Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Like a rock in the sea

At two o’clock in the morning, a few metres under Karangahape Road, at the end of the series of low-ceilinged rooms collectively known as the Wine Cellar, Bill Direen is playing the opening notes of ‘Dublin’, a song he wrote nearly a quarter of a century ago. Bill shares the small stage with the latest reformation of the backing band he has sometimes called The Bilders, and has at other times dubbed Die Bilder, Bilderine, and The Urbs.

Like Trotskyist study groups or Calvinist churches, The Bilders and most of the other great Flying Nun bands were, in their 1980s heyday, inherently unstable, inevitably fissiparous outfits. The same punkish love of improvised performance and do-it-yourself recording which brought band members together led to contests of ideas and splits, as this or that member left to establish his or her own version of the faith. Tonight’s keyboardist, whose face is almost obscured by a Tolkienesque beard, left The Bilders to found a cult Flying Nun outfit named The Terminals. The other men on stage have formed various bands of their own, and earned their own places in musical folklore.

There is something disconcerting, though, about the reunion of these legendary figures. Jorge Luis Borges has a short story in which the Gods of antiquity – Janus, and beak-nosed Thoth, and other beings marginalised for millennia by the jealous abstract deity of the Abrahamic faiths – materialise on a dais in a Buenos Aires lecture theatre. The mortals who have crowded the theatre, eager to adore the long-absent Gods, are soon dismayed to find that the objects of their reverence have suffered the indignity of physical decay. The Gods’ brows are beetled; their teeth are yellow. I think of Borges’ story when I look at the potbellies and the receding hairlines and the greying beard on stage. Would these Gods have done better to hide from us, and to thereby preserve the images established by old album sleeves and memories of gigs at the Gluepot and the Captain Cook?

Of all the men on stage, only Bill seems to show no trace of decay. His stomach is flat, his scalp is well-covered in thick brown hair, and his face, from this distance and in this light, seems almost unnaturally smooth. He could have materialised straight from the mid-‘80s.

Bill was a teenage folkie before he was a teenage punk, and the lilting melody of ‘Dublin’ might have been borrowed from one of the hundreds of songs his Irish ancestors brought with them when they emigrated to the South Island more than a century ago. The lyrics of the song, too, seem old: full of poetic inversions and images Yeats might have used during his Celtic Twilight period, they speak of the gap between innocence and experience, and of the mysteries which the aged cannot share with the young:

What darkness is this, suddenly fallen?

There’s a vanishing door, but I’ll not tell you more
There are things that are meant to unfold

This is a song that I love
That I learned long ago

There are things I could tell
But it won’t do you well

You must wait like a rock in the sea


Bill sings in a low, steady voice. The Bilders accompany him gently, and the crowd is quiet, so that when I close my eyes I can imagine a jukebox turned down low in an empty bar at the end of a summer night.

After the last verse of the song, though, Bill drops half to his knees and begins to play a loud, jagged solo. His smooth face is suddenly a mess of wrinkles; his eyes are shut tight. The men and women around me whoop and jump up and down and hold their bottles of Macs and Emersons aloft like torches.

Even the old fans, as obviously subject to decay as the men on stage, pogo like young punks. I am standing beside Graham Humphries, who has spilled most of his beer with his impromptu salute to Bill’s solo. Humphries punched me in the face a couple of songs ago, when he decided to celebrate the solo in the middle of ‘Bedrock Bay’ by closing his eyes and performing clumsy star jumps. Holding a cool bottle to my bulging eye socket, I was about to remonstrate with Humphries, who was oblivious to his deed, when I remembered that Skyler and I had played his music at our civil union. How, I was forced to ask myself, could I reasonably object to getting a left hook under the eye from the man who wrote a love song as gorgeous as ‘Sour Queen’?

Not all of the punks are old. A teenager with a shock of platinum hair is whooping particularly loudly, and making a cryptic gesture with his thumb and forefinger whenever Bill changes chords.

Eventually Bill finishes his solo, and steps away from the front of the stage. He has opened his eyes so that he can wipe them. The rest of the band lose the melody, then fall into silence one by one, then remonstrate with one another, as the stage lights dim. “We’re taking a break” Bill says, from somewhere near the back of the stage. “We may be a while.”

A couple of weeks ago Skyler and I drove Bill down the Southern Motorway, past the turnoffs to suburbs which remain to him exotic names, into the recently-abolished district of Franklin. Bill had for some time wanted to visit Tuakau, the little town on the lower Waikato where his father attended a boarding school run by Marist brothers in the 1930s. Andy Direen’s working class Catholic parents had sent him north from Timaru after he had capped his primary school education by winning a scholarship to the Tuakau Juniorate.

A photo on the rambling, luxuriantly detailed website run by and for old boys of the school at Tuakau offers a view of Andy Direen in 1938, wearing the black shorts, black socks, and black long-sleeved shirt with two white buttons which comprised the uniform of the Juniorate. If it were not for the bare knees and smooth smiling faces they show in photos, the school’s students might be taken for members of Mosley’s Blackshirts, or of the Spanish Phalangist militia that leaders of New Zealand’s Catholic church were supporting so uncritically in the second half of the ‘30s. Other corners of the Juniorate old boys’ website record the adventures of Andy and his fellow pupils on the modest peaks of the Bombay Hills, and at the children’s health camp near the mouth of the Waikato River.

Andy Direen died near the end of 2010. The obituary which appeared in The Press on the first day of 2011 gave prominence to his wartime career in the Royal Air Force, a career which saw him dropping torpedo-bombs on the oversized German battleship Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord, and later flying out from Ceylon to destroy Japanese oil refineries in the Sumatran city of Palembang. The Press eventually described Direen’s postwar career as an accountant in Palmerston North and Christchurch, but it barely mentioned his teenage years in Tuakau.

We turned off the motorway at Drury, and stopped for a cup of tea at my parents’ farm. I grew up on the farm, less than a quarter hour’s drive from the site of the Juniorate, but I had no idea the school existed until Bill told me about the part it had played in his father’s life. The old boys’ website stated that the Juniorate had closed in 1974, but gave no clue as to what had happened to its red brick buildings and its playing fields and its stone grotto adorned with a plaster Mary. Even the colour photos on the website might have been taken forty years ago.

My parents were as ignorant as I had been about the Tuakau Juniorate. Bill wasn’t surprised by our innocence of the place.
“It’s a micronation” he announced, squinting into his teacup.
“A secession, a nation within a nation. There are lots of them in New Zealand. We seem to need them.”

The mention of secession reminded my father of the South Island.
“New Zealand ends at the Bombay Hills. I never vote for South Islanders in Fonterra elections, you know. They’re a funny lot. Xenophobic. The South Island has had a tough year, with the earthquake and this mine thing. I think we should cut them loose. Auckland should unite with New South Wales.”
Bill didn’t detect the joke. “You advocate the division of New Zealand?” he asked politely.
“Yes! The South is a burden. We’ll sell you lot to the Chinese. China needs more land.”
“I’ll have to think about that carefully. I’ll have to bear it in mind.”
“I’m just joking, you know.”
“I’ll bear it in mind”.
“I’m joking.”
The awkward silence became a comfortable silence, as we sat and sipped our tea and looked out a window at the Drury Hills, which had turned worryingly brown since my last visit. The wires of a distant fenceline shimmered in the heat; for a moment I imagined that an earthquake was moving them. “We need some rain” my father finally said. “You South Islanders bring droughts up with you”.

As we drove southwest toward Tuakau, past the glasshouses and hen houses and country houses of Ramarama, I asked Bill how he was enjoying the Franklin countryside. Bill has spent almost all of his life in cities, and both his songs and his stories teem with urban imagery. He has passed much of the past decade in Paris, but has almost never entered the French countryside. He told me once that open spaces made him feel lonely, and aggravated his tinnitus. But Bill liked Auckland’s southern greenbelt. “This is good country” he said as passed through Harrisville, the area of onion and potato farms that bears the name of one of the generals who invaded the Waikato Kingdom in 1863. “It’s densely populated, isn’t it, this land? And people look like they are using it. It doesn’t have that bleakness you sometimes get in New Zealand…”

Harrisville was intended to be a country town, complete with a wide main street and a paved square, but the soldier-settlers who had helped Harris seize the Waikato soon abandoned the place, realising that there were no jobs to be had, and knowing that the small plots of land they had been gifted by the government in Auckland were absurdly uneconomic, even for subsistence purposes. It took the growth of Auckland, the invention of refrigerated shipping, and the arrival of skilled farmers from Ulster and – later – Gujarat to make this part of Franklin economically viable. Today the small plots and intensive cropping give Harrisville a curiously Old World air, despite the groves of puriri and totara which still stand on the edges of some of its fields. We crossed the railway line at the edge of Tuakau, and turned left, away from the township, up Dominion Road. The drive which led to the complex of red brick buildings was protected by puriri which must have been saplings when Andy Direen was young. A door was open in one of the buildings; inside, a middle-aged woman asked if we’d come “to buy the place”. Most of the old Juniorate was up for sale, she explained.
“The Felix Donnelly Trust, they had it. They had it for a school for troubled kids, but the Education Review Office has closed them down. Poor conditions, they said. The kids were suffering. This building is being rented by Youthlink – we do counseling here. The rest of the place is for sale. Take a look. You may decide to buy it after all.” The buildings were set on a low hill which fell away into fields of grass tall enough for children to hide in. Desks and tables and chairs had abandoned their classrooms and taken up positions on the external staircases and concrete verges of the larger structures.

Skyler went looking for Mary and her grotto. “We had a plaster Mary and a grotto at my school” Bill remembered, as he stood on the newly-mown lawn that surrounded the empty buildings. “Mary is everywhere.”

When the Tainui people pushed out of their base around Kawhia into this part of Te Ika a Maui hundreds of years ago, they left small stone figures in the soil of the rohe they crossed, and thereby rendered the new land hospitable. I wondered whether the Catholic tendency to leave images of Mary in the most improbable places might have its origin in the same sort of desire to make a homeland out of a strange new land.

At the end of the ‘70s Bruce Hayward carried out a comprehensive survey of historical and prehistoric sites in the Waitakere Ranges; one of his more surprising discoveries was a rectangular grotto cut into a clay bank along the edge of Anawhata Road. Long obscured by scrub, the space had once housed a statue of Mary which had been carried through the bush of the Waitakeres by the Irish workers who built the road to Anawhata. When the roadbuilders broke up their camp and returned to the city, they took Mary with them; in the same way, the Marist brothers appear to have evacuated Mary from the grounds of their old Juniorate. Skyler could find no signs of the Virgin, but I spotted a pile of stones which might have been the remains of a demolished grotto. Bill took photos of the walls of the Juniorate’s main building, zooming in and out, stepping this way and that, trying to locate his subject in the landscape. Against the blues and greys of the sky and the waving shades of green in the unstocked paddocks behind it, the long rectangle of red looked, from a distance, like the decisive element in an abstract painting by Hans Hoffman or Milan Mrkusich, the block of vivid yet undifferentiated colour which holds the composition together and compels the viewer’s gaze. Close up, though, each brick was defined by some small imperfection: a chip the size of a small marble, or a chalked grafitto, or a long elegant sliver of fossilised birdshit.

I asked Bill if the physical decline of the Juniorate saddened him. “It is a place I couldn’t enter anyway” he replied. “Even if it was open I couldn’t enter. Not in the way my father could. It’s a micronation.” It would be tempting to make the Tuakau Juniorate into a symbol of the much-publicised crisis of Catholicism, as the church struggles, in Western nations like New Zealand at least, to reconcile the asperity of its leader’s moral judgments with perpetual revelations of sexual misdeeds by his employees. But no former student of the Tuakau Juniorate has accused the Marist Brothers of abuse, and the Felix Donnelly Trust bears the name of a priest who, even in the relatively liberal 1970s, was ostracised by the church for his criticism of its theological and sexual conservatism. If Donnelly’s school had failings, it would be unfair to rush to associate these with mainstream Catholicism. The Tuakau Juniorate may be decaying, and orders like the Marist Brothers may be failing to attract new members, but only twenty minutes’ drive away, in the Bombay Hills the young Andy Direen liked to explore on weekends, a monastery and nunnery which share the name Tynburn recently expanded their operation, opening a visitors’ centre and a space where outsiders can come for weekend ‘spiritual retreats’.

“My father never said anything bad about this place” Bill remembered, as he put his camera away and turned for the car. “Nor did he have anything bad to say about the church. Some of his army friends said that they expected him to become a priest, once the war was over. They were surprised when he chose accountancy, but perhaps there are some similarities. Counting shillings, counting souls…” The road to Port Waikato runs twenty or so kilometers along the southern bank of the river, after crossing the dusty art deco bridge on the far side of Tuakau. Fringed by swamps and fed by tributary streams and farm run-offs, the lower Waikato is bloated and brown. The farmland close to the river is either swampy or hilly; after the conquest of the Waikato much of it escaped confiscation. Today Maori-owned farms in this area still sometimes struggle to get the capital investment they need for new milksheds and gorse clearance. Banks used to the tidy Pakeha model of the single proprietor dislike having to negotiate with scores of owners from multiple whanau or hapu.

My father once told me a story about travelling with his rugby team across the Tuakau bridge to play a game at one of the marae on the road to Port Waikato. “We were all set to go out on the field when someone realised that a blackberry bush was growing on the twenty-two” he remembered. “The Maoris sent some goats out onto the field, and we all sat down and had a few beers while we waited for the goats to get rid of the bush.” The south side of the river feels a long way from Harrisville and Drury. The Port Waikato Outdoor Education Centre sits a few hundred metres from the main road, at the bottom of an almost-vertical hillside, beside the Maraetai Stream, which has the distinction of being the very last tributary to flow into the Waikato before the river reaches the Tasman. The Centre is the successor to a children’s camp set up in the late ‘20s by Hilda Ross, the ferocious Hamiltonian socialite who eventually became a National MP and a member of Sid Holland’s Cabinet. Ross’ institution was one of a network of health camps organised by well-heeled New Zealanders in the ‘20s and ‘30s. In a 1996 essay on the health camp movement, Margaret Tennant argues that Ross and her colleagues were driven by the fear that the poor food and crowded living conditions of New Zealand’s burgeoning urban slums would create a generation of physical and moral degenerates. The health camps were an attempt to preserve the country’s ‘racial strength’.

The children sent to Ross’ camp usually came from the poorer parts of Hamilton and other Waikato towns, after being commended as worthy cases by their doctors. The Tuakau Juniorate students, who mostly came from modest backgrounds, seem to have visited on weekends, and sometimes during longer holiday breaks.

Camp guests were woken at six-thirty, made to wash in the stream behind their dormitory-huts, and then assembled around a large flagpole, where the Union Jack was hoisted and patriotic songs were sung. Later Ross and her staff would inspect the huts, while the children stood to attention beside their beds. Ross weighed the children regularly, and fed them large amounts of fatty foods, like porridge coated with a thick layer of sugar, in an effort to bulk them up quickly. Children were also subjected to ‘heliotherapy’, which was a fashionable ‘30s term for sunburn.

As we wandered past the thick trunk of the flagpole Hilda Ross erected at the centre of her fiefdom, I decided to avoid asking Bill, who is the most militant republican I have ever met, how an Irish Catholic boy like his father might have felt about having to salute the Union Jack every morning. Bill already had misgivings about the camp. “All a bit militaristic, isn’t it?” he asked, pointing at a row of huts with names like Captain’s Cabin and CO’s Den. One of the oldest buildings on the site boasted a painted mural showing a grove of trees and the motto AND the LEAVES of the TREE were for the HEALING of the NATION. Puriri, karaka and other natives grow by the dozen around the camp, but the mural showed oaks and gums and other exotic trees. As we finished the drive to Port Waikato Skyler asked Bill about his parents’ Catholicism. Was it partly the rituals, the vivid garments, and the serenely beautiful music which attracted them? Skyler’s own parents were for some time enthusiasts for the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, the prophet of a creed quite as elaborate and strange as Catholicism. They taught in Steiner schools, and for a few years took Skyler to a church full of psychedelic murals and inscrutable ceremonies. “My mother was attracted to the beauty of the religion” Bill remembered. “It is a type of art, really. Or it was, for her."

The baches at Port Waikato are still single-storey wood or fibrolite affairs, not the mansions of marble and tiles found in many other twenty-first century New Zealand beach towns. Relative isolation, black sand and exceptionally rough surf mean that the Port has never been fashionable, even during property booms. We walked the hundred or so metres from the carpark to the cliff which marks one end of the beach. Five kilometers to our north, at the end of a system of high ironsand dunes, the Waikato slips into the open ocean, unseen by anyone except the occasional trekker.

I spotted some shells clinging to the eroding side of the cliff. Bill put his hand to the midden, feeling the warmth of the afternoon sun on the compacted black sand.
“People ate their meals here, hundreds of years ago, left their rubbish? You’re sure? Hundreds of years…That’s a long time.”
He stood with his hand on the midden and his head bowed.

This is a song that I love
That I learned long ago

There are things I could tell
But it won’t do you well

You must wait like a rock in the sea

27 Comments:

Anonymous Meros said...

The Borges story was 'Ragnarok', right?
But if so, the defining point was that the Gods couldn't speak. There was silence, a silence of the sort of some man pondering "I'll bear it in mind, I'll bear it in mind"

And then what did we do? What did the crowd do?
Well.... that's when we reached for our revolvers "(all of a sudden there were revolvers in the dream)"

And what did we do to those who consorted with the Gods? I know, I know: Borges does not say.

I suspect that we put them before a People's Court.

8:59 am  
Blogger maps said...

You're sharp Meros. I am somewhat obsessed with 'Ragnarok' - I rewrote it once and set it on a Kiwi farm:
http://readingthemaps.blogspot.com/2009/11/report-from-tank.html

I couldn't find a copy of the story around the house yesterday, so I googled it, and discovered that a group of role playing enthusiasts want to turn it into a game:
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.
php?t=500231

That got me thinking: wouldn't it be great to do a series of role playing 'sessions' (I can't remember the name roleplayers give to a game which lasts only for a few hours - a 'campaign' is a game that is dragged out over many meetings) based on classic New Zealand short stories? If they were recorded and transcribed they might make an odd but interesting book...

Thanks very much, btw, for the docs. I will mull over and reply to 'em...

9:15 am  
Anonymous Ray said...

Thank you for that, loverly to read some good blog writing

9:16 am  
Blogger Bill said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:35 am  
Blogger Bill said...

I wasn't sure if you were intending to write up our trip ... but I guess you document nearly everything you do and I'm glad. Very entertaining and informative. The outing is an excellent vehicle for your astounding personal knowledge of the area (and research into all manner of human activity related to it). You have even given me a line I could use in a song ;- I don't remember saying "Mary is everywhere" but could well have! But there is the beautiful Jimi Hendrix song "The Wind Cries Mary" already... I think I was saying that the Marist order, being founded upon worship of Mary, had a softer side, maternal (theoretically/doctrinally at least) lacking, perhaps, in some of the other orders. What the heck; you have not said anything I feel is disrespectful to dad. He'd have read it closely, and I think he'd have appreciated it. Thanks.

9:42 am  
Blogger hamshi said...

Mickle was in the Vaccuum and the Victor Dimisich band? Are you sure?

11:56 am  
Blogger Stuart Page said...

I think he's confusing El Borrado with Stephen Cogle? And hey, Bill's just better at holding his stomach in. Years of practise.

12:07 pm  
Blogger hamshi said...

Great show Stuart and Bill... definitely worth staying up to 3am on a weeknight. Bill has so many hits I would've quite happily stayed up the rest of the night to see and hear the whole back catalog being reinvented.

12:14 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I could well be getting confused about the tangled whakapapa of The Bilders. Perhaps someone wants to construct a tree diagram?

The gig was very good indeed, and I am of course being unfair when I mention the waistlines and scalps of certain Bilders members instead of their fine playing. It's just that with rock musos one has a certain irrational expectation of eternal youth...

1:53 pm  
Blogger Sandra - too heavy to stand on a soapbox, but undeterred said...

Great stuff once again Maps.

7:32 pm  
Blogger Bill said...

It is very complicated indeed. During our drive north for the Auckland gig which Hamshi says was worth staying up for, Mickle spoke with his infectious enthusiasm of the jams he and I had many years before. He played bass then, a Rickenbacker; but I think Hamshi is right that the Vacuum years are too early for Mick. Having looked into my diaries I see that our sessions must have been in 1984, the Blue Ladder period.

8:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm tempted to make a Tolkien head comment. Certainly don't have Vacuuming or VDB on my CV. I did time in SEP and a few other culty and/or obscure units. Never been one of the Gods, more of a footnote in the apocrypha. And beatle-browed and toothless rather than yellow-toothed. That probably doesn't invalidate para 3 totally though.

Cheers
mick

9:58 pm  
Blogger maps said...

You gave us some fine playing on the night, though, Mick - marvellous little minimalist beeps and burps which reminded me of the keyboard work on some of Miles Davis' weirdest fusion albums.

I got The Vacuum and VDB references from Brett Cross, who is himself a former Bilder, but he may have heard them from Bill.

There's a fascinating article here on the fates of the scores of ex-members of legendary Brit band The Fall:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2006/jan/05/popandrock

11:15 pm  
Blogger maps said...

That link got cut off - here it is again (I've never learnt how to embed them in comments threads):
http://www.guardian.co.uk/
music/2006/jan/05/popandrock

I'll remove those references to the VDB and Vacuum.

11:17 pm  
Blogger Stuart Page said...

Personally it was some of the most interesting playing I'd done for a while, and getting Mick onboard was so obvious given that we were about to head to ChCh without a keyboard player, and that we were to be playing such keyboard-centric tracks as AMERICA and ALIEN et al I considered that to be a crime. I'd seen Mick performing with Shadow Of The Valley at a monster gig (along with Axemen / Loliners / Ritchie Venus / Stephen Cogel / Minus Two / Phosby and more) at the Christchurch Media Club Dec 2008 and having previously enjoyed drumming only to his bass playing in the Axemen, was astounded at his keyboard prowess. So I suggested we get him onboard, and after a bit of cyber-wait we eventually got a reply, something along the lines of "Hell yeah!"— and so the late 2010/2011 mutation of the Bilders came to be, for three gigs, Lyttelton, Port Chalmers & Auckland... a set of 35 songs covering pretty much the entire repertoire of said Mr Direen. It felt like we were about to lift off after three gigs, Bryan Crook commented recently that it takes about 5 gigs before you're ready to go... but Bill was winging his way to Paris after a few false starts that I won't mention, oops! Sorry! And it's unlikely that we'll corroborate again until 2012. Sounds like a long way off but we've nearly burned off two months of this very interesting year already. So hold tight. I feel more Bilding in the near future.

12:03 am  
Blogger Stuart Page said...

...oh and both Mick & I are veteran readers of The Fallen as well as all the other books written by or about the Marquis :-)

12:07 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Good reflective post. Bill has wide talents from music to literature.

But you go a bit heavy on the decay stuff Maps! People usually only decay after they are dead!

We are all getting on...you yourself are "improving in years"...!

So, in any case, Bill "bridges" the world of degenerate pop music and the high arts of literature etc.

12:42 am  
Blogger Bill said...

Hi, Stuart, there was a similar story behind the recruitment of Andrew McCully for the 2008 Bilders (a fine keyboardist too). That happened thanks to Brett Cross and Scott Hamilton's intercession, beguiling and cajoling. Not that Mick had to be beguiled. We had a lot in common already. As for the connection between music and the Marists, it could be a subject worthy of research or attention. As i mentioned in a separate letter to Steve Cogle this morning (explaining how Brett could have mistaken bearded Mick for bearded Steve) it is interesting that all of the final lineup of the early band VACUUM (Steve, me, Allen Meek and Peter Stapelton) were educated by Marists. Perhaps some of the Mary-devoted maternal mysticism of the Marists can be felt in the songs of all of these bands ...

3:59 am  
Anonymous Meros said...

I've never been one for role-playing, re: maps @2. I believe that my face can't hold up to such scrutiny. It would softly implode, like wet clay without a mould to support it.

I do like, however, a recorded and transcribed version of the 'sessions' in the same way I like the idea of multiple translations as working like Chinese Whispers, but where the translation, the whisper, the performance, eventually comes back to the same listener, language, form, that it started in.

On the other hand, "CIRCLE OF BLOOOOOD!!! play CIRCLE OF BLOOOOOOODD!!!"

10:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Navy officer classes was lower middle class with a few higher class officers often of brilliance and ruthless but who would never make it past commander or captain since 45. The Air Force officers are the hardline lower middle class in the country almost fatally weakened in numbers and influence by the axing of the Skyhawks. And surely if you were planning an insurrection you would be certain a frigate and the best airforce units were 10,000 miles away. The Army did have a class of brilliant combat capable maori officers and they still exist to a degree in the SAS, but maori loyalties are divided and I have always been certain that 60% of maoris would side with the Europeans in the event of insurrection. The danger in New Zealand is of a too left radical government pakeha led, not of trouble from the pa. Hone Heke's decision was that difficult and suspicious as the relationship was the Maori chance was with the Europeans.
Obviously the military are capable of suppression it is a question of whether the left or right factiion in the military or police would have the arms.Nothing could be more suitable for urban suppression than a Lav 3 its 25mm bushmaster is really far more powerful than most ww2 tank guns given the shells available. The frigate guns could easily level parliament they have a range of 16 miles, but the offshore patrol ships dont have a medium 76mm gun and that means they couldn't be used the way the Isreali patrol boats hit gaza.

11:00 am  
Blogger Bill said...

To Meros: we always used to do Circle of Blood with Greig (bass) and we simply forgot to include it in the 2010-11 set. As for the Gods, who knows but that the Irish wresting of power from the French Marists late 19th c. might have given new form to a vestigial pantheon of curiously Hibernian-Roman deities in the cadre of NZ catholicism; gods who, some argue, were never expunged by St Patrick (the famous tale of him insisting on putting out the fires on nearby hills dedicated to [20th c. anthropologists' pet] pagan gods in Ireland) but integrated into the Irish church which at one time rivalled the Roman in more than the feast date of Easter and tonsures of the monks. But were they possessing the psyches of ageing musicians playing underground pop-rock mid-week in Auckland a century later? If so, should we kill us? To Richard Taylor, thanks for your comments. I can only take credit for what I write (and even then only what's "considered i.e. edited and I don't mean vetted); when I am on the stage and in the studio with a band I depend on and exchange on the moment with my co-musicians and actors who, I guess, rely on the same relationship. I've been the luckiest performer in the world (nz, usa, europe) in always having brilliant people to work with. To ANONYMOUS -- a fascinating summary of the army/navy's role in a future insurrection. I agree that loyalties would be divided and that sides would not be drawn along the census's racial categories. Will God defend NZ?

10:03 pm  
Blogger Bill said...

And thanks to maps for his respectful post on my deceased father.

10:05 pm  
Anonymous Meros said...

When I hurled those capitalised words your way, Bill, it was an echo of me hurling words your way in the Capital City, at Bodega in 2008. You played the song, alone, up until the part of the song where you would sing "you don't want it, give it back", which-of course-is the moment that some listeners would anticipate.

As for the Gods, I suggest that you go where the spirit takes you. That would be the path of kindness to humans.

As for suppressing the urban rebellion, the simple rule is that firepower does not matter in these contexts. The link from my name goes to a column by the Gary 'war nerd' Brecher (aka former Dunedinite John Dolan) explaining how the hi-tech, hi-force weaponry is more or less useless in the kind of asymmetrical warfare that is more common than not today.

10:44 pm  
Anonymous herb said...

'Bill "bridges" the world of degenerate pop music and the high arts of literature etc.'

outrageous snobbery from the taylor man...heh...is 'degenerate' a maoist term?

10:51 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

herb - degenerate as to what we define as pop music (that is anything otherwise than Bach) is of necessity a very very elitist and also a very very very Maoist term.

Mao = 10000000000000000000000000000

Trotsky = 0.00000000000000000000001

It is sad you still misunderstand the deep philosophical and political and the theosophical necessity of being a deep Maoist herb...

If I wasn't human (and I suspect you, like Map's father, also live within the Bombay hills boundary (hence you are almost one of us)), I would think you were even not revolutionary or also a degenerate...

Were you, or are you, a past and tired member of one of those fissiparous and unstable be Trotksyist study groups? Sadly you were in the wrong groups then.

You are clearly wrong and I am clearly right.

3:45 pm  
Anonymous herb said...

taylor...want to come over to my house?

10:15 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

dear herb - I am overwhelmed by your kind consideration and your hospitality but I cant possibly consort with the opposition unless there is full recantation in writing by same...and, of course I am an extremely busy man...I am currently making a huge statue of my beloved Mao...then I want to work on one of the Great Leader Muldoon as they have similar faces...

...how does a devoted Marxologist like yourself feel about all this talk of a man who is all but a Catholic?

betwixt you and I, I suspect the good Maps, poet, politician and philosopher etc is at this very now, imbibing...it being a Saturday and all...

9:00 pm  

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