Saturday, 26 February 2011

Thanks for the love and support Tuesday Poem "family"


I'm on a "rogue" computer so I must keep this brief.

I might be offline for a wee while, but I just want to thank all my fellow Tuesday Poets for their love, care and support.

Tuesday Poets, you rock big time!!!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Tuesday Poem: "Letter to Wayne"

Forgive me if I seemed brusque at the airport,
these churches to farewell
are not where I choose to worship
and saying goodbye is like sheathing a sword,
the danger is not over until it’s out of sight.

You’re an introspective man, covert with your passion,
but I suspect you were as glad to see us
as we were to see you.
It’s been said that you are a perfect foil
to my extroversion,
we are a sort of Laurel and Hardy of the emotional spectrum.

One of the perils of transience
is the absence of solid friendship
so that we sometimes become
like wings without a body.
Having a friend arrive on our doorstep
is to find something we did not realise
we had lost.

A holidaymaker is as bright in the workaday world
as a mint coin on sunlit concrete
so that our biggest concern
was to polish your days
to the consistency of your previous excitement.
We are rusty entertainers at best.

One of life’s more pleasant surprises
is that we never know how or where
we will forge a friendship.
Friendships forged in the workplace
can be the most enduring
because there is no mandate to like our workmates.

For a few, too short days
you brought back for me all that was good
about my life in Auckland
and I can ask a friend for no greater gift
than to reflect a little sunlight.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Selling us down an American River

Recently, the news has featured a proposed free trade deal called the “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.”
See interesting link to book by Kiwi intellectual, Jane Kelsey:

Essentially, that champion of free trade and the free world (Yeah right), the United States wants its corporations to be able to rape and pillage foreign markets while John Key tugs his forelock for the crumbs from the American table.
When will these blind ideologist politicians learn that FREE TRADE comes at a very big price and ain’t free at all?
Essentially, big business America such as Pharmaceutical companies, oil companies and all the usual suspects will gain the power to sue Nations whose laws interfere with them making rapacious profits. Noam Chomsky warned us that the Nation State had given away to control by Corporations so here we go skipping merrily towards 1984.
Winston (not Peters), come in soon, your time is up.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Perversion of the Law of Supply and Demand

My younger brother who knows a fair bit about economics and finance and government spending etc. has said to me on a few occasions when he and I have witnessed some anti-social or stupid behaviour: "There is one thing that defies the Law of Supply and Demand: idiots. There is no demand for idiots and yet there is an over-supply."

Sadly, I often have occasion to recall this sage observation in the suburb in which I live.

Last Sunday morning, while most if not all of our street's residents were fast asleep, at 5am we were awoken by a drunken argument on the footpath outside our house. It seems that the very loud participants in this argument had a very limited vocabulary. Most of their sentences revolved around that sturdy Anglo-Saxon expletive: "Fuck". Or variations thereon. The word that can be used in service of the noun, the verb, the adverb and the adjective. A handy word at times, I'll grant you, but not at 5am!

My two primary school aged children were awoken from their pleasant dreams by this unpleasant rant. The word is not foreign to them, it rings out in many a playground, but they too didn't want to hear it at 5am!

As it happened that same morning I had decided to go for what is known in surfing slang as a "dawnie". I knew there would be waves and I wanted to get into them before the onshore wind got up and turned them into a white washing machine.

At first light, I paddled out and enjoyed a solid 3 to 4 feet swell with a light offshore grooming the faces of the waves to a smooth perfection. A good surf will always fill me up with the milk of human kindness and so it was that the 5am morons were pushed to a distant recess of my memory.

After a couple of hours, I came in, sated by my fill of waves. When I went to rinse the sand off me and my surfboard under one of the Council-provided outdoor showers, I discovered that some of my charming fellow citizens had smashed beer bottles all over the concrete. I had to gingerly make my way to the shower, stepping around the shards of glass. The amount of broken glass indicated it was more than one bottle that they had smashed.

I don't suppose these idiots experience empathy or fellow-feeling because when they vandalise and destroy and pollute public spaces, the people they hurt most are the ordinary citizens just trying to live their lives as best they can. If they think they are striking a blow against "The Man" or some such pseudo-revolutionary drivel, they are sadly mistaken.

Anyone short of idiots where they live? Supply running low? No, I didn't think so.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Is television the new opium of the masses?

Karl Marx once made that famous observation:

"Religion is the opium of the masses."

But sadly for old Pope Benedict and his cardinals, we live in an increasingly secular world. Only Islam seems to still be signing up new subscribers.

So if Karl was alive today, would he be substituting the word "religion" for the word "television" in his now famous quote?

Being a man who likes to be accurate and never to mislead anyone, I consulted that grand site we all love, Wikipedia

"Religion is the opium of the people" is one of the most frequently paraphrased statements of Karl Marx. It was translated from the German original, "Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes" and is often referred to as "religion is the opiate of themasses." 

Anyway, I suppose it must be even worse in America, the land of a gazillion TV channels, but here in Aotearoa/New Zealand we are getting more TV channels, but less quality programming. It seems like bread and circuses stuff here with people being bounced off giant plastic balls or endless reality programmes which seem to concentrate on the basest of human nature or so-called "dramas" with acronyms that focus on serial killers and serial rapists. And so it goes on.

This crap might keep the masses from rising up against their masters, but for many of us it is a blessing because it gives us more time to read good books.

Next time an autocratic dictator like Mubarak needs to keep his people out of Tahrir Square just put CSI Miami on state-controlled television.

If it aint broke, don't fix it

Recently, one of our television channels rebranded itself and aimed, so we are told, at a slightly older demographic range.

It got me thinking about the modern obsession for rebranding. The consumer was either indifferent to or perfectly comfortable with the old bottle/logo/channel/newspaper banner/the list goes on, but the "ideas" people think they should refresh everything about every five minutes. Does this say something about modern short attention spans? Does this say something about the contemporary desire for constant entertainment/stimulation?

Cue old fart music: can anyone remember when it was fine to lie on a sun-dappled river bank and read a good book or just gaze at the water meandering by and listen to the birdsong and JUST BE? To be quiet for a moment, to still oneself so that some inner voice might speak above the hubbub of the human world.

But now they must dazzle us with pretty colours or smooth, sexy shapes because we have become capital C Consumers and we must be forever bombarded with sensory stimulation so that we never have a micro-second's pause in which we might ruminate and decide that we don't like the crap they are foisting on us!

If you want some real sensory stimulation, I advise you to go to my friend,  Richard Clark's website and gaze at some of his awesome photographs. Now that's what I call something to look at!

Grand Wizard Rodney and the Super City Klansmen and Klanswomen

The following was in the news today:
"The Maori Statutory Board has confirmed they will go to the High Court tomorrow (Wednesday 16 February 2011) after the Auckland Council slashed their budget.
The Maori Statutory Board will take its budget to the High Court.
The Auckland Council yesterday slashed the Board's budget from around $3.4 million to $1.9 million."

When all the various city municipalities like Manakau and Waitakere were being proposed to merge into an Auckland Super City, ACT leader and Minister for Local Government, Rodney Hide, refused to let Maori be given allocated seats on the new Super City council.

Rodney Hide threatened to resign as Local Government Minister rather than have his name on legislation introducing the seats.

Like all good colonial masters and covert racists, he hid behind the "one rule for all" excuse, but Maori have had 170 years of being patronised and, quite rightly, they were angered by Hide's veto, especially since a Royal Commission had recommended Maori representation be enshrined in the new Super City council.

"After a year of consulting Aucklanders, a Royal Commission said one council needs three Maori seats."

So after this initial debacle, some sort of a compromise was reached by setting up a Maori Statutory Board. Now the Mayor, Len Brown, and many of the council's covert Klansmen are saying, in effect, "We can't give Maoris all that money or the rednecks will have our hides!" Or should that be: "Hides"?

They never kick up a fuss when they go on junkets to Sister Cities flying first class, but when a genuine body, set up in law, receives a budget to give a Maori perspective on and Maori input into all aspects of life in a Super City which contains about a quarter of Aotearoa/New Zealand's population, then all the racists start squealing! 

As several prominent Maori have pointed out, it's a tiny percentage of the Super City's total budget.

Come on, Rodney and Co, take off those white robes and come and join us in a new Aotearoa, one in which all races are celebrated and accorded respect and dignity. Give the Maori Statutory Board back their mana. Not that they need your approval. I'm sure they already have immense mana and could use that mana to advance Maoridom and Auckland. 

Is China the new Colonial Vampire?

Recently I heard on the news that Colombia is having some massive investment from China to build a big highway within Colombia that goes from inland cities out to the coast. The reporter added that China is giving aid and spreading its influence throughout Latin America because China is "hungry" for resources like mineral wealth and oil.

Over 500 years have passed since the Conquistadors came sailing over the Atlantic and put the Native Americans to the sword. The ones they couldn't work to death or murder were left to die more painful and drawn-out deaths through diseases for which they had no natural immunity.

In 2011, China can't roll in the tanks and rape and pillage so they have to be a lot more subtle. "That's a nice oil well you have there. Would you like us to build your kids a school nearby?" Suffice to say, they're not doing it for their health or because it gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling. They want to PROGRESS and their huge population is rapacious.

Now it would be hypocritical to say, "Colonialism is off the table, boys and girls." "Been there, done that," says the Western world. England, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, France, Belgium...the list goes on. They all had a turn at stealing the Africans and other indigenous people blind.

But will Colombia and all the others be any better off? Maybe. They might raise their standard of living if it doesn't go into some dictator's back pocket. Fresh helping of Mubarak, anyone?

But, ultimately, mightn't the entire planet suffer? Neil Young, the Canadian singer-songwriter, had these great lines in a song called Vampire Blues (from the album, On The Beach, released in 1974:

"I'm a vampire, babe,
sucking blood from the earth.
I'm a vampire, babe,
I'll sell you twenty barrels worth."

Somehow we have to let China know that the new cash colonialism won't do any of us any favours in the long run.

Note to the Visitors of Tuesday Poem website

In my most recently posted poem, Big Stupid Grin, I use the word "wairua". For those Tuesday Poem visitors from outside New Zealand/Aotearoa, this is a Maori word which roughly translates as "spirit" although "wairua" is a lovely lyrical word that encompasses more than that.

Sofia Coppola, director of the movie, Lost In Translation, would no doubt understand what I mean.

Tuesday Poem: "Big Stupid Grin"

It was the type of day Wellington is infamous for:
rain slanting into the pursed and puckered faces
of harried pedestrians

and l, out and about with my secret
that in the tall towers where the wheels
grind slowly

a thing not made of commerce
a growing not spurred by market forces
an investment not subject to whims and crises,

but a spark ignited by two people
laying themselves open to love
and hope and dreams and

schemes sometimes lost sight of,
was fanning the flame,
the head, heart, flesh, bone and wairua

of a life
taking root in my beloved's belly,
a life long longed for

a life
whose existence sweeps before it all petty irritations
and affixes itself on my face

as a big stupid grin

The poet wishes to acknowledge Valley Micropress in whose pages this poem first appeared.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Tuesday Poem: "Bipolar Opposites Detract"

Bipartisanship, whatever
the key nowadays is
cooperative collaboration
I sell the rail
You buy the rail
Let’s call the whole thing off
Centre left centre right
sent her round the bend
Get with the program
Facebook Face Time whatever

The poet wishes to acknowledge Presto in whose pages this poem first appeared.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

People power: the myth becomes a reality?

"The world, by and large, is overrun with dull gluttony wed to lazy power." - Mooarants, Presto magazine, March 2010 issue.

We have a monthly magazine that circulates in Christchurch called Presto. It is a free magazine and it is a quality publication. It covers all sorts of topics from the arts to politics to consumerism and just about everything in between. It has a number of regular columnists who reveal many fascinating things that mainstream media outlets are either too lazy or too ideological or too afraid to investigate. I think it would be fair to say the general editorial thrust is left-wing.

I find it stimulating reading and a columnist who goes by the by-line, Mooarants, is often funny, entertaining and incisive. Lots of things that he writes catch my imagination and the phrase above really resonated with me.

Recently, events in the Middle East and North Africa give new lustre to Moorants' phrase. Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt and many other Middle Eastern regimes are indeed run by autocratic rulers who are, indeed, examples of "dull gluttony wed to lazy power".

There have always been popular and unpopular revolutions, but never since the advent of electronic social media have there been revolutions galvanised by Facebook and Twitter et al.

It would seem a few dictators are sleeping uneasily these days and that's how we like our dictators: squirming.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Tuesday Poem: "My Father"

I do not remember my father as a demonstrative man,
but, hobbled though he was by a pre-war psyche,
we never doubted the depth of his affection for us.
His love of nature shaped our own perceptions of life
and his love of sport showed us the path of true competition,
that the essence is not to better others but to better oneself.
He transfused the ocean into us so thoroughly
that we will go to our graves with salt on our lips.

At all the painful pinnacles of growing
my father was there like a crampon you know will not fail you.
A towering lighthouse in his hat and dark suit
as he led me through the convent gate on my first day
and gently cut me adrift in the cruel seas of education
where the nuns patrolled the playground like killer whales
in search of seals.
He went ahead to each new town to make things ready for us
when I started boarding school he let me go in confidence
he bailed me out of scrapes with the law,
he was as certain as the mountain of his beloved Taranaki
and as solid as the beams of a whare runanga.

When I returned from overseas
my father and I found a space in our lives
where we could really get to know each other.
Through a winter that sparkled
he led me on odysseys into his soul
through the walkways, forests, rivers and coastline
of the city of his birth
which will, one day, witness his death.

If I were allowed only one memory of my father
it would be this: seaweed expeditions.
The northeast winds blew a bounty for his garden
onto the reefs around Belt Road
and at low tide we descended with our gumboots and sacks
to gather the fleshy harvest with its nitrogen-rich pods.
He had a system.
We heaped the seaweed on a number of high, dry rocks
then bagged from first to Iast to allow time for the seawater
to drain and the burden to be lessened.
I watched him as he moved around and about as deliberately
as a crab,
gathering the morsels,
bending to scoop the necklaces from the sea,
the sun's purple fire in the white, white, white of his hair.
He had seaweed in plenty at home,
it was the experience he craved.

The poet would like to acknowledge WA Ink (an anthology) in whose pages this poem first appeared.