2017

“Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.”William Shakespeare

Bill S was occasionally inclined to get a bit carried away about these things, but on New Year’s Eve you can see what he was getting at.

Won’t be doing much of the drinking tonight – duty calls – but will raise a glass to kindness, certainly.

It has been, as many people have noted, a year.

On the personal front…nah. Won’t go too much into that, at least not directly. Things I’ve learned, though, include the discovery that few things can be nastier than the backlash you get from people who are paid to care for the disabled when you point out their performance does not match what they claim.

You do get a “how DARE you?!” attitude. The disabled, and their carers, are supposed to be grateful for what they get. We’ve had a couple of years of this, from education and health providers. We’re articulate and we can be bolshie, and its left us cleaned out.

What the hell it must be like for those less well equipped I can only imagine.

Was discussing this with a fellow parent, who has been at this longer than us and who has multiple family disability issues, and who commented, “There’s always a payback,” when you complain. In this particular case, it is a realization which has come hard, and reluctantly, given this individual’s strong personal faith.

I’ll write more on this, another day, and perhaps elsewhere.

Professionally 2017 was a fascinating year. Loved it.

And the coming year will be 21 years in the press gallery. Nowhere near as long as many venerable veterans, but enough to make me think I should have a 21st party.

Just don’t expect me to do a yardie or a down trou.

Anyway, happy new year, all. Let us drink down all unkindness. Life is too short to do otherwise.

Marvellous-ish years, seething energies, and the trick of blogging upright

There is an elephant in the room – this computer,
an evolutionary change happening in our lifetime,
reducing our customs to fossils and converting
our children to new formats. As the Digital Age
powers on, I look wistfully at my books,
pen and notepad, and see that language is mutating.
Now the Web is a field of seething energies,
ready to extend and pool consciousness, is this
the transformation of the world to a unified virtual mind
or merely another noisy playground and marketplace?…

That is Roger Horrocks on the effect of the digital world on books, writing, literature, culture – and, ultimately, identity. The full piece is here and it’s well worth a read.

He doesn’t come to any conclusions – sensibly, I think. We’re in the middle of a revolution right now – and for once the word ‘revolution’ is not hyperbole – and it isn’t at all clear what the outcome will be.

Horrocks isn’t sure whether to be optimistic or pessimistic. Personally, I’m tentatively optimistic.

New Zealand has always had a very “thin” cultural scene – it is a function of our small size and distance from everywhere else. The internet has broken that down and will no doubt break it down further.

My optimism lies in Horrocks comments about the ‘field of seething energies, ready to extend and pool consciousness.’

It is in the process of wrenching our notoriously parochial cultural scene out of its small-town-ness: it is also breaking down hierarchies and – dare one say it? – the ivory towers of universities.

Technology is breaking down both distance and walls and this has only just begun, I believe. It makes our small size less telling, provides easy access to a more global perspective and ideas and, obviously, helps ideas get around.

History is also deepening. The passage of time itself is helping, of course. But there is, I’ve noticed, a real hunger to talk, argue and occasionally throw things about New Zealand’s history, amongst the generation coming through.

As for the choice Horrocks outlines in the last line quoted above: I don’t think its a choice. It’s both.

The trick is going to be making sure the extension and pooling of consciousness happens along with the noise.

To Blog or not to blog

I started blogging back in the middle of the last decade when my Better Half was quite unwell and it became a surrogate social life.
Its become somewhat moribund the last couple of years as other things have taken over, but it is 10 years old this month and a decade is kind of a put up or shut up point.

Having pondered the matter for a while, I’m doing the WordPress migration. So here it is.

Do not expect frequent posts. I usually do something on the weekend, but not every weekend.

It’s a hobby. I’m not going to make the mistake of thinking of it as anything much more than that, even though it is, obviously, a hobby which dovetails very closely with other interests and with work.

For those who read it all eight of you – you may have noticed I tend to do less politics these days.

Partly –  a very big part, in fact –  it is too much like the day job. When the blog started, I was still doing mostly weekly print work. The work work which was online tended to be business, finance, superannuation and insurance stories. Since around 2008 the online political work has taken off.

But theres a bigger, more important reason.
Blogging in the New Zealand context has come to be associated almost exclusively with politics. 

For a whole lot of reasons Ive never liked that and, more recently, its come to bug the hell out of me.

It annoyed me a lot, last year, when there were a few feature articles about the New Zealand blogosphere and it focused almost totally on the political ones. 

This was well before what people had been writing on blogs became – for the media around and about two thirds of the political class anyway – the story of the election campaign.

There are plenty of other things to write about, argue about, even get quite angry or excited about. And to me the most interesting stuff going on in the blogosphere wasn’t – and still isn’t – the particularly inane high school gang/sporting team level of “debate” (and here I use the word “debate” ironically if not totally and utterly wrongly) which goes on.

There are many different types of bores in the world but one of the worst type is those who think their political views are the most interesting thing about themselves instead of – usually – one of the least interesting.
Which does not mean one cannot have an intelligent,interesting debate about politics on the blogs.
My word, one certainly can. And the blogs I have always enjoyed often have a political aspect, and are frequently written by people with strong political views.

But they keep politics in its place. Where it should be. 

There are a number of specialist blogs adding much to the country’s conversation – on books and on economics, to take two examples not totally at random. 

I’ll write more on this, somewhere else, some other time.