Saturday, 17 November 2007

'Kill the Bill' march, 2

Newstalk ZB report here. Radio NZ report here.


'Kill the Bill' march


Team photo

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And another thing ...


Friday, 16 November 2007

Beer O’Clock – Beer: Good News, Bad News

Neil Miller from RealBeer decides to justify a morning spent watching YouTube by writing today’s column on beer advertisements...

It is sad that there often appears to be a direct negative correlation between the quality of a beer and the size of its advertising budget. Breweries spend billions of dollars a year trying to persuade people to become fanatically loyal to their products. A large proportion of them cannot make that appeal based on taste. This means they have to find other ways to sell beer.

With new restrictions meaning that you may not use either sex or sport to directly sell beer (though those boundaries are constantly pushed), humour has become the marketer’s weapon of choice.

Accordingly, I present some of my favourite beer advertisements. These recommendations should no way be construed as recommendations of the products. Quite the reverse actually… [Click either links or pics to play.]

Magic Fridge (right) – One of many Bud Light Super Bowl commercials. Tragically, the marketing budgets of every craft brewery in New Zealand put together could not buy even one second of air time at the Super Bowl. None the less, this is a great ad for a very poor beer.

Stubby Symphony – This is the VB ad which got me thinking about this topic. It was sent to me with an unexpectedly strong recommendation to watch. It is quite amazing – particularly since they apparently actually do it for real! The conductor at the end is priceless too.

The Fox Hat (right) – An 18-second classic from Miller when it was looking to break into the UK market.

I’m convinced the guy in it is vaguely famous but perhaps the funniest aspect are the comments which make it clear that some people still don’t get the (not overly subtle) joke.

The Big Ad (right) – A brilliant viral ad from Carlton though they must have taken a few digital short cuts. It reminds me of those old British Airways ads but with more random chaos. Great soundtrack too.

Happy viewing.

Cheers, Neil

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Raise your voice against democracy rationing

John Boscawen, the organiser of tomorrow's Queen St march against the Clark Government's assault on democracy, received news yesterday that his father has died.*

John will still be there. So should you.

The march gathers outside the Town Hall from ten o'clock, leaving to march down Queen St at ten thirty. Get down there to raise your voice against the rationing of political speech and the rorting of elections.

Be there!
- - - - - - -

* John's father Owen Boscawen was my high school headmaster. I was very sorry to hear the news of his passing. My condolences to John and his family.

UPDATE: Liberty Scott asks an obvious question:
So can anyone tell me, plain and simple, what is wrong with letting free people decide how the express their views in campaigning in election year, as long as it isn't defamatory?

Is your vote bought by someone's elaborate political campaigning? Or do you think before you vote?

Or do you think that the vast majority of voters are stupid, and that spending lots of money on electoral advertising influences them in ways you don't like - and that there aren't enough people on your side of the argument willing to spend money to counter that?
Answers on a Labour Party brochure, please.

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Who's your All Black coach?

In their decision that Graham Henry and his coaching team need to reapply for their All Black positions, the board of the New Zealand Rugby Union have demonstrated that the rot starts at the top.

Faced with the decision to either hire or fire, to either back them or sack them, they've decided not to decide. They've chosen to fudge. That's becoming the New Zealand way, isn't it. Indecision and marshmallow. No wonder we choked under pressure.

So who's your All Black coach? Graham Henry and the 'Three Wise Men' ? Or Robby Deans?

My own answer's in the comments.

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Sun Desire - Stewart Mark Feldman

More by Stuart Mark Feldman here [hat tip Michael Newberry].

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Thursday, 15 November 2007

The litmus test for "social justice"

The activities of the Urewera 16 are becoming clearer, giving all advocate of "social justice" to declare their commitment to renouncing force.

Presented with the opportunity to nail their colours to the mast and issue a ringing condemnation of violence -- to come out against taking up arms against "the white man"; against a wish that "bullets start going through people"; against any suggestion of "a bombing campaign that blew up Waihopai spy base, power dams, gas facilities, TV stations and radios" and a terror campaign so sudden and so brutal "they'll think it's al Qaeda" -- what do the advocates for global peace and social justice do instead?

 What do so called advocates of peace, equality, non-violence and non-racism do in the face of excerpts from transcripts of police surveillance showing those acting in the name of those aspirations prepared to carry out actions markedly less pacifist than their supposed aims? 

The reaction from the fellow travellers is instructive.

 Do they condemn? Do they hell.

 They turn their heads away instead and whine about everything from our "racist" police force (who arrested three Maori out of seventeen who were charged) to "heavy handed" treatment of some suspects, to the publication of these oh so revealing transcripts -- but they have refused to condemn what's revealed in those transcripts.

That in itself is enormously revealing. Make no mistake, this is a litmus moment: a time when people who support the stated ends of those arrested can and should make make it clear that they are revolted by their chosen and now-stated means. But for the most part they aren't doing that, are they.

 Even 'Bomber' Bradbury has invited them to, saying repeatedly:
"NO PEACE ACTIVIST - NO SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST HAS ANY RIGHT TO PICK UP A GUN IN NZ! And the second you do pick up a gun - you are no longer a member of a social justice movement." 
Would that others in that camp said the same. But they aren't, and we're entitled to make a judgement about what that means.

 Instead of condemning the aspirations for blood lust, Keith Locke for example has come out against ... The Dominion. Given the Greens already called those arrested “Maori, peace and environmental activists,” with whom the Greens presumably see some common cause, it would appear there is prima facie evidence here that, for the Greens (or at least for Keith Locke), being a peace activist gives one carte blanche to cheer about murder. It wouldn't be the first time, would it.

And fellow traveller of many of those arrested Nandor Tanczos said a year ago that he had "spoken to people" who see a future of "permanent civil unrest and eventually when the demographics change enough, for outright war" and it "frightens the hell" out of him. Where is he now that when what frightened him is more public? Like Trevor Loudon, I'd like to think his silence indicates he's telling the police all he knows, no matter how minor it may seem. But I don't for moment think that's what the silence of this "mainstream environmentalist" indicates, do you?

Meanwhile Iti's lawyer Annette Sykes, the woman who twelve years ago called for the burning of forests and the blowing up of dams, and who "clapped and cheered" when 3000 people were murdered in destruction of the World Trade Center, is heading to the UN to seek "justice" for the people "terrorised" by the police carrying out search warrants, but not before condemning ... that's right, the publication of transcripts showing her client(s) for what they are.

And John Minto, co-organiser with many of those arrested of a ragbag of radical groups, found time to condemn as "despicable" ... what do you think? ... the media. Ne mention of how despicable it is to arm and train and plan for murder.

And Jamie Lockett's lawyer is equally outraged that the public might read for themselves the true nature of his client is joined by fellow lawyer Moana Jackson who is "appalled" -- appalled! -- at ... no, not at the revelations of violent hatred and blood lust but "the lack of journalistic responsibility" shown in telling the public what his client(s) are really like, and particularly that "Fairfax printed selective items from a huge volume of evidence." I doubt whether we should take that to mean that all the evidence should be made public.

And then there's dear old Peter Williams, QC, who's made a healthy living over the years from defending scum in court (and campaigning for a more comfortable stay in prison for the scum when they go down), who used the word "cowardly" yesterday when commenting on the transcripts. No, not the aspirations stated therein to "to kill Pakeha to get trainees used to killing" or "to assassinate the prime minister, the new one, next year's one." No, that wasn't what stated this officer of the court calls cowardly -- what he condemns as cowardly is the publication of these statements. That tells you as much about Mr Williams as you'd ever care to know.

And we're entitled to draw conclusions too from the likes of blogger Idiot Savant, who like Keith Locke condemns the publishing, condemning the aspirations of violence only elliptically with his comment on Jamie Lockett, and from TV3's John Campbell, who (as Lindsay Perigo identifies), "dismiss its significance because of the small number of people involved." Crikey, even Jordan Carter can find it within himself to express a little momentary distaste. But not I/S.

There's really only one of the usual suspects so far who emerges from this litmus test with a better colour. The Maori Party early on nailed their colours to those accused being angels, and Pita Sharples disgraced himself by quickly pulling out the race card and waving it in the face of the evidence, but he has at least said "Make no mistake - we are absolutely and categorically horrified by the threatening language we have read in the paper today."

Signs of hope, perhaps? It is at least an indication to some of these other fellow travellers the sort of response they now need to take, or to be judged accordingly.

For my own part, let me repeat what I've already said here:
There is a vast gulf between genuine civil disobedience and the "direct action" supported by so called peace activists and anarchists and anti-colonialists, and I for one find it instructive that defenders of the arrested seventeen wish to conflate the two. There is an unstated assumption that because the state so often uses force in promoting its values, that this somehow legitimises ragtag envy-ridden whiners using force to promote values. It doesn't. Two evils don't whitewash the fallacy. Ayn Rand makes the point as clear as it can be:
One does not and cannot "negotiate" with brutality, nor give it the benefit of the doubt. The moral absolute should be: if and when, in any dispute, one side initiates the use of physical force, that side is wrong—and no consideration or discussion of the issues is necessary or appropriate.
Clear enough for you?
Lindsay Perigo drives the point home:
The greatest good to come from the terror raids may not be the stopping of the terrorists in their tracks, excellent and noble though that certainly be, but the exposure of their vile apologists for what they are.
[Thanks to Liberty Scott and Trevor Loudon, whose well-researched posts were invaluable in writing this one. Any errors of course are mine.]

UPDATE 1: The young idiots at Socialist Worker, whose "friends" was who were arrested, continue the theme. These erstwhile advocates of the rule of law condemn the "contempt for the judicial process" shown in exposing the extent of their friends' vileness, while carefully avoiding any judgement of what their friends were up to. If you think it's because they think you're stupid, then you'd be right.

UPDATE 2: Kudos for once to Shane Jones, who told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking:
I rather suspect that a lot of the characters mixed up in this rubbish up in Tuhoe and various other parts are using the cloak of Maoriness to disguise and obscure criminality and soon as the cops round the buggers up and treat them as criminals the better.

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Who is Madeleine Setchell?

I must confess to not having bothered with all the manufactured outrage over Madeleine Setchell's firing (or not-hiring) or whatever it was. After all, who cares if another bureaucrat gets sacked? If I had my way, around half-a-million of the buggers would swiftly be feeling a cold wind blowing through their salary package and working conditions, so one poor example of the especies feeling the sting of the Spanish archer is hardly something about which to take to the streets.

Nonetheless I did take some notice yesterday since, while political turmoil is all around in the form of urgent bills on Electoral Finance and Terrorism Suppression, speaker Margaret Wilson allowed a snap debate in Parliament on the whole affair -- and such an allowance from Speaker Wilson is such a rare occurrence that unicorns were spotted in Lambton Quay last time she gave her consent to such a departure. (Indeed, only Tuesday an urgent debate into the Decision of the Solicitor General [video] not to charge twelve people with terror offences was refused by this speaker)

Clearly then, the notion of the "political independence of the public service" is given some weight in the corridors of power. It's not, however, one that it possible to take seriously.

As Colin Espiner points out, "New Zealand just isn’t big enough to have the sort of politicised public service operated in countries such as the United States, where changes of governments lead to thousands of public servants losing their jobs." But this is only a partial answer, since the proper response is that if New Zealand just isn’t big enough to have the sort of politicised public service operated in countries such as the United State, then it's time New Zealand set out to have a markedly smaller public service -- and a very good thing that would be for all productive people, I can tell you.

Even the UK, whose model supposedly provides our own, bureaucrats are about as "independent" in their work as Yes Minister's Humphrey Appleby.

So until that happy time of cold winds and a rapidly shrinking pool of grey ones comes about, let's stop pretending that the bureaucracy is "politically independent." No bureaucrat can fail to have a political position, even if it's only the basic instinct of every bureaucrat to ensure that the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and the public service to gain ground -- a position for which they will find abundant support from virtually every incumbent parliamentary party, which is what not doubt ensures the "independence" of the grey ones.

And let's note, as I did yesterday, the most important thing to emerge from this whole waste of column inches, which is this: that the reason Madeleine Setchell was fired (or not-hired) from the Environment Ministry was because the Environment Ministry was ramping up for a big advertising push in election year in support of government policies on "sustainability," and since she was she was sleeping with a Tory her loyalties might not be altogether in the right place to conduct such a partisan campaign on behalf of the Labour Party.

The firing, in other words, was party political, just as next year's campaign by the Ministry will be.

It rather highlights the iniquity of the Clark Government's pair of bills to gag electoral opponents while giving them open access to the taxpayers' wallet and the promotional resources of government departments. That issue is really the only one of importance to be raised in this 'Setchell' affair. That is really where media attention should be paid, not to this fiction of political independence.

Like I say, there's no other reason to pay any attention to the sacking of another bureaucrat. At any other time it would be something to celebrate. Madelein Setchell is no more important in the Setchell affair than Captain Albert Dreyfus was in the Dreyfus Affair. What's important is what their experience exposes.

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Standards. That's what 97% are saying.

An online newspaper poll suggests some minimal public support for standards in education [hat tip Robin T.]. New Zealand Qualifications Authority's deputy chief executive Bali Haque told the Herald that students using "text" language in their exams -- in the style made popular through text messaging -- would "not necessarily fail." Ninety-seven percent of the 4,472 people who responded to that story have effectively told the New Zealand Qualifications Authority's deputy chief executive to take a running jump.

If only he'd take the strong hint.


PUBLIC NOTICE: Stop democracy rationing!

What you can do:

Protest March: Auckland this Saturday 17 November from the Auckland Town Hall at 10.30am (assemble from 10am) Protest: Wellington next Wednesday, 21 November, for a march on Parliament.

This is to invite you to stand up and be counted.

John Boscawen is organising marches in Auckland and Wellington to protest the Labour-led Government's attack on democracy.

The Electoral Finance Bill is designed to curb political activity.

With help from the Greens and United Future, Labour and NZ First are about to ram through a law to gag free speech. Political speech is about to be rationed.

This is over vociferous objection from the Human Rights Commission, the Law Society, Grey Power and concerned citizens from every sector of New Zealand society.

The plan is to give Labour freedom to say what it likes in election year, and to gag everyone else.

Once this Gagging Bill goes through - possibly as soon as next week - it will be against the law for me to send emails such as this.

That's why the Human Rights Commission talks about a "chilling" impact on democracy.

That's why this is a Gagging Bill by any other name and must be stopped. Join the marches

If you want to help contact

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Wednesday, 14 November 2007

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Tax is theft

According to a current Stuff poll, 34.5% of the voting population will vote for the party in the next election who offers the best tax-cuts.

On that basis, assuming 35% of the population aren't lying through their teeth, then as a friend notes we can safely predict a Libertarianz led coalition next year.

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UPDATE: Scoop has photos of the "Tuhoe-ain't-terrorists" march arriving in Helengrad, and then at Parliament. They're not really doing themselves any favours, are they ...

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The ignorant nationalists of the Retards First Party want to outlaw Fonterra's listing on the stock exchange. Fresh from completing his favourite colouring-in book, Retards First MP Doug Woolerton put down his crayons for a moment and argued that listing Fonterra would open the door to nasty foreigners owning NZ farms -- "the worst possible option for dairy farmers" and provincial communities" according to Mr Woolerton.

Pathetic. How do antediluvians like this survive in the world?

First point: Fonterra's business is Fonterra's business, not Mr Woolerton's. Second point: So what if "foreign owners" hold shares in Fonterra? Will they suddenly start shipping farm land offshore? Or will they instead bring in much needed capital to the under-capitalised NZ farming industry. Third point, made so succinctly by Cactus Kate:
Farming has become far too big business for small fry. Present family included, long are the days that a family should slave its way through farming... Farms are now multi-million dollar businesses. What city dwelling young University educated person believes and expects they should be set up in a multi-million dollar business? Why should Nationalistic romantics like those in NZ First claim farm ownership as some kind of natural Kiwi birthright? It's a notion that is long gone... Corporate ownership of all New Zealand farms is inevitable and should be welcome. It would make the operation of 'Fongterra' far simpler.
Postscript: Cactus has a farm she's willing to sell. "Chinese buyers most welcome."

UPDATE: The usually perceptive Bernard Hickey comments:

It’s fantastic to see the board of Fonterra take a big risk and put the idea of a stockmarket float to its farmer shareholders. It will be tough to get across the 75% threshold for success, but it’s worth a try.

Dairy farmers are inherently conservative and are deeply attached to the idea of a cooperative. More importantly, they are deeply sceptical about the idea of townies in shiny suits (or even worse, foreigners in shiny suits) owning their dairy company.

Fonterra is on the brink of a global boom in demand for fresh dairy products from equally booming middles classes in India, Brazil and China. It has a once in a lifetime opportunity to build farms, factories and brands in these other markets to sell fresh milk and yoghurt to these middle classes. But it can’t afford the $5 billion needed to do it without outside capital. The proposal to sell 20% of Fonterra to outside investors seems sensible and restrained. The restrictions on individual stakes being no more than 10% and on the cooperative owning no less than 50.1% may even convince the doubters.

I really hope they do. I grew up on a dairy farm and I’m guessing my Dad doesn’t agree with me. All I would do would be to point him to the example of Nokia and Finland back in the early 1990s...
Read on here: Why Fonterra Must Float and Become a Kiwi Nokia.

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"Very disturbing activities" in the Dom

Your job for today is to read and digest the Dominion's publication of the transcripts of police surveillance that were used to obtain search warrants when police suspected terrorist plots were under way.

Feel free to comment as you're reading.

UPDATE 1: Short summary (partly pinched from Liberty Scott) of bugged conversations:
  • Threat to blow up John Key
  • Calls to kill police and evict non-Maori farmers;
  • Talk of using a sniper's rifle to assassinate US President Bush;
  • Making nail bombs and napalm;
  • How to throw Molotov cocktails;
  • Live ammunition training in ambush and withdrawal;
  • Interrogation training using loaded firearms pointed at trainees' heads;
  • Blowing up power stations, gas plants, Telecom, petrol stations and the Waihopai Spy Station;
  • "Kill Pakehas" for practice;
  • Wanting to emulate the IRA's terror campaign;
  • Using the "Al Qaeda manual" on terror tactics, and wanting to emulate Al Qaeda's horror.
UPDATE 2: Here's some talking points for you:
  • This is not the full evidence, simply short and selective summaries of the 156-page affidavit used to obtain search warrants in the Manukau District Court. Should the Dom have published these few excerpts? Should they have published more? Or placed the whole document on their website?
And, based on these few transcripts:
  • Were the police justified in their surveillance? In the level of force used in raids? Did they act too soon? Or two days too late?
  • Any evidence here to justify charges of police racism?
  • To what extent were these conversations just idle threats and throwaway remarks? How seriously should the police take "idle threats" when they're backed up with training, materiel and people motivated enough to carry them out?
  • Is it obvious enough now why the defendants, their lawyers and the Minto Mob did all they can to keep all the evidence suppressed?
  • "Peace" activists? If these were your "friends," would you be defending them?
  • "I have nothing to hide," said Tame Iti on returning home. Really?
  • How seriously should we take John Minto, Jane Kelsey, Nandor Tanczos et al who sat in court listening to these conversations being read out, and still insisted that there was nothing to answer for?
  • How seriously should we take journalists who sat in court listening to these conversations being read out, and who still treated Tame Iti as a hero, and the rest of the rabble with kid gloves?
I'm inclined to agree with Scott's conclusion, that there's a few people who need to front up:
Go on, it's time for Keith Locke to express his view, as a self proclaimed peace campaigner now that evidence is out. It is time for the Maori Party to decide what it believes in - do you oppose political violence? Do you oppose murder? Do you oppose mass vandalism to destroy the economy? Do you oppose violent evictions of farmers from their private property? Or is your support for peace about as skin deep as your support for freedom? At least Maia inadvertently may be quite true in her post, as a friend of the fascist left.

Oh, and when you see the hikoi supporting those who support terrorism, you might tell them what you think of them. Methinks those on the hikoi might go home and reflect on who their friends are.
UPDATE 3: Lindsay Perigo praises the Dom for growing a pair:
"The Dominion Post's decision to take the 'publish and be damned' approach I yesterday urged on TV3 toward the evidence on which the police anti-terror raids were based is vindicated by the evidence thus revealed," says SOLO Principal Lindsay Perigo. "So are the raids themselves. And TV3 are exposed yet again as the abject fellow-travellers of those whom I have so rightly been calling the 'wannabe terrorists.'
Read the whole press release here.

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Ron Paul on inflating the dollar

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul makes an awful lot of sense when he talks about what he knows: how central banks destroy the value of a currency. ABC News summarises his questioning of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, the head of the US central bank, in the latest Senate hearings [hat tip Vigesimal Pundit]:
When people crow to the Fed to lower interest rates and make larger sums of money more accessible, argued Paul, they're not really asking for the interest rates to be lowered; they're asking for the government to print more money.

"But they never ask you, and I don't hear you say too often, 'The only way I can lower interest rates is I have to create more money. I have to lower the discount rate, I have to make it generous, I have to increase reserves, I have to lower the interest rates and fix the interest rates.'"

Later, Paul called it "a fallacy" that made the dollar "weaker" and "invites inflation."

"It is that not only have we had a subprime market in housing; the whole economic system is sub prime," Paul railed. "We artificially lower interest rates. And it wasn't under your tenure in office; it's been going on for 10 years and longer and now we're bearing the fruits of that policy." Paul argued the government shouldn't be concerning itself with deceptive lending practices but with its deceptive monetary policy.
All too true, and much the same here in New Zealand where the Reserve Bank has inflated the currency year on year by around fifteen percent -- and this is in a bid to reduce inflation!

Paul is the only American politician who understands the economists' injunction that "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. Such a shame he's also a supporter of conspiracy nuts, and a total flake on foreign affairs.

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Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Non-neutrality **is** objective

What a fantastic cartoon in The Herald on the Clark Government's democracy rationing, following up yesterday's front page effort!

The Herald has drawn criticism for not being "neutral" in taking against Clark's democracy rationing.. But objective journalism does not mean neutrality. The premise here is that if you have a point of view, then you can't be objective. But as Paul Blair explains, "that's just plain false."
An objective report gives the audience all the information needed to draw a valid conclusion... But facts lead to conclusions. Just because one doesn't want to accept those conclusions doesn't make the facts wrong or the presentation nonobjective: rather, the person who resists the logical conclusion is the one who lacks objectivity... Being objective means recognizing that not everybody's point of view is equally valid or deserves equal respect.
Over to you, critics.

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The return of THAT lounge ...

In case you haven't noticed, 'retro-modernism' is currently all the rage architecturally, and if you want to keep with the programme you'll have to keep up. Fortunately, I'm here to help.

Writing about the onslaught of modernism back when was it first fashionable in Manhattan -- that is, back before retro was 'retro' -- Tom Wolfe described being constantly inflicted with photos of THAT apartment. It was always the same one ..-
Every respected instrument or architectural opinion and cultivated taste, from Domus to House & Garden, told the urban dwellers of America that this was living. This was the good taste of today; this was modern, and soon the International style became known simply as modern architecture. Every Sunday, in its design section The New York Times Magazine ran a picture of the same sort of apartment. I began to think of it as THAT apartment. A glass and steel box in which "the walls were always pure white and free of mouldings, casings, baseboards and the rest... Somewhere near there was always a palm or a dracena fragrance or some other huge tropical plant, because [the apartment] and all the furniture was so lean and clean and bare and spare that without some prodigous piece of frondose Victoriana from the nursery the place looked absolutely empty. The photographer always managed to place the plant in the foreground so that the stark scene beyond was something one peered at through an arabesque of equatorial greenery. (And that apartment is still with us every Sunday.)
They went away for a while, but I have to tell you that apartment and the lounge that goes with it are back and flourishing in contemporary NZ architecture! And instead of the palms, rubber plants and prodigious pieces of frondose Victoriana used to transform the photographed starkness, these soulless contraptions rely on the stunning New Zealand landscape to breathe into them the life the architect failed to.

I kid you not. You see it in every issue of every NZ architecture magazine -- you see it so often you have to check the cover to make sure it's a new issue, and the caption to make sure it hasn't been designed a continent away and sixty years ago.

So I opened a recent book Architecture: Inspired by New Zealand with excitement. I should tell you that the book (and the architecture) has grand aspirations. It promises
another look at the New Zealand landscape through the eyes of NZ architects, photographers and writers. [Twenty-two] buildings have been juxtaposed alongside images of nature and are accompanied by ideas about the notion of site ... [and] collected together as examples of how each unique environment has inspired the architect to produce a different solution as to how a house can interact with the landscape as well as accommodate contemporary modes of living.
Inspire, by the way, means "to imbue or animate (with); to infue or instil (as emotion in or into)..."

Had I somehow missed a new breed of exciting New Zealand architects truly inspired by our breathtaking and ever-changing landscapes and integrating architecure and landscape? Were there perchance some overlooked gems that were a grace instead of disgrace to their beautiful local locations? Were there some New Zealand architects inside who were truly inspired by the almost God-given beauty of this country of ours? All too sadly I have to say that, with just a few very near exceptions (houses by Melling + Morse and Ron Sang and Felicity Wallace and even Pete Bossley contrive to break the mould somewhat), no, there weren't.

Instead, what appears to be the same house in all essentials is dropped into twenty different settings -- settings you would kill to design for -- and author Amanda Hyde de Krester (PhD) accompanies pictures of these places with telling phrases such as "the architect has designed a vantage point from which landscape is viewed as art," and "the site is an expectant reality, always awaiting the event of construction, through which its otherwise hidden attributes will appear," and" the architecture interacts with the landscape not in a deferential way, but by framing and contrasting it," and "the house has been designed to present the landscape to its occupants perfectly."

Closer inspection reveals that for the most part the landscape has been "presented to its occupants" by the simple expedient of framing up a box and then wrapping it in glass, and that while sometimes the house wears a different hat or a different shirt, once all all the candy floss and artifice is stripped away, at the very heart of these places is almost always that lounge. A picture window with a flat ceiling, downlights and a view. A gorgeous view. But of integration of architecture and view (let alone inspiration or animation) there is none, if any.

All the photos shown here bar one are from the award-winning houses in that book. And I assure you, they really are all different houses, not just the same one at different times of the day ...

Of the twenty-two houses inside, then, nearly twenty of them are substantially the same house -- glass boxes whose "dialogue" with the unique landscape in which they've been dropped consists of a bare "pardon me" as they push their way in and sit silent -- a series of glass boxes all too open to the heat and glare of the afternoon sun, with -- at their heart -- as their culmination -- a flat-ceilinged box with glass walls, expensive furniture and nowhere to put your drink. That lounge! At the very place in which you expect to find the very heart and soul of the house, that place in which the occupants can engage daily with each other and that unique landscape that's all around them, you find instead an antiseptic airless and soulless box where the sun is an enemy and "the view" has been treated as just so much wallpaper, and the occupants as so many props for a one-off magazine shoot.

I swear you can almost hear these places echo -- and most likely with the saddest sound of all: the sounds of what might have been...

Far from "different solutions" that have been "inspired" by the unique landscapes in which they're located, instead of buildings that grace instead of disgrace their locations, that connect the people within to the beauty without by means more artful than just window walls and a sliding door (and some curtains to keep out the inevitably overpowering afternoon sun), you would think by comparing them that the twenty architects were all reading the same magazines, and that those magazines were telling them how to suck the very life out of a site. And you might well be right.

The lesson is that it takes more than some grand talk, koru patterns and a glass box to "interact" with and be inspired by the New Zealand landscape.

Contrast this sterility with the approach of NZ architects like John Scott and Harry Turbott and Claude Megson -- or with the designer of the rugged beauty I spotted manfully riding the wild hills out at Bethell's Beach on Sunday -- who were able to almost artlessly drop a house in a setting and immediately bring the landscape outside alive, and even reflect it in the spaces inside (above and below).
Or contrast it with architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright with his Prairie houses and his Usonian houses and his Californian 'textile block' houses; his houses for deserts and waterfalls and clifftops; for the rolling hills of Wisconsin (above and below), the lakes of Tahoe and the earthquake-prone landscapes of Japan ... which are of the site instead of on it, their addition making the landscape sing and the occupants with them.

Or contrast it to the Japanese idea and techniques of Shakkei, of 'borrowing scenery' to bring the view inside and 'capture it alive,' instead of sitting there in your glass box with your blinds drawn or glass tinted and the view floating outside like a butterfly pinned to a cushion.

Or contrast it to what an honest New Zealand house anchored in the New Zealand landscape might be like: a truly New Zealand house using honest materials and honestly responding to the New Zealand experience and the New Zealand landscape, instead of simply recycling glass and steel knock-offs of something that didn't really work fifty years ago.

That lounge really has to go.

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Tony Watkins posts an amusing juxtaposition of quotes:
"Only the cowboys need to be afraid of the new Building Regulations."
Clayton Cosgrove, Minister for Building Issues, 24 April 2006
"An investigation has been launched after twenty one health and safety experts had to be rescued when their office collapsed during a meeting."
Royal Institute of British Architects Legal e-bulletin no.137, 1 March 2006

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Sincere condolences to Defence Minister Phil Goff, whose nephew Matthew Ferrara was killed in Afghanistan. News here and here.

Keep fresh the grass upon his grave,
O Rotha, with thy living wave!
Sing him thy best! for few or none
Hears thy voice right, now he is gone.
- Matthew Arnold

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Amazing inventions

Every so often we need to sit back and praise someone who has brought about a great advance in human affairs. Take a bow Kent Hodgson, a young Auckland inventor who has produced a device he calls a Huski that turns your warm beer into a cold drink within seconds.

Sang Tom Waits: "Warm beer and cold women, I just don't fit it in." Obviously what Tom needs is a Huski.

Mr Hodgson is my hero.

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"Thousands of scientists" supporting warmist mantra?

Two of the primary points that apparently persuade non-scientific warmists that the apocalyptic science of warming science is "settled" is both the increasingly shrill insistence that "the science is settled" (ignoring that if it was settled there wouldn't be so many of those pesky skeptics to whom it needs to be so shrillu insisted), and the related claim that in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Cimate Change (IPCC) we have an organisation with "thousands" of scientists of impeccable credibility who independently review the science and by some sort of consensus agree on the best evidence and the best science.

The IPCC’s website makes the point with this ad (using a fantastic Santiago Calatrava design to attract attention):

As Tony Gillard at Sp!ked Online says, "Who could possibly argue with such an array of international expertise all in agreement with one another?" Who indeed?

Even skeptics like Bjorn Lomborg have accepted the line. Writing in the Boston Globe in praise of the IPCC's Nobel Prize he said that the Nobel Peace Prize
‘justly rewards the thousands of scientists of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ who are ‘engaged in excellent, painstaking work that establishes exactly what the world should expect from climate change.
So the claim is "thousands" of scientists? Is that really true?
Answer: No.

According to a study done by Melbourne scientist John McLean from NZ's Climate Science Coalition, there are not thousands of scientists, or even hundreds of scientists endorsing the warmist mantra. After
an extensive analysis of the recent report of Working Group 1 of the Fourth Assessment Report by the IPCC, he found in the critical Chapter 9 there were only five reviewers who explicitly endorsed the claim that humans have a significant influence on climate, none of whom had impeccable credibility.
Not thousands. Not hundreds. Just five. Says McLean in his full report [27-page pdf]
The review of the Working Group 1 report was far less intense than the IPCC has implied.
  • - 308 reviewers examined the chapters of the Second Order Revision (i.e. penultimate draft) of the Working Group 1 report, with the average number of reviewers per chapter being 67 (minimum 34, maximum 100).
  • - 214 reviewers (69%) commented on two chapters or less and 60 reviewers averaged fewer than 3 comments for all chapters they examined
  • - Only 5 reviewers, specifically 3 individual reviewers and 2 government reviewers, commented on all chapters and just 49 reviewers (16%) made more than 50 comments in total...
The critical chapter, that which attributed recent warming to human activity, was reviewed by 54
individual and 8 government representatives but almost 1/3rd of reviewers made just one
  • - 37 of the 54 had a vested interest in the report, as editors or having papers cited
  • - 26 authored or co-authored papers cited in the final draft
  • - 10 reviewers explicitly mentioned their own papers in their review
Just 7 reviewers of that chapter appear to be independent and impartial but 5 of those made just
one comment for the entire chapter.
Just 5 reviewers explicitly endorsed the chapter in which it was claimed that humans have a
significant influence on climate but not one of those 5 has impeccable credibility.
There is scant evidence of any support for the IPCC's contention that anthropogenic emissions of
carbon dioxide have caused warming...
As Tony Gillard at Sp!ked comments,
Such a tally does not itself demonstrate a faulty peer review process. However, McLean certainly seems to have a point when he draws attention to the gap between the perception the IPCC wishes to create of thousands of scientists in unity in one report, and the reality of a report comprised of many distinct parts, each contributed to and commented on by a far smaller number of scientists with knowledge of a specific field...

McLean argues that ‘simple corrections, requests for clarifications or refinements to the text which did not challenge the IPCC’s conclusions are generally treated favourably, but comments which dispute the IPCC’s claims or their certainty are treated with far less indulgence’. He concludes that ‘the notion of hundreds of experts diligently poring over all chapters of the report and providing extensive feedback by way of peer review to the editing teams is here demonstrated to be an illusion’.
UPDATE: Here's an opportunity that doesn't arise every day. If you're in Christchurch today you get to enjoy New Zealand Cup Day (and for the first time in forty-odd years there's going to be some rain -- due no doubt to global warming), but if you're in Wellington later this evening you can go to Te Papa and make fun of Al Bore's slide show, being presented by Australian "social researcher" Randall Pearce. Report here.

Pearce, who was hand-picked by the Bore to be a "messenger" of the warmist message, promises "a strong focus on New Zealand" in this version, which apparently includes a retraction of The Goracle's fatuous assertion that "climate refugees" are flooding into New Zealand.

If you're going along to heckle, then you've got the nine "errors" found by the British court to look for, the "thirty-five" inconvenient truths found by Christopher Monckton, or the 120 one-sided, misleading, exaggerated, speculative, or wrong assertions that Marlo Lewis points out in his 'Skeptics Guide to An Inconvenient Truth.'

Should be a good night. Who needs fireworks.

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Bentleys at Le Mans - Terence Cuneo

A commenter last week recommended I take a look at the illustrations of Terence Cuneo as another artist who glorifies industry and man's achievement. Not bad.


Monday, 12 November 2007

"Nothing to hide"?

Tame Iti returns home to the plaudits of a fawning media and announces " I have nothing to hide."

Fine then, let's take him at his word -- except we can't. It would mean ignoring the efforts of his lawyers, his co-defendants and his supporters to shut down and suppress the evidence of what he was up to with his 100 trainees in those six camps with all those munitions.

If he truly has nothing to hide, then instead of patsy interviews with braindead interviewers eager for nothing more than a pat on the head and a signed photo with their hero -- the same sort of braindead fawning these same analysts did with David Bain -- let's see him instead agreeing to the release of all the evidence that's been compiled of his and his co-defendants' actions over the last two years.

Then we might be able to agree he has nothing to hide. Until then, then you know his word is worth as little as John Minto's.

UPDATE: Speaking of Iti's lawyers and milking the gullible, as I was, Annette Sykes, "the woman who clapped and cheered when the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed is now running to an international body that treats North Korea, New Zealand, Syria, Sweden and Burma as moral equivalents." Notes Liberty Scott in 'The Immoral Plead to the Amoral,'
Sykes (who for some inexplicable reason can still command some respect in the media) is going to go to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples. A body which has as its full time, Western taxpayer funded job, to criticise Western governments for treatment of Indigenous peoples, whilst treating the corrupt ridden tinpot quasi-democracies of Africa as being great models of decolonised empowerment. You know, the type of body that throws stones at New Zealand but ignores Zimbabwe, because (after all) Robert Mugabe is indigenous...
How do you spell 'opportunism'?

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Musical mayhem

After a few friends and I demolished 'Satellite of Love' the other night, I've been sent a YouTube link showing me how the UK Ukelele Orchestra perform the tune. I think I need lessons.

It reminded of the now infamous Portsmouth Sinphonia, whose only criterion for membership was a complete unfamiliarity with one's instrument, and who once boasted Brian Eno as a member (listen here and you'll find them demolishing Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra) and the, er, 'enthusiastic' Florence Foster Jenkins (who destroys Mozart's once beautiful 'Queen of the Night' aria here) ... and (since Joy Division are once again fashionable) maybe this ...

Oh, and if you want to become a singer, here's some tutoring from the great Anna Russell.

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The Clark Government's outright attack on democracy

The Herald has used its front page this morning (left) to launch a full frontal assault on the Clark Government's plans to rort elections and election financing permanently in their favour, including an editorial on the Electoral Finance Bill (which restricts political speech in election year) and its companion bill (which empowers govt departments to promote the incumbent) that you simply have to read: "When is the Government going to get this message," it begins, "democracy is not a device to keep the Labour Party in power."

Read it here at the Herald website, and pass it on. And then don't rest until you've exercised all the free speech you currently enjoy to knock this damn thing on the head, while you still have free speech.

UPDATE 1: National have finally confirmed that they will repeal the Electoral Finance Bill if elected. Looks like it took the Herald to finally get them over the line to make the commitment. A friend described Key's announcement as evidence he's a "fast fallower." Or as deservedly little known UK Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law was once heard to say, "I must follow them, I'm their leader."

UPDATE 2: Notes Whale Oil this evening after a day watching The Herald collecting responses to this morning's front page:

Public Opinion was never for the Electoral Finance Bill, but neither has it been against. that is until today when the campaign against the bill went mainstream.

The Herald has over 58 pages of opinion from outside Helen’s “beltway”. She won’t like the reading of those comments.

Readers contacting the Herald newsdesk have also been almost unanimously in support of a front page editorial today which said: “democracy is not a device to keep the Labour Party in power”.

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The "subtle man"

I've been enjoying reading CP Snow's series of novels recently. Snow was a physicist, a novelist and he held several important positions in British government from 1940 t0 1966. It was he who added the phrase "the corridors of power" to the language of the day, and this is the milieu about which he writes.

A quote from 'The Affair' caught my eye, a description of a character representative of so called "subtle men" -- a description to me that is an eerily accurate portrait of a certain contemporary political figure. For convenience I've changed the character's name, though I could just as easily have called him Kevin ...
I was thinking that John, quite apart from his hidden violence, was a subtle character. He was fluid, quick-moving, full of manoeuvre, happy to play on other men. But, like other subtle characters, he was under the illusion that his manoeuvres were invisible. In fact, they were seen through, not only by people such as Brown and me, but by the simplest. And that was true of most subtle men. As they went round flattering, cajoling, misleading, and promising, the only persons who found their disguise totally convincing were themselves...

I was thinking that subtle men like him would be wiser not to play at politics.
Very apt, I think.

And Snow talks too about the nature of hypocrisy, identifying that hypocrites who see the naked truth and contrive nonetheless to act quite contrary -- such people as these he says are "romantic conceptions."
Those whom we call hypocrites simply have a gift for denying to themselves what the truth is.
And there are many of those about, aren't there.

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Sunday, 11 November 2007

Blog of the Week

I haven't seen it myself yet, but a friend tells me the Herald on Sunday, clearly a fine publication, picked as the 'Blog of the Week' my post reflecting on the Solicitor General's decision not to bring charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act: 'Law is the Loser.'

Just thought you'd like to know. :-)


The new atheism, and that old-time religion

Sunday is our regular religion day here at Not PC, and the award-winning Gus van Horn has an interesting take on religion and the so called 'New Atheists' (chaps such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris) "who have gotten so much press lately for their writings against religion," but who "fail as intellectuals," says Van Horn, "by dismissing wholesale everything normally associated with religion."
In doing so, the 'new atheists' make it easier to swallow such arguments as Theodore Dalrymple's that we must abdicate reason in order to hold lofty ideals or experience sublime emotions.
That would be a dangerous package deal to accept.

Dalrymple argues that western civilisation is and has been underpinned by the values of religion for so long and so essentially, and since human reason undercuts the faith of religion, then to rail against faith and against religion is to rail against civilisation. As Gus says, this is in essence
the common conservative notion (to which I do not subscribe) that one should avoid ideological consistency (or "extremism"); the notion that purpose necessarily comes from something "greater" than man; and the common idea that decency and something Dalrymple calls "gratitude" must necessarily come from religion.
The 'new atheists' make it easy for such arguments to be swallowed, argues Gus, because they reject what it is in religion that has had meaning.
Thus you have some very bad and some very good stuff here tied up into a huge knot, and for all Dalrymple's praise of the religious heritage of the West, it is within this knot that is the best of our religious heritage! (The fact that this is bound up in a knot is not a good thing!)
As long as it's accepted that it's necessarily faith that underpins values, (and the 'new atheists' leave that link untouched) then one is quite entitled to either dismiss reason as a basis for forming and defending human values (as the religionists do), or to open the door to nihilism and to dismiss values altogether. But this false dichotomy is only possible if "the ideas of another major atheist intellectual whom Dalrymple completely misses" are overlooked. That person is Ayn Rand,
who takes a completely different tone with respect to the higher ideals that receive short shrift by modern intellectuals, and who also, unlike the moderns, understands that religion, for its fundamental flaws (e.g., its basis in faith), is in fact an attempt to satisfy some of man's needs.
My favourite short example here was Rand's answer to Phil Donahue on his TV show, when he asked her if she would object to someone saying to her, "God Bless You." One can easily imagine Dawkins, Hitchens or Harris taking umbrage at such an expression -- or religionists imagining that every atheist would necessarily take umbrage -- but Rand's response shows her recognition of religion's secular meaning. Why would she object? she answered, since that person was wishing her what they thought of as the highest possible.

The point to reflect on is that it's as important to demolish error as it is to ensure you're not tearing down all values that allow humans to stand tall. Here's a further example of Rand's approach, answering a question about religion in a Playboy magazine interview in 1964:
PLAYBOY: Has no religion, in your estimation, ever offered anything of constructive value to human life?

RAND: Qua religion, no -- in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man's life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very -- how should I say it? -- dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.
And this is just one example of the thoughtful exploration of religion that Rand conducted over the course of her intellectual life. Here are just two others from the same page of The Ayn Rand Lexicon, which has just recently been published to the Internet:
Philosophy is the goal toward which religion was only a helplessly blind groping. The grandeur, the reverence, the exalted purity, the austere dedication to the pursuit of truth, which are commonly associated with religion, should properly belong to the field of philosophy. ("The Chickens' Homecoming," Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 46)

Since religion is a primitive form of philosophy -- an attempt to offer a comprehensive view of reality -- many of its myths are distorted, dramatized allegories based on some element of truth, some actual, if profoundly elusive, aspect of man's existence. ("Philosophy and Sense of Life," The Romantic Manifesto, 25.)
I will add, although it will seem repetitive to my regular readers, that Ayn Rand also extensively discusses the question of man's purpose in life. The answer, which she arrives at through reason, is both exalted and this-worldly, and it is within the grasp of any man.

And that is why it is a shame to leave Ayn Rand out of any discussion about atheism (or religion, for that matter). For Dalrymple, however imperfectly, is making some good points against the emptiness of modern philosophy here, but he never can quite break free of the faith-forged chains of ignorance, which are, by the way, one of the many negative aspects of the religious heritage of the West. He and others like him are doomed to consider reason, man's means of living a happy life on this earth, as impotent for that very task!
It's worth reading both Dalrymple's piece and the award winning Gus Van Horn's two reflections on it on it in full to properly reflect on the point:
And do make use of the extraordinary resource that's just been made available online, and from which most of Rand's quotes on religion used here have been sourced. The Online Ayn Rand Lexicon is an extraordinary resource that makes Rand's views on almost every topic imaginable easily available and swiftly sourced. As she quipped to the compiler of the hard copy version before she died, "People will be able to look up BREAKFAST and see that I did not advocate eating babies for breakfast." Add it to your bookmarks.

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Current listening ...

More 'filing by lying around' -- here's what's currently lying around my stereo looking well-used from annoying the neighbours:
'Fear of Music' & 'Remain in Light' - Talking Heads. Damn, these are good!
The Valkyrie - Wagner performed by the ENO, in English!
Coleman Hawkins (Ken Burns' compilation)
'Trinity Revisited' - Cowboy Junkies (the 'twenty-years-since-the-original' show)
Samson & Delilah - Saint-Saens
Blanton-Webster Band - Duke Ellington
Bootleg Series (Rare & Unreleased, 1961-1991) - Bob Dylan (and this is the stuff he throws away!)
Oedipus Schmoedipus - Barry Adamson
Django Reinhardt compilation (just add martini)
Kreisler plays Kreisler - Fritz Kreisler
Rachmaninov Piano Concertos 2 & 3 - performed by Rach himself!
Amor ti Vieta - Enrico Caruso (that voice cleaned up and re-set over a modern orchestra. Just brilliant.)
Various Positions - Leonard Cohen (yes folks, Leonard in his 'Greek disco phase,' complete with the original version of 'Hallelujah')
Sailor Story - Hello Sailor (two CDs back out again for barbeque season)
Trout Quintet - Franz Schubert (the perfect early evening sedative)
Real Ambassadors - Dave Brubeck & Louis Armstrong
But One Day - Ute Lemper
Die Walkure - Wagner (the Nilsson, Vickers, Leinsdorf set. Brilliant.)
Beethoven String Quartets - Juillard Quartet
The Good Son - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
League of Crafty Guitarists - Robert Fripp
Primitive Guitars - Phil Manzanera
American Caesar - Iggy Pop
Complete Blam Blam Blam (bloody shame 'Pensioner Lover' never made it the CD. Just wrong, in my humble opinion.)
Discipline - King Crimson (can you spot the Talking Heads connection?)
La Mer - Debussy
And another big pile contains all my old John Cale records, tapes and CDs, getting warmed up for this Friday's show at the Bruce Mason Theatre in Takapuna. Top of the pile this afternoon is:
Fragments of a Rainy Season
Words for the Dying (Dylan Thomas's words set to Cale; a shame the tape's wearing out from over use ...)
Live at the End of Lonely Street - Cale & Chris Spedding, live in 1975. (includes the riff from 'Guts' that Brazier borrowed and used so well in 'Blue Lady,' I'm sure of it)
Oh, and there's also a box of Chris Knox records lying near the door ready to take out and burn now the bastard's sold his soul so cheaply and so cheesily. Bastard.

So, what's lying around near your stereo, or near your door?

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