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the bloody newsletter*
ISSUE #172

The veritable Aunt Daisy, AKA The Mighty Atom, boring the tits of young Mike
Mike's Pith & Wind - Aunt Daisy
When I was fourteen or fifteen I suffered a bout of glandular fever that I cunningly managed to extend by five or six months. Yes, months. As a background to this outrageous liberty I should explain that I was prone to bronchitis as a child, to the point that my mother became so tired of constantly having me at home she had my tonsils and adenoids removed. My brother Richard, who wasn’t sickly in the slightest, had his tonsils and adenoids removed at the same time - maybe there was a two-for-one deal at Christchurch’s St George’s Hospital. Modern medicine now helpfully tells us we would’ve been better off keeping our tonsils and adenoids intact, but in any case it didn’t stop me getting glandular fever.
My reluctance to go back to the daily grind at school (as well as my chorister duties at the Christchurch Cathedral) rebounded on me, particularly in my math’s education, as I missed the crucial introduction to geometry, trigonometry and algebra and never caught up for the rest of my scholastic career. It’s sheer luck that in my seventy-three years on this planet I’ve never been confronted with an algebraic equation needing my interpretation.
As a budding young malingerer I was exposed to seemingly endless days staring at the ceiling, staring at the walls and then back to the ceiling again, where the only entertainment at hand was the green plastic radio that had superseded the black bakelite version we used to own. There were two stations in Christchurch I recall, 3YA, the classically orientated government station, (poison!) and 3ZB, the bit-of-everything, commercial station (i.e. with advertising) but also government owned.
First thing in the week-day morning there was the John Doremus version of John Nesbitt’s The Passing Parade, presented by a Canadian ex-pat Happy Hill and sponsored by Bayer Aspirin and/or Fisherman’s Friend. The Passing Parade was a terse three minutes (without incidental music or effects) that delivered bizarre and baffling stories drawn from ‘real’ life. I still remember one story about a crashed airman discovering a farmhouse in Serbia (or somewhere really cold) filled with ice with the bodies of the peasant couple inhabitants floating in the ice near the roof along with their rustic furniture.
3ZB also had soap operas for the bored housewife (or indolent student) on the week-day mornings, with serials like Doctor Paul and Portia Faces Life, made in the US more than a decade before – pretty up-to-date for New Zealand now that I think of it. I was intrigued with the schmaltzy Wurlitzer theme music for Portia, but the innuendo-ridden story-line was totally impenetrable to this pubescent patient and so held no thrills at all.
But here’s the rub. The bane of my radio-centric life was one Aunt Daisy, otherwise known as The Mighty Atom, due to her tiny stature. Her show was syndicated all over New Zealand and began with the song.. read more
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CORRESPONDENCE..............................Letters to the editor
Dick's Toolbox - High energy belief
It is apparent that people will believe anything. Sometimes this is a good thing when we all consent to believe that bits of coloured paper, plastic, metal tokens or electronic data can be swapped for real objects like food, cars or overseas trips. But when you think about it for more than a few seconds you realise that it is strange that we accept this. Conveniently strange that this is the one thing that we trust that will work anywhere most of the time.
Internationally strange too, for when I have travelled overseas I find that once I have swapped my bits of coloured paper for their coloured bits of paper the world proceeds as pretty much as normal. Well that is until you come to a supermarket checkout in Prague and wonder what koruna ceská are. And so you stand there with your hand full of loose change and the cashier smiles somewhat contemptuously with teeth left over from the cold war and takes what you hope is the right amount.
Yuval Noah Harari in his excellent book ‘Sapiens’ describes money as ‘..…. an inter-subjective reality that exists solely in peoples shared imagination. Money is not coins and banknotes. Money is anything that people are prepared to use in order to represent systematically the value of other things for the purpose of exchanging goods and services. It works only because we trust that everybody else thinks the same.’
And eminently more convenient that carting around cowrie shells, barley or lumps of precious metal.
Which, perhaps, makes you wonder why gold is so precious given that, apart from its conductivity, malleability and non-tarnishing properties, it’s pretty useless? Scarcity maybe, but like silver it is probably more a social value than anything else. But not only has everybody agreed that it is worth a great deal but I am digressing. So let me digress even more on to another silver hearted tangent.
Did you know that it was traditional for the heart of French kings to be removed after death? What makes this interesting is that the heart of Louis XIV was lost during the Revolution and eventually turned up, preserved in a silver casket, at Nuneham House in Oxfordshire where, according to Augustus Hare, resided the worthy Dr William Buckland. Buckland, who died in 1856 was, apart from being Dean of Westminster, also a founding father of geology and palaeontology. He pioneered the use of fossilised faeces in reconstructing ecosystems, coining the term coprolites. He got to the bottom of things obviously.
Wikipedia continues: ”Not only was William Buckland's home filled with specimens – animal as well as mineral, live as well as dead – but he claimed to have eaten his way through the animal kingdom: zoöphagy. The most distasteful items were mole and bluebottle fly; although panther, crocodile and mouse were among the other dishes noted by guests. read more
Wazza's Trans-Tasman Tales - Ah – men!
I’ve always been a fan of “SF” – commonly taken to mean science fiction, but also speculative fiction and even suppositional fiction – lately I’ve been reading more women’s SF and most recently Margaret Atwood’s. Interest in her work has soared with the televising of The Handmaids Tale, which portrays a dystopian society ruled by a misogynist religious clique that governs the role of barren wives as personal/social servants, young fecund women as breeding handmaids and older women as wardens of the handmaids. I’ve also just watched a BBC documentary on Atwood in which she pointedly observes that all of the circumstances and situations of maltreatment of women in the story are NOT fictitious but are either grounded in factual occurrences or are certainly able to occur.
This knowledge adds to my deep concern over a recent article in The Age about The religious minority seizing power in the Liberal Party, which reports on the ascendance of Mormons, conservative Catholics, evangelical Christians so that the religious right-wing now has unprecedented sway in Liberal Party politics in Victoria. I'm not always an alarmist but I must say that the emergence of these individuals, along with the behaviour of the likes of Barnaby Joyce and the prevalence of these characteristics in US politics points to something that we should be alarmed about. I believe the real anxiety is that the human world is in the throes of dealing with so much interrelated adversity – social, political, economic, environmental – it is impossible to process it, let alone address it. As Atwood put it a few days ago at a conference – Under Her Eye*: Women and Climate Change: ‘“This isn’t climate change – it’s everything change…Women will be directly and adversely affected by climate change.” This adversity is escalating in spite of previously unimaginable increases in technological processing capacity, which rather than helping to improve the situation, has only expanded the opportunistic adaptation of its capabilities to further ‘disrupt’ and thereby destroy what little vestiges of coherent consciousness we have left.
My reading of the present situation is that the binaries – left/right, liberal/conservative, secular/religious – are approaching a tipping point that the right/conservative/religious patriarchy has begun to recognise as predicating their defeat. Tradition has demonstrated that, given prospective defeat, the patriarch prefers total annihilation of all parties to judicious conciliation. Reinforcing this view are the increasing stories of religious evangelical convictions conflating Trump, Zionism and ‘vessel theology’ that will bring about the miraculous survival/resurrection of ‘believers’.
I realise this is very pessimistic, but it needs to be seen in the light of a context that offers very few remedial options: prospects for social equity continue to rapidly diminish; political chaos continues to prosper and thrive; economic disruption continues to corruptly churn; environmental destruction continues apace, unabated, and any attempts to offset/remedy these are pathetically minimal. read more
*Meet the TBN crew
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