Thursday, 31 July 2008

New Zealand Post has won the 2008 National Business Review Awards for Sponsorship of the Arts

New Zealand Post has won the 2008 National Business Review Awards for Sponsorship of the Arts. NZ Prime Minster, Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, presented the Overall Winner prize at a black tie gala last night in the Auckland Town Hall.

The gala included performances by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Tim Beveridge and his Neophonic Jazz Orchestra and the NBR New Zealand Opera’s ‘Emerging Artists’.

New Zealand Post was awarded the overall prize for its sponsorship of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The awards recognise writers and illustrators of children’s and young adults’ books.

New Zealand Post has supported the awards for twelve years in association with Booksellers New Zealand. The judges said: “The sponsorship continues to successfully promote literacy, by encouraging children to read and write. At the same time, it has made greater use of New Zealand Post channels and services, and has involved numerous New Zealand Post personnel at a grassroots community level.”

Bullet PR

There is also a neat Flickr page by Bullet PR. They have been managing this event for NBR for the last decade. If you do head out there, make sure it is on Firefox and use the latest PicLens plugin. It is lovely.

NBR
By the by, while looking through this story, I went to the NBR site. Haven't been there for an age. It is looking very crisp! I'll be back, especially for the local arts and technology stories. Stephen Ballantyne does the latter.

New Zealand Art auction news
John Daly Peoples , aka JDP, is their main Arts correspondent. Try this recent story on the NZ contemporary art market courtesy of reports from the auction houses, Art & Object, and Webb's.

For those with that kind of curiosity, be also advised that JDP is also the man who curates and manages the art in the Air New Zealand metropolitan Koru Lounges.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

NZ Arts Foundation Update Issue 21

Like every other arts jurisdiction New Zealand is an active ecology of arts practitioners, supporters, audience, and of course, patrons. One of the key agencies to the latter is the The New Zealand Arts Foundation.

They have an almost irrepressible energy, a deal of which is on evidence on their web site, here. They also put out updates - this one - Issue 21 - includes the following snippits:

Jenny Bornholdt and John Pule’s (Laureates) poems appear on a CD published by the Auckland University Press titled New New Zealand Poets in Performance. http://www.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/aup/forthcoming/forthcoming_home.cfm
The CD will be released at an evening with readings by Laureates at the National Library of New Zealand foyer and Reading Room on August 4 from 5.30pm. http://books.scoop.co.nz/full-house-of-laureates/

The Dean Endowment Trust established by Gillian and Roderick Dean (Award for Patronage Donation Recipient) has announced that they will be supporting Luke Di Soma of Christchurch to attend a Directors course in New York.
http://www.getluketonewyork.co.nz/news.html

Filming is scheduled to begin on a filmic adaptation of Maurice Gee’s (Icon) Under The Mountain in August on Auckland’s North Shore.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/4625857a22400.html

Michael Houstoun (Laureate) will perform with the New Zealand String Quartet as a part of their French Connections series. Concerts will be presented in Wellington, Nelson, Auckland, Waitakere and Hawke’s Bay in August and September.
http://www.nzsq.co.nz/news/bookings-now-open-for-french-connections-series-with-michael-houstoun/

Anna Leese (Award for Patronage Donation Recipient) will be on tour around New Zealand in August, accompanied by pianist Terence Dennis. http://www.chambermusic.co.nz/artists/162.php
Their recital at the Wellington Town Hall on Monday 18 August will be aired on NZ Radio from 8pm. www.radionz.co.nz/media/all_highlights

Delia Matthews (Award for Patronage Donation Recipient) has just been announced as the outstanding female graduate of her year at the Royal Ballet School London.

Warren Maxwell (New Generation Artist) and his band Little Bushman will perform with The Phoenix Foundation at the Wellington Opera House on 1 August. http://www.greensconcert.org.nz/

Julia Morison (Laureate) presents a second permutation of her newest project, Myriorama at Two Rooms Auckland until 9 August 2008. Further variations of Myriorama will appear at RAMP in Hamilton in September and also in Tauranga. http://www.tworooms.org.nz/exhibitions/jm-myriorama/

Work by Milan Mrkusich (Icon) is on display at the Gus Fisher Gallery as a part of the exhibition New Vision: The New Vision Gallery 1965-76 also on at the Gus Fisher is The Swarm: A peek into the hive-mind of group dynamics which features work by Phil Dadson (Laureate). Both exhibitions run until 16 August.
http://www.gusfishergallery.auckland.ac.nz/default.php?thispage=Shows

Gaylene Preston (Laureate) has been nominated a finalists for a WIFT (Women in Film & Television) Award. The Awards ceremony will be held at SKYCITY Theatre on Monday 11 August. Tickets available from the WIFT website
http://www.wiftauckland.org.nz/wift-nz-awards-2008

An article from the NZ Listener (Vol 214) about the work of John Psathas (Laureate) is available at: http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/3559/artsbooks/11541/olympian_feats.html

Satellite Art Projects will present R.U.R an eight-metre-long robot sculpture by Ronnie Van Hout (Laureate) at the Melbourne Art Fair 2008 from July 30 to August 3, Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens. Tickets $24/$16.
www.artfair.com.au/2008

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

World Internet Project, New Zealand - no room for complacency

Billed as the first real picture of how New Zealanders are using the Internet, the World Internet Project New Zealand data produced by AUT University makes for interesting reading.

Director of AUT’s Institute of Culture, Discourse and Communication (ICDC) Professor Allan Bell, who led the study, said a number of insights emerged from the latest results which will provide a baseline for future surveys in tracking trends associated with the Internet.

The findings come from the first ever comprehensive survey of nearly 1,500 New Zealanders and their Internet use. Insights include how the web affects participants relationships with friends and family, what activities they are involved in such as learning, buying or socialising online, and how their Internet use relates to other media such as television, radio and newspaper for information and entertainment.

Key Learnings
The report and the detail is here. Key leanings include:

- 78% of New Zealanders use the Internet. 6% are ex-users; 16% have never used it.

- 15% of users are online at home for at least 20 hours a week.

- In this sample, 66% of users with a connection at home have broadband, compared to 31% with dial-up. The younger, wealthier and more urban people are, the more broadband access they have.

- Internet usage is age-graded. The younger people are, the more likely they are to use it, the better their ability, the more important they rate it, the more they create content and socialize online.

- Higher household income clearly promotes greater Internet access, usage, ability and everyday reliance.

- Gender is mostly not a significant indicator of Internet usage and attitudes.

- Socialising is a major Internet use, especially among the young. 77% of users check their email every day. Every week 28% participate in social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook.

- Most users say the Internet has increased their contact with other people, especially overseas (65%), few believe there has been a decrease.

- The Internet has increased contact overall with friends (according to 64%) and with family (60%), but 22% say they now spend less time face-to-face with the family they live with.

- Concern about children’s safety online is high. Over 80% of households with under- 18s have rules for their Internet use.

- New Zealanders who use the Internet rely on it heavily. 61% think it would be a problem if they lost access, while only 2% think this would make life better.

- As a source of information, the Internet is rated important by more users (71%) than are family and friends (56%), newspapers or television (52%).

Going Wider
Having got the key findings in place, I'd like to take the opportunity to go wider on this story than some of current comment and news pieces, e.g. NZ Herald , TVNZ, and Hard News.

It's not that I have a problem with these reports. They accurately report that the Internet thing is now mainstream, is increasingly social, as opposed to transactional, is a key resource for information seekers. And, indeed why not take pride in being one of the most prolific blogging countries.

But how good are we at using the potential of the Internet?
No worries with any of that. However what is concerning me is that, to date we are not taking the chance to examine this report and use it to figure out how much we have still to do around using the tools and talents of the Internet to help us create/protect/find/share/ preserve/understand and add to the stock of the potential of the web .

Nor am I seeing, with a few honorable exceptions, who no doubt will soon put their hands up to remind me, of any substantial efforts to use the local web as a tool for social and citizen democracy - environmental activism - urban renewal - community arts etc.

It's as if having got the broadband - found the ignition key and the steering wheel, we are stuck in first gear - the one that lets us graze, consume, hang out on FaceBook and Bebo, head out for a spot of shopping on Trade Me, or book our winter holiday?.

That old chestnut - the teens showing us the way.
Another reason I am keen to dig deeper is because surveys like this, no matter how hard the academics try to introduce nuance and depth, almost always, when their results go mainstream, run the risk of reaffirming that tired old chestnut that our kids [especially teens] are a natural online community who will show us how to do this stuff. Really!

Urs Gasser
One of the big takeouts for me from the Seoul trip to the OECD Ministerial on the Internet Economy was hearing the preliminary results from a major piece of research by Urs Gasser, University of St. Gallen (Switzerland).

His presentation was a welcome example of reality out for a walk - that most so called digital natives in the OECD lead very shallow digital lives - regularly fail to search and find resources with any real depth - have no native ability to make better judgements than their adult peers around the safety and usefulness of the sources they use, or the people they encounter; and , moreover, all too many of them, to all intents and purposes , are just poodling around the shallow end and making no real headway learning the skills and techniques which will give them the commmand of the creative tools and opportunities on offer.

This view comes in sharp contrast with the likes of Laurence Lessig, who at the same conference pulled no punches - we - the grown ups had failed with the net - and the best we could do was to get out of the way , do no harm, and leave it to the current teens to sort it all out.

NZ Teens and the Internet thing.
I was reminded of these contrasting views last Friday when somewhere to the south of Auckland, I was part of a McGovern led workshop with a bunch of teenagers who had been invited to come and share their ideas for a new web site for the local library.

It was a great session, and the group - a mixture of around twelve girl/boy older teens - were just outstanding in their hospitality of view - especially around their shared stories and legends of their Internet life.

As many who work with teens will know /confirm - this Internet life divides neatly into two halves - the school work bit where they go off and interrogate Google the better to try and bamboozle their teachers - and the social networking part where they go to the likes of Bebo, the better to try to bamboozle their peers.

Rarely is there very much of a plan in either activity - and rarer still is there any sense of control over the tools and potential of the web as a place where they can be genuinely creative with both themselves and their future.

Twin Islands - cheerful indifference and benign neglect.
Now I know this is contentious - and for sure we all know teens who will defy this stereotype - but that is exactly Urs Gasser's point - that there is a digital divide inside 'the digital native generation'- that though a contingent of the usual beneficiaries of class and ethnicity are totally there with the technology, including being creative helpful and wise to us olds - at the other poorer and far bigger end of the skewed spectrum, many of our young people are marooned on the twin islands of cheerful indifference and benign neglect.

If this is an accurate picture of many New Zealand teens - which I believe it to be - feels like time we did something about that.

###
I offer below an embed to the Gasser Paper. His blog/web site is here. And of course , comments welcome.

Read this document on Scribd: OECD-Gasser-1



Monday, 28 July 2008

Richard Powers - Writers on Mondays - Institute of Modern Letters, NLNZ

Strike two of the new plan to get interesting snippits that come across the desk up and running without too much stuffing around - in short - fail fast - fail often.

Institute of Modern Letters
I have to hand a printed handout to Victoria University's Institute of Modern Letters , Writers on Mondays Series - July, September, which are hosted in the National Library, New Zealand.
You can find the programme here.
The session that is happening tonight at 5pm at the National Library in Wellington is with the American novelist Richard Powers who won the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction with The Echo Maker, a psychological thriller that centres on a man with a rare brain disorder.

Powers has explored the effects of modern science and technology in his fiction, including photography, molecular genetics and artificial intelligence. He is talking with with broadcaster Kim Hill.

Not sure if the National Library have plans to record and webcast this session. As I wont be able to get to the session I hope so. Plus, I would have thought it was now mandatory?

Saturday Morning Show on National Radio, NZ
Actually, I have heard both interviewer and author speaking already, courtesy of an interview she did with the same author on her Saturday Morning Show on National Radio, NZ.

Curiously, despite being a fan of KH, and, for that matter, once upon a time being one of her regulars when she was the empress in residence to the Nine to Noon Show, I rarely listen to her on a Saturday. It's as if my brain wont take in the modern weekend triple, the book, the recipe, and the playlist. It's nothing personal - just need a bit of space on a Saturday and usually spent it up in K Raod in the St Kevins Arcade before heading down through Myers Park for a vegetable curry at a little food stall in the Aotea Square market.

Given the weather this weekend, I stayed in, and so happened to catch the Kim Hill Richard Power interview. It was totally great . And yes - National Radio has it on the web site - audio link here.

By the by - there is a time limit on these sessions.. so at some point this link wont work. Not sure why - perhaps someone could explain the logic ?

More on NZ National Radio - This Way Up and the Big Tele.
While I am on the subject of Saturday on NZ National Radio, Simon Morton and Peter Griffin, his tech correspondent played an absolute blinder last Saturday when they went shopping for a "big tele"

I heard the interview in Unity Books. It was like some kind of Quatermass moment - the entire shop of staff and serious book browser frozen in space and time as we twigged almost simultaneously that is was pure gold - a superb summary of how to navigate the jargon infested discursive labyrinth of the big tele. Brilliant bit of radio. Missed it? Click here for audio.

This Way Up also has a Facebook Group - here.

Jonny Lee's world famous interactive whiteboard

For some time now I have been playing with the idea of moving this blog onto a Wordpress build, and have a test site currently in production. It should be going live soon, maybe this week, or next. I have also been having a think about how I am using this blog, and have in mind, at least for a few weeks an experiment where, as well as the longer thought pieces, I also post daily on something that has come across my desk that is worth sharing.

This, by definition, could make for a lot more work - however, it could also be interesting - especially if I take my own advice and not worry too much about it being perfect - i.e. get stuff out and see if people react/respond to it.

To start this little experiment off I offer below, courtesy of one of the McGovern team, this lovely TED presentation from Jonny Lee where he demonstrates his famous Nintendo WII hack which turns a $50 device into an interactive white board. Note he doesn't claim it will totally reproduce all the features of a multi thousand dollar version - but gives 80% of the functionality for 1% of the cost.

He also has another version of the same hack over on You Tube. This one has been viewed 1,812444 times! If you want more including a lot more handholding on what to do, then go to his personal web site, here.


Friday, 25 July 2008

Richard Stallman in Auckland - the sequel


I have had quite a bit of feedback on Mr Stallman coming to town. So it looks like it could be a really good gig. Look forward to seeing some old friends there. Here at McGovern , there has also been an interst in coming as a possie. One of the team passed this cartoon onto me. I think it came out of the last WebStock. Note - this is just an image - the tool bar won't work - click on the image, to go to the real thing, or go direct to here.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Richard Stallman in Auckland 8th August 2008

For many people, the Internet legend, Richard Stallman needs no introduction. Nor does the picture. However, for those who do, good old wikipedia will tell you in a heartbeat that , "Richard Matthew Stallman (born March 16, 1953), often abbreviated "rms",[2] is an American software freedom activist, hacker (programmer), [3] and software developer.

In September 1983, he launched the GNU Project[4] to create a free Unix-like operating system, and has been the project's lead architect and organizer. With the launch of the GNU Project, he started the free software movement and, in October 1985, set up the Free Software Foundation. "

Any yep - he is coming to Auckland, and will be speaking at Auckland University. The details :

Topic: The interaction between copyright and digital rights management.

Time //Location: 8th August, 11:am t0 12:30
Conference Center Auckland University.
[I think this must be the old one - next to the Engineering School on Symond Street?]

Abstract
Copyright developed in the age of the printing press, and was designed to fit with the system of centralized copying imposed by the printing press. But the copyright system does not fit well with computer networks, and only draconian punishments can enforce it.

The global corporations that profit from copyright are lobbying for draconian punishments, and to increase their copyright powers,while suppressing public access to technology. But if we seriously hope to serve the only legitimate purpose of copyright--to promote progress, for the benefit of the public--then we must make changes in the other direction.

##
Webcast?
I believe there is a plan to record the session. There is even a possibility of a webcast. Will post more on this as it comes to hand - or check out [ why not join!] the NZ Creative Commons listserv

Internet NZ /ACTA
For a local current angle on the issue of copyright on the Internet, please also note Internet NZ has issued a comment/warning on the proposed ACTA copyright negotiations.

Their comments are part of a submission to the MED, the NZ Ministry of Economic Development. 

Specifically they are concerned at the paucity of detail surrounding the proposed international Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which they say will impose a raft of enforcement measures which have the potential to further erode citizens’ fair-use rights in respect of digital copyrighted material.

They believe the proposals may/will create a global legal regime for Internet distribution of copyright protected works but that the discussions are being held behind closed doors, and publicly-available information is scant.

They also think the proposed ACTA Internet distribution and information technology provisions, if implemented, will do little to strengthen New Zealand’s existing measures against digital copyright infringement.

The Internet NZ blog is here. It includes a link to their submission.

The NZ government statement and link to the submission process is here.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

City Gallery, Wellington: more on web 2,0 ecologies and intersectiions

I have been spending a whole bunch of time this week exploring how some heritage, museum and library places and institutions are using the web 2.0 ecology of practice to explore and extend the things they do.

I have a bunch of examples to perhaps share later, but right now my email just popped up with the latest e-mail newsletter from The City Gallery in Wellington.
Now I have a bit of a soft spot for these guys. Their in house cafe, Nikau, does the best kedgeree in the entire history of the haddock, and their exhibitions always come across as somewhere where the marketing noise is tuned way down low, the better for the visitor to hear what the works are trying to communicate on the wall.

What I hadn't actually picked up on was the extent they were using You Tube to extend the conversation outside the walls by way of a customised YouTube channel.

I recommend you head over there. However, for a quick flavour, here is an embed of one of the spots on the channel.




Saturday, 19 July 2008

Web 2.0 for WIFT, Women in Film in Televisio , Aotearoa

It is a wet rainy  Saturday morning here in Auckland.  I am in a really well set up computer lab at AUT doing a morning workshop  on web 2.0 with a brilliant group from the Auckland branch  of WIFT  Women in Film and Television, Aotearoa.

The web 2.0 ecolog
In the workshop we explored  the tools and opportunities of  the web  2.0 ecology.  This includes looking at:

1. Personalization/Collaboration - via tools like Netvibes and iGoogle
2. Web 2.0 store/share/transit/distribute tools  like Flickr - You Tube, at al 
3. Blogging - Blogger and , Wordpress.

Key Web 2.0 concepts 
In the process the idea is  to expose people to some key concepts - tools and ideas - including - rss - widgets - gadgets - tagging - embedding.

The session - three hours, is based on the day long version I developed with Paul Sutherland from CCL for LIANZA and the APN.

Film TV
This session closed with a brief look at some other film/tv type distribution sites - 

The embed thing
When we were playing with Blogger and looking for an embed option - we discovered this piece on You Tube. How could I resist the temptation to use it as an example of "the embed thing" !


Thursday, 17 July 2008

Digital Future Now

The American Chamber of Commerce in Auckland has called together business leaders to discuss the digital strategy for New Zealand on August 13th, 2008, in Auckland

This one day business forum is a follow up to the Digital Future Summit and will look at all of the issues for businesses operating in an increasingly online environment.

Hon. David Cunliffe, Minister for Communication and Information Technology, is due to discuss aspects of the government’s Digital Strategy for New Zealand business.
I understand he was due to present the final version of the revised NZ Digital Strategy, 2.0 , but this has been deferred to give him more time to engage with senior cabinet colleaques. Nevertheless, its rumoured he is more than ready to make some serious statements around his current thinking on taking the NZ digital strategy to the next stage.

Economic Transformation/ Creativity
For myself I am hoping to see some tactical and strategic engagement from all parties on how to take the current thinking on digital content out of the shallows and back into the mainstream current of economic transformation.

For that to happen lots of people need to get past their current lockins around IP protection, digital rights, and turf protection.
It would also be great if we could also get passed seeing this debate as being about the ICT sector, into the broader and deeper waters of "creativity' as an added value priciple at every layer and intersection of the New Zealand economic, cultural and social value chains.
The Digital Future Now Programme
On the programming front, Digital Future Now is billed to offer valuable insights from NZ’s leading digital business practitioners across a range of digital fields including telecommunications, ID protection, blogging, direct and interactive marketing, social networking, mobile marketing, and data storage."

Social Media in Business
I have been asked to speak on a panel on using social media in/for business. It's an interesting topic. Easy to make glowing and non specific statements - but equally easy to get it all wrong/right?

Vodafone New Zealand
Take the iPhone launch here in New Zealand. One of the colour stories that swiftly swept the web was around the young student Jonny Gladwell who sat outside the Vodafone store in Auckland for three days to make sure he was the first iPhone sale.
Turns out young Jonny was a hire-in for a bit of PR hype. and yes, the campaign also had a blog etc.
Is this okay? I guess you get to choose. Me? I think the agency involved is worth more that this piece of deception. Curiously I once heard its local head of digital give an outstanding presentation/session on using web 2.0 with integrity. Sounds like she needs to do an internal presentation.

As part of this, they, like you might also like to have a look at this presentation. Some interesting insights. I am grateful to Mark Fowler for the reference.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

On colds, snuffles, hot lemon and radio days.

'Tis a common place to say the internet thing has changed a lot of business and cultural practice. What I hadn't taken on board was the transformation it can make to being sick in bed, provided you have a have decent laptop, an adsl connection and a home wifi zone.

As a consequence during my two bouts of incapacity over the last ten days, though a total pain in terms of coughs, splutters, and occasional fevers, it has been a great opportunity to catch up on some of the drama and other radio type offerings on the web.

A big part of this has been the UK BBC. However, I've also been off to Australia.

The BBC
On the BBC front it is hard to know where to start. Some friends and colleagues already know I am regular listener to The Archers, the radio soap that has being going for more than 50 years. However, I'm finding more and more options available from both Radio 4 and BBC 7 - with Radio 3 also offering a bunch of  offerings.

McLevy
BBC 4 has just finished another series of McLevy - the 19th Edinburgh detective. Like all good drama, the different episodes are carried by strong plots and strong characters. In this case McLevy is joined by an Irish sidekick with his nemesis coming in the fair form of the local brothel keeper Jean Brash.

In Our Time
The talking heads series In Our Time, chaired by Melvyn Bragg has also offered me some great listening. The current series has just finished, but I recommend the archive. Some examples worth looking for? The Black Death, The Library of Nineveh,  The Metaphysical Poets, Lysenko, and The Brain, a history. 

BBC Programmes and Archives
The BBC has also created two new sites  which are worth checking. The first is a new programme portal [currently in beta] which aims to give every BBC programme its own unique web record. This doesn't mean you get to listen or see everything, but you can track stuff down.
Secondly, there is the  beginning of a comprehensive archive

The future of the BBC  - Stephen Fry 
Lastly, on the BBC, I came across a podcast  [or what he calls a Podgram] from the inimitable Stephen Fry on the future of the BBC. In it he makes the most brilliant analysis of why he thinks the  New Zealand On Air model is not the way to sort radio broadcasting in the UK.
 
NZOA - New Zealand on Air
Apparently the NZOA model is being touted as a possible way of offering other broadcasters in the UK access to the license fee currently only offered to the BBC. This would mean that the funds  currently raised by the fee would be distributed by a UK version of NZOA which would allocate the funds to any broadcaster who was intent on making programmes which fitted a public service broadcasting model. 

Stephen Fry is having non of it. For him public service broadcasting in the the UK is the BBC. By this he means he sees the BBC as having the institutional mana to carry the ethos of pubic broadcasting as a set of values and beliefs. 

This is interesting - note in this analysis he is dismissing the detail of the content as being the core to public service broadcasting. Content, for him, especially in the digital age, though important, is not the institution.  The institution is the framework which needs to transition to the IP pathways of the internet,  not the content. 

Its a compelling argument - and I might even just be convinced. You can make your own mind up here.  It might also be of interest to the both the current NZ Minster of Broadcasting, Trevor Mallard, as well as John Key, who recent news reports here in NZ suggests is also turning his attention to the issue of the future of the NZ state broadcaster, TVNZ. 

On that note, see also the perceptive analysis of some of the NZ issues by the head of the NZ Broadcasting School, Paul Norris in the NZ Herald of today, here 

ABC : Philosophy in Australia

Moving on to  another public service broadcaster, the other series I stumbled  across [when I was searching for podcasts on iTunes] is a brilliant series of interviews with modern day philosophers  hosted by the ABC Australia program, The Philosphers Zone

The series described as your guide through the thicket of logic, metaphysics and ethics is hosted by Alan Saunders. He recently interviewed the UK philosopher /academic John Gray who was a guest at the Auckland and Sydney Writers Festival. 

I must say Saunders  is an excellent interviewer and gave John Gray a very perceptive run for his money, here

Made  me think it was time for a decent podcast/interview  online program here in NZ. In short time to start doing some thinking, especially with an election coming on this year. 

The Balkan Trilogy - Levant Trilogy
As for the reading thing, I have been concentrating on the Fortunes of War series by Olivia Manning. These consist of two trilogies- The Balkan Trilogy, and the Levant Trilogy. The six books, described by Anthony Burgess as ' the finest record of the war produced by a British writer' , follow the fortunes of Harriet and Guy Pringle during  World War Two as they are hunted out of first Bucharest, then Athens, Cairo and into the Levant.

Like others, I get a bit bored with Guy sometimes - but find Harriet a really great character, I also enjoy the way  Manning manages to bring in the sub cast of other characters in and out of the text while refreshing each volume with a new variant just to keep things open and interesting.

She also has a brilliant eye for detail, and her descriptions of the likes of Bucharest, Athens and Cairo, especially the way the different light affects her landscapes, are just masterful.

PicLens and Flickr
I also found a new trick - use the PicLens plugin in Firefox to set up these brilliant image collages out of Flickr of The Cairo City of the Dead and the Bucharest parks and squares described in the text. Its just amazing to watch these images move past the eye with the ring of the text still in your mind. And, joy of joy, as I checked the Pic Lens link, I discovered they ow have a way of showcasing You Tube

As for Ms Manning, I have half of the last volume still to go. But 'tis time  raised myself and got back to the revolution. Things to do and people to pester!