Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Big Norm

New Zealand was in mourning, today in 1974.
Our Prime Minister since late 1972 (and Leader of the Labour Party since 1965), Norman Kirk had died suddenly at the age of 51 - the fifth NZ PM to die in office.
Kirk had faced a number of health issues (including heart problems the previous year) but maintained a punishing work schedule. In mid-August he was hit by flu and soon after was checked into hospital. He died three days later on 31st August 1974, of ‘congestive cardiac failure’ and ‘thromboembolic pulmonary heart disease’.
The public grief that followed his death was reminiscent of the "Lady Di Effect". Historian Michael Bassett described Kirk as someone whose 'commanding presence and extravagant rhetoric introduced a new idealism to political debate'.
Kirk was a beloved public figure and powerful debater. His popularity stemmed from his strong working class background (when building his home after WWII, due to a shortage of funds and materials, Kirk made it entirely himself, right down to casting the bricks). He was against the South African apartheid system and French nuclear tests in the Pacific, and supported spending for housing, employment, health and education.
Kirk was regarded as a champion for ordinary kiwis, at a time when voters saw many other politicians as out-of-touch and aloof. This was demonstrated by the song Big Norm, performed by Wellington band Ebony: it reached No.4 on the national charts in Jan.1974, won a NZ music award for ‘group of the year’ and went gold. You can hear an excerpt from Big Norm here.
The last telegram Kirk ever sent was to congratulate Ebony on their win...and his final public act was to open my high school's new assembly hall. I remember thinking as he walked past me that, with the dark circles under his eyes, he looked very tired and could not possibly be well.
Looking at the depths to which modern politics have sunk, it's almost incomprehensible now that this country was so enthusiastic about a prime minister. Some even muse that NZ might have been better off now, had Norman Kirk still been around. Of course we'll never know but, for many kiwis, 'Big Norm' is still remembered fondly...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seasprite Splashdown?

If a deal’s too good to be true…it probably is.
Our army found that with the under-armoured over-priced LAVs, the navy with their fault-plagued Project Protector fleet…and now the navy's struggling to keep its five Seasprite anti-submarine helicopters airborn.
We bought the choppers in a NZ$350m "steal" deal in 1999. Labour/Alliance had only just come to power in November that year – so this purchase was a National initiative/disaster (under PM Jenny Shipley, Max Bradford was Defence Minister). The airframes had been stored in the Arizona desert before coming here – wonder why? That’s where USA stores the thousands of aircraft that no-one else wants! Soon after that sale, the US Navy ditched Seasprites and scrapped its flight simulator, leaving NZ - which now has the only particular model flying - struggling to train pilots, and parts are not easily available. The Aussies dumped their Seasprite deal in 2008 and returned their machines to the manufacturer. Of course, because our purchase was so damn wonderful, we had no return-to-sender option! Duuuhhh!!!
Now in 2011, a MoD report says three Seasprites have to be flying at any one time, but last October only one could get in the air and earlier this year there were just two serviceable Seasprites. Engineers are finding corrosion or vibration damage in areas where it hasn’t been seen before and the report says the "damage will worsen the longer it is left". It doesn’t help when staff cut-backs reduce the maintenance teams.
Here’re some utterances that may be useful in the future:
Defence Minister Wayne Mapp: labelled the Seasprites "an orphan fleet" when in opposition, but last week said they were safe and very capable.
Air Vice-Marshall Peter Stockwell: says the Seasprites are ideal for their naval role and "absolutely safe to fly".
When trying – on a small nation’s shoestring budget – to equip a professional fighting force (who deserve the best we can supply them), it always pays to look a gift horse in the mouth!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Things To Do In Transit

An Auckland Airport toy shop's been ordered to hide its golliwog dolls after they offended a visiting US rapper.
pot, meet kettle - yo!
Big Boi of hip-hop duo Outkast saw the dolls in Nature's Window as he was flying out last Friday. He posted a picture of them on Twitter with the message:
"Ok, All Blacks is a rugby team, but what the **** are these ...!"
Oh, pweshusssss!
Nature's Window is a family store with products to keep little fingers busy on the plane: games, books, NZ souvenirs, soft toys, with popular brands like Lego, Pink Poppy, Buzzy Bee etc…get the idea? On the other hand, Antwan Patton (a.k.a.Big Boi) is part of hip-hop band OutKast. He often uses his lyrics to criticise problems that affect African-Americans. He was arrested this month in Miami for possession of ecstasy and drug paraphernalia with intent to use.
So…got his picture?
The shop has sold the dolls - in white, brown and black - for two months without complaint. But the airport ordered their removal… despite there being only FIVE inbound Tweets (that I could see) to him on the subject. FIVE! From the entire world! Richard Thomson, GM of the shop chain, likens the decision to the
Nazi Party's burning of books. Right on!
Golliwogs started in 1895 as brave and lovable characters in children's books by Florence Kate Upton, before soft-toy versions were made. They also featured in Enid Blyton's Noddy books. But by the 1940s they were associated with the racial insult "wog" and, by the 1960s, books were being withdrawn from libraries because some thought them racially insensitive.
But Noddy, Arnott’s Golliwog biscuits, Robertson’s Jam golliwogs (now valuable collectible badges), the 1960’s Black And White Minstrel Show etc…all bring back good memories, and many people do NOT regard them as anything other than what they actually were: a stage in time. And they're growing
in popularity again.
Remember that silly row back in 2009, when a visiting Canadian Inuit tourist kicked up bobsy-die over “eskimo sweets”…? She felt the candy Eskimos were culturally insensitive (just like Maori King beer!): an obvious need for a chill-pill. Perhaps she should talk to Big Boi – he seems to have a supply of pills on-hand…y'know this incident could fuel a new rap – in fact, I’ve saved him the trouble and written it myself…
“Been to New Zealand this week, bro.
Saw some golliwogs. Like ‘em? No!
Cute lil’ toys, but ya know what I fink?
Get free publicity! Cause a big stink!” 
Yo, bro.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beer Brand Causes Right Royal Ruckus

boutique brewery's beer has brassed off a few bros!
Funkwerks of Colorado called its new brew 'Maori King' because it uses NZ rakau hops. Company co-founder Brad Lincoln only found out there was an actual maori king when a NZer told him.
[The Maori King Movement or Kingitanga arose among some maori tribes in the 1850s, attempting to establish a symbolic role similar in status to that of the monarch of the colonising British. Today, the maori monarch is a non-constitutional role with no legal power. Tuheitia Paki, maori king since 2006, has been surrounded by growing controversy about rumours of abuse of position.]
Tainui executive chair Tuku Morgan (who recently faced misconduct allegations) is deeply offended and will be contacting Funkwerks to "establish a dialogue". Hori Awa, a Kingitanga follower who heads a Tainui social service provider, says he's disgusted with the product. Maori health advocate Shane Bradbrook believes the beer should not be sold: "It's exploitation and in terms of our Maori king, it's misappropriating his mana." He claims putting moko on a beer bottle is "culturally inappropriate", and wants it withdrawn. But because labelling has to be approved by regulators, Funkwerks says there'll be no immediate changes …
...and rightly so too. The stylised facial tattoo does not depict the incumbent so-called "king of maoridom": it's merely a link to the contents. Duuuhhh, it's called "branding".
Does the Kingitanga Movement seriously believe every instance of a pseudo maori tattoo must be sanctioned by them, perhaps earn them a fee? Just like Tariana Turia's tirade in June over a milk powder with the pic of a maori maiden, certain knee-jerk reactors need to calm down and realise that imagery like this is in the public domain. No-one has control over it! If it was a specific image of their king, that would be completely different – but it's not.
A quick Google search revealed quite a few items with maori faces. I'd bet safe money that Kingitanga wasn't able to extract kickback from all of these..!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

End Of An Era: Alice A.Leigh / Rewa

Recently I spotted a stunning photograph by Peter Tasker, of a shipwreck on Moturekareka Island in the Hauraki Gulf.
It was such a huge hulk that it must have had an interesting history: well, that history is directly linked to the end of the days of sail.
The vessel began her life in September 1889 as the Alice A.Leigh, a 3,000 ton four-masted steel barque built by the Whitehaven Shipbuilding Company, Cumbria, UK. She was named after the Mayoress of Stockport, Alice A.Leigh, who performed the christening ceremony.
The barque was well-appointed inside, with a panelled saloon - the master's quarters even had a bathroom fitted with a porcelain bath. At 309ft.long with a main mast of 176ft., Alice was the biggest ship built there, carrying 31 sails on her lofty rig and a crew of 33. But she was reluctant to begin her duties: at her launch, the £26,000 ship grounded and the yard had to pay another £1,400 for tugs to set the vessel afloat. This extra cost, atop other problems, proved the death of Whitehaven's once-thriving shipbuilding industry. The difficulties highlighted the harbour's limitations for large ships. [At this time, workers skilled in shipbuilding were paid about £85-90 a year and general labourers about £60, so that may give you an indication of the ship's huge cost.]
Alice A.Leigh ran the typical trades of the large four-masters, taking bulk cargoes from India and Australia to London, and to the Pacific coast of Nth.America. She visited Australia for the first time in Feb.1895, bringing to Melbourne a large kerosene cargo from New York, and later equipment for Victorian coal mines. She brought a 4,000 ton wheat delivery from California to Sydney in 1903…but quicker steamers were becoming more prominent.
At the helm from 1900-1917 was Captain Allan Davison. He took his wife Hannah with him, and six children were born either at sea or at various ports: two of them died, one was actually buried at sea. Davison seems to have been quite a capable chap. Awakening one night when in harbour to sounds in his cabin, he encountered a thief...who he laid into with a belaying pin until help arrived!
The barque had several adventures - she arrived in British Columbia from Shanghai in 1897 with three people suffering from smallpox: two others had died en route. In 1898 she survived a collision with German ship Rickmers, a minor mutiny in 1904 and, in 1914, made a "very fast passage" of 48 days for the 9,000 mile trip from Mexico to Newcastle. In October 1916, she was nearly sunk by the famous German submarine U-35 in the Mediterranean. Ordered to disembark, crew and passengers were rowing away from the Alice when the French destroyer Gabion sped to the scene…the submarine escaped but the ship was saved.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Virtual Life Can Keep You Fit

It is the news geeks have been dreaming of!
A US study says keyboard captivity can lose you as much weight as sweating it out at the gym! Indiana University researchers found virtual exercise is as beneficial as real exercise, because the confidence and motivation created in the virtual world continues offline.
Over 12 weeks, one test group exercised for real while the other watched their virtual selves do all the sweatin' in the popular online world Second Life. Despite the obvious exertion differences, both groups lost a similar average weight of 4.5kg.
Asst Prof Jeanne Johnston was surprised by the finding: "In the virtual world they see themselves participating and losing weight. Whereas in reality, the person might not necessarily have that ability to actually see themselves, so we think there could potentially be a visualisation factor. If you can visualise yourself being successful in activity, that gives you
confidence to actually do it."
But sports psychologist Jacqui Louder warns against giving up physical exercise: "We still want them to understand the benefits of real exercise - healthy eating, relaxation, life balance. Nothing can be used on its own. It has to be used in conjunction with other methods."
To me, the results sound like justification for couch-potato laziness… just as the study itself seems little more than three months’ waste of time! Still, it’ll make geeks feel better about themselves, if they can just step back from a 12hr. marathon of Halo to read about it!
Oh, duuuhhh, silly me - they can read about it on-line!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pie In The Sky? No, That's A Cloud!

The Cloud, that huge amoebic slug lieing along Auckland’s Queens Wharf, is virtually complete.
Costing taxpayers nearly $10m – not including the other $18m for Shed 10, wharf repairs, landscaping, lights, services, furniture etc – it had better start earning immediately.
But no, it’s first event will be free: a three-day event showcase of the Pacific region to kiwis and *yawn* Rugby World Cup visitors.
The Pacific Showcase coincides with the 40th anvsy.of the Pacific Islands Forum. The event will provide 'unprecedented opportunities to connect Pacific enterprises with consumers, retailers and potential suppliers in NZ - one of the region's most important trading partners'. Featuring a vibrant fusion of art, travel, music, dance, food, furniture, beauty, jewellery and fashion from throughout the Pacific Islands, the showcase demonstrates there's plenty more to the Pacific than blue skies and white sandy beaches…so says the PR release.
Yeup, a nice idea that uses The Slug - opps, sorry, The Cloud! – as it’s intended. However it can’t be run as a freebee and the sooner it starts returning something to the coffers, the better. So far, all we’ve heard about the *yawn* RWC is endless outlay and forecast losses…
...meanwhile, right next door to this 'glorious RWC showcase of kiwi ingenuity and glam' (read 'Party Central piss-up venue'), the show must go on for the Ports Of Auckland. Almost 180 working ships will arrive during the tournament, using several wharves along the waterfront. Some vehicle transporters’ll be offloading at Queens Wharf during the Cup itself. It sure highlights the incongruity of an industrial port in the centre of the CBD, and also underlines the concerns of the cruising industry. Other cities around the world - such as Hong Kong, Mumbai and Sydney - had relocated their ports over the years to boost tourism, but oh no, not Auckland!
The icing on the RWC cake: armchair spectators wanting to upgrade their Sky package to high definition for the games will have to wait until well into the tournament: Sky's run out of decoders!
Customers have been told it’ll take 22 days to essentially just to swap over a box from a standard to an HD one. It’s a tad gob-smacking that a big company like Sky didn’t plan ahead for what’s obviously a demand.
Damn, this country’s soooooooooo good at forward-planning. Not.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who Was The Daffodil Girl?

Daffodil Day is the largest national fundraising day for cancer research, patient and family support and education in NZ.
It's always held on the last Friday in August every year: that's this Friday 26th.
Where does the money raised from Daffodil Day go?
•Funding vital cancer research into cancer causes and treatment
•Providing free support to cancer patients, their families and caregivers
•Enabling community education/prevention programmes to be set up
We all know someone or some family hit by cancer in one form or other, so please give generously.
OK, so that's the serious part over.
Now...every year the Cancer Society of NZ plays either this tv ad (below) or a variation of it. And every year I'm enchanted by the lovely smile of the street collector. You must have noticed it yourself!
Who was she? An actor? A genuine collector, filmed in action? And where is she now? I wonder what she thinks, seeing herself year after year still locked in the bright bloom of her teens, just like the Cancer Society's daffodils. Does anyone know this girl?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Castle Cliff-Hanger

Bullets flew. The Castle shook.
Last night, NZ audiences saw Captain Montgomery gunned down in the Season 3 finale of Castle.
The "Cap" was revealed as a bad cop involved in a mob kidnapping that ultimately led to the murder of Detective Kate Beckett's mother. Montgomery then gave his own life trying to kill a hit man who was going to stop Beckett from looking further. The sniper dropped Beckett as she eulogised at the captain's funeral. Rick Castle was last seen urging her to hold on, professing his love for her as she slipped away…
Of course we know she’ll live, because Castle is just too good to shut down just yet. So the new season begins mid-September in USA: not sure when NZ will get it though.
And with the new season comes a new boss - Penny Johnson Jerald will be the captain of the 12th Precinct. You may recall her as the scheming Sherry Palmer in 24. Jerald’ll play Victoria Gates, a career-minded cop who spent much of her early career in Internal Affairs. She’ll initially be more interested in getting noticed by her superiors and climbing the NYPD's ranks than doing any real police work. Known as "Iron Gates", she's also going to be a bit tougher on our team, especially Castle and Beckett. Everybody gets along really well in the precinct, but "Iron Gates" is bound to herald in a little more conflict.
I just hope it doesn’t spoil the successful formula. Y'know what they say: if it ain't broken, don't fix it...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Please Pass On Paseo

On average (so the stats folk tell us), a person uses 8.6 sheets of toilet paper per trip, totalling about 57 sheets per day. Multiply that (seemingly quite low) figure across the population of the Western world, and it amounts to a helluva
lot of paper usage.
So I’m not surprised that another brand of loo paper is trying to make in-roads here in NZ. What I am surprised about is the brand’s claims about its environmental credentials...
Paseo’s advertising reads: We shouldn't have to compromise on luxury if we want to support the environment. That's why all Paseo products are made from renewable plantation fibre and certified fibre, using PEFC tissue paper, which promotes sustainable forest management.
The Paseo brand is made by Asian Pulp and Paper, one of the world's largest paper companies. APP stands accused of rapidly acquiring and destroying forested tiger habitat and carbon-rich peatlands to feed its two pulp mills on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. APP is responsible for more loss of rainforest there than any other company. Since APP began operations in the 1980s, it’s estimated to have pulped more than one million hectares of rainforest in the Sumatran provinces of Riau and Jambi alone. Unsurprisingly, APP and its subsidiaries are prohibited from using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, due to destructive forestry practices.
Gaining FSC approval is a big step in the right direction when it comes to global best practice in sustainable forestry use. The certification means the products haven’t come from illegal logging or forests with high conservation values, or from areas where human rights or indigenous peoples’ rights are violated.
In that area, the critically-endangered Sumatran tiger is hanging on by a thread. Its estimated 500 remain at best, with some figures as low as 250. Despite the animal's vulnerability, large-scale deforestation continues in its habitat mostly under the auspices of APP. Shrinking habitat and human encroachment has led to a rise in tragic tiger encounters, causing both human and feline mortalities. Eyes on the Forest (a coalition of 25 environmental organisations) has mapped encounters between humans and tigers, and found the majority took place near forested areas being cleared by APP. The Sumatran orangutan is also critically-endangered. Since 1985 Sumatra has lost half of its remaining forest...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tyred Of Rugby?

The silver fern flag is often seen at sporting fixtures involving NZ teams or individuals. Although it has no formal recognition, many regard it as NZ's unofficial logo.
A symbol of national pride, the silver fern's also incorporated into the logos of many NZ businesses and sporting teams, including the All Blacks. But - do correct me if I'm wrong! - as far as I'm aware the emblem doesn't actually belong to anyone.
Now, a New Lynn tyre shop owner is getting rather tired of the NZ Rugby Union...
(1) because it disliked his business name All Black Tyres and Automotive Care, and legally forced him to rename it. Ok, fair enough call.
(2) because now he's facing legal action from NZRU over some blue ferns on his sign.
I could understand it if his image is the exact NZRU one...but is it?
Owner Khaled Sophie says "it's different in shape and colour to the silver fern they've trademarked. The fern belongs to every NZer, it's not for a special company or organisation.''
But NZRU's lawyer claims Sophie's fern is ''a clear copy of the same fern device registered by our client''. And NZRU commercial manager Paul Dalton says the fern logo is a trademark held by them: ''It's pretty straightforward. There are a lot of different fern devices he could have used instead of our one.'' He said the colour had no effect on the trademark...and this is the same guy who thought abstaining from sex to support the ABs was a great idea! Riiiiiiiiiight!
So, is this the exact NZRU fern? Does NZRU have control over all fern logos? And if so, will it be suing all these companies?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Faroes: Ones That Got Away

At least these ones didn't make it to the cooking pot!
Early last Wednesday morning (17th), Brigitte Bardot – en route back to the Faroe Islands from the Shetland Islands – came upon a large pod of pilot whales. The whales surrounded the vessel, coming so close that the crew could reach out and touch them. Meanwhile Steve Irwin, positioned near the southern Faroes island of Suduroy, headed towards the same area to join Brigitte Bardot, arriving just in time to see this remarkable sight.
Their helicopter pilot estimated there were some 500 pilot whales from numerous pods in a large area around the two Sea Shepherd ships. Dolphins and endangered fin whales were seen breaching and spy-hopping as well. Several crewmembers jumped into the sea to film the cetaceans underwater, many of them coming within inches of the divers and their cameras. A fin whale, often referred to as "the greyhound of the oceans", was speed-checked at 22 knots as dolphins surfed in front of it.
Pete the Pilot Whale meets
Brigitte The Boat...
SS also retrieved a large floating ghost net from the water, to ensure it would not cause further harm to marine wildlife.
The ships stayed between the whales and the FI and monitored the movement of the whales, ready to intervene with acoustic devices if necessary to divert them away from the killing bays of the Faroes...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tom Over-Reaching With Jack

When thriller fans hear the name Lee Child, they think of "Jack Reacher".
He's the author's gravy train - a tough-guy ex-Military Policeman character, righter of wrongs, breaker of rules if those rules stop him from delivering his form of justice…
6ft.5" with a 50-inch chest and weighing around 250lbs/115kg.
Built like a brick shit-house.
Strong enough to break a man’s neck with one hand (Bad Luck And Trouble) or kill a bad guy with one head punch (61 Hours).
A take-no-prisoners man’s man.
An unstoppable force.
Get the picture?
So why the hell did they give the movie role of Jack Reacher... to Tom Cruise?!
Cruise is too pretty (albeit in a waning way), far too short (only 5ft.7") and hardly what you’d call "built".
He’ll play Reacher in the movie version of One Shot (which is actually the 9th book in the series – although you can enter the series at any stage and not feel lost). But many fans are unimpressed with the decision - some creating Facebook pages with titles such as 'Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher'.
Personally I’d have loved to see Keifer Sutherland in the role, though he’s probably typecast now as "Jack Bauer" in 24.
But "Jack Reacher" is a giant of a character…Tom Cruise is not.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No Sex Please, We’re All Black Fans

And now it becomes a farce…
A supposedly tongue-in-cheek ad campaign, starting next week, asks NZ fans to abstain from sex during the *yawn* Rugby World Cup! WTF??!!
I was an All Black.
If I played good,
I got an orange
at half-time...
"Abstain for the All Blacks" will be driven by the Telecom-sponsored ABs' fan site, BackingBlack. It asks supporters to avoid sex to support the team!! Er…why??!!
The campaign will be fronted by former ABs captain Sean Fitzpatrick, and abstainers will receive black rubber finger-rings to show their support – a bit like castration rings, I guess! These will also no doubt cramp fans’ style with Mrs.Palmer and her five daughters!
Organisers hope the rings will motivate fans the same way Sir Peter Blake's red socks did, in NZ's
Blake: legend
successful America's Cup yachting campaigns. Ahhhhhh, but they’ve overlooked the personal story surrounding Sir Peter’s lucky sox, and the charisma of the man himself: you can’t simply pluck that out of an AB’s jockstrap.
NZ Rugby Union is irritated by the campaign, but supportive; readers of a NZ Herald poll far less so...
ABs coach Graham Henry and senior players have red-carded it, but will the ABs themselves abstain? NZRU's commercial manager Paul Dalton says: "Their match preparations aren't built around sponsors' ad campaigns, so let's not confuse the two. This is all about Telecom doing something fun with the fans and should be very obvious that it's not to be taken too seriously." Fun??
Well, this inexplicable campaign should certainly provide lotsa ridiculing laughs for the rest of the world. We’ve already encouraged fans to come to NZ…and sleep on our couches! Visit our cities…and walk to the venues! Stay in our hotels…and get ripped off! Support our team…and pay double for their jerseys! Now this!
Tell me it’s actually April the 1st today! PLEASE!!
PS: 18 Aug.2011 - Well, the joke's on Telecom. It's scrapped the campaign even BEFORE it began!
PS: 19 Aug.2011 - And what, pray tell, was the COST of this abortion of an ad idea???

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is Western Aid Fueling Somalia's War?

Help us!
A two-month UN World Food Programme investigation has confirmed tons of food aid for starving Somalis are being stolen and sold in local markets.
Thieving businessmen and gunmen are undermining international famine relief efforts. Donated food is not even safe once it's given to the hungry refugees in the camps: they're often forced to hand back aid after journalists' photo-ops.
Help us...?
More than 3.2 million (nearly half Somalia's population) are in deep strife after a severe drought, complicated by Somalia's 20-year civil war. More than 450,000 live in famine zones controlled by al Qaeda-linked militants, where aid is hard to deliver. 29,000 kids under five have already died. UN had long expected some food aid to disappear, but the sheer scale of the theft calls into question aid groups' ability to reach the starving. It also raises concerns about the ability of aid agencies and the Somali fight corruption, and whether diverted aid is fueling the war.
The Al Shabab militia in the south snatches crops and animals from farms and, according to Human Rights Watch, have told the people to depend on God instead. It has banned about 20 humanitarian organisations as 'infidels', accusing them of pursuing religious or ideological motives. While the Transitional Federal Govt.of Somalia condemns any diversion of food aid, and claims zero tolerance towards corruption or crimes against food aid, the situation continues...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Call 'Em Whatever You Like...

Do y'think they resemble lobsters, armadillos, ant-eaters?
Are they art, underground subway stations, designer dunnies?
Well, the locals are already referring to them as the lobster loos - brand-new public toilets behind Wellington's Foxglove Bar, Queen's Wharf, that have even attracted international attention.
They're the latest addition to the capital's quirky lavatories, but CEO of Wellington Waterfront Ian Pike says local maori are claiming cultural insensitivity: "We've had some feedback from local iwi saying 'lobster loos' wasn't a good reference. Food and toilets don't go well together in Maoridom..." (although the rest of the world understands the biological link between the two!) He's encouraging folk to use the official name, 'designer dunnies', rather than 'lobster loos'.
What! Thou shalt not call something a name thy chooseth, because it may upset a precious minority group...? Oh puh-leez! It's a toilet, loo, crapper, bog, lav, shitter, throne, outhouse, longdrop, dunny...but it CAN'T be colloquially known as the 'lobster loos' because that will upset the bros! Jeez, call it whatever you personally like! It'll be used for its designed purpose regardless! If you need assistance with a name for a public convenience, those in the town of Otorohanga can help...
Come to think of it: maori, indigenous, brown brethren, cuzzies, iwi, tangata whenua, under-privileged, bros...NZ European, honkey, pakeha, whitey, oppressor...
Food for thought? Or just something else to flush down the can?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ashton's Not A Charlie

It hasn't taken long for Ashton Kutcher to become the most popular guy among the cast and crew of the tv sitcom Two and a Half Men.
Charlie Sheen's replacement threw an impromptu party for the entire staff after the first day's shooting. With wife Demi Moore riding shot-gun, Ashton was a happy chappie, buying all the drinks... which of course would be chickenfeed for him, as he's earning between US$800k-900k per episode, making him TV's highest-paid sitcom actor.
It's very early days but so far everybody's loving the new guy on the set: he jokes, has no tantrums, he knows his lines. Insiders say nobody is missing Charlie right now. Charlie who...?
Sheen's character, Charlie Harper, will be killed off in the first episode of the upcoming season: he slips in the Paris subway soon after being caught cheating on his wife right after their wedding, is hit by a train and dies. Ashton plays a broken-hearted internet billionaire Walden Schmidt, who'll be introduced in a two-part season opener. CBS is keeping quiet on further details coz "the mystery is part of the marketing."
Two and a Half Men non-fans who're suddenly interested in watching for the first time: consider yourself marketed! Meanwhile on-line surveys indicate staunch fans are reserving judgement for now...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eco-Warriors Join Whalers' Festival

Olav the Holy is the patron saint of the Faroe Islands.
Credited with bringing Christianity there, he's remembered every July 29th.with the Olai Festival - a colourful national event drawing people to Tórshavn from all over the islands. It's also led to some confusion among anti-whalers, who wrongly believe the festival is a blood-lust celebration of pilot whale killing (or grindadráp).
However, as Sea Shepherd was on-location on their mission to end the Faroes "grind", the crew took the time to raise awareness. They drove a van, adorned in gruesome whaling images, in the local parade while blaring the cries of whale victims. The brutal whale slaughter continues to be justified in the FI as cultural tradition, so the crew felt it was an appropriate time to honour the lives of the slain pilot whales. Eventually, the local mayor saw the bystanders, local press and Animal Planet’s film crew, and immediately phoned police who forced SS to move away.
scenes from the Olai Festival

When the van was first brought to the islands (without any identifying images on the sides), Customs confiscated seven of eight acoustic devices inside. To have identified the van, they were most likely tipped off by a local informant. The remaining device has since been deployed to deter whales from entering local killing bays.
It seems media exposure is still one of the strongest threats against FI and thus SS's continued weapon of choice. The majority of Faroese that SS have met over recent weeks avidly support the massacres, and made it clear that SS was not welcome. However, aside from the occasional dirty look or angry remark, there was little's hoped this level of common sense will prevail, and eventually lead to a calmer rational wind-down and eventual end to the grindadráp. Am I too optimistic?
PS: 11 Aug.2011 - Yes, I evidently was! SS has tried to book several venues in FI to address the islanders...only to have their reservations mysteriously cancelled. So much for friendly dialogue.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Don’t Park Here, Tanks Very Much!

Park illegally in Vilnius at your own risk!
In Lithuania, the mayor of Vilnius is sick of cars parking in his no-parking zones and cycle lanes. So sick of them, he's now crushing them personally!
Ticketing the cars seemed to have little effect. So Mayor Arturos Zuorokas has taken matters into his own hands...

Well, ok, this is a staged video, but the guy looks crazy enough to actually DO this! And at least he's conscientious enough to personally sweep up the broken glass afterwards…
Judith "Crusher" Collins - take note: THIS is how it's done!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Woozers Wade In To Wugby

It must be tough...working at the Alcohol Advisory Council.
Does ALAC's logo look like
a beer bottle cap to you?
After all, with NZ's liking for booze, if you raise your head above the parapet on this subject, you're sure as hell gonna get it shot at! So I was a bit surprised to hear the good folk at Woozer Inc. ('Our mission is to lead a change in NZ's drinking culture') expressing concern about a calendar for junior rugby...Ready!
The fundraising calendar features nude North Otago rugby players...Aim!
The buff players are surrounded (and their 'bits' hidden) by the product of the team's sponsor, Speight's Beer...FIRE!
The $20 calendars are a first for the North Otago Rugby Union, which says it's all in fun and people understand it's for a good cause. Well, most people that is...except Woozer Inc.
Chief Abstainer Gerard Vaughan questions whether the Union considered the impact on young people, and he also questions the prominence of alcohol: "The photos looked like a low-cost Speight's beer promotion rather than a sporting club fundraiser." OMG! You mean...*whispers*...product placement??? Herr-RUMPH!!!
Interesting that the *shock*horror*probe* offending calendar has been out for a month - without a squeak from Woozer Inc., until a journalist asked for their opinion of it!
Mr Vaughan claims research shows advertising and other promotions influence the drinking decisions of young people: "This provides strong evidence that young people should not be exposed to alcohol advertising, sales promotions and sponsorship."
And so, in these tough financial times, Woozer Inc. has put its money where its mouth is...and will now sponsor every single junior rugby club in this country! Riiiiiiiiiiiiiigggghhhhtttt!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Recommended By The Enemy

German submarine U-468 is caught on the surface by an Allied B24 bomber. It is August 11th., 1943, in the Atlantic Ocean, 340km SW of Dakar, capital of what’s now Senegal.
Oberleutant Klemens Schamong orders his crew to open fire: 20mm cannon shells rip into the B24 Liberator as it manoeuvres for its attack run. The bomber catches fire and the Germans think it will turn away, but piloting the Liberator is a very determined 29-year-old Flying Officer Lloyd Allan Trigg from Northland (an experienced RNZAF pilot attached to 200 Squadron RAF). Despite many more direct hits, he flies his dieing B24 straight at the submarine, dropping six depth charges from just 16m before plunging into the ocean. All seven aboard, four of them NZers, are killed...
Two of the bombs exploded beside the U-boat, which sank within minutes. Only 20 of the 46 crew escaped, and 13 were quickly killed by sharks and barracuda. In a twist of fate, after half an hour in the ocean, the remaining seven found the Liberator's rubber dinghy floating nearby. When an Allied aircraft spotted them the next day, the dinghy was being circled by very large sharks...
Schamong told his captors the U-boat crew saw their cannon shells hitting the blazing Liberator, but the courageous pilot did not give up as they hoped he would, continuing through the deadly fusillade until his depth charges could be dropped.
The 26-year-old submarine commander (who held an Iron Cross, 1st class) said that, in Germany, such a gallant fighter as Trigg would be
decorated with the highest medal...
Allied Command took the recommendation to heart. Solely on the evidence of Schamong and another officer among the survivors, Trigg was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the only Allied serviceman in either world war to be recommended for a Victoria Cross by the enemy, and it was the first VC awarded to an airman for sinking an enemy submarine.
[Later in the 1960s, his widow - struggling to bring up two children - sold Trigg’s Victoria Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross to buy a house. The medals went overseas, and in 1998 fetched a then world record price of $421,000 at a London auction.]