Monday, December 15, 2008

From My Desk

I have been tidying my study. This all too rare event was precipitated by having new windows installed in the study on Saturday. This should enable the room to avoid being too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. As well as notes of talks, minutes of meetings, team lists of hockey teams, debris from various trips and mail that made it past the bin but not into the mind, (which I have decided to call "sunk mail" - it was not quite "junk mail" but it sunk without a trace). I have also found an alarming number of notes to myself.

These little memos are things I come across that I want to remember. It is part of my pathological curiosity about pretty much everything. More recent examples: "New Zealand is 2nd only to Taiwan in an international survey on bullying at school". "There were 1000 alcohol related calls to Police in Wellington on Saturday night, when the weather is good we apparently just keep drinking. 1000 people in New Zealand died from alcohol related incidents last year." Or in a similarly cheery note "NZ has the second highest teen pregnancy rate in the OECD and one of the highest abortion rates. The abortion rate has trebled since 1980 and doubled for girls aged 11-14 since 1991. STDs have also increased with gonorrhea up 52%. Karl du Fresne writing in the Dominion Post commented; "The dismal picture of sexual disease among young New Zealanders will confirm what many have suspected. Under the guise of 'safe sex' the Family Planning Association has in reality been promoting promiscuity and at the same time vigorously subverting parental authority". In the same article he observes those who are "energetically working to dismantle the traditional social taboos surrounding sex and creating a climate of experimentation" and tellingly comments "of the cost of imposing baby boomer liberalism on the next generation". It is a challenge to know how best to speak and work into the "dark side" of New Zealand culture. For all the beautiful scenery and the opportunities we have, in addition to the above, depressing levels of child poverty, of child abuse, of domestic violence and increasing violent crime. This is an opportunity but a tough one.

Another scribble tells me that 38% of the population of NZ has tertiary qualifications compared to an OECD average of 27% but that graduates enjoy a "relatively slim" earning advantage of 15-25% over people who got jobs straight from school. I wonder as more people go into tertiary education and are expected to pay more for the privilege if we will see both school leavers and employers starting to look for alternate models to a traditional university education. The same scrap tells me that 1 in 4 students in NZ are from overseas compared to 1 in 5 in Australia.

Flying back from Australia I watched "Bottle Shock" a movie about the 1976 "Judgement of Paris" Wine Competition. My boarding pass is slightly hard to read but I think the wines were Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Cabernet. This was the event that put Californian wine on the map. The judges in the blind tasting scored the Californian wines higher that the French ones. One of the characters speaking of the events "We have shattered the myth of the invincibility of the French vine. Not just in Napa we have opened the eyes of the world. Mark my words we will soon be drinking wine from South America, Australia and New Zealand, Africa, India China. This is not the end it is the beginning. Welcome to the future." Interesting movie about how a small group of determined individuals rocked the world. I want to encourage those who are experimenting with new wine. New wine and new wineskins. I have listened to a few talks recently where speakers in their 50s have referred back to those who went before them in shaping their world. History is important but for a generation that can feel overawed by those they are listening to, never mind the weight of those legends from a previous generation it can be disempowering. The Eurocentric, hierarchical, modernist world is passing. Welcome to the future.

I also watched the opening episode of "Eli Stone". In his opening soliloquy the eponymous central character explains his life;
"Until recently my belief in a higher power was limited to worshipping the holy trinity of Armani, accessories and my personal favourite ambition. Okay so maybe I wasn’t exactly saintlike. But I didn’t mind that I wasn’t the idealistic kid I used to be. I was to busy being that guy. You know the guy you see in an office or across a restaurant and you think that guy has got it all. Hell I thought I did and then I heard the music."
Turns out Eli has a medical condition which may be causing him to hallucinate but it is an interesting testimony. How do we sing the Lord's song in a strange land in ways that express our identity, build community and provoke those who are intent on worshipping man made Gods to hear the music?

Apart from a PIN number, a phone number that I do not recognise and something about nano technology that I don't understand what I was thinking the final scrap I wrote last Easter when we were in Sydney at the Powerhaus museum. I went to see the exhibition on Princess Diana. Ailsa and the boys were not that interested, so I joined 100s of middle aged women, some wearing replica dresses of famous outfits. It is astonishing the devotion that she commands and her death is one of the global phenomena of my lifetime. The thing that caught my eye though was a Bible that Diana had been given by Mother Theresa when she visited Calcutta. Mother Theresa had writen inside the cover the inscription;
"Jesus is the truth to be told, the life to be lived, the love to be loved, the light to be lit.
Let us love Jesus with an undivided love and others as he loves you and me"
A great message from one of the most famous women of the 20th century to another. They lived very different lives and leave very different legacies. I wonder how many noticed the inscription. I bet it was fewer than those who noticed the polka dot dress.

Anyway these are the kind of things I think about and now that you know I can put all the little bits of paper into the bin. I can also drag the pictures that my computer has been taking of me at my desk into the trash too! Normal service of pictures of nice children will be resumed shortly!


whynotsmile said...

Nigel, you've got to stop going to Princess Diana exhibits in a polka-dot dress.

Nigel Pollock said...

Maybe I misunderstood cultural contextualisation and took it a little far? I was just trying to blend in. (at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

Ben Carswell said...

I'm worried about you - taking all those strange pictures of yourself!

Maybe it should be me that I'm worried about - I spent much of yesterday evening doing the same from my desk & finding some of those same articles/clippings/stats in my pile of stuff...since you've blogged them, what am I to do with all my bits of paper? We live in hope that at some point they will be useful for a talk or article or something, somewhere! For now, they're back in the filing system...

Nigel Pollock said...

You have a filing SYSTEM? Wow - maybe it is me that should be worried about you!

As for the "strange pictures".... they said the same thing to Vincent Van Gogh and before you come round to confiscate my cutlery I am NOT thinking of cutting my ear off.

Have a great time in NornIron over Christmas.