The Dim-Post

December 25, 2014

Thoughts on ‘The Bone Clocks’ by David Mitchell

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:50 am
  • The only other Mitchell book I’ve read is Cloud Atlas. I thought that was pretty good. A lot of people consider it the first great 21st century English novel, but I really don’t see that. Maybe I just don’t get Mitchell?
  • But at the beginning of Bone Clocks I felt like I did get him. The first section of this book is great. Strong character, strong story-telling. Beautiful style. Artful setting up of the world and the narrative. I read it in one sitting with this bubbling happy feeling that this was going to be one of my favorite novels ever.
  • Oh, there were a few things I didn’t like. Mitchell’s dialog is pretty clunky. It’s all like: ‘This is what I’m thinking and why and I’m articulating it perfectly.’ ‘This is exactly what I think about that, and here is my artfully worded witty reply.’ Also, there are genre elements – fantasy horror – that he’s pretty clumsy with: heavy on exposition while simultaneously confusing. Good genre writers – someone like China Mieville, say – make sure the reader always knows what’s happening, but not why. That’s the mystery that keeps you reading.
  • Unfortunately these bad features get far more pronounced, and the good things fall away. Bone Clocks consists of six linked novellas, all with different characters, with the main character reappearing throughout and telling her own story again in the sixth and final section.
  • Critics seem especially dazzled by this. Such formal invention! Polyphony has been a major feature of the novel since, like, the mid-19th century so I’m not sure why everyone acts like Mitchell invented it, but again, maybe I’m missing something here.
  • The second section is about an amoral, wealthy Cambridge student. The third is about a journalist covering the Iraq war in the early days after the invasion. I particularly hated this bit: if Mitchell wants to write a screed about how he thinks the Iraq war was a horrible mistake he can put that highly original and unique perspective in an essay or something, not cram it into a fantasy novel in which his characters articulate the author’s political opinions in long speeches and (worse) pseudo-witty quips back and forth to each other.
  • The next novella is a (long) piece of literary satire. The main character is instantly identifiable as Martin Amis, although for some reason Mitchell denies this character is based on Amis. Maybe this part of the book will be interesting to readers who like Martin Amis, or hate Martin Amis, or even care a bit about Martin Amis?
  • Next section: the fantasy elements take over and we see a centuries long war between magical immortals play out. This is more boring than it sounds. Good fantasy writers spend lots of time establishing the rules of their world and the parameters of their magic systems so that the reader understands what’s happening during the climax, and what everyone can and cannot do, and what the stakes are. Mitchell has a bunch of magicians show up and start casting spells with stupid names at each other.
  • Final section: the original character at the end of her life living in rural poverty on the west coast of Ireland in the 2030s in a climate-changed, post-oil-crash world. And hey, this part is also pretty good. Pity about the 400-odd pages of really-not-very-good content between the opening and closing sections.
  • What I thought Mitchell was doing in the opening section was writing a genre novel with literary qualities. Something like Lev Grossman’s Magician books, or Elizabeth Knox’s adult fiction. What he’s actually done is write five literary novellas and a fantasy novella and link them together with genre tropes: secret societies of immortals, evil sorcerers and characters learning telepathy, etc.
  • The result is a bit like those fake novelty book-covers you can buy to slip over a copy of 50 Shades of Grey and pretend that you’re reading Proust. Bone Clocks provides the illusion of ‘literature’ but it’s driven by genre elements. With Cloud Atlas you kept reading because you wanted to discover the links between the characters, and what happened to them; with Bone Clocks you keep reading because there’s sexy magicians and psychic powers and shit. None of the genre elements work on a literary level. The sexy blonde magician doesn’t represent anything the way, say, the ghost in Beloved represents the ghost of slavery. She’s just a sexy blonde magician.
  • Not that I have anything against sexy blonde magicians. But Bone Clocks doesn’t have any of the pleasures of a good fantasy novel. It doesn’t even make sense. Even the critics who liked this book – and there are a lot of them, many of whom ranked this as their favorite book of the year which is how I wound up hate-reading it in late December – admit that the climax of the book is ‘bewildering’, by which they mean ‘incomprehensible nonsense’.
  • And you don’t have to take my word for all of this: Mitchell points out most of the flaws in his novel in a review inside his own book, something which admiring critics seem to find particularly brilliant, but which made a kind of red-mist descend over my vision for a few minutes.
  • The obvious comparison to Bone Clocks is Cloud Atlas, Mitchell’s much-better third book, which has a similar structure. But the real template for Bone Clocks, I suspect, is Earthly Powers, an Anthony Burgess novel published in 1980, which didn’t win any major awards so is a little forgotten today: its also a world and time spanning epic with a metaphysical war playing out in the background, and the super-erudite, too-clever voice of most of Mitchell’s characters is almost identical to that of Burgess’s protagonist. I haven’t read Earthly Powers for about twenty years: maybe its been sort-of forgotten for a reason? But I remember it being an awful lot better than The Bone Clocks, so let me recommend that in lieu of this.
  • And here’s one last thing, just while my dander is up. Most of the reviewers who loved this book mention – in terms of reverent awe – that Mitchell’s books are linked. Characters in one book have the same name as characters in the others. Maybe I’m missing another trick here, but so fucking what? Stephen King (among others) has been doing that for forty years. Why is this simple, gimmicky unoriginal trick another hallmark of Mitchell’s unique genius? What gives?
  • Merry Christmas!

November 26, 2014

The very odd Slightly Left of Centre

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:11 pm

There’s a new voice in the blogosphere. Josh Forman, the author of SlightlyLeftofCentre:

27 years old, from the left, and on a mission to reclaim the centre left from the loopy extremists from the far left who have hijacked the Labour Party.

Josh doesn’t care if Labour survives in its current state, as long as the people it used to represent are given a voice, and as long as there is a strong opposition to the National Government.

If you look through his posts Forman doesn’t seem all that left-wing though. His views seem pretty right-wing. And his targets aren’t the usual left-wing targets. He really dislikes National Party president Peter Goodfellow. And Bomber. And Kim Dotcom. And muslims. And the New Zealand Herald’s investigative editor David Fisher. You might say he happens to hate everyone Cameron Slater hates.

The similarities don’t stop there. Forman’s style seems very familiar. Politicians are troughers. If they lie they tell porkies. There are loads of breathless exclusives, all on issues close to Slater’s heart. Forman is very sympathetic to the Whale, as we see in the cached copy of this post that Forman has deleted. And the Whale loved Forman and promoted him heavily. You might even say it looks like Slater has set up a fake left-wing blog to disseminate his smears from, which is such a typically Slateresque thing to do I can’t believe he’s only just gotten around to it.

Josh Forman is a real guy. I met him for coffee earlier this week. He denied having any relationship with Slater, or that any of the content on his blog came from Slater. Something in his manner made me think that wasn’t quite true though, so I did a little more digging and found Forman’s  completely brilliant press release back from when he launched his blog:

Josh Forman is pleased to announce the creation of a new force on the Left of politics in New Zealand.

“My goal is to create an online environment that provides sane and reasonable views from the left of the spectrum.” Mr Forman said this morning when asked about his motivation to create the site.

“For far too long, the dominant online voices on our side of politics have been the shrill and hysterical ranting on offer at The Daily Blog and The Standard.

Slightly Left of Centre will provide calm and reasoned views that more closely reflect the views of compassionate New Zealanders in the centre. These are the people that have flocked to National under John Key, and those who have abandoned Labour in droves.”

Responding to questions about working with WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater to build a voice for the centre left, Mr Forman was blunt. “He is extremely successful at what he does and we need a comparable success story of our own for the sake of decent democratic debate. The time for name calling and identity politics has passed.

And today Forman – the guy who has no relationship with Slater – posted this:

Dirty Politics: John Key – Pork Pie PM

Have you really never spoken to Cameron Slater in your capacity as Prime Minister?

I would like you to consider the following questions before you answer this, because I would suggest you choose your words carefully. Remember John, no-one likes a liar…

1) You told Parliament in late October that that you have never spoken to Cameron Slater in your capacity as Prime Minister. Was this really true?

2) Did you talk to Cameron Slater the night before the release of the IGIS report, and the Justice Chisholm report on Judith Collins?

3) How many times in the last month have you spoken to Slater?

4) Does Cameron Slater records his phone calls, and if he does, how much leverage does he now have over you (whether in your capacity as a private citizen, PM, Minister of Tourism etc, etc)?

5) Are you OK with the possibility of Slater having the calls you have made to him, or received from him released to the public? If any such recordings were to be released, how would they reflect on you? Would your position as PM be tenable if they were?

Forman is – allegedly – the person who leaked the details of recent Key’s text conversation with Slater, forcing Key to return to the House and make a personal statement correcting a question he answered earlier today in which he claimed he hadn’t been in conversation with Slater. And now, this evening, here’s Slater in a post titled ‘LABOUR’S OWN DIRTY POLITICS SCAM BUSTED, JOSH FORMAN AND ANNETTE KING NEED TO EXPLAIN':

In my conversation with Josh Forman I got suspicious because of his intense interest and so fed him some information that wasn’t strictly true so that it could be easily verified by cellphone records.

I repeat. I never had a text conversation with Judith Collins on Monday night. Cellphone records will clearly show this.

The following day Josh Forman continued along that line of inquiry and was imploring me to out the txt with John Key, I couldn’t work out why.

That is until this afternoon.

Josh Forman is a man who lacks integrity. In good faith I was willing to coach someone from the other side so they could have a better voice in the blogosphere.

I now know that his request for coaching was a subterfuge, at the behest of the Labour party in order to gain my trust.

He has used that and disseminated an email that only he was party to and so the media source was easily identifiable as was my plan.

Josh Forman works closely with Annette King, his own emails show that.

Labour’s own willingness to play dirty politics team has now been busted. Their sanctimony in parliament is shown for what is is worth.

What the hell is going on? I don’t know. But based on the premise that everything Slater says is a lie, my guess is that Slater had Forman leak the details of his text conversation with Key, and that this ‘falling out’ is a sham to make Forman look like a slightly less obvious sock-puppet of Slater’s, and to try and smear Labour with the ‘Dirty Politics’, ‘Labour does it too’, brush.

Update: As far as I can tell Forman has never worked for Labour, and their senior staffers have never heard of him.

And another update: Another post from Slater detailing the collaboration between Forman and Slater, but which tries to attack Forman’s job and makes me wonder if their split is real. Maybe?

October 31, 2014

The idiot

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:29 am

Here’s why this Steffan Browning/Ebola/Homeopathy thing is a really big deal for the Green Party. (a) Historically they’ve been stereotyped by their opponents as a bunch of nutters (b) The main focus of the party for the past five years – at least – has been to counter that perception and convince voters that they’re a sober and credible political alternative. (c) Arguing that homeopathy should be used to cure Ebola is so fucking crazy it instantly undermines a lot of that work and reveals to the public that at least one of the MPs in the party is a total nutcase.

Just after the election someone asked me what they could do to help the Greens, and I told them to join the party and vote for candidates that weren’t deluded lunatics. Disasters like this illustrate why it’s important for sane, sensible people to contribute to the political process at a grassroots level and make sure the MPs in their party aren’t laughable weirdos.

October 3, 2014

Just shut up

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:27 am

So in the past couple days of Labour’s leadership contest we’ve had @TarnBabe67, James Dann’s open letter to David Cunliffe threatening to resign from the party if Cunliffe is re-elected, and now Phil Quinn publishing Labour President Moira Coatsworth’s email urging Labour members not to act like jerks during the contest, which Quinn describes as ‘a sinister Orwellian gambit designed to restrict speech.’

I guess that if you’re really invested in what’s happening inside Labour then it’s very satisfying to put this stuff out there attacking your opponents and see it amplified by the mainstream media. But I really doubt that the general public are so engaged that they’re won over by these tweets, or blogposts or whatever. I’m pretty sure they’re thinking what I’m thinking: that Labour looks like a party filled with hysterical, squabbling egotists who all despise each other and can’t keep their damn fool mouths shut. And that’s a perception that’s going to endure long after this contest is over – especially if it goes on like this for two more months.

Just shut up

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:26 am

So in the past couple days of Labour’s leadership contest we’ve had @TarnBabe67, James Dann’s open letter to David Cunliffe threatening to resign from the party if Cunliffe is re-elected, and now Phil Quinn publishing Labour President Moira Coatsworth’s email urging Labour members not to act like jerks during the contest, which Quinn describes as ‘a sinister Orwellian gambit designed to restrict speech.’

I guess that if you’re really invested in what’s happening inside Labour then it’s very satisfying to put this stuff out there attacking your opponents and see it amplified by the mainstream media. But I really doubt that the general public are so engaged that they’re won over by these tweets, or blogposts or whatever. I’m pretty sure they’re thinking what I’m thinking: that Labour looks like a party filled with hysterical, squabbling egotists who all despise each other and can’t keep their damn fool mouths shut. And that’s a perception that’s going to endure long after this contest is over – especially if it goes on like this for two more months.

October 1, 2014

Is New Zealand ready for an openly inane Prime Minister?

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:18 am

In the current leadership race for the Labour Party there are two candidates: Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe. There has been much discussion of their strengths and weaknesses, but one subject has been delicately avoided; perhaps because of political correctness, or fear of reprisal, the unorthodox lifestyle of one of these candidates has been self-censored out of the public dialog. It is the issue that dare not speak its name.

David Cunliffe is openly, unashamedly inane.

Now let me begin by saying that I, personally, have no problem with inanity. There is inanity in my family. I have silly friends. I myself was absurd myself during a brief experimental period as a teenager and I fully support the inane community. But the Labour Party must ask itself hard questions about whether mainstream New Zealanders will elect a preposterous Labour leader as Prime Minister.

David Cunliffe has made no secret of his inanity. He has openly celebrated his inane lifestyle. Just recently he gave a rousing victory speech on the night of his historic election defeat and only yesterday he told John Campbell that he lost the election because voters prefer stability and prosperity. David Cunliffe deserves our support and praise for having the courage to be open about his daftness.

But is New Zealand ready to be government by someone who constantly says and does stupid, stupid things? Are we mature enough as a people to have a guy who criticised secret trusts while operating a secret trust, and who attacked Key for living in a large mansion while he himself lived in a large mansion representing us on the world stage? Are we wise and sophisticated enough to elect someone rash and silly? I would like to think we are, but realistically I fear the answer is no.

True, the inane have made great strides during the last few decades. People with terrible judgement were once shunned and mocked but now New Zealand’s business, entertainment and media communities are proudly led by gibbering, empty-headed morons. However, prejudice remains: not in wealthy, urban electorates where unconsciousness buffoonery is regarded as normal, part of our vibrant multicultural society. No, sadly it is lower-income Maori and Pacific Island communities where witless dolts still suffer terrible discrimination. Can Labour, in this moment of crisis, pretend that this bigotry against idiocy does not exist? Would it be foolish to force foolishness down their throats?

I do not pretend to know the answer to these questions, but Labour members must think deeply on these issues. In the grand tradition of the Labour Party, they must examine their own values, discuss them with their communities, reach intelligent considered decisions and then do the exact opposite. Labour can make New Zealand inane.

September 9, 2014

The only election event that matters: Aro Valley Meet the Candidates

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:10 am

It was scheduled to begin at 7:30 PM, but by 6:45 all the seats in the humble Aro Valley community hall were taken. By 7:00 the crowd spilled out the doors into the brisk Wellington night. At 7:15 Kim Hill and Linda Clark appeared and prowled the crowded aisles, glowering at people with seats until a group of scruffy, bearded hipsters relinquished their chairs to them. I’m no good at estimating numbers but in a hall designed to accommodate about fifty people I’d guess there were around three hundred. The candidates arrived and chatted amongst themselves, looking nervous. Rows of people stood on the benches outside peering through the open windows, occasionally slapping their hands against the frames like hordes of ravenous zombies. At 7:30 sharp it began.

Community co-convenor Roland Sapsforth opened the event, welcoming us to the ‘Supermoon edition of the Aro Meet the Candidates evening’ but reassuring us that none of the candidates would come into direct contact with moonlight ‘for your own protection.’ He attempted to discuss fire safety but was drowned out by laughter from the audience, as it was obvious to everyone present that every exit was blockaded and in the event of an actual fire, death was certain.

Then MC Bryan Crump took over. He explained the rules of the debate: each candidate could speak for four minutes: then a bell would ring; then they had thirty more seconds to talk before they were drenched with water pistols. These rules were not rigorously enforced and candidates were randomly sprayed with water throughout the evening.

Speaking order was selected randomly with names drawn out of a plastic, rainbow-colored hat. The first speaker was Huimaono Karena Puhi, also known as Geoffrey, although he declared that Geoffrey was his slave name. He was standing as an independent ‘meaning he was number one on his party list’. He wore an elegant black suit and tie, black-thick rimmed glasses over a full-facial moko, and short neatly cut hair.

Geoffrey launched into a brief korero, then explained that ‘we have many policies’, ‘We’ meaning the Hui Independence Movement of which he was part, although, slightly confusingly, he reminded us that he wanted our electorate vote because he ain’t got no party. ‘Give your party vote to these other colonials,’ he gestured at the rest of the candidates.

Second speaker was Hugh Barr, number eighteen on the New Zealand First list. ‘Our party is not about looking after the rich,’ he said. ‘Just Winston,’ replied a heckler. ‘We’re not about looking after unions or the poor either,’ he continued, to which the crowd jeered and laughed for most of his allotted speaking time. ‘We will look after ALL New Zealanders, he eventually promised before urging the crowd to ‘Tell your grand-parents about the super-gold card.’

Third speaker was Alistair Gregory for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.  Gregory is a twenty-three year old chef with a bobbing tuft of straw-blonde hair who had possibly never worn a tie before tonight. Michael Appleby, the seemingly immortal goblin-like head of the ACLP is overseas, Crump explained, possibly arranging a deal or avoiding the police.

Gregory announced that cannabis is used for ‘medical, recreational, industrial and spiritual purposes’ and insisted that reform advocates are not wowsers because ‘they also like to drink’. ‘15% of New Zealanders smoke cannabis,’ he cried, ‘So at least fifty of you here tonight use cannabis.’ General laughter at this radical underestimation.

Next up was James Knuckey, a sorrowful bearded man standing for ‘Democrats for Social Credit’. ‘We are basically Social Credit,’ he explains, adding, ‘A lot of people in the party wonder about our own name.’ Social Credit wants a universal basic income. ‘Some countries use it. Well, this one state in Canada.’ He also advocated a financial transactions tax and welcomed his water-pistol drenching when he went one second over the time-limit talking about monetary policy.

Grant Robertson, Labour Party Machiavelli stands and dons a water-proof poncho. ‘That looks like an invitation to me,’ Bryan Crump told the water-pistol wielders. ‘The face is open!’ Called a heckler from the crowd.

National had released a rather vague tax policy earlier that day so Robertson told the crowd, ‘Tonight I’ll tell you about a speech I might give in three years time,’ adding that the only undecided voter in the hall was National candidate Paul Foster-Bell’s campaign manager. He mentioned dirty politics and the crowd hissed with fury. ‘I could go on a lot longer,’ he finished up, flourishing his poncho.

Greens candidate James Shaw was greeted with hall-shuddering applause, while a sea of Green Party placards fluttered above the audience. Wearing a tailored, shiny grey suit and perfectly cut black hair, standing before the crowd with his arms raised, drinking in their adulation, he looked more like a television evangelist than a politician. Shaw’s speech was stern. ‘The Green Party only won 44% of the vote here in Aro Valley last election,’ he rebuked the room. ‘The Onekaka town hall in Golden Bay gave us 51.2%. It’s time to beat the Onekaka town hall!’

Next Crump introduced Internet/Mana candidate Callum Valentine. ‘He’s number eighteen on the party list, so if his party gets about thirty percent he’ll be in.’ ‘At least I’ve got a seat tonight,’ Valentine replied, standing to take the microphone and gesturing back at his chair just as Grant Robertson stole it.

The crowd greeted Valentine with jeers of ‘Lil Kim!’ Lil Kim explained that Internet/Mana stood for unions, the poor and people who liked Game of Thrones. ‘Log off!’ Yelled a heckler. Valentine’s speech was interrupted by cries of ‘Tell us about Kim.’ When he finally sat down Crump observed, ‘He didn’t say ‘Fuck John Key’ once!’

When National candidate Paul Foster-Bells’ name was drawn a loud musical wail of pure sorrow came from a woman at the back of the room. Foster-Bell – a larger, cuddlier version of Labour’s Grant Robertson, who is already rather cuddly – stood and took the microphone to a rising chorus of boos and jeers.

When Foster-Bell spoke at this event last election he was totally drowned out by the crowd, and he’d crafted a clever plan to prevent this, opening his speech in fluent te reo. The crowd fell silent again, confused, torn between its hatred of National and instinctive respect for the Maori language. Foster-Bell continued to speak for about thirty-seconds, grinning, until he uttered the words ‘Ko John Key te rangatira,’ and the crowd gasped with sudden comprehension. He was using te reo to say secret right-wing National stuff! The rest of the speech was drowned out by heckling and hissing and boos, although the tide of hatred ebbed every minute or so admitting fragments of Foster-Bell’s speech. ‘Healthcare targets . . . roads . . . hard-working kiwis.’ Eventually he finished and sat down, having endured what must be the most hostile audience of any candidate in the country .

Bryan Crump took a pause to acknowledge the hard-working party activists running around the electorate knocking down all the billboards and the other hard-working activists putting them all back up again. He questioned Grant Robertson on the mysterious lack of vandalised Labour Party billboards when everyone else’s was knocked down every night. ‘It’s a conundrum,’ Robertson replied.

The next speaker was the most mysterious. Peter Franklin Robinson was an independent candidate. A soft-voiced, gaunt, hunched man in a tan anorak, Robertson announced he was standing to fix the economy of New Zealand which was ‘dictated to by earthquake fault-lines.’ ‘All government departments as of the 31st of March 1975 will be reinstated,’ he mumbled. ‘And there will be an inquiry into substandard medical apparatus. And the Local Bodies Act 31st of March 1984 will be revisited. Also, the current New Zealand flag will remain the ensign of New Zealand because there’s nothing wrong with it.’ The crowd applauded.

The final speaker, Conservative Party candidate Dr Brian Hooper was a tiny, friendly man with a child-like face beneath a shock of white hair. He was eighty years old, he announced, with twenty-seven grandchildren. ‘I dreaded coming here tonight,’ he confessed, ‘And my wife offered to come as my substitute.’

‘At least we’d have had one woman candidate,’ called a heckler from the crowd, and Hooper rounded on her, beaming with delight. ‘You’ve stolen my joke,’ he marveled. Hooper then flicked through a Conservative Party pamphlet while the crowd called out questions and insults, which Hooper parried and threw back at them. Then he tucked the pamphlet under his arm and announced, ‘I’m not going to talk about the Conservatives. I’ll tell you about myself.’ He was trying to say something about water when he was soaked with the water-pistols.

That bought the candidate statements section of the evening to an end. The remaining half hour of the event consisted of questions from the audience.

Would you support a Prime Minister who doesn’t know what’s going on in his own office? Hypothetically? Everyone said ‘No,’ except the Conservative candidate who replied, ‘Absolutely.’

Would you support a price on water and would power prices rise as a result? Yes, replied the Green candidate, but water costs were not a significant component of power prices. The independent candidate who thought that our economy was an earthquake faultline gave a long, complicated answer, interrupted by an audience member calling out ‘For fucks sake!’  The hall was so crowded it was impossible to identify individual hecklers by voice, unless they were, say, a famous, award-winning Saturday morning radio host. The Conservative Party announced they had ‘no plans’. The New Zealand First candidate was laughing too hard to answer the question because someone had made a joke about ”squirting’. Legalise Cannabis replied that we should legalise cannabis.

What is the role of NGOs and non-profits in the economy? ‘WhaleOil doesn’t count as a non-profit,’ shouted a heckler. Legalise Cannabis wanted to build a convention centre.

Why aren’t there any female candidates standing? ‘Why don’t you stand?’ Asked a heckler. ‘I’d bloody love to,’ replied the questioner. Second part to that question: ‘What will your party do about domestic violence?’ Grant Robertson urged an end to violence and was spontaneously sprayed with the water-pistol. Paul Foster-Bell explained that we needed to work together to end violence and he too was sprayed. ‘Keep shooting him,’ chanted the crowd. Legalise Cannabis said that he wanted a woman to stand up because that would look ‘Soooo good.’ Admited his party does not have a domestic violence policy.

What about the rights of young people in New Zealand? Green candidate James Shaw asked ‘Did you have any particular rights in mind?’ The questioner replied, ‘We have a lot of interests.’ Shaw looks suspicious. ‘Who is ‘we’?’

Asked by a red-faced man in a suit with a Yorkshire accent: ‘On the west coast does your party support workers or slugs and snails? ‘The Greens support ALL the residents of the west coast.’

Wellington’s swimming places are too polluted. Whaddya all gonna do about it? The Greens will clean them up. The Social Democrat candidate alleged that the Greens stole their environmental policies back in the 1970s. Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis loves Oriental Bay beach!

The final question is an Aro Valley tradition. If you couldn’t vote for yourself who would you vote for? Most of the candidates endorse Grant Robertson or James Shaw. Grant Robertson supports Alistair, the ACLP candidate. The Social Credit candidate pleads for our party vote. ‘We want to get 1%,’ he explains. ‘That would lift us up out of that ‘other’ category.’ The crowd cheered and called out comments endorsing their support of otherness.

And on that note it was over, the crowd applauded the candidates, water-pistol shooters and themselves and milled out into the valley.

August 29, 2014

How most people get hacked

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:13 am

Chris Trotter writes about hackers

LISBETH SALANDER is the archetypal hacker: a damaged outsider; phenomenally clever; contemptuous of society’s rules; but possessed of an unflinching, if somewhat quirky, sense of right and wrong. Without Lisbeth, the journalist hero of Stieg Larsen’sThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Mikael Blomkvist, could never have brought the guilty to justice. In a world of mendacious millionaires, giant corporations and impenetrable public bureaucracies, the hacker provides the only credible means of moving the plot forward.

 In mythic terms, Lisbeth is Ariadne, the Cretan princess whose precious linking threads allow the Greek hero, Theseus, to find his way through the impossibly complex Labyrinth and destroy the Minotaur – the monstrous, bull-headed man who dwells in its depths.

Maybe whoever hacked Cameron Slater is a Salander/Ariadne-like computer hacker, but most people carrying out this sort of activity have minimal technical skills. Here’s what usually happens: 

  1. You set up your accounts with gmail, facebook etc, all of which are password protected. 
  2. You set up an account at, say, Adobe, to download acrobat reader, or Apple or Ebay to buy stuff, and use the same password as your gmail and facebook account
  3. Ebay, or Adobe, or some other entity with your account credentials gets hacked. 
  4. The hackers post the list of account credentials online where anyone can download them
  5. Someone decides they want to hack you. They download a bunch of these lists, find your name, use free, publicly available, easy to use software to crack your password and then try logging onto your gmail account. Since the passwords are the same across both accounts they succeed. 

Obviously the people hacking the Apple database are technically skilled, But Slater’s email and Facebook could, in theory, have been hacked by anyone with the ability to download a couple torrent files. 

The way to prevent this happening are: 

  1. Change your passwords on your important accounts. Use different passwords. 
  2. Set up two-step verification on your gmail so that only certain computers can access your account. 

Quick post debate comment

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:28 am

The general consensus seems to be that Cunliffe ‘won’ the debate although not overwhelmingly. Various pundits have wondered what happened to Key. Why wasn’t he funnier? Didn’t he prepare enough? 

I think Key’s problem last night went a bit deeper than that. The premise of National’s campaign is that everything is basically okay; they haven’t introduced any significant policy this election, but Key ‘hopes’ that there will be tax cuts at some stage in the future. 

If you look at the polls most people agree that the country is heading in the right direction, so National’s ‘don’t rock the boat’ strategy makes a lot of sense. But when you put Key up on the debate stage with Cunliffe, who hammered issues like house prices and foreign land sales which the majority of the country thinks are not okay, and which Labour has policy solutions for but National does not, then Key is at a huge disadvantage. Most of the debate consisted of Cunliffe identifying problems and proposing solutions, with Key insisting that the problems didn’t exist and Cunliffe’s solutions wouldn’t work. Key never had the chance to articulate his solutions or his vision, because he doesn’t have any. It’s hard to joke your way past that. 

August 28, 2014

Debates don’t change anything unless they do

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 3:23 pm

Leaders’ debate tonight! Reading through some of the political science about debates over lunchtime and the general consensus seems to be that debates don’t really change voters’ minds unless one of the debaters dramatically under-performs or over-performs.  But all other things being equal, viewers generally think the politician they liked going into the debate ‘won’, and the greatest impact of most debates is to persuade viewers towards the policies and viewpoints of the politician they’re already predisposed to like. 

But its possible that either candidate tonight could dazzle us, or disgrace themselves. Key is likely to be the usual chilled out entertainer who sees everything in All-Blacks analogies and played golf with Barack Obama, but he’s very crafty and quick-witted when he wants to be: he ran rings around Phil Goff in 2011. On the other hand, his judgement over the last couple weeks hasn’t been great. 

And then there’s Cunliffe. I was one of those idiots who thought he’d make a better Labour leader than David Shearer, because Cunliffe could ‘take the fight’ to Key, and I had events like tonight’s debate in mind. So this would be a good time for Cunliffe to deliver on what now seems like his very distant promise. Sadly I think he’s just as likely to say something inane and narcissistic and further repel voters. I hope he doesn’t do that. 

I also hope the pundits and commentators lined up to comment on the debate have more substantive critiques to make than, ‘He looked masterful,’ or ‘He seemed nervous.’ 

In terms of strategy, I think Cunliffe will attempt to speak to older voters who are deserting his party for New Zealand First. Key will speak to current National voters and frighten them into turning out and voting ‘Unless you want David Cunliffe, Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom running the country.’  

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