19 April 2014

Eat a peach, love Neil

[...] I got some satisfaction hearing war stories about the Stills/Young Band's tour. Seems that it was snakebit from the start. With too little time to rehearse, the band never felt comfortable onstage. A review in the New York Times called the show "an ill-conceived evening", blaming the sound, which was "rough and overly loud". The tour needed work. Stephen [Stills] wanted to stick to a single set list until the band got tight, but that apparently bored Neil [Young]. And eventually, Neil reverted to being Neil. Heading to a gig in Atlanta, he was travelling in his bus down the highway when the driver put on his left turn signal to go to the gig. Neil insisted they go right instead. "But, Neil, the gig is to the left," the driver assured him. Neil got right into his face. "I said turn right!" The next day, at the gig in Atlanta, Neil just never turned up. Instead he sent everyone in the band a telegram: FUNNY HOW SOME THINGS THAT START SPONTANEOUSLY END THAT WAY. EAT A PEACH. LOVE NEIL. He'd gone home and left the entire company - the band, roadies, support staff, and promoters - holding the bag.

- Graham Nash, Wild Tales, New York, 2013, p.236-7.

18 April 2014

Why is North Korea poor?

"North Korea is poor because the sanctions are working"

Not even close. North Korea is poor because of an outmoded economic policy and self-imposed isolation from the world. The latest round of UN and US sanctions, implemented in March 2013, only target the elite. They ban the export of luxury goods and clamp down on individuals and companies that are financing proliferation activities. It's safe to say that the average North Korean does not own a yacht or wear a Rolex.

Blame lies with five bad decisions North Korea has made in the management of its economy. First, in the aftermath of the Korean War, Kim Jong Un's grandfather -- President Kim Il Sung -- focused exclusively on heavy industry development and the military while expecting the country to be self-sufficient in agriculture. In a country that only has 20 percent arable land, that was a huge mistake. Second, rather than seek technologies and innovations like the Green Revolution that helped nations like India make enormous gains in agricultural productivity in the 1960s and 1970s, the North tried to substitute longer work hours and revolutionary zeal. Given the broken infrastructure, this was like squeezing blood from a stone. Third, rather than trade with the outside world, the North went deeply into debt in the 1970s, borrowing and then defaulting on hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from European countries, which forever lost them lines of credit with any country or international financial institution. Fourth, in the 1980s and 1990s, the North undertook extremely wasteful mega-projects, building stadiums, hydropower projects, and tideland reclamation projects -- most of which failed or were never completed. Finally, after the Chinese and Soviets stopping giving aid to the North at the end of the Cold War, Pyongyang relied on humanitarian assistance as a form of income, instead of trying to fix their economy.

One could not have imagined a worse economic plan. This country has allowed an ideology that prizes autarky to dictate economic decisions rather than taking advantage of the benefits of trade, technology, or innovation -- which is why North Korea is one of the only countries in the world to have suffered a famine after industrialization.

- David Kang & Victor Cha, 'Think Again: North Korea', Foreign Policy, 25 March 2013

16 April 2014

Earl's Court, 1968

Juan insisted, after our first meeting, that whenever I came to London I stay at his pied-a-terre in Earl's Court. He was almost never there because he spent most of his time in Newmarket, transferring real equines to canvas. I'd be doing him a favour if I aired out his apartment from time to time [...]

I liked Earl's Court very much and fell in love with its fauna. The district breathed youth, music, lives lived without caution or calculation, great doses of ingenuousness, the desire to live for the day, removed from conventional morality and values, a search for pleasure that rejected the old bourgeois myths of happiness - money, power, family, position, social success - and found it in simple, passive forms of existence: music, artificial paradises, promiscuity, and an absolute lack of interest in other problems that were shaking society. With their tranquil, peaceful hedonism, the hippies harmed no one, and they didn't proselytize, didn't want to convince or recruit people they had broken with in order to live their alternative lives: they wanted to be left in peace, absorbed in their frugal egotism and their psychedelic dream [...]

Many hippies, perhaps the majority, came from the middle or upper classes, and their rebellion was familial, directed against the well-regulated lives of their parents and what they considered the hypocrisy of puritanical customs and social facades behind which they hid their egotism, insular spirit, and lack of imagination. Their pacifism, naturism, vegetarianism, their eager search for a spiritual life that would give transcendence to their rejection of a materialist world corroded by class, social, and sexual prejudices, a world they wanted nothing to do with - this was sympathetic. But all of it was anarchic, thoughtless, without a centre or direction, even without ideas, because the hippies - at least the ones I knew and observed up close - though they claimed to identify with the poetry of the beatniks (Allen Ginsberg gave a reading of his poems in Trafalgar Square in which he sang and performed Indian dances, and thousands of young people attended), in fact read very little or nothing at all. Their philosophy wasn't based on thought and reason but on sentiment, on feeling.

- Mario Vargas Llosa, The Bad Girl, 2006.

See also:
London: Mr CD in Soho, 17 October 2013
London: George Fordyce & Dolly's Chop House, 22 February 2013
LondonSpringtime in Wimbledon, 24 March 2011

15 April 2014

Rimutaka sunrise

No 'blood moon' pictures tonight, but as an alternative, here's this morning's sunrise over the Rimutaka Ranges, taken from Thorndon at 6.56am (click to enlarge).

13 April 2014

Breaking the glass ceiling

Susan Calman: What do you think, Holly?  Should there be more women in the Cabinet?

Holly Walsh: No. I think it's a blessed relief that just white men look after this country. Because I don't know about you, but I've got so much crocheting to get on with.

Susan: I'm just glad someone's got the courage to finally come out and say it, Holly. It's what all women have been thinking but none of us have been brave enough to say what you've just said.

Holly: In fact, none of us had the balls to say it.

Susan: ...that we're actually happy that there aren't as many women in government. Actually, I think there should be a ban on women in government.

Holly: You know what? When people talk about the glass ceiling, I don't want to break that. Because Muggins here is going to be the one to clean it up.

- The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, 11 April 2014

See also:
Comedy: Susan Calman, 2 March 2013
Comedy: Holly Walsh, 8 December 2012

10 April 2014

TV flashback 1971

In an ever-expanding quest to tell the story of New Zealand TV-watching over the years, our next instalment of viewing summaries takes us to the night of Thursday, 15 April 1971. This takes us closer than ever to the birth of television in New Zealand - which, younger types should be reminded, only started in 1960. In 1971 New Zealand only had a single state-owned TV channel; TV2 did not emerge until 1975.

Moreover, the one channel being broadcast in 1971 was not a national network. For almost all of the first decade of TV broadcasting in New Zealand programming was delivered locally through four separate regional broadcasters (one in each of the four main centres) until the nationally networked New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) was formed in 1969. Until then programming would often differ between regions, and when a programme was scheduled across all four regions it would generally be playing a different episode of the series in each region on the same night. Presumably New Zealand bought the rights to an overseas series once, and then each region would screen it in turns - the tape would be sent from Auckland to Wellington for the next week's broadcast, then on to Christchurch for the following week, and so on.

Part of the challenge of this piecemeal approach to broadcasting was that it was hard to respond to events of immediate national importance, like the 1971 guilty verdict for Arthur Allan Thomas, who was found guilty for the first time for the Crewe murders. (He would not be acquitted until 1979). One key example of considerable historical importance is the sinking of the Wahine on this day 46 years ago in 1968. Wikipedia reports that while the two North Island stations carried up-to-date footage of the transport disaster, the two South Island stations had to rely on distinctly unorthodox news-gathering methods:
The most notable example of the unlinked facilities was when the inter-island ferry TEV Wahine sank in Wellington Harbour on 10 April 1968 - newscasts of the disaster had to be transmitted over Post Office lines by WNTV1 to AKTV2 in Auckland. However, due to the storm disrupting both shipping and flights for a further 24 hours, the first video of the sinking crossed Cook Strait via regular transmissions from WNTV1 and was received on a privately owned television set in Blenheim, at the top of the South Island some 80 km line-of-sight distance from Wellington. A Blenheim based news reporter's film camera was pointed at the television, then the exposed film was rushed by road to Christchurch, developed and transmitted over CHTV3, concurrently sent further south to DNTV2 for transmission there via a coax cable link. Interestingly, this Blenheim film appears to be the only surviving footage of the first day, and it shows part of the television set that the camera was pointed at.
The edition of the Listener containing this week's TV listings (price: 12 cents) has a cover story on the financial woes affecting the farming sector, 'How are they doing down on the farm?' The editorial page contains an essay by Alexander MacLeod on overcrowding and poor conditions at the even-then antiquated Mt Eden Prison in Auckland, which argues that 'There are people in Mt Eden, and we debase our lives as well as theirs in keeping them in conditions that should not be tolerated by a society pleased to describe itself as prosperous and enlightened'.

The Listener's TV listings commence with a handy four by seven grid, showing the three key programmes on in primetime in each broadcasting region, for each night of the week. For Thursday 15 April the three main programmes are It Takes A Thief, Gallery and Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width. The schedules are also odd-looking to modern eyes because New Zealand TV had yet to work out a compromise between the length of New Zealand and British programmes and the shorter, advertising-packed American shows. Instead, primetime shows commenced at such hard-to-remember times as 8.16pm, 9.14pm and 10.36pm. But then I suppose part of the importance of consistent start and finish times for programmes is if you're hoping to switch between channels to maximise your viewing options; having only one channel means you're either watching the one channel, or you're not.

Let's examine the Thursday listings for Northern Television, Auckland's station, to get an idea of what was on offer in 1971. Broadcasts commenced at 2pm, and closedown was around midnight.


2.00pm Headline News
2.30pm On Camera
2.46pm Cheyenne (Western, 1955-63, 108 episodes, s05e03 'Road to Three Graves' from 1960)
3.33pm Bewitched (Comedy, 1964-72, 254 episodes, s05e18 'Samantha the Bard' from Jan 1969)
3.58pm Cesar's World ('Travel: The jungle stronghold of New Guinea's newly discovered Stone Age warriors', hosted by Cesar Romero)
4.26pm The Wooden Tops (BBC puppet show, 1955-57, 48 episodes)
4.40pm Peter (Cartoon: 'Peter & the Robot Dog')
4.45pm The Space Varmint (Cartoon, perhaps from The Deputy Dawg Show?)
4.50pm The Roadrunner Show (Cartoon: Featuring the Roadrunner, Tweety, and Moustaken Identity')
5.11pm Zorro (Adventure, 1957-59, 82 episodes, s01e36 'The Sergeant Regrets' from 1958)
5.39pm Headline News & Weather
5.42pm This Week in Britain
5.47pm The Johnny Cash Show (Variety, 1969-71, 58 episodes, s01e15 'With guests Phil Harris, Bobbi Martin, Roy Orbison, the Creedence Clearwater Revival' - clip from this 1969 episode of Martin singing 'Your Cheatin' Heart')
6.40pm Gardening ('With Reg Chibnall')
7.00pm Network News
7.20pm Weather (and) This Day
7.46pm Coronation Street
8.16pm It Takes A Thief (Adventure, 1968-70, 65 episodes, s03e21 'The Suzie Simone Caper' from Mar 1970, featuring Robert Wagner & Susan Saint James. Plot: 'A Nazi diary reveals that a painting by Matisse has a hidden list of Nazi war criminals. Wally calls Al to steal the painting, which is protected by a sophisticated security system')
9.12pm Newsbrief
9.14pm Gallery (Current Affairs)
9.42pm Ironside (Detective, 1967-75, 199 episodes, s01e27 'The Due Process of the Law' from Mar 1968, with Raymond Burr, plus David Carradine as Pogo Weems)
10.36pm Never Mind The Quality - Feel The Width (ITV comedy, 1967-71, 41 episodes, s02e05 'Hello Mother, Hello Father' from Sept 1968 - 'Jewish Manny Cohen and Catholic Patrick Kelly run a small tailoring establishment in London's East End, and are always arguing about religion')
11.50pm Late News & Weather

The relative importance of television and radio in 1971 is notable in the space afforded to radio programme guides in the Listener, with two full pages devoted to each day's audio broadcasts, and separate listings for the National Programme, the YC Programme (classical music) and the commercial networks like Wellington's 2ZB (on 980kHz).

Contemporary music gets a look-in in a small singles chart feature, the 'Pop-o-meter', with the complicated reminder to 'Listen to Peter Sinclair's "Hit Wave!" on Thursday, April 15, at 7.2pm, on 1ZB, 2ZB, 3ZB, 4ZB, 1ZH, 1ZN, 1ZC, 1ZD, 2ZC, 2ZA, 2ZG, 2ZP, 2ZW, 3ZC and 4ZA. Saturday, April 16 [sic.] at 7.2pm, on 2ZN and 2ZD'. Here for posterity are the top 20 singles in New Zealand broadcast on 1 April 1971 - with only one (number 16) by a New Zealand artist. My favourite is definitely number 20 - with George running a close second!

  1. Lynn Anderson - Rose Garden
  2. Mixtures - Pushbike Song
  3. Hollies - Too Young To Be Married
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Have You Seen The Rain
  5. Clive Dunn - Grandad
  6. Kinks - Apeman
  7. Mike Curb Congregation - Burning Bridges
  8. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Mr Bojangles
  9. Judy Collins - Amazing Grace
  10. Tom Jones - She's A Lady
  11. Freda Payne - Band of Gold
  12. George Harrison - What is Life
  13. Ray Stevens - Bridget the Midget
  14. Dawn - Knock Three Times
  15. Dusk - Angel Baby
  16. Hogsnort Rupert - Aunty Alice
  17. Osmonds - One Bad Apple
  18. Carpenters - For All We Know
  19. Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon - Blame It on the Pony Express
  20. Mike Nesmith & the First National Band - Silver Moon 

Finally, there's not many garish photo-laden articles in this Listener, which was a text-heavy production back in 1971. But there is a stunning fashion offering near the back for 'Nightwear with flair' - three spiffing Bri-Nylon nightgowns. Settle, gentlemen!

See also:
TV: Flashback 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991
History: 1971 in New Zealand
Music: Neil Young 1971 (BBC 28 min live set)