Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Musical Monday (2022/01/03) Kōauau

Creative Commons: Kete New Plymouth

Today’s music is somewhat different in that the title of this post refers not to a song but to a musical instrument – the kōauau. This a traditional Māori instrument usually made from wood or bone and often elaborately carved. It one of many types of flute used by Māori and produces, at least to my ear, a hauntingly beautiful sound.

To western ears, traditional Māori music (as opposed to modern forms of Māori music) does not use musical scales with specifically set notes or tones, but instead uses microtones that slide, instead of stepping, from one tone to the next. To the Western ear it may sound monotonous and somewhat mournful or melancholic, but then to those who are more familiar with forms of traditional Asian music, Western music sounds similarly monotonous and dull.

I frequently suffer migraines at which times many sounds become unpleasant and painful. This often includes music especially if percussion instruments are present or where the tune generates a beat or repetitive pattern. Usually the human voice is fine, but if accompanied by piano, guitar or similarly struck or picked instruments, the result is at best unpleasant during a migraine. Interestingly, during a migraine attack, most drum sounds are unpleasant, with the exception of taiko drums, which I actually enjoy. I have no idea why that might be.

I find the microtonal sliding shifts created by the koauau and many other traditional Māori wind instruments very soothing to the soul when a migraine interferes with my ability to feel human. At such times, the haunting sounds of the koauau and similar instruments provide an anchor to reality – the knowledge that I actually exist.

Here are a few Youtube video clips that convey the sound of the koauau. The first clip includes an accompanying guitar, which can be unpleasant depending on the nature of the migraine.

Traditional kōauau sound with accompanying guitar

I find this next clip absolutely beautiful. The koauau is accompanied unobtrusively by traditional percussion instruments, and if you listen carefully, you’ll also hear the purerehua (bullroarer).

koauau accompanied by purerehua and percussion instruments.

Finally, a video clip where taonga pūoro(taonga: Treasure, pūoro: sounds/vibrations of nature), Māori musical instruments, are combined through the magic of modern technology into my ideal “migraine music”. It’s doubtful that traditional musical instruments were played together as an ensemble. It seems to have been a single instrument played alone or accompanying the human voice.

Experience Jerome’s collection of around 40 unique and rare Māori musical instruments from Nguru (Whale tooth nose flute) to Pōrutu Pounamu (Greenstone long flute), Kōauau Toroa (albatross wing bone flute) to the unique Pūtōrino (a cocoon shaped bugle flute made from the mighty totara tree)


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Can’t wait for summer to end

I’ve written before about why I dislike summer and today only goes to reinforce that dislike. Firstly there’s hayfever. It starts gently in late September and reaches its peak in mid to late January when without medication the itch in the eyes, nose and ears becomes unbearable, the nose end eyes run constantly and the sneezing becomes painful. By March it has run its course and finally disappears…

Until the next spring.

Then there’s the heat and humidity. Take today for example. The humidity wasn’t too bad at 80% but it was very hot – 30.4℃ (86.7℉) outside in the shade and 29.1℃ (84.4℉) inside, and absolutely no breeze. My comfort zone is somewhere between 18℃ (64℉) and 22℃ (72℉). By 25℃ (77℉), I’m ready to step inside a refrigerator. When it got to around 28℃, I suggested to The Wife it might be time to turn on the heat pump in order bring the inside temperature down to 25℃ or less. She responded with a comment that approximated “over my dead body”. I was tempted, but the heat had drained all my energy.

So to all those bloggers who have posted about the atrocious winter weather they’re having, and think my comments about being in the height of the southern hemisphere summer is rubbing it in, well, it’s not – it’s envy on my part. I so much want the so called glorious weather to end. Tomorrow is going to be more of the same.


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Christmas past

I haven’t been able to find the time nor the energy to blog over the past few days. It’s a hectic time of the year with extra family and dogs, days too warm for my comfort, a mild migraine that kept me in a sort of brain fog for days and hayfever medication that makes me drowsy regardless of the counterclaims on the packaging.

In our household, Christmas is usually a time of overindulgence when it comes to food, and this year was no exception. The one glaring difference was that we had our family Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, as family obligations meant some were not able to be present on the day. There were ten of us present, which is about as many as I can cope with: myself, The Wife, our son and his wife, our daughter, her three children, her partner and his son, plus two dogs.

The meal itself was typical family favourites and I daresay is not too different from that served up at many Kiwi Christmas get togethers. We started off with a watermelon and cucumber soup (cold of course). For mains we had glazed ham, chicken nibbles, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, and a selection of salads. As it was three days ago I am struggling to remember them all but here goes: pasta salad with with (lots of) preserved ginger, red and green glazed cherries, pineapple, red capsicum, baby peas and and beans, and corn; mandarin, almonds and rocket salad; apple and celery salad with dried cranberries and feta cheese; watermelon and cucumber salad with mint and crumbled feta; cucumber salad with red and yellow Tom Thumb tomatoes and pan fried halloumi cheese.

For desserts we had trifle (the grandchildren claim it wouldn’t be Christmas without it), pavlova topped with whipped cream and berries, fresh cherries, an assortment of fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries if I remember correctly), tiramisu, apple crumble and an assortment of ice creams (triple chocolate, salted caramel, rum and raisin).

Then gifts were exchanged with those who would not be present on Christmas morning, and what was left of the day was spent quietly recovering from eating too much. On Christmas morning, gifts were exchanged and by 9 am something like normality resumed, with just myself, The Wife, our daughter and one dog remaining. Tonight our daughter is staying with a friend who lives nearby leaving her dog with us, and tomorrow it will be fully back to normal with just The Wife and I occupying the house. Until next year…


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The virus antidote: political leadership, progressive government, public services — Peter Davis NZ

I will let Peter Davis’ article speak for itself. There’s nothing more I need add.

Published in Social Europe, 21st. December 2021.

The virus antidote: political leadership, progressive government, public services — Peter Davis NZ


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Musical Monday (2021/12/20) Snoopy’s Christmas

How could I not include this song during the Christmas season? I don’t know how many of my readers (apart from Kiwis) are familiar with this track from The Royal Guardsmen. It first entered the Kiwi psyche in 1967 and has never left. It’s rather hard to understand why Snoopy’s Christmas became biggest selling overseas single sold in New Zealand, not just in 1967 but for the entire 20th century! Yeah, It’s kind of difficult to get your head around, isn’t it? I struggle to understand why a novelty song by an obscure American band should have become such a seasonal favourite in Aotearoa. But that’s Kiwis for you. There doesn’t have to be a reason.

Snoopy’s Christmas has re-entered the New Zealand Singles chart several time since: 1988, 1989, and 2013, and its popularity never seems to wane. If you’re in Aotearoa during the festive season, you’ll likely hear this track more than any other song. However, there’s a significant minority who dislike the song, or perhaps got so tired of it, that in 2007 it was voted the “the worst Christmas song of all time” in a poll taken by the New Zealand Herald newspaper. Usually by Christmas eve, I tend to agree.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!

The news had come out in the First World War
The bloody Red Baron was flying once more
The Allied command ignored all of its men
And called on Snoopy to do it again.

Was the night before Christmas, 40 below
When Snoopy went up in search of his foe
He spied the Red Baron, fiercely they fought
With ice on his wings Snoopy knew he was caught.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ring out from the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man

The Baron had Snoopy dead in his sights
He reached for the trigger to pull it up tight
Why he didn't shoot, well, we'll never know
Or was it the bells from the village below.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

The Baron made Snoopy fly to the Rhine
And forced him to land behind the enemy lines
Snoopy was certain that this was the end
When the Baron cried out, "Merry Christmas, my friend"

The Baron then offered a holiday toast
And Snoopy, our hero, saluted his host
And then with a roar they were both on their way
Each knowing they'd meet on some other day.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man


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Cliff Whiting

This post is a little different from my usual fare. It’s a documentary on the life of a specific person who was a peripheral influence in my youth. It’s more as a handy point of reference for myself than something I desire to share with the world. In particular it reminds me of the mana (personal and collective strength, pride, identity and humility) that is present in so many people that have been an inspiration to me over the years. Having said that, it does illustrate how aspects of Māori culture, and particularly Māori art are finding their way into mainstream life in Aotearoa New Zealand, and some of my readers may find it informative.

For a while, Cliff Whiting and my father were work colleagues. They shared adjacent offices, and while my father travelled the region teaching school teachers how to teach phys ed (sports, folk dancing, use of playground equipment, safety etc), Cliff taught teachers how to teach art.

The documentary below provides me with some of his background that I was unaware of and brings me up to date with what Cliff has been up to since my father’s retirement in the 1970s. The video is recorded in Te Reo (the Māori language) so I recommend turning on English language Closed Captions if you choose to watch. Some words have not been translated as they are well understood by all Kiwis, but are unlikely to be understood by others. I’ve included those of significance below the video


Iwi: extended kinship group, tribe, nation, people, nationality,
Kahawai: schooling coastal fish (Arripis trutta)
Kōrero: speech, narrative, story, news
Kōwhaiwhai: painted scroll ornamentation – commonly used on meeting house rafters
Kūmara: Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)
Marae: the area in front of a meeting house where formal greetings and discussions are held; informally, it includes the complex of buildings around the marae
Māui: a mythical demi-god who, among his many other deeds, captured the sun in a net in order to slow it’s travel across the sky.
Nīkau: a NZ palm (Rhopalostylis sapida)
Pākehā: Non-Māori
Pōnga: silver tree fern – especially its tree-like trunk
Tāne, Tāne-mahuta; mythical guardian of the forest, a child of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother), who separated them from their tight embrace to allow light into the world.
Te Reo: the (Māori) language
Waka huia: treasure box, also the name of a TV documentary series on Māori Television
Weka: several species of flightless birds endemic to NZ(Gallirallus australis greyiGallirallus australis australis) with a reputation for stealing objects, especially if they are shiny (cutlery, jewelry etc)
Whakapapa: genealogy, lineage, descent
Whānāu: extended family, family group




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Gender self identification

Aotearoa New Zealand has had a history of being pioneers in social change, either as the instigator or an early adopter, and has at times been described as the world’s social laboratory. Here’s a few I can think of without recourse to to an online search:

Universal suffrage, old age pension: socialised medicine; a comprehensive social welfare system; inflation targeting; the 40-hour week; an arbitration system for workplace disputes; decriminalisation of homesexuality; gender self-identification on many legal documents; same sex marriages; state funded remote learning for school aged students; legal personhood to elements of nature (forests, and river basins etc), to name just a few.

On the other hand there are some social changes that remain uniquely Kiwi. For example: ACC, a universal no-faults accidents compensation and rehabilitation scheme; PHARMAC, an agency that negotiates the supply and purchase price of pharmaceutical medicines and devices with manufacturers and distributors on behalf of the nation; decriminalisation of prostitution.

As is only natural, there are critics of every social change, but on the whole, I believe we as a nation are better off because of these changes. Many of the changes have been deemed radical, especially by outside observers. These are often the same sources that describe Aotearoa New Zealand as conservative, unimaginative, and even stuffy. Generally, I don’t think Kiwis see either ourselves or the social changes this country has pioneered as being radical.

Instead, I think the Kiwi spirit of being pragmatic and our sense of fairness and egalitarianism is largely at play, along with a liberal sprinkling of a “can do” attitude. In other words, the changes have not been seen as radical or reforms, but instead viewed as practical solutions to problems that unfairly burden sections of society. One MP (Member of Parliament) recently made the observation that law making is not for the majority (they can look after themselves), but for the disadvantaged – those to whom society denies equal rights and opportunities.

A week ago today, the BDMRR (Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration) bill passed its third and final reading in Parliament. The bill, as it was originally introduced to Parliament in 2018 was to update a previous act of the same name to streamline it, tidy up some inconsistencies and to take into account changes in technology. Nothing in it that could have been considered controversial or radical, so why has it taken three years to reach this point?

During the Select Committee stage, the interested parties can present oral and/or written submissions on the proposed law. During this process, there were a significant number of submissions asking for the right to self-declare the gender marker on one’s birth certificate, in the same way as we have been able to do for several decades on official documents such as a driver’s licence or passport. Up until now, the gender marker on birth certificates could be changed only by submission to the Family Court. By unanimous decision, the Select Committee recommended amendments to the bill allowing for self-identification.

This was a leap too far for the coalition government of the day, because the proposed amendments were added by the Select Committee after the closure of public submissions and made significant changes not foreseen at its introduction to Parliament. In effect, while those desiring the changes had been heard, there had been no opportunity for a wider perspective on self-identification to be heard – an essential aspect of democratic principles.

The government of the day, decided to delay the passage of the bill until a new round of consultations and public submissions regarding self-identification could be held. In Aotearoa, this can often take considerable time. Finally, earlier this year, a SOP (Supplementary Order Paper) covering the proposed self ID changes were introduced to Parliament and the public were able to make submissions specifically on gender self-identification.

At the completion of hearings, the Select Committee recommended some minor changes and these were accepted by Parliament. Finally on Friday, the BDMRR bill, with gender self-identification, was passed by Parliament. What perhaps was surprising what the majority by which it passed.

I appreciate that gender identification, whether or not it’s by self-identification or not, can be a controversial topic. The current (toxic) arguments that seem to be part of the argument in the UK and the US were largely lacking here, but nevertheless, I expected some MPs to very vocal in their opposition to self identification. I was quite surprised by how little there was.

A common theme that many MPs spoke to was that while the self-identification provisions will have little to no impact on most Kiwis, it will have a significant positive impact on a small sector of the community – the transgendered, intersex, non-binary and gender nonconforming.

Not one MP spoke in opposition to self identification. A number brought up the fact that as the gender of those who do not have a NZ birth certificate such as immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers and temporary residents, who are not covered by the provision of the new act will be worse off than they are at present. There is already a large body of MPs who are intent on seeing this anomaly corrected under separate legislation.

So how many Parliamentarians opposed the legislation? Not one. The BDMRR bill, including all the provisions for gender self-identification was passed unanimously. Every MP, be they from the centre left Labour Party, the centre right National Party, the libertarian ACT Party, the environmentalist Green Party, or the indigenous Māori Party, voted for it.

It’s not that common for legislation to pass unanimously. It didn’t happen with the introduction a Social welfare system, ACC, PHARMAC, homosexual law reform, the decriminalisation of prostitution, civil unions or same sex marriages. Even changes to gun ownership laws following the Christchurch mosque shootings had one dissenting vote, so I was more than a little surprised by a unanimous decision in this case.


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Murphy’s law

We’ve had a few days of torrential rain. Of course at started after I hung up several loads of laundry on the clothesline. Then the gods decided to apply Murphy’s law. It wasn’t quite dry when the the skies opened and the rain fell by the bucket load. There was no way I was going out to bring washing that was wetter than when it was hung up, so I left it up to nature to give the clothes an ultra rinse.

I really didn’t expect it to be a two day rinse, but that’s what it was. This morning the sun came out, so we did some more washing and hung that up alongside the loads from two days earlier, which by that time was partially dry. Time to go for a pre-Christmas haircut. The Wife and I duly drive to the Hairdresser a mere 5 minutes away and in less than thirty minutes we’re both done.

The sky looked decidedly grey as we came out, and just as we closed the car doors, a light rain shower started. The washing! We weren’t going to let Murphy get the better of us time. Our plans to visit the pharmacy and a D.I.Y. store on the way home were abandoned as we made a dash to save the washing. It was a futile effort. This is what we found when we arrived home.

Another ultra rinse is in progress. Tomorrow promises more of the same.


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Musical Monday (2021/12/13) – I had to walk away

You’ll possibly notice that few of my chosen music tracks relate to matters of the heart – regrets or loves found and lost. But there are exceptions. This is one. I have presented one other track from this Kiwi singer songwriter: Damn The Dam, originally written as an advertising jingle but it became a number one hit and a popular protest song of the ’70s. If you like folk rock from the likes of Bob Dylan, Donovan or Simon & Garfunkel, then you’ll probably enjoy John Hanlon’s works.

This particular track was released in 2020 as part of the album Naked Truths. The track was originally a demo to which producer/arranger Russell Finch added piano and cello, assuring Hanlon that there was no need for him to sing it again. I agree. The voice, as it is, is perfect for this song. Enjoy.

I had to walk away – John Hanlon

Shadow on her face
The silence of her
Things I tried to say
It was all too late
The breaking of my heart
The lie behind my smile
Put on my bravest face anyway
and yes, I cried
And then I walked away
Then I walked away

And it was there and it was gone
And it was real and it was everything
And I knew I shouldn't love her
But I couldn't stop my heart
And it was right and it was wrong
And it had everybody talking
And I knew it from the start
Though it was really hard
And I had to walk away
I had to walk away
I had to walk away

This house is not the same
It's quiet now
And I can still see her happy face
In every room
I reach for her at night
Then I lie awake 'til dawn
Said she really tried
But the love in her just died anyway
Then it was gone
And she had to walk away
She had to walk away
She had to walk away

And it was there and it was gone
And it was real and it was everything
And I knew I shouldn't love her
But I couldn't stop my heart
And it was right and it was wrong
And it had everybody talking
And I knew it from the start
Though it was really hard
And I had to walk away
I had to walk away
I had to walk away