Monday, December 30, 2013

Freedom Of Expression…or Plain Stupidity?

The US state of Oklahoma has put the brakes on new monuments at its Capitol…because things are getting outta hand!
A group's petitioned to have a statue of Satan put up near a large stone tablet inscribed with the Ten Commandments.
The Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission has banned new monuments on statehouse grounds until a court battle is settled with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which wants the Ten Commandments removed. It says the state should not be in the business of legitimising religion, and that the precedent could result in a spectacle of religion.
Socially conservative Christian groups fought for years to have the Ten Commandments displayed at the statehouse, and the monument went up in 2012. Legal experts warned that this would open the door for other groups to use this model to petition for placing their monuments on the capitol's grounds...
And sure enough: the local Satanist group filed an application with the state to place its monument on capitol grounds. Other groups applying include a Hindu group wanting a monument to a monkey god, an animal welfare group wishing to build a monument to world peace and yet another wanting to honour the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!
I'd suggest spaghetti has more relevance to today's world than all of the others combined!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

An Ace For Akaroa: A Fail For Munsters

Great news released just before Xmas: a 17yr battle to establish a marine reserve at Akaroa Harbour has been won!
The new reserve will take effect from World Oceans Day, 08 June 2014. The 475-hectare reserve covers the SE corner of Akaroa Harbour and includes the area surrounding the Dan Rogers Bluff.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith: "Akaroa is an iconic harbour and hugely popular for its recreation and scenery. This new reserve will ensure better conservation of its marine life and add tourism value."
An application to establish the marine reserve was first lodged in Jan.1996 and has been considered by six (!!!) successive Conservation Ministers since. The incumbent Smith approved the application last April but it needed formal sign-off by the Ministers of Transport and Primary Industries. Now it can be surveyed and formally recommended to the Gov-General.
Smith: "80% of the species unique to NZ are in the sea, yet we have far less of our ocean protected compared to land." Why? Well, the answer's in the detail. SIX Conservation Munsters since 1996 looked at this particular one...and pushed it aside. Yet as Akaroa Harbour is home to the endangered Hector's Dolphin (whose numbers have been plummeting), I'd have thought this suggestion would've been rubberstamped instantly!
SIX munsters had the title 'Conservation Minister' in this period - WTF were they actually doing while in that job??? And who were they?
For the Wall Of Shame:
Simon Upton 30 May-16 Dec.1996 (National)
Nick Smith 16 Dec.1996-10 Dec.1999 (National)
Sandra Lee-Vercoe 10 Dec.1999-15 Aug.2002 (Alliance)
Chris Carter 15 Aug.2002-31 Oct.2007 (Labour)
Steve Chadwick 31 Oct.2007-19 Nov.2008 (Labour)
Tim Groser 19 Nov.2008-27 Jan.2010 (National)
Kate Wilkinson 27 Jan.2010-22 Jan.2013 (National)
and Nick Smith (again) 22 Jan.2013-ongoing (National)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wairoa: Cursed By The Church

While searching the NZ Electronic Text Centre website (run by Victoria University and often a good source of pioneering info), I found a passage from Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa by T.Lambert (Wairoa is in Hawke's Bay).
Written in 1936 (nearly a century after the events), its style is not easy reading today. So I took the liberty (hell, even that phrase sounds dated!) of modifying it a bit, and can now retell the saga of religious quarrels, native cannibals and...
How the Curse Came To Wairoa
"Since Adam's disobedience, we have had to deal with thorns and thistles. Down the ages these have proved a veritable curse to man.
Wairoa was a fertile land and so isolated from the rest of the world that many of the pests of today were delayed in their coming. Old Wairoa was a land of savages, and "long pig" (fat little white men) was not disdained as an article of diet. So when Samuel Marsden and Bishop Selwyn - those self-sacrificing ambassadors of the Cross - started, they took their lives in their hands daily and endured many hardships, as the natives had not yet emerged from a state of savagery. Indeed, the possession of guns had only wheted the appetite for slaughter and extended the range of man-killing raids.
As the missionary work spread, it fell into two great divisions. In the Wairoa district, one was represented by the Church of England (Rev.Hamlin) and the other by Bishop Pompallier and Rev.Regnier of the Catholic Church.
If there had been only one religion brought to the natives, they could have understood its precepts and accepted the dogmas but with two, each condemning the other, what were the maoris to think? Rev.Hamlin and Rev.Regnier did however agree, that blackberries were missing from Wairoa, whilst too the absence of the sweetbriar or dog-rose was mourned.
There is no denying that the blackberry, well grown and controlled, is a very fine fruit; and who can forget the perfume of the sweetbriar after an April shower in the Old Land. So Rev.Hamlin planted blackberry near Te Uhi pa [across the Wairoa River from the current Marine Parade], whilst Rev.Regnier set his loved dog-rose near his hut in Wairoa.
The blackberry spread quickly in Wairoa's genial climate and fertile soil, the seeds carried far and wide...and it is now the heartache of the farmer. The sweetbriar was equally energetic in covering the whole of the Wairoa and Orangitirohia flats until it became a matter of extreme difficulty to even ride a horse through it. The sweetbriar is now nearly all gone, but it had to be hauled out of the soil with bullock teams.
So the point of my narration is: that the two greatest churches in the world were responsible for the introduction and spread of the greatest pests that ever beset the farmers of Wairoa."

So there you have it - the Lord works in mysterious ways!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hunt Tries To Dodge A Bullet

Did I REALLY promise a ship?!
Aussie Environment Munster Greg Hunt has sidestepped the hot potato of his country's whale-monitoring.
Previously, he promised to send a vessel into the Southern Ocean to keep an eye on both the nasty Nippons and the salty Sea Shepherds. Now Grego will send an aircraft instead.
Hunt pontificates how vital it is to monitor the whaling season, given the risk of confrontations between protesters and whalers. He says this plane "sends a clear message that Australia expects all parties to abide by the laws of the seas,'' yet the airborne option seems an afterthought.
He claims the choice of plane over ship was made for 'operational reasons' (read: "Opps! The only ship capable of the job is monitoring illegal migrants up in the Tropics, and we've already spent shitloads on crew sunblock, so we've gotta get our money's worth! Better quickly
Skytraders A319 at Hobart
come up with a Plan B!").
Plan B is an Airbus A319, which has actually been used in this environment before. The Australian Antarctic Division leases it from Skytraders, and the Oz Customs Service undertook several surveillance flights during the 2008 whaling season. As well as photographing illegal fishing vessels, they also took images of the whaling fleet (on 07 Feb.and 04 March 2008).
The aircraft has a range of up to 6,850 km/3,700nm and will possibly operate out of Hobart Intl (though it's been seen recently at Christchurch Intl). Hunt says it'll fly over the whaling area for the entire season (from Jan.-March 2014). The whalers are expected down there by early January.
Last week, Oz, Netherlands, NZ and US issued a joint memo "unreservedly condemning dangerous, reckless or unlawful behaviour by all participants on either side, whether in the Sthrn Ocean or elsewhere."

PS: 23 Dec.2013 - Sea Shepherd calls the plane a waste of time!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In The Spirit Of Christmas

Christmas is a time for sharing and caring.
And in the true spirit of the season, a Canadian retiree has pledged to donate $40 million to charity, saying he doesn't actually need the
Good day, eh?
Tom Crist (even his name has a ring of the festive time, doesn't it!) retired as CEO of an electrical wholesale company in September, four months after learning he'd won a huge lottery jackpot.
He says he's done financially well for himself during his career, so the winnings will be put into a trust fund and given to charities chosen by himself and his children over the coming years, in memory of his wife who died of cancer two years ago.
He found out he'd won the May draw while lunching with friends before playing a round of golf: "I didn’t know what to say. It was a very short conversation." He kept the win a secret even from his family, until he decided on a course of action. His children are fully supportive of the plan, saying if their mother had still been alive, she too would have been right behind it.
Tom's wasted no time in starting to give away his $40 million. He's already donated $1 million to the cancer centre that took such good care of his dying wife.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hanging Up The Headphones Happily

It's been a year of broadcasting fuck-ups (eg: the right Royal Aussie Dial-A-Dickhead incident and the Willie Jackson/John Tamihere Let's-Ridicule-Rape phonecall).
So it's pleasing to see two of NZ's longer-serving radio personalities retiring with heads held high…rather than having been decapitated.
After 13½ years, Murray Deaker stepped down from the Sunday with Deaker show on Radio Sport, while on National Radio, Chris Laidlaw presented the Sunday Morning programme for the last time after 11 years.
Both men have left their jobs at the top of their game. Former Labour MP, All Black and race relations commissioner, Laidlaw held 14% of the Sunday morning radio audience. Meanwhile the fiery and often controversial Deaker won Sports Broadcaster of the year in 2012, and was a finalist
in 2013.
Unlike too many of today's so-called on-air "professionals", these two rarely put a foot wrong, delivering quality entertainment and information, and hang up their headphones with pride.
Deaker's replacement on Radio Sport will be the partner-bashing Tony Veitch, and Wallace Chapman takes over the Sunday Morning programme on Radio NZ.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sea Shepherd, It's Up To You, Guys!

This week, Sea Shepherd's anti-whaling vessels Steve Irwin, Sam Simon and Bob Barker headed out for SS's 10th. Antarctic Defence Campaign, Operation Relentless.
Last year, SS successfully shut down the Japanese whaling fleet, saving 932 whales. In the nine previous Antarctic campaigns, SS has saved over 4,500 protected whales from death. Managing Director of SS Australia, Jeff Hansen: "These ships carry the hopes, aspirations and expectations of people from across the world who hope to see the end to this slaughter."
This year, over 100 volunteers from 24 countries will again strive to uphold the 1986 ban on commercial whaling. The nasty Nippons plan to kill 1,035 whales, of which 50 are endangered fin and 50 are endangered humpbacks.
Back in the Land of Oz, pressure mounts on the Federal Govt to clarify its plans to monitor the Antarctic whaling conflict. Its ice-strengthened Sthrn Ocean patrol ship, Ocean Protector is still wallowing in the Tropics near Christmas Island, thousands of kilometres away from the whaling area. And last Tuesday's mid-year economic statement detailed Ocean Protector's commitment to the northern border protection assignment for a further year!
Peter Hammarstedt, master of Bob Barker, says SS is waiting with bated breath to see whether Oz Enviro Munster Greg Hunt will come good on the Oz govt's promise of Sthrn Ocean monitoring, and if so, how far it will go to enforce the law.
Oz last sent a Customs patrol ship south in 2008 when Oceanic Viking gathered evidence for the International Court of Justice case against Japan. While that was happening, the Federal Court upheld a Humane Society Intl. plea declaring the whaling to be in breach of Australian law, and issued an injunction ordering the hunt to be stopped.
Hammarstedt reckons any ship sent south by Oz should enforce that injunction. Yea - like THAT'll happen! The trade dollars speak too loudly! Any intervention down south will once again be up to SS, on behalf of all sane people around the world.
Japan's Minister for Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Yoshimasa Hayashi, says the fleet would be operating anywhere between waters S of Africa, and SE of New Zealand.
Hammarstedt expects they'll be in the whaling grounds by New Year...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Selfish At The Service

Amid the solemnity of Nelson Mandela's funeral, world leaders were on show...and not in a good way.
US Prez Obama and UK PM Cameron were acting up, posing for selfies (self-portraits on a mobile phone) with Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt!!!
Meanwhile, in the seat beside them, Michelle Obama was wearing The Look. You know the one: that universally-understood blast-freezer look that every wife can shoot at every husband at any time. It says: "If you don’t stop that right now, you're a dead man walking." Which - at a funeral - would be an impressive sight!
The PM of Denmark, known as 'Gucci Helle' for her extravagance, is a married woman...sort of. Her hubby conveniently lives in a different country (supposedly for tax purposes, but rumoured to be for relationship reasons), which leaves her plenty of time to take selfies with other men. Gucci Helle once insisted on wearing stilettos - with combat fatigues - when she travelled to war-torn Libya. When asked about her wardrobe choices, she snarled: "We can't all look like shit!" Niiiiiice.
Meanwhile, back to the selfie...
David Cameron's begging Helle not to delete the pic, saying it could be sold as a major fundraiser. A high opinion of oneself(ie), methinx.
Helle's justification for the funeral frivolity? She says it shows that "when we meet heads of state and government, we too are just people who have fun." Hmmm, at a funeral???
As for Obama? Well, he's probably cowering hen-pecked at home, still getting The Look!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hope For Seven Sharp?

TVNZ presenter Ali Mau is leaving the light current affairs evening show Seven Sharp, to host a new early afternoon programme with Willie Jackson on RadioLive.
She's the second host to quit 7-Dull since it began in February, with Greg Boyed wisely leaving in September to return to late-night news show Tonight. Comedian (his description, not mine) Jesse Mulligan is the only original host still on the show.
Toni Street
Two new faces will be tv Breakfast host Toni Street and scruffy opinionated broadcaster Mike Hosking: they may just be able to drag 7-Dull from its stagnant mire...TVNZ head of news and current affairs John Gillespie denies that this is the plan, even though critics have labelled it lightweight infotainment.
Mike "Do I really need
a shower?" Hosking
Hosking will double-dip on Newstalk ZB radiowaves, while a search hunts a replacement for Street on Breakfast. The future is less clear for ex-weatherman Tamati Coffey, who's been filling in on 7-Dull after Boyed's departure (and recently hosted NZ's Got Talent). He won't return to 7-Dull next year.
Meanwhile over on RadioLive, lesbian Alison Mau and maori radical Willie that should be 'interesting'. This'll replace the Jackson/John Tamihere pairing. They were taken off-air after a controversial interview about a teen rape issue. Tamihere will not be back.
Bill Ralston, former TVNZ news and current affairs boss, is surprised at the Mau/Jackson tag team but thinks they have potential "as long as they don't kill each other." We'll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Iceland Lifts Its Quota For 2014

Iceland will increase its whaling quotas next year.
Well, I say "Iceland"...but everyone knows its really just Kristjan Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur. Hvalur is the only Icelandic company that catches whales and, by logical extension, that means Loftsson and his merry men are the entire Icelandic whaling community.
The country's fishing ministry says the minke whale kill will increase by 6%, from 216 in 2013 to 229 in 2014. The hunting quota for rorquals - which includes blue whales, humpback whales and fin whales - remains unchanged at 154. This year Iceland did not reach the permitted quotas, killing only 134 rorquals and 38 minke whales. Loftsson caught 148 fin whales in 2010, but none in 2011 and 2012, due to the collapse of the Japanese market after the earthquake and tsunami.
Since Iceland resumed whaling in 2006 (despite an international moratorium), it and Norway have come in for furious criticism from environmental groups and other countries. This quota increase will likely intensify international condemnation.
Icelanders eat little whale meat, so most of the catch is sent to the Japanese market...and this is curious in itself. We all know that the Japanese catch has plummeted in recent years after intervention by Sea Shepherd. And its obvious that Japan is making up the shortfall with Icelandic imports. The question is: why? The huge stockpile of whalemeat in Japan shows no sign of diminishing but, basically, no-one there is eating it!
So why keep hunting whales?
Why keep importing whalemeat from Iceland?
And why does Iceland allow its reputation to suffer, because of one bloodthirsty butcher?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Can Illegal Ivory Trade Be Stopped?

The illegal ivory trade is booming.
In order to combat it, the African Elephant Summit held its first official meeting last week in Botswana.
The ivory trade, which has been on the rise for several years, has left the elephant populations of many African nations severely depleted. In 2012 alone, an estimated 22,000 elephants were illegally killed throughout the African continent. If the current poaching remains unchecked, researchers believe 20% of wild populations may be killed during the next decade.
In response to this growing threat, key African and Asian countries pledged to take a 'zero tolerance' stance on illegal ivory trade. Within these countries, wildlife trafficking will now be considered a serious crime and will be subject to international law enforcement.
Botswana President Ian Khama: "Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and, if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act. Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces to protect this universally valued and much needed species."
Additional measures to protect elephants (such as increasing multi-country cooperation, reinforcing national wildlife laws and mobilising financial and technical resources) were discussed.
The summit also looked at the social roots of the current trafficking issue: long-term poverty, rampant corruption, an increasing demand from Asia and organised crime's involvement.
If these issues are not tackled head-on and those responsible dealt with severely, it's unlikely the demand for ivory will decrease, and thus the rape of elephant (and rhino) herds will continue.
Talk is cheap...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Making Joke Of Rape?

Rape-preventing panties - a bad joke?
No, a NY clothing company is about to launch 'em.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that AR Wear is pitching its product as "a clothing line offering wearable protection for when things go wrong".
Its brief says: "Rape is about as wrong as it gets. The only one responsible for a rape is the rapist and AR Wear will not solve the fundamental problem that rape exists in our world." But it goes on to say: "We developed this product so that women and girls could have more power to control the outcome of a sexual assault. We...offer some peace of mind in situations that cause feelings of apprehension, such as going out on a blind date, taking an evening run, clubbing, travelling in unfamiliar countries, and any other activity that might make one anxious about the possibility of an assault."
Only black men rape???!!!
Now that's all wonderfully commendable. But wait! In its promotional video, there's disturbing (for all the wrong reasons) footage of girls walking past an African-American man while the voice-over talks of "risky situations". Yeup, really!
We then see a cutesy clip of a model checking herself out in the mirror while wearing the hot pants-style sex-stopper, which has adjustable lockable bands around waist and legs (the locks are coded clock hands which the wearer sets to her own unique combination).
The clip then shows the girl out clubbing, followed by someone trying to scissor and then slice through the pants with a knife. According AR Wear, the pants have an "innovative skeletal structure which allows them to remain soft" but means they are cut-and-tear-resistant.
Not surprisingly, the pants have been ridiculed...
One site quips: "The perfect Xmas gift for the lady in your life."
And: "If the whole that an evil rapist can't take them off, is it going to take me a really long time to undo all the secret locks if I have to pee?"
Others point out that a victim may be forced to remove the clothing herself by threat of bodily harm.
This most recent anti-rape venture is certainly not the first. There was the Rape-aXe (inserted by the woman like a tampon, and comprises a latex sheath containing "razor-sharp barbs"). There were also "electric-shock" undies developed earlier this year.
Rape statistics globally are shocking. But despite the best intentions of anti-rape product developers, I wonder if there's a real risk of turning a very serious issue into a very big commercial joke...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Operation Relentless Rolls Out

The whalers are on their way.
Two whaling ships and a surveillance vessel left the port of Shimonoseki to RV with the factory ship Nisshin Maru and the refueling vessel Sun Laurel, on the passage south to hunt minke and fin whales. The harpooners no longer have their AIS (Automatic Identification System) on, so cannot be accurately located.
Their departure means the fleet is likely to reach the Antarctic towards the end of this month: their mission is to kill 1035 whales - 935 protected minke, 50 endangered fin and 50 humpbacks.
Oz Federal Enviro Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed Australia will monitor Japanese whalers over the New Year (though operational details have not been revealed). He did however meet with the Japanese ambassador a few days ago to reaffirm the Oz position.
Sea Shepherd's three ships are expected to leave Melbourne and Hobart next week: onboard, over 100 crew from 23 nationalities.
Target One on the move
Meanwhile the Oz government awaits a favourable decision from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on it's plea to ban the hunt. Japan however is not waiting for that, fearing that this season could be ruled as its very last.
Last season, whaling and protest ships repeatedly collided in waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory, as the Japanese fleet was held to its lowest-ever kill: just 103 whales.

Monday, December 9, 2013

He Who Laughs Last...

One of the Ozzie dickhead DJs linked to a suicide following a prank phone call has fallen on her sword.
Radio host Mel Greig filed a claim last July against Southern Cross Austereo, accusing her employer of failing to maintain a safe workplace. WTF??!! The highly dubious claim followed a media storm over a prank phone call that linked Greig and colleague Michael Christian to the death of a British woman...
[Dec.2012: these two wastes-of-airspace made a prank call to a London hospital, where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for severe morning sickness. Grieg pretended to be the Queen and Christian posed as Prince Charles. They were put through to the Duchess' ward by nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who later took her own life after the hoax was widely publicised in the UK media.]
In a statement last week, Southern Cross Austereo said the dispute arising from the royal hoax had been "amicably resolved" and Greig had resigned, effective 31 December.
The company reiterated its position that recording and broadcasting the fateful call was not unlawful, and is now saying that 2Day FM decided the call should be broadcast without alteration - despite Greig supposedly having reservations after the call had been recorded! It also said Greig intends to provide a statement to the UK coroner's inquest and Southern Cross Austereo would cooperate fully. Riiiiigghhtt!
+ This sort of prank call is BARELY entertainment at the best of times.
+ The subject of this call could hardly have been regarded as 'the best of times'.
+ That two supposedly professional broadcasters willingly entered into it, puts their credibility into the crapper.
+ And that 2Day FM seems to have taken full responsibility for the broadcast raises culpability questions which the UK coroner may well have a field day with.
Meantime, Mel Greig is out (and Michael Christian should be too).
The joke's not so funny now, is it, ya tossers!

UPDATE: 27 January 2016 - Mel Greig's back on-air...and just wants to 'move on'! Yea. Right. Neither of these embarrassments should EVER have been allowed behind a mic again!!!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Madiba At Rest

Nelson Mandela died peacefully at his home in Johannesburg yesterday.
The 95yr.old former South African President and anti-apartheid revolutionary hero had battled a series of lung infections and respiratory illnesses in the past few years.
Mandela spent 27yrs in prison after being found guilty in 1962 of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow his country's government before being released in 1990. He became South Africa's first democratically elected president, holding office from 1994-1999.
One of the world's most famous people, the Nobel laureate has long been a figurehead for racial unification, following his efforts to heal his own country after centuries of division. Mandela was one of the most revered leaders of the 20th century and his legacy will forever be the abolition of apartheid in South Africa.
As the ANC party under Mandela began to dismantle the racial divide, his attention turned to the issue of HIV/AIDS which, according to the World Health Organisation, affects about 6.5 million people in South Africa.
After his departure from politics, the man endearingly known throughout South Africa as Madiba - his Xhosa clan name, which literally translates to grandfather -  also sought to step away from the public eye with appearances in recent years becoming fewer and farther between. His last public appearance was in 2010 when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup.
News of his death prompted outpourings of grief from all over the world.
[...with thanx to tvnz]

Friday, December 6, 2013

Greg Hunt, Put Up Or Shut Up!

So a govt breaks a pre-election promise - what else is new?
A Sea Shepherd sandwich, anyone?
Before the Australian election, the Coalition said it would send a Customs vessel to the Southern Ocean to monitor Japanese whaling, following violent clashes with anti-whaling protesters Sea Shepherd.
Oz enviro minister Greg Hunt now says the govt hopes the ICJ (International Court of Justice) will rule in favour of Australia to prevent Japanese whaling this season..."if however their fleet sets sail, our commitment to monitoring and observing remains undiminished."
Protecting what??
Just what that means is anyone's guess, given the location of Ocean Protector. Ocean Protector is an armed vessel designed to tackle Sthrn Ocean illegal fishing, and is the only specialist operational vessel available to undertake the demanding patrols in the icy Sthrn Ocean... but right now it's patrolling for 'boat people' near Christmas Island!
Last week the NZ navy sent the HMNZS Otago to monitor fishing (fishing, NOT whaling!) in the Antarctic, with another limp-dick platitude from Muddling McCully ringing in our ears.
When in opposition, Greg Hunt was a vocal critic of the Labour govt's efforts to prevent whaling, promising to restore regular patrols. In February, he said, "Whaling should never be occurring, but for it to occur in Australian waters is an utter failure in Canberra. The government should stop turning a blind eye to whaling in our waters and should have a Customs vessel in the Southern Ocean."
SS believes the nasty Nippons could head to the Sthrn Ocean as early as next week.
It's 'put-money-where-mouth-is' time, Greg!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

No Stopping Cathedral Demolition

Looks like it's the end of the line for a group wanting to rebuild the Christchurch Cathedral.
NBR yesterday reported that The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust has lost its Supreme Court bid to appeal the deconstruction of the cathedral.
The cathedral was damaged in the Sept.2010 EQ and subsequent EQs in 2011. In March 2012, Church Property Trustees decided to demolish it, after the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) said work was needed to make it safe. The trust went to the High Court which ruled (Oct.2012) the trustees had to build a new cathedral on the site if the existing one was demolished. But they did not have to replicate the cathedral as it was before the EQs. Last July, the Court of Appeal dismissed the trust's appeal to require reinstatement of the cathedral.
While the restoration is still a hot potato for some, I suggest that - three years on - its emotional significance to the majority has wained. I hear far more talk today about when long-awaited EQ repairs to homes may start; about the terrible roads; about the slow pace of the rebuild; and in a few cases, when officials might actually appear for the first time to assess damage!
Look closely, and an untrained eye can see the cathedral's beyond restoration, without a monstrous financial input which would be disproportionate to its societal value. An expert may counter that anything could be fixed...with a bottomless expense account. True - but Christchurch and the nation do not have that self-replenishing magical stash of cash.
To The Great Christchurch Buildings Trust: you fought well. You defended your principles. All credit to you. Now, please let it go gracefully.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Of NZ Opens In Tinseltown

They've arrived!
Sir Peter Jackson and the cast of The Hobbit marked their arrival in Hollywood yesterday, by unveiling a giant pop-up book featuring scenes and sets from the new film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
The giant installation, set up at the swanky Beverly Hills Hotel, is the size of two tennis courts (!!!) and features actual set pieces used in the film. It's an innovative walk-through, multi-media installation which brings the kiwi visitor experience to life. Hollywood used to lavish publicity promotions, but locals say they've never seen anything like this!
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug premieres tonight in Los Angeles. The book itself will remain on-site for five days for media interviews, before opening to the public.
The book, part of Tourism NZ's Middle Earth campaign, was made in NZ by The Hobbit's art department, and took two weeks to install in Los Angeles (delayed somewhat by the stay of US Prez Obama at the same hotel). Tourism NZ expects a solid return on the investment, forecasting a $10 return on every dollar spent.
...thanks to
The US market is a key focus for the Middle Earth campaign, which launched last year alongside the release of the first Hobbit film. Since then, US visitor numbers have increased 19% on the same period last year. A survey also found more than 8% of all international visitors say The Hobbit sparked their interest in our country as a destination.
+ ...meanwhile Smaug has taken to the skies! An AirNZ 777-300 sporting a 54m image of the dragon arrives in LA today, in time for the premiere. And over the weekend, a giant eagle from The Hobbit was unveiled in the Wellington Airport terminal, alongside the character Gollum which was put up a year ago for the first premiere.
+ The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in NZ on 12 Dec.!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Boys Are Back In Town

Stand aside, Thin Lizzy!
The military returned en masse to central Christchurch last Saturday, for the first time since the Red Zone cordon was removed last June.
It was the traditional Charter Parade of 2/4 Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
Mayor Lianne Dalziel says the Charter Parade is part of a proud tradition and a chance for the city to honour the battalion, especially for its support following the February 2011 earthquake:
"I particularly want to acknowledge your efforts in the days and weeks following the earthquake. You were the second wave of response, stepping in to support the emergency services in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. You had our back in Christchurch's time of need."
The battalion was granted the freedom of the city of Christchurch in 1966, as the 2nd Canterbury, Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast Battalion. That "freedom" entitles them to march through Christchurch streets with drums beating, band playing, colours flying, bayonets fixed and swords drawn.
Mayor Dalziel says the regiment's contribution following the devastation went well beyond the call of duty, and Christchurch would always be grateful.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Did The Earth Move for You?

The mystery had internet sleuths abuzz for months!
How could a 4,000yr-old Egyptian statue of Neb-Senu turn 180 degrees while in a sealed glass box?
Neb himself was pretty
relaxed about the fuss!
Now a tv investigation has uncovered the truth: tiny vibrations from traffic cause the Manchester Museum artefact to slowly spin on its axis.
The discovery ends frenzied speculation, after video footage showed the 10"-tall stone statue turning without being touched. Suggestions ranged from magnetic fields to an ancient curse of an Egyptian god. The story even hit US breakfast tv!
The real cause was found by vibrations expert Steve Gosling. His specialised three-axis sensor under the glass cabinet revealed that at peak traffic time (such as at 7am and 6pm), vibrations would cause the statue to rotate, while there was no movement overnight.There's a lump at the bottom of the statue, which made it more susceptible to vibrations than others nearby which had a flat base.
The statue (c.1,800 BC) has been in the museum since 1933, and drew huge crowds as visitors tried to crack the riddle.
[Watch the video: see the row of four statuettes? Eyes on the tall dark one at the far end...]

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Back From The Dead?

A native New Zealand bird, declared extinct in 2007...may still be alive!
An apparent sighting of a South Island Kokako has been accepted by the NZ Ornithological Society's records appraisal committee, which monitors the status of rare and endangered birds.
Artist's impression of North (blue)
and South (orange) Island kokako
The sighting was made near Reefton, in the same year the bird was declared extinct. A total of 11 sightings of the Sth Island Kokako between 1990 and 2008 were submitted, but the committee considered the others to be "probable" or "possible" sightings.
An expert panel, convened to manage the Department of Conservation-run NZ Threat Classification System earlier this month, changed the Sth Island Kokako's classification from "extinct" to "data deficient" based on the 11 claimed sightings.
"We can't say that the Sth Island Kokako IS still alive. But this is the best sign yet that it is," Forest+Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell says. "Because of the re-classification, there needs to be more pest control work in the Sth Island than ever before. If the birds are still out there, they'll be only just hanging on, and their biggest threats will be rats, stoats and possums."
Before the Reefton sighting, the last accepted sighting of a Sth Island
North Island kokako:
photo Matt Binns
Kokako was in 1967.
The Sth Island Kokako is a dark bluish-grey wattlebird (about the size of a crow) with a long tail, short wings and orange wattles on its face. The endangered Nth Island Kokako has blue wattles. The bird is not particularly good at flying and prefers to use its powerful legs to leap and run through the forest.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Lewis Collins Hands In His Gun

CI5's finest: Shaw, Jackson, Collins
When I was a teenager in the late '70s, there were only two questions about tv series The Professionals that needed answers:
(1) "Who's the Coolest Pro on the show?" and
(2) "How can I save enough to buy that car?" (a 3L Ford Capri).
For me, The Coolest Pro was always 'Bodie'. No disrespect to Martin Shaw, but his character 'Doyle' was more like a ponse trying to be staunch, especially with that bubble perm hairstyle. No, Da Man was only ever 'Bodie', played by Lewis Collins (though ironically, before he began acting, Collins was a hairdresser!).
UK action series The Professionals ran 1977-1983, and followed Bodie and Doyle, top agents for Britain's CI5, and their controller, George Cowley (played by Gordon Jackson). Their mandate was to fight terrorism and similar high-profile crimes. Bodie was a cynical ex-SAS paratrooper/mercenary whose nature ran to controlled violence, while Doyle came from the regular police force and was more of an open minded liberal. Tough, funny, a hit with the ladies and, more often than not, the man who came to the rescue if things looked in danger of going belly-up.
Yeup, Bodie was Da Man.
Sad thing is: post-Professionals, it was Shaw who went on to considerable success in his career, while Lewis all but disappeared (aside from a starring role in the SAS movie Who Dares Wins).
Still...remember him as Bodie, Da Man, smashing his Capri through stacks of cardboard boxes and saving Britain from the bad guys.
[Collins has died of cancer, at 67.]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

NZ Navy About To Get Cold Feet

A New Zealand Defence Force ship is en route to Antarctica, on a summer-long patrol of the Southern Ocean.
But this has nothing to do with whaling. reports the 85m HMNZS Otago will be monitoring fishing activities. Inspectors from the Ministry for Primary Industries are aboard to conduct compliance checks on the Southern Ocean's legal fishing fleet.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray Muddling McCully: "NZ takes its commitment to Sthrn Ocean conservation seriously. It's vital that we play our part in tackling illegal fishing activities." It's a tragedy that McCully won't extend this commitment to whales!
HMNZS Otago, having patrolled in the Sthrn Ocean for the last three seasons, has sound operational experience of the extremely challenging and bitter weather conditions. The surface patrols will be complemented by RNZAF Orions.
The licenced fishing season in NZ's area of responsibility is from 01 Dec.2013 until the agreed limits are reached (usually Jan./early Feb.)...which coincidentally is about the same as Japan's illegal whaling activities in the same region. And we await the start of Sea Shepherd's Operation Relentless, its 10th defence of whales in the Sthrn Ocean.
Muddling McCully has in the part mumbled about supporting Australia against Nippon Antarctic whaling, but has done nothing realistic about it - despite a huge amount of NZ voters wanting a physical deterrent down there. Even a 'drive-by' of Otago past the whaling factory ship Nisshan Maru would make a point...
Platitudes don't count when the harpoons fire.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Anadarko's NZ Deep-Sea Drilling Begins

Texan oil company Anadarko begun deep-sea drilling off the Raglan coast this morning, despite protests.
Six "green" vessels have spent a week circling the exploration ship Noble Bob Douglas, trying to stop the drilling. Veteran campaign vessel Vega remains inside the ship's 500m safety exclusion zone - the flotilla members will discuss today whether to stay there and what their next move will be.
Noble Bob Douglas had been due to put its 4600m drill down in 1500m of water last week after arriving on-site on 20 November, in an operation costing $1m a day. Greenpeace claims Anadarko can not drill because Vega was there, but Anadarko NZ spokesman Alan Seay says he's "...not aware of (any law) that says drilling must not take place if there is a vessel within 500m. We've laid a complaint with the police (about Vega within the safety zone) - we're not seeking any particular response from them; that's their call to make."
Prime Minister John Key says the govt has options to handle protesters who might try to delay drilling, but he's refused to elaborate on them, or say whether the navy would be called in.
Anadarko's licence runs 15 Nov.-14 Feb. It's an offence for any vessel to be within 500m of the drillship... and that's a bit different from the protesters' interpretation of the law...

[Note: Anadarko owns 25% of BP's Macondo well, which caused the 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil disaster - considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in history.]

PS: 20 Dec.2013 - Greenpeace's legal challenge fails on technical grounds.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Guys Don’t Stand A Chance!

Ladies, ever woken with the urge to hit your spouse after dreaming about his infidelity…when in reality he's done nothing more offensive than snore? You're not alone!
More than half of women wake up in a mood with their partner - because he annoyed them in a dream. A new study shows that wives frequently dream their men have done things like being unfaithful, having a row or even fathering a secret child.
Nearly two thirds of 2,000 UK adults polled said they're regularly in a bad mood with people who've upset them in a dream. One in 20 regularly give their boss the cold shoulder, because they dreamed they were sacked the night before.
It's not surprising then that four in ten adults say their moods are affected by the dreams they had the previous night. The research shows that dreams impact heavily on the next day's moods. It found a third dream more when they're stressed, with work issues being the biggest contributor. The poll also found that 43% experience reoccurring dreams of running away from something, flying and teeth falling out the most common. A further one in five keep dreaming that they fall over. 44% often dream about an ex-partner while a third have even had a romantic dream about a workmate!
One in five adults said their dreams are affected by what they eat before bedtime, and 20% said they have more vivid dreams when they are staying away from home.
So, the solution to a good night's sleep? DON'T stay away from home. DON'T eat before bed. DON'T get stressed.
Er…how about…just don't dream at all!!!