Sunday, December 30, 2012

Whale Rider

NOT the stuff of movies...
In USA, Miami authorities are trying to find a man, let's be straight up about this...a bloody IDIOT photographed off the Florida coast riding on the back of a female sperm whale, an endangered species.
The marine mammal, which is distinguished from other types of whale by its enormous head, was found dead a few days later on a beach north of Miami. Authorities are investigating the causes of its death.
The sperm whale, 9m long and weighing 30 tonnes, was still alive when the as-yet-unidentified man was photographed sitting on its back. The pictures also show another swimmer trying to climb up on it.
Experts believe the whale could have been sick and dying as it swam, which may explain why it had come so close to land, and why the man was able to clamber onto its back. However the experts are not ruling out the possibility that the two men tormented it, raising its stress level to the point of contributing to its death.
US federal law bans tormenting marine mammals, as well as interfering with any animal in danger of extinction, alive or dead.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Defence Spending Going Down Hole #9

I spied this article recently - thought it may give you food for thought (have edited it for ease of reading)...
US golf course right beside
the Korean DMZ!!!
When American politicians talk about budget cuts, you just know its military will be under the spotlight.
I never agree with cuts that jeopardise the safety and effectiveness of troops at the sharp end, but lately there've been reports showing plenty of fat still to be sliced off the US defence budget. For example, 234 golf courses maintained by the US Dept of Defence around the world! Imagine the expense!
Unfortunately, the exact cost remains undisclosed by the Pentagon, but here's a general idea of how much the US spends on golf courses that are in some cases closed to the very taxpayers who fund them. The US Golf Association (USGA) says the average cost of maintaining a golf course was between $384K and $686K in 1998, the most recent year it had figures for. In 2008, golf consulting firm GolfMAK Inc. estimated annual course maintenance expenditures at between $500K and $1m, and that did not include food and drink, building maintenance, and staff and management fees. So a very conservative estimate is that the US Govt spends about $600,000pa managing each military golf course...a total of over US$140m every year!
Sure, the courses generate revenue through greens fees, but the courses routinely charge cut rates. With below-market revenue coming in, and outlays at full market rates, it's hard to imagine those courses turning much of a profit, if any...leaving USGA's claim that the military's golf courses receive "little to no federal funding" in serious doubt. Mind you, that entire $140m could easily qualify as "little" funding - because the Govt spends about $6.85m per minute, so $140m is less than 21 minutes' worth!
Even if the courses are breaking even or turning a profit, many sit on prime land that the govt could sell/lease for a profit, rather than maintain to charge below-market greens fees.
US artillery practice???
And the military even has valuable golfing properties overseas: three in Germany totalling $36.4m, another in Sth Korea worth $26m, and let's not forget Saudi Arabia and Kuwait among many others. Moreover, by being located on military bases, there're also security costs to consider, as well as the cost of maintaining the electrical lines, water services, and roads.
Golf may be an good morale-builder for the military, but with fiscal strangulation gripping America, this type of expenditure is indefensible. Instead, the good ol' US of A should focus on things its military actually needs to carry out its missions. How golfing really helps achieve this is beyond me...
[Click here for more on this subject...]

Friday, December 28, 2012

Maru Marooned?

+Wondering where the whalers are?
Sea Shepherd's Captain Paul Watson wrote this on Facebook yesterday...and sounded ever so slightly happy!
"I love it when a plan comes together!
The entire Japanese whaling fleet is still in Japan. The Nisshin Maru has some serious mechanical issues. Gee, I wonder what could have possibly gone wrong! We may never know, but what counts are results and this year the prospects are looking super good for the whales...
Operation Zero Tolerance is on target for zero kills. No whales killed in December and it now looks like there will be no possibility of whales dying in January...
This is my ninth Christmas in the Southern Ocean. Victories are not won without patience."
An eye on the prize
+Meanwhile, in response to recent reports of concern by Oz, NZ, the Netherlands and the US over potential conflicts in the Southern Ocean between SS and the nasty Nippons, SS has invited said concerned nations to have a representative aboard the SS ships, to witness first-hand any such 'incidents'.
These countries claim to oppose whaling in the Sthrn Ocean Whale Sanctuary - a sanctuary they themselves voted into existence - but none is actively protecting the sanctuary.
+With that in mind, the Australian Opposition has called on the Oz Govt to send a vessel to the Sthrn Ocean to monitor the annual whale hunt.
Environment spokesman Greg Hunt has written to PM Julia Gillard saying it's vital an Australian vessel be present in case of any clashes down there. I'd say it's a safe bet that nothing will be sent...

PS: 30 Dec.2012 - Let battle commence! The nasty Nippons are on their way!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I'd have liked to have been there, to witness this news event...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

*sigh* What Can I Say...?

From the land of kiwifruit and kowhai; barbeques and bloody good beer; sun, sea and surf; Santa on a skidoo; slappin' on sunblock before opening pressies out on the deck...
to all those celebrating on the other side of the globe, knee-deep in snow; shivering in traditional cold festive weather; chipping icicles off the sleigh; having the car battery drain flat again etc etc.
Sincere Season's Greetings from the Middle Of Middle-Earth!

Monday, December 24, 2012

As If This'll Help...

Four governments, including New Zealand's, have issued a warning to both the Sea Shepherd Society and the Japanese whalers to behave in the Southern Ocean this whaling season.
This statement was issued just days after a US appeals court issued an injunction, ordering Sea Shepherd and Paul Watson not to physically attack or endanger the whaling ships, and to remain at least 450m from them at all times. That order was sought by the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), which undertakes the Japanese govt's illegal commercial whale-killing programme through a loophole in International Whaling Commission rules that allows whales to be killed for research.
"Research" for sale...
In a joint statement, the NZ, Australian, US and Netherlands governments condemned "any actions that imperil human life at sea", calling for the masters of all vessels to ensure their crews' safety and follow international rules to avoid collisions: "We respect the right to peaceful protest, including on the high seas. We condemn dangerous or unlawful behaviour at sea by any party in the Southern Ocean or elsewhere," said the governments, warning that they were prepared to prosecute anyone engaging in unlawful behaviour.
Well, what a damn shame our government couldn't have grown a spine when the nasty Nippon whalers "engaged in unlawful behaviour" by deliberately steering right through the Ady Gil!!
The NZ Government says it is "resolutely opposed" to commercial whaling, including Japan's so-called scientific whaling. But of course we've yet to see Womble McCully and Co put their money where their respective gobs are, and exercise some naval vessels in the immediate vacinity of the whale sanctuary...
In the meantime, anyone who really thinks this joint statement - or indeed the injunction - will have ANY bearing whatsoever on the behaviour of either party to this impending battle, probably also believes that the Japanese ARE engaging ONLY in research! Riiiiight...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Well, WAS He?

St Matthew in the City in Auckland never fears controversy, esp. at Xmastime, when it erects its eagerly-awaited billboard.
In the past, its billboard images've attracted a lot of response from staunch elements of the community. This year, it depicts the baby Jesus in his crib surrounded by a halo of rainbow colours, and reads: "It's Christmas. It's time for Jesus to come out."
Rev.Glynn Cardy says the sign is about trying to lift the humanity of Jesus: "The fact is we don't know what his sexual orientation was." Cardy says homosexuality was not even a word until the C19th. Any mention of it would therefore have been a mistranslation. More importantly, he says, the billboard is meant to ask whether Jesus' desires in the bedroom would make a difference for those of faith: "Would it make a difference if he was gay? Would that change the picture for you? Would it mean what we revere about him changes?"
St Matthew in the City was one of the first churches to openly welcome the gay community, and has worked tirelessly to knock down society's sexual orientation barriers.
Its billboards have an international reputation. Last year its Facebook exposure reached over 21 million, brought 30K visits to St Matthew's website in a week and was featured internationally in blogs and internet news sites.
But the fringe elements are also attracted to the billboards - with destructive intent. Last year a poster portraying the Virgin Mary holding a pregnancy test was ripped in half in a protest.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

G'day, Cobber, It's The Queen Calling!

This week saw the end of a bizarre and disturbing incident that
Troubled soul?
spanned the globe.
Jacinda Saldanha, the Indian nurse who killed herself after being duped by a hoax phone call, was buried in India.
But IS this the end? With around 2000 mourners on-hand, and millions more voyeuristically following the story via internet news, this sad tale has grown much larger than itself. The incidents leading to it are being investigated by the London Metropolitan Police.
In a nutshell...2DayFM's Michael Christian and Mel Greig try their luck posing as the Queen and Prince Charles, placing a prank call to a private London hospital on December 7th. Jacinda answers the phone. They can't believe their luck, when she transfers them to the ward where Duchess Catherine is being treated for acute morning sickness. At that point, another nurse releases a few details. A few days later, Jacinda is found dead - she leaves three suicide notes, one criticising her employers.
Reports have claimed she felt under pressure from the hospital after the prank, and that she'd been in a separate "personal disagreement" with a colleague, which she felt had not been handled appropriately by management.
The hospital has defended itself, saying it offered her support. It stressed she had not been disciplined for transferring the call, which it called a "cruel trick".
*sob* We...never...thought...*sob*
EXACTLY! You never thought!!!!!!
Radio station 2DayFM suspended the DJs and announced it would be donating all the profits from its advertising to a fund set up to assist the Saldanha family. It even cancelled its Christmas party. The two hosts tearfully appeared on Ozzie TV current affairs shows, saying they'd never imagined their hoax would result in this.
Every old wireless man and his dog, from their own glory days, pontificated that of course THEY would never have done such a heinous thing! The UK media didn't buy into the tears at all, instead milking hard the 'sympathy-for-the-family' angle.
The Brit PM expressed sympathy and condolences to the Saldanha family in Parliament and a UK Labour MP called for a full inquiry.
Conversely, a Brit anti-royalist singer slammed the Royals, saying they didn't give a damn about Jacinda Saldanha's death.
Please excuse my shovelful of cynicism, but let's wipe away all the crocodile tears and take a closer look here.
(1) Unless 2DayFM controls every breath its DJs take (and I know from experience that no station can!), then the station is not to blame.
(2) Michael Christian and Mel Greig started this snowball rolling all by their own pin-brained selves, and thus... (more to come).
(3) Jacinda, who transferred the call, is not to blame for the original incident either, but... (yes, a proviso is coming).
(4) Nor is the nurse who released some info.
(5) The Royals' decision to have low-key security, instead of a bodyguard to screen every call, contributed to the info release...but was in no way to blame for the call in the first place.
(6) It also appears the hospital is not guilty, Your Honour.
So, this kangaroo court rules that:
(Proviso 1) ...Christian and Greig were responsible for the Ground Zero incident. Radio announcers are there to 'inform and entertain'. Had they gathered the juicy (*yawn*) details of the Royal morning vomit and delivered it as information, that may have been ok. Of no particular value, but maybe ok. But to make a hoax call over this particular subject was a waste of time and hardly entertainment.
(Proviso 2) ...Jacinda Saldanha was responsible for her own death. With three suicide notes written, she sure had some issues goin' on, one of which sounds unrelated to this fiasco. No-one pulls their own plug for simply saying "Putting you through now." That's taking job dedication to a whole new level!
Given half a chance, this story would have been just another Andy Warhol 15-minute wonder. Seems the demons inside Jacinda's head couldn't let this go...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Soundtrack For The End Of The World

According to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to end this Friday, December 21. Yeup, that's right: TOMORROW!
Which, if you believe it, is a real bummer - basically you slave for one last day at work and don’t even get rewarded with Christmas!
The Mayans reckoned the world would end or experience drastic changes on Dec.21, 2012 at 11:11 p.m. This is the end date of a 5,125-year long cycle.
Somewhat inconsiderately, the oh-so-wise Mayans didn't give us a heads-up on what's a-comin', and a lot of scientists around the world have been having a field day burning up research dollars on idle speculation. Some think there'll be a polar shift (north and south poles switching positions), the world burns up, a black hole, or perhaps an alien invasion will occur. Ok, so some words of advice:
In the event of a polar shift, avoid tidal waves. Stay in the middle of your country.
World burns up? Sorry, no-one can dodge THAT bullet, not even the Pope or ol' Harold Camping!
Black hole? Like the sinking sands of the Wild West movies, the harder you struggle the tougher it is to get out.
Aliens: unless you're Drew Barrymore, ET's punched your ticket.
So instead do a few limbering-up exercises...flex that body...bend over to touch your toes...spread those legs...head between 'em.... and kiss your arse goodbye!
Mind you, if the Mayans ARE right, at least we won't have to repay our Christmas credit card bills!
And if the global full-stop DOES happen, why not play us all out with a few appropriate hits? The world's musicmakers over the years have penned quite a few end-of-world scenarios (admittedly mainly post-nuke. I don't recall a major hit involving the Mayan calandar, though perhaps there was a chart-topper released in the Andes!). How about...
Prince - 1999 (from 1982); David Bowie - Five Years (1972); Nena - 99 Red Balloons (1983); Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around (2002); REM - It's The End Of The World As We Know It (1987)
Of course, if you DON'T believe in the Mayan Haymaker and/or you're reading this the day AFTER the "end of the world", then you can thoroughly look forward to an enjoyable Christmas...(with a slight sigh of relief perhaps?...)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sadly, No Real Surprise

Minke whale steaks have been found by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) society on sale commercially in Denmark.
The whale meat, sourced from Greenland, was discovered at a tourist shop in Copenhagen, thus putting Denmark in breach of European Union (EU) laws which ban EU member states from the killing and commercial sale of whales. The sale of these whale products in Denmark also contravenes International Whaling Commission (IWC) regulations and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Ironically, this discovery comes just as Greenland threatens to impose its own quotas regarding the number of whales it'll hunt for 'local nutritional needs' in the coming year. Earlier in 2012, a separate WDC undercover investigation revealed Greenland had been "actively undermining" the IWC ban on commercial whaling, by selling whale meat to tourists visiting the country.
WDC's chief executive, Chris Butler-Stroud: "Denmark is an EU member and bound by EU law. This is clearly commercial whaling. Our investigation report shows this demand for more whale meat is driven by the commercial consumer market not by aboriginal needs."
Curiously, not EVERYONE is
happy with Denmark...
Last June, I wrote how Denmark - while holding the position of Presidency of the EU - opposed a EU pro-conservation position on whaling and, without consulting other EU members, applied for a whaling quota increase for Greenland. Its reasoning must surely include this latest commercial discovery. And back in 2010, NY Times reported Icelandic minced whale meat may be making its way into Danish pork. 
Denmark always takes a back-row seat in any discussions over Faroe Islands whaling: it continuously supports the islands' autonomy in virtually all issues, while maintaining the FIs are Danish citizens. FIs brutally massacre pilot whales on a regular basis, even though the whales are protected under the Bern Convention, which Denmark signed. Chapter 3, Article 6 of the Convention prohibits "all forms of deliberate capture and keeping and deliberate killing" as well as the "internal trade in these animals, alive or dead". As the Faroes are a territory of Denmark and the people are Danish citizens, Denmark is therefore in violation of the Bern Convention.
WDC has now presented its latest findings to the EU Commission. It is requesting the EU re-examine the legitimacy of allowing the export of whale products into the EU, and that all exports cease immediately until the IWC has granted an ASW ('aboriginal subsistence whaling') quota to Greenland.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

All Is Revealed

Having been otherwise occupied for the past weeks, I'm in serious 'catch-up' mode with global events... and more importantly, news about things that I'm personally interested in.
Like many, I'd been eagerly awaiting the unveiling of Sea Shepherd's latest vessel for its upcoming 'Zero Tolerance' anti-whaling Southern Ocean campaign. Well, after months of speculation and anticipation, the Sam Simon was wheeled out last week in Hobart, Tasmania...and ironically, she's been under the nasty Nippons' noses all along!
Her 56m hull painted bright white with a classic Sea Shepherd logo on her sides, and displaying a large S on her tall black smokestack, Sam Simon has clearly received several months of careful preparation.
Now, here's the irony: originally she was the Seifu Maru, built in 1993 to a high standard, with no expense spared by the Japanese Govt. The ice-strengthened vessel was run by the Maizuru Meteorogical Observatory, part of the Japan Meteorological Agency. She retired from service in 2010, and has been laid up in Shimonoseki, right beside the whaling fleet!
Sam Simon is the second SS vessel to have an association with whaling: Bob Barker was launched in 1950 as the Norwegian whaler Pol XIV. (Last week while in Wellington, I was escorted around BB to see first-hand the campaign prep...)
Earlier in the month SS issued a statement saying it would confront the whalers off the coast of Japan and apparently they believed it. Their Coast Guard mobilised and they went to a great deal of expense and effort to sneak quietly out of port. Of course SS had no intention of heading north at all: it was all part of 'the game'. They await them in the south, but long before they reach the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Meanwhile Steve Irwin (with escapee Capt.Paul Watson aboard) is 'somewhere at sea'...last Saturday Watson sent this:
"Posted 15 December 2012 - 07:16 AM
@SeaShepherd Update from @CaptPaulWatson- ReTweet RT
Finally the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru began moving today but is still in the Inland Sea of Japan and at least four weeks from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Sam Simon is giving tours to school children in Hobart, Tasmania. Bob Barker is conducting public tours in Wellington, NZ and Brigitte Bardot is hosting public tours in Auckland, NZ. Steve Irwin is at sea patiently waiting for the whalers to make their way towards us. This year's campaign is very much a waiting game, but the good news is that every day they delay in getting down to the Southern Ocean is a day that the whales need not fear their harpoons. The film crew on Steve Irwin filmed a pod of sperm whales and we have had numerous visits from dolphins and albatross."
This is certainly looking good for the whales. Not only are there four ships in SS's navy, but the whalers have left more than a month later than usual...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dumb Ways To Die

Here's a public service announcement that people are finding so amusing, it's became a viral sensation! 14 million hits so far!
When viewers realise it's a safety video, they're gobsmacked! The Melbourne Metro Lines safety reminder Dumb Ways To Die is now the most successful ad of this kind in Australian history.
Metro Lines spoke with its employees about dumb things they've witnessed in and around train stations: "Staff were complaining about some of the dumb behaviour people exhibit on our networks. So that's where this evolved from, and we work-shopped the best way to reach young people."
Trains are the most predictable things on earth and, to be brutally honest, if you decide to walk across train tracks between the platforms and don't see a train coming and get hit by it…well, it's your own dumb fault. The decision to mix morbid subject matter with saccharine levels of cute is what ultimately makes this funny and memorable.
Dumb Ways To Die is making people laugh around the world and hopefully this PSA will help them avoid their own dumb way to die.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Merry CRASSmas

Japan's cuisine is usually associated with the delicate flavours and textures of sushi...
but its national airline has opted for a completely different festive meal: KFC chicken!
Japan Airlines is serving Colonel Sanders' chicken fast-food menu on US- and Europe-bound flights, for three months from 1st December.
Each Air Kentucky meal will consist of a chicken drumstick and breast fillet with a cup of coleslaw, lettuce and bread.
JAL recommends passengers either "savour the same, unique taste of KFC’s trade secret recipe of '11 herbs and spices' as it is, or as a sandwich by sandwiching the fresh lettuce leaves and fragrant fillet in the bread, and topping it off with special mayonnaise".
Christmas in Japan is a mostly commercial festival celebrated by young people and KFC is a popular choice for a meal on December 25th.
KFC's website says its popularity on Christmas Day stems from the early 1970s, when US expats in Japan began buying its chicken as the next best thing to turkey, which was not readily available. The company says young Japanese soon picked up on the idea and the fried meat rapidly became a festive fixture.
Yeup, never let seasonal sentiment stand in the way of crass commercialism...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Down, Boy, DOWN!!

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of many things..." *
...and now at an acceptable volume!
TVNZ, MediaWorks and Maori TV have agreed on compression technology that currently makes tv ads much louder than shows. NBR reports while the agreement offically starts 01 Jan.2013, TVNZ says it'll start this Sunday.
But the big question is: why do stations raise the ads' volume? Well, they don't really. And when they rattle off their pat reply (that "the ads are no louder than any of the other programming we broadcast - they just sound louder"), they're telling the truth. Sorta.
Y'see, a tv prog has a mix of audio levels - loud and soft parts. Most advertisers don't want soft parts. They want to grab your attention. To do that, the audio track is electronically processed (compressed) to make every part as loud as possible within legal limits: nothing is allowed to be subtle. It's all loud - the voices, music, sound effects (eg: like those godawful Big Save Furniture ads!). So the PEAK levels of commercials are no higher than the peak levels of prog content. But the AVERAGE level is far higher, and that's the level your ears care about. If someone sets off a camera flash every now and then it's one thing, but if they aim a steady spotlight into your eyes it's another, even if the peak brightness is no higher.
NBR says the biggest issue for broadcasters will be ensuring that content meets the new standards. Loudness measurement is a fairly new concept - audio mixers aren't used to it yet, and hardware and software to measure it isn't that common. Overseas, USA passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (or CALM) in Dec.2010. France also moved to regulate blaring ads. Canada's new tv ad volume rules began last Sept. Here, broadcasters seem to have successfully headed off regulation with their own efforts.
Independent consumer research in July revealed 94% of 18-54yr.olds noticed the difference between ad and prog volumes. Presumably, the other 6% were deaf.

* ...extract from The Walrus and The Carpenter - Lewis Carroll]

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Tumultuous World Of Television

If it ain't broken, why fix it?
NZ tv viewers are constantly scratching their heads, with change after change in local television, seemingly for no other reason than...change.
As of next year, TV One's 9-noon Good Morning morphs into a shortened, one-hour form, with no guarantees that hosts Rod Cheeseman and Jeanette Thomas will be there.
Good Morning lost viewers after it ditched former hosts ex-sportsman Brendan Pongia and all-round nice gal-next-door Sarah Bradley at the end of 2011. Mind you, Pongia was sooooooo metrosexual that he came across as gay (er, that's in the '70s sense!). But Bradley was a definite loss - she WAS Good Morning and seemed to relate perfectly with the target demographic.
Good Morning's ratings took another hit when The Shopping Channel launched at the beginning of October. However, TVNZ says the new channel had no bearing on its decision to reduce the show from three hours to one. Riiiiiiiiight. The show has been attracting around 70K viewers this year against the Bradley version at 80K.
Just who'll front Good Morning will be announced in the new year. Perhaps Paul Henry??? Sorry, really bad joke! Y'see, TVNZ faced "internal opposition" in its newsroom over proposals to offer the dickshit a role fronting the 7pm replacement to Close Up on TV One next year. In other words, if he walks in here, we walk out!
"I am da GREATEST!"
Henry, in an "exclusive" NZ Woman's Weekly story: "TVNZ did offer me the job as host of the show to replace Close Up." He whose Ten Breakfast show crashed and burned, says he is "by far the best person to do the job".
Oh, puh-leez! TVNZ says PH was approached (along with other potentials), but not offered the job. Henry had a non-compete agreement with NZ's MediaWorks for the Australian Ten Network, and this prevented him going back to TVNZ as it would have been a breach of contract. However, if a legal bypass had been found, the proverbial would've hit the fan among staff.
So who'll get the 7pm and Good Morning slots? TVNZ's not exactly awash with fresh talent these days. Gotta wonder then why it keeps constantly fiddlin' with its shows: too much of that, and it'll go blind!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tourists Do Matamata

Sleepy little Hobbiton will be shaken awake by the tromp-tromp of thousands of orc feet very soon!
A record number of tourists on a pilgrimage to JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth are expected in the once sleepy Waikato dairying town of Matamata.
Numbers through the tourist info office are expected to double to around 400,000 in the coming year, following the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Part 1 at the end of this month.
Sue Whiting, manager of the Matamata Public Relations Association, says the town now knows what to expect following the release of a Tolkien movie, having enjoyed three films in 2001, 2002 and 2003. She expects the first of the Hobbit trilogy to break the 2004 record of 360,000 visitors to Matamata and edge close to 400,000: "We went from an average 50,000 visitors a year before the first film in 2001, to a record of 360,000, the year after Return of the King in 2004. We've never really stopped since then and there's massive interest in the new movie."
Set builders, returning the Hobbiton movie set on a sheep farm near Matamata to a film-ready condition over the past few years, have helped boost the local economy. And the new improved Hobbiton employs around 50 staff including 10 gardeners.
The veil of secrecy around the movie set (which attracts hundreds of visitors per day) has finally been lifted. And Hobbiton with its hobbit holes has been restored to its former glory for The Hobbit trilogy. Sir Peter Jackson has also enlarged the set with additional hobbit holes - that's 44 in all.
From Hobbiton's lakeside Green Dragon pub, rebuilt for The Hobbit after being burned to the ground for The Return of the King, punters will be able to enjoy a swift beer as they conclude their tour of the set.
PS: 24 Nov.2012 - The Hobbit jet is revealed!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hitchcock Is Back!

If you like films, there's been a lot to enjoy in 2012.
If you're a real (or should I say 'reel'?) cinema buff though, you'll have been eagerly awaiting the latest from that iconic master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.
Yes, I know he's been dead since 1980...and yes, it's not really his latest film either...but now, thanks to the National Film Preservation Foundation, you can see his oldest surviving film.
Lost for decades, The White Shadow (1924), is the earliest surviving feature credited to Alfred Hitchcock, and it's now screening on the National Film Preservation Foundation’s website.
The first half of this mysterious melodrama, starring Betty Compson as twin sisters (one angelic and the other "without a soul"), turned up last year among a cache of unidentified American nitrate prints at the NZ Film Archive.
The film is one of 176 early long-unseen titles recovered through a multi-year preservation collaboration of the NZ Film Archive, the American film community, and the National Film Preservation Foundation. Some 70% are thought to survive nowhere else! Already 24 other films are available for free viewing on the NFPF website.
The film will run for two months, but not in its entirety. Y'see, the first three reels of the six-reel film are the only remaining pieces of the film that we have: just 43 minutes' worth. With Hitch credited as an art director, assistant director, editor and writer, the film is a melodrama that also stars his future wife, Alma Reville.
The White Shadow is an intriguing historical film document, and it's great to be able to see it online. Though directed by Graham Cutts, Hitchcock's hand is all over the picture. Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stamping A Kiwi Feel On Xmas

NZ Post has launched its 2012 Christmas stamps, adding a unique koiwoi touch to a traditional theme.
The nativity scenes are bordered with Pohutakawa flower motif (the Pohutakawa tree is known as the New Zealand Christmas tree as its red flowers bloom in the festive season).
Each of the five Xmas stamps tells part of the Nativity story:
70c - Mary and Joseph with the newborn baby Jesus.
$1.40 - the shepherds who were tending their flocks nearby.
$1.90 - the angel who shared the news of Jesus's birth.
$2.40 and $2.90 - the three wise men travelling to worship Jesus, and presenting him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

...meanwhile, NZ is stuck on Middle-earth once again, with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. NZ Post's set of six stamps features key characters from the film:
70c - Bilbo Baggins: Bilbo's comfortable life changes forever when he is unexpectedly swept away on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
$1.40 - Gollum: Once a hobbit-like creature named Sméagol, Gollum's body and soul have been poisoned by the power of a small plain gold ring he's kept hidden deep in a dark cavern.
$1.90 - Gandalf: One of the most powerful Wizards in all Middle-earth, Gandalf the Grey joins the quest to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from a fire-breathing dragon, Smaug the Terrible.
$2.10 - Thorin Oakenshield: A strong, fearless fighter and respected leader of The Company of Dwarves.
$2.40 - Radagast: Forgetful, easily distracted and quite eccentric, Radagast is a fellow Wizard and friend of Gandalf the Grey.
$2.90 - Elrond: One of the wisest and most ancient of the Elves remaining in Middle-earth, Elrond is Master of Rivendell.
Lick 'em and stick 'em, folks!
PS: 24 Nov.2012 - The Hobbit jet is revealed!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Did He Expect?

Life in maximum security doesn't agree with mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.
He would like butter, a new pen, more comfortable handcuffs and a view, thank you very much!
The Norwegian extremist, convicted of the murders of 77 people in 2011, is serving 21yrs in max-security near Oslo. But Poor Diddums is not happy with the accommodations... even though his three-cell suite has a television and exercise equipment (yes!!).
I really AM a nice guy, you know.
In a 27-page letter to officials, this bastard recently bemoaned the "800" strip searches he has undergone. He says he'd enjoy more social interaction, because he's alone with just his thoughts for "23 hours and 55 minutes" on a typical day and speaks only with his guards. He's denied a computer or internet access to prevent him from spreading his racial hatred bile. He's also complained about being supervised while shaving and brushing his teeth and, because of the "mental strain" this causes, he's forced to limit those activities to once a week. Nor is he permitted to keep hydrating skin cream, and his quarters are drab and without a view. Switches for his lights and tv are outside his suite of cells, which means he has to call the guards to turn them on and off. Breivik dislikes handcuffs too because the steel edges cut into his wrists, and he dreads putting them on for each trip outside his cell. Without a thermos, his coffee frequently goes cold. Awwwwwwwwwww!!!
But wait, there's more! He's complaining his phone calls and mail are unfairly censored, that his freedom of speech is being violated. Only correspondence from "New Testament Christians and other people who do not like me" has reached him in recent months. Breivik would like to pursue his literary ambitions while in prison, he says, but those aspirations are being thwarted by the stab-resistant safety pen he's been provided, "a nightmare of a tool" that causes his hand to cramp. The pen is "an almost indescribable manifestation of sadism," he writes... though presumably it didn't stop him from writing his lengthy letter of complaint: "I highly doubt that there are worse detention facilities in Norway." No, he's probably right, but then Breivik is considered the most heinous offender in modern Scandinavian history. But his lodgings are commensurate with Norway's typically humane treatment of its convicts.
As I previously speculated, Norway has made a rod for its own back, keeping this piece of filth alive and well. A spell in a gulag would soon straighten him out...and save on a return ticket!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Who WAS James Bond?

James Bond.
To most of us, that name conjures up the fictional British spy from the popular 007 film franchise. To some people though, the real "James Bond" in their lives was never a secret agent.
Not even close, according to family history website It recently dug up 7,672 records of "James Bond" and discovered real-life James Bonds held an array of occupations. Their jobs included orchid grower, photographer, pattern maker, clerk and labour foreman, among other gigs far removed from the thrills of the handsome, fictional spy. FindMyPast unearthed these details by searching through US Census records, UK passenger lists and other historical documents.
One James Bond in the early 1900s lived an aggressive life, landing in Irish courts multiple times for various crimes, going so far as assaulting and beating a complainant. Another seemingly preferred a quieter life and, at one point, got annoyed after someone knocked on his door - that James Bond took the door-knocker to court!
In the 1920 US Census, both "James Bond" and "Golde Finger" (a close spelling of 007 antagonist Goldfinger) appeared. And someone with the name of "Q Branch" pops up in an outbound UK passenger list from 1927 as a chemist. Q Branch is a made-up British Secret Service division in the Bond novels.
...meanwhile the new 007 film Skyfall is blitzing the box office overseas, and opens in New Zealand on November 22nd.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cathedral Demolition Stopped

A High Court judge has halted demolition of the earthquake-savaged Christchurch Cathedral.
Late yesterday, the judge extended a ruling to stop demolition work until a judicial review has taken place. The review was sought by the the Great Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT), which argues the owners are under a legal obligation to restore the existing cathedral. Justice Lester Chisholm allowed the review, saying there was considerable public interest in the issue. However he agreed with the owners that they were only legally obliged to either repair the existing cathedral or build another on the same site.
After the Feb.2011 EQ, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) said the cathedral was unsafe and needed to be demolished to 2m high, but Chisholm today ruled they were not required to act on that.
Earlier this year, the GCBT commissioned a report that claimed the cathedral could be safely restored. In October, it sought a binding court ruling on whether the Anglican Church's deconstruction plans breached an act of Parliament protecting church buildings. However, the Cathedral Trust has maintained restoring the historical building would be unsafe and they cannot affort the $100m cost to repair it.
EQ Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the last-minute decision is to "placate the masses", while Bishop Matthews says the cathedral has become a way for councillors to regain their reputation with Cantabrians.
But in light of this decision, one wonders just how many of CERA's other rapid demolition decisions - for example, the loss of Cranmer Courts - may not have been legally binding...and just how much of a bully and a bulldozer Gerry "Who ate all the pies!" Brownlee actually is!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breakfast Is Toast

Australia's Channel TEN has finally axed its breakfast tv, after 9mths of subjecting ever-decreasing numbers of citizens to the puerile prattling of that loathsome and unpopular New Zealand host Paul Henry.
...and he can't even tuck
his damned shirt in either!
Following ratings that nosedived faster than a faulty Qantas jet (just 40,000 viewers nationally a day), Paul's Henry's Breakfast will end on November 30. That's the same day that many of the 100+ TEN staff who've been given redundancy will have their last day at work.
Before Breakfast was cancelled, resentment was so high against Henry that staff were threatening to boycott the Christmas party if he turned up! "Staff feel he is being protected while they lose their jobs. The mood is savage in the newsroom. Staff won't look at him when he walks in the room."
Henry boasted of securing a $1 million contract from TEN: it's unclear whether that was $1m for three years or $1m for every year, but either way, he's likely to be paid out at least part of that.
The whisper is that Henry is tipped to head up a new project at TVNZ - but TVNZ will neither confirm nor deny. It is possible it's re-hiring the dickshit to present the new 7pm show replacing Close Up, planned to start on TV One next year. It's a show he's always wanted to front, but he shot himself in the foot when he made fun of Indian minister Sheila Dikshit's name on TVNZ Breakfast.
Yea, BITE me!
If he does come back to TVNZ it'd be to a very different environment. News is now run by Ross Dagan, far more conservative than his predecessor. It's doubtful that Dagan would take the risk that Henry has mass appeal and would work at 7pm. And the newly announced executive producer for the show is also conservative...the complete opposite of Henry.
Can you see Puerile Paul thus working well at 7pm? Hmmm, methinx not.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Torches Not Required

New Zealand's stargazers will want fine weather today, to see a partial solar eclipse blot out up to 91% of the sun.
Solar Saros 133, the series of eclipses which last appeared almost two decades ago, is due to begin at 9.18am today over Auckland, reaching maximum coverage at 10.28am.
At its point of "maximum coverage", the sun would appear as a slim crescent - but will not have a significant effect on the amount of daylight.
Stardome's honorary astronomer, Grant Christie: "If you've got safe solar viewers, you'd see a bite out of the sun. The partial eclipse will gradually get bigger and bigger until it'll look like a crescent shape, a bit like a moon, so the sun won't be a circular disc any more - it'll be a sliver of itself."
Over Auckland, about 87% of the sun would be blocked out, compared with up to 91% in Northland but less than 60% in the far South Island.
Christie expects thousands of Kiwis from outside the astronomy community will be watching for the eclipse today: "You have to go back 20 years to see anything like it. And to see anything better you'd have to go back to 1965, when there was a total eclipse visible from NZ in the Far North."
Stargazers hope the weather will be good, but frankly, it's been a pretty cloudy spring...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ahhhhhhh, Vienna!

It's pants down, and on with the job!
Brace yourself for Europe's biggest brothel, with 147 rooms and parking for buses.
Planned to open in 2014 the giant brothel (officially dubbed the "FunMotel"), will have capacity for 1,000 'guests' a day with around 150 sex workers employed. It'll also have 350 parking spaces and a 3m high perimeter wall to ensure privacy.
Peter Laskaris, the Austrian businessman behind the project (who already operates a brothel in Vienna), says the glitzy bordello's "four-star hotel" facilities will be the sex industry's shift from "grocer to supermarket". The FunMotel will offer "swinger parties, gangbangs and "porn stars" along with more mundane hotel attractions such as restaurants, beauty salon and gym.
[Laskaris featured in the news during the last northern winter... when he offered homeless people free rooms in his brothel during the cold spell. As temperatures hit minus 20 in Vienna, he offered ten people a night a bed in his Red Rooms Laufhaus for free, including a hot shower and a hot meal. But he made it clear that other services were not included.]
His new brothel will be built at a still-undisclosed location near the Austrian capital: "We've deliberately spread false information about the location to avoid trouble before we had the authorisation to go ahead, but it'll be situated in a location that doesn't bother anyone."
New Viennese regulations requiring brothels to have official permits made locating the FunMotel in the capital an impractical option. But local authorities and the police have already given their consent to
this project.
...meanwhile, a public hearing continues today on a proposed 15-storey super brothel in Auckland's CBD. Brothers John and Michael Chow's plans to build the Penthouse Club on Victoria Street West (opposite SkyCity Casino) include a brothel and entertainment facilities.
Perhaps the Chows might have more success if they too relocated their brothel to a country area, and bussed the bonkin' boys in!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Macca Makes It - Just!

It was nearly 'game over' for Sir Paul McCartney and his wife.
A just-released report shows how close Macca came to death on May 3rd! He and his wife Nancy had been heading home via helicopter when the pilot became disoriented in bad weather and plunged towards trees by the helipad on their East Sussex estate. With just a metre to spare, the pilot managed to lift the chartered Sikorsky away from the rain-lashed tree tops, and eventually landed at an airport about 15 miles from their home. The couple were unaware how close they came to crashing.
The UK's Department of Transport is investigating the near-miss. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has categorised the episode as a 'serious incident', which it defines as 'involving circumstances indicating that an accident nearly occurred'. According to its report, the minimum reading from the helicopter's altimeter was two feet! The report also reveals flying conditions that night included low cloudbase, poor visibility and rain. Despite this, the pilot pressed ahead and prepared to land on the helipad, which is in the corner of a field encircled by woodland. While manoeuvring, he became disoriented and the helicopter descended towards tops of trees. The pilot then executed a go-around or aborted landing.
The £5million 9-seat helicopter was chartered from Air Harrods, which describes itself as the leading London-based business aviation service provider. The firm counts ex-UK PM Tony Blair among its clients, and charges around £3,000 an hour.
Air Harrods: "Harrods Aviation can confirm that an incident took place on May 3 involving an Air Harrods helicopter. We are working in full cooperation with the AAIB which are currently investigating the incident."
And from Macca's camp: "Paul has been spoken to. It has been put to him, everything. It's a no comment."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Alive - But Dead

The good news: they're not extinct.
The bad news: two extremely rare Spade-toothed beaked whales, a 5.5m mother and her 4m calf, beached themselves and died in New Zealand in 2010...only now have the two skeletons been identified as belonging to this species.
Though discovered in 1872, no one had ever seen it alive. Scientifically known as Mesoplodon traversii, it was named after Henry Travers, a NZ naturalist who collected a partial jawbone found on Pitt Island in 1872. Since then, a damaged skull found on White Island in the 1950s and another found on Robinson Crusoe Island off the Coast of Chile in 1986 are the only evidence of the species. It's hard to believe this is the first time an entire whale has been seen, considering it's over 5m long!
The reason so little is known about these whales is that they're thought to live deep in the Pacific Ocean and come up to breathe infrequently. Rochelle Constantine from the University of Auckland: "It may be that they are simply an offshore species that lives and dies in the deep ocean waters and only rarely wash ashore. New Zealand is surrounded by massive oceans. There is a lot of marine life that remains unknown to us." Scientists hope the discovery will provide insights into the species and into ocean ecosystems.
The two whales were discovered on the North Island's Opape Beach near Opotiki, on New Year's Eve 2010, but they were mistaken for the more common Gray's beaked whales. It was only after DNA analysis that their true identity was revealed. Perhaps this pair will teach scientists more about the elusive Spade-toothed beaked whales. Luckily their size makes them uneconomic for the Japanese to "research" them...

Friday, November 9, 2012

And The Headlines Screamed...

I often despair at the standard of modern journalism...
The rush to be first with the story instead of checking the facts again and again, the burning desire to thrust a monster zoom lens into someone's private life, and let's not forget the creation of a searing headline to catch the reader's eye!
Regularly, newspapers shoot themselves in their mouths...and don't we gloat! I believe this was a Daily Mail fox-pass from 2007. Duuhh!
(Also spot the grammatical error in that first sentence: "series" is singular, therefore "has revealed"! Ahh, quality journalism...*sigh*)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Gay He Doth Speaketh

Our prime minister is vying with Prince Philip for the title of Prize Pillick.
Twice in a week, John Key opened his mouth and fell into a yawning chasm. Last Friday, he told some students that ex-Manchester United football star David Beckham was as "thick as batshit"! The comment raised the ire of such high-quality UK rags as The Mirror...
So Johnno, did you really say that? "Someone thinks they overhead a conversation I had. I'm not going to engage in that, because otherwise I am going to engage in every conversation someone thinks I had." But did you call Beckham thick? "No, what I'm saying is that somebody has overheard a personal conversation and that's their recollection of it."
Beckham's brainpower's been questioned before - via his own lips:
"My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about seven."
Are you a volatile player? "Well, I can play in the centre, on the right, and occasionally on the left side." On faith: "We're definitely going to get Brooklyn christened but we don't know into which religion." And let's not forget, he also married 'Scrawny Spice', so it's fair to say Beckham's not the brightest star in the galaxy...however he does play for LA Galaxy and has over NZ$300 million (while NBR lists JK as worth a mere $50m)!
JK takes one for the 'gay' team?
But wait: there's more! Johnno's second fox-pass! Yes, with all the world's other issues, its rotation stopped because the Prime Munster said a radio host's shirt was a "gay red top".
Key defended his verbage, saying it meant 'weird': "Young people use it all the time. I don't think many people would be offended by it."
Of course, prior to it becoming an idiom for 'odd', and after it meant 'happy', 'gay' was associated with! Thus, into the One Ring charges Gandalf the Gay Grey - English Lord Of The Rings/Hobbit wizard actor Sir Ian McKellen who is'happy'. He says the
PM should watch his language: "I'm currently touring schools in the UK attacking homophobia and discouraging kids from the careless use of 'gay', which might make their gay friends and teachers feel less about themselves. I do hope Key appreciates their concern. Careless talk damages lives." So have I got this right? This Knight of The Realm is saying gay people would have their lives damaged if their friends called them gay? How 'weird' is that! How precioussssssssssssssssss!
Green Party MP Kevin Hague (also 'happy') says gay NZers don't take too kindly to being called 'weird'. "The basis for the comment is in homophobia...with all of those negative traits of being hopeless, awful, terrible, useless." Hmmm, so let's see - 'happy' folk can call each other 'faggot', 'twink', 'queer', 'dyke', 'troll', 'bear', 'fairy', 'queen'...but others can't use the idiom 'gay'? Wow, methinx someone has an inferiority complex!
While an adult using the teenage idiom 'gay' to mean 'weird' needs to stay in his own demographic - where there's already the word 'weird' to mean 'weird' (as well as creepy, flaky, outlandish, curious, strange, peculiar etc etc) - I also feel there's a helluva lot more for the world to worry about, than the PM's flippancies - 'happy' or not!
Update: And just to add more 'weirdness' to the mix, this Friday 9th. has been declared Gay Red Shirt Day, by some parents on Facebook, who say that just because a definition is in the dictionary doesn't make it acceptable: "We want to destigmatise the word 'gay'. As parents of children who may or may not be gay, we're standing up for their future." Very preciousssssssssssssssss INDEED!

PS: 21 Nov.2012 - PM goes "gay" at meeting in Cambodia...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

If It Ain't ART, Then What IS It?

An exercise machine with a penis - Jason Beca does it again. Ruffling feathers, that is!
The self-taught Kapiti artist's latest creation has now been removed from an exhibition at Porirua's Pataka Museum.
His piece, called Sex-a-size, is an abdominal machine with a wooden phallus attached. It was displayed with no warning that the exhibition was R18. Complainants were not so much offended by the exhibit, but more unimpressed with the lack of warning. Even the museum's GM Darcy Nicholas agrees: "I've been part of the arts scene for a long time, and every now and then, someone does something funny that you can laugh about. But this piece, I think, was far too graphic." He's had the sex-ercise machine removed. "It's not fair on the other artists for people to be distracted by a large wooden penis, which totally takes away from the quality of the other work."
Beca claims the gallery wanted a 'show-stopper', which is why he brought it in. But this is not the first time his work's been in the controversial news files: his Alice in Wonderful Land (a solid timber chair decorated by large laminated fake $100 bills, a video camera and two armrest monitors) was well discussed over connotations of eroticism and voyeurism.
Other work has included a Tardis time-travelling bed which folds down into a bed...and a lamp made out of a Barbie doll and a road-kill hawk. He attached the wings to the doll, replaced the doll's legs with the bird's claws, and now she sits in a bird cage and can be lit up!
But is this latest work actually art?
Art historian John Stringer thinks not. He points out that penises appear in art of all cultures and are not considered obscene, but "'s about context. Beca's work is silly and provocative with little artistic merit. It is merely sexualised erotica.''
So there you have it! Would critics in 1504 have said the same about Michelangelo's David?