Live Music at Dunedin Library – A Summary

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The amazing Nick Knox would have to be a highlight of Music Month Gig Night at the Dunedin Public Library.  The Library has other clips from the month on their YouTube channel.  The YouTube link in the screen above should take you to one of their pages.

I understand that performing at one of these venues can be terrifying for performers.  It’s well-lit.  You can see everyone.  No one is drunk in the library.  They are all sober and their focus is on you.

Not everything worked for me.  I found the simplest things worked best and kept me from thinking about wandering off to browse.  Often this was an acoustic performance, like Robin and Penelope from the Grawlixes who being as sexy as white acoustic music can be; or the three guys with two guitars from Kings College who sang their own stuff.  I don’t remember the name of their line-up.  There was Paul Cathro from Alizarin Lizard who seemed to be singing the same themes in six different songs.  He didn’t create a repartee with the audience like others managed but I still enjoyed listening.  The rap artist Arcee put on a London accent and pulled no punches with her profanity.  She made me blink several times.

Maddy Parkins-Craig from Some Other Creature may have got the best line with about a broken-down relationship: “The American Congress is gonna make more progress than us”.  Graeme Downes had some great working titles: “Too Old To Grow Up”, from a mutual interview with Shane Carter, and “The Fascist Boys Are The Snappiest Dressers”.  Kira Hundleby got in before the Library to thank them for having us all in their place.  Applause all around.

Back again next year?

Inequality, Sustainability and Well-being – Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

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In New Zealand for a conference the authors of The Spirit Level were invited to stay an extra week in Dunedin.  We supplied the weather.  I’ll supply some notes:

Reducing carbon emissions is seen as an unwelcome belt-tightening exercise — can we achieve sustainability and improve quality of life.  There is a point at which life expectancy levels off among rich nations.  The statistic rises out of the poorer nations and levels off with minimal improvement possible.   It still makes a difference in rich nations among those who earn less income.  Problems emerge among those who are not at the top.

Countries becoming more inequal creates problems.    There are issues of trust  between unequal groups.  Mental illness is more common.  As Flanders and Swann once said the technical term for our mental health is ‘stark staring bonkers’, which makes up quarter of the population, fortunately I’m one person.  Social relationships, health and human capital deteriorates.

New Zealand has a high level of social problems and health issues that are related to inequality.

Status matters more.  Working hours are longer in unequal countries.  Household debt increases.  We want the good things in life.  I wondered about my own situation as I live alone in a marginal situation.  Have I opted out?

Business leader in equal countries give higher priority to international environment agreements.  They contribute more to foreign aid donations.  Inequal countries are bigger contributors of carbon dioxide.

Everyone benefits from living in an equal society.  We need to extend democracy into the economic sphere.  In a rich world material standards do not determine well-being.  Our social relations and social environment has become critical.  We are living in the best of times, we are living in the worst of times.

Those who contribute the most to society are inversely paid.  That’s why bankers live so well.

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, authors of The Spirit Level

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, authors of The Spirit Level

Sex Matters to the Heart

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Did that title grab your attention?  No naughtiness involved. The University welcomed a new professor, Heather Allison.  Her inaugural lecture addressed gender issues and heart disease.

Everyone has a heart.  When it is formed in the womb it begins to beat.  It doesn’t stop for the lifetime of a human being, this little muscle the size of your fist.

Coronary heart disease takes an American life every 40 seconds.  Death is on a schedule here.  Heart disease causes one in seven deaths, compared to breast cancer which kills one in thirty deaths.  One in three men will die of heart disease, one in five women.  Statistically Australia / New Zealand has higher stroke deaths than America, otherwise we are comparable.

Death from cardiovascular disease is falling.  There are a lot of factors, including diet, and the trend could turn around and bite us yet.  We eat too much energy dense food, if we can’t work it off we store it as body fat.  (Another chocolate chip muffin? Why, thank you!)

Heart disease becomes more prevalent 10 years earlier for men than women, from their mid-forties onwards.  (I’ve entered the danger zone.)  When the symptons occur among women it’s more likely to die from it.  Men are more likely to have heart attacks caused by a rupture in the plaque hardening their arteries: symptomatic of a classic heart attack; women are more likely to have heart attacks caused by erosive plaque.

Testosterone protects men.  Men with low testosterone are more likely to have heart disease.  Hormone replacement therapy did not protect against heart disease in older women.  Estrogen treatment caused plaque, a higher risk of coronary events.  Heart disease appears to be different among women.  There is more study needed here; and that brings us to the inauguration of our latest professor.

Pocket Hobbes by Michael Le Buffe

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Hobbesian bargain of internet security.

To keep us safe on the internet the Leviathan asks for more civil power.

The University welcomed another professor today, Michael Le Buffe, from the University of Texas.  A professor of philosophy interested in Spinoza, he addressed his audience on Hobbes, an author of 20 volumes from the English Civil War period, whom he rates as between Melville and Eliot in literature.

Condensing Hobbes from 20 volumes down to a pocket-sized version requires:

  1. We get a pocket Hobbes right
  2. We make a pocket Hobbes useful

Back Pocket Hobbes says: I desire my preservation, and the Other desires its preservation − conflict is inevitable.  We create the artificial man, Leviathan, and submit to his authority for our preservation.

Peace is inevitable.  We all follow the same means to peace, the artificial man.  We get sick and die, the artificial man is immortal.

Hip Pocket Hobbes says: Fear motivates us, fear of death, feath of the invisible powers.  Conflict arises from unpredictability.  Hip Pocket Hobbes is aware that there are Other Leviathans and they are a threat to us.  (In Hobbes’ time the Other Leviathan was Catholic France, the enemy of the disputing English sects.)

Back Pocket Hobbes ignores religion and society, the powers invisible.  (Maybe in modern society these include more than religion and superstition.  Big ideas and isms have become the new powers and principalities.)

Fear of Power Invisible threatens the sovereign, a rival party to the artificial man.  The invisible powers invite obedience that is the office of the sovereign, a different motive than the state, inviting chaos.  This might explain the actions of the Boko Haram sect in Nigeria, kidnapping several hundred school girls.  They don’t recognise the civil sovereign.

And in Ukraine two emerging Leviathans within the state move into conflict with each other.

Absolute civil power is not absolute for peace.  Civil authority is limited if it is not embedded in civil right and ecclesiastical right (whatever the invisible power may be.)

It’s not usually the practice to have questions at an inaugural professorial lecture.  A shame.  I would have liked to have heard this lecture questioned and tested by others.

Thomas Hobbes and John Calvin by Space Coyote. Just because.

Easter 4

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I was rostered to do the Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession today, Mothers Day.  I started to write on Saturday night.  The last paragraphs were written out before I left for church on Sunday morning.

Christ the Good Shepherd, stained glass window, First Presbyterian Church, Invercargill

Ah, dear lord, what shall we pray for today? Shall we pray for the world? We know you are everywhere; and to stretch yourself even further, you gave us mothers, and fathers, and sons and daughters, you made us into tribes, and nations, and families, and households. You made us to connect with each other, and you are in those moments.

In an uncertain world and at an uncertain time we give thanks for the success of the church fair yesterday. We thank you for the weather, for the company, for the enthusiasm to work, and to sell, and to benefit others. We celebrate the sharing of time, and talents, and gifts, with each other.

We pray for the world: We pray for peace in Eastern Europe and the reconciliation between rival nations. We pray for the children to whom our blankets go. May they know peace and prosperity in their countries. We pray each stitch will be for their warmth and their comfort.

You know the names of each one of the girls abducted in Nigeria, you are reminded in prayer for each of them by name, each one of them is an individual. Bring them home so they may be restored to their families. Let them have the freedom to become educated and informed citizens who can contribute in turn to their country. Break down the powers and principalities of fear and ignorance that would forbid a girl to read and learn.

We pray for Christchurch, the wounded and suffering city. We pray for those who are demoralised and scattered by the continuing loss and frustration of delay, obfustication and damage to property. We pray for the rebuilding of that city. With the word of hope in one hand and the tools for the job in the we pray for the restoration of Christchurch.

We pray for our city, Dunedin, for the university of Otago, the continuing progress of teaching and educating young people in our city. We hear the sound of the pipes as they lead students to graduation and the celebration of achieving their degrees. We pray that they may come to knowledge of you, and may they like us discover that learning is for life. Do not let them fall away from seeking and discovering the good in each other.

We pray for our Church, here as our community, as the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand, and as the body of Christ. Remember our leaders and our teachers, those who work in the offices of the church as administrators, accountants, theologians and care-givers. May they hear your voice and respond to your call.

God who keeps his sheep safe. We hear your voice, you call us to your fold, you stand as god-with-us between the safety of your embrace and the dangers that would steal us away. Your voice calls us and we pray the words that your disciples heard and learnt from you…

Sung Versions of Pastoral – Songs of Love and Courtship

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A night of Robert Burns’ pastoral songs, a night in the Marama Hall, well attended, presented by Professor Nigel Leask of the University of Glasgow, and accompanied by the University’s Department of Music.  The singers and musicians passing themselves off as unquestionably fine.

I thought my edition of Burns was the Complete Poems and Songs, however I can’t find his naughty poem When maukin bucks… listed under any of its titles or lines.  Prurience perhaps, when others are included?

One hundred and thirty love songs, in a life’s work of over five hundred pieces.  Burns was more literate and familiar with his country’s poetry and sung culture than his persona suggests.  He sought out material and made it presentable, often preserving what would otherwise have been lost.

He funded himself supporting himself as an excise man.  “[Y]ou may think my songs either above, or below, price; for they shall absolutely be the one or the other. In the honest enthusiasm with which I embark in your undertaking, to talk of money, wages, fee, hire, and etc. could be downright Sodomy of Soul!”

The final word from Lord Byron, “What an antithetical mind, a mixture of dirt and deity!”

Robert Burns

Music Month at the Library

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Music Month 2014My first night at this event.  People were already present by twenty past five and waiting for the show.  First on was Martin Philipps from The Chills.  He was singing new stuff, not covering his old stuff.  It wouldn’t have mattered to me as I’m not familiar with his song-book.  It was all good and there is a new album in production for the end of 2014.  We were asked to keep any recordings of tonights performance private as not to pirate what he is preparing.

This was followed by two young bands.  They had exchangeable members.  I thought Iron Mammoth was the more interesting front: three skinny guys, two beards, a Hammond, drums, a glockenspiel and a cornet.  I see the programme describes them as “indie trio with a touch of carnivale”.  I picked up on the fairground/carnival influences in their sound.  It was dark-edged and chirpy, and foot-tapping stuff.  They were fun.  People gathered to listen and sat down for more when they were finished.  They were the last act for the evening.  Wait another week and see if Wednesday’s and Thursday’s programmes bring more good sounds.

There was a discussion on National Radio earlier this week, “Do we still need Music Month?”  Dunedin Library’s Live Music During May was cited as something that draws out an audience.  I’m glad to see it going again this year, providing us with an opportunity to get and enjoy some public entertainment.

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