?”
“The victim, Marm. At the bank. It’s your brother, Marm.”
“Oh, Christ. John!”
The cup took a long time to fall to the floor. It turned once, the pale green tea fanning out in an Oriental arc of flavour.
“No, Marm. It’s - ” Quick look at the paper in my hand, quick, quick, where is it oh shit other hand she’s a hell-bitch who’ll kill me if I don’t get this right. “Henry?”
“Eh?” Who?
“Henry?” Oh god, let it be right, yes, Henry.
“Henry’s been shot?” The Moon’s just fallen into the Pacific Ocean, yes. Brad Pitt has sent me a Valentine’s card, yes. But Henry? Getting shot? Never.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Past as Future Positive

A couple of years ago I was making a good shot at finally getting the degree that I wanted. I had cheated my way to semi-Bachelor's status when I was young, by attending lectures at Victoria University without being enrolled. This time, I was a fair-dinkum student.

One of the papers I did was all about the 60s: how those precious ten years made up the Decade of Change. I argued that the change was not, in fact, wrought by the baby-boomers, but instead by their parents. The parents were the ones who had lived through decade of strife, hardship, and terror - and they were the ones who looked at the children they were rearing, and gave them the permission to break away from the militaristic hardscrabble rules of necessity they had been bound by.

It was, it seems, a reasonably controversial view. While I did receive an A- for the paper, I also received a seven page long counter-argument that once again gave credit to the kids for seizing the freedom impewritive from their parents, who were inescapably part of the great military-industrial complex, and therefore doomed.

I'm not convinced. I do think that the youth of the 60s wouldn't have been able to change the world if their parents hadn't been wanting change as well, and in fact encouraged their kids to go ahead a rebel a bit.

Now, it seems, I have an ally. Fred Kaplan - a liberal writer from Noo York. He's just released a book called "1959 - the year everything changed". See http//

This article provides you with a synopsis of the book, and a link to a chapter. I think he makes a good case - but then, I would: he is, after all, agreeing with me.

Kaplan also points out that there are paralells between then and now: pleasantly, a tidy 50 years seperates 1959 from 2009, and once again it seems the world may be on the edge of major change. Trivially, of course, there's the similarity between Kennedy and Obama. Both charismatic, both eloquent, both young, both challenging. The world is at a crux. In 1959, we saw the birth of the rocket age, and the race for space. now, we have the meltdown of thre world's financial services, and a massive understirring of discontent in he so-called (and erroneously called) Muslim world. My prediction there? The protests in Teheran will be stampedout, bloodily - but will be revived in Saudi Arabia. Ifr ever there was a society that was over-ripe for a backlash against the iron boot, it's that filthy Kingdom.

We're looking at a major revolution in the way the world's finances are structured. The anything-goes market-forces chaos of the past twenty years cannot continue. What we've seen over the past two decades has been a war: one conducted by the very rich against the Wests's middle class, and, eventually, against the world's poor. The trickle-down theory proved to be an arid promise within years of its promulgation. The easy access to expensive credit has nearly bankrupted the West.

The scorn the media has had for science and rationalality has been nothing short of criminal. The credit given to, and the rise of magic, superstition, and religion (all the same side of the same evil coin) has led millions of otherwise rational minds to totally lose their focus.

We are on the edge of another space-race: this one led by privateers like Branson. The telecommunications revolution has only just started: twenty years ago the cell-phone was a rarity, and reserved for the corporate wealthy. Now, an eight year old feels deprived if s/he doesn't have one.

Change is occuring, and the mistakes of the past fifty years are coming home to roost. And it's grand.

The lessons of our past indicate our future.


If you want to know stuff, you ask either a taxi driver or a hairdresser. It's a facile old saw, but there is truth in it. Jenny's just returned from the hairdresser: she has a job interview tomorrow, and wants to look her best. Her hairdresser also attends to the tonsorial needs of a number of real estate thieves. Sorry, I meant to write "real estate agents", but my id became dominant for a moment.

Apparently, women tell their hairdressers things they won't tell anyone else - and these honourable and ethical stars of the real estate "industry" (an industry that has never actually made anything) have told their hairdresser that Auckland's houseprices havenj't really dropped, that there's a realshortage of housing, and that it takes,n average, four weeks to sell a property.

I'll leave you to formulate the questions. As for me - well, I think that a white sheet, a conical hat and mask, and a good Real Estate Guide burning might be in order.

Reading List:

I've finished the Elizabeth Knox book, Daylight". Um. I don't know. A solid 6 out of 10.Possibly more of a woman's book, but Jenny tells me she can't get into EK, and I respect her judgement. I'll give "The Vintner's Luck" (?) a go.

Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" has also been finished. The man is a genius. Someone should put him into a small room with the first 58 lines of Xanadu, and tell him to finish the damned thing. There should be a warning on each gaiman book, comic book, kid's story, or novel: READING THIS BOOK MAY MAKE YOUR BRAINS LEAKOUT OF YOUR EARS. If Peter Jackson hasn't read "Coraline" yet, he should. It would be a superb movie.

I haven'tpicked up anything new, yet - I have a copy of the Mindfood magazine in the dunny. Hmm. Not sure about it.

MUSIC LISTENED TO WHILE WRITING THIS: Maggie Bell,"Queen of the Night". Europe's astonishing answer to Janis Joplin.


The Word of the day: agonic. The magnetic line along which the compass needle points directly North and South.

It's a lovely word, the reminds me of the astonishing fact that a compass needle, while pointing North, also points South. There are two points of view for everyting.

The next few pages of "For the Love of Henry" follow.

So it wasn’t the fact that Mary had gone for one of her walks, halfway through breakfast, which changed Henry’s life. It was, after all, just another Tuesday. Henry has noted her absence in his black leather pocket note book, and notes with some satisfaction that his theory about her absent-minded perambulations seemed to be correct. It did happen more often on a Tuesday. Why this should be Henry doesn’t know, but he takes some satisfaction for knowing that it is so.

What changed Henry’s life so much may have had more to do with the fact that his doctor phoned him shortly after lunch-time as he sat at his desk watching over the fortunes of the clients of McAlester, Brunton, and Whey, Barristers and Solicitors to the good folk of Northridge.
Henry started working for Northridge’s premier legal firm 21 years and four months ago, when Mary and he had returned from their honeymoon in the Marlborough Sounds, where they had made clumsy but excited love, and when he had been happier than he had ever been before. Five years later Henry had been made a full partner in the firm, but requested that his name not be added to the already impressive line-up of names on the letter-head. “After all,” he explained, “I’m not a lawyer. I am an accountant. If we put my name on the window, people will ask me about their traffic fines and pre-nup agreements when they attend one of Mary’s get-togethers.” And so it was. The Talbot moniker, noble though it may be, was not writ in gilt on the window. Henry never said this, because he wasn’t truly aware that he thought it – but it must be said that under everything, Henry was well-satisfied, because the only gold he wanted in his life was that one puzzling fleck in his Mary’s eyes.
The doctor who, for over 15 years, has attended Henry, Mary, and their son Adam is an eccentric character, much given to his excellent and excited impressions of Doctor Finlay’s older medical partner whose name no one remembered, from the 1960s’ TV programme which hardly anyone recalls. One person who does seem to remember the character is Mary Talbot, who bellows with unladylike laughter every time he says something like “Ah yes, Doctor Finlay, that’s all verra weell for those high and mighty types in Hamilton, but we’ll no’ be tryin’ sich radical remedies as this, what is it now, Ass-pirr-in? here in the glen, och no.”
However, it wasn’t to discuss aspirin with Henry that the good doctor telephoned.
Four days previously Mary and Henry had been booked in for a CAT scan at the local hospital. This is part of Henry’s health and fitness regime: his father, also a Henry, had dropped dead on the kitchen floor at number 22 Talbot Terrace the age of 49, just seconds after giving Henry’s Mother a serious open-mouthed kiss. Henry was determined to do all he can to avoid a similar fate, without going to the extreme of avoiding French-kissing in the kitchen. Following in your father’s footsteps is all very well, but it can be taken to extremes. Henry is now 45, remarkably fit, with a heart that could power an Olympic athlete or two, and a blood pressure so perfect that the good doctor swoons like a Southern belle, honey-chile, every time he hauls out his sphygnamometer. So it is that every two years Henry and Mary undergo a battery of tests, are probed, poked, and prodded, their urine, stools, and blood investigated and analysed, and miraculous machines are employed to photograph their interiors. The doctor, whose name, un-nervingly, is Joseph Know, called Henry at 1.43 on Tuesday the 3rd of June, and said that he needed to see him, and straight away.
“What’s it to do with, Joseph?” Henry asks.
“I’d rather not talk about it on the ‘phone, Henry. There was something in your CAT scan.”
“My CAT scan? Come on, Joe, I’m as fit as the proverbial Stradivarius.”
“You would come if I said it was to do with Mary.”
“It hasn’t, so I won’t. Tomorrow. I’ll come tomorrow. I really do have a lot on my plate right now.”
“Today, Henry. It really is quite important. Be here in half an hour. I’ve cleared my appointments.”
“I’m sorry, Joe. I can’t. I’m really terribly busy. I’ll see you tomorrow. Have Madge book me in for tomorrow morning sometime.”
“I’ll not take no for an answer, Henry.”
“You’re destined for disappointment, then.”
“Hmp. We’ll see about that.” And with that, Doctor Joseph Know hung up. Henry looks at his receiver, and places it carefully on the cradle. He taps it twice with his forefinger, thinks a moment, shrugs, and then goes back to the Moorehouse spreadsheet, and concentrates on the May figures. There’s something wrong there, and, dammit, I’m going to find out, but what if it is Mary? Joe Know really should have told me more.
Henry looks up at the round and polished face of Paul Brunton, senior partner, and sighs.
“Paul. What can I do for you?” For the seven-thousandth time, Henry looks at Paul Brunton and wonders why he isn’t on the family farm, slapping the Friesian heifers into line. This is a man who makes bucolic sound like a towny’s patio pot.
“Um – Joseph Know just called. Said he wanted to see you. Said it was urgent. Said you’d brushed him off.”
“This report’s urgent, Paul. It’s probably just something to do with Mary. That’s all.”
Just something to do with Mary. That’s all? Henry curses himself, blushes, and looks down apologetically at the photo he keeps on his desk. Mary, in an impossibly bright summer dress, laughing, at her easel, paintbrush in hand. Mary is never “that’s all,” and you know it, Henry Talbot.
“No,” says Paul. “I want you to go. Joseph says it’s a serious matter, and while he can be a bit of a fool with one too many of my gins inside him, I think you should listen this time.”
Henry’s face flushes with anger. “Very well. Very well. I suppose I can be happy that Mary never nags me. I have friends who do it for her.”
Henry stands, straightens his tie, buttons his waistcoat, puts on his blue pin-striped suit jacket, smoothes his thick hair, packs his briefcase, goes downstairs, and drives his 1972 Rover 3000 to Albert Street to see Doctor Know, where he is told that he may have less than six months to live.
This, of course, would upset any man, and Henry is no exception. After all, he exercises regularly, eats well, and does everything he can to outlive his Father, and the boom is lowered, four years earlier. For goodness’ sake, Henry has eaten bran for breakfast every day for the past 12 years! Bran!
But, to be honest, this news wouldn’t have changed his life much, if at all. After all, a “may” is a long way from being a “definitely”, and Henry’s naturally phlegmatic personality would probably have demanded that he sort things out, update the Will, and put on a happy face while waiting for the inevitable.
So the six months verdict, while a matter of concern, wouldn’t have done the trick. What did change Henry’s life was the somewhat casual way he got shot.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sunday Scribbles I

It's just gone 8 on Sunday morning, and it's cold.

There are things I don't want to do in the weekend, and thinking is one of them. So I'll simply dedicate the next few minutes to making a coupleof observations.

I was aking myself wther romance is really possible in a marriage that's gone on for over a decade (11 years! It's a record for me.) when Jenny walked past me and patted my bum. It mjay not be romance, but it's pretty close.

"Unfair," cried the Chinese Murderer."Unfair." It's not xenophobia that's made me forget the Chinese Murderer's name: it's simply the time of the day. But I saw his so-called "outburst" on the news last night. If that wasn't pre-planned, then George W. should get the Nobel Prize for Oratory. Unfortunately, the Chinese Murderer is not a good actor. He actually smirked as he called out the word. So much for him; let him rot in hell, and have a Mongrel Mob member as a cell-mate.

Has Goldstein worn out his welcome? The latest offering from ther ASB, which has the character breasthlessly doing his schtick to promote the ASB's support for the Ambulance Service is pathetic. When Goldstein first burst onto our TV screens he was a breath of fresh air. Now he's stale, tired, flate, and should go back to Kansas, Toto.

Ditto for the shaven-haired oliagenous creep who does the Mitsubishi air-con heat-pump commercials. OK, so they're very, very quiet. And Mr Baldy has a rich, brown velvet voice. But I want someone to take him out of my misery.

As if religion doesn't already have a lot to answer for: the merrily be-turbanned Ayatollah Khamanie is now saying that if someone gets shot in Tehran, then it's their own fault. Yeah? What about the ill-educated thug into whose hands you put an automatic weapon, Aya Baby? And what about the dodgey election you and your fascist friends stole? But I'm forgetting: the militia is part of God's Army, and can therefore do no wrong. Blaming a victim of oppression for being oppressed is so true to what's rotten in the heart of religion that I was not at all surprised to see the A.K. making that sort of statement.

The next-door neighbour's cats have become home invaders since Spike Malone died. Despite the fact that he was a useless brawler (having three legs put him at a major disadvantage) he was a Tom. He's gone, the neighbours cats are trying to terrorize Granny and Cleo. Old Granny Cat's putting up a fierce resistance, but she's 20 years old. So I got myself a bright red and yellow water pistol. It seems to be working. I've nailed two cats so far: it's astonishing what a thrill it is to be a protector.

I dropped three books back to the Library yesterday, and came out with seven. Sigh. I already have a knee-high pile that needs my attention. Still, four of my new borrowings were comic books: Two Transmetropolitans, two DMZs. Transmetropolitan is sheer genius - nasty, rabid, gonzo cominc-bookery - and will never be turned into a movie. DMZ is simply bleak: the triumph of tiny hopes in an overwhelming world. Good stuff.

Who is the greatest comic-book writer? I've narrowed it down to three: Frank Miller, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. Expect that list to change at least oh, twenty times this year.

LISTENING TO: Neil Young's "Silver and Gold". Man's a genius.

READING LIST: Hasn't changed since Friday: didn't read much of anything yesterday.

Here's the next installment of "For the Love of Henry":

And eighteen years later, he did.
Actually, Mary annoyed Henry a little on their wedding day. Mary arrived at the Northridge Botanical gardens – for that’s where they were married under a brilliant blue sky, studded with marshmallow clouds - 10 minutes and 53 seconds late, which meant that Henry’s entire timetable for the day had been thrown out of kilter. Nevertheless, Henry had forgiven her immediately, as he knew she knew he would, and has now loved her as his wife for 21 years, four months, 14 days, and by golly 4 hours twelve minutes more.
The home that Henry and Mary Talbot share, 22 Talbot Terrace, is a splendid 1920s Californian bungalow, which Mary has completely renovated, and redecorated on at least eight different occasions.
The house is the same one in which Henry and his brother and sisters were born and raised: it had fallen to his trusteeship when his father had died. In fact, our Henry is now the fifth Henry Talbot to live at 22 Talbot Terrace. The house that stands there now is the second, the first having been destroyed by fire in 1922.
It is easy to see the two personalities at work in the home; Henry’s study is, in fact, a study in brown, designed and decorated almost purely from the pages of 1960s Popular Mechanics magazines. It has a manly bookshelf, a manly desk, a manly swivel chair, and a paint-by-numbers picture of a manly three-masted clipper ship beating to windward around a manly Cape Horn. The painting is truly appalling, but it was made by Henry‘s son Adam, at the tender age of seven, and as such is a work of genius. The question of whether the sails should be that astonishing turquoise colour, instead of snowy white should properly be left unbroached. The desk, a manly antique, is decorated with a pipe rack, a small collection of leather-bound books by Dickens and Thackeray and Conrad held upright by a pair of ebony elephants, a conch-shell which Mary had found on a Fijian beach, and a replica six-gun with which Henry fiddles – who knows what evil lurks, and so on - while he attends to the bills and accounts, on the 17th of every month, rain, hail, shine, or childbirth. There are also three photo-frames: one with a fifteen year old photograph of Mary, one of a grinning gap-toothed and freckle-faced Adam, and the third one empty. It is to this featureless one that Henry often turns his iron-grey eyes.
On the 1960’s style Public Service desk blotter rests his very anachronistic laptop computer. There’s an ink-stand, and a beautifully made ivory pen that has a tiny lens in the handle, which, when held up to the eye, shows a panorama of the 1940 exhibition in Wellington.
Two walls are covered with thickly-packed bookshelves, containing almost every book that Henry’s ever read with pleasure. There are novels of an historic nature, populated by swashbuckling heroes, beautiful women, and much derring do. There are science fiction books, slim and groaning volumes of poetry, a careful selection of biographies, autobiographies, hagiographies, and memoirs. Over there you’ll find the Playboy magazines he bought (for the pictures) when he was a teenager, and next to them a history of ancient Greece. There you’ll find a book about the Peloponnesian War nestling against his twenty-three Famous Five books, one signed in ink by Enid Blyton. You could fossick and poke around in Henry’s bookshelves for a day, and still not truly get any true idea of what it is that’s made him the person he is. The bookshelves are Henry’s greatest expression of eccentricity. In fact, many people who don’t know Henry all that well would say that they are his only expression of individuality. Those people shall take up very little space in this story, and rightly so, for they are the people who know Henry least.

So much for them.

Henry’s study is crammed with his life as a person. His home overflows with his life as a man married to Mary. His home is filled to the brim with his life as a father.
Henry doesn’t have much time for new things, while Mary delights in the newness of each and every day.
The living room, kitchen, bathroom, master, and guest bedrooms have all been touched by Mary’s extravagant hand. Great swathes and splashes of vivid colours run rampant through the house. There are vibrant rugs, thrilling wallpapers, paintings and prints that explode messily. It is a chaos of colour and activity that seems to somehow soothe, and makes the visitor glow with well-being and good cheer.
There is one painting that is extraordinarily important to the pair of them, but you’ll see and hear more about that later.

Nothing like a little suspense to keep the juices flowing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Keeping it Simple

If there's one lesson that everyone needs to learn in life, it's this: keep it simple.
I've found that the more I've complicated my life, the less successful I've been at living it. Jenny and I recently celebrated her Mother's 90th birthday. OK, right now we're broke. We couldn't afford to do the huge slap-up meal that we usually do. When we had the wherewithal to splash out, we did.; this time, I simply spent a few more hours in the kitchen, and knocked up a beouf bourgignon (The spelling looks suspect there).
This was probably the most successful celebration dinner we've had. A simple casserole, a bunch of veges (I hate the modern abbreviation of "veggies": the double g, to my mind, gives a hard g sound, as in egg. Mind you, I'm having a hard time thinking of another word with a single internal g that gives us a j sound.) and some good guests. It was simple, and the thing that made it simple was the emphasis being taken away from the food, and being placed on the person who had reached a pretty bremarkable milestone.
I've recently attended some computer lessons at a local polytech: they're free, and remarkable. There's a room, a bunch of computers, a tutor, and a bunch of books. The tutor doesn't tute, unless asked. Each individual knows what s/he wants to learn,or brush up on, so grabs the appropriate book, and a 'pooter. Then they go at it, hammer, tongs, and anvil. If they strike a problem, they hold their hand up, and the tutor comes and does his thing. Simple.
Attending this class, I re-discovered the thing that's been drumming itself into my head for the past ten years: I ain't half as clever as I thunk I was. I knew the basics of a few programmes, but hadn't reallymined their potential. I've gotten along reasonably well knowing what I do know, but life would have been a lot simpler, and elegant, if I'd taken the time to learn how to do things properly.
Simplicity often comes through a process of learning the complexities. I think it was Talleyrand who told us to know ourselves, and I'm finding that there's a lot of wisdom in that thought. Unless I really knowmyself, there's no way I can know another. In the past I've made the mistake of trying to know and anticipate the needs of a "significant other" before I've taken care of my needs. Selflessness, etc. Didn't work then, doesn't work now, probably won't work in the future. When the 'plane's fallingout of the sky, attend to your own oxygen first, then take care of the kids. It's simpler, and more effective, to be selfish before being altrusitic. This is not to say that a selfish person knows what it's all about: far from it. It's all about motivation: if your porimemotivator is to take care of your wife's / husband's needs, make sure you're well sorted first. Then you'll be able to take care of your spouse.
I started this blog by entitling it "Keeping it Simple". It hasn't ended up adhering to the title - but then, that's what Maundering is all about.

Reading at the moment:

Same as yesterday, but remoive Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" book, and add Dan Simmons' "Hyperion". I find I have to read Hyperion every two or three years: it's a moder-day "Canterbury Tales".

Music: I've been listening to Gillian Welch's "Time - The Revelator". Talk about keeping it simple!

I've decided to share "For The Love of Henry" with you, a few pages at a time.

Chapter One.
Love Comes Dressed in a Green School Blazer.

Henry Talbot‘s life took an unexpected turn on March 3rd. It started with Henry’s wife Mary rising from the breakfast table, walking to the door, and leaving him, gently passing her fingers over the empty photo-frame that sits on the kitchen bench as she went.
Actually, Mary unexpectedly leaves Henry at least once a week; often, more often. Mary is a person who thinks that she must go and do something, and then goes ahead and does it, ignoring all other demands a loving husband or son may lay upon her. Mary is a woman whose sunny nature out-Polly-Annas Polly-Anna; she is invariably cheerful, a creature of happiness: everybody in Talbot Terrace knows her, and welcomes her when she drops in to tend their gardens, which is something she does with regularity.
Physically, Mary Talbot is petite: five foot four, a heart-shaped face framed with brilliant red hair, bright green eyes – the left one with a single gold fleck cast amidst the emerald. Or is it? Henry’s bemused by the gold fleck. It seems to change places. Although this is another thing he has attempted to note in his black leather bound notebook, it all became far too confusing, and he gave it up after only, oh, four years. On cloudy days it seemed to Henry that the gold fleck would brighten the lower left part of Mary’s right iris. On sunny days, it could take position in either eye, but at the one o’clock position. When Mary was in a pensive mood, her oracular auric glimmer would glimmer in the left eye, 11 o’clock. Mary’s eye sat either side of a pert nose, over high cheekbones, and glowed when her full lips smiled. Her still-slim legs are occasionally betrayed by her feet, which a purist would say are two sizes too large. Her figure is no longer trim and taut, but why should it be? She’s past her fortieth year, and is happy to let the signs of aging show. Although, to be fair, it must be said that some of the bitchier residents of Northridge have gossiped about Mary Talbot’s bouts with the cosmetic surgeon’s scalpel. These rumours that are totally without foundation: Mary’s figure and face retain a natural vitality.
In her wardrobe, Mary favours clothing styles that may well have seen their hey-day in the 1950s. The swirling sun-frocks, the wide belts, the tailored cocktail dresses, the gloriously extravagant hats, the deadly stiletto-heeled shoes. She loves fabrics that vibrate with life and colour, and has almost never worn black, brown, or taupe. Mary Talbot, in short, is the embodiment of all that made Debbie Reynolds and Doris Day so immensely popular. She is, in every admirable way, the girl next door.
Mary has a way with plants that is almost miraculous. It seems that she has only to touch a plant for it to perk up, and put on a display that would make a peacock blush with shame. Henry Talbot, ever sensible, snorts with derision when people tell him that Mary has been blessed by God. As a hard-working atheist, Henry will have none of it, although Talbot Terrace residents have observed in conversations behind their slim-line Luxaflex venetian blinds that Henry’s face takes on an angelic appearance when he walks hand in hand with his wife.
Henry also accepts that a garden tended by Mary always responds beautifully, as though the hyacinths and roses and foxgloves and pansies and poppies and even, yes, god (who may or may not know that she or he doesn’t exist) help us, the daisies all knew that condition-less love was being poured on them, so by golly they’d better shape up and put on a happy face. The fact that it happens is observable. The why it happens perplexes Henry, but he refuses to credit any supernatural agency.
Mary is 43 years old, two years younger than Henry, a man who has, for nearly all his life, been happy to live in her brilliantly colourful shadow.
Henry was seven years old when he met and fell in love with Mary. Dressed very properly in his school uniform, green blazer done up just so, necktie just a little crooked, grey shorts crisply ironed, black shoes highly polished, green cap set just so, Henry was stepping out manfully to school when Mrs Pickering at number 10 Talbot Terrace stopped him.
“Henry,” she called. “Henry Talbot, would you do me a small favour?”
From this, of course, you will deduce that young Henry Talbot had been a well-known and trusted boy. You would be right. Henry has always had a calm and solemn demeanor about him: a sober and serious nature that was reflected in the deliberate way he walked, the careful consideration he gave to his words before he spoke, the candid way his grey eyes studied the object or person that had attracted his attention.
Henry stopped, turned his cool eyes toward Mrs Pickering, and said “I’m on my way to school, Mrs Pickering. I don’t think I will be able to –“
Mrs Pickering’s heart fluttered. She blushed, and interrupted him: something he disliked then, and dislikes now.
“I know, Henry. You see: I can’t walk my Mary to school this morning, my ankle you see, ha ha, I twisted it and well, I was wondering if you would walk with her, and see her safely across the road, and to her classroom.” Mrs Pickering wondered why talking to a seven year old boy made her so nervous, and why she was twittering like a sparrow. But that’s the way Henry was, and it’s the way Henry is, it’s the way Henry affects people. Henry past replied, with eight words that would make the Henry future extraordinarily happy: “I would be pleased to help, Mrs Pickering.”
And so it was that Mary appeared, a shock of red hair, shining green eyes, and a shout of happiness, and Henry’s heart was lost. It’s fair to say that he didn’t know that he was in love at the time. It would be supremely ridiculous to suppose that a seven year-old boy even knows what love is. But that evening he announced to his parents and his sister Sybil that he was going to marry Mary Pickering one day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


It's easy to be humble when you haven't got very much. The real trick is in being proud when you haven't got very much.
The lovely Jenny and I have been kicked in the arse fairly severely by the GEC (General Economic Downturn): by my rough calculations, we're down by at least a 6 figure sum. In the past three months we've applied for over 120 jobs each. That means, of course, that we've been told "no" around 110 times each: the other 10 are rejection letters we're waiting for.
I've concluded that my radio / advertising career's down the dunny. It's gone. A thing of the past. It's a Blue Norwegian Fjord Parrot: deader than George W Bush's Big Book of Ideas. So, at 57 years of age, I have to look at alternatives.
It's easy to be humble when you realise just how bloody useless you are. The trick is in being proud of the few things you are good at.
Really, when I take a long hard look at myself, I know that I'm good at precious few things. Well, things that'll make a buck or twelve, anyway. I can drive. My brother may choke on his cornflakes when he reads that, but it's true. He's the expert, I'm the enthusiastic amateur. So, I've applied for driving jobs. I'm reasonably hopeful ogf getting one, too: courier for labtests, a medical laboratory company. I'll be driving blood, shit, piss, sputum, spittle, snot, and semen from a series of collection points to a central hub, from whence it will be despatched to the Place Where They Keep The Test Tubes and Bunsen Burners. Beakers too, I'll be bound. Mind you, this is one of the 10 potential rejection letters that the perverse angels of humility have waiting for me in their wings. But if I get the job, I'll do it well, I'll do it properly, I'll do it with pride.

A couple of months ago I attended one of WINZ's fairly pointless meetings: they hold them to encourage people to look for work. Some might need that encouragement, I suppose. Anyway, I seated next to this burly chap, who had been made redundant just a few days previously. The day after being handed his notice, he walked around the local industrial area, knocking on doors. He'd handed out over 40 CVs on that one day. "If I'm to be a job-seeker, I'm going to be the best damned job-seeker in town." I never saw him again. I assume it's either because he got a job, or is dead. There was no back-down in this man. Pride.

So, I'm good at ideas, at cobbling together a reasonable sentence, and at customer service. These are good qualifications, but they're not good enough to get me a job as a Train Driver, Cheese Salesman, or Greenpeace Fundraiser... or even, it appears, a customer service manager, or sandwich delivery person. Damn. I could have delivered sandwiches with flair.
Being unemployed is debilitating, demeaning, and dire. It grinds your soul to dust. It has no appeal at all. People who rail against dole bludgers know nothing. And, of course, I was one of those who was a little intolerant of unemployed people - at least, until I found myself washed up on this rocky shore.
Humility's easy, when circumstnces have led you to some semblence of wisdom. Pride's easy, too - when your eyes are shut.
I hope that I'm learning from this experience. I think I am. I've learned to be suspicious of unrestrained market forces. I've started questioning how decisions that affect the lives of millions are made. I've certainly become more entrenched in my politics.
I'm proud of most of what I've done with my life, and I look forward to the next thirty years with real optimism. I'm deeply ashamed of the many mistakes I've made, and grateful that I've found myself in a place where the people who surround me are such an astonishing, generous, and humble collection of individuals. What a privilege it is to know people like my friends and family.
The millions of demonstrators in Teheran deserve our support. Battling a fascist regime by hitting the streets armed with a simple slip of A4 paper is surely the bravest thing we've seen since the Tank Guy stood in front of a tank on Tiananmen Square.

From now on, I'm going to close every blog with a list of what I'm currently reading, and the music I've listened to while writing.

MUSIC: I have Nick Cave's "No More Shall We Part" playing. Loudly.

Nick Gaiman "Neverwhere".
Nick Gaiman "The Sandman: Dream Country"
Elizabeth Knox "Daylight"
Guillermo del Toro "The Strain"
Joseph O'Neill "Netherland"

I'm considering every send day's blog should include a few pages from the book I'm writing. I'll let you know my decision tomorrow... probably with the first few pages. No promises, though.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Young People

It's a sad and sorry state of affairs when your prejudices get a nudge, and you start to realise that you've been just a tad moronic for far too many years.
I was driving home last night, being stunned by the politness and courtesy of Auckland's drivers, when I happened to glance at some strangely alien bright lights. Hoping to see a Spielberg-like spacecraft hovering on my left, I was momentarily disappointed to find that it was, in fact, a large netball complex. This complex is actually just a 500 or so metres away from my home, so I had seen it before. What I hadn't noticed before was the facility being actually used. And here it was: maybe eighteen or so netball clourts, crammed with Young People, all jumping about and keeping fit and being active. The fact that it was a filthy night, with a fitful cold rain and dismal wind, didn't seem to faze these Young People. I pressed the button that lowered the passenger window, and I heard something almost too appalling to report: the sounds of young people being cheerful, happy, and communicative. I hastily raised the window. The rain, you know. Being a careful driver - and noting that the road was very busy - I shut my gaped mouth, and continued driving. Actually, I'd started to drool, which is not a good look.
Disclaimer: I wasn't drooling at the sight of all those fit young women's bodies. Drooling is simply a result of one's jaw hitting the floor. Or, in this case, my lap.
No more than a hundred metres later, I again glanced to my left. Now I was driving past some rugby fields. Once again, Young People. dashing hither, running thither, passing and tackling and jogging and being disgustingly healthy. This was too much for a tired brain to cope with.
Where, I asked myself, are the iPods, the X Box things, the Playstations and the pallid complections? Where are the slack-jawed couch potatoes? Or course, there was one, behind the steering wheel of my car, but I was sure he didn't count. After all, he wasn't a Young Person. This whole past week has been a confusing one: first, I spend a day tutoring young People in the fine art of writing, and they're all keen-eyed and adventurous, and well-educated, curious, and disgustingly enthusiastic. And yes, damn their eyes, they're respectful and polite. Now I see hordes of Young People running around, being physical and enegaging in exercise, and playing games that don't require really really quick thumbs.
Now that I've actually seen, with my own baby blues, Young People doing all those things I've said they didn't do, I'm just going to have to re-think my prejudices. That's painful, and annoying. I might try beer instead, and try and convince myself that it's all been a rather nasty dream.

Speaking of dreams, and writing: never let it be said that American television writers can't come up with a new and untried idea. Who would have thought of making a season finale (Bones) a dream sequence? Gosh, and lawks a'mighty, I never saw that before. It just seemed to build on the final House episode, which was a psychotic dream-like fit. Stunning in its originality.
I've often seen the appearance of guest "stars' as being the death knell of a TV series. Once the writers and producers start relying on the appreance of, say, Gwyneth Paltrow (who I wouldn't turn away from my dinner table) instead of actual ideas, you know the show's buggered.
Dream sequences are another sure cloaked figure of Doom. Pity. I've enjoyed Bones, and House.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Let's really get capitalism involved in our wars.

That'swhat it should all be about.
A world in which the generals had to take note of their sponsorship partners would surely bring about different results for battles.
The Battle of the Bulge, brought to you by Lucky Strike. What a coup! Sponsor the right battle, and you have naming rights for peretuity. OK, you'd be taking a bit of a chance on the outcome. It would have been a bit of a bummer if the German Wermacht had actually acheived all their objectives during the Battleof the Bulge.. but a bit of creative spin, widdershins, would still have Lucky Strike coming out ahead. All they'd need to do would be to have plenty of product available for the victorious troops, just in case.
Thermopylae, brought to lucky hoplites by Beehive Matches: and what a match it is, ladies and gentlemen. 1,000,000 Persians, including drooling and dull-eyed lackeys, versus just 300 plucky Spartans aided and abetted by assorted Athenians and plumbers. Busy as bees, those boys are.. and all their campfires are lit by the ever dependable Beehive matches.
Lets see, now: Waterloo, backed by the always waterproof Wellington boot. The Tet Offensive, sponsored by Ajax Prosthetics; The First Battle of the Somme, with Sleepyhead mattresses (for the sleep of a lifetime!).
Get real commercialism involved in wars and battles, right out in the open and up-front: you'd certainly have the share-owners thinking hard before allowing their boiys to go into battle. We could even take it down to an individual level. The soldiers' body armour, sponsored by Lifesavers.. the mint with a hole. Perhaps not. Ammunition, sponsored by Bata Bullets. Shrapnel, by Jag. Rifles, by Vodka Shots.
Make the armed forces... er, defence forces.. reliant on sponsorship money, and you'd soon see that market forces would be an open and honest player in wars - they'd be finally out in the open, instead of skulking in the darkess, hiding their voracious light under a barrel. And let's face it: there's nothing more ruthless or blind in its total disdain for the individual, than market forces. Adcam Smith's invisible hand will finally be given its freedom to really make an impact.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The reason I hate young people

I was sent an email the other that featured a series of blogs / comments / editorial pieces entitled "The Reason I hate young people" - or something similiar. See It is, to be fair, hilarious. Comedy's not the easiest thing to write, and this particular chap has the talent, in spades.
I've kept a few that particularly tickled me, and have forwarded the email to many of my friends.
But I find myself at odds with the basic sentiments.
I spent yesterday talking to a bunch of young fellows about advertising. It's what I know, and they're students at a local media school: I was guest lecturing. And I was impressed by their work ethics, their ideas, their bubbling enthusiasm, their close touch with reality. Late teens and early twenties, they had a good, mature grasp of what the Global Economic Crisis (GEC, for short. As in "have you been GECmated today?" and "Don't worry - your GEC's in the mail"), they had an instinctive understanding of what makes people tick.
And they were all ready to listen. They saw what I had to offer them, and they decided early on that they wanted a piece of it.
I've never seen myself as being much of a teacher, but I find that I'm really enjoying this gig. I've done it twice now, and can't wait to do it again.
The reason I hate young people? It's because they're so much better at being people that I was, when I was their age.
Viva la Juvenilia!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where has vehicle individuality gone?

I took the lovely Jenny to work thismorning. It was a trip that required a 40 minute womble down Auckland's Southern Motorway, then a twenty minute zip back home.
As I was creeping over the bridge, I recognised that if the name badge was taken off the car in front of me... I wouldn't know what the hell it was. (It was,in fact, a Ford Falcon.) Without the blue oval it could easily have been a Holden, a Toyota, a Honda - any one of a dozen homogenous brands.

There are very few individualistic vehicles being made nowadays. Citroen, once so easily identified, are nothing more than just another car. Rover.. well, back in its heyday, there was nothing like a Rover. They buggered that up when BL took the brand over. Triumph - the same. Holden - there was a time when Holdens and Fords were chalk and cheese. Now, it's only the fans of the marques that can spot the difference. Now, Holdens look like Fords look like Toyotas look like Citroens look like FIATs look like Audis look like Mitsubishis..

Yes, the BMW grill sets it apart: and well done for that. But the BMW in profile is almost exactly that of a Toyota. Well, I think it's a Toyota. Might be a Hyundai, or a Skoda. The Rolls Royce grill sets it apart - but a Roller from the rear simply looks like a well-painted Chevrolet, or something big and clumsy.

The mini-cars show more individuality: there's no mistaking a Mini, the new FIAT 500 is distinct - but wait! They're updates od 50 year old designs.

I can't tell a Suzuki from a Kia, a Mitsubishi from a Toyota, a Honda from Barina.
Nissan have a quirky design, Chrysler are emphatically doing daring things (and it's sent them broke), and the marvellous Renault design is, well, marvellous.

Once upon a time the brand was the design was the brand. The vehicle you chose spoke volumes about you. The Vauxhall Victa the neighbours bought pinned them down as solid middle-class Brit-philes, the Rover 110 owned by the family down the road marked them out as upper- middle class; a doctor, or perhaps the vicar down at St John's. Mr Jones drove about in a Chevrolet Impala, and no one was surprised to see he slicked his hair back with Brylcreem, and owned a young menswear shop. The farmers bought either a new Holden or Ford every second year, and the factory workers bought the used Vauxhalls, Prefects, Vanguards, and Holden Specials.

Perhaps the choice today is more democratic: anyone can, and does, own a bland vanilla milkshake of a car. But how I yearn for more variety. More art, less design.

What are we saying with our car choices today? From what I can see, absolutely sweet FA.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

It's a funny old world

If humanity has one weakness, it's this: a short memory. It's not our fault, of course. As a species, we're only a few short million years old. Our hind-brain carries a few instinctive memories from the time we shambled about, barely erect, on the broad grasslands of Africa - but we cannot imagine the astonishing amount of time life has existed on this swiftly spinning rock we call home.

And when I say we can't imagine it, I mean it, literally. And that's our weakness. That's why we can't really anticipate, with any sense of reality, the end of oil. It's been there all our lives, and our physical brains are not capable of truly imagining its absence.

That it will run out is a given. We know it. but we can't imagine it. We need to actually experience it - and I trust that its ending will be slow enough to allow us to adapt with technology that will be an adequate replacement. Knowing, in the abstract, that we only have three week's reserve of food is fine: but we will all be surprised when that three weeks starts.
the average Joe Blow, John Doe,and Mary Smith cannot comprehend a million dollars. We hear our politicians blither on about a billion here and a billion there, to the point that a millions stops being a huge amount of cash. The US government offers a trillion or two to American banks that are led by people whose greed and lack of imagination caused the crisis - and, suddenly, a billion isn't much at all.

We need to start understanding the big numbers. We need to make an emotional connections with the fact that a billion years is a hell of a long time, and that humanity has been around for a small fraction of that time - a tiny fraction. We need to get a good gut feeling for the fact that a million dollars is a shit-load of dosh, and start kicking people who dismiss it as chump-change.

Without imagination, we are going to die. it was the stirring of imagination that got us up onto two legs in the first place. it was imagination that gave us the ability to use fire, to forge metal, to be the first truly sentient creature capable of choosing to eat a raw oyster. Imagination has led to poetry. Lack of imagination has led us to war, and the extinction of societies.

There are too many things now that distract us from actually using our fore-brains for creative thought. Let's do a little waking up.