03 March 2015

Frankenstein in the Alps

I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stood beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial nature was broken only by the brawling waves or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche or the cracking, reverberated along the mountains, of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling, and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillized it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mind from the thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month. I retired to rest at night; my slumbers, as it were, waited on and ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes which I had contemplated during the day. They congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountaintop, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine, the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds--they all gathered round me and bade me be at peace [...]

It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent. For some time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist covered both that and the surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipated the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier. The surface is very uneven, rising like the waves of a troubled sea, descending low, and interspersed by rifts that sink deep. The field of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where I now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league; and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock, gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea, or rather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains, whose aerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed, "Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion, away from the joys of life."

- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, 1818, Chapter 10.

01 March 2015

28 February 2015

The old rivalry

If you have a long cricketing memory, you will remember that time in 1946 when the mighty Australian cricket team, flushed with the joys of Allied victory in World War 2, deigned to play little New Zealand in a one-off test at the Basin Reserve. It was the first time Australia had been willing to play New Zealand in a test, despite the smaller country having been playing test cricket since 1930. Predictably, given the imbalance in experience and talent, the test was a massacre, with New Zealand dismissed for 42 and 54 and Australia winning by an innings and 103 runs in only two days. There the Allied spirit ended, because following that victory Australia would not play New Zealand in another test match for 27 years, or indeed any sort of international match. New Zealand was simply not worthy of Australia's time. Naturally, the lack of exposure to the world's top team limited the growth of the New Zealand team and was part of the reason it took many, many years for New Zealand to establish any sort of consistency in test cricket.

Now consider today's pivotal ODI at Eden Park between the joint hosts of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, Australia and New Zealand. It will hopefully be a tremendous occasion. But if you examine the record books, it can be seen that increasingly we are returning to the days when Australia avoided playing New Zealand as much as possible. In the last five years New Zealand has played 97 ODIs, and Australia sits low in the table of opponents, alongside Bangladesh and Zimbabwe:

ODIs opponents, past 5 years
No.
Sri Lanka
20
Pakistan
14
India
12
South Africa
10
West Indies
9
England
8
Australia
7
Bangladesh
7
Zimbabwe
7
Canada
1
Kenya
1
Scotland
1

The regular ODI rivalries of old, where New Zealand toured Australia regularly and often popped up in the ODI tri-series, is a thing of the past. Shamefully, New Zealand has not been permitted to play an ODI in Australia since a five-match Chappell-Hadlee series in February 2009, six years ago. (The series was drawn 2-2). And Australia has not played ODIs in New Zealand since a five-match Chappell-Hadlee return series in March 2010, which Australia won 3-2. 

Perhaps this will generate some slight advantage for New Zealand, given that the Australian squad will have comparatively little experience playing New Zealand or playing at Eden Park. But ultimately it seems like a great shame that two neighbouring countries play cricket together so infrequently, and I would argue, to the detriment of both.

See also:
Cricket: NZ v England, Wellington, 21 February 2015
Cricket: Old Young Guns, 16 February 2014
Cricket: 9504 days, 12 December 2011

26 February 2015

Shipowners and the 1951 waterfront lockout

The 1951 waterfront lockout - 'the big blue' - still casts a shadow over New Zealand history. Robert Chapman suggested that smashing the unions 'was eventually to transfer the role of being the normal party of government from Labour to National'. Most commentators have also focused on the political fight between the government and the unions. Recently, though, Anna Green has put the shipowners back into the picture, highlighting their stevedoring operations. Stevedores organise and supervise the loading and discharge of ships and it was an extremely profitable business. In 1937 Shaw Savill said that 'stevedoring paid the SS and A Co. so handsomely that they would not lightly abandon it'. Geo H Scales Pacific did very well out of stevedoring in the postwar years. Yet despite the profitability of stevedoring, the lines paid its supervisors badly and went to counter-productive lengths to cut costs. According to Green, 'In pursuit of maximum profits, the shipping companies engaged in a policy of minimum investment on the waterfront. Ambitious to secure a fast turnaround in port while employing the cheapest possible labour, they came into constant conflict with the waterside workers, culminating in the extremely damaging dispute of 1951'.

- Gavin McLean, Captain's Log: New Zealand's Maritime History, Auckland, 2001, p.158-9. 

For more on the dispute, see the above-quoted Anna Green, British Capital, Antipodean Labour: Working the New Zealand Waterfront 1915-1951, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 2001. 

25 February 2015

A former sub-editor's favourite typos

There have been innumerable "typos" (typographical errors) that have tickled [former Evening Post sub-editor Stephen Moffatt's] fancy over the years, and many that have made the blood boil or resulted in less-than-friendly emails or phone conversations.

"A reporter covering a sheep sale rang the story through to the office and it emerged that there had been a good yarding of 'two-tooth youths'.

"Jewels have often featured: 'the man had a $75,000 18-carrot gold diamond ring'; and 'the British high commissioner got his jewels back, including a $30,000 diamond neckless'.

"Following a fatal accident involving a horse: 'the horse was granted name suppression'.

"We've had a headline, on a story about a school playground, referring to a 'jungle jim'; we've had the Pope 'beautifying' three nuns in a headline; and another headline, on a yarn about a meat company boss, referring to him as 'meat head'.

- 'Long-time journalist a witness to many changes', Dominion Post, 21 February 2015

24 February 2015

NZ459 AKL-WLG timelapse

Two brief time-lapse videos of takeoff and landing this afternoon on Air New Zealand's NZ459 from Auckland to Wellington. It was a smooth trip in an Airbus A320, and a great day for flying. And before you ask, there's no problem using your phone like this on an A320, as long as it's turned onto flight mode and has wi-fi and Bluetooth turned off.