Monday, February 28, 2011

What I’m reading

An interview with Alex Marsh, writer of the blog Private Secret Diary and author of the book Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll, which I like a lot.

Tim Worstall on why self-sufficiency in food is an idiotic idea. It’s not just about wanting bananas, pineapples and rice when you live in New Zealand or – god forbid – England, it’s about preventing famine.

Chad Taylor on why bookshops in France seem to be OK, perhaps because they sell books. Chad signs off here – I hope he’ll be back because I have enjoyed his blogging very much. It is zeitgeisty.

I’m signing off for a bit too. Back next week, with the long-promised Bill Manhire/Dr Feelgood connection. Promise.


A guest post by my friend Chris Bell, who plays bass. We are too shy to have played together, but my impression is that he is rather good. Certainly our musical tastes overlap a bit. He writes about his Twitter list of Top Twenty Solos:
I’ve favoured great solos in song context rather than solo tunes in their own right. It’s a personal list, not intended as definitive. Disclaimer: Many choices are arbitrary (which Monk, Bird, Hendrix solo to choose?) and the ranking and any omissions personal taste.  Miles Davis's solo on ‘So What’ from Kind of Blue was omitted from my highly subjective Top 20 only for space reasons.
1. Ernie Isley, guitar, ‘Summer Breeze’, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
2. Frank Zappa, guitar, ‘Watermelon In Easter Hay’, Joe’s Garage
3. Carlos Santana, guitar, ‘Song of the Wind’, Santana, Caravanserai
4. Jaco Pastorius, bass, ‘Used To Be A Cha Cha’, Jaco Pastorius 
5. Josef Zawinul, keyboards, ‘A Remark You Made’, Weather Report, 8.30
6. Chet Baker, trumpet, ‘Shipbuilding’, Elvis Costello, Punch The Clock
7. Thelonious Monk, piano, ‘Ruby My Dear’, The Complete Blue Note Thelonious Monk
8. Charlie Parker, alto sax, ‘Ko-Ko’, The Charlie Parker Story (Savoy Jazz)
9. Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, guitar, ‘My Old School’, Steely Dan, Countdown To Ecstasy
10. Jimi Hendrix, guitar, ‘Third Stone From The Sun’, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced
11. Jimmy T. Zavala, blues harp, ‘Missionary Man’, Eurythmics, Revenge
12. David Lindley, lap steel guitar, ‘Detox Mansion’, Warren Zevon, Sentimental Hygiene
13. John Coltrane, tenor sax, ‘Giant Steps’, Giant Steps
14. John Martyn, guitar, ‘Johnny Too Bad’, Grace and Danger
15. Steve Gadd, drums, ‘Aja’, Steely Dan, Aja
16. Wayne Shorter, soprano sax, ‘Aja’, Steely Dan, Aja
17. Herbie Hancock, piano, ‘Kuru/Speak Like A Child’, Jaco Pastorius
18. Terry Bozzio, drums, ‘The Black Page (New Age Version)’, Frank Zappa, Make a Jazz Noise Here
19. Ruth Underwood, marimbas, ‘Saint Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast’, Frank Zappa, Apostrophe (’)
20. Joe Morello, drums, ‘Take Five’, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out
Personally I’d have some Richard Thompson, Eric Dolphy, Amos Garrett, Lonnie Mack, Cannonball Adderley, Albert King, Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew and possibly Split Enz’s Noel Crombie on spoons. But then, what to ditch? 

Anyway, Chris expects to be argued with. Feel free to do so in the comments. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011


This is the Tallis Scholars in Merton College, Oxford, performing the First Lamentation for Maundy Thursday by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). This year is the 400th anniversary of his death.

The English version of the Latin text begins:
Here begins the lamentation of the prophet Jeremiah.
How desolate lies the city that was once full of people:
the queen of nations has become as a widow;
the ruler of provinces is now subject to others.
By night she weeps in sorrow
and tears run down her cheeks.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Word of the week

Fergus Barrowman of Victoria University Press tweets at IIML:
Just published a book with Victoria Unversity Press on the title page.
I do sympathise with Fergus, but heh. “Unversity” is such a good word. Think of AUT, and one or two other educational institutions not a million miles away . . .

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A note for overseas readers

The best source for news updates on the Christchurch earthquake is on Fairfax’s website Stuff, at  this page.

The best eyewitness account is this by Vicki Anderson.

Jim Tucker has uploaded a swathe of dramatic photos to Flickr here.

Cash donations can be made through the Red Cross here.

Because New Zealand is so small most of us have friends and/or family in Christchurch who have been directly affected, and we don’t yet know how many people are dead – 75 have been confirmed but unofficial reports put the missing at perhaps 300. It is a very sombre time throughout the country.

According to Stuff, “Police say there are 238 people on the missing persons list but say many of these people will simply have left town.” Let’s hope. 

Two more good eyewitness accounts, from Zara Potts and Philip Matthews, and a sequel to Vicki Anderson’s one linked to above.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Worst headline of the week

Libyan demonstrators say they’ll soldier on despite violent crackdown
There’s something wrong with that second verb, isn’t there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kicking Berlusconi

Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield in Harry & Paul on BBC2 suggest that the Italian PM may not be a stranger to corruption:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy birthday Barry Humphries

Every 17 February we wish the Greatest Living Australian a happy birthday. Today is his 77th.

One week ago he was named Oldie of the Year by Richard Ingrams’ excellent Oldie magazine.

Oldie readers of this blog will remember Ingrams as the editor of Private Eye, which published the Barry McKenzie comic strip written by Humphries and illustrated by the New Zealand-born cartoonist Nicholas Garland. There was later a film or two, but as Wittgenstein put it, “Whereof we cannot speak, let us remain silent.” Or as my mother would say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

In the same Oldie awards Prince Philip was awarded Consort of the Year. Phil the Greek, as Private Eye dubbed him, may be an appalling racist and all-round shit but he is also a good sport – he accepted.

The big four banks

Stuff reports
Banks face downgrade
The big banks look set to lose their prized Aa2 credit ratings after ratings agency Moody’s Investment Services said it was considering a downgrade of them.
I am not surprised. These people are idiots. Three of them keep sending me emails saying that my account with them has been frozen due to unauthorised access, and can I please log on again to confirm my identity, when I don’t even have an account with them. This is no way to run a business in the modern  world.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ruby Heartbreaker

Until Silvio Berlusconi’s trial – which, amusingly, will be before three women judges –  we will not know for sure what he got up to with the teenage pole dancer Karima el-Mahroug, otherwise known as Ruby Heartbreaker or Ruby Heartstealer (depending on your translator), or with the dental hygienist Nicole Minetti. But I think we all have a fair idea.

Berlusconi is a huge embarrassment to Italians – though they did vote for him, so one’s sympathy is a bit limited – but OMG he and his harem have been good for my blog stats. As mentioned before, people all over the world – i.e. men, possibly lonely men – come here because I included photos of the comely Ms el-Hahroug and Ms Minetti in a post that I thought would amuse readers. Attracting pervs has never been the purpose of the blog but never mind. One is increasing the sum of human happiness, and that can only be a good thing.

Except that this case is not amusing at all because it shows up the abuse of power that these men indulge in. Frankly, they wouldn’t get a shag based on their looks or, one suspects, their charm or sense of humour.   

The Economist has had a beady eye on Berlusconi for years and has long been the best place for coverage of his sins – not so much the sex stuff which is trivial, really, compared to the corruption and abuse of power. I’m not sure if non-subscribers can get to this but here is the magazine’s interactive guide to Silvio Berlusconi’s legal troubles.

A note for NZ authors

Nicky Pellegrino reports on Facebook that the Authors Fund has gone online with its registration forms. What took them so long?

If you want to re-register without adding new titles complete the online re-registration form here.
If you need to register new titles complete the form here – you’ll have to print it out, sign it and snail-mail it.

Breaking news

David Thorne advises on Facebook that:
The Black Label Edition of The Internet is a Playground is being permanently removed from the 27b/6 website due to legal/contractual obligations. Last chance to purchase today.
As highly recommended by me last month here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chat-up line of the day

From this list of 30 Literary Quotes That Just Might Get You Laid:
“Stuff me in a tutu and let’s screen experimental videos all day.”
Not saying it would work on me, mind.

 Monitor: IIML Twitter

The reading list

Word of the day: “vajazzling”. Go on, have a look.

Copyrights and wrongs: the Economist calls JD Salinger “the pre-eminent enemy of open culture in American letters”.

Jonny B at Private Secret Diary has mice

A very short planetary history: the four parts are “The Birth of the Moon”, “The Late Heavy Bombardment”, “The Oxygen Catastrophe” and “Snowball Earth”. We are now in the Cenozoic era of the Phanerozoic eon. But you probably knew that.

Kevin Ireland’s 1977 collection Literary Cartoons won the NZ Book Award for Poetry. Here is a literally literary cartoon.

B.R. Myers rails against foodie-ism in a review of four new food books and compares them unfavourably with Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx’s Heroin Diaries, which he found refreshing by contrast. Money quote:
Johnston and Baumann note that “eating unusual foods is part of what generates foodie status,” and indeed, there appears to be no greater point of pride in this set than to eat with the indiscriminate omnivorousness of a rat in a zoo dumpster. Jeffrey Steingarten called his first book The Man Who Ate Everything. Bourdain writes, with equal swagger, “I’ve eaten raw seal, guinea pig. I’ve eaten bat.” The book Foodies quotes a middle-aged software engineer who says, “Um, it’s not something I would be anxious to repeat but. . . it’s kind of weird and cool to say I’ve had goat testicles in rice wine.” The taste of these bizarre meals – as researchers of oral fixation will not be surprised to learn – is neither here nor there.
More from Tim Worstall on why speculators in food are doing us all a favour.

A great (if long) piece by Alec Clark on book editing, with additional notes by authors such as Blake Morrison, Diana Athill, Jeanette Winterson and Craig Raine. (I was surprised that Raine regarded the editor of one of his books as exercising “unerring diligence” because she picked up a misquotation from Ulysses. Picking up misquotes and other errors is what we editors do.) Money quote, from literary agent David Miller:
In a world where digital publishing has made a large number of people think that authors can go direct to an audience, publishers have been utterly crap at explaining what they do. And most of what they do is intrinsically invisible.
Monitors: Kottke, Clare McIntosh

Sentence of the day

Dave Barry reviews a Barry Manilow concert:
Anyway, it was all over in about 90 minutes, and I can honestly say that it was not the worst 90 minutes of my life, because I have had a colonoscopy.
Monitor: Tim Worstall

Friday, February 11, 2011

In memory of A.K. Grant

Today is A.K. Grant’s birthday. He would have been 70 today.

The 31st in this occasional series of reprints from Quote Unquote the magazine is from the March 1996 issue and reprints five of Alan’s poetry parodies. Four more were published in the June issue – they were all collected with other poems in his last, wonderful book Parodies Regained, published in 2000, the year he died.

I didn’t know Alan well but every time I went to Christchurch in the 1990s he was always my first port of call. Before I met him I had the privilege of occasionally editing his Listener column in the 1970s, which was a joy. Later, I met him in the 1980s when he was in Auckland struggling with TVNZ’s script editors and we would go out for lunch and drinks. Well, I had lunch, Alan had drinks and I had no clue what this meant. 

If I have got the story right, when Alan was dying in Christchurch hospital, his doctor was called Fernando. On being introduced, Alan said, ”Can you hear the drums, Fernando?” Talk about courage being grace under pressure.

The heading was:
The Rewrite Stuff

The intro read:
If the Troggs could cover Wet Wet Wet’s “Love Is All Around”, if Otis Redding could cover Michael Bolton’s “Dock Of The Bay” – why shouldn’t Marvell, Kipling, Rochester, Gray and even Omar Khayyam rewrite a Sam Hunt poem in their own style? AK GRANT recently unearthed these long-lost manuscripts.

This is the Sam Hunt original:
Enough! to count the cars
Sliding by, remember the bars
where women and jokes were shared
Scars smart now, like the stars through tears –
a man and his dog, running scared.
(from Running Scared, 1982)

And here are Alan’s parodies in other poets’ voices:

Bottle Creek
by Rudyard Kipling
By the DB Paremata, looking lazy at the sea,
There’s a green-eyed girl a-settin’ and she’s settin’ next to me;
But the wind is in the toi-toi, and its plumes they seem to speak:
“Come you back, you rovin’ poet, come you back to Bottle Creek:
Come you back to Bottle Creek.
You’ve been gone at least a week:
And the herons all are cryin’, Bring Sam back to Bottle Creek!”
I must go to Bottle Creek,
(When my dog has had a leak),
Where the dawn comes up like thunder out of Pae-ae-kak-arik!

The Missed Mistress
by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Pray tapster, fill the flowing bowl
As quickly as you can,
For I must drown my haunted soul
Inside this DB can.

I loved a woman once, but now
I tremble when I shave;
And all that’s left’s a bow-wow-wow
To guide me to the grave.

I loved for better, loved for worse,
I think, I think, I think.
Oh Christ! I think this sort of verse
May drive a man to drink.

To His Shared Mistress
by Andrew Marvell
Had I but world enough and Time,
I would confront the Great Sublime,
By which I mean the girls I’ve kissed
In places which I sometimes missed;
Discovering with a sudden start
Myself adjacent to a part,
Though not the one where I’d been heading;
Enough! I brought the bawd to bedding.
But at my back I always hear
A surly barman hurrying near,
To fill my glass and count my cash,
Of which I have a dwindling stash.
Dog! to the window let us go
And count the sliding cars below.
The grave’s a dry and crumbling wicket –
Bugger! I think I’ve got a ticket!

Omar Khayyam Tries To Work It Out
by Edward Fitzgerald
A Book of Verses underneath the Bar
A Jug of Beer, a Georgie Pie – a Car
A Dog! beside me in the Wilderness –
I sometimes wonder who I am – or are!

Elegy Written in a Country Tavern
by Thomas Gray
The barmaid, Nell, is wiping down the bar.
The lowing herd winds slowly out the door.
The ploughman plods towards a distant car.
The Ploughman’s Lunch is squashed upon the floor.

Now fades the glimmering pokie on the sight:
Switched off the beacon of the TAB.
Nell says to me, “Will you lock up? Goodnight”,
And leaves the pub to darkness and to me.

Full many a gin of purest ray serene
The dark upended spirit bowsers bear
Full many a DB Bitter can of green
Will wash away full many a bitter tear.

Far from the car park’s mad ignoble strife,
The sliding cars have sped upon their way.
I count them, as I think about my life
And sing (in noiseless tenor), “Yesterday”.

And now my dog’s my truest friend on earth,
Though I’m to Fame and Fortune not unknown:
Nothing especially humble in my birth,
But Melancholy marked me for her own.

The dog’s not looking cheerful, come to that.
We’re running on an empty tank of fear.
Mutely I give the mutt a moody pat,
And pour a Scotch to chase away my beer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Christo in Cambridge

The Waikato Times reports:
Four pieces of playground equipment, a group of three trees and a picnic table and chairs were all under wraps at the playground on the corner of MacLean St and Thornton Rd in Cambridge this morning.
It is unknown who was behind the cover-up.
More detail in the local newspaper, the Cambridge Edition, whose excellent editor Ann Huston took the photo above:
Waipa District Council did not know why the wrap had been carried out or who had done it and were removing the plastic as the Edition went to print. If anyone has any information on the playground wrap please give us a call on 827 3840.
We live in a small town. If Ann really wants to know more, all she has to do is pop over the road and ask anyone in the New World carpark.

In 1985 I was in Paris and the Pont Neuf looked like this:

In 1995 the Reichstag in Berlin looked like this:

 So yes, it has been done before, done bigger and better. But isn’t it encouraging to see two local lads emulating Christo’s example and wrapping rather than rapping?

Monday, February 7, 2011

I am just going to the sofa and may be some time

My final 2010 Christmas present from my wife has arrived, a copy of Alex Marsh’s Sex & Bowls & Rock & Roll. As Jonny B, Marsh writes the brilliant blog Private Secret Diary, which is almost/arguably as funny as this one. The book is, I gather, a sort of bookisation of the blog. (May one verbise “book”? Should it be “bookification”? Discuss.)

The blurb says:
The story of a man who gives up the rock ’n’ roll dream. . . to play bowls.
Alex Marsh wanted to be a rock star – but it didn’t work out. Instead he toiled away in the big city – only to give up his career, move to rural Norfolk, and become a househusband. But he isn’t a very good one. Whilst his pride won't let him admit it, he struggles with the cooking, the housework and the isolation. He hires a cleaner without telling his wife, his repertoire of baked potatoes exhausts quickly. He becomes hooked on daytime television and computer solitaire. He is in danger of becoming weird. So he takes up bowls.
In Sex & Bowls & Rock and Roll we follow a season in the life of the village bowls team, a group of amateur sportsmen and mild eccentrics. In doing so we see this unfashionable pastime in a whole new light, and very funny it is too.
But Alex hasn’t quite given up on his dreams of rock stardom. Discovering that some of his mates down the pub are a bit handy with bass and drums he makes one final stab at being in a band, with an eagerly awaited local gig. It is a complete disaster.
Join Alex has he comes to terms with life as a domestic disappointment, attempts to learn the fine art of bowls and finally realises that supporting the Sultans Of Ping at the Pink Toothbrush in Rayleigh really was the highpoint of his musical career.
So it’s the story of my life, apart from the bowls. As soon as I have finished reading this and the Thelonious Monk bio I borrowed from Distractions, I promise I will resume proper blogging to reveal the secret connection between Bill Manhire and Dr Feelgood, as previously advertised.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Word of the day: confertisparsison

Dot Wordsworth in the Spectator on the correct use of “between”:
That might be an end of it, were it not for hatred of another construction: between each (the notion being that, since each is a singularity, nothing can come between it). A good counter-example comes in a translation made in 1856 by John Williams of a Welsh grammar compiled 600 years earlier by Ederyn the Golden Tongued: ‘A syllable that terminates with four consonants, having the obscure pronunciation of the mutescent y between each, is called confertisparsison.’
Dot Wordsworth isn’t her real name, and she isn’t a real she. But she is very good.

Egypt sentence of the day

This was a couple of days ago but still. Omar Sharif in Cairo, interviewed by the BBC:
You can’t get any food or drinks anywhere so I’m going to Spain.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sir Launchalot on Paul Johnson

The 30th in this occasional series of reprints from Quote Unquote the magazine is from the March 1996 issue.

We started the Sir Launchalot column in the second issue in an attempt to lift the standards of Auckland’s book launches. Unity Books would always put on a good show, but elsewhere the standard was variable: publishers are notoriously mean. So we started reviewing them – speeches, food, drink, the works – and it worked. Launches got better.

Full credit for that goes to Denis Edwards, who wrote all 43 Sir Launchalot columns. (At least I think he did – I have a vague memory of writing one myself in his style and finding it a real challenge.) I got a bit of grief from people in a city at the other end of the North Island about this column, which they felt lowered the tone of the magazine. To which I always said, “Yes. That is the point of it. Also, I think it’s funny. Now please fuck off.” 

The intro read:
Paul Johnson, flexible thinker, at the Sheraton
Paul Johnson is one of England’s journalistic icons. Author of some 30 books, he did a spectacularly successful turn as editor of the New Statesman in the 60s and 70s. All through those decades he was a leader of the left. Then in the 80s, while on the road to his personal Damascus, he stopped by the burning bush and heard the voice telling him of his new direction. That voice was Margaret Thatcher’s.
Naturally Johnson did the only thing a man of principle could do in such circumstances. He flicked the lefties, grabbed at Maggie’s coat-tails and has been huffing along in her wake ever since – although he is rapidly letting go of John Major’s tails and scrambling to be part of the Tony Blair phenomenon.
Johnson does this from a position of high moral standing and a careful reading of history. If you accuse this fine man of spotting the next bandwagon and hefting his soft, wide buns on board while there is still time, you are quite wrong, and have no appreciation of the concept of Flexible Thinking.
He was in town at the behest of the Business Roundtable, our commercial and moral leaders. Some were there for a little breather from the work of making the country great, now that the winebox inquiry has bollocksed their chances of those refreshing little hols in Rarotonga.
His lunchtime lecture at the Sheraton kicked off with drinkies in the bar. This is cash money, $3.50 for an orange juice and $5 for a “midday sharpener” (a single whisky). This is on top of the $55 for the lunch and speech.
Never, ever go into one of these things hungry, thinking you’ll come away thoroughly fed and watered. The Sheraton sets a thinnish table. There’s a bit of lamb, half a dozen beans and a spud. Add the bread and butter, a little chocolate and a piece of cheese each. Whip through that lot and you’ve just lived through the Sheraton’s idea of a fifty-buck rib-sticking feed.
Ron Small, the wine chappie, went on about the wine Corbans had kicked in for the event. He told us the charders wasn’t closed in at all. This triggered a lot of sage nodding of heads. No one, but no one, likes a closed-in wine.
On Ron rolled. The reds weren’t dominated by the wood. More nodding. Lots of these blokes had been to boarding schools, giving them an adolescence dominated by the wood, and they’d had quite enough of that, thank you very much.
Doug Myers sidled up to the mike, to pave the way for Johnson, then dropped back to Lion’s ringside table and the four thirtysomething Lionesses seated on Doug’s either side. Hey, he could live with it. They had perfect hair, high cheekbones, elegant suits and they were dedicating their MBAs and their lives to making him even richer. Who says you can’t have it all?
There was none of that down at the New Zealand Herald table. No sheilas there. Bloke the Herald was, bloke the Herald is and bloke the Herald will stay.
Down on the floor the atmosphere was tensing up. Paul Johnson was at the wicket. Now for the good stuff, right from the very wellspring, Margaret Thatcher’s Mother England, about how social welfare was a cancer, how malingerers should be pitched out of their hospital beds to make room for high-producing and stressed business people and, of course, a few considered thoughts on how to tear the nuts off whatever is left of the union movement.
Disappointment all round. Johnson launched into an erudite and boring history lesson, about how the French Revolution created a class of professional politicians. That was in 1789 – what about the welfare bludgers here and now? Nope, Johnson took us on a little spin through the development of American democracy, the rise of democracy in England and a bit on the Whigs who appeared from the west of Ireland. Whigs!
Fortunately things picked up near the end, when he started giving politicians a good barrelling, except for strong leaders like Maggie T and Tony Blair. The real knee-slapper was when he said that the problem with the Labour Party was all the people working for it were “raving lunatics”. Boy, that one hit the spot.
Johnson tried to build on this for the big finish. Unfortunately the history lecture had killed any chance of a frothing, screaming berserk, on-­their-feet outpouring of adoration. In fact, as soon as he’d finished there was a steady trickle of suits heading for the door.
Naturally, as befits those in the presence of Doug and Paul, no one showed a hint of a cellphone – they’re just too, too sales rep – and leaving early implied being answerable to someone else. So those fleeing were all muttering excuses about “Woolworths bladders”. Funnily enough, not many of them came back for more.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sargeson fellows for 2011

The Sargeson Trust has awarded this year’s Buddle Findlay Sargeson fellowship to Sue Orr and Mark Broatch. Bloody good result, if you ask me. (Disclosure: I wasn’t in the room when the decision was made but I am one of the country members whose opinions are canvassed.) 

It’s a 50/50 split: each writer gets five months in the flat in Albert Park, over the road from Auckland University, plus a stipend of $20,000 each thanks to our generous sponsor Buddle Findlay. There are also, from memory, borrowing rights at the university library. 

Sue Orr has been a full-time fiction writer since 2006 when she completed Victoria University’s MA in Creative Writing, aka the Manhire. Her first book, Etiquette for a Dinner Party, made the long-list of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award (if you haven’t read Frank O’Connor, I can’t recommend him strongly enough) and was listed in the Listener’s Top 100 Books of 2008. Her second collection, From Under the Overcoat (Gogol alert!), is due from Random House this month. And what’s a really nice touch is that one of her stories is titled “The Stories of Frank Sargeson”. 

Mark Broatch was a regular contributor to Quote Unquote the magazine and has had several short stories published. He is currently assistant editor and books editor at the Sunday Star-Times: his most recent book is In a Word.  He will use the space and time to finish the first draft of a novel about “contemporary New Zealand society, blokes, journalism and  food”. 

Worst email scam ever

This arrived today, headed “Urgent response needed”:
Good-day This--mail--is--to--notify--you--that--your--email--has--won--$500,000--in--the--recent--held--Microsoft--online--promo--for--frequently--online--email--users--you--are--required--to--contact--us--back--with--the--details--below--for--claims.
Is the spelling and punctuation a clue? Why don’t they just say “I am a Nigerian crook – give me your money”? Isn’t it a bit insulting that they don’t even pretend to be plausible?

Anyone who responds to this deserves the epic fail awaiting them. Unless it is [insert name of your least-liked person].

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Glamorous, charming and witty

My old friend Deborah McKinlay’s debut novel The View From Here has just been published in the UK by Soho Press. It says here that she is “glamorous, charming and witty”, which sounds like the Deborah I remember. Like Rachel Hunter, she is from Glenfield.

Her previous books include Love Lies (published in Brazil, Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Sweden and Taiwan), Sex Secrets, Bosom Buddies, Getting Gorgeous and Man Handling. You get the idea. For a while she had an advice column in Esquire, and she also wrote for Vogue and Cosmopolitan. Before that, in Auckland, she was a dancer on The Billy T James Show: she used to refer to the troupe as Tits ’n’ Teeth.

Deb lives in England now but I am told that the book is available here via Random House. I am very keen to read it so I am now heading into Cambridge to Wrights Bookshop to get a copy. In the unlikely event that  they don’t have it in stock I fear I shall cause a scene. I have been waiting about 30 years for this.

Sentence of the day

From Danyl at Dim-Post:
Either Goff has terrible judgement, or his advisers have terrible judgement and he keeps listening to them, which would mean he has terrible judgement.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Charlie Louvin died last week. If it wasn’t for the Louvin Brothers (Charlie and Ira), there might not have been the Everly Brothers. And if it wasn’t for the Everly Brothers, there might not have been Simon and Garfunkel, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris – a whole bunch of country/folk harmony acts. Closer to home, I bet the Finn brothers and the Topp Twins know this stuff backwards.

The Gram Parsons-era Byrds covered the Louvins’ “The Christian Life” on Sweetheart of the Rodeo; Emmylou Harris covered their “Satan’s Jeweled Crown” on Elite Hotel.

So I have been playing the Louvin Brothers’ album Satan is Real  a lot this week. The children are tolerant – they figure that at least it’s not Xenakis, King Crimson or Ligeti. Or – horror of horrors – Palestrina.