Saturday, 18 August 2007

Weekend Ramble #24

Another random walk through sites, sounds and smells that caught your editor's eyes, ears and funnybone over the last week.
  • If there's one complaint Arrol Gellner hears again and again from contractors, tradespeople and anyone else involved in the practical end of building, it's this: "Why don't architects have to serve an apprenticeship in construction?"

    His usual two-word answer is, "Good question." It seems self-evident, he says, that a person entrusted with designing an entire building should have at least a passing knowledge of how that building will be put together--a proposition that's always made sense to me; it just seems incomprehensible that people directing construction teams so often have literally no idea what they're doing.
    See: Best Architects Get Down in the Ditches - Arrol Gellner.

  • The Anti-Planner has spent the last week demonstrating that US rail transport is more wasteful of energy than your average fleet of private cars. His conclusion: "Building rail transit provides no assurance of saving any energy." Go visit and learn, and then for Galt's sake take Russel Norman and John Banks aside and give them the news.

  • And now, something for warmists and skeptics alike: If you hated Martin Durkin's film The Great Global Warming Swindle then there's something new to despise. If you thought it the perfect rejoinder to Al Bore's ninety minutes of lying, then you're going to love all the new supplementary video material that's now been released.
    Visit Google Video for: The Great Global Warming Swindle - Supplementary Material (60 min.)
    Infuriate a warmist now: Send them the link with your compliments.

  • Speaking of infuriating warmists, ask the one nearest you which year has been the warmest year on record? If they say 1998, they're wrong. NASA has now admitted (very, very quietly) that the warmest year on record is actually 1934. The man who forced NASA's admission of an error in their gathering and manipulation of surface temperature data is mathematician and Hockey Stick debunker Steve McIntyre, who has been infuriating NASA's James Hansen for some time.
    As readers of Not PC will know, his latest enthusiasm has been tracking down errors in the surface temperature record that's used to provide the evidence for the warmists' creed, and he spotted a strange dislocation in the record about 1999 that he discovered was caused by a change in the method of temperature that had been unaccounted for.
    NASA has wriggled, but admitted the error. Stories everywhere, but the most reasoned sources are these:
  • NASA spokesman and Real Climate blogger Gavin Schmidt admits the error, but sniffily dismisses these adjustments as only "very minor changes." (Don't bother me, don't bother me, don't bother me ... ) Perhaps minor scientifically, but even the uber-smug Schmidt isn't so disingenuous not to know the major political capital that's been invested in alarmist claims based on his organisation's provably shonky statistics.

  • So just for the record then:
    • The period between 2002 and 2006, where the average was 0.66ºC above the century's norm, is still warmer than 1930-1934, where an increase of 0.63ºC was the largest in the early part of the century.
    • But both periods are beaten by the 1998-2002 period, in which average temperature was 0.79ºC hotter than normal.
    Make of that what you will--as I'm sure you're going to.

  • What happens when Brit motoring writer Jeremy Clarkson and his two sidekicks try to motor through Alabama with cars daubed with slogans such as "Man Love Rules," Hillary for President," and "Country & Western Sucks"? Watch this YouTube video and find out. [Hat tip Clint Heine]. It's not too much to say they almost died laughing...

  • "Colonisation and slavery have created a sentiment of culpability in the West that leads people to adulate foreign traditions. This," says Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "is a lazy, even racist attitude."Pascal Bruckner agrees, condemning the very idea of contemporary multicuturalism as "chaining people to their roots."
    See: Enlightenment Fundamentalism, or Racism of the Anti-Racists? - Pascal Bruckner.

  • A new essay from the Ayn Rand Institute argues that neoconservative foreign policy is fundamentally flawed and incapable of achieving America's true national interests. The authors offer a rational and comprehensive foreign policy alternative here: The Rise & Fall of Neoconservative Foreign Policy.

  • I'm often asked about the difference between libertarians and Objectivists. I'm proud to say that in NZ the answer is "very little"--most NZ libertarians realise that liberty without philosophy is illusory. Not so in North America however, where the difference between the two is one unbridgeable chasm wide. These two posts and the subsequent exchanges between Peter Jaworski and Paul McKeever of Ontario's Freedom Party highlight the differences between Objectivists and US libertarians, and I think help to demonstrate that without a philosophical foundation, politics is a dangerous pursuit of empty words, floating abstractions, and range-of-the-moment compromises.
    See Libertarians & Objectivists, and What Do You Have to Believe to Be a Libertarian?, and the subsequent exchanges to both.

  • In fact the point for which Objectivists argue is the importance of what blogger Noumenal Self calls "Philosophical Infrastructure." That's such a good turn of phrase says Gus Van Horn that he finds himself jealous. Gus notes particularly NS's "interesting point about privatization":
    The same pragmatism that causes today's politicians to prioritize welfare spending over infrastructure also causes today's businessmen to prioritize short-term financial gains over long-term ones. Both act on the range of the moment, seeking to satisfy whichever constituency (voters or stockholders) is making the loudest demands. I think if we privatized infrastructure today, some of it would be run quite well. But some of it would also be run like Enron, which, if you'll recall, actually owned energy-distribution infrastructure.
    Also, be sure [says Gus] to read Galileo Blog's thoughtful comment just after the post.

  • Objectivists argue that the main battle for liberty is not at the political level but at the level of philosophy--the primary battle is the battle for reason. "To save the world is easy," says Leonard Peikoff wryly. "All you have to do is think."
    Now Richard Dawkins is by no means an Objectivist, but he is at the forefront of the public battle for reason--and Galt bless 'im for that. In his latest BBC TV series he takes on that battle explicitly, and you can see the first episode already at Google Video: Richard Dawkins - The Enemies of Reason (Part 1).

  • By the way, should you suddenly find yourself surrounded by fundies heading off to the rapture, then EAC Labs have the peace of kit you need to keep your feet on the ground: it's their most popular seller, the Anti-Rapture Helmet Mark II. "The mark 2 features a variety of impovements," EAC Labs explains, "including an auto-timer which will activate the helmet in the event that you should be so surprised by the ascending Christians that you forget to turn yours on. All recent models have been tested in artificially simulated rapture to ensure that no atheist need spend an eternity with the Christians and their god." And thank god for that.

  • As regards principles in politics, by the way, this cartoon pinched from Pharyngula makes the point better than I could in one-thousand words. That said, Leonard Peikoff makes a fair fist of explaining the point in detail in this brilliantly grounded lecture: Why Should One Act on Principle? [60 min., audio, requires free registration: Listen here on Real Player or here on Windows Media Player. More details here.]

  • What's wrong with income inequality, asks Objectivist Alex Epstein? Income inequality is a desirable consequence of a free and prosperous society.
    See: Celebrating Income Inequality - Alex Epstein, Capitalism Magazine.

  • Oh, before I forget, with all the piss poor journalism coming our of Iraq (here's one of the latest examples) let me put in a plug for two on-the ground journalists on whom you can rely: Michael J. Totten, and Michael Yon. These two are on the ground and they know what's going on. Read them regularly.

  • Meanwhile, Australian David Hicks who was on the ground worshipping with the Taleban is now back home and in thrall to another destructive world-destroying religion: as Tim Blair notes, he's now in thrall to Tim Flannery's warmist religion. As Tim says, maybe the bastard just likes beards?

  • The most recent Free Radical challenges young socialists to watch as their ideology destroys yet another country--as Venezuela collapses into dictatorship and poverty before their eyes. The Venezuela News and Views blog is a good one to bookmark to watch that descent from a distance. Blogger Daniel says he began the blog as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, and now: "Unknowingly, I have written the diary of Venezuela slow descent into authoritarianism, the slow erosion of our liberties, the takeover of the country by a military caste, the surrendering of our soul to our inner demons."

  • Speaking of destructive ideas, and following up on our friend who woke up in Poland to find that communism had gone and the world is now a prettier place, have a look at this pictorial essay of where the petrolhead culture hangout in Murmansk, in Russia's Arctic Circle, and try and imagine how it could have been even less pretty in the days before communism. Apart from the enormous difference that there's now cars and food in the garages, it looks exactly as I remember it from my own visit there in 1991. A sad and lonely place. See: Murmansk's Gorgeous Garages - BBC News.

  • Architect Carlo Scarpa is one of architecture's unsung geniuses, and one of the few organic architects to successfully tackle the unlikely challenge of funerary architecture. Have a look at this photo essay of his masterful Brion Cemetery. Just beautiful:
    The Brion Tomb by Carlo Scarpa, a Photo Essay by Gerald Zugmann.

  • Bad writing alert: The Bulwer-Lytton Memorial Award for Bad Writing has been awarded for 2007 to Jim Gleeson of Madison, Wisconsin for an exemplary performance from an incipient novel that begins like so: "Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them 'permanently' meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee."
    Marvellous stuff, no? Visit the Bulwer-Lytton Memorial Award site to enjoy the entire selection of award winners.

  • And finally, Craig announces the birth of an important minority group: Wellington libertarian homebrewers. See: The Birth of FLAWHB - Beer Croggles.

  • And Helengrad's libertarian homebrewers get right on to answering that important and age-old question: just how the heck do you produce the perfect freedom-loving homebrew?
    See: Homebrew in Pictures - Pacific Empire.
That's me all done. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

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Don't miss out: This week's best at Not PC

No one can read everything that appears here at Not PC, so just in case you've been unable to keep up, here's what visitor numbers have suggested as being the most popular posts at Not PC this week.
  1. It's Islam Awareness Week, so let's be aware of Islam's barbarity.
    I hear that this week has been declared Islam Awareness Week, so let's sure that as many people as possible are aware that, as Lindsay Perigo said in a recent copy of Salient, Islam is "a stinking, stupid superstition"...

  2. Cactus is Wrong.
    Cactus Kate makes a point. Unfortunately it's 180 degrees wrong. There is no problem with housing affordability, she argues; the problem is not that houses are unaffordable because of land regulation and zoning, but simply that whiney people have eyes bigger than their incomes.

    Well, talk about avoiding the relevant evidence...

  3. Farming Tiger.
    Massey University zoologist/economist Brendan Moyle argues that China needs to lift the ban on the sale of tiger parts if it wants to stop poaching and prevent extinction. Moyle believes the Chinese Government should allow tiger farms to trade tiger parts so poachers are unable to sell them on the black market. Make poaching unprofitable, he says. "We have created a monopoly for these guys and people are dreaming if they think it is going to stop. We are making them rich and it is not helping the tigers. I can't see any other way around this."

    Makes perfect sense to me....

  4. Faster Than a Speeding Photon.
    Two German scientists say they have induced particles to travel faster than the speed of light. Expect to hear all sorts of bizarre stories about time travel as the news spreads, but if the scientists' claim is true and the speed of light has at last been breached, it overturns nearly a century of physics theory on which those bizarre stories are based...

  5. Youth Rates a Win for Activists.
    TVNZ reports the "agreement" to pay children working at supermarkets adult wages as a "win for supermarket youth." It isn't. It's a win for Laila Harre's union, and for Sue Bradford's activism. In fact for would-be "supermarket youth" trying to get their foot on the first ring of the employment ladder, this is nothing less than a disaster...

  6. Air New Zealand. Ian Wishart. Beat Up.
    Not the first time you've seen the words "beat up" and "Ian Wishart" in the same heading, and as long as idiots keep giving his stories enough rope by which they should be hung for stupidity, it won't be the last.

    Air New Zealand's now much publicised charter flight to Kuwait two-and-a-half months ago was never a secret, except it seems to Ian Wishart and his braindead readers. It was a flight with reporters and an ABC TV crew aboard, a charter about which flight industry journalists were well aware, and the flight and the charter itself was reported without adverse comment in airline trade journals--which was all the legs the story really had until the recent breathless beat up...

  7. Books.
    Books: I love 'em. Our apartment here is overrun with them, they pile up on shelves, on table, beside the bed; across, under and around my desk; around the kitchen, the bathroom and in every room but the switch cupboard. I love books, and there's not one in any of those piles I could do without.

    A while back I listed what (and whom) looms largest in my musical collection here at home, which has formed itself into similar piles, so perhaps it might be fun to do the same for the books that are stacked up around?

  8. Local Architecture Awards.
    Each time I open a local architecture magazine I'm hoping that this time there'll be something there to inspire me. Sadly, perusing this list of finalists, I'm once again disappointed. It seems to me that nearly Identikit decorated boxes are still the name of the game with local magazine architecture, but clearly not everyone agrees with me...

  9. Cue Card Libertarianism: Socialism.
    SOCIALISM: Socialism is just Communism without the courage of its convictions...

  10. Just Being Bob.
    The reviews I read of Bob Dylan's weekend shows in Wellington and Auckland were mostly pissy too-cool-to-move monologues full of jokes about zimmer frames, ageing baby-boomers and how disgusting it was to hear a geriatric rocker singingabout his sex life.

    Pathetic. These mostly juvenile reviews said more about the reviewers and their milieu than they did about the man and the artist they were reviewing...

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Friday, 17 August 2007

"Favourite Building"

Flicking through my copy of the latest Home and Entertaining magazine (past all those Homes of the Year posted here earlier) I was rewarded with a pleasant surprise at the inside back page (right).

The winner of H&E's Home of the Decade award for his distinctive Coromandel bach, architect Ken Crosson is invited to select his favourite building, and he shows truly admirable taste by selecting Claude Megson's Wood St townhouses in Freemans Bay [you can see the full article here at my Claude Megson Blog].

He compounds his excellent taste with this splendid observation:
Each unit is an individual, with its own courtyard and different views and a different floor plan and all are spatially rich. The top floors have amazing views of Auckland’s central city — they remind me of the main character in Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart, who is inspired and empowered by the energy of the city.
As you can imagine, Mr Crosson has just shot up enormously in my estimation. :-)

UPDATE: Speaking of Atlas Shrugged, Onkar Gate of the Objectivist Academic Centre has an online chapter-by-chapter video discussion of Atlas up at the OAC site. Highly recommended! [Hat tip Thrutch]

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Beer O’Clock – The Tui Book

In which regular Beer O'Clock correspondent Neil Miller from Real Beer threatens his hard-won credentials as a beer expert with this salutary review of the first Tui book. His second review appears in a fortnight.Since 1997, Tui has been using the hugely popular and successful “yeah right” catchphrase on their iconic billboards. The phrase has well and truly entered the Kiwi vocabulary and helped launch Tui from a regional brand to one of the most drunk beers in the country.

Personally, I have drunk a lot of Tui East India Pale Ale in my time [this explains a lot-Ed]. Heck, I have a Tui couch and Tui television set.

These days, I tend to only drink Tui at sports events and each time I do I can hear a voice with a faint English accent saying “it’s not an ale, far less an India Pale Ale and I don’t believe there is such a style as East India Pale Ale”.

Leaving that aside, Tui has released Yeah Right – a collection of 100 of the best billboard slogans.

This is a light-hearted beer-table book that claims to be “endorsed by the Ministry of Culture” and to have spent “28 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List.” It is not meant to be taken seriously. There are more lies in here than David Lange’s autobiography. Fun though.

My own favourite ten “yeah right” slogans in the book would be:
  • Let your mum stay as long as she likes
  • I only read it for the articles
  • For sale: Holden HQ, peach with lavender trim
  • It’s a Swedish documentary
  • I was reading her t-shirt
  • Guys look great in Speedos
  • Make mine a shandy
  • Just popping out for a 4km swim, 180km bike and 42km run
  • Her butt walked into my hand
  • I past NCEA Inglish.
The last is definitely the cleverest. I f you don’t get it, ask a school kid to explain it.

I think this showcases the irreverent sense of humour the billboards have become known for. This easy-reading book captures some of the best examples and is well worth a read. For a comparison of the product itself, then my latest Salient review comparing nine budget beers is the place to go.

Cheers, Neil.

NB: Not PC endorses Realbeer & SOBA. No endorsement of Tui as either a refreshment or punishment is implied or accepted. Consumption of Tui should proceed only at the consumer's own risk, or under the advice of a recognised health professional.

Speech rationing with the EFB

If you haven't yet caught up with the outrage to free speech that is Labour's Electoral Finance Bill (on which Mr Farrar has written screeds of good, well-meaning material) and you're struggling to find a word to embody its evil, then the boys at Pacific Empire have a short video that quickly explains what's behind it, what's in it, and what the bill will do to free speech if passed.

The famous dancing cossacks (almost) make an all-too appropriate appearance. Sort of.

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Faster than a speeding photon

Two German scientists say they have induced particles to travel faster than the speed of light. News here.
The pair say they have conducted an experiment in which microwave photons - energetic packets of light - travelled "instantaneously" between a pair of prisms that had been moved up to 3ft apart.
Expect to hear all sorts of bizarre stories about time travel as the news spreads, but if the scientists' claim is true and the speed of light has at last been breached, it overturns nearly a century of physics theory on which those bizarre stories are based.

If their claim is true, this could portend a revolution in physics.

An article of faith for nearly a century (and I use the word "faith" deliberately) has been the inviolability of the speed of light. According to all the particle physics produced since Einstein's theory of relativity was validated by observation (the theory that almost arbitrarily declared the speed of light to be an inviolable upper limit), the complete inviolability of the speed of light is the one thing that may not be questioned by a physicist.

An example of the faith is given in the story of John Bell, who conducted an experiment to test a wrinkle in quantum theory, producing what's been called "the most profound discovery of science."

It's been suggested there were three fundamental assumptions being tested in Bell's Theorem: causality, identity and the inviolability of the speed of light. When the experiment produced results (as predicted) that required throwing out some assumptions, what was rejected were (bizarrely enough) the first two. The inviolability of the speed of light was embraced anew; causality and identity (and logic and reason) were rejected at the quantum level;and it was heard declared by many an excitable physicist, metaphysicist, taoist and new-age astral traveller that, "Objective Reality has been refuted!"

Oh faith! An alleged shortcut to knowledge that is only a short circuit destroying reason. A faith that is now challenged by this experiment. If the experiment of those two German scientists can be both validated and reproduced, I look forward to the unravelling of a lot of silly metaphysics.

UPDATE: An extract from the New Scientist article is now online. It concludes:
Aephraim Steinberg, a quantum optics expert at the University of Toronto, Canada, doesn't dispute Nimtz and Stahlhofen's results. However, Einstein can rest easy, he says. The photons don't violate relativity: it's just a question of interpretation.

Steinberg explains Nimtz and Stahlhofen's observations by way of analogy with a 20-car bullet train departing Chicago for New York. The stopwatch starts when the centre of the train leaves the station, but the train leaves cars behind at each stop. So when the train arrives in New York, now comprising only two cars, its centre has moved ahead, although the train itself hasn't exceeded its reported speed. "If you're standing at the two stations, looking at your watch, it seems to you these people have broken the speed limit," Steinberg says. "They've got there faster than they should have, but it just happens that the only ones you see arrive are in the front car. So they had that head start, but they were never travelling especially fast."

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The successful Mr Ha

A lot of commentators spent a lot of yesterday talking about the "sub-prime" mortgage market in America and about "loan sharking" here in NZ, and (at least on Radio New Zealand) promoting restrictions on borrowing "especially among immigrant communities." According to this patronising view, "members of immigrant communities" -- that is, individuals who have the gumption to move to New Zealand seeking a better life for themselves and their families -- are just too dumb to understand all the complicated stuff about interest and repayments and the like.

Following this patronising line to its logical conclusion, the all-too-dumb Judith Tizard has has now revealed the Clark Government plans to "deal with" loans sharks by restricting the activities of finance companies in immigrant areas.

I thought of that patronising advice and those restrictive plans as I read the story of Don Ha in NBR's Rich List this morning, a man who came to NZ in 198o from Vietnam penniless (presumably landing first in the Mangere immigration hostel up the road from where I was in 1980) and who is now worth $60 million. Tizard's restrictions on lending to immigrants would not have helped Mr Ha, who I feel confident knows his way around a balance sheet far better than Ms Tizard and any of her colleagues working on her plans would.

The irony is too much for me. People like Tizard with a barely functioning brain suggest that immigrants (of which Mr Ha is the supreme example) are too dumb to be allowed out in finance houses on their own. Perhaps I might suggest that she and her fellow nannies could think of people like Don Ha next time they feel like offering their opinion on the abilities of immigrants. The Herald has a brief account of Ha's career in its report on the Rich List:
The self-made-man model is alive and well in the form of 38-year-old Manukau real estate magnate Don Ha, who comes in at 143rd equal overall with his financial worth estimated at $60 million.Not bad for a Vietnamese refugee who was just a kid when he arrived in New Zealand in 1980 with his penniless family.The family opened a string of bakeries in South Auckland but Mr Ha went his own way, importing shoes and belts from Asia, only beginning his real estate career in 1994. Mr Ha became a top salesman in the Professionals Group, selling 86 properties in his first year.

He was headhunted by the Ray White Group in 2004 and now owns Ray White Manukau, which has subsequently achieved record-breaking sales. Mr Ha shelled out $2 million on a Zabeel colt from champion racemare Sunline at the Karaka yearling sales in January.

More on the Rich List and the very smart Mr Ha here at the Herald. And you can see Mr Ha and the Rich List's editor being interviewed this morning on the ASB Business News at this TVNZ link.

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Danish cartoon publisher interviewed tomorrow on Pacific

Islam Awareness Week concludes in NZ with Lindsay Perigo interviewing Flemming Rose, the Cultural Editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten who commissioned the Danish Cartoons depicting Muhammad.

Lindsay will be speaking with Flemming on Radio Pacific Friday morning at 8.15 am NZ time. Listen live at Pacific's site, or go here to check frequencies.

UPDATE: Bugger. Phone communication with Denmark proved unreliable this morning, so the interview is postponed until next week. Watch this space.

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Oriente Bus Station, Lisbon, Portugal - Santiago Calatrava

Commissioned in 1993 after an open competition. More here and here.

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Thursday, 16 August 2007

Crap. Please take one.

I've received the following from "Angry Taxpayer," who owns and runs a timber yard in K--- (as they say in Russian novels).
We have today received from the Department of Building and Housing and the Consumers Institute (obviously a joint effort) a box containing 50 copies of a 41-page, heavy gloss paper, full colour booklet entitled YOUR GUIDE TO A SMARTER HOME, with a letter requesting that we put it on display so our customers can take one if they want to. Free. Courtesy of me and you, the taxpayer. From the 'Introduction' page:
The Department of Building and Housing and Consumer want to help you to:
  • reduce your household power/gas bill;
  • improve your family's comfort and health at home;
  • maintain your property and retain or improve its value; and
  • do your bit to reduce the impact on our environment.
Lord knows how many they printed and how much it has cost me - I suppose I should be comforted by knowing "this booklet is printed on paper from sustainable forests using elemental chlorine-free pulp."

Pulp's the bloody word. Crap more like!
Try for more of the same crap.

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Air New Zealand. Ian Wishart. Beat up.

Not the first time you've seen the words "beat up" and "Ian Wishart" in the same heading, and as long as idiots keep giving his stories enough rope by which they should be hung for stupidity, it won't be the last.

Air New Zealand's now much publicised charter flight to Kuwait two-and-a-half months ago was never a secret, except to Ian Wishart and his readers. It was a flight with reporters and an ABC TV crew aboard, a charter about which flight industry journalists such as Peter Clark (who made this point on Leighton Smith's show this morning) were well aware, and the flight and the charter itself was reported without adverse comment in airline trade journals--which was all the legs the story really had until the recent beat up. [You can hear Peter Clark at this audio link, beginning 12 minutes in].

But the beat up itself has raised some other points which are worth making, some of which I've blatantly stolen from my colleague Lance Davey:
  • "On the TV One coverage of the story, some cowardly little vermin, some pant piddling pissant, suggested that Air NZ's involvement was 'inappropriate' as it could potentially make New Zealand a 'target'. . .
    "If they (Islamo-fascists) are that easily goaded (which they are) and if they are that scary (which they are) and if you are that afraid of them (which you SHOULD be) then why isn't our government SUPPORTING THE GODDAMN WAR!?" By the way, the cowardly, pant piddling, pissant was Keith Locke.
  • In his press release yesterday, pissant Locke said, "Air New Zealand has now exposed the airline, its travellers and the country to an extra risk of revenge attacks."
    Note the word "extra." Clearly, even the pissant is aware that a threat to us down here at the bottom of the world does already exist.
    Says My Davey, "He is acknowledging a prior threat, that this is an 'extra risk.' I don't disagree, yes this adds to the risk of attacks, but Mr Locke, simply being a free (somewhat) and secular society exposes us to the risk of attacks. That risk is currently small thanks only to our size and isolation. That is the very reason we should be outright in support of the war."
  • That this story has in any way become a political issue says perhaps more clearly than anything else the vacuousness of labelling and identifying "a national carrier," and the danger of political ownership of an airline. There's a danger that every simple commercial decision like this one is potentially politicised.
  • It would be nice to think we could stay out of conflict simply by holding our nose and asserting that we're not in one (although it didn't work for Neville Chamberlain, did it?), but the fact remains that we're already in one merely by being part of the free and secular west. In case you haven't noticed, war against us has already been declared. "In the minds of the terrorists this war began long before September 11, and will not end until their radical vision is fulfilled... " The long, long trail of appeasement, capitulation and death already inflicted upon westerners and non-Muslims is just the beginning of the evidence.
UPDATE 1: Says David Farrar with a wink:
I am somewhat amused by the fact that Air New Zealand has been getting closer to the action and combat zones, than the Royal New Zealand Air Force has been.
UPDATE 2: Blair M nails the moral equivalence elephant that's stampeding around the room:
So Phil Goff doesn't like Air New Zealand being chartered to carry US soldiers? Sends the wrong message does it? Not a good look? What about holding hands with a terrorist, Mr Goff? How does that look? You're not prepared for a commercial operation to assist friendly countries in the fight against terrorists, but you're quite happy to get all homo et homo with someone who started their career blowing planes up and shooting innocent athletes.
Yes, if you haven't seen it before, that's the famous photo of Phil Goff and Yasser Arafat holding hands during Goff's Middle Eastern visit to pay homage, not long before he sent five-hundred thousand dollars of our money to the murderous Hamas.

UPDATE 3: Liberty Scott hammers another nail into the phony 'moral equivalence' face of the Clark Government:
I read about this on an airline industry messageboard ages ago - if it hadn't been Air NZ it would've been Qantas or Emirates or someone else. The simple answer is to sell it of course, or Keith Locke could boycott Air NZ, which would reduce his carbon footprint as he could only fly to the 3 main centres.

Don't forget this is the same government and Green Party cozying up to blood thirsty child murderers in Pyongyang.
Faux outrage from morally blind politicians with an unerring attraction for thugs is just so unattractive, don't you think.

UPDATE 4: Heartening news from an unscientific poll at the Stuff site, which shows an overwhelming 72% of respondents "aren’t bothered by the fact that Air NZ has been transporting Aussie troops." Politicians, pseudo-investigative jourmalists and journalists who report politics as sport seem to have all the bother to themselves.

UPDATE 5: NBR's Nevil Gibson has a commendably measured view on this whole Inwishtigate instigated teacup in search of a storm:
The over-reaction to Investigate’s story on Air New Zealand military charters to the Middle East and elsewhere shows how far the government is prepared to go in furthering its own ends, as opposed to those of the country...

New Zealand’s equivocation may in future be seen as appeasement or even cowardly when defeating terrorism. The German magazine Spiegel has done a lot of work in this long piece on presenting a balanced picture of Iraq, and it’s not all negative or hopeless.

But when the Air New Zealand story broke, the reaction from the ministers, Winston Peters and Phil Goff, showed the functioning of government was really about political objectives rather than something the public was quite happy to let pass.
For sober treatment of irrational hysterics, I recommend reading and considering the whole piece: Whose Foreign Affairs - Nevil Gibson, NBR Editor's Insight.

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"Terrorism is Murder"

One hopeful note in Islamic Awareness Week is that there are quiet voices joining the brave and outspoken voices of the likes of former muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali and dissenting muslims Taslima Nasreen, Wafa Sultan, (see her interview on al Jazeera), Irshad Manji, Seyran Ates and Necla Kelek. Now, there's a musical protest from some 'moderate' musical dissenters:
A Pakistan-born British man and his two sons have done what a lot of people have long been demanding: They are Muslims declaring that those who use terror in the name of Islam are wrong. Waseem Mahmood and his two sons, Khurrum and Khaiyyam, have made this statement via a song and music video. It is called “Yeh Hum Naheen,” Urdu for “This is Not Us.” The lyrics say it all: “This story that is being spread in our names is a lie. … The name by which you know us we are not.”

Taking a page right out of the hugely successful all-star relief song “We are the World,” the song is performed by top young singers in Pakistan. Juxtaposed among the shots of the singers are ugly scenes and headlines about terrorism as well as heart-warming scenes of Pakistanis singing along … with passion.
There are also heartwarming graphics which affirm that "TERRORISM IS MURDER" and "SAY NO TO TERRORISM." You can see it here at YouTube: Yeh Hum Naheen-UK Single Video.

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500 dead

Monsters & Critics.Com-Five Hundred Dead in Attacks Near Mosul
The death toll from a series of bombings and mortar shells that ripped through a northern Iraqi district overnight may reach 500 people, al-Jazeera television reported Wednesday.
... BBC reported earlier that there had been rising tensions between Yazidis and Muslims in the area north-west of Mosul. The latest tensions concerned the reported stoning in April by Yazidis of a girl from their community who had converted to Islam.

The attacks stirred angry reactions and accusations. [Iraqi] President Jalal Talabani called the act "another episode of the annihilation war that religious terrorism has waged against the Iraqi people."
From NPR: General Calls Attack on Yazidis "Ethnic Cleansing"

"This is an act of ethnic cleansing, if you will, almost genocide," U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, told CNN. Mixon said the Yazidis — the Kurdish sect that was targeted — live in a very remote part of Ninevah province where there is little security and has been no need for military forces. However, the Yazidis are sometimes targeted by Muslim extremists, who consider the Yazidis to be infidels.
From Voltaire:
"What to say to a man who tells you he prefers to obey God than to obey men, and who is consequently sure of entering the gates of Heaven by slitting your throat?"
We can only imagine what kind of filth wants to kill themselves and 500 human beings over the difference between which imaginary friend they each worship, and which particular implements they use.

500 people! Killed over a theological row. This is genocide, but it is not ethnic cleansing: this is a religious killing. This is barbarity that only a belief in stone age superstition can explain--and that it is stone age is illustrated by the barbaric killing that set it off.

It's impossible to get inside the head of someone who would want to do that (either to stone someone for worshipping a different imaginary friend, or to want to blow oneself up and take down 500 other human beings at the same time); someone who would take the opportunity of the removal of a dictator not to work for a better world (or even for their own chance at happiness on this earth, which the removal of a dictator once offered), but instead to dredge up hatred and to kill himself and in the name of stone age barbarism and a rotten, man-hating superstition.

Ladies and gentlemen, in what's been declared Islam Awareness Week, we are once again counting the cost of Islamic intolerance. It's a cost that is being counted in human bodies.

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"All on fire"

Have you seen Amazing Grace yet? The story of the end of the man who was prominent in putting an end to the British slave trade? You should. The courage of William Wilberforce (left) in standing up to the evil is one of history's bright spots (and it's an outrage that slavery still lingers in the modern world, mostly in some of the more Muslim parts of the world).

His American colleague William Lloyd Garrison was just as heroic, and quite literally 'uncool.' He was on fire. Said Garrison in his magazine The Liberator [quoted here]:

"On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest; I will not equivocate; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard."

He was heard, all right! So ardently did he attack the defenders of slavery that he was jailed once for libel, almost lynched twice and had a bounty on his head of $5000 from the legislature of Georgia who wanted to try him for sedition.

The Liberator was outlawed in many states, with jail for anyone subscribing. Samuel May, a friend and fellow-abolitionist, once entreated him to be more temperate. "O, my friend, do try to moderate your indignations, and keep more cool; why, you are all on fire." Looking him straight in the eye, Garrison replied: "Brother May, I have need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice about me to melt."
In this age of apathy when ignorance and coolness are the mark of being hip . . . just what exactly gets you on fire?

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Montessori Island School - Jersey Devil Design-Build

Says Beth Dunlop in the Oct 97 Architectural Record:
Jersey Devil [Design-Build] surfaces in the Florida Keys to design a small school that relies on natural ventilation and shading to stay cool...the brightly colored new Montessori Island School stands out in several ways. For one, it is the first institutional building for the nomadic design-build firm of Jersey Devil, which has earned its reputation and renown for handmade houses and public art installations. For another, this school in the tiny, historic town of Tavernier may be the first Florida school built without air-conditioning in well over three decades...To achieve its environmental goals, Jersey Devil used radiant barriers in the external walls, a vented roof, and vented eaves. Time-tested techniques, such as facing the building toward the prevailing southeastern trade winds and placing more windows to windward than leeward, also came into play here.
Another fruitful collaboration between Montessori education and organic architecture.

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Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Sense on the credit crunch

Some economic sense on the sub-prime economic meltdown from Austrian economists George Reisman, Robert Blumen and John Paul Koning. The mainstream economists have clearly delivered a bust (and the reason for the bust is the one question you must never ask a mainstream economist), so perhaps it's time to listen to some sense? Says Blumen in The Unfolding Credit Crisis:
With the collapse in the price of sub-prime mortgage backed securities and credit derivatives, the credit boom has moved into the crisis phase. This is the place in the cycle where it becomes clear to the market the investments made possible by unfunded credit were mal-investments and they are re-priced.
Reisman agrees, and he fingers the culprit as the massive credit expansions facilitated by central banks. In The Housing Bubble & the Credit Crunch he says:
The situation today is essentially similar to all previous episodes of the boom-bust business cycle launched by [central bank] credit expansion. The only difference is that in this case, the credit expansion fed an expanded demand for housing and, at the same time, most of the additional capital funds created by the credit expansion were invested in housing. Now that the demand for housing has fallen, as the result of the slowdown of the credit expansion, much of the additional capital funds invested in housing has turned out to be malinvestments. In most previous instances, credit expansion fed an additional demand for capital goods, notably plant and equipment, and most of the additional capital funds created by credit expansion were invested in the production of capital goods. When the credit expansion slowed, the demand for capital goods fell and much of the additional capital funds invested in their production turned out to be malinvestments.

In all instances of credit expansion what is present is the introduction into the economic system of a mass of capital funds that so long as it is present has the appearance of real wealth and capital and provides the basis for sharply increased buying and selling and a corresponding rise in asset prices. Unfortunately, once the credit expansion that creates these capital funds slows, the basis of the profitability of the funds previously created by the credit expansion is withdrawn. This is because those funds are invested in lines dependent for their profitability on a demand that only the continuation of the credit expansion can provide.

In the aftermath of credit expansion, today no less than in the past, the economic system is primed for a veritable implosion of credit, money, and spending. The mass of capital funds put into the economic system by credit expansion quickly begins evaporating (the hedge funds of Bear Stearns are an excellent recent example), with the potential to wipe out further vast amounts of capital funds.
The prognosis is not pretty, says Reisman, and the latest knee-jerk credit expansion is just adding more fuel to an already out-of-control fire.
...the likely outcome will be a future surge in spending and in prices of all kinds based on an expansion of the money supply of sufficient magnitude to overcome even the very powerful impetus to contraction and deflation that has come about as the result of the bursting of the housing bubble.

Another outcome will almost certainly be the enactment of still more laws and regulations concerning financial activity. Oblivious to the essential role of credit expansion and of the government’s role in the existence of credit expansion, the politicians and the media are already attempting to blame the present debacle on whatever aspects of economic and financial activity still remain free of the government’s control.
Explosive expansion of central bank credit has been going on for the last decade or more, and it's like having a tiger by the tail--it gets harder all the time to let go of that tail. But there is a way to extricate ourselves from the mess. In response to recent injections of credit by the Fed, Reisman concedes "the only thing that can prevent the emergence of a full-blown major depression is the creation of yet still more money."
But that new and additional money does not necessarily have to be in the form of paper and checkbook money. An alternative would be to declare gold and silver coin and bullion legal tender for the payment of debts denominated in paper dollars. There is no limit to the amount of debt-paying power in terms of paper dollars that gold and silver can have. It depends only on the number of dollars per ounce.

To be sure, this is an extremely radical suggestion, but something along these lines will someday be necessary if the world is ever to get off the paper-money merry-go-round of the unending ups and downs of boom and bust, accompanied since 1933 by the continuing loss of the buying power of money.
And there is a difference in the latest $38 billion central bank intervention that John Paul Koning points out. Instead of buying treasury bonds and bills its been buying mortgage-backed securities at a furious rate, meaning in just 3 short days the Federal Reserve has effectively become one of the major real estate owners in the USA.

UPDATE: Fran O'Sullivan offers a robust local view.

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Life better after communism

Rip Van Winkle had a hard time waking up after twenty years to find that the American Revolution had happened while he slept. A similar problem faces a Polish worker who just woke up after a nineteen year coma to find Communism swept away, and shelves full of real food.
"He was so amazed to see the colorful streets, the goods," and, "He says the world is prettier now". The article continues, "Grzebski was shocked to see the streets and shops in the town. 'He remembered shelves filled with mustard and vinegar only' under communism."
[Hat tip Robert Blumen]

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Youth rates a "win" for activists

TVNZ reports the "agreement" to pay children working at supermarkets adult wages as a "win for supermarket youth." It isn't. It's a win for Laila Harre's union, and for Sue Bradford's activism.

Sure, the bill is "a win" for those few youngsters who are paid as adults and who can hold down their job by producing more than they are paid, but it's not so good for any youngsters who might be pursuing such work and who aren't yet at adult levels of productivity.

"Harre says as the country's largest retail operator, Progressive is setting a new industry standard." So it is. This agreement will leave unemployable youth locked out right across the supermarket youth.

As is always the case with minimum wage laws, the raise in rates is good for those presently employed in the industry, but demonstrably bad for those who aren't, and who now never will be. At a stroke, it makes unemployable a whole swathe of youngsters who could have got their start on this particular employment ladder.

I expect both Bradford and Harre are aware of this, but I doubt that either will care. Their motivation for their youth rate campaigns has not been to do good for youngsters, who to them are just tools in the socialilist revolution, but to get a whole new generation involved in socialist activism--and it's in that goal that they've just been delivered a success, an easy success.

Keep an eye on where they go now with their activists now they've been handed this particular victory.

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House for Charles P. Lowe, Eagle Rock, California - Frank Lloyd Wright, 1922

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

It's not easy being sustainable, or smart.

Saving the Planet. It's not easy, is it--even if you want to 'do your bit' for Gaia--especially when emotions and politics replace reason and good hard sense. Let's face it, most people doing most 'planet-saving' things aren't doing that stuff for any actual tangible good their actions will produce, but more for what they see as the 'intrinsic value' of the sacrifice they've made for The Planet.

Think globally; sacrifice locally--and be seen doing it. That's the mantra. It's all about feeling good while doing what's been decreed as good.

But just imagine you genuinely wanted your actions to 'make a difference.' How would you know? As I've blogged here recently, if walking is less 'green' than driving, does that mean you should take the car down to the shops? When plastic bags and disposable nappies are 'better' than their paper and cloth alternatives, how do you display your 'green credentials' to your friends? Or when diesel 4WDs are more green than diesel trains, how should one go to work? Should you even go to work? What about all those old lightbulbs you need to dispose of--is it better for the landfills not to install the new feelgood models, and just sit around in the dark instead? (All examples produced by Chris Goodall recently.)

And if recycling paper uses more energy than producing new paper; if burning wood is better than recycling it; if Priuses are less energy efficient over their life time than gas guzzlers; if buses and trains are more wasteful when considering whole-of-day costs than the private vehicle fleet; if planting trees at mid- to high-latitudes is worse than cutting them down . . . then it seems that "thinking globally and acting locally" is actually more difficult than the easy smug answers might suggest.

It really isn't easy appeasing Gaia, is it? Or appeasing Gaia's smug representatives here on earth. The easy certainties that many of them want enshrined in law would do less for the planet than just letting price signals, property rights and human ingenuity do the job they're supposed to: send information on resources and markets and avoid the destruction of environments, while leaving the productive free to invent new ways of doing thing.

The problem really is that we're not being left free to work things out in the way best suited to human life on earth; instead we're being made to feel guilty for the sin of being alive, and being corralled into doing what Gaians wish we should do in pursuit of ends which are sometimes only peripherally related to human life and human wellbeing.

And the Gaians won't take no for an answer, even when their notions are proved wrong. The theory of Smart Growth is literally one of the most all-encompassing of foolishnesses--it is stupidity that literally encircles and encloses our major cities, reducing the supply of land and pushing up house prices. But as Owen McShane notes in the latest National Business Review, the green theory that many assume must be behind Smart Growth just doesn't stack up.
...Smart Growth theory has been further undermined by a recent Australian study called “Consuming Australia” by Sydney University’s Australian Conservation Foundation, using data collected by the Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis. You cannot get a much more PC organization than that.
...The Sydney researchers found that total transport activity – including private vehicle use, public transport and aircraft – accounts for only 10.5% of the carbon footprint of the average Australian family. This was the smallest slice of the carbon footprint “pie”. Food accounted for over 28% of the footprint. Putting everyone on a diet would have a greater impact.
...Now there’s a new campaign for Weightwatchers – “Join up and Save the Planet!”
...The Government should note that “construction and renovations” account for only 11.8% of the family’s carbon footprint – a bit more than transport, but much less than “other goods and services” at almost 30%.
...The report bluntly concludes:
If every Australian household switched to renewable energy and stopped driving their cars tomorrow, total household emissions would decline by only about 18%.
...So why do our social engineers focus on transport and construction which are such small slices of the carbon footprint pie? Again, I suspect it’s just because “They are there” – and, in particular, they are there to tax, inspect, and regulate.
...This Australian study also examined the carbon footprints of families living in different states, different cities, and in different locations within cities. The researchers probably expected to come up with support for Smart Growth claims that high-density inner-city living will help save the planet while suburban living sends us down the pathway to toast.
...Instead, they found that “place doesn’t matter.” Household income was the major variable. Families with the smallest carbon footprints are on lower incomes and live on the outskirts of town. The carbon footprint “criminals” are on high incomes, and live in “vibrant downtown communities”. Burning up all that midnight ethanol must pump out the CO2.
...The researchers had to declare that:
“Despite the lower environmental impacts associated with less car use, inner city households outstrip the rest of Australia in every other aspect of consumption. … the opportunities for relatively efficient compact living appear to be overwhelmed by the energy and water demands of modern urban living. In each state and territory, the centre of the capital city is the area with the highest environmental impacts, followed by the inner suburban areas. Rural and regional areas tend to have noticeably lower levels of consumption.
...There goes the Smart Growth neighbourhood!
...Yet the ARC’s summary report of their decisions on Proposed Change 6 simply asserts:
Urban living is more transport efficient than rural living.
...Oh, really?
...Smart Growth has always been a policy in search of justification. It started out as a means of pricing blacks and Hispanics out of white enclaves in the US. It worked but proved “inappropriate”. Then Smart Growth would “save” rural land from urban growth. There is no such thing as “productive land” so it didn’t work. Then it would save us from the oil shocks. The shocks went away. Most recently it would deliver us from global warming.
...The Australian report knocks the props out of the carbon footprint argument.
...What will they come up with next? Central planners need some excuse to push us round.
MORE from the Archives: Urban Design, Global Warming, Environment, Property Rights

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Architecture film festival back for another year

The Jasmax Architecture Film Festival is back again around the end of August, and rather than just the main cities this time it's out and about around much of the country. Says the press release, "This year’s festival, brought to you by Jasmax and NZ Home + Entertaining, will run from the 23rd until the 29th of August in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Matakana, Tauranga, Rotorua, Havelock North, Palmerston North, Nelson and Arrowtown."

For mine, I'll be standing in line to get tickets for the Louis Sullivan, Renzo Piano and John Lautner films, and probably showing up to most of the others if I have time and there are spare seats. I won't be showing up to see the "diary" of the disgusting Philip Johnson, however, for reasons I explained here.

I'm particularly pleased to see Louis Sullivan getting the attention he deserves for his part in "inventing" the skyscraper. Sullivan--famous for his much misunderstood dictum that "form follows function"--has been a hero of mine for some time, and a year or so ago I tried to explain why. I hope this film does him justice.

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The reviews I read of Bob Dylan's weekend shows in Wellington and Auckland were mostly pissy too-cool-to-move monologues full of jokes about zimmer frames, ageing baby-boomers and how disgusting it was to hear a geriatric rocker singing (in 'Just Like a Woman') about his sex life.

Pathetic. Aside from the knowledgable Graham Reid's measured Herald review, the other juvenile reviews said more about the reviewers and their milieu than they did about the man and the artist they were reviewing.

Don't those reviewers understand what they were seeing? Has their taste--or lack thereof--been so permanently poisoned by their worship of braindead next-big-thing teenagers that they don't appreciate a craftsman somewhere near the top of his game? Do they think that it's only teenagers who can produce music? Or is just that it's only music made by teenagers that they listen to, and they've never heard of John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis or Beethoven.

Most of the complaints in the reviews were about what Bob didn't do--in other words, what he didn't do that juvenile rock bands normally do. He didn't do what the reviewers are used to? Too bloody bad for the reviewers, I say.

There was no dry ice, explosions or fancy stage sets (thank Galt), just a man and a band who were there to play music. That wasn't what the reviewers were there for.

The reviewers weren't happy because there were too many old, bald guys in the crowd ("old" meaning older-than-the-reviewer). And so what if there were? This was music for adults.

Because Bob had "a strange, odd look" when he played his organ--perhaps, I have to wonder, the reviewers have never seen a musician concentrating on his work before?

Because he didn't leap on stage and say "Yo, Auckland! Are you ready to rock!"? No, and neither did Simon O'Neill in Friday night's Fidelio, or Michael Houston when he played Beethoven's sonatas a few months back. What Bob did do, which was apparently too difficult for most ADHD reviewers to focus on, was come on stage and play genuinely moving intelligent music with a band that knows his musical chops and his back catalogue like the back of their plectrums--which they need to, because he can change direction at the drop of a Stetson, and which most of the audience who had paid for their tickets wanted him to do. He could have played longer; he could have played more guitar and better harmonica, but mostly what he did play was as good or better than most of us were hoping for.

What he played was adult music. Music with a brain performed by a man who has spent a lifetime learning his craft--a troubadour with a number one album strapped to his hipsack and a sackful of killer songs old and new to sing--but in this Age of the Braindead things like craft, brain and even (with the braindead thumping that is today's substitute) music and genuinely moving songs are just soooo out of fashion, aren't they.

Several years ago Bob was asked whether he was going to retire. Why would I, he said; he wanted to be like those old bluesmen who learn their trade and just travel the country and plug in and play. And that's what he now is with his Never Ending Tour, and that's what most of the crowd enjoyed on Saturday night in Auckland. Pity the reviewers were mostly too cool for genuine adult music.

UPDATE 1: Here's three hot YouTube links I was going to post for you last weekend, but the time is right now:
  • First, Bob in his 1966 heyday, chained to his keyboard and singing 'Ballad of A Thin Man.' Even back then he was playing adult music. (Clip is unfortunately cut short.)
  • Bob in what I think is the first rock music video, for 'Subterranean Homesick Blues.' The two losers in the background are Alan Ginsberg and Bob hanger-on Bob Nuewirth.
  • Annamia Eriksson plays Siegfried's Horn Call. As the clip says, "super woman plays the horn." Magical. Wagner, who was "old" when he wrote this lietmotif, would surely have approved.
UPDATE 2: 'Stuff' readers have their say about the concert(s), and about one of the worst reviews. Looks like I'm not alone in my sentiments.

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Clark house - Henry Yorke Mann

The Clark residence by Henry Yorke Mann, another example of organic architecture--as are most of the examples of architecture you see posted here at Not PC. You can learn more about Mann at his website, and more about the house here.

Mann is another architect featured at the Italian web portal for organic architecture created by Carlo and Carmino Sarno, an Amici dell' Architettura Organica--that is, a friend of Organic Architecture.

What's organic architecture? It's the opposite of those sterile boxes featured here earlier today. As Carlo and Carmino put it, it's architecture that starts from within; architecture that is a grace rather than a disgrace to the landscape; architecture that is concerned with space and light and human delight rather than in fitting a style book or a straitjacket or in making a good magazine picture.

It's architecture that is intended primarily for living in, not just for looking at; architecture that is integrated with its occupants and its site; architecture that (as Frank Lloyd Wright put it), has style, but is not of a style: architecture that makes human life more natural and nature more humane.

You can find more on the principles of organic design here at my own site.

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Monday, 13 August 2007

Farming tiger.

Massey University zoologist/economist Brendan Moyle puts the common sense argument on animal conservation in this morning's Herald:
China needs to lift the ban on the sale of tiger parts if it wants to stop poaching and prevent extinction, a New Zealand tiger expert says. At the risk of horrifying conservationists, Dr Brendan Moyle, senior lecturer at Massey University, believes the Chinese Government should allow tiger farms to trade tiger parts, so poachers are unable to sell them on the black market, helping to prevent extinction." Make poaching unprofitable. We have created a monopoly for these guys and people are dreaming if they think it is going to stop. We are making them rich and it is not helping the tigers. I can't see any other way around this."
Makes perfect sense to me. Recognising property rights in animals is the best method of ensuring long-term protection for species that people value-after all, we don't see extinct breeds of dairy cows. The alternative has been to set our values against the law, with mostly dire results for law and for the animals supposedly protected.

In the recent Massey News, Moyle extends the argument, and briefly puts his credentials:
As a consultant to the Chinese, Dr Moyle points out his mixed background in both wildlife management and economics, makes him, the ‘tiger expert’, a rare breed himself. Whatever the views of other conservationists, he says there are three key things needed to destroy poaching – legal trade, credible law enforcement and a good monitoring system.
All three things that are missing in most areas in which poaching is endemic.
* * *
See also:
UPDATE: Brendan Moyle clarifies in a comment below [thanks Brendan]:
Some comments perhaps. The breeding rate in farms is (potentially) 2 litters per year of an average size of 4 cubs. There is also tons of bone stockpiled in freezers and TCM hospitals.

The problem is not the farms but the ban. The ban isn't helping. The ban effectively means that every wild tiger in Asia has a bounty of $US50k on its head. We're literally paying Asian criminal networks to kill tigers. That's the default NGO position...

For that reason we have had a catastrophic decline in tigers in the wild. Farms may not be the ideal situation, but I think it is time to go after the poachers with 'all guns blazing.' I'd like to demolish their profits--and that means dumping tons of high quality product into the market.

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Local architecture awards

Five houses were selected as finalists in the Home & Entertaining magazine's House of the Year competition, and I confess that to me they all appear to come from the same design brochure, and I find it difficult to care about the few small differences between them. They're mostly either derivative of something better, or just another variant on a box.

Each time I open a local architecture magazine I'm hoping that this time there'll be something there to inspire me. Sadly, perusing this list of finalists, I'm once again disappointed. It seems to me that nearly Identikit decorated boxes are still the name of the game with local magazine architecture, but clearly not everyone agrees with me.

Architecture lecturer Bill McKay for example is quoted in the Herald's story of the awards suggesting the awards signal "a dramatic shift" from "big, brassy and glossy" to something different, whatever that might be. The winner for instance, says McKay, represents "a shift from big flat-roof, glass boxes" to something more "private." Judge for yourself. It looks to me like a big flat-roof, timber box. If you think that's a big shift, then I have a bridge I can sell you.

Here's the winner:It's a house on a Westmere sea cliff by Stevens Lawson Architects. The judge's declared it "a contrast" to new homes of recent years. Well, it does have round corners and vertical shiplap timber cladding, but in all other respects it seems to me it's the same old box seen around these parts for years, or if you look at that plan to the left, a series of boxes.

Here's the other four finalists:

Lance & Nicola Herbst: bach on Great Barrier Island.

Pete Bossley: Westmere house.

Christopher Kelly: Wairarapa house. (Perhaps any awards here should go to Louis Kahn, whose Kimbell Art Museum seems to have been on someone's mind?)

Max Wild: Arrowtown house--for which I can't find a link. Please feel free to let me know if one's available. In the meantime, here's a quite charming recent story about Max and his work [pdf].

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