Coalition Casserole

November 11, 2008

Coalition Casserole

Take several parties of complementary and contrasting flavour.

Separate and sift through an election campaign.

Stir gently, adding visions of power until soft peaks form.

Fold all parties together, taking care not to deflate expectations in the process.

Heat over a series of crises until mixture reaches boiling point.

Allow to simmer, spicing with scandal to taste.

When thoroughly cooked, remove from heat and cool in the public glare.

Serve with generous helpings of reality well seasoned with responsibility.


Education not just for school

November 11, 2008

She was 10 and in the middle class of a three class country school where all the other pupils were aged 7, 8 or 9.

The best of these were reading chapter books, she, the eldest, was reading books below the level of the youngest – the very early readers with a few words in large font and clear pictures on each page.

I was there as a parent helper and listening to her read. When she got to the word mug and couldn’t read it I was perplexed because she’d read mum and jug earlier so knew the sounds.

After a few moments of fruitless attempts I pointed to the picture and asked her if she knew what it was.

“Yes, that’s a cup,” she said.

I said it was like a cup and asked if she had cups and saucers at home. She said she had cups so I asked if she’d heard of mugs. She hadn’t.

I explained what a mug is and we got on with the next sentence.

But I wondered about her home and family if her vocabulary was so poor she’d never come across the word mug before and couldn’t use her knowledge of words with similar sounds to make a stab at reading it.

This was her seventh school but in spite of the best efforts of her teacher and several parent helpers, she made little progress and she was there only a few weeks before her mother moved again.

She’ll be around 24 now and while I’d like to think she’d succeeded in spite of her homelife it’s quite possible she hasn’t and will have a child or children of her own, struggling at school because of what happens, or doesn’t happen, at home.

One of National’s aims is to lift literacy and numeracy standards. It’s one I fully support but this anecdote shows that education can’t just be left up to schools.

Colin James  sums up the problem:

An underclass is a class without real opportunity. Do children get good nutrition and cognitive development in their earliest years? Those who don’t cannot learn at school and often end up as the enemies of society and economic development. And they pass on their life start to their children.

Key’s challenge is to intervene to give those children a true chance at life, as he had, well parented. Whether he makes a real start on that will define how truly unifying his prime ministership is.

Tackling poor literacy and numeracy would be difficult if all the problems lay in schools, because some of the problems are in society it’s even harder. There’s no doubt John Key and his caucus have the will to tackle it, the challenge is to find a way that works.


Poetry lovers prevail

November 11, 2008

The Listener’s decision to axe its weekly poem was understandably met with dismay by poets who have few regular outlets for their work.

The Listener readers were equally upset:

Please put the poem back
A lot of time and effort is put in by poets, publishers and readers to get poetry into public places. When poems reach the walls of galleries or cafes, the signboards of buses and trains or the surfaces of beaches and pavements, public response is positive and everyone is reminded that poems live in the world as well as on the page.


So, why has the Listener decided to discontinue its weekly poem, the one place in this country that prints a poem that reaches 286,000 potential readers every seven days? Cost? I wouldn’t think the current fee – $150 a week – is too high a price to pay for the preservation of an honourable tradition that tells us poetry engages hearts and minds wherever it goes. Please put the poem back.
Michele Leggott
Associate Professor of English at the University of Auckland and Inaugural NZ Poet Laureate

Cultural barbarity, like WH Auden’s reindeer, moves silently and very fast. Until now, I didn’t count the Listener among the barbarians. In his speech at the Listener’s 65th anniversary celebrations, former head of Creative NZ Peter Biggs recalled the importance of the magazine in his youth, and how its “regular publishing of poetry and fiction have sustained a deep love of all things literary, New Zealand poetry in particular”.

From the editorship of Oliver Duff in 1939, through the Holcroft years and beyond, the Listener has brought the poems of James K Baxter, Allen Curnow, Janet Frame, Hone Tuwhare, Cilla McQueen, Fleur Adcock, Denis Glover, Lauris Edmond, Glenn Colquhoun, Karlo Mila, Michelle Leggott, Ian Wedde, Bill Manhire, Jenny Bornholdt, Rachel McAlpine, Vincent O’Sullivan, Denis Glover, Elizabeth Smither, Sam Hunt and ARD Fairburn – to name a tiny sampling of the poets represented in its pages – to a general readership.

The Listener was one of the very few places where people who did not subscribe to Landfall encountered contemporary New Zealand poetry.

Not any more. This week a number of poets would have received a letter (I don’t like to think I was the only one) from the Arts and Books editor to say a poem accepted for publication way back when will not be published after all.

The American poet William Carlos Williams once wrote:
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
Getting the news from poems has just got a little more difficult.
Tim Upperton
(Palmerston North

And the Listener listened:

 Arts and Books editor Guy Somerset responds: In light of the heartening responses we have received on this issue, it is clear that for many of you our poem is a core function of the magazine. Poetry, by its nature, is a quiet medium, and we have perhaps been misled by the silence with which it is greeted in our reader surveys. With this in mind, we have revisited the decision, and will continue to publish poetry.
As always, the Listener will remain the one place where you can find extensive reviewing of New Zealand poetry, along with other literature.

I’m pleased because while my own efforts at poetry always descend into doggerel, it is my favourite artistic medium and, as some better qualified to comment than I am put it:

 

Poets are soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition.  ~Eli Khamarov, The Shadow Zone

 

Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.  Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.  Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.  ~Carl Sandburg, Poetry Considered

 

Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.  ~Percy Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, 1821

 

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.  ~Plato, Ion

 

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.  ~W.B. Yeats

  

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.  ~Percy Byshe Shelley 

 

The poet doesn’t invent.  He listens.  ~Jean Cocteau 

 

 Poetry is life distilled.  ~Gwendolyn Brooks

 

 Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.  ~Thomas Gray

  

Poetry is to philosophy what the Sabbath is to the rest of the week.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things.  ~Stephen Mallarme

 

Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement.  ~Christopher Fry

 

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.  ~Novalis 


In Flanders Fields

November 11, 2008

It’s Armistice Day and the 90th anniversary of the end of World War 1.

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Keeping Stock ,  PM of NZ and Oswald Bastable  also remember.

UPDATE: Lou Taylor at No Minister  and Barnsley Bill  mark the date too.

My grandfather fought in Egypt where he looked after the horses and, thankfully, was not sent to Gallipoli.

He didn’t like talking about the war and Mum remembered him burying his medals in the garden, never to be seen again.

UPDATE 2: Poneke  posts on the sons who lie in Flanders fields.


Sanlu scandal tarnishes Fonterra

November 11, 2008

Fonterra has been ranked sixth in an international ranking of companies most crticised for their impacts on the environment, health and communities.

The list, compiled by Swiss-owned RepRisk, a consulting firm that analyses companies’ exposure to controversial issues and news, was headed by Sanlu Group, the Chinese joint venture in which Fonterra held a 43 percent stake.

Big Chinese rival Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co took second, and Fonterra was ranked sixth most vilified in the September “top 10” list issued by RepRisk.

. . . Fonterra spokesman Graeme McMillan said it was surprising that the company was featured in a ranking based on media coverage of high-profile news events.

“Our research tells us that people have differentiated quite clearly between the large number of Chinese dairy companies involved and Fonterra,” he said.

“The basis of this ranking seems to be purely media coverage and we have no further information about the criteria that has been applied.

“All along we have taken responsibility for our involvement as a shareholder in Sanlu.

“But what’s disappointing is to see Fonterra listed separately and when there has been no question over the quality and integrity of our products and supply chain, made with milk sourced outside China.

“This incident was isolated to companies sourcing local raw milk in China, which was deliberately adulterated by third party suppliers in a criminal act.”

RepRisk had not contacted Fonterra to confirm the basic facts before publishing its report, he said.

This ranking isn’t about facts, it’s about perception and rival companies will do all they can to play this up.

Fonterra requires strict quality standards from the pasture to the end of production in New Zealand. This ranking, undeserved though it may be, shows why it is essential that it requires the same high standards in any businesses in which it has an investment in other parts of the world.


Playing politics serious business

November 11, 2008

If this wasn’t so serious  it would be funny:

Some voters distraught by election night results resorted to calling police, with one man ringing a counselling hotline and then 111.

 Spooked beneficiaries also rang a Government family helpline because they were “stressed” their payments would change.

A Wairarapa man was so upset by National’s crushing win he reached out to Youthline and then called the police emergency number.

This is a sad reflection on the credulity and dependence of people who must have been told, and probably told repeatedly in spite of reassurances to the contrary from National, that if the government changed their benefits would be cut.

It’s also a really bad reflection on left wing politicians who don’t realise or don’t care that when they demonise the right, it’s the vulnerable who become the victims of their propaganda.

They need to remember that playing politics is a serious business because some people are silly enough to believe them.


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