Sunday, February 28, 2010

Getting Real...

Abby Valdes, just an average Aussie sheila!The word from Aussie fashion industry experts is that 2010 will be the Year of the Plus-Size Model. Australia's leading plus-size modelling agencies expect demand for larger models to surge in the next 12 months with more consumers demanding "real women" in the media.
Director of Sydney's BGM Models, Darrianne Donnelly, says US magazine V's decision to devote its January 2010 issue to plus-size women shows how attitudes have changed. Bella Model Management director Chelsea Bonner agrees, saying plus-size models are now earning big money, especially overseas. "Our top model Abby Valdes is stunning and is a size 14-16...she earns well in excess of $300,000 a year and gets to travel all over the world doing it."
With the average aussie sheila a size 16, Australia's top fashion magazines such as Madison, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan now regularly book plus-size models. Ms Bonner: "The latest issue of Australia's Woman's Weekly has 15 pages featuring our models....that is incredible. We only ever used to get a token one or two pages." There had also been an upswing recently in the number of women wanting to become plus-size models.
You GO, girl!

Friday, February 26, 2010

How Many Does It Take...?

Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One, but the lightbulb must want to change.
Q: How many assassins does it take to kill one man?
A: Supposedly, 30...and still climbing!
According to investigators, 26 agents (now possibly 30) of an as-yet unidentified country (but they're accusing Israel) murdered senior Hamas commander, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai in January.
Their expertly-forged passports used the identities of innocent civilians from multiple countries. More details are slowly being released by the Dubai Information Ministry, each taking us further into the realms of 007. For instance, in the first 10 days after Mabhouh's death, Dubai police thought he'd died of natural causes. Then smothered with a pillow. Next, brute force. Then tortured and tied up with wire. Clearly the evidence cannot support all these claims. We've seen CCTV footage showing bad disguises the suspects used. Now we're told some suspects fled through Iran: if these were Israeli Mossad agents, surely it would be suicidal for them to attempt an escape through the country of their sworn enemy...? Oh yes, and fingerprints have suddenly been found - a month later!
No doubt some of this information is mere fish bait, in the hope someone (in Israel?) will swallow it and incriminate himself by responding or disclosing confidential information... but currently the evidence linking Israel to the killing has still to solidify. And indeed, if Israel did carry out the killing (seeing as it's at war with Hamas), did it have the right to? Whatever the eventual outcome, this assassination should start Hamas asking the question:
Q: When will someone hit another of our top echelon?
A: Anytime they want...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another Day - Another Ocean

Another cape passed...and into another ocean!
Jessica Watson continues her round-the-world solo sail by passing 400nm below the southern end of Africa on Wednesday and now pushes on into the Indian Ocean.
That puts her a tad over 4,000nm away from sight of Australia - although there'll be a few more miles after that before she sails into Sydney...(for more, check out her website and blog).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Whale Of Confusion

Ozzie Prime Cobber Kevin Fair Dinkum RuddBefore last weekend's discussion between Australia and Japan, Aussie Prime Minister Rudd stated very clearly that court action could be pursued if a diplomatic agreement to end whaling before November could not be agreed., NZ Foreign Affairs Woose Murray McCullySurprise-surprise...after that meeting, NZ's Foreign Affairs monkey Murray McCully agreed.
I say 'surprise'...because this country's embarrassing non-response to Southern Oceans whaling has been nothing short of limp dick! Then suddenly someone else stands up to be counted, and our government jumps on their coat-tails.
But hold on: Australia threatened this very same action a few years ago - nothing happened then. And probably nothing will happen now because, when examining the political prose, one sees heavy use of cop-out words such as "may", "possibly" and "consider" - never "will", "definitely" and "determined".
McCully: "The NZ Government has made it clear that if the diplomatic process does not produce the results we want, the International Court of Justice is a serious course of action for us to consider. We may go down that path but, before we choose it, we should exhaust the diplomatic process. However legal action would only be a last resort, and developments are expected very soon." See what I mean?
whaling factory ship loading its researchBut now I'm hit with The Big Confusion Stick. Y'see, after 18mths of closed-door talks, a working group at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) proposes a limited return to commercial whaling, in exchange for reducing the number killed annually! The proposal would allow Japan to continue butchering whales, while suspending its “research” hunts. WHAT!!! They could legally kill whales, but just not call it research!!??
And furthermore, Oz officials helped draft the proposal!!! Was Cousin Kevin nobbled by Nippon? Did he know what his back-room boys were brewing? Is this what Muzza McCully meant by “developments very soon”?
If this is the very best our trans-Tasman governments can do for the whales... then please carry on, Sea Shepherd!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

P2P Crackdown

New legislation's been unveiled in Parliament to crack down on illegal file sharing, including music, videos and games. The bill allows three warnings to be given and enables copyright holders to seek up to $15,000 compensation through the Copyright Tribunal. They can also seek the suspension of internet accounts via the courts for up to six months.
I can see a few hiccups in the proposed legislation, for example:
+ Suspending people's internet accounts: surely if that happened, users would simply start a new account at another ISP?
+ Clarification about which sites actually constitute illegal file sharing: is a global site offering free movie downloads illegal because users have not personally paid a copyright fee?
+ Target: is this legislation aimed at those who download/reproduce for commercial gain, or will Little Jimmy down the road get burnt for sharing his Green Day favourites with his classmates?
Public consultation over the next month or so may spot a few other glitches so watch this space...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

God Must Love Ford Drivers...!

Many moons ago, I was the proud owner of a 1974 Ford Falcon XA... very similar to this '72 model but green all over, no black roof. It was my first car with any real power and I took it to places where one shouldn't drive a street car – my first excursion was on such a rough dirt road that I ripped the exhaust pipe right off!
I wasn't earning great money then, so maintenance took a back seat. Consequently rust gradually appeared, especially around the boot (trunk) area. Rainwater seeped in and gathered in the tyre well.
One weekend I decided to drain the rusty water out, so with a power drill I bored a hole down through the metal so the water could drip onto the road. I didn't realise the tyre well was actually an indent in the petrol tank (!!) so I happily drilled through the steel - sparks flying, petrol fumes drifting out of the punctured tank, rusty water dripping down into the petrol...!!!
With the job done and the water all gone, I drove to the petrol station for a full tank of gas... strangely it seemed to take much much much more petrol than normal. By the time I got home, the car reeked of petrol fumes and when I opened the boot, I found it was swimming in petrol that was fountaining up out of the hole I'd drilled through the tank!
I quickly plugged the hole with a wad of chewing gum but, as I couldn't get to a repair shop until the next day, all I could do was bail out the petrol, until every plastic container I had was full and lined up along the front lawn! Leaving a spare tyre nearly floating in petrol is not recommended any more than drilling into a fuel-filled tank: the rubber rapidly rotted right down to the fabric and steel belting! And because of the danger of explosion, the tank could not be welded - it had to be removed entirely and replaced!
So for want of some preventative maintenance, my budget was blown out for another petrol tank, another tyre and of course another full tank of gas. How my brilliant drainage plan didn't blow me to pieces is a mystery to this day!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Balibo – The Truth Is Finally Out

A controversial film about the 1975 murders of a Kiwi cameraman and his four Aussie colleagues starts screening in NZ this week.
Balibo tells the fate of Gary Cunningham - the only Kiwi cameraman filming the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor - and four Australian journalists (Greg Shackleton, Tony Stewart, Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie).
The Balibo FiveFor 30 years, the official line was that the Balibo Five were killed in crossfire (a version happily accepted by successive Oz governments)... but the movie shows them killed by Indonesian troops, a view now confirmed by an eyewitness. The film was screened illegally in Indonesia where it's been banned: a former Indonesian army officer, having a crisis of conscience after seeing it, said Indonesian troops were responsible for murdering the journalists.
And East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta claims the men were not only shot by the military but tortured beforehand. Mr Ramos Horta, a rebel commander at the time, is a central figure in the film. He says the journalists were "brutally tortured" and their bodies burnt to dispose of the evidence.
From the movie, the Five run for their lives
In the movie, the Five run for their lives
After the movie's Oz release, federal police announced a war crimes investigation. The NZ Government has never made any effort to discover the truth of the Balibo Five. See the movie – then perhaps ask your local MP why the hell our country has ignored this.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stranding Site Too Remote For Help

Twenty-eight pilot whales have died after becoming stranded on an isolated part of Stewart Island yesterday. A bushwalker spotted the whales and used his satellite phone to get help. The whales were scattered along remote West Ruggedy Beach.
Wild seas and 30-40kt.onshore westerly winds made it impossible to mount a rescue effort and Department of Conservation (DOC) staff had to be helicoptered in. Nine whales were already dead and the rest were euthanised to save them further trauma.
mass stranding, Stewart Island, January 2003< Strandings are not uncommon on Stewart Island - 159 pilot whales beached there in 2003. Rescuers faced with a massive task were able to save 39.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Taxing Times Ahead?

John Key, leader of what?In Parliament this week, Prime Minister John Key outlined a possible future rise in Goods and Services Tax (GST) from the current 12.5% to 15%: only flagged at this stage, but unlikely he'd float the idea only to pull it later.
Of course this puts pressure on an already tense National/Maori coalition, strained by the maybe-sometime repeal of the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act and last year's racist outbursts by Maori MP Hone Harawira. 'The Party For The Indigenous' will have to sell to its constituents why it'll ultimately end up voting for a rise in GST, despite opposing it on grounds that it will hurt Maori the most.
Initially it insisted it would fight any rise to the end...but would not vote against it. Once it realised its voice was useless without the threat of an opposing vote, it U-turned. Of course, without intent behind that threat, it's worthless: the Maori Party would have to pull out of the coalition to oppose the measure, and there are no signs of that.
Then Labour found a 2008 election campaign video, showing Key promising no GST rise: National needed that like a hole in the head!
So over the next few months, brace for a few political fireworks. Labour will try to split the Maori Party from its constituents. National will try to appease its partner, while not pushing the race relations pendulum out too far and alienating its white-collar base. The Maori Party will work to retain its blue-collar grassroots support while serving them a poisoned apple. And naturally Hone Harawira will make some noises, while bolstering up his own radical support.
The wheels may not have fallen off National-Maori Party relations yet – but it may not be long before the wagon takes on a decided lean.
(many thanx to Tracy Watkins, Dominion Post)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sink Your Teeth Into This!

Christopher Moore
Long before there was Twilight, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and True Blood, there lurked Christopher Moore.
No, he's not a vampire – he's a nutter! In the nicest possible way. He writes books that're bizarre, irreverant, risque and wickedly funny. A friend sent me his first three books: Practical Demonkeeping, Coyote Blue and Bloodsucking Fiends... and I've been bitten ever since. He doesn't just write about vampires (although his, Bite Me - part three of his vampire trilogy - is due out April 2010) but here's the synopsis of Bloodsucking Fiends: cover of Bloodsucking Fiends 'Jody never asked to become a vampire. But when she wakes up in an alley with an aching neck, superhuman strength, and a distinctly Nosferatuan thirst, she realizes the decision has been made for her. Making the transition from the 9-to-5 grind to an eternity of nocturnal prowlings is going to take some doing however, and that's where Thomas Flood fits in. Tommy is biding his time night-clerking and frozen-turkey bowling in a San Francisco Safeway. But all that changes when a beautiful undead redhead walks through the door...and proceeds to rock Tommy's life - and afterlife - in ways he never imagined possible.'
Ok, so you can tell this isn't serious or scary writing, right? You'll have a good laugh over this and more from Moore. Even the titles are great: how can you not be amused by a book called The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove or Island of the Sequined Love Nun??!!
He's a very sick man, in the very best sense of the word!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Whale Wars: Cat and Mouse Games

Nippon finding Sea Shepherd a bit annoying!Off Antarctica, Sea Shepherd continues to harrass the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru.
Having been denied the opportunity to offload their kills, the whaling fleet ran fast to the northeast - attempting to outrun the Bob Barker - not knowing that the Steve Irwin was hiding in wait behind an iceberg.
Now NM is being dogged by both SS vessels, one on either side of her stern. Following in their wakes are the Japanese vessels Shonan Maru 2, Yushin Maru 1 and Yushin Maru 2. There is no sign of the Yushin Maru 3, which was left stationery after its ramming of BB a few days ago.
The good news: no whales have died since BB intercepted the fleet on February 6th. Captain Paul Watson aboard SI is confident the Japanese kill quota will be severely limited again this season. Both Sea Shepherd vessels have enough fuel to pursue the whalers for another month.
PS: 11 Feb.2010 – The whalers have now completely U-turned and headed straight back to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with SS in hot pursuit. A 5hr.water cannon battle targeted SS's helicopter on SI: the BB positioned itself to block the attacks. This time, no collisions but many near-misses.
The Ady Gil, in its final hours
PS: 15 Feb.2010 - Pete Bethune, NZ skipper of sunken Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil has boarded Japan's security vessel SM2 that hit his boat. He has a AUS$3-million bill to present and plans a citizen's arrest of the skipper for the destruction of AG and "attempted murder" of the six crew...
PS: 16 Feb.2010 - Whether a serious attempt or a mere publicity stunt, Pete Bethune's actions seem to have finally stirred the NZ Government into at least talking to Japan about the current situation.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Avatar Visuals 'Blue' Me Away...

I've finally seen Avatar - not just the movie, but the 3D version.
If you've seen any of James Cameron's work - Aliens, Terminator 1 and 2, The Abyss, Titanic to name a few – you'd expect revolutionary film-making, grandiose new ideas, never-before-seen special effects... and in Avatar, you get it in droves for nearly three hours! Hey, for US$300-million, you'd be a bit pissed if you DIDN'T get all that and more! From now on, Avatar will be the yardstick for any movie with a high level of computerised art. It was extraordinary, the 3D effects drawing you into a different world which became 'real' so quickly and easily.
The storyline was pretty simple and formulaic: two opposing forces clash, bad guys with muscle, good guys with heart, a baddie falls in love with a good gal and joins the good side...and the goodies just scrape in before the credits roll! It's been done many times – Dances With Wolves is an obvious example. That doesn't make it bad...but I expected more after all the hype. However I was carried along by the astounding effects and wasn't overly aware of my plot dissatisfaction until it was over. (The NY Times has an interesting article about turncoats who become heroes.)
If you want a very impressive visual escape with no brain-strain, Avatar is it and, as it's rocketed past Titanic at the box office, I won't be surprised if there's a sequel.
Just remember when you return to reality...beware of PAD – that's Post Avatar Depression! No joke...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Whale Wars: Another Protest Vessel Rammed

the world's only factory whaling ship, Nisshin MaruThough things seemed rather quiet down Antarctica-way since the sinking of Ady Gil, the tension has escalated once again with the ramming of Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker yesterday afternoon (exactly one month after the loss of AG).
The protest ship had been blocking the slipway at the stern of the Nisshin Maru, the whaling fleet's "factory ship". Four harpoon vessels, the Yushin Maru 1, 2, and 3 and Shonan Maru 2, were circling and making close passes to the stern and bow of BB. When she would not move, YM3 rammed it, cutting a 1m.gash in the ship's mid-starboard side above the waterline: thankfully no-one was injured.

BB continues to block the mother ship's slipway preventing the transfer of dead whales and severely hampering whaling operations.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Flag-Flying Furore

It's the eve of our national day, New Zealand Day – many call it Waitangi Day, when the Feb.6th.1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi supposedly sealed a peaceful co-existence between settlers and indigenous people. Sadly the treaty and the day have come to represent racial divisions and civil disobedience.
Tomorrow atop government buildings and Auckland Harbour Bridge, alongside the NZ flag will fly the maori separatist flag. Let's be frank: it can't be regarded as anything else but...! It's fronted most protests and land disputes for the past few decades and, after hard campaigning by foulmouthed radical Hone Harawira, it was supposedly hailed by most maori as their representative flag.
But OMG! Northland maori are calling it a "hate flag", saying if it gets waved around at Waitangi tomorrow it'll be a breach of the treaty! (A breach of the maori? This cannot be!) Manukau City Council has sidestepped the whole PC issue: it won't be flying the separatist flag, neither will Hamilton City Council nor the Waitangi National Trust.
The National Government has tried so hard to paint this flag-flying issue as a wound-healing salve, while we all know it bought continued support from its Maori Party coalition partner. Hone Harawira, as many see himAnd now it seems the reason why Maori Party MP Harawira pushed so hard for this particular flag to be accepted as "the Maori flag" because a trust involving his family has been selling these flags for years!
I can't help but paraphrase Harawira's own "white motherf*****s" outburst from late last year: so Hone, just who is actually "ripping off your people? And all of a sudden you want us to play along with your puritanical bulls***?" Hmmm, hoisted with one's own petard, methinx, verily!
PS: 08 Feb.2010 - A valid opinion piece in NZ Herald today from Mike Moore, a former NZ Prime Minister and Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, and soon to be our ambassador in Washington: food for thought!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shark Attack Story: Feeding Frenzy?

plucky Lydia WardYesterday will be a day 14-yr.old Lydia Ward will never forget: it was the day she fought off a shark at Southland's Oreti Beach with her bodyboard. probable culprit
She described the shark as about 1.5m/5ft. long and, within several hours, the Dept.of Conservation (DOC) said it was probably a broad-nosed sevengill shark, a species that grows to up to 3m./10ft.long and has been responsible for attacks at that beach before. We'll never know for sure... but that is the expert opinion.
So why the hell did several major on-line news agencies use an image of a GREAT WHITE SHARK...?!!! And is that a MAKO used by TV3 and NZ Herald?

Ahhh, because this sort of emotive coverage sells better! Never let the facts get in the way of a good story! Has journalistic integrity gone permanently through the editorial paper shredder? *sigh*

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's Science, Not Steak!

The reality of Japanese 'research'NZ and Oz scientists sail for Antarctica today, on the largest whale research expedition of its kind in the world. They aim to prove whales do not need to be killed to be studied, and to disprove Japan's claim that minke whale numbers are increasing and can therefore be hunted lawfully.
Nasty Nippon argues all whales killed are for scientific purposes (not for dinner) and their research cannot be done without slaying them - but this expedition aims to produce non-lethal scientific data. 18 scientists aboard the 2300-tonne NZ research ship Tangaroa, will spend six weeks using biopsy sampling, satellite tracking, acoustic and hydrographic surveys and collecting whale poo, to study the feeding habits, population structure, trends and ecological role of whales. Hello, baby! Non-lethal research
All eyes will be their preliminary results, to be presented at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Morocco in June.
PS: 15 March 2010 - they're back...but are they too late?