The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
February 2, 2011

Rort like an Egyptian

We were going to call this post “Cairo Knife Fight” but there is a band going by that name already – prescient marketing, I would have thought, given the current political turmoil. Instead, the current title refers to the immense ripping off that Mubarek has done to the people of Egypt. News yesterday reports that he and his family have amassed a fortune of $40 billion – which explains directly the reason why the rest of Egypt has to get by on $2 a day. Shocking – no wonder that there is a strong move against him. Gone by lunchtime? Gone by Friday!

It is times like this that I remind myself how lucky we are to live in Aotearoa, where even if our leader is filthy rich, at least he hasn’t got there by ripping us all off, and he doesn’t shut down the internet, or fail to go when the hint is given so strongly, as in Cairo at the moment. There’s a pretty strong hint being given right now in Tahrir Square, with a whole lot of angry muslim youths. Word has it that the Coptic Christians in Cairo are staying inside, not too happy at the thought of a rampant muslim mob.

It got me thinking – Sleeping Dogs aside – how we would perform in an uprising here in New Zealand? We don’t have the equivalent in NZ of the giant urban squares that Cairo has, nor do we have the massive avenues that Hausmann carved through Paris. There was a time when students would get upset over things like apartheid and inequality, and their marches would fill Lambton Quay and echo up and down the urban canyon. But no more – with current fee levels at record highs, and Gen Y in full flight in NZ, there is little sign of unrest aside from Density Church’s black clad anti-gay march from a few years back, or the bikoi of bikers protesting at their ACC fees. We just don’t get upset – we just get complacent, even when things are falling apart: our lethargic population instead sits back and watches more commercials for Harvey Norman, while waiting for the next Masterchef / Gordon Ramsay / Kitchen Confidential series to start.

We don’t even have an airforce capable of flying threatening forays over our cities – indeed, we don’t really have any airforce at all. Does 2x Boeing 757s and a handful of 50 year old cargo planes constitute an airforce? Not really – if any – and nor do we have much of a Navy, despite our massive sea reserves to guard from sneaky squid fishermen: just 2 frigates and a handful of speedy tugs.

What we have instead is an economy gradually drifting to a slow death, not saving enough, apparently, to which we can no doubt blame our booming numbers of coffee houses frittering away our hard earned cash. Despite Nick in the NZX (Odlins) building having his viewshaft blocked by an inconsiderate wharewaka, our stock exchange itself is moribund – it has lost the will to live. If the Australian and the Singapore stock exchanges do merge, as is picked, our NZ exchange is totally doomed to even more insignificance, and will undoubtably have to sell out to somewhere else as well. I find that interesting – time was when we had a thriving stock market, with prices being chalked up on the boards and bidding frantic with sweaty fat men with worried hands flapping up and down. Now, instead, we have just a few computer screens, and little movement on the books. My proposal for a solution: sell the NZX to Trademe (they’d only have to move a floor or two up or down), where the real action in NZ trading is taking place.

In New Zealand, our former Auckland exchange is now hidden in behind nondescript Queen St clothes stores, and has been converted into a travel agent. In Wellington, although we have a Kerry-ticker-tape sign ticking by the windows, our NZX is bland and anonymous architecture, hiding behind the badly renovated bulk of a former timber store, taking up (and wasting?) valuable harbour frontage. What happened?

Stock exchanges were once the place where things happened – the history of our world architecture is told by the history of the exchanges themselves. There’s the Royal Exchange, setting the neo-classical scene for a whole corner of the city of London, and similar buildings in other industrial cities like Manchester and Liverpool, all now re-used for different purposes, like cafes, or places for genteel exhibitions.

There’s the fantastic brick expanse of Berlage’s bourse in Amsterdam, which was built at the peak of the Netherlands influence on world trade, and is now an architectural centre grand enough to make the rest of the world jealous.

Even in ancient times, the exchange was the place where business happened, and the buildings were normally substantial enough to reflect that – like the grain silos used in the Star Wars films to stand in for the outbacks of Tattooine.

Bringing us back to Tunisia, where the current contagious uprising all began. Standing for hundreds, if not thousands of years, the architecture survives, even if the regime does not. Let’s hope that Egypt’s wonderful architecture and museum survives unscathed by the current unrest, and remains available for all the world to go see and visit.

minimus
2 - 02 - 11

Well, he’s announced he won’t stand in the next election, currently scheduled for september, so it must have had some impact. Of course the US will get their grubby little hands in their and install someone.

Maximus
2 - 02 - 11

Ha ! Lying to the bitter end….

“The 82-year-old Mubarak, who has ruled the country for nearly three decades, insisted that his decision not to run had nothing to do with the unprecedented protests that have shaken Egypt the past week.

“I tell you in all sincerity, regardless of the current circumstances, I never intended to be a candidate for another term.”

“I will work for the final remaining months of the current term to accomplish the necessary steps for the peaceful transfer of power,” he said.

Mubarak, a former air force commander, resolutely vowed not to flee the country. “This dear nation .. is where I lived, I fought for it and defended its soil, sovereignty and interests. On its soil I will die. History will judge me like it did others.”

davidp
2 - 02 - 11

So let me get this clear… What Wellington is missing is a large centrally located square where huge crowds of people can gather, chant, burn effigies, and riot.

The Waterfront Watch people would probably be happy with such an amenity since it’d be open space on the 360 days a year that police weren’t firing water cannon at rioters. So maybe we should have used the Waka Shed site for anti-government protests rather than storage of wooden boats and entertainment of rugby fans?

We’d have needed to check with Odlins Nick before granting resource consent. I’d hate for the reflections off the riot shields to give him a headache, or for the billowing clouds of tear gas to obscure his view of the Hikitia.

60 MPa
2 - 02 - 11

We tend to be marchers rather than gatherers – possibly something to do with the desire to be seen doing something?
NZ does get het up occasionally – big ups to our Auck brethren for the large “don’t mine conservation land” march – I think that that made Mr Smile-and-Wave PM Key backpedal rather quickly, though I’ve gotta give the guy credit for getting in early with a “No Winston” call – that little slimeball makes my flesh creep.

Economically the bald fact is that NZers put their faith in houses and tie their wealth up there – we need a Capital Gains Tax but I doubt it will fly til after the damn Boomers have died – any govt bringing it in is thought to be committing political suicide.I think it would be more palatable if not levied on the family home, whatever the fork a family is.

As for the man who inspired a wave of shoes, I see that the US have plainly told him to go now- fair enough, they have paid for the army to the tune of 1.5billion a year.

The big worry for me right now is cyclone Yasi – my thoughts are with the Queenslanders.
If Aus is the lucky country they’ve been having a torrid time of it lately

Maximus
3 - 02 - 11

davidp – no, i wasn’t really saying that we had to have a large rioting square – just musing on what might happen, if it ever should get to that stage. There has been quite a bit of study on the way that a city’s architecture affects its political format – London had the opportunity after their Great Fire to remove the small twisty streets and instigate grand avenues, but they never took it, whereas Paris went down the route of well-known broad avenues, capable of firing a cannon down. Our spaces, by comparison, are a bit meh in Wellington – Auckland of course has Aotea Sq and Queen St – great gathering and rioting potential.

Maximus
3 - 02 - 11

60 – agreed. Key has been very clever – don’t know whether that is intentional or not – but his comments yesterday that “I’m a forward thinking kind of person, not looking backwards like Winston” is really brilliant politics – who could disagree with that – and I think his popularity will rocket upwards after those comments.

re Queensland – I wonder what their building code is like? It would be quite easy to specify that all houses should have a solid concrete basement room etc. Wonder if they do?

60 MPa
3 - 02 - 11

If houses were built to be cyclone proof, Queensland’s suburbs would look like the Maginot Line.Cyclone resistant is another story – a basement requires tanking/waterproofing and the area in question is pretty low lying (I hear) so it would add a bit to the cost.The sort of thing that people only build once they’ve had their first house blown over.

Anecdotally I hear of a few fellow tradies going to Aus for clean-up work seeing as Fletchers has sewn up Chch and work is damn thin here – 3 carpet layers last week from one outfit.

I heard a while back that nearly 90% of new NZ builds are on a concrete floor which would be on a cost basis.The US has a culture of keeping a basement secure but it doesn’t seem to be on here.

An opportunity exists this weekend to observe crowd behaviour in Wellington. Whilst sociologically interesting, I’ll be leaving town for the weekend for that very reason.

Seamonkey Madness
3 - 02 - 11

“If houses were built to be cyclone proof, Queensland’s suburbs would look like the Maginot Line.”

Ha!

Maximus
3 - 02 - 11

Maginot? Well, it ain’t necessarily so.

As we all know from the Wizard of Oz, Kansas has a lot of tornados – and friends of Dorothy will confirm that while the houses get blown away on regular occasions, they always have a storm-proof concrete basement that remains intact. That’s different from asking that the whole house be made from concrete….

davidp
3 - 02 - 11

Max>I wonder what their building code is like? It would be quite easy to specify that all houses should have a solid concrete basement room etc. Wonder if they do?

I can’t speak for FNQ, but I lived in Darwin for a while and have plenty of experience with cyclones. Pre-Tracy structures were lightweight and elevated with lots of louvered windows. All designed for maximum airflow. They were pretty much completely torn to pieces in the cyclone.

Pre-Tracy buildings often have visible strengthening now. A colleague was renting one and it had heavy steel straps running up the interior walls added to hold the roof on, and it still didn’t look like the sort of place I’d want to weather a cyclone.

Immediate post-Tracy construction tends to be vastly overbuilt, with small windows and features like non-solid-concrete block screens screening windows. As they’re built in the 70s they tend to have brown tiles and similar decoration. Ugly!

There are a lot of modern multi-story concrete apartments. I lived in one. They tend to have lots of glass and louvres, but typically they have concrete block interior walls. Generally people plan to use their interior bathroom as a cyclone bunker and they’d be quite safe, even if you emerged to a home without any intact glass and full of debris and water.

There are plenty of houses in the burbs that are a bit tropical, but they’re built to a code that should keep them mostly structurally intact, even if they’re probably not going to be inhabitable. People in the burbs tend to get very concerned about things like nearby trees falling on to their homes.

60 MPa
3 - 02 - 11

Looking at the pics after the worst has gone through and listening to the reports on Natradio today it seems that the blockhouse concrete interior wall model has helped save lives. Relocating the old folk in one town into the red cross centre saved them as the hall they were going to stay in blew over.
I would imagine that a stone core to a house may help in cooling it too?

The Maginot quip is to demonstrate the diff between a cyclone proof house and a cyclone resistant house.Some of the pics I’ve seen look like the roof staying on or not was down to the difference between roofing with tek screws vs old leadhead nails.

A major relief that the authorities and people seem to have acted in proportion and promptly – better than the people camped out in Tahrir Square got from their govt who look to be winning at the moment.

Click your heels all you like Max, you’re still not in Kansas but at least drunken costumed rugby fans pissing in your front yard are less harmful than corrugated sheets traveling at cyclonic speeds though the air or mobs of people biffing rocks at you.
Bless..

Kent Duston
5 - 02 - 11

Hey, I resent that comment about Wellingtonians not being motivated enough to get out and protest! I’ve watched two protests move noisily down Willis Street and Lambton Quay in the last few days …. there seemed to be plenty of very vocal people, and although I didn’t understand exactly what they were chanting they were exhorting everyone to join them at a major rally at the Cake Tin, apparently to overthrow the malign dictatorship of tasteful dressing. Good on them, I say!

Basil
7 - 02 - 11

Not sure about your comments re John Key (or Donkey, as a small child I know refers to him!) since a strong emphasis of Maori culture is to look back at your ancestors and your traditions and honour these as – or even before – you look forwards. Kind of like walking forward while looking backwards. Tricky!

I’m not sure it’s a clever move on his part – he might just have alienated himself from a huge chunk of Maori voters by pronouncing his intention to operate in a manner that is somewhat contrary to Maori tradition.

minimus
7 - 02 - 11

basil- why does the child call him donkey? As I was reading that, all of a sudden an image of the donkey from shrek (I’ve never seen the movies, just the ads) popped in and I thought that key and the donkey look alike when they smile. Is that why?

Basil
7 - 02 - 11

Just how a four-year old pronounces “John Key”, I think! But now you mention it, I see the resemblence…

Maximus
11 - 02 - 11

It looks like I might have been a week too early. Maybe THIS week, THIS Friday, THIS lunchtime?

Maximus
11 - 02 - 11

There’s only one thing better than Fish Power, and that’s People Power!

60 MPa
11 - 02 - 11

What’s the odds that the more junior officers in the army take out Mubarak and the senior generals?
As I’ve heard elsewhere, if this works then it’s one on the schnozz for al-Qaeda – they have said that the mighty satan (US) has been propping up their local hardline repressors and needs to be hit but if the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi can start a wave of people power then there’s an obviously much better way.

Whilst looking into this I have made the discovery that Glen Beck is a complete freak – no news to others but for sheer ocean-going gold-plated honking looneytunes, call a rightwing US commentator for a thouroughly professional job.Or Fred Phelps

60 MPa
12 - 02 - 11

Woot!
The bastard’s gone