Whither Labour in a Caring Society

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It is hard not to watch the leadership struggle in the New Zealand Labour Party.  All the media wanted to cover from the recent party conference was the difference between the party leader David Shearer and his biggest rival David Cunliffe.  The media wanted to know if Cunliffe was going to support Shearer on the leadership vote in February, and if he would press for his own initiative in the vote.  He refused to be drawn either may.  It appears battle lines were drawn and after the conference the caucus had its own showdown.  Cunliffe didn’t have the numbers to threaten Shearer’s leadership.  It was reported that the vote was unanimous.  Cunliffe was demoted to the time-out corner and lost all his portfolios.

He has some choices to make for a comeback.  Mike Moore was pushed out of leadership by Helen Clark after an unsuccessful election campaign.  He hung around for a while and Clark was able to use his skills.  Eventually he wandered off to an overseas position.  He continues to lobby potshots at his former colleagues but nobody ever listened to him again.  He was a lone man.

Jim Anderton wasn’t a lone man when he was pushed out of the Labour Party for criticizing its swing into right-wing economics after the Muldoon years.  He was popular enough to form his own party to be the left-wing critics of Rogernomics and briefly brought them into the House before it all fell apart.  Cunliffe has his own fan-base outside of parliament.  Virtually every blog on the left-wing in the country is cheering for him.  His power-base is in Auckland, as represented by these blogs.  This could be the elephant in the room for future elections as Auckland comes out of scale with the rest of the country.  I am doubtful if Cunliffe has the support of the left in the rest of the country.  It hasn’t been tested.  He is seen as a vain man and his politics hasn’t been tested for the whole country.

I think his future is to be left-wing version in New Zealand politics of Maurice Williamson, a politician on the edge of the party, but still useful to keep around.  I suppose every political party needs a member like him.

I’m still waiting to see minutes of the conference.  The media hasn’t reported on other events at the conference and I am an independent voter for Labour, a wider group than party members.  A report of conference hasn’t been made available for us yet, as far as I know.


Burt Munro Challenge 2012

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Down to Invercargill one more time with the Ghost who walks and his partner J.  She won’t forgive me if I call her his travelling companion now.  They are out now.

I thought I would be staying with Boston T. and his partner J.  (The partner-clans in my family add new meaning to It’s Complicated.)  Southern Dave was huffy if I didn’t impose on his hospitality so I changed my mind at the last moment.

We got to the beach races this year, the first time in about four years of trying to get down to Invercargill on time, and the weather being compliant.  We drove onto Oreti Beach and I was met with the smell of my childhood wafting off the waves.  The racing on the sand was worth watching.  We were at one end watching the bikes turn on the half-mile long track.  Some would cut it close and try to accelerate, others would make a wide turn not to lose speed.  All had to face the challenge of remaining upright as the sand came looser and looser.  None did fall.

Saturday we visited Richardson’s Truck Museum.  We were there for two hours and ran out of time before we went to the races at Teretonga.  On the outside it looked like a warehouse, inside it opened up into hall after hall of vintage trucks and cars and machinery.  I use film for photos — call me old-fashioned! — and finished my film before we had got through the second hall, taking photos of the cars we were talking about.  There were about four more halls after that and we only had to glance through the last of them before we left.  It’s worth another visit next year when we are down.

It’s a private museum so contact them for their address and see if they are open.

We got back for the racing, and got some coffee before we went in.  Secretly I must be a member of Order of the Mochaccin Monks!  Behind us some Filthy Few Road Knights were looking for hot chocolate and considered skulling the marshmallows.  The bikers who come down for Burt are older, relaxed and comfortable.  Everyone is looking to have a friendly time in the Far South.  The speedway turned out to be an occasion to get sandblasted.  Don’t stand too close while eating chips!

I got home on Sunday and caught up with my washing.  The others are nearly returned to Wellington now.  I think I have myself double-booked for guests in December as the Metropolitan Opera and Formed on Wednesday are both playing in the same weekend.

Letter to America

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Dear America,

I hope you are well.

I understand that some of you are feeling put out by your recent election to the point that some of us have seen messages or tweets saying ‘That’s it!  I’m leaving America for Xland where they are a real Christian Country with a Christian President.’  Usually these are picked up by liberal critics who point out that the countries suggested are not as overtly Christian as America.  I have seen Canada and Australia mentioned.  Also that these countries have Prime Ministers rather than Presidents, so what do you know?

Might I add, don’t even think of coming to New Zealand if that is your justification.  Our prime minister comes from an irreligious family of Jewish descent.  No Christianity there at all!  I consider myself religious by choice, and while I like my national leadership to respect my worldview among all worldviews and philosophies that New Zealanders may share in, I don’t want leadership that mistakes their own opinions or voices in their heads for advice from the Eternal.  That way leads to a messy resolution.

I consider our current prime minister to be on the right of our politics.  As I am a liberal voter I would be happy to see him out of power.  I understand by your standards he is socialist on par with Obama.  Indeed he admires your president and will take any opportunity to be seen with him.  This only goes to show that in the perspective of English-speaking world, and other European-descended nations your politics is rather skewered.  Perhaps it would be best if you stayed at home.

Have a nice day, and let us all work for the best for our world.  Can I say that?

Best wishes,


An evening with Ian Rankin

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This event was the opening for the Scottish Festival in Dunedin.  It was promoted by the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies.  I don’t read crime fiction.  Apparently a lot of people do as several hundred people were present in the auditorium.  By the looks of things mostly older readers.

So what’s New Zealand like?  To the author on a whirlwind visit, it’s a series of hotels and airports as he visits one main centre in the country each day.  Later he is going to spend time on a road trip.  Maybe his main character, the hard cop Rebus, will visit Dunedin, a sort of bus-man’s holiday.  In the latest outing he is investigating a cold case on the highway, crossing over the Edgelands.

Is crime fiction so popular that they are diluting the genre?  In Scotland each region has its crime writer, a good guide to what parts in a region not to visit; and in Rankin’s case, a good guide to where to find and enjoy drinking beer (or so he would claim).

If I want to read this author I should follow his suggestion that the book that he is most proud of is Black and Blue.  This is the book where everything fell into place with story-telling, character and confidence.  It seems to be the right jumping-off point.

Or The Door’s Open which started off has an idea for a screenplay for an Oceans Eleven-style movie in Edinburgh, went into a drawer until a newspaper wanted a serial, which expanded into a book and was picked up by Stephen Fry to make into a movie releasing for Christmas 2012 in Britain.  Rankin doesn’t watch the adaptions of his works, he would rather write them in his own voice.  This one he recommends.

Every Novel is the wreckage of a perfect Idea-Iris Murdoch

Global Ireland: The 19th Australasian Irish Studies Conference

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This has been my diversion for the last three days..  It turned up in my email at work a couple of months ago from the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies.  It felt like something I could attend to hold the side up for the Presbyterian Archives Research Centre, so I subscribed to attend.

I don’t particularly identify myself as Irish, or Celtic, or Anglo-Celtic.  If anything my quotidian identity is Pakeha, New Zealand European for people who object to the term.  I felt a bit of an outsider, especially since I’m a introspective non-mingling person.  Nevertheless there were a handful of family historians and genealogists present who were happy to discover we existed and we have material into which they haven’t delved: baptismal records, marriage registers, and occasionally ancestors turn up in minutes.

The catering at these events tend towards fried, salty and rice-based.  I don’t think that reflects Irish cuisine which I would suspect tends to potatoes and whiskey.  The latter I missed without regret.  It has an aroma like furniture cleaner to my palate.

The first keynote lecture from Professor Graham Walker reviewed the history of the Irelands and Scotland from partition until the current referendum discussions.  There’s some interesting comparisons between the Republic of Ireland and the Kingdoms of Northern Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand.  The loss of young skilled workers from Scotland in the 1920s sounds comparable to the anguish in New Zealand as our brightest and best emigrate to Australia for work.  And the description of society in the Republic of Ireland with an entrenched rural class, minimal industrialization and the Celtic tiger is sleeping sounds disturbingly familiar.

The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air

Darkness, by Lord Byron

Egypt and Greece, good-bye, and good-bye, Rome!
Hermits upon Mount Meru or Everest,
Caverned in night under the drifted snow,
Or where that snow and winter’s dreadful blast
Beat down upon their naked bodies, know
That day brings round the night, that before dawn
His glory and his monuments are gone.

Meru, by W. B. Yeats

…and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and the sky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.

Lapis Lazuli, by W. B. Yeats

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

The Stolen Child, by W. B. Yeats

The changeling is a person who can cross boundaries, a third-culture person, someone from one cultural group raised in a second culture, neither finally at home in either.  The half-caste is a changeling.  The sea is a liminal transition between worlds, the migrant’s passage.

Being colonial, a mode of being that is discontinuous with its past — Stephen Turner

There was a presentation on shamans which I found bunk.  It could have come out of a book in the popular spirituality section.  Apparently there is an apostolic succession, a spiritual esoterica, that goes back to the neolithic when druids worshipped the moon goddess.  No mention seemed to be made that this corpus was violently interrupted in the Common Era.  This shamanic tradition is hermetic, separate from observed practice.  No example of exchange between Maori and Irish in New Zealand was provided.  I did think that there was an interesting comparison between this tradition and the Yoruba religion that Stephen Prothero described in God Is Not One.  Maybe the shamans are looking in the wrong direction.  I’m skeptical.

New Zealanders turn up at the pub in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.  Once a jolly swagman they are domesticated wildmen and pirates.  Up from the grave he arose!  I should read this, probably I will have to read it aloud just to understand it.  It sounds like a delightful fantasy novel.

Professor Ronan McDonald from Sydney talked about disciplinity in Irish Studies.  It sounds like that Irish Studies needs to be multi-disciplinary, and not overlook the sciences!  At least Wang Zhanpeng from Beijing was also talking about multi-disciplinary too.  And Professor of Sociology Louise Ryan from London talked about creating a corpus for doing a comparison between migrant groups into Britain.  That was interesting.  I wish I took the chance to thank her.  Our identity is within and against the dominant society.  Anyone who calls themselves an expat is themselves a migrant.  This includes managerial types who can cross half the world to take up a position.  They are often overlooked as they are expected to be affluent and wealthy, and not refugees.

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Among School Children VIII by W. B. Yeats

I managed to get a chortle out of my neighbour when Lyndon Fraser asked the rhetorical question Why should we study death? and I murmured ‘Cause it’s cool!  Yet again studies on Post-mortem practice and observances is another field where comparative studies is coming useful.

Well maybe all that was fun, and maybe I did connect.  I’m back home again, come the long way.  The next conference will be in Sydney in 2013.  I don’t intend to get there as it’s too far to walk.  I wish them well!

Andrew Smith
Every Number Upper Brimstone Walk
Newer Aland

Elisir d’Amore

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Farm-boy Nemorino is holding a candle for wealthy farm-owner Adina.  Well who wouldn’t when Adina is played by Anna Netrebko in top hat and riding coat.  Unfortunately for him she’s not looking for commitment.  I’m not surprised.  In that wig I wanted to say to Nemorino, “Mate, you’re got a mullet.  That’s not a chick-magnet!”

Enter the charlatan Doctor Dulcamara.  He cons Nemorino that a bottle of Bordeaux is the lost elixir of love of Isolde and Tristan.  His luck doesn’t improve when Adina accepts the offer of marriage from his rival in love.  “Doctor, help me!” laments Nemorino.  I’m listening for the vworp-vworp sound.  It doesn’t come.   Doctor Dulcamara as the thirteenth incarnation Doc Who would be interesting!  Doctor Who: The Opera, anyone?

True love wins out.  Doctor Dulcamara declares that his elixir is the cure for all ills.  I’m left thinking, that was fun, but, my god! I just sat through a three-hour ad for Bordeaux wines!