A new leader gets a chance of definition with early utterings

So what will the world’s leaders make of Chris Luxon’s first pronouncements?

Given the context, they might be surprised to discover that his conversion therapy reference was not to the alchemic process by which an amiable executive became the leader of one of the western world’s historically most successful political machines.

Does it perhaps signify a liking for political philosopy?

If so, the aversion to conversion is odd.

New Zealand has a rich tradition of nurturing doctrinaire cranks proclaiming the truth: Radiant Livers, communitarians, New Ageists, most socialists.  Liberals mostly enjoy and ignore them – unless they break the law.

So how will Luxon take forward his exegetic reasoning.

Is it based on the need for evidence to confirm the existence of the ‘gay gene’?  Or does he essay down the path of evolutionary selection of culture?

There’s risk and opportunity with the latter, because at times most factions have run that argument.

If you subscribe to cultural Darwinism, you can’t really avoid tackling the hypothesis that homosexuality has an evolutionary purpose (apart from enraging certain old-school conservatives).  Which would give big state supporters a chance to urge its active and compulsory promotion (call this reverse conversion, or perhaps reversion on a grand scale?)  Luxon should be able to take refuge in the causes of small government and non-interference.

But he’ll need to be careful of being overly philosophical in debates over selective abortion based on genetic typology – gay gene or not.

Jacinda Ardern does appear to believe in something (however harmful and divisive some people might think it is).  An early job for Chris Luxon – and not an easy one in the circumstances – will be to show that he is not one of those centre-right politicians who will believe in just about anything.

So clarity on his political philosophy – and on its continuity with the historical traditions of the National party – might actually be pretty important. And it might be useful to keep in mind that line from Yeats’s Second Coming (“The best lack all conviction … “) – still something of a gold standard in troubled times.

History with many zeros

In some places they measure the past in millennia.  In Athens, history emerges every time you dig a hole.

This year Greece marks the 2,500th anniversary of the battle of Plataea.  Less celebrated than the engagements a year earlier at Thermopylae and Salamis but more decisive in its outcome, it marks the end of the Persian attempt at dominance and the beginning of fifty immortal years for Athens, before the death of Pericles and the hubris of the Peloponnesian war.  

The funerary dedication to the Persian wars endures in marble fragments in the agora:

Continue reading “History with many zeros”

Forget about the quality of the performance – actors can find they have been miscast (just ask Court Theatre) when Rosemary takes centre stage

We are a bit late in alerting readers in the acting business – or who fancy their chances of becoming an actor – to the opportunity afforded by the recasting of “Things I know to be True”.

First, the producers are being picky (some would say precious) about the part.  They are focusing on gender fluidity and are interested not so much on acting ability as on a player’s ability to pass muster as “an appropriate performer from the transgender and gender diverse community’’.

Second, applications closed a few days ago.

Yep. The theatre bosses in this recasting exercise had become ultra-sensitive to critics (few in numbers but strong in influence, apparently) who profess to have been miffed, offended, distressed, or otherwise upset, by a play now being performed in Christchurch.

And so …

The Court Theatre and Circa Theatre are recasting one of the roles in ‘Things I Know to be True’ and are looking for a trans or non-binary performer aged 25-40 years. A full casting brief can be found here:

We are accepting submissions from trans and non-binary performers with a playing age of 25-40 years for this role, of any ethnicity.

Performer must be comfortable performing as both masculine and feminine on stage. For 95% of the play, the role is performed as masculine.

This is a full-time, professional, paid opportunity in a text-based play rehearsing in Christchurch followed by a season in Wellington.

Auditions will be held between 3-6 April in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The chosen performer will be integrated into an existing production with the full commitment, engagement and aroha of the existing cast and outgoing performer.

Please detail any performing experience by Wednesday 31 March.

What’s this all about? Continue reading “Forget about the quality of the performance – actors can find they have been miscast (just ask Court Theatre) when Rosemary takes centre stage”

How a council landed in deep water for appropriating a te reo slogan – and where not to go for advice on avoiding controversy

Point of Order noted with interest the news from the Maori Language Commission last year that research had shown the benefits which enterprises see in taking part in the revitalisation of te reo Māori. 

The press statement was headed Good for te reo, good for business!

We are aware, too, that the government strategy for te reo Māori aims at having a million New Zealanders speaking basic te reo by 2040. 

Ministers are doing their bit by injecting plenty of te reo into their speeches and press statements and by applying te reo words (for example) to the names of government agencies in preference to pragmatic English words that instantly signal an agency’s function to the great bulk of the country’s citizens (Oranga Tamariki rather than Ministry for Children).    

Alas, the commission tells us it not the right place to go for guidance on how to avoid causing offence when using te reo (at least, not in the circumstances we are about to describe).  

Its job is revitalising the language.   It is up to local iwi and councils to determine how local whakatauki is used. Continue reading “How a council landed in deep water for appropriating a te reo slogan – and where not to go for advice on avoiding controversy”

Firms wanting to use te reo in their branding should check with Te Hamua Nikora as well as IPONZ

Learning Māori is first and foremost about having fun, according to Precious Clark, director of Maurea Consulting LTD, in a Newshub report on learning te reo Maori and embracing tikanga.

“It’s about giving people the tools so they can pronounce our words correctly and it’s about giving them the confidence to give it a go,” she said.

But getting it right isn’t always easy,  Newshub’s Mike McRoberts pointed out.

His report recalled the recent experience of a Canadian brewery which apologised after making a beer with New Zealand hops which it called the Pale Ale Huruhuru.

“The strict translation means feather, but it’s more commonly used to describe pubic hair. 

“After being called out by language watchdog Te Hamua Nikora, the brewery apologised.”

The beer company wasn’t alone.  A leather shop in Wellington apologised, too, after coming under fire for unwittingly taking its name from the Māori word “huruhuru”. Continue reading “Firms wanting to use te reo in their branding should check with Te Hamua Nikora as well as IPONZ”

The PM (and culture minister) has funding for waka buffs – but what does she think about the fate of RNZ Concert’s crew?

World-renowned opera singer Dame Kiri te Kanawa is leading the chorus of outrage over a proposal that will gut RNZ Concert in favour of a youth-focused radio station.

Losing the station would be “an inestimable blow to the arts in New Zealand”, she said.

“So many of our young artists have become known to a wide audience thanks to broadcast on RNZ Concert. I sincerely hope that the powers that be in RNZ will reconsider the backward step announced in the media today.”

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has added her voice to the chorus of criticism.

But the current PM (and minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage), Jacinda Ardern, seems to have been egregiously silent.

Toby Manhire, at The Spinoff, today examines what’s going on at RNZ in a post headed RNZ is overhauling its music network, and a lot of people are mad as hell.

The article was published before the Government affirmed it has officially begun looking into the creation of a super-sized public media entity, likely combining TVNZ and RNZ into one company.

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi said this morning that Cabinet has approved the creation of a business case which will look into the formation of a new public media entity.

Accountancy firm PwC has been hired by ministers to carry out the work, which is due back around the middle of this year – before the September election.

Manhire’s analysis begain:

Concert FM is to be stripped down in favour of a new station for youth, even as the government prepares bigger plans for restructure.  

It will become an automated round-the-clock station online and on AM – unless parliament is in session. Its FM stereo frequency is to be taken over by a new music station targeting younger, more diverse audiences.

The thinking, as explained by RNZ CEO Paul Thompson, is to “allocate the FM where the bigger opportunity is”; to be “thinking five, 10, 15 years ahead [so] we can connect with younger New Zealanders”.

For the RNZ music team, this looked like a bloodbath: 20 jobs erased, including just about everyone at Concert, and a welter of redundancies, with impacts beyond Concert and into the numerous music curation and storytelling elements that are part of RNZ National.

In its 2019 Statement of Intent, Manhire notes, RNZ signalled an ambitious goal.

Having achieved its earlier target of reaching an audience of a million New Zealanders per week, it now sought to expand that audience to half the population by 2023. “RNZ’s mission is to develop lifelong relationships with the all people of Aotearoa,” it said. “RNZ plans to grow both the size and diversity of its audiences to 1-in-2 (2.4m people) New Zealanders a week.”

The Spinoff understands that RNZ staff were told on Wednesday they needed to attract “completely new and different” New Zealand audiences in pursuit of that goal. Concert FM offered “little potential for meaningful growth with younger, or more diverse audiences”, staff were told. “We will not be able to connect with young, diverse audiences through our current live music brands.”

The answer was a “new RNZ music brand”, run out of Auckland.

Manhire brings Clark’s concerns into his considerations:

The plan to whittle Concert back to an automated operation “equates to a dumbing down of cultural life in NZ”, wrote Clark, who as prime minister also took on the portfolio for arts, culture and heritage.

“Reasons given by RNZ management don’t stack up: one doesn’t have to destroy the Concert Programme to establish youth radio services and broaden audiences. This combined with demolition of overseas collection at the National Library NZ and cutbacks at Archives NZ represents significant cultural setback.”

Manhire then quotes a response to Clark from Grant Robertson, finance minister, associate minister of arts and culture “and Flying Nun aficionado”.

 “Hope ministers will take an interest in this very concerning @radionz decision,” she had said, tagging in her once-adviser Robertson and the broadcasting minister, Kris Faafooi.

Robertson responded: “We will Helen. I am advised it is still a consultation and we will be talking to RNZ about their options.”

Manhire observes:

It’s fair to say that the arts and culture community in New Zealand is on the whole unimpressed with the Ardern government’s delivery for the sector in this term of government – “the cultural infrastructure is still waiting for its big investment”, in the words of one sector figure. It’s a fair bet that the current minister for arts, culture and heritage – one Jacinda Ardern – will be looking to repair some bridges in her election-year budget.

But Point of Order today could find no expressions of concern or approval from her.

We visited the Beehive website to check what she has been saying as Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

This year only two statements have been posted.  Neither hinted at a fondness for Bach, Beethoven or Mozart, nor opera, jazz or hymns (all served by the Concert Programme).


Government invests in kaupapa waka hourua

More New Zealanders are set to learn about the incredible navigational and voyaging prowess of early Māori and Pacific settlers who arrived here more than seven centuries ago.

31 JANUARY 2020

Waitangi Day marked by community events

New Zealanders will come together at community events across local marae, parks, schools and atop maunga to commemorate Waitangi Day, Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Jacinda Ardern said today.

Point of Order went looking for an idea of how much money RNZ spends on the Concert Programme.

Kiwiblog’s David Farrar had a figure, but he posted it some five years ago in an item which suggests he will approve RNZ’s decision:

Now I happen to quite like my Mozart, but you don’t need a $5 million station for New Zealanders to be able to listen to it. Almost every piece of classical music in history is available for free and can be streamed, made into playlists and the like.

Our quick search through RNZ’s 2018/19 financial statements failed to winkle out a more up-to-date figure.

Will a New Zealander also be the last on Everest?

The Times newspaper reports that the Nepalese government is planning to make trekking companies responsible for removing dead bodies from Mount Everest.  This raises the question about how long the lucrative climbing business is going to last in its current form.

It is barely 65 years, less than an average lifetime, since Ed Hillary summited but he surely would not have imagined quite what it would become. Continue reading “Will a New Zealander also be the last on Everest?”

While scientists measure Whakaari tremors, spiritual leaders tell of the warning their ancestors are sending

Two newspaper reports illustrate the contrasting involvements of science and spiritual beliefs in the aftermath of the White Island eruption.

Meanwhile several iwi have placed rāhui over their customary coastal areas.

This effectively represents a customary prohibition on all maritime activities for the whole of the Eastern Bay of Plenty coast.

New Zealand Herald science writer Jamie Morton yesterday examined the role of scientists in a report headed White Island eruption: How do scientists forecast potential further eruptions?

He reported that GNS Science experts had given a 40 to 60 per cent chance of another eruption outside White Island’s vent area in the next 24 hours. Continue reading “While scientists measure Whakaari tremors, spiritual leaders tell of the warning their ancestors are sending”

Post-tragedy rāhui raises questions (which media prefer not to ask) about what it means

Whether tourists should have been allowed to visit Whakaari-White Island in the past and whether tourists should be allowed to visit in future are among the questions inevitably raised in the aftermath of the tragic volcanic eruption this week.

Concerns have extended beyond the operations of White Island Tours, which is owned by Ngāti Awa Holdings, to all adventure tourism.

The effects of the prohibition imposed in the form of a rāhui – does this amount to a ban on tourism, what authority does it have and for how long will it remain in place? – seem to have have gone unquestioned.

The rāhui ceremony was performed by Whakatane District Council pou tikanga Pouroto Ngaropo.

According to a Newsroom report, Ngaropo said the rāhui covers the island and the waters around it.

The report did not mention a time frame.

It did suggest a rāhui is much more potent than a council sign that says:  “Danger – keep out” or “Trespassers will be prosecuted”. Continue reading “Post-tragedy rāhui raises questions (which media prefer not to ask) about what it means”