Monday, July 13, 2009

This is no trick

The Sunday Star Times came out with this: Olympian pimps bid with fundraising trick. Logan Campbell an Olympic hopeful in 2008 is trying to fund his bid for 2012 by opening what he describes as a "high class escort agency". It isn’t a trick - this is called making a living and I hope that the publicity helps the business.

In terms of being “traditional” or “old fashioned” Taekwondo is nothing short of prehistoric, at least it is in New Zealand. In going public over his new business venture I suspect Logan will have done a little bit more than surprise people. He will have upset some and deeply offended others; I would be truly interested in what his instructor has to say - especially now the story has gone global. I hope the tale sparks a wider debate about the role of minor sports, small nations and what professional funding means in modern Olympism, but I’m not holding my breath.

It is not for me to defend the legitimacy of running an escort agency or even to argue that Logan’s case is a special one amongst the athletes who compete in sports that are regarded as minor in terms of national importance. The only thing I really take issue with is that anyone has the right to call his actions disreputable or inappropriate. The Logan Campbell I know is a nice guy, dedicated, bright, articulate and generally well meaning.

The quote by John Schofield of Taekwondo "Selection takes into account not just performance but also the athlete's ability to serve as an example to the youth of the country.", typifies what has been a difficult relationship between Campbell and the sport he loves. Perhaps what Schofield should have said, is something along the lines of - ”whilst we don’t necessarily approve of these actions it does highlight the difficulties surrounding the finances for all aspiring New Zealand Olympians in minor sports”. Given that performance funding for all but a restricted number of sports in NZ is largely discretionary and unpredictable, it was perhaps wise not to rock the boat. The NZOC and SPARC’s National academy are far from perfect organisations, but I strongly believe that the root of this problem rests with a genuine lack of will on the part of successive governments to actually promote sport rather than winning. What politicians want is medals and trophies, the approach to sport funding continues to reflect this.

High performance sport funding in New Zealand is broken; spending increasing amounts of cash on a diminishing pool of athletes in order to “punch above our weight on the international stage” is a strategy that is doomed to failure in the long term. There will come a point when there will not be enough quality performers and nothing like enough money to pull this off. It may well be the case that the whole notion of performance sport funding needs to be debated in terms of viability and usefulness. As long as high performance sport funding remains a populist cash cow then no one has the right to judge those with the dedication and industry to seek independent means whatever the method.

Some things you may not know about Logan Campbell: He

Has been in Taekwondo from a young age.
Narrowly missed out on going to the Athens Olympics at age 19.
Is a drug-free athlete.
Is dyslexic.
Was training twice a day most days in the 9 months preceding the Beijing Olympics.
Put off his last year of study at university in order to prepare for the Olympics.
Sold his car to fund a training trip to Europe.
Left New Zealand for Beijing with one sponsor (I think).
Attended at least three schools making presentations before leaving for Beijing while many other athletes were already at camps, this he did out of love for his sport.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fuck who ?

One baby boy, one wife and a modestly happy life, but you gotta wonder though, haven’t you…..

To the best of my knowledge, my first gay admirer was the late John Balance or as he was known to me, Geoff Rushton. His enthusiasm for Throbbing Gristle pins and such was lost on me, but his kindness and respect for me is not forgotten. Now I understand the confused and slightly pained look on his face. I think at the time I was rather too absorbed in my own struggles to really grasp what was going on.

Time passes:

I became chaperone to the first (and probably only) lesbian pool team to play in a male dominated league in the UK. We made the local rag and I made some good friends. Ali, Fran and Angie were heroes in their own right being long standing protestors at Greenham Common. I learned a lot from them all, not least about the lottery created by not knowing who the nasty homophobes were. Looking back, one of my mother’s finer achievements was running a pub with an ambiance and attitude that allowed everyone to feel comfortable having a drink.

Meanwhile more admirers made themselves known to me. Poor old Peter used to call me Hero, he never laid a hand on me but in a moment of exasperation he all but begged me to undress for him. Later he apologised to me, it was a struggle to explain that I was flattered, not offended, but still not really up for it.

The bravest of the lot I think, was Ray who followed me home after an evening in the Pub. I remember the footsteps behind me on a deserted street in Oxford; I sped up the feet behind me sped up, I slowed down the feet behind me slowed down. I thought I was going to get mugged. Beneath a streetlight I turned quickly to confront my assailant and there was Ray with his hands in front of his face expecting to be punched. He stood his ground and blurted “are you gay ? andodyouwanttogoforadrink ?“ pause…. I laughed out loud and said I wasn’t gay, he looked so disappointed that I agreed to go for a drink with him anyway – just for a giggle. I’m not sure if that was the smartest thing that I have ever done, and it was a poor reward for what I feel was quite a courageous act. After all, I was a fit and quite capable of beating the shit out of him.

And the list goes on…

Gareth expanded beyond measure, my understanding of non-contact sport, he also loaned me some really useful books.

The guy on the train who had such a broad Yorkshire accent he shouted his proposal at me three times across a train before I got it.

The two guys who so openly flirted with me while they were on the checkouts at my local supermarket…….in front of my then fiancĂ©e.

The pair in Sheffield who had me biting a pillow with laughter one Sunday morning – the floors are thin around here too y’know.

My admirers at the pool; “are you gay ?”, “no”, “do you want to be ?” left me speechless as did “I’m married, but I’d give it up for you”.

I remain flattered.

To the couple who have befriended and cared for my Mother in the UK, I am truly grateful.

Right now I’m looking forwards to the birth of a work colleague’s baby – she and her partner are lovely and I am damn proud that they have chosen to confide in me.

This is not just some self aggrandising way of screaming “I’m down with teh gayz”. The bigger point is this. I have never felt the urge to harm anyone in the course of these encounters. It may be argued for various reasons that I should be deeply homophobic. I’m not and when shit like this happens I get very upset indeed. Which I guess is why when stuff like this comes out I am almost crying with mischief and happiness.

All together now….”Fuck you, Fuck you very very muuuuch”……

Monday, June 29, 2009

Damien Hirst, Ambivalence and Me.

Damien Hirst and I were born within a few days of each other, which would in most senses be a tenuous link. I've never met the guy and probably have little in common with him. Except that his art seems to work right in the middle of my aesthetic bandwidth. When for the love of god appeared, all I could say was - wow. It wasn't the money or the sheer audacity of it, just wow I never saw that until I saw it. I've always been like that with Hirst's work; pharmacies, sharks, you name it, the connection is immediate and needs no translation. I have often wondered if the connection is some kind of cohort effect - that is to say Hirst is an artist of my time and age, his immediacy and importance may well be lost to other generations. In particular he and I are part an early media generation; full of television and adverts, when in Britain at least, it was all new. No surprises then that I picked up on his work relatively early, following closely over the years, travelling to London regularly. When Hirst first published I Want To Spend The Rest Of My Life Everywhere, With Everyone... in 1997, I got really excited.

My sister who worked for a major bookseller got me a copy for my birthday, possibly the best present I have ever received. The book has never been opened, still in the shrink wrap, I'm not sure if it has a signature inside (probably not). A few days ago my wife asked me what was in a box covered in shrink wrap, wrapped in bubble wrap and clearly undisturbed. I told her and explained a little. She asked me if I was going to sell it, I recoiled and said absolutely no, "Then why don't you open it ?" she asked quite reasonably, I said no - "Then what's it for ?" erm..uhhhh.. what is it for ? Maybe someone will open it when I die. Did you get that one Damien ? Then there is the question of which of us will die first.

Friday, June 05, 2009

David Carradine

With the recent death of David Carradine I found one of the few reasons to have a television (there isn't one in the house). Ahhhh grasshopper, the steps of Kwai Chang Caine across the rice paper and the lifting of the coals; these moments set the template for me starting martial arts and probably my re-habilitation as a person. The bit that makes me smile is that this would not have been possible without Carridine in my front room on a Saturday evening. No surprises that I was watching Hell Ride and Kung Fu Killer last weekend (on DVD). Gonna miss the old fella he was always worth watching.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Storming the Bridge

I guess the civil mischief that was the mass crossing of the Harbour Bridge can be seen in
several ways: Cultural Rebellion, clash of Car Kiwi vs. Sustainable Kiwi, a battle for minority rights perhaps. For me it is one of those Easter Island moments. I have in mind the occasions that must surely have emerged in the past, where two views of the future met and conflicted in a high stakes game of legitimacy. Or: "dude if we keep doing what we have always done it could all end very badly" vs. "but this is what we have always done and it works for most of us,...where's my f*****g axe".

A rather large number of people decided that they viewed the future differently, for whatever reason. What was most telling was the response of NZTA regional director Wayne McDonald: Mr. McDonald says there are plans to provide access for bikes and foot traffic, but it will be 30 years before it is complete (from the NZ Herald online, 24- 05-2009). I strongly suspect that Mr. McDonald and I will be dead by then, either as a consequence of old age or global stupidity. I maintain high hopes that my little bloke will see the day though. I guess a 30-year planning term with a suggestion that this is non-negotiable is one way of saying 'f**k off annoying little people who aren't busy driving somewhere important in a car on a Sunday'.

I don't want to debate whether the protest will get walkways and cycle ways any sooner, according to NZTA it won't. What I want to question is the appropriateness of the response from NZTA. Let's face it, this is a civil servant or a group of civil servants insisting that transport policy and the use of the Auckland Harbour Bridge will not change in my lifetime or theirs: 'F**k democracy and elected office - we run New Zealand roads' would seem to be the case here. You have got to admire the honesty of the response, at least it's not 'oh we'll look into it and send you a report', which I am led to understand has been the response for the last 50 years. I might add this was the line delivered by Northcote MP Jonathan Coleman.

I am worried though, because these people and I'm not just talking about NZTA, but
those who put them to work, appear to me to be the last axe men on Easter Island. I suspect this is one agency that Rodney Hide does support and indulge. The message is simple; there are no plans for change despite compelling reasons to do so and a growing community to support them. One public day on the bridge was all that was requested - for the first time in 50 years. The response rendered was an excuse masquerading as safety. The clip-on's canna handle it captain! Well, assuming that such a density of individuals walking in time across the bridge (unlikely) could cause the clip-on's to sway - why not let people cross in a trickle and keep them moving when the accumulate at the apex. That is of course, instead of deliberately directing them on to the middle lanes to make the problem look intractable and those doing it a menace. Coning one lane of the clip-on's in half and keeping everyone in line would have mitigated most of these (alleged) risks. When nice middle-class folk choose to criminalise themselves, then you have cause to worry about how society is operating. I believe that good laws are those not made to defend the stupidity or pet hates of politicians and civil servants.

Some points of note:
The only endorsed crossing is one you have to pay for as part of the Auckland Marathon/Half Marathon which does make the opportunity a little exclusive. It also proves that it can be done. Cyclists should righteously be p**sed off , they don't even get the opportunities afforded to runners as above. Oh, and try putting a bike on a bus around here. Funnily enough, I do know of some cyclists who used to ride out to the Coromandel and return to the North Shore by the (now withdrawn ?) ferry service. To all those motorists who suffered delay on Sunday: allow me to apologise on behalf of NZTA who it appears preferred a confrontation to a well managed celebration of alternative transport. Message: any delay could have been avoided had NZTA done their jobs properly and facilitated rather than obstructed the actions of well reasoned individuals. To the guy who abused cyclists, walkers, parents and children as they obstructed his Sunday drive: See the above comment, but above all stop and think what message you sent - Because I drive I have the right to swear at everyone. Now tell me who looks menacing and inconsiderate, for you are undoubtedly a one amongst many bigots who abuse Auckland roads and respond to the NZ Herald reader's views section.

For what it is worth I don't think that a cycle/walkway across the harbour would be that well used. But I agree with David Slack that it could be part of a fantastic tourist attraction. Above all it would represent the intention to do things differently and hopefully a little better, the consequences of which might finally precipitate a much needed culture shift. The question remains - How do facilitate rather than exclude those who prefer transport that doesn't involve internal combustion engines. Because constructively institutionalising car use in particular is no longer acceptable. Big ups to the first bunch of cyclists across who I believe got things going. You are the real spirit of forward thinking New Zealand - I will be seeing you shortly ;-) And the storm the bridge award goes to.................(to the sound of 'be careful with that Axe Eugene' by Pink Floyd of course)


Stood in a corridor I looked towards the end door. There I saw a shoe, hanging from a foot attached to a slim leg, dressed in a foot loop stocking, all bathed in just the right light. I could see it all, in black and white, a gorgeous picture in a brief moment. Could I capture it ? Sadly no camera, but above all how do you capture such a moment without feeling like a pervert or worse being treated like one ? I really don’t know, but on reflection I have acquired a deeper admiration for those photographers who save such images in their mind and then present the vision and imagination to re-create such images in a more controlled context. Seeing it is one thing, giving it to the world is another altogether. I wonder what will happen when we can all manage to capture the beauty we see everyday, when our eyes are cameras in themselves. Will a truly shared aesthetic emerge ? or something more radical and disturbing.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Good days…..

I guess that if I ever get really good at photography I will look on these with a patronising smile. But as it stands these are a cut above what I have snapped for some time. For me at least, digital is great it’s not just that I can have several attempts at something (but not that many attempts) but that I compose with confidence and don't worry about the cost of a roll. These have been Photoshopped but not too much.

We were staying at Kai Iwi lakes with the rellies for a few days whilst touring Northland - the day before I had cycled all the way from the shore to Dargaville. Little bloke, my wife and I eschewed the lakes for a walk to the beach in the evening and were duly rewarded with a warm, spotless, empty beach. Something about the location and being properly on holiday really prompted a different state of mind.

On the way.....

Having a play

Going home

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sport, Art and Me

Hadyn Green over at Public Address started a thread on Sport and is it Art nothing new except for once I wrote and wrote well - This is what I wrote.

I’m probably taking this waaaay to seriously however…..

Depends on whether Art is solely in the eye of the beholder, or the intent of the performer counts for something.

I can get with that and I would qualify it with this misquote from someone whom I can’t fully recall.

Art is what exists in the dialogue between the art-moment and the individual exposed to it. As such, each exposure is a unique art product. Unconstrained by specific intentions the artist may stimulate the process without necessarily defining it. Viewing with artistic intent is as important as viewing a de facto artwork or artist; this sees art as only requiring the intent of one or other of the involved parties. Hence art is what we experience where artistic intent exists on one or both sides of the dialogue; in this way the question is not who the artist is, but where the art is to be found or experienced.

I like this idea as it allows for art to be incidental and for distinctions between art, sport and craft to be largely irrelevant.


For example it makes no sense to me at least, to draw an artificial line between the absorbed, involved manipulation of chaos demonstrated by Jackson Pollock and the absorbed liberation of action from apparent chaos demonstrated by Ronaldinho. There is a clear dyad between these artists and the complex changing forms that surround them, both of whom seem to be able to capture something sublime from apparent randomness.


Compare Picasso’s Guernica with Jesse Owens performances at the 1936 Olympics, you cannot separate these actions from the politics and complexity that surrounded them. Each in its own way was beautiful, profound, historical and dare I say it misunderstood at times.


I challenge you to say the Valerie Villi’s actions in Beijing were not pure theatre; creating a micro-climate around her in order to elevate performance and its eventual outcome. She manipulated those around her as effectively and indeed beautifully as she propelled the shot, keenly interacting with the act, the audience and the occasion. So too does Damien Hirst appreciate his role as art creator, manipulator and marketing man. Not only does he create the work but he deliberately manipulates media around him to create a context for his work; performance and theatre as a subtext for an artistic act.


Here’s the one that clinches it for me. Look carefully at the deliberate, determined perfectionism of Yves Kline in his creation of IKB and that of a sprinter, thrower or diver. They seek perfection in clearly identifiable form through deliberate repetitive search only then to explore those forms in different contexts. More compellingly Klein wrote quite early in his career on “le Vide” (the void) an ethereal sense created by an artistic act. Compare this with accounts of “being in the zone” or “flow” and you get the sense that our artists and sportsfolk can and sometimes do occupy the same intellectual space in pursuit of particular goals.

So to be quite contrary Art is because I say soand that is what really matters.

The best excuse I ever heard.

The drunk stick is a tale of the best excuse I ever heard.

Back in the day when Universities selected rather than marketed and tutors spoke to students individually, I was given pastoral responsibility for some fresher’s (yeah that’ll be the responsible me). Within my care was a young southern Irish fellow who was really struggling to come to terms with the end of fresher’s week. Indeed when rarely sighted in daylight hours, he appeared to be headed for the Rugby Fields. By week eight other tutors began to notice and it was up to me to remind our young friend of his academic obligations. I sent a letter, phoned his home, and finally collared him outside the student union (on his way in !). We set up a meeting and he didn’t turn up. I sent the official first warning letter and he phoned to set up a meeting at 10:00 am a few days later. The day of the meeting at 10:00, our chum was a no show. He did finally show up at four in the afternoon and this is what I heard (the names have been changed to protect the innocent):

Brendon; Oh hello sir (in deep Irish accent) I’m so so sorry to be late sir honest I am.

81st: Really ? (sarcasm)

Brendon: Yes yes for sure, I am sir yes, honest, see it wasn’t my fault I really, really did mean to get here at ten……

81st: You were delayed then ? (arches eyebrow)

Brendon: Oh yessir I surely did it just well….gasp…

81st: You don’t appear to have any broken bones…….

Brendon: No sir it wasn’t like that – it was just that last night I was walking home one my own minding my own business….when I got caught…

81st: Caught by whom ?

Brendon: I got caught walking past the dark doorway of this bar….when suddenly a shadow jumped out and beat me wit de drunk stick…..

81st: A Drunk stick ? (both eyebrows raised )

Brendon: Yes Sir the shadow hit me round the head with the drunk stick and he hurt me so he did. In fact he hit me so hard that I had a terrible headache this mornin’ and had to stay in bed ‘til it went away…..that’s why I’m late (triumphantly !)

81st: So does this happen often and is there any way we can help you circumnavigate this particular door way in future (trying to suppress peals of laughter)

Brendon: It’s funny you should say that I was givin’ the matter some thought myself…

81st: Well that does sound like good news…….

I believe that Brendon abandoned his original course of study in favour of medicine ?