Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

31 May 2012

Great Works Re-Visited 7.


30 May 2012

Great Works Re-Visited 6.


29 May 2012

Great Works Re-Visited 5.


28 May 2012

Great Works Re-Visited 4.


Great Works Re-Visited 3.


26 May 2012

Great Works Re-Visited 2.


25 May 2012

Great Works Re-Visited. 1.


21 May 2012

Why Can't They Leave Things Alone?

I suffer from having been brought up in a time when things were built to last. Not any more.

I'm told my iMac, which I bought exactly FOUR YEARS AGO, is out of date. And it looks it because the blue screen has vertical pale streaks down it.

When I bought it I think it ran on an operating system called Panther (or was it Hellcat?) Then They updated it to Leopard and again to Snow Leopard. Every time I downloaded the new OS something else went out of date.

The first thing I lost was a wonderful software suite called MS Works which had a particularly useful database function. Then, with Snow Leopard, Photoshop CS which I paid a lot for went belly up with no updates available within a year of my buying it. And another superb piece of Apple's OWN software stared to play up - Appleworks - its 'draw' function was outstanding and I was still able to use parts of it until I download the latest OS - Lion.

The Lion download was cheap; less than $40.00, but those unconscionable bastards at Apple knew that it would force me to spend even more money. I had been using Photoshop Elements 4, a program that had come with my Canon Scanner. At a stroke it was rendered obsolete and I've just had to pay $200 odd for Elements 10 which I find so foreign that I've had to send off to Amazon for a manual - another  $50 or so.

Today my iMac keyboard lost all of its number pad functions so I had to buy a new one for $82.00 - and so it goes on. I wonder what will happen when They bring out Mountain Lion? More agony, I guess.

We all love our computers but what I don't love is the sheer greed of Apple which has become one of the richest  companies on the planet out of planned short-term obsolescence.

Interestingly we have an old manual typewriter on the desk. It's nearly 100 years old. It still works. It has no software and there isn't an Apple trademark on it anywhere!


14 May 2012

Let The Pike River 29 Rest

As usual, John Key is the target of criticism, this time because he had said that the Pike River men's bodies would be retrieved, but as time has gone by that possibility has become more remote. Mr Key is not a mining or rescue expert: he said those things because he, in hope as we all have been, had been advised by experts that they would happen. Now 'experts' are casting doubt. Let's not make John Key a target, he aches as much as any of us.

Foreseeing a long, long trail of despair, I wrote to John Key on 20 January 2011 the following:

'Those families must be having a hell of a time groping for
what the psychologists call 'closure'. They really need somebody to put an
end to speculation about what to do about the lost men.

'When warships are sunk and men go to their graves in the sea those ships are
designated official war graves. Everybody knows that nothing can be done
about the victims and so their fates are sealed by that formal designation.
What if the Pike River galleries where those men died - instantaneously we
believe - were declared a sealed grave or urupa, the formality achieved by a
service of consecration conducted by a group of priests, kaumatua, rabbis,
RCs and Anglicans - whichever most appropriately represent the spiritual
persuasions of the lost ones, their families and the nation? 

'That solemn occasion would probably put at rest the minds of the loved ones
and all New Zealanders and draw the sad affair to the best possible
conclusion. Those galleries could be sealed and sacrosanct and their
existence recorded on a memorial such as that of the Brunner disaster; the
names listed as upon a war memorial. Even if the mine were re-opened the
entombment would be tapu.

'I believe we could all live with such a solution.'

Now more than ever seems it rich to put an end to that trail of despair. To seal the tomb, to give it dignity. I wonder who will be bold enough among the dead men's families to say 'let there be an end'?

© DON DONOVAN (Photograph ex Google images. TV3)

13 May 2012

Flying With Danger

I once flew out of a high country sheep station in the South Island of New Zealand with a pilot who asked me to count with him the fence posts along the side of the runway.

'If we get to fifty-two and haven't unstuck, I abort the take-off,' he said.


'Because there's a telephone line across the far end of the landing strip.'

Every pilot is careful but it's inherently a dangerous game - especially that of top-dressing. When I took the photograph above I winced as he flew over the power cables.

Some months after, this pilot - a lovely young chap - crashed and died.


09 May 2012

Face to Face With Old Age...

My friend Robin Smith, who now lives in Sydney, grew up on a sheep station in Canterbury called 'Waratah' It was owned by his father, an Australian, who had immigrated and spent some time as a member of New Zealand's legislative council.

Robin wanted to re-visit 'Waratah' so we went there in April 2010 when he was aged 83.

While looking round the old woolshed we came across these certificates both given for second prizes at showings of merino sheep in 1889 and 1894. The earlier of the two was 123 years old. Both of them were won by Frank Smith, Robin's father.

Robin was born in 1927, thirty-eight years after the first certificate was won.

The amazing thing was that these scraps of paper should have survived for so long; and the sobering thought was how old they made us both feel!


05 May 2012

Vintage Steam: A Dust Wrapper for Dinny Donovan

In 1967 the notorious! Dinny Donovan (no relation of mine) was managing director of the Caxton Press, Christchurch, a company with whom I had quite a lot of doings.

Dinny asked me to design and execute a dust wrapper for 'Vintage Steam by Frank Roberts. There are two interesting things about this job :

Firstly, I decided to illustrate one of the old locomotives as a stylized side elevation on the cover. As the engine was a horizontal shape, I turned the cover ninety degrees - an unusually daring departure in those days. Secondly, I never gave Dinny a rough design to approve but went directly to finished artwork. I did a basic drawing of the engine and other black portions of the design and then two black 'Kodatrace' overlays, one for gold and the other for red. Only after it was printed could you see how the finished design would look.

Dinny had great faith and the dust wrapper worked out just fine.

These days the whole thing would be done on my iMac. Computers didn't exist in those days and I doubt if 'Kodatrace' exists nowadays. But the mere mention of the word will bring a tear to any old designer aged over 70!


03 May 2012

Vive Le Difference

In the England that I left in 1960 it was likely that any street would be lined with houses that were all the same. Conformity, especially in off-the-hook builders' speculative houses was de rigueur; one of the better known examples would be Coronation Street.

It was quite a surprise to find, in New Zealand, that the citizens were absolutely opposed to uniformity. Under no circumstances could one house look like its neighbour. Indeed, the designers and builders of middle-class housing made sure that there was a large variety of house plans available for prospective buyers, even if they might only incorporate subtle differences.

This row of letter boxes quite close to where I live is a wonderful example of the New Zealander's need to be different - or at least to look different. Even the four boxes that are the same shape are painted different colours

The thing about New Zealanders is that we're all the same - we all want to be different!



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By Don Donovan