The Dim-Post

September 11, 2016

Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:17 am

I wrote a thing about the Wellington Mayoral race for the Spinoff. You can read it here.

We finished watching Stranger Things recently. I saw a couple of astute comments about it on the internet, but cannot remember where:

  • The online response to Stranger Things is proof that the internet can’t just like things, it has to love them.
  • It’s a show that is not anxious about revealing its influences. (The show is a convergence of 1980s pop culture masterpieces. ET, Poltergeist, Alien, Stephen King’s Firestarter) 

I liked it, but it felt to me like a show designed by an algorithm to make me like it.

I just finished reading Michael Faber’s Book of New Strange Things. The only other book I’ve read of his is The Crimson Petal and the White, which I didn’t think much of. I don’t think I’ve ever read two such dissimilar novels by the same author. I liked BONST, but don’t think I understood it at all. It reminded me a bit of the Priest’s Tale in Dan Simmon’s Hyperion. If anyone wants to explain it to me in the comments, feel free.

 

September 9, 2016

Darkness before beers

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:26 am

There’ll be an awful lot written about the convergence of issues in the Chiefs/Scarlette scandal, but something I think we’re seeing a lot of, generally, is the rise of the anti-show trial in which powerful people or institutions accused of wrongdoing investigate and then exonerate themselves, generally outside the bounds of the criminal justice system.

September 7, 2016

Where the bee sucks there suck I

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 3:13 pm

Via RNZ:

Colin Craig contemplated buying his press secretary jewellery and told her she had “healing hands”, a jury has been told

The former Conservative Party leader is being sued for defamation by Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams over comments he made at a news conference and in a widely distributed leaflet in July last year.

Mr Williams has told the High Court in Auckland that the comments suggested Mr Williams been dishonest and had made up allegations about why Mr Craig’s press secretary Rachel MacGregor had left her job.

Yesterday he detailed accusations that Mr Craig had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor, forcing her to leave.

Mr Williams also read a number of poems he said Mr Craig had written for Ms MacGregor.

In one poem, Mr Craig implied that he wished he was two men and could be in a relationship with Ms MacGregor, Mr Williams said.

In a section of the poem titled ‘beautiful’, which the letter said Ms MacGregor could skip if she thought it was inappropriate, Mr Craig allegedly wrote: “You look unbelievably good in your new dress. Your lips are so amazing to kiss. Your skin is so soft. You are wonderful because you have the most beautiful … (lol).”

Full disclosure: I am vaguely, peripherally involved in this court case, somehow. Someone in the Conservative Party emailed me a copy of Craig’s pamphlet when it came out, and I guess Jordan Williams found that out during the discovery phase and so I had to sign a deposition about it all.

There’s an ‘Iran vs Iraq’ quality to all of this, but back when this trainwreck happened, Colin Craig signed a confidentiality agreement with MacGregor which he almost immediately broke, making all sorts of allegations against her in the media, secure in the knowledge that if she responded he could sue her for breach of agreement, but that she didn’t have the money to do the same to him. So watching him suffer another intense round of humiliation as karmic punishment for that is pretty sweet.

September 6, 2016

Why are cabbage leaves wrinkled

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:04 pm

One of the things I looked forward to about being a parent was answering questions about the world. What is the sun? Why is the sky blue, etc. And, I figured, even if I couldn’t answer my daughter’s questions I could look the answers up on the internet and then translate the explanations very lucidly.

This has hardly ever worked in practise. Today’s question: why are the leaves of a Savoy cabbage so wrinkled? ‘Uh . . . water retention?’ I guessed, before looking online and not finding an answer. Any botanists out there want to answer?

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Low Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:54 am

Via RNZ:

Speaking on Morning Report today, Mr Key admitted high immigration was putting a strain on the country’s infrastructure, but the government would continue to bring in large numbers to fill jobs.

He said this was partly because many employers could not get New Zealanders to work due to problems with drugs or work ethic.

“We bring in people to pick fruit under the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme, and they come from the islands, and they do a fabulous job. And the government has been saying ‘well, OK, there are some unemployed people who live in the Hawke’s Bay, and so why can’t we get them to pick fruit’, and we have been trialling a domestic RSE scheme.

“But go and ask the employers, and they will say some of these people won’t pass a drug test, some of these people won’t turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on.

I can understand why you’d want drug tests for forestry jobs, or other high risk industries – but why on earth would you drug test fruit-pickers? Is someone who smoked pot in the weekend really unqualified to pick apples? It seems like a totally pointless barrier to entry: the creation of a spurious problem, the solution to which – higher unemployment, higher welfare costs, higher immigration, increased infrastructure costs – can all be avoided by simply letting potheads pick some fruit.

As for people not turning up for work and having health problems, these seem like the completely predictable and widely predicted results of folding the sickness benefit into the unemployment benefit. Yeah, people with chronic illnesses are gonna have health issues. What Key seems to be saying here is that Paula Bennett’s extremely expensive welfare reforms have been a catastrophic failure.

September 5, 2016

Three predictions

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 12:09 pm

Via NewsHub:

Shane Jones is writing a book musing about how New Zealand should be run in one of the strongest signs yet his political comeback is on.

Sources have told Newshub that Jones has been mulling over the book’s contents and wants to use it as a “political reset button”.

The incarnation of ‘Jonesey the author’ comes amid growing speculation he will stand for New Zealand First at the next election.

The sources say that Jones has begun “doing the early mahi (work)” on the book’s outline while recovering from dengue fever contracted in Papua New Guinea during his role as the Government’s Pacific Ambassador.

Jones is clearly lining up the Whangarei seat that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wants to take off National’s Shane Reti. He lives in nearby Kerikeri, but has strong links to Whangarei where Peters already has a strong presence.

Prediction 1 is that there will be no book. Prediction 2: if Jones stands for New Zealand First in Whangarei he will lose in a landslide. Prediction 3. Even if the first two predictions come true the gallery will continue to be gullible suckers for Jonesy.

The need for an aggregator

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:00 am

This Russell Brown post on the Herald and Stuff sites obscuring the actual journalism their companies generate by burying them under torrents of clickbait is very true. Someone told me recently that Paula Penfold and the other former 3D Investigates journalists had been doing good reporting for Fairfax, and it occurred to me that I have no way of finding this out other than random word-of-mouth. I don’t read the actual paper, don’t use Twitter and stopped going to Stuff years ago. And it then occurred to me that Matt Nippert and Kirsty Johnson (and probably some others) are probably still writing good stories at the Herald, but since I gave up on their site a few months back too, I don’t get to read them either. I basically just get my news from the RNZ site now, and the odd linked article on Facebook, because they’re the only sources that don’t spam me with reality TV nonsense and overseas crime stories with headlines and ledes disguised to look like local content.

What I could really use is an aggregator. Way back in the day Kiwiblog functioned as a political news aggregator, linking and excerpting pretty much every political story with DPF writing ‘An excellent Herald editorial’ at the top or ‘Indeed’ at the bottom of them. If I had world enough and time I’d set up a New Zealand journalism aggregator, and call it ‘Indeed’ in honour of those salad days. But I don’t. I’d be very grateful if someone else did though. Hell, I’d even log in to twitter to check it.

September 3, 2016

The absence of gossip

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:40 am

I have no idea what’s happened in Andrew Little’s office, or why his Chief of Staff has stepped down. I haven’t even heard plausible rumours. But I keep reading these takes in which McCarten shifting back to Auckland is somehow ‘good news for Labour’ or ‘a smart strategic move’. It is neither of these things. Being without a Chief of Staff AND a Communications Director less than a year from the start of an election campaign is not smart, or strategic, it is a catastrophically bad position for a political party to be in: a harbinger of doom.

Those senior staffer positions are stressful. People burn out, or get fed up, or just want to do something else with their lives. But the Opposition Leader’s Chief of Staff is in line to become the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, who is one of the most powerful people in the country. It is a position a professional political operative willingly step downs from about as frequently as an Opposition Leader willingly steps down, ie pretty much never.

September 2, 2016

Politics, Weiner and Gossip

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:13 am

One of the many odd stories coming out of US politics recently has been yet another scandal involving disgraced former US Congress member Anthony Weiner, this one prompting his wife to leave him. There’s a documentary about Weiner, called Weiner, and it’s marketed as a comedy. After all, it’s got dick-pics, and a guy called ‘Weiner’ – what’s not to laugh at? But the movie is actually very depressing: a close-up look at a guy who seems to have everything, and an amazing future ahead of him, but who seems compelled to repeatedly engage in a form of self-destructive behavior that also humiliates and traumatises everyone close to him.

The movie takes a very critical view of the media obsession with Weiner’s scandal, showing us a prurient mainstream media obsessed with sex and personality issues, instead of ‘the real issues’. Weiner rails against this. ‘What does his private life matter?’ he demands. ‘What about the real issues? What about the middle-class?’ It’s an argument you hear a lot in politics, especially on the left, although the insistence on ‘the real issues’ gets suspended when, say, the Prime Minister gets caught annoying waitresses. But most of the time the focus is on policy, values – like the evils of the endlessly versatile neoliberalism – and ‘the real issues’.

There’s a very credible theory in evolutionary psychology that the main advantage that the evolution of language conferred on early humans was not communication when hunting, or the formation of elaborate plans, but rather the development of gossip. ‘Gossip is a peer-to-peer information sharing network’ as the academics put it, and it allowed humans to form much larger communities if they exchanged information about people’s strengths and weaknesses: who is good and bad to work with, who you might want to mate with, who to stay away from; who your leaders should be. If it’s true then it puts all this emphasis on policy and values over personality and scandal in a very different light. If we’re basically hard-wired to privilege gossip about politicians over other forms of information – and I don’t think that’s a bad way to make decisions about leaders at all; it’s certainly far more sensible for low information voters than trying to figure out the truth and substance behind policy debates – then trying to win on policy or ‘the real issues’ is just completely futile, especially if the gossip is malign.

Because there’s good kinds of gossip. There were a bunch of stories the other day about John Key washing his car, and it generated contemptuous groans from the online left. But if you’re someone who isn’t obsessed with politics, seeing the head of government making fun of himself, washing his car, spending time with his son – these are, y’know, likable things to most people. If I think my way through most of our crop of successful politicians its not hard to think of the stories they want to tell about themselves. Bill English is a gruff farmer. Paula Bennett is a feisty westie. Judith Collins is Crusher. Winston Peters is a wily old fox who keeps ’em honest. Andrew Little’s lack of popularity has been a topic of discussion recently, and I have no idea of how he wants to be seen in a positive light. What does he want people to say about him? Right now he’s just a grim, irritable man rasping away on my TV or radio all the time. People inside left-wing political parties gossip constantly about MPs and leaders and staffers and candidates and office-holders, and pretty much everyone else, and even though they’re consumed by gossip, they seem weirdly oblivious to its significance.

August 29, 2016

Why I don’t fear the robot apocalypse

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:45 am

Being in Christchurch made me realise how reliant I am on Google Maps whenever I’m out of the tiny patch of Wellington I’m familiar with. Maps doesn’t really work in Christrchurch – every time I tried to use it the application lead me to a giant construction site or into the middle of a vast, empty temporary carpark the size of a city block and then told me ‘You have arrived at your destination.’

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