Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


Leave a comment

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)


1 Comment

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…


1 Comment

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


Leave a comment

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




7 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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


8 Comments

Twenty-seven in the shade

Summer is just a few days away. In this part of the world summer “officially” starts on the first day of December. I’m already looking forward to late autumn.

A characteristic commonly shared amongst autistics is hyposensitivities and hypersensitivities when compared to non-autistic folk. Depending on the senses involved being hypo or hyper can be an blessing or a curse. For example I’m mostly oblivious to low and moderate levels of pain. It’s not until it reaches the level one experiences of momentary pain when slamming a car door on a finger, or the ongoing pain when the body unsuccessfully attempts to eject kidney stones, or when attempting to move muscles affected by polio that I experience “real” pain. Breaking my arm or gashing my foot exposing the bones resulted in curiosity about the outcome more than any conscious sense of pain. In fact I experience more pain from the noise of a typical shopping mall or from lighting effects commonly found in modern forms of entertainment.

I do not like warm weather. I have a narrow band of “comfortable”. Below 18℃ (64℉) I start to feel the chill, while anything above 24℃ (75℉) feels unpleasantly warm. As I age, the level of discomfort I experience increases when the temperature goes outside my comfort zone.

As temperature drops, it’s a simple matter of adding an extra layer of clothing to maintain a level of comfort although I have to be careful to avoid spontaneous “attacks” of Raynaud’s syndrome in my fingers and/or toes, which can be very painful as the symptoms wane. Coping with heat is a different matter.

Take today for example. Our indoor/outdoor temperature gauge, shows the outside temperature as being 27.2℃ (81℉) in the shade and inside as being 26.4℃ (79.5℉). I find myself extremely restless, pacing about aimlessly, unable to concentrate much on anything apart from wishing it was cooler. If I had my way, I’d close the windows and doors and switch on the heat pump, and allow it to maintain its default setting of 22℃ (72℉) as it does during the colder months of the year.

Unfortunately The Wife has other ideas. She relishes such temperatures. My suggestion that we turn on the heat pump resulted in a very emphatic “No!” What happened to so called neurotypical empathy? So in order to maintain domestic harmony I find myself wandering aimlessly about our home, keeping out of her line of sight as she finds my pacing “annoying”.

Postscript

The Wife acknowledged my efforts not to annoy her in my discomfort and provided the perfect meal for a day such as today – somen (cold Japanese noodles).


1 Comment

Musical Monday (2021/11/22) Damn The Dam

The song was originally written and sung by John Hanlon for a two minute advertisement by New Zealand Fibreglass to promote home insulation. It was part of a wide campaign in the early 1970s lobbying to make home insulation mandatory, and of course the company would benefit by having its home insulation products installed in every new home. It was possibly a brave move by the company, as two minute commercials were extremely rare at that time (still are) and only 10 seconds of the advertisement actually promoted their insulation product, glass fibre Pink® Batts®.

Electricity demands were rising rapidly at that time and the nation had historically built hydro power stations to meet the growing energy needs of the country. Dams, while a renewable resource, destroy much of the local natural environment by flooding vast areas of land. We were running out of rivers that were considered socially acceptable to dam, and insulation of homes was seen as a means of slowing down the ever increasing growth in electricity demand.

The advertising jingle proved so popular that it was released as a single and rose to #5 in the New Zealand hit parade in 1973. Hanlon made a condition of its release that all the profits from the song be donated to environmental causes. The song was then adopted by opponents of the Lake Manapouri hydro power scheme.

Today it’s remembered by most Baby Boomers, of which I am one, as a protest song – younger generations are probably unaware of it’s existence, and for those who are aware, it;s just another NZ folk song. Few remember that it started life as an advertising jingle for home insulation.

It’s odd, looking back to those days, that we young adults were very much into protests. It’s not just a 21st century phenomena that many today’s youth believe it is. We were just as idealistic as they are. In fact I venture that today’s youth is rather tame when compared to the youth of my generation. Among the causes we campaigned against were the Vietnam war and wars in general, gender inequality, nuclear weapons and testing, and in this country nuclear energy, Apartheid and sporting contacts with South Africa, destruction of the environment, whaling, to name just a few. Meanwhile in America and Britain, demonstrations against racial inequality frequently turned into highly destructive riots.

We were a generation with very high ideals, but somewhere along the way, we have been distracted by the needs of providing for self and family. As a generation, I feel were were, and possibly still are, more liberal and slightly more left leaning than the more recent generations. Perhaps it’s a false perception, but I feel that today the world is becoming more conservative, less tolerant than the sixties and seventies, has made definite a lerch to the right, and partisanship is very much more pronounced.

Back to the song Damn The Dam, written and sung by John Hanlon

Damn The Dam, Music and lyrics by John Hanlon, sung by John Hanlon, 1973

Leaf falls to kiss the image of a mountain,
the early morning mist has ceased to play.
Birds dancing lightly on the branches by a fountain
of a waterfall which dazzles with its spray

Tall and strong and aged, contented and serene,
a kauri tree surveys his grand domain,
and for miles and miles around him, a sea of rolling green.
Tomorrow all this beauty won't remain.

Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky.
To give power to the people
all this beauty has to die.

Rain falls from above and splashes on the ground,
goes running down the mountain to the sea.
And leaping over pebbles makes such a joyful sound,
such as Mother Nature's meant to be.

I have grave reflection, reflection of a grave.
Trees that once lived green now dead and brown.
The homes of tiny animals and little birds as well,
for the sake of man's progression have been drowned.

Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky.
To give power to the people
all this beauty has to die.

Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky,

Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky.
To give power to the people
all this beauty has to die...


Leave a comment

‘The pandemic is revealing our societal vulnerabilities’ — Peter Davis NZ

I have reblogged an almost identical post from Peter a short while back, but in light of the progress of the Delta variant of Covid-19 over recent months, I believe it’s well worth repeating.

Published in Everyday Society, a publication of The British Sociological Association, 15th Nov 2021

‘The pandemic is revealing our societal vulnerabilities’ — Peter Davis NZ


6 Comments

Some people…

Yesterday

I had one of those pesky con artists, this time claiming to be from the Spark Security office (Spark is NZ’s largest ISP) informing me that there was a problem with my internet connection and it would need to be shut down, however if I cooperated the issue could be fixed on the spot. As usual, I let the caller lead me through the various steps of trying to gain control of my computer. As typically happens, she incorrectly assumed I was using Windows (I was asked to describe the key to the right of the left Ctrl key) and we spent a fruitless half hour trying to bring up the Run command box. However as I run a variant of Linux, that’s not an option.

Finally she attempted to get me to download and install a remote desktop application, on this occasion AnyDesk, usually it’s TeamViewer. It was at this point that let her know I wasn’t entirely stupid and needed verification that she was indeed who she said she was. We then spent another twenty-five minutes discussing or perhaps arguing about her credential. Strangely, when I told her that so far this year I’d had at least ten hoax internet related calls she tried the “not everyone is evil, so you should be more trusting”. Yeah right.

We spent another twenty or so minutes while she tried to persuade me that all I needed to do was trust her, and I insisted I wasn’t able to do that. She finally gave up after (for her) a frustrating fifty-four minutes. I despise the actions of such individuals. I’m not going to judge the person as harshly as I don’t know their circumstances, but attempting to fleece someone simply because one can is surely a marker of one’s contempt for others.

Today

The Wife and I went to our usual barber/hair stylist for haircuts plus a beard trim for me. He’s a very sociable guy who seems to be able to encourage his clients to chat about all and nothing. The Wife had her hair done first and the room filled with loud and very public conversation between her and Ihaia (the barber) including politics (NZ and the US), families (his and ours), the weather (it’s been atrocious today), and of course Covid (especially the regarding deniers and anti-vaxers). Even I am able to participate although perhaps less fluidly than other customers, and always privately. During my time in the chair, I happened to mention that yesterday was our fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Afterwards, as the Wife was about to take out her EFTPOS card Ihaia told her to put it away as the haircuts were on him. When the Wife asked why, he said it was a fiftieth anniversary gift. Obviously, she hadn’t heard my conversation with him. While the Wife almost broke his neck in a heartfelt hug, the other customer clapped and cheered. Now that’s a good feeling.

Conclusion

While I’ve been at the receiving end of abuse for much of my life, I understand why. Most people are able to empathise only with what is familiar to them. They have no way of understanding what an autistic person experiences – hell, even many so called autism experts have no clue – so they judge my behaviour in neurotypical terms. Making allowances for that, I find most (but not all) are kind and generous.

Then there are the few who have little or no interest in the well being of others, and seem to have utter contempt for them. One being the former POTUS and another being yesterday’s “Spark security officer”. Fortunately I’ve never met one in person. They either arrive in news items, by email or telephone, always from a location outside of Aotearoa. It’s only since the internet has become ubiquitous that I have had personally experienced scam attempts. I wonder if this says something about the internet, or modern society, or is it simply a reflection of the fact that I’m fortunate to have been born in the least corrupt nation on earth?