Thursday, February 4, 2016

This little piggy went to market

Before social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever the young people use, authors had to promote themselves in other ways. I have no data on the success of this one:

The caption reads:
The Author in Fancy Dress as a Side of Bacon, designed by himself, which took the First Prize of Forty Guineas at the Covent Garden Fancy Dress Ball, April 1894

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

If I were a carpenter

I suppose this is the future of publishing: crowdsourcing. How depressing. The NZ Book Council’s Booknotes Unbound reports:
This Mother’s Day New Zealanders are being invited to become a part of Penguin Classics history.
Penguin Random House has been supporting mums around the world for more than 80 years, from pregnancy advice and bedtime stories, to homework help and ‘mum time’ escapism.
This year, New Zealanders are invited to become a part of Penguin Classics history, by having their messages to their mums published and immortalised in a heartfelt collection, titled Thanks Mum: A Kiwi Celebration.
Written by the New Zealand public for New Zealand mums, this limited edition book will be the ultimate thank you to Kiwi mums nationwide.
For the chance to have your message published, visit to submit your entry online.
Successful entries will be hand-picked and those published will receive a copy of Thanks Mum, to gift in time for Mother’s Day, 8 May 2016.
Submissions close 29th February 2016.
I hope it does well for them, but if I were an editor I would insert a comma into that title. On the other hand, if I were a carpenter like my friend Dean I would have a steady, well-paying job and be booked up a year in advance.

So here is Robert Plant in 1993 with Tim Hardin’s song “If I Were a Carpenter”, a hit for Bobby Darin in 1966, the Four Tops in 1968 and, on the country charts, Johnny Cash and June Carter in 1970 (on YouTube, live in Sweden, here):

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Waikato Times letter of the week #62

From the edition of Monday 2 February. As always, spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic are exactly as printed in the Waikato Times.
Donald Trump
Has Donald trumped Donald Trump? His backing by Sarah Palin must put a huge amount of faith in the statement written on all their paper money notes.
Donald has not as yet claimed he can walk on water.
Except somewhere in Alaska when water is frozen. There will be no need or use for another Ark if he becomes president.
Barry Ashby

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Waikato Times letter of the week #61

From the edition of Thursday 28 January. This seems a very Waikato letter, and has perhaps the best-ever heading of any letter to the Waikato Times. As always, spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic are exactly as printed. 
Hamilton is no Madrid
I was kind of revolted to find that it now costs an average of $200 a week to rent a one-bedroom concrete block flat in a block of concrete block flats in Hamilton.
You could live in Madrid – or Athens, if you felt like slumming it – for less.
Perhaps I’m the one at fault, but I can’t see how Hamilton stacks up quite so magnificently next to either of them.
But, apparently, it does.
At a rental cost equivalent to 40kg of milk solids a week, the property farmers must be doing something right.
Katherine Delaney

Friday, January 22, 2016

What I’m reading #130

My theory of magazines is that they live and die, rise and fall, on the quality of their columnists. The NZ Listener has Jane Clifton, Diana Wichtel and Bill Ralston; Quote Unquote had Bill Manhire,
Kevin Ireland, Stephanie Johnson and Nigel Cox. Currently, the Spectator has the best columnists of any weekly: Jeremy Clarke, Rod Liddle, Tanya Gold, Martin van der Weyer, Deborah Ross, Rory Sutherland and a bunch of others. I would read it for any one of them. Writers like this are why one keeps reading a magazine. The columnists are the spine, the structure; the cover story is the cladding.

I came across this book, pictured above, My Week: the secret diaries of almost everyone (The Robson Press, 2013) by Spectator columnist Hugo Rifkind. It is very funny. He started writing these pieces for The Times in 2006. Totally random – honest – sample:
Barack Obama 10 November 2012:
Today is a portentous day. For today is the day that may be the day before the day that America decides, on a fine autumn day, that there may be another day when the man who stands before you today as…
“Honey?” says Michelle.” You’re kinda raving again .”
Wouldn’t it be good if a New Zealand satirist could develop this idea from 2006?

More on the singular they, as discussed here previously, also here and here. I first heard it on The Archers, on the wireless some time in the 1960s, when a character was trying to avoid specifying the sex of the person she was talking about, and I thought: “That’s useful.” What else matters other than usefulness? The American Dialect Society chose it for 2015’s Word of the Year, for a different reason. Well, a different usefulness reason. Quote unquote:
While editors have increasingly moved to accepting singular they when used in a generic fashion, voters in the Word of the Year proceedings singled out its newer usage as an identifier for someone who may identify as “non-binary” in gender terms.
“In the past year, new expressions of gender identity have generated a deal of discussion, and singular they has become a particularly significant element of that conversation,” Zimmer said. “While many novel gender-neutral pronouns have been proposed, they has the advantage of already being part of the language.”
If you have been following the strange case of the Hollywood actor Sean Penn interviewing the Mexican psychopath El Chapo, aka Shorty, aka Joaquin Guzman Loera, here’s how Hugo Rifkind described one of them in 2012:
He’s a spoon-faced humourless self-loathing pseudo-socialist twit, sure, but he’s not a moron.
This by Gerard McBurney is the best piece on the late Pierre Boulez I’ve seen – love his music, saw him conduct the Ensemble Contermporain in Wellington in 1988 (Birtwistle, Boulez and Donatoni, from memory) but had no idea he was so funny. Quote unquote:
I was escorting him to a restaurant. The rest of the company had moved swiftly, but he was walking slowly, tired after rehearsal. Someone had told me on no account to mention Messiaen. So I did, and he immediately laughed, stopped and looked at me like a schoolboy preparing a whoopee cushion for a grownup.
“Ah, Messiaen, he is for me a big problem … [dramatic pause] The religion … [another pause, shrugged shoulders, and louder] The birds … [louder still, hands raised and in tones of pantomimic horror] Aand … my God … the ORGAN!” There was no doubt which of these three shockers was the worst.
I said I’d been inspired by his performances of Messiaen in London. He looked at me sideways. “Yes, there are some pieces of his I will do. But Turangal├«la ... Never! For me this piece is … you know … a kind of Bernini of the suburbs!”
Matthew Sweet in Intelligent Life on the Abba Museum in Stockholm and their one song in the past-modal perfect tense. Quote unquote:
The sceptical eye might dismiss it as the unlovely detritus of Europop – a subterranean fire-trap of hen-night kitsch. But this would be to underestimate the semiotic thickness of ABBA’s art – and trust me, you really wouldn’t want to do that. The artefacts on display evoke, sometimes painfully, the band’s personal and artistic trajectory: the vanishing grins, the collapsing marriages, the tour-bus melancholia, their progress towards that bleak and clear-eyed final album, “The Visitors” – their Winterreise. It’s true that ABBA lyrics sometimes exhibit errors familiar to EFL teachers around the world (“since many years I haven’t seen a rifle in your hand,” says the narrator of “Fernando”) but who else could have produced a song like their last recorded work, “The Day Before You Came” – an account of joy measured in the minutiae of depression, and possibly the only pop song ever written in the past-modal perfect tense? (“I’m sure I had my dinner watching something on TV,” reflects Agnetha. “There’s not, I think, a single episode of ‘Dallas’ that I didn’t see.”)
So here are Abba with perhaps their saddest song, sung by Agnetha, their farewell:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

NZ Listener letter of the month #1

There have been no Waikato Times letters of the month for a while, because the paper hasn’t  published any over the holidays: normal service will resume shortly. So while we’re all waiting, here is one from the 23 January issue of the Listener:
Celebrating End to Tariffs
The Listener wonders why New Zealanders are not dancing in the streets at the World Trade Organisation’s announced removal of food-export barriers (Editorial, January 16). There are many reasons. […]
Economist Milton Keynes pointed out that exporting means giving up assets of real value in exchange for unreliable money, so should be limited by sensible domestic economies. […]
Gavin Maclean
(Cullerlie, Gisborne)
So here is a concert from Milton Keynes: two hours of Metallica in 1993, kicking off with “Creeping Death”.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Corbyn, Tchaikovsky and Hello Sailor

I wish I still had my poster of Hello Sailor in, I think, 1975 or 1976, playing a benefit for Gay Lib in Auckland University’s cafeteria. It was a great gig: the poster featured a louche young gentleman in a lounge chair wearing a dressing gown and wielding a cigarette holder, beneath the legend “Relax With a Fag”. This behaviour was illegal in New Zealand then and for another 10 years until, thanks to Labour MP Fran Wildse advocacy, 1986’s Homosexual Reform Act. It is because of things like this that those of us who despair of today’s party wish Labour well but…

From the Economist’s Bagehot column of 2 January on England’s Labour Party:
Mr Corbyn’s leadership should force his moderate MPs to take on a reality that even Mr Blair ducked: Labour has always been two parties, one social democratic and the other anti-capitalist. Over the years it has muddled through, as concessions, feints and tactical battles have postponed a decisive confrontation. No longer: as Mr Corbyn bears down on the moderates, they will have to decide whether to push back, concede the party to him or quit—en masse, not in a dribble, as did their predecessors in 1981 when Labour last swung left—and form a new party.
Yes. One wishes Labour well, but…

Above we see, via Composers Doing Normal Shit, the composer Peter Tchaikovsky relaxing with a fag. I wonder if, by any chance, he could be related to Jeremy Corbyn, below:

So here are Hello Sailor at the Whiskey A Go Go in c1979 with “Blue Lady”. I had no idea this was on YouTube until reading pp 175-6 of Dave McArtney’s memoir Gutter Black. The band sound pretty much as they did at the Globe Tavern in Auckland the year before, i.e. awesome:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What I’m reading #129

I would have liked to attend this book launch of Jeremy Noel-Tod’s brilliant The Whitsun Wedding Video, Quote unquote:
One of the great things about these essays is how Noel-Tod refuses to allow poetry to stay in its little poetry ghetto. It lives, if it lives at all, out in the real world where we live and breathe; this has always been the reason why JNT has held it to account for itself. He’s not opinionated so much as something far rarer: smartly observant. […] The essay on Eliot – on whom Noel-Tod is an authority – is sublime; alone it’s worth the price of the book. And the title makes me sick with envy.
The singular they excites grammar pedants possibly more than anything else, though it has an honourable lineage over the centuries. I use it because it’s useful. Stroppy editor Tom Freeman also thinks it’s OK. Quote unquote:
Here are some early examples (mostly from the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage):
Wycliffe’s Bible, 1382: “Eche on in ├żer craft ys wijs.” (Each one is wise in their craft.)
Rolls of Parliament, 1463–65: “Inheritementes, of which any of the seid persones… was seised by theym self, or joyntly with other.”
William Roye (translation of Martin Luther), 1529: “So that yf the one shulde withdrawe them selves from the other deniyng them their bodyes to vse accordinge to naturall vsage permitted vnto mariage it is vndoubted that they shulde so defraude them and do them wronge.”
Thomas More, 1533: “Neyther Tyndale there nor thys preacher here hath by theyr maner of expounynge… wonne them self mych wurshyp”
John Whitgift, 1574: “None is admitted to anye degree here in Cambridge, but the same is first presented… by some one of that facultie, who giueth his fidelitie for them.”
Singular “they” has always been an option for writers. But during the 17th and 18th centuries, grammarians decided to get angry about this, and launched a coup on behalf of generic “he”.
#3 Treat writing as a job.
Be disciplined. Lots of writers get a bit OCD-ish about this. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words a day. Jean Plaidy managed 5,000 before lunch, then spent the afternoon answering fan mail. My minimum is 1,000 words a day – which is sometimes easy to achieve, and is sometimes, frankly, like shitting a brick, but I will make myself stay at my desk until I’ve got there, because I know that by doing that I am inching the book forward. Those 1,000 words might well be rubbish – they often are. But then, it is always easier to return to rubbish words at a later date and make them better.
Terence Blacker’s Seven Rules of Rejection. I have been both sender and receiver of these messages. He is absolutely right. Quote unquote:
The third rule: distrust any request to rewrite your manuscript.
Some particularly wimpish editors will resort to the worst kind of rejection – one that offers false hope. They say that they would love certainly reconsider their decision if the manuscript were completely revised and rewritten.
It is a lie, and one which invariably costs authors months of work leading to more heartache.  Any work which has been turned down once will be turned down again, however radically changed. Editors are too busy to have second thoughts. They rarely, if ever, change their mind.
If anyone remembers Camille Paglia, here she is on Susan Sontag. Quote unquote:
Camille Paglia, the soi-disant wild woman of nineties academe, has carefully studied Sontag’s image, and wrote an essay on the subject, “Sontag, Bloody, Sontag.” This was no mere intellectual exercise. She intended to use Sontag as a career model—to discern pop culture’s reasons for celebrating Sontag and then exploit her findings to launch herself to similar stardom. “I’m the Sontag of the 1990s—there’s no doubt about it,” Paglia claimed in one of her typical bouts of modesty.
If you are an old person and wonder why today’s records all sound the same, here’s why, with examples. Quote unquote:
So the business shifted from the console—the huge knob-covered desk in front of a pair of wardrobe-sized monitor speakers—to the computer screen. You weren’t looking at the band or listening to the music, you were staring at 128 channels of wiggling coloured lines.
One wonders, has kale had its heyday? Maybe so. Quote unquote:
“Kale is kind of over,” she went on, “but the name’s still powerful, so you can do kale sprouts. These aren’t baby kales, but a hybrid between kale and brussels sprouts. […] They’re inspiring to fritter or to fry because they’re a little crinkly. Or brush them with oil and roast them kind of low.” She paused. “Cauliflower is having a moment.”
So here is American composer Harry Partch in 1969 making rose-petal jam:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Copyright Licensing NZ grants

Drumroll, and then the press release:
2015 CLNZ Contestable Fund Investments Announced
Now in its second year and with funds available increased to $60,000 the 2015 Copyright Licensing NZ Contestable Fund will this year make investments into seven projects that demonstrate writing and publishing or education sector growth and development.
The projects receiving funding contributions are:
Anna Mackenzie, $5500, writing
Huia Publishing, $4000, education
Janice Marriott, $3800, writing
Kelly Ana Morey, $20,000, writing
Keri Hulme, $1250, writing
Publishers Association, $15,000, sector development
Bridget Williams Books, $10,000, publishing
The selection panel* noted the strong mix of projects that applications were received for which made allocating the available funds challenging. Four of the successful applicants will undertake writing projects. Huia Publishing will develop teacher support resources that assist teachers to use Te Reo titles in the classroom. Bridget Williams Books will invest in writer development for the new BWB Texts on the back of their 2015 success with writers such as Hannah August and Andrew Dean and the Publishers Association will undertake a campaign in the education sector, “New Zealand Content Counts”.
CLNZ CEO Paula Browning said, “The Contestable Fund criteria were established with broad scope and the diversity of applications this year endorses this approach.”
Applications for the next round of the CLNZ Contestable Fund will be called for in mid-2016.
*The selection panel was Karen Ferns, former publisher; Jill Rawnsley, former festival and artistic director of the Auckland Writers’ Festival, former senior adviser for literature at Creative New Zealand; Paula Browning of CLNZ; and me. Four hours, no shouting. Quite a bit of gossip, a lot of laughter – and a lot of hard work before and during the meeting because there were so many strong applications.

It’s a good result, I think. I’m especially pleased for Anna Mackenzie and Kelly Ana Morey, two writers I admire, who have terrific projects that take them into new territory.

Our meeting was on 3 December. A week later the floor above caught fire. Coincidence, I’m sure.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fire in Takapuna

Stuff reports:
There was extensive damage to the building and windows exploded out on the north-west corner of the fifth floor.
This was about 9pm last Thursday at the BDO tower, 19 Como Street, Takapuna. The Thursday before, I was in a four-hour meeting on the fourth floor to decide the recipients of the 2016 Copyright Licensing New Zealand cultural fund grants. CLNZ’s distribution manager was working late the night the windows exploded – her office is directly below – but fortunately escaped safely. She is the person who looks after rightsholders and authorises all the money going out the door: authors and publishers really, really like her.

So here is the Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1968 on Top of the Pops with “Fire”: