Tuesday, 5 September 2006

What architecture means ...

Perhaps the most appropriate cartooon to accompany our current Architecture v Architecture Debate here at 'Not PC' is this cartoon from Private Eye, sent through by David Slack:

And look out tonight for the first of my five favourite buildings, in response to Den's signal box from last night.

RELATED: Architecture, Cartoons

Al Qaeda no. 2 turns stool pigeon

I haven't seen it reported in the local press, but this thug is in captivity and singing like a bird: Al Qaeda's number two in Iraq.

"Hamid al-Suaidi led a group that kidnapped people. He ordered bombings and mortar attacks that killed a number of our armed forces and our citizens. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is severely wounded," Mr Rubaie said.

"After his arrest he gave critical and important information and we ended up killing 11 militants of the second tier of leaders and nine of the lower tier," Mr Rubaie said of Suaidi.

Good news. Apparently not every Al Qaeda piece operative wants to die for their cause -- the higher level scum just want to send others to do that for then.

LINK: Al Qaeda no. 2 captured in Iraq - Sydney Morning Herald

RELATED: Politics-World, War

More 'lies' about the pledge card

Attack is always considered the best form of defence, but will Helen Clark's attack on National help or hinder her I wonder: will it divert attention from her misappropriation of money to pay for her pledge card? Or will it ramp up the resulting call to "Pay it Back"?

Interestingly Don Brash told Nat Rad this morning that "Helen Clark stole the election," he demanded she pay it back, and he called for an early election -- perhaps the strongest statement yet from an opposition leader who has really begun to front-foot this issue.

That phrase on the Free Rad cover I helped put together just a few weeks ago now seems to have real legs.

Meanwhile, following Labour Party Secretary Mike Williams's admission last week that the Pledge Card was a "central part" of the Labour Party election campaign, the G-Man has begun transcribing tapes he made of Helen Clark addressing election meetings around Wellington, and in which she makes the same point. Says the transcriber:
If we are to believe that Labour were intending the pledge cards to be merely educational tools for dim-witted taxpayers who may be unaware of government policies, and that it was merely an absolute coincidence that a hotly fought election was a matter of weeks away, then why did Helen Clark have this to say to a public meeting [...] and then go on to outline over about half an hour how the pledge card was the centre-piece of their re-election campaign?
Visit G-Man to hear Labour hacks like Jordan Carter are now suggesting "did not solicit money, membership or votes."

Does he think we're all stupid? Yes, of course he does. In fact, he and his fellow hacks, and the PM-elect, are all relying on it. "Lies about the pledge card need to stop," says the hack, and I agree with him: the Labour Party should stop lying, and pay it back.

As it gets increasingly messy, I wonder how it will all play out in court come Darnton V Clark.

LINKS: Eh? - G-Man
Darnton V Clark site.
Labour looks at way to repay taxpayer cash - NZ Herald
Lies about the pledge card - (Just Left) Jordan Carter

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, Politics-National, Darnton V Clark

'Chinese Girl' painter dies

The painter who once said that the main difference between Van Gogh and him was that Van Gogh starved whereas he had become rich has died aged 92. The Guardian has declared Vladimir Tretchikoff the the second most commercially successful artists of all time. "The critics hated him," they say, "and the public loved him."

His best-selling work was 'The Chinese Girl,' shown left. (Yes, those are the colours of the painting; you don't need to adjust your set.)

Try and work out for yourself if it's art, or illustration -- and try and determine too why (or if) there is a difference, and if so how it bears on the current debate about art ongoing here at 'Not PC.'

LINKS: Vladimir Tretchikoff - Obituary - Guardian
Vladimir Tretchikoff - Wikipedia

RELATED: Art, Obituary

Rail Switchtower, Basel, Switzerland: Herzog + de Meuron

Tonight, the first posting in the 'Not PC: Architecture v Architecture' debate, the introduction to which is in the post just below this one. The post this evening is by blogger and architect Den MT. Comments are welcome, in fact they are invited - except by me.

People generally conceive of 'architecture' as grand gesture - public institutions, glamorous housing for the well-off, and showy displays of cultural plumage.

What is great about this building is that it is a simple, pragmatic building - a railway signal box, which has become an object of intrigue, excitement, and beauty through the skilful interrogation of the brief by the architects.

On a purely pragmatic level, the building's primary function is the housing of sensitive electronic switching gear for the railyards at Basel, and as such, the brief called for some form of shielding from external electrical effects. The response of the architects was to create a 'Faraday Cage' by winding the building in copper cladding, effectively creating an insulating coil.

The master stroke was the investigation by Herzog and de Meuron of how this cladding could be used to enliven such a prosaic structure. Each 20mm wide strip of copper has been twisted as it runs across the face of the building, allowing the passage of daylight into the building, but at the same time creating a translucent, shimmering effect on the outside, which enlivens the building form, creating a sense of mystery as to what the simple 'box' might contain. The simple rectilinear plan form has been warped and twisted to conform to the parameters of the surrounding rail lines, attesting to the speed and power inherent in rail transport.

This building demonstrates that 'architecture' is not simply for the elite - that there is no distinction between 'architecture' and building. True inspiration can spring from the most banal and mundane requirements.

Den MT

RELATED: Architecture

Monday, 4 September 2006

Architecture v Architecture: Introduction

Commenting on this thread, blogger Den MT told me:
Far be it from me to engage in professional snobbery, PC, but for one who has erected such impregnable walls around their conception of 'art' and 'taste,' I'd be casting my eye a lot closer to home before rubbishing anyone else's aesthetic sensibilities.

Objectivity does not exist in art. You are a poor arbiter of taste if said taste is to be measured against the art you post (as 'the only true art').
'I see' your credentials as dubious. You demonstrate few intersections with what I enjoy and find engaging and entertaining about the visual arts, but the difference is that I don't claim any kind of intellectual authority for my opinion.
You post a lot of the classics on your site as examples of good architecture, but very few modern, current architects or buildings. Either you don't have your finger on the pulse as it were, you don't believe any good architecture is currently being produced, or (my bet) you wouldn't know good architecture if it landed on you from 6000mm AFFL.
You see, I'd been suggesting that it is possible to objectively determine that one thing is art and another is just a pile of shit, and Den disagreed. I'd suggested that individual taste is certainly subjective, but that what we like is nonetheless able to be analysed objectively to tell us something about ourselves and the way we see the world -- to which Den disagreed. I'd suggested that art is a shortcut to our philosophy ... and Den suggested I was talking nonsense.

So what's a commentator to do?

Well, in the interests of free speech and artistic and architectural debate (and of getting the fingers of 'Not PC' readers closer to the pulse -- where I know they want to be), I invited Den to join with me over the next week-and-a-bit in each posting here at 'Not PC' five of our own architectural favourites, and with each an argument for why we say it's good, and then let's see where it gets us.

So tonight, Den kicks off with ... well, you'll just have to tune back in tonight and find out, won't you. See you then.

RELATED: Architecture, Art

Art: there's more to it than just meets the eye.

Art. On that subject more than any other, ain't there a lot of misunderstanding about -- as this still ongoing and fascinating thread shows if nothing else does. But isn't it odd how something we've all experienced and enjoyed is somehow so widely misunderstood?

All of us have felt, after watching a film or having indulged in a DVD marathon of a favourite TV show, that our thinking has somehow been changed by the experience -- having been immersed in the world of CSI or House for example we might imagine ourselves to have become more analytical and more attentive to detail (or more cranky); after a Prisoner marathon we might feel particularly astute and mistrustful; and after hours of reality shows (if you can stomach that) you could feel intensely competitive and 'loaded for bear.'  All of us have been touched at some time by a painting, a film, a piece of music or a work of architecture or sculpture. If we hadn't, we just wouldn't be human.

Anything that affects us like this can't be causeless, and indeed it isn't. Even in the form of TV shows or films or three-minute pop songs, art clearly has an ability both to shape and to reflect our way of looking at the world. As Dianne Durante asks, "Why does this kind of psychological change occur, without any conscious decision on our part?" Her answer: Art that affects us like this has a very real cause, and in understanding that cause we can deduce both art's power and where it comes from. Why art affects us so profoundly is, to put it briefly, all because of the values that the art conveys, how well they are conveyed, and our emotional assessment of the sum of those values: specifically, because of the value-judgements the work of art makes about the world and of our place in it.

If the painting or film or TV show expresses the same emotional assessment about the world as we ourselves make, and we are able to 'read' that assessment, then that piece is going to resonate with us and touch us. (And, conversely, if the work makes an emotional assessment about the world that is at odds with our own, we're likely to feel a more emotional antagonism to that work than a simple piece of canvas or thirty minutes of celluloid might seem to justify.)

So the effect of art is not causeless. And it can be understood. Dianne Durante continues her own explanation with the example of that sculpture pictured above (which is a little unfortunate since personally I don't admire it, but there you go):
For example: Huntington's 'Cid' [ie., the chap depicted in the sculpture above] is clearly a man of courage. But the existence of courage assumes that there must be values for which it is worth facing danger, and that man has the ability to recognize this fact.
If man can choose to fight for his values, he must have free will. If fighting is a viable option, then the world must be the kind of place where values can be achieved. Such assumptions are so fundamental that they apply, in one way or another, to all men at all times. They are what Ayn Rand called metaphysical value-judgments. ("Metaphysical" is used here in the Aristotelian sense of "pertaining to the nature of reality" -- not the improper sense of pertaining to the supernatural.")
This concept is essential to the definition of art, which is, as Ayn Rand puts it, a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments."
Metaphysical value-judgments are basic convictions about the nature of reality and man's relationship to it. Is reality a stable, causal environment, in which things happen according to natural law -- or is it an anything-goes, causeless place, in which inexplicable miracles occur? Does man have free will and thus the ability to steer the course of his life -- or is he predetermined to act as he does and thus incapable of directing his actions? Is the world conducive to man's success and happiness -- or is man doomed to failure and misery? Discussion of such issues is the province of philosophy, which deals with the widest abstractions about man and the nature of the world. In art, though, a multitude of such ideas can be implied in a single image.
There are three things I want to say here in response. The first is that is that not all that is represented to be 'art' has the capacity to say anything approaching any of this. Even a relatively poor figurative sculpture (such as the one above) has sufficient scope, depth and integration to express what Dianne Durante describes, but nothing of the sort is possible with a display of, for example, semen-stained blankets, a toilet that brays like a donkey, or a man with hot dogs up his arse -- to give some examples of some contemporary award-winning 'art.' No 'view of the world' or any overarching emotional assessment of it can be made in that sort of work except a disgust for it, and for those who patronise that kind of trash.

The second thing is to point out that our crucial need for art comes from the nature of our human consciousness, and by virtue of the way we hold and form our ideas. Our conceptual form of consciousness means that our view of the world and our place in it is represents the very widest abstractions our minds are asked to hold, and the integration of those judgements with our emotional assessment of them are visible to us only through art -- it is only art that allows us to see our most fundamental view of the world and our place in it as a single mental unit, and what could be more important or profound than that! (I say more about this in my article 'Who Needs Great Art.')

And the third thing is to answer this question for you: What the hell is a Metaphysical Value-Judgement (MVJ)? And where do I find one in my favourite painting? Let me be as brief as I can, and to be as brief as best I can be I need to point you again to what Dianne Durante says above; to a chap called Peter Saint-Andre who explains it at greater length; and to artist Michael Newberry's brilliant descriptions of how to detect value judgements in paintings.

To anyone who's already realised that you won't find value judgements just sitting around on paintings like a Nike label on your sports shirt, Michael's piece is really the one to go to first (and if you're wanting a book-length explanation then the place to go is Ayn Rand's Romantic Manifesto) .

Take for instance these two paintings, one by Kandinsky (above) and the other by Vermeer (left). Start off trying to assess them yourself by listing three adjectives that describe each. You'll need to evaluate the paintings yourself to do that. once you've done that, then write down three adjectives to describe your own emotional reaction to each of them: to do that you'll need to introspect, a useful skill to develop if you want to expand your appreciation of art and of your own reaction to the art you see and experience.

Next, read what Newberry says about how each of them answers a fundamental metaphysical question: "Is the universe intelligible to man, or unintelligible and unknowable?" You can begin yourself by imagining that the artist's canvas is itself a depiction of the whole universe as seen through the artist's eyes (which of course is exactly what it is), and imagining what kind of universe that is.

If you agree with Newberry's assessment of how each painting answers that question, or if you've analysed it yourself and given your own answer, you'll then have on your piece of paper your own emotional assessment of that fairly fundamental question. Pretty neat huh.

Art: there's more to it than just meets the eye.

LINKS: Con art in Kaipara - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)Getting more enjoyment out of art you love - Dianne Durante, 'The Objective Standard' (requires subscription, but worth it)Romantic nihilism - Michael Newberry
Who needs great art? - Peter Cresswell, SOLO
Objectivist aesthetics and the nature of art - Peter Saint-Andre, 'Monadnock Review'
Detecting value judgements in painting - Michael Newberry, 'Newberry Studio Updates'

RELATED: Art, Objectivism, Philosophy, Sculpture

Because art (including television shows) not only conveys certain values; it also conveys the fundamental assumptions that underlie those values.


Two sportsmen retired over the weekend, both of whom are the very models of the word sportsmen, and of everything that word implies.

Hamish Carter, whom reports suggest has signed off with silver at the World Triathlon Champs in Lausanne, knows how to be a winner and did everything necessary in his career to make sure he was one. Everything honestly necessary. The impression I always had with Hamish Carter was that he was competing to see how good he was, not to prove anything to anyone else; by that standard any victory achieved any other way than honestly would not be a victory worth the name.

Carter was never just there to make up the numbers -- his reaction to his disastrous showing at Sydney showed that. He was always there to win, and if any sportsman isn't there for that, then sport is just not for them.

His one-two finish with rival Bevan Docherty at the Athens Olympics was magnificent. As he says of it now:

"It's hard to continue after Athens because it was such a massive high. You've got to be 100 per cent committed otherwise you're kidding yourself."

The man he beat at Athens agrees with the decision.

"There seem to be a few guys of that era pulling out of the sport, so it would be sad to see Hamish go but it would make my life easier wouldn't it," said Bevan Docherty.

What a great tribute from a great rival. After that victory he and Docherty both said they were looking forward to having some time off and getting a beer belly. I hope he does now.

And what about that other retirement, that of Andre Agassi: his will to win, his tactical nous and his tennis intelligence were a thrill to watch, as was his obvious passion for the game and his determination to win. Without the heavy artillery of his rivals he relied instead on being smarter then they were, and at his best Agassi's smarts were good enough to win everything tennis has to offer. He was always a pleasure to watch, and a deserving champion. Tennis will be less thrilling for his retirement.

What an irony that in his last game he was beaten by B. Becker.

(Perhaps after the weekend's sport Rodney So'oialo might also be considering retirement? Who could blame him? Or at least digging a hole in the ground and crawling into it for a month or so. Let's hope he gives some thought next time he plays for his country to using his head for something other than just something to put between the two people in front of him in the scrum.)

LINKS: Is it the end for Carter - TVNZ
Evolution and appreciation of Agassi - ESPN

And speaking of "thrilling" and "tennis": If you haven't seen it before then check out this You Tube video of that iconic "tennis game on the roof of the world" between Agassi and Federer. Enjoy.

RELATED: Sports, Heroes

A slogan with substance - a PM without honesty

"Eighty-one percent of New Zealanders support National Party sloganeering." That's the only interpretation to put on this morning's spin from Helen Clark on Newstalk ZB that the phrase "Pay It Back" is not so much a moral imperative, it's "nothing more than a National Party Slogan." To spin it like that is an admission that she would rather continue her dishonesty than concede it.

I'm sure any politician would be happy to receive eighty-one percent support for anything, slogan or otherwise. When it's a slogan that has substance -- as this one does -- then all the better for that.

UPDATE: Whale Oil has a transcript of part of the PM's conversation with PH, and a link to the audio so you can hear the spinster doing what she now does best: lying to cover her arse.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, Politics-National, Darnton V Clark

Sunday, 3 September 2006

"Libertarians are better lovers" says TV show

I know all readers of this ever-so-humble blog will be overjoyed at news from ABC confirming that libertarians make better lovers. It seems to have something to do with something called 'Desperate Housewives' ...

LINKS: Disney upset that libertarians make better lovers - Hammer of Truth [Hat tip Kenny]

RELATED: Sex, Libertarianism, Humour

Santiago Calatrava -- see him NOW at a cinema near you

The man's a genius. An artistic and engineering genius.

I've only had the the pleasure of being in one of Santiago Calatrava's magnificent buildings -- many of which bring to architecture the novel concept of seeing buildings as mechanisms, or as organisms that change as a living thing would during the course of the day -- so the film on Calatrava and his work currently on show at the JASMAX Architectural Film Festival was a delight. A real delight. (That's him above with another of my heroes, architect Felix Candela.)

A building that changes and grows as an organism does is a difficult thing to convey in a photograph, particularly when they change with the grace of a Calatrava building (often reminiscent of the scillia of an anenome, or the windswept movement of of a field of corn), so film offers the rare opportunity of capturing this delight.

The photographs here of Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum for instance give you an idea of the elegance of the construction when it's embrature is both open (above), when it seems to soar like a great bird, and closed (below), but not of the grace of its movement or the sheer 'organic' ingenuity of its mechanism. If you are at all interested in either architecture or engineering, I would urge you to try and get to one of the remaining sessions of the film showing over the next few days in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to see these buildings and the man's work as close to 'in the flesh' as you can see in this country.

And just as a contrast, to help you see how lucky are the people of Milwaukee to have a Calatrava creation for their Art Museum, I've selected a few other recent Art Museums produced by architects fashionable only for being fashionable, all of which have been, not to put too fine a point on this, expensive failures. I give you, Frank Gehry's monumentally ugly (and inordinately expensive) Columbus Art Center, resembling nothing so much as an expensive pile of used tin cans:

Zaha Hadid's disastrous Cincinatti Art Museum (below), erected at huge expense to help revitalise Cincinatti and the arts in that city, only to see patrons staying away in droves:

And Peter Eisenman's recently expensively rebuilt Wexner Art Center (below); at the time of rebuilding "director Sherri Geldin took the opportunity to list, to the obvious chagrin of an increasingly crimson Peter, exactly why the building sucks [and needed reconstruction]: lost patrons, damaging sunlight, useless spaces, etc. 'It would have been easier to start from scratch,' she said, and not in a nice way. Eisenman fled mid-speech." [Reported here at Not PC.] Her comments could just as easily have been reflected by the curators of the other museums above.
In fact, it would have been "easier" and infinitely more delightful if all those Art Museums had hired real architectects like Calatrava, instead of the posturing poseurs they did.

Go and see the film: 'Santiago Calatrava's Travels.' If you've read this far in this post, you'll love it. But be quick. The last showing at Auckland's Academy Cinema in Lorne St for instance is tonight at 6:45pm. Here's another link to the schedule for your city.

LINKS: Santiago Calatrava resources - Frederick Clifford Gibson
Milwaukee Art Museum,Quadracci Pavilion - description and story at the 'Galinsky' site.
Posturing poseur alert - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

JASMAX Film Festival '06: Celebrating Architecture - JASMAX

RELATED: Architecture, Films, Heroes

I'm choleric!

Who knew?

You Have a Choleric Temperament

You are a person of great enthusiasm - easily excited by many things.

Unsatisfied by the ordinary, you are reaching for an epic, extraordinary life.

You want the best. The best life. The best love. The best reputation.

You posses a sharp and keen intellect. Your mind is your primary weapon.

Strong willed, nothing can keep you down. Your energy can break down any wall.

You're an instantly passionate person - and this passion gives you an intoxicating power over others.

At your worst, you are a narcissist. Full of yourself and even proud of your faults.

Stubborn and opinionated, you know what you think is right. End of discussion.

A bit of a misanthrope, you often see others as weak, ignorant, and inferior.

[Hat tip some other blog that usually prefers anonymity.]

Saturday, 2 September 2006

New NZ libertarian blog

There's a new libertarian blog in town (well, 2/3 libertarian) called Pacific Empire.

Welcome to the blogosphere Phil, Luke and Jordan K.

Minds locked shut?

"I have an open mind." "You have a closed mind."

Do those epithets we hear so often mean anything. I mean, really? Do they? What do they refer to in reality? Does anyone really have a mind so open than anything is welcome? Or (outside religious cults and university philosophy departments) so locked shut it's impervious to logic, persuasion or new ideas?

Aren't these just nasty little catch phrases signifying nothing? Who really wants someone with the "wide open mind" of some politicians? As Howard Devoto used to sing, "My mind, it ain't so open that anything can crawl right in." But neither is it closed to reason or sound argument or new experiences (at least, so I'd like to think.)

The real distinction that the use of these two catch-phrases obscures is not between minds that are either open or closed, but between minds that are either active or passive. That is a real distinction that's worth observing.

For the passive mind, everything new or challenging is a threat. But to the active mind, a mind as Ayn Rand says, "able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them critically," every challenge is an opportunity either to discover something new, or to strengthen your convictions by clarifying and rejecting false ideas.

Wouldn't we all like to say we have an active mind? Wouldn't we?

LINK: 'The Active Mind' - originally from the article 'Philosophic Detection' in the book Philosophy: Who Needs It?, and excerpted at this link.

RELATED: Ethics, Blog, Objectivism, Philosophy

More songs about buildings and food

Well, maybe not about buildings. Just the food, thanks.
Eggs and sausage, and a side of toast.
Coffee and a roll. Hash browns over easy,
Chilli in a bowl, with a burger and fries,
Oh what kind of pie?
There's a rendezvous with strangers
Round the coffee urn tonight...

All the gypsy hacks and the insomniacs
Now the paper's been read
Now the waitress said...[repeat]
Daily Pundit suggests songs songs about food and cooking as a good weekend thread. Good idea. "What gets your toes a-tappin' and your juices goin' in anticipation of a good meal? The songs can be about food outright or food as a metaphor. It can be in the title or in the body." I've kicked you off with Tom Waits 'Eggs and Sausage,' what else can you bring?

Here's a few more to get you thinking:

One More Cup of Coffee - Bob Dylan
Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson
All that Meat and No Potatoes - Fats Waller
Baked Beans - by NZ band Mother Goose (anybody still remember them?)
Beans and Cornbread - Louis Jordan
Egg Cream - Lou Ree
I Eat Heavy Metal - John Lee Hooker & Pete Townshend
Tupelo Honey - Can Morrison
Ice Cream for Crow - Captain Beefheart
Alice's Restaurant - Arlo Guthrie
Tom's Diner - Suzanne Vega
Coffee and TV - Blur
I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl - Bessie Smith ... now there's an offer ...
Burnt Weeny Sandwich - Frank Zappa ... uh, maybe not ...


Bring out your photos

Embarrassing photos from our younger days. We've all got 'em. Here's just some of mine that very rarely see the light of day (for fairly obvious reasons). If I'm going to post then, as I've been dared to do, then Saturday is just the day to do it.

I'm sure you'll spot me without too much difficulty -- that's if you're not laughing too hard. I could offer explanations or excuses, but ... ah well ... there you go.

I rest in the comforting notion that you all have stuff just as bad lurking in your drawers, your closets and your shoeboxes. Why not bring 'em out and air them? Go on, I double dare ya'. Let he who has the first stone spread the most sin ... or something.

BTW, in one of these photos appears the woman who first introduced me to Ayn Rand, something about which I personally am very grateful (thanks Pam).

I expect a few of you might have other thoughts on that particular fact you might wish to share ...


Friday, 1 September 2006

Beer O’Clock: Emerson’s Bourbon Porter

This week, Neil sneaks into Stu’s dark beer territory with his review of Emerson’s new Bourbon Porter – and where does he find those early 90s pictures of Richard?

Brewer Richard Emerson (pictured right) once declared that he intended to make just three beers in his standard range which would be supplemented with one seasonal release.

He proved way too innovative to stick to that. His big new Emerson’s brewery in Dunedin currently makes eight beers in his standard range, plus two seasonal beers and two further limited editions every year.

His latest offering is Emerson’s Bourbon Porter. For many years, Richard had a made a whisky porter, a rich, dark beer matured in used whisky barrels from the long-defunct Wilson’s distillery.

Wilson’s will be remember by those of us unlucky enough to taste it as a poor whisky – but the barrels did impart some amazing flavours to the beer.

Given the distillery had gone out of production nearly a decade ago, it was clear the barrel supply would not last forever. When the barrels ran out a few years ago, many thought that was the end of Richard’s fortified porters.

Not so. Armed with his natural cunning, Richard sourced a dozen used bourbon casks and his London porter has been quietly aging in them for 9 months before being released on an unsuspecting public on 1 July.

This limited release beer pours a rich, dark colour and throws a nose which has a touch of coffee and hints of bourbon and vanilla. In the mouth there is a mix of dark roasted coffee, toast, vanilla and bourbon sweetness. This is a powerful but balanced beer.

At 9.2% abv this is definitely a sipper – not a quaffer.

Perhaps the best description of it came from a young Australian gentlemen at one of my recent beer tastings:

“Mate, I like beer. I like bourbon. This beer is going to save me so much time at the bar.”


LINKS: Emerson’s – www.emersons.co.nz
Beer tasting – www.backbencher.co.nz

RELATED: Beer and Elsewhere

A helpful suggestion for 'random-acts-of-kindness day'

Someone tells me that today has been decreed "random acts of kindness day."

Perhaps if that was to be combined with Casual Sex Friday ... ?

... no?


Just a thought, you know. Just a thought.

LINK: Random acts of kindness - 'Official' website

RELATED: Humour, Sex, Cartoons

'The Scream ' has been found. Two cheers.

'The Scream ' has been found. The painting by Edward Munch was stolen two years ago, and was recovered this morning (our time). A shame.

Here's an example of something that is good art -- very good art -- that I don't like at all. If anything better expresses the dis-ease and dislocation expressed by twentieth-century 'thinkers' -- of the nausea and helpless angst and the "blooming, buzzing confusion" of Jean Paul Sartre; of A.E. Housman "a stranger and afraid in a world [he] never made"; of William Butler Yeats for whom "things fall apart, the centre cannot hold"; of Dostoyevsky's Underground Man*, whose "irritability keeps him alive and kicking"; etc; etc. -- then it is this piece.

How much sordid meaning to pack into one piece of canvas: in it we can see almost the whole of the tortured twentieth-century.

But as Ayn Rand said once in reply to someone expressing the idea he was alone and afraid in a world he never made, "Why the hell didn't you?"
If a society reaches the stage where every man accepts the feeling that he is "a stranger and afraid in a world [he] never made," the world it gives up will be made by Attila.
Anyway, sorry to start your morning with that image. Just thought you should know. I promise to make it up to you later.

LINKS: 'The Scream' returns home - USA Today

* Yes, yes, 'Notes From Undergound' was written in 1864, but it summarises so well the existential angst of twentieth-century intellectual maggotry that it's the pre-eminent piece of representative twentieth-century literature.

"Four-thousand years ago..."

About four-thousand years ago when great buildings were erected they were mainly either funerary monoliths or fortresses. Such was the nature of the world four-thousand years ago.

Back then, war and death and disaster were still largely the order of the day and the focus of much of daily life, and life for the most part was seen as simply a small part of the more important journey taking place after death. (Think for example of the Great Pyramids and the Egyptian death cults, and the Sumerian and Chinese fortresses of this period. Such was the architectural expression seen under the sun.)

Not in Crete however, under the legendary King Minos.

Minos' fortress walls, it was said, were the sea around Crete, allowing the palace to lose the defensive aspect that so many buildings retained until relatively recent history. And the sense of life of the Minoan civilisation was said, for the most part, to be exuberantly life-affirming. The result of these two 'happy accidents' can be seen in these reconstructions of Minos' Palace at Knossos (pronounced with a hard 'k'), arguably the first extant example of a building embracing this earth and this life instead of the putative 'next' one.

Rather than spend time, effort and energy building stone on stone just for glory in the next life, the Minoans it seems preferred to focus on the here and now; on joy and pleasure in this one.

Based on reconstructions seen here of what Knossos might have been like, we can see that the building reflected this enlightened attitude. It was ground-hugging, opening up to light and air and to gardens and delights -- in one direction a theatre, in another downhill to gardens, in another a path to the caravanserai and down to the port whose trade kept the Minoans rich.

Inside was a humble throne room opening directly off the main courtyard, and around that were shaded courtyards with running water, gentle breezes, delightful chambers full of walls with delightful frescoes, and in them men and women happy to show off the bodies and the athleticism of which they were clearly so proud.

And all this -- all this 'earthly paradise' had to offer -- all of four-thousand years ago. How 'bout that! You can see why the legend of Atlantis is sometimes ascribed to those early Minoans, perhaps the first flowering on this earth of a truly life-affirming civilisation, and a link to the beginnings of the Hellenistic civilisation from which we still reap the benefits today.

RELATED: Art, Architecture, History, Knossos

Thursday, 31 August 2006

Are there objective standards in art?

Just a heads up to readers that there's a healthy conversation on this topic going on at the 'Con Art in Kaipara' post.

Can we say about art, "That's good," or "That's crap"? I say, "Yes." My interlocutor says "No."

Enjoy the discussion -- and feel free to add your thoughts.


"Pay it back" say NZers

NZ HERALD: Pay it back, Kiwis tell politicians in latest poll
[Thursday, 31 Aug]
An overwhelming majority of New Zealanders want political parties to pay back money if it has been unlawfully spent on getting elected, according to the latest New Zealand Herald DigiPoll.
* Full details in today's [Friday's] New Zealand Herald.
I think that is what's called "traction for an issue." Roll on the court case. [Hat tip Adolf]

UPDATE 1:NZ HERALD: Vast Majority Want Parties to Pay Back Unlawfully Spent Money [Friday, 1 Sept]
In an unmistakably clear message from voters, 81 per cent of respondents to the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey said political parties should repay unlawfully spent money. Significantly, more than three-quarters of Labour supporters - 75.8 per cent - want the money paid back, and only 13.5 per cent support the party's idea of passing a law to validate the spending.
UPDATE 2: Would Labour have the numbers to retrospectively make their over-spending and misappropriation legal? David Farrar has done the numbers on a parliamentary vote, and the numbers would be tight. For both sides. 60 against. 58 in favour. United-No-Future holding the balance. Three assumptions in this analysis might need challenging however:
  1. "Now even though Rodney Hide has spoken against the AG's report, I can not believe he and Heather would vote for retrospective legislation such as this. It would quite simply be the death of ACT."
    You would certainly hope so, but remember that Rodney has sixty-thousand or so riding on this.
  2. "... with all the emphasis the Greens put on principles, I can't imagine they could hold their heads up high and vote for it."
    Really? I can, and I'll wager many readers here can imagine such a thing. A few more insulated hot water cylinders, or a Ford Fiesta or two for Ministerial limos, and they're anyone's.
  3. "... any MP who has not paid money back will have to make a declaration to Parliament under Standing Order 166 that they stand to directly financially benefit from the legislation. Now how will it look to have half the Labour Caucus declaring they will personally gain from a law and then vote for it."
    How will it look to them? I reckon it will look to them like they can keep their feet under the table for two more years. No problem at all -- the dishonest bastards won't even need to hold their nose.
Apparently David has a less jaundiced view of the venality of politicians than I do.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark

"Give me liberty, or give me death!"

"Give me liberty, or give me death!" That impassioned speech by Patrick Henry still rings down the years from a man who would rather die on his feet than live on his his knees. It is among the top speeches from all history in defence of taking action in defence of one's liberty.

Perhaps more than any other, it was this speech that swung support behind opposing British tyranny and firmly behind the cause of individual liberty, and within a month the American War of Independence had begin -- and we know now how that war ended. Here is how the speech ends, when victory against what was then the world's greatest military force was still far from certain:
There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free--if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength but irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Lessons there for today, no?

Anyway, 'Learn Out Loud' now has this speech free for download on its website to listen to, learn from and enjoy. (And no, Virginia, this isn't actually Patrick Henry reciting the speech ... )

Just nine minutes long, it comes with my highest recommendation.

LINK: Patrick Henry's 'Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death' speech - Learn Out Loud
'Give me Liberty or Give Me Death' - transcript of the speech at Membrane.Com

RELATED: History, Politics-US

Hot air in downtown Wellington

I'm overjoyed to hear that gas leaks have disrupted work this morning around Thorndon and central Wellington, and offices have been evacuated around Bowen St and the Terrace (just behind the Beehive).

A day without bureaucrats beavering away is always a good day. Even an hour or two would help.

LINK: Gas leak forces Wellington evacuation - Newswire

Politics-NZ, Wellington

Kofi Annan "keeping the peace"

THE TIMES: Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, has called for all Israeli troops to be withdrawn from southern Lebanon as soon as an international force earmarked for the area reaches 5,000... Under UN Resolution 1701, signed earlier this month and agreed by both Israel and Lebanon, provision was made for a international force of 15,000 to act as a buffer between Israel and Hezbollah... The UN Secretary-General claimed that the Lebanese authorities yesterday assured him they were taking measures to stop the flow of weapons from Syria and Iran to their ally Hezbollah via sea and air...

Oh right. Well if the UN thinks everything's fine and dandy, then I guess it must be. If the hero of UN successes in Rwanda and Somalia and Bosnia informs the world that he has been "assured" by "the Lebanese authorities" that they're "taking measures" to stop Hezbollah being re-armed, then who would doubt this third-hand information passed on to a bumbling fool by provenly toothless "authorities" -- why would anyone think it might actually need people with real guns to effect a real blockade, one with proper confirmation of disarmament ...

Meanwhile, back in the real world, a Hezbollah bunker system has been uncovered right under a UN post in South Lebanon. This is a bunker 40m wide by km long in which, said the Israeli troops who uncovered it, Hezbollah had built dozens of outposts.
The bunker had "shooting positions of poured concrete," and ... the combat posts inside were equipped with phone lines, showers, toilets, air ducts, and emergency exits, as well as logistical paraphernalia for Hizbullah. A Golani officer told the Jerusalem Post that among the force's findings was a Katyusha rocket launcher, most likely used in rocket attacks against northern Israel during the war. [Follow the link for pictures and a video.]
So much for the peacekeepers.

LINKS: Annan sets timetable for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon - Times Online
Hezbollah bunkers un under UN post - From Israel with Love Blog [Hat tip Robert Winefield]
Militant message - Cox and Forkum Cartoons

Politics-World, War, Israel

The science *isn't* settled, Mr Parker

"The science is settled," says Climate Science minister David Parker who's off to the movies with his hangers-on to see Al Gore's propaganda piece for shackling the world's industry. But, says London's Times Newspaper today, the science isn't settled. Not by a long chalk."The conventional global warming stance has huge limitations," says the Times.
It is widely accepted that the average surface temperature on Earth has risen by about 0.5 degrees centigrade over the past 125 years or so. Yet if man’s activities were driving this warming process then one would expect the rate of that increase to have accelerated in modern times in response to increasing industrialisation, aircraft flights and so on. This evidence has singularly failed to materialise, despite satellites having been available to measure the Earth’s temperature since the late 1970s.
Far from the science being settled in favour of man-made global warming, the Times suggests "That round yellow thing in the sky may have more influence on climate change than man’s activities."

Makes more sense than listening to Al Gore. More fun too.

LINK: Let's look on the sunny side - Times Online

Global Warming, Politics-NZ

'Maturity' - Camille Claudel

'Maturity' - Camille Claudel, 1899. An exhibition website describing this work (which includes many more of Claudel's works), suggests "The Age of Maturity is a painful account of the break between Claudel and Rodin." In my view, you don't need to know anything about that break to sense what Claudel has to say here.

LINK: Camille Claudel and Rodin: Fateful encounter - Detroit Institute of Arts

RELATED: Art, Sculpture

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

It's all about choice!

You've probably seen me mention a few times Tibor Machan's view on the basic errors made in the 'ongoing' nature/nurture debate (here for instance). As he's just blogged on how this error affects the 'obesity debate,' allow me to quote:
So once again we see the age old battle between two kinds of determinism, inherited versus environmental factors. But there is another option that needs to be added. This is personal responsibility.

We are all saddled with aspects of ourselves that we had nothing to do with, and we all face elements in our environment we cannot control. But there are also choices we can make, given who and what we are and the world in which we live. The very idea that we should look more to environmental factors than to our hard wiring suggest that we have a choice. This also suggests that no one has to eat fast foods, or clear his or her plate, or go on various binges. Some of us may find it more difficult to resist temptations than others, but so what? Tall people have different challenges from short ones but both need to meet those challenges they face.

As a teacher of ethics, I find it disturbing that so many educated people opt for removing individual responsibility from the picture as they try to understand human affairs.
Me too. I just don't know how they do that. Are they wilfully blind?

On this'debate' for example, don't you find it disturbing that fatties and pollies alike find common cause in removing personal responsibility from their respective equations.

If you're a fat bastard and you don't want to be, how about you stop blaming vending machines, your school, your parents, your genes and just try the 'don't-eat-so-frigging-much' diet. (Do you see many fat starving Africans in famine photos hiding at the back going, "Oh, I've just got big bones"? No? Is that a clue? Sheesh!)

And if you're a politician, how's about you trying an 'I-won't-poke-my-nose-into-your-business' week, and just leave us and our eating habits alone.

You see, it's not about victims, it's all about choice -- something you educated people want to remove from our understanding of human affairs. Why would you choose to do that?

LINK: Obesity -- Nature vs. Nurture (again) - Machan's Inputs
Nature v nurture: character is all - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

Ethics, Health, Politics

Animal rights revenge

Man dies of rabbit flu, and people ring his parents taunting, "it's a rabbit's revenge."

Nice people some of these 'animal rights' pricks. Always putting humans first.

LINK: Activists target 'rabbit flu' family - Suffolk Evening Star

RELATED: Conservation, Ethics, Politics-UK


Apparently I'm self-righteous, wrong, closed-minded, disdainful, negative, morally superior, envious .. and all this just in one day. Who knew?

Anyway, feel free to add to the list. Here's your chance. I promise not to bite.

TAG: Blog

"Zone cheats"

"Zone cheats." That's a fairly powerful pejorative term, isn't it, for parents simply trying to get the best possible education for their children. Break the rules (rules about which no one is really too sure) and you, sir and madam, are "zone cheats."

Can you imagine being called a "zone cheat" because you've been to the "wrong" supermarket; or the "wrong" book store; or the "wrong" service station?

What's the difference? Why do we have arbitrarily-drawn zones for schools when we don't have them for supermarkets, stores or service stations? Why? Simply because for the privately-delivered services we have something called a market, a place in which people can freely bid for the services they wish to purchase, and pricing and supply are set by entrepreneurs looking for a place in the market by meeting the needs and wishes of the customers they hope to attract.

There is no market in New Zealand's factory schools. Instead we have rationing.

In the absence of a market, we have government-imposed rationing -- rationing by zone; if you want to send your son to Auckland Grammar you will either have to pay $50-100-200,000 more to live in the zone, or you'll have to be a "zone cheat." If you're a "zone cheat," expect to be pilloried.

In a market, extra customers are a good thing. Without markets ... extra punters are a bad thing ... a bloody nuisance ... cheats!

Good thing we don't have markets for our schools, huh? Rationing is so much more civilised than the way we buy our groceries, isn't it.

LINKS: School insists zone cheats should stay out - Newstalk ZB

RELATED: Education, Politics-NZ, Auckland

Taser trial

Steven Wallace. Constable Murray Stretch. Detective Constable Duncan Taylor. Three people who may still be alive if the police had been allowed to carry tasers before now.

So tasers are a good thing. Let the trial begin!

  • Their use has been abused by police departments overseas.
  • NZ's thuggish police culture has become evident in traffic policing and recent court hearings.
  • We still have many, many laws on the books that are an affront to personal liberty, and that suggest that no matter what internal police guidelines are established for their use, tasers used by the NZ police are going to be used against some people that have committed no real crime, and some of them will be used when and how they shouldn't.
So if our police force was run by angels and we only had good law on the books, tasers would be an unreservedly good thing. Does that perhaps show the urgency of getting our laws right, and proper checks and balances over our police force?

I think so. Fine words and promises aren't enough. You can imagine for yourself how much restraint such fine words would exercise on Clint Rickards and his colleagues. If Tasers are to be introduced, proper legal checks and balance must be introduced to effect firm, entrenched, systematic and transparent restraint. Victimless crime laws must be repealed so innocent people are not 'Tased.' And as I argued here a short while ago, police systems need to urgently change to fix what most of us already know: that all is not well with the force. Trevor's ten points for fixing police systems would be something else to get on with quick-smart.

If the introduction of Tasers is urgent, as I believe it is, then all this needs to happen with speed.

And here's one further point:
  • If the police are allowed to defend themselves with pepper spray and tasers, then why can't we? Why shouldn't NZers be allowed to own Tasers to defend themselves from attack? If the police need to defend themselves as a matter of urgency, which they do, then how much more urgent it that we who are their employers are able to defend ourselves.
LINKS: Taser trial starts Friday - TVNZ
Taser protection - Not PC (an earlier post on which this one is based)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Law, Victimless_Crimes, Self-Defence

What's your real age?

Bugger your ecological footprint, let's get on with something much more actually constructive shall we: What's your real age?

That is to say, based on your lifestyle, present state of health and the amount of abuse you've previously subjected yourself to, what difference is there between your calendar age and the age your body now thinks you are. I've tested myself, and according to the Real Age Calculation site, I'm 4.6 years younger than my calendar age, which makes me precisely 105.2. (That's me on the right) How did they work it out? Explains the site:
Your RealAge was calculated by assessing over 100 different health factors, from lifestyle to genetics to medical history. The factors that are aging you, the costs, are counterbalanced by the things you are doing right, called your RealAge Benefits.
Go visit. Find out how old you (or the people you sleep with) really are!

LINKS: The Real Age Test Site
What's your footprint? - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

Quiz, Health

'Lithe Spirit' - Shenda Amery

'Lithe Spirit' by British sculptress Shenda Amery. I'm proud to say about ten years ago or so I met and spent a very pleasant afternoon with Shenda and her husband Nezam Khazal in the Chelsea studio designed for her by Nezam, who apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright and worked with him on his Baghdad designs. We were introduced by a mutual friend, and spent the afternoon exploring the beautiful studio, Shenda's work, and each other's portfolios.

A great experience.

Nezam confided that British planning regulations made it virtually impossible to build anything approaching what he knew he was able to -- even the simple studio took years of his life to shepherd through the planning process -- so he had simply found it not worth his while to practice his profession in the UK. (I fear we are rapidly heading that way here.)

You can see Shenda's site here, and more of her work at the RBS online gallery.

RELATED: Art, Sculpture, Architecture