Something nasty in the woodpile

C-Right-wrongThere was a time when ordinary New Zealanders rejoiced in living in an egalitarian society, comfortable that we all shared the same values and knowing that we looked out for each other.

We liked being a nation of small businesses and big farms, trusted that our banks would always be New Zealand owned, that the St John’s ambulance would come immediately to an emergency 111 call, the police would treat our complaints of a house burglary or of sexual abuse respectfully every time and that politics was an honourable profession.

Most people didn’t know – and probably didn’t care that much – how government and politicians worked, which no doubt correlates to our trusting natures, sense of fair play, decency, honesty, tolerance and celebration of being ordinary.

And once upon a time our Prime Minister, John Key, personified those values. He was one of us, liked and respected because he was so ordinary, so inoffensive, so lacking in vision, philosophy, policy and diction, but admirably rich with overseas business experience ergo really smart and took the tongs at a kiwi barbecue for royals or the wretched press. He was a safe pair of hands and he’d do right by us.

Those were the days my friend. Our world has changed.  Now there’s something nasty in the woodpile and our national apathy and she’ll be right attitude is but cold comfort.

While you may, as ordinary New Zealanders and, if Epsom voters, obey the exhortation by Honest John, not to read Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics, the book has blasted open the door on a vicious, vile, devious and duplicitous world of Machiavellian immorality run by the Nats and seemingly condoned despite the firm protestation by Bill English that these shenanigans were not his “style”.10393455_600x400

Mr Hager is in good company for lifting the lid on this political underbelly.

His book does not have the same global impact or shock, horror revelations as the whistleblowing of Wikileaks, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, nor the Winebox and Watergate.

But we’ve learned and confirmed what we should have known but didn’t want to see: that there’s an official version and there’s the true version, that’s the one not for public consumption, and it beggars belief.

While John Key, in his guise as Mr Nice Guy, has been doing what he does best, spreading the positive stories, kissing babies, charming conservative Remuera matrons who buy his biography, anointing cronies and talking up New Zealand on international golf courses, he’s let himself become surrounded by an orchestra of advisors skilled in the ‘dark arts’, ‘attack’ troupes, his panzer division, formerly known as Judith Collins, and a congress of miscreants spreading dirt.

download (1)Cameron Slater, the author of the Whaleoil blog, recipient of National Party and Beehive inside information, publisher of paid content from lobbyists and guest of an Israeli government-sponsored PR educational, is a titan of venality. He’s a foul-mouthed, giant feral, posturing as a fee fi fo fum power ranger, out for blood and it doesn’t seem to matter whose blood. “Time to let those pricks know they can be got. I want to take out some pollies,” one of his hacked and published emails says.

Mr Key and Team Key are pretty sure that the ordinary New Zealander won’t read the e-mail laden content of the Hager book – only 4000 were published but it’s available on kindle – because he’s not one for reading anything much and he’s pretty sure they’ll be bored.

But it is not the content alone that is the smear the National Party should fear nor should it curse the timing of the publication for derailing its election campaign and leaving policies to rain on deaf ears. It is the undressing of the Prime Minister’s carefully framed public persona.  Mr Nice Guy and his party has been found to be bereft of any moral compass.

10401066_600x400No-one can accuse the Prime Minister of being stupid, or at least so stupid, unobservant or negligent to believe he didn’t know what his officers and advisors were doing.

Even he, a man with only a money-making philosophy, must now know the answer to the age old question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Yes Mr Key it does. We ordinary New Zealanders are receiving the message loud and clear and seeing it everywhere, not just whirling like a dervish in the blogosphere.

The first rule of politics is never believe anything until it’s been officially denied. Bismarck said that and look where it got him and Sir Humphrey’ knew how to wrangle his Prime Minister into line and call off the wolf pack when he had a slip up.

Obfuscation, Mr Key, is not going to make the outing of this disgusting and damaging behaviour go away nor is trying to shrug it off as perfectly normal for friends and foes alike to swim in the same political scum.

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The Panzer Division, formerly known as Judith Collins

You can try and dismiss the emails as unreliable because they are hacked and the stories they tell as slanted but this defies comprehension when there really is only one possible slant, particularly when the actions of the panzer division, formerly known as Judith Collins, are concerned.

Allegations that this is a left wing conspiracy is really boring and offends the intelligence of ordinary New Zealanders who still think for themselves and won’t be bullied into following National Party advice on tactical voting in blue seat electorates.

Distancing yourself from the obscenity that is Cameron Slater doesn’t cut it either.

Look, we fully empathise with you when you say “at the end of the day, he’s not my guy” (and we know you probably rue the day you met him and correctly judged him as a law unto himself but tolerated him as the son of a blue blood Nat, sponsor and former party president,

It’s not okay to infer it is okay for your loose-cannoned panzer division, formerly known as Judith Collins, to be the “unwise” pimp who provided her mate, Mr Slater with the name and private details of a civil servant he wanted to name and shame as punishment for the leaking of information showing Deputy Prime Minister Bill English had been claiming $700 a week in allowances for living in his own home. The publication on the Whale Oil blog of the man’s contact details resulted in death threats against him and his family. Would it still be okay if the threat had been carried out, Mr Key?

Is it okay in your books for a government servant, even if he is an insider on the ninth floor of the Beehive, working alongside other National Party insiders, to “borrow” information belonging to the Labour Party because they could. Does that mean it is okay to steel the family silver because someone left the back door open and you stepped in? Or do you practice situational ethics?

And why was it okay for you to be so morally outraged that a police complaint was necessary when the media wanted to publish what you and Mr Banks actually said over your cup of tea, which proved it was nothing more than a clumsy, publicity stunt. We right thinking, ordinary New Zealanders call that a double standard.

In fact, National has become a moral hazard – a popular one at that for the time being – but don’t let your smugness make you complacent and platitudinous.

How are we to vote, positive or not, unless not voting means a vote for National by default  – we need team Key to provide credible evidence that it is capable of delivering positive change with inspirational policies and a plan that benefits more than the favoured few.

End of the DayAt the end of the day, Mr Key, you need to earn back our trust with more than hollow words and don’t knows. You are the leader of a party that has acted high handedly and badly and exhibited publicly that the only ship to leak from the top is the ship of state.

We ordinary New Zealanders are disappointed. Your MPs and the legions of advisors, officials, bully boys and girls in the ranks, cronies and muckrakers need more than a pulse to enter the House and the ninth floor. They need to be held to account with a code of conduct that has consequences and public outing if they break it.

It will need to go well beyond swearing self-serving allegiance to their own re-election and re-appointment to positions of power and influence. The parliamentary oath obviously doesn’t hold sway anymore so will the court of public opinion have to sit in judgement more frequently, alertly and noisily to protect transparency and preserve the values we hold so dear and make us New Zealanders?

We’ll be watching you.

Dark Side of the Moon

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For a she’ll be right mate nation, bursting with light and life, how did New Zealanders become so attached to the dark side?

We pride ourselves on being able to do anything, to bat above our weight, knock the bastard off and then shrug off such great achievements as nothing much.

We climbed to the top of the mountain and basked in the sunshine. That was really something and we’ve had lots of moments of standing in the sunshine since, at least until we turned to black. It’s our national colour and schadenfreude our default mind-set. It’s the downside of living in Godzone.

I know it’s hard to find enlightenment, inspiration and guidance, especially from politicians – that beige brigade of faceless, silent names who sit in Parliament, bray and bellow occasionally to justify their pay but are now shaken and stirred to get out and win your vote so they can sit some more.

When I hear lads, laddettes and luddites defining the list of dos and don’ts that make a kiwi dinkum I really am in the dark wondering who we are, what we’re all about and if we have any values.

WhoIdentifiesAsKiwi14 (1)It’s my problem. I need a lightbulb moment because I don’t get how all the surveys show Kiwis as a happy bunch – a bit shy but like really friendly and easy going – and yet our culture is back to back black.

I celebrate with open arms the arrival of new migrants who did not leave their cultures, languages, nationalities, food and creeds at the airport as Winston Peters, he of the double breasted dark suit and finger wagging black wit, instructed or woe betide.

Rather than an apocalypse of the four horsemen Winston, I’m betting that our newest citizens inject energy, light and learning to New Zealand. We may soon have a soccer team worth crowing about, an even better cricket team and win Gold in badminton and table tennis. Best of all we’ll live in a rich and diverse society with new ways of looking at and seeing the world.

But, as one of God’s frozen people from pioneering Presbyterian stock, I cannot hug an Asian a day as our first woman prime minster once over enthusiastically decreed when she was no longer in a position of power and influence but hunting for new positions of power and influence. I have been hugging an Asian a day for decades. He’s my husband. He’s one of us!

I am a native English speaker, have rounded vowels, more aye that oy so now am unsuited to radio and use full sentences and syntax.

I am desperately interested in global current affairs that go beyond who’s bonking whom and I was born here. That is not a requirement for citizenship which is quite easy to attain when you have the dough and hire a PR to buy friends for you in high places and who can speak for you because you don’t speak English.

6a00d83451d75d69e20167627bb94f970b-800wiHowever, remember as the new boy on the block, even if you now own the entire block, it is a no no for any Chinese to buy dairy farms.

There’s no law against it and absolutely no racism or xenophobia about foreigners buying natural assets outright if you are not Chinese.

You just have to understand that two Wongs do not make it right but it would be alright for Mr Wright.

I am not some wretched nouvel existentialist who has just discovered Camus or Nietzsche. I am not searching for the doorway at Delphi where the Oracle inscribed ‘Know Thyself’ while under the influence of some mind-altering hallucinogenic.

Nor am I a despondent tall poppy who thinks I know better, and because I have done my OE via Earls Court, and my liver has survived the rights of passage pilgrimage of the top spots of Europe drinking, bull running and tomato throwing festivals by kombi van (purchased in Earls Court), I have carte blanche to be broody and whinge and obnoxiously forward in counting all the ways that New Zealand fails the litmus test of being up with the rest of the world.

It doesn’t suit my nature to constantly knock, belittle and begrudge others. I’m not interested in joining harbingers of doom, gloom and the ‘yes but’ nay sayers. And I know I don’t want to emulate the national identity our artists, writers, musicians and political and sports commentators promote of New Zealand as the land of the long, black cloud – with gorgeous scenery and bungees to spruik up the heaven on earth environment so tourists will like us.

I’m rather desperate to escape that. I am going to embrace, even celebrate, the diversity of my perversity with not a black thought, black head or black dog in sight. I am going to be little Miss Sunshine.

download (3)True confession: rugby is not my religion. I do not sink into depression when the ABs lose a test. I am not worried about Dan’s groin strain though Richie’s foot was of concern. My child did not wear baby black jerseys, suck an All Blacks’ dummy nor learn to kick a ball as a toddler as the legend goes. Sports channels are not part of my Sky package. The Arts, History and Rialto channels are.

I like many things and if rugby is your thing, you are welcome to it.

I do not think Sir Russell Coutts a black heart for winning the America’s Cup – five times in all. He was simply the best. He had the best technology, used it to the best advantage and had the best team who did not give up or choke but beat the odds and won.

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A Black Day

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Not a Black Day

We choked and lost. But we did our best – unfortunately it was second best – and we’ll be remembered in the annals of sporting history as the team that seized defeat from the jaws of certain victory.

It wasn’t our fault of course. We were overcome by a big boy with big toys even though millions of dollars from private and tax payer sponsors got TNZ to the starting line.

Doing well with bugger all is entrenched in our psyche. We treasure our Number 8 wire quick fix with what’s closest at hand mentality. Mate, that was admirable in pioneering days but we need to grow up.

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Improvisation does not cut it anymore. We need genuine innovation if we are to see the light of day.

New Zealand has a big black mark against it with one of the lowest rates of patent registrations in the OECD. We spend only a little more than 1.0% of gross GDP on research and development and our economy is skewed so dangerously to primary commodity exports that when the milk price slumps so do we.

If we want to get back to black and increase employment and productivity we have to have products and services that are commercial, scalable and replicable – not just admirable. And we’re clever enough to rise to that challenge.

“Everyone’s good at something, and in our country, it’s rugby and being glum,” wrote blogger and columnist Rose Hoare. That’s tragic but you can see it for yourself in our art and “dark forbidding” painters like Colin McCahon, Tony Fomison, Ralph Hotere and Philip Clairmont.

I don’t revere or for that matter revile Colin McCahon’s paintings. Dad went to primary school with him and said he was a “queer boy”. I thought he meant he was the “God Boy” – that kid who stuck his feet in a steaming cow pat to warm them up on the way to school. It was the best bit of the whole story by Ian Cross.

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McCahon’s works leave me cold and uninspired. I can’t see The Promised Land in his paintings and I just can’t believe that any other country in the world would endlessly celebrate an artist who frankly was so depressing, dark and bleak.

Our films and our literature are also perversely dark.

You can tell a New Zealand film because it always rains and has a sad ending – except for Sione’s Wedding which I really liked.  Can we move on from this enervating cinema of unease please with comedies that make the hero a victim and dramas that are riddled with expletive dialogue and excessive violence to bring to life the dark underbelly of our society.

And then there’s our novelists. Oh happy day! I wish! I think Maurice Gee novels should be sold with a warning to slit your wrists before you start reading. You’ll wish you had by the end of one of his depressing liturgies of a woeful family going from bad to worse to end with the little lost boy left to die in an abandoned fridge.

I couldn’t finish Keri Hulme’s Bone People. Must be my thing about whole sentences and grammar and punctuation. I suggest she takes the publisher’s advance and sticks to white-baiting.

luminaries_front__24777__23200.1364428630.1280.1280-194x300As for The Luminaries that was 800 pages of my life I won’t get back.

I was delighted to find I was not alone. I met a stranger in the street. She too did not enjoy this weighty, over structured, tell all tome. We embraced and are friends for life. We’ll also stick up for the males aged over 45 branded by Eleanor Catton as bullies for not liking her book and invite the London Evening Standard reviewer to be guest speaker at our select and exclusive book club.

 

“You know what it’s like when you find a book you really can’t put down? One that seems so urgent to stay with you carry on reading when you should be sleeping or working or remembering your Tube stop? A book that seems more compelling than life itself? Such a great feeling!” he wrote. “Well, Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker-winning 832-pager, The Luminaries, is the opposite — in my experience, anyway.”

There’s also a whole genre of ‘black’ music that has made a killing out of depression, pessimism and sadness. The Dunedin sound is the very antithesis of Ten Guitars and the Maori show bands and strikes no chord with the uplifting and soulful poetry of American black blues, swing and jazz.

download (1)Now we have Lorde and her tortured performances.  She’s a true fashion icon from her mane of black hair, black nails and lips to her black dresses – a tribute to Paint it Black (which was written for a funeral and adopted by the New Zealand Rugby Union as the anthem for a disastrous World Cup outing).

Chanel really knew how to channel black.

We have Zambesi and Nom D, the all blacks of fashion, latterly smudging the palette with concrete, swamp and overcast.

Apparently Zambesi captures an intellectual, brooding, angsty, moody aesthetic with its no frills black ‘statements’. What do you think? I am thinking really really hard to wear deconstructionism when you want to walk, talk or sit.

4158968 I think Kiwi fashionistas are much more black and white.

Black is really practical and sensible (just like our clumpy shoes). Unlike white, black doesn’t show dirt and you can wear it for every occasion, day in and day out, from dawn to dusk, ad infinitum.

It’s no wonder that visitors to New Zealand think we are in mourning when they meet the locals dressed head to toe in funeral black, or fifty shades of grey, with a joyless demeanour to match.

Lighten up guys. Don’t fret about fitting in. Stop trying to find the dark side of the moon – there isn’t one.

We’re a gay rainbow nation now and the world loves us for it.

For sale: Unique Remvance, Tuscanelle, Scandi chic gentleman’s residence. Must be seen to be believed   

I look forward to Saturday mornings, the lie-in under the duvet, long black in hand, the cat sitting on the dresser, tail sweeping the china and that sense of virtue that I’ve been to pilates every morning this week and deserve to have time to do nothing.

My real treat is the weekend newspaper, served with just a sprinkling of news, like sesame seeds on a bagel, dropped between the advertisements. It’s the property section that I go for. I love a good laugh and the homes for sale stories never fail to deliver.

It’s not writing as in journalism, of course, just as Tony Blair’s memoir, “A Journey” is not biography but crime! It is grate journalism, advertorial, full blown spin.

The homes for sale feature writers have stretch and grow imaginations and a lexicon of ever ready descriptive clichés to turn reality into make believe. They take a leaf from the classic fictions created by legions of linguistically-challenged real estate agents who can at the press of a button download copycat phrases with www.thecopycat.com.au to reel in a discerning buyer. It’s a hoot. Here’s an example:

 

The Copy Cat Phrase Finder is a real estate copywriting tool that removes the burden of producing dynamic, creative copy for your real estate ads

 THIS IS THE LIFE! It won’t be easy to click out of holiday mode in this stylishly contemporary residence for the modern pleasure-seeker.Cool, calm and sophisticated with a youthful edge, this functional home is enveloped in light and comfort. Crisp white walls, timber floors and high ceilings create a style as timeless as the sparkling ocean view. The calming sea vista, captured through the extensive use of glass, will help you forget your city stress. This house screams ‘designer’ and will reflect the personality and taste of those accustomed to the best in quality design, finishes and lifestyle

 

See earlier post: The Layman’s Lexicon to Real Estate Copywriting for help interpreting real estate house for sale writing. e.g.

Up-and-coming area – might not be horrible in a decade’s time

Increasingly popular area – horrible, but lots of people are as desperate as you

Great for young families – bare earth; school and playground should be finished by the time thee kids are at university if the developer gets his bridging funds

Popular area – you can’t afford to live here

Sought-after location – only rich migrants can afford to live here

Deceptively spacious – not spacious

Cosy, cute as a button – too small for your large screened tv

Perfectly sized – humans can barely fit in this. Fine for Hobbits

Bijou – humans cannot fit in this

Compact- cats cannot fit in this

Charming – doesn’t have stairs but extra pole

Quaint – doesn’t have windows or doors

Rustic- doesn’t have a roof

Indoor-outdoor flow – has front and back doors

Real life examples from the dancing fingers of the creative power house sales writer demonstrates how well they have honed their art and craft. Those  opening gambits, generally recurring variations on a theme, are really captivating and you can follow them now with your handy lexicon.

  • The Penny Dreadful: “Tim and Penny are selling their house because an opportunity arose to buy a unique home they had admired for many years. They’ll miss their house but are pleased to still be staying in Mt Eden. “It’s got everything you need for a family — I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else,” says Penny.” Really Penny? You are moving to a more expensive or cheaper house down the road.
  • The community social responsibility and public good philanthropic seller who reluctantly realises that “now the family has flown the coop, it is time to move on and let another family pick up the mantle (piece?) of this splendid residence that has seen so many happy times.” Do you think I am stupid? You’re downsizing, divorcing, selling a deceased estate or retiring.
  • The contented fellow who knows his place. “Meet Gerald, the homeowner. When Gerald puts his key into the lock and steps inside he knows he is home.” Good for you. That name and address tag safety-pinned to your jacket is working. Your wife will be pleased and you will move to that posher house in a better school zone near to the pilates studio.

I love the way the house for sale writer takes the ordinary and transports us to the extraordinary with enticing headlines and descriptions that ensure there is no place like home.

The house becomes not just a castle, but a costalotta, an Italianite, rococo revival, a Balinese resort away from it all, a tropical spa retreat with more hints of Bali (subdivision with palm trees), a private gated family compound (subdivision with lookalike housing), an adventure playground you’ll never have to leave (retirement village), a cliff top haven (for those aspiring to new heights), a modernist minimalist gem, a mid-century retro designer dream, a Scandi chic townhouse, mews, apartment, bijou, jewel or a  stately manor, an executive home, a gentleman’s residence, a villa makeover that shouts “sophisticated synergy” and “a work of art”.

But some descriptions are simply not a patch on the real thing. This listing is for a gang headquarters.

This well-known property is set up for family and club gatherings but could be converted back to its former glory. The brightly coloured fences provide privacy and security and the large section with mature trees provide shelter where friends and family can gather for social occasions. There is ample off-street parking. Ignore its colourful history; this property is in need of an urgent sale. The home has three double bedrooms, a laundry, bathroom, standard kitchen and lounge that is heated by a fire unit. It is, however, in need of a “little TLC”.

urban delight villa

This fantastic light-filled villa is a home that truly takes sophisticated chic to a whole new level…. Seamlessly blending the ornate features with modern simplicity this seriously stylish villa boasts three double bedrooms (master with ensuite), the luxury of a spa-like bathroom and separate lounge/media room, high ceilings and glistening dark polished floors. The entertainer in you will be thoroughly spoilt with the gourmet kitchen and the voluminous open living space; slide back the living room doors to the wide sun-drenched deck area and outdoors complete with elegant landscaping and thoughtful plantings fringing the level lush lawn… the perfect social venue for year round hospitality. With two car parking the picture is complete.”

I wonder if that’s any more misleading than what “sophisticated synergy” looks like when it is for  sale.

Taste is subjective but letting loose with no taste, tips from house makeover tv sophisticated synergycontests and a free app from the local DIY, instant kitchen, bathroom and paving retail chain will kill the villa or at least leave it dieing.

How can anyone subjugate a wooden villa, the kitset, lace trimmed, lead lighted, character houses of Edwardian days into marvels of blinding blandness and acres of sterile white on white in homage to operating theatres. It’s renovation by anaesthesia! If only city hall officers and planners  were as voracious in tackling heritage wreckers instead of hapless carparkers.

I look at the blanding of suburbs and maiming of heritage houses not as a tribute to indoor outdoor flow but as vandalism by the desperate to own a house at any price newlywed with unfortunately a nearly dead conformity in their complete lack of respect or empathy for the products they have purchased.

What-Do-New-Home-Buyers-Want American dream

If they want an apartment buy one.

If they want Scandinavian minimalism get a good architect and build it.

If they believe there is no such thing as less, live your own fantasy and find a carpotect.

But why butcher a villa and leave it with an identity crisis for a new generation of homeowners to work out what ‘sophisticated synergy’ meant.

New Zealand is a little country with little history and little taste, a love of quick fixes and short cuts – better known as DIY or number 8 wire innovation. Cheap is good.

We have so little left of any architectural merit and easily tear down the old and classic with reckless disregard, especially if it really needs TLC and sympathetic and often expensive restoration like Canterbury cathedral. Imagine Britain if a brash Kiwi had been in charge of rebuilding after WWII.

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….and it glows in the dark

We replace history, heritage and beauty with works of singular vulgarity or ugliness.

We stick a container, a bungalow or a barn on on top of a tall building or important public building and say it reflects our character.  We opt for the quirky like the Beehive, a cruel joke for a parliament house and window cleaners, or put up the Vero Tower in Auckland city where the architect forgot to put the toilet seat down when he’d finished.

No wonder architects and builders seldom advertise that they are the ones on the job at construction sites. They need to be named – and shamed – and for that matter we should name and praise those rare instances of projects that are jewels of urban renewal, regeneration and genius .

Meanwhile I’ll just settle on a designer home.

Better home and living everyone

designer home

The Layman’s Lexicon to Real Estate Copywriting

Many thanks to the experts, enthusiasts and wary home buyers who have learned the real meaning of real estate prose to contribute to this handy guide

Early viewing recommended –  it’s gone already

An exciting opportunity has arisen – in shock news, we have a house available

Recommended viewing – the pictures are horrible, aren’t they?the fertility room

Priced to sell – I’m getting sacked if this doesn’t sell

Up-and-coming area – might not be horrible in a decade’s time

Increasingly popular area – horrible, but lots of people are as desperate as you

Great for young families – bare earth; school and playground should be finished by the time thee kids are at university if the developer gets his bridging funds

Popular area – you can’t afford to live here

Sought-after location – only rich migrants can afford to live here

Deceptively spacious – not spacious

Cosy, cute as a button – too small for your large screened tv

Perfectly sized – humans can barely fit in this. Fine for Hobbitsis this a toiletsitter rather than a bedsitter

Bijou – humans cannot fit in this

Compact- cats cannot fit in this

Charming – doesn’t have stairs but extra pole and step ladder

Quaint – doesn’t have windows or doors

Rustic- doesn’t have a roof

Indoor-outdoor flow – has front and back doors

Mature garden – large gum tree dominates outside; needs felling before it fells the house

Bright and sunny – no trees, no flowers, no curtains, glare from concrete and motorway lights

Fully fitted kitchen -good, you won’t need to provide your own sink and the wall oven is so high it’s never been used

WC / bathroom/ensuites – there’s a toilet, but we call it a WC because it makes it sound slightly more upmarket than just us saying the word toilet but no ventilation Great view – you can see it every time you sit on the WC / toilet

Elegantly proportioned – all the rooms are as small as each other

Great use of space – no idea how they managed to fit a bed in there

Three bedrooms –two singles at a pinch and at a squeeze you can sleep sideways in there

A building with a lot of history – you mean it was a gang house? Is that blood?don't mind the horse, he doesn't eat muchjpg

Full of character – full of mice or mould or a hungry horse

Superbly presented – P lab’s decontaminated, stuck some daffodils in a jug,vacuumed, got home staging company in and borrowed the brown ‘designer’ sofa from the open home next door

Studio apartment – sounds better than a flat

Studio apartment – bed in the kitchen, next to the toilet

Studio apartment – cupboard

Split-level studio apartment – there’s a bunk beddesigner 2 home

Mezzanine sleeping area – shelf with a mattress

Designer home – not quite what I had in mind

Architect – went to university

Carpotect – builder who played with lego

Boasts – has

Benefits from – has

Comprises of – has

Full of surprises – feature pillars suddenly appear. Are they keeping the building up?

Easy access into the city – it’s not in the city

Close to transport – House is beside the railway lines; horse available

Ideal for first-time buyers  – hello suckers have I got a deal for you?

Unique Design – it was designed by MC Escher and decorated by a psychopath

Original features – nothing has ever been repaired

Minimalist – basically a hollow shellbathroom2

Modernist – the walls are at right angles

Neoclassical – no idea what this means but it sounds fancy

Classical – Italian, Roman, Louis XVI, Egyptian

Art deco – nope, not a clue but its roughcast

Rococo – we just like the sound of this and rich migrants might like it

Bauhaus – I’ve got one of their albums somewhere I think

Well appointed  – yeah, we’re just saying random words now

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Keeping Mum

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There’s a new women’s lib movement underway.  

Babyboomer women, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, are coming out and staying out.  

Mummy is not going to keep mum. She’s going to be seen and heard – alot.

o-OLDINVINCIBLE-570Rather than turning into the retiring woman she’s going to be invincible not invisible because she has hit 51 and has lived a life.

This lady’s not for turning and doesn’t need to burn her bra – no – she’ll buy the company instead. She can. She doesn’t need to look like Barbie, though she can.

And she is beautiful at every age.

So advertisers and marketers get with the programme and shape up to take a giant leap for womankind. Throw away the lazy prejudices, stereotypes and vapid messaging and take a really good look at today’s female consumers.

It’ll help too if you can see that the woman shopper is not anmorphous mass aged between 18 and 59 and cares for her family!

Let’s start with a small step for man.

It’d be great if we 50 pluses could be given a brain, bladder and mental faculties.

And can we have more interests than finding a 1001 ways with plastic wrap or power walking around the retirement village?

downloadYou could wipe the screen clean too with those beloved by adman, cheap in every way, chatty, animated characters. I am struck dumb when confronted with that parade of little Misses and Misters like the dancing yoghurt, the singing bad breath veges and sweeties, the shiver me timbers damp house, super hero fly sprayer and those boring old farts who are planning their funeral night after night for what looks like forever.

Pink can go there too. It’s stink and only appropriate when it is Breast Cancer Awareness month and for rugby referees.

Baby boomer women, at least in the developed world, have financial clout and they’re on the way to wielding even more. The new money women already represent trillions of dollars in buying power and they’re going to have more.

They are well educated, have successful careers, bring up families, have money to invest and – take note – they make most of the big household purchase decisions including the house, car, bank, investment fund, insurance, healthcare , phone, internet and pay tv provider.

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They are also habitual online shoppers and nearly always pass along information on a deal or customer experience to others.

They’re also more likely to buy environmentally friendly brands if they have the choice and they like green products.

But, they also feel badly misunderstood by marketers and advertisers.

Take my advice and say goodbye to Mr Blobby and his animated gal and guy friends.

It’ll be good riddance too to that loutish boyfriend sticking panty liners on his torso as he channels his inner ninja and Mrs LBL will no longer have to surreptitiously leave the party to whisper confidentially to us that she’s not the least bit inconvenienced or embarrassed by her light bladder leakage problem now she has her liners! In this brave new world she can say it out loud and proud at the table.

Just as women are shamefully under represented at the executive and board tables, and still can’t achieve pay parity, you won’t be at all surprised to know that less than 5 per cent of the advertising industry’s creative directors are women. That may explain some of the stereotyping but chauvinism, ageism, sexism and banal messaging is not exclusive to men!  We’re all very very good at it.

Feminism or women’s lib was – and still is – about equality of the sexes, and not about women getting even. I cringe when über mutters, now über alles super women, but with perfect hair, teeth and figures, career off in their powerful 4-wheel drive urban assault vehicle for the office, having achieved domination over the male species who is left to bumble around the house, apparently outwitted by the buttons on a dishwasher. It’s pitiful.

Perhaps-a-reason-for-the-anti-lycra-brigade

But hold on, is this not the very same man seen on Saturday morning weaving in a peloton through traffic at breakneck speed on his racing bike? Clad in skin tight racing gear with action gusset, this weekend warrior demonstrates the 11th reason why men of any age should never wear lycra!

It also reminds us that babyboomers are not nearly dead – though a growing number of them are newly wed having exchanged partners for a newer model mid life.

They’re also early adopters. The blogosphere is ringing with women’s voices. And now there’s Sarah Palin’s voice to add to the confusion.  She’s launched her own online subscription tv channel to go “beyond the soundbites and the media’s politically correct filter to get to the truth”. This could be vastly edifying, particularly when she goes on longer than a soundbite!

I’m okay and I bet you’re okay too that part of the babyboomers coming out is that we don’t have to be perfect all the time, in every way.

In fact, women of every age are pushing back and embracing their imperfections in all their glory. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign has been a refreshing circuit breaker and so has Beyoncé, who really is perfection personified. She’s on the bandwagon, singing from the rooftops or wherever divas sing from, encouraging women to “find beauty in imperfection and the happiness in their lives”. I’m with her.

stuck

Revenge of the Designer Vagina

I hope she’ll have a word though to the one in five Australian women aged between 18 and 69 who are thinking about having labial surgery.

Apparently their romantic partners told them they didn’t like the way their vaginas looked and no they’re thinking they need to do something about it, according to a survey by Australia’s Flinders University Psychology Department.

My advice is to stop looking, find the happiness within  and enjoy the rest of your life.

.

Psychopaths, sycophants and other colleagues

groupthink2

There’s a fabulous job going at Marvel Studios for those wanting to break into movie making and you don’t have to be a superman or superwoman. You just have to play the game.

Marvel doesn’t want professional film-makers to apply, especially if they have an opinion. No, they are seeking “bootlickers, brownnosers, adulators, lackies, hangers-on, flatterers, doormats, puppets, minions, flunkies, and grovelers from all walks of life to compete in a new reality game show called, Who Wants to Be an Ant-Man Director?” in which regular people with no filmmaking experience will compete in a series of Dilbertesque labours to see who is corporate sycophant enough to make the movie.”

“Somewhere out there, somebody is willing to do whatever we say and put their name on it like it’s their own work,” Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, was reported as saying.  “We’ve just got to find the right automaton.”

Competition will be stiff. Contestants will compete in exciting games such as “Agree With Everything People in Suits Tell You” to earn Cross-branding Synergy Points™, or “Ass-kissing Limbo” which they can use to become immune to elimination, just like in real life!

“At the end of each episode, the contestants will be asked to betray their values in order to make a soulless shell of a movie that fits within Marvel’s 10-year business plan and scores well with focus groups,” outhouse.com reports. “Anyone who can put aside their dignity and agree to the demands of upper management will move on to the next round.” For more information check out: http://www.theouthousers.com/index.php/news/127637-marvel launching-new-reality-show-who-wants-to-be-an-ant-man-director.html)

corporate sycophant - dilbert

Thank you Dilbert

As we have all experienced, but of course never stooped to ourselves, sycophancy is a time-tested, if not honoured, shortcut to success and corporate survival, relying on ingratiation and flattery instead of talent and hard work to curry favour with authority in the workplace. Your seething fury is wasted. The brownnoser doesn’t see it that way – au contraire, he or she is a supplicant, devoted to a superior and knows that it is in their best interest to be whatever the object of their blind faith wants them to be.

Now, we are lucky people in the free world. We don’t have to watch Tony Blair suck up to George W and Condie to fight the ‘axis of evil’. We don’t have to obey our Dear Leader like North Koreans have to obey their Dear Leader, right down to his drastic haircuts or eat grass, if there is any left. We just eat humble pie having knowingly – and yes, willingly, opted to play the game when we joined a firm where little green bears – the conformists and self-preservationists – have the floor and the corner office.

bearFamily

This is no picnic.

I’ve had my colours done. The last time using Hermann’s Whole Brain Model™.

Surprise, surprise I radiated red and yellow behavioural preferences and was given a little green Velcro bear as a pedagogic tool. It was to sit on my desk, along with the “better results through better thinking” flip chart to remind me to use more of those self preservation traits when dealing with my overwhelmingly green and blue rational and planning mad, t-crossing, i-dotting colleagues.

The trouble is that I don’t want to leave common sense, intelligence and creative thinking in the lobby.

four selvesI don’t want to willingly suspend my beliefs and values when I enter or leave the building, even when the company values are light years ahead of what the Bible ever preached and will deliver world peace.

No I rebel against group think and colour bars.

It’s corporate apartheid.

I want to say “yes we can” rather than finding the ways – and let’s count them – to say “no we can’t” and not do something and spend hours, days, years atrophying in meetings with no hope of a decision let alone a course of action.

But, at least following that path, you will keep your job for years as the araldite of the organisation and guardians of cultural progress.

dissent imagesOf course, I have had, and also used, Myers Brigg’s psychometric testing questionnaires. It’s used to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

Potential employers use psychometric testing to assess your potential and personality, gauge your ability with words and numbers and potential abilities crucial to many roles.

It’s fast and cheap and has grown into a multi-billion dollar global industry. Never had one? Your time will come unless you are a nested feather, in a job for life. There are at least 216,000 bits of advice on Google on how to ace the testing.

At the end you can be slotted into a four-letter box and be a dichotomy!  Gee that’s something to aspire to! You can play anagrams too with your own wheel of fortune!

640px-CognitiveFunctions

I am not a total cynic of them. They can be useful. They can also be abused as some managers build teams on the basis of finding complementary personality types as if they were a Mengele of the modern workplace.

Tests can also give a false reading, rather like  Braxton Hicks contractions, as was the case of the disgraced former head of the UK’s Co-op Bank, Paul Flowers. He came up smelling of roses from the results of his psychometric and cognitive testing indicating he was perfection personified. But he was an S.H.I.T and had to resign after he was charged with possessing cocaine and ‘crystal meth’ among other ‘irregularities’.

Acclaimed American novelist, Kurt Vonnegut, recognised the danger of typecasting and misreading “most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences,” in his book “A Man Without A Country”.

I’d recommend reading it, but if you want to rise up the corporate ladder I’d keep quiet about reading for pleasure, edification or illumination. It doesn’t fit the type. Rather study fish. And remember who the big fish is in the little pond.

 

BIG FISH BUSINESS

Turd World

“The toilet is a part of the history of human hygiene which is a critical chapter in the growth of civilisation.”

Dr Bindeshwar Pathak

When I was little my big brother and I did “did”.

“Did you?” my mother would ask.

“Did,” we replied and glowed in the praise of being a treasure.

When I became a mother, I too celebrated the growing up milestone of my little daughter as she proudly ditched the pull-ups and sat on her potty, thumbing through “Winnie and the Pooh”. She too was a treasure though it took many years for her to lose the ‘and’. I blame my mother. She gave her the potty and book at the same time so they inextricably moved together, even when she graduated to the big, pink porcelain toilet.

Our bathroom was lovely, a clean, fragrant, comfortable refuge, with a value-add bidet to buff the bottom, wash the baby and socks in and provide a fitting hideaway for the cat to nap in.

In the developed world we have high expectations of what a toilet and toileting experience should and should not be.

Imagine if Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic had had a phewy loo experience during a comfort stop, reportedly for a self-administered pep talk while staring at the toilet seat, in his final against Roger Federer. He would have lost more than his poise. Instead he came back with a roar in a win that he could truly treasure.

We can – and love – to share horror stories of toilets we’ve been to where we had to pay to get in and would pay anything to get out of.

Toilet Etiquette

Toilet Etiquette

We’ve learned to be prepared when away from the commodious lavatories we trust. During a visit to Rajasthan, I inveigled my family to pocket toilet rolls at every opportunity to cater for our dire needs. And did they thank me? We arrived in the sanitised city of Singapore, flush with 17 virgin rolls of non-absorbent, 2-ply sheets in vicious pink and nothing to declare.

We’ve all suffered the inconvenience of having the wrong coin for the slot, the toilet with no paper, the broken lock and the door that bit too much of a stretch to push securely closed from a seated position.

We’ve all looked aghast at what we’ve left on the Dutch shelf or what’s been left by people with no aim.

We’ve held our breath in squiffy French loos even when we thought it would be the prices that left us gagging, focused mind over matter to straddle the squat, wished we’d removed our mobile phones before the splash in the long drop and even mastered the Japanese high tech commode without being electrocuted and prematurely washed and dried with a blood sugar urine reading print out thrown in with the hand wash.

But there are well over 1 billion people worldwide who are open defecators, not by choice like inconsiderate freedom campers, but out of necessity because they have no access to proper sanitation.

India has at least 600 million people, the World Health Organisation says, who “continue to defecate in gutters, behind bushes or in open water bodies, with no dignity or privacy”.

squatting

How do you deal with an estimated 900 million litres of urine and 135 million kilogrammes of faecal matter per day with totally inadequate systems for its collection and disposal?

It’s hazardous, not only because of the risk of diseases such as diarrhoea and hepatitis but especially so for women who use the outdoors to relieve themselves and are in danger of sexual assault. Recently two teenage girls from the state of Uttar Pradesh were gang-raped and found hanging from a tree after they left their village home to go to the toilet. Their house, like hundreds of millions of others in the country, did not have any facilities. In fact, more Indians have a mobile phone than a toilet!

So while India has rapidly developed into an IT leader and the call centre of the world, the call of nature has not been answered despite India’s politicians tackling the national toilet problem in their own way for years and years.

It is most unlikely that any political party in the western world will need to make a stand on toilets – except the Greens who may want to promote environmentally friendly, waste eating toilets and bio-gas generation plants as compulsory for all new house builds.

pray for toilets

The Times of India

But the promise to wipe out open defecation for good was a major platform for both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 Indian general election.

New Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s “toilets not temples” mantra struck the right chord with India’s 815 million grassroots’ voters seeking economic and social development, and upset millions of Hindus outraged that the outhouse could be put before God’s House.

Building toilets in every village, in every household, is only part of the answer in a society where open defecation is as normal as learning to walk and cleanliness is godliness.

It’s a massive job.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink as they say and honestly who would ever change a habit of a lifetime to use a toilet which looks and smells like a contagion.

Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, the internationally respected, crusading founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement and the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets (http://www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org/old/index.html), says “the toilet is as important, if not more so, than other social challenges like literacy, poverty, education and employment.

And there you have it: the bottom line.

Man Up or Put Up

ghandi

New Zealand Labour Party leader, David Cunliffe has apologised for being a man.

In an address to a Woman’s Refuge symposium into family violence, the mandarin of the opposition benches mangled the message. He’s good at this, manifestly so, even when the message is good. Sometimes he manages to miss out whole parts of his party’s main message and has to apologise. And sometimes his delivery is so mannered that he becomes an unwitting apologist for a ham actor, but this is a first, even for him.

“I don’t often say it,” he started.  Man-o-pause. “But I’m sorry.” Man-o-pause. “I’m sorry for being a man.” Jesus wept! See for yourself. Go to: http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/women-s-refuge-hails-cunliffe-apology-gutsy-6018734/video?vid=6018959.

You're a man, you am, youam

You’re a man, yes you am

David, if I may be familiar for just a minute, get over it. You are a man, yes you am, yes you am, yes you am. You had something important to say and you said it. Manfully.

With all the gravitas and veritas of a preacher in touch with his feminine side, he told men, the main perpetrators of New Zealand’s shameful record of violence against women and children, “to wake up, stand up, man up and stop the bullshit”.

Here Cunliffe was, sorry as he was for being a man, pledging to invest an extra $60 million on frontline prevention, education and justice reforms to help combat family and sexual violence. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of family violence in the developed world, with almost 60 percent of reported violence family-related and police responding to a callout on average every seven minutes.

His pronouncement was met with a ripple of applause and to be fair, positive acclaim from his captive audience. And okay ribald delight from the wider public, interest piqued by his sorry performance and maybe even the subject matter, although we are almost inured to the increasingly familiar cases of violent atrocities meted out without discrimination for gender, age, wellbeing or consequence.

“Insulting” and “silly” was how Prime Minister John Key reacted to the “I’m sorry for being a man” apology, leaving his colleagues, the lustrous-lipped, man-o-war trussed and jacketed Judith “Crusher” Collins and “I’ve been there so I know and we’re doing it anyway”, Paula Bennett to dispense with the substance of Cunliffe’s proposal and any meaningful discussion.

“The problem isn’t being a man, the problem is if you’re an abusive man,” John Key said. “Is he really sincere about that statement? Tomorrow afternoon is he going to go down to the local rugby club and say ‘I’m sorry for being a man’? I don’t think so.”

Now while John Key is no doubt relaxed about this he does have a point. Why stop at apologising for being a man? Would Cunliffe have apologised for being Maori? It’s Maori who have the ignominious distinction of being over represented both as the abusers and as the victims of the abuse. Of course he wouldn’t. He’s not Maori. He’s what we used to call a trendy leftie, a chardonnay socialist, and he leans quite right of left really. His party is sorry that he sometimes is less than clear about right and left and what’s wrong with the right and right about the left. Anyway he is very, very, very, very sincere – even more very than US-NZ relations.

Cunliffe is his own worst enemy. His wife says so and she’ll be right and even when he’s right, he’s wrong.

If it’s not the message, it’s the medium. If it’s not the medium it’s his manner. He’s like a manikin pis aiming to please. Show some mana.  Don’t apologise for being a man.  Follow your own advice: “wake up, stand up, man up and stop the bullshit”.

And because you’re a nice guy, not as nice as John Key who can do know wrong, I don’t want to send you away on a wing and a prayer, but with a special song, just for you.

 Guilty

By Randy Newman

Well I’m guilty, yeah I’m guilty,

I’ll be guilty for the rest of my life

How come I never do,
what I’m supposed to do
How come nothing that I try to do ever turns out right

Well you know how it is with me baby,

You know I just can’t stand myself

It takes a whole lot of medicine,
for me to pretend to be somebody else

 

Quote

No Moa Mallard

moa

Trevor Mallard is out for a duck.

The punchy Kiwi politician with a fast mouth, a furled fist for a nose and newly honed muscles to show off in tight cap-sleeved tee shirts is no bird brain. But his latest grand idea hasn’t taken wing. Mallard wants to raise the dead.

He wants to be the herald of a new dawn and bring back the Moa, New Zealand’s flightless, feathered giant, seen in movies, animated 3D malls and in landscaped clumps of concrete statues outside Auckland airport, gateway to New Zealand, and tourist traps.LifesizeMoaStatue

The tallest bird that ever lived, some with legs built like an elephant, some that laid an egg the size of a rugby ball and some the size of turkeys, all thrived and multiplied in New Zealand’s untouched world without a predator in sight for millions of years. And then came man.

“First we killed them, then we ate them and then we forgot about them,” writes Quinn Berentson in Moa: The life and death of New Zealand’s legendary bird (Craig Potton Publishing 2012 http://www.craigpotton.co.nz).

Great read, but steady on Quinn, don’t include me in your “we”. The moa has been no more for a long time. This is the age of sustainability, conservation and de-extinction, particularly for politicians wanting to come back from the brink of oblivion which brings us back to Trevor Mallard and his brave new world.

Striding through parliament’s Press Gallery, with photos of him cuddling a kiwi (the feathered and flightless national bird of New Zealand as opposed to a person), illustrations of the Spanish bucardo ibex and the gastric-brooding frog in Australia and armed with his homework on how DNA retrieved from skeletal remains could be used for the Immaculate Conception to recreate the Moa.

Not beating about the bush, the first in line for the 21st century throng of moas would be his home electorate, Wainouiomata, the new “Galapagos of the nation,” as one pundit described it.

Filled with great expectations of the speed of science to hurry along the second coming and prolong his own longevity and undeterred by the dismal results of the attempts to bring back the ibex and gastric-brooding frog, and damp squib scientists determining there was insufficient DNA to trace the genetic code of the moa, he still hove to, mouth first.

 

Hollywood movie director, James Cameron raised the Titanic in celluloid to great acclaim and this, his latest purchase in the Wairarapa, would indicate that he could also be here to raise a Moa or two

Breaking through the dreariness of our daily diet of parochial and enervating news that leaves us, the poor reader, wallowing in the callow reporting of the minutiae of the body politic and still ill informed about the bigger, wider world, was no mean feat, but then Mallard is a consummate politician, the Rottweiler of parliament.

Smiling sweetly, Mallard told the world he was thinking outside the box. He had a vision. He had a dream.

Stop there! You were onto a winner. Extraordinary! A thinking politician! A visionary! A dreamer! A genius who got people talking about the Labour Party finally? A man with teeth!

Duck shooting opened early. The rabble – sorry –  elected members, so very well practiced in rowdy, parliamentary point scoring primed their tongues, quickly abdicated from dealing with the weighty issues of state, lined their ducks up in a row and  rounded on Mallard. The moa was dead as a dodo in minutes.

Used to a bit of a bruising, the jibes were not unexpected: unimaginative name calling, lame references to dinosaurs, Jurassic Park analogies and a hunter’s dozen of dead duck nomenclatures applied to Mallard –  and by association to his down at the polls party.

The best suggestion came from a former minister of telecommunications who is up with the techie play and suggested Mallard get a 3D printer to make his Moa once more again.

Then there was the forever worthy PC Green Party who tweeted that rather than try to bring extinct species back, Mallard should instead be focused on saving the endangered Maui’s dolphin.

Now there’s an option while there’s still time, a will and a way to bring Maui’s dolphin back from the slippery slope to extinction. Not so for a Mallard and his Moa revival. But, I still hold high hopes for the creation and evolution of a politician who is a thinker, a dreamer, a visionary – that will see this country fly.