April  2013
23 April  2013 ~  Jacket for  The Bush Baptist   Finalized. 

The Bush Baptist  is the first novel I started. It pre-dates Mr Vitriol by almost two years. I see now that I was over-ambitious.  Writing short stories would have been a far better use of my time in terms of learning the basics of fiction. I left Bush to fester for long periods between rewrites, including the completion of a draft of a third novel tentatively called  A Modern Privateer, about a  mercenary and which I hope to see in print next year.

Sue is currently proofreading what I hope will be the last major rewrite of Bush. If all goes to plan, the book will appear by the end of June.

The jacket design for Bush arrived today. The artist is Mariusz Zawadzki, who also did the cover for Mr Vitriol. Despite 
Mariusz never having been to New Zealand, his landscape captures  the bush and mood very much as I wanted. He was able to produce the design from a number of photos I showed him, including one of a tree fern, and links to pictures by three New Zealand artists - Robin White, Don Binney and Rita Angus. I am happy to recommend Mariusz.

The sources of the definitions used on the cover are:
     A Dictionary of Kiwi Slang, David McGill 1988
Bush Baptist  ~ Religious fundamentalist or religious poseur; first used in Boer War.
 Green’s Dictionary of Slang  2010
Bush Baptist ~  Mainly Australia / New Zealand. One who has either no religion or belongs to a dubious sub-cult...

Both compilers kindly gave their permission to cite their dictionaries.

Why include the definitions on the cover?  For those who are not aware of the slang use of bush baptist, they might think the term refers to Baptists in the USA who supported President Bush senior or junior. 

21 April  2013 ~ "Would you care to speculate on that?"

Before the  hacks had finished obsessing about Mrs Thatcher, another event, the terrorist bombing in Boston, created another media feeding frenzy.  The outrage, like Maggie's demise and funeral, was newsworthy. What I have no interest in as part for news bulletins is speculation and experts in all sorts of fields being asked for opinions that may or may nor relate to  the story.

As I was waking this morning, I switched on the radio and found yet another conjecture fest about the Boston tragedy. I am sorry to be vague not only about the time but also the station. It was either Radio 4 or the BBC World Service.

But I distinctly heard the host or journalist saying, "Would you care to speculate on that?"

One attraction of this non-news for providers  is that it is cheap. But such offerings - many people will offer their tuppence worth on the phone just for the exposure -  are a poor substitute for journalists who are given the time and other resources to undertake proper research and investigations.

So many stories around the globe do not get told. Hats off for Channel 4, which has an excellent record of breaking news to UK audiences with their Unreported World programmes.

20 April  2013 ~ Amazon Dodging Taxes

Amazon's profits for the quarter reported in January were £61.5 million. BBC

These results are somewhat misleading as Amazon continues to invest heavily in expansion and  future products to boost future returns. I don't quibble about such investment, but I do object to the shifty accounting that means Amazon pays little tax in the UK despite it being dominant force in several markets here. If independent booksellers had got the same tax breaks, many might have survived.

For these reasons I have signed the petition protesting at Amazon's dodgy tax record and urge others to do the same.

11 April  2013 ~ The Arrest of  Ai WeiWei  Live Stream on April 19th

Reproduced in part from Hampstead Theatre's website.

The Arrest of Ai Weiwei on Friday 19 April will be live-streamed over the Internet worldwide and free. Hampstead Theatre and Ai Weiwei believe that streaming this great play around the world live and free is true to the themes and spirit of the story. 

Ai Weiwei says: ‘China is a society that forbids any flow of the information and freedom of speech. This is on record, so everybody should know this. I am delighted that #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei will be livestreamed to the world. It will bring the play’s themes of art and society, freedom of speech and openness, the individual and the state to a new, broad and receptive global audience. Without freedom of speech there is no modern world – just a barbaric one. I’d like to thank my close friend Larry Warsh and Hampstead Theatre for supporting the story by allowing it to be heard on a much bigger scale – and for free, which is true to its spirit. I would really like to be there on opening night but unfortunately my passport still hasn’t been returned to me. Good luck to all involved.’

Hampstead Theatre is working very closely with a number of institutions, galleries and businesses world-wide to promote the live-streaming. To watch the show live and for free on the 19 April visit www.hampsteadtheatre.com or www.youtube.com/hampsteadtheatre

10 April 2013 ~ Cloud Cuckoo Land & How To Disappoint Customers

BT as my ISP offered some years ago (2007?) 2 GB free storage of files on a server called Digital Vault.  I found the service useful for backing up drafts and ideas for future writing.  If my PC crashed or the house burned down, I would be able to resume work as soon as  an Internet link was established.

Last week an email arrived; BT are switching off Digital Vault and replacing it with BT Cloud, which comes with 5GB for free. I could not see the need for stopping one service to start another, but I thought the extra capacity might be useful at some point. I tried BT Cloud at the weekend and found it lacked two functions that I used on Digital Vault. BTC does not allow for files to be organised in folders and nor does it allow listing files as details. The design lists each file as a separate icon. 

These arrangements do not work for me. Having checked with BT Cloud Helpdesk that these functions are missing, I have closed my BTC account. I spent part of this afternoon backing up files on Google Drive, which I find far more user friendly and it's free for the first 5GB.

This not the first time BT has withdrawn services that I valued. I used to have a free website, which I used for Leisure Connection Watch. For no obvious reason, the facility was taken away with no consideration shown to the fact it had been around for nine years and had a following.

Then there was Home Highway, which came with two telephone lines. My migration from ISDN to broadband, which was imposed by BT, meant the loss of the free second number.

And recently came emails from BT saying email addresses not used for 150 days would disappear.  I have an email address I use when traveling to avoid dealing with mail that can wait.

BT has steadily whittled down my sense of customer loyalty. I am considering transferring to another ISP.

I am very grateful to BT  for one thing.  When Leisure Connection attempted to close down Leisure Connection Watch in 2004 with legal letters, BT did not give in to the pressure.

9 April 2013 ~ On the Confusion of History with News

I have avoided radio and TV since one o’clock yesterday. Past experience has taught me that a major event, such as the death of Princess Diana or Margaret Thatcher, means that advertised schedules and the reporting of recent happenings give way to endless rehashing of old bulletins accompanied by talking heads and their audio equivalents.

Fortunately, the Internet allows me to choose news stories. I can also watch recorded programmes and read items printed before the event that dominates the media.

Call me old fashioned, but I think the essence of news is new. Could broadcasters please leave news programmes for what we have not heard about before and provide separate slots for the historical bumph and chat about the celebrity?

Bumph seems an apt description for old shit as it  comes from bum fodder, which means  arse-wiping material. Dried grass was one of the precursors to toilet paper. Bum fodder first appeared in Thomas Urqhart's 1653 translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel, according to Green's Dictionary of Slang.

5 April 2013 ~ Sharia Law used to Justify Deliberate Paralysis

From the BBC today:
Saudi media reports earlier said the 24-year-old man could be paralysed from the waist down if he could not pay his victim £250,000 in compensation.

Ali al-Khawahir was 14 when he stabbed a friend in the back in the Eastern Province town of al-Ahsa. He has been in prison for 10 years.

Having spent twenty minutes looking at comments on news reports of this story, it is sad to see how many people in the UK and the USA  tolerate or even endorse such savagery.

I  wrote here on March 21 about Corruption Royale and Repression in Saudi Arabia.

All wish to add now is a limerick.

The law of Saudi Arabia prescribes
Savage punishments for all the tribes
Except, of course, the House of Saud
Whose wholesale thieving is allowed
Besides, a  prince with stumps can't handle  bribes.

3 April 2013 ~ Journal of New Zealand and  Pacific Studies

This stunning carving features on the cover of the launch copy of the
Journal of New Zealand and Pacific  Studies edited by Professor Ian Conrich.  Download a list of the journal's contents.

The carving depicts  Rangi and Papa, the sky father and mother who are central characters  in Maori mythology. The work is by Brian Woodward and Ken Blum and on show outside Arts Unique,  Abel Tasman National Park.

Professor Conrich also plays a leading role in the New Zealand Studies Association.
NZSA's  19th conference is in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, 27-29 June 2013. It's theme is New Zealand and the South Pacific.

2 April  2013 ~ April Fool Test

I have added two whimsical documents to the Ephemera section. The first is a mock school test for April Fool's Day. The other a jibe at the irregularity of Imperial weights and measures.

I am amused by the way some British people resist metric measurement. The UK is very dependent on trade and it makes sense to fit in with the system used by not only our nearest neighbours but also most of the world.

I was in New Zealand when it changed to the metric system. Most of the work was done in a few years and  people quickly adapted.  Many in he UK are confused because metric is used alongside Imperial measurements.  I say confine the archaic system to museums.