RIP Terry Pratchett

It’s fitting to honour Terry Pratchett today, on a blog named after a quote in one of his books!

He passed away last night after battling an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s. It was announced in very proper Pratchett fashion on his Twitter account.

One of my most prized possessions is a signed hardback copy of Hogfather, which I reread every Christmas. I got it signed on one of his trips out here when I was a wee thing.

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RIP pterry 😦

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It’s a pretty sad day.

What was Ruminator supposed to do?

I didn’t plan to post about this. There usually isn’t a lot of value in rehashing niche-social-group internet drama in longform. But then I received a phonecall on Friday which changed my mind.

[There are a lot of wider issues which I want to discuss around this story, but the post kept getting too complicated. So here’s one part of it.]

So, “what was Ruminator/David Cormack supposed to do?”

That was the question asked of me, when I said that a guy’s apology for a stupid thing he said on Twitter didn’t fix everything. And I stand by that. As someone put it far more clearly than me, “not every “sorry” deserves a “That’s okaaaaay” in response & especially when “sorry” is grudging & reluctant.”

I hate apologising, personally. Even when I’ve done something wrong. Apologies are hard. But far harder than saying “whoops, I’m sorry” is actually figuring out where you went wrong and going forward with your life, making sure you do things differently, and better, when the situation happens again.

The irony is I was barely involved in the initial Twitter drama – I made a single tweet about it and went on my way. I didn’t think I was owed any kind of apology, but more importantly, an apology meant very little to me. The important thing was that the person who said the stupid thing figured out why it was stupid and went forward, making sure he did things differently, and better, in future.

But to him, and to people who supported him, the apology was the fix. Despite reading, to me, as a long list of excuses and digs at his critics, for some it was the very proof of his redemption. And that made me, and anyone who didn’t say “oh okay, you’ve said sorry, let’s pretend it never happened” into the villains, the terrible oppressors who couldn’t let David move on with his life.

When I responded to someone else who was talking about his apology post, it prompted David to tweet at me, repeating his apology, repeating his justifications. His comments were prefaced with more stuff which, to me, felt like deliberate attempts to frame the conversation against me, like “Look, I know you don’t have much time for me, but”.

When it became clear I wasn’t going to grant him perfect absolution, David started accusing me of “making him look like an asshole” and, most terribly, not being “civil” or “amicable”. Others called me a “bully” and described my behaviour as “extraordinary”.

It seemed very much like one dude’s redemption narrative was the most important thing in the world, and I was demonized for not acquiescing to it.

This feels like burying the lede, but I felt like I couldn’t just come out and say what happened next without the pre-work. Like I had to justify my reaction, because I still wondered a bit if I were really the villain of this piece.

The conversation petered out, as Twitter arguments usually do. I figured that was the end of it. Maybe in a month or two we’d be back on retweeting terms. I knew other people, some friends of mine, had also expressed their disagreement. So it goes.

What I didn’t know was that some people carried on the conversation privately. Others he sought out, despite them cutting ties. That isn’t my part of the story to tell, but the upshot is a few people told him one of their concerns was his reaction to me. David, in one person’s words, “took umbrage” at this.

I can’t judge David’s motivations or intentions, only his actions.

And his actions, at that point, were to google my name, find my work cellphone number, and call me during work hours to reiterate everything he’d already said: that he was sorry, that he was trying to do better, that he took everything I’d said on board.

And he started the conversation by saying “Hi, Stephanie, it’s David Cormack here, and I hope you’ll let me get a little further in before you hang up.”

This post may come as something of a surprise to David, because I made appropriately polite noises. After he apologised, again, I said something like “Okay, well let’s move on and see what happens.” After he expressed the hope that “[I] would think more warmly of [him] in future and maybe we could catch up for coffee” I said something like, “Sure, Dave, let’s see what the new year brings.”

And all this in what can only be called a shout. It was almost 100% one-way assertions with only two or three pauses for me to get a word in edgewise. It was a lecture.

This is one of the buggers of patriarchy: women are socialised not to say “no”. We want to find diplomatic ways to extricate ourselves from the situation. We definitely don’t want the person who’s imposing themsleves on us and demanding our attention to feel awkward – or get angry.

I’ve fought that programming for much of my adult life, so I did consider hanging up. I did consider tearing strips off David, saying fuck off, what the hell were you thinking? But I also knew that neither of those things would help. They’d probably just incite more of this kind of contact. He’d call again. He’d go through mutual acquaintances. He’d show up at a social event and corner me.

Like I say up top, there’s a lot of additional societal/problematic issues around this story. The entitlement some people feel to others’ energy and time and approval, especially women’s. The setting of clear boundaries, and having those boundaries flatly ignored because someone assumes their needs are more important than yours.

I want to talk about those. But we can’t until we really accept how utterly inappropriate, intrusive, and downright creepy this was. I had made it clear I didn’t want contact, wasn’t interested in his apology, and found his persistence in contacting me to be obnoxious. Yet he proved the very point I was making: that despite the apology, his behaviour and sense of entitlement to my attention and forgiveness hadn’t changed at all.

So, what was David supposed to do? Move on. Do things differently. Be a better person.

From my point of view, this has not occurred.


David, this should absolutely not need saying, but: do not call me.

Where have I been?

Hello loyal readers,

It’s been a bit quiet around here! But you probably don’t need many clues to figure out why my life might be the slightest bit busy at the moment – for a start, I’ve been part of the team behind the launch of the fabulous new Kiwi-lefty-thinky blog, On The Left. We have such an amazing lineup of authors, I can’t even begin to describe.

Hopefully this long weekend (brought to you by the hard work and struggle of the union movement) will leave me refreshed and relaxed and with a lot more energy to devote to blogging.

Until then, enjoy my new favourite thing in the whole world, courtesy of The Mary Sue and Chris Kluwe’s amazing #GamerGate takedown.



The opening addresses of Election 2014

(Updated: more links to videos for your viewing pleasure)

Last night the opening party political addresses were broadcast on TV One, simultaneous with an All Blacks match and a live-tweeted crowd viewing of Labyrinth. So if you missed out (and don’t follow my every thought on Twitter), here’s my reaction!

(Screenshots nicked and cropped from Asher Goldman on Twitter.)

National: so corporate. Much artificial. John Key in a staged “interview” blathering about goals and targets and not changing horses midstream but really without any kind of concrete policy, while an increasingly-irritating Eminem ripoff plays. And lots of rowing. And a very clunky “Oh Bill English is a great asset FYI” line thrown in which makes me suspect succession signalling is underway.

National’s full video doesn’t seem to be available online but if you just watch the short version a few dozen times it has much the same effect. is now online here.

Labour: I loved this one. Yes, I’m biased. But the idea of getting the caucus out to do a community project, taking turns to discuss their own policy areas with real Kiwis, was genius. It was a huge contrast to National’s corporate one-man-band routine. And there were real, solid policies to work on, which is a bit of a bugbear of mine.

I actually want to help out at a community centre if it involves Andrew Little and Carol Beaumont making me cheese scones. They even got David Parker out of his suit.

You can watch Labour’s video here.

Greens: Didn’t grab me as much as Labour’s. Their focus was strongly and naturally environmental, Metiria and Russel did a great job of injecting their own stories and personality into it, but there wasn’t a strong narrative as there was with Labour’s.

You can watch the Greens’ video here.

nzfirstNZ First: Winston doing his best General Patton in front of a terribly CG’d New Zealand flag, and a diverse range of people asking rhetorical questions to camera. You may note Winston’s tie is red and black, so read into that what you will.

conservativesConservatives: Colin Craig hitting his usual talking points about binding referenda to a room of silent, bored-looking white people. He really is a charisma-free zone.

actACT: If you did not watch this, find it. Now online! Watch it! It’s the funniest thing broadcast this year and may have actually been made using Windows MovieMaker, it’s that budget.

internetInternetMana: cartoon futuristic hovercats. Enough said, really. You can watch it here.

dunnePeter Dunne: a few minutes of Dunne talking to camera about how reasonable and middle-of-the-road he is, while parroting Key’s lines about staying the course. Lacking his characteristic bow tie, which may bode poorly for him.

ALCP: Rate a mention because their video was approximately a hundred times more professional-looking than ACT’s.

Focus, Social Credit, and Brendan Horan’s outfit: Shrug.

What is the Boots Theory?

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

I first read Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett in my teens, and this passage was an eye-opener.  It’s not a new idea, but it’s an important one.  And it’s told in a way that sticks with you, making it a perfect political parable.

It stuck with me, so here we are:  Boots Theory.  A blog about politics and society in Aotearoa/New Zealand, from a leftwing perspective.  With it being an election year I hope I’ll have a lot to write about …