June 2007


If you’re stuck for something on a rainy weekend, then you could go worse than getting along to Transformers. It’s a rollicking two+ hours of switch the brain off to ignore obvious story-line errors and just enjoy the ride.

Error one for example is the gorgeous lover interest quizzing the geek-destined-to-become-hero. Apparently she can’t remember him, despite they having been in the same class for 10 years. Believable, yes. But… earlier in the film the same girl had been watching said hero giving a presentation to their history class, and smiling like she just might be “interested”.

Like I say, brain off.

The story hinges on the threat of a superweapon that fell to Earth in the no so distant past. The good guys want to sop it falling into the bad guys hands. And people are just hapless vermin in the way. (more…)

I noticed an interesting link on the NPSC blog the other day. Danah Boyd has written an essay on ‘class divisions’ in America, as represented by the movement of kids between MySpace and Facebook.

As I read it, Danah indicates that with the opening of Facebook to teens (it had previously been for university students) there has been a generalised split in the types of youth using these social media sites. Apparently, kids who were likely to attend university had migrated to Facebook, while other kids had stayed with MySpace. What Danah sees is a split in what can only really be called “class”.

When you start using words like class you’re destined for trouble. Part of the problem being that class traditionally applies to placed like Victorian Great Britain, with the strong imposition of roles, social station and the like. You also run smack-bang into Marxists and their detractors, because class is such a fundamental premise of the great red ideology.

The way Danah wants to use the word is interesting though, because it is supposed to indicate a particular social division within American national society. And it does indicate the kind of natural split that occurs in our society too. Education is a very real social marker. Although education is available to anyone in New Zealand, like the USA it becomes an important piece of social capital a person can exploit for personal gain. Having a degree, or a higher degree, can automatically make you eligible for particular types of jobs. And presumably high-paying jobs.

So right there you have a type of social division, between those who qualify for some jobs, and those who don’t. Hardly controversial. After all, education is voluntary and reasonably priced, which means anyone can access it.

What is controversial is that idea that there exist strata without our small, egalitarian society who are predisposed to acquiring this type of social capital. What I mean is that some people are brought up with the expectation that they will go to university and get a education. Others are not. So what you have right there is a social split, one that reinforces itself through pay rates and, dare I say it, social status.

Now, back on Public Address I talked about the split I’d observed between ‘operational’ and ‘policy’ roles in the public service. While I received some odd reactions to the idea, I noticed that these tended to be from people on the policy side who did not consider themselves to hold themselves up as in any way superior to operational people.

Oh, for those of you who haven’t had the good fortune to work in the public service, ‘operational’ roles are the coal-face, systems and services-type roles. Things like manning the phones or dealing with the public face to face. Policy roles are generally focused on Parliament, public relations and communciations.

Now, while policy people don’t see themselves as superior, operational people tend to see policy people as thinking they’re superior. It’s probably just an issue of perception, and hardly unique to the public service. You see the same kind of attitude from chefs and kitchen staff towards “front bunnies”, the waiters/barista’s etc. Some roles within workplaces carry more apparent importance than others.

From what I gathered in Danah’s paper, the MySpace crowd view the FaceBook crowd the way operations does policy. Policy, with their “flashy degrees’, and consequent “flashy salaries”. It’s a really interesting dynamic, if not only because the jobs and education are also reflected in where people live, the kinds of recreation they enjoy, and the kinds of thinsg they consume.

So although it’s not a structured system, no-one is trapped in operations, and policy is not god-ordained, there does exist a self-reinforcing “class”-type division that echoes out to broader social structures. And what’s so fascinating about it is the way in which it operates naturally. Some people gravitate towards operations-type jobs, and others to policy.

In a way, the social division exists to make people more comfortable with who they are, and who they associate with. And I suppose that as long as it doesn’t become entrenched, then it’s not really an issue to go waving arms about. Fascinating all the same though.

There’s no easy way to put it. When you get right down to brass tacks, I’m not adverse to having the extremely occasional dead body hanging about the place.

Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not out there digging up peoples beloved relatives and dusting them off back at the flat, but I do think there’s nothing particularly weird about having a wake at my place should the need arise. Of course, I also recognise that dead bodies are just kind of creepy. They’re so damn grey and waxy looking. One minute your relative is prancing about the place singing crap 40s songs and generally making an arse of themself, and the next they’re laid out in a box wearing clothes they wouldn’t normally be seen in.

Pretty shitty deal that having someone who may well still be pissed of at getting no inheritance picking out the clothes you’ll always be remembered by. I can just see one of my brothers getting me kitted out on a lime green polyester suit… the fcukers…

Anywho. Why the blog on death? Just a thought. A conversation about tangi the other day made me appreciate how important it is to have someone keeping the deceased company after they shuffle off the mortal coil. And then I thought, what in the hell is a mortal coil, I bet wikipedia has an answer. And hey, whaddya know, apparently it’s a line from Hamlet.

When it comes down to it, being sent to a big cold place with a bunch of strangers who undress you, pump you full of weird liquids, and prepare you for the afterlife is a pretty blimmin strange way to manage the death experience. So, personally, I’m thinking Māori and the Irish have got the right idea. Keep the dead with you until such time as the grieving process has had a chance to work its way through. There’s undoubtably a great deal of cultural mores and norms behind the why of the matter, but frankly all I’m concerned about is the welfare of the deceased.

And why? Because I’ve seen that movie Kissed, and while I welcome the idea of being used by a slight, etheral and wistfully attractive girl while unconscious, I cannot of good conscience condone such behaviour. (Actually, check out that link. The movies recommended to me were Basic Instinct, Re-Animator, Last Tango in Paris, All the right moves, Caligula. So that’s films about, respectively, a Cadaver and a weird woman, dead people in a horror setting, a fat old dead guy and a girl, an actor so wooden he may as well be dead, and some dead Roman with seriously sick tastes. These things always make sense when you deconstruct them).

And I hear you ask, why the sudden concern with the issue of necrophilia? And why want to shelter a dead relative in one’s house?

This about says it all.

funeral-director.jpg

Nice enough sounding guy. Grows Angus beef. But. Suspicious moustache. Very highly suspicious. Except in Texas where they’re “into that kind of thing”.

But not as suspicious as… The Men of Mortuaries. WARNING: Image over the jump may burn retina. (more…)

This is a German film set in East Germany during the Cold War. The story centres on the surveillance of an artist by the Stasi, and is definitely one of the better films I’ve seen this year. It’s odd, but not remarkable, that the best films I’ve seen recently were Spanish, Swedish, English, Australian and German. What in the hell has happened to American cinema I do not know…

The title refers to the way in which the Stasi agent, Wiesler, who is monitoring the artist, Dreyman, becomes intimately intertwined in the life of his target. (more…)

Simply Paris is a small cafe on Cuba Street. It’s a few doors up from Floriditas in what seems to be becoming the French quarter of Wellington!

Ok. That’s an exaggeration, but there is some mighty nice food in that part of the world. And it does seem like French food is the Italian food of the Noughties.

Essentially, we were wanting a place to eat some quality food after seeing a good film, and a number of positive reviews of Simply Paris had rolled in over the past few weeks. We took the opportunity to indulge. Not too much of course, but, a little.

My main interest was the cassoulet. Since learning to make duck confit a few weeks ago I’ve wanted to cook it in this particularly French traditional dish. And it was everything I expected. Cassoulet is a rich white bean casserole, combining sausage, duck and pork belly. This meant I ate a lot of animal. And enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to making it for guests.

The better half ate the ‘aundilleamathingy’ a type of sausage that’s… a bit like a sausage roll? Anyhow, it was served with mashed potatoes au gratin (with cheese on) and a rocket salad. Also extremely delicious.

The wine list is modest, and the staff were great fun. Apparently you have to book, but we managed to stroll in on a Saturday and get the table way down the back.

Did I mention the staff were great fun? At one point I looked up and they were dancing to the guitarist plucking away in the corner. Polite, courteous, prompt, clear, and a laugh.

You can’t really ask for much more. Not cheap, at aroudn $25 for a main. But worth every cent (unlike Bistro on Boulcoutt…)

Mostly because it’s all over the interweb just now.

Hitchcock would be proud.

hat tip: Spare Room

Wow. I really enjoyed this film. There’s something to be said for science fiction over space opera. When a film like Children of Men is able to introduce one simple ‘science fiction’, i.e. that all humanity has suddenly become infertile, and turn it into a compelling story it never fails to grab my imagination.

The plot revolves around Theo, a former activist turned square, who is approached by a revolutionary cell (read “terrorists”) to help them get a young refugee into Britain. Following the loss of fertility much of the world has gone to seed and Britain is the last remaining civil society left on the globe.

Problem is, it’s not so civil to refugees. (more…)

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