Sunday, December 31, 2006

We'll always have Paris



Sure it's cheesy. But for me this clip and the album evokes a time of my life I rather enjoyed, the early-mid 90s. Single. Living downtown in the the beautiful Endean apts (opposite the ferry building), classic sports car, ducati, creative director for an ad agency, on the town every night…evenings in with this album and melancholy.

Tres, tres, chic. Tres, tres sexy…

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Resolve

I have never indulged in 'new year's resolution' and I resolve to stay true - one day before the end of the year - so I'm not caught in a paradox.

Here's the thing. A year. A month. A day. A moment.

Why leave it for a year?

With each moment take responsibility for it's quality (which, of course, you are in charge of).

A year is a man made concept after all.

Happy new moment.

Happy new moment.

Happy new moment.

Happy new moment.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Know Me Before You hate Me

Mariana, my friend from Argentina is in Auckland. She is a fashion designer and has a business selling through stores here. She lived in New Zealand for many years before returning home. She's also the coolest person on the planet.

She tells me there are two Davids. The one who writes this blog and the real life me.

I think I agree.

But, when I think about it more I have to say that blogging and real life are fundamentally different things.

Let's think about why…do you have a minute?…don't let me hold you up…

Firstly, …I don't know who you are. I don't know what your interests really are. You may have arrived through a random link. You may be here because I showed up on Google when your searched…Kiwi ferrit fanciers (though until I publish this post, that is unlikely), or yurts. I do know than a significant percentage of you are returning visitors. Thank you. You both know who you are.

Second. Because I don't know who you are (and yet you chose to visit) I don't need to worry overly about hurting your feelings. So I say what I want. After all, I'm disembodied.

Third, and finally for now, there are passions I have in the dead of night that just have no place in my everyday life. The web and the notorious Web 2.0 offers me the opportunity to express them in safety (I hope).

In life, like you, I love my kids, I cherish friendship and discussion, I am achingly proud of my brothers & sisters and my parents, without whom (as they say at the Oscars) none of this would be possible. But can I tell them in everyday life…? I'm Scottish, …give me a break.

I know the last two posts will make some people angry. I'd simply ask that you know me before you hate me.

Voice of Reason

"When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from delusion it is called Religion"
Robert M. Pirsig (author of Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance)

These videos of Richard Dawkins' (author of The God Delusion) two part documentary 'Root of all Evil?' makes astonishing viewing. Give yourself some time…watch them all. Make up your own mind. If you can.

Root of all Evil? Part 1



Root of all Evil? Part 2



Root of all Evil? Part 3



Root of all Evil? Part 4



Root of all Evil Part? 5



Root of all Evil? Part 6



Root of all Evil? Part 7



Root of all Evil? Part 8



Root of all Evil? Part 9



Root of all Evil? Part 10

The end of Christmas

Thankfully Christmas is over for another year. I managed to avoid any feeling of faux goodwill to all men and the decision to avoid gift giving beyond my own children was a move worthy of wise men. Of course I also feel something of a hypocrite even acknowledging Christmas at all. You see, I am not a member of the Christian cult, or any for that matter and I have a healthy scepticism of people who are.

It is my birthday in a couple of days. My son asked what I would like. I have requested a copy of The God Delusion. If he's clever he'll get a copy from the public library, wrap it (optional) and offer to return it for me. I heard the author being interviewd on the radio the other day and thought it was refreshing to hear someone discuss a sensitive topic so forthrightly. How much of political correctness stems from pussyfooting around other people's beliefs. Why? I don't see the point. In my opinion, if you want to hold nutty views of the world, then that is fine by me. Of course it does mean your credibilty will take a well deserved knock, sort of along the lines of the fine old chestnut 'If someone tells you they don't care about money they will probably lie about other things as well.' How can I take you seriously if you hold potty beliefs that simply don't withstand rigorous scrutiny and enjoy the delightfully circular illogic of 'faith' to deflect any form of inquiry or debate. That is that something need not be proved to be acceptable or believed.

I watched the documentary film the Corporation the other day. It trots out people like Naom Chomsky and Naomi Klein to spout polemic rehetoric about 'corporations'. I found it thoroughly entertaining. I like shows where you can get involved - even if it is simply shouting disblief and invective at the screen. I know they can't hear me, but I suspect it would make no difference even if they could. As I said it was interesting and I am steeling myself to watch the seven hours of bonus out-takes from the interviews. Don't ask me why, I guess anyone mad enought to want to create a yurt from piles of Stephen Hawkins books must qualify as odd.

I made the mistake of raising the point about New Zealand's finance minsiter from an earlier entry at the Christmas Day get-together at my mother's house. My sister mistook my disdain for the fact that he has never held a real-world job for some idealogical opposition to his politics. The truth is I prefer a different model to the tyranny of bleeding a popluation to a dessicated husk through taxation at every turn in one form or another, …but let's save that for another day. She asked me why I thought academia wasn't a 'proper' job. Actually I do think it is a proper job, but only when there is an outcome other than a thesis on social and economic history. Reporting on history seems a bit pointless really. The sort of thing you might want to do if you ever wanted to take a job in the swollen beaurocracy, or better still become an unelected member of parliament with the number two job. Just think, if Helen were to choke on a chicken bone while clambouring up Maachu Pichu (or whatever photo opp holiday she is on this year) Cullen would be Prime Minister of New Zealand without winning a single vote. A bit like the Fijian Coup Commodore whose name we have all forgotten already.

In a bid to deal her own coup de grace my sister wondered aloud what contribution the kind of work I do made and whether it was useful work? Well, let me see… the company I started in 1996 employs at least eight people directly and dozens of contractors and suppliers; Idealog magazine employs several people and likewise provides incomes and revenues to contractors and suppliers. I might even go as far as to say its very exisitence raised the consciousness of New Zealand business people (the ones responsible for creating other jobs and wealth for the country and its future). Not to mention the tax revenue they create…

Of course I realise that doing the accounts for a naturopath is important too.

Don't forget to hunt out your copies of the Hawkins brick.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A short history of time

Did you ever buy the Stephen Hawkins book A Brief History of Time? Early nineties. Some of you must have. It was a monumental best-seller. I bought one. Never read it though. Couldn't. It was impenetrable rubbish. Not for me. Literally. The book was touted as a populist thesis. But maybe I missed something,…a meeting or something?

Well, I've decided to do something useful for the new year.

If you have a copy of A Brief History of Time, send it to me. Why? I want to make clever igloos for the world's homeless out of copies of the book.

Finally, a use…

Send to:

David MacGregor
c/o P.O. Box 90 096
Auckland
New Zealand


Send this to a friend - let's change the world…

A new toy for Christmas

It's Christmas morning. Gifts have been exchanged. Taylor was chuffed with his fully monte poker chip set and the various golf doodads. I was well pleased with 'The World According to Jeremy Clarkson'…Now he's off with his maternal grandparents and I'm left to catch up on some of my favourite blogs, and have a little read before hitting the road for the Christmas Day Tour 06 - The joy of a 21st Century nuclear meltdown family.

On my brief tour of the blogosphere I found a new toy, let it be my gift to you.



I hope you like it. Unfortunately I got it from a street vendor, so it can't be exchanged.

Merry Christmas, thanks for visiting this year - returning visitors represent nearly 30% of total visitor numbers and the number of readers has increased steadily over the year. S'quite fun really…

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I am fine. Hospital Sick.

I have just received an email from Stephanie Dowrick, the Australian author and psychotherapist who has written some of my favourite books including The Universal Heart and Forgiveness And Other Acts of Love. There is a line in her note that resonated with me: " the greatest gift that any of us will give this Christmas is kindness - and all that flows from it: tolerance, good humour, hope, gentleness. Have it, give it and receive it in abundance."
If you are about to immerse yourself in the the last two shopping days before Christmas think of that. Especially when the crowds get to you or someone else takes the parking space you want or cuts you off on the motorway.

You see, I'm not a curmudgeon all the time - though I am about to tell you about an experience I had this week that tested my capacity for kindness.

On Wednesday I went to my Doctor (General Practitioner, not PhD). I rarely visit medical services, being male and all that. My symptom was a persistent headache. My brain had been pounding for five days, to the extent I could not concentrate on my work. As part of the diagnostic procedure the doc interviewed me about the where and how longs etc and went through the trees of elimination that you would expect. Then she measure my blood pressure and gravely asked: "Would you like me to call an ambulance to take you to the hospital or is there someone who can drive you?"

I thought she was kidding. A little post modern medical black humour to put me at ease. But she wasn't. My BP was off the scale over 240. When I realised it wasn't a joke I think my BP went up even higher. How could I go to hospital? Didn't she realise I had things to do? All I wanted was some stronger analgesics and the comforting words 'It's nothing to worry about'.

The Doc suggested the headache might be the result of a brain-bleed (a stroke). There was the possibility it might also be a tumour, she said. She gave me a pill designed to rapidly reduce the pressure.

As I had left my cell phone at home I had to use the medical centre's phone to ring around and organise for my son to be collected from golf by his aunt and to call clients to cancel meetings in the afternoon. I fet anxious about being plunged into this unknown and the pending loss of control.

A member of the staff drove me to the North Shore Hospital. I felt a certain dread as that is where my father died a few months ago (not from the condition that took him there, but from an infection contracted there).

As I was a walk-in with no obvious symptom other than a note from my GP. I was treated with that sort of mild disdain you might expect a regular hypochondriac to receive by a bored male nurse. I got the feeling he had chosen his occupation for the glamour and had been disappointed that casualties aren't routinely choppered in, covered in blood, to be met by the fast talking doctors like Hawkeye or commanding heartthrobs like George Clooney from ER.

On reading my doctor's notes and asking me questions about my headache (in the disbelieving way my mother used to ask me about how severe my tummy pain was when she suspected I was malingering to avoid a maths test at intermediate school when I was 12) the nurse finally relented and took my my blood pressure. I noted the equipment was a little more raggedy than my doctor's. Used more I guess. The pill to rapidly bring the figure down may have worked but I suspect the stress I was feeling had taken it to a new high. I was asked to walk through the electronically locked doors, down the corridor to 'the red chairs' and wait. The sign hanging above the ominous red chairs said 'acute ward'. I certainly didn't feel acute, aside from my annoyance at missing my meeting. It all seemed a bit much. They should have sent me to the exaggerated ward.

I was now in the system. Bemused in the belly of the beast.

I waited, there is no reception area as such. Before long I caught the eye of a cute, dark-haired nurse with green rubber clogs that I noticed were de rigeur amongst the younger female nursing staff. "Are you waiting to be seen?" I suppose I could have been a visitor, given that I was not awash in arterial blood (yet), so the question wasn't as silly as it at first seemed. I gave her the folder containing the note from my doctor, explaining my symptoms and the admission paperwork from the bored reception nurse.
"Wait a here a minute and I will find you a bed…" she said after looking at my file.
A bed? But I wasn't in the slightest bit tired. And I had meetings to attend.
She came back, ushered me to a cubicle with a framed picture made from a piece of badly drawn kiddy jungle fabric - the sort you might expect on a child's duvet. The curtain was the same, though, mercifully not matching. I was to be housed in a pediatric cubicle.

"Take your clothes off and put this on…" She handed me a hospital gown with "Hospital Property" printed in a bright mutli-coloured repeating pattern. As it was hardly the sort of thing one would steal (like a fluffy towelling luxury robe from an hotel) I could only assume that I had become hospital property, ratcheted a notch further into 'the system'. "Is this all quite necessary?" I asked. "It allows the doctors to examine you,…get onto the bed when you're done and someone will be with you soon…" I wondered what they felt the need to examine? I had a headache, after all.

As my afternoon was shot anyway I went with the flow.

I experienced my first half hour of waiting. Propped up on a gurney in a ridiculous garment that the helpless are expected to wear (I suspect to reinforce their helplessness).

A chap finally appeared with a trolley, laden with medical stuff. "I'm Bill, …I just need to get this tube into your arm and take a little blood". At first I wasn't sure whether Bill was a doctor, a surgeon or an orderly. He wore a set of scrubs that seemed generic. "Are you a doctor?" I asked "Nurse" he replied with the gruff manner of someone who has been the butt of one too many nurse/gender jokes to take any shit from a bloke wearing a little lace up at the back number.

Bill proceeded to apply a strap to my arm, explain that once the needle was in he would also insert a shunt device in case they had to insert medicine intravenously for speed. Whether that information was intended to instill confidence or drain it I couldn't be certain.

As he worked the slight pinprick promised did not eventuate. A very uncomfortable few moments followed as he wrestled with the fiddly device. My dark, oxygenated blood streamed over his hand, directly from the vein.

"Shouldn't you be wearing gloves…?"
"I haven't had any cuts recently, I'm not worried about it…"

The fact that I now had an open wound on my hand and had no idea where he had been in the past half hour attending to what or who seemed to escape him. And this in the very same hospital my father had died of infection caught at the hospital. My confidence began to drip on the floor like the large blob of blood from my hand (the one that was not cleaned away in the hours that followed).

Now that I had a tube in my hand and a tag on my wrist, courtesy of Nurse Bill (who reassuringly told me it would probably fall off in half an hour) I was one hundred percent, certified hospital property, ratcheted another notch, locked down.

In the hour that followed I recieved no further attention (other than the kindly old trolley lady who wondered if I would like a cup of tea. I would very much have liked a cup of tea. Was I permitted a cup of tea? She could see no sign to advise to the contrary. Nothing to indicate 'nil by mouth'…unfortunately there was no sign of a member of the nursing staff to advise the trolley lady, so she shuffled off leaving me with the only reading material I had…my wristband. Name, date of birth, age (43 years and 11 months apparently), barcode (nice touch) and address (wrong address, neither my GP, nor the hospital had asked whether my details are current and correct…).

Another half hour. No signs of life.

As I was in a curtained cubicle, I could hear the conversations around me, the comings and goings. In the cubicle to my left was a young Indian man who had been admitted slightly before me at 10am. His family was anxiously waiting with him while he waited for a diagnosis for his abdominal pain. It was like listening to a radio play. The tension and drama, punctuated by a family member surreptitiously glancing through the gap in my curtain as they passed. Occasionally a nurse would stop by to assess my neighbours pain. More morphine?

Then it was my turn. "I just need to check your blood pressure…"

Still monumental.

"The doctor will see you soon."

It was then that I recalibrated my understanding of the word 'soon'.

Another hour past before a young chap showed up. Open neck shirt, smart pair of trousers? Jehovah's witness,…here? The stethescope and array of pagers gave the game away. He introduces himself in a slightly apologetic manner. Reminds me of the lead character in 'Scrubs'. I go through the symptoms again, focusing on my headache, which continues to pound. He prefers to concentrate on the blood pressure. His pager goes. He apologises "My boss…I'll be back soon…"

Ah…, righto…, 'soon'.

Three quarters of an hour later he returns in a 'where was I?…' flourish. He tests me for symptoms of a stroke or neurological 'event'- hand shaking, push pull strength, ability to grimace and raise eyebrows… palpates my abdomen (well, if I've gone to all the trouble of wearing a hospital gown…). He examines the blood vessels in the back of my eye for hemorrhage…nothing. For which I am glad. He tells me he will get me some accupril to lower my BP. Once it is down I can go home and they will treat me as an out-patient to find any underlying causes of the hypertension.

Cool, get that pill and let me out of here…

I wait another hour before a nurse shows up with 10mgs of Accupril (quinapril) - I'm familiar with it…got boxes of the stuff at home (haven't been so great at compliance…it's a guy thing…mea culpa).
Hey, at least she showed. There has been a shift change, so I have a new nurse, a temp from the Geneva agency. She's not sure what the doc has decided, the notes are incomplete.

More waiting. The guy next door has been taken for CRT scan and come back. I'm pleased to learn he will be fine. Just a small kidney stone, it'll probably pass by itself. "More morphine…?"

Meanwhile a kid with a gastric upset has come in. She's permitted to run wild up an down the corridor, pausing to disgorge the contents of her stomach outside my cubicle. Nice.

A patient down the corridor is calling out pathetically for help, repeatedly ringing the 'call' button (which rings above my bed) and banging the wall. It's a little like bedlam.

When the nurse comes back its about 10 at night. My patience has worn thin. I tell her that I need some information about the plan or I'll be dressing and going home.
She tells me she'll find the doctor. Before she leaves I ask why nobody is assiting the person down the corridor. "That's not my part of the ward…" Nice…

I wait another half hour.

I get up and dress. An admin person arrives to tell me that I have a call but I can't take it because another patient is using the phone. Nice…

I ask her to get a nurse to come take the pipe out of my hand. She tells me she'll get a nurse.

I wait. They can see me waiting, fully clothed now, from the nurses station. I push the call button. Nobody comes.

I guess they don't do room service at North Shore Hospital?

I left. It's nearly 11pm. It has been a very weird experience. There are no taxis, I walked to my car at the medical centre a couple of kilometres away and drive home. On the way I stop at the supermarket for something to eat and some strong Ibuprofin. In my bathroom I pull out the shunt and am surprised by the spray of blood. Impressive. Pressure and elevation and I'm amazed at how quickly my body responds to seal the hole. It reminds me of the health cartoons they showed us at primary school - the white blood cell army…

All in all a surreal experience. I am sure that the staff were doing their best. Though I wonder if they were annoyed when I decided that it was a waste of time and became an individual again (rather than Hospital property).

My observation is that I could have received the same amount of care in the space of one hour had staff completed each task promptly, rather than doing things piece meal.

I was reminded of the American insurance company that sends assesors to the scene of motor accidents with the authority to settle claims on the spot and organise panelbeaters and mechanical services. The service saves/makes the company millions and customer satisfaction is stratospheric, compared to industry benchmarks.

I didn't feel that staff had any autonomy-from nurses who wouldn't cross a line to attend to a distressed patient to a doctor who left twice during a consult when his chain was yanked by a superior. Standards of hygiene were disgusting. I stepped in the remnants of the kids vomit when I went to the toilet. My blood was not cleaned off the floor. Failure to wear gloves when in direct contact with blood. Wrong patient information/identification (which makes me wonder what other clerical errors, leading to clinical errors occur?). All systemic problems.

I remain untreated. Still have headache. I am self medicating from my Accupril supply and have notified my GP of the circumstances by email (though the medical centre receptionist told me there is no email address I could use to communicate with the doc - hey, it might interfere with the number of visits/profits - though I understand that some people might abuse access and endanger their health, bog down the doc).


Stephanie Dowrick's message came just at the right time: tolerance, good humour, hope, gentleness.

If nothing else it will keep my blood pressure in check.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Grinchette Who Shoplifted Boxing Day


Micheal Cullen is the New Zealand minister of finance. He appeared on TV One's Close Up current affairs programme to debate tax reductions. From the beginning I found it quite disturbing. Cullen responded to the hosts welcome by replying 'Welcome'. Hmmm. A senior moment? But that was nothing by comparison to his repeated use of the term 'bucks' when he meant 'dollars'. It's not that I have a problem with easygoing vernacular. But not from him. It sounds like a media trainer's idea to make him seem A Man of the People.
Let's get this straight. Micheal Cullen is not a man of the people. He has never held a job in the private sector (according to his biography) and is not elected to parliament by popular vote. He is a list MP. So far as I know he may have never met a 'hard working New Zealand family'.
Worse still, if you are going to claim to be a Grinch - be a Grinch. Not a demi-Grinch or Grinchlet. Go hard or go home.
As for his National Party opponent Bill English. Well there isn't much to say really, other than that his performance makes Micheal Cullen seem as charismatic as George Clooney.
Actually, let's be straight up. They're both as dreary the drive trough Huntly. Let's have some action. Is there a current affairs host with the cojones to shackle them together and let them duke it out in a bear pit.

Just as a footnote, it seems curious to me that people with PhD degrees in Social & Economic History should attach the title Doctor to themselves outside of an academic context. What is the convention? It seems silly to me. Crickey, before you know it we'll be calling chiropractors Dr....oops, that's right, they do (but they are required to add Chiro after their names).

I have had a headache for 4 days. Can you tell?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Real da Vinci Code


I have been undertaking an online seminar, developed by Sony called "How To Think Like da Vinci".It is one of a range of workshops and seminars offered for free online covering a wide range of topics under the heading SONY 101. Check them out here.

I was fascinated by Leonardo daVinci when I was at high school, mostly for the breadth of his work, rather than his paintings. I never really liked rennaissance art - for all its virtues.

I wasn't aware of Leo's seven principles until now…let me paraphrase from the introduction to the course.

The Seven Principles


Curiosita

An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
…genius is born when that quality of curiosity continues throughout life.

Leonardo da Vinci was insatiably curious. He possessed the openness and energy of a child combined with the focus and discipline of maturity. He was curious about everything. His theme was the quest to find the essence of truth and beauty.

Dimostrazione

A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

Dimostrazione is a word used by Leonardo to refer to the idea of thinking independently, testing things through one's own experience, and learning from mistakes. Like a baby learning to walk, Leonardo was persistent in his quest for truth and beauty. In his notebooks, he affirms: "I shall continue," "All obstacles shall be overcome by commitment," and "Fix your course to a star."

Sensazione

The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.

Leonardo cultivated his sensory awareness like an Olympic athlete trains his body for competition, and he noted that, "The five senses are the ministers of the soul."


Sfumato

A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.

If you begin to awaken your childlike curiosity by asking deeper questions, if you commit to independent thinking and start to sharpen your senses, the result will be -- more questions! Sfumato is a term that art critics coined to refer to the hazy, mysterious quality in Leonardo's paintings, a quality he achieved through the gossamer-thin application of hundreds of layers of paint so that the light seems to suffuse magically from behind the canvas. It represents one of the most distinctive characteristics of highly creative people like Leonardo himself: openness to the unknown and poise in the face of uncertainty.

Our world is changing faster than ever before. New developments in technology, geo-politics, business, science, and medicine are accelerating change and multiplying uncertainty. As uncertainty mounts, the ability to remain centered and balanced becomes more important for individual well-being.

Arte/Scienza

The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination; whole-brain thinking.

Leonardo urged his students to "study the science of art and the art of science." His claim to the title of greatest genius of all time rests on his unmatched mastery of both science and art. In modern terms, Leonardo was a representative and advocate of what we call whole-brain thinking. He inspires us to use the linear, logical, analytical capacities of our mind in harmony with the more imaginative, colorful, and playful elements.

This ideal of balance is brought to everyday practice through a simple technique called mind mapping (developed by British brain researcher Tony Buzan, who was inspired by the notes of Leonardo da Vinci).

Corporalita

The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.

In addition to his prowess in art and science, Leonardo was also renowned for his physical gifts. History records that he was as renowned for his strength and athleticism as he was for his beauty, grace, and poise. Leonardo gave advice on health and well being that is echoed today in writings on holistic health. He advocated moderate exercise, a diet of fresh, wholesome food (the Maestro was a vegetarian), and a little red wine with dinner. Leonardo understood all those years ago what we now call "the mind-body connection." His most important advice on maintaining health and well-being included these words: "Avoid grievous moods and keep your mind cheerful."

Connessione

A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena; systems thinking.

As Leonardo searched for truth and beauty, he observed parallels in the flow of water, the movement of wind, the flight of birds, and the refraction of light. He noted that everything connects to everything else. The ability to see connections that others don't is a hallmark of genius and Leonardo offers a supreme example of this creative capacity.

Sign up. It's a very cool idea from a corporate brand. There is a bit of promotion on the site, but it's quite laid back.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sub-Atomic Particulars



It has been a busy day. Whether it is the heat or old age I am feeling sleepy and it is only quarter to four in the afternoon. I'll put it down to the heat.

I have been reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. He makes the excellent point that "for me to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had to somehow assemble in an intricate and curiously obliging manner to create you. It's an arrangement so specialised and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly in all the billions of deft, co-operative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally under appreciated state known as existence"

Good point. I shall ponder it as my particular particles feel ever so slightly disengaged. Taking the point a little further and putting aside my under appreciated state I am amazed at the stuff outside my window and the fact that I get to sit in my office in comfort, rather than having been assembled as a bug.

But enough with the metaphysics already.

It is Friday and very nearly time for a refreshing beverage.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Balls.



I watched The Ferocious Mr Fixit again tonight. TV1, 9.30, Thursdays (NZ).

I suggest you do too. Insightful. Who needs McKinsey & Co.

Alisdair Jeffrey is smart and has what it takes to make the right recommendation (I suspect that's not an MBA - though I've been wrong before…)

Take care that you don't disrupt the Alice in Wonderland kiwi employment rules.

Disorderly conduct


Matt Cooney, the thoroughly gentlemanly editor of Idealog has asked me to send him my next column about advertising for the magazine.

Sometimes I feel a little like a fraud writing about the subject. Putting aside the aesthetics of advertising (if you follow this blog you'll know I delight in cleverly conceived and executed commercials), I find it a little awkward because I feel the advertising business must move forward. As it stands it is very old fashioned. There is a gigantic shift coming - I can sense it - and I fear that the education of young advertising people is preparing them for the business as it was in the 1970's. Does that sound harsh? I don't mean it to be. The main issue I have is that the narrative form widely used in advertising is based on a logic that doesn't seem to hold water anymore. Beginning, middle, end.

I don't really have any answers, but plenty of questions. I suppose that is a good thing? Perhaps that should be my theme for the column? Five questions. There you go…

Thanks, you've been helpful.

If you have any ideas, I'm open and have a week...

By the way I love the quote:

"A film must have a beginning, middle and end but not necessarily in that order"

Jean Luc Godard

Never has something so wrong been so right.



I was just reading about the Bugatti Veyron. It has a 1001 horsepower engine. That's quite a lot. It costs US$1.3 million. That's quite a lot. It travels at 250 miles per hour and gets there quicker than it took me to type 'It travels at 250 miles per hour'.

Santa, if you exist. I've been good for goodness sakes.

For those of you who think the Veyron is an environmental and economic disgrace. You might take pleasure from being right. But never has something so wrong been so right.
It makes me feel better to imagine the catastrophic effect of 4004 wild horses hoofs charging over the landscape (1001 horses x 4 legs).

Read about the jawdroppingly awesome Bugatti here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jack Kerouac makes sense (finally)



I was trying to explain how I feel about conversation to a friend…how some people are 'nice' but don't really add much. It came out kind of wrong. Then I was spending a little time in the Library at Rotorua and I stumbled across a remark by The One & Only Jack Kerouac that, curiously enough, explained.

"But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!""

'bout sums it up.

Kerouac's On The Road

P.S. This will be the first Christmas without my father, who died a couple of months back. Flipped through a book of epitaphs - this one resonated:

"Be thou what you think I ought to have been"

Then, for laughs:

"When I am dead
I hope it may be said
his sins were scarlett
But his books were read"


Penned by Hillaire Belloc himself..

Mine should read:

Here Goes Nothing

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Life-Long Learning

If you're not aquiring new skills it won't take long before you are left behind.

I saw a report off the wires on TV about an 86 year old man who recently became the world's oldest primary school pupil. I gather he has become something of a celebrity. Good for him.

Watch the newsreport from the curiously titled New Tang Dynasty TV (requires real player).

Hey, you can even buy Life Long Learning T-shirts (and other merchandise) from my online store.

I hope you'll clean out my cage

Teaching 19 -25 year olds I sometimes find it helpful to remember that most of them were born in around 1987. Some of my references to popular culture fly over their heads either because the weren't born yet or the subject might as well be a cave painting in France. Punk rock had started 10 years before and died soon after. So it was interesting to read a speech by John Naughton to the English Society of Editors about declining newspaper readership - or more specifically why the average age of a newspaper reader in the UK is 54 (and rising).

"…These are the future, my friends. They're here and living among us. They're not very interested in us, and I'm not sure I blame them. The best we can hope for is that one day they may keep us as pets."

Read the full content

Young people don't like us. Who can blame them?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Don't Panic

I just watched the movie Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy with my 14 year old son. Loved the radio play by Douglas Adams when I was a kid - and the BBC show that followed.

The film is average. The script wanders away from the original story in many ways. What I liked about it was that Taylor, my son connected with the idea. I found my original paper back (1982 edition) and felt a strong emotional tug. I wrote my name on the inside front cover with the message "This book belongs to David MacGregor…if you steal it I will track you down…be warned, there can be no escape." I'm going to read it again this weekend. There are phrases I still remember word perfect after 25 years.

Douglas Adams, its creator, is a clearly The One & Only.

Footnote: The West Wing just came on TV. Do you think that there are clusters of people in the word who really do speak in complete micro Gettysberg Addresses and don't interrupt each other?

Leave Fiji to global warming and Mel Gibson

Stop attending press releases. It authenticates forged credentials.

Don't repreat the meme 'Cleaning up government". It is an unsubtantiated rubbish. You are being sucked in.

Pull the plug on every point of contact.

Leave it to Mel





Too cool for school?

What is cool? Not really a question I ask much, what with being about as cool as a cardigan myself. Thankfully there are people who obsess about coolness, marketers, advertising agencies and the like. I remember seeing an American PBS documentary called The Merchants of Cool presented by Douglas Rushkoff (you can watch the entire show on the web - thank you public broadcasting - there are also some excellent support resources on the site). One of the most striking things about the show is the opening scene where a market researcher is conducting a focus group with some teenagers. Of course they are inarticulate and awkward, but I found it amusing that though hunting for the cool code, the interviewer asks the subjects what is 'hot', as if to cleverly mask his true intentions. As the documentary unfolds there is commentary on the cynical nature of the merchandising of cool, the inter-relationships of media outlets like Viacom and the vested interests of business in manipulating the whole process. Well, it is public service TV.

What provoked my line of thought was Russell Davies blog . He interviews Martin Cole,a planner from WPP, who has fronted a redux of the American show for Channel 4. The tone is very similar, Cole is both poacher and gamekeeper, which gives it curious dynamic. I've snagged a couple of clips from YouTube for you to get the feel.

The interview with the surfer contains a telling fragment about coolness. The genuinely cool don't feel that way about themselves. They just do what they do because it gives them pleasure. To be cool requires a lack of self consciousness, something primal perhaps? The rest are poseurs and wannabes, which is sometimes a little sad.

I think the most interesting dynamic of cool is that the moment it is defined or synthesised by marketers, then repackaged in advertising it dies a little death and the instigators will have moved on, allowing the original idea to be absorbed into the body corporate. That is the nature of consumption, early adoption and so on.

Another aspect of cool is to be the opponent, rather than the exponent. It's not what you stand for but what you stand against. Marlon Brando, when asked what he was rebelling against asks "What you got?", his disaffection is with affectation and became representative of the first wave of teenagers after World War 2.

Sometimes things are so naff they are cool. There is a site on the web from which you can buy a personalised badge for your Porsche in the signature script (which is coolly naff in itself), but I don't know if the cool kids would want that. But you could have some fun - ordering 'complete tosser' for example.

But I digress. Must do some work.










Thursday, December 07, 2006

Free Agents

I went along to the end of year bash for the Freelance co-op called The Pond after work yesterday.I was the guest of the talented Mr Langridge.
It is funny how the perceptions about freelancers has shifted from being people who weren't good enough to get a proper job to simply being clever people available as an external resource.

I had an interesting chat with one of the group who said he liked freelancing because he stayed 'hungy'. Not because he's not getting enough work, but excited about doing great work.

I haven't worked in an agency for some time but I had always had the view that you were only really as good as your last ad anyway. When a job was done I was immediately on the mooch for another brief. I was shocked to hear that agency creatives have become complacent. Why? Well, simple really, the employment contract laws make it hard to get rid of duds. There seem to be complaints to the employment court preformatted like wills in the bottom drawers of many in the business.

Oh how things have changed. I will never forget the trauma to my young psyche when I was fired on a Friday afternoon by a very well known and respected creative director after he had wobbled back to the agency after a very long moist lunch. He disagreed on some point of etiqutte in the rules of pool and sacked me. "Jzooor fired...."

I fretted over the weekend but decided to show up for work on Monday morning and the matter was never mentioned again.

If you are looking for advertising talent to wrangle in for a project I suggest you give Sue Worthington a call or self select from the site.

Comic Two Timing

Yes, I blog elsewhere.

My latest on Idealog has my first ever editorial cartoon,…way hay
!

Auckland has a fleet of rickshaws that take visitors around for free.
Intend to make full use from here on in.They hang around outside my office on the viaduct after all.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Magical Realism

Flipped on Prime TV to watch Weeds. (Wed, 9.30)

Found Dead Like Me instead.
The pilot seems like a funky combination of Six Feet Under and The Gilmore girls.

It's part of the line that I think was pioneered by Ally McBeal, and the subsequent, aforementioned Six Feet Under and even Boston Legal. The genre seems to promote absurd plots in mundane settings.

Like Six Feet Under, Dead Like Me treats death like life. The classic dream-within-a-dream trope.

I like it, like the interaction between the Mandy Patinkin character and the dead teenager - who embodies the surly whateverness of teenagers - trying hard to be unphased by the grim facts of grim reaping and at the same time being horrified by the task. Sort of like the relationship my 14 year old son has with washing pots and pans.

Perhaps I should convince him that it is part of his magical reality?

Dig a big hole

As you know, if you are one of the nine return visitors to this blog, I opposed the hasty construction of the waterfront stadium.
Now the neighbours of Eden Park are up in arms over the prospect of a towering monstrosity in their backyard, blocking out the sun. The promise of being visible from space holds no allure. I feel sorry for them.

It points to the simple fact that stadiums (rather cutely called stadia in the paid-up media), are simply god-awful things that require long range planning, not quick fix solutions.

My suggestion, to make stadiums more appropriate to a human scale would be to excavate a big hole in the ground, like a greek or roman Amphitheatre and have a more modest superstructure. 'Course digging a big hole ain't going to happen in Mt Eden - you can imagine the cost of blasting the volcanic rock…be like digging a big hole and throwing money in it. Mind you, any stadium is going to be a collossal money pit.

Worth a thought though. More importantly must keep a weather eye on the plans for the waterfront.

Has anybody called Frank Gehry yet?

A foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds*

Russel Brown talks about John Key in his blog 'Hard News'

"Fresh FM's Matt Lawrey asked John Key a good question last week: "In 1981, were you for or against the Springbok Tour?" It's a good question because it explores a fundamental divide in New Zealand society. You couldn't be older than 12 at the time and not have an opinion on it.

But Key's answer is insipid: he claims at first not to remember what he thought at the time, then says he doesn't have "a strong feeling of it at the time - it's such a long time ago", then eventually "guesses" that he was probably in favour. Listening to it (and it's worth listening to the whole thing), the impression is that he's unsure what he should say."


I disagree that asking John Key what his stance on the Springbok tour of 1981 was a good question.
In fact I'd go as far as to say it was a rather obvious attempt to ambush the subject.

Actually who gives a toss. South Africa went through a process of reconcilliation when Mandela took power from the white minority. They tried to move on in the best interests of all concerned.

Does anyone bother to ask Helen Clark what she thought about having children as she walked up the aisle? Probably because it is daft and pointless, barren ground.

I don't know what Keys' stance was, nor do I care (about as relevant as the coup in the Bainemarana Republic really, though it does offer TV1's Simon Dallow the opportunity to do his boyish Peter Jennings schtick as a correspondent from the hot spots of the world - does the Beachcomber resort count as a hot spot).

How about some policy or some decent contemporary wrastlin' in the jello pits of power.

Just a thought, but I'm guessing as many people now claim (in that Bismarkian re-writing of history that we all engage in) that they opposed the tour - oh, and voted against MMP. But curiously the size of the protest marches wouldn't bear up with the revised stats.

I was opposed to the tour on moral grounds back then, and for the record I opposed the waterfront stadium for the rugby world cup too (please don't flour bomb my apartment from a light plane).

In both cases it had nothing to do with rugby.

And engage…!


•R W Emerson - Essay, Self Reliance - download it here for free.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Red Hot Poker Sensation


I don't remember jokes very well. I have a small repertoire I can remember and deliver with confidence. Hence, if I tell you a joke you will be highly likely to have heard it before.

One I tell reasonably well goes as follows:

Two race horses are in their favourite bar having a drink, following a big day at the the track.
After a cleansing ale or two one horse feels relaxed enough to share the extraordinary experiences he had been having at the track…

"There's something strange that happened today, I was in the gates at trentham, the 2.15, favourite to win…track firm, just as a I like it…atmosphere electric…the gun goes…BAM!!!…Normally I'm quite smart out of the blocks...but today…vavoom! Unbelievable...I felt a red hot poker sensation right up my jacksee!…I was off! I'm telling you I won in record time"

His friend takes a long thoughtful draw on his pint and says…

"Unbelievable…I've been keeping this to myself, but I have to tell you…same thing happened to me last week, …3.30 at Addington, in the gate, gun BOOM!…red hot poker sensation, right up me whatsit…"

Just then a racing greyhound leaning on the bar nearby says "S'cuse me chaps, couldn't help but over hear…I had a similar experience recently…"

One of the horses turns to his mate and says "No Waaaay!…

…a talking dog"

Which brings me to my point…yes, there is one…

The Tate Prize for art in the UK has recently been given to a painter. How weird is that? For the first time in 22 years one of the highest profile awards is made to that most traditional of art forms - painting - No waaay.


Tate Prize




Bainimarama Republic

Fiji has a new national sport. It's called Coup D'Etat.

I don't know why New Zealand gives the Fijian military the airtime they do. It only encourages them.

I guess it gives TV One's Simon Dallow the opportunity to broadcast live from Suva as Fijian soldiers drive around in trucks looking bored. He thus establishes his chops as a war correspondent and therefore the future right to wear safari suits.

Hardly Baghdad is it?

Bula!


Monday, December 04, 2006

No longer colour blind



Here is something very cool. If you are a designer creating a unique brand language for your clients you will love this tool available free from Adobe. It's called Kuler and, quite frankly, I have never seen a web application that is cooler.

Here's how it works. Log on and create a colour theme with the flash generated tool box, manipluate the palette of 5 colours using 7 variable settings: Analogous, Monochromatic, Triad, Complementary, Compound, Shades and Custom. Modify using sliders if you like. You can also extract the RGB, CMYK and HEX numbers to translate to other programmes like Quark or Photoshop. Save your creations and share them with other users. Check the creations of other users, rate them. It's useful and great fun.

I am not much chop with colour, so I love this!

End of year review...

I am trawling through the stats of the 157 entries I have made on this blog since November 2004 (I can hardly remember a time without blogging). I thought it would be fun to do a 'best of', maybe the top 5 by page views and the top 5 of my favourites. It's quite a big job...

A couple of tips from Guy Kawasaki

On one of my other blogs - about blogging (The New Yak Times) which, unfortunately I haven't had the time to keep as fresh as I would hope.

I got a little kick to have recieved a comment from the legendary Guy Kawasaki when I remarked on a movie shown on his blog. Technology evangelist that he is he suggested a better version of the presentation using a new thing called Veotag.
This technology adds chapter divisions like a DVD to a video. Checkout the Art of the Start and Kawasaki's interview with Steve Wozniak (the creator of the Apple).

It's time to stop thinking about 'web sites', time to start thinking web CHANNEL.

By the way, if you use the Firefox browser check out the cool plug ins - I'm loving Cool Iris. If you don't use Firefox - you should. Download it for free here..

Another plug in - Performancing (which I am using now) allows me to blog directly from the browser without leaving the page I am on - genius.

Let Freedom Reign

Came across this little gem, it looks like it came from the 1970s, but could easily have been created last week…featuring the dulcet tones of Orson Welles.



On Wednesday morning (6 Dec), 8am you are welcome to come to Coffee Morning at Strawberry Alarmclock cafe in Parnell. The details are here on the Idealog site

Sunday, December 03, 2006

One thing leads to another

Well, I am delighted. When I referred back to the interestingness video by Jeffre Jackson of the planning firm Open Intelligence Agency I heard the quote about reading ads again but wondered who Howard Gossage was. I looked on the Wikipedia (which I find more useful than Google for specific leads and information - and for checking student essays for plagiarism), but there was no reference. Though maybe I spelled it wrong. So I went back to Google and found a terrific tribute site to Howard Luck Gossage - The 'Socrates of San Francisco' and advertising's 'most articulate critic'.

I can't understand why I had never heard of Gossage, even if only through quotations or reputation. He seems to have been lost in the literature - at least in this part of the world.

Gossage certainly counts as The One Only and an iconoclast of high distinction.

I enjoyed learning about his concept of The Extra-environmental Man (person, if you want to be anachronistically PC about it) - 'the individual who is capable of breaking the bounds of his environment and seeing the world afresh'.

He is, apparently , one of the most quoted people in Advertising, here are some doozies:

On Repetition in Advertising

"If you have something pertinent to say you neither have to say it to very many people -- only those who you think will be interested -- nor do you have to say it very often . . . if it is interesting, once is enough. If it is dull, once is plenty."

"You don't have to bruise an elephant all over to kill him. One shot in the right place will do."


On Audience-Orientation


"Our first duty is not to the old sales curve, it is to the audience."

"I don't know how to speak to everybody, only to somebody."

"People don't read advertising per se. They read what interests them. And sometimes it's an ad."

"To ask consumers how they like ads is like asking a galley slave what he thinks of his job calisthenics-wise."


On Intelligent Advertising

Calling for more intelligent advertising, involving the consumers. Gossage often used this quote from the work of short story master Saki
"In baiting a trap, always leave room for the mouse."


If you've read some of my blog entries and columns in Idealog magazine and on this blog, you'll understand the kick I got from this particle of ignorance being replaced.

I need to find out more.

Product placement in advertising

One of my students wrote a research proposal about product placement in movies. Reading it got me thinking. Some commercials, some of the best, feature the sponsor's product as an incidental part of the narrative.

A couple come very quickly to mind, Flat Eric for Levis and skating priests for Stella Artois. My interpretation of the charmingly existential Levis ad is that non-iron chinos could be cool - whereas they might have been perceived as naff before the campaign. The Stella commercial is a part of the superb campaign that understates the overstatement of the postioning 'reassuringly expensive'. The performances are brilliant, the casting superb and all of the craftwork employed in the making as good as any film. What genius to have the product inherent in the story but never overtly touted.

Flat Eric: Levis, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, 1999.



Skating Priests: Stella Artois, Lowe London



Both are evidence that commuication with a degree of subtlety is far more engaging than urgent 'buy my product now' messages. They also reinforce the wonderful presentation by Amsterdam based planner Jeffre Jackson of OIA on the subject of interestingness. "Nobody reads/watches ads, they read/watch what interests them." - Howard Gossage



What do you think?

Dancing to architecture

Thelonius Monk said: "Writing about jazz is like dancing to architecture." (although I have also seen a more general variation of the quote attributed to Laurie Anderson). The remark probably doesn't stand up to rigorous scrutiny and may, indeed, be simply a form of passive aggression. But I like the juxtaposition of thought - expressing a simple idea in a syncopated fashion - and for that reason, and the fact that he predated Anderson, I prefer the attribution to Monk.

It has got me thinking about the very idea of writing about creativity. Is there much point? Surely it is better to be creative than to dissect the creativity of others. After all, dissection, normally involves the death of the subject.

Perhaps the answer lies in the discussion of innovation - or the application of creativity - rather than the mysterious processes that result in invention.

There are some who seek to codify creativity and democratise the concept. But creativity isn't a concept, an added extra that some humans have or have in greater measure than others. It is a default. Like breathing. All of us can breathe. Some, like Lance Armstrong or Umberto Pelizzari, the great freediving champion, have conformed their breath to a peculiar discipline. I get puffed climbing a flight of stairs.

Likewise, whereas you or I might look at a block of marble in its native state and see, well, a lump of rock or a garden feature…Michelangelo would see the form of a snorting horse waiting to be released, a builder might see a terrazzo floor. The harnessing of the fundamental human characteristic to view the world from the perspective of our experience and memories is the simple act of creativity, to combine two different things into somthing new (marble + training in equine carving = horse statue). Not necessarily something wildly original, but something that serves us in the moment.

There are people who don't apply their human potential to make useful combinations very often or with much vigour - they are simply beings - content like cows at pasture. But others are more restless. Their dissatisfaction with the way things are results in new tools, and new expressions. Unlike members of democracies who do not excercise their franchise the innovators add value to society.

That is worth talking about, adding value. Creativity, its raw material should, perhaps, be encouraged and tolerated, but ultimately mysterious. Like the why of jazz.



Think Different



Educating creativity out of kids

Gareth Morgan was notable before he became tagged as father of Sam Morgan, creator of TradeMe, the biggest hit on the web by a New Zealand company (so far as I am aware). He is an iconoclast, and an economist famous for his direct manner. Quite possibly he is the 'one handed' economist that U.S. President Harry Truman longed for - on that did not leaven their advice with "…but on the other hand…"

Morgan senior wrote an interesting article, published on his web site that discusses the sale of TradeMe earlier this year from the perspective of commercial creativity and education, two of my hobby horses.

Morgan says "From the perspective of the ‘creative destruction’ that is the essence of a vibrant, productive economy this is extremely encouraging for the prospects of the New Zealand economy. It sends a message one hopes, to the innovative, creative, and independent amongst our youth – that On-line technology provides a platform upon which they can create value for this economy and themselves without having to go abroad."

"The second theme relevant to the Trade Me transaction is obviously the age of those involved. The message parents and their young people might choose to take from this is that creativity – whether in Academia, the Arts, Technology, or the Trades – is one of the most precious attributes a person can possess."

" We have to be careful not to impose too much of our paradigm on the next generation. It’s clear for instance that schools are a necessary evil – convenient baby-sitting facilities that have an awful tendency to smother the curiosity of the child – the first conditioning on the conveyor belt to becoming corporate journeyman. By necessity, classrooms require strict compliance by children and that straitjacket comes with strings attached. The child’s creativity may be asphyxiated as a result.

The strength of an economy is its human capital. The commercial world needs creatives as much as it needs functionaries. Of course some functionaries, having been in Drones-ville where paid work is purely attended to procure wages, may eventually rediscover their creativity outside working hours. Good for them but pretty sad it was choked off in the first place.

As parents we have a responsibility to provide an environment enabling a child free choice to reach their potential in a manner that maximises their personal happiness. There is a whole body of economic literature now that links happiness and creativity to national productivity. People working primarily for the enjoyment creativity brings, rather than remuneration, is central to that theory. This is the story of Trade Me as much as it is for the successes we see in the Arts and in the Trades – a happy plumber is a productive plumber."


I suggest you read his article in full, whether you are a fledgling Internet entrepreneur, a parent or a plumber.

And, on the subject of creativity and education, there is a wonderful speech by Sir Ken Robinson, an English academic who now works for the Getty Foundation in the U.S. Robinson talks about the need to rethink our education system to encourage creativity in children. Like Gareth Morgan, Robinson has a clear point of view. He expresses it with wit and humour, but the underlying themes are serious and worthy of consideration.



What do you think?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

In the market for a market?

I have a new Saturday morning ritual. Drop my son at cricket or golf, or whichever sporting fixture he has on, head back to the city, do a tour of the new city farmer's market (just a few stall at the moment but growing every week), then over the Britomart to Santos for coffee and breakfast with the Newspaper. Very civilised.
The Britomart development is already bringing new life to the downtown area with new shops like the 'very Martha' Urban Loft, Markt for funky european mid century furnishings and, this week, some new fashion stores.
Who needs a rugby stadium?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Truth in Advertising

I had lunch with my co-founders of Idealog magazine at the place where we first met, Dizengoff on Ponsonby Road. I seem to be spending too much time in Ponsonby.
In the car, driving back to the city, we got talking about 'Truth in Advertising'.

Then, back in my office, as chance would have it a colleague directed me to these clips on YouTube. Having worked in the business since the early 80's I can report that there is indeed truth in advertising. Sadly it goes unexpressed in most cases.

The film has adult themes. You've been warned.