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l'enfer du North Island

  a brief point about rhetoric Thursday, 28 October 2010 link

So The Hobbit is now to be shot in NZ after all. I'm pretty happy about this - then again, I've got some skin in the game, as the production being in NZ helps to keep my kids fed and the mortgage paid. And yes, I did go along to the support rally.

There's a lot of invective being sloshed about by the various sides. I'm going to ignore most of it (being called a scab by Chris Trotter is more hilarious than anything else), but I was quite taken aback by No Right Turn's post in which he states that "the entire film and video game industry gets to be slaves".

Now: let's talk about slavery. Slavery is when someone else owns you. You have no rights over your own actions. Historically, your children could be taken away and sold. You could be killed with impunity. You have absolutely no rights over when or how you can work. Slavery is not an outdated phenomenon; there are well-documented cases of forced labour (basically, modern slavery) in the fishing industry, chocolate production, and domestic work.

Now, what the bill has done is just to say "hey, if you work in the film industry, and you signed a piece of paper that says that you agree to be a contractor rather than an employee... you're a contractor, not an employee." So this doesn't eliminate the possibility that you could be an employee. It's just that if you agree to be a contractor, then a contractor you shall be. This is carefully explained to you before you start. Working in the film industry, this contracting relationship is absolutely standard. Yes, you have none of the rights that regular employees have (such as any form of leave or job security past the end of your contract); but plenty of people sign up for this because they want the jobs. If this is slavery, so are highly-paid IT contractors working on the BNZ's servers.

There are reasons to be worried about this bill. It's hastily drafted, oddly specific, and drafting legislation to get a commercial contract is hardly a proud moment for our nation. But.

Using the word "slavery" to describe simply codifying a position that has been the de facto standard for years is nothing short of obscene. It cheapens the word. It's practically Godwinning your own argument. Slavery, like rape or genocide, should not be an idle rhetorical label thrown in to shore up an ill-considered argument: it is a word that describes one of the most fundamental violations of another human being, and should be treated with the consideration that deserves.

  subcutaneous Friday, 22 October 2010 link

I have a paperback edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that I picked up around 2002 or so. On the back is a quote to the effect that future generations of children will grow up swapping references to Diagon Alley and the like. This comment was more prescient that the author realised. Kids who were 7 when the first book was published are 20 now. And they're doing all the things that 20-year olds do.

Which is why about one in every eight entries on fuckyeahtattoos is a Harry Potter tribute tattoo. Kids grew up with Potter, loved it, and are now old enough to get inked. I'm not so much surprised by the fact that people are getting HP tats, as by the sheer number of people getting them. It's clearly been a huge cultural touchstone for a lot of young people. Looks like Harry Potter is very much this generation's Star Wars (pop cultural touchstone tattoo of choice for the over 25s). Well, I guess the Star Wars this generation got was pretty crappy, so HP picked up the slack.

Amusingly, coming in a close second in terms of tattoos of cultural icons is the movie "My Neighbour Totoro." Kids really seem to love Totoro, eh?

There's an elephant in the room. I'm not going to discuss it, for professional reasons.

Had our annual October holiday in Auckland. Was a nice time, incorporating my birthday. As I was turning 35, we took the family on a trip to the butterfly house out at Butterfly Creek. It was great. I love butterfly houses; well, I'm a big fan of butterflies, so it rather follows. The kids were in heaven. Maggie did find the heat a bit much after about fifteen minutes in the butterfly house, but Rebecca was loving it. Plus, Butterfly Creek has a lot of interesting other animals, including some species of tarantula that you simply can't see anywhere else in New Zealand (including Citharischius crawshayi [King Baboon Tarantula] and Pamphobetus antinous [Bolivian Blue Leg]). Plus they had a farm park where the kids got to pat bunnies. So a win all around, really. And a good birthday for me.

I've now been 35 for a fortnight. My knees seem to be holding up. I have noticed an increased desire to wear a cardigan (well, a hoodie, but they're pretty much the same thing).

We seem to be inculcating our children in the family tradition of robust debate. The other night, while I trying to resolve a horrendous situation involving excrement, Rebecca tried to come in and tell me something. Wearily, I told her "Rebecca, do me a favour and bugger off for a bit, eh?" She left. Ten minutes later, excrement resolved, I went and fond Rebecca. "Hey, sorry I was rude earlier." She looked puzzled. "When I told you to bugger off for a bit?" I prompted. She smiled at me and said "That's not rude, that's fatherness."

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