Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The boss, hard at work

Brett Cross is fond of Charles De Gaulle's dictum that 'silence is the ultimate weapon of power', and despite being the boss of Titus Books, the Kaipara-based independent publishing company which has given the world dozens of books of fiction, poetry, and art over the last seven years, he has always been a low-profile figure on the Kiwi literary scene. Brett seldom takes the stage during the launches of his company's books: instead, he can often be seen lurking near the door of the cafe or bar he has hired in his Bain jersey and tweed coast, impersonating an uncomprehending passerby who has ducked inside to get out of the wind and rain.

Even the most secretive leader, though, must be careful to find a balance between silence and anonymity. Brett's absence from literary events over recent months has gotten some followers of Titus wondering about his whereabouts, and about his plans for the future. It is common for a sclerotic and reclusive King or dictator to reassure his fans by releasing images that show him working cheerfully at home, or else enjoying some healthy outdoor exercise. In 1966 Mao Zedong emerged from a period of seclusion to swim in the Yangtze River, and thereby destroy rumours that he had suffered some incapacitating injury or disease. Unfortunately for China's writers, the Cultural Revolution soon followed.

Now a source close to Brett has leaked a photo (you can click to enlarge it) which shows the great helmsman of Titus Books working away in his Kaipara lair in the company of his long-time and slightly neurotic pet cat Rudy and his brand-new and delicately beautiful baby daughter, who has been given the first name of one of New Zealand's greatest painters. Brett has been understandably busy with the business of fatherhood over recent months, but his commitment to Titus hasn't slackened. Although he hasn't published any new volumes this year, he has managed to import a large, dispersed and very complicated printing system from the People's Republic of China.

Brett likes to call his imported possession 'the machine', and he promises that his new control of the means of production will make the Titus operation a lot more flexible and dynamic. Because it will no longer have to outsource its printing, Titus will be able to produce books in a wider range of formats, will be able to produce print runs in different quantities, and will be able to cut down costs considerably.

Hearing Brett describe the recent arrival from China, I was reminded of a poem which Richard Taylor used to recite to noisy audiences in Auckland pubs back in the mid-90s:

The Machine

we gotta get down there
down there and show you guys
the machine the machine is mean
man and its there it lives like
a lung but we gotta get there
we got here but where is there
we gotta get there man I know
you know but it's mean man
and what I mean man is it's
gunna get ya or we gunna
get it and its there it's a machine
it does something which does
something to something but we gotta
get cross town and down to
that god-fuckin’ mean machine
with those wires man what I
mean is we gotta we gotta we gotta
cause its that time man I
mean what you mean we
mean no thing but we gotta
get down there to that lean
that big black lean machine...

While Brett dreams up new publishing projects between nappy changing and burping duties, one of Titus' industrious volunteers has been working on the company's gloriously byzantine website, adding a section full of sound files, so that you can know what Jack Ross or Olwyn Stewart or, yes, Richard Taylor sounds like after a few ales.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the wee child is not named in honour of the great Toss Woollaston.

11:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frank Dikötter's "stunningly original and hugely important" account of how Mao's Great Leap Forward led to the deaths of 45 million people has won him the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction.

Dikötter, a Dutch academic, accessed previously hidden archives to shine a light on China between 1958 and 1962, when millions of Chinese – he puts the figure at 45 million – were worked, starved or beaten to death as Mao attempted to overtake the west in less than 15 years. Ben Macintyre, historian, journalist and chair of the Samuel Johnson prize judges, called Mao's Great Famine the book of the year.

"This is not just an important book now, but it will become in some ways more important, as China becomes more powerful in the world and a greater part of global consciousness. To understand why China is the way it is, you almost have to read this book. If you want to understand why it's a materialistic, non-ideological place, you need to realise that just a generation ago, this appalling, manmade catastrophe was visited on its people," said Macintyre. "One of the judges, [biographer] Brenda Maddox, simply said 'this book changed my life - I think differently about the 20th century than I did before. Why didn't I know about this?' We feel we know who the villains of the 20th century are – Stalin and Hitler. But here, fully 50 years after the event, is something we did not know about. It's a testament to the power of non-fiction, that it can rock you back on your heels."

Mao's Great Famine, which beat five other shortlisted titles to win the prize, is "a vision of a society in utter collapse", said Macintyre, and Dikötter "ties it completely to Mao himself". "Often the famine is dismissed in the west as circumstantial, but Dikötter blows that myth completely out of the water. Mao and his cronies knew what was going on and just didn't care," said the writer, pointing to Mao's remark that "it is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill."

Dikötter narrowly beat Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles, a history of the journeys of the American loyalists left behind by the 18th-century British evacuation, to win the £20,000 prize. "It was hard; really really hard ... Passionate feelings came to a head. At one moment we thought we might have to split the prize," said Macintyre, praising the "bursts of pure lyricism" in Jasanoff's work. But in the end Dikötter triumphed, becoming the second writer giving an insight into the communist east to win the Samuel Johnson prize in two years after Barbara Demick took it in 2010 for her journalistic investigation Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea.

11:18 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Most of these attacks against Communist China are funded by the CIA. Millions more died prior to the successful Chinese Revolution. To cover this, and to preempt any possible people's state these right wingers and revisionist Trotskyites wade in.

No one should waste their time reading such drivel.

5:09 pm  
Blogger Sensa said...

While tutoring "Creative Non-Fiction" at Otago Uni 2007-08, and enjoying many of the seminal Non-F texts, it did seem to me that the popularity of the genre furnished an ideal opportunity for publishing houses (and their boards of monetarists, if not the secret government organisations Richard mentions) to sing the wonders of the "discovery" of just about everything, while failing to insist on analysis and criticism of the same (for their callous exploitation of earth and indigenes, for example). As for Brett Cross, congratulaions on bringing about (with help, we believe) an indigene, who will, we trust, under his Titusian tutelage, become autochthone.

7:36 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

I dunno, Richard: why would the CIA go to the trouble of buying a respected academic, faking thousands of Mandarin-language documents, and sneaking these documents into China when a) no government in the world today espouses Maoist ideology and b) Mao was by the end of his time in power a good mate of the US. Do you remember the photos of the Chairman stting cosily with Nixon, or his support for the CIA putsch against Allende?

9:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That cat...

9:39 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

He didn't support Allende in his methods but he didn't undermine him. Allende made the mistake of not utilizing Mao tse Tung thought. Hence (in a big part) his revolution failed for this reason.

(And as below the CIA with big funds from ITT were in big part the reason for Allende's demise but he had also failed to get strong support as Mao and the Chinese Communist Party had by correct methods of supporting the people in humane ways and by working with and through the people...Allende was an old fashioned "bourgeois" politician...he had some good and brave ideas and indeed died and worked heroically but that is not enough.)

The CIA pours millions into assisting to twist the true historical situation.

You have to understand this fact and their inherent evil (and that of all Imperialists) and that also that 9/11 could well have been an inside job. These people are capable of anything. (Guantanamo is still there. Where are the reparations to Vietnam and Korea?) Mao tse Tung and Chu Te and others - in fact we re really talking about the Chinese people - brought about the greatest revolution in world history. Women found a huge new role in the new China also (they took part very actively in the revolution and in the with Japan). The Trotskyites deny this and cite Allende who failed for reasons that are quite clear. (Some were simply historical and unavoidable).

I think, often, it is for racist reasons. I recall even that many (Maoist) CP members were often racist and alkies. They only part believed China could do any good. Some did of course. But others of other ilk, or political persuasion, I suspect were in league with the CIA, SIS and other right wing agencies - in their ongoing effort to divert revolution to a harmless dead end.

And there were many agents inside the various communist parties...the British, The French the US etc

Even E.P. Thompson might have been an agent for the British secret service. All the books could have been an elaborate front. O.K. that is far fetched, but we have to keep in mind all possibilities.

The CIA, (sometimes these organizations form rogue or "runaway" groups inside themselves like super bugs that are into actions not even officially approved, their ways of working are complex and contradictory, the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing and so on...); or Big Money was there and the right wing in Chile.

But no socialist government of any importance or permanence will ever be voted into power in the present historical complex. Unless the Chilean Socialists utilized Marxist thinking and that of Mao etc. Had they studied these matters deeply, and paid attention to Marxist-Leninist-Mao tse Tung thought, Allende and his supporters would have realised they had to get the total support (deeply felt, deeply realised) of the majority of the people at all levels. That is, they needed to persuade and influence people at all levels by actions and works, not just theory (Mao emphasized constantly the need for going to the people and working with and beside the people and also to move from theory to practice and visa versa) - not just the "working class") and they failed to get the peasant and other support. Even in some cases the petty bourgeois and some capitalists. But certainly they needed all: the intellectuals, the workers and the peasants. If any significant group is still strongly opposed to change, you can’t really act. Things are not ready.

11:02 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There was a similar problem with the 1968 French revolution, which could have turned into a great change for the world. But the workers in Imperialist industrial societies are largely corrupted. And corrupt communist parties and or agents undermined them. Hence the contrasting vigour and wonderful success of China's great revolution. Students and intellectuals, workers and many peasants were involved. Mao emphasized that the people and the people alone change history, make history. Not leaders such as himself. He opposed the cult of personalities but the revisionists pushed it (wrongly). But he was everywhere surrounded by traitors to the people's democracy. Hence the great and liberating Cultural Revolution, The greatest and most brilliant revolution in human history. From the bottom. "It is right to rebel." This is almost the new aspect of Marxism (although Marx did turn to this later in life I think you said) you are looking for in Tonga (the Pacific nations) etc or even in from Maori in Aotearoa.

Liberals, “sugar coated bullets”, and those wanting to turn to capitalism and the formation of new hierarchies or classes subverted it. And in fact, as in the Soviet Union, to gain power, privilege, and money.

Nixon was an anti-Communist, but in the end when it was seen that China was already, even in the 60s, very powerful militarily and even economically, with good nuclear weapon strike system (and could and would withstand a nuclear attack) he folded and the US Imperialists more or less gave up trying for a preemptive nuclear strike or to take China via Korea and Vietnam etc

There is no reason a communist nation can't trade with a capitalist one.

I am not saying that Mao and the Chinese Communist Party were infallible. But if you want revolution or change, then the model of China is a great one.

Sometime sacrifices have to be made IF you want progress toward a people's state.

11:03 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

But you can't square a circle, Richard. In Mao's last years China explicitly asserted that the US was a lesser evil than the USSR, and established good relations with the US. Henry Kissinger visited China in 1971 and a warm reception; Nixon the next year. Mao saw the USSR as a greater threat than the US, and therefore in many parts of the world supported US-backed governments and movements against movements and governments aligned with the USSR. Why, then, would the CIA feel so badly about the Chairman that, in an era where his dieas have very little suppport, even in China, it would mount such an extraordinarily complicated mission as the one you propose, a mission which would have to involve buying off a distinguished academic, concoting thousands of fake documents, and sneaking these documents into a Chinese government archive? Why bother?

12:23 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Perhaps. Some points taken, and also disagree a lot...but...does any of it matter?

But we have all forgotten about Brett and his cat and his new child!

3:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That cat looks grumpy.

3:59 pm  
Anonymous Pete O'Keefe said...

I’ve come to the conclusion that unless we get on our faces in the dirt and pray like we’ve never prayed before for our beloved nation, that we haven’t a chance of turning this mess around. The powers in place will not allow a constitutionalist to win, but with prayer anything is possible. I don’t just mean a five minute chat with the Almighty. I mean heartfelt, tear stained prayer of repentance, sorrow and broken heartedness for our nation wherein we ask God to help us. Can we be saved like Nineveh? See the Book of Jonah.


3:34 am  
Anonymous Pete O'Keefe said...


'At a meeting of the David Allen Lewis “Eschatology Club” a year ago in Springfield, Missouri, where I was the featured speaker, I was told by the organizers that in the previous monthly meeting, Pastor Don Jones made a disturbing statement about President Barack Obama’s plan to Islamicize America.

Jones went to one of his orphanages in Haiti after the massive earthquake there and met with a senior UN official, who said Obama had told him that the US would be a Muslim country by 2016, or by the end of his second term in office.

While that may seem far-fetched, it is not beyond the realm of possibility. First, Obama’s biological father was a Muslim— which makes the President a Muslim. His stepfather was an Indonesian Muslim who raised Obama as a Muslim in a mosque and madrassa (Islamic religious school) in Indonesia until age 11. His halfbrothers in Kenya are Muslims.

My wife Rachel, who is a radio and TV monitor in the Arabic language for Israel Radio in Jerusalem, has picked up many broadcasts indicating that the Arabs see Obama as a Muslim. In one broadcast prior to the 2008 elections, the Saudis claimed that “we will have a Muslim in the White House.”

Another Saudi broadcast said: “Obama’s job is to terminate the Shiite threat [Iran] and the Jewish threat [Israel]. And if he cannot do this, he should pack his bags and go home.”

America has always been a Judeo- Christian nation, but demographically at least, this is no longer true. While there are more than 250 million Christians in the US, the 6 million Jews are now outnumbered by Muslims who total about 20 million (9 million Iranians who fled after the fall of the Shah, 7 million Arabs and at least 3 million black Muslims, with the remainder being from Somalia and the former Yugoslavia).

Numerically, the Jews are now no. 3 or 4 along with the Hindus in the US, whose population is about the same as the Jews. According to Obama’s Inauguration Day speech, America is a “Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu” country. Numerically, he is right. So much for Judeo-Christian America.

3:37 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Well look anon - re Muslims

There is no problem there, as you can read on one of the other profound comments on here: the Evil Yellow Perilous Communist Wang Fu Mao tse Tung exterminated 5 million degenerates in China (none of them were believers so in some ways it was a "good" thing he did, so I supose...hmm...)in the space of a year or so, and Hitler made a start on the Jews.

Now that is all you have to do. Start working on those gas chambers, electrocution chambers, piano wire gibbets, and so on.

The Krauts and the Pings don't muck around with freedom and all that nonsense. So go for it Yankee Boy!

But (and these are the essential questions), really, do you prefer:

A) A Blacky in the White House.

B) A Whitey in the White House.

C) A Whitey in the Black House.

D) A Blacky in the Black House.

Or (and this question is very difficult so you can leave it out if you want)

E) A Nigger in the Wood Pile?

Keep up the good work!!

3:18 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Eschatology Club.

Wonderful! There is hope!

The other question is, lets; face it:

"How large, and what shape, is Obama's Thing?"

This is vital. That established, we can work on extending the priapalogical eschatological and indeed the wonderful psychological scatological scientific and religious work in a remote hope of saving The West and the Kiwi to boot. It may yet be possible...

Certainly we all need to pray more.

3:26 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Did Barry Obama CAUSE the earthquake in Haiti?

3:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete O'Keefe needs to think over his odd beliefs.

4:01 pm  
Anonymous Keri h said...

Pete O'Keefe needs to learn that ANZ is a secular-humanist country and his silly -& incredibly warped-nonsense- rantings just go down and lie as sludge
in the fundie underworld.

May I second the first Anon's post!

4:38 pm  
Anonymous Pete O'Keefe said...

Go straight to hell anon.

I can no longer distinguish between the small c communists, the socialists, the anarchists and the other assorted hippie burnouts who make up the 2011 Democratic Party and their stoner base.

After four years of mass delusion (a liberal arts degree at the indoctrination farms often called a “college education”, without the slightest sense of irony), and with the wafting smoke of dorm room bong-a-thon ideas and the fun house mirrors of “me too” ferocious peer pressure still attached to them like so many ticks…the hippies aged chronologically…but not emotionally or intellectually.

The adrenaline rush of having a Republican “enemy”, the “being right” about war, pollution, “the establishment”, civil rights, equal rights, …gave them “marching energy”…..which was impossible to sustain.

But they tried. Oh, they tried. Global warming is just a hippie trying to regain an adrenaline rush on a pollution retread.

Iraq was Viet Nam. EVERY war is Viet Nam…when a Republican needs to wage it. Libya doesn’t count….because you can’t blame it on a Republican.

And unions are now the Workers’ Party…hardly a scant difference, certainly at any of their marches, lots of communist signs and placards and fliers.

All the “typical white person”, police are stupid, we are cowards, Katrina was a race thing…is a hippie’s way to gin up the civil rights “marching energy”. Yes, it’s sad and pathetic…and really cruel to the purported “victims”, because it hurts them most of all…but that’s what hippies do. They create division…race, class, gender, ….and they keep picking at the scabs they create to make them bleed.

We have elected a hippie President. His idiotic dorm room bong-a-thon notions of “redistribution” and MS-DOS (mega socialism-dump on successful) fiscal idiocy is all the rage with the Depends-Trotsky crowd of wrinkled potheads.

1:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete: the ideas man without ideology.

11:12 am  
Anonymous Pete O'Keefe said...

A mssage to you all direct from my friend Seamus:

'The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

Take precautions, and do everything you can do as soon as you can to get out of harm’s way. If you prepare accordingly, the economic disaster that is unfolding in 2011 may not have as large of an impact on you as it would have had. God bless you all!

12:07 pm  

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