29 October 2015

Patton Oswalt: Republican candidates as D&D characters

This is possibly the most niche blog post ever, but for people who are interested in the Republican party presidential nomination race AND who are Dungeons & Dragons fans, here's comedian and actor Patton Oswalt's Twitter summary of the 10 candidates as D&D characters, from tonight's GOP debate in Boulder, Colorado:

Donald Trump = level 21 demi-lich, Lamarkin's Rod of Disease, Cloak of Revulsion

Mike Huckabee = gelatinous cube

Marco Rubio = paladin, 18 charisma, all other stats 9, cursed broadsword

Ben Carson = necromancer, 19 intelligence, 4 wisdom

Jeb Bush = NPC with 8s in all attributes and leather armor

Rand Paul = halfling thief

Carly Fiorina = level 5 Drow elf with a + 1 Ring of Vampiric regeneration

Chris Christie = shambling mound

John Kasich = level 4 fighter with standard plate armor and a standard long sword, 10 strength

Ted Cruz = dwarf cleric with 3 Charisma

24 October 2015

Lawrence Arabia

Lawrence Arabia (singer-songwriter James Milne) performing last night at St Peter's Village Hall, Paekakariki, on his solo tour.

19 October 2015

The Tuckers of Clive

'Edward Tucker brought his family to Clive around 1856 and opened a fellmongery business. Their son, Richard, b.1854 married Maria (nee Harris) and they settled in a street that later would be called Tucker Lane. In 1894 Richard established a small scouring works on eight acres of land on St George's Rd, Havelock North and in 1903 with his brother, Frederick, purchased Sydney King's scouring plant at Whakatu. In 1910 the family moved to a 10-room house in Whakatu. In 1913 the nearby meat works purchased the land around the Tucker scouring works to use as a cook-house so the Tuckers moved the entire scouring plant three-quarters of a mile downstream to the main road between Napier and Hastings, used a traction engine to haul the heavy equipment. The business became the largest scouring plant in Hawke's Bay.

Richard Tucker died in 1922 aged 67 and eventually the business passed to his son William, and grandsons, Bill, Jack and Lindsay. There was no further expansion when they sold to Elders IXL Ltd in the late 1980s. Family ownership followed again with cousins Neil and Stewart Tucker's involvement, then Godfrey Hirst Ltd became owners and today it is Hawke's Bay Woolscourers, part of Cavalier corporation'.

- Gary Baines, Clive, Clive Charitable Historic Trust, 2013, p.66.

Edward Tucker was the eldest child of Edward and Jane Tucker, who emigrated from Devon to New Plymouth on the William Bryan, arriving in 1841. At some point the Tuckers, all or in part, moved from New Plymouth to Auckland, because Edward Tucker Sr.'s death is recorded there in 1855, aged 65. The following year or thereabouts, if the account above is accurate, Edward and Jane's eldest moved with his family to Clive in Hawke's Bay, to commence his fellmongery business that would later become a substantial feature of the regional economy.

See also:
History: Eric Claude Tucker 1890-1917, 23 March 2009
History: The last sight of old Plymouth, 6 April 2009
History: The Tuckers of Calstock, 31 August 2010

13 October 2015

A load of meaningless drivel

From Yes, Minister series 2 episode 7 ('A Question of Loyalty') in 1981, civil service mandarin Sir Humphrey Appleby appears before a select committee and explores the carefully nuanced distinction between the administrative policy and policy administration.

08 October 2015

The thing about Patrick O'Brian

The thing about English novelist Patrick O'Brian (1914-2000), author of the awe-inspiring 20-novel series Aubrey-Maturin novels of the Napoleonic Wars, is that he has a remarkable way with a sentence. His command of commas is, without a doubt, peerless, and in spinning his early-19th-century naval stories with such erudition, wit and, it is undoubtedly fair to say, literary flair and verisimilitude, he deploys these commas and his many other gifts to spin an extended odyssey that is essential reading for those interested in the era.

It was a great treat to discover O'Brian's novels in the mid-1990s, and an even greater stroke of luck when I learned that they were actually two decades old and in the intervening years a mass of work of the highest quality had followed. Indeed, the only thing that stopped me from plowing straight through all 20 novels was the fear that I would never again be able to read them all for the first time. So at some point I desisted, at about the 12th or 13th title.

In the intervening years Peter Weir's Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany-starring Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) was issued, captured the O'Brian world admirably, and was nominated for 10 Oscars. (I really must re-watch it soon) And only recently I recommenced reading the series from the very beginning, with Master & Commander from 1969. Currently I'm speeding through the second book, Post Captain, and it's this, the first glimpse of England in the series, that allows O'Brian to prove he's more than just a supremely talented writer of naval militaria. Because unlike his hero Jack Aubrey, who is famously 'a lion at sea and an ass ashore', O'Brian is equally at ease in the withdrawing rooms and post-chaises of Austen's England as he is on a quarterdeck of a well-gunned Mediterranean naval brig. Here's a prime example, as he introduces a family that would come to dominate Aubrey's (married) life - the Williams ladies. Is there a finer end to a paragraph than that coolly fiscal conclusion to the penultimate paragraph? Anything so evocative of the age?


'Mapes Court was an entirely feminine household - not a man in it, apart from the butler and the groom. Mrs Williams was a woman, in the natural course of things; but she was a woman so emphatically, so totally a woman, that she was almost devoid of any private character. A vulgar woman, too, although her family, which was of some importance in the neighbourhood, had been settled there since Dutch William's time.

It was difficult to see any connection, any family likeness, between her and her daughters and her niece, who made up the rest of the family. Indeed, it was not much of a house for family likeness: the dim portraits might have been bought at various auctions, and although the three daughters had been brought up together, with the same people around them, in the same atmosphere of genteel money-worship, position-worship and suffused indignation - an indignation that did not require any object for its existence; a housemaid wearing silver buckles on a Sunday would bring on a full week's flow - they were as different in their minds as they were in their looks.

Sophia, the eldest, was a tall girl with wide-set grey eyes, a broad, smooth forehead, and a wonderful sweetness of expression - soft fair hair, inclining to gold : an exquisite skin. She was a reserved creature, living much in an inward dream whose nature she did not communicate to anyone. Perhaps it was her mother's unprincipled rectitude that had given her this early disgust for adult life; but whether or no, she seemed very young for her twenty-seven years. There was nothing in the least degree affected or kittenish about this : rather a kind of ethereal quality - the quality of a sacrificial object. Iphigeneia before the letter. Her looks were very much admired; she was always elegant, and when she was in looks she was quite lovely. She spoke little, in company or out, but she was capable of a sudden dart of sharpness, of a remark that showed much more intelligence and reflection than would have been expected from her rudimentary education and her quiet provincial life. These remarks had a much greater force, coming from an amiable, pliant, and as it were sleepy reserve, and before now they had startled men who did not know her well - men who had been prating away happily with the conscious superiority of their sex. They dimly grasped and underlying strength, and they connected it with her occasional expression of secret amusement, the relish of something that she did not choose to share.

Cecilia was more nearly her mother's daughter : a little goose with a round face and china-blue eyes, devoted to ornament and to crimping her yellow hair, shallow and foolish almost to simplicity, but happy, full of cheerful noise, and not yet at all ill-natured. She dearly loved the company of men, men of any size or shape. Her younger sister Frances did not : she was indifferent to their admiration - a long-legged nymph, still given to whistling and shying stones at the squirrels in the walnut-tree. Here was all the pitilessness of youth intact; and she was perfectly entrancing, as a spectacle. She had her cousin Diana's black hair and great dark blue misty pools of eyes, but she was as unlike her sisters as though they belonged to another sex. All they had in common was youthful grace and a good deal of gaiety, splendid health, and ten thousand pounds apiece.

With these attractions it was strange that none of them should have married, particularly as the marriage-bed was never far from Mrs Williams' mind. But the paucity of men, of eligible bachelors, in the neighbourhood, the disrupting effect of ten years of war, and Sophia's reluctance (she had had several offers) explained a great deal; the rest could be accounted for by Mrs Williams' avidity for a good marriage settlement, and by an unwillingness on the part of the local gentlemen to have her as a mother-in-law'.

- Patrick O'Brian, Post Captain, 1972 (1993 edn.), p.21-3.

07 October 2015

And after shipwreck driven upon this shore

A remnant of maritime trade, the laid-up fishing vessel Southern Prospector has been dormant and rusting at Glasgow Wharf in Wellington since 2010. In April 2011 it was struck by the Bluebridge ferry Santa Regina in an accident that was later the subject of a jury trial for the captain of the latter vessel, who was said to have sailed with passengers despite having received a 3.5m gash in his hull from the accident. (The captain disputed the severity of the damage and the judge acquitted him of the charges). Now the Southern Prospector sits dormant; an entry on this blog suggests she was originally launched in Imbari, Japan, in 1967, and named the Wakamiya Maru. Later that same year it was renamed the Harukaze Maru. Immediately before it became the Southern Prospector it was known as the Tensho Maru No.11. The company that owned the vessel appears to have been struck off the register of companies.