Category Archives: Opinion

Slaves to the rhythm, by Alison Dormaar

Guest post from Alison Dormaar, Pegasus resident and author

I don’t know about everyone else, but advances in technology nowadays leaves me feeling somewhat dense. Every six months or so, it seems a new ‘application’, ‘program’ or hi tech device hits our market and, being the novelty junkies that modern people are, we all rush out to buy. Whether or not we really need the latest Swiss army knife style pager, I-pad or I-phone with cameras, Wi-Fi, Internet, searchlights, Skype, cigarette lighters and God knows what else all included is a matter for debate. The thing is, we have somehow convinced ourselves we cannot live without them.

How on earth has humanity managed to survive, if not flourish, for the past million or so years without these wonders of scientific advancement? Well, somehow we have and what’s more, I’d say we’ve done pretty well. Even thousands of years after the event, people still marvel over such ancient feats of genius such as the pyramids, and if one goes inside hallowed places such as the Sistine Chapel and oooh and ahhh over its masterly creation, it is worth remembering that Michelangelo and his assistants did it all without any hi-tech devices whatsoever.

When one watches teenagers strolling about feverishly clicking away at their cellphones or fiddling maniacally with their I-pods as if their very lives depended on them, it does become apparent that humanity has inflicted a new and merciless master on itself. We love to give ourselves the illusion we have it all under control – we cover our small, demanding devices with colourful and personalized covers, we regularly change the dial tones, we hang charms and other nick-nacks off them to proclaim our mastery – and yet, each time that little tyrant beeps in your pocket, you are all too desperate to instantly obey. One can almost imagine the damned things reclining on some cushioned couch as you kneel abjectly at the foot peeling more grapes to feed their insatiable appetites – or in the modern sense, buying and downloading more air time, which as many of us can testify, can be a somewhat pricey business.

I said earlier it all leaves me for one feeling dense – and yet, I wonder if that is truly the case. In this manic era of texting, many social observers have noted there has been a substantial decline in written standards and verbal communication; some time ago I remember watching with fascination as two teens, clearly friends, sat side by side on a bus texting away furiously to each other – and not one word passed their lips. One would like to think that the Art of Conversation is alive and well, but seeing scenes like that is somewhat worrying.

As if happens, I do have a cellphone which I keep for emergencies or for back up should I be out and about. It is plain, simple and unadorned. All it does is handle phone calls and that is why I have it. I don’t like texting people every five minutes to see what they are doing nor do I expect they will be there to answer my electronic summons at the push of a ‘send’ button 24/7. I like to think they have a real, tangible life and what’s more, I prefer to physically meet with my friends and talk face to face rather than hop online with Facebook and Twitter. It is so easy to type out something stupid online for everyone to see that you may well regret later. With a physical friend, at least you can make amends openly and your facial gestures will display your sincerity – the typed out word lingers in Cyberspace forever, stark, rude and unforgiving.

Technology should be our tool – not the other way around.

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Oh Richter, you Rotter! An update from Alison Dormaar.

Guest post from Alison Dormaar, Pegasus resident and author

Okay, I believe I can safely speak for everyone here in Canterbury when I say that I am sick to the back teeth of earthquakes. You can tell visitors from the locals by their reactions even to the smallest tremors. Outsiders leap to their feet and wildly look around while locals yawn and go “oh yeah”, as well they might, being veterans of over 10,000 aftershocks and still counting. GeoTech for many of we budding seismologists inCanterburyhas become an old and familiar friend (did anyone send them a Christmas card?)

Mind you, the events of December 23 served as a sharp reminder that however much we all like to forget it in New Zealand, we live on the Ring of Fire and that no matter where you live, there will be some level of risk. A few nights later we were treated to a regular smorgasbord of quakes, starting at 1.30 am and continuing until 5.45 am where we were farewelled with a grand finale measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale – but most people do agree, that swarm of over 19 shocks was out of the ordinary. I do know that come daylight, I for one who had borne the past year with as much stoic passivity as possible, snapped, brewed the most potent cuppa imaginable and committed fearful ravages on a box of scorched almonds (one great thing about the festive time of year, there’s plenty of scope for comfort eating!)

The experts tell us we can expect tremors for the next 30 years. After that comforting statement appeared on the six o’clock news, I heard from a string of panicked people, all convinced that the world was about to end, that Christchurch was cursed, that it was Judgement Day etc etc, and the overall impression they all had from the media was that we would be plagued with continuous swarms of earth shattering tremors 24/7. In this the media could have been a tad more responsible and eliminated the scaremongering hype. I’m not exactly happy with the news myself, but upon a little further thought, remember that the so-called experts said “could” and “might” and that over time the tremors will noticeably become much less and of a far less violent magnitude – and that we will most certainly not have to wait the full 30 years to see much of this happen. In fact, from June 2011 until that fateful day in December, a significant reduction in tremors had already occurred.

Running away does not help anything in the long term. An acquaintance told me the other day she is seriously considering moving to Nelson, whereupon it was pointed out to her that Nelson is virtually on top of the great Alpine fault. Other people have fled to the likes of Wellington and Auckland– two main centres with an even higher risk of catastrophic chaos than Christchurch, and in the case ofAucklandwe have several active volcanoes thrown into the equation. Personally I believe the greatest fear and anxiety begins after the event itself, when the Hydra that is Insurance rears its monstrous and countless heads. I know I for one would find the prospect of dealing with a niggling insurance agent or officious EQC officer the worst horror scenario of all. Heaven knows, far too many of us have had to deal with that nightmare this past year.

So goodbye to 2011, and good riddance. My resolution for 2012 is not to make resolutions but to take life as it comes and to reflect on what truly matters in my life rather than what values others may dictate to me. As a Taurus, I have been emboldened by my horoscope for the coming year which states that I am in for a major career breakthrough and a huge boost for confidence and self esteem – as I am a budding writer, I say bring it on! Perhaps the shake up of 2011 in some ways is what many of us, stuck in our old conventional rut, needed. And on that vein, Christchurch, like the phoenix, will indeed rise from its smouldering Victorian ashes and truly emerge resplendent into the twenty first century a better, brighter, safer world class city we can all be proud of.

Comment from Pegasus:
Despite all the thousands of earthquakes in Christchurch since September 2010, there has been no damage at all at Pegasus.

The views, opinions or positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or position of Pegasus Town Ltd.

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Tinsellitis! Our Pegasus blogger gets ready for Christmas.

Guest post by Alison Dormaar, Pegasus resident and author

It’s funny what seasonal fever will do – and I’m not talking about the flu or some other physical malady. No, I’m talking about the Christmas fever, that feverish feel-good madness that translates into overspending, overeating, back-slapping, manic laughing behaviour that is sharply cured when the bank visa statement arrives in January. After a year of being usually solid and responsible, for a few weeks at the end of the year we succumb to the rabid infection that is the Silly Season.

It’s also funny that when one trolls the malls like one does at this time of year, that one is witness to the spectacle of owl eyed youngsters, trussed up in their best garb, being hauled up to Santa on his gilt throne like sacrificial victims to the Glorious Cause. Some little ones accept their fate with shy resignation while others scream blue murder – and let’s face it, after a year of being sternly told by Mum and Dad about stranger danger, they are now confronted with the terrifying spectre of a big, bearded chap in a fire-red suit and tasseled cap who is as strange as they come – and the grinning Mum and Dad are there to capture their moments of terror on camera, the sadists! Well, that is how I remember my early years anyway, and it was not until I was about five that I realised that Santa was not going to carry me off in his black sack or that the reindeer were not about to eat me.

There is something distinctly pagan in our enjoyment of Christmas – and that is not surprising, if you know anything about history. After all, December 25 used to be the original festival of the Persian god Mithras, a deity very popular with the Roman army. The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia also coincides with this time of year, where mad partying, feasting and practical jokes marked the end of the old calendar year. And that most hallowed of yuletide traditions, the Christmas tree, had its origins among the ancient fierce tribes of northern Europe – Germany, to be more precise – who used to sacrifice youths of noble birth to sacred trees in order to appease the forest spirits. Early Christian missionaries – running a very high risk of being seized by the enraged locals and burned alive in wicker cages, I may add – managed to convince the pagans that decorating trees achieved the same purpose without the need for shedding blood.

So, taking all this into account, it is no surprise that many fundamentalist Christians over the years have frowned upon the excesses at this time of year. Around 1650 the Puritan Protector of England, Oliver Cromwell (the ultimate party pooper, long before Scrooge) even banned celebrations over the yuletide season. However, over the centuries ancient ritual and religious belief has merged to create a worldwide phenomenon. Even in the far reaches of India and Africa, gurus and witchdoctors acknowledge Christmas, not just as the birthday of Christ, but as the one time of year where good prevails over evil and when everyone stops and becomes just that bit nicer and happier to everyone else around them. It’s just sad that that giddy infection of peace and goodwill does not run its course throughout the rest of the year.

So, pagan origins or not, let us succumb to the festive disease. Our purses may be poorer and our waistlines may be thicker, but our spirits will be all the richer for it.

God bless us, everyone!

The views, opinions or positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or position of Pegasus Town Ltd.

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The year in retrospect – Pegasus resident reflects on 2011

Guest post by Alison Dormaar, Pegasus resident and author

There is something manic in the air at the moment. No, I do not mean the looming General Election. Most of us regard that as a passing duty, an obligatory chore that must be performed every three years as we endure once again the merry go around of “VOTE FOR ME” antics by those mad or idealistic enough who fancy themselves as our leaders for the next three years. No, I am referring to the Silly Season, known fondly to one and all as Christmas.

Christmas has taken on a somewhat poignant if not desperate feel this year. After mine cave-ins, quakes, economic turmoil, snowstorms, volcanic ash clouds and all manner of other nasties, there is a real mood that we all just want to run away and enjoy ourselves. We are now faced with the most fattening time of the year – you could easily replace the words from the title of the well known Christmas song ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of The Year’ with these! But excess pounds and calories aside, many of us feel like a further outbreak of self indulgence – and let’s face it, after the last twelve months, why not? Compared to chocolate liqueurs, baked ham and roast turkey, carrot sticks and lettuce leaves somehow don’t have that feel good factor, do they?

2011 has been one of those remarkable landmark years in my books. We have certainly had our fair share of assorted disasters, but overseas we have seen massive change as well, and not all of it bad. We have seen the long awaited downfall of the likes of Bin Laden and Gaddafi, and the global rise of a sense of outrage against this style of tyranny that should have died out in the Dark Ages. We have also seen voices raised in anger against a world economic system run mad, and although it will be a long and painful process, the winds of change are here to stay. I for one do not fully believe the doomsayer reports about 2012 (the Mayan Calendar, Nostradamus etc), but I do believe that 2012 will certainly be another landmark year of significant economic and social challenge as well as change, and that this is what the ancients may well have meant by their predictions instead of the Hollywood style fire and brimstone scenarios we have been led to believe in.

So, to all my many readers out there and to all the many other potential readers out there – go ahead! Love your families, pet your pooches, cuddle your cats and fraternize with your friends – years such as 2011 serve to remind us all of the positives as well as negatives in our lives. Break open the wine and a big box of your favourite chocs and lose yourself in the happy, tinseled world of frantic Christmastime shopping malls, because you certainly deserve it, and 2012 is not shaping up to be any easier.

The views, opinions or positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or position of Pegasus Town Ltd.

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The times are a-changing

Guest post by Alison Dormaar, Pegasus resident and author

Let’s face it, for many of us 2010-2011 has been, to cite Queen Elizabeth’s famous words, an “annus horribilis”. We have had a glut of worldwide disasters both man made and natural, that have included mine explosions, oil slicks, tsunamis, earthquakes here at home and abroad, volcanic ash clouds, snowstorms etc etc – and to top it all off, a global economic recession that only seems to get worse.

If you are anything like me, you would have seen this latter evil coming years ago. We had the system all wrong of course – even back in my darkest, dimmest days in school as the teacher droned on about economics, I had a sense that somewhere, somehow, society had its values twisted. I was a teen of the 80’s when, to cite the infamous Gordon Gecko from “Wall Street”, “greed was good”, the width of one’s shoulder pads warned one and all that you were a force to be reckoned with, and the prominent display of your brick-sized cellphone indicated to the world that yes, you were going somewhere. Money replaced God, and as long as they were classified as “good business”, it seemed that even the most appalling travesties were legally and socially acceptable, even to be admired.

Unfortunately, even though the outward show of “gimme gimme gimme” has become less vulgar over the successive decades, capitalism has taken on an even more insidious form of its own. Studying economic history at school all those years ago, I remember reading about the rise of the unions at the turn of the last century, realizing even then that there is so much inequality and injustice people will take. In recent times it has become fashionable to laugh at the efforts of our forefathers of yesteryear who fought to build a fairer, more just world – but now, with the Occupy Wall Street movement gaining momentum and with the increasing numbers of ordinary people suffering from economic injustice around the globe, I hope people realize now just what their grandparents and great grandparents had to fight for so bitterly over eighty years ago.

Freedom and equality may be a fundamental right, but it never comes easily. From the dawn of human history, we have always had those who have managed to make good through the misfortunes of others, convincing themselves in the process that they somehow deserve it more than anyone else. Since the dissolution of the unions around the world, many major employers have become increasingly ruthless once more, working their existing staff into the ground rather than, God forbid, hire extras to take up the overload. And over recent days I have been incensed by persons in authority sneering at the protesters on the TV, saying inane comments such as “they’re just jealous” or “if they didn’t make it, it’s their fault”. This is the typical smug mantra of the self assured wealthy who managed to cream the system for all it was worth before it crashed. If they can do it, they reason, hey, so can everyone else. But come on, the vast majority of people in this world have absolutely no opportunity or ability to claw their way up the corporate ladder. And what about the millions of prudent investors who indeed did do all the right things, only to have the investment carpet pulled out from under their feet, their mortgaged homes come crashing down (in Christchurch this was literally!) around their ears and their jobs disappear into the bottomless maw that is the cheap Asian labour market? People can only help themselves for so long.

The time has come to look at another social way. If you examine history, economic downturns are no stranger to us all, but unfortunately each new generation seems to think it will not happen to them. I am not through on this topic. There is too much to say to be encompassed in this one epistle. But for now, let’s just say that the time has come for society to live and learn rather than just live and earn.

The views, opinions or positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or position of Pegasus Town Ltd.

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Where has all the fun gone?

Guest post by Alison Dormaar, Pegasus resident and author

Hmmm, reality TV. Survivor, Wife Swap, Top Model, the Next Pop Idol, not to mention the next Master Chef. And then of course you have all the shows lambasting obese people, insecure people, disadvantaged people, people being stupid and clumsy, people behaving badly on camera.

Notice a trend anyone? I know I certainly have. Instead of seeking a happier escape into the realm of make believe, it would seem that the powers that be have decided that we can forget our own woes by finding fault with everyone else around us. Oh yes, what a smug lot we are sitting back in our armchairs, taking a perverted pleasure from ogling the misfortunes of others while basking in a measure of self congratulation that for the main part it does not apply to YOU. If you are a TV producer, I suppose it is much cheaper to stick a live camera into some poor sod’s living room to broadcast their frailties around the globe to a slavering audience of millions than, Heaven forbid, pay some decent scriptwriters to come up with quality entertainment that does not come at the spiteful expense of someone else. The media needs the Extreme Makeover, not our houses.

I have often wanted to ask these dupes on reality TV where their pride has gone. I daresay most of them will have been offered money for their very public crucifixion, but at what personal cost? I want to know how they can face their friends and neighbours each time they poke their nose around the door at the local shopping mall without being aware of the silent finger pointing and sniggering. It goes to show what some people will do for those thirty pieces of media silver.

Apart from the deplorable standards that now rules our screens, I have often wondered about the many great unemployed writers and TV directors roaming aimlessly about without a studio to call home. Then of course you have all the wardrobe staff, the dressers, makeup artists, set builders, technicians etc etc. Gods, what a waste of creative talent in a time of global recession.

It all comes down to money of course. After all, why pay decent people to produce decent shows when you can get ratings and advertising dollars at a much cheaper expense? But what they cannot or will not realize is that the cost to society is huge.

I am sick of children aping hideously drawn, freakish creations from cheap and nasty Asian-made cartoons (whatever happened to Disney, Hanna Barbara, Warner Bros?) who all seem to have big mouths and bigger attitudes. Is it any wonder so many of our kids now have behaviour and depression problems that will persist well into adulthood? Don’t we all have enough to worry about these days without being forcibly educated, informed and lectured all day and every day? A massive blow has been dealt to the sheer healing power of imagination.

Imagination is what has made humanity stand out from every other creature on the planet. The power of creative, positive thought has driven our greatest scientists, artists and leaders, and it is that great force that is now under attack. Especially in light of recent times, people need to have light relief and fun, and lots of it. Okay, maybe I’m old fashioned, but whatever happened to those laugh out loud English comedies that used to grace our screens? Whatever happened to the mini series, the fabulous period dramas, the family variety shows like the Generation Game whose sole purpose was to give everyone a good time? Whatever happened to such wonderful children’s shows like the Muppets and the Smurfs? Where has the laughter gone?

It is no small coincidence that mankind’s myths and legends endure long after their buildings and monuments fall. It goes to show that what we wish to remember is what truly endures, not what is foisted upon us by the politically correct dogma of the day.

I am a writer. I create, and I like to think I create to a good purpose. The powers that be ignore such recent phenomena as Harry Potter and the Lord Of The Rings at their peril. These are indicators that there is a real desperate social hunger out there that is not being filled. In my own small way, I am hoping to help fill that void.

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