21 April 2017

In vino juventute

The narrator of Nutshell, an as-yet-unborn baby, discusses his precocious fondness for a tasty tipple:

"I like to share a glass with my mother. You may never have experienced, or you will have forgotten, a good burgundy (her favourite) or a good Sancerre (also her favourite) decanted through a healthy placenta. Even before the wine arrives - tonight, a Jean-Max Roger Sancerre - at the sound of a drawn cork, I feel it on my face like the caress of a summer breeze. I know that alcohol will lower my intelligence. But oh, a joyous, blushful Pinot Noir, or a gooseberried Sauvignon, sets me turning and tumbling across my secret sea, reeling off the walls of my castle, the bouncy castle that is my home. Or so it did when I had more space. Now I take my pleasures sedately, and by the second glass my speculations bloom with that licence whose name is poetry. My thoughts unspool in well-sprung pentameters, end-stopped and run-on lines in pleasing variation. But she never takes a third, and it wounds me.

'I have to think of baby,' I hear her say as she covers her glass with a priggish hand. That's when I have it in mind to reach for my oily cord, as one might a velvet rope in a well-staffed country house, and pull sharply for service. What ho! Another round here for us friends!"

- Ian McEwan, Nutshell, London, 2016, p.6-7.

19 April 2017

Even birds of a feather find it hard to fly

It's a little bizarre to think that I've been following Aimee Mann now for 24 whole years, ever since I read Elvis Costello's heartfelt praise of her lyrical solo debut album Whatever ('Today's the 4th of July / Another June has gone by / And when they light up our town I just think / What a waste of gunpowder and sky'). She released her latest album, Mental Illness, a couple of weeks ago and it's her strongest work in years. Here she is on the Late Show with a beautiful arrangement of the single Goose Snow Cone. Love her distinctive voice, and was so lucky to see her perform in London in 2007.

See also:
Music: Waiting for the gift of sound & vision, 16 January 2016
Music: Lawrence Arabia, 24 October 2015
Music: Pajama Club, 4 December 2011
MusicThe Girls Guitar Club, 2 September 2009
MusicHere & Now 80s Tour, 19 May 2008
MusicGrant-Lee Phillips, 29 April 2008

13 April 2017

Danny Morrison's potato-eyed joy

[T]he IPL TV commentary is, if not the worst TV commentary ever conceived by any industrialised society, then certainly up there, the worst yet. Danny Morrison in particular seems to be astonished by pretty much everything from dot balls to thrashed sixes. Listening to his T20 commentary is like listening to a child’s toy that has mysteriously come to life – a friendly rocking horse, a bouncy space hopper – and which just wants to share its potato-eyed joy in every single object that swims into its line of sight.

- Barney Ronay, 'The IPL is back: cue bedlam, squeals, thunder and pure cricketing energy', Guardian, 7 April 2017

02 April 2017

The rotten boroughs

Antonia Fraser, in her book on the Great Reform Bill of 1832, outlines the marked unfairness of the British electoral system of the time, in which new industrial towns were largely unrepresented, representatives in the Commons could be elected by next to no-one, and seats could and did change hands for large sums of money:

[T]here were the infamous 'rotten boroughs' such as Old Sarum, where two MPs represented - quite literally - a lump of stone and a green field. No wonder visitors flocked to see this miraculous site! John Constable was sufficiently fascinated by this wild landscape which had once been a medieval city to commemorate it - Sir Thomas Lawrence admired the result and told him he should dedicate it to the House of Commons. Gatton in Surrey was only slightly less miraculous: here there were six houses in the borough, and 135 inhabitants in the parish - 'those celebrated and opulent and populous Towns', as the painter Haydon sarcastically called them. This particular borough of Gatton was sold several times, the price in the summer of 1830 said to be £180,000 (approximately £18 million in today's money). There was no miracle where Dunwich in Suffolk was concerned: it had in effect fallen into the sea, but it still returned two Members of Parliament. Places with long and ancient history frequently had a disproportionate amount of seats to their inhabitants, witness Cornwall, where there were a total of forty-four Members for a thinly scattered population. In general, there was a pronounced bias towards the south over the north of England.

- Antonia Fraser, Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832, London, 2013, p.19.

East of Brooklyn

25 March 2017

23 March 2017

The consolations of electrocution

Hospitals are excellent at responding to physical suffering, but what about suffering from boredom? For many there are long waits which can get boring. It may sound trivial or luxurious doing nothing, but could boredom be a problem that impacts on health outcomes and performance of hospitals? Is this a hidden malaise of hospital life?

Many struggle with doing nothing. A study found over two thirds of men, and a quarter of women, preferred electrocuting themselves rather than sitting in a blank room thinking for fifteen minutes...

- Elizabeth Burns, 'Pass me an anti-boredom pill doctor', BMJ Opinion, 2 March 2017

18 March 2017

2nd test v South Africa, day 3

Day 3 of the second test turned out to also be the last, as South Africa shot out New Zealand to take an eight wicket victory in double-quick time. Adding 10 runs to their overnight score, the tourists ended up with a first innings score of 359, a lead of 91 on New Zealand's score. Then New Zealand only managed to bat for 63.2 overs, accruing a mere 171, with only opener Jeet Raval impressing with 80 off 174 balls. A dismal seven New Zealand batsmen were dismissed for single digit scores, with James Neesham's dismissal particularly galling. Durban-born Keshav Maharaj achieved his best bowling figures by taking 40 for 6, and South Africa had little difficulty in knocking off a short chase to take the match with two days to spare. From a spectator's perspective the main feature of the day at the Basin was the bone-chilling southerly, which forced me out of the ground after two sessions to the much-needed refuge of a hot shower! 

Vance Stand view

Inspecting the wicket

Vernon Philander bowls

Jeet Raval's half-century

11 March 2017

Book whisperer

Absolutely legendary second-hand book find today at Arty Bees - I've been looking for the first edition of Judith Schalansky's Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will for around seven years. Every so often I check in bookshops just in case. So today I went into Arty Bees for the first time in about six months and asked for it, and the lady at the desk was justifiably incredulous because it had literally just been purchased and was sitting 20cm away atop a stack set aside to put in the shop window!

The perils of carpetbagging

It's unclear what former Porirua mayor Nick Leggett has done to deserve such uncritical coverage as Jo Moir's catchily-titled 'Nick Leggett putting family before politics - calls quits on running for National in the Mana seat' in today's Dominion Post. Granted, he still retains some of the high profile and goodwill he generated during his two successful terms as Porirua's fourth mayor from 2010 to 2016. But since he stood down from that role and gambled big in a series of decisions that overestimated his political capital, Leggett has failed to convince anyone else to buy into his personal agenda. These high-stakes gambles have seemingly combined to greatly diminish his political standing, a point that seems to be missed in Moir's article.

To recap: Leggett felt he had a good shot at the Labour nomination for the Wellington mayoralty, but this went to poster-boy and all-round safe pair of hands Justin Lester. In his first gamble, Leggett decided to stand against Lester on a well-funded independent ticket, trusting that his personal profile and successful track record in Porirua would translate to a big tick in the capital. However, his performance in mayoral debates (at least the ones I attended and read about) seemed to be more about sour grapes at Lester's nomination than about a compelling vision for the city. On election day voters elected Lester with a healthy majority, with Leggett achieving a commendable second placing but still 7200 votes behind Lester's 31,900 tally.

Newly out of work, Leggett then concocted the brilliant wheeze of switching his political allegiance from Labour to National. (One Twitter wag suggested John Key's resignation shortly afterwards was a direct result). This illustrated that Labour leader Andrew Little's public comments about Leggett being a right-winger, which media commentators attacked at the time, as being wholly accurate. 

In one sense Leggett swapping sides made sense because the Labour brand had outlasted its usefulness and relevance to Leggett, but the flip side of this decision is that voters can choose to punish candidates who appear disloyal to the parties who have nurtured their political careers. Tariana Turia leaving Labour to establish the Maori Party over fundamental political differences is one thing, but Leggett jumping ship to National had a strong whiff of careerism and opportunism to it. Certainly, some right-of-centre voters will now look on Leggett more favourably, but I'm guessing the net result is that his brand is considerably weaker.

Witness the development that spurred Moir's article. On joining National, Leggett would have hoped that his high profile would translate into a nomination to replace Hekia Parata as National's candidate for the Mana electorate, which covers his old Porirua mayoral turf. But no. National, quite sensibly it must be said, would rather put up a loyal party worker to lose against Kris Faafoi in September (majority in 2014: almost 8000). Perhaps it will be a candidate from a minority community, to further National's long-term strategy to diversify its overwhelming image as a party of Pakeha males.

Perhaps Leggett has other irons in the fire and will surprise everyone with an announcement of a candidacy or a list spot for the 2017 election. But until then, he will have to resort to the hoary old refuge of generations of US male politicians caught philandering*, that cliche of spending more time with his family. And possibly pondering the wisdom of his high-risk gamble to ditch the Porirua mayoralty.

(* To be absolutely clear, I'm not accusing Leggett of any such infidelity!)

10 March 2017

Elite Dangerous & the 22kb galaxy

David Braben, creator of the games Elite and Elite Dangerous talking to Kathryn Ryan on procedural generation in 1984 & 2017, the recent discovery of star system Trappist-1 and how it's reflected in Elite Dangerous, system and planet formation in the game, keeping up in game design terms with rapid scientific developments, the rarity of sentient life in the galaxy, and a brief discussion of Raspberry Pi. Ideal general interest interview for new players or perhaps explaining to your mum exactly how this funny game is made.

09 March 2017

Sounds familiar

'[L]eaders who are highly successful in chaotic contexts can develop an overinflated self-image, becoming legends in their own minds. When they generate cultlike adoration, leading actually becomes harder for them because a circle of admiring supporters cuts them off from accurate information'.

- D.J.Snowden & M.E.Bourne, 'A leader's framework for decision making', Harvard Business Review, November 2007.

01 March 2017

An enemy whose hostility was to be unabated

Historian Paul Moon describes the sour relationship in the 1830s between the Colonial Office and the New Zealand Association, the fly-by-night settler company that would later change its name to the New Zealand Company and establish a range of colonies in New Zealand including Wellington:

'Although [Edward Gibbon] Wakefield and his disciples had succeeded in lodging their claws into the thinking of some officials and members of the House of Commons, it was [Undersecretary] James Stephen himself who remained Wakefield's most vigorous and highly-ranked opponent. Moreover, he did not conceal his feelings about Wakefield's organisation, as he confessed in an 1840 memorandum in which he announced that 'The Company had discovered from the first that I had been an opponent of their scheme'. Stephen's opposition to the New Zealand Association can be traced back to June 1837, when he wrote a note in the margin of a piece of correspondence from Lord Melbourne to Glenelg regarding a proposed Bill to give Government sanction for the Association's expansion into New Zealand. Stephen wrote that any assumption of sovereignty over the colony '...would infallibly issue in the conquest and extermination of the present inhabitants'. 

Stephen rejected Wakefield's rabid urge to colonise and his implicit disregard for native races, but above all, the animosity Stephen felt for Wakefield grew from his personal dislike of this private coloniser, as he later stated to Lord Howick: 'I saw plainly that the choice before me was that of having Mr Wakefield for an official acquaintance whose want of truth and honour would render him most formidable in that capacity or for an enemy whose hostility was to be unabated. I deliberately preferred his enmity to his acquaintanceship; and I rejoice that I did so'. 

Howick, though, was more sanguine in his opinion of Wakefield's efforts, and spoke in the House of Commons in June 1839 in a moderately positive tone about the principles on which the New Zealand Association's operations were based: 'As far as I am aware, the benefits to be derived from an undue dispersion of settlers in a new territory, with the means by which this object can be best accomplished and the necessity of combined labour, which in a new country can only be secured by artificially maintaining a proper proportion between the members of the population and the extent of land which they occupy, had entirely escaped the notice of all writers upon political economy, until they were stated in the works of Mr Wakefield'. This was far from an unqualified endorsement, but nevertheless reflected the type of rift that existed in the British Government between hawkish interventionists on the one hand, and those who urged a more cautious and guarded approach on the other'.

- Paul Moon, The Path to the Treaty of Waitangi, Auckland, 2002, p.79-80.

See also:
History: Colenso's grave, 12 January 2015 
History: The lifeblood of a young colony, 12 June 2009
History: Forest lords & mission houses, 16 January 2009

25 February 2017

Wellington's British cars

1975 Leyland Clubman 1100

1968 MG 1100

1964 Morris Mini

A pretty decent catch

Good boundary work by James Neesham to catch AB de Villiers in tonight's 3rd ODI versus South Africa at the Stadium in Wellington.

20 February 2017

A flying round-trip from London to Amsterdam, 1922

A typical Daimler Airway flight to Holland and return [in 1922] began with a drive down from London to Croydon of some forty-five minutes. There the eight passengers would file aboard and settle themselves in the comfortable, upholstered seats with the aid of a steward, a Daimler innovation. The engine was then started, the chocks withdrawn and the plane taxied to the downwind end of the field. Taking off at about 12.50[pm] the pilot might climb to between 2,000 and 6,000 feet depending on the weather over the Channel. If the sun was shining and it was late spring or summer, the cabin was often hot enough that shirtsleeves were comfortable. About an hour after take-off the Dover-Calais crossing would be made. Upon reaching the French shore, the pilot turned north-east up the coast for Rotterdam, landing there at 15.30. Ten minutes sufficed to drop off four passengers and take the air again for Amsterdam which was reached at 16.00 hours. Take-off from Amsterdam was at 17.20 and Croydon was reached again at 20.30. Daimler handled passengers' baggage, except for Customs, so the flight was usually uneventful. On the two occasions of forced landings, Dutch beaches were used with indifferent results.

- Robin Higham, Britain's Imperial Air Routes 1918 to 1939, London, 1960, p.59.

07 February 2017

A much less dangerous imagination

[A]fter the 80s, the new American right saw things differently. Newt Gingrich, then speaker of the House, now close supporter of Trump, took time out from impeaching Bill Clinton to co-author three excruciatingly dire alt-history novels about the civil war. In Never Call Retreat, the final in the trilogy, written by Gingrich with William Forstchen and Albert Hanser, the Union side wins the war but, by implication, the south wins the peace. With Sherman’s Union army poised to destroy Atlanta, the Confederate commander, Robert E Lee, persuades the south to surrender. “The patience of our opponents is at an end,” this fictional Lee tells the Confederate government. “We shall reap a terrible whirlwind that will scar our nation for generations to come.” Lincoln then delivers the Gettysburg address to a nation that has, by implication, made peace with the slaveowners and the ideology of white supremacy they lived by.

While you ponder the parallels with today, consider this statement from [Steve] Bannon, made on his radio show in December 2015 to explain the worldview of his Breitbart website: “It’s war. It’s war. Every day, we put up: America’s at war, America’s at war. We’re at war.

For Bannon, the No 1 enemy in this “war” is Islam, with China No 2. But there is also a fifth column in America to be dealt with as part of a “global existential war”. For Bannon, this fits into a generational theory of American power whereby the nation fulfils its destiny through a cycle of catastrophic crises: first, the revolution of 1776, then the civil war, then the intervention into the second world war and finally the crisis Bannon intends to provoke through Trump.

In Bannon and Gingrich, then, you have two men influencing the most powerful office in the world whose beliefs about the dynamics of US history could be best described as dangerous bullshit. Bannon fantasises about turning the culture war into a real one; Gingrich about the survival of an undestroyed south. Compared with them, Trump, whose fantasies appear to revolve around women, gold and tall buildings, has a much less dangerous imagination.

- Paul Mason, 'Trump’s advisers want a new civil war – we must not let them have it', Guardian, 6 February 2017

05 February 2017

Intrigue in Bastanien

Potential plague? Don't worry, I'm on it!

This week I've been experimenting with the background simulation in Elite Dangerous. The intricate underlying machinations map the effects of the myriad interactions of both the major factions (Federation, Imperial and Alliance) and the countless minor factions that contest for control in every inhabited system in human space. While systems with large populations are hard to influence, in the smaller systems - ones with around a million population or less - a single player can influence the balance of power between minor factions by completing missions for them. Seeing as I was already intending to get back to ranking up in the Imperial Navy so I can one day purchase an Imperial Cutter, I selected Imperial space for my experiment.

It wasn't hard to find a system led by a dictatorship, because that's common across the Empire. In the end I selected the backwater mining system of Bastanien, located 104 light years from the Imperial capital on Achenar and 191 light years from the Federal capital on Mars. Orbiting a G-class star a little smaller than Sol, Bastanien boasts a string of eight high metal content worlds, an ammonia-wreathed water world, two unassuming gas giants and a far-flung ice world. Only two of Bastanien's worlds have attracted Imperial attention. The first is the tidally locked and airless world of Bastanien 4, with its surface mining activities centred on the southern territories near the domed city of Bering Settlement, and ships docking above in orbit at the industrial outpost of Sweet Port. The second is Bastanien 8, a high metal content world being terraformed from orbit and served by the outpost known as Shaw Colony. With Bastanien 8 currently far from habitable, it looks like the terraforming initiative is at its early stages: a long-term proposition, then.

With a population of 243,000, Bastanien is a comparatively small system. Most of its people will likely be living in or around Bering Settlement. The minor faction controlling the system when I arrived, a dictatorship known as the Imperial Inquisition, had a firm grip when I arrived, with 73 percent of the total influence in the system. While I targeted this dictatorship largely due to its name, I also discovered that it's actually a player minor faction (i.e. rather than one run by AI) with interests in eight systems, headquartered at the nearby Brestla system:

The Imperial Inquisition is a group of Imperial fanatics based in this [Brestla] system. They are dedicated to defending the Empire from threats, both internal and external. Led by their inspiring leader, Mavia Kain, they are determined to become a major player on the galactic stage. 

Fortunately I enjoy a challenge!

I selected an opposition faction to support in Bastanien, to usurp the control of the invading Inquisition. Ruling out the second-most-powerful faction, the Bureau of Yeng Front, because it too was a dictatorship faction, I settled on the third-biggest faction, the Social Bastanien Unionists. A communist faction, the SBU only had 7 percent support when I began running missions for them. The ship I'm using is Cmdr Totinges' Asp Explorer, Hirokazu 824, rigged out for speedy cargo transport with a capacity of either 80 tonnes, or 112 tonnes without a fuel scoop.

The key is to run as many missions as possible for the SBU, to increase its influence in the system sufficiently to challenge the Inquisition for control. Most of the missions on offer are commodity or data delivery runs to nearby systems within about 15 light years such as Sawait, Brestla, Vasukili and Heilelang. A few others request hard-to-find resources, such as agricultural produce, the nearest producer of which is Dumnites 3, a water world 31 light years away with a population of over a billion. Once the mission board at Sweet Port is exhausted of jobs, Totinges flies over to Shaw Colony for a brief stop to see if there are a few extra SBU missions to pick up there. Then the key is to run the missions as quickly as possible to get back to Sweet Port for another round. If the surrounding systems offer decent missions, either to stations the Hirokazu is already scheduled to visit or back to Bastanien's outposts, they are accepted, but not those to any other destinations. There might be lucrative jobs on offer that are ignored, because they're a distraction from the main objective, and because the Inquisition is strong in most of the nearby systems, it's important to avoid boosting its fortunes.

In the first five days of running SBU missions, Totinges has made a sizeable dent in the Inquisition's hold on Bastanien. Its influence has declined from 73 to 51 percent, while the Social Bastanien Union has ballooned in influence from 7 to 24 percent. If the campaign continues successfully, at some point  both factions will draw level in influence and a fully-fledged local war will kick off in the system. Then it will be time to fetch my hot-modded Fer-de-Lance Accipitral and take its Class 4 multicannon into the Conflict Zones that will spring up around the system. Destroying Inquisition ships and running SBU combat missions will help their cause, and if it goes particularly well, the SBU might even seize control of one of the system's outposts. This would be ideal, because then even simple trading will boost its control of the system.

Onwards for communism!
See also:
Games: Fine-tuning the Robigo run, 2 March 2016
Games: Pathfinder 60, 12 July 2015
Games: Realising childhood dreams, 27 April 2015

31 January 2017

Tucker ground & homeward bounders

How many diggers made good on the goldfields? The typical digger, as we have seen, nursed no foolish fancy of finding enough gold to fund a life of idle wealth, but hoped more wisely to grubstake himself into a farm or shop or workshop. He spoke of four classes of ground. Tucker ground kept the digger fed without earning anything more. Wages ground paid the digger something like a labouring wage. Riser ground earned well, allowing the digger to build up savings. A piler or homeward bounder was so rich that the digger after a few weeks or months could sling his hook.

Golden Bay gave many men risers of £20 weekly. A farm labourer lucky enough to work six days a week for all four seasons in Britain, meanwhile, could only hope to earn about £30 yearly. Francis Flowers won £250 above costs in seven weeks, while 'considerably more' was won by others of his party. Another party washed gold worth about £300 in only three hours of work. Wages and tucker claims were widespread too. A weekly wage of about £5 was reckoned as average on the field by a writer looking back over the first four years of Golden Bay.

'Of course, like other gold fields,' he added, 'ours have partaken in some degree of the character of a lottery'.

A digger who won good gold from a riser or homeward bounder headed away to the settled districts or his homeland, few staying in Golden Bay. Heinrich Wilhelm Roske bought a farm on the golden banks of the Wangapeka. John William Bain, who had landed in the colony as a labourer and said proudly with his broad Scots accent that he was on 'the fust of the diggings', was one of the few who bought land in the bay. Lively, joking, a violinist, he owned about sixty hectares by his middle years. George Pickett Graham, a former bricklayer, won enough gold to buy nearly as much land which he planted with hops and hedged with barberry. A thriving family was founded by each of the two former diggers. Graham was well-to-do enough late in life to be able to travel by ocean liner and visit his kin back home in England.

- Stevan Eldred-Grigg, Diggers, Hatters & Whores, Auckland, 2008, p.471

See also:
HistoryThe inimitable Thatcher, 22 March 2014
History: Gold has been all-in-all to us, 4 October 2011
History: 'Austrians' on the gumfields, 14 July 2011

28 January 2017

Debating the Porirua Asylum

The Porirua Lunatic Asylum, to give it its original name, was founded in 1887 to care for the 'incurably' mentally ill and to provide space for an asylum farm, both for economic and recuperative reasons. Much like the grand Seacliff Lunatic Asylum north of Dunedin, the idea was to house the patients in a rural setting as far away from the main urban centres as possible. The construction at Porirua was not cheap; below are the debates from Parliament on 16 December 1887 on the £11,000 spending appropriations set out in the Public Works Estimates:

The Porirua Asylum, £11,000, excited a spirited discussion. Dr. NEWMAN created some amusement by asserting that Dr. Grabham was an excellent authority on Asylum buildings "from a lunatic point of view." Mr. ALLEN strongly advocated a reduction of the vote. The COLONIAL SECRETARY expressed the opinion that the item could be reduced by £400. Mr. ALLEN moved that the vote be reduced by £100. Mr. FISHER reminded the Committee that Wellington had to provide Asylum accommodation for Wanganui on the one side and Hawke's Bay on the other, and therefore Porirua Asylum was a necessity. Dr. NEWMAN gave it as his opinion that the time had arrived when harmless lunatics might be boarded out. This raised a laugh, and Dr. Newman went on to explain that in many Continental countries the experiment had been successfully tried. Mr. Valentine condemned any niggardliness in providing suitable accommodation for the poor creatures confined in asylums. The amendment was lost by 30 to 15.
- Hansard, reported in Evening Post, 17 December 1887

In 1887 and 1888 New Zealand was suffering from the Long Depression, and the 'Scarecrow Ministry' of Premier Harry Atkinson was desperate to cut spending and raise revenue wherever possible. Even so, Parliament authorised the Asylum's £11,000 appropriation.

15 January 2017

Cindy Sherman: chameleon, comedian

The City Gallery's current exhibition of the post-2000 photos of New York artist Cindy Sherman is a fantastic opportunity to see the work of a world-renowned photographer in Wellington. Like many people, I first came across Sherman's work through her justly famed Untitled Film Stills sequences taken from 1977 to 1980, featuring Sherman portraying dramatic - or perhaps cliched - moments from imaginary films. Building a surprisingly engrossing narrative out of single frame, untitled photographs, Sherman displayed a rare talent for reinvention and a compelling visual imagination. The photographs in this exhibition come from her second period of self-portraiture from 2000 onwards, and display Sherman's confident self of humour and unselfconsciousness in portraying characters who are fashion victims, clothes-horses or just plain odd. From Upper East Side millionaire matrons to sunburnt Californian stoners, Sherman exhibits a tremendous talent for reinvention on what could be a relatively limited range of material.

In an accompanying video interview the surprisingly down-to-earth Sherman explains her process much the same as an actor preparing for a new role. Often the inspiration comes from the costumes she digs up in Manhattan's op-shops, but also recently she has been commissioned by fashion houses to portray characters using their wardrobes - which I would've thought was a slightly risky affair, given Sherman's satirical intent.

An excellent sample of the Sherman exhibition can be seen in this Guardian post from March 2016, and if you're in Wellington you have until 19 March to catch the exhibition just off Civic Square.

See also:
Photography: The City - Becoming & Decaying, 23 March 2014
Photography: Dark Cloud White Light, 22 September 2013
Photography: Sukita-Bowie: Speed of Life, 16 September 2012

14 January 2017

1st test v Bangladesh, day 3

On day 3 of the first test at the Basin Reserve Bangladesh continued its excellent batting effort for another hour, extending its overnight score of 542/7 to a declaration score of 595/8. Neil Wagner ended up with the least mangled bowling figures, with 44-8-151-4. Then it was New Zealand's turn at the crease, although Friday's perfect weather wasn't replicated - Wellington was clear but chilly for most of the day, with a high of around 18 degrees diminished by wind chill. All the batsmen got a start, with opener Tom Latham displaying the most stickability, batting for the remainder of the day to close undefeated on 119. Williamson (53), Taylor (40) and Raval (27) also helped the score along but failed to preserve their wickets in a lengthy chase. Bangladeshi test debutante Taskin Ahmed will be pleased with his first test wicket: that of the captain, Kane Williamson. At the close of play New Zealand were 292/3, still 303 runs behind Bangladesh, with Henry Nicholls on 35 batting with Latham. 

Latham ducks one

Waiting for Taskin's autograph

Latham's fifty


08 January 2017

Balaena Bay mural

Mr Church, the Jeweller

Former Howden Jeweller's, Victoria St, Hamilton
On a recent visit to the centre of Hamilton to admire the new statues, I passed the building that hosts my cousin's Nimbus Media (upstairs) and the Scotts Epicurean cafe (downstairs). The building still displays the name of its founder, the long-standing Hamilton jeweller Herbert Henry Howden, who had it built in 1902. Threatened with demolition in the greedy 1980s, the building was saved after a public outcry, and was most recently put on the market in 2014.

Keen to investigate the history of the site, I checked out Papers Past to see if anything interesting had been reported over the years. Nothing cropped up for the building in my brief search, but one of Howden's employees did prove noteworthy: a minor military hero from World War 1.

Duncan Macdonald Church was born in Ashburton in Canterbury in 1884, to Duncan and Florence Church. His father was born in Tasmania and died in Ashburton in 1909, while his mother was born in Kaiapoi in 1859 and died in Ashburton in 1941.

Church became a jeweller by trade, and married Vera Condon in Feilding on 4 October 1916. He was working for Howden in his Hamilton shop when he enlisted on 2 February 1917. At the time he was nearly 33 years old, which is old for an enlistment this late in the war, but his military record revealed that he had previously been rejected for service due to haemorrhoids. (His enlistment medical inspection must have been favourable, because it listed his 'apparent age' as 24).

He departed Hamilton by train for Trentham on 6 March 1917 to join the 27th Reinforcements. Later that year on 2 September Vera delivered the couple's first child, a son, Duncan Macdonald Brownell Church (1917-95). By that time Duncan senior was safely in England, having travelled on the Willochra to Devonport and then on to Sling Camp. Leaving for France in late September 1917, he joined the New Zealand Division at Etaples, being posted to the 2nd Battalion of the Auckland Regiment on 11 October.

Almost a year later Church would display acts of gallantry that earned him the Military Medal. His citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the operations at Grevillers on the 24th August and at Bancourt on 30th August and 1st September Private Church acted as company runner and displayed great courage and resource under very heavy fire. On the 1st September when not required as a runner he voluntarily carried out wounded men under very heavy machine-gun and sniping fire.
The 24th was the beginning of the New Zealand Division's involvement in the 2nd Battle of Baupaume, which saw heavy fighting to push the Germans out of the town. It was one of the Division's most costly engagements of the war, with over 800 deaths and 2300 wounded. 

According to the Waikato Times of 3 December 1918, Church was 'well known in Hamilton, where for some years he was in the employ of Mr H. Howden, jeweller, [and] has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in action'. He was later promoted Corporal in January 1919 (with a temporary promotion to Sergeant for few weeks), and was eventually discharged from the Army back in New Zealand in July 1919 after two years and 15 days of service, to reside at 6 Rostrevor St, Hamilton, just around the corner from Howden's Victoria St jeweller's shop.

Corp Duncan Church MM (source)

Church and his wife would go on to have four sons. Duncan Church died in Hamilton on 6 April 1937, aged 53. His obituary from the New Zealand Herald of the following day reads:

The death occurred this morning of Mr Duncan Macdonald Church, of Hamilton, in his 54th year. Mr. Church was born in Ashburton and came to Hamilton when a young man. He served in France during the war with the Waikato Company of the Second Auckland Battalion, and was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the field. Mr. Church was a keen cricketer and was well known among Hamilton players. He is survived by his wife and three sons.