Monday, September 30, 2013

The struggle for democracy



Short of social structures collapsing completely, you don’t stop teaching children just because there’s a war. My father’s time at primary school, for instance, coincided almost to the day with the Italian involvement in the Second World War, and continued when he had to leave Milan during the bombings. He would have been taught notions not vastly dissimilar to these. I wonder how the lessons changed in 1943, when we switched sides.

In April of 1944, Cadbury Brothers Limited of Bourneville produced, and the University of London Press distributed, a book for use in British schools. This one.


The struggle for democracy is not a topic that my parents would have had the opportunity to learn about, but this small book is not just a document of the ideological conflict in Europe at the time. Set against the current discourse around inequality, it also provides a historical link to some key contemporary ideas and rhetorical strategies

The most striking and appealing aspect of the book is what the author – one W.E. Brown – calls 'its visual method'. I’d argue that the main instrument of persuasion of today’s anti-inequality campaigners is a similarly didactic graphical presentation of statistics. While he may not be the originator of this style, I associate this approach particularly with Robert Reich, notably in his video The truth about the economy (with a strong local echo in this presentation featuring David Cunliffe).


The Struggle for Democracy was written on the eve of what Reich calls The Great Prosperity, albeit in a different country – the author laments in fact how ‘every country in the world wants to buy from America’, portending to economic troubles down the line. That’s the other element of historical interest: the snapshot of social democracy as an idea at the moment of its greatest promise, yet tinged with scepticism concerning how far this idea could go in perfecting society and curing it of its ills.

But first there’s the myth of origin. In spite of the book’s title, it seems that it took very little struggle to achieve democracy in Britain. Only two specific incidents of repression are mentioned: the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, and the transportation to Australia of the ‘Tolpuddle martyrs’, six Dorset farm Labourers guilty of joining the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers in 1834.


Elsewhere, police intervention is implicitly presented as the natural State response to sedition. We learn for instance that all but the ‘sober working-men leaders’ of the Chartist movement ‘followed an excitable Irishman named Feargus O’Connor, who encouraged them to strike and riot’ (leading to hundreds of arrests), and that ‘the most violent supporters of [the women’s Suffrage] movement, the Sufragettes… had many bitter encounters with the law.’ But it was jobs for women in the Great War that made their demand for the vote irresistible, and so too every piece of social reform – from the extensions of the franchise to the introduction of social services – is attributed to enlightened politicians or wealthy reformers: Robert Owen, Jeremy Bentham, Lord Shaftesbury, Lord Beveridge. The British working class was never an agent of its own destiny.

The struggle for democracy is therefore primarily a struggle of reason, and for reason, and the British model of social democracy itself is presented as a technology for improving society as much as a system of government inspired by a set of humanistic principles. ‘Practical idealists improve housing, but better planning of housing must follow,’ proclaims the author, pitting the urban squalor of Dickens’ Hard Times against a modern planned ‘garden city’.



It is the rational reorganization of municipal councils that allows the citizens’ representatives to manage and improve the nation's cities.


But nowhere is democratic progress more measurable than in the area of social services. In this table, included in the 1950 revised edition of the book, every bit of social spending is carefully laid out. Each symbol represents 10 million pounds sterling of expenditure in education, health, housing and so forth, and a transparent, proportionally large benefit to the collective.

Click to enlarge
This is the high point. When this table was drawn, the New Zealand Labour Social Security Minister had not long since declared to an audience including WB Sutch that ‘everything was done’, meaning that all the social progress that it might be possible to wish for or imagine had been achieved. It was, if not the end of history, perhaps the end of politics – certainly of emancipatory politics.

The Struggle for Democracy devotes to this high point its boldest page. According to its design, the aim of the welfare state is defeat the five chief enemies of society as identified by William Beveridge – Idleness, Want, Disease, Ignorance and Squalor – via the application of (respectively) full employment, social insurance, health services, education acts and town planning.

Click to enlarge
But then, in perplexing fashion, a page directly follows, not glossing but in fact questioning this design. The heading is ‘The problems of the welfare state’. Of these, some are economic and not entirely unreasonable – balance of payment issues and dependence on the Marshall plan; reduced competition among businesses; inflation resulting from excessive bargaining power of a fully employed workforce – whereas one, with which we are all too familiar, is moral: do we think carefully enough ‘before helping ourselves to the benefits provided by the State?’ Do others? Will a society that has reached true social security still be motivated to work hard?


Of social democracy, nowadays, there remains but a husk. Robert Reich will continue to measure the staggering growth in wealth inequality in the United States between 1980 and today as if 1980 were a time to be nostalgic for; a time of social justice. Whereas in New Zealand, the Labour Party will continue to preach full employment as a workable solution in a post-Keynesian world, and leave unanswered the question of what to do with the people who won’t be able to work all those ghost jobs. They’ll likely remain ‘a moral problem’, and continue to be punished so that everyone else may be motivated to work hard. As for those who might aspire to a more radical kind of justice, ‘socialism is not a word I would use’, and ‘the “revolution” is the accumulation of the progressive choices that left-wing people of goodwill make every minute of every day’. These are the carefully patrolled limits of our politics.

The strange struggle without strife of this little book captures well our singular paradox: of living the day after the best of all possible worlds, wishing to recapture that which we never really had; or that, even if we thought had it, we always knew it wouldn’t last.





Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Faith in numbers



An update on our dealings with special education, to document and reflect upon a recent experience.

These days if your child receives targeted school funding on account of a severe disability, you no longer risk dropping out of the scheme if she ‘improves’ too much, but you still have to go through periodic reviews of the level of support she’ll receive. This is a process known as moderation, and it works on the principle that there is a fixed budget, and that it should be distributed according to need. Consider that we’re talking about children with the very highest needs in the country. The top percentile. Recall also that to access to the scheme is by way of a very strict competition (we’ll call it ‘New Zealand’s Got Needs’). So this logic of apportioning of the budget – or pulling of the much-too-short blanket – neatly follows. We evaluate. We award. We moderate. The Education Ministry, in fact, has stopped referring to targeted funding as a provision. It’s now a contribution, presumably on the grounds that one could complain that a provision is inadequate, whereas a contribution amounts to less than what you need by definition.


So from the beginning your child has partial rights. Subject to resourcing. Depending on the needs of somebody else. A warped principle of equity operates here, as if the goal were to ensure that everyone misses out to the same degree. But with a perverse twist, in that if a successful programme has caused the child to find the school environment less disabling, this will lead directly to a reduction of the funding that goes towards that programme. The message to the child is this: overcome the barriers that surround you at your peril.

Moderation involves rating the child according to seven categories: Physical Tasks and Mobility, Sensory, Learning, Eating and/or Drinking, Communication, Behaviour, and Toileting. Each category is rated from 0 to 4, where 0 indicates ‘typical age of peers,’ thus requiring ‘no supervision/support beyond school’s regular systems,’ and numbers 1 to 4 indicate the need for increasing levels of support in order to enable the child to be at school, with descriptors that vary according to each category. So, for instance, a rating of 4 under Communication is described as follows:
Student requires total support to engage in all communication activities. Alternative and/or augmentative systems are always required. Specialist support and programmes in place. (Emphasis as per the original.)

It’s demoralising to face an institution such as the Education Ministry when it reverts to the deficit model or, worse, asks you to follow that model to describe your child. Our regular meetings around our daughter’s individual education plan are all about developing her strengths and understanding the complexity of her relationships. But today we’ve gone back describing in painstaking detail how much she is less than her peers. As always, we’re familiar with the game: she needs to score highly, that is to say, badly. This afternoon, in this room, we’re going to be happy that she can’t tie her shoes, and do lots of other things.

We heard the stories about the old reviews, when you could still fall out of the scheme, about parents doing things they knew would make their child distressed so he would be at his worst in front of the assessor. This process and these forms are benign in comparison. There is something almost comforting about their plain pragmatism, and we find we can come to an easy agreement about most things. But it’s in the detail of the process that you lose sight of the whole picture.

We have spent the last hour rating our daughter under all these categories, building a profile that is – in a disheartening way – perfectly accurate within the parameters provided. It’s true for instance that she requires ‘high levels of support to understand and respond to instruction related to typical routine and social interaction’. It even sounds like the kind of information that might help someone respond to that particular need. But what counts isn’t the description, it’s the number. That number is 3. And not only all 3s under Communication are alike, but a 3 under Communication is the same as a 3 under Behaviour, just like a 4 under Learning is the same as a 4 under Eating or Toileting, in that they all contribute to the overall score in the exact same way.


Once the scores from each category have been added up, even that flawed, incomplete picture of the child disappears, leaving just the bigger number. Say, 21. This is the number that the institution needs, since it cannot deal with the description, much less with the story, less still with the layers of context that surround it. Even if one subscribes to the deficit model, a 21 could be made up staggeringly different combinations of physical and intellectual disabilities or impairments. But to the institution, a 21 is a 21, and all 21s are alike. Equivalent, model children to split financial resources between.

The reality of having children at school and enabling them to access the same education as everyone else is a conceptually different kind of problem. It requires thinking of a school’s grounds, of a school’s culture, of the education system itself as the thing that disables, and being prepared to change them. And it is the opposite of rating need. All needs – including the needs of ‘ordinary’ children – are irreducibly complex, and require answers that are infinitely creative. That is the space in which our best teachers work. How we go about supporting them to do this work is a problem, but not one that can be solved with a magical faith in the equivalence of numbers.


We are very fortunate that our local school understands all this – that that they are determined to see our daughter whole, and not as the sum of her discrete shortcomings. But even now we are anxious of what will come after. There is little security for those who depend on love and luck

Monday, September 16, 2013

Commercial art no longer a crime



A guest post by Peter Alsop



In 1951, artist Denis K. Turner was fined 10 shillings, plus another 10 for costs, for painting on a Sunday. The crime wasn’t art; it was commercial art. It was illegal for a ‘tradesperson’ (as distinct from a ‘professional’) to work within view of a public place on a Sunday and, much to Turner’s dismay, the judge deemed his mural for a Karangahape Road motorcycle shop ‘an advertisement rather than valuable as a work of art’.


Dennis Turner's History of Transport mural

While the Turner example is at the extreme, commercial art has long been in the arts gutter; frowned upon as tainted with trade, a sell-out to capitalism or a last gasp for B-grade artists struggling to sell landscapes at the local art fair. Even highly accomplished artists avoided signing commercial work, keen on a ‘cheque’ but trying to avoid reputation loss from the tainted trade.


Billboard design (original artwork), Hillman Hunter, Railways Studios, c.1968, Collection of Peter Alsop

Such adverse perspectives on commercial art come mostly, of course, from those well-skilled in putting art in different boxes with different labels, some apparently automatically finer than others. But is it really a surprise that an art fraternity, founded upon historical definitions of ‘good taste’, would degrade commercial art – unsuited to exhibition slots and glossy catalogues – and instead direct its hyperbole on a ‘sophisticated’ audience elsewhere? Clean white walls. A modernist teak desk. Great jacket – Crane Brothers? Spotlights – just tilt that one a little to the left please … that’s it. Provenance. Oil on canvas. A signature work. Did you see the review? What about the Les and Milly Paris Collection?

The Public Art Gallery and invitation-only dealer gallery are a far cry from the unpredictable, distracted ambience within which commercial art often goes to work. Amongst poles and wires and other viewing limitations, posters and billboards must quickly engage and impress, and turn a split-second glance into something meaningful … and absorbable. And as if that wasn’t hard enough, being sufficiently persuasive and memorable to later finish the job. Is it any wonder that early advertisers trumpeted the ‘spirit of the poster’?


Spirit of the poster, Chandler & Co, c.1930, Auckland Libraries 7-C1802

Of course, things changed in the mid-late 1950s with the emergence of Pop art – a celebration of art and advertising; art confessing it was an advert or at least embracing advertising as prime content. Pop art would quickly become some of the most revered art in the world and, both at the time and since, in New Zealand as well. However, while Pop art did commercial art some favours, it also underscored that context is (apparently) everything. It is not an artwork itself that determines value, but who approves of it and in what setting – an art gallery versus a local run-down dairy; canvas or paper; or framed for exhibition or in a comic book or magazine. It is not enough to be a great artist; one has to be a great artist at the right time in the right place, comments from the ‘right’ commentators, the ‘right’ critics and the ‘best’ galleries. Pop art made it acceptable for an art gallery to receive, measure and approve of such work, even though its fundamental existence was often owed to a large number of unheralded artists working in a different genre. (Lichtenstein’s use of comic images by other artists being a well-documented example.)

Outside the gallery, art historian Warren Feeney has argued that
a more generous consideration of the history of New Zealand art would acknowledge that, although its purpose may differ, commercial art has played an important role in the country’s cultural development, even anticipating radical advances in the fine arts or, at the very least, reflecting shifts in contemporary art in the popular media. The fine arts have been fortunate to share a reciprocal relationship with commercial art – an arts practice that exists beyond the confines of the space of the gallery, readily and eagerly finding its way into the wider community, and growing potential audiences for the fine arts. [1]
That Feeney’s perspective is revisionist is surprising – to put it kindly – and it reflects poorly on the scope, generosity and accuracy of New Zealand’s present art history. The visual arts clearly have had, and will always have, a far wider influence on us than just the clean white space of the gallery. The interplay of fine and commercial art has also been much more extensive than typically acknowledged.

At the top of the pile, Colin McCahon was (in his own words) clearly influenced by commercial art during his early years in Dunedin:
The hairdresser had his window painted with HAIRDRESSER AND TOBACCONIST. Painted in gold and black on a stippled red ground, the lettering large and bold, with shadows, and a feeling of being projected right through the glass and across the pavement. I watched the work being done and fell in love with signwriting. The grace of the lettering as it arched across the window in gleaming gold, suspended on its dull red field but leaping free from its own black shadow, pointed to a new and magnificent world of painting. … I suppose my present glad acceptance of Pop Art is in some way related to this experience. [2]
(McCahon was also reportedly [3] influenced by a Rinso packet for The King of the Jews (1947). His mural designs for oil-giant Caltex are further commercially-influenced works. [4])


Rinso, Unknown artist, c.1950, Collection of Windmill Books

Rita Angus (then Cook) was also not immune from commercial influence (quite aside from her own graphic bookplate and cartoons). Christchurch Art Gallery note that ‘[Louise] Henderson and Angus developed a strikingly similar style, most obviously in their use of defined shapes, blocks of strong colour and a clear pervading light’ [5] – a familiar sounding style to this story. And as for potential commercial influences on her celebrated self-portrait of sophisticated independence, there were likely many. It hasn’t, though, been fashionable to celebrate such commercial foreplay, particularly not with an artist as fine as Rita Angus.


ATM Cigarettes, Gilbert Meadows, c.1933, Collection of Ron Meadows

William McCahon also recalls [6] his father’s like of Disney’s Donald Duck cartoonist, Carl Barks, and his combination of words and images – who would have thought? And, furthermore, that his father stated that Six Days in Nelson and Canterbury (1959) evolved out of the comic book format (often regarded as a form of commercial art). And then there is scale: McCahon’s 1959 Northland Panels, panelled like a comic strip, breaking free from the small scale of New Zealand painting up until that time [7]… except that is for the large hand-painted billboards that had graced the streets and countryside of New Zealand for many decades (even if ignored as serious art works).


Painting billboards, Railways Studios, c.1958, Collection of Alan Love

Billboards weren’t, however, ignored altogether. Almost as soon as giant posters and hoardings appeared, complaints arose regarding their visual pollution. A surprise defender – including interestingly of their artistic merit – was the Prince of Wales:
I do not for a moment believe industrial and artistic development are necessarily antagonistic. ... Our Hoardings might now be called without exaggeration the art galleries of the great public. [8]
The Duke of York would also speak of ‘the prestige of poster advertising’. [9]

While a number of companies produced hand-painted advertisements – recognising of course the limitations of printing technology at the time – for around 70 years the design studio of the Government’s Railways Department dominated outdoor advertising in New Zealand; a fact that takes many by surprise. Some of the stories of the Railways Studios are recounted in Promoting Prosperity (my own essay, ‘Pulling Power: Railways Advertising’). In an interview for the book, Ross Ritchie – now a respected post-Modern painter – started his apprenticeship at 15 and, despite feeling in prison at times, was
very, very glad for the experience. It whet my appetite about painting … It ingrained the skills. But it was broad enough and unstyled enough to not interfere once I got into the serious thing of making art. [10]
Even (former) commercial artists, it seems, create their own distinctions.


Outdoor Advertising, Railways Studios, 1936-37, Railways Magazine, Collection of Peter Alsop

However one might draw the definitional lines, arts commentators Jim Barr and Mary Barr say it all while saying a little:
Advertising and promotion have produced some of New Zealand's most dynamic and entertaining imagery but our art history has mostly ignored it as a source of either insight or information. 
It's high time that changed.




Footnotes: 
1. Warren Feeney, ‘High Art: The Fine Art of Commercial Art’ in Peter Alsop, Gary Stewart and Dave Bamford, Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, 2012, p. 73.
2. Marja Bloem and Martin Browne, Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith, first published by Craig Potton Publishing and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2002, p. 160. Available at www.mccahon.co.nz/files/Q_of_F-Part1.pdf
4. www.mccahon.co.nz/search/node/caltex
5. http://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/collection/objects/2003-95/
6. Personal communication with Warren Feeney, February 2013, related to his research for Gruesome! The Influence of Comics on Contemporary New Zealand Artists, 1999, p. 6. Published by McDougall Art Annex, feature essay Born Under a Bad Sign by Warren Feeney. Source reference for William McCahon’s comments: Wham, bam: striking a blow for art by Micheal Hewitson, The New Zealand Herald, 7 September 1995, Section 4, p. 1.
7. Gordon H. Brown, New Zealand Painting 1940–1960 Conformity and Dissension. Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, Wellington, 1981.
8. http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=NZTR19290704.2.13.1
9. http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=NZTR19291107.2.31.1
10. Endorsement of Promoting Prosperity, printed in the book.

Cover image: Edward Cole, c.1930, Alexander Turnbull Library C-151-001


This blog is dedicated to the late Ian Scott – 1945-2013. Comfortable himself with commercial art as both influence and subject matter, Scott painted a large number of commercially-inspired works, two of my favourites below (with permission from Scott's family, and with acknowledgement of Warwick Brown's 1997 book, Ian Scott (Marsden Press)).
Ian Scott, 1978, John Daley (from Warwick Brown’s 1997 book Ian Scott, Marsden Press)


Hairdresser and Tobacconist, Ian Scott, 1988, Acrylic and enamel on canvas, 1830x4260m, Collection of James Wallace Arts Trust

The Drink Drive Painting, Ian Scott, 1993, Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 1980x3960m

A little note from me, seeing as this is the first guest post I’ve run. Peter is the co-author, along with designer Gary Stewart, of Promoting Prosperity, a book on the significance of early commercial art in New Zealand art and social history. Their previous title, Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism, was – for reasons that should be entirely obvious to readers of this blog – one of my favourite books of last year . You can read another of Peter’s essays and view a gallery of images from Selling the Dream at Public Address, where he’s also written about the new book.
Promoting Prosperity is launching next month and is also available from the book’s website (with a 10% discount, and free shipping within New Zealand.) Go buy it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Crepereia Tryphaena



They found her in the spring of 1889, lying eight metres under what was to become the Palace of Justice in Rome. Over the centuries her sepulchre had been flooded by the Tiber, so the first thing they saw when they removed the lid of the sarcophagus was her long hair waving in the water. They said that her head was leaning slightly to the left, as if gazing at the small wooden doll lying by her side.

Latin funerary inscriptions often explain the circumstances of a person’s life or death, but of this young patrician woman we’re only given the name: Crepereia Tryphaena.

Crepereia was buried in her wedding dress (although only the accessories have survived), which suggests an age of around thirteen. On her finger was a golden ring bearing the name Filetus, but this is not to say that the couple had been married. The fact that Crepereia was buried with her doll indicates that the ceremony might not have yet taken place, in light of the custom to offer the toy to Venus or the lares on that day.


The doll is also the reason why the name of Crepereia Tryphaena is still spoken. It was one of those fortuitous, unlikely discoveries: the child bride lying next to that smaller version of herself. The story of the unearthing, told in all its vivid detail, moved the city at the time and led to commemorations in the quarter for years to come. It doesn’t matter that the waving hair wasn’t hair at all, but an alga that had grown in thin filaments on the top of her skull. It matters even less that the doll was made not of oak but of ivory, browned and cracked by the elements. It was a story destined to be popular, and in that story the doll’s likeness will forever be linked to the girl’s name.


Crepereia-the-doll wore jewellery and likely a wedding dress of her own. Her tiny golden ring was attached to a key for opening an equally tiny chest containing two ivory combs and a silver mirror. The doll’s own things.




I saw all of these objects in 1982, at an exhibition at the archaeological museum in Milan. Perhaps because I was myself 11 years old at the time, the doll and her accessories left a vivid impression. I thought, I think, that there was something universal in that display, something essential, outside of culture, about being a little boy or a little girl. Yet at the same time uncanny: that this toy should be so modern, its flexible joints looking just like those of my own dolls (which, because I was a boy, were called robots).


Used as I was, due to my family’s interests, to seeing every year hundreds of vases and other adult accessories of the ancient world, I finally found an object whose use I could plainly relate to. But I underestimated culture. This doll had little in common with my toys, and not just because it would have been proportionately a great deal more expensive; there were meanings attached to it, pointing to a world of symbols and myth, of gendered norms and social roles, only some of which we can grasp.

Most obviously, there is the doll’s final use, as an offering to the goddess. This is the end that the Pixar toys could only dream of: not just an afterlife but a sublimation, an apotheosis. Yet in that final embrace there is another message: that Crepereia stood at a threshold between two stages of life. She was now as old as the doll, that idealised simulacrum of her young adulthood. Together they would go to marry, and then Crepereia-the-woman would go on living, but not the Crepereia-the-doll. In that votive offering, that radical repurposing – from toy to highly and wholly symbolic object – the doll would preserve the essence of Crepereia’s in-between state, thus crystallize an entire set of expectations concerning the lives of aristocratic women.

But it never happened. Crepereia died, in circumstances that we cannot know, and so ironically to us the doll now really is her: a fixed image, or frozen frame, of a person that really was. And it doesn’t matter that it’s unlikely that the doll was actually fashioned by its artisan in the girl’s image. We cannot help transferring that semblance any more than the ancients could help reading stories into the accidents of the physical world. There she is.




You can see the doll of Crepereia Tryphaena at the Musei Capitolini in Rome. The images are scanned from the small catalogue of the exhibition in Milan. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Five.


I have a small obsession with legends. No, not the mythical tales. Map keys. Were I organised and enthusiastic enough, I would collect them in a tumblr, which I would call legends without maps (as a homage, perhaps).

When I look for second-hand books these days, I always browse the maps section, but half the time what I’m after are the legends. This, from a wonderful book of maps of the interventions of the Italian ‘Fund for the South’, is my current favourite example of hyper-specific legend. The second item down is ‘X-ray laboratories and tuberculosis dispensaries’.


Whereas in a more recent acquisition – Bacon’s All Essential School Atlas, published in Scotland by GW Bacon & Co. in 1946 – I came across some of the most brutally schematic and least specific legends I’ve ever encountered. None more (or less) so than this one.


New old books. This is the time of the year, etc. The cover of Galbraith’s Economics and the Public Purpose predates Pacman by six years.


This edition of Towards Nationhood (thanks, Dougal) still contained an invitation to a cocktail party featuring Big Norm himself. Entry: 30 cents.



Also spotted for me by Dougal, the first issue of the journal AND.


I head more quickly to the magazine tables at the big fairs now. Mirror, the New Zealand National Home Journal, May 1944.


Country Life Annual, 1951. Absolutely everything you need to know on how to polish your silver or service the Bentley.


Then Gulliver, Life, Woman and Home – as a map of sorts to make sense of the Sixties. Amongst the best finds, a bunch of issues of Broadsheet.




Back to the books. One must replenish the stocks of the classics.




Broaden past horizons.




Grab whatever Stanislav Lem is at hand.


Outmoded, outdated books for children. You know what I like.



At least one book bought at a fair has to be totally implausible. The American Meat Institute’s Book of Presidential Trivia and Meat Facts is that book.


One of the year’s highlights has been an invitation to talk at Writers on Mondays along with the esteemable Danyl McLachlan and Dave Armstrong. Even at this event I managed to score two books, on loan from an extremely kind and thoughtful reader. These to me are the best. The books that someone thinks you ought to read.



***

It's five years to the day since I started this business of blogging. Time enough to declare a result on one of the hypotheses I set out to test: if writing makes time. Which I am now quite conclusively convinced that it does. I can measure the time of life versus the vicissitudes that one can expect to encounter over a five-year period – there have, indeed, been some – and those against this unreasonable discipline of a self-imposed weekly deadline, without which I’d post twice a year, plus or minus two posts. I can further trace how these writings made me think about things and engage with things other than the everyday. This seems to me like extra time which, had I not written, would simply be missing.

You can make a habit of writing, but writing itself rarely resembles a habit, as in something you do absent-mindedly. Even these yearly posts, all more or less identical to one another.

***

There remains to attend to the traditional changing of the banner, which you’ll excuse me for getting childishly excited about. To recap, we’ve had the original one, a drawing by Bert Warter from the 1945 edition of Bruno Furst's Stop Forgetting, whence also this blog's name.


Three successive designs from Shirley Carran.




Last year’s drawing by the great Dylan Horrocks, which has just been retired.


The new banner is the work of the excellent Wellington designer Tim Denee.

Finally: the last yearful of posts in clickable pictorial form. I hope it works.


 The leader vanishes  My own private Aotearoa  The fake shop and nostalgia capitalism
 The Susan Wood trilogy  Share a Coke with Stalin  On not making a living
 The enlightened solution  A woman's place?  What is this coup d'ètat? I know
 The Jonathan Safran Foer fallacy  Old games  The rich man's crumbs
 Things  The social dead  A theoretical critique of and practical answer to the problem of too much writing on the internet
 The death party  The reader  To Save Everything, Click Here
 The space you take up  The painted library  Of grandmothers and beneficiaries
 Idea for a movie in which aliens invade the Earth and fix the economy  Corporate memory  Turn off your computers
 Symbols  The art of war  We Must Eat!
 Phantom time  Between worlds  The back of the shelf
 First last impressions  'It's a map of the world'  37 things you should hoard
 Another Skyfall review  We are in a book  The weariness of the satyr
 Leaving Middle-earth  This Tree Is Made of Tweets  The Kill File
 Coronation Avenue  After the Ball  'I don't have to do this anymore'
 The Avengers  The Day's Work in Wall Street  Uncle Scrooge and the Flying Kiwi
 The Fascist Mother  Four

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