Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Country life

On Boxing Day Laughy Kate asked for directions back to where she was staying with the other in-laws.

I said, “Turn right from here past the footy field, cross over SH 1B, you’ve got the racecourse on your right, now turn left at the first horse.”

It worked.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

In the true spirit of Christmas, the Times asked a bunch of arts-connected people to talk about the classics they can’t stand. Yes, it’s listmania as the silly season starts. There is a certain amount of shooting fish in a barrel (i.e. Oasis) but there are some gems, notably Spectator columnist Matthew Parris on listening to the Beatles in the 60s:
Well, it left me cold. I just thought it was crass. All that banging about, boring, babyish tunes and noisy choruses. I slightly fancied George Harrison, but that was all.

Well, yes. And theatre director Jude Kelly on Rubens:
His cherubs seem far too knowing and they always seem to me to have a slightly sexual, devilish air. They always look as though they have eaten enormous amounts of chocolate. They seem to be the antithesis of spirituality, the way they prop themselves up with their head on their hands, sort of languorous. Where’s their work ethic, that’s what I want to know.

A happy Christmas to you all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to prepare for the arrival later today of my sister-in-law. And when I say “prepare”, I mean “drink”. Yes, it’s a bit early in the day but that is, frankly, how one prepares to face Laughy Kate.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy birthday, Adrian Belew

Born on 23 December 1949, Belew is famous for the extraordinary range of animal noises he can produce on his guitar – in this Japanese TV ad he imitates a chicken, a cat and an elephant, in this one a monkey and a seagull, and in this an entire orchestra.

Which would be of interest only if he made music from it, and he does. He got his first break with Frank Zappa, whose band he recorded (Sheik Yerbouti) and toured with 1978-9. Then he worked live and in the studio with David Bowie (Stage, Lodger) Talking Heads (Remain in Light) and since then he has released 20 solo albums since 1982’s Lone Rhino, and has been a member of King Crimson continuously since 1981. He seems always to have other side projects on the go as well.

In October I posted a happy 40th birthday to King Crimson with a clip of them doing “Elephant Talk” in which Belew performs extraordinary Strat abuse. Here he is with them in 1982 performing “Matte Kudasai”, one of the band’s rare ballads:

But to really see what he can do, take a look (embedding is disabled) at him live in Rome in 1980 with Talking Heads, soloing twice on the ecstatic, apocalyptic funk of “The Great Curve” (at 2.00 and again at 5:20). Talk about abstract.

YouTube has another nine videos from the same concert, filmed (not very well) for TV. Belew is amazing on “Cross-eyed and Painless” – which, Tina Weymouth fans, features her a lot. And in “Psycho Killer” she even smiles. Despite the occasional out-of-tune singing, it’s a hell of a show.

Isn’t YouTube Downloader great.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy birthday, Robin Gibb

Home Paddock reminds us that twins Maurice and Robin Gibb were born on 22 December 1949, three years after their brother Barry. Together they were the Bee Gees, and they were fabulous. (Maurice died on 12 January 2003.)

The Heebeegeebees released “Meaningless Songs (in very high voices)”, in 1980. They called themselves Dobbin, Garry and Norris Cribb, but were really the comedians Angus Deayton, Michael Fenton-Stevens and Philip Pope who performed on the BBC Radio 4 comedy show Radio Active.

Once you have heard this mercilessly accurate parody, it is quite hard to take any real Bee Gees song seriously. Which, I gather, is one reason why this has never been released on CD: the Bee Gees were not amused. Everyone else was, though, and it became a surprise #2 hit in Australia. All together now:
The world is very very large
And butter is better than marge
And love is better than hate.
The world is very very big
And bacon comes from a pig
But it’s you I really want on my plate
So I sing you
Meaningless songs in very high voices
And then a little scream – ah!
Meaningless songs in very high voices
Until the record ends and when it does
We’ll simply start again yelling
Meaningless words, meaningless words, ah ah ah

Why we should recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia

The Los Angeles Times reports:
The tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru, with its phosphate mines nearly depleted and without any other significant natural resources, has only one thing left to sell: its international reputation. Enter Russia, which is more than happy to buy.

That’s how Nauru this week became the fourth country to establish formal relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The other three countries are Russia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Unfortunately for the Kremlin, that’s all it has to show after 15 months lobbying its allies to recognize the two breakaway republics, which are trying to assert their independence from Georgia with Russia’s backing.

Russia insists it didn't provide incentives to Venezuela and Nicaragua in exchange for their support. Coincidentally, though, both nations subsequently signed big arms and energy deals with Moscow. The payment to Nauru seems to have been more direct. According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the country requested $50 million in economic aid in return for its diplomatic gesture.
The population of Nauru is 14,000, so that works out to $US3570 per person. Nice.

According to Statistics New Zealand, the population of New Zealand today is 4,345, 716. If Russia is prepared to pay us the same for each New Zealnder’s support as it is for each Nauruan’s – and why wouldn’t it? – that would bring in $US15.514 billion. The BNZ’s currency calculator has an exchange rate of 0.7444c today, so that comes to $20.84 billion in our money. Frankly, we could do with it.

So screw Georgia, which, let’s face, it hasn’t done much for us lately. Let’s recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia and have a party on the proceeds.

Monitor: Steve Whitehouse

Friday, December 18, 2009

Geek love

My wife works in a science organisation and is the only member of the senior management team without a PhD. She is brainy, but the others are officially brainy. And almost all the statisticians are tall, dark and handsome Latin Americans. Not that I’m worried, but I will be if she starts taking tango lessons.

Anyway, she overheard this at work:
“He’s interested in gene discovery. I’m more interested in physiology.”
The course of true love never did run smooth.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

In praise of Wild at Heart

I was up at 5.30am yesterday to fly to Wellington for a four-hour meeting. Meeting over, three of us arrived about 3pm at the aitport for the 6.30pm flight home. We were saved by the new lounge which had opened the day before. Wild at Heart is upstairs where the Qantas lounge used to be: it’s a bit like the Koru Lounge except there is no exorbitant annual fee – you pay as you go.

It costs $25 to get in, discounted to $19 until March, and what you get is peace and quiet, free food (not flash but all you need in the way of cheese and crackers and salamis and such) and free tea, coffee, beer and wine. There’s also Wi-Fi and an array of PCs to use, and Sky News runs continuously on a large screen.

It is a clean, well-lighted place and, frankly, a haven. It may not be that for much longer as more people realise it’s there and take their children, but yesterday it was just what we needed.

Copenhagen climate change shock

David Williams reports for Stuff:
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been embarrassingly dumped from a climate change debate by the BBC in a move that may stoke trans-Tasman rivalries, Key has been elbowed out of the BBC World “Greatest Debate on Earth” on Thursday by his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd.

The debate in Copenhagen’s New Concert Hall will include Mexican President Felipe Calderon and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, before an audience of 1000 people. [. . . ]

Greenpeace political advisor Geoff Keey said the dumping was a “bit of a knock back”. He thought Rudd’s role as a special negotiator in Copenhagen may have led to the Australian leader being preferred for the debate.
You don’t say.
“Maybe we’re [New Zealand] simply not seen as a player.”
You don’t say.

Monitor: Steve Whitehouse

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Strangest Google hit ever

This blog has been going for a year now. The idea was to post material from Quote Unquote the magazine, but I don’t have the digital files any more and it’s quite hard OCRing the text, proofing it and getting the writers’ okay. I don’t strictly need to for most of it, but it’s polite.

And most people are happy for the articles to be posted – after all, these days if it isn’t online it doesn’t exist. But some people are not.

Exhibit A: Tim Wilson, who was a taxi driver when I discovered him for Metro and launched his career, but having lived in New York for a few years and working for TV he is now too grand to respond to email entreaties, the ungrateful wretch.

Exhibit B: There was a serious objection from the subject (name on application) of a Nigel Cox piece so I had to pull it after posting – that was after about four hours’ work.

So there has been less from the magazine than I had planned, but hey, next year will be different. Don’t we all always think that?

What I have noticed over the last year is the weird ways people around the world come here. There are a number of regular readers in New Zealand, which was the plan. There are also a number of regulars from overseas, which is a pleasant surprise. Hello, Vila! Hello, Hong Kong! Hello, Rarotonga! Hello, Sandwich! (No, really.) But hundreds and thousands of people have come here by googling for images of Toby Young. That is weird. Why would you?

Most recently, there has been a spike from people looking for information on Ike Turner. That is weird too. The hairy sausage was also a hit. (As, less weirdly, have been Witi Ihimaera, Phil Judd, Frank Sargeson, and that stupid, stupid book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.)

But the weirdest of all Google searches is this one today: “hilary barry xmas cake recipe”. I really like Hilary, who is a friend of my wife’s: she is one of the funniest people I know, she is gorgeous and she can really cook. So, three out of three. But why on earth is someone in Napier trying to find her Christmas cake recipe? Isn’t it a bit like trying to find Elizabeth Knox’s gardening secrets, or CK Stead’s favourite knitting patterns?

UPDATE: I take it all back about Tim Wilson. He is not an ungrateful wretch. He has been in touch and has granted permission to post. Watch this space, and watch for his novel due next year from VUP.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Paul Holmes is an idiot

He isn’t, not really – he’s a very bright guy. But like all columnists he sometimes has to wing it when faced with a deadline. Why else, for example, was Finlay Macdonald getting angsty about the colour pink in yesterday’s SST? Holmes even admits at the start of his column that he didn’t know what to write about in this week’s skanky HoS:
I was not going to write about Tiger this week. My wife suggested I leave him alone and the rest of the world should too. But what else is there? ACC levies going up next year? The Easter Bill being defeated in Parliament? The Labour Caucus being completely united behind Phil Goff? Hardly.
Yawn. But then he explodes with silliness:
The sudden, incredible destruction of the career and image of Tiger Woods just continues to amaze. In terms of destruction it is rivalled only by the Titanic. It is the human equivalent of the giant, unsinkable ship colliding fatally with the iceberg in the dead of the cold black night in the wastes of the North Atlantic, to lie within a couple of hours dead, 3000 ft below the frigid ocean floor.
No it isn’t. Not at all. But the Fundy Post got to this before I could, and got to it devastatingly well.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pot and kettle of the week

Patrick Gower reports:
Local Government Minister Rodney Hide accused North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams of “madness” as their spat turned nasty yesterday. [. . .]
Mr Williams said Mr Hide’s madness comment was “ungracious”.
Auckland and North Shore readers will know that Hide’s description of Williams as mad is not unprecedented. For other readers, here is an example of Williams’s legendarily batty and yes, ungracious, late-night emails – click on the jpgs for a larger version. This exchange seems to be pretty standard fare.

Sadly, the Mayor Andrew Williams is Mad blog hasn’t been updated since 24 March. Somehow I don’t think this is because of lack of ungraciousness-related material.

UPDATE: Williams is at it again, this time tormenting the Prime Minister:
An exasperated John Key has confirmed that Williams, mayor of Auckland's North Shore City, has on several occasions sent “aggressive” and “obnoxious” texts as late as 3.30am. [. . . ]

Asked how late was too late to text people such as the prime minister, Williams said: “Are text messages time-sensitive, are they?

“Sometimes something pops into your head and you send off a message, not really knowing what time it is.”

Newsreaders in niqabs

Amani Fikri of the BBC Arabic Service reports:
Until recently you would never have seen women presenting television programmes dressed from head to toe in the niqab or burqa. But on the Saudi religious channel Awtan TV [shown above] it has now become the norm.
Female broadcasters at the station are draped in the all-enveloping dresses, which are usually black and also cover their faces. The work environment too is very different. Male technical assistants do not enter the studio while the women are presenting.
There are more than 60 religious channels across the Middle East. Some allow women to present programmes without being fully covered or dressed in black. Others have no women presenters at all.
Awtan TV decided to take a unique approach. The station was launched in 2008, and last month it set a precedent by allowing women to present, but only on the condition that they wear the niqab.
Ola al-Barqi anchors a breakfast show, as well as a quiz show for girls called Mosabqat Banat.
A key element of the programme is the relationship built between presenter, contestants and the audience – something that might be more difficult if the presenter is totally covered up.
“The face is not the only way to build a relationship,” explains Ms Barqi [. . . ] “We’re always receiving calls from viewers in various countries encouraging us to keep doing what we do.” [. . . ]
Ms Barqi says there are other good reasons why she wears the niqab.
It helps her to concentrate more on her work rather than anything else, and what she looks like is irrelevant. “We don’t introduce ourselves as beautiful women who put on layers of make-up. Our audience is focusing on what we present to them, our ideas and our discourse.”
Ms Barqi believes some people work in the media to become famous. But that is not why she became a presenter. “We don’t need fame,” she explains.
Which raises the question: will Ms Barqi ever appear on the cover of Sayidaty, Oasis or any other Saudi women’s magazine? I guess not. At least she will never have to suffer the indignity of her face appearing on the back of a bus, as happened last year to TV3 newsreader Hilary Barry. And yes, the obvious joke was made many, many times.

Monitor: Mick Hartley

Advertising masquerading as news

Edting the Herald is calling for nominations for the Golden Garths, the inaugural awards for the Worst Opinion Columnist, Most Egregious Example of Advertising Masquerading as News, Biggest Media Beat-up and Worst Article in the New Zealand Herald in 2009.

That’s a superb idea and I hope someone else does something similarly snarky for the Sunday Star-Times, which has in every issue an Egregious Example of Advertising Masquerading as News. Here’s one that occupied a quarter of a page in the 6 December issue:
Garden snapshot seals reality TV debut
Cameras have started rolling for a new garden show hosted by green-fingered celebrity Lynda Hallinan and featuring an Auckland family who will transform their backyard into a vegetable paradise for the reality series.

The show will screen on Prime early next year, with the aim of illustrating how even novice gardeners can grow their own food and become more self-sufficient.

Freshly picked star Devoney Scarfe, 34, who will appear on the show with husband Jon Coles and their two young sons, reckons it was the charms of two-year-old Otis that swung it with the producers. “He was just cute, waving at the camera and stuff.” [. . . ]

One of the big drawcards was getting to work alongside Hallinan, who edits NZ Gardener and is a Sunday Star-Times Sunday magazine columnist.
Who publishes NZ Gardener? Fairfax.

Who publishes the Sunday Star-Times? Fairfax.

Was this a news story? No.

Was it an ad for a sister publication? Yes.

Gnome Chomsky

Stuck for a Christmas present for that special person? Here’s an idea:
Ever wanted your very own gnome for your garden? Ever wanted to have a linguist and U.S. foreign policy critic in your garden? Now you can have both!

Standing at just under 17 inches [43 centimetres], Gnome Chomsky the Garden Noam clutches his classic books, ‘The Manufacture of Compost’ and ‘Hedgerows not Hegemony’ – with his open right hand ready to hold the political slogan of your choosing. His clothes represent a relaxed but classy version of regular gnome attire, including: a nice suit jacket-tunic, jeans, boots, traditional gnome cap, and glasses. Additionally, Noam Gnome stands on a base complete with a carved title – for anyone who may not immediately realize the identity of this handsome and scholarly gnome.
It is made by Just Say Gnome! in Portland, Oregon and costs $US 175 fully painted, $US 65 unpainted, shipping extra.

I want one.

Monitor: Pop Bitch

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Listener letter of the week

From the 12 December issue (not online) of the Listener: Robert Bryan of Upper Hutt writes in reply to the 28 November article on climate change (cover line: “Last chance to save humanity”):
The world is actually run for the benefit of the big corporations and they are not going to change their habits any time soon. [. . .] Consider also the hold that these companies have on US politics. Most senators and congressmen rely on huge champagne contributions from business to get elected [. . .]
If I were a senator or congressman, whoever gave me champagne contributions would have my unswerving support.

Witi Ihimarea and plagiarism, Part II

Further to my 25 November post on the Listener’s 19 November article detailing the plagiarism in Witi Ihimaera’s new novel The Trowenna Sea, the 12 December issue lists more examples, all of them pretty blatant. (The preview is here: the full story will be online on 26 December. The print edition says that all 34 examples of uncredited “borrowings” are on the website but I can’t find them.)

So far, so entertaining for those of us not directly involved. But this struck me:
The Listener asked Penguin whether the usual editing checks were done on the novel before it was published. . .
Penguin hasn’t answered that one, but I think I can. Of course they bloody were.

The thing is, “the usual editing checks” in book publishing are quite different from those in magazine journalism. When editing a novel (I have been a book editor on and off for 26 years) I do a lot of fact-checking as well as sorting out spelling, grammar, structure, pace, all that stuff. But I don’t look for passages that might have been purloined from another writer. You don’t look for them because you trust the writer, as does the publisher. I don’t think the relationship would work if it was as suspicious as the one between a reporter and a news editor is, or should be.

What’s more, the author has signed a contract specifically declaring that the manuscript is free from plagiarism. In my last Penguin contract, Clause 7 begins:
The Proprietor [i.e. the author] hereby warrants to the Publishers and their licensees that [. . .] the Work or any alteration is original work and is in no way whatever an infringement of any existing copyright [. . .]
In the next paragraph:
If it is the Publisher’s belief on reasonable grounds that the Work does infringe any existing copyright [. . . ] the Proprietor shall return to the Publishers any royalty advances paid to that date and reimburse the Publishers for any costs incurred in preparing the Work for publication.
I advise on contracts for members of the NZ Society of Authors so apart from my own with Penguin, Random House, Tandem, Godwit and Cape Catley I have copies of contracts with David Bateman, HarperCollins, Scholastic and several other publishers. Every single one has a clause like Penguin’s Clause 7: every author guarantees that the manuscript is all their own work.

That’s why it is unreasonable to expect that the editor (or, gossip has it, editors) of The Trowenna Sea should have picked up Ihimaera’s borrowings. Jolisa Gracewood did a great job uncovering the 34 – and who knows, there may be more – but she does have the advantage of a background in comparative literature and also (here I am speculating) as an academic she probably has access to Turnitin, the program universities use to “detect potential plagiarism by comparing student work against 3 massive, continuously updated databases of content”. And she wasn’t under extreme deadline pressure, as this novel’s editor was.

My sympathies are entirely with the publisher here. I have no inside information, but from what I know of the process they were committed to getting the book out before Christmas: they had booked the printer (you simply can’t be late or you go to the back of the queue); organised the marketing and publicity campaigns, including paying for advertising in the Christmas catalogues; entered it in the 2010 NZ Post Book Awards (the successor to the Montanas); and all the rest of it. For a big book by a well-known author, there are a host of expensive things to organise well in advance – and they all depend on the publication date being set in stone and the author delivering the work on time. Handing in even just a part of a manuscript on the day it is due at the printer is an appalling way to treat your publisher.

Jolisa Gracewood provides a chronology of the story so far here at Busytown, and also a long consideration of the issues raised followed by a LUQ, or list of Lingering Unanswered Questions.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The funniest thing I have seen this year

Especially the pie graphs.

The story goes like this: Australian adman Simon Edhouse asks designer David Thorne for a logo and some graphs to present to prospective clients. David Thorne replies, including this pie graph:

A lengthy correspondence ensues. A sample:
Dear Simon,
[. . .] I would no doubt find your ideas more 'cutting edge' and original if I had traveled forward in time from the 1950's but as it stands, your ideas for technology based projects that have already been put into application by other people several years before you thought of them fail to generate the enthusiasm they possibly deserve. Having said that though, if I had traveled forward in time, my time machine would probably put your peer to peer networking technology to shame as not only would it have commercial viability, but also an awesome logo and accompanying pie charts.

Regardless, I have, as requested, attached a logo that represents not only the peer to peer networking project you are currently working on, but working with you in general.
Regards, David.
The graphic is stylish and witty but far too rude to reproduce in a family blog. (You can see the whole exchange here.) Edhouse replies:
You just crossed the line. You have no idea about the potential this project has. The technology allows users to network peer to peer, add contacts, share information and is potentially worth many millions of dollars and your short sightedness just cost you any chance of being involved.
And Thorne comes back with:
Dear Simon,
So you have invented Twitter. Congratulations. This is where that time machine would definitely have come in quite handy.
There is lots more text and graphics in this vein. Unfortunately, Edhouse says that none of it is true. Apart from the pie graphs – I think we can take them as an accurate portrayal of the situation.

Monitor: Tim Blair

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy birthday, Little Richard

Prince might possibly have seen a few Little Richard clips in his time. What do you think?

Richard Wayne Penniman was born on 5 December 1932 in Macon, Georgia. This is him in 1956 singing “Lucille” on the Ed Sullivan Show. His first big hit was “Tutti Frutti” in 1955. That’s the one that starts “A wop bop a lu bop, a wop bam boom!”, still unbeaten as an intro to a song.

On 30 May this year, while performing in “The Domino Effect”, a tribute concert for his old friend Fats Domino, Little Richard was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame. Photos, a ton more information and some great sound clips from throughout his career here.

Monitor: Home Paddock

Friday, December 4, 2009

Penny Wise on Climategate

The most sensible comment I have seen on the whole climate-change email scandal now known as Climategate was by Clive Crook of the Atlantic:
Climate scientists lean very heavily on statistical methods, but they are not necessarily statisticians. Some of the correspondents in these emails appear to be out of their depth. This would explain their anxiety about having statisticians, rather than their climate-science buddies, crawl over their work.
That hadn’t occurred to me but is obviously true. Science and statistics may be bedfellows but they are not at all the same thing, and expertise in one area does not confer expertise in the other.

So, as I do when the maths gets too hard, I asked my economist friend Penny Wise for a comment. She writes:
Yes, it is not hard to see how and why a group of scientists decide to just do the statistics themselves, all having done a little bit of statistics in their science courses. But statistics (or in economics, econometrics) is a specialty like all the rest and, having struggled through a second-level econometrics course myself, I know how hard it is.

It is also very easy to do badly, as you can use any number of off-the-shelf stats packages to do the work for you in a rudimentary way. I recall an hilarious paper where some top-level econometrician absolutely shredded a paper by Milton Friedman.

Macroeconomic models of the economy are unstable enough and require all sorts of “tricks” and judgements to keep them giving sensible results. Portfolio optimisation models are wildly unstable. So it is no surprise that a full climate-change model, which must be massively complex (in the sense of having a huge number of correlated variables) must reflect a large number of scientists’ judgements.

The good to come out of this will, I hope, be to force data and methodologies to be made widely available to scrutiny. As I understand it, you cannot publish in a quality econometrics journal unless you also provide your data and methods. If nobody else can replicate those results, there is a problem.

It is astonishing that NIWA has been so protective of this for the NZ temperature record. I don’t doubt they have done a reasonable job of it, so why not put it out for review?

Martin Amis, gentleman

That is Martin Amis above, and this is Katie Price, also known as Jordan, below:

The Times reports that literary authors in the UK are miffed at the attention paid to celebrity memoirs, and rejoice that the genre seems to be in decline. However, Tom Weldon of Penguin says that “the biggest selling authors this year will be Ant & Dec, while Jeremy Clarkson, Chris Evans, Frankie Boyle and Peter Kay will also be in the top ten.”

No, apart from Clarkson I don’t really know who these people are either, but they are clearly outselling A.S. Byatt. And if the genre is in decline, some of these non-books (as my late friend Andrew Mason called them) are still shifting units:
The literary career of Katie Price, however, has more often made such books worth the gamble. Her first memoir, Being Jordan, sold more than 720,000 copies and, despite some diminishing returns, the former model’s fourth-volume autobiography released in October is still selling relatively well.

This causes consternation among other authors who complain that the life blood of their profession, as well as their cash advances, are being sucked dry by celebrities.

In a speech to the Crime Thriller Awards this year, Lynda La Plante implored publishers to “stop spending your millions on this tripe ... on these reality TV writers who are here for their 15 minutes of fame”. Pointing out that Price’s book had outsold the Booker Prize list, she added: “She is a terrible thing for young girls who just want pink welly boots.”
Martin Amis, ever the gentleman, weighed in with this comment on Ms Price:
“She has no waist, no arse,” he said. “All we are really worshipping is two bags of silicone.”
What a charmer. Later in the article we learn that “sales of Martin Amis’s books totalled £200,000 last year”. The standard royalty rate authors receive is 10% of the retail price (yes, he has a top agent so could well be on 15% or more, but then his agent will be taking at least that, but just for the sake of argument…) which would indicate that last year Amis earned £20,000 in royalties.

That’s not a lot of money, really. Quite a few New Zealand authors earn more. Amis would get a hefty sum each year from the Public Lending Right which compensates authors for the loss of royalties because of library borrowings (even an obscure author like me gets enough each December to pay for a very merry Christmas), but still I think we can see why he is affronted. Many, many people would rather read her than him.

Monitor: Tim Worstall

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Here’s looking at her, Kim Il Sung

Mick Hartley is a great resource for Thirld World stories. Some are extremely upsetting, such as the ones about women being stoned to death and, in general, most of the ones from the Middle East. Some are infuriating, like – well, most of the ones from the Middle East. And some are amusing, even the ones from the hell-hole that is North Korea.

Here he links to a story from Korean News Services (the two last words are deeply but unintentionally ironic), a website hosted in Japan. That’s understandable given North Korea’s relationship with the Internet, but weird given Korea’s relationship with Japan. However, the story is:
Deep Emotion of Girl Chairperson of Management Board

Pyongyang, November 30 (KCNA) -- President Kim Il Sung gave field guidance to the Samjigang Co-op Farm in Jaeryong County in mid June Juche 65 (1976).
After asking the girl chairperson of the management board of the co-op farm when seeds were sown and what amount of humus soil was carpeted, the President let her elaborate her experience in properly nursing rice seedlings.
After listening to her, the President praised her work, looking at her lovely [my italics]. And he instructed officials to let her participate in a Political Committee meeting.
The officials were surprised by his words because it was beyond imagination for a young girl chairperson to take part in the Political Committee meeting.
Her surprise was not inferior to that of the officials.
As Mick Hartley observes, a word or two is missing. “looking at her lovely… ” what? Seedlings, one supposes.

Ten Tiger Woods jokes

1. Tiger Woods is so rich that he owns lots of expensive cars. Now he has a hole in one.

2. What's the difference between a car and a golf ball? Tiger can drive a ball 400 yards.

3. Tiger Woods wasn't seriously injured in the crash, but he's still below par.

4. What were Tiger Woods and his wife doing out at 2.30 in the morning? They went clubbing.

5. Tiger Woods crashed into a fire hydrant and a tree. He couldn’t decide between a wood and an iron.

6. Perhaps Tiger should be using a driver?

7. This is the first time Tiger’s ever failed to drive 300 yards.

8. Apparently, Tiger admitted this crash was the closest shave he’s ever had. So Gillette has dropped his contract.

9. After a wayward drive, Tiger Woods found water before nestling behind a tree.

10. Apparently, the only person who can beat Tiger Woods with a golf club is his wife.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Clerical rule in Australia

The new leader of the Liberal party is Tony Abbott; his deputy is Julie Bishop. One of them should hire Margaret Pope as a speechwriter.

What this means for us is that the Liberal caucus also declared that they would vote down Kevin Rudd’s ETS in the Senate. This could lead to a double dissolution and a general election next year. Joe Hockey was eliminated in the first round; the final vote was 42 for Abbott and 41 for Malcolm Turnbull.

There was minute-by-minute coverage at The Punch – it won’t stay on the front page but you will be able to find it on the site somewhere.

UPDATE: the story isn’t on Stuff or the Herald website yet. Perhaps all the reporters are at lunch.

UPDATE 2: Stuff had the story online at 12.25; the Herald didn’t get back from lunch until 12.57.

UPDATE 3: David Farrar at Kiwiblog had it online nine minutes after me at 12.25, the same as Stuff. That’s OK – he’s busy and has a proper job and everything. And he can still scoop the Herald newsroom by 32 minutes.