If we knew we were going to live forever, would our music improve?

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My gym plays a lot of music, videos and that kind of stuff.  I get to spend a lot of time watching it while I’m exercising.  There’s a re-occuring theme to the music.  Everyone wants to be young, everyone wants to be pretty, and enjoy the moment because we are all going to burn out soon, hopefully while we are still young and beautiful.  I find I have less tolerance for the sentiment.  Suppose the Singularity happens, or the Resurrection comes, then this kind of music is going to look pretty silly.  These people have to keep producing this kind of stuff.  They are starving artists and have a music industry to support.  Which makes what they produce all the more ephemeral.  It’s produced to be consumed and forgotten.

I think I would like it if eternity broke into my life on a warm Saturday afternoon in summer.  I think that that would be my moment forever.  And I could potter around and do stuff until I got bored and then venture forth to find something that would stretch me further.  In light of such an event our youthful popular music is going to look silly.  We don’t make stuff to sing and enjoy for the long term.  Even our religious music is going to have to be re-considered when we’re ‘bright shining like the sun’.

Even if immortality lasts a lifetime, or the age of empires, or to the end of the world, or the heat-death of the universe, it will still end too soon.

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Recovering the Common Good

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This was a forum hosted by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues on Tuesday.  The panel was made up of Campbell Roberts, Jenny Te Paa Daniel, Graham Redding, David Clark and Kevin Toomey.

Andrew Bradstock opened the discussion for the forum.  Are there shared or public values that transcend individuals?  How do they relate to our context?

Is there a sea-change that business leaders want to hear about values rather than economics.  If it’s coming down to the Aunties versus the Market, then my money is on the Aunties.  Aunties are a force of nature.

Whose values? How do they operate? Whose narrative?

If you are going to be a Christian, you are going to be a Socialist.

– Pauline O’Regan

Contrast between the values of living in a hotel and living in a whanau.  The hotel is the place of alienation, everyone in their own room.  Living in a boarding house made me wonder  if that is totally true.  The limitations of when whanau go bad was also acknowledged.

The values of libertarian freedom comes with its own morality of failure.  If you fail, you were at fault.

Both sides of the political debate, left and right have given over social responsibility to the big brothers, either government or non-government organisations, the churches and the charities.

Let’s learn how to do civics.  Let’s have the conversation.  The poor are inviting the business and political leaders to come and live with us.  Let’s find agreement rather than competition, before we make changes.

Good earnest discussion, the question came from the floor, How do we make the common good sexy again?

Plant fruit trees!  Vote!  Participate and talk!  Eat inside your community; eat outside your community!

Hobbit Spotting

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Some updates on a few things.

A shout-out to my friend Henriku.  The disk arrived last week.  It was in the mail when I returned from my colonoscopy operation.  What lovely videos!  So beautiful.  I shall have to show them to people and make sure that they are backed up.

I walked past the last drinks at the Captain Cook tavern last week.  I was not moved to attend.  I am largely teetotal and it was not my celebration.  From reports I have read I found that Cook Brothers opinion on responsible drinking is similar to some farmers’ opinions on clean waterways.  I found it interesting to overhear the talk on the street about the closure of the Captain Cook.  There is a lot of affection for the place.  Maybe it is a focal point for an inner-city community.  I didn’t see it myself.  I will observe the future of this building with interest.  I doubt it will remain vacant.  Whether it will continue as a licensed premise is another curiosity.

I watched the opera Giulio Cesare at the Rialto on Sunday.  Fascinating ideas.  The Romans were all British Colonial soldiers, the Egyptians were all servants.  David Daniels came on as Caesar in red coat and breast-plate.  Imagine such a figure at the height of British Empire.  What a fascinating history that could be.  Then Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra got to sing and dance.  Very different to the fragile and tragic characters she has played in the past.  Between her and Rashid Ben Abdeslam as Nirenus many of the arias became Bollywood pieces.  No one could go into battle without singing an aria first!  I’m not sure if I’m convinced by Julius Caesar as a countertenor, I am convinced by baroque opera!

Finally today the princes of the kingdom have decided that the South Island’s distribution of the mail can be centred in Christchurch, that broken city.  That’s another 73 jobs gone from Dunedin, and expect an extra day for the mail to get through.  It is the usual trend.  First all the small services are centralised.  Then the centralised service cannot provide coverage of all regions so regions are dropped.  Then the service becomes too expensive to be maintained universally.  This is disappointing!

Midwinter Carnival

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This was my first year as a volunteer with the Carnival.  It has been going for several years and I made the point of attending it.  I decided to volunteer this year on the grounds I would get a better view, and wouldn’t be standing behind anybody else.  I attended a couple of meetings for volunteers in the weeks before solstice night and the Carnival team placed me with the gate keepers.  This involved standing at one of the ends of Bath Street below the Octagon with a variety of tasks: checking the lanterns that came in with children or families, making sure they had an air-hole at the top, a decent-sized candle to walk around the Octagon, and weren’t damaged; sending people to their positions in the parade; and keeping the public out as there were enough people on Bath Street to keep the organisers busy.  Inspecting the candles and sending people through was easy.  After about half an hour we lost the tape, it rolled down Bath Street and we had to keep going without it.  We were all new to this volunteer work and muddled through the other organisation.  Fortunately the organisers kept an eye on us and we rose quickly to meet the learning curve.

When the parade began we picked up our fire extinguishers and took our positions with the big lanterns.  If a lantern caught fire then our first response would be to bring to ground and stamp it out.  Any therapy for children can then follow!  If it was more drastic then I know the theory behind using a fire extinguisher even if I haven’t had the practice.  Fortunately this was not the night to test myself!  The parade went off without a hitch.  I was one of the gate keepers with the waka lantern, the first big lantern in the parade.  It was accompanied by a kapa haka group dressed down to their underwear covered by a thin cloak and skirts, barefoot even.  Not a way to dress on Solstice Night!  They kept moving.  One of the performers broke his oar.  It was quickly picked up and handed to a warden.  The bearers of the giant lantern were quite pleased to know I was there with a fire extinguisher.  They had no plans to go down with their boat!

Ahead of us were the Matariki stars.  They were borne on the backs of young children.  One of them was an errant star.  I had to guide her forward at one point.  All the children were warmly clad.  There had been rain earlier in the day.  It had lifted by this time of night leaving only wet streets and brief moments of light drizzle.  I did not see much of the parade.  My attention was kept by the giant lantern.  We walked through the dry smoke and followed the incline of the Octagon.  A magic experience that many families came out for.  At the end of the parade I watched as the performers came back out of the Octagon onto Bath Street.  The lanterns were extinguished.  It was over and everyone could get warm again who needed to.

I’m sure to get roped back into the Carnival next year.  Here’s a chance to become good!

Listening to The Night Circus on Playaway

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A friend recommended the Dunedin Library’s Playaways to me.  Playaways are audio devices that come with the recording built in as hardware.  Presumably each of them has one book.  As I walk a lot between my bedsit in town and my workplace in the archives in the suburbs then borrowing these from the library would provide me with a diversion while I’m walking.

It is one of the curiosities of my life that at the moment when most people are walking into the central city to work and attend the university I’m walking against the flow for the same reason.  Then again at the end of the day we reverse the flow to walk home for the night.

I find listening to a book restricting.  It becomes more linear.  I don’t go back and check the detail of a passage a few pages back.  I stop when I reach my destination and resume it again when I start walking again rather than finding a natural break in the narrative.  Nevertheless I enjoyed the stimulus of listening to the flow of words and missed it the day I left it at home.  This raises the fear that I will lose the company of my own imagination.  Where is my own story-telling in my head?  It did not disadvantage my own safety when I was walking.  Other pedestrians surprised me more than the traffic did.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was the first playaway I have tried, a romance about dueling wizards in a travelling circus.  The story was carefully dated so it took place in the nineteenth century, culminating on All Saints’ Evening 1902.  The story is written independently of historical events and personalities so it could have happened at anytime, no mention of imperialism, social change, or epidemics; no princes or presidents cross the stage.  The story is written from the perspective of ‘upstairs’.  There are no servants, no word from ‘downstairs’.  An impresario stages fabulous midnight feasts.  We are told no word about the catering, or their opinions of their service.  In the end he dismisses all his servants except his kitchen staff.  Not a happy ending for them perhaps?

Likewise the circus travels by train from each location.  At one point we are told the tents pitch themselves ‘by magic’.  The circus performers never notice that the original workers are gone.  Presumably their contracts had ended.  The circus travels between continents, Europe, America, Australia and China are mentioned.  It is not mentioned if the train crosses oceans.  It would be nice to know if this is done by magic.  The detail is not raised.  One character is a fortune teller from Barcelona.  I could not tell from the story whether she was Catalan, Spanish or migrant.

The epilogue makes it clear that the circus continues.  It would be interesting to know if it continued to remain self-contained through the ugly ages of the last century.  It would be nice to think that its magic aided people to escape the darkest hours.  Perhaps this story is not big enough for me.  The battles between good and evil still take place in our world.

Tomorrow I shall be walking inside my own head.  Until I find another Playaway to which I want to listen.  I wonder if the library has a non-fiction selection?

Colonoscopy at Dunedin Hospital

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Last week I received notice that I was booked in for a colonoscopy at the hospital.  Anyone who knows me knows that I take this very seriously, loosing a brother to bowel cancer 14 years ago.  I checked the tag on the Irrefutable Proof About Hobbits and it was time for my next check-up.  I confirmed the appointment with the hospital.

I had my usual breakfast on Thursday and after that cut out eating whole grains and cereals, and fruit and vegetables with pips and seeds.  I bought some white bread for my lunch-time sandwiches.  There were some hiccoughs.  On a visit to Waitati we stopped at the local cafe and I had to choose my lunch carefully.  They were keen  on natural foods with seeds in them.  Then a neighbour at Manono House offered me some  vegetable soup at the weekend.  While it was tasty I had to enquire that it didn’t affect my diet.  I managed.

On Sunday my diet reduced again to simple food: poached eggs on white bread for breakfast, some rice and arrowroot biscuits for lunch.  I had already taken some laxative pills on Saturday.  When I stopped eating solid food I waited to take the first bottle of saline mixture.  It is foul and unpleasant stuff.  Every mouthful caused me to gag and snarl.  I needed plenty of water and drank extra glasses of water to wash out the horrid taste.  I had to do it again on Monday morning.  It was the least pleasant part of the experience.  In the early hours of the morning I lost sleep as my body purged itself of the contents of my bowels.

This was my fourth time on the table, and the first time that I didn’t fall asleep during the operation.  I watched on the screen as the surgeon investigated the chambers of my bowels.  It seemed over very quickly.  Afterwards I overbalanced while I was dressing and sat on the floor as I tied my shoes.  It brought people running.  I followed their advice and took a taxi home.  I wasn’t alarmed for myself.  They took out five polyps from my bowels and I will consult with my doctor to see if any were malignant.

Back to work tomorrow.

Avant-garde music at St Paul’s Cathedral, Friday 14 June 2013

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I saw a notice for this  on the Knox College Bulletin.  A member of staff at the college was involved in its organisation for a week-long music festival at the Cathedral.  I have supported such events before with my attendance.  It was a dark and cold night.  A low sickle moon could be seen briefly through the windows of the sanctuary.

The first piece was Endless Black, a piece by Alastair Galbraith for a play Nameless by Leigh Davis, a poet who died of a brain tumour in 2009.  The composer was told to make the music for the play sound like ‘the voice of god’.  He investigated what the poet understood by god and it is the voice of a chthonic god  found in the voids and deep dark places of the earth.  It was a recorded piece for glass harmonium, accompanied by strings.

It was followed by The face of the water by the same composer, six members of an ensemble walked through the cathedral playing singing tubes.  I thought is was like ringing church bells, entirely appropriate.

The cathedral organist, George Chittenden, entered the organ and played De Profundis by Paul Mealor.  The organ muttered itself awake and growled through this multi-layered piece.  It is not something I would like to meet in the dark!  The piece was applauded.

An ensemble gathered at the front of the cathedral to play Fylfot by Alan Starrat Starrett, a languid and mournful piece.  Then the ensemble became Strork.  The lights were extinguished at the front of the cathedral and in the dark stone vault they extemporised through Cave Art.

The cathedral was filled with admirers of avant-garde music attending the concert.  I believe for many attendees it may have been a first visit to the cathedral, an opportunity to gaze on its architecture and its hospitality.

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