Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tell A Story In Six Lines

That was the challenge...
it's not easy make a coherent, compelling three-minute video with only six lines of dialogue, but those were the exact requirements for a recent international Philips Parallel Lines “Tell it Your Way” competition.
Here’s the winning video, entitled Porcelain Unicorn.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Faroes' Free Global TV Coverage

The Faroe Islands is about to get free international publicity!
Sea Shepherd’s Capt.Paul Watson hinted at this last year and now Animal Planet has confirmed it: the Whale Wars franchise is getting a spin-off series, which will focus on SS’s efforts to stop the annual pilot whale hunt in the Faroes.
The production company started filming for the Faroe Islands Project in mid-July. At that stage, SS was leaving the Channel Islands after the largely ineffective IWC meeting...but then, as you know, the campaign ran into trouble with the detainment of their ship Steve Irwin in the Shetland Islands (a Scottish court is holding the ship over a claim filed by a Maltese company, saying SS caused damage when they freed hundreds of bluefin tuna from the company’s nets off Libya in 2010). SS says it needs $1.4 million to release the ship or face its permanent seizure.
Steve Irwin in combat livery
PS: 03 August 2011 - Steve Irwin is now on its way to the Faroes, having just paid a reduced bond.
For the last four years, Whale Wars has been highly successful because of the passion of the SS crews, the risks they take when harassing the nasty Nippon whale killers, and the magnificent dangerous beauty of the Southern Ocean. Now they're filming their efforts again, this time in a lush and unfamiliar corner of northern Europe, where the customs are different but the butchery is the same. If they are able to document a grindadráp at the same time, it will make compelling if horrendous viewing - and will certainly open the eyes of those around the world, who find it incomprehensible that any civilised country would continue such barbarism in the 21st century.
It's the sort of global publicity the Faroe Islanders do not need - but which they've brought upon themselves.

[Read also about what SS has recently discovered along the coast of the Faroes...]

Friday, July 29, 2011

Small-Town Homophobe Talks To God...

Someone in northern Rodney has a broomstick up their arse over "let's-be-friends".
A Mangawhai couple - who've already suffered abusive graffiti and had their business's entire stock destroyed by arson six months back - have now found fresh vandalism on their fence - "God hates dikes + qeers" (sic): yeup, the coward/s can't even spell!
The "dikes" in question (I'm guessin' the scrot/s meant "dykes"!) are not flood stopbanks at all - they're actually grandmothers Juliet Leigh and Lindsay Curnow, who've lived happily in the community for seven years.
That January fire destroyed the shed where their business operated from, along with equipment, records, and all product, incl. their entire stock for the 2011 bulb planting season. It forced the couple to sell their business, Blooming Bulbs, and prepare to head back to Auckland...
You'd think this sort of homophobic crap would be pretty much dinosaur doos nowadays. After all, sex between men has been legal in NZ since 1986...and although sex between women was not illegal, many lesbians suffered the same discrimination as gay men back then. But not only is this couple open and honest, but they're also legally joined in a civil union.
It's a damn shame two hardworking people have had their livelihood destroyed and been driven from their home by some low-life scum who have an issue with other people's private lives!
Now, I can accept that living in a small rural community can limit the gene pool somewhat, but these actions do say a helluva lot about the mental state of Mangawhai's neighbourhood vandal/arsonist.
Hark: did I hear Dueling Banjos? Ah no, my mistake - it was just someone trying to pass a broomstick...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amy Winehouse: No Great Loss

Last Saturday's death of troubled UK singer Amy Winehouse was obviously traumatic for her family.
But it was not unexpected: her battle with drugs, drink and depression made daily headlines. She was constantly in the tabloids, often bruised up, sometimes barely dressed, occasionally under arrest, drunk or stoned. For years, one website even asked contestants to predict the date of the singer’s death for the chance to win a free iPod!
What's also not unexpected is the on-line discussion about "27" - her age at death and rock-and-roll’s supposedly 'killer' number. It’s the age at which Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Janis Joplin, Ron McKernan (The Grateful Dead), Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones (Rolling Stones) and Jim Morrison (The Doors) died.
That death-age coincidence has spurred decades of theories in music circles — enough to inspire Eric Segalstad’s book The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock And Roll. Is it the age when fate decides to give you a disease, have you murdered or wrap your car around a telephone pole? Nupe: I'm thinking its the age when your money and access to excess, exceeds your actual intelligence and talent. As seems to have been the case with Winehouse...
Winehouse inspired countless tattoos, beehive hairdos, upper-lip piercings, and Halloween costumes - golly gee, is there a bigger sign of pop superstardom? She certainly did not leave a musical legacy with which to be immortalised - just two albums (if you forget her forgettable debut). No great output, so no great loss. One of her few hit songs was Rehab...but she 'flipped the bird' at such help.
So the 'rending of garments' among fans is a tad over-the-top: she brought her demise upon herself. Amy Winehouse was a train wreck waiting to happen. She'll only be remembered for her image. She was never going to live long enough to slide into mediocrity.
PS: 27 Oct.2011 - Inquest shows Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lawson Quins: Happy Birthday!

They made headlines all over New Zealand and years later we (of a certain generation) still wonder: whatever happened to the Lawson Quins?
Today in history, on July 27th.1965 Auckland fish'n'chip shop owners Sam and Ann Lawson became proud parents of quintuplets at 33 weeks. This was the first set of surviving quintuplets conceived through fertility medication, the only NZ quintuplets - one boy and four girls: Selina, Shirlene, Lisa, Deborah and Sam - and only the fifth set of quins in the world to survive. Chances of this birth were calculated at 41-million-to-one!!
The Queen sent her congratulations. Companies donated products. The public and media fascination were relentless – every birthday and major occasion recorded in print and on film.
A schoolmate from Hobsonville School remembers them wearing identical outfits in different colours, and everyone wanting to befriend them because they were famous...
But the pressure was tough and the Lawson parents, Samuel and Ann, separated when the quins were aged six. Ann remarried a few years later - that marriage ended tragically when second husband Gary Eyton shot her then himself. Samuel Lawson died of cancer in 1997 (61).
After their mother's death, the quins struggled and had personal battles with alcohol, drugs, broken relationships and more. But they had each other and older sister Leeann, and gradually came through the hard times. Now Selina has her own hair salon, Deborah is an aromatherapist with her own range of organic essential oils, Shirlene is an early child educator, Sam has moved to Australia where he works as a natural healer in Cairns, and Lisa's a qualified chef but is running her own nail technician business.
Such is the still-existing level of national fascination with the quins that years later in 2006, when their old family home in Glendene was sold by the then owners, it still made the newspapers!
Check out this old video clip of the births that captured a nation.
[...thanx to Touchdown TV for current details of the quins]

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Caffeine Confusion

In the last few decades, NZ has undergone a coffee revolution as many kiwis have become connoisseurs of their favoured black (or brown) beverage.
Coffee's increased popularity has prompted a growth industry with new cafés and coffee-roasting outlets springing up everywhere. Coffee-making is also very competitive, with baristas vying to make the perfect cup of coffee and coffee drinkers becoming very selective.
Stopping by a café - to catch up with friends, meet business associates, relax, or to get your daily coffee 'fix' - is a culture of its own, with global influences affecting decor and associated food lines. You can even get a coffee 'on the run' from roadside coffee stands!
NZ pioneered the "flat white" - traditionally a less milky brew with textured rather than frothy milk, though some regard it as unadventurous. If you're confused by the many variants and so just stick to one you know, this chart may help:
Mind you, sometimes you just want a plain simple down-to-earth quick cuppa char...good luck if you can find one of those now!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beer Ad Misses The Mark - Just Like The ABs?

Have you seen the latest Lion Breweries tv ad for NZ beer Steinlager?
It features a rugby fan who saves a 1980s white can of Steinlager as a good luck charm, hoping its presence at each successive Rugby World Cup will help the All Blacks win.
I guess the ad agency was trying to generate parochial pride in the beer and a sense of nationhood leading up to the *yawn* RWC 2011 but, as we all know, the ABs lost each of those successive tournaments! So perhaps the linkage between the beer and the ABs' RWC hit rate is not as strong as the brewery would have really liked...

Lion Breweries has now released a special "white can" Steinlager to mark this year's Rugby World you can get a fresh one to mark the ABs' next loss! Coz surely not even a die-hard rugby fan would wanna drink a can of beer after that long???!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Godzilla Lived in Hawera!

For 110 years, there's been a Matangara Road in Hawera, South Taranaki...
but local man Henare Ngaia knew the spelling was wrong. This week, after a lot of research and the support of residents, he’s finally convinced the South Taranaki District Council to add two letters to the name...which will become Matangarara Road.
The spelling error arose when a surveyor accidentally misspelt the name in a roading reshuffle, and this was perpetuated throughout the 1900s.
"He must've been
one UGLY bastard!"
Although the two missing letters were accepted or overlooked by most others, Henare wanted it fixed: "Because of the wrong spelling, the word meant nothing. But with ‘ra’ added to the end of it, a piece of our history can be remembered."
Hey baby, let's go back to
my pad an' lay some eggs!
That missing piece of history concerns an arranged marriage... two people were betrothed to marry each other, perhaps to unite two marae. But when the young lady saw the young gentleman she was meant to marry, she was less than complimentary about his looks: she called him "mata ngarara!", mata meaning face, and ngarara meaning lizard.
So the marriage didn’t take place...but now that the sign is to be amended, the streetmap of Hawera will forever mark the tale of lucked-out-in-love Lizardface!

PS 20 July 2011 - ...but how far do you go, before signage correction becomes way too PC? Read about Kapiti being re-named "Cabbage"!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Power To The People?

I was very surprised this week by this billboard poster...
The PowerShop ad features one-time Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with a saintly halo-like effect behind his head. I checked their website for an explanation, but there was no clever script to link the "Butcher Of Baghdad" into their service!
What was their advertising team THINKING?? obviously WEREN'T!! To feature this man - who used bullets as his tools of persuasion - makes no sense, and surely would upset many people too. I can only assume they sought a "shock effect"!
If the implication is that switching power suppliers can change your life (as illustrated by the moustached murderer miraculously relishing the role of refugee carer), it's a very nebulous link and in incredibly BAD TASTE, when you recall how many thousands of his countrymen Hussein put to death. Bullet, machete, starvation, torture, gas...if he didn't like you, your entire family was simply obliterated.
To encounter his countenance in contentious commercials makes me muse on the mental state of (a) the ad agency and (b) the media buyer at PowerShop.
Saddam Hussein was hanged in 2006 for crimes against humanity! Was this ad meant to be funny? Yea, like we're all still laughing about the gassed's as hilarious as electrodes on the testicles!
Can PowerShop offer a valid explanation please?
And will they feature Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot in their next ad?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thunder Lizard

Rev it up, rev it up, little boy…and riiiiiiiiiide!
Ahhhhhhh, Jerry Harrison, where are you now? No doubt left behind in a cloud of dust by Shelby Supercars’ latest model!
When the Californian company said its new hi-speed beastie would be called the Tuatara, some bros didn’t like it!
Shelby felt the name was a perfect choice for its 1350 horsepower car, which can top 430km/h and may be the fastest production car in the world. The company wanted a powerful exotic name, and insists the tuatara (though a slow walker) is speedy in its own way…y’see, a few years back, scientists discovered that tuatara have the fastest-evolving DNA of any animal.
[“Tuatara” means ‘peaks on the back’ in maori, and the car mimics that with the shape of its rear winglets. It's powered by a twin-turbocharged four-camshaft 7L V8 engine. Only 12 Tuataras will be made, priced from US$800k-900k. ]
Auckland Zoo says the publicity won’t do our ancient reptile’s reputation any harm: “The more people know about our amazing animals, the better.” That’s common sense – any publicity’s good publicity…ya think?
But oh no, not again…some maori in Nelson are concerned the choice of name could reduce the tuatara’s spiritual significance (!!!???), and believe protection of the word is needed. Ngati Koata Trust Board chairman George Elkington says he’s concerned something sacred (!!!!???) to both maori and other NZers (other NZers???) could be commonised: "This is something we as guardians need to protect. We don't want the word to be misused and mispronounced. I'm not aware of any protections in place, and we’ll certainly be looking at that." He says it’s not the first time common use of this animal has been raised, with many NZ companies using tuatara in their names, and maori need to look at how it’s used in a wider context (please explain to me WHY?).
For a start-off, the word tuatara is in the public domain, so no group has any intellictual property claim over it. Secondly, why do Nelson maori feel they have a mandate to protect it? Thirdly, some may believe a tuatara has god-given “spiritual significance”...but to the rest of us, it’s just a lizard.
*sigh* This smacks of Tariana Turia’s baby food tirade (June 2011) or the Taranaki tantrum over eating on top of a mountain (Jan.2011)!!
Get a grip.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

One Moment In Time...

All of life's experiences are relative.
Their impact and relevance depend entirely on where we are at a particular instant - physically, mentally, emotionally. It's our own view, our own "spin", our own personal perspective.
Apologies for sounding very deep and meaningful...but that thought occurred to me recently when looking through some old photographs of New Zealand soldiers in Vietnam.
This one especially, taken in July 1969, showing soldiers from Victor 4 Company taking a break, with Dinh Co monastery on the hill behind them.
And why did the Vietnam photograph make me pause and get all philosophical? Well, because that picture was taken at virtually the same moment in time as this one...
US astronaut Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon.
The soldiers had just been told what Armstrong was about to do! Like I said:
life is all relative.

Different Weapons - Same Target

As I blogged last Saturday, Sea Shepherd is heading to the Faroe Islands...
It plans to disrupt the annual grindadráp (pilot whale massacres), by dropping acoustic buoys into the water to divert the mammals [see update below].
NZer Pete Bethune (ex-skipper of the rammed-and-sunk hi-speed SS vessel Ady Gil) is also en route, but not as Captain Paul Watson’s sidekick.
After his acrimonious split from SS, Bethune founded Earthrace Conservation. This new marine group hopes to gain support for stopping the killings, by adopting a diplomatic peaceful approach. The group will introduce educational campaigns on wider global marine issues and environmental care, as well as organising beach clean-ups. It’ll talk to locals about their attitudes towards the traditional grinds and will have a permanent presence on the Faroes. Earthrace Conservation Faroe Islands will be headed by islander Ms Turid Christophersen:
"I saw a need to speak out about local marine life – from whales and puffins (which are in serious decline), to the pollution of sea birds and over-fishing. Having met the team from Earthrace Conservation and appreciated their approach while on the islands, I decided I could achieve that through joining them."

As well as on the Faroes, there are now Earthrace Conservation chapters in Sweden, UK, USA, Africa, NZ and Australia with more on the way. Having a global network means the organisation can carry out specific missions in different areas, and address marine issues on a local basis relevant to each country. Earthrace believe they’re doing it the right way by avoiding an aggressive approach.
Whether it’s Bethune’s diplomacy, Watson’s aggression, organised commercial boycotts or just plain common sense and decency that eventually bring about the demise of the grindadráp, it matters not. As they say: there’re many ways to skin a cat. And in the end, all camps (and public opinion at large) are on the side of the whales…

Update: Just as Sea Shepherd was about to leave the Shetland Islands to launch the Operation Ferocious Isles campaign, court officials hit them with a detainment notice, because a Maltese fishing company filed a civil suit alleging SS had damaged their property. This relates to damage allegedly done to bluefin tuna fishing gear by SS in the Mediterranean in 2010. SS was able to send Brigitte Bardot to the Faroes as planned, but Steve Irwin will be delayed (and possibly SOLD!) unless they can post a US$1.4m bond...!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mob Mentality Hits Palmerston North

Flash Mobs” – spontaneous gatherings, normally organised via text – have been around since 2003.
But apparently they never reached the sleepy city of Palmerston North - not until last Saturday...when, producing their ukuleles (yes, ukuleles!) from their shopping bags, 25 musicians and 50 singers stunned hundreds of people in The Plaza foodcourt, with a seemingly spontaneous performance of The Beatles' Let It Be. Curious bystanders stood up to see what was going on, and many joined in the singing.
and friends
The performance involved organiser/musician Jennifer Moss, the Manawatu Ukelele Group and the Manawatu Community Choir. It was four months in the making and required co-operation from The Plaza, which turned its PA music off moments before and made sure security was aware of the event. Responses ranged from shocked and surprised to delighted, and the perplexed look on some faces was brilliant.
Enjoy this video clip...I can’t spot her, but my sister's in there somewhere, playing her ukulele!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Off The Buses

Use public transport.
Unclog the roads.
Save the environment.
Oh yea…now we’re putting the prices up!
Public transport users: gird your loins for rising costs. The govt’s cutting $17m from next year’s public transport budget, reducing financial assistance to councils. Regional councils will have to find more money to run bus and train services, meaning local councils will either up the prices, or cut back services. The big losers will be the growing numbers of conscientious public transport users.
Green Party transport spokesman Gareth Hughes: "NZers are looking for affordable transport options and the govt instead is doing the opposite, increasing funding for new state highways to over $1b a year for the next decade, while everything else suffers."
Campaign for Better Transport convener Cameron Pitches agrees: "At the moment the national road transport fund, a petrol tax and road-user charges, is $2.8b a year. Of that, 1.8% is spent on public transport infrastructure. But the govt is seeking to cut that back to 0.7%. What it says is, with public transport, the ratepayers are going to have to pay it [almost] entirely themselves."
While I’m a believer in “user pays” (and by extension, if you don’t use it, then you shouldn’t have to pay for it), it's logical for taxpayer money to subsidise public transport - lowering road densities, accidents, fuel consumption, while also reducing road repair expenditure. It seems a “win-win”, so the cut in the public transport budget makes no sense to me…have I missed something fundamental? The pending price rises are certainly a disincentive for “doing the right thing”!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Overpaid, Oversexed, Over Here…Again

Lock up ya daughters!
PM John Key is off today on a five-day US visit (coinciding with the 70th annvsy of the WWII arrival of US marines in NZ). On Saturday, he’ll meet US President Obama, discussing closer defence ties and our involvement in Afghanistan. He’ll also push for a regional trade pact, and meet Silicon Valley big dogs and The Hobbit co-producer New Line Cinema...
soldier, sailor, marine, pilot, token Afro-American
But the scuttlebutt is: he’ll be announcing a return of US GIs to Koiwoiland!
There’re currently some marines at the US embassy in Wgtn (and persistent rumours of some at Mt John Observatory in Tekapo – why they’d be there makes for a great conspiracy theory!). But US forces have otherwise been absent since their 1980s ban on military training and exercises, in tit-for-tat protest at our no-nukes legislation. This ban’s largely gone now and there has been a big increase in contact between NZ and US military forces. Hell, we’re currently running their anti-pirate fleet, showing 'em how it's done in Kabul, and saving their Apache helicopters in Bamyan!
Having doughboys here would be far less politically sensitive than a US naval visit – the catalyst for the anti-nuke ANZUS break-up. But bringing a ship here would be a huge gesture of warmer defence ties – and as US warships no longer carry nukes in peace time, they wouldn’t have run the "neither confirm nor deny" gauntlet. However back in April 2010, acting-PM Bill English said the NZ policy on US ship visits was still the same. National promised during the last election not to change it may be that the rumoured announcement will only concern marines.
Economically, any joint US/NZ exercises here would...errr...ahhh... go down well. Let’s face it: our "ladies of the night" will be seeing a drooping of business once the Rugby World Cup is over!
So y’all come-on back now, dogfaces: all is forgiven!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

National Identity Dies

Paddy the Wanderer was a ginger and brown Airedale terrier.
He achieved national celebrity status in New Zealand, due to his exploits on the Wellington waterfront (and beyond) during the 1930s. He was remembered as a 'little light in the dark days of the Depression'.
Paddy began life as Dash, the pet of a young girl who died in 1928. The girl's father was a seaman, so the dog spent a lot of time on the Wellington wharves when the family came to meet the father's ships. When the little girl died, Paddy (as he came to be called) began to wander the wharves. Some say he was searching for his lost playmate...
Paddy became a much-loved identity on the waterfront during those Depression years. Watersiders and harbour board workers, seamen and taxi drivers took turns at paying his annual dog licence. Wellingtonians got to know him well as he travelled throughout the city on trams and taxis. He was noted as being "extraordinarily intelligent", and would not cross a road until the traffic lights showed green. His national fame grew as he journeyed by sea to other NZ ports, as well as Australia. He was also rumoured to have made it to San Francisco and back. In December 1935 he took to the air in a Gypsy Moth biplane.
All of these adventures gained Paddy extensive media attention and his popularity with the public grew. Dianne Haworth, in her 2008 book, even notes a "dastardly attempt" by jealous Aucklanders to whisk him away up north!
The Wgtn.City Council awarded Paddy the 'Freedom of the City'. The Harbour Board made him 'Asst.Night Watchman responsible for pirates, smugglers and rodents'. But as he aged, Paddy wandered less: he was usually settled on the Tally Clerks' stand inside the Queen's Wharf gates. As his health deteriorated he was given a sickbed in a wharf shed, and many people visited to enquire about his health.
When Paddy died, today in history, 17th.July 1939, local papers carried obituary notices. A funeral cortege of black taxis escorted his coffin from Queen's Wharf to the city council yards for cremation. It was a scene more in keeping with the death of a high-profile public figure.
A drinking fountain near the Queen's Wharf gates commemorates Paddy's life. It was built in 1945 using stones taken from London's bombed Waterloo Bridge, and paid for with funds raised by the many friends of Paddy the Wanderer. When the drinking bowl overflows with water, it fills the two drinking bowls below, for any dog who pauses to quench a thirst.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Faroes: Ferocious Isles?

+ Sea Shepherd is en route to the Faroes.
It's safe to say they won't be welcomed with open arms!
Using two ships Steve Irwin and fast-interceptor Brigitte Bardot, and a helicopter, SS plans to scare the pilot whales away from the shallow coves along the Faroe Islands.
Capt.Paul Watson: "We'll deploy acoustic devices to lay down a wall of sound in the path of the migrating whales, to prevent them from approaching the islands. Some of the devices are floating, some are dragged behind a ship and some are sunk in the ocean."
Operation Ferocious Isles will last two months. SS has intervened before in the Faroes (in 1985, 1986 and 2000), but this is the first time they'll attempt to block the whales from the bays where the killing historically takes place: there are 17 locations legally allowed to beach whales.
Joan Pauli Joensen (Pilot Whaling in the Faroe Islands) wrote that in a study of 40 whale hunts over two years, the shortest grindadráp lasted just eight minutes (for 136 whales), while the longest took two hrs 30 minutes (118 whales): the average killing time was around half an hour. So with that speed of killing, well-organised herding system and wide-spread killing sites, compounded by local hostility, SS will face a major interception challenge...
Update: Just as SS was about to depart the Shetland Islands to launch the campaign, officials served them with a detainment notice, because a Maltese fishing company had filed a civil suit alleging SS had damaged their property. This relates to damage SS did to bluefin tuna fishing gear last year in the Mediterranean. SS was able to send Brigitte Bardot to the Faroes as planned, but Steve Irwin will be delayed until a US$1.4m bond can be posted...!

+...meanwhile Japan confirmed at the just-concluded IWC meeting in Jersey, that it intends to send its whaling fleet back to the Antarctic this year. Finding a way to deal with SS is the main obstacle Japan sees to continuing for the next season and beyond.
PS: 29 July 2011 - ...and now the Japanese saying "maybe we won't go after all..."

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Did It My Way...

When will this lad learn?
Yesterday, Speaker of The House Lockwood Smith would not swear the recently elected Te Tai Tokerau MP into parliament. And why? Because Hone-bro refused to give the correct oath of affirmation, as required by law [see the film footage...].
Come back when you've
learnt the rules, Bro...
Dr Smith said he was happy for the oath to be read in maori but the Bro refused, instead reading from a page in Maori. Hell, he could have read his grocery list, for all that most of the MPs knew! Turns out the Bro had crafted something of his own, which involved that divisive bloody Treaty of Waitangi...oh, yea, and with the oath tagged on the end! "It was about affirming my allegiance to the Treaty, to the people of Waitangi, to Maori generally and to those in society who are marginalised." No, Hone, you can piss in your adoring fans' pockets back on the marae, but be honest with yourself: it was about you trying to 'give the bird' to "Honkey"!
As he stormed off - reading his shopping list en route - to deliver his maiden speech outside on the steps of parliament, his supporters broke into song, defying the Speaker's orders to stop.
Mr Smith said Hone-bro is welcome to come back at Parliament's next sitting day after the recess (on August 2nd.). But he said he had to throw him out, as it's illegal not to give the oath as it is defined by NZ law: "Abuse of the law cannot be celebrated."
Absolutely right, Lockwood - no need to justify your position. Those are the rules of the game. If the Cuzzie-bro wants to be in the game, he has to play by the rules...whether he regards them as "white man bullshit" or not!
PS: 15 July 2011 - Hone gets some mileage from yesterday's disrespectful 'stunt''s all about free publicity before the General Election, eh Bro?!
PS: 04 August 2011 - Fear not, Cuz, you're not alone. Finance Minister Bill English was kicked out yesterday too: rules are rules!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Their Final Battle Victory

At last NZ will do more for its veterans.
But it took Australia to get the ball rolling!
Our old boys will now get more money to attend commemorations, after the NZ Government was embarrassed over its treatment of Battle of Crete veterans this year. Aussie Crete veterans stayed in the same hotels as officials, received free healthcare and were treated as guests of honour. In contrast, kiwi veterans got $2000 (which didn't even cover their airfares) and had to make their own arrangements…while NZ Defence Minister Wayne Mapp stayed in superior hotels at a cost of $26,000 to the taxpayer! Quite frankly, did he need to be there at all? The attendance of these veterans was far more relevant…
Earlier this year, Major-General Sandy Thomas went public after the govt declined to help fund his trip to Crete. The 92-year-old ultimately received assistance, and others who’d already got a one-off Veterans Affairs $2000 grant were invited to apply again...but yesterday we heard those 16 vets would not be receiving any compensation.
This is PATHETIC: the govt should be ASHAMED!!
Wayne Mapp now says WWII veterans attending future 70th annvsy commemorations will have their airfare and accommodation covered. But of course this may be merely academic window-dressing, as our WWII warhorses are into their 90s now – how few will be capable of safely travelling to the other side of the world, to commemorate and remember their sacrifices?
Coming up over the next few years are significant WWII 70th annvsy commemorations including the Battle of Monte Cassino (2014) and VE and VJ days (2015). However the 70th annvsy of the second Battle of El Alamein (Oct.2012) might not be marked because of unrest in Egypt.
Other important battle dates have slipped by unmarked (such as the 60th anniversary of Kap’yong last April). More govt attention needs to be given to the dates that have shaped the military history of this country…while we can still honour those who fought on our behalf.
But first: compensate those 16 old warriors NOW!

[see also my May 2011 post about the Battle Of Crete...]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

IWC 2011: Make or Break?

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is currently holding its 63rd annual meeting on the Channel island of Jersey.
The UK has a proposal to stop alleged graft and boost transparency, by ending annual subscription payments by cash or cheque. Fees would have to be paid by bank transfer from the govt concerned, to reduce the risk of bribery [UK is submitting this alone, rather than the 27-member European Union, because Denmark refuses to back it. Denmark aligns itself with pro-whaling nations because two of its territories, the Faroes and Greenland, have deeply-rooted whaling traditions]. Last year's IWC was rocked by news that Japan "bought" votes from Caribbean and African nations with cash and aid. Japan still does so: in April 2011, it “offered” Palau a patrol boat and funding for its shark sanctuary, in exchange for Palau declining a similar offer from Sea Shepherd!
Japan (which denied the charges even in the face of proof) is one of three countries along with Norway and Iceland practicing large-scale whaling despite a 1986 moratorium (Japan calls it "research").
Also tabled are measures to boost the integrity and authority of the IWC's scientific committee, provide greater voice and access for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and report more quickly and fully on Commission proceedings.
Japan has yet to formally comment on these proposals, but Glenn Inwood (“Ginza Glenn” – the NZ turncoat who’s the mouthpiece for the Institute of Cetacean Research, lobbying on behalf of the nasty Nippon whalers) expressed scepticism on how much progress could be made...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Houston, Do We Have A Problem?

History was made yesterday about 390km above us.
The space shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station (ISS), for the 46th docking by a space shuttle to a space station, and also the final docking in space shuttle history. Atlantis is retiring after this, the last flight of the 30yr. shuttle programme.
But within hours of the happy-sad event came news that NASA was eyeballing a piece of space junk that could come dangerously close to the orbiting action tomorrow (Wednesday 13th, NZ time)!
NASA says the potential wrecking ball is part of Cosmos 375, a satellite launched in 1970 by the Soviet Union (cue: *boo!*hiss!*), and which collided with another satellite and broke apart. Details of its size and exact trajectory are unknown - but it's travelling at 6.58km per second, so ya wouldn't wanna be in its way! Houston is still calculating if the object poses a major threat, but has the option of moving the ISS out of danger. The debris could be on a collision course with the station at around 4am Wednesday (NZ time), the
same time two US astronauts are meant to being steppin' out for “walkies”.
After this shuttle flight, NASA’s getting out of the launching-to-orbit business, retiring its shuttles to museums, so it can start working on manned trips to Mars and beyond. Private companies will do the space station delivery runs and, still several years away, astronaut ferry flights.
That's assuming a hefty chunk of rusty Russki wreck doesn’t gatecrash the party first!
PS: 13 July 2011 - No problems: turns out the docking actually pushed the module out of danger...phew!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Back From The Dead

Another conservation landmark...kokako are breeding on Secretary Island in Doubtful Sound.
This is the first time in more than 30 years that kokako have bred in the South Island, following the extinction of the South Island kokako. 27 North Island kokako were transferred to Secretary Island during 2008-2009, in a bid to re-establish kokako in Fiordland. Department of Conservation spotted a young kokaho there in March, confirming the released birds are breeding and raising chicks.
Kokako were once widespread across NZ forests, one subspecies in the north and another in the South Island, but they are easily killed by rats, possums and stoats. The last confirmed South Island kokako sighting was in 1967 and by the late 1980s there were as few as 350 pairs left in the North Island. In 2007 DOC sadly conceded the South Island kokako extinct.
kokako juvenile: DOC
However in the last 20 years, North Island kokako have made a strong recovery. Pest control, transfers to secure offshore islands and the efforts of rescue groups mean there are now healthy populations in a number of northern forests. Secretary Island is also home to kaka, kakariki, weka and bellbirds.
Returning kokako to southern forests will not only mean we get to hear their beautiful call, but they are important seed dispersers vital for the regeneration of our forests.
[also read about the kokako successes near Auckland...]

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Decimal Day

July 10th 1967 was a watershed for NZ.
It was Decimal Currency Day. Dollars and cents replaced pounds, shillings and pence − to be precise, 27 million new banknotes and 165 million new coins. The names kiwi or zeal had been mooted to avoid any confusion with the US dollar. But the word dollar prevailed and Mr Dollar was the advertising symbol of the change. Check out this old 1967 tv ad!
So five shillings (one crown) became 50c, two shillings (one florin, or 12 pence) became 20c, a shilling (a bob) became 10c, sixpence became 5c, threepence became 2c and a penny became one cent. The old bank notes (10/-, £1, £5, £10 and £50) became $1, $2, $5, $10, $20 and $100 (a $50 note was introduced in 1981).
On the day, my father returned from the Post Office Savings Bank (remember them?!) with one of every new coin and note, just to show us kids (being HUGE money then, the $100 went straight back into the bank the next day!). My neighbour Pamela however retained a large red plastic piggybank full of pennies, optimistic that they'd be worth a fortune to collectors one day. Bless!
There was a 'Dollar Scholar' saving scheme running in schools - pupils brought their small shrapnel (tucked into flaps in their 'Dollar Scholar' savings certificate) into class, and deposited the coins with a visiting Post Office representative. Hands up who still has their old orange Post Office Savings Bank book among their memorabilia somewhere? I remember being upset that my twelve pennies became only ten cents...
1990: the 1c and 2c held little value, and were phased out, with cash transactions rounded to the nearest 5c.
1991: $1 and $2 coins replaced $1 and 2 notes (by 2010, inflation had reduced a NZ dollar to less than 1/16th of its 1967 value).
2006: the 5c coin was taken out of play and new 50c, 20c and 10c coins were made smaller and lighter. The older versions are no longer legal tender, but are still redeemable at the Reserve Bank.
Ahhhhh, but will Pamela ever profit from her piggybank pennies?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Southern Ocean Kamikaze

They're gluttons for punishment!
Japan has hinted that it may yet return to Antarctica in December. The Ministry of Fisheries has requested a Japanese Coast Guard patrol boat to escort the whalers - but the Coast Guard is reluctant to take part, saying it has no legal basis to do so.
During the last Sthrn.Ocean killing (er... sorry, "research") season, the fleet carried armed coast guard officers for the first time in three years, after the boarding of one of the hunt ships by Sea Shepherd activist Pete Bethune.
Use of a Japanese Coast Guard vessel would create some interesting political dilemmas for Japan and the signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, as military vessels are prohibited in the Antarctic Treaty Zone. If the fleet does return, it’ll be increasing its debt with further subsidies from the Japanese government, in a year which saw its economy slammed by the tsunami disaster. It would also break the new International Maritime Organization (IMO) law which became effective from 1st July, prohibiting use of heavy fuel below the 60th parallel south. On top of that, the aging factory ship Nisshin Maru only has single-hull ice strength, not the required double-hull. And it dumps approx.40% of whale carcasses overboard each year, again in contravention of IMO law. So logic, practicality and the law suggest the whalers won’t return but, when it comes to whaling, they seem to be blinded by an irrational nationalistic fervour.
Sea Shepherd is forward-planning too, considering adding a fourth fast ice-strengthened vessel to its team for "Operation Divine Wind 2011-2012". That’ll mean one large vessel for each of the harpooners. Japan's tactic last year (of tailing SS’s two large ships to relay their position to the factory ship) worked, but at the cost of losing the killing ability of each harpoon vessel. Their extra harpoon vessel was only able to kill some whales, while the other two tailed Sea Shepherd’s flagship Steve Irwin and Bob Barker.
Steve Irwin and Brigitte Bardot will be defending pilot whales in the Faroe Islands this northern summer, before heading south to join Bob Barker on "Operation Divine Wind" in Antarctica.
PS: 12 July 2011 - Japan confirms (at the IWC) that it will be back in the Sthrn.Ocean Whale Sanctuary again this coming season...
PS: 29 July 2011 - ...and now the Japanese Govt.says maybe not...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Aussie Fruit Still Has The Pip

One apoplectic Aussie is preparing an apple Alamo.
Opposition Agriculture spokesman John Cobb wants to introduce a last-minute Bill amending quarantine regulations on our apples, a move NZ orchardists call "political grandstanding".
Oz has had a 90yr. ban on NZ pipfruit and tree imports. Growers used allegations - that NZ apples could spread fireblight – as a trade barrier, but earlier this year the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled against them. The Oz federal govt has now struck a deal to bring in the fruit, but Apple and Pear Australia is still bleating for tighter quarantine and quality checks.
The fireblight effect
I’m amazed the fireblight concerns are still being raised, when NZ scientific research by Chris Hale at HortResearch has already shown it’s very difficult to infect apples with the disease (even when deliberately inoculated!).
Fireblight’s found in America, Canada and much of Europe. NZ is the only Southern Hemisphere country where it’s been recorded. But there’s scientific evidence that Oz has had fireblight for decades (even though not formally reported). Chris Hale found fireblight in Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens back in 1997, and brought samples back here for testing. And another NZ scientist reported fireblight in Adelaide's botanic gardens.
However, even at the 11th.hour, it seems Johnny Cobb will only accept scientific data if it originates in Oz: "To expect us to simply take NZ's word on everything is not realistic. We do have the right to use acceptable scientific protocols." And if the gathering of said data took another 90 years, Mr Cobb would've been very happy!
But that ain’t a happenin’ thang: the apple battle has finally gone the same way as the trans-Tasman pavlova war!
Now, about trying to block our wine
PS: 17 Aug.2011 - Oz finally opens the door!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Muslims Unmasked

In Oz, the NSW Govt will consider laws (being adopted in other states) to give police the power to force Muslim women wearing a full veil to reveal their faces for identification.
The legislation would allow police to ask any person stopped in vehicle checks to remove burqas, niqabs or other head and face coverings to verify their identities. Refusal may incur up to a year's jail.
This is supported by Islamic leaders, the Law Institute of Victoria and the public too. A Herald/Sun on-line poll asked: “Should police have the power to order people to remove head coverings such as burqas?” The results: yes,, 4.23%.
…coincidentally, news this week in NZ of two Auckland bus drivers refusing entry to women wearing Muslim burqas.
A burqa covers the entire body over indoor clothing, while a niqab is the eye-slit outfit. Here, Muslim women mainly wear the hijab (more like a scarf, covering hair and neck). The request for burqa removal would have meant a humiliating public disrobing [interestingly, the Qur’an never mentions burqas, and all but the most radical feel the Qur’an’s ruling on modest attire is adhered to with a hijab].
The drivers supposedly suffer a fear of masks (Maskophobia)! What are the odds of two drivers with the same phobia, within two days of each other? This is not to be confused with Coulrophobia (a fear of clowns), Islamophobia (fear/dislike of Muslims) or Xenophobia (fear of foreigners). NZ Bus claims there was no religious aspect to their reactions, but both have been told to complete counseling, visit a mosque and apologise to the women. They also received final warnings: odd, considering their actions were due to a phobia…hmmmm.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Food Fight

The grocery wars continue in Australia.
After Coles sliced its home-brand bread to $1 a loaf, Woolworths has announced a 12-month freeze on apples, tomatoes, carrots, onions and potatoes, regardless of growing or harvest conditions. These tit-for-tat price cuts began in February when Coles slashed its milk price to $1L, quickly matched by main rivals Aldi and Woolworths. NZ milk prices were also frozen for a year in February (though that was probably because the govt began a price-gouging inquiry!).
However kiwi supermarkets are unmoved by these latest Oz freezes. Progressive Enterprises (which owns supermarket chains Countdown, Woolworths and Foodtown) says our market is “different” and it has no immediate plans for a price freeze. Easy to say, when you own about half the grocery market in NZ! Foodstuffs (owner of New World, Pak 'n Save and Four Square) says it doesn't think price freezing's sustainable and the move could hurt suppliers. Er, no: Oz research shows sales have climbed since these freezes began!
Facebook users are pushing for NZ to follow Aussie's lead, with many users also commenting on scrapping GST on essentials. Back in 2008 a 25,000-signature petition, to scrap GST on food, was presented to Parliament by the Residents Action Movement – it sank without trace. But the issue just will not die, and several political parties are beating this drum harder pre-election.
Healthy food is exempt from GST in Australia and Britain, but by all accounts it's difficult to administer with debate over the definition of 'healthy food'. Hmmm, sounds like an excuse to me. A carefully drawn-up list of what is/is not exempt from GST would surely clarify things - how hard can that be?
With so many people under financial strain right now, any help at the checkout would be very much appreciated.