Wednesday, August 16, 2017

In praise of: Taylor Swift

Well, more a poem for David Mueller, the creep recently convicted of sexual assault on singer Taylor Swift. It is by Denis Glover and it goes like this:
I’m an Odd Fish
I’m an Odd Fish
A No-Hoper:
Among Men a Snapper,
Among Women
A Groper.
This poem from his collection Dancing to My Tune (Catspaw Press, 1974: my copy is signed by Lauris Edmond for some reason) is perhaps not as funny now as it seemed at the time.

So here is Taylor Swift with “Shake It Off”:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Waikato Times letter of the week #80

From the edition of Friday 11 August. As always, spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic are exactly as printed in the Waikato Times.
Predator-free stupidity
The stupidest idea of this century must be to make New Zealand predator free by 2050. Because most New Zealanders are still science illiterate when they exit our education system, no one has thought to question what this actually means. Consider the following:
1. Possums, rabbits, rats and mice are largely vegetarian so cannot really be classed as predators. We will keep them.
2. Cats and dogs are predators. They will have to go.
3. Fantails are predators of midges; kiwi are predators of worms and weta; tuatara are predators of beetles and snails; native owls are predators of rats and mice; and so on. They will all have to go.
4. Humans are predators of rabbits, pigs, deer, pheasants, many types of fish and farm animals. They will have to go.
If New Zealanders want to live in a predator-free country this could be achieved by getting Kim Jong Un to aim his nuclear missiles here. Do we really want to get rid of all fast-breeding animals, which will be needed as survival foods when the next ice age comes?
Rainga Wade
Kihikihi 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What I’m reading #146

In the July Literary Review Lucy Lethbridge reviews seven books about Jane Austen. One, already savaged by Private Eye for its allegedly cavalier treatment of another author’s research, is Lucy Worsley’s BBC TV tie-in Jane Austen at Home:
The very first illustration [. . .] is a photograph of a broken egg cup recently unearthed in the garden of her childhood home, Steventon Rectory. ‘It’s not impossible’, reads the caption, ‘that Jane Austen once used it to eat a boiled egg.’ Well no, not impossible, but…
After further consideration, Lethbridge concludes:
There’s much intriguing historical detail but also quite a lot of padding (‘imagine Jane happy, if you will, life before her, running through the Hampshire fields on a summer evening’), occasionally intercut with questions guaranteed to wake up the snoozing telly viewer. ‘Did Jane ever have lesbian sex?’ is one. The answer, unsurprisingly, is probably not.
Speaking of Private Eye, in the 14 July issue (not online) Remote Controller reviewed ITV’s Love Island, a reality show “in which all the narrative tension comes from who will shag whom, and whether it will be before the first or second commercial break”:
What has shocked ITV is that a franchise aimed at a target audience whose average evening involves four neck-tattoos and necking eight Jägerbombs has scored highly with viewers keener on fair-trade nail varnish and organic Sav Blanc. Eng Lit graduates will find that Love Island most resembles a porn movie based on the novels of Iris Murdoch, with names uncommon at the font bewilderingly swapped: “Theo said to Tyla that Montana said to Theo…”
Meanwhile, in America, Kat Rosenfeld exposes The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter for Vulture. It is an extraordinary, long, thoroughly investigated account of online book reviews used as bullying – passed on by people who condemn the book in question without reading it – and the chilling effect this has on authors. I had not heard of YA Twitter, which:
regularly identifies and denounces books for being problematic (an all-purpose umbrella term for describing texts that engage improperly with race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other marginalizations). Led by a group of influential authors who pull no punches when it comes to calling out their colleagues’ work, and amplified by tens of thousands of teen and young-adult followers for whom online activism is second nature, the campaigns to keep offensive books off shelves are a regular feature in a community that’s as passionate about social justice as it is about reading.
According to Rosenfeld, such campaigns involving thousands of people tweeting and retweeting and Tumblring and the rest:
are almost always waged in the name of protecting vulnerable teens from dangerous ideas. These books, it’s claimed, are hurting children.But a growing number of critics say the draggings, well-intended though they may be, are evidence of a growing dysfunction in the world of YA publishing. One author and former diversity advocate described why she no longer takes part: “I have never seen social interaction this fucked up,” she wrote in an email. “And I’ve been in prison.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What I’m reading #145

Not a lot because I am currently editing two manuscripts at once. This is not impossible, because only one is fiction, but it is suboptimal. Also, there is a funding round in progress for one of the organisations I help assess these things for, and it is quite a task working out how much fiction is involved in some of the applications.

The Spectator announces the results of competition 3008 in which entrants “were invited to take the last line of a well-known novel and make it the first line of a short story written in the style of the author in question”. Great idea. The clever-clogs winner started: “A way a lone a last a loved a long the” and you would think that Finnegans Wake would be impossible to parody but no.

All the others are good but my favourite was this, using The Da Vinci Code as the starting point:
For a moment, he thought he heard a woman’s voice — the wisdom of the ages — whispering up from the chasms of the earth to the splendour of St Peter’s. Langdon froze. ‘The wisdom of the ages’ — surely a coded message! Suddenly, in a sudden flash of realisation, he realised it. A totally contrived anagram! ‘An anagram!’ he realised. The Wisdom of the Ages = ‘Who misfeeds the goat?!’ Of course! Now he simply needed to find the unfortunate ungulate, and guilty goatherd… before it was too late! Heidi? Esmeralda? The Lonely… Suddenly, he had it — Paddy McGinty — whose goat swallowed dynamite! A deadly coded warning in deadly earnest! And Valentine Doonican = Neel doon in Vatican! In no time he found, behind the hassocks and dyslexic Scottish translations of tourist leaflets, the sticks of dynamite. The Vatican saved… but why had the clues been so obvious?
Slightly more topically for New Zealand readers, the Economist defends an often-criticised group:
One by one, prejudices are tumbling in the West. People may harbour private suspicions that other people’s race, sex or sexuality makes them inferior—but to say so openly is utterly taboo. As most kinds of prejudiced talk become the preserve of anonymous social-media ranters, though, one old strain remains respectable. Just ask a childless person.
And Private Eye reviews (not online – they’re not silly) John McEnroe’s second autobiography But Seriously:
This is an extended shrug of a book, a pointless, wildly self-indulgent ramble that reads like the transcript to an interview with a celebrity magazine during which the interviewer wandered off for a sandwich and couldn’t face going back.