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Further to my last

Dear reader – hopefully your life is going along just as you would wish. Sunshine. . .blue skies. . .when it rains, a warm, refreshing shower. . .all good in every way!

Sadly, I can’t say the same for me, or for the country where I live, New Zealand. You will know, unless you have been living in a dark room with no source of information like a radio, or a television or computer, or someone to come to tell you, that a shooter entered two mosques in Christchurch last week and murdered 50 people, wounding a number more.

The shooter, an Australian, chose New Zealand for this country’s openness and laid back attitudes. In what seems to be a rambling manifesto that has also been claimed to be cunningly constructed, he has cited inspiration from the British fascist Oswald Mosley, from the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and others. He even seems to have met Breivik and consorted with those who now support him.

There is more about this terrible crime that I won’t repeat. You probably know a lot already, and it’s sickening to write about as well as to read.

There is something you may not know that I’d like to share with you. Christchurch, where the murderer struck, is the place where Karl Popper wrote during WWII one of the most important testimonies to the importance of the kind of society New Zealand has become: The Open Society and its Enemies. I am not sure this qualifies as irony, or not, but it is important, at least to me. At a time when totalitarian racism and intolerance were fighting democratic regimes on a global scale, Popper was standing up for the messy, often chaotic, societies that freedom creates. This was more than a matter of principle – his argument was that progress, material and cultural, was bound up with this kind of freedom. What the shooter wanted was to close the door to the kind of country openness to the world makes possible.

Of course who am I? No one, that’s who. I nonetheless think Popper was right, and New Zealand’s response to the atrocity visited upon us by an outsider has shown the strength of our community. Yes, there are racists among us, people who believe not only that Muslims should be expelled, but are bigots about those of other races including the indigenous Maori, and of foreigners particularly Chinese people. Some of those holding these views are present in Parliament. New Zealand isn’t perfect.

But the country has grown, especially in the fifty or so years it has opened to immigration from other than European sources, and from European countries not part of the “northern” ethos consistent with British culture. I arrived here in 1972, and it has  been exciting and fulfilling to be part of the progressive opening of the society to new influences and ideas.

This coming weekend in the nearest city to where I live, Palmerston North, is a previously scheduled “Festival of Cultures”, an annual event. Booths representing dozens of cultures will be on display along with entertainers galore. It’s a shame that armed police are deemed necessary. As our Prime Minister said in the wake of the Christchurch shootings, these people are “us”.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Posted by on March 21, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The time of our time^

Beautiful humans! And any others who happen to be passing by – it is the end of yet another astonishing Earth year, and your unworthy correspondent wishes that it had been better for everyone than it actually has turned out to be. Perhaps you, wherever,  whoever and whatever you are, had a pretty good time despite or even because of everything. If that is so, good for you!

As you know as a diligent reader of this blog, as well as a connoisseur of contemporary events, there are those among us* who are convinced humans have done such a bad job of living on Earth that their continued existence is now short term. Put another way, we are toast.

I don’t believe this, though my last novel, The living end, is on this theme. My boundless optimism may be completely absurd, but it is optimism, and it is boundless! Karl Marx, for it was he, wrote in the 1850s that his studies of human life led him to conclude that “mankind only sets itself such problems as it can solve”. It’s not a straight line, says Karl, but it’s a line, and it just goes on and on, wriggling this way and then that. . .snatching if not victory at least continuance, out of the ashes of despair. Will he be proven wrong? Karl? The big dude? Let’s see about that. I’m hanging out for him to be right.

Of course there are other factors. There always are. A man who appears to be orange** and who lives in a white house in the United States, is doing his utmost to make everyone on the planet unhappy apart, it seems, from himself. You, beautiful reader, may think this fellow something other than an idiot, and I would agree. He is not an idiot. He’s something worse. He “knows more than he does”*** and thinks he can “fix” everything by being obnoxious. He’s wrong.

The thing that bothers me most about him, is that I do not believe he really is orange. When he takes off his man suit at night the rest of him is going to be some other colour, possibly a listless, dishwater grey.  Not only that, it also worries me that his hairdo is the result of mind-boggling scalp fiddling. Underneath those waves of dyed follicles is a surgically reduced map of bare skin. I know I am unworthy, and completely foolish in so many ways, but WTF? If he walked into public view as he really is, things would be different. People would laugh. He should do this as we could all use a really good laugh, cruel as it may be.

A wise orange one would retire somewhere. If he continues as he is, he could be rewarded with an orange suit! No need for a daily paint job! And the “Emperor’s new hair-do” could get an airing.

Tragically, it is very, very unlikely that anything I say or do in this blog or indeed anywhere else in any other way will lead to making the world a better place. It’s frustrating, let me assure you. There is, however, one tiny thing that might alleviate distress over the coming week and beyond. My novels – 9 in all, count ’em, 9! – on the e-publishing website smashwords, will be free between Boxing Day**** and the end of the year inclusive.. Free! To a good, a bad, even a thoroughly revolting pair of eyes. Go on. Don’t waste a moment! Have a read. I especially like The Kleiber monster, Demented, and Attila’s Angels, but every one, according to me, has redeeming merit. And in these parlous times, redeeming merit is worth something. Shurely.

All the best. Let 2019 be fabulous for you!

^A sly encounter with Mr Norman Mailer.

*Thanks Bob (“There are many here among us/who think that life is but a joke/But you and I we’ve been through that. . .” – All along the watchtower, a wonderful song.)

**It seems he paints it on, or has someone do it for him.

***Mr Dylan again. So shrewd!

****Boxing Day is a British and allied societies tradition, the day after Christmas, and in New Zealand where I live, a holiday. Its name comes from the former practice of giving gifts (“boxed”)  the day after Christmas.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Joleene, Joleene*

Hello there. Hopefully wherever you are and however you are, you are at least OK.

Recently I was texting with someone I hadn’t caught up with for more than forty years. You think that makes me old, but it doesn’t. The truth is that I am pressing fifteen in my present emotional growth phase – but vigorously! Anyway for some reason I started to talk e-style about the person who does the covers of my books, Joleene Naylor. I’ve never met Jo, as I call her, though we’ve spoken on the internet once or twice. She’s from the part of the world where I was born, but not brought up – Iowa, and our tracks would have crossed maybe if she had actually been born when I was in some of the spots she cruises effortlessly today.

Jo spent what are described as “formative years” in the town where the Everly Brothers really got going. You know, “Bird dog” and other hits of the 50s and early 60s. That town, Shenandoah, Iowa, was also the town where one Charlie Haden was brought up, and Charlie, even more than the Everly duo, who found fame using “close harmony” singing, achieved something remarkable. Haden was a member of a performing country and western family, beginning his career at the age of two. He could really sing, apparently, but as a teenager an attack of polio ruined his voice. Fortunately, he had become interested in jazz and the bass, and he went on to become the most important bass player since the also remarkable Charles Mingus. There’s possibly something in being named Charles if you plan to be a fabulous bass virtuouso.

Haden was a founding member of a band led by reed and other instrument player Ornette Coleman, whose shall we say advanced notions of what constitutes music led players in his native Texas to walk off the stage rather than jam with him. Haden could jam with him. And did.

Sez Wiki: German musicologist Joachim-Ernst Berendt wrote that Haden’s “ability to create serendipitous harmonies by improvising melodic responses to Coleman’s free-form solos (rather than sticking to predetermined harmonies) was both radical and mesmerizing. His virtuosity lies…in an incredible ability to make the double bass ‘sound out’. Haden cultivated the instrument’s gravity as no one else in jazz. He is a master of simplicity which is one of the most difficult things to achieve.” 

From country and western to free form jazz is pretty amazing, and Haden went further than that! Check him out! Anyway Jo went from Shenandoah to other places and now hangs out in a town in Iowa famous, apart from her, for an unsolved mass murder sometime early in the previous century.

When she isn’t doing art, Jo writes. Her chosen genre is the adult vampire novel, and I have read a number of these before publication. As she’s gone on, her writing has improved in every way, and the ones I like the best are the prequel Brothers of darkness and the final in the multivolume series focusing on the beautiful Katelina, her love affair with the vampire Jorick, and. .  .that would be telling.

Since then she’s been doing spinoffs of the series under the title Tales of the executioners. 

So. It’s rolling around to the time of year when people give other people things in hopes of forgiveness, or whatever, and I thought I’d just put in a plug for Jo’s books. Readers of this blog may already thirstily slurp down every exquisite drip off Jo’s e-pen, but some of you may not be in on the secret. There is heaps to choose from!

So again. Go on. Be adventurous. Give your best mate Brothers of darkness, or one of the others. Unlike my e-books you can order a hard copy and write in it! Write something really nice! That way it will be there, forever, after you’ve been turned and grow those little teeth and bite someone on the neck or – here’s another wee secret – somewhere else.

Joleene Naylor. Google her. Buy. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

*Dolly Parton wrote and originally recorded a song almost by this title, the spelling being different. Miley Cyrus has also done a version. It’s about how beautiful Jolene is and how the singer hopes against hope that she will not steal her man. Given that the man in question is muttering Jolene’s name in his sleep, the prospects are not all that great.

 

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Imaginary elephants – new and improved!

It is not obvious why elephants have such a hold on the human imagination, but their grip is as powerful as the mighty stomp of a wild-eared pachyderm. While on my journey through northern Europe last year, and in my travels around op shops in New Zealand, where I live, elephants kept rubbing their trunks into my camera lens, one way or another.  They’ll no doubt go on doing so, making the photos here a work in progress. I hope you enjoy some of them – even all of them!

Here is a herd in Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens.

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Teapot, found in Glasgow years ago.

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A few matchbox covers from the museum in Jonkoping, Sweden:

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A carved beauty complete with silver adornments, op shopped in Palmerston North, NZ.

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Cast iron triplet:

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Carved mum and child, as per me:

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Adorning a Copenhagen building:

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And also from Copenhagen, a rather bad photo of a window display:

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It is far from true that elephants are alone of wild beasts in awakening our imaginations to nature’s thunderous wonders . Here is a warthog, “hand made in South Africa”, discovered in a used store in Dannevirke. . .

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That’s telling us! Below is from a fountain in a wee corner of Dresden, across the mighty Elbe from the main town. And below, a group holding it all together from the same array.

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Thanks for looking.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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High above the Elbe, with me*

Hello there beautiful humans, and others if that is appropriate. If you are from another planet please get in touch – it would be nice to hear about your home.

It’s also beautiful in my “Scandi Palace” here in New Zealand, a late winter sunshine day. Outside the robotic mower relieving me of a special humiliation** quietly and steadfastly rolls on, and on, and on. . .yum!  If you are a reader of this blog you will know winter here is not the brutal version of many northern hemisphere places, like most of Germany for example. Last year, in the northern autumn, I spent about a month in Dresden, and toured the local countryside. I’d been before – first cycling through in summer a few years ago along the Elbe river. Upstream from the city is a national park known as Saxon Switzerland that is famed for its weathered outcrops. It’s not at all like Switzerland in my opinion, or not of the places in that country I’ve been. To me the naming of the place does it a disservice. It is a unique landscape and when you are there in the cold, it not only takes your breath away, but does it in steamy clouds. Cool! Extremely cool!

Below are some photos I took in a visit there.

There is a stone bridge, the Basteibrucke – originally wooden when first put up in the 19th century – connecting a line of peaks before a track descends abruptly to a hamlet far below. Spurs are nowadays reached by metal spans. If you happen to be in the district, pay it a visit.

Thanks for having a look!

*Not always high up. Me: Not shown

**See my post “Thorstein Veblen hates my lawn”. It is worth reading, according to me.

 

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Posted by on August 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Aaaaahlborg!

Recently there was a news story saying the the United Nations has found Finland to be the happiest country in the world. I have never been to Finland, but it has a reputation for alcoholism, though Wiki shows that it is exceeded by other countries not so far away, with Belarus what appears to be the coveted top spot. Those central/eastern Europeans know a few things about lifting the glass or bottle or spray can to their lips and chugging it on down.

Finland’s reputation for excessive drinking is real enough. Google Finland and alcoholism and see what you find. Plus: if you are a fan of Scandinavian films and television, you will sometimes see a snarky remark about Finnish drinkers – for example, in the popular series Wallander. Noomi Rapace’s first film after the global smash of the Swedish Millennium trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc) concerned a woman whose father was a Finnish alcoholic in Sweden, who beat her mother and generally was a useless sot.

Finland is also the country where a Dr Sinclair developed a method of treating alcoholism named after him. You can check this out and see what you think.

These unworthy thoughts came to mind through yet another of the little coincidences that have made my life, if not complete, at least more interesting than it might otherwise be.

Denmark hosts the town that has been found (by the European Union) to be the happiest in the EU. This is a shade of an exaggeration as the survey was to find where residents were most satisfied with the services of their community. That’s close to happy, I guess.

Its name is Aalborg.

Here is a sign that Aalborg and Finland may have something in common.

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English is the ah “lingua franca” of Europe so it’s no surprise it is the language of choice in Aalborg. However it may be that tourists are in this establishment’s sights.

Aalborg is a very nice place, if you don’t mind the rain. It fair pelted down! Not just there but from the top to the place further south where I finally threw it in and took a train to Hamburg.

But there are some pretty neat things to see. Lots of public art – murals a go go!

Here are some views:

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That gave me a laugh.

Hope everything in your life is just as you would wish it. Given the crazy stuff going on in the world just now, that’s a big wish but I am hopeful nonetheless.

Thanks for having a look.

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Meissen

Hello beautiful people. Yes, it’s been quite some time really since I managed to put something up on this blog, and here I am again with more of “what I did last year”. You may wish to ignore it, as all the others,  but I hope you don’t.

Meissen is a gift that keeps on giving, for me but not only for me. Too large to be a village or hamlet, too small to be a city, it’s a medium sized town in the former East Germany, on the Elbe river, about 30 km downstream from the much larger Dresden. I’ve been there a few times now, and plan to return. You can help in this if you want to!*

The reason I first went to Meissen is porcelain. Meissen is the place where Europeans first figured out how the Chinese did it. A few enterprising souls used local clay and managed to reproduce something not entirely unlike what was being imported at great expense from the east.

The local satrap for it really was he responded to this development in a characteristic way: he locked up the inventors in his castle atop the hill overlooking the town so as to keep the secret secret. Well done!

That didn’t really work out. Once others knew it could be done, right there at home, they jumped into it.

All the same, Meissen kept on keeping on, and the local ruler, absorbed into the Saxon dynasty dominated by Dresden, commissioned and collected Meissen porcelain at the same time as he continued to import from China. Dresden has a marvellous museum of this collection and one day I will put up another photo story about that.

Meanwhile however Meissen porcelain has been produced all those centuries, right through the period of “Communist” rule to today.  While the Commos ruled they made special medallions commemorating various achievements and I have one of these! No photo, sorry.

Generally, I think the Meissen version of Chinese porcelain, while top flight for the actual porcelain, the stuff you hold in your hand and rub, is not actually up to the mark when it comes to artistry. The best is not bad and most of that is in Dresden. The museum in Meissen (part of the factory), however, shows the limitations of the work there, with only a few pieces really worthy of attention. Sorry about that too!

The place, however, has a lot more going for it than that. For starters, it is beautiful. The castle and the church it encloses, set high above the river, are impressive, and the town itself is full of interesting features. Set in wine country, the surrounding hills are picturesque. It’s just nice. And there are the people. . .who I’ve been so fortunate to meet and get to know.

Here is the town, the castle and the “Dom” cathedral, seen from across the river, among the vines:

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Nice, eh?

That’s an autumn view. In summer, from the old town:

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There are heaps of churches and romantic street scenes, and touches of the past and present in public spaces:

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Twilight views:

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Street scenes:

 

 

 

 

Er, “folk wisdom”:

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And the kind of spiritual blessing one gets from a cold autumn day, walking in the country:

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There’s a lot more to this wonderful town and its people, and if I am really lucky, I’ll  be back again to sample its beauties. Meanwhile, I just thought I’d share with you some of my photo memories. Thanks for having a look!

*Yes, dear reader, by waiting until after August 1 when the present giveaway season ends, and then buying at least one copy of all my books from smashwords or other e-retailers apart from Amazon, you too can assist!  Go on – you know you want to. Give your spare copies to friends. To enemies. To innocent passersby on the street with a smartphone.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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