Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Jobs in Hip-Hop

Apart from the obvious reaction to this little joyride (which of course is: "hey, that was our tax money you hosed up the wall - but then, what's new?"), let's stop and think about the recorded reason for this grant.

To the more gullible, a continuing justification for the trip - nobody has yet leapt to the defence of the reported 'chilling out' in Hawaii, Fiji, and Paris - is the quite reasonable notion of eventual jobs in hip-hop. One at a time, then.

Hip-hop is now regarded as being 25 (some would say 30) years old. That's a long time for any musical genre, and it shows. According to Nick Crowe (hat-tip to Dennis Dutton at Arts and Letters Daily),

"change is the only option left for a form once built on innovation, but now characterised by self-limiting dogma and paucity of ideas".

And that change, oh heavenly irony - is coming from.... po' white trash like Eminem. The article mentions "the state of emergency in hip-hop". Hmm: if this was a stock, I'd be selling.

So, it seems that the creative side of hip-hop is dying. And that this could have been discerned by a few minutes Googling by the grants advisers. But they're just bureaucrats (even if closely related to the applicant). What about those 'jobs'?

Any sort of artistic endeavour is generally driven by passion. Characters and storylines that rumble around the head until they have to be let out. Fingers that twitch around figures, riffs, patterns, sequences on any musical instrument you like. The need to adopt personae - masks - and parade around as not-oneself. The urge to make visible, in some medium, an inner vision. And early hip-hop was no exception.

Funnily enough, there tend not to be advertisements for 'jobs' in all this. Think how Marquez, JWM Turner, Tom Waits, or Peter Jackson got started. Not by answering ads. It was that pesky inner passion.

Sure, there are 'jobs' around art of any sort. Roadies, managers, ticket-clippers of all kinds, equipment, material and chemical propellant suppliers, groupies, lawyers, marketers, copywriters, security - the list is long. And they can occasionally be found (at least the more legal ones can) in the press, in specialist magazines, and on the tear-off tabs of hand-written sheets of paper on pinboards anywhere.

But, here's the catch. These jobs are generic and contractual. It's the film industry's MO: get the idea, script it out, assemble a company, make a team, make the film, disband the team. It's not a job as much as a series of projects. Anyone in or around these industry groupings knows that. And you tend to be invited in - head-hunted. And that's for the inner circle.

Further out - the security guys, roadies are just strong backs. Groupies, ditto, plus weak minds. Equipment suppliers, they're specialised retailers. Chemical suppliers, they're hoping to stay well under the radar, and that clients don't lab-test the marching powder for purity. Lawyers, marketers, as one artist, Robert Cray sang 'You can tell me a boat full of lawyers just sank' - enough said.

These 'jobs' are everywhere and nowhere. So: 'Jobs in Hip-Hop'. Generic, short-term, contractual, insecure positions, if you're not the artist(e). Bit like supermarket shelf-fillers, really.

If you are the artist(e) - why pick a genre so obviously flaring and dying? Why not create an entirely new one? Why not let those restless urges out on a world always eager for the next big thang?

Inside tip: don't wait till you see it advertised. It'll be waaay too late then.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

So, where's the next kilowatt gonna come from?

Project Aqua - a large scale hydro generation proposal - has had - lovely irony this - it's plug pulled. Now, against a backdrop of increasing power demand and static generation capacity, folks are now asking the obvious: what's going to keep my business and my home a-hummin'?

A quick survey of the options:
Large-scale hydro: bzzzt - Aqua was to have used the last major resource that could be easily tapped. It had a high head and good flow, hence high energy potential. What's left tends to have one or other, not both, characteristics. And Aqua was in easy country geologically speaking.

Small-scale hydro: Maybe. But the same Byzantine processes of resource consent are needed, irrespective of project scale. Higher fixed cost equals higher running cost. And there will be a lot more generation points needed.

Geothermal: Maybe. That's if underground heat generated by vulcanism doesn't turn out to be a taonga, or be a major part of some taniwha's sustenance. And there's resource consent too...

Coal: probably. Although the Gummint doesn't like this turn of events: Govt Resists Coal Generation Option. Still, the vast lignite fields in Southland have to be a starter. The spectre of Kyoto is rather diminished these days, now that Russia has refused to ratify it. Oh wait, we stupidly signed up already? Sigh.

Nuclear: useful as a straw man to draw the impassioned bile of greens, and worth suggesting for the sheer sake of the ensuing spectacle. But chain-yanking aside, not, I think, a serious starter.

Wind: definitely possible, established in the Manawatu, but has already drawn NIMBY's in Christchurch (the sole generator, at Gebbie's Pass has had a rocky history, and the owners are still trying to quieten the gearbox, ferchrissake), and in Wellington, where a proposed Cook Strait facing wind farm got the evil eye from locals. The problem with wind is of course storage: power has to be used there and then (it does, after all, move rather quickly down them wires). So unless it's used to (say) pump water up into a hydro lake while the wind is blowing, it is rather useless for baseload generation, and by the same token, cannot be relied upon for peaks. And at around 0.5mW per tower, you need an awful lot of whirligigs to make even a modest amount of power. And then only sometimes.

Gas: maybe. Although we did seem to tear through the last major gas field we found rather quickly, no? The form of generation is here the major determinant: doing the gas jet under boiler, to steam - to turbine - to generator - to transmission, in a large centralised station, is not the most efficient usage of the potential. Dispersed generation - say via Stirling cycle technology like WhisperTech, is a better bet. That's big in the UK right now, especially for remote, isolated or small-cluster users. Watch this space.
Similarly, fuel-cells are another technology to watch.

But hey, there's another possibility! In the article, one of the NIMBY's down on the Waitaki river had this to say:

"there is a real head of steam developed for protecting the Waitaki River from such developments."

Quick: back up a turbine and generator, and hook 'em up to the grid!

Monday, March 29, 2004

Guns baaad. Explosive belts Gooood.

NZ Pundit reports on the, shall we say over-egged, response to kid-size guns. Note the rapidity and ferocity of the condemnation. The key line in the Parents' Centre quote runs like this:

"[the advertisement] sent a clear message to kids that it was OK to kill".

So I expect an equally vigorous affirmation from PC (cor, the coincidence...) for an American parent's commentary about Hussam Abdu - you will perhaps recall Abdu's 15 seconds of fame recently on global TV.

"If a bunch of men pressured some girl out of having an abortion the clever cheese-and-cracker set would be speechless with moral outrage.

Well, this is the new peer pressure in the Middle East.

And, it seems to me, bullying a kid into self-vaporization and murder is worse than teasing a girl into an eating disorder."

Teaching kids to kill - themselves! Shockingly unsupportive of kidz rightz. Let's hear it, Parents' Centre! Let's hear it, Minister(s) for Child, Yoof and Fambly! (Who is it, this week?)

I personally won't be holding my breath...

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Lord Carey, retired, religious, and controversial

Lord Carey of Clifton has put in a religious-dialogue context, many of the issues surrounding our fragile co-existence with militant Islam. Huntington gets a mention. Ralph Peters' shadow lies over Carey's analysis of the various failures which have led Wahhabi-influenced Islamic cultures to their present pass.
And while the good Lord urges (what else?) more dialogue, the overall strategy on the ground is more in line with what the good Captain of USS Clueless has thoughtfully outlined for us.
My recent OE has hardened my own confidence in the merits - scientific, technical, creative-wise - of 'our' culture - culture is, after all, as any MBA can regurgitate, 'what we do around here' - nothing more. I'm a techno type, and I don't see too much of that in any other civilisational model - as the quip goes, 'there's no (fill in the blank here) way to fix a car (or a computer)'.
We're living in a 'climax community' - we're the old, great trees (think of the glorious old-growth rimu in Waitutu forest) and that takes maintenance. Like lopping off the odd strangler fig vine at its roots. You can't do that by talking at it.
But back to Carey's speech. He's evidently offended a few tender lilies here and there. Well, boo-hoo. He has a backbone, unlike invertebrate Spain and is unapologetic about that. We could use a few more Careys (and Warrens) out this way.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Nostalgia for Lost Jobs

As usual, Virginia Postrel has a great link:Would you really rather be a miner?
The argument, heard often in tandem with a vaguely anti-capitalist or anti-globalisation bleat, is that those awful (fill in the blanks) have stolen our Jobs.
Which were Ours, you see, by - well, by what right, exactly?

Inheritance? Nope, that's the British Royals.
Guaranteed by the Government? Nope, that's the French, and nobody's buying their stock at the moment. Government's money comes from?? S'right - us Evil Capitalists (EC).
Provided by Family, Tribe? Maybe - if there is an underlying EC somewheres in there - think Ngai Tahu. If not, then when the somebody-else's dime which must be propping the whole show up runs out, so do the jobs.
Threats of violence? Maybe. For a while, and if you're running a mafia or gangsta type op, then that 'while' can be generations. But standover specialists aren't exactly your basic patent-filer types: real innovation comes from free spirits, as a glance at Peters' yardsticks may show. No profits, no surplus to intimidate others into giving you a cut of, no parasites. And where do those profits come from? EC's, again.
Technology? Sure. But all those wagon-wheel and arrow makers of yore seem to have become aircraft engineers, farmers become biologists, miners become mobile phone account managers. Look in the papers - how many of those job titles existed even 20 years ago?

Having just finished Evan Eisenberg's Ecology of Eden, I'm inclined to think that these 'Lost Jobs' reveries are another instance of the 'expulsion from Eden' myth which he dissects so well. Like, there never really was an Eden, so there's no place to go back to. But the nostalgia stems less from this than from the inability to accept that our own reality (Eisenberg's label is the Tower - exemplified by the large cities - largely human-created but containing an essential wildness of their own) is part of nature/world/universe, too. And part of our human nature (when circumstances permit, see Peters again) is simply to create stuff that never existed before.

So the Our-Jobs-Have-Gone moaners seem to have quite a lot in common with the Let's-keep-feeding-people-into-the-industrial-shredders anti-war protesters.

Yes, they (Jobs, tyrants) are gone.
No, they aren't coming back any time soon.
And really, do you all want to go back into that factory, or down that hole? Or, into that shredder?

Monday, March 22, 2004

Al Quaeda to Europe: "Grease up. Bend over."

Hard to know where the Spanish capitulation will take Europe. Nowhere nice, that's for sure. Spanish, and by osmosis, European foreign policy can now be dictated by remote control. Lee Harris has likened the situation to inviting a Vampire inside the door.

The conversations will now go like this:

AQ: 'We've arranged to have a little reminder of 3/11 - you'll be able to tell by the large columns of smoke and the absence of a familar landmark - unless of course you agree to (fill in the blank)'

Spain or other hapless EU member: 'But of course. Jump - how high? We'll see to it right away.'

The sad joke is that the landmark will vanish in a puff of smoke and another few hundred lives, anyway. It's the classic stand-over trope from all those gangster movies - the enforcers, even though they have their percentage of turnover, always manage to break something on the way out, just to show who's boss.

Dr Seuss has a classic cartoon on the subject here.

But nobody should be laughing. As Yogi Berra said, it's deja vu all over again.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The first concrete step towards Eurabia

Robert Spencer, writing in WorldNetDaily, notes without glee that
"al-Qaida has adjusted Spain's foreign policy with a bombing".

Hat-tip to LGF.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Comments about Spain

Mark Steyn usually has thoroughly amusing yet pointed observations. This one is no exception.

Lee Harris is another one of those wise guys: he runs a thought experiment here past TechCentralStation readers. A quote:

"If a foreign agent is permitted to interfere at will with the internal affairs of a nation, then that nation no longer possesses national sovereignty -- a fact that can be immediately grasped in those cases when the foreign agent is another nation state."

Ralph Kinney Bennet is pessimistic. The opening quote says it all.

"Shall I tell you what the real evil is? To cringe to the things that are called evils, to surrender to them our freedom, in defiance of which we ought to face any suffering. (Seneca)"

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Tricky concept. I seem to need large doses of this in times of uncertainty, and there are a few people I keep returning to for their latest efforts.
Victor Davis Hanson, for a cold-eyed look at the world around us - latest I've found is here.
Robert D Kaplan (recent Atlantic Monthly article), whose view of humankind is a needed antidote to all those damned idealists: dark and irrational passions lie deep in human nature. Think religious fanatics, berserkers, the 'creedal passion periods' that Huntington points to in American culture, the taniwha worshippers of our own little NZ, the cargo cultists of the South Pacific, the list just goes on and on. To the extent that real power is thus exercised, and that power always, always matters, this side of us cannot be glossed over or rationalised away.
Evan Eisenberg, author of The Recording Angel, shows a marvellous touch with this now out of print trawl through the co-evolution of jazz and records. I'm currently reading his Ecology of Eden and rather like his juxtaposition of the Mountain-Eden and the Tower-Technological Man. So far, anyway.
William Rees-Mogg , who co-authored with James Dale Davidson The Sovereign Individual which not coincidentally (in my edition's preface) has a telling reference to the (not exactly quoted) 'vulnerable steel and glass symbol of commerce - the Twin Towers'.
Which may lead on (but not tonight, more Eisenberg to digest, after a good steak, a passable shiraz and a glorious sunset viewed from the Southern tip-head mole at Greymouth) to a rumination about canaries in coal mines.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Andalusia is a front line

Tacitus has a thoughtful piece on Spain which echoes Mark Steyn's piece in the Australian yesterday. Essentially, because Spain was the site of the 1492 explusion of Muslims from the Iberian peninsula (known to history as the 'Reconquista' - the Re-conquering), it has been, is, and will be always in the sights of Islamofascists. And that's quite irrespective of the government of the day, its policies, its attempts at appeasement or indeed any actions.

I'm reminded of Tim Burtons 'Mars Attacks', where the negotiations between Earth and the Martians come to this point: Earth: 'what would you want us to do?' Martians: 'Die'.

As Mark Steyn notes in his piece, there's a sentiment-for-sentiment quote from Hezbollah to the same effect:
"We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you."

Monday, March 15, 2004

Today we are all Spaniards

Mark Steyn has a typically comprehensive article about the Spanish atrocity. Just read the whole thing (RTWT).

Carl Zimmer is blogging!

CZ is a journalist who has that enviable knack of making science interesting and topical, without mushing it down to a lowest-common-multiple in the process. It's a rare gift (grits teeth at this point). I first struck his writing in 'At the Water's Edge' - a marvellous trek through macro-evolution, which for me answered most of the 'but where are the intermediate forms?' questions. There were eight-fingered fishy things, a clear exposition on how genes could simply experiment with physical forms, the eternal question (much beloved by fellow apes who are still inclined to miraculous explanations of their origin rather than accept the bleeding obvious) of how eyes could have evolved, and so on.

He (CZ) is also responsible for 'Parasite Rex' - which is very useful for terrifying the squeamish, is not to be discussed at meal-times, and which contains perhaps the best explanation I've seen for (and a typically gorge-raising possibility for fixing) Crohn's disease.

As well as his own website, he also blogs over at The Loom.

Speaking as one with 65% fish genes, I thoroughly recommend these works. Look out too for his latest: 'Soul made Flesh'.

A thoughtful look at 21st century empire

There's such a lot of heat and so little light in the now rather enervated debates on world politics in the blogosphere. This piece is a welcome, energetic addition to that debate: Bobbitt

Friday, March 12, 2004

Back again at last, having figured links...

The blogging silence has been for two reasons:
1 - new job, settling in, sales to chase and implementations to do. Demanding - a lot of learning, new business relationships, new products and technologies. The initial 'deep-end' feeling has subsided somewhat now (I'm a fast study in techo stuff, being male - heh).
2 - the shock of coming back to little, young, empty, slow NZ took fully one month to work off. Not that, as I walk dogs down a practically deserted 10k of beach, I miss the terraced, 5 storey London that we worked in. But....

The ceramic we purchased in Barcelona has turned up, and in one piece! Thanks to the seller, who organised the coffin-maker to make a special box, and to FedEx. Ain't global transportation wunnerful?
It's still moving around as we figure how best to display it (and tie it down: NZ isn't known as the Shaky Isles for nothing).

Oh, linking. Here's a typically "I've thought it all out and here it is" fabulously detailed post - who else could? - on the new Iraq constitution: Steven Den Beste