Culture

David Mitchell's latest work, The Bone Clocks, is a great read. I'm just not sure it's a very good book.

Having binged on politics up to and including the day after election night, I'm going through a bit of a purge at the moment. So I've pretty much tried to ignore Labour's travails over the last couple of weeks (oh, OK - I've been reading all about them, but am determinedly attempting not to comment on any of it).

Is there anyone out there with a spare few million and a heart for the public interest? If so, maybe there's still a deal to be done with the NZ Listener

The announcement today that APN's New Zealand Magazines has been sold is a decision years in the making. It's long been inevitable that APN would at some stage slice off the small appendage that is its magazine division, the question was always 'to whom' and whether it might be able to spark a new model of media ownership in New Zealand.

A quick word of praise for Eleanor Catton. Hers is a story well worth following to its end.

Because the Len Brown story is such an overdone and familiar trope, it's worth pausing to praise Eleanor Catton for winning the Booker Prize (OK, OK, Man Booker Prize) for a truly original and freshly told one.

There has been heaps of hype around the America's Cup, but beyond our national ego and sporting competitiveness, there is one very practical reason to hope Emirates Team New Zealand can somehow pull one out of the bag

The America's Cup was a balm and an emotional boon last week – a fun way to start the day and a national ego boost. It became a much more grim vigil; a duty of hope. And after this morning, despair has set in.

The following is an exercise in introverted nostalgia, for which I apologise in advance. That said, some readers may enjoy it, and a few may even understand what it's talking about.

When I got to my office today, I discovered a brown paper bag covered in lunatic, smeared crayon scribblings shoved under my door. After a period of puzzled scrutiny, I was able to determine that it contained the following cryptic message:

Two Meany Davs is playing ageen at Tastee Mercahnts on Saterday. Can U pleeze tell the peopels to come too it?

The marriage equality win has made New Zealand a better place, but here's hoping it's been done right

In my pleasure at the passing of the Marriage Amendment Act I was reminded of an email my Mum sent me a couple of months ago, containing an old black and white photo of eight women and two children. They're seated in a garden. A sun spot blurs the right-hand corner, possibly obscuring another child.

I'm having a commuting crisis due to rubbish Auckland trains, the very trains I once so loved. Here's why

Dear Auckland Transport, Veolia and all those others who make up the mish-mash of operators and overseers of Auckland trains.

When I heard my friend Paul Holmes had died, I needed to write. This is what came out

Timing. It was part of the Paul Holmes genius. There were tougher questioners, better researchers, more authoritative interviews. But no-one understood the ebb and flow, the rhythm and pace, the pure performance part of an interview like Paul.

In which I spend a bit of time before breakfast browsing through the new paper that arrived in my letterbox... the good, bad and meh

My first impression is that we're going to get on rather well. Good looking, a sparky conversation starter, full of top yarns, and with a serious side. Yes, me and the new compact/tabloid Herald are going to get along just fine.

On day one, anyway.

Tickets now available for TEDx Auckland, a day of discussions around technology, entertainment and design, in the internationally-famous TED format

Come get inspired at one of the internationally-famous TEDx talks, little brother to the TED events that have been sparking ideas and innovation since 1984.

Rugby World Cup 2011 has been a blast, reminding ourselves how good we can be. And being at Eden Park from 7am on the day of the final is a very special memory

I've just come from Eden Park on the morning of the Rugby World Cup final, and I've got to say it was a treat to be there in the silence and calm, knowing that in 12 hours the place will be a cauldron of hope, nerves and excitement.

We're too dependent on our phones, right? Obsessed. But when you're cut off, all you can do is spend all that down-time coming up with conspiracy theories. As BlackBerry has found out after its (almost) worldwide outage

A slight clammy feeling. General anxiety. A sense that something is missing or out of place. Heightened frustration or even distress.

They're just wee flags squeezed onto car windows. But they symbolise something much more than rugby and something I hope will out live the Rugby World Cup

When Governor William Hobson famously declared "He iwi tahi tatou" (We are all one people) to the rangatira who signed the Treaty of Waitangi, he left an awkward legacy. I imagine he meant well and all, perhaps as he saw it merely offering some noble words of colonial unity.

The work of many years looks to have paid off in our largest city. New Zealanders seem to be putting the rugby corporate nonsense behind them. But can we all now start acting like good hosts?

Auckland, you've got to say, is looking fine. The new art gallery, the souped-up zoo, the new shared-space roads with people walking amongst the cars, the busy Britomart precinct, and the North Wharf, with its funky, Amsterdam-style bridge and people-friendly open spaces.

Two years after the idea was born, Confessions of a Coffee Group Dropout is on the shelves

I am not good at self-promotion, but I am going to give it a shot anyway, because if you can't write about your new book with the pretty pink cover on your very own blog, there probably isn't anywhere you can safely do so.

New Zealand has spent a decade looking for the fast track back to the top half of the OECD. So here are seven top ideas for where this country goes next and how our businesses might succeed on a global scale

My management study only extended to a few papers; it never amounted to a diploma, worse luck. But one thing I learnt was that management speak was a pile of... gobbledygook, sprinkled with a few diamonds.

One of my favourites was 'always hire people smarter than you'.

New Zealand is heading for a digital divide that will see a substantial portion of the population disadvantaged by the change. The rot starts with our free-to-air television broadcasting system and expands with the introduction of the ultrafast broadband internet.

Last week, I was one of the usual suspects rounded up for a talk-fest on the Future of Public Television in New Zealand at Victoria University. Working up my own presentation on “Sustaining Local Content”, I became more and more depressed. I might as well share my misery.

Yeah, he's a dinosaur and all that. Yes, it's given good fodder for comics, talkback and office wags. But Alasdair Thompson has a few points in his favour. And I've got a few questions about the media coverage

You know what? Alasdair Thompson needs to figure out when to stop talking, because his array of apologies and explanations over the past 24 hours has only offended more and more people. But the man has a point. Or two.

How quickly the oppressed become the oppressors

"Save the life of my child, cried the desperate mother. Oh what's becoming of the children? People asking each other."

“Domestic life in the past was smelly, cold, dirty and uncomfortable, but we have much to learn from it … When the oil runs out, I think our houses will become much more like those of our low-tech, pre-industrial ancestors.”

Lucy Worsely, in the Guardian Weekly

Mediaworks gets a $34 million government bail-out. TVNZ blows $79 million on two non-commercial digital channels. And successive governments drop the ball on free-to-air public service television. There has to be a better way of broadcasting

Review all the horse trading between the successive governments and the television networks over the last eight years, and you have to conclude that free-to-air, advertiser driven television networks cannot deliver on the taxpayers’ investment to see more New Zealand content on TV.

A Pundit debate about media ethics winds up on telly... So is my argument "spurious"? Has the media overstepped in reporting the Christchurch quake? Some new thoughts...

I got too busy to post about this yesterday, but the debate that barrister and journalist Steven Price and I began here on Pundit last week got an airing on TVNZ7's Court Report. You can watch last night's episode here. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

We have two three-day passes to WOMAD to give away

Okay Punditeers, we have two three-day passes to WOMAD (worth $458) sitting on the desk collecting dust. They could be yours, just comment on this post telling us why you want to go to WOMAD.

We are particularly keen to hear from Christchurch readers who could do with a treat.

Until mother nature threw her fury at New Zealand three times in six months, wall-to-wall news was something for other countries. TV networks however are creating a new media world live on your screen, right now

My mother got an email last night from an old school friend reassuring Mum that she was safe, adding in lament, "our lovely city has gone forever". It seems we have lost what the New York Times has been calling "a graceful 19th-century city".

The All White's performance at the World Cup was most certainly not the most excellent sporting achievement of 2010. And God help us if it represents the future of football in this country.

The below originally was a comment over on Imperator Fish, in response to Scott's claim that the All Whites were worthy recipients of the Halberg Award.

Free stuff--Win two tickets to the Big Day Out with Pundit

Tool. Iggy Pop. Primal Scream. This year's Big Day Out big names have all been doing the business for at least 20 years. Or in Iggy's case, a whole lot longer.

Adding the all-important local, younger flavour are The Naked and Famous, Kids of 88, Bic Runga and Shihad, who will perform every song from their 1999 album The General Electric.

The first civil unions occurred in 2005. Five years later, as we're overtaken on gay marriage rights by Argentina, Mexico, and other countries: did we fight the right battle?

Gay New Zealanders have now had the right to earn state recognition of our rainbow-coloured relationships for a little more than five years. In that time, a lot of the predictions made before civil union legislation have been proved wrong.

I'm outraged at the outrage created by the outrageous position taken by that outrageous institution, Te Papa.

I like museums. I celebrated my wedding in one - in the Otago Museum's "Animal Attic", to be precise. And now I have a toddler daughter, I'm rediscovering the joy of puttering around the exhibits looking at things like 18th Century Japanese pottery, dioramas of pre-colonial Maori village life and stuffed rabbits.

How little it takes to send this country's commentariat into a prissy lather

The ironies just continue to pile up in this saga.

On the first night, we saw unionists outside the TVNZ mothership demonstrating, demanding that Paul Henry be sacked for his racist statements in the workplace.

Paul Henry must go - TVNZ is culpable if it nurtures this culture of bullying any longer

Paul Henry is a bully who should be fired forthwith. His latest insult aimed at the Governor General is an insult to all Indians, and to all New Zealanders of whatever background who don’t wish to be identified with such racist abuse.

His employer, TVNZ, should also be held to account for their ongoing defence of the indefensible.

People knew Nia Glassie was in harm's way--someone almost always knows when a child is being abused. A new book tells what you can do to help

It seems hard to believe now, with the benefit of hindsight and the kleig lights of media attention directed on the case for the past three years, that we ever believed no responsible adult knew what was happening to Rotorua toddler Nia Glassie before her death.

The national shock after her 2007 murder was palpable. How could this happen? Here? With no-one noticing?

It's odd. For an industry based on looking good, the fashion industry seems to know next-to nothing about presentation

When it comes to fashion, calling me a layman would probably be generous. Well, maybe by the standards of most bloggers, I'm not that bad, and I know my Ralph Lauren from my Marc Jacobs, but I don't pay much attention to labels and have never been to Fashion Week. Until yesterday, that is.

Equality in prostitution is fine principle, but are women the same as men when it comes to shopping for sex?

Let me declare from the start, I got the idea and some help for this column from a male. It was not just from any man, it was from a Marxist - my colleague from the Herald on Sunday, Matt McCarten - who does actually understand the free market.

In which intensive vertical vege farming, 30 stories pie-in-the-sky, is dismissed as magical thinking by a bright green man

Unlike pork, apparently, and mushrooms, and back bench MPs, vegetables will not survive on this regime: feed ‘em shit, and keep ‘em in the dark.

Pam Corkery's proposed brothel for women--a world first--is another triumph for female equality. Yeah, right

I love an innovator, but I'm not sure why Pam Corkery's brothel for women is supposed to be progress.

You too can write like a Booker Prize winner or a pulp fiction bazillionaire; plus Chelsea Clinton's wedding

Apparently I write like David Foster Wallace. I know, it came as a surprise to me too.

How the 20th century New York pop art brigade and its middle class sexist followers are too hypocritical to stand up and identify child abuse when they see it

I guess one should never be surprised by the hypocrisy, sexism, and downright inhumanity of those who dwell in the higher echelons of the publishing, literary and art worlds. It's the same all over the world.

Does Glee’s swag of Emmy nominations make me any less tragic?

Does it make it better, or worse, to confide that the black-and-white habitué and I watch Glee, curled up in the firelight, glass in hand? (The drop in the glass is for me, and my friend sings, purrfectly.)

A stage full of actors at the height of their powers--what could be better? A review of Sean Matthias' production of Waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett wrote “Waiting for Godot” after the Second World War, when he had been settled in Paris for twenty years or so. He had become completely bilingual, and the play as first performed at the Théâtre de Babylone in 1953 was almost certainly first conceived and written in French.

Sport has the rare and valuable magic of uncertainty in an otherwise formulaic world, as the All Whites proved again today

And that, my compatriots, is why sporting rights – and sports teams – have been central to Rupert Murdoch's success in building several television empires. A sit-com or drama can engross us, current affairs can change the way we think, but only sport is electric, as we saw in South Africa early this morning.

The world's fattest mum, the nutso who tasered a pregnant lady, and senior citizens making their own coffins. This is what constitutes quality current affairs? Come on, we deserve better

Last night I watched Tim Wilson slap a 600-pound woman on the stomach.

Should new media try to copy journalism, or write its own fresh story? And which fate would you choose: blogger, or citizen journalist?

As I snuffled, and croaked, and rattled my bones, from bed to bath to couch — as I took in (quite happily, it is true) pap romcom film fare, and stepped in thin sun to the shop for fresh air

You could do worse for a role model than a big-hearted dog. If you are a young man, you could do much, much worse

Our son thinks he is a dog. It stands to reason--his best friend is a Jack Russell-mini schnauzer cross named Scout who has lived with us for two years. Our son is only 14 months old, so as far as he is concerned Scout is part of what it means to be home. He is a tail to pull and a beard to tug and very often a source of fulsome baby giggles.

The Hotchins are on holiday in Hawaii and the newspapers are feasting on their oppulent lifestyle. Their disconnect from ordinary New Zealanders is positively Gatsbyian

The white on black headline and the giant pull quote made it look more like a British red-top tabloid than a quality broadsheet, but the Sunday Star Times' front page had an element of old-school journalism about it that would have impressed Tom Wolfe or even F. Scott Fitzgerald.

How Gerry Brownlee's mining blunder has put Nikki Kaye on the endangered species list and blown a hole in National's blue-green image; and notes from the year's best A-list party

Paul Holmes’ sixtieth birthday bash was the best party I’ve been at in years, but regrettably I can’t add any juicy detail to the reported contretemps involving Simon Dallow, Wendyl Nissen and Gilda Kirkpatrick.

The Supreme Court has given Susan Couch the right to sue the Corrections Department for William Bell's evil actions. But it's probably made it impossible for her to win her case

It's a childish practice that's all too common in New Zealand newsrooms and if we cared more about our professionalism and our audiences, it'd stop

I was at a journalist's get together recently, and promised to write this post to a group of senior journalists who were fed up with a tradition in New Zealand media that is far from world best practice. You couldn't get away with it in the US or Britain, but it's common practice here. And at the grassroots, many journalists have had enough.

Who says impending destruction can't have a good soundtrack?

Sunday morning, I listened to National Radio's wall-to-wall coverage of the impending Tsunami for a couple of hours.

Want some free music?

Loyal Pundit readers, we want to say thank you. We have two three-day passes to WOMAD to give away--for the uninitiated that's the World of Music and Dance, a music festival that takes place in Taranaki every year.

The 2010 lineup includes Ladi 6, Calexico and House of Shem among others. To be in the draw, leave a comment below and we will randomly pick a winner.

Weather’s this summer’s talking point. But here’s the newsworthy bit: in the Wellington region, the weather’s been great

Summer and I have a tricky relationship.

We're nearly one-twelfth of the way into 2010, but if you're averse to new year's resolutions it takes that long to make them

I don't do new year resolutions. I find them depressing. There is little that is worse than cleaning out a drawer to find a rumpled piece of paper bearing promises made to yourself five years before in the vein of, I will walk to work everyday, I will floss my teeth every night, I will be nicer to the drop-kicks I come across stealing disability car parks at the mall.

Memory has a habit of intruding. It knocks. It wishes to be recognised. Broken Embraces is an act of commemoration, a tribute for the dead

Pedro Almodóvar is a treasure of the screen, supremely sensitive to surfaces, characters, and the workings of the cinema itself. His devotion to the craft is unmistakable, demonstrated by constant hints, persistent allusions to past greats, and the mechanics of filmmaking.

What's Fun about a Summit to Solve Global Warming?

I received an odd phone-call this week. Out of the blue, the alarmingly perky morning hosts of an Auckland radio station I've never listened to rang to say that they'd heard I lived in Copenhagen. They wanted me, live on-air, to tell their listeners "fun things about the Copenhagen climate summit".

The hit movies Twilight and New Moon – and the books they are basd on – have huge popular appeal but glamourise violent, dependent romantic relationships

New Moon, the latest movie instalment of the romance featuring lovelorn teenager Bella and her two subhuman admirers, vampire Edward and wolf-man Jacob, is a bona fide box office hit, having grossed US$255 million in the US and NZ$5 million in

The film version of The Time Traveler’s Wife could be a clever metaphor, cynical exploitation, or just a bit of a flub

I was broken when I read The Time Traveler’s Wife; it crept inside and stayed. So the film version, screening here from December 3, was hard to watch.

What to do about the perennial Christmas gift problem? Sorry, no answers provided here—unless you're in the market for a cupcake car

Oh, dear. December begins next week, the shops are laden in their Christmas finery and the new-look Whitcoull's Santa is peering over activities at the intersection of Queen and Victoria St West.

Time to panic about presents.

Hilary Mantel's award-winning Wolf Hall skillfully dances the line between fiction and biography

Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, even if it hadn't won the Man-Booker Prize this year, will surely install her as one of the great inventive stylists of English literature. Compared with A.S.

Sarah Palin's Going Rogue is a campaign book delightfully free of boring old policy and so is a sure fire dog whistle to her adoring base. It reinforces why she should never be President, but who the heck does the Republican Party have as an alternative candidate vaguely as charismatic as Caribou Barbie?

Every now and then we face really tough decisions…I mean capital ‘T’ tough. This week’s was whether or not to spend $34 on Sarah Palin’s God-bothering, petty and vindictive score-settling payback and thereby contribute to ‘the cause’ so to speak. Did I? You betcha!

The plagiarism row surrounding Witi Ihimaera's new novel is a reminder of something more profound: if you want to get respect, you've got to give it

A disclaimer to open with. I haven't read Witi Ihimaera's latest (and now infamous) novel, The Trowenna Sea. Nor am I likely to—while I respect Ihimaera's talent and importance as a writer, his later work just doesn't excite me that much. My failure, I know, but so it goes.

Octomom Nadya Suleman has made a new documentary—once again stirring a hornet's nest of contempt and condemnation. Diss her if you like, but think of the kids

I have to admit, this is one cheesy British "documentary" that I really want to see.

Mummy blogging is so yesterday—now new parents are posting their birth videos online

Days after the Herald revealed, somewhat behind the eight ball, bless them, that New Zealand mothers are getting in on the international mummy blogger trend, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that American mothers have

What pets eat determines the size of their ecological paws. Is the resulting footprint a crime worthy of capital punishment, or have the professors miscalculated?

Brian Tamaki convinced 700 men to "pledge allegiance" to him at a Destiny Church conference. Makes the tithing and chastity rings look pretty harmless, doncha think?

It's not often that I read one of Garth George's columns from start to finish, but I was riveted by his account of Brian Tamaki's latest step towards evangelical superstardom.<

Brian Tamaki's new "covenant" with male church members crosses a dangerous new theological line and tilts towards a messiah complex

Language matters; always has, always will. That's especially true in things theological. So Destiny church leader Brian Tamaki's use of the words "spiritual father" is even more ominous than it appears at first glance.

I’m trying, not quite successfully, to kick the climate change habit. After 24 hours’ film immersion, political satire In The Loop loses the battle to the message movie Home

I guess I’m out of the loop, or at least, excluded from the ranks of reviewers who have found themselves chortling throughout In The Loop, and for whom a Scottish-accented “fuckety bye” will be forever part of the lexicon.

Here we go again—property prices are on the rise and all sense and order has flown out the window

As the successful bidder ducked his head and stepped into a glass-fronted room to seal the deal, people in the packed auction room applauded. It was a heartfelt moment during a dreary event, the sale of mortgagee properties.

Animal cruelty sentencing demonstrates a mercy not shown by the offenders to their furry victims. The offenders have something to say too, about all of us

Old dog Lincoln—the bandy, bewildered old soul who hit the headlines early this year, when he was kidnapped for fighting bait—will have his day in court on Friday.

Who wants to sit around and talk about nappies and gripe water anyway?

Mini-mister is six months old. He can roll, squeal like a dolphin for 40 minutes at a time and blow raspberries, he has two teeth and a wonderfully silly sense of humour and he likes to play with his feet. In the time he has made these great strides in becoming a more fully functioning person, his mother has bombed out of two coffee groups.

Sarah Palin's memoir is rushed to print and another of Bill Clinton's ladies, oops aides, writes a tell-all

Only 49 sleeps till Sarah Palin's book is released in the US, y'all!

The fallout from Mexico’s so-called drug wars continues unabated. What is really behind the carnage?

Since December 2006, more than 13,000 people—police, soldiers, gangsters and civilians—have died across Mexico in shootouts, bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and torture.

A tale of high laundry adventure, in which the washing machine dies and nobody emerges unscathed

John Bongard, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director
FISHER & PAYKEL APPLIANCES LTD

Sex that could kill you: how a Mormon housewife makes $70 million a year on vampire stories

I love stories about ordinary people who are showered with crazy good fortune, especially when they take a hand in creating it for themselves. Even more so when they do it by spending thousands of hours alone in front of a computer screen, sending their thoughts out into the ether in the hope that someone else actually cares to read what they write.

My garden story begins in August, when the plum trees blossom

“I have been on holiday for the past fortnight. I told everyone that I was going to Norway, which was a surprisingly effective means of closing the conversation down.

When the day-to-day has lost its lustre, devise a plan to climb Kilimanjaro or learn book-binding. You'll immediately feel better and, hey, one day you might actually do it

Everyone has a back-up plan. Mine is to move to Puhoi and make cheese.

I would live in a white house with a red iron roof and each evening after a day of separating curds from whey I would sit on my front porch and spend a happy hour or two spreading soft bleu onto crackers.

The good news is that not all of Generation Y are narrow-minded, egotistical trivialists and TV3 has created a great new comedy show

I've just spent part of last night and much of this morning reading the entries in the best feature section of the 2009 Aotearoa Students' Press Association awards. I must say, I was surprised.

Or a lesson in picking one's battles

To be late is to waste other people’s time. It is very, very rude. I truly believe this. When my perpetually late husband revealed to me during our courtship that he would rather be late and let other people wait for him than to be on time and be forced to wait for other people, I was horrified. “How arrogant!” I thought. “How RUDE.

The converted will love this docudrama’s preachy tone. They chortle at the green in-jokes, and give it a round of applause. It has a message for New Zealanders, but will it reach a wider audience?

I’m sorry about what follows. It feels a lot like farting in church.

God, save me from the supermums

Forgive me my presumption for I am new to this mothering game, but as far as I am concerned, if I’m losing sleep over it, I’m qualified to comment.

Judging the KidsCan charity on its administration costs alone misses the point of what charities are created to do... change society for the better

People like to think that our society is proactively generous and compassionate, with everyone actively seeking out causes to support.

Haircuts are milestones on the journey of life

About once a month I let Alice have her way with me.

Novelist Margaret Drabble's self-exposure in a new autobiography is both uncomfortable and illuminating

This year’s valedictory in the Eng. Lit. School of Life is given by the Head Girl, Margaret Drabble.

Cocaine is not simply an energy drink with an 'edgy' name, whatever its creators may claim

The dairy on the corner sells Cocaine. I know this because the shop frontage is wallpapered in bright blue signs advertising the energy drink. It is the most distinctive thing about the dairy, which otherwise has disappointed me with stale bread and a miserly supply of Sunday newspapers.

Parenting is amazing, but you don't have to love it every moment of every day. Right?

Do you love being a mother? Do you love it?

As a new mother I get asked this all the time. Usually I answer, 'Yes,' with the appropriate aw-shucks grin. But sometimes I tell the truth, which is rather more complicated.

Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Borat, aka Bruno, is hilarious, insightful and cool in an ironic, knowing way... unless you don't get the joke

You can't really protect people from their own ignorance, it seems, and why would you when it's so easy to squeeze belly laughs and millions of dollars from their lack of insight?

Gioacchino Rossini wrote serious comic opera that is still relevant

Anyone who pays at least some minimal attention to the surface sheen of contemporary Italian politics will know about the antics of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Michael Jackson, tragic in life and death, is the most extreme example of what happens when we commodify people

When we turn human beings into products, we can't expect to like the results. Michael Jackson is now the ultimate example of that, and hasn't the outpouring of emotion following his sudden heart attack last week been extraordinary?

Disposable technology--a waste of time and resources, not to mention a major pain in the posterior

I hate disposable technology.

Wellington's Circa Theatre tackles the difficult Spanish drama Blood Wedding with mixed results

Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca, which dates from 1933, is the first of a trilogy of late dramatic works, written in blank verse—the others are Yerma (1935) and The House of Bernada Alba (1936)—and performed in the years immediately preceding the Spanish Civil War of which Lorca himself was an ear

Alain de Botton’s latest foray, into The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, is for the vocationally-challenged, not romantically-inclined

Alain de Botton and I parted company a while ago. As he’s said himself, Essays in Love and The Romantic Movement are books for a certain age and stage.

Why do museum and gallery directors give space to rubbish masquerading as art? Because it suits the establishment

I remember an occasion during the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago in 1968 (which I attended) when a leader of the Yippies—a sort of off-shoot of the hippie movement, hippies with attitude they would have been called in the 1990s I imagine—announced that he and his colleagues intended to napalm a pig in Grant Park.

I know there are few things more insufferable than hearing about a person's favourite television show, but you really, really, really need to watch The Wire

Since Christmas last year, I have devoted approximate 80 hours of my life to watching (and partially rewatching) all five series of The Wire on DVD. I can think of few better uses I could have made of that time.

What are you meant to do when you've ticked off your to-do list and the baby still hasn't arrived? Make up stuff to do.

Waiting for a baby to arrive is like waiting for a bomb to explode. I am the bomb. 

For an insight into the theorising and scientific nous that goes into fine art, head to Te Papa's Impressionist exhibition

Peter Conradi, in his life of Iris Murdoch, describes her shock, on going to teach at the Royal College of Art in London in 1963, at how little the students had read. Gifted as they were in painting and design, photography and lithography, the use of materials and tools, most of them were, in literary and intellectual terms, more or less illiterate.

Why is it okay to buy a golliwog for your child's toy chest, but not okay to use the word as an insult?

Since when are golliwogs cute? I didn’t even know it was acceptable to discuss the little cultural throwbacks again, let alone display them in chic children’s stores and be seen buying them.

British film is reaping the glittering harvest of state-funded arts – and NZ politicians should be paying attention

Splendid though it was, Slumdog Millionaire slightly lost me when Jamal shouted “Lakita”, over and over, like a wimpy audition for Streetcar Named Desire. Hard to argue, though, that the film didn’t deserve its seven gongs – from eleven nominations – at the Baftas last night.

Alex Ross has written a useful and user-friendly history of 20th century music—from an American point of view

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex Ross, can lay some claim to being the music book of the decade.

Novelist Kelly Ana Morey searches for the classic battered hot dog at the Warkworth A & P Show and recalls her pony eventing past. Photographs by Kelly Ana Morey.

Floral arrangement

Keith Ovenden's cultural highlights of 2008

2008 was the year that the Age of Trash started to falter. That’s the optimist in me. In March we were treated to an evening of modernist music from France as a part of the International Festival of the Arts.

Don Quixote is a delight; Mommies who drink; I want a house like she's got

And yet how lovely life would seem if every man could weave a dream to keep him from despair...

Under-appreciated here in New Zealand, 75-year-old sculptor Tony Stones is continuing to create ambitious bronze works in England and China

Tony Stones, sculptor, will soon be seventy-five: a New Zealander of surpassing talent, but for whom there are unlikely to be celebrations or presentations in what was once his homeland, no Prime Minister’s prize for contributions to art, no TV special to look back on an artist’s life well lived, or forward to a blooming talent that still has much to contribute to sculpture - not just in subjec

How can we experience art properly if we don't see it firsthand? And what effect does this have on our insular national arts culture?

Knowing how to look at paintings comes with patience and study. Everyone understands this. Our difficulty lies in access. How can we possibly know about paintings if we live so far away from the originals that we must make do with reproductions? And what is the likely effect of this distancing on the artistic culture of a society?

Superb production of Jenůfa allows us to walk into a world we have, thankfully, lost

The NBR New Zealand Opera production of Janáček’s Jenůfa  has been warmly received in both Auckland and Wellington, and there are many good reasons why.

Australian artist Fiona Hall, now showing at Wellington's City Gallery, fritters her considerable talents on market-driven conceptual art

Force Field, an exhibition of works by Fiona Hall, is at the City Gallery, Wellington until October 19.

I'll have what he's having

You know a guy like Timothy Ferriss. He is the work colleague who seems to glide by without doing that much yet always meets his targets and keeps the boss happy. He is the super-fit neighbour who spends his weekends skydiving and orienteering and diving with sharks and learning to play the bassoon.

A plea to Sainsbury; how the financial crisis will affect the wine market; Palin's hair secrets; My Little Pony turns 25; and more

Mark Sainsbury, what the hell happened to you?

Eleanor's take on what's fun in web-side culture news right now. Um, it's a broad definition of culture, okay?

Satirist David Sedaris skewers himself again in latest collection

Despite attempts to savour each crazy morsel, I gulped down the latest David Sedaris essay collection, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

The cutting-edge Academy of Arts and Sciences that opens in San Francisco this weekend is at odds with America's slack approach to science these days. I visited the amazing building in March.