Saturday, 23 September 2006

Thought for the day ...

"When people join my campaign, they are supporting me; I am not necessarily supporting them."
-- said by Ronald Reagan in rejecting the implied collectivism of critics lumping all the supporters of his first Presidential campaign together as ideologically identical. Can anyone see any relevance to current events?

TAGS: Quotes, Politics

Friday, 22 September 2006

Beer O'Clock: Guinness v Liberty Stout

A 'Guinness taste-off' this avo from Real Beer's Stu. Which is better, NZ Guinness or the real thing? Unfortunately, Stu couldn't find the local drop in a convenient take-home form, so he made his own wonderfully-named product ...

BrewNZ has come and gone. It was a hectic week, so much so that I hardly had time to stop and sniff the aromas.

Seeing the Kiwi beers beat out some big name imports at the beer awards, and some comments from PC, had me thinking about the New Zealand beer on the world stage. I had thought of comparing New Zealand origin Guinness to Irish origin Guinness, in an effort to test whether buying Kiwi-made was a worthwhile proposal, but I was unable to find any of the New Zealand product at off-licences (it appears that all cans and bottles are now imported from Ireland and the kegs are brewed here). New Zealand's homegrown commercial stouts tend to be sweeter English-style stouts, so these are hardly worth comparing to the inky Dublin brew.

Instead I decided to settle on one of the largest mass produced stouts versus a home made one. My brewing buddy, Brendon, and I produce 20L of beer every other week or so. We recently brewed an Irish-style stout that I've been wanting to compare to the great one. So here are the results of Stu and Brendon's "Liberty Stout" (from keg, on left in the picture) versus the great "Guinness" (from a widgetised 330ml bottle, and at right).

The Irish drop is a shade darker in the glass with a with a much paler, longer-lasting head. Both beers are full-bodied and smooth, with a nice combination of roast and flaked barley, however on the nose and in the flavour they are quite different: Guinness having a musty touch of lactic sourness and the homebrew having a drier toastiness in the mouth, with a flutter of chocolate on the nose. Both beers have a subdued bitterness throughout, rather than the late bite that many other beers carry. On reflection, I'd say the homebrewed stout is much more like Murphy's version than the Guinness one.

On price there is no comparison: about $1 per litre for homebrew, using the absolute best quality ingredients, and $7.50 per litre for the widgestised Guiness bottle. On availablity there's no comparison either: Guiness is available at every corner store in the world, let alone New Zealand, while Liberty Stout is only available just outside my back door.

All in all it's a tie. Guinness wins for all of you, since you can get one tonight. Liberty Stout wins for myself and any visitors, since it's on tap just a few steps from my sofa.

Guinness is much maligned by some beer snobs for not tasting quite like is used to, for being maore about market hype, or for no longer being Irish (it's now owned by multi-national Diageo). However, when served well and in good condition, it is still a very good drop and very sessional (as is Murphy's Stout). It's not St Patrick's day yet but there's no harm in getting in some practice.

I'd also recommend trying your hand at homebrewing, if you're at all interested in beer. The better quality kits can make some pretty good beer, while brewing like the breweries (with crushed grain and hops) can produce beers every bit as good as your favourite commercial beer at a fraction of the cost (cheers to excise free beer!). The friendly folk on the RealBeer forums can help out with advice to anyone starting up.

Slainte mhath

PS: For those beer lovers amongst you who have not yet heard of SOBA (Society of Beer Advocates), check out soon. We are an independent, newly formed, non-profit consumer organisation whose main aim is promoting a wider availability of better quality beer in more New Zealand establishments. We want to help get better beer in the supermarkets, botttle stores and pubs near you soon. To do this we need members and critical mass, which is where you all come in.

[PPS: If you do want to sample the local Guinness and test it against the imported product, you should be able to find it on tap at your favourite local pub. Do make sure it's properly poured. Ed.]

LINKS: Guinness SOBA Realbeer

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

H2 might bury her boss

Speaking of mud-slinging, and having just seen the photograph of Helen Clark's chief of staff in today's Herald (pictured left with Margaret Wilson), I now know who Trevor Mallard must have been talking about when he referred in the House to "chinless scarf wearers."

I think he was mis-quoted. When he asked "Is it the Prime Minister’s practice to take appointments with chinless scarf-wearers out of her diary after they have been put in there...?" he was clearly referring to a chinless smarm-wearer. He was talking about H2, Heather Simpson, the woman whose curt letter to Parliamentary Services insisting they settle the Pledge Card invoice "without further delay" contradicts every one of this Government's claims that PS themselves approved Labour's taxpayer-funded spending on the "centre-piece" of their campaign. As Southern Gent describes it:
Herr letter dated 17 November, is three months after the expenditure was incurred, two months after labour Party Secretary (Mike Williams) gave a written undertaking to include the expenditure in the party’s electoral return. And one month after the undertaking was reneged upon.
Read the Herald article to find out just how deeply enmired in mud Bernard Darnton's case against the Helen Clark and Parliamentary Services has put this chinless wonder. And just imagine what that means for the mud still to come.

LINK: Pledge card invoices stamped "approved" - NZ Herald
Parliamentary Services defence - DarntonVsClark.Org
Heather said so - Southern Gent
RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, Darnton V Clark


Speech rationing and mud-slinging

"Many people despair about the state of politics," says Te Radar in this morning's Herald, "who view the muckraking and sleaze as detrimental to the nation. I am not one of those persons."

Right on.

"Stop the muckraking," says Peter Dung. "Can't you both just kiss and make up?" fawns Sainsbury. "How tewwible it all is," wring the hands of a thousand wet blankets.

What's wrong with the hand-wringing of Sainsbury and Dung and the half of the media who take these two seriously? What's wrong is that they aren't able to draw a distinction between muck being raked, and an election that's been bought. They can't distinguish between name-calling and corruption, between unfounded accusations of sleaze and someone whose been caught red-handed with their hands in the till, between tittle-tattle and a serious constitutional issue -- and make no mistake it is a serious constitutional issue which has set all this off.

What the hand-wringers are guilty of here is our old adversary moral relativism. What this particular instance of moral relativism obscures is that calling everyone guilty of name-calling diverts attention from the fact that one party really and truly is truly guilty of something very, very serious, and they've been caught, and they're wriggling. Wriggling an awful lot.

A Government has been caught buying an election with taxpayers' money, having done so against the explicit advice of the Chief Electoral Officer and the Electoral Commission CEO, and having told both in writing that they wouldn't do what they did.

In order to obscure that exposure the Government has tried to sling mud (only to get spattered with it themselves), and in order to 'legalise' that the Government has then tried to sell retrospective legislation in order to sanitise what the Electoral Act itself calls "a corrupt practice."

This is the sort of thing that in Thailand tends to see the military take a keen interest.

And what else has all the moral relativism about all this obscured? It's almost removed attention from Labour's proposals for "campaign finance reform" -- in other words their proposal to get taxpayers to pay for Labour's election campaigns because no-one else wants to -- and to forbid third-party criticisms of government during an election campaign.

Taken together, these are what Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author George H. Will describes in the American context as "speech rationing," of which he said recently "there is no greater threat to liberty."
It is commonly called "campaign finance reform," but it's nothing of the sort. It is simply the assertion by the government of a new, audacious 'right': the right to determine the timing, content, and amount of political advocacy about the government. It is the most astonishing slow-motion repeal of the First Amendment anyone could imagine.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution, if anyone reading this still recalls, is the one that protects free speech. It is something about which liberals both here and abroad used to be entirely in favour.

It's much more important than a little bit of mud.

LINKS: Get stuck in Don - it'll be great on TV - Te Radar, NZ Herald
Upholding the idea of liberty - speech by George H. Will to 2006 Milton Friedman dinner, Cato Institute [8-page PDF]

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

Intolerable allegations

Steve at Vigesimal Pundit has it exactly right with this short post:
"Allegations of corruption are intolerable in a Western liberal democracy." - Helen Clark.

No, Miss Clark. Corruption is intolerable. When allegations of corruption are intolerable, it's no longer a Western liberal democracy.
Exactly right.

LINK: Grasping - Vigesimal Pundit (formerly Teenage Pundit until mathematical geekdom beckoned)

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

"Off with his head!"

Go on, who does the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland remind you of? "Off with his head!" indeed.
The players all played at once without waiting for turns, quarrelling all the while, and fighting for the hedgehogs; and in a very short time the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting 'Off with his head!' or 'Off with her head!' about once in a minute.

Alice began to feel very uneasy: to be sure, she had not as yet had any dispute with the Queen, but she knew that it might happen any minute, 'and then,' thought she, 'what would become of me? They're dreadfully fond of beheading people here; the great wonder is, that there's any one left alive!'
[Hat tip Oswald Bastable]

More on value judgements in art

If art is a shortcut to philosophy, then just how exactly is this expressed in art?

How does art for example portray value judgments about the most fundamental questions of the universe? What values, for example, do you think that painting at the right by Albert Bierstadt expresses? (Click on the painting and scroll down to find out.)

We got a glimpse of how to begin answering that question in our architectural debate recently (summarised here, and then continued with the Winefield Critique of Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin), so let's have a closer look at how it functions in paintings.

Ayn Rand argues that art is uniquely placed to express what she calls "metaphysical value judgements," ie., evaluations of the most fundamental questions abuot existence and our place in it. These value judgements, she says, take the form of answers to questions such as
: "Is the universe intelligible to man, or unintelligible and unknowable? Can man find happiness on earth, or is he doomed to frustration and despair? Does he have the power…to choose his goals and achieve them…or is he a helpless plaything of forces beyond his control? Is man, by nature, to be valued as good, or to be despised as evil?"

The connection between these questions and painting is anything but self-evident, so
tonight here at Not PC I'm posting an excerpt from artist Michael Newberry's wonderfully descriptive piece on 'Detecting Value Judgments in Painting' (that is unfortunately and inexplicably rendered almost illegible at his site by being in yellow text on a white page!) that just might help to make that connection a little clearer.

"Let's see," he says, "if I can show you some paintings that answer those very questions."

He begins with some guidelines for detecting metaphysical value-judgements (MVJs) in painting:
1. Describe what you see.
2. The canvas is the Universe.
Approach each and every artwork as if it is a universe in itself. Simply substitute "universe" for "canvas" and a whole new outlook will become apparent.
a. Look for the size of humanity in relationship to the canvas. This is symbolic of humanity's importance in the universe: is humanity larger than life or tiny and insignificant?
b. How is humanity placed within this universe? At the top, bottom or center?
c. What is the most prominent feature within the canvas/universe and what is the main focus? d. For non-figurative work, what are the outstanding things and how are they placed in the canvas?
3. What is the relationship of subject or person to their environment?
This will tell us how important humanity is in relationship to society or nature.
a. Is there a significant difference of sizes between the setting and the subject?
b. Look for the possible symbolism of the objects and/or their relationships. For example, a barrier to freedom symbolized by a chain-link fence. Or, the state buildings are all-powerful above and humanity is crushed below.
c. Is there more emphasis placed on one thing more than another? For example, is there a disregard for the setting and is all the focus on the main figure?
4. Body language.
a. What are people doing? Are they bent, awkward or upright and elegant?
b. Think about the symbolic implications of their posture: are they approaching life as a servant, a thug, or a hero?
c. What are the most notable facial features?
5. Use adjectives to describe the style, color, and light.
This is not a substitute for the facts that are represented in the painting, but using adjectives first to describe a general impression helps you find the facts. We are not analyzing whether the means of the painting are good or not, merely trying to get at the mood of the piece, just as how you might describe the weather outside as cheerful or crystal-clear.
a. Is the painting distorted, smeared, vague or is it orderly, in focus, complex?
b. Are the colors murky, dull or vibrant, bold? Are they in harmony or do they clash?
c. Is the light in the painting subdued or brilliant?
d. The symbolism of light and shadow cannot be missed: are the objects or persons dim and the unenlightened? Or are they enlightened by a radiant universe?

Our own personal evaluation of a painting (or any work of art or architecture) will depend to a very large extent on what values the painting expresses, and on how important those values are to us. It will also depend on just how well the painting expresses those values -- in other words, whether the painting has sufficient scope, depth, technique and integration to express the artist's intended value judgements.

And remember this: Expressing value judgements in art is not a bad thing, as some of you have been known to suggest here recently. Expressing value judgements is what all good art does. If it doesn't do it, it's not good art.

So with those guidelines as pointers, see what Newberry makes of how two paintings answer a fundamental evaluation of the importance of free will: "Does [man] have the power…to choose his goals and achieve them…or is he a helpless plaything of forces beyond his control?"

DelacroixLiberty.jpg (38362 bytes)
7. Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830.

In Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix notice the woman charging forward with her out-thrust arm raising the French flag aloft. Notice her location at the top of the canvas. She is inspiring a rabble of soldiers, dandies, and regular people to carry on even over the obstacles of death, which lie literally at her feet. Though we don't know whether she and they will achieve their goals, it is startlingly clear that they are not the playthings of destiny, they are acting to fulfill their aims.

GoyaShootings.jpg (31892 bytes)
8. Goya, The Shootings of May 3rd 1808, 1814.

On the other side of this volitional issue we have Goya's painting of an execution, in which the these poor men have been lead like sheep to their slaughter. Notice that in the background that the State buildings are above the scene, the implication is that the state dictates to the humans below. There is a line of faceless universal soldiers, heads bowed, carrying out their orders. The main victim thrusts his arms out in the gesture of "why". Notice how the light box is turned towards the victims, they are bathed in its sympathetic glow while the soldiers are in the shadow. Also notice that the color of the light box and the main character is identical gold and white, the implication being that he is the light. Goya paints an empathic portrait of these victims plight but victims they are; hopeless playthings of the mysterious State lurking in the background.
Read Newberry's whole piece here for much more on this important subject (and I'll try and persuade him to fix his yellow-on-white text).

I can't recommend it highly enough.

LINKS: Detecting value judgements in painting - Michael Newberry
ARCHITECTURE DEBATE: Summing up - PC and DenMT's combined Top Ten architectural favourites, 'Not PC'
ARCHITECTURE DEBATE: Response to Berlin's Jewish Museum - guest post by Robert Winefield at 'Not PC'



Thursday, 21 September 2006

Parliamentary Services defend themselves

Parliamentary Services have now filed their defence in Darnton V Clark, and Bernard Darnton has the details on his blog. Parliamentary Services are the second of the two repondents to file, the first being Helen Clark and forty Labour MPs.

And naturally, you're paying for their defence too.

LINK: Parliamentary Services's defence - DarntonVsClark.Org

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


Foreshore and Seabed and property rights

I haven't commented yet on the Maori Party's plan for a Private Member's Bill promoting the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and the reinstatement of the right to appeal for common law recognition to property rights in seabed in foreshore. The Herald reports:
Mrs Turia said the issue was a "property rights" one and she doubted that ordinary people realised what actually happened when the legislation passed because it was "sold to them" as being a battle over access.

The bill could cause a few headaches around Parliament if it is drawn from the ballot because several parties have hinted that they could vote for it.
It could cause a few headaches. And it might even help get property rights back on the agenda. Here's what I've said before on this, here and here.

As Hone Harawira said yesterday (who is unfortunately only concerned himself with property rights when the holders of said rights are brown and indigenous) ACT should support the Bill because they're in favour of property rights, National should support it for similar reasons (not that I'm convinced they are supporters of property rights however, particularly in this area), and given that United's Gordon Copeland is the promoter of a Private Members Bill to place property rights in the Bill of Rights, you would think United might also be supporters if the Bill was drawn to go before the House.

So good for the Maori Party. The debate should at least show everyone where each of the parties stands on property rights, and it might even begin a process of reinstituting legal protection for them.

LINKS: Turia bill aims to repeal foreshore law - NZ Herald
A Brash dismissal of Maori rights - Not PC (April, 2005)
Selling the foreshore - Not PC (April, 206)
Libertarianz submission on Foreshore and Seabed Bill - Libertarianz, July 2004
Support for Property Rights - Not PC (August, 2005)

RELATED: Property Rights, Maori Party, Politics-NZ, Libz, Common Law

Labels: ,

Jared Diamond at Auckland Uni tonight

Just so you know, the author of Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse is delivering three Robb lectures at Auckland Uni, beginning last night, and finishing tomorrow, Friday. These are public lectures. Details here.

By all acounts Diamond is an intelligent and engaging speaker, and I might try and get along tonight. If I don't get there (or even if I do), feel free to ask the many questions I'd like to ask on my behalf. Here's just three posts here over the last year challenging some of Diamond's views:
There are several points of disagreement with Diamond's thesis:
  • Jared Diamond’s much praised book Guns, Germs and Steel contains erudition by the plenty, but his thesis collapses at the time of that great boon in mankind’s history, the industrial revolution, when man's mind began to tranform the world. As Julian Simon pointed out, the mind is the ultimate resource -- as Ayn Rand pointed out, the industrial revolution is the primary historical evidence for that -- and Diamond's thesis has no place for it.

  • In the end culture is a greater determinant for wealth than are geography or history alone. Cultures, as Thomas Sowell reminds us, are not museum pieces but the working machinery of everyday life – by that standard some cultural machinery is more likely to make you wealthy than others. Specifically, cultures that value property and contract rights and personal liberty are in the end going to be more successful than those that don’t, and that is a greater driver to post-industrial revolution history than geography or history alone.

  • Diamond's thesis in both books fails to understand the importance of these particular human institutions, of markets and trade, and he in no way understands the Tragedy of the Commons, which is in fact the answer to the problems he cites.

  • As John Bratland points out:
    For Diamond, societies are entities that act independent of the actions of individuals. He sees societal ascent or collapse as being contingent upon the extent to which societies embrace a centralized structure and management. But in so doing, he ignores institutions critical to peaceful, prosperous social interaction and the formation of society: (1) private property rights and (2) human action leading to division of labor and emergence of cooperative monetary exchange. With these institutions, individuals are able to avoid conflict and rationally reckon both scarcity and capital. Without these institutions, societies such as the Soviet Union and Easter Island are seen to have a common fate in that scarcity implies conflict, chaos, ‘waste’ and eventual collapse.
  • And New Scientist magazine points out that Jared Diamond's speculations on the history and geography of Easter Island, upon which he bases most of the thesis of his book Collapse, is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- just bunk:
    "Much of what has been written about Easter Island is little more than speculation," says Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii. "When you start to search for the actual evidence for some of these claims, often it just isn't there." There are ... problems with almost all aspects of [the much-cited 'Collapse'] story, say Hunt and his colleague Carl Lipo of California State University in Long Beach.
    In 2002, Paul Rainbird of the University of Wales, Lampeter, investigated the idea of eco-disaster on Rapa Nui and concluded that there is no compelling archaeological evidence for any of the key claims of societal dissolution and breakdown before the 18th century.
Since these points have been made to Diamond now for many years, it will be interesting to see if he has addressed them. It could be interesting tonight.

RELATED: Science, History, Economics, Environment, Books


Stop the mud?

I"ve heard the view expressed in recent days that politicians should stop slagging each other off and get on with running the country.

But I don't want them running the country... Do you?

Cancerous and corrosive and un-democratic and, and, and ...

Labour regards Dr Brash as a corrosive and cancerous person within the New Zealand political system. - Helen Clark, September 20, 2006.

Unbelievable! - Whale Oil, September 20, 2006

When Bernard Darnton first announced his case against Helen Clark and the Labour Party, he said that in knowingly stealing public money to fund their election campaign Labour broke the fundamental rules that separate liberal democracy from dictatorship. As week has followed week ever since, it's become more apparent how accurate that assessment is.

This Labour Government does not understand that there even is a difference betwen liberal democracy and dictatorship.

In fact, they are so convinced that it is only themselves that are the repository of liberal democratic values that as week has followed week since their corruption has been publicly raised, each attack against them has been greeted not with a a defence of their corrupt actions -- which were indefensible -- but to attack the accuser as an affront to democracy:
  • How dare the Exclusive Brethren use their own money to attack the Labour Government.
  • How dare the Electoral Commissioner tell Labour's election organisers that they couldn't spend taxpayers' money the way they did.
  • How dare the Auditor-General point out that the rules on election spending were broken.
  • How dare the Herald expose the Labour Party's spin as a venal attempt both to conceal the theft, and to buy support to retrospectively validate it.
  • How dare the Libertarianz use their own money to take Helen Clark and 40 Labour MPs to court for violating the Bill of Rights and the Constitution Act.
  • How dare 81% of the population demand in a poll that Helen and Labour pay it back.
  • How dare businessmen, accountants and golfers (golofers!) criticise her Government.
  • How dare Her Majesty's Opposition attract and spend voluntary, private donations to attack the Government!
  • How dare the Leader of the Opposition accuse the ruling party of corruption. How dare they!
It seems clear that Helen Clark does not understand the NZ political system. All of these critics, every one, has been attacked for having the effrontery to attack the ruling party. People giving money to opponents of this Government have heard this Government assert they intend to do something about that. Yesterday Pete Hodgson declared that the Labour Party is threatening to bring legislation so people won't be able to criticise the ruling party during elections. Yesterday and this morning the Leader of the Opposition was attacked by Helen Clark and Pete Hodgson for being "corrupt and cancerous" and "divisive" -- it is intolerable they maintained that such a man could be in a position to become the leader of a western democracy -- and they demanded that he go ...

Is this not incredible? It couldn't be more apparent that about democracry and liberal democratic values this Labour Government could not be less representative.

Do they not understand that it is up to the voters , not her or Pete Hodgson, to decide who the leader of this western democracy is?

Do they not understand that people are entitled to spend their own money in pursuit of opposition to her Government and their policies?

Do they even understand the concept of "their own money"?

Do they not understand that as the right to free speech must of necessity include the right to offend, so too in a democracy must the right to freely criticise the Government be protected?

Do they not understand what corruption means according to the Electoral Act -- the Act they knowingly, flagrantly and with aforethought broke.

When accused of leaking last year this Prime Minister asserted, "By definition I cannot leak." Now it seems her attitude when attacked is to assert, "By definition, we are the repository of all democratic values. Anyone attacking us attacks democracy." But as Bernard Robertson points out in the latest Law Journal:
If a government can knowingly and deliberately break the law and then ram through retrospective validating legislation then it can do anything. We have a government composed of people who simply do not recognise the concept of government under law.
That is the issue that all the noisy outbursts are designed to conceal. What they cannot conceal is that if the Prime Minister and her advisors ever understood the line between liberal democracy and dictatorship, then seven years in power have destroyed it.

Pay it back Helen. And then resign. You've had your time.

LINKS: 1688? - Darnton Vs Clark
Talking of Corruption - Kiwiblog (David Farrar)
Labour calling people corrupt- Kiwiblog (David Farrar)
"Unbelievable" - Whale Oil Beef Hooked (You Tube video)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, D arnton V Clark

Labels: , ,

ARCHITECTURE DEBATE: Response to Berlin's Jewish Museum

Tonight a guest post from Dr. Robert Winefield, responding to Daniel Libeskind's design for the Jewish Museum in Berlin, which was posted here by Den as his "most favourite." It seems however that Dr. Robert wasn't too impressed.

I hate Daniel Libeskind’s so-called museum. Esthetically it looks even worse than DenMT’s first entry, a building I compared unfavorably to a copper-clad rectangular turd. More to the point, it isn’t even a real museum – thus violating its brief -- rather it’s a monument to Libeskind’s own view of Jewish history.

It’s not a museum. Museums are archives; they store and exhibit historical artifacts, documents and such in a manner that allows the public to examine the real artifact (what historians term the primary source) directly. When you go to a museum, you are viewing history with your own eyes, free of much of the author’s bias and not limited by the photographer’s lens. The facts are there in front of you, undiluted, uncensored, and in 3-D ready for your cross-examination. In other words, the value of a well-curated museum, as opposed to a history book, is that the evidential basis for history is sitting right in front of you rather than simply being described to you, and the only bias you bring to your observations and deductions is your own.

If this is the purpose of a museum then the purpose of a museum-architect is to aid the punter to observe the artifact on display. His job is to give the punter enough light to observe the exhibit closely and enough space and tranquility to contemplate both the object’s meaning and the context in which it has been presented. People go to museums to become enlightened and they must be able to digest the exhibition at their own pace and in their own way, forming their own opinions independently of the curator and the crowd. Such are the key interior elements to be found in my favorite museums.

Now let us observe Libeskind's so-called architectural masterpiece. Observe how claustrophobic some of the halls are; how the odd shaped walls and low roof closes in on the observer in the picture he supplied. This punter in the photo supplied has been forced – deliberately - to examine the exhibit from one distance and at one angle. Why? Well because Libeskind has decided to set the mood for the museum. German-Jewish history according to Libeskind is an unrelenting tragedy and the exhibition requires his artistic skills to convey this. DenMT explains: “Libeskind, through form and programme, recreates the history of the Jewish people in Germany. The straight line, broken into fragments can be conceived as the Jewish presence in Berlin and Germany, punctuated by voids, absences, and silence.”

Make no mistake, the architect is unabashedly attempting to manipulate the punter’s interpretation of the exhibitions, forcing his opinions on the museum’s visitors. This is why some of this museum’s feature walls actually lean out towards the observer as if to physically assault him. This is the reason that the building has no street entrance, instead you must enter by first descending into the bowels of an adjacent German history museum and enter though a connecting tunnel containing a constricted walk-way on an iron gantry that echoes ominously with every foot-fall.

Is this a museum or a house of horrors? Is it a museum or a monument? Moreover, if it is a monument, then is it a monument to the holocaust or this architect’s ego? Excuse me for asking, but who the fuck is this jumped-up little twat and why should I care what he thinks of German-Jewish history? If I were interested in him and his, I’d be visiting an exhibition of his works not a museum of German-Jewish history in Berlin. It would be a different story were this a monument to the holocaust, but it isn’t. It is supposed to be a museum, a testament to the entire 1,700-year history of the Germany-Jewish people.

Now, the architect has a right to express himself artistically when designing the building, and I would argue that it is necessary that he do so. What I object to is when the artistry inhibits the function of the building. You see not only does Libeskind’s design interfere with the museum’s objectivity but it also pays no heed to the practical requirements of a museum.

For a start, the building has been purposely designed in a contorted, illogical, poorly lit, and constricted manner. I mean it doesn’t even have a front door for fuck’s sake! Imagine how uncomfortably crowded this building would be if a tour came through. The inside of this architectural dog-turd reminds me of a cave I once visited in Chattanooga TN.

Observe how much space there isn't for odd-shaped exhibits. It seems that only small freestanding objects and wall-mounted exhibits can be displayed here. How, for instance, could this museum do the sort of exhibitions that Auckland's War Museum or the Award-winning Army Museum at Waiouru put on? I went to the ‘Scars of the Heart Exhibition in Auckland and saw a full scale mock up of a WWI Trench system and a real Spitfire. At Waiouru, there are static displays that include an entire Infantry landing craft, artillery pieces, small arms, helicopters, entire armored vehicles as well as photographs, books, medals, uniforms and the like. The Army Museum at Waiouru and the War Museum in Auckland may not look like a hell of a lot from the outside. However, they remain true to their primary purpose: to be an objective forum for history, to be a repository for primary sources regardless of their type and size.

And not only that, well-designed museums -- places like FLW's Guggenheim for example – are set up so that the building doesn't inhibit the punter's ability to view the exhibits. Good museum architecture should allow the punter to examine an exhibit from as many angles and directions as possible: from above, below, from close in, to the middle distance, and beyond. Good museum architecture should allow the punter to flow against the tide of the crowd, to skip exhibits that he’s not interested in and reexamine others. It should also provide spaces where you can stop and contemplate what you have seen. Why? Because a museum is also a place for thought, for reflection, for comprehension and integration of the lesson that resides in the history being presented.

For these reasons ‘Between the Lines’ does not classify as good architecture. The architect has gone out of his way to make a disjointed, cramped, dingy, constricted building that unilaterally imposes ~his own~ post-modernist illogical and retarded version of German-Jewish history on everything that will be displayed in that museum.

There is one more ghastly effect of Libeskind’s that casts a further disgraceful pall over proceedings: The built-in affectations of this building are allowed to overshadow the real lesson of the holocaust.

In truth, the holocaust occurred because, in a moment of willful ignorance, the German people allowed a psychopath to become their master. As Edmund Burke put it, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Too many good Germans did nothing while a psychopath and his chums took over.

Had Libeskind been satisfied simply with allowing history do the talking, this is what would have been said. But then perhaps he wouldn’t have achieved the fame and fortune through this building that was clearly the real brief he gave himself: to get noticed.

Instead, what we have here is yet another post-modernist wank-session set in stone.
Alternatively, to use Libeskind’s own words "...two lines of thinking, organization, and relationship. One is a straight line, but broken into many fragments; the other is a tortuous line, but continuing indefinitely. These two lines develop architecturally and programmatically through a limited but definite dialogue. They also fall apart, become disengaged, and are seen as separated. In this way, they expose a void that runs through this museum and through architecture, a discontinuous void.”

What a worthless waste of space. If this is an architectural masterpiece then so is my arsehole. Unlike Libeskind’s museum it actually does the job it was designed for.

LINK: Den 5: Jewish Museum, Berlin - Daniel Libeskind

RELATED: Architecture, Art


Wednesday, 20 September 2006

To boldly go where few pedants have gone before

Since that page listing the top ten most common grammatical mistakes to which I linked yesterday is still the most popular link here at 'Not PC,' here's a link to another piece of pedantry, this time from Josh, who has it in for everyone who overuses the phrase "methinks she doth protest too much." Too many people, he says, don't realise "it doesn't really mean what people use it to mean these days anyway." And he has a point.

And for those who liked the heads up on those troublesome words, can I recommend Bill Bryson's 'Dictionary of Troublesome Words.' Bloody useful.

(And a chocolate fish goes to the first person to explain the rule 'broken' in the title of this post.)

LINKS: Pedantry update - Josh, Brain Stab
Dictionary of Troublesome Words - Amazon.Com


"The building is the easy part" - three stories of red tape and resource consents

Three stories here of red tape, resource consents, lawyers, consultants and blood-sucking:
1. The Whangamata Marina Society: they first met fourteen years ago to nut out the project. They got DoC permission for their marina plans eight years ago, Environment Court approval three years ago, a ministerial veto a few months ago and a High Court veto of that veto two days ago.

The marina is already a million dollar, fourteen-year-old project, and not a sod has been turned (not of dirt anyway) -- and the latest veto only means that the ministerial veto needs to be reconsidered.

2. Here's the story of another million-dollar project: Wellington's 'Wharf Hilton' has finally got resource consent. Two years to build. Thirteen years to get consent. George Middleditch, the developer died a few months ago waiting for this - and it's still not a full green light: the consent decision is "subject to a fifteen-day appeal period," and the project's opponents have already signalled they're appealing.

3. I watched a film recently at the Auckland Architecture Film Festival in which a London architect explained to a Swiss banker that he wouldn't be moving in to his new building quite as soon as he thought he might. "In London," explained the architect patiently, "the building is the easy part." The cinema audience roared with laughter. In New Zealand now too, as everyone in that audience knew, the building is the easy part. I don't say that like it's a good thing.
Thank the property-rights-destroying RMA and its two chief architects Geoffrey Palmer and Simon Upton that things in New Zealand have come to this. As I've said before, it's time to drive a stake through the heart of this monster, and stop it sucking the lifeblood out of innovation and enterprise.

UPDATE: As I expected, blogger Well Urban has an analysis of the Wharf Hilton project, the resource consent decision, and a round-up of the reaction, giving you an idea of the sort of stuff that's considered in these consent hearings (and how much our buildings today are designed by committee), only for the application to then go on to another, higher, more expensive court when or if an objector appeals. No wonder building costs are rising.

LINKS: Court limits Government RMA action - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Wharf Hilton gets go-ahead in Wellington - Stuff
It's time to drive a stake through the heart of the RMA - Peter Cresswell, Free Radical (PDF)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, RMA, Building

Labels: ,

One in two?

According to the Herald front page, "mental illness strikes one in two" New Zealanders, meaning that every time you talk to somebody else chances are one of the two of you have a few sheep loose in the top paddock.

And I feel fine. So it must be you. :-)

LINK: Mental illness strikes one in two - NZ Herald

RELATED: New Zealand, Health

More government. More programmes. More violence.

TVNZ: South Auckland violence tackled
The government has launched a plan to take on South Auckland's street violence problem. It comes as three teenagers faced court following the latest killing on Sunday morning... It is the seventh homicide in South Auckland in just three months... A 26-point action plan to tackle the problem has been unveiled by the ministries of Education, Justice and Social Development, local councils and police.

Let me give you something to think about: No part of New Zealand has had more government than South Auckland.

Most of South Auckland is government-planned, government-designed, and built with government money -- and every new problem attracts more government action plans and even more "resources."

Government houses fill the suburbs, people overwhelmingly on government benefits fill them, children go to government schools where the latest fashionable government curricula and government educational programmes are delivered, and (if anecdotal evidence is correct) there are more government programmes, government plans, government agencies, and government-employed welfare agents per-square kilometre than anywhere else in the country outside parliament and its surrounds.

The result has been catastrophic.

Might I invite readers to have a really good, hard think about that.

LINKS: The warrior culture of South Auckland, Part 1 - Not PC (October, 2005)
Mangere Brown - Not PC (July, 2006)

RELATED: Auckland, Welfare, Libertarianism


A lesson from Budapest

"We lied in the morning, we lied in the evening," said Hungarian Socialist Leader Ferenc Gyurcsany of the method by which they won last year's Hungarian election, a comment which has ignited Hungarian anger and kicked off street rioting not seen since the fall of communism in Hungary sixteen years ago:
Hungary PM says "we lied" to win election - Reuters Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany admitted to a Socialist Party meeting in May his government had lied about its record to win April's election and said it had done nothing in four years but hold on to power.
True lies: Hungarian leader blurts out the truth on the economy - Times Online The riots, the worst since the end of communism, were ostensibly sparked by the publication of a leaked tape on Sunday in which Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Prime Minister, was heard saying that he and his Socialist party had lied for four years about Hungary’s budget in order to win a general election in April.
There's a lesson here for politicians everywhere, and given the lying and corruption now apparent in our most recent election in New Zealand, a particularly relevant lesson for our own political leaders here.

It seems to me that NZ's ruling party would be fooligh to discount the anger that New Zealanders feel at our own stolen election, simply because New Zealanders express their outrage in a less demonstrative way than do Hungarians. To use Helen Clark's own term, outside the 'Beltway' anger is mounting. She ignores that anger at her peril.

UPDATE: The Times has extracts of the Hungarian PM's lying tape. You could all too easily confuse it with something produced rather closer to home. Samples:

"Obviously we lied throughout the past one and a half, two years. It was completely obvious that what we said was not true."

"Meanwhile, we have done nothing for four years. You cannot tell me of any significant government measure we could be proud of... If we need to give an account to the country what we have done for four years, what will we say?"

"I almost died of having to pretend for the past year that we were actually governing. Instead we lied day, night and evening."

RELATED: Politics-World, Darnton V Clark


[A summary of a recent debate at my blog 'Not PC' on architecture, art, and architectural favourites]

Here first up is the post that started it all:

Con-art in Kaipara

I posted a field full of rusting steel posing as art (that's some of it below), and suggested the buyer had been conned. I'd suggested it is possible to objectively determine that one thing is art and another is just a pile of craftless tat, 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.

Said Den: "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 am incredulous that someone working in a field such as architecture would ever claim to be able to identify objective standards in art - to loftily pronounce that something 'is' or 'isn't' art based on what I see as fairly dubious credentials." And I replied here, including the invitation which began this debate.

Here's some related posts and threads, giving my own arguments on art and architecture:

**ARTICLE: Who needs great art? You do.
EXCERPT: Painting, movies, literature, sculpture, music, architecture ... all have the ability to make us cry, to make us laugh, and -- just occasionally -- to make us feel ten feet tall. Why is great art so powerful? -- why does it have this profound ability to affect us? Simply, because it speaks personally to each of us. It is our shortcut to our very souls. When we experience art that truly touches us, we don’t just feel, “I like this;” if we have souls we feel “This is Me!”

Why do we need art to see the world when we’ve already got eyes and ears and fingers and hands with which to experience it ourselves, and a brain with which to organise those experiences? Answer: We need art precisely because of the nature of that brain, and because of the way it organises the experiences.

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

**ARTICLE: 'The Scream ' has been found. Two cheers.
EXCERPT: 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.

**ARTICLE: What architecture is all about
EXCERPT: “Architecture,” as Aldo van Eyck once said, “is about making a ‘home for man’.” The space we build is space for human life, for us to inhabit, and from which we can emerge to 'do battle.' It is a place that expresses what a home for man looks like, smells like and sprawls like; it is here that we begin to find the meaning in architecture: and the meaning resides in how it makes its home for man.

In the act of making and placing our buildings in the world, we make decisions about what’s important in the world. What values need to be 'built in' and made concrete. What should we include from around us? What should we keep out? Early morning sun is good; later afternoon sun isn’t. Gentle breezes are good inside the house, heavy rain is not; views of the lake and the trees and the beautiful hills about us are wonderful – views of the local slaughterhouse are not..
**ARTICLE: What is architecture?
EXCERPT: "Architecture ... does not re-create reality, but creates a structure for man's habitation or use, expressing man's values," identified Ayn Rand in The Romantic Manifesto. Architecture is primarily about making spaces for human beings to inhabit, and in doing so expresses what it means for man to inhabit this earth.

The work is utilitarian, but not primarily so - in the words of the late New Zealand architect Claude Megson: "The architect is creating, not merely an object, but a whole universe for ourselves to inhabit." The architect creates an integration of structure, function and ornament according to the architect's own implicit values in order to make a home for man. The stuff with which the architect works is space - human space. To paraphrase Protagoras, man is quite literally the measure of all architecture.

This is an important and overlooked point, and much criticism concluding that 'architecture is not art' arises when architecture is considered only in a two-dimensional fashion, as being only a simple skin-deep armature made up of more or less elegant facades and gorgeous surfaces. It is not; it is a space for man to inhabit. Architecture is more than just the raw materials that make up a building - what is crucial is what those raw materials delineate.
**READING LIST: So you'd like to study architecture
EXCERPT: So you want to study architecture?

You want books and readings I might recommend for someone beginning architectural education?

Here’s a ‘top twenty’ list to get you started...

here's all ten posts in the 'Not PC: Architecture V Architecture' debate:
What Den and I have posted here is not "the ten best examples of architecture from all human history" -- they are our own personal favourites.

PC 5: House for an artist, Wairarapa - Organon Architecture

"So in this case then for my own personal NZ favourite I not so humbly submit one of my own sketch designs, as yet unbuilt, for an artist's house in the Wairarapa. It largely follows my own ideas on the promise of the New Zealand house."

PC 4: John Soane House, London - John Soane

"He was perhaps the pre-eminent Architect of the Enlightenment -- using reason, ingenuity, the limited materials and technology of the day and what was known about the nature of architecture to develop a totally new conception of stylised space, with man at the centre."

PC3: Taliesin West, Sonora Desert, Arizona - Frank Lloyd Wright

"In one of the most inhospitable habitats known to man, in the desert north of Phoenix and sitting just beneath the McDowell Mountain Range. there we find a heightened sense of life writ large; a life built in a particular context that fits SO WELL it could be nowhere else. Whereas with Fallingwater one gets the sense that there man has completed what nature had just suggested, at Taliesin West we realise that in this place man has produced something that make an oasis out of what was before only raw desert; a place with "a view of the rim of the world."

PC 2: Price Tower, Oklahoma - Frank Lloyd Wright

"Here tonight is Wright's only completed tall building: the Price Tower, or as so he often called it, 'the tree that escaped the crowded forest'."

PC 1: Bavinger House, Oklahoma - Bruce Goff

"Goff's best work is this house pictured here, the Bavinger House. Built in 1955 for a young family in Norman Oklahoma, it brings together locally quarried 'ironrock,' mine tailings, coal rejects, glass cullets, airplane wire and a used oil-rig drilling pipe for the mast..."

Den 5: Jewish Museum, Berlin - Daniel Libeskind

"To return to the original point I made, that this building demonstrates architecture's power to speak, think about what Libeskind has done. By taking themes of absence and presence, and working these into the design in a concrete, tangible way, the architecture moves beyond something which must be explained - a piece of art that you have to read a pamphlet before you can sagely nod, grasping your chin - and into the realm of 'speaking' architecture: one forms one's own opinion, but is forcefully guided by powerful, masterful narrative."

Den 4: Peregrine Winery, New Zealand - Architecture Workshop

"The building is sits in an exquisite natural setting, and it resonates with the Murcutt project I posted earlier, in a number of ways. The twisting, translucent blade which is the most striking feature of the architecture, is seen to float over the countryside, forming a visual break between what is 'natural' and what has been 'grafted' on to the site. The relationship between the groundplane and the hovering translucent element is dynamic and uneasy - and exciting."

Supplementary post: Tropical architecture in Darwin

"I'm posting these pics here partly because they help to understand the context of the 'shearing shed' that Den posted below. These are photos of one of Darwin's few remaining original, pre-air-conditioning tropical houses, restored after Cyclone Tracy. I took them about ten years ago. As you'll see, many of the features are replicated in Murcutt's own tropical house."

Den 3: Marika-Alderton House, Northern Territory, Australia - Glen Murcutt

"The above is an Aboriginal phrase used as a design credo by auteur Aussie architect Glenn Murcutt, and one can see the direct translation from principle to built form in his entire body of work. This house combines a sensitivity to local culture and heritage..."

Den 2. Fallingwater, Bear Run, Pennsylvania - Frank Lloyd Wright

"This is probably not far from the top five buildings of anyone interested in architecture. Gotta be quick! It was designed as the private holiday house for Edgar Kaufmann, in a sum total of three hours..."

Den 1. Rail Switchtower, Basel, Switzerland - Herzog + de Meuron

"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."
Tell us what you think. Which are your favourites, and why?

RELATED: Architecture, Art, New Zealand, Philosophy, Objectivism

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Good radio

Libertarian Lindsay Perigo and Maori activist Willie Jackson are on Radio Live together for two weeks. As co-hosts. I can see the steam coming out of the studio from here.

Tune in from midday until 3pm

LINK: Radio Live

Stunning space tourist

"How cool is this?" asks Crusader Rabbit. " It's one thing to make buckets of money--but this lady knows how to spend it on what matters." She sure does.

Photo right from The Times: "Anousheh Ansari prepares for her $20 million flight. The former telecom tycoon, who left Iran when she was 16, says that space is 'in my soul and in my heart'."

LINK: Refugee who fled Iran's mullahs becomes first woman space tourist - Times Online

RELATED: Science, Politics-World, Heroes


Writing tips

Here's a helpful list of the ten most common grammatical mistakes to avoid if you want your writing to be taken seriously. (And can I add the unfortunately frequent use of "publically" for "publicly"?) [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

And here's ten useful tips to help you get that writing project done. Tip #4:
Stop with the blog already. When I’m pressed for time, distractions like blogging and hoovering become very compelling. Knowing this makes it easier to resist...

Give people time and let them show you who they are

Jason Roth at Save The Humans has some good advice:
Judge Not, Yet
Give people time and let them show you who they are.
Go visit, and see what you think.

DDT ban removal will save millions

I haven't yet taken time to praise the WHO decision to rescind the long-overdue banning of DDT, which has seen millions die unnecessarily from malaria. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I'll simply post the ARI press release on the matter (below), with which I wholly agree.

Meanwhile, Richard Tren from the organisation Africa Fighting Malaria has still had no response from his open letter to Greenpeace calling them to account for their decades-long support of the ban, and suggests their "various inconsistent and contradictory statements beg several questions":

First, if, as Mr. Krautter asserts, Greenpeace should not be characterized as opposed to the use of DDT in malaria control, why should the organization describe its use in malaria control as a "cycle of misery?" Furthermore, why does Dr Santillo consider that the restricted and careful use of DDT for malaria control is "a step in the wrong direction?"

Second, please, could you detail the financial commitment that Greenpeace itself has made to developing new malaria control technologies, and include any details of the success achieved? Given that Greenpeace informs us that it is "committed to seeing more effective methods for combating malaria," we assume that it has followed that up with actual investment.

Third, please, could you detail the lobbying and advocacy efforts that Greenpeace has undertaken to ensure that public and private funds are invested in the search for chemical alternatives to DDT?

Africa Fighting Malaria applauds the constructive and positive role that [some other environmental] organizations have taken with regard to DDT for malaria control. The criticism that Greenpeace has leveled at the WHO, and by implication, some of the world's leading malaria experts and scientists is damaging to malaria control programs and ultimately will cost lives in Africa.

Ask the next bearded young man who stops you on the street and asks you to donate to Greenpeace any one of those questions, and see what answer you get.

Anyway, here's what the ARI's Yaron Brook has to say:
WHO Sides with Humanity Against Mosquitoes and Environmentalists

Irvine, CA—The World Health Organization, conceding that alternative methods to fight malaria have failed, will start encouraging the use of DDT around the world.

"For anyone who cares about human life, this is excellent news," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. "The widespread use of DDT against malaria-carrying mosquitoes can prevent the infection of hundreds of millions of people every year and save millions of lives."

Before environmentalists managed to ban or severely restrict its use, DDT led to a dramatic reduction in malaria cases wherever it was used.

"The decades-long environmentalist opposition to DDT never had any basis in science: for half a century DDT use has been proven safe to humans and deadly to mosquitoes.

"The environmentalists responsible for banning or tightly restricting the use of DDT are responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people and for the untold suffering of hundreds of millions more, most of them children.

"The environmentalists' persistent opposition to the use of DDT shows that they are indifferent to human suffering. This is because environmentalism places the 'preservation' of nature above the requirements of human survival and prosperity. Given the choice of eradicating malarial mosquitoes with a man-made pesticide or condemning millions of people to suffering and death, committed environmentalists have consistently opted for the latter..."

LINKS: World Health Organization (WHO) Announces New Policy Position On Indoor Residual Spraying For Malaria Control - Medical News Today
DDT cleared for fighting malaria - ABC News
Calling Greenpeace to account - The Commons Blog
Open letter to Greenpeace - Richard Tren, Africa Fighting Malaria
Ayn Rand Institute News - US Politics Today
Cartoon by Cox and Forkum

RELATED: Environment, Health, Politics-World, Objectivism

Labels: ,