I've been sick in bed all Bank Holiday weekend, so I decided I might as well see if I've been missing any decent Auckland/NZ bands since I left. What the hell, right? Fired up the links here and then the various bfm Youtube channels and then moved to bandcamp ... Crawling out of the rabbit hole a day later, I can say I really like Evil Twins/Las Tetas, Mellow Grave, Paquin, Ghost Wave, bits and pieces of Astro Children and Sunken Seas, and Cat Venom. Maybe I'm just an easy mark because I'm feverish and my faculties aren't running at full strength ... but that looks like a healthy and diverse scene ...
Judging by the "In Session" clips, though, there are a lot of bands that really do have to lay off the Iron & Wine influences ...
Jangling most certainly is back. Viz:
We went up to Islington with a just-arrived Wellington friend week before last to see Veronica Falls. Great gig, but man they sounded like The Chills. The illusion of being in Dunedin in the mid-80s was only shattered during song breaks, when the band mumbled at us in Glaswegian. So good.
In terms of the week's music, Esben and the Witch and Thoughtforms at Scala on Tuesday night were pretty hard to beat. Ears are still ringing. Four Tet on Thursday was OK as well ...
I don't think that's quite correct. What you're talking about there are "liberties," much weaker things than rights. Rights, on the other hand, are given to you by specific pieces of legislation (or under case law), that someone else has a duty to uphold.
The problem is that our whole discourse surrounding rights, liberties, and privileges is so confused it's difficult to tell them apart in everyday usage.
Surely a license to drive is weaker than a "right to drive"? Does someone out there have a corresponding duty to allow you to drive? Can you take them to Court if they don't have a fashionable Vehicle of Your Choice lined up at the gate for you any time you want one? If not, then driving probably isn't a "right," strictly speaking.
Speaking of New Zealand media ... what the hell is up with THIS in this morning's Herald?
Congratulations on the new slot, BTW!
Well written, Russell. A Kiwi in London, I've been reading the eulogising from afar and found some of it nauseating to say the least.
Agreed. It's sometimes hard to keep an accurate picture of New Zealand in your head when you haven't been back for a while. This is especially the case if you're trying to do so using mainstream media. Following the Herald, you could be forgiven for thinking that all that ever happens there is murder, drunk driving, the footie, and whatever the latest moral panic surrounding drinking is. It's a flattened-out, two-dimensional caricature.
This flattening out -- this insistence on pandering to a mass average, and blindness to anything that doesn't fit in -- is, I think, a large part of Holmes' legacy. There's something not just coarsening but distinctly marginalizing about Holmes's populism. The sense that, if you don't think like "we" do, then you're just invisible: "we" don't want to see or hear from the likes of you. One of my Facebook friends has been going through old Holmes columns in the Herald, posting the most repulsive bits, and this contempt for people who don't think like "us" (which is to say, him) comes across very strongly. Here he is talking about the Pike River Remembrance Service:
Prime Minister John Key spoke. It was the best speech of his career. I understood from a quick word with him earlier that he had written it himself. His voice was strong and rang out across those tables of tears to the families in the grandstand, assuring them that four million New Zealanders were with them.
I must say also, Key's speech to the nation on the night of the second explosion - just five days after the first - was one of the highlights of the year. It was not brilliantly written, there was a cliche or two and he looked down at his notes a lot but it was all simple and real. The man was as shocked as the rest of us. He was just the way we wanted our Prime Minister to be at that moment, slightly uncertain, knocked about, just like the rest of us.
That is, of course, the key to his extraordinary connection with the people. He is just like the rest of us. That's what we think, anyway.
It's that reductionism that gets to me. The insistence that we are all an equally unthinking "we," united in our opinions, and Holmes speaks for us entirely. It's really a form of narcissism: Holmes looks at us in our lumpen-ness and sees his own reflection grinning back at him. And there's the other unpleasant aspect of Holmes's populism that others have alluded to crystallized there as well: his worship of those in power (as long as they're suitably right-wing, of course). In fact, this is what makes his populism look more like, well, something else, for which there are other (less flattering, and more historically loaded) terms of description. Here's Holmes on the wharfies:
The row with wharfies is always about entitlement and privilege and the threat thereto. It always is. All wharfies know is obstruction. That's the way it always was. Wharfies are historically programmed to oppose reform.
Well, that's all right then. Let's just bulldoze them like any other, outdated, non-human obstruction. Progress, innit?
And then there's the contempt for the sick and the weak that was another part of his bullying narcissism, a character flaw that appears bitterly ironic considering the way he went out:
Too many people on welfare in New Zealand, said the WWG. Thirteen per cent of working age New Zealanders. Meaning the other 87 per cent of us are paying their way. And it's been like this for a long time.
I'm sure there are a lot of bludgers among them. You know it. We all meet them, people about whom we sense that if they put in a bit more effort, exerted themselves a little harder, got round the place a bit more aggressively, they'd be able to find and do some work.
I've been gifted with good health over the years, on the whole, so I have real difficulty understanding, for example, chronic sickness and ill health. I don't understand how someone can continue to be sick year in year out.
I realise for some readers this will sound ridiculous. But I just don't understand chronic sickness that drags itself out over years. And I certainly don't understand bone-idleness.
Lionising this man seems weird. And a bit jarring, considering that two things New Zealanders pride themselves on are fair-mindedness and a commitment to egalitarianism. But you can see why he's being lionised, and by whom. His career reflects (uncannily, really) the triumph of neoliberalism, the reduction of the mainstream news media to a simple mouth-piece for power, and the consignment of people who don't think like "us" to the margins. (Places, indeed, like PAS.) But quotes like the ones above underline the sheer curdled, corrupt nastiness of the neoliberal agenda. To my mind, Holmes's career as a newspaper pundit wasn't just a "low point" in a career that had its highs, it was the essence of the man and the masters he served. And I think we should hold onto that and remember it.
Back when I used to work the evening shift in the Newspaper Room in the Auckland Central Library, the Truth was much sought after by the Library's scarier customers. They'd always approach the desk and ask juicily ambiguous questions like, "do you have the Truth?", "where can I find the Truth?", "just give me the Truth," etc. Good times.
how omnivourously we are interested in...us.
Quite. I was looking through the Grey River Argus on Papers Past. The outbreak of World War One merited page 5 coverage.
Totally. PapersPast has been an amazing resource for opening up that forgotten (and surprisingly outward-facing) world of print, and there's some interesting stuff being written about it at the moment. Tony Ballantyne, in particular, has been producing fascinating analyses of the role of local newspapers in forging communities in 19th-century Otago: e.g. Reading the Newspaper in Colonial Otago and Books and Civic Culture in Milton.
Different skills; different expectations. But it's worth asking what flaws and limitations the "economy" of broadcasting imposes on journalistic writing.