Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What a Great Country This Is / like fuck it is

I note, with some bemusement, the story in the Herald about the failure of the website designed to lure expatriate New Zealanders (of whom I am one), back to the mother country.

It’s not really a surprise is it.

What a silly idea, dreamed up in some boardroom full of overpaid shirts trying to extract a fat fee from the government, and I’m sure it did. The only surprise is that someone was gullible enough to buy it, to think it might work. To think that those who have left might be prodded to return by this, is just silly. Even if one was to read it and take it seriously it fails. It simply tries too hard to convince the reader that something is happening and repeatedly tries to imply that New Zealand has made the jump from mediocrity to exciting. Witness the music and entertainment pages…so try hard…so “look, its all happening here”. And its all so unnecessary and thoroughly insulting to those of us who know that exciting things have always happened in New Zealand, that the only real difference now is the momentary interest the mainstream are now taking in the undercurrent. Musically, I’m still not sure if the recognition is a good thing, if the voluntary quotas achieve much more than a blanding of the centre. Certainly the “New Zealandness” of the music being foisted onto the airwaves, as the record companies direct all their efforts towards commercial radio play, seems to be lost, especially in pop. R’n’b and New Zealand’s hip hop are another matter. Try as it might, many of the urban sounds coming out of NZ do not sound like the massively polished sounds coming out of the US or the UK. It retains a naïve clumsiness about it and more power to that, it’s an individuality that gives it spark. And then there is Fat Freddy’s. I don’t like the music particularly but I love them for the people power it indicates, and the voice it gives to my belief that the tryhard aspect of the failing website is unnecessary. Things are happening in NZ, and they always have been and the lack of this is not the reason many have left.

One of the things that has driven many, myself included, away is intolerance. I was terrified by the failure to criticise and the acceptance by the media of inherent racism in the National Party’s election campaign last year, and the way in which so many of my countrymen rallied to the bigotry. I had hoped we developed beyond that. Any I find myself uncomfortable with the creeping mediocrity and aspiration to mediocrity that I see, and the media celebrates.

I hate the rules, the lists of bylaws that greet you as you arrive at the beach, the fascism of the road rules and the way they are enforced. I know these exist for a reason but it is the layering of these on top each other over and over again, with the myriad of other regulations and rules that neuter the soul. There are things like the mess that New Zealand’s Employment law is, administered by the overpaid, out of touch with reality, buffoons that call themselves the Employment Relations Authority who encourage a whole new industry of parasitic ambulance chasers.

Those are some of the things that drive us away.

And then there is the case of Phillip Sturm. I really should say, before I go on, I know Phillip. Not well, at all, more in passing, and I’ve never had a conversation with him beyond small talk. I should also say that I have not seen the court records and my understanding of this case comes from what I’ve read in the media and, more importantly, from people I know who are privy to the details, some of whom were witness to some of the events surrounding the alleged offending.

To say this stinks is a massive understatement. Nothing I have heard or read indicates that is anything more than good old fashioned gay bashing. Over one hundred years since the British establishment drove Oscar Wilde to an early death, on the other side of the world, in the old Empire we continue the grand tradition. Yes Sturm is guilty, but only of being a promiscuous gay male, and not a particularly pleasant, as those who know him will attest, human being. Neither crime should put him in jail for nine years. But it has in clean green NZ.

The evidence that Sturm drugged and assaulted several men is ludicrous. None of the drugs alleged to have been used by him are capable, as hundreds of thousands of highly respectable New Zealanders know, in the quantities alleged, of the stupefaction required to substantiate the charges, and the original judge was correct to toss that out. That a second trial and the appeal court overruled this indicates that the whole notion of justice is a farce in New Zealand when applied to those who don’t sit in the centre of society, who don’t play the game. I reside in a country now which the world derides for its corruption but this case went down a country which is trying to sell itself as one of the great places to live, a sophisticated, haven of lifestyle.

The whole case is an evil nonsense, and confirms the notion, that the earlier witch trial of Peter Ellis made many of us believe, that New Zealand is not necessarily a place we want to live.

And no one says a word….

Sunday, April 09, 2006

It’s just an opinion, ok

  1. A window into a society or a culture, it seems to me, is indicated by the way they ride their bicycles. A silly statement, perhaps, made after countless hours avoiding the very many slow, happy, meandering cyclists here on the streets on Bali. Australians tend to ride their cycles aggressively as if they are more important than they are; New Zealanders, with their silly hats (yes I know why they have them) don’t seem able to work out whether they are riding a cycle or aspiring to a motorcycle; Germans ride clean bicycles on designated pathways and park them tidily in the correct place; and Americans always have more gadgets on the bike than they need to do the job. The Indonesian ride is best done at a pace which somehow defies the natural pull of gravity to pull them over at that speed, and involves a glazed, content look. Tidak Apa Apa…it doesn’t matter.
  2. Dear Ms Caro….NZ Film directors seem to have this infuriating habit of making a wonderful, groundbreaking, and moving movie and then, almost without hesitation rolling over for the Hollywood dollar and the house in Malibu. Witness Lee Tamahori (or perhaps not). Once Were Warriors, still, after all these years, fucks with my mind. The first time I saw it in a theatre, the whole place left after in complete silence. Now, I’ve seen it half a dozen times and every time, despite the familiarity, it chills me, and I crave that alternative happy resolution that we all know will never come. But, Lee’s work post Warriors is relentlessly nothing…not good or bad but simply Yankee nothing. Roger Donaldson is another (although his No Way Back may be the highpoint of Kevin Costner’s career but, really that’s not saying a lot), and he has, last year, finally done something worthy of his talent. But how many years did that take. I want to wave the flag and go yeah..look, a Kiwi, but when it’s the likes of Cocktail, its hard. So….. If I’d wanted to watch Erin Brocavich, or whatever it was called, again, I’ve would’ve watched it, not made the mistake of spending two hours on a lame poor cousin of it called North Country. And how bad was the bloody courtroom scene. Whale Rider was not Warriors, or even Quiet Earth or Smash Palace, all of which I regard as NZ masterpieces, but it was still a fine, fine film and something to be proud of and work from, so what happened? Was the lure of the big house too much or is it, I hope, a clever foot in the door, and better is to come. I know we don’t own you or have a right to expect anything, it’s just that we do…regards, disappointed of Sanur.
  3. I wonder if any mainstream politician in America has the balls, the dang gumption, to actually stand up and tell the truth about Iraq to the US constituency. To date, none have. Both Democrats and, more so, Republicans, still cloud their rhetoric in a façade, in a myth, the right with the something called “freedom and democracy”, with “winning”; and the left with the “bring the troops home” bullshit. No hint of liability or responsibility for destroying a people, for the deaths of god knows how many…
  4. I don’t get Mariah Carey. I really don’t. She is gruesomely ugly (I’m not usually one to make judgements like that, and I don’t feel that comfortable doing so but she insists on popping out all over my screen and it’s not pleasant. She made the choice to put herself up on show); she can’t sing…well she can but it’s a mediocre caterwaul at best; her materiel is generously best described as sub mediocre; oh, and she can’t act. And she’s not even doing the Watuzi on the boardroom table with Tommy Mottola anymore. At least when she was on Sony, her success made logical sense. But now, I don’t understand. And I really don’t want to. Not that she cares…
  5. I wasn’t born to co-exist with snakes. I’ve known a couple over the years but I mean the ones that exist in the wild (and in our garden) here in Bali. Brigid almost stood on a brown thing a few weeks back, on the front steps. We (well, not actually me) cornered it in a hole before Gustu, the gardener, filled the thing in with fast dry cement, so I guess it remains there. Yesterday, a barking dog, the dachshund, caught the household’s attention and Brigid found it head to head with a raised, flared Cobra in the garden. Pulling the dog away by its tail, the, now experienced reptile-er, Gustu, dispatched it with a stick and put it outside in the sampah, the rubbish, only for the guy over the road in the motorcycle repair place to come over, bite its head off, and eat it raw. This is not Ponsonby…..