Archive for the Bloody brilliant observations Category

Question Time at Parliament

Posted in Bloody brilliant observations on February 7, 2012 by brunswick

I went to the first Question Time of the year at Parliament with Martin to sketch some politicos today. I haven’t there for years… the place reeks of tradition, but unfortunately once you enter you also feel completely cut off from the outside world. Inside the chamber it was like the first day of school, although things didn’t stay civil for long.

After a series of cringeworthy speeches praising the Queen for sixty years of successful self-perpetuation, it was on to the patsy questions and snark. We were seated in the Speaker’s Gallery near a party of Swedish politicians (who sensibly left after about twenty minutes) and I watched John Key with interest – I’ve never seen a man look so bored before. He slumped in his seat, grey-faced and rumpled, only appearing animated when bouncing up to answer a question with a contemptuous bark. The rest of the National front bench looked pretty much asleep (well, they’re not really needed, are they?) while the Labour members passed iPads back and forth (holiday photos?) and poked at smartphones.

The level of debate was not exactly high. The seats have microphones, which gives the hecklers an unfair advantage – there was someone I couldn’t see from Labour (Clayton Cosgrove?) who wouldn’t shut up. Paula Bennet absolutely demolished a poorly-phrased question from Jacinda Ardern, which doesn’t bode well for Labour’s future, especially when you consider the material National gives them to work with! It seems you can defend the indefensible, as long as you’re louder and better-briefed than the people who dare question you.

Overall, I think everyone should visit Parliament at least once, not just to see why things are in the state they’re currently in, but to see where things are headed.

Auckland Art Gallery

Posted in Bloody brilliant observations, Lovely pictures, Unwarranted criticism on December 31, 2011 by brunswick

Okay, here’s the problem, see? Te Papa has a huge collection of valuable art, and no permanent place to display it. Most of their collection is in storage, which is either a huge shame or a minor crime, depending on how you feel about New Zealand’s cultural heritage. The City Gallery holds several fine exhibitions a year, but it isn’t large enough for permanent exhibitions. Wellington has contended for years that it deserves a large and costly national art gallery to display the nation’s treasures properly.

The new Auckland Art Gallery is the art gallery that Wellington has always thought it deserved.

The renovated galleries are beautiful and airy with wooden vaulted ceilings. The expansions marry to the historic older building sympathetically, with a detailed history of the renovations in one of the long galleries, and the occasional transparent section allowing you to see an original fixture.

The North Atrium is currently occupied by Choi Jeong Hwa’s Flower Chandelier, a fun inflatable monstrosity that even Jeff Koons would find kitsch. Although this space is huge, they seem to have missed a trick by not extending it down another level – the street entrance underneath is cramped and low-ceilinged, with an awkward bag check, and a floor slick from the inevitable Auckland rain.

Also unfortunate is the contents of the first gallery you walk into from the entrance, the contemporary art section of Toi Aotearoa, a major exhibition of New Zealand art from its beginnings to the present which fills six huge rooms. Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters, Rita Angus, there’s something from each of the greats. The new stuff is very poor compared to the rest, and suggests that contemporary art is threadbare of craft and inspiration, which isn’t a good first impression.

Best to start at the very top, with an exceptional exhibition of the work of John Pule. His huge unframed canvases can be inspected closely (rather too closely, I thought, when I noticed some small children leaning against them) and his prints examined in detail.

They’re prints! Not comics! 18 pages of illustrations accompanied by text has nothing to do with comics! Don’t even suggest it!

Downstairs in the international historic art galleries there’s a exhibition called British and French Modernism: Defying Conventions which contains minor but fascinating works by Picasso, Henry Moore and Dali. This leads to a collection of recently discovered work by Frances Hodgkins. The same level has a pop art exhibition (called, annoyingly, Whiz Bang Pop) with work by Bridget Riley and Luc Peire. There’s a Len Lye kinetic sculpture down the hall. This place is an embarrassment of riches. I was particularly pleased to be able to examine Pieter Brueghel’s A Village Fair up close, as well as James Tissot’s intricate etching Octobre.

After spending six hours over three days I’d only seen about three-quarters of the collection, but there’s lots of guides available so you can skip the bits you’re not interested in. These are written in a breathlessly enthusiastic style which might make you wince if you’re already an art lover whose enthusiasm doesn’t need to be engaged – it points out that Jacob Epstein’s Torso in Metal from the ‘Rock Drill’ (1913-16) “predates Star Wars’ battle droids and was created long before Sigourney Weaver was chased around her spaceship in the Alien series”, which is good to know if you were worried that Epstein had spooky precognitive powers, or that there was anything original about The Phantom Menace.

The marketing squad, after an intensive brainstorming session, discovered that the word “art” has three letters in it, and by massive coincidence also appeared in the name of the gallery (after the “Auckland” and before the “Gallery”), and as a result all signage and promotional material is emblazoned with labels incorporating three words which have a red A, R and T buried in them – the sculpture terrace is promoted as A Sculpture Terrace, the What’s On pamphlet is subtitled A Curious Visit and undoubtedly the toilets would’ve been labelled Anus Relief Time if the Fanta hadn’t worn off at that point and common sense kicked back in.

Overall this is a magnificent set of buildings, and I hope that eventually Aucklanders realize what a gem it is and start visiting, and Wellington doesn’t squeal too loudly when it realizes what it’s missed.

Seven things I hate about Auckland

Posted in A Good Whinge, Bloody brilliant observations on December 30, 2011 by brunswick

Auckland gets a lot of things right, but not everything.

The bloody ridiculous snarl of roads which disfigure the city and make car ownership compulsory.

Boring buildings. Nothing built after 1930 is of the least architectural interest or distinction, except for the Skytower.

Ghastly entitled jerks who’ve never done a day of actual work in their lives, who make their living from white-collar fraud and clipping tickets, and who can’t imagine anyone else leading a different sort of life or having different opinions from their own. Rich morons, in other words.

Sour-faced ladies-who-lunch and dull balding fathers in their mid-thirties wearing complex sandals.

The choking fug of a wet summer day.

Shop assistants who remind you of every dickhead you’ve ever met on Cuba Street.

The compulsion to own expensive cars or dogs or some other impractical and unpleasant extension of your ego.

Everything else about Auckland is quite nice.

The authentic voice of the streets

Posted in Bloody brilliant observations on December 27, 2011 by brunswick

Traveling on the bus to Petone with the vivacious Anita for a short break and to restock on dried Kashmir chillies, for such is my wont.

From the back of the bus, over the sound of the engine, booms a monologue of such urban authority it would make Kerouac’s head spin. A voice from the street, intoning loudly and unignorably to his companion, his Bro, of his many misdemeanours, how he’d joined a community art project for street kids in order to defraud them of spraypaint, how he’d met a black man from America and fucked him up for looking at him funny. How authentic and real and street his tagging was. How to use the word “fuck” as a noun, verb, adjective and comma.

I turned, expecting to see a six-foot-plus gangsta, or at least a homie of some sort. Instead, I was confronted with a meek little spotty herbert in a powder-blue hoodie, and his Ron Weasley companion, both about 14 and pale as milk.

I waited carefully until we’d gotten off the bus, and then laughed my ass off.

Election aftermath

Posted in A Good Whinge, Bloody brilliant observations on November 26, 2011 by brunswick

I wasn’t surprised by the election results, but I think the exceptionally low voter turnout is cause for concern. It initially looked as though only 65% of registered voters bothered to participate, although this may rise to 72-73% through special votes. Only 90% of the country bothered to enroll in the first place.

Many countries who have experienced rather harder times than New Zealand respect the act of participating in democracy, but turnout seems to have been affected by voter apathy and the foregone conclusion of hundreds of polls.

I’d also like to hazard the opinion that in trying to capture the middle ground, parties ignored thousands of alienated citizens who saw nothing they liked in any of the candidates or their policies. National have made it very clear that they are the party of winners and the powerful, and the past 25 years have taught us to utterly despise the poor and vulnerable, hence their emphasis on punitive benefit reform at the expense of… well, pretty much every other issue. Foreign policy, anyone? Job creation? Why on earth would National be interested in creating jobs? That’s the role of the free market. Give those businesses more power!

We seem to be adopting the aspirational model of the US, where people will vote against their own interests for government geared towards the rich, because one day they expect to join their ranks.

Whatever happens from now on, it’s what a majority of us voted for*. We only have ourselves to blame for any nasty surprises.

*Well, 48% of 73 % of 90%, so about 32%.

An Election Alphabet

Posted in A Good Whinge, Bloody brilliant observations, Unwarranted criticism on November 25, 2011 by brunswick

A is for Apathy, born of disdain,
B is for Bullies, who win through our pain.
C is for Children, to stick with our bills,
D is for Democracy, with attendant ills.

E is for Economy, sunk like a stone,
F is for Fear, of a future unknown.
G is for Goff, and his dismal demeanour,
H is for Hollow Men, meaner and meaner.

I is for Income, the median dropping,
J is for Jobs, which are ripe for the chopping.
K is for Key, the dead-eyed ex-trader,
L is for Labour, approaching their nadir.

M is for Map, to help Labour find its ass,
N is for National’s inertial mass.
O is for Outrage, at poor single mothers,
P is for Poverty, swept under the covers.

Q is for Questions, of asset sale sense,
R is for Recovery, at any expense.
S is for Smile-and-wave until you’re bored,
T is for Tax cuts we couldn’t afford.

U is for Unemployment, the gravest of sins,
V is for Vote, so the right lizard wins.
W is for Wage gap, increasing with Oz,
X is for Xenophobia, our charming faux pas

Y is for Yearning, for a future less fraught
Z is for Zzz. Sleep now, critical thought.

Don’t forget to vote!

More surreal than sarky

Posted in Bloody brilliant observations, Jitterati, Lovely pictures on October 24, 2011 by brunswick

It would truly take a mean spirit to begrudge rugby fans their palpable satisfaction. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to a gradual reduction of sports coverage crowding out actual news, people who can’t analyze interviewing people who can’t talk for the benefit of people who never read, vast resources sidelined for the purpose of a very specific entertainment while the country is, let’s face it, not facing a particularly bright future, the transference of large amounts of wealth overseas to a smug and officious sporting organization, the ridiculous branding, the cynical electioneering, the tedious anecdotes about All Blacks’s personal lives, the moronic nationalism and exultant deification of a violent and inane sport which is held up as a Way of Life while [insert statistic about the percentage of NZ children in poverty, the condition of the economy and the average $1000 price for tickets to the final here].

Yes, I watched the last ten minutes of the final, and a few other bits. It was hard to avoid, considering most of the games were on three free-to-air channels simultaneously. That alone defies satire. I don’t want to hear ‘Why Does Love Do This to Me’, ‘April Sun in Cuba’ or ‘I Gotta Feeling’ again for a long time. I was also amused to see Hayley Westenra singing ‘Now is the Hour’ – a song originally used to herd soldiers off to slaughter – as the audio equivalent of flicking the lights on-and-off very quickly to get drunk people out of the pub at closing time.

Gallipoli and rugby – why do we define our national identity through violence? Why can’t it be wine or maple syrup or consumer electronics? Frankly, if it doesn’t involve women, I’m not interested.