Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I have a small obsession with legends. No, not the mythical tales. Map keys. Were I organised and enthusiastic enough, I would collect them in a tumblr, which I would call legends without maps (as a homage, perhaps).

When I look for second-hand books these days, I always browse the maps section, but half the time what I’m after are the legends. This, from a wonderful book of maps of the interventions of the Italian ‘Fund for the South’, is my current favourite example of hyper-specific legend. The second item down is ‘X-ray laboratories and tuberculosis dispensaries’.

Whereas in a more recent acquisition – Bacon’s All Essential School Atlas, published in Scotland by GW Bacon & Co. in 1946 – I came across some of the most brutally schematic and least specific legends I’ve ever encountered. None more (or less) so than this one.

New old books. This is the time of the year, etc. The cover of Galbraith’s Economics and the Public Purpose predates Pacman by six years.

This edition of Towards Nationhood (thanks, Dougal) still contained an invitation to a cocktail party featuring Big Norm himself. Entry: 30 cents.

Also spotted for me by Dougal, the first issue of the journal AND.

I head more quickly to the magazine tables at the big fairs now. Mirror, the New Zealand National Home Journal, May 1944.

Country Life Annual, 1951. Absolutely everything you need to know on how to polish your silver or service the Bentley.

Then Gulliver, Life, Woman and Home – as a map of sorts to make sense of the Sixties. Amongst the best finds, a bunch of issues of Broadsheet.

Back to the books. One must replenish the stocks of the classics.

Broaden past horizons.

Grab whatever Stanislav Lem is at hand.

Outmoded, outdated books for children. You know what I like.

At least one book bought at a fair has to be totally implausible. The American Meat Institute’s Book of Presidential Trivia and Meat Facts is that book.

One of the year’s highlights has been an invitation to talk at Writers on Mondays along with the esteemable Danyl McLachlan and Dave Armstrong. Even at this event I managed to score two books, on loan from an extremely kind and thoughtful reader. These to me are the best. The books that someone thinks you ought to read.


It's five years to the day since I started this business of blogging. Time enough to declare a result on one of the hypotheses I set out to test: if writing makes time. Which I am now quite conclusively convinced that it does. I can measure the time of life versus the vicissitudes that one can expect to encounter over a five-year period – there have, indeed, been some – and those against this unreasonable discipline of a self-imposed weekly deadline, without which I’d post twice a year, plus or minus two posts. I can further trace how these writings made me think about things and engage with things other than the everyday. This seems to me like extra time which, had I not written, would simply be missing.

You can make a habit of writing, but writing itself rarely resembles a habit, as in something you do absent-mindedly. Even these yearly posts, all more or less identical to one another.


There remains to attend to the traditional changing of the banner, which you’ll excuse me for getting childishly excited about. To recap, we’ve had the original one, a drawing by Bert Warter from the 1945 edition of Bruno Furst's Stop Forgetting, whence also this blog's name.

Three successive designs from Shirley Carran.

Last year’s drawing by the great Dylan Horrocks, which has just been retired.

The new banner is the work of the excellent Wellington designer Tim Denee.

Finally: the last yearful of posts in clickable pictorial form. I hope it works.

 The leader vanishes  My own private Aotearoa  The fake shop and nostalgia capitalism
 The Susan Wood trilogy  Share a Coke with Stalin  On not making a living
 The enlightened solution  A woman's place?  What is this coup d'ètat? I know
 The Jonathan Safran Foer fallacy  Old games  The rich man's crumbs
 Things  The social dead  A theoretical critique of and practical answer to the problem of too much writing on the internet
 The death party  The reader  To Save Everything, Click Here
 The space you take up  The painted library  Of grandmothers and beneficiaries
 Idea for a movie in which aliens invade the Earth and fix the economy  Corporate memory  Turn off your computers
 Symbols  The art of war  We Must Eat!
 Phantom time  Between worlds  The back of the shelf
 First last impressions  'It's a map of the world'  37 things you should hoard
 Another Skyfall review  We are in a book  The weariness of the satyr
 Leaving Middle-earth  This Tree Is Made of Tweets  The Kill File
 Coronation Avenue  After the Ball  'I don't have to do this anymore'
 The Avengers  The Day's Work in Wall Street  Uncle Scrooge and the Flying Kiwi
 The Fascist Mother  Four


George D said...

What does it say that I still expect the original header, when I click on a link or input the URL...? It's been a good 5 years of engagement with this consistent body of work, and eventually with its delightful author. Let me be the first to give my congratulations.

As a public health person (when I started reading this blog I was a historian!), the idea of tuberculosis hospitals in Southern Italy is a fascinating one. It's not far from the imagination, actually. Malaria has just returned to Greece, after a 40 year absence. Nobody disputes this is a direct result of austerity and massive cuts to the health system. In the same way, tuberculosis came to inhabit millions of bodies in Eastern Europe following destruction of health systems in the 1990s. It's been a slow march back to 'normality'.

Giovanni Tiso said...

Until I left Italy - and probably to this day - you had to supply tuberculosis-free X-Rays to get any work in hospitality, and many others besides, as a consequence of which the screening procedure is still extremely easy to organise. When I was a conscientious objector for a while I looked after a chap in his late fifties or early sixties whose hobby it was to have his chest X-Rays taken. He figured (correctly) that if he demanded them for work reasons it was hard for the local healthcare providers to turn him away.

Giovanni Tiso said...

(Also: thank you.)

Sarah Jane Barnett said...

Thanks for continuing to write, Giovanni.

Ben Wilson said...

Grats on the milestone, mate, well done. Your writings are reliably thought provoking, and I love the way you link backwards, deepening the self-referential connectivity of the site to show the coherence of your thinking. It still feels like a big dynamo, gaining momemtum.

Looking forward to 5 more years.

Philip said...

Happy anniversary, and here's to many more.

Word Verification: 60 entsalty, a pseudo-arboreal additive of terrifying whimsicality.

Giovanni Tiso said...

Thank you, friends.

Unknown said...

Ah the anniversary...5 years, a midway point in time, 10 years considered a cycle in ancient China.
When I entered England on a UK Grandparent Entry, tired I was asked to go to a little room and strip to my underpants...two very old women came in, I was checked and x-rayed. Apparently due to my new status as the grandchild of the ruling Monarchy I was entitled to NHS. The x-ray was to determine my lung's state for TB should I become a liability.
How quaint.
Love your blog Gio and the contact we occasionally share.
W.V oneomn5; one om and i am 5?

ignotum said...

As a new comer to twitter opere I missed the earlier shows. Thank you for putting up the legend links. I tested them on Sue Wood and they work; it must have taken hours given my attempts to load a single photo on Twitter takes 25 minutes give or take a couple of seconds. You may have missed Sue Woods first appearance on the Holmes TV Show in 1989. Her first question to HCNZ CEO landlord,Rob Carter was: "Can you tell viewers why these people are living in cars?" His reply, "can you tell viewers why your people helped them set up in the cars. The pictures are staged." And he was right and I felt sorry for her then...
Congratulations and Happy Anniversary

Giovanni Tiso said...

You mean upload to Blogger? The thumbnails are actually sourced externally, I have a template I use from past years, so it's relatively quick. Available upon request, but why anyone would want it of course is another matter.

Daleaway said...

What a terrific achievement - you and blogging were made for each other. I hope you have the strength for another five years (at least!).

WV:chnasme, China Syndrome with melting nucleus.

Stephen said...


Aside from everything else, your anniversary post continues to be the first reminder to me each September of my impending birthday.

Dylan Horrock's banner is still my favourite.

marco said...

Happy anniversary. Love the new banner.
Btw, I googled The Godwits Fly and downloaded an epub from the interesting, though hard to navigate, site of the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection.

Ben Wilson said...

It's amusingly ironic that Shirley got the numbers wrong on the last of the banners she did, considering what the words actually denote.

Personally, my pegs for those numbers were bat, bone, bum. I wonder what the art would have been like :-)

Giovanni Tiso said...

Note to self: never let Ben design a banner.

ignotum said...

Thanks for the reply. I have the gear, a new smartphone, which puts words in my mouth. Just don't know how to quickly take a pic and tweet it. Have to use the laptop. I won't be blogging any time soon. I have been sending your blogs on times past to Italians who lived through the events you describe. And the banners etc are keepers.
I hope that accords with your protocols.

Deborah said...

When I wake up on Tuesday mornings, I flick eagerly through my RSS feed to find your post - a reading treat to start the day. Except for those Monday nights when I'm still working, close to midnight, and it becomes a signal to me to read, and reflect, and Go To Bed!

Many thanks for five years of excellent reading, Giovanni.