Friday, December 25, 2009

'Man the Enlightened Being': - Frank Lloyd Wright's Christmas Message

4-future-city I like to post this 1953 Christmas message from Frank Lloyd Wright every year around this time ... so it's probably a good time to wish all of you a great Christmas, a Salacious Saturnalia and a very happy and prosperous New Year -- that is, every single one of you who doesn't wish increased state bullying upon me and mine and on the rest of the populace of New Zealand who remains here.

Just a small number of you, then.

So as the offices here at NOT PC Towers begin to shut down for the holidays, I really do want to re-post architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s poetic message on “man the enlightened being” which he used to send out at Christmas time. “The herd disappears and reappears," says Wright's message, "but the sovereignty of the individual persists":

    _quoteLiterature tells about man. Architecture presents him. The Architecture that our
man of Democracy needs and prophecies is bound to be different from that of the
common or conditioned man of any other socialized system of belief. As never
before, this new Free-Man’s Architecture will present him by being true to his
own nature in all such expressions. . .
    “With renewed vision, the modern man will use the new tools Science lavishes upon him (even before he is ready for them) to enlarge his field of action by reducing his fetters to exterior controls, especially those of organized Authority, publicity, or political expediency. He will use his new tools to develop his own Art and Religion as the means to keep him free, as himself. Therefore this democratic man’s environment, like his mind, will never be style-ized. When and wherever he builds he will not consent to be boxed. He will himself have his style.
    “The Democratic man demands conscientious liberty for himself no more nor less than he demands liberty for his neighbor. . .
    “Whenever organic justice is denied him he will not believe he can get it by murder but must obtain it by continuing fair dealing and enlightenment at whatever cost. He will never force upon others his own beliefs nor his own ways. He will display his social methods to others as best advantage as critic or missionary only when sought by them.
    “His neighbor will be to him (as he is to himself) free to choose his own way according to his own light, their common cause being the vision of the uncommon-man wherein every man is free to grow to the stature his freedom in America under the Constitution of these United States grants him.
    “Exterior compulsion absent in him, no man need be inimical to him. Conscience, thus indispensable to his own freedom, becomes normal to every man. . .
    “Remember the men who gave us our [American] Nation. We have ‘the Declaration’ and our Constitution because they were individualist. Great Art is still living for us only because of Individualists like Beethoven. We have creative men on earth today only as they are free to continually arise as individuals from obscurity to demonstrate their dignity and worth above the confusion raised by the herding of the common-man by aid of the scribes and Pharisees of his time—quantity ignoring or overwhelming quality. The herd disappears and reappears but the sovereignty of the individual persists. . . ”

Read on here for the full message: Man, the Enlightened Being by Frank Lloyd Wright, and remember to have a great individualistic holiday season.

And remember this useful advice about responsible holiday drinking: Try to schedule responsibly so you get it all done before lunch.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Organon Architecture’s 2009 Top 10

In the spirit of Luke Nicholas’s Epic Beer 2009 Top 10, listing the top ten things he and his fine brewery achieved in 2009, I figured I’d do something similar for my own day job, Organon Architecture:

  1. 09021-1006 The Waikato Times chose to publish my Van Oostrom house, calling it “an outstanding Hamilton home, surely the best [we] have featured.” Naturally, I agree. ;^)
  2. After constant prodding by those who know their stuff, Organon Architecture’s new website is finally on the way to replace this old one which now has cobwebs on it.
    ASketch01nd I’ve finally started an Organon Architecture blog to better feature my projects. If only I can stop dragging my heels and start filling up all those pages as instructed. (Sorry, Paul!)
  3. Still really enjoying my Kebyar membership, which keeps me in touch with like-minded architects overseas (since there’s few enough of them here locally).
  4. Order books are still full, with some exciting new work and renovations going onProposed-DD—and not every architecture practice can say that this year!
  5. My Design Consulations have been taking off. 
    It’s proved to be a great no-obligation way to talk about architecture with new clients, potential new clients, and good people who just want good architectural advice.
  6. In the words of Paul Litterick, “Man is born free, yet everywhere is in villas.” And this year no one’s asked me to renovate a villa—folk are getting more excited instead by California Bungalows. 09016-Sketch_Morning
    A very healthy trend indeed.
    (I’ve always thought life wouldn’t be so bad if it was just spent renovating Auckland’s splendid stock of California Bungalows.) And no one—no one at all—is asking for “Tuscan” anymore. Thank Galt.
  7. Spent some great times house-sitting, enjoying hospitality in and showing new clients around a few of “my” houses. I always enjoy seeing how the houses are enjoyed and experienced 09019-Render05by those they’re designed for—and those I’ll be designing for.
  8. I began posting Architectural Mini-Tutorials here at NOT PC, which I’ve discovered is a great way to communicate important architectural ideas—and was flattered to have artist Michael Newberry recommend them. (Note to self: Must do more.)
  9. I was also flattered to be contacted by a photographer who photographs a lot of houses09014-Opt001- RearCourtyard to commend you  on a superb job” on my house at 43A View Rd.
    Nice to get that sort of praise from another professional, I thought.
  10. I was delighted to be offered the chance to fix up a house I’d designed a few years back on which a client made a few too many shortcuts. And happily, it all worked out all round in the end.
      And delighted too to be asked by a chap who’s owned Claude Megson houses to help renovate his present residence.

09020-Proposed Site Plan 002-WedgieHope you had a good year too, and you can have a great break.  Keep enjoying the good life--and don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Cheers
Peter Cresswell

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Xmas Eve Ramble

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’ve got ramblin’ on my mind.  T’was the day before Xmas and all through the net,  my spies were a’searching to find good stuff to vet.  And here’s what they found.

 


“Global warming may be a problem, but it's not a certain problem, and it's
certainly not one of epic proportions, as Al Gore would have us believe. It
is one environmental concern among many, whose science is far from settled."
- Lawrence Solomon, quoted in ‘Copenhagen another costly UN failure?

    “Far from achieving a major step forward, Copenhagen—predictably—achieved
precisely nothing. . . The reasons for the complete and utter failure of Copenhagen are
both fundamental and irresolvable. The first is that the economic cost of decarbonizing
the world's economies is massive, and of at least the same order of magnitude as any
benefits it may conceivably bring in terms of a cooler world in the next century. . .
    “The time has come to abandon the Kyoto-style folly that reached its apotheosis
in Copenhagen last week, and move to plan B. And the outlines of a credible plan B are
clear. First and foremost, we must do what mankind has always done, and adapt
to whatever changes in temperature may in the future arise.”

- Nigel Lawson: ‘Time for a Climate Change Plan B

  • James Cameron’s film 'Avatar' makes film history, says Andrew Bolt. It’s the first mass-market movie about war between aliens and humans in which we’re meant to barrack for the aliens. The perfect misanthrope’s film.
    http://bit.ly/4tJY4u
  • What’s wrong with global warming anyway? Cold weather kills. We NEED the earth to warm up!
    http://bit.ly/82s5Ld
  • New blog post: http://tinyurl.com/ycw6qdg - The 2009 Christmas Price Index (CPI)
  • Message to Ann Tolley: Choice in education is always much more important than NATIONAL STANDARDS
    http://bit.ly/6EiogU)

More from those ClimateGate emails:
“Faking up data here is very time-consuming”
MikeHulme to TomWigley http://bit.ly/6xfm58

“Dear Santa. For xmas, I would like: less government, more freedom, and
a 2000L brewery. I have been a good boy”

-Signed Greig

 

  • New blog post: http://tinyurl.com/yap65tu – Young conformists Raging With the Machine
  • Victory of RageAgainstTheMachine in UK Christmas chart war raises an important question: are today’s youth the least cool generation in living memory?
    http://bit.ly/6Gc3te
  • INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Greg Perkins explains intellectual property and the foundations of property rights to Stephen Kinsella & Tom Palmer. Kinsella (at least) maintains his deafness.
    http://bit.ly/6AuYtZ
  • ECONOMICS: And Frank Shostak schools Ben Bernankem who thinks the American economy is “recovering.” Explains Mr Shostak: “The so-called economic recovery in terms of GDP is likely to continue for another six months on account of massive monetary pumping. This, however, will continue to undermine the economy's ability to generate real wealth and hence a sustained economic recovery.”
    Correction, Mr. Bernanke
  • Check out this video tour of the latest exhibition at Michael Newberry’s gallery, ‘Landscape with a Modern Edge’:

 

“The policies that are being developed to fight 'climate change' are a
catalyst to the deindustrialisation of the West.”
- Cynicus Economicus, in ‘ClimateGate & Economics

nz012

  • Copenhagen: the sweet sound of exploding watermelons
    http://bit.ly/5uxeWi
  • Commercialism Only Adds to Joy of the Holidays 'Tis the season for earthly pleasures...
    http://tinyurl.com/yaebo8e
  • New blog post: http://tinyurl.com/yc7d3ht - Top Ten Stories of the Last 4.5 Billion Years
  • Ayn Rand Center announces winners: "Atlas Shrugged" Winner Pockets $10,000!:
    http://bit.ly/80azKn
  • Driven from its habitat by unprecedented polar melting, 'polar bear' heads to Copenhagen asking "Where is Phil Jones"?
    http://bit.ly/6gTy2a
  • New blog post: http://tinyurl.com/y9ob7ak - An Austrian analysis of the burst Dubai bubble
  • Capitalism's Best Salesman: Yaron Brook replies to Wall Street Journal's Heather Wilhelm’s misconceptions:
    http://bit.ly/52Ld7W
  • Zimbabwe toilet sign advises: use tissue only, not our nation's paper currency [BB] http://is.gd/5qnew
  • THINK BiG 2.0 hits Wellington, with $2.4 billion of your money poured down the economic black hole that is the capital.
    http://bit.ly/6nURYm
  • Arguments to build Transmission Gully? Precisely none.
    http://bit.ly/8uufMv
  • Transmission Gully. It's a $3 a head subsidy for a $20 a head road. A bad bargain.
    http://bit.ly/4RLURj
  • #ClimateGate: Russians say Hadley Center “probably tampered with Russian climate data.” Now, why would you do that unless...
    http://bit.ly/668a00
  • Hysterical photobomb: Diana’s caption: "Sometimes, it's just not easy to get a picture of the right pussy."
    http://bit.ly/8zo3FV
  • Here's the REAL climate hockey stick! As Madeleine says, “It really raises questions of sustainability.”
    http://bit.ly/6QqHLd

    hockey-stick1
  • Against Eco chic? "Environmentalists criticise 'buying green,' because at root they are against buying anything."
    http://bit.ly/5V6UYc
  • Why Atlas Shrugged Changes Lives
    http://amplify.com/u/14p8TweetDeck
  • This photo just split RadleyBalko's brain in two.
    http://bit.ly/8R7b5T
  • Is this really the best propaganda to be mustered from 1.5million testimonies? If you have to lie to make your point...
    http://bit.ly/57XAmK
  • Legendary investor Jim Rogers tries not to make predictions, but talks world-wide depression
    http://bit.ly/7YLkgt
  • Common law: It’s the ultimate example of spontaneous order-"the product of human action, but not of human design."
    http://bit.ly/5uMvUg
  • Hiked UK taxes set off another Great British Brain Drain. Will they ever learn?
    http://bit.ly/6H8veN
  • Economist Paul Samuelson "helped push economics down the wrong road .. fateful choice was the late 1940s"
    http://bit.ly/5xeQQb
  • Front page UK story: 'Climate Change is Natural: 100 reasons why.'
    http://bit.ly/8TZqby
  • Marsden Fund 'science' grants: Surely they are taking the piss
    http://bit.ly/74AKm6 More alleged science
  • Fair trade coffee keeps poor coffee producers poor.
    http://bit.ly/7TPGEN
  • The overpopulation bogie has now infected the Financial Post.
    http://bit.ly/6KfJ8c "Whole world needs to adopt China's one-child policy." Yikes
  • Greenpeace Leader admits claims about Greenland ice sheet melting were propaganda! If you have to lie to make your point . . .
     http://bit.ly/4rR2pw
  • What (so far) is the most destructive and harmful law ever enacted by a United States President? Briggs Armstrong argues it was the Federal Reserve Act, signed into law by Woodrow Bloody Wilson in 1913.
    Sad Day in History

Thanks for reading. Have a salacious Saturnalia !  And watch out, there are cougars about [hat tip Cactus Kate] :-)

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So who’s taking the Christ out of Christmas this year?

By popular request, here’s the return of an old favourite …

I HEAR COMPLAINTS AGAIN that "Christ is being taken out of Christmas."  Every year everyone from the Vatican to Fox News has a whinge about the "War against Christmas" (TM) --  about the "widespread revolt" against "Christian values” and “Christian symbols” –about the prevalence of "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" greetings.

Here's what I say about those complaints.  Get a life.  Learn some history. And try a joke:

Q: "What's the difference between God and Santa Claus?"
A: "There is no God."

The harsh fact is, customers, there is no God, and Christ was never even in Christmas --except in fiction and by order of the Pope. 

In fact, Jesus wasn't even born in December, let alone at Christmas time: he was born in July* -- which makes him a cancer**.  Just like religion. 

And God doesn’t even like Christmas trees, for Chrissake!

Historians know the "reason for the season," and it's not because of anything that happened in a manger.  Even the Archbishop of Canterbury knows the truth, conceding a couple of Christmasses ago that the Christmas story and the Three Wise Men - the whole Nativity thing --  is all just "a legend." 

Fact is, 'Christmas' was originally not even a Christian festival at all.  The celebration we now all enjoy was originally the lusty pagan festival to celebrate the winter solstice, the festival that eventually became the Roman Saturnalia. This time of year in the northern hemisphere (from whence these traditions started) is when days stopped getting darker and darker, and started once again to lengthen.  This was a time of the year for optimism.  The end of the hardest part of the year was in sight (particularly important up in places like Lapland where all-day darkness was the winter rule), and food stocks would soon be replenished. 

All this was something worth celebrating with enthusiasm, with gusto and with plenty of food and drink and pleasures of the flesh -- and if those Norse sagas tell us anything, they tell us those pagans knew a thing or two about that sort of celebration!  They celebrated a truly Salacious Saturnalia.

One popular celebration involved having a chap put on the horns and skin of the dead animal being roasted in the fire (worn with the fur side inside), and giving out gifts of food to revellers.  This guy represented Satan, and the revellers celebrating beating him back for another year by making him a figure of fun (I swear, I'm not making this up).  Observant readers will spot that the gift-giving and the fur-lined red outfit (and even the name, almost) are still with us in the form of Santa.  So Happy Satanmas, Santa!

SUCH WERE THE celebrations of the past.  But the Dark Age do-gooders didn’t like the pagan revels.  These ghouls of the graveyard wanted to spread the misery of their religion; they thought everyone should be sitting at home mortifying their flesh instead of throwing themselves into such lewd and lusty revels – and  very soon they hit upon a solution: first they stole the festivals, and then they sanitised them.  Instead of lusty revels with Satan and mistletoe, we got insipid nonsense around a manger.  (Just think, the first 'Grinch' who stole Christmas was really a Pope!)  Given this history, it's churlish of today's sanitised saints of sobriety to be complaining now about history reasserting itself.

THE BEST OF Christmas is still very much pagan. The mistletoe, the trees, and the presents; the drinking and eating and all the red-blooded celebrations; the gift-giving, the trees and the decorations; the eating and the singing; the whole full-blooded, rip-roaring, free-wheeling, overwhelming, benevolent materialism of the holiday -- all of it all fun, and all of it fully, one-hundred percent pagan. Says Leonard Peikoff in 'Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial', the festival is "an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life." I'll drink to all that, and then I'll come back right back up again for seconds. Ayn Rand sums it up for mine, rather more benevolently than my brief introduction might have led you to expect:

    “The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.
The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....
    “The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying is good for business and good for the country’s economy; but, more importantly in this context, it stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decoration put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

And so say all of us.  I wish you all, wherever you are a Merry Christmas, a Delicious Satanmas, and a Salacious Saturnalia!

                                                       ===============================
* Yes, this is simply a rhetorical flourish. Jesus' birth may have happened in March. Or in September -- or not at all -- but it certainly did not happen in December. More on that here.

** "A cancer. Like religion." Think that's harsh? You should try Landover Baptist's Bible Quizzes. Or Sam Harris's 'Atheist Manifesto.' Ouch! [Hat tip for both, good old Stephen Hicks]

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

LIBERTARIANZ SUS: Let's make Christmas more commercial!

Susan Ryder takes her Christmas seriously!
I love Christmas. I love everything about it, from shopping to decorating to singing carols. It’s my favourite time of the year, as it is for millions around the world.
There’s something about putting your tree up. I put mine up earlier than anybody I know, with the exception of my sister who occasionally pips me to the post. I usually aim for the last Sunday in November, complete with my favourite festive music. My youngest sister, a mother of three, somewhat violently swears the two of us to secrecy, lest my nephews and niece pester her to get their tree up ridiculously early, too.
The music is important, because it simply wouldn’t be Christmas for us without it. The first is from Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters, originally recorded in the 1940s. My late grandfather was a huge Crosby fan and he and Nana had the record. We played it every Christmas until it quite literally warped – and even then we still played it. Several years ago we discovered it on CD, thereby preserving the tradition for the next generation, who I’m delighted to report know all the words of Mele Kalikimaka.
The second is a relative newcomer, “Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas”, introduced by one of my brothers-in-law, a musician. Aaron might look like a criminal – and he does - but he has the
voice of an angel. I defy the hardest heart to not be moved by his rendition of “O Holy Night” in particular. Occasionally we will permit an interloper on Christmas Day itself, but generally it’s just Aaron and Bing.

Perfect.
Anyway, back to the tree where my decorations are like old friends who visit once a year. Some were picked up in my travels in the days when the offerings in New Zealand were severely
limited, but now, thanks to globalisation, we are spoilt for choice.
No matter the size of the tree, though, or the quality and quantity of the decorations, they come alive with Christmas lights. The lights provide the magic.
Retailers love the Christmas season and for good reason. For many, it’s the busiest time of the year with December sales representing a healthy portion of their turnover. The big annual
spend-up on Christmas gifts is an example of the market at work. Stores are stocked to the brim with goods to sell, employing thousands of staff in the process. Students are gainfully employed
as much-needed additional staff to help offset the costs of their next educational year, or to just get through the summer.
Manufacturers work hard to complete orders on time and freight companies are flat out with seasonal deliveries. The livelihoods of many depend upon the Christmas season, and yet every year we hear the same cries that Christmas has become commercialised, as if it is a bad thing.
But why is that so?
To answer that question, it is worthwhile to explore its origins. Here’s a quick look. Christmas is a Christian holiday and like other Christian holidays, it has its origin in paganism.
Saturnalia was a Roman festival in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture. It began on 15 December and lasted for seven days of feasting and revelry, just prior to the winter solstice that
fell around 25 December on the Julian calendar. The solstice included glorification of Mithra, the god of light who several centuries later became known as the god of the sun. The Roman
Catholic Church had the habit of absorbing pagan traditions into Christendom, converting the holiday commemorating the birth of the sun god into a “Christ Mass.”
However, Christmas-time celebrations prior to the 1800s still featured much pagan revelry among the British commoners, at times little more than wild carousals. It is believed that this
drunken revelry had much to do with Oliver Cromwell – never much of a partygoer – going so far as to outlaw Christmas in the 17th century, forcing it underground for a time. This ban was
extended to many of the early North American colonies where “violators” were fined five shillings. After its reinstatement, Christmas still bore much of its earlier debauchery, but some of
our current traditions started to appear. For example, caroling began with groups of individuals visiting houses in the community singing songs in exchange for eggnog. Gift-giving, however, was still extremely limited, and virtually unknown within families.
The traditions of several countries are involved. The Yule log came from Scandinavian mythology, “Yule” being the Anglo- Saxon term for the months of December and January. After
most Scandinavians had converted to Christianity, “Yule” became synonymous with Christmas.
By the 17th century, the Germans had converted the Christmas tree, originally a sign of fertility, into a Christian symbol of rebirth. The Dutch called Saint Nicholas, an altruistic bishop from the
4th century, ‘Sinterklaas’, who was to become ‘Santa Claus’ in the USA. In 1823 the American professor Clement Clarke Moore wrote the delightful poem entitled A Visit from Saint Nicholas,
better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.'
But perhaps the greatest change occurred after the publication in 1843 of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, providing lessons on charity and the importance of caring for family and
friends. As a result, Christmas became a joyful, domestic holiday focusing on children in particular. It was an illustrator with “Harper’s” magazine, who first depicted Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole in the latter half of the 19th century, while Coca-Cola ran commercials in 1931 showing Santa as the children’s gift-giver, as we know him today. Rudolf, the much-loved ninth reindeer appeared in 1939 via an advertising agent on behalf of his retailing client, all of which paved the way for the commercialism seen annually for decades.
The festive colour and sparkle brightened the dark days of the long northern winters, with the seasonal sales providing welcome respite during the slower trading months.
But what of Christmas down under, occurring as it does in early summer. Is it not odd to see traditional winter celebrations imposed by early settlers upon warm, sunny days? Christmas
cards depicting robins on snow-covered mailboxes? Rugged-up Carolers sipping hot toddies?
Not at all … if that’s what you like. Whether you prefer a traditional roast meal or a barbecue outside, a formal dinner or informal brunch, a church service to celebrate the birth of Christ
or a walk along the beach, a large, rowdy family affair or a quiet day indulging your favourite pastimes, is entirely up to you.
And rather than decrying its commercialism, I prefer to embrace it for the wealth it provides and the jobs it creates. It would be a mean-spirited Scrooge who begrudged another his income during the Season of Goodwill. Do some people overstretch themselves financially? Sadly, yes. But the truth is that nobody forces them to do so. Beautiful doesn’t have to be big and bold. It never did. Yes, the Santa sleepwear is tacky. Yes, the reindeer antlers are tragic on anyone old enough to pay full price at the pictures, and ‘Snoopy’s Christmas’ drives me nuts, too—whoever’s singing the damn thing. But it all vanishes in comparison with the beauty of a Christmas tree lit up in the darkness, and the enrapturing melodies of some of the most beautiful music ever written.
May Father Christmas be good to you all.

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Quotes of the day: ClimateGate in quotes . . .

_quote The disinterested search for truth--the hallmark of real science--has taken a back seat to a political crusade."
       - Thomas Sowell, in ‘The Science Mantra

_quoteIf matters such as science are to be placed into the unanswerable power of a single bureau, what will guarantee the superior wisdom, justice and integrity of the bureaucrats?”
       - Ayn Rand, in ‘Who Will Protect Us from Our Protectors?

_quoteClimategate jolted me into confronting the massive fraud and deception by top global warming scientists, who were in a position to twist the peer-review process in their favor, and did so shamelessly. . . [U]ntil climate science is cleaned up, it doesn’t deserve the worship so many in the media unthinkingly give its tainted practitioners.”
       - Bradley Pilke, in ‘From Global Warming Believer To Skeptic

_quoteThe crash and burn of the UN summit [in Copenhagen] has become the most wonderful Christmas gift for the entire world.”
       - Justin Credible, at the I Love CO2 blog

 

al-gore-global-warming-inconvenienttruth-420x377

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The 2009 Christmas Price Index (CPI)

Pinched from Stephen Hicks, who’s been posting some cracking stuff lately . . .

12-days-pnc-253x200How much do the twelve days of Christmas cost this year?

Gold rings and maids-a-milking are up but swans-a-swimming and partridges are down.

Overall, the CPI shows only a 1.8% increase over last year.

Here is the charming, dramatized version, and here is the straight-up press release and chart [pdf].

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ObamaCare: it’s bad for me ‘ealth, guv

ObamaFoodLines I haven’t blogged much on Obama’s push for socialised medicine for America, but I know people who have.

The best two places I’ve seen to keep up with what it all means are the Mises Institute’s HealthCare Reader and the Ayn Rand Center’s HealthCare Reader.

Bookmark them.

Because as John Lewis says, Obama’s healthcare bill institutionalizes coercion. And once it kills off innovation in American medicine it kills it off for us as well. Because Tyler Cowen is right: “The American health care system, high expenditures and all, is driving innovation for the entire world.”

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Raging with the machine

Watching people getting excited about shouty non-musos Rage Against the Machine scoring the UK’s Christmas Number One for one of the most banal “rebellion” songs ever put to disc, I couldn’t help but recall watching RATM playing that “tune” ‘Killing in the Name Of’ at the Big Day Out a few years back.  It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen: several hundred youngsters jumping up and down and angrily shouting out right on cue: “Fuck You, I Won’t Do What You Tell Me.” 

The irony, sadly, seemed to be lost on all of them.

And now they’ve gone out and done what they’ve been told again: obediently buying enough slices of this piece of nihilistic dreck to propel it to the top of the UK’s singles charts just in time for Christmas.  Neil Davenport at Spiked reckons “the chart victory . . . suggests today’s yoof might be the uncoolest generation in history.” I reckon he’s on to something.

    _quote Although the single is meant to sound like a blast of righteous fury against authority, it actually sounds like a spoilt 14-year-old refusing to tidy up his room. ‘Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!’ yelps the chorus. Play this after Stiff Little Fingers’ volcanic ‘Suspect Device’, with its rather more searing ‘they take away our freedom in the name of liberty,’ and you’ll see what I mean. Likewise, Eddie & The Hotrods’ ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ managed to combine class anger – ‘tired of doing day jobs with no thanks for what I do’ – with a yearning, emotional quest for freedom.”

He’s talking about the songs of my youth now: songs that rang out with much, much more than just conformist whining.

Most of which would probably be lost on today’s generation of compliant young conformists.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy 2-million day to me

Since it’s Christmas, and since I’ve only recently celebrated my two millionth visitor to NOT PC, I figured I’d wish myself my own Merry Christmas by blowing my own trumpet just a little. Well, a lot.

Since starting this blog way back in the mists of time--around half a decade ago—I’ve written and published precisely 5000 posts (this is the 5001st).  With an average word count of around 350 words per post that represents . . .  some very sore fingers and around 1,750,000 words—not all of them my own (thank Galt for copy and paste!).

Still, 1,750,000 words is more than the entire recorded output of, say Raymond Chandler.  And his words were put together better too.

Still, as Poneke said when hosting his own self-celebration recently (you see what I mean by the beauty of copy-and-paste),

“Many of my articles over the first [five] years are still frequently Googled and read. Looking back at them, I can see why. Some of them contained substantial information on important issues, or were just plain good.”

And so say all of me. In evidence, your honour, I submit this baker’s dozen of the most popular posts here at NOT PC right from when it were just a wee babbie—or, at least, from when Google Analytics started picking up after me and my various guest posters by telling me who was reading what, and how many.  Here, in other words, are the 0.26% of all those 5001 posts that has risen to the top:

Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City (November 2005)
    "Urban sprawl is one of the greatest enemies of good urban design," say some. I don't agree. The greatest enemy is a lack of choice, created by a lack of freedom. 'Sprawl' gives people choices: the alternative is mandatory slums. Frank Lloyd Wright's 1932 concept of the 'Broadacre City' . . . demonstrated that sprawl is not the enemy. . .
    ”There should be as many kinds of houses as there are kinds of people and as many differentiations as there are different individuals. A man who has individuality (and what man lacks it?) has a right to its expression in his own environment.” (FL Wright, 1908)
    Read here about Frank's 'Broadacre City' concept - everything the planners hate -- and for Frank's own drawings which he prepared to indicate what such a place might be like . . .

The Global Financial/Economic Crisis: The True Causes And Only Long Term Solution (November 2008)
    As financial and market instability persist, as governments flail and fumble, one thing is for sure - we're on the brink of a most serious economic event - a "depression" which is the BUST component of the typical "boom/bust" cycle.
    Popular criticism is centred on blaming the bankers, the financiers, and to some extent the politicians, and the overall lack of "regulation." And above all there is a consensus emerging that it is ultimately the fault of the free market, of capitalism - and that what is needed to "fix" this problem is more regulation, more easy credit (debt), and ultimately more government.
    Nothing could be further from the truth.

Seeing spiders (February 2007)
    Who would have thought that a post on Pitcairn Island’s spiders would have attracted several thousand visitors!

The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus - Rubens, 1618 (November 2006)
    ”Success glows through his pictures in halcyon color. No one ever caught the rosy
bloom of healthy skin, the shimmering quiver of well fed flesh with such
lip-smacking skill. His women are displayed like great compotes of cream and
exotic fruits from the Indies— kumquats and soursops and apricots, the flesh of
melons and oranges from Seville—that the Dutch merchantmen were bringing back to the ports of northern Europe. It was an overdressed age, of velvets and taffeta
and ornate brocades, when rich men habitually wore three topcoats, when even the
walls of rooms were clothed in gold-embossed Spanish leather and the massive oak
tables covered in heavy tapestries.
    The acquisitive burghers who owned such things would gain an additional frisson to see openly displayed the wide expanse of tender vulnerable bodies, their clothes torn away like the protective skin ripped off a ripe plum.”
    Rubens, as you might have guessed, is not a painter for the politically correct.

Beer O’Clock – Heineken Mini-Keg (January 2007)
A long time ago, in a country just like this one, the beer scene was pretty sad . . .

Robie House - Frank Lloyd Wright (May, 2006)
From the Chicago of 1906 comes Frank Lloyd Wright's house for the Robie family.

"The invisible hand of the market doesn't deliver a sustainable nation." True or false? (November 2007)
    IS THAT TRUE? If we assume that "sustainable" means something like "good for the environment," then is it really true to say that the market’s invisible hand doesn't deliver a good environment?
    Well, no it's not. In fact, quite the reverse. As Czech president Vaclav Klaus pointed out earlier this week:

“We know that there exists a huge correlation between the care we give to the environment on one side, and wealth and technological prowess on the other side. It's clear that the poorer the society is, the more brutally it behaves with respect to Nature, and vice versa. It's also true that there exist social systems that damage Nature - by eliminating private ownership and similar things - much more than the freer societies.”

It's indisputably true that the wealthier the country and the better its respect for property rights, the better its environment. Think about the environmental basket-cases that were Soviet Eastern Europe -- those places where the market's invisible and benevolent hand had been absent for nearly a century when the Berlin Wall fell in 1990, and compare that to how Western Europe looked.”

Annette Presley: The face of theft (May 2006))
    Everyone wonders why people keep voting for thieving governments, but at the same time everyone wants a piece of someone else.
Moochers put their hands out for Welfare for Families, and justify it with a chuckle; students put their hands out for grants and interest-free loans, and justify their mooching by invoking 'the public good'; nosy neighbours claim the right to dictate what can and can't go on over their fence, and give impetus to envy-ridden laws like the RMA; and moochers and petty chisellers like Annette Bloody Presley (left) celebrate the just-announced nationalisation of a portion of NZ's largest company, and justify the theft by calling it 'unbundling.'
    Let's call it what it is. It's theft. . .
    And Presley? Instead of building up her own network or investing in Telecom shares in order to have a legitimate say in theirs, Annette Presley and others like her have been given the chance at something they haven't earned by a Government that doesn't care whose property they steal to do it. . .
    Larry Williams put to her tonight on his Drivetime show that this represents a violation of Telecom's property rights. Presley's response: "Bullshit." Turns out she wouldn't know a property right from a prostitute, and doesn’t care who acts as her pimp.

Darnton on Aussie ABC (December 2006)
    Australia's ABC radio sought out Bernard Darnton to find out just what was going on at the last election. Pledge card, misappropriations of public money, lies, retrospective legislation ... it's all right here. [Interview starts about 23:20]
    As Bernard says, I assume that for slagging off the Clark Government overseas he’ll now get charged with treason.

The fatalism of entropy. The dynamism of spontaneous order. (December 2006)
    People often talk as if the Law of Entropy somehow restricts human activity, or is a restraint on human free will. The idea, for example, that "even if human ingenuity is infinite, entropy may eventually put an absolute limit on the amount of wealth that can be created." Things fall apart, you see, the centre cannot hold, and there's not a blind thing we can do about it.
This is both an error of scale -- with entropy happening on a universal rather than a human scale -- and a mis-application. It ignores the very nature of human activity and human free will, and ignores too the very simple observation that confirms there is order all around us.

Sack the social workers (July 2007)
    It's all our fault. Lowlifes being paid to produce children they don't want are killing them, abusing them, hitting them around the head with bats and pieces of wood, throwing them in dryers and against the wall -- all utterly in defiance of the Bradford-Key anti-smacking law which (you'll remember) was going to put a stop to all this.
    And do you know who's to blame for all these incidents: According to all the experts, we all are! You, me, absolutely everyone. Everyone except for the lowlifes and those who take our money to pay for their breeding.
    "They're not to blame," I keep hearing; "WE are."
    What a lot of horseshit. These aren't our babies. “We” aren't killing them. . .

1964 Tokyo Olympic Stadium - Kenzo Tange (November 2006)
    Another stadium, another feat of imagination, this time Kenzo Tange's innovative spiral shell design for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Lyon-Satolas Airport Railway Station - Santiago Calatrava (April 2007)
    Built for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, this is Santiago Calatrava's competition winning Airport Railway Station for Lyon-Satolas - as a sketch (right), as a model (above), and as the real thing (left).

Isn’t it astonishing what Google’s readers, and you, find most enticing.

What changed?

Things changed during the ‘oughties.  Some for the better, some for the worse.

Tourist flights into space, for example, are now just years away.

On the other hand, the rocket fuel pewtechpollAlan Greenspan injected into the American housing market (which many of you, including employees of Lehman Brothers and Citibank reading this, thought at the time was a good thing) was followed inexorably by the sound just a few years later by that market and all those around it going POP!  For better or worse, we’re all still paying off that particular folly.

There were others.  According to a Pew poll on social and technological change in the last decade, Americans surveyed were most excited about cell phones, somewhat excited about blackberries and iPhones, and not very excited at all about tattoos and reality TV. (A response, sadly, belied by their unflagging popularity.)

And not very excited either by blogs and cable news shows. Bad news for you and me and Pajama TV, you might think. But somewhat excited, quite worryingly, by increased surveillance and security: the surveillance state is more popular than the iPhone!.

So do people now prefer being harassed at airports to downloading cool apps?

Things have changed.

When the sad news of our friend Anna Woolf’s passing was being sent out earlier this month, Cactus Kate reported how she heard the news: “WhaleOil sent me an email to my Blackberry with the subject header ‘Dead’ and a link to Not PC's blog.”

Just contemplate how little of that sentence you or I would have understood ten years ago?

Things have changed.  Jocelyn Noveck has 50 of those biggest ‘small’ changes that you now (possibly) take either for granted or you wish would disappear, but barely knew existed (if at all) just ten years ago. They include:

  • APPs: There's an app for that! The phrase comes from Apple iPhone advertising, but could apply to the entire decade's gadget explosion, from laptops to GPS systems (want your car to give you directions to Mom's house in Chinese, or by a Frenchwoman named Virginie? There was an app for that.)
  • BLOG: I blog, you blog, he blogs ... How did we spend our time before blogging? There are more than 100 million of these Web logs out there in cyberspace.
  • BLACKBERRIES: Considered essential by corporate CEOs and moms planning playdates. Introduced in 2002, the smartphone version is now used by more than 28 million people, according to its maker, Research In Motion Ltd.
  • DIGITAL CAMERAS:  Remember those trips to get film developed? Nope? Even your grandmother has a digital camera, and she's probably e-mailing you photos right now or uploading them to a photo-sharing site.
  • CONNECTIVITY: As in, we're all expected to be connected, wirelessly, all the time. Boss e-mails you on a Sunday? Better answer, unless you're off in Antarctica — you have no excuse.
  • COUGARS: A new TV series called "Cougar Town" focuses on a phenomenon that gained its name this decade: women dating younger men.
  • CROCS: Those ubiquitous plastic clogs debuted in 2002 and became the shoes you loved to hate. Kids love 'em, but there are Web groups dedicated to their destruction. Not to be deterred: First lady Michelle Obama, who wore them on vacation in 2009.
  • DVRs: Suddenly, DVR-ing is a verb, and what it means is this: There's no reason to know anymore what channel your program is on, and what time.
  • EMBARRASSMENT ENTERTAINMENT: Embarrassment has always been part of comedy — you need only think of Don Rickles — but this is the decade of cringe-worthy Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Ricky Gervais, and of course Sacha Baron Cohen, who as Borat and Bruno shamed perhaps the entire country.
  • FACEBOOK: Can you believe this social networking site was once limited only to Harvard students? Now it's a time-sucking obsession for more than 300 million users globally and a whole new form of social etiquette: Who to friend on Facebook?
  • GOOGLE: This was the decade that Google became a part of our brain function. You know that guy who was in that movie — when was it? Just Google it.
  • GPS: We can't get lost anymore — or at least it's pretty hard, with the ubiquitous GPS systems. But you'd better type in your location carefully: One couple made a 400-mile mistake this year by typing "Carpi" rather than "Capri."
  • IPODS: An icon of the digital age, it's hard to believe this portable media player was first launched in 2001. Six years later the 100 millionth iPod was sold.
  • LIFE COACHES: In the aughts, there's a coach for everything! So why not life itself? Some say life coaches are merely therapists without the license or regulations.
  • SEXTING: Combine texting with a cell phone's camera function and you get this parental nightmare. A survey from Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found that 15 percent of teens ages 12-17 with a cell phone had received sexually suggestive images or videos.
  • TWITTER: The new social network introduced tweets, retweets, follows and trending topics — as long as it fit in 140 characters.
  • WII: In a sea of ever-more-sophisticated video games, this simple console became the decade's breakout hit by appealing to the non-gaming masses. Wiis became a center of family gaming, home fitness and even senior socializing.
  • WIKIPEDIA: A boon to lazy students everywhere, the open-source encyclopedia used the masses to police its entries and keep them (mostly) (sometimes) accurate.
  • YOUTUBE: Let's end this list and go kill some time by watching ... YouTube videos! The video-sharing site was born in 2005. Political candidates in 2008 even had their on YouTube channels. The most popular video yet: "Charlie Bit My Finger," in which baby Charlie bites the finger of his brother Harry.

Which of them, do you think, will be the Amstrad or Amiga Computer of the 2020s?

And on the downside, we also now know more than we ever would have wanted to about Saul Alinsky, the Weathermen, mortgage-backed securities, Fannie Mae, Freddi Mac, militant Islam, Nancy Pelosi and Tiger Woods secret method of improving his golf swing. 

But there are also more people now who don’t get confused when you talk about ‘Austrian Economics’ and more people reading Atlas Shrugged than at any time since it was written . . .

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Remember that ‘Buy Kiwi’ campaign?

Remember that ‘Buy Kiwi’ campaign? Daniel Silva at the Importers Institute does, and he has a story to tell you:

The Greens and the last Labour government decided to fund a "Buy Kiwi Campaign." They spent $10.2 million from our taxes, most of it ($8.4m) with an advertising agency.

The Ministry of Economic Development has now commissioned a review from consultants MartinJenkins and Associates. The report is available from the Ministry's website: http://tinyurl.com/ydnorqw.

The report concluded "there was no convincing evidence of overall impact on consumer spending," "there was a lack of conventional policy analysis" and "there was no assessment of the likely impact or of the costs and benefits". In other words, Green and Labour politicians spent our money like confetti, spraying it against the Wellington wind – and achieved nothing of any use. . . The only beneficiaries were some residents of Grey Lynn [and their architects] , who lined their pockets with the advertising extravaganza.

As Daniel says, we could have told you that before all the nonsense started. Anything with both Sue Bradford and Oliver Driver involved is doomed to be an expensive failure.

And as David Ricardo could have told Oliver and Sue, it’s foolish to expend our time and resources producing things we do poorly when we could use them so much more efficiently producing things we do well. (Do what we do well, and trade for what others do well, and everyone ends up winning, right.)

Which means that even if the campaign had succeeded on its own terms, we all would have been much the poorer for restricting our purchases to thing domestic—poorer even than the loss of those multi-million dollars sprayed up against a Grey Lynn wall.

After all, the reason most NZers bother to produce at all is to buy other stuff. The simple truth here—something the ‘Buy Kiwi’ campaigners failed to grasp, is that the  best way for New Zealand to “make” cars and electronic goods is to grow cows and sheep and fish, and trade them.

Such is the beauty of free trade.

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Jack Bauer interrogates Santa

[Hat tip Samizdata]

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2081: “Everyone has been *made* to be equal.'”

The year is 2081, and everyone is equal. 

Everyone has been made to be equal.

Everyone has been made to be ordinary.

Turns out when the extraordinary have been outlawed, only the outlaws will be extraordinary.

Such is the theme of a new film, 2081, based on Kurt Vonnegut’s story ‘Harrison Bergeron.’

It looks good.  It looks very good.

 

[Hat tip RW]

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Is Christmas too commercial?

Is Christmas too commercial? Hell, no!

For many retailers this year, Christmas isn’t commercial enough.

And according to at least one sane person, Commercialism Only Adds to Joy of the Holidays.  “It's the season for earthly pleasures,” says Ayn Rand enthusiast Onkar Ghate, “and embracing the spectacle is no sin.”

Complaining about the “commercialisation” of Christmas pretty much misses the point anyway, because Christmas is the most benevolent and frankly commercial holiday in the catalogue. It was designed that way.

“Christmas as we know it, with its twinkling lights, flying reindeer, and dancing snowmen, is largely a creation of 19th-century America. One of the most un-Christian periods in Western history, it was a time of worldly invention, industrialization, and profit. Only such an era would think of a holiday dominated by commercialism and joy and sense the connection between the two.”

As Ghate says, Christmas is a time of unabashed earthly joy. Like philosopher Leonard Peikoff says, at Christmas time we don't say "sacrifice and repent," we say enjoy yourself and thrive!  And we do, whatever the economic climate. We get together with workmates, friends and loved ones, celebrating the year with gusto; we give gifts to people we value, whose friendship and company we want to celebrate. Toasts are made and livers threatened. Boats full of happy people cruise the harbour; laughing diners fill restaurants; shops overflow (well,most years) with people buying gifts to make people happy who make them happy; and glasses full of enlivening liquids are raised the heavens to celebrate life here on earth. 

So what's not to like about Christmas being commercial?

Here’s the drinking song from Verdi’s Otello, sung by an unusually ebullient bunch of Laplanders*. The loose translation is ‘Wet Your Throat,’ but you hardly need an ace translator to work out what they’re singing about (even if the outcome for one of the drinkers is rather unfortunate).

* Well, almost.

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Why men shouldn’t write advice columns

Phonics farm gets well-deserved Christmas cheer

171209NZHPEFARM2_460x230 Hey, great to see that the Reading for Rascals programme at Windy Ridge Boys Farm, run by the heroic Graham & Joan Crawshaw, has won a donation to help upgrade the camp—and that the Herald has featured them this morning.

Sure, it’s only a small donation, but Graham and Joan (right) are people who can do an awful lot with very little.

In the forty-five years they’ve been running reading & adventure camps for troublesome boys, armed ‘only’ with passion, reason, good reading strategies and barely a shoestring to rub together, they’ve put literally thousands on the path to a better life.

If you’re looking for a place to make a donation this Christmas, then Graham & Joan’s Arapahoe Bush Camp Trust gets my seal of approval.

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