The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A new lease on life - Part II

And here comes another post about the wonderfulness of the new new Doctor Who...

(The first, which examines Eccleston as the dark and Tennant as the light, can be found here.)

2. I wasn't sure about this young David guy at first. I really liked Eccleston's Doctor and was sad to see him go. I'd also erroneously heard that Eccleston had found out he'd been rejuvenated by media statement so I felt offended on his behalf and thus grumpy about the new guy. But what really sold me on Tennant was the Arthur Dent homage in an early episode. I know he didn't write it, but he carried it off. Any show that recognises the existence of other cult series, particularly one written by another Doctor Who writer, is all good. Similar good things from the casting of Anthony Head as an alien mastermind in another episode.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The conversation you have when you are not talking about something

The Man With No Lap, my rather frequent correspondent in Wellington, has pointed out to me the following quote from this Stuff article on the Field debacle:

Miss Clark said she had not talked to the Labour party president Mike Williams about Mr Field and his Labour party membership.
The Man With No Lap claims he has some magic beans that may be of interest to anyone who believes that.

However I disagree. I believe our Prime Minister. I'm sure it went much more like this:

Scene: Dark yet smoke-free room in the deepest recesses of Fraser House. Curtains pulled tight against prying eyes, a picture of Michael Joseph Savage in working class wooden frame presides over an oval table at which sit the Prime Minister and the Labour Party President, and no doubt sundry other

Clark: (Voice of steel-type tone) I'm sure I don't need to talk to you about Phillip and his Labour Party membership.

Meaningful look from Clark to Williams, possibly involving the raising of one eyebrow.

Williams: (Jovial yet slightly chilled) I'm sure you don't either.

Clark: (Grimly pleased) Right then, let's move on. What's the current level of preparedness within the Party for a by-election?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A new lease on life

So what about that new new Doctor Who then?

Mr Stupid and I have taken to discussing his (and Rose's) latest exploits by text most Thursday nights. Sometimes this dialogue even flows over into Friday, so intensely interested are we both. In my household the phones are no longer answered on Thursdays between 7.25pm and 8.30pm. No interruptions please, I'm at the Doctor's.

I thought I'd share some of the textual analysis Frank and I have been engaging in, in the hope that readers may also blather about my new old favourite telly show. Here's the first:

1. The Eccleston Doctor was much darker than Tennant's interpretation. At times in the last series it felt like Eccleston was extinguishing a species an episode, often with little regret. In contrast Tennant paused when confronted with a means to kill off the cybersuits last week and it took another character (the fantastic Mrs Moss) to point out that there really wasn't much choice. Mr Stupid has wisely compared Eccleston to Peter Davidson and Tennant to Tom Baker.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Irregular service

Well I've wanted to write about a few things but two major barriers stand in my way:

  • Work - seems there was a full moon or something and the beings who create most of my work have been doing stupid things that have meant very long days, many of them away from the office where I actually need to do my work. Hence not much time for blogging in breaks or after hours - said breaks and after hours are already filled with more work.
  • Crazy Xtra - not satisfied with having the World's Worst Spam filter (was away for three days came back to over 700 spams, why am I paying for this service again?) they have now decided to give us crap broadband service at home. And do I have any spare time to sort this? See note above, under Work.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

The book worm

Maia's dang nabbit gone and tagged me, in a very "only if you want to" manner, which is fine and dandy by me cos I'm on a fake sugar high now and thus in a very obliging mood.

1. One book that changed your life?
There are few non-fiction books that I've read. But I'd like to nominate two of them (yes I know I'm cheating, but Maia cheated first). The first one is Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, which was depressingly revealing about the nature of media. I've looked at the telly and the newspaper quite differently every since.

The second is Andrea Ashworth's Once in a House on Fire, which I recently re-read and previously recommended to Apathy Jack. While I found the writing less exhilirating than when I first read it, the impact remained - it is a powerful and yet commonplace story about growing up poor, and growing up in a violent household, in what became Thatcher's Britain. It jolted me out of my safe North Shore existence, at least inside my head.

2. One book you have read more than once?
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, amongst others. Yes yes I know Heinlein and I aren't on the same side of the spectrum, but within this novel are the seeds for how to run a successful destabilising campaign and bring down a system. Plus I rather like the strong female characters (notably missing from some of his other books), not to mention good ol' tanstaafl.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
I'm going to throw a little bit of a curveball here and say The Bible (although possibly not the King James version). Two reasons. One, I'd like to actually perserve and read it, I imagine some of the stories are quite good although I've always got bogged down in the bit with the long long long whakapapa (I'm thinking of skipping that, just like I always do with the damn poems and songs in LOTR). Two, I can't forget the Firefly scene where River tries to fix it. I think if I was stuck on a desert island that might be an amusing pastime.

4. One book that made you laugh?
I'm going to have to copy Maia, but I swear I would have given this answer even if she hadn't! I still remember vividly the first night I read the first chapter of h2g2. I'd never known that books could be laugh out loud funny, and I must have been about 12 and I swear it's changed my life, although I've put it here because I already had two books for that section. DNA was responsible for my first online presence, he inspired me to try my hand at writing fiction myself (and then despired me because he was so good and I was so lame), but most of all his books are like a hot water bottle to me, they always cheer me up. I'm forever grateful to my dear friend Flang for the introduction, and also for giving me one of my most treasured books - my illustrated h2g2, which is shiny indeed.

For the record, my all time favourite chapter is Number 18 in Life, the Universe and Everything. Be afraid.

5. One book that made you cry?
I can't think of one right now, but plenty have. I suspect I bawled when I read The Bronze Horseman, and Memoirs of a Geisha, and The Diary of Anne Frank, but it hasn't happened for a while so maybe I'm hardening up?

6. One book you wish had been written?
Returning to the DNA theme, I really really wish he'd finished The Salmon of Doubt. The extract they put in that book of his writing that they put together posthumously was appalling and just showed how long it took him to cut and polish his raw gems so that they were flawless and luminous.

7. One book you wish had never been written?
The third book of the Queen's Quarter series, by Midori Snyder. I wish it had never been written simply because I've been hunting for it since I read the first one, from the library, when I was approximately 9. After a very long search I found a copy of New Moon for myself in my late teens. Then a fair distance further along my lifeline I unearthed Sadar's Keep. But Beldan's Fire still eludes me. I scoured every bookstore in Hay on Wye earlier this year, and still no dice. Not a happy camper.

8. One book you are currently reading?
I can only read one book at a time. Never really been able to abide those multi-book readers. Stupid wide attention spans. Anyway, right now I'm reading The Golden Key by a trio of female fantasy writers (Melanie Rawn, Kate Elliott and Jennifer Roberson). I'm quite enjoying it although I'm only a few chapters in and it's a long book (plus I'm a slooooow reader). I'm trying to get back into reading more sci-fi, but I keep vearing back towards the fantasy section in my weakness for books that are on special.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
So many books, so little time. I could lie and say something worthy by Bruce Jesson but I'm crap at reading true stuff, especially when there's no narrative. I've been meaning to read the Finn's Quest series by NZ writer Eirlys Hunter - I've even got Coldkeep Castle (Book 2) and I gave The Queen-stealers (Book 1) to my niece but I keep forgetting to ask her if I can borrow it back. Would it make me a bad aunt if it took me ages to return it?

Ok, I passive agressively tag Apathy Jack, Mr Frank Stupid, Maria Von Trapp and anyone else who happens past and feels like engaging.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Divvying up the democracy funding pie

Lots of debate about public funding for political party campaigning, which The Red Letter has summarised well, including links to other key posts about this issue. No Right Turn brings up a point though that I would like to discuss further.

Why is the assumption that funding should be handed out proportionate to the support a party currently has (whatever formula you use)? Surely this just reinforces the status quo, makes it easier for National and Labour to remain unchallenged as the core components of any government, and generally heavily discourages new ideas and new policies from being promoted in our democratic debates?

I raised this the other day with a Labour member and was quickly slapped down with the claim that if there was significant funding for low or no polling parties then everyone would start up a political vehicle to get some of the dosh. Now that's easily dealt with by having criteria about how long a party has been established, minimum levels of membership, minimum numbers of candidates etc. Not to mention an auditing process at the end where the party would need to account for how the money was spent to support their election campaign.

So what really is the objection to a method of funding that is based not on incumbency but on giving New Zealanders, the actual voters, a fair chance to hear from a wide range of political perspectives?

Update, 8.51pm Thurs Aug 17 2006: Jordan has a post up about the reasons to support public funding, and the reasons National opposes it, which I largely agree with. Can anyone guess which bit I don't think is fabbo?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Selfish reasons to be left

Maia's got a post up about our generation and activism. One of the things that struck me about her post was something I'd never really thought all that much about before, not consciously anyway:

I think individual action is a useless form of protest, because it's only through collectivity that we have any power. But that's not the only problem - not buying clothes made in China, or buying fair trade whatever isn't just uselss - it also frames political action as something you do for other people. I actually ended up agreeing with one of the apathetic people they interviewed when he said - I might get involved if I thought there was something in it for me. If people believe that the only reason you paticipate in poltical protests is personal goodness then we're all screwed.
I'd often thought, in my secret socialist heart, that I was somehow a Bad Leftie for being able to find the selfish angle in most political causes I've ever felt inclined to support. Now I know that I'm not the only one, and that in fact it's probably a necessary part of my motivation.

Here's a few of my more self-serving reasons for supporting various things:
  • Free education* - I hope it'll mean less crime (less likelihood that my stuff will get nicked) more educated professionals for me to access (particularly in the health and education sectors), more skilled tradespeople (so I can finally find a plumber), and a more democratic society (so all my blog whinges aren't totally in vain).
  • Free healthcare - I'll get sick less often with Other People's Germs, because other people will be sick less as they'll actually go to the doctor, or fill their prescription, or whatever. Also if, Deity Of Your Choice Forbid, I need medical care I'll be able to get it even if I'm down to my last shiny new 5c piece.
  • A comprehensive and fair social welfare system - Because one day I could be the person who gets made redundant in a shrinking industry, or finds herself with children and no means to support them, or needs to get away from the bullying boss who makes my life a total misery, or has an illness that just won't go away (oh wait, that last one already happened, nevermind). And because if other people can access this same system then they might be less likely to nick my stuff to get by. (Always this obsession with possessions, my precioussssss, ahem)
  • Justice (and thus peace) in the Middle East - Well if nothing else it'll bring the price of the petrol I need down, plus it'll mean that the media can't get away with filling up all their papers and bulletins with foreign footage and actually focus on some local news, and hopefully even some actual political analysis, which I'd really quite like to watch.
  • Fair trade - The economy's global and I'd like it immensely if the promotion of fair trade helps to maintain and protect my own wages and conditions. Pretty please.
Ok that's enough selfishness for one post. Must be my purple robot genes in control again.**

* Regarding the "free" part of free education. For future reference, whenever I write the words "free education" you can pretty much guarantee that it's shorthand for the following:
"A fully publically controlled, publically funded and publically owned education system, from early childhood to tertiary and everything in between. Oh and tertiary doesn't just mean university or polytech either."

** Is anybody out there getting my robot gene jokes? Anyone? Where's Xavier when you need him. (Mind you he'd probably tell me they're just not funny). Can you tell I'm on a low sugar diet and starting to go a bit manic. Bah, nevermind.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

No vision (Happy 90th to Labour Part II)

A while back I posted about my frustrations with Labour, my sense that it isn't going to deliver any radical changes to the unjust society we live in, in a post entitled No Heart. Thanks to everyone for their comments on this post, I think it has been an interesting debate.

One of the things that is clear to me about Labour (both its leadership and many of its activists) is that it is wedded to an incremental approach, or "gradualism" as Jordan Carter explains it.

That's all well and good, and I can see the value of making slow changes to our capitalist society and economy, to make New Zealand more like a social democratic state, or even head towards socialism.

But I don't think that's really the Labour vision. Evidence is that as the leading part of this Government they don't in fact have much vision at all.

Idiot/Savant lays out exactly how Labour has failed the poor, in a post examining a survey on poverty in our fair isles. It's shocking reading.

I'm not suggesting there are overnight solutions to these things, but I do feel that Labour doesn't actually intend to address many of these problems. Maybe they do and they just aren't very good at communicating it.

Labour doesn't appear to be committed to a system of fully publically funded and publically controlled education for example. There seems to be no plan to bring in universal student allowances or abolish tuition fees, although there has been significant softening of the student loan scheme. But that just makes it more palatable and gives ROC Labour MPs excuses for not taking action on the causes of that mountain of debt. Not to mention the fact that school fees are becoming commonplace, kindergartens are starting to charge fees, and there is a great deal of confusion within the early childhood sector about how exactly the 2007 20 Hours Free is going to work, with less than a year to go now.

Labour has been doing better in health, to some extent. But there are massive deficits in many DHBs and apparently no intention to address this. Shouldn't deficits at public institutions send a message that they aren't being funded to an adequate level to deliver on Government's expectations?

What depresses me most is the failure of leadership I so often see from Labour. There seems to be an inability to communicate the vision thing, to take on the Opposition about some of their silly proclamations and policy ideas, and clearly state what Labour's plan is. Too many times I've seen Labour back down and mount a pathetic details argument when it should fight the big picture stuff. Tax is a good example - the Labour tacticians seem to think, despite years of evidence from the NZES, that any suggestion that our tax system needs overhaul to fund the aspirations of our nation will result in endless terms in the wilderness for Clark and her allies.

Sometimes you need to trust the public (more often than not I believe). You need to trust them with your vision, argue it honestly and clearly, and debate the big picture not try to sell it on the little details. A Labour party that did, with the left-wing values and policies I believe the bulk of its membership and supporters would be in favour of, that would be a Labour party I could consider giving my ticks to.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Under pressure

This post has been about eighteen months in the making. That's roughly how long I've been pressured by various people, some related to me, some not, to somehow make them happy, rather than myself, by producing a baby.

I have to write about this. I've tried not to because it is so personal. But it just makes me so angry, and is so indicative of the broader ownership people seem to often feel of female bodies*. Even other women - they have been the worst so far at telling me I ought to breed at their convenience rather than mine.

When The Piano came out everyone told me I had to see it. I didn't, just because of the pressure; to be contrary. In fact I've never seen that movie, although I've read the book they reckoned Campion ripped off for the plot. I mention this as a matter of warning.

I have taken to asking people who ask me if I am pregnant "why, are you?". Even grandmothers long past their fertile years. If it isn't rude for them to ask me, why is it rude for me to ask them? Just as it is none of my business to inquire of their reproductive wishes and plans, it is none of theirs to ask me. My attitude isn't making much of a dent though.

For all they know I could be trying and trying and their questions are barbs enlarging the hole slowly growing in my heart. Why does it even matter so much to them whether or not I have a baby? Are there not other ways by which to judge the worth of a woman, ways that do not exclusively focus on her role as a mother?

How can I stop them? Should I get a t-shirt made that says "None of your damn business"?


* Yes this is a common theme at the moment. I don't know why I'm particularly hot about it right now, I guess it's just a confluence of things I am experiencing on- and off-blog, which compel me to write it all out in a bid to understand it better and to find some solutions that will banish my frustration at being in a women's body which so many people seem to think they have more right to control than I do.