Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The best blogger there never was

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  • Lyndon Hood,

    I suppose I'll forgive you.

    Every time the honours list comes out, I think of Roll Out The Knightcart.

    When they were reinvigorating the titular honours, Jim Anderton had a go at singing that in Parliament.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1091 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Millar,

    I don't disagree with you about Fairburn as a blogger. He had a muscular viewpoint, a distinctive aesthetic consciousness and the ability to argue his own corner.

    I can also think of a few others who might have lit up the interwebs.

    Robyn Hyde, for example, could have been brilliant. She had strong opinions, she never shied from a fight, and she'd already had to develop a series of defences working in the male-dominated world of journalism. Her newspaper columns were models of concise writing and would have translated well to this medium.

    John A. Lee is another. Imagine letting him loose on the modern financial crisis with the same fire in his belly that he had when he wrote Children of the Poor:

    The gutter is not of Paris, of London, of New York, alone. The social gutter is of every clime and race, of village as well as of town, of the New World as of the Old. There is a broad, deep gutter in British Overseas Dominions. The Southern Cross witnesses poverty no less cruel than Northern stars and constellations, although, until recently, more exceptional. At the moment, the overseas Dominions starve to pay John Bull, the modern Shylock, his pound of interest, and to worship that God of chaos called Deflation.

    I also think Denis Glover woulds have been a brilliant satirical blogger.

    And, last but not least, I think the opportunity to blog would have been an irresistable lure to James K. Baxter. I've read a lot of Baxter's unpublished correspondence, and his casual epistolary voice would translate perfectly to the blogosphere. He was also capable of sustaining the sort of phenomenal output a successful blogger needs to achieve, in part because he didn't usually sleep much. Add to that the fact that he enjoyed a good verbal stoush, his conversation often took the form of a monologue, and he would certainly have welcomed the chance for unmediated communication with his fellow New Zealanders, and Baxter seems to me to have been ready-made blogging material.

    Since Jul 2010 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Clayton,

    The rolling out of the canon was indeed a feature in the teaching and criticism of New Zealand Literature for many years and in various settings. One thing that is perhaps curious about this was that, in tertiary institutions at least, it was often simultaneous with a struggle to get local literature recognised as a legitimate subject for study. I wonder at the extent to which this contributed to the post-war attempts to set in stone the Greats (in poetry at least) and the way in which Curnow in particular seemed to get so frustrated in the 50s and early 60s whenever younger writers didn't write according to plan.

    It's also worth remembering that the fixed-canon overview of literature was at its height in the English academy at the time it was being fixed here. F.R. Leavis influenced E.H. McCormick's first survey of New Zealand Literature at Cambridge in the 1920s, and the argument can be made that McCormick brought back here a (kinder, gentler) version of Leavis's "Great Tradition", just in time for the centenary in 1940.

    In terms of generic classification, I tend to group reflective blogging and forum discussions with other forms of epistolary writing: private and published diaries and letters in particular. Reading the letters of Robin Hyde (a frenetic correspondent whose correspondence ran to multiple microfilms in the Turnbull) is anachronistically comparable to reading a frequently-update blog on the usual humanist suspects: literature, politics, philosophy, religion, newspaper reporting and even film.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • andrea quin,

    The Invention of New Zealand. A real masterpiece, that.

    Hear, hear. Here.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2009 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Clayton,

    Paul, I see we are saying the same thing at the same time with regard to Robin Hyde. I can only be pleased at the confluence of opinion.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    Everyone I know who has studied New Zealand literature at university has come away a little ambivalent about the experience. They feel, it seems, that they not so much absorbed the canon of important New Zealand writers as they were bashed over the head with it.

    A friend of mine did English honours at Otago in the early '90s and he said doing so "destroyed my love of reading for about a year afterwards".

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 548 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    And this gives me another chance to say that everyone interested in Fairburn, Curnow and the whole cultural nationalism project should read Francis Pound's elegant, compelling The Invention of New Zealand. A real masterpiece, that.

    Which I'm about 2/3rds of the way through at the moment.

    I admire the breadth and depth of knowledge, and the arguments are backed up with a good selection of pictures of paintings (notwithstanding the fact that apparently Don Binney refused outright any use of his imagery or paintings). It certainly fills a gap in the literature about this critical period.

    However I'm just not sure about the references to homosexuality and slightly misogynistic writing; having made the point that painting the land was done (inevitably) from a male viewpoint, such that the land became 'female', and hence, 'penetrated', Pound finds difficulty dealing with female painters where the land is still resolutely 'female'. Are they, gasp, lesbian? he wonders. Perhaps they were. At any rate, perhaps that indicates a fault with the view, not the painter.

    Another reference is obliquely made to gay men in a way that made me uncomfortable. The point was not clear, and it should be so.

    This indicates to me more than anything a particular view of homosexuality held by white male men of a particular age having lived through 1986 and 1993.

    Still, if one ignores such uncomfortable writing, the book indeed is very good.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 635 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The suggestion that someone was before his time as a blogger reminds me of this wonderful animated documentary short about someone who was before his time as an animator ... forgive me for not waiting until Friday =)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2971 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    Speaking of bloggers, Cameron Slater aka Whale Oil has been found guilty of breaching a supression order. Oh dear, how sad.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 548 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Yup. Stung to the tune of six grand for his troubles, too.

    Stuff has more, including some novel legal arguments:

    [Slater's lawyer Gregory] Thwaite also argued that New Zealand's official languages were English, Maori and New Sign language.

    Any mention of a person's name which occurred in other languages or through pictures was not a breach of law.

    Burns said anything which led to the identification of an individual protected by name suppression was a breach of the court order.

    "A name is a name is a name. Whether its spoken, whether its written or whether its established by a pictogram."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1549 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Interesting that Slater tried to use depression as an excuse for breaching suppression orders. I sense a grain of truth in that. I hope he gets better for his own and everyone else's sakes. I guess we'll see if this punishment works, and if it doesn't, whether that tempers any of his attitudes to the value of harsh punishments for lawbreakers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8034 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    A friend of mine did English honours at Otago in the early '90s and he said doing so "destroyed my love of reading for about a year afterwards".

    See also history honours. Took me about three years to start wanting to read history non-fiction again.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6145 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I can still read philosophy. But engaging in it? It seems like the very worst possible way to make up your mind about something. Critical thinking is useful for about 10% of any constructive process. It should be the final gateway, not the initial one. Any more, and it's like getting the testing department to design software.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8034 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    @ Kyle. So, you had a bad experience but surely you are not arguing that your experience negates all scholarship? I can cite just as many good experiences eg how I was introduced to notion of historiography (that history is constructed, not just reported) in American Studies at the University of Canterbury, how four of my second year World Cinema students went out and rented a copy of Citizen Kane, after I had shown them the opening sequence...all the brilliant PhD theses and academic articles I have read over the years. Of course, 'he would say that' but I am not sure what people are arguing for (or against) here.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2219 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    A friend of mine did English honours at Otago in the early '90s and he said doing so "destroyed my love of reading for about a year afterwards".

    It didn't destroy my love of reading, at all. What it did was change the way I read. It probably was about a year before I could read fiction purely for pleasure and without analysing as I went, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4286 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    My MA supervisor always said that you'd better actively love the topic you write your thesis on. Even then, by the end of the degree you'll be so sick of that topic and all its associated writings that it will take you months or years to remember why you liked it in the first place. It's not the fault of scholarship: it's just a function of concentrating on one tiny thing for so long.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3583 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I once heard that a thesis is not even nearly ready until the sight of it makes the author feel physically ill. One PhD I knew said she knew hers was ready when upon entering her study and seeing the manuscript laid out for yet another proofreading, she rushed to the bathroom and vomited uncontrollably. Another week and it was done.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8034 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    It probably happens but I haven't yet encountered it. A PhD is more of a life passage rather the point of life. Personally, I much prefer the US system of taught PhDs, where you do higher-level courses, practicums, language requirements, internships etc, rather than everything hanging on the thesis. It is vital, however, that folk maintain their passion and interest through the whole thing. There are downsides for those who supervise and examine the beasts too--sometimes my heart sinks when I face another trot through the literature...Derrida ad nauseum!

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2219 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Interesting that Slater tried to use depression as an excuse for breaching suppression orders. I sense a grain of truth in that. I hope he gets better for his own and everyone else's sakes. I guess we'll see if this punishment works, and if it doesn't, whether that tempers any of his attitudes to the value of harsh punishments for lawbreakers.

    I suspect you're right Ben.

    I'll be honest though, I struggle to have sympathy for him despite believing he is unwell. I say this as a person who has had limited direct experience with people suffering from mental ill-health. That said, my experiences do include otherwise decent people behaving out of character and causing harm. Unlike Slater however, in my experience, the person was remorseful, offered an apology and made an effort to get well (with support from many).

    I don't spend much time following Slater, so maybe I've missed it, but I don't get any sense that he understands his behaviour is any way unacceptable. I also wonder if some of his "friends" are egging him on?

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2185 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Critical thinking is useful for about 10% of any constructive process. It should be the final gateway, not the initial one. Any more, and it's like getting the testing department to design software.

    Ben, that's actually extremely quotable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17973 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Critical thinking is useful for about 10% of any constructive process. It should be the final gateway, not the initial one. Any more, and it's like getting the testing department to design software.

    Ben, that's actually extremely quotable.

    And isn't it sad that it's largely untrue when working in government...

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2185 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Waugh,

    I don't spend much time following Slater, so maybe I've missed it, but I don't get any sense that he understands his behaviour is any way unacceptable. I also wonder if some of his "friends" are egging him on?

    I had to laugh at the coverage on TVNZ's news this evening where Slater stated that "As anyone who reads my blog knows, I can't stand hypocrisy" lol

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    where "can't stand" actually means "can't recognise"?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 808 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'll be honest though, I struggle to have sympathy for him despite believing he is unwell.

    Certainly not -- and while I've got issues with name suppression identifying the victim of a violent crime should be a no-way no-brainer. Having said that, I've been choking back a great deal of Whaleoily schadenfreude because...

    I'd like to think I'm just better than that.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11621 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    If I couldn't stand myself I'd be depressed too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8034 posts Report Reply

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