Saturday, 26 May 2007

Auckland Writers Festival – ten ten

I'm in a hurry to change into the good troosers and the jacket after a packed day here in Auckland where the Writers Festival is in full throng up the street from me in the Aotea Centre. Being able to nip home between acts being one of the benefits of living in the inner city.
Bookman Beattie , who has been doing a great job blogging the last few days has to get on his scooter and go back home to get his posts online. Also, blogging from here is an excellent Christchurch Library, I've also spotted Graham Reid from Random Play I am sure there are others – perhaps some of the authors and contributors? So I guess you can say the blogshere is here at the Festival quietly flying the flag.

It would be a lot easier if there was wifi in the Aotea Centre foyers . Actually, what I mean is it would a lot easier if they would switch it on!

Because ironically there already is a wifi infrastructure in the Centre. But to switch it on , The Edge Centre, the management company to the beneficial owners Auckland City, requires $700 a day to give access in the main foyers to all visitors to the Festival. And that's the second offer. The first one was $150 per login/per person per day. Plus GST! I had to sit down when I was given that number. The second, although still ridiculous, has a least some kind of basis in the real world.

So we either have to find a kind sponsor for next year to pony up the $2500 it would require to give everyone [ it now being an annual event] or , Auckland City Libraires might be invited to extend its free internet access in the City Library across the road , to include the Edge Centre. Now there's a great idea – take the free internet offer [and thak you Auckland for this!!] to the writers and readers across the road, who next week will turn back into library customers.

Or, maybe, by next year the City Council will have such a brilliant public broadband space [aka MUSH network] that , not only will it be connected to the high speed KAREN network, just like the National Library, [big ups again!] there will be a citizen based wireless internet offer right across the whole of downtown Auckland.

I know, have a lie down, Paul; you have been listening to too many conversations involving imagination, creative reach, and Enlightenment values.

Will Hutton
In case you think I made that last one up, I didn't. Rediscovering, and then celebrating the core of Enlightenment values, including freedom of expression, rule of law, public civic spaces, in which the pursuit of individual happiness occurs within a rich framework of common civic institutions, was very much the themes of Will Hutton's presentation last night [ Friday] at the Festival. He was speaking in support of his new book, The Writing on the Wall, China and West in the 21st century.

His thesis is that China and the USA will be the dominant powers of the 21st century – that China will equal and then surpass the GDP of the USA in the next few years, that the economic engine of China is almost unstoppable, but that, ironically, what will stop it is not anything the West can offer in counterpoint, but the internal contradictions of China itself – and crucially its lack of a pluralist political and cultural superstructure, which Hutton argues, is essential for Chinas, and indeed our long term survival.

He is also equally passionate to make clear, that there is no room for western complacency, because these same western liberal values are in danger here in the West – first from the forces of conservative reaction, second from the apathy of we the citizen, and thirdly from the 21st century multinationals who have replaced the old fashioned 19th and 20th century capitalist corporate values of building economic value for the vacuity of shareholder rapacious profit.

It was compelling stuff, with the subsequent line to buy his book a testament to the power of his presentation. I'll tell you later how the book went. Some reviews are posted on his profile on the Writers web site.

I'm late – and I still havn't changed the troosers!

[Sunday update: spoke to Richard Northey , Chair of the Economic Development and Sustainable Business Committee, of Auckland City Council: he confirmed that the business case for an urban fibre network is underway, and that there could well be a municple wifi zone on the Auckland CBD by next year -so watch this space!]