Saturday, 16 September 2006

The self-imposed prison of tradition

When I read this report in the Herald, I was reminded of the observation made by Thomas Sowell quoted below. From the Herald comes the news that for the king's funeral Tongan villagers are donating gifts they can't afford to a dead monarch who can't use them, and a new monarch who doesn't want them (you might recall the new monarch disparaging the "basket weaving" of "his people" on TV news recently). Says the Herald, "The villagers' generosity is born of tradition, but not all are happy about it":
Tongan tradition grates for some
A Tongan village has woven thousands of dollars worth of fine mats, donated cash for a pig and will provide baskets of food for the funeral of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. The villagers' generosity is born of tradition, but not all are happy about it. Saane Masila (right), a mother of eight, says it actually makes her sick. [...]

At Fahefa, in the northwest of Tongatapu Island, the local women have spent weeks weaving valuable fine mats and making tapa cloths as gifts which will be presented at the palace by their village noble for the late King.
Mrs Masila, 38, says she has no idea what will happen to the mats, hundreds of which will be gifted from around the kingdom.

While she says she loved the King she is unimpressed that the mats will go the "rich royal family" when her village could do with the money they could be sold for.
So why do they do it? Tradition. Culture. Mrs Masila is rightly "unimpressed" at giving away her wealth to pay for a parasite, but she does it anyway. As a cultural practice, who benefits?

As Thomas Sowell says:
Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives.
In this example, which is symbolic of the parasitic relationship of monarch and subjects, "culture" is working bloody poorly for those expected to altruistically donate their time, wealth and energy to celebrate a dead parasite who grew fat (quite literally) off the energy of the people he ruled.

Democracy can't come fast enough for Tonga, but without a change of culture as well as a change of leader then democracy will just deliver them more parasites wanting to grow fat off the largesse the Tongan people can't afford.

RELATED: Multiculturalism, Individualism, Ethics, Politics-World

Pollock by numbers

Some people will pay over a million dollars for a Jackson Pollock scrawl (what's that they say about a fool and his money being easily parted?).

But if you want an original Jackson Pollock painting with just as much effort as it took to produce the original, and far less expense than the real thing, then just go here and wave your mouse around -- and then head down to your dealer.

See, you too can be a con-artist.

LINK: JacksonPollock.Org

RELATED: Art, Humour

Jewish Museum in Berlin - 'Between The Lines' - Daniel Libeskind

Our Architecture V Architecture Series is drawing to a close, with only two favourites left -- or you could say it's coming to a climax, with only the very best selections left, one from each of us! Tonight in this "Top Five" series then, we have the last of Den's "top five" favourites, with my own last selection in the series coming Monday.

This building, one that I unfortunately have yet to see in person, is without a doubt my most favourite piece of architecture. It demonstrates how brief, understanding of form, and individual brilliance in conception can be brought together in creating a 'speaking' architecture. This 'petrified flash of lightning' answers a lot of questions about what architecture's function in society should be, what it should speak of, and in what manner it should speak.

Libeskind won a hotly contested international competition on the back of a rather esoteric and ephemeral entry, which he entitled 'Between The Lines'. The drawings for this entry are beautiful and engaging entities in themselves, and Libeskind created an evocative intertwining of text and image to outline the story he wanted to tell.

The original brief was the replacement of the original Jewish Museum in Berlin, which opened with catastrophic timing in 1933, one week before the installation of Hitler as Chancellor, was badly damaged and thoroughly looted on Kristallnacht in 1938 and ultimately totally dismantled. The organisers of the competition set out an edgy and difficult triad of considerations for the proposals. They were to focus on:
(1) the Jewish religion, customs, and ritual objects; (2) the history of the Jewish community in Germany, its rise and terrible destruction at the hands of the Nazis; and (3) the lives and works of Jews who left their mark on the face and the history of Berlin over the centuries. Even given the ultimately integrationist aims of the competition, avoiding a grim memorial relic of a building would be the greatest challenge.

Libeskind's scheme, 'Between The Lines', aimed to create:
'...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.'
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. The tortuous yet continuing line is the shared destiny of the city. These are simplistic interpretations of what is a complex and multi-layered design, but what one can feel simply through looking at pictures of the evocative interiors and exterior is the powerful juxtaposition of solid and void, presence and absence. Visitors, in traversing the museum in order to move through the various exhibition areas, must go over sixty bridges through the void spaces which cut through the building's volume.

The exterior has been 'written upon' - appearing almost scarred, imprinted with arcane patterns and displaced fragments. Exterior space has been considered as an integral feature of the building, with the 'Garden of Exile' - 49 six-metre high columns through which visitors can wander, and the immensely evocative (although somewhat 'folly'-ish) 'Holocaust Tower' - a bare concrete tower, the interior of which is neither heated or cooled, with a single unreachable aperture opening to the outside. Friends (both architects and non-architects) who have been in this space all attest to the immense power of the simple gesture made by this space.

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.

Perhaps most brilliantly, the building constitutes an 'emblem of hope'. Libeskind has allowed both lines of the programme - the 'tortuous continuous' line and the 'straight, fragmented' line to coexist, such that our interpretation springs from the synthesis of the two, suggesting that rather than a solution or a closed book, the design logic presents a way forward. In his own words:
The work is conceived as a museum for all Berliners, for all citizens. Not only those of the present, but those of the future who might find their heritage and hope in this particular place. With its special emphasis on the Jewish dimension of Berlin's history, this building gives voice to a common fate - to the contradictions of the ordered and disordered, the chosen and not chosen, the vocal and silent. I believe that this project joins Architecture to questions that are now relevant to all humanity. To this end, I have sought to create a new Architecture for a time which would reflect an understanding of history, a new understanding of Museums and a new realization of the relationship between program and architectural space. Therefore this Museum is not only a response to a particular program, but an emblem of Hope.
* * * * *
So that's the last and "most favourite" of all Den's buildings. Look for a wrap-up from him on our series some time next week -- and go right ahead and comment yourself right here, right now. Remember those two questions I suggested on which to base your comments: First, is this good architecture? And second, do you like it. And remember to say why!

RELATED: Architecture


Friday, 15 September 2006

Architecture tonight ...

Our Architecture V Architecture Series is drawing to a close with only two favourites left to post -- or you could say it's coming to a climax, with only the two very best selections to come, one each from each of us!

Come back tonight then for the last in this "Top Five" series of Den's five favourites. This one, he says, is his "favourite, all time, hands down" winner. It's that good, he says:
This building ... is without a doubt my most favourite piece of architecture. It demonstrates how brief, understanding of form, and individual brilliance in conception can be brought together in creating a 'speaking' architecture.
As for me, I think I've won a bet.

Come back later on tonight, and all will be revealed.


Beer O’Clock – Three Boys IPA, India Pale Ale, Christchurch, 5.2%

The Beer O'Clock post this week comes from Neil at Real Beer.

After all the good beer flowing during Brew NZ, I could not possibly spend another column writing about Viking Lager. [Thank goodness, Ed.]

So I have decided to highlight one of my absolute favourite beers from a little known Christchurch brewery called Three Boys. Trust me, you will be hearing a lot more from these guys. They will go far.

For starters, the beer looks good before it even gets in the glass. As soon as you see the distinctive bottles, you know they are aiming at the very top end of the microbrewery market. I have to say they are very handsome bottles (and I once wrote an article called “good beer can come in plastic bottles!”).

Simple labels, simple language, very distinctive and classy. And it would seem I am not the only one to think so. Three Boys rightly won the Packaging Award at the New Zealand Beer Awards last week.

The brewer is scientist Dr Ralph Bungard who now runs this small brewery in Woolston, Christchurch. The Three Boys name is a reference to Ralph and his two sons.

He has just put in new tanks to meet increased demand from an increased number of venues which should make the beers a bit easier to find.

The IPA is the newest beer in his range (along with Pils, Wheat and Porter) which will be complemented by two seasonals (Oyster Stout – with real bluff oysters – and possibly a Golden Ale for summer).

All his beers are unfiltered and unpasteurised. Ralph says they are “just as nature intended. Our aim is simple: finest quality beer, finest possible taste.” I consider that most laudable!

The IPA pours a burnished gold with a light head. On the nose it is aromatic with herbs, citrus and a little honey evident. The taste is full (yet balanced) with plenty of fruit (particularly grapefruit – very American) closely followed by a long, long bitter finish.

This is one of my favourite beers of the year. It is so good I got thirsty just typing that description. Lucky it is Beer O’Clock…

Cheers, Neil

LINKS: Three Boys Brewery
Real Beer

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

Song for today: 'You Run Your Mouth (I'll Run My Business)'

Song for today is Louis Armstrong's 'You Run Your Mouth (I'll Run My Business).' Sample:
Yeah, you run your mouth and I'll run my business brother
You run your mouth and I'll run my business brother
You start up telling me you're my pal
End up telling how to handle my gal
You run your mouth and I'll run my business brother

You run your juicy mouth and I'll run my business brother
You run your juicy mouth and I'll run my business brother
You're always telling me what to do
Saying "I wouldn't do that if I was you"
You run your mouth and I'll run my business brother
Full lyrics here (at least, a somewhat different Joe Jackson version). Listen to Louis with Real Player here. Send a copy to Don Brash's advisors so they understand what the proper response sounds like, and another to Mallard and Benson-Pope and Brian Connell who could all do with a good dose of minding their own bloody business.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Music

A conspiracy rant

The world is a confusing place, particularly if you only ever turn on half your brain. That describes your average conspiracy nut, doesn't it, a person who has never worked out what actually moves the world, who has never tried to think in abstractions (something for which the fully-functioning brain is so well suited) so who grabs on to any threadbare explanation to explain what he sees around him, no matter how many facts that explanation has to ignore.

To paraphrase Jack Wheeler, the world headquarters of this subset of humanity is a grassy knoll in downtown Dallas. (And we all know where the local home for these nuts is, don't we customers?)

Now, Robert Bidinotto occasionally loses his head-- but never as much as your moonbat conspiracy theorist -- and on this week of remembrace he's explaining why he has no time for either conspiracy theorists or their latest and newly topical conspiracy theory about 9/11. You know the one:
Surely, you have heard the 9/11 conspiracy theories by now. The U.S. government, not Osama bin Laden and radical Muslims, brought down the World Trade Center. Attacked the Pentagon. Tried to hit Congress, even. Why? To justify launching the War on Terror.

And why do that?

If you are a Muslim conspiratorialist, it's because the Great Satan wishes to destroy the Muslim world.

If you are a libertarian conspiratorialist, it's because a War on Terror would allow excuses for the diabolical neocons to violate our liberties, vastly increase government spending, and consolidate power.

If you are a leftist conspiratorialist, it's because that gives the imperialistic U.S. an excuse to colonize the Middle East.

If you are a conservative conspiratorialist, it's because it gives the communist Insiders and international bankers a greater stranglehold on our finances.

The wonderful thing about that 9/11 conspiracy theory is that it can be cited to explain damned near anything, for damned near anyone. Like the Blob from the 1950s horror movie, an ambitious conspiracy theory like this one can expand amorphously in any direction, allowing it to encompass -- and account for -- any conceivable fact, thus allowing its proponent to imagine himself unassailable to any challenge.
Read more ranting here. It's good.

LINK: A rant against conspiracy theories - Robert Bidinotto's blog

TAGS: History, History-Modern, Nonsense, Politics-US

Oh dear.

Here's a clue as to why the Labour Party would like to see the back of Don Brash. The next four in line for his job?
John Key.
Bill English.
Simon Power.
Gerry Brownlee.
Anyone there who's going to set the world on fire?

LINKS: Support acts waiting in National's wings - Stuff
A smiling Brash emerges from home - Stuff

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National


Popular 'Not PC'

Here's the most popular searches here at Not PC at the minute. It might suggest that politics is of little interest to readers:
  1. broadacre city
  2. pc = tolerance
  3. the ecstacy of st. teresa, rome
  4. peter rabbit tank killer
  5. swedish night club newcastle night club
  6. annette presley
  7. peter brock death
  8. soliciting helen clark usa
  9. peter rabbit the tank killer
  10. price tower architecture
  11. hans scharoun schminke 1933 pdf
  12. smartest guys in the room analysis
  13. broadacre city theory
  14. libertarianism maori affairs
  15. milleu viaduct
  16. hans scharoun schminke
  17. rudolf kalman jewish
  18. 0wned by psych fuck 3d israel
  19. switching station in basel by herzog and de meuron
  20. alderton house glenn murcutt
And here's the top dozen most popular posts, which might suggest that politics is of interest to readers.
  1. Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City
  2. Hodgson attacks. Libz leader gummed.
  3. Peregrine Winery - Architecture Workshop
  4. Political Correctness: A classic documentary now online
  5. Whose business?
  6. Bernini - 'Ecstacy of St Teresa'
  7. Zero tolerance for corruption
  8. Your private life drama baby leave me out ...
  9. Rail Switchtower, Basel, Switzerland: Herzog de Meuron
  10. 'Peter Rabbit: Tank Killer'
  11. Submissions on Telecom theft
  12. Another lesson from history
Politics, schmolliticks.


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Architecture V Architecture: John Soane's House, London

A rather unusual 'Top Five' architectural favourite for you tonight, this time my own fourth selection in the series we began here at the start of last week.

A building tonight from a very different century, a house whose charms are perhaps a little difficult to discern from just a simple web page, particularly when seen with today's eye. The house is architect John Soane's own house, built in the London of 1812 -- the year in which Charles Dickens was born, Napoleon invaded Russia, Britain and the US were at war for the last time and Beethoven had just compsed his Seventh Symphony, and had just begun to go deaf. The difficulty here lies in three main areas.

The first two problems are somewhat obvious. For the casual observer it is easy to just dismiss this as some sort of everyday classical building. It isn't. It does use classical motifs, but by the standards of the day the skin is relatively unblemished, and the ornament is incredibly restrained, almost spare.

Soane was one of the few genuine English Romantic architects, and perhaps the only one to eschew ornamentation simply for the sake of ornamentaion, and to begin to develop his own method and form of stripped back detailing. He used classical motifs, but intelligently rather than slavishly.

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.

The second problem is that there's not much of the house that can really be seen from the garden square the building has to its front. Soane's house began life as a simple Georgian terrace house, in what was then the outskirts of Northern London, before being completely remodelled -- but all you see of that from the outside was what was seen at the time as a very sparely ornamented facade addition, the effect of which inside was to allow light to wash the inside of the street wall, and to help dissolve the spatial division between inside and out .

It is this spatial manipulation at which Soane excelled, and it is here we find both the real difficulty in trying to understand Soane's house only through a web page, but also the reason we should bother: Soane's house is a masterpiece of spatial manipulation, a landmark in architectural progress towards 'breaking the box' and moving to a more dynamic way of laying out space.

As a visitor you enter expecting to find the usual series of well-proportioned but spatially constrained rooms one has come to expect in a Georgian terrace house of this size; once inside however you realise you couldn't be more wrong.

The place is like a tardis -- as one moves through the house space is always and everywhere unexpectedly opening up beyond. Soane has so cunningly manipulated space and the angles inside the house that the eye almost never seems to find real enclosure, and is constantly surprised to find that the enclosing elements either can't be seen, or have been made to disappearin some way, or to open out when we expect them to enclose.

The effect of all that manipulation is pretty hard to convey just through a few photographs, but to the visitor it is astonishing: one enters expecting a series of claustrophobic rooms, and instead finds oneself inside what seems to be almost never-ending space and with the feeling almost of being outside in a small, uniquely decorated park. Soane was breaking the containing box, the first architect to do this, and giving to the contained space a totally new sense of freedom appropriate to the Age of Enlightenment that this was.

You're left with the question: How does Soane do this? Let me give you two or three examples.
  1. Entering the house one comes first to a small lobby, but looks ahead to where the side wall of the house should be and find instead that the wall has disappeared and instead a light-filled oval stairwell (lit from above) fills space that really shouldn't exist. The oval walls that surround the stairs help to confuse the geometry of this space, and the fact that over time Soane bought the two neighbouring houses and used those in his remodeling to 'borrow space' help him to confuse the spatial boundaries of his own house. (You can see from the plan how the angled Hall wall and Breakfast Room wall help to confound the observer expecting the usual one-dimensional Georgian party wall.)

  2. Further on past the stairs and in this same extra space given up by the neighbouring house, Soane's Breakfast Room (the room above with the yellow 'handkerchief dome') sits beside an open window looking into the Monument Yard, and through that and a window-lined corridor beyond to a larger light-filled yard beyond that, take the eye out to a more disant view where one would least expect to, and from a space one hadn't expect to find.

    The corners of the room itself have been removed (as you can see in the plan), destroying the 'gestalt' of enclosure, and the the dome itself is shaped to hover rather than enclose, and so positioned as to conceal from the seated breakfaster the upper enclosing corners of the space.

    The effect in sum is to create the feeling in the occupant of a pavilion in a carefully planned and well-lit garden, a major achievement in a very small space in the midst of built-up Georgian London.

  3. Enclosure. I mentioned it briefly above, but in a rectangular room our eye seeks enclosure at each of the four corners and the four edges of the ceiling. In many of Soane's room's the eys seeks but never finds: surfaces are brought forward or back to hide or confuse the place where the corner should be, and in some places mirrors are cunningly placed at those corners to make it impossible to see enclosure. Our eye is always looking beyond to find the end of the space, but never quite finding it, and the effect is to make these small spaces appear much, much larger than they actually are.
The effect of all these measures taken altogether in one house is dramatic, and that's not mentioning all his other effects and the other unexpected vistas or even his many ingenious technical innovations -- like the moving planes of his picture-frame mechanism (seen at the bottom of this post), and worth a whole post on its own) -- or venturing at all into the treasure garden that is the museum running the entire width of the three houses at the back, and in which Soane has just played and played and played some more with space and light and shape, and all the time with a twinkle in his eye (you can see a section through the museum just below.)
The architect has been enjoying himself, and this is a house designed to be enjoyed. It is a house designed to be in, and to celebrate the life of the occupant -- who was of course the architect himself.

It is my fourth favourite building, and she's a beauty.

RELATED: Architecture


Thursday, 14 September 2006

I've joined Kebyar

I've been invited to join 'Kebyar,' "an international network of people interested in original and innovative architecture that is not “mainstream” - architecture that defies the tyranny of styles." Says the Kebyar website:
We advocate creative and unusual solutions to the challenges facing today’s architects. Kebyar is a Balinese word literally meaning the process of flowering. It also designates a style in Balinese music and art connoting strength and vigor. Internationally famed architect Bruce Goff chose Kebyar as the name for a school of creative arts and architecture he was planning at the time of his death. The organization’s purposes are to advance creative organic architecture, to bring attention to the works of original artists, and to nurture the spiritual endowment left by the architects that have preceded us who worked so hard to free their art from the indolent idioms of fashion and imbue it with new meaning, integrity, and respect for the natural environment.
It sounds nothing like the NZ Institute of Architects, just one reason I had no hesitation in enthusiastically signing up! The people Kebyar has on its Advisory Board is another.

TAGS: Architecture

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Good news about globalisation

Here's a lesson on globalisation from Johan Norberg:
"Indian-American entrepreneurs own nearly 20 percent of all Silicon Valley high-tech startups, and an estimated 55 percent of all U.S. motels are owned by Americans of South Asian ancestry. In 2000, a staggering one of out every nine Indian-Americans was a millionaire and almost 60 percent of Indian-Americans over 25 have graduated from college."
Another success story of globalisation: They get jobs, I get a cheaper motel. They become millionaires and I get better technology. But don´t expect the world´s governments to understand the plus sum-game that trade represents.
Click here to read more ... >>


Another lesson from history

I posted a while back some lessons from history that I'm re-posting today because they've attracted a bit of interest around the place, and because there's a new lesson that's suddenly topical.

It's said that “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It might also be said that those who are either unable or unwilling to learn from history cannot honestly expect to have their ill-formed and baseless opinions taken seriously. History has many lessons for those both alert enough to identify them and honest enough not to evade them:
  • From the Dark Ages comes the lesson that taken together faith, mysticism, an ethic of blind sacrifice and a focus on some non-existent other world leads to dirt-poor misery in this one. (The same lesson can be learned either from the thousand years of the Western Dark Ages, or from what looks to be at least a thousand years of Islamic Dark Ages.)
  • The Inquisition and Islamic jihad between them show the truth of Voltaire's dictum that those who believe absurdities tend to commit atrocities.
  • From the Enlightenment comes the lesson that between them reason and a focus on this world provide a way out of the darkness.
  • The Industrial Revolution shows that reason applied to production leads to an enormous increase in human welfare, (and from it also comes the further lesson that reason is man's unique means of survival).
  • That the Industrial Revolution happened first and most spectacularly in Britain shows that a legal environment protecting freedom and property rights is necessary for such a revolution to happen and to endure.
  • The relative success of the US Constitution shows that if you know what you're about that it's possible to tie up the government to protect freedom and property rights at least some of the time.
  • From two World Wars and a century of slaughter comes the lesson that totalitarian state worship is not the route to human happiness.
  • From the bloody failures of collectivism comes the lesson that 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is a recipe only for human sacrifice and bloody slaughter.
  • From the rise of Nazism comes the lesson that appeasement rewards the aggressor; that all evil requires is for good men to do nothing.
  • From the Holocaust comes the lesson of the banality of evil, and the evil of blindly following orders.
  • From the spectular post-war economic successes of Germany and Japan comes the lesson that trade and capitalism are better than totalitarianism and bloody conquest.
  • From the rise of the Asian Tiger economies comes the lesson (again) that freedom and prosperity are directly and inextricably linked.
  • From the Fall of the Berlin Wall comes the lesson that non-freedom and poverty are also and inextricably linked.
  • The continuing fatwah on Salman Rushdie; the murders of Theo van Gogh, Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and Paul Marshall Johnson; the deaths of September 11 and the bombings of Bali, Madrid and London -- between them the lesson is there that war has already been declared between barbarity and civilisation...
All these lessons are there for those who choose to open their eyes and learn. Taken together, the lesson from the events of history is that reason, individualism and capitalism are a recipe for health, wealth and happiness in this world, and their polar opposites a prescription only for death, misery and destruction.

And there's one more lesson to learn from history that I could add now, one from Richard Nixon's disastrous presidency that should be a particular lesson for all political "strategists": the lesson that the real damage from Watergate was not the burglary, but the cover up. That's a point that those responsible for stealing "books" of emails and for misappropriating taxpayers' money might give some thought to today.

TAGS: History, Philosophy, Ethics, Politics, Objectivism

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Submissions on Telecom theft

Back to matters going on in Helengrad that actually do affect us: the Select Committee considering the details of nationalising Telecom's lines. The boys at Pacific Empire give the run-down on what they told the committee last night on behalf of Libertarianz.

The short report is that they told the committee this was theft. The longer report is here at Pacific Empire. The full submission will be up on the Libz site later thir morning.

LINK: Telco Act Submission report - Pacific Empire

RELATED: Telecom, Politics-NZ


Your private life drama baby leave me out ...

private, a. not public; kept or withdrawn from publicity or observation; retired, secluded ...
  • Which part of the phrase "private life" do parliamentarians not understand?
  • Is there no level beyond which this Government will not stoop to avoid being held to account for their misappropriation of taxpayers' money to pay for their election campaign?
  • Does Brian Connell not understand that his foolishness has helped remove the Government from the "standing eight count" it was being given? Does he care?
  • Is it clear enough now what buckets of slime Labour's senior parliamentarians threatened to empty over the Treasury Benches last week?
  • Is there a word to describe today's airy dismissal by Clark and Cullen of any part in the exposure of Brash's private life to public gaze, when it was them last week who gave the 'go' to Chief Smear-Merchant Mallard to begin it.
Song for the week: Private Life, by the Pretenders:

Your private life drama baby leave me out ...

UPDATE: Whose business? On behalf of those who suggest "private life" means something different than what the dictionary means by that term, Russell Brown and Chris Trotter suggest there's a "political dimension" that gives some sort of imprimatur to people to pry behind other people's curtains. Bollocks. Utter, self-serving, politically driven bollocks.

And for those like Helen Clark who maintain that I'm part of some Vast Right Wing Conspiracy so I'd be be bound to say that, let me remind Helen I said the same thing this time last year about the prurient poking behind her own husband's curtains.

As I said then, "Even if the gossip is true, is it really any of our business?" The answer last year was, "No!" and it's the same answer now: "No!"


Peregrine Winery - Architecture Workshop

Tonight in our architectural debate here at Not PC I'm delighted to post the fourth of Den's favourites along with his accompanying write-up. As requested by a commenter, this is one of Den's local favourites. He describes it as a "powerful and compelling" New Zealand building sitting "in an exquisite natural setting."

This project is one that I am professionally very jealous of. Not only because I find the architecture extraordinarily powerful and compelling, but because Workshop got given a once-in-a-lifetime site to build on that many architects would stab each other with their 2mm clutch pencils to get a shot at.

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.

When seen from closer though, material selection is seen to be robust and simple, drawing from the vernacular of rural structures - seemingly at odds with the delicate, jewel-like impression one gets from further away. Workshop here have used honest, utilitarian materials to achieve a quite extraordinary effect.

The stated design logic behind the overall form was the evoking of a hawk in flight - or in 'wind hover as it glides on the thermal uplifts off the heated land'.

It is an extraordinarily beautiful building, and fully deserving of the acclaim it has received both locally and internationally. Definitely my favourite NZ building of the moment.


RELATED: Architecture


Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Muted parliamentary attacks explained

Ah! The news that Don Brash is taking a few days off to work on repairing his marriage explains both the suddenly muted Questions session in yesterday's Parliament, and at least one of the buckets of slime Labour were threatening to dump over the Treasury Benches last week, as I speculated yesterday.

"As people will understand," says Dr Brash, "this is a very difficult time for me and my family. I ask that the media respect our need for privacy." I hope they do. And I trust the Labour Party does as well.

UPDATE 1: For those of you who find my comments above a little cryptic, a libertarian colleague makes everything crystal clear:
Well it seems Trevor Mallard has made good on his threat to "dish up the dirt." Labour must be getting desperate to resort to the "mutually assured destruction" political doctrine. The timing is cynical plotting in the extreme: choosing when to destroy a marriage must give one a "special" sense of power. The voting public might well be disgusted with Labour by this tactic. A very sad day for NZ democracy that we have sunk to the gutter.

UPDATE 2: Darnton's comment is perfect, and right on the button:
Just bloody typical. Labour are on the ropes and so National goes for it’s own jugular. Hopeless.

Although this event was precipitated by Brian Connell, and no doubt Labour are thankful for that, it was precipitated out of an atmosphere of filth created by Mallard et al with the express intention of causing a diversion from their already very public wrongdoing.

LINKS: Statement from Don Brash re request for privacy - Don Brash, Scoop
Unparliamentary punishment - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Labour's threat: We'll dish the dirt - NZ Herald
Trev's filthy fingerprints - Bernard Darnton

RELATED: Politics-NZ

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Darnton talks to Perigo: Audio

I still have no idea how to tune into Radio Pacific here in Auckland, but fortunately Julian Pistorius has the audio of Bernard Darnton chatting to host Lindsay Perigo this morning. Summary:
* The National Party has nothing to do with this.
* This action was taken to ensure that future governments can't take liberties like this again, and to show them that they are not above the law.
* It will also hopefully limit Parliamentary Service, and allow them to refuse to sign cheques which look dodgy.
* This is not an anti-Labour tactic, almost all parties have been guilty of this, but Labour was by far the worst offender.
LINK: Perigo & Darnton on Radio Pacific - Julian's Blog at SOLO

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


On 9/11, the jihadists were crowing again

The New York Times has done the job of surfing jihadi websites to assess their output on the anniversary of September 11. And you know who, according to the various Al Qaeda associates, was responsible for all the death and destruction that "glorious day"? America was. Coca Cola was. Ayn Rand's heir Leonard Peikoff was. "The World Trade Organisation ... the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund ... ," they were responsible. All of them; all responsible; it was they who brought down death and destruction upon the civilisation of the west for the sheer, inhuman evil of being free and prosperous and rational and alive.

The wealth and freedom and individualism of the west is an affront to all those who are poor and unfree, argue the jihadists. Rather than yearning to breath free themselves however, they would prefer the death of those who do. Here's an example, quoted by 'The Times,' of what one death-worshipping maggot argued in an essay posted to an Al Qaeda affiliated site:

What a beautiful morning it is today, an amazing morning when we witnessed this great power flailing in every direction as if it were a slaughtered headless animal....

Some believe that if Bush were to leave then the situation would improve and become stable. But the eternal truth is that there is no difference between Bush and the one who preceded him, or the one who will succeed him, and for a very simple reason: cloning is an inherent property of the American presidential personality. Every new president is a perfect copy of the previous one...

Three children, 10 or 11 years old, who watched the recently released film “United 93” at the theater zealously and gleefully cheered when the plane hit the tower, as if they were watching a goal being scored in a soccer match against an opposing team. What is it that makes these children so happy about this crash that they stand up and strongly applaud? Ask yourselves, oh Americans, what is it that made those 19 young men engage in such a legendary and miraculous act...?

Yes. Ask yourself. And arm yourself. And wake the fuck up. That "legendary and miraculous act" was the death of nearly 3000 people, and the destruction of what was two of civilisation's greatest symbols. The people who sent those 19 young men out on that mission of suicide and death want more of these "glorious days," and make no mistake those 19 dead young men have many more willing 10 and 11 and 18 and 20 year-olds eager to step into their shoes to deliver them "glorious days" again in the future, and a lot more than 19 million more who will cheer them on and fund them and supply them to do it.

These murderers are willing to destroy themselves to carry out "such legendary and miraculous acts." They mean it. They beg for it.

Read on and reflect: reflect that the jihadists do mean every word of it. And have a look at this this video from MEMRI for a vivid reminder of how genuinely evil the Islamists are. "A documentary film about the Arab and Iranian reaction to 9-11 incorporates footage from various TV and satellite stations in the Middle East. It was made with Interface Media Group and narrated by acclaimed actor Ron Silver." [Hat tip Objective Standard]

And consider too how similar the jihadists' own rantings are to the rantings of the western apologists who give them succour, rantings that can be found all over the web and even in the comments section of this very blog. Every one of those self-blinded apologists gives comfort to an enemy who wants only their destruction.

As Leonard Peikoff's colleagues at the Ayn Rand Institute observe:

Five years into our "war on terror," the Iraqi insurgency is raging, with no apparent end to the new recruits eager to wage jihad against the West. Support for offensive action has faded among a disheartened American public, while the terrorists are growing in number and in boldness.

Where have our leaders gone wrong? What kind of leadership failure can demoralize a whole nation of honest, productive citizens, while leaving suicide murderers stirred to righteous action?

Read on and find out why the Islamic totalitarians remain resolutely un-demoralised, and what can be done in defence of our own freedom, if the will existed to do so.

LINKS: The apocalypse will be blogged - New York Times - requires free one-time registration [Hat tip Noodle Food]
The Arab and Iranian reaction to 9/11: Five years later - MEMRI [43 minute streaming film]
A video from MEMRI on the Arab and Iranian reaction to 9/11 - brief summary of the film by Principles in Practice, the blog of The Objective Standard
Why we are losing hearts and minds - Keith Lockitch, Ayn Rand Institute
Tunnel vision - Cox and Forkum

RELATED: War, Religion, Politics-World

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Clean, green and increasingly corrupt

If I had a dollar for every time I've been told that New Zealand's clean, green reputation is too important to tinker with, I could fund Bernard Darnton's case against Helen Clark on my own.

Just as precious and undoubtedly more objective is the reputation New Zealand has as a corruption-free place to do business. Our reputation is so good that in the last survey performed by Transparency International, the globally recognised pre-eminent anti-corruption watchdog, NZ came out second only to Iceland (and equal with Finland) as a corruption-free place to do business.

That is a reputation worth protecting.

However, as Transparency International themselves point out, this reputation is under threat. Reports the Dominion:
Labour risks harming New Zealand’s reputation if it refuses to repay taxpayer funds unlawfully spent on campaigning and changes the law to make it legal, an anti-corruption watchdog has warned...
[Executive Officer] Mr Cave said Transparency International directors in this country – which include former ombudsman Mel Smith and former auditor-general David Macdonald – had grave concerns at Labour’s stance. “Any retrospective changing of the law to legitimise something that was previously illegal we would criticise in the strongest possible terms.”
This corrupt Government risks not only its own reputation here -- which is already lower than a snake's belly -- but that of New Zealand, and as we're all aware a repution once tainted is hard to regain. As an issue this goes well beyond party politics. However, as Bernard Darnton concludes:
To the list of people (too long to repeat here) who think that the Labour Party are a pack of dodgy buggers who need to be reigned in, you can add the world’s premier anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International. As Transparency International says, “Corruption ruins lives. Fight back.”
LINKS: Reputation at risk in funds row - Dominion Post
Transparency International warns Labour - Bernard Darnton, Darnton V Clark

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


Left Wing Conspiracy aids Darnton

On behalf of Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton, I'd like to personally thank Labour leader Helen "We Didn't Do Nothing" Clark, and Peter "We're Not Paying It Back" Hodgson.

I'd like to thank them for the simple reason that their very public attacks on Libertarianz over the last few days over the source of funding for the Darnton V Clark case have sent donations for Darton's legal fund through the roof.

Which means the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy has been a very big help. Thank you.

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


Lake Tahoe Cottage Project - Frank Lloyd Wright

My colleague Mr Den MT who should have posted his 'number four' in our architecture series is swamped with work today, and sends his apologies. Come back tomorrow night for the continuation of our series.

In place of our regularly scheduled programme then, here's a sketch from a Frank Loyd Wright design for a holiday cottage in Lake Tahoe, California. It's a superb example of a very basic basic rule in Organic Architecture: that is, if you're building small in a powerful landscape, you have to think "jewel-like."

Try and guess the decade. A chocolate fish to the first person to get it without Googling.

RELATED: Architecture

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Tuesday, 12 September 2006

George shoots down new breast "crisis"

George Reisman takes a shot at at a New York Times whine about breastfeeding and the absense of decent "lactation stations" at Starbucks, a "crisis," whines the Times, in which "a two-class system is emerging for working mothers."
I don’t want to say how much sleep I’ve lost in my efforts to find a solution for this newest crisis of what the left describes as “social injustice” [says Reisman]. But I have come up with a solution, in fact, three solutions. Here they are...
Read on here for all three solutions. The 'money shot' comes in Reisman's conclusion:
In fact, there’s a further lesson for the Times and the rest of the left to learn here. Namely, they need to apply their alleged support of “gun control,” which they trumpet ad nauseam, to themselves and the programs they advocate. Those programs invariably come down to having the government point its guns at innocent people. About half the time it’s in order to compel them, against their will, to do something they do not want to do but which the Times and the rest of the left want them to do nonetheless. The rest of the time, it’s a case of forcibly preventing people from doing something they do want to do but which the Times and the rest of the left don’t want them to do. The Times et al. need to stop calling for the use of guns against people, whether in connection with lactation or anything else.

LINK: The looming lactation-station crisis, and how to solve it - George Reisman's blog

RELATED: Political Correctness


Unparliamentary punishment

Kiwi Herald has a suggestion for MPs who repeatedly misbehave in the House: Make them sit next to Peter Dunne. Ouch! (Perhaps repeat offenders could be made to have lunch with Dunne, or be stuck in a lift with him for an afternoon.)

Of course, having a Government that wasn't a corrupt pack of thieves who couldn't lie straight in bed might also lead to quieter afternoons in the House.

UPDATE: This afternoon's very quiet Parliamentary session suggests the National Party's justified attacks on this corrupt Goverment have been de-fanged by last week's threat of a bucket of slime being tossed across the Treasury Benches. So it's de-fanged, de-balled, and back to boring business as usual from the Tories. What a pathetic bunch.

LINK: Parliamentary day to begin with Bullrush - Kiwi Herald

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Humour

Labour duns taxpayer to defend charge of dunning taxpayer

Called on to defend the charge that money appropriated to run the Prime Minister's office was used instead to run for that office -- and all over the media yesterday accusing everyone but the Knights Templar of funding the Libertarianz case against them -- guess how the Prime Minister and the 40 Labour MPs accused are paying for their own defence? Go on, guess.

Are they digging into their own pockets? Fat chance.

Are they calling for donations from supporters to help fund their case? Not likely.

No, as this morning's Dominion Post establishes, charged with using taxpayers like an ATM machine, they're calling on that same ATM again to defend the charge:
A spokesman for Miss Clark confirmed yesterday that Labour’s “parliamentary funding” – which includes her leader’s fund – was being used to pay Queen’s Counsel Hugh Rennie.
Says a disgusted Bernard Darnton, who as an unwilling taxpayer is being made to help fund his opponent:

That’s right, accused of misappropriating money from the leader’s fund to illegally pay for their election advertising, they pay for their defence from the very same fund they’re accused of ripping off in the first place. Absolutely shameless.

Once again I remind you: Libertarianz Asks Nicely...

So the issue is not how Libertarianz are paying for our QC -- we are doing it voluntarily. With donations. The issue today is who's paying for Labour's? And the answer is, the same people who paid for their campaign: You are.

There is a line betwen democracy and dictatorship that this litigation was designed to highlight. It is a line of which this Government is utterly unaware.

LINKS: Taxpayers to fund Labour's legal fees - Dominion Post
ibertarianz asks nicely, Labour steals - Libertarianz press release
Carry on rorting - Darnton V Clark
Donations - Darnton V Clark

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


The long, long trail of appeasement , capitulation and death

We are at war.

We, the people of the west are at war with people who wish to destroy us.

It's a different war than we're used to, an asymmetric war -- a so-called fourth-generation war -- so some folk still don't recognise we're in a state of war (or don't want to recognise it), but we are under sustained attack and have been for some time.

That's not scare-mongering. That's just the way it is. Like it or not, we are at war. We didn't start this war, but a litany of appeasement by those under attack has fanned its flames, encouraged the attackers and emboldened the growth of violence.

It's not caused bthe war in Iraq, US foreign policy or oil. It was started by Islamo-totalitarians who by their own admission "worship death" as we in the west worship life; who want the prosperous, freedom-loving west dead, as dead as their own dark souls; and who see the cowardly west as easy prey.

On this last point at least, they're right. There is an essential difference between the essentially individualistic, prosperous, freedom-loving civilisation of the west and the stone-age culture that has declared war on it. Said Osama bin Laden on behalf of those who declared war:
“We love death. The [west] loves life. That is the difference between us two.” 
On that, we agree. In the name of those who do love life and who treasure the life-loving civilisation of the west, on this anniversary of the most visible attack on the west and all it stands for, consider all that led to it: a series of snubs, trial balloons and atrocities, the tepid and pathetic response to most of which emboldened those who love death to even greater atrocities, and the supporters of the death-worshippers to even greater support, both financial and logistical.

Just as it did in the thirties, appeasement led not to peace but to escalation. Both the perpetrators and the succourers smelt the fear and they smelt the cowardice, and if they know anything at all they can tell that smell, and like cockroaches of fear they know how to feed off it--and for over fifty years they've had an awful lot of food to sustain them and make them stronger:
Each of these direct attacks on the west was met with appeasement, apology and capitulation. Each of them resulted in the (correct) assessment that the west was morally weak, that there would be no negative consequences for either perpetrators or supporter, and emboldened further escalation. The attacks on September 11 and after saw the culmination of this attitude, and an outbreak of massive, violent and orchestrated attacks on civilians.
It's not a matter of the western countries or western leaders deciding now to declare war on Islamo-totalitarians--although that should have been done on Day One. It's a matter of recognising that the west, like it or not, is already at war with Islamo-totalitarians. Fighting them isn't a matter or law enforcement, with all the strings around such a battle; it is war, and we're already in it. As SOLO Chief executive John Gagnon said, "The words of Patrick Henry are as applicable today as they were in 1775: 'Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!'"

How to fight such an asymmetric war against an enemy like this?
  • Consider this: No terrorist organisation can survive without the oxygen of financial, logistical and materiel support. They need weapons to deliver, places to train and recruit, and money with which to fund their campaigns. It takes a government either willing to help, or willing to turn its back to provide this. It's hard to track down terrorists, but not so hard to identify those who give them succour -- what's hard is having the balls to so something about it once you do while the terrorists' 'useful idiots' and other allies bleat at home about anything that's done.
  • Consider this: this is as much an ideological war as it is an actual hot war. For the blood-soaked voices from the stone age the free and prosperous west is a personal affront; their war on the west is the last gap of the Dark Age they've submitted to themselves and wish to impose on the rest of the world. Their own ideology has failed at everything but the production of penury and death, and now it's all they have left. "They know how to die." Meanwhile, the ideological war on behalf of the west has yet to even be fully engaged, and in most of the west is undercut by the voices of "useful idiots" from the academies who use the freedom of the west only to attack and undercut it. A principled, rational, consistent, philosophical defence of the ideas that support freedom and western civilisation is long overdue; the ideas of reason, of individualism, of property rights and capitalism must be defended against their ideological attackers, but how many even know where to start? As Ayn Rand pointed out in defending those ideas herself so eloquently, "A political battle is merely a skirmish fought with muskets; a philosophical battle is a nuclear war." It is a battle that her philosophy of Objectivism makes the philosophical warrior very well-equipped to fight. But time's a'wasting -- as the antics of Ahmedinijad make clear enough, a real nuclear war is not entirely an impossibility.
  • And consider this too: Is it already five minutes to midnight in that particular war?
And finally, meditate on this; "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." Wilful blindness is not an argument. It's an evasion. And evasion hasn't worked. Never has.
RELATED: War, Religion, Politics-World

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Architecture v Architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Taliesin West'

Extreme climates are an invitation to produce radical solutions in order to make a home for man in a place that offers no welcome. Frank Lloyd Wright maintained that the aim of architecture is to make nature more human, and human life more natural. Humanising nature when all it offers is the inhospitable is a triumph indeed. Tonight here on 'Not PC' our architecture debate continues with the third of PC's top five favourites: Frank Lloyd Wright's own home in the Arizona Desert, Taliesin West.

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."

From the moment Wright saw it, he was attracted to the "vast battleground of titanic forces called Arizona." And, also, "the eternal and everlasting smile of the sun."

Built when air-conditioning was available, but not yet popular, Wright intentionally eschewed it. He wanted the house to breathe, and he created an environment in which occupants and visitors could breathe free and savour what the architecture had made of this inhospitable location.

As we walk through Frank Lloyd Wright’s own desert home, I'm reminded of Hamlet’s question: “What is a man? If the chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? Away! A beast no more.” This home is not the home of beast just barely surviving out in this inhospitable domain. This is the home of a man, a man who by means of his own ingenuity has conquered the inhospitable desert, and made out of the material of the earth on which it stands a startling oasis for the soul. A home for man in a place where nature once excluded him.

The building crouches lithely beneath the mountain range, its roof pitch, asymmetry, and construction somehow echoing the sheltering hills. The sharp features echo the small, sharp details of the desert plants.The big, strong, simple masses of ‘desert concrete’ fix the building to the landscape with material made of that same landscape.

<The large, fit stones gave the walls a raw, earthy, almost jigsaw quality. [Arnold] Roy [Taliesin Fellowship member] said: "Somebody once asked, `What did Frank Lloyd Wright have on the walls for decoration?' The walls were decoration.

The building invites you in to gentle breezes, to the smell of citrus, to water-cooled air, to canvas roofs stretched over cypress roof beams with translucent yet gentle light filtered beautifully through the material.

The visitor is invited into and through the building by the ingenuity of the architecture itself: from a distance it offers the visitor a ‘target,' and at each turning point as the visitor winds his way into the heart of the house another vista is offered up, and a choice offered: come this way or that. And at each node along the journey there is shade, and rest, and cool breezes, and a reappraisal of where one has been, and where one is going.

This is human ingenuity in architecture at its very finest, and the very opposite of classical, centralised, symmetrical, forced architecture – instead this is relaxed, organic, ingenious human architecture that "makes nature more human and human life more natural."

In this place, Wright hasn’t just ‘made do.’Instead he’s celebrated what man can do in such a setting.

It is a masterpiece. One of the finest homes ever built.

RELATED: Architecture

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