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.

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