Peter Posa – 1941 – 3.2.19

February 4, 2019

Guitarist Peter Posa has died.

Known as New Zealand’s greatest guitarist, bestselling musician Peter Posa has died.

His death marked “the passing of an era in guitar music,” Gray Bartlett, a fellow guitarist who rivalled Posa’s fame through the 1960s, said. Bartlett was at hospital with Posa’s family, when he died.

He died at Waikato Hospital shortly before 12pm on Sunday, aged 78. The music great suffered a stroke three years ago, following years of ill health which often prevented him from making music. . . 

Anyone who listened to radio request programmes in the 1960s would be familiar with White Rabbit, title tune of a retrospective album that spent six weeks at the top of the New Zealand charts.


A tribute to Rob Hosking

January 23, 2019

Rob Hosking, one of New Zealand’s top journalists has died.

I knew Rob through his work long before I met him. His columns at the NBR were always written with erudition and wit.

His posts at his blog, The Hinterland were eclectic showing among other things his love for, and knowledge of, books and the outdoors.

We met only a few times and corresponded by email a few more.

Early last year he emailed, worrying about me after something I’d blogged.

In his response to my reply he mentioned he had cancer. When I saw his by-line in the NBR late last year I hoped that meant he had recovered.

Sadly it didn’t.

If I who knew him mostly through his writing am crying as I type, how much harder his loss will be felt by his family and circle of friends.

In one email he wrote of the ambition he and a friend had to climb all the mountains with gloomy names in New Zealand. I replied telling him Mount Misery is on our property and inviting him to climb it.

He wasn’t able to but every time I’m there I will remember him.

Hat tip: Kiwi blog


All out

July 11, 2018

The 12 Thai scouts and their leader have been rescued from the flooded cave.

All 13 members of Thailand’s Wild Boar junior soccer team have made it to safety in one of the most inspiring rescue missions the world has witnessed.

THE Tham Luang cave has delivered its miracle, with all 13 members of the Wild Boar soccer team making it to safety in one of the most inspiring rescue missions the world has witnessed.

The Royal Thai Navy SEALS have confirmed all 12 boys and their coach have successfully swum through flooded passages and are now either out of the cave system or currently making their way.

It is understood the team’s coach is still at the third chamber where rescuers have set up a base camp, but will be coming out soon. . .

That they were all alive when the rescuers first reached them was amazing.

That all 13 have survived is due to the skill and bravery of the rescuers.

It is very sad that one of them, Petty Officer Saman Kunan, died in the process.


Tributes to Michael Spaans

November 21, 2017

Michael Spaans, a former director of Fonterra and chair of DairyNZ has died.

Fonterra chair John Wilson paid tribute to him:

Sadly, today our Co-operative has lost one of our strongest people with former Director Michael Spaans passing away last night. He is survived by his wife Kristina and children Olivia, Logan and Harvey.

Earlier this year, Michael decided to step down from the Fonterra Board and focus on trying to recover from cancer. He and I go back many years and I saw him approach his illness in the same way he approached everything in life. He was resolute and determined and did his utmost to continue on as normal. It was a brave fight and I am sure that will not surprise those of you who knew him.

Michael was a proud dairy farmer with a passion for our Co-op and our industry. I have often talked about the importance of having leaders developing within our ranks and Michael is a very fine example. Michael served on the New Zealand Dairy Group Shareholder Council, before joining the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council at the time our Co-op was formed. He was also part of the first intake for the Fonterra Governance Development Programme, and later built his governance experience outside the industry including directorships with ASB Bank, Shoof International, DairyNZ, Manuka SA, Waikato Innovation Park, Innovation Waikato and Ospri New Zealand.

He then brought this experience, along with a huge level of energy and commitment to our Board, and won the respect of his fellow Directors and farmers for his willingness to listen and engage. Michael was a man who knew the importance of detail. He made sure that he knew this business extremely well, understood our strategy and was completely across the detail of the numbers. He always looked for constructive solutions and thought deeply about our Co-op’s governance and his role in the evolution of our business.

His insights and experience — along with his genuine interest and inquisitive mind — were also invaluable on Fonterra’s Milk Price Panel, the Co-operative Relations Committee, and the Audit and Finance Committee.

As late as last month, Michael was working for the betterment of New Zealand farmers in his capacity as Chairman of DairyNZ. He has also remained an ambassador for Fonterra on the international stage and in Wellington, recently speaking at the United Nations in New York on behalf of the Global Dairy Platform and all farmers.

We have lost a close friend, leader and an advocate of our industry much too soon. Our thoughts and deep gratitude for all that he contributed go to his family.

DairyNZ also paid tribute to him:

It is with great sadness that DairyNZ acknowledges the passing of (Reindert) Michael Spaans (54), husband, father, farmer, director, and recent chair of DairyNZ.

Michael Spaans

Michael has been a valuable member of the DairyNZ board since 2008 and was elected chair in November 2015. He was also a director of Fonterra from 2013 until January 2017 when illness forced an early retirement.  However, he continued on as a director of ASB and Shoof International, and with his farming interests in Canterbury, Chile, and the United States, as well as his home farm.

DairyNZ acting chair, Barry Harris, says: “Michael will be greatly missed by the board, our staff, our farmers and the wider Waikato community. His passion and knowledge of the sector, and dedication to improving outcomes for dairy farming profitability and sustainability are well known. We are going to miss his thoughtful debating and farmer-first approach to investment, his involvement with the dairy leaders group, his focus as chair of the Waikato Dairy Leaders Group and the group’s desire to improve the state of the Waikato River, and support for the Healthy Rivers plan in particular.”

Growing up on a family farm at Tauhei, near Morrinsville, Michael attended Mangateparu School, Morrinsville Intermediate and Morrinsville College. He later took over his parents’ farm at Manawaru, residing there with his wife Kristina and their three children, now aged 16, 20 and 22, until his passing.

A keen basketballer as a young man, Michael started farming life in Te Aroha as a young sharemilker, getting into governance around the time of the creation of Fonterra. He started with the old New Zealand Dairy Group shareholders’ council and continued to serve as Te Aroha Ward rep when the council and company became part of Fonterra. From there he has held many governance positions, dedicating his life to improving farming in New Zealand.

“Michael always had presence and not just because he was 6ft 9in tall, but because he was thoughtful, considered, and passionate about farming,” says DairyNZ’s chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle.

“Besides his love and dedication to his family, he was also dedicated to DairyNZ, even ill, he made such an effort to add value to our organisation.  He felt and was often quoted as saying how vital an organisation like DairyNZ was to act in the best interests of farmers, and the DairyNZ family are going to miss him.

“Our deepest sympathies lie with his family, especially his wife Kristina, who has also dedicated her past nine years to us too.”

A replacement chair of DairyNZ will be announced shortly, along with a replacement solution for a new farmer director.

Fifty four is far too young for a good man whose death will leave a large hole in his family and circle of friends.

Farming will also miss his contributions as a farmer, director and community stalwart.


Andrew Sachs 7.4.30 – 23.11.16

December 2, 2016

Andrew Sachs, who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers, has died.

The long and varied career of Andrew Sachs was defined by the TV comedy Fawlty Towers.

His performance as the well-meaning but inept Spanish waiter Manuel was one of the highlights of the series.

In a state of constant confusion, and with a tenuous grasp of English syntax, he was invariably the target of Basil’s rages.

But it was just one role in seven decades of acting that spanned comedy, classical and dramatic roles.

He was born Andreas Siegfried Sachs on 7 April 1930 in Berlin. His insurance broker father was Jewish while his mother, who worked as a librarian, was a Catholic of part-Austrian ancestry.
Nazism was already on the rise in Germany.

His father was arrested by the authorities in 1938, but later released after intervention by a friend in the police.

The incident was enough to persuade the family to flee Germany, and they moved to London. . .

 


Leonard Cohen 21.9.34 10.11.16

November 11, 2016

Canadian singer song-writer Leonard Cohen has died.

Cohen was the dark eminence among a small pantheon of extremely influential singer-songwriters to emerge in the Sixties and early Seventies. Only Bob Dylan exerted a more profound influence upon his generation, and perhaps only Paul Simon and fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell equaled him as a song poet. Cohen’s haunting bass voice, nylon-stringed guitar patterns, Greek-chorus backing vocals shaped evocative songs that dealt with love and hate, sex and spirituality, war and peace, ecstasy and depression. He was also the rare artist of his generation to enjoy artistic success into his Eighties, releasing his final album, You Want It Darker, earlier this year.

“I never had the sense that there was an end,” he said in 1992. “That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot.”

Leonard Norman Cohen was born on September 21st, 1934, in Westmount, Quebec. He learned guitar as a teenager and formed a folk group called the Buckskin Boys. Early exposure to Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca turned him toward poetry – while a flamenco guitar teacher convinced him to trade steel strings for nylon. After graduating from McGill University, Cohen moved to the Greek island of Hydra, where he purchased a house for $1,500 with the help of a modest trust fund established by his father, who died when Leonard was nine. While living on Hydra, Cohen published the poetry collection Flowers for Hitler (1964) and the novels The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers(1966).

Frustrated by poor book sales, and tired of working in Montreal’s garment industry, Cohen visited New York in 1966 to investigate the city’s robust folk-rock scene. He met folk singer Judy Collins, who later that year included two of his songs, including the early hit “Suzanne,” on her album In My Life. His New York milieu included Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground, and, most importantly, the haunting German singer Nico, whose despondent delivery he may have emulated on his exquisite 1967 album Songs of Leonard Cohen. . . 

Rolling Stone  has Alan Light’s explanation of the lyrics:

. . . The word hallelujahhas slightly different implications in the Old and New Testaments. In the Hebrew Bible, it is a compound word, from hallelu, meaning “to praise joyously,” and yah, a shortened form of the unspoken name of God. So this “hallelujah” is an active imperative, an instruction to the listener or congregation to sing tribute to the Lord.

In the Christian tradition, “hallelujah” is a word of praise rather than a direction to offer praise – which became the more common colloquial use of the word as an expression of joy or relief, a synonym for “Praise the Lord,” rather than a prompting to action.. . .

Cohen’s song begins with an image of the Bible’s musically identified King David, recounting the heroic harpist’s “secret chord,” with its special spiritual power (“And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” – 1 Samuel 16:23). It was his musicianship that first earned David a spot in the royal court, the first step toward his rise to power and uniting the Jewish people. . . 

But this first verse almost instantly undercuts its own solemnity; after offering such an inspiring image in the opening lines, Cohen remembers whom he’s speaking to, and reminds his listener that “you don’t really care for music, do you?” . . .

Cohen then describes, quite literally, the harmonic progression of the verse: “It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth / the minor fall, the major lift.” This is an explanation of the song’s structure (the basic chord progression of most pop and blues songs goes from the “one” chord, the root, up three steps to the “four,” then up another to the “five,” and then resolves back to the “one”), followed by a reference to the conventional contrast between a major (happy) key and a minor (sad) key. He ends the first verse with “the baffled king composing Hallelujah!” – a comment on the unknowable nature of artistic creation, or of romantic love, or both. In the song’s earliest moments, he has placed us in a time of ancient legend, and peeled back the spiritual power of music and art to reveal the concrete components, reducing even literal musical royalty to the role of simple craftsman.

The second verse of “Hallelujah” shifts to the second person – “Your faith was strong but you needed proof.” Apparently the narrator is now addressing the character who was described in the first verse, since the next lines invoke another incident in the David story, when the king discovers and is tempted by Bathsheba. (“And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon” – 2 Samuel 11:2.). . . 

Following the David and Bathsheba reference, the sexuality of the lyrics is drawn further forward and then reinforced in an image of torture and lust taken from the story of Samson and Delilah – “She tied you to a kitchen chair / she broke your throne, she cut your hair” – before resolving with a vision of sexual release: “and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah!” Both biblical heroes are brought down to earth, and risk surrendering their authority, because of the allure of forbidden love. Even for larger-than-life figures and leaders of nations, the greatest physical pleasure can lead to disaster. . . 

In the third verse of “Hallelujah,” Cohen’s deadpan wit returns, offering a rebuttal to the religious challenge presented in the previous lines. “You say I took the Name in vain,” he sings. “I don’t even know the name.” He then builds to the song’s central premise – the value, even the necessity of the song of praise in the face of confusion, doubt, or dread. “There’s a blaze of light in every word; / it doesn’t matter which you heard, / the holy, or the broken Hallelujah!”

“A blaze of light in every word.” That’s an amazing line. Every word, holy or broken – this is the fulcrum of the song as Cohen first wrote it. Like our forefathers, and the Bible heroes who formed the foundation of Western ethics and principles, we will be hurt, tested, and challenged. Love will break our hearts, music will offer solace that we may or may not hear, we will be faced with joy and with pain. But Cohen is telling us, without resorting to sentimentality, not to surrender to despair or nihilism. Critics may have fixated on the gloom and doom of his lyrics, but this is his offering of hope and perseverance in the face of a cruel world. Holy or broken, there is still hallelujah.

Finally, the remarkable fourth verse drives this point home, starting with an all-too-human shrug: “I did my best; it wasn’t much.” Cohen reinforces his fallibility, his limits, but also his good intentions, singing, “I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you.”

And as he brings the song to a conclusion, Cohen shows that for a composition that has often come to be considered a signifier of sorrowful resistance, “Hallelujah” was in fact inspired by a more positive feeling. “It’s a rather joyous song,” Cohen said when Various Positions was released.  “I like very much the last verse – ‘And even though it all went wrong, / I’ll stand before the Lord of Song / with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah!’  . . 

“I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world,” he once said. “The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.” . . .

“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled,” Cohen has said, “but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’ That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.’…

“The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say, ‘Look, I don’t understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah!’ That’s the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.” . . 

This is an excerpt from: The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of ‘Hallelujahby Alan Light published by Atria/Simon & Schuster,


Ronnie Corbett 4.12.30 – 31.3.16

April 1, 2016

Sadly, it’s not an April Fools Day joke, Scottish comedian Ronnie Corbett has died:

It was one of the West End’s great disasters. Lionel Bart’s Robin Hood musical Twang closed after just 43 performances but it was a stroke of good luck for a young Ronnie Corbett.

Over cucumber sandwiches at The Ritz with David Frost he had been offered a starring role in his new satirical TV programme, The Frost Report.

Suddenly freed from his duties as Will Scarlett, it was Corbett’s big break in TV and paired him up with another performer, Ronnie Barker.

And why had Frost chosen Corbett? He had seen him in a show in a London nightclub with Danny La Rue.

There, in one story, is one of the main reasons Ronnie Corbett was such a popular performer – acting, revue, the 1960s satire boom, music hall – he brought it all together at the right time and the right place in one five-foot-one performer.

The Two Ronnies survived on the BBC because it had a breadth of comedy that gave it a startling breadth of appeal. Those ’60s connections also helped – a number of those cocktail party sketches were written by Terry Jones and Michael Palin. The show’s place at the heart of the Saturday night schedule meant it attracted the best writers. . . 

Those really were the days clever, clean comedy in prime time viewing.

 


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