Thursday, August 28, 2014

Best line of the 2014 NZ Post Book Awards

It came from Vincent O’Sullivan, of course – winner of the poetry award last night for Us, then.

VUP’s Twitter feed reports that Kim Hill said to him today at the winner’s event, referring to the fact that he is not only a poet but also a dramatist, novelist, short-story writer, biographer, librettist and Mansfield scholar:  “There's no form you don't write.”

He replied, “Well, I don't write cheques very often.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Burning question of the day: Dusty Springfield edition

The Mancunian-Canadian Carole Pope – “an icon of transgressive music” who is a “singer songwriter, agent provocateur pushing the boundaries of sexuality, sexual politics and the status quo” –  asks:
When did it all go wrong?
When did it all go so Francis Bacon?
The fans at Dusty Springfield fansite Let’s Talk Dusty! are puzzled by the Bacon reference in this song, from Pope’s EP Music for Lesbians, which seems to be about Dusty Springfield. Ms Pope was for a time close to Dusty. The EP also features a song called “Vagina Wolf”.

I may be wrong (it happens) but I believe that the Francis Bacon/Dusty Springfield connection was first “referenced” right here at QUQ, which explains the extraordinary number of visitors the blog has had recently from baffled fans at Let’s Talk Dusty!, seeking an answer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

CK and Owen: "their intercourse was literary"

It’s clear that CK was in love with Owen, but — though he was rumoured at the time to have seduced him — the balance of probability is that they were not lovers. Their intercourse was literary. CK admired and championed Owen, and they bonded (really!) with a fierce intensity over their mutual interest in assonance and pararhyme.

Calm down, it’s not CK Stead and Owen Marshall, it’s CK Scott Moncrieff, the translator of Proust, and Wilfred Owen, the World War I poet. Taken from Sam Leith’s Spectator review of Chasing Lost Time: The Life of CK Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy and Translator by Jean Findlay.

Still, in a parallel universe. . .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lee Child’s Personal: spoiler alert

In Lee Child’s new novel Personal,  due in the shops here on Monday 1 September, there is a passage in Chapter 14 when Jack Reacher goes to Paris (Paris, France that is):
The green door had a small brass plaque next to it which said Pension Pelletier. A pension was a modest hotel, somewhere between a rooming house and a bed and breakfast. [. . .] 
I ordered an extensive breakfast, anchored by a large pot of coffee, accompanied by a croque madame, which was ham and cheese on toast with a fried egg on top, and two pains au chocolat, which were rectangular croissants with sticks of bitter chocolate in them.

Wonderful. I bet Lee Child didn’t include these explanatory details in the manuscript he delivered to the publisher. One of his editors would have requested them. I would love to know how that author-editor conversation went, and how the editor explained that the author could not expect his readers to know about these obscure French things. Like, dude, who has ever heard of pain au chocolat?

Otherwise, I can report from the half-way mark that Personal is a cracker, and another Lee Child masterclass in how to end a chapter. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book review of the week

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?
Dave Eggers (Hamish Hamilton, ₤14.99)
It takes the recent death of novelist Barry Cole – a genuine Age of Aquarius mad-lad who hung out with BS Johnson and was brought in to clear up after the great man committed suicide – to remind us that there was once such a thing as a genuine literary avant-garde. There is still one now, of course, only it long ago lost any kind of connection with the mainstream and rarely gets reported in the newspapers, which means we have to make do with the likes of Mr Dave Eggers here.
The left-field credentials of Mr E’s lamentably-titled new one rest on the fact that it is composed entirely. . .

Continued on p27 of the 8-21 August issue of Private Eye, in all good bookshops now and a snip at $10. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wintec Press Club: Rachel Glucina edition

The Wintec Press Club meets for lunch three times a year in Hamilton: guests are the students of the Wintec journalism course, important media types from the Waikato and Auckland, politicians and famous sporty types. The host is Steve Braunias, Editor in Residence on the course.

Felled by flu, I was unable to attend Friday’s luncheon which featured the NZ Herald’s gossip writer Rachel Glucina, but here is a guest post from Joshua Drummond (regular readers may recall his Horrible Painting of Michael Laws) who did attend and, as a trained and skilled graduate of the course, took notes. He reports:

Steve Braunias kicked things off in customary style with a speech and congratulations to various personages in the room, alluding to several people who’d refused to come to hear Glucina speak, because they might catch her lack of ethics, or something. He did a shout-out to Dave Snell, Dr of Boganology, whom I mention here because he’s a good mate and he has a documentary series on bogans coming up on TV2. Watch it, because it’s about actual New Zealand people, and fuck-all primetime NZ television is these days. End plug.

Glucina’s talk was done as a Q&A with Braunias, which was a useful change in format. Several Press Club speakers, while still instructive, have alternately droned and babbled. She began it, bright and bubbly, with talk of previous guest “Holmsie” [Paul Holmes], an affectation that pissed me off straight away, and how she’d got good and boozed with him and he’d become a mentor and role model with the advice: “You’re not here to make friends, you’re here to break stories.”

Braunias prompted her into an anecdote about her story on Mick Jagger, which was genuinely interesting because it snapped her out of the self-absorbed mode, and had her discussing the way she went about pursuing the story. Braunias asked about the ethics of outing Alison Mau and her same-sex relationship. Well, that was fine, Glucina opined, because everyone knew about it anyway. Everyone? Well, yes, and besides, Mau had sold stories to women’s magazines in the past so she was fair game.

The things that came to mind at this point were: no, the public didn’t know, and what right did she have to out someone? Surely it’s a personal decision to publicly reveal your sexuality? Braunias asked something similar. No, that didn’t matter, because Mau was in the public eye and had sold stories, and blah fucking blah. It was around then I fired off the following tweet:
Well this is fucked. #rachelglucina
Much more of this sort of thing followed. Any talk of whether it was worth wrecking people’s lives was met with the argument that they were in the public eye, so what. Laughing, she spun a yarn about her pursuit of the Ridges, with some ghoulish “friends” who’d sold them out to her. It had me cringing. A person at my table passed me a note. It said “Sociopath = no remorse.”

When she wasn’t playing up her close celebrity relationships, or how important she was because people called her to tell her shit, or how many contacts she had (“literally hundreds!”) Glucina was genuinely sympathetic. People had abused her quite horribly, as well as offering her bribes and (mystifyingly) “taken their clothes off” at her to try and get her not to write things. She spoke of Cameron Slater’s hideous social-media campaign against her – “hate speech”, she said – which nearly forced her to England. A chance meeting with the CEO of APN kept her in New Zealand.

Braunias did ask whether she’d paid much attention to her minor role in noted gossip Nicky Hager’s new book, Dirty Politics. No, she hadn’t read it, and she’d never met Hager anyway. What did she think of Hager? “Don’t know, never met him.” She said it with a snap.

One of the best bits was her story of how Judith Collins brokered a friendship between her and Slater. The way she told it, Collins had buttonholed her at a cocktail party and said she’d arranged for Slater to apologise to her. Glucina doubted it would happen, but it did. She seemed uncomfortable with the outcome – which isn’t surprising as it looks like Collins had essentially said, “Children: your bickering is becoming politically inconvenient. How can I advance my career when my dogs are fighting? Make up, now.” And they did.

People were well warmed up for the Q&A. It quite quickly became, in Braunias’ closing words, fractious. Most questions centred on whether what she did was ethically tenable. Justifications varied. Questions about the depths her gossip plumbed were met with “It’s my job.” She swatted away allegations of partisan bias with “I’m just a gossip columnist.”

Comedian Te Radar came up with a question that was more of an impassioned riposte about how she’d portrayed herself as a Breaker of Stories and a Purveyor of the Public Interest, but who actually mostly broke stories about which rugby league player got a taxicab blowjob from whom. Her response amounted to: “If the public read/click on it, then it was obviously in the public interest to release it.” My thoughts are that just because that the public are interested doesn’t mean that it’s in their interest. Cynicism compels me to think that if anything, it’s in the newspaper’s interest.

My question about whether tweeting a picture of Aaron Smith’s schlong was ethically OK got a “Well, everyone had already seen it.” Well, no, not really. Or even slightly, actually. “It was doing the rounds.” But the public hadn’t seen it. “He shouldn’t have taken it.” How is it his fault if he got betrayed by a supposed friend? “We talked to his agent.” I don’t want to see dick pics from the New Zealand Herald in my feed. “You don’t have to follow me.” Well, I don’t, but it was retweeted.

At this point it was turning into an argument and Braunias moved on to the next question, which was fair enough. I’d had too much wine and my reputation for asking obnoxious questions was threatening to get out of hand. A woman sensibly followed up with a question about whether Glucina would have done the same if the subject of the picture had been a woman. Sadly, I can’t remember enough of the response to paraphrase it. Perhaps someone else who was there will.

Some guy asked a stupid question about how Glucina could even be friends with Judith Collins. Braunias didn’t even bother with that one. Metro editor Simon Wilson asked if she was aware that she was being played by people as much as she was playing them. Her answer, paraphrased, was: yes, but at the end of the day it didn’t matter because people read and clicked and her job was done. All part of the game.  I got to ask another question: “Rachel, you’re clearly good bros with John Key and Judith Collins. You must know a lot about them. Are you an equal-opportunity gossip? Are we going to find out interesting facts about them?” She said, essentially, “Uh, maybe.” I said, “When?” Laughter. No actual answer, though.

David Slack closed the Q&A amid some vocal run-on questions from others in the crowd. His rich intonation sailed above the quarrelling of the mob as he queried how we could be sure of the veracity of Glucina’s second-hand claims. Her answer, which bordered on tautology, was that we can because they’re true. OK.

It was all very interesting. Kudos to Steve Braunias for bringing in a fascinating guest. It was worthy as a snapshot of the changing face of news and for the genuine questions posed about the nature of what constitutes public interest. It was also an insight into a deeply fucked-up personality: an art historian, a self-identified homebody who turns in early, hates parties and whose day job is spinning vituperation. It was Interview with the Pit Viper.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014 election: Keith Holyoake edition

This Internet Party vid with young people chanting “Fuck John Key”. Yes, terrible. Young people today, etc.

In 1969 Keith Holyoake, the then Prime Minister (above), held an election meeting in the Tauranga Town Hall, aka National Party central. It was open to all. Back then, this was normal. The public could come along and listen to politicians, question them and even shout at them. Innocent days, before spin doctors, TV and ruthless party image control.

That night, I sat upstairs with my fellow sixth-former David Withers and his cassette player, and every time Holyoake said something about the Vietnam War that annoyed us, David cranked up the volume of his Country Joe and the Fish tape, the one with the famous obscene version of the Fish cheer:
“Gimme an F, Gimme a U, Gimme a C, Gimme a K. What does that spell?”

David and I chanted along with it. We were thrown out. Holyoake won a fourth term.

I wonder if these young Internet Party supporters chanting “Fuck John Key” have really thought this through.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Waikato Times letter of the week #52

A bumper crop, two letters from the 4 August edition. Spelling, grammar, punctuation and logic are all exactly as published:
The number 12
Why the number 12?
It’s amazing why the number 12 is such an historic number and used in legal documents —12 for jury duty —12 good men and true; 12 months in the year; 12 inches in the imperial foot measurement or, is it all just a coincidence?
Today’s education still circles around this number which governs the Western World in so many ways. Even our time pieces – clocks/watches start and end on the number 12. Did it all originate with religion and the 12 apostles?
If anyone says they are not religious they maybe haven’t understood what starts the day and guides us through each and every day – time.
Whether we believe it or not – religion governs the Western World by day and by night and our everyday lives. If you’re clocking on and clocking off or, and any other daily activity! It all started this way about 2000 years ago. Check your watch and see if it is still telling you what to do and where to go. The number 12 is at the top on your watch face!

Question of morality
Peter Dornauf’s opinion (Bronze age outlook causes strife, July 28) contains many errors. 
Science has advanced to the point where it is able to acknowledge that the universe was created. 
The announcement on March 17, 2014 of the latest discovery of ripples in the fabric of space-time (gravitational waves) further confirmed this. 
A physicist explained “. . . at this point, creation is a scientific fact”.
Slavery in ancient Israel was different from what was practised in the United States. In the United States, men and women were sold and became the property of the owners and had no rights. 
In ancient Israel, it was usually the decision of the person to become a slave to pay off a debt or relieve severe poverty. They would sell themselves as servants. 
Hebrew slaves had rights and the law warned against mistreating them. 
After six years the slaves were set free and the master was to send them out with abundant provisions: Deut. 15:12-15. 
I’m unsure how morality can evolve and still retain its original intent/purpose. It may certainly widen its application to cover new examples.
What is the basis for blessing same-sex marriages? Is it based on rights and if so, what are the supporting reasons?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The best of Bob Jones

Today’s Herald – we cancelled our subscription today – has an ad for Bob Jones’s new book. It says:
The Perfect Father’s Day Present
The best of Bob Jones’ columns in their uncut entirety

And here is the cover:

You know I’m a peaceful man, but if anybody gives me this book for Father’s Day I will punch them.

So here are the Band at Woodstock in 1969 with “The Weight”:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Subtitling the Australians

On Monday the Waikato Times ran an expanded version of this Fairfax story about two of our Commonwealth Games athletes having a niggle. In the 5000m Nick Wills inadvertently tripped Jake Robertson who, let’s say, expressed his disappointment. All’s well that ends well:
Asked if he and Robertson had spoken, Willis said: “I gave him a hug and kiss after the race when he congratulated me on my medal just now, that’s all we’ve talked about.”

The WaikTimes expanded remix includes a quote from Athletics New Zealand’s Australian-born high-performance coach Scott Goodman:
“I will do whatever I can to help them. They can be the real duck’s guts [Australian term for brilliant].”

So it has come to this: subtitles for Australians.