Monthly Archives: November 2011

a-Pathetic

In a weekend of depressing news, the discovery that around 1 million New Zealanders failed to cast a vote on Saturday really takes the cake, no matter your political persuasion. So many attempts have been made to get to the bottom of voter apathy and yet no single explanation seem capable of shedding light on the phenomenon. Certainly in this election it can be assumed that the surety of National’s success and Labour’s demise kept some people away, thinking their vote would make little difference either way.

I must also not be alone in despairing at the almost complete lack of political coverage during the Ruby World Cup, save for the odd scandal or new polling data. From memory it wasn’t until the Wednesday following the nail-biting final that a combination of grinning jocks and slippery handshakes disappeared from the front page news, to be replaced by the sudden realisation that the election was a mere six weeks away. Is the turnout so surprising when so few could muster the energy to talk politics over the deafening roar of rugby fever?

Young people have come under even more fire for their particularly dismal turnout, an outcome that the Electoral Commission sought to avoid with its campaign to highlight the low enrolment rate of 18-24 year olds. In 2005 the Commission released a research document on young peoples engagement in political life, finding that a combination of disengagement, naivete, and distrust prevented young non-voters from making an effort. While there is not much to be done about the percentage who thought harder about the weekend than they did about their future, the dismaying revelations that many of those surveyed felt that making no choice was better than making the wrong one (or an ill-informed one) speaks to the scale of the problem.

Veteran commentator Brian Edwards had a thing or two to say on the subject earlier in the election cycle, making a strong case for the relationship between apathy and the glaring lack of civics education in the New Zealand high school curriculum . Having tutored first year politics, I can attest to the astonishing lack of knowledge that many of my fresh-out-of-school students displayed about elections, parliament and the whole democratic shebang. Many were eager to learn but it was certainly an uphill battle for those coming from a position of surprising ignorance. For the vast majority who don’t take a path through law or politics, that basic political education may never arrive. This year’s double whammy election choice (parliamentary and electoral system) may have been the final straw for those who feel overwhelmed by the many choices before them, and perhaps we can’t blame them.

Even as someone who was always going to vote, some of the commentary on this years electoral contests was off-putting to the point of nausea. Specifically, the ‘Battles’ between so-called blokes (John Key and Phil Goff) and babes (Jacinda Ardern and Nikki Kaye, in Auckland Central). It’s almost too depressing to dissect. Key and Goff’s attempts to ‘man up’ – recalling fist fights, revealing an unlikely love of Tui, claiming superior navigation skills –
merely reveal the tragic absurdity of the bloke stereotype. As Marianne Bevan over at Eleven Hours Ahead pointed out, these ‘real men’ which our would be PM’s are desperately trying to mimic never really existed. Moreover, their attempts to buy into this outdated cultural trope serve only to entrench the most harmful stereotypes for men that do linger- be strong, be the everyman, don’t think too hard about anything. Or else. It is difficult to back up my suspicion that few, if any, New Zealanders respond well to this kind of targeted pandering. Even if they did, there is zero justification on the part of both the leaders and the media for promoting the bullshit values that bloke culture perpetuates, at the expense of a legitimate discussion on real challenges that face the nation.

On the flipside, Nikki Kaye and Jacinda Ardern seem to be doing their best to rise above the tidal wave of insulting references to babes, jelly wresting and their martial status’ that have featured so prominently in coverage of their electorate. One particularly appalling article by Johnathon Milne at the Listener insisted their good grooming obviously meant they were vying to out-babe each other, and the only reason he was writing the article (and why we read it) was because the candidates were both young and attractive. And we wonder why female candidates still only make up 33% of Parliament?

Dodgy attempts to generate political controversy are not new. Nor, obviously, are double standards: me strong, you sexy. But let’s not pretend that by accepting shitty reporting and lazy stereotyping we aren’t doing more and more to turn off young people (and old, for that matter) from a crucial process that does so little to include them as is.

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Common Ground: exploring domestic ritual in Kenya

It’s like this – I’m going to Kenya!! And I’m super excited!!

I made this super awesome Pitch Video (see above) to go along with my crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.

This project will be my third that delves into family interactions. The first body of work that I made, You are a Perpetual Tourist, looks at everyday gesture between children and their parents, or adult relatives (and sometimes between brothers and sisters). The second project is still in process and has the current title Potential Spaces. Here is a video still:

I started Potential Spaces with my partner Matías Muñoz R., Chilean filmmaker and producer, during a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. We documented two bicultural couples over the period of two months during their times of leisure.

Now I’m going to Kenya in February to start Common Ground, where I will document rural Kenyan families doing their daily routines.

Thanks to everyone who has made each and everyone of these projects possible and PLEASE continue to spread the word!

twitter: @nicrademacher

facebook: Nicole Rademacher

indiegogo: Common Ground

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Why I’m voting Green in the New Zealand Election.

(Disclaimer: I’ve been doing a small amount of unpaid volunteer work for the Green Party this election.)

In less than one week in New Zealand us citizens get the chance to share in the once-every-three-year opportunity to action on democratic right to vote. This is important. Representational democracy has lots of problems and is far from perfect, but if nothing else it plays a critical rule in ensuring we don’t ever have to live in a dictatorship.

Compared to going out and ‘doing good things’ in the world around you, voting probably isn’t the most important democratic thing we do. But it is the most symbolic, and like the occupy protests occurring around the world, you somewhat lose your moral right to have an opinion if you don’t participate.

There is a bunch of freedom’s that we have and often forget about, one of these is the freedom to express political views. I think in New Zealand political discussion is treated a bit like religion, something we avoid so as not to accidentally offend. Today, I’d like to use this freedom to write about why I am voting Green.

I’m deeply suspicious of branding, and the green brand is like any other in that one needs to scratch beneath the nice posters, smiling politicians, and nice niceness that branding creates. The Greens are a made of people whose reason for getting into politics is because they give a fuck about certain issues and since these issues are the volition, the reason for them acting, they continue to take precedent. A journey with the Green Party has never been a journey to the seats of power so the lure of ‘being-on-the-end-of-the-phone’ is a lot less powerful. So, yes the Green brand is a brand, but fortunately when this is brand is examined there is a healthy depth of knowledge and policy below the surface.

There are three policy that important for me at the moment, and the Green’s Position on these that is deciding my vote.

1. Urbanism.

Design literacy in this country is sadly lacking. It’s the curse of being a frontier country without thousands of years of built precedent and trial and error of built form. As the Green party is part of an international movement, it understands that public transport and well designed public space are integral parts of the good citiy, healthy society, and an innovative economy. The often cited need to choose between cars and public transport is a false one. We will always need and use cars, however the last 40 years of international research and precedent (London, Copenhagen, New York) show us that planning cities around cars instead of public transport is a failed idea. We fail to recognise this because we alway view the problem from the viewpoint of the individual rather than the city. There is an idiotic article in the NZ Herald today arguing that rail will always fail in New Zealand. What this fails to appreciate is transport decisions don’t just respond to the present needs of a city, they powerfully alter the behaviour of a city in a future and how it grows and changes.   Increasing roads, esp to marginal areas of land leads to low density of housing, which leads to inefficient infrastructure, high rates, destruction of important agricultural land, and an unsustainable reliance on cheap oil to move around the city.   Improving public transport, through all means, bike, bus, rail leads to increased density, this is better for business, and more diverse business, more efficient service delivery, protection of agriculture and natural systems.   All the cities in the world need to re-invent themselves in the next 50 years, and the battle for Auckland and Christchurch is very much on at the moment.

2. Child Poverty.

That a country as rich as New Zealand has a significant poverty problem is an outrage.  That this problem is allowed to affect thousands of children is even more outrageous. That the large majority of these children are Maori and yet we claim to be a healthy post-colonial country is outrageous.  That the solutions to the problems of child poverty exist and are evidenced based and affordable and not enacted is even more outrageous.  This isn’t a political issue, it’s a moral one.   A curse on the houses of both Labour and National for allowing this to happen, and good on the Greens for having the most comprehensive strategy to work with this issue.  For more in depth information about this topic please visit the Every Child Counts website. 

3.    Other

I was going to discuss that I like the Green movement because, popular to contrary belief, it basis it’s humanist policy on evidence and research not by fulfilling the wishes of cashed up lobby groups like the truck, farmer, and alcohol lobbys which write most of the current governments policy.  But actually, I’d be happy if a government could just fix the first two no-brainers on this list.   If we can get agreement on things like 21st Century transport and Child poverty issues, then after that perhaps we can start talking about the more difficult areas of governance, until action is taken on the easy and important issue the Government is a farce.

The fact that the Green’s consistently and patiently argue for these sensible solutions to  long term problems is why I am voting for them on Saturday.

 

 

 

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Come Home Walking

When I was home in New Zealand last week, I went for a walk down the West shore of Lake Ohau.

It’s an immense place, looking North to Aoraki, New Zealand’s highest peak, and East to Ben Ohau.

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The problem with books…

So we run a small publishing company here at Freerange, which loosely means we try to marry author and creators of work with an audience via some sort of printing process, digital or physical.  I am also a student who needs to read and study books for the phd I am undertaking.  Both these activities have got me thinking about books, and the logic of books, at least the process where “something interesting that someone has written” gets “into my brain through my eyes“.

Traditionally this process would have gone through quite a few layers of industrialised systems: negotiating contracts, setting out a book, raising funds, printing several thousand copies, distributing to book wholesalers, selling to book stores, and then we’d find a lovely book sitting their innocently waiting for us to buy.    This process favoured safe publishing as large quantities were needed to make the economic logic work, but we did know where to get the books we wanted into our hands.

Two new technologies have transformed this process and made it much more free and confusing.  The first is that we can now read things on screens without printing.  I know I know, people love books. I do too, but to assert that as the main point is to miss the fact that reading on the screen enables us to read peoples work without the massive systems needed to get a book to print in a store.  This freedom of publishing that is the internet definately has its downsides with common lack of editorial oversite and quality control, but hey, this is a good problem, it also has its upside with the consumption of less resources. (less physical resource anyway, still uses energy).  The second new technology is newer faster smaller printing devices that break down the old need to print large expensive runs of books.  The printing of Freerange Journal is made possible by the invention of TruePress printers of which there are only 2 in Australasia that enable us to print small runs of our journal reasonably affordable.

What is frustrating me is that in NZ and Aus we are in an annoying between the old models of beautiful bookstores and some future of beautiful digital efficiency, and this space between seems to be worse than either.  So today I wanted to get my hands on two books. 1. Hannah Arendts “The Human Condition” and 2. “The Resilient City”. Neither are particularly popular books, but both are in print.

It would be nice to visit a bookstore and buy them, but because of the changed economy of books there are not many stores with large collections now and I don’t want to waste half a day visiting them to walk away empty handed, and sadly in NZ the 2nd hand bookstores and good bookstores don’t seem to have their catalogues accesible.

I wouldn’t mind buying them digitally to have as high quality files that are readable and searchable on the computer either, but for some insane reason the e-versions are more expensive than printing, wharehousing and shipping them halfway across the planet.

So I can buy online, and spend 3/4 of the cost of them book on shipping them to NZ.  I can’t understand why all the books in the world need to come from the UK or the States when surely most of them are printed in China now.   Why can these companies not have big warehouses in different locations to cut on shipping?  Either that our get Print on Demand working better so books are printed locally.

Every time I try to find NZ or Aus places to buy these books all they seem to be doing is ordering them from overseas and putting a mark up on them for that.  As much as I like to support local business that is just wasting money.

The cost breakdown of the books was:

1 The Human Condition

via Amazon:  $US10 to buy $18 to ship to NZ

via Book depository: $NZ23 including postage.

Not available as an e-book.

2. The Resilient City

Via Amazon: $US23 to buy $US18 to ship.

Via Book depository: $NZ42 including postage.

E-b00k. $NZ60!

The end of this rant is:

1. The stores in smaller places need to digitise their collections so I can know what they have in their store and visit it to buy it, and enjoy the beauty of a proper bookstore.

2. The big international online suppliers need to sort their shit out so the supply chains are more sensible, when oil starts hitting 3 then 4 then 5 then 6 dollars a litre they are going to have to anyway.

3. Finally the big e-battle between Apple via i-pad, Amazon via kindle and Google via their opensource system is making the whole online thing confusing and difficult, as a reader why should I pay more for a digital version, and as a publisher why should I have to reformat a book 8 times and make lots of separate contracts with different suppliers for them to make all the money off.

 

 

 

 

 

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