Thursday, December 30, 2004
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
The sheer scale of this event that has made in impression on me. At the end of 27th December, the confirmed death toll is 23,000 across 9 countries, following the largest earthquake for 40 years (9 on the Richter scale). It makes humanity seem very, very small when people, houses, cars, trees, animals can be obliterated on such a massive scale. Like washing ants down a plughole.
Although this disaster will probably not have great overall historical or geopolitical repercussions, (although the economic impact is already being calculated), it pisses all over September 11th 2001 in terms of size and the number of people directly affected. The fact that the people most hit are among the poorest in the world makes this event even more tragic.
The human side to the event is almost overwhelming. The BBC's "Have Your Say" has become a heart-rending bulletin board not only for people from around the world to describe their personal experiences of the tsunamis, but to also post queries about missing loved ones and make requests for aid from remote areas.
" I heard someone who said that she lost 2 (out of 4) of her children. She said that she didn't know which one to pick up because she couldn't carry them all."
"The main requirement in this area is drinking water, medicine, and shelter. Please help."
" We are desperate for news of our daughter Charlotte Jones who was on the island of Racha Yai near Phuket when the wave struck. She is 24, 5 foot 6 inches with distinguishing dreadlocks."
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Shepherds, Angels, Llamas...vintage cars...?
In describing some of the shows being put on this year around the D.C. area, the article says "Perhaps the most expensive production this year was the one put on by Upper Marlboro's Evangel Cathedral, which featured three camels, four llamas, vintage cars, body-jolting thunder and a cast of 270 actors. According to Associate Pastor Kevin Matthews, the 15 performances cost $524,000 and were attended by more than 32,000 people."
Half a million dollars for Christmas show? I don't even want to know how much that is in New Zealand pesetas. I'm sure that many of these large churches see these events as a vital part of their outreach/evangelism, but I get the impression from the article that some of the large churches seem to be getting into some kind of Christmas pageant "arms race". It's a bit like the need to buy the latest and greatest toy for your kid at Christmas, and perhaps the phenomenon is a slightly twisted reflection of the escalating falsification of Christmas that's happening in the secular world.
Maybe I'm just old fashioned, or maybe I just don't fully appreciate the scale on which Christianity is preached and practised in the United States. (Indeed, why am I worried about church activities in suburban Washington, D.C., a place I've never even been to?)
I just think that big Christmas events like this could have a tendency to turn the simplicity and beauty of the Christmas narrative into something that can be sold at any K-Mart.
I'm inclined to agree largely with a professor of spirituality who is quoted in the article - he describes the massive Christmas productions as "big showy musical revues in Las Vegas or New York [expressive of] a kind of triumphalistic theology of the gospel and the church . . . than about the God who has come to us in the form of a little child . . . [and] addresses us out of a divine humility."
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Indeed the unity of outrage around the world about the victimisation of journalists in the Iraq conflict has been remarkable. While I don't want to idealise the job of a journalist, the deliberate targeting of the media by terrorist or insurgent groups seems, at best, counter-productive. And the fact that Malbrunot and Chesnot were French, spoke Arabic and had many years of experience in Middle East reporting makes their kidnapping even more bizarre.
As Chesnot's brother, Thierry, said today, "C'est un magnifique cadeau de Noël" .
It is tragic that the same edition of Le Monde also has to detail the assassination of Gambian journalist Deida Hydara.
Monday, December 20, 2004
All Hail !
This article in the Herald also caught my eye - suggesting that the generous remuneration awarded to Chief Executives may not be achieving the desired results in business growth. The philosophy of "incentivising" good performance may not be as well-founded as we think. A notable quote from the article:
"the paper suggests that today's corporate managers are somewhat like landed aristocracy in the 19th century or political elites of the Third World: the benefits they receive, and any value they create, are the result of the prevailing form of development rather than any real contribution. "
Arrr, blow me down and call me a socialist.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The DPRK still has one of the best and saddest websites in the world - I don't think it's changed in three and a half years since I first discovered it. Am I going too far if I say that its clumsy design, using large jpeg images for all its buttons, links and text seems simply too proletarian to be true?
On the other end of the political spectrum, it looks like Pinochet may finally stand trial. But like all these sorts of things, I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of a quick judicial process.
Bringing dodgy heads of state to justice is probably very important, but doesn't often achieve very much in real terms. In a rare reminder of the fate of another despotic leader, Patrick Coburn of the Independent reminds us that the arrest of Saddam Hussein, one year ago today, has accomplished very little to bring peace or stability to Iraq.
And let's not even get started on the ongoing trial of Slobodan Milosevic.
Friday, December 10, 2004
No smoke - no fire
And as tenor collaborateur and outlaw zapatista Eamonn Deverall points out today in the Herald, there's a long way for Mr Zaoui to go before this whole sorry episode is over. This story will run and run. It would make a change to actually see the government actually present some evidence against Mr Zaoui, but this could take a while.... Until then we can just hope that he gets some peace and quiet at St Benedicts and doesn't get overcome by the instant celebrity cult that seems to have surrounded his release on bail.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Today is a Good Day
Ahmed Zaoui has been released on bail following a decision by the New Zealand Supreme Court, after spending two years (count 'em) in New Zealand prisons without charge. Knowing one of Mr Zaoui's close supporters, and how much time and effort has been put in to get this far, and having been involved in a small way in a benefit concert last month, this is a very pleasing result.
And the Civil Unions Bill has passed (less than an hour ago as I write this!). With a few year's hindsight, this will all seem like a storm in a teacup.
The only downer today was the announcement that Trinity Roots has reached the end of its road. I can't help thinking that when we look back on this particular era of New Zealand music, TR's two albums and 4 track EP will stand out as some of the finest and most mature sounds to ever be created in Aotearoa.
Trinity Roots is one of the best live acts I've ever seen, but I've also heard Warren, Rio and Rikki each play in some very impressive ensembles beyond the TR project - Scribes of Ra, The Labcoats, Fat Freddy's Drop, Jonathan Crayford's groups. I'm sure that there will be more great music forthcoming from these guys.
And perhaps appropriately given this news, SPY Thoughts has some musings on the value of music in the world.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
A New Energy State
On a similar energetic bent, NY Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman outlines an intriguing project to kick-start American science and reform US foreign policy
"...our generation's moon shot: a crash science initiative for alternative energy and conservation to make America energy-independent in 10 years. Imagine if every American kid, in every school, were galvanized around such a vision. Ah, you say, nice idea, Friedman, but what does it have to do with your subject - foreign policy?
Everything! You give me an America that is energy-independent and I will give you sharply reduced oil revenues for the worst governments in the world. I will give you political reform from
Monday, December 06, 2004
Cool Your Jets
Sunday, December 05, 2004
The Rain it Raineth Every Day...
I was pleasantly surprised that the sub-15 degree temps and rain didn't keep too many people away from last night's K Road Karnival. I recall it rained last year too: if we ever managed to luck out with some good weather in early December, this would be one of the top events in Auckland.
No respect for the driver of the AK Samba float, whose heavy foot on the brake pedal sent 15 horn players flying in all directions several times during the parade. The truck was set up for a disaster that didn't quite happen - a diesel generator for the PA spewing fumes into the faces of the musicians, rain dripping onto electrical cables and microphones, and the guy operating the flamethrower on the back dodging a trombone slide every second note. We were relieved to get to the far end of K Road and rapidly bailed out before the driver could barrel down Howe Street, leaving half of Auckland's horn players in a pulpy mess at the bottom.
Speaking of potential disasters, I also quite liked the story about airport security at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport losing 150 grams of explosives during a training exercise. I'm confidently expecting the rightwing blogs in the States will have a good laugh/angry rant at the expense of the incompetent surrender monkeys, but let's not pretend that this couldn't happen at almost any airport in the world. And if Americans want to worry about something, then maybe the lack of security at some 15,000 chemical facilities around the country should be a greater priority....
Friday, December 03, 2004
Supporting a Multi-Media Diet
I'll also be finding and linking to some blogs, such as SPY PEI's new Spythoughts, and probably some others that I haven't thought of yet. Maybe Matt Nippert at Fighting Talk as well. Probably not Public Address, simply because they're so well-linked and name-checked everywhere anyway, not because they're not a lovely bunch of writers who provide endless hours of lunchtime entertainment and food for thought each month.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Turnaround/Scribes of Ra: Rising Sun, 26th November 2004
So I got along to Rising Sun last Friday to Manny's regular Turnaround event, this month featuring Scribes of Ra ! Unfortunately I didn't catch his set, (3.15am is about my limit, sorry guys), but Submariner sure set the tone with characteristically nice bracket - always a good sign when the DJ can seamlessly chuck a couple of full-on 70's style NY salsa tracks into the mix without the crowd even batting their eyelids :-)
Scribes of Ra were as impressive as I hoped. Despite the jokes about an incestuous music scene and half-hour songs, these big Wellington bands still set the standard in New Zealand in terms of tightness, understanding of groove and sheer chops. The Twinset kids , Rio, Mike Fabulous, all those horns - stand the **** up ! Nice to see Toby Laing out front and center (on cornet this time, I should have asked him if there was any particular logic behind that choice of horn).
It's always a pleasure to see a band doing what they do really well, and with a well-paced set of originals and Fela standards (any setlist including Water No Get Enemy would have a hard time keeping the smile off this particular face) this was a satisfying evening all round !