Wednesday, September 30, 2009

'change we can believe in'

This week I went along to the World Press Photo Exhibition. I wasn't surprised to see that 95% of the images were of death, war and children being subjected to both of the former elements of the societies they live in.

What did I expect? So rarely is good news headlines. In fact usually good news is relegated to the back of Woman's Day in the 'Thanks a Bunch' section where a good samaritan is nominated, and a bunch of flowers and some chocolates are couriered to them.

Whoop de ruddy woo. I saw 'celebrations' of people in the exhibition, but was it a celebration? And what are we as humanity celebrating by paying our $2 to walk in and add yet another level of desensitisation and 'it makes you think you know...'?

Because in reality, the 5% of photos that were happy, full of life were merely entertaining us by portarying different cultures in (usually an) Eastern civilised country wearing native dress and donning toothy smiles. Oh, and the history making moments in which Barack Obama was elected president and promised a change we can believe in.

Ironic, sad, futile that this 'change' that you, me and every Miss World contestant hopes, prays and wishes for was documented and exhibited amongst photos of grief and destruction. A mother of two who had been shot by gangs in South America and lay on the dusty main street with children looking on from a combi van.

A buried Chinese man, dead in rubble after the devastating earthquake that killed thousands, head the only part of his body uncovered. And photographed.

From memory the only faces I was familiar with were those of Barack Obama and Dennis Hopper (a big deal in France apparently). Every other face was either one that stared through you with a reflection of the photographer in their eyes, or stared at nothing while a scene was unfurling around them and they had either accepted that this was their life, knew no other life, or had deemed their own life worthless.

What I genuinely feel torn over is how I feel about photographers in this sense. On Radio Live once, and I forget the listener's name who rang in to speak to Marcus Lush, but he made an excellent point when finally fed up with people accusing photographers of being 'vultures'.

Basically, he said that something in a photographer is different when it comes to moments. He joked that he didn't know whether it was a switch they were born with in their brains, or a chemical imbalance: because, he admitted, it is awful to have your first instinct as 'quick, grab the camera'. They know it, but that is simply the way they are.

Wonderful or heartbreaking- whatever moments we come across, most of us decide one of a few options. We watch in horror/pleasure. We turn away. We become a part of it. We help those who need help.

But a photographer, a born photographer, will do their utmost to record such moments, exhaust every option to make damn sure it's on film. They remain...a voyeur if you will, of what is unfurling. For posterity, to inform society, to shape history. Their 'job' as they see it, is not to interfere. They're job is to remain outside the bubble and simply ensure that the actions within that bubble are passed from their cameras into the hands of those that tell us the day's news, or write tomorrow's history books.

I want to end on a happy, not intense, thought-provoking aspect of the exhibition that has made me smile. Anthony Amato, the cutest Artistic Director ever, conducting the orchestra at 319 the Bowery on Second street.

A face I am now familiar with because of the exhibition is old time opera theatre cutie, New Yorker Anthony Amato, who had kept his legendary 'shabby' Amato Opera going since opening the doors in 1948. Sadly the passing of his wife, (whom he had been married to when they opened their doors 61 years ago) in 2000 meant he has struggled in recent years. Every season they put on 6 operas, and they'd offer low prices so that it was affordable and accessible for anyone to go to the Opera. How amazing is that! It was a smaller orchestra than usual but I suppose over time it developed a cult following, particularly as it gained a reputation for nurturing up and coming singers.

It's characters like Tony Amato that continually help to make the everyday lives of people lucky enough to be living in a safe part of the world. I'm not saying I want to turn a blind eye to the atrocities of war, and of people who are less fortunate, absolutely not. Ignorance may be bliss, but to proudly mix adages here, it probably breeds comtempt as well.

What I resent I suppose is the lack of recognition that people in our backyards get beyond Jim Mora's Mucking In and getting a telegram from the Queen once you hit 100 years of age. Not everyone will get 15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol, and looking at the awe-inspiring photos in the World Press exhibition, some that do will go down in history without a name, a title, or a home.

Is this a can of worms? Is there a change on the horizon we can believe in?

Until next time,


Monday, September 28, 2009

HAPPY HOUR: free dreams and 2-4-1 topics

I thought every Tuesday I'd crank a Happy Hour here at The Whisky Bar.

2 topics. 3 images per topic. You interpret the topics. No words apart from the title. Because let's be honest. I ramble. And everyone needs time to be left alone, to hang out at the bar and have a quiet sip, to be outside, at the beach, at home, in the car...anywhere you can daydream. It's essential for everyone. Even me, especially me.

So enjoy Happy Hour...

Until next time!



Sunday, September 27, 2009

Never imagine the speaker naked: no matter how attractive.

The title can be credited to a gem of advice from Sam Martin's G is for Gentleman which was published in 2003 (you can be linked to the UK Men's Health review here) and in my humble opinion, should be the ubiquitous tome for males gracing this earth. It is social gold.

According to Martin, no doubt via Miss Manners, or Emily Post, a 'real and true gentleman' is:
  1. in possession of an outstanding character
  2. never late
  3. always discreet
  4. never arrogant
  5. of impeccable manners
  6. always well spoken
  7. immaculately dressed at all times
  8. in possession of good social skills
  9. in possession of a genuine concern for others
  10. forthright enough to never make excuses
The hello kiss: do it with confidence, especially in Rome: do as the Romans do. This isn't a sensual event.
In 1922 Emily Post (1873-1960) published her book Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. A well near exhaustive work of reference in which she details how to behave courteously, dress accordingly, play sports appropriately and live graciously in all aspects of life.

Post's work covers both female and male etiquette, and while the usual gentlemanly behaviours were covered- never allow a lady to walk on the road side of the footpath, always offer your hand whilst getting out of the car to name just two, I sensed early feminism which, while it certainly didn't promote burning bras, affirmed the female place in society back in the 20's as beginning to have a sense of a independence. Apparently if you were meeting a gentleman friend on the way to a 'house party', he should by no means pay for your fare. Also, if a gentleman happens to come across a female companion as she buys a small item at a stall, leave her to pay before carrying on the conversation.

The 'sports' section was, quite simply, ruddy hilarious. The golf excerpt nothing short of brilliant, although it does dispel the (potential) urban myth of GOLF standing for 'Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden'...?

Golf is a particularly severe strain upon the amiabnd in no other game, except bridge, is serenity of disposition so essential. No one easily “ruffled” can keep a clear eye on the ball, and exasperation at “lost balls” seemingly bewitches successive ones into disappearing with the completeness and finality of puffs of smoke. In a race or other test of endurance a flare of anger might even help, but in golf it is safe to say that he who loses his temper is pretty to lose the game.
A young woman must on no account expect the man she happens to be playing with to make her presents of golf-balls, or to caddy for her, nor must she allow him to provide her with a caddy. If she can’t afford to hire one of her own, she must either carry her own clubs or not play golf.

To be honest I was more interested to find out what is...not expected, but what is appreciated in a gentleman in today's world. Luckily there are a few characters around the world who think the same and have taken it upon themselves to write turn-of-the-millennium 'updates'. My favourite found at the library was Sam Martin's 'G is for Gentleman', with an excellent forward by butler Rick Fink.
And if you're not an aspiring gentleman? You should be. I'm not the feminist that my foremothers are probably begging me to be from their graves, but the reality is tradition is making a comeback. For my birthday I received the recipe book Ladies, A Plate, which was published in 2008, and holds recipes tried and tested by the author that date back to the early part of the 20th century. Now, if us girls are going to be in the kitchen (which the title of said recipe book suggests...), albeit with a test match or two in the background on tv, then it's fair to say we wouldn't mind our men, no matter what role they may play in our lives, to continue to adopt those lovely aspects that were prevalent in the very same days dinner was served at 6pm on the dot with slippers ready at the door and a sweet bread and butter pudding for dessert.

I'll leave you with my favourites from G is for Gentleman.....

Until next time,


There are a few styles of shake that will doom you from the word go. One is the limp shake, by which you just hold out your hand but don't squeeze. If you're on the giving end, this feels similar to firmly grabbing a flabby, lifeless, tenderloin steak. It's unpleasant, to say the least.

Gentlemen travel in numbers- so if you're in the know, and the rest of your posse is in the dark, it's up to you to illuminate them.

When listening, never interrupt to take a phone call, say hi to passers-by or pet a small animal.

Never imagine the speaker naked, no matter how attractive.

Things to say when: greeting a blind date-
  • 'Thanks for meeting me'
  • You look great.

Monday, September 21, 2009

All Blacks: heroes of the nation once more by a vital cog...

I always enjoy 'ratings' of players. Everyone does it when it comes to union as well.

It generates sparks of chat, each respected voice carrying valid points to back their picks/highest rated players. Legends that hail from regions all over New Zealand are able to somehow infer that their players hold the characteristics typical of a generation that now happily dote on today's All Blacks and the bright future they hold. Every father and son in the country debating key players, every group of young bachelors talking at the television as Somerfield rattles off the weekend's events.

What I do find interesting though is that these ratings are out of 10. Sure Robson has score mainly middle of the road ratings, but none below 5.

The nature of the beast that is rugby union in this country is to criticise but to justify.

It's as if every Joe Public is an All Black as well and feels the need to never put the neck fully on the line to hammer Henry et al as to what is going wrong. We say that "at this level, there's no excuse" for school boy mistakes: well, why have these mistakes occurred? Complex play marred the basics: I'd love to know what, and how long for, fundamentals are covered in training sessions.

France and other Northern Hemisphere teams win by kicking. Basic.
South Africa wins with, well, hot men that have brawn. Kidding. Kind of. They play astutely, and with an unquivering sense of determination. As for skills, jacks of all trades, and mastering them too.

The All Blacks are trying to reinvent the wheel. A step back from that on Saturday, and hey presto! A trouncing of the Aussies.

Anyway, as per, I digress.

Kudos should go to Tom Donnelly for a sound debut on the weekend, lineouts that had been of such concern somehow became a factor of the game that the Aussies could not contest. Bizarre.

As for what is now my usual backing for Stephen Donald? He'll come right (am I backing the wrong horse out of stubbornness or am I fighting the Tall Daniel Carter Poppy fight?)

If he has heart, and we have had glimpses of the player he is (just like the player Henry and Smith was waiting for in Toeava...and got on Saturday), surely experience and guidance will ensure he is the man to be Carter's 2IC?

Right, the ratings. Thoughts on this one courtesy of Tony Robson? I think Tony Woodcock being described as a 'vital cog' is my pick of the summaries...

Ratings for the All Blacks over the nine test matches played so far in 2009:

Mils Muliaina (9 tests) 5.5
Never regained the form and confidence of last season and seemed to struggle with the lack of space to counterattack, losing his instinctive running game as he mulled over whether to kick or run.
Cory Jane (6 tests) 7.5
Strangely cast off after the win over Australia in Auckland, but deserves a regular start either on the wing or at fullback. Has all the skills a modern player needs.
Joe Rokocoko (8 tests) 5
His last test was his best, but still short of the pace that has marked his career.
Sitiveni Sivivatu (5 tests) 7
Disrupted by injury, but unrivalled ability to break the line. Scored just one try, but created countless opportunities.
Conrad Smith (5 tests) 6.5
Injury curtailed his progress, but it was business as usual for the solid centre with few mistakes, and one brilliant try against South Africa in Bloemfontein.
Isaia Toeava (5 tests) 6.5
Has he finally matured? Toeava produced a compelling finish to the season off the bench in Hamilton and for 80 minutes in Wellington. Has acceleration that could be devastating at test level and may be worth further consideration at centre.
Ma'a Nonu (9 tests) 7
The All Blacks' leading tryscorer this season with four, Nonu should not be shuffled from second-five again. Devastating ball-carrier and even when marked draws in defenders.
Luke McAlister (6 tests) 5
Broken cheekbone in Sydney summed up a disappointing return from Europe that did not go to plan. Will probably feature in future plans, but needs a big improvement.
Stephen Donald (7 tests) 5
A big heart, but continues to struggle with the pace of test rugby. Kicking game is too erratic the All Blacks need to develop a better backup for Dan Carter.
Dan Carter (3 tests) 7
Came back to kick the matchwinner in Sydney and immediately steadied the ship with his assured tactical kicking, decision-making and goalkicking. Class player.
Jimmy Cowan (7 tests) 6.5
Defensively brilliant and tough as teak, but option-taking, at times, and kicking game both still need to improve.
Kieran Read (9 tests) 7.5
The find of the season. Grew into his task with each test and has a firm hold on the No8 jersey. Exciting prospect.
Richie McCaw (9 tests) 7.5
Inspirational in Wellington and consistent throughout. A questionable call to turn down a penalty kick in Hamilton and needs a backup to ease his load through to the World Cup.
Jerome Kaino (7 tests) 6
Consistent without getting back to his barnstorming best with ball in hand.
Adam Thomson (3 tests) 6.5
Unwisely tried at openside flanker in the first test of the year, but finished with a blinder in Wellington at No6. Sure to get further chances.
Brad Thorn (9 tests) 8
Probably the pick of the All Blacks' pack in terms of consistently turning out quality efforts. Questions over whether he will last to the World Cup, but a key man in the current squad.
Isaac Ross (8 tests) 6.5
Has to shoulder some of the blame for the lineout wobbles as he was calling them, but overall a solid start to his test career. Probably needs to bulk up, but only a matter of time before he establishes himself at this level.
Neemia Tialata (5 tests) 5.5
Responded positively to being dropped lost weight and produced a strong finish in Wellington. Remains the best tighthead, but must not let up on fitness before the end-of-year tour.
Tony Woodcock (9 tests) 7
A vital cog and unchallenged as the incumbent loosehead. Got better as the season progressed after overcoming a lingering ear infection.
Owen Franks (6 tests) 6.5
A big find for the All Blacks and probably surprised with how well he stepped up to test rugby. Will only get better.
Andrew Hore (7 tests) 6.5
Took a while to get back to his best form and was not helped by the lineout malfunctioning at various times.
Keven Mealamu (6 tests) 6.5
Was starting to regain the zest that marked his early career before injury curtailed his season. Will be missed on the end-of-year tour.

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Donald ducks another match on the bench!

I thought today's post would be a little nod to John McBeth's blog on the tvnz website. I personally cannot wait to see how the five-eighths positions work out this Saturday against the 'boks in the 'tron. Despite the fact that both Carter and Donald play the same position, and Carter is the preferred 1st V, I think this match will see a few eyes opened.

Kicking is (obviously) such an integral part of the 1st V position. But look at other aspects of it, and Stephen Brett's game for Canterbury against the Steamers on the 5th September is a good example. Despite the Crusaders losing, and Brett's kicking game not being fantastic, he was the central figure in many of the plays throughout the game. It helps if you are a sound passer in both directions, just like centre, but in the case of the 1st V, have that extra agility to move away from the thick of it as well.

What I think the public need to see is how Donald plays without the pressure of point scoring as a tactical player alongside Carter: Nonu isn't going to be as calculating as Conrad Smith in the centre position, he does play more on instinct and his presence is his strength. I'm excited about this combination. It made me flustered when I initially read that Muliaina was suggested to move to no no no no no no. After Slade's disappointing match on Saturday, he should not be a starter for full back.

But this is all just one lass' opinion...

Until next time. Good luck to the ABs this weekend!


Monday, September 7, 2009

ERO reviews: how long is too long?

Tonight on 60 Minutes was a tear jerking (well, for the more sensitive souls in life...) segment on South Auckland's multiple site school, Felix Donnelly College, and its probable closure after the fourth consecutive damning review from ERO.

I did that thing one does when a newspiece irks one.

I raised my voice at the television.

I am so angry at the Ministry of Education*. Deputy secretary for Special Education Nicholas Pole admitted he had not been to the site (or rather one of the sites) , but 'had seen the photographs and was deeply concerned'. How long does the Ministry of Education need before a decision maker attends a site and puts their money, our money, where their mouth, their policies and their values are? I hate it when politicians continually attract bad raps, for I cannot help but still hold hope that they all mean well somewhere in their mad methods, but in this case? I'm pretty ruddy annoyed.

'Deeply concerned' is one of my favourite phrases under the umbrella of 'talk's cheap'. We need more people who make the decisions on the fate of our youth in this country to do so wearing blue collars instead of white. In contrast to Pole, the (now former) principal of Felix Donnelly, Therese Ireland, was an articulate, (seemingly) dedicated patron of education for the troubled and disadvantaged youth of New Zealand. While she wore a questionable fuschia silk jacket for the interview, she appeared to be the best thing for that school and yet her efforts were futile.

I felt like I was looking at photos from a bombsite in Baghdad. And yet if I so desired, I could fly to Auckland and be at the site of those photos in 90 minutes.

How unfair it seems to know that carers asscociated with the Youthlink school (Youthlink is an agency that comes under CYF. It's typically aimed at those children who are at early adolescent level and strives to put these cases into schools) that is Felix Donnelly have now been 'moved along' from their home where they looked after many of the students. These students who have NEVER had a chance at leading the kinds of lives you and I have known. We will more than likely continue to know 'the good life' and impart those same opportunities on to our own children, at least to the best of our abilities.

From what little experience I have of cases where children have been subjected to such disgusting behaviour, I cannot believe that the one haven they are entitled to live one part of their lives in, their school, is yet another institution in which they are not safe. They are being 'educated' by those who either initially had the desire to make change and lost their way at an early hurdle, or 'fell in to teaching because I didn't know what else to do at uni'.

Only on the 2nd September, the NZ Herald published this article on the imminent end of an era for Waimokoia school in Auckland. While annoying that we are only hearing about it now (police involvement may have hurried that along!), and despite subtle (or not-so-subtle, depending on the individual's take on the media) digs at the school being on valuable property in Half Moon Bay (if the middle/upper class are affected, it WILL make the news), and suggestions that a student's story is not always feasible (a fair enough subtlety to include in this case, perhaps, but I always try and remember that where there's smoke, there's fire), I was still glad that the public were being made aware of such an event.

Perhaps Nicholas Pole and/or Anne Tolley could book airfares to Auckland, kill 2 birds with one stone, visit both schools, meet some of the students, the principals and perhaps even a woodwork teacher or two before making final decisions on the fate of both decile 1 schools? Hell, really make it look like a long trip by visiting Dilworth, a school where the criteria for entrance too is adversity, but because Dilworth is decile 5, it may make for nice photos. I know from sports exchanges in my school years that they have excellent grounds. They'll probably score some jam and scones too. Yum.

Before I leave this intense post for your consideration (first one back after a couple of weeks and I'm loaded with material!), one thing I took from the May ERO report (all reports are made public by the way: it makes for interesting reading if you have the inclination!) was their comment on the 'selling' point Felix Donnelly has. At most, the school has adopted, and maintained, a ratio of 1:6 teacher:student. Apparently, this ratio is both overwhelming and unsuccessful. Students don't have the privacy or time to think.

While this makes complete sense, I wonder if a vicious cycle has been established in amongst the hideous buildings that the staff have built this false sense of 'teamwork' that is disproved in the ERO report ("poor quality of teaching in the school, the professional isolation of the staff, and their lack of willingness to engage in worthwhile professional learning" was my pick of the findings) because of the level of delinquency that is inevitable at a Youthlink school...easy to judge from the outside in a pristine white shirt...

Until next time.


* hyerplinked to the Minedu decision under the Labour government to close down St. Stephen's School in South Auckland in 2000.

Think this is a dram worth recommending?