Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

WWII German Sub Discovered

An oil company scouting a new underwater oil pipeline route off the coast of Norway has made an historic discovery.
The wreckage of German submarine U486 has been found 240m down, near the town of Bergen in western Norway.
U486 met her demise on 12 April 1945, when she was torpedoed by British submarine HMS Tapir and split in two. The entire 48-man crew died, rendering the downed vessel a WWII war grave.
The issue of what to do with the submarine is still unsettled - the discussion is complicated by environmental safety concerns and the previous discovery of another sunken vessel little more than 2km away, that's been at the centre of debate for a decade.
That is the U864, found in 2003 with more than 65 tonnes of toxic cargo on board, raising contamination fears and causing the Norwegian government to declare a no-fishing zone around the wreckage. While some are calling for the ship to be raised, others believe the safest way to deal with the ecological time bomb is to
The lost crew of U486
seal it off in a submarine sarcophagus.
The potential presence of fuel oil and unexploded torpedoes on the recently found submarine could pose a similar problem, while also raising the possibility of other sunken vessels that have yet to be found nearby.
After its invasion in 1940, Nazi Germany established several naval bases in various ports in occupied Norway, in Bergen.
What makes the discovery of U486 interesting for historians is that she was one of nine submarines that the Kriegsmarine fitted with an experimental (but very effective) synthetic rubber skin, designed to counter the Allies' asdic/sonar devices. In her short career, U486 sank the Silverlaurel, troopship Leopoldville, and two frigates HMS Affleck and HMS Capel.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Saint Kiri

How to turn a prima donna into a true diva: make her an angel!
Kiwi soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was all smiles this week, when she saw her likeness in a stained glass window at St Paul's Cathedral in Dunedin.
Dame Kiri's face was portrayed as St Cecilia - the patron saint of musicians and church music - on a recently commissioned work at the cathedral: "It's really be in a church window is pretty amazing. I wouldn't say I've been immortalised - but it's there for hundreds of years now."
The four-panelled artwork was created by artist Peter Mackenzie, who reckoned Dame Kiri was the perfect choice for St Cecilia because she was a well-known New Zealander, and embodied the mix of cultures embraced by the Anglican Church of NZ.
"Is that ME?? Choice, bro!"
Also captured in the window was the image of Anglican Diocese of Dunedin's Bishop the Right Rev Dr Kelvin Wright, as St Paul.
After viewing her 'beatification' in Dunedin, and performing at the Oamaru Town Hall, Dame Kiri is back to England to prepare for more performances in Europe, and a guest appearance on the British period drama television series Downton Abbey, later this year. She'll play Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba in the series, and will sing as part of her roll.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gaga's Steak Sandwich Stolen Idea?

Meat on show!
Goin' Gaga!
Think back to 2010...
That was the year pop diva Lady Gaga shocked the fashion and music worlds, by turning up at the MTV Music Awards, dressed like a dog's dinner!
Remember the 'raw meat' outfit, complete with meat hat and meat purse, that she wore to collect her eight awards?
It's a dress that certainly took some guts to wear...but, although everyone thought it was unique, this blog has discovered what may well have been the original meat dress!
Could Gaga's meat sandwich designer Franc Fernandez have actually stolen the idea... 
from 1955???
She explained the purpose of the meat ensemble: "It's certainly no disrespect to anyone who's vegan or vegetarian. It has many interpretations but, for me, if we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones. And I'm not a piece of meat." Whatever.
She sure looked like a steak sandwich that night...and in a 'borrowed' concept too!
Geene Courtney, Sausage Queen
sponsored by the Zion Meat Co.
during US National Hot Dog Week, 1955.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Tangled Web We Weave

Specially trained rescuers recently freed a humpback whale swimming off Hawaii, from a life-threatening tangle of rope.
A tour vessel and a US Coast Guard aircraft initially spotted the whale. The animal had small-gauge line cutting into its tail. Observers found the whale in the waters of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, where humpbacks migrate each winter to mate, calve and nurse their young.
The rescuers worked from vessels to cut away 12m (40ft) of trailing line, but couldn't completely free the whale. However, they attached a satellite-tag buoy to the whale and relocated it later, when they were able to remove the rest of the tangle.
Altogether, rescuers removed more than 61m (200ft) of line and two buoys from around the whale! Neither of those two buoys identify where the gear came from, so the source won't ever be known.
Getting entangled in fishing gear can kill a whale by causing it to drown or starve, by getting caught in its mouth, by exhausting the animal as the creature drags gear behind it, or by causing injuries that lead to infection or blood loss.
So far, only three humpback whales have been found entangled this season around Hawaii, about a third of the typical number of reports by this stage. This effort was the first successful rescue of the season - well done to all those concerned!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Daniel Craig Back For Two More Bonds

It's just enjoyed one of the most successful installments of its 50yr run.
So it's no surprise that studio bosses have confirmed a 24th James Bond movie will hit cinemas within the next three years.
And again, 007 will be played by Daniel Craig - he'as already signed up to appear as the secret agent in two more films!
MGM is currently developing the screenplay for the film, which will be a follow-up to the critical and commercial hit Skyfall. It should be on our screens by 2016. I do like like the way the scripts are linking together - this gives the storyline and characters far more opportunity to develop depth.
CEO Gary Barber says MGM hopes to announce a director in the near future, following Sam Mendes' decision to move on to fresh pastures. Mendez recently confirmed he won't direct the next Bond because of his busy schedule: "Directing Skyfall was one of the best experiences of my professional life. But I have theatre and other commitments, including productions of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and King Lear, that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond." Yeup, that's right - he'd rather do a kiddie flick than another Bond! He must be mad!
Meanwhile 45yr old Daniel Craig (in my opinion, the best Bond ever!) has plenty of mileage in him, but he still has a way to go to surpass Roger Moore's record as the oldest Bond at 58.
[Read also about the setting for Skyfall...]

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nisshin Maru A Pirate?

Sea Shepherd wants Dutch authorities to prosecute Japanese whalers for piracy!
Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld has filed a criminal complaint, accusing the crew of the Nisshin Maru whaling ship of deliberately ramming SS's ships last month.
The case is being brought in the Netherlands because SS's ships Steve Irwin and Bob Barker both sail under the Dutch flag. This action intensifies a legal battle going on between SS and the nasty Nippons, stemming from their repeated clashes in the Southern Ocean in recent years.
Zegveld accuses NM's captain Tomoyuki Ogawa and his crew of crimes including 'sea robbery', a little-heard offence formerly used to prosecute pirates (this charge has recently been dusted off in the Netherlands to prosecute Somali pirates captured by the Dutch navy): "The NM is guilty of piracy, violence against the crew of a sea vessel, endangering safe navigation and the destruction of SS vessels; all punishable offences under the Dutch Criminal Code." Zegveld accuses the whalers of deliberately ramming the SS vessels during refueling operations in the Southern Ocean on Feb.20th and 25th.
It is the second time Zegveld has attempted to nail the Japanese whalers on behalf of SS. Prosecutors declined to open a case in 2010, but Zegveld says circumstances have now changed - both SI and BB sail under the Dutch flag, giving prosecutors a stronger foundation for laying charges. She feels the Public Prosecutor's Office now cannot argue that there's insufficient Dutch interest to bring a prosecution or refuse to do so for other reasons.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rocket Man

After lying on the ocean floor for more than 40yrs, two Apollo rocket engines have again seen the light of day.
A team organised by billionaire Jeff Bezos spent 3 weeks recovering the corroded F-1 engines, which sat more than 4km beneath the Atlantic. Bezos doesn't know precisely which Apollo mission the engines flew on as their original serial numbers are missing, but he hopes they're the Apollo 11 engines that took the first men to the moon.
Bezos (founder/CEO of announced his intentions to pull the Space Age relics up from the depths almost a year ago. Little has been heard about the mission since...until success was announced this week. Bezos used private funds to raise the engines from their resting places 4,267m below the surface of the ocean, but he maintains they remain the property of NASA.
Each F-1 engine is nearly 6m tall, 4m wide and more than 8,000kg. They produced 7.7m pounds of thrust and lifted the gigantic Saturn V (the largest and most powerful rocket ever built in the US) to nearly 58km above the Earth to a speed of almost 10,000km/hr.
See ya later!
+ ...meanwhile, Voyager 1 may have left our solar system. Huge changes in radiation levels measured by the probe confirm it's travelled beyond our sun's influence.
V1 and sister probe V2 launched 35yrs ago on a tour of the outer planets: V2's now 9 billion miles from the sun. The faster V1 is now more than 11 billion miles away: it's signals take approx.17hrs to reach Earth.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gondola Set To Swing Again

Christchurch gondola,
with Lyttleton in background
Another sign that life is moving on...
The revamped Christchurch Gondola will re-open this coming Monday (25th) after two years out of action.
It's been closed since the Feb. 2011 Canterbury EQ and has had $2m of work done to renovate it and also to deal with potential rockfalls.
Operations manager Mark Forster says the gondola itself received only minor damage in the quakes, but the big job has been to ensure it met new rockfall standards: "This is kind of a first for NZ as such for mitigation work. We spent quite a bit last year blowing up rocks and sending loose rocks down. The gondola is technically now safer than taking a 10-minute ride on a bus. That's what the requirement was for us to meet."
Refurbishments were needed at the gondola's top station after a broken sprinkler pipe flooded it with 60,000L of water in the Feb.2011 EQ. The station's now been modernised and facilities upgraded. There's a new cafe, but the restaurant has been removed. The function centre will now be the focus for evening entertainment.
The closure of the Summit Road (not due to re-open for at least five years) made the upgrade very difficult - contractors had to walk part of the way to the top, hauling their gear with them.
The 945m gondola ride lifts visitors almost 500m (1500 ft) above sea level. Unique 360 degree views of Christchurch, the Canterbury Plains and Lyttelton Harbour can be seen as you rise to the complex, on the crater rim of Christchurch's famous extinct volcano.
It's re-opening will be a welcome sign to both locals and tourists that Christchurch is returning to its "new normality"...

 [As a re-opening special, valid 25 March-06 May, 
up to three kids (15yrs and under) ride free with each paying adult. 
Usual fares: adult $25; child $12.]

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Mighty Marmite Misnomer

Surely NZers have just been screwed!
As Colin Espiner mused on Stuff, the return of 'NZ's favourite breakfast spread' has to be one of the greatest marketing campaigns of modern times. Or is it?
The earth fell away from many kiwis' feet when, a year back, Chch-based Sanitarium announced that EQ damage to its factory had halted production of Marmite. Cue general hysteria, panic buying, and media frenzy that made international headlines. Yes, pathetic but true: the world must have thought there was nothing else worrying NZers but their next Marmite fix!
Virgin jars of the stuff were fetching insane prices on TradeMe, while a renowned celebrity photographer published an exhibition...of the bottom of used Marmite jars owned by Rachel Hunter, Marc Ellis, and Sir Graham Henry! No, NOT Rachel Hunter's bottom - just the bottom of her used Marmite jar!
Then came delay after delay, as Sanitarium's EQ repairs took far longer than expected. That however did not stop Sanitarium slapping an import ban on UK Marmite!
Now a full year after it vanished, Marmite has returned this week in a well-planned marketing campaign that included free jars sent to politicians and media types, recipes for "Marmite chicken'' and a midnight supermarket opening that had queues around the block in some centres. Oh, puh-leeezzz!!!
But hang about! Marmite officionardos reckon it tastes a bit funny. Has Sanitarium been mucking about with the recipe? They say they haven't. Have Marmiters just been deprived of their fav taste too long? Hell, don't ask me: I'm a Vegemite guy.
And that's the Big Question: IS Marmite really NZ's favourite, or are we just told it is? Is that whole 'koiwoi heritage' thing more important to some consumers than the product itself (and do they know or care that it was originally made in England)?
Frankly, my dear, I just don't give a damn!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Don't Like Mondays. Tell Me Why.

Bob Geldof, where are you now? (1979)
The most popular day for throwing a sickie, and for good reason. It's a feeling otherwise known as Mondayitis and, for some of us, it begins on a Friday.
It's an affliction that actually exists. One poll a few years ago found people spend roughly 34 minutes complaining on a Monday morning, compared to just 22 minutes on other weekdays. Ok, that was a British poll, and they DO whinge a LOT!
But Mondayitis is not just a symptom of modern work intensity. It's been around for ages, way before 'work/life balance' became management's favoured phrase. [Sing it, baby! "Monday Monday, can't trust that day"...the Mamas and the Papas (1966)] Way back in 1923, a Kalgoorlie,Oz newspaper The Western Argus published a piece on Mondayitis. The cause, it said, was overindulgent eating on the weekend, affecting the liver. It then went on to extol the virtues of certain dubious pills - ahhhh, an early advertorial!
Today, we resort to other solutions to ease the malady. Sleeping better, for instance. But a Flinders discovered that people are more fatigued on a Monday when they try to catch up on sleep over the weekend. Oddly, we become more tired on the days that follow a sleep-in than on the days that precede it.
Others become idealistic: just find a job you love! Not so easy to do in countries where unemployment is high. A more realistic option is to make your current job a little more enjoyable. Endless studies indicate the best way of doing this is by incorporating your talents and maximising your strengths at work. Riiiiight.
Hey, let's scrap Mondays altogether and have a 4-day workweek. It's been done before! In Utah, USA, 17,000 govt employees were forced to do it as a cost-saving measure...the results were amazing. Sickies plummeted; greenhouse gas emissions were slashed; staff saved $6 million on petrol costs. And 82% of employees eventually wanted it to stay! But ahhhhh no, can't have workers happy, can we! The concept was scrapped in 2011 for political reasons.
However, if it had been kept, would Mondayitis symptoms merely transfer to a Tuesday? Maybe a long weekend every weekend would have made it even harder to go back to work.
Or perhaps it's simply time to get over the whole 'I hate Mondays' thing. A clever Starbucks UK ad aims to do just that. It tells us that a man first walked on the moon on a Monday; Big Ben first chimed on a Monday; Macbeth was first performed on a Monday; and now you can get cheap lattes on a Monday!
Ahhhhh, caffeine! That's one way to kick Mondayitis into touch!
[...thanx to Sydney Monday Herald]

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind

Is it all psychological?
A new Australian study says 'wind turbine sickness' is far more common once the idea of that 'illness' has been planted in people's minds.
Yet, says the Sydney Morning Herald, 63% of Oz's 49 wind farms have never been the subject of any health complaints. It found two-thirds of the 120 complaints that have been made, came from residents near wind farms that had been heavily targeted by the anti-wind farm lobby, and that "the advent of anti-wind farm groups beginning to foment concerns about health (from around 2009) was also strongly correlated with actual complaints being made."
Where's the Man Of La Mancha now?
So is this due to good info...or mere paranoia? Study author, Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney Uni., says this suggests 'wind turbine sickness' is a "communicated disease" – a sickness spread by the claim that something may make a person sick. This is caused by the 'nocebo effect' (the opposite of the placebo effect) where the belief something would cause an illness creates the perception of illness.
He found a much greater correlation between negative attitudes to wind turbines and reports of sickness than any "objective measures of actual exposure."
He says studies suggest that once a label is attached to a supposed malady, its spread is much more rapid - names like Wind Turbine Syndrome, Vibro Acoustic Disease and Visceral Vibratory Vestibular Disturbance. And he cites a recent NZ study in which volunteers were exposed to actual 'infrasound' (the sub-audible noise from wind farms claimed to cause health problems) and others to complete silence, which they had been told was infrasound. In both cases, those told about the potential harmful effects of infrasound were more likely to report symptoms.
The most recent Oz Senate inquiry found no causal link between wind farm wind and symptoms reported by those who lived nearby, but accepted that people were reporting they felt unwell. Some residents continue to report sleep deprivation, stress and serious long-term health problems.
So is it all in the mind? Are the folk living near wind farms just Don Quixotes jousting at ferocious windmills? Is their solution merely to embrace new technology that harnesses free energy? Build a nuke power station? Consider 'the greater good'? Or wait 30 years until another study proves them right (meanwhile they've all gone mad with the supposed condition)?
Or should they simply move away and get over themselves?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Evil Twin

Ok, so I've got a sick sense of humour, but tell me YOU didn't find this vaguely amusing too!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Strandings Not A Family Affair

As we continue to study whales, we understand a little more about their complex social strata.
Er...that is, scientific study, not the supposed "research" carried out by Japanese butchers!
ABC Science reports a new DNA study of long-finned pilot whales stranded in Tasmania and NZ questions a long-held belief, that whales beach themselves while attempting to save members of their family. Scientists previously thought healthy whales were drawn into shallow water trying to support sick or disoriented family members. But the new study, in the Journal of Heredity, found stranded groups were not necessarily members of one extended family.
Marc Oremus, University of Auckland: "If kinship-based social dynamics were playing a critical role in these pilot whale strandings, we'd expect to find that the individuals in a stranding event are all related to each other. We'd also expect that close relatives, especially mothers and calves, would be found in close proximity to each other."
Long-finned pilot whales (the ones regularly massacred by Faroe Islanders) are the most common species to mass-strand. DNA was analysed from 490 whales in 12 beachings, the largest involving more than 150 whales, all of which died. The position of the whales was also mapped to find out whether animals found near each other were related. Typically they were not. Even nursing calves and their mothers were often widely separated, while many mothers were missing from the groups altogether. Oremus: "The separation of related whales might actually be a contributing factor in the strandings, rather than simply a consequence."
The research team says the study has implications for rescue efforts of beached whales. They're cautioning against attempting to refloat calves with the nearest mature female under the assumption that it is the younger whale's mother.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Not Wanted By Germany

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson can cross Germany off his "cannot visit" list.
Happy chappy
The country has canceled the warrant for his arrest, because the Costa Rican government failed to meet the deadline for an explanation requested by the German govt [I guess the Costa Ricans failed to get their instructions from Japan in time!].
Watson's legal troubles have been well-documented, including skipping bail in Germany for fear of being extradited to Japan where he believes he'll never be released. The German arrest warrant followed Costa Rica's accusations of interference with their fishing vessels in 2002 - SS says they were undertaking an illegal shark-finning operation.
Even if he's no longer wanted in Germany, Watson says he'll remain at sea where he has been for seven months now, unless Oz assures him he won't be sent to Japan. The nasty Nippons have accused Watson and SS of interfering with their whaling operations, and their ships have been involved in skirmishes this season, notably a serious ramming of both an oil tanker and SS vessels by the factory ship Nisshin Maru (currently under investigation). 
Watson says SS's anti-whaling campaign has been highly successful this season, claiming less than 75 whales were killed. Their ships Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Sam Simon will be docking in Australia around 20 March, but probably without Watson on board. Oz Federal Police are expected to raid the SS ships upon arrival.
Watson plans to be back in the Southern Ocean next summer, regardless of any outcome in Australia's case against Japan's whaling at the International Court of Justice.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Holiday For The Anzacs

"Mondayising" of Anzac Day and Waitangi Day is all but reality.
NZ Prime Minister John Key expects an opposition MP's bill on the matter to pass into law, and ruled out a govt veto on it.
Labour MP (Dunedin North) David Clark's members' bill would see the Anzac and Waitangi Day holidays transferred to a Monday if they fall on a weekend. The National govt does not support it, claiming it'll put too much load on businesses and would detract from the significance of the dates. However the bill has the support of minority parties - giving it just enough support to pass without govt support.
Johnno Key says it's highly unusual for an Opposition member's bill to pass without the support of the main governing party, but it would be "disingenuous" for National to start supporting it at this stage. The bill is expected to pass its third reading and be law by the end of the year.
It needs to be acknowledged that the RSA opposes "Mondayisation" of Anzac Day. Although it's been assured that the commemorations themselves would still be held on every April 25th., the association is concerned that the acknowledgment of the day would be vulnerable to being lost, if it was buried amid the recreational and travelling distractions of a long weekend.
The RSA need not be worried. With kiwi attendance figures growing every year - even as the veterans' numbers dwindle - New Zealanders will still be moved to show up and honour the sacrifices made. Anzac Day matters because it matters. As a nation, we get that.
But as for Waitangi Day? Sacrifices? Commemoration? Ha, that's just a bloody joke...

Friday, March 15, 2013

The New Face Of Rome

In the end, it was not far off a quick-fire raffle!
Pontiff No.266
The conclave of cardinals has elected its new boss: Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.
He was a surprise choice to be new top dog of the troubled Roman Catholic Church, and will take the name Pope Francis I.
The secret conclave began on Tuesday with a first ballot, and four ballots were held Wednesday. Bergoglio was not among the small group of frontrunners identified by most media before the feverish election run-up. But he should have been - in the previous papal election, he reportedly received the second-highest number of votes after Joseph Ratzinger (the previous recently-resigned pope).
At 76, Bergoglio has slowed a bit with age and is feeling the effects of having an infected lung removed in his teens - two obstacles against him at a time when many say this pope should be relatively young and strong.
Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first pope since John Paul I to take a previously unused papal name.
The 115 cardinal electors also dodged the race bullet - dashing the hopes of Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson to be the first black pope ever - by choosing another whitey for the driver's seat. Somewhat ironic, considering how swarthy, Mediterranean and dark Jesus must have looked...
Bergoglio's done the sack-cloth-and-ashes routine for many years in Argentina, never living in the ornate church mansion in Buenos Aires, preferring a simple bed in a downtown room heated by a small stove. For years, he used public transport and cooked his own meals.
But his papal position could be stalked by past decisions. He has:
+ encouraged his flock to oppose both abortion and euthanasia.
+ affirmed church teaching on homosexuality, saying on the one hand that gays must be accepted with respect, compassion, sensitivity and no discrimination...while on the other hand calling the pursuit of their equal rights the devil's work.
+ argued that gay adoptions discriminate against children.
+ been accused of failing to stand up publicly against Argentina's brutal military dictatorship from 1976-1983, with its regime of torture, death and kidnappings.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sex-Hungry Navy Dolphins On The Run!

News flash! Three rogue naval 'killer' dolphins are on the loose!
And here's the most frightening thing of all: this is not a drill.
And it's not April 1st either!
The Russian International News Agency RIA Novosti has reported three of the Ukrainian Navy's killer dolphins are on the run. Yeup, killer Ukrainian Dolphins! There were five in the force and they all went rogue earlier this month. Two came back after a few days, but the other three are still out there...
Ukraine, by the way, is a rather large country squeezed between Russia and Poland. On top is Belarus. Underneath is the Black Sea. And that's where the Ukrainian Navy has a major seaport, Sevastopol, where for years it has trained killer dolphins.
Nyet, no joke. The killer dolphin programme has been around since 1973, when it was a Soviet thing. The reason the Ukrainian Navy trains killer dolphins is to attack enemy combat swimmers and detect mines. There's even a suggestion they may be able to attach magnetic explosives to sink enemy ships.
Experts think the runaway dolphins are just looking for romance and hopefully will return in a week or two.
But if they don't...well, ya know what they say: loose fish sink ships.
Oh, hang about, they're mammals. Hmmm...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kapiti: Third Eye Blind?

It's all in the eye of the beholder…
or the warped sensibilities of a screwed-up mind!
Kapiti District's newly designed logo - $30,000 worth of ratepayer dosh – may have to be reworked because of someone's penis fixation...???
The logo features the letter 'K', shaped, and coloured green and blue, to look like a mountain and the sea. Underneath is the single word: "Kapiti".
OK, so far, so good.
But now, opinions diverge: one councillor says it looks like the 'K' is cut in half.
Councillor Ross Church: "I showed it to a Scotsman who said it looked like the Loch Ness monster on legs." (..and so, the whole logo may be dumped because one Scotsman's plesiosaur predilections?)
Otaki Community Board member Jackie Elliott reckons the logo is lewd (!!!): "This is more than mildly pornographic. Perhaps the caption underneath could be 'come to Kapiti and let the earth move for you'." (Jackie, Jackie, Jackie! Tut-tut-tut! Where IS your mind? And WHAT is going on in it???)
Can anyone else see a Nessie in this logo? Possibly...if I close one eye, squint the other, and perhaps grip my tender bits tightly...uh-oh, there's that penis fixation lifting its ugly head! Ahhhh, NOW I can see the Loch Ness Monster...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Countdown To Conclave

Keys to the kingdom...
With ex-Pope Benedict now kicking up his heels in Civilian-town, and the cardinals gathered in Rome, the mysterious process of pope-choosing is ready to rumble.
In fact, the decisionmaking (known as the conclave) begins today. Here're some facts about the whole process.
The conclave:
The conclave (meaning "with a key" in Latin) started in the C13th., when the Church had two separate patches of a few years without a pope. Fed up with this, in 1243 the people of Rome locked up the cardinals until they'd decided on a successor. Again in 1271, people tore the roof off the building where the cardinals were meeting and put them on a bread-and-water diet, hoping the discomfort would speed things up.
Modern and ancient:
While the original reason was to force a decision, now the silence in the Sistine Chapel is to allow Da Boys In Red time for quiet reflection and prayer to hear the Holy Spirit, which is supposed to reveal God's choice for the next pope. Today the church forbids cellphones, internet, newspapers and other mod comms in the conclave, and sweeps the joint for electronic bugs prior its start. When Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, the Vatican raised the floor of the Sistine Chapel to install electronic jamming gear, just in case...
Vatican: Papal Party Central...
White smoke, black smoke:
During the conclave, cardinals vote for Mr.New Pope over and over until they reach a decision. For outsiders watching, the smoke from the Vatican's chimney will be their only clue. Black smoke means a deadlock. White smoke means 'break out the dancing nuns': two-thirds of the cardinals agree. Historically, to make black smoke, damp straw was added to the fire. But the sealing wax on the ballots also affected the colour of the smoke so, when they did away with the sealing wax ballots in the 1950s, the smoke signals were confusing. Now the Church adds chemical colourants to the smoke.
Who can be pope?
In theory, any baptized male Catholic can rise to the highest office (yes, even ME, the longest-serving altar boy in my parish!), but in reality the front-runners are almost all cardinals. Once chosen, the pope picks a new name, signalling his allegiance to a specific theology or set of priorities. He can technically pick whatever name he wants...though Pope Bieber may not go down too well!
Father fashion:
Once the pope's chosen, he is 'it' effective immediately, no time to prep a fancy speech or plan lunch. To make sure he's ready-to-roll straight out onto the Vatican balcony and greet the masses, the church has several white robes in multiple sizes waiting. The pope used to don an all-red outfit, until Pius V changed that to white in 1566. The last traces of that are the pope's red shoes, cap and cape.
Jumping in:
The new pope won't have much time to kick back and relax. Holy Week and Easter (the most important time on the Catholic calendar) is just a few weeks away. He'll also face several big issues: dealing directly with sex abuse scandals, solving the priest shortage, and energizing the church's dwindling flock in Europe and US. Those sex scandals are still simmering, plus there's a secret report recently given to Benedict XVI, identifying members of his inner circle who leaked confidential church documents to the media. The next leader will read that 2,000-page missif and no doubt do some housecleaning, so there'll be no honeymoon period.
Mr.New Pope will have to be Energizer Bunny from the minute the white smoke has cleared.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Polar Bears In Peril: Canada Can't Care Less!

Canada's polar bear exploitation will continue unabated.
The Guardian reports a bitter fight at CITES, the world's biggest wildlife summit, ended last week in the defeat of a US/Russia joint proposal to outlaw the trade.
Polar bears: yea, exterminate 'em all!
The proposal argued that, while climate change and increasing loss of Arctic sea ice on which polar bears hunt is the greatest threat to the 20,000 remaining in the wild, hunting is an intolerable additional pressure. The 178-nation meeting of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species in Bangkok heard Canada (home to two-thirds of the world's polar bears and the only nation allowing exports) argue there's not enough scientific evidence to show they're in danger of population collapse.
Canada (the same country that allowed the clubbing of fur seals) says it already has strict rules to ensure sustainable hunting, and it dismissed the proposal as based more on emotion than science. [Hmmm, Canada must have been singing from the Japanese whalers' songbook!!!]
Inuit delegates (representing Canada's indigenous peoples) cried: "A ban would affect our ability to buy the necessities of life, to clothe our children. We have to protect our means of putting food on the table and selling polar bear hides enables us to support ourselves." About 600 polar bears bears are killed each year in Canada, some in traditional Inuit hunts and some as trophies for foreign hunters. Half the bears are then exported as skins or other body parts.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ready...Set...OK Go!

The band is OK Go.
It's an alternative rock band residing in Los Angeles, best known for elaborate and quirky music videos which often gain critical acclaim. For example, in 2007, OK Go scored the Grammy's 'Best Short-Form Music Video' award for the clip Here It Goes Again.
Now, for your viewing pleasure, here's the official video for another track, This Too Shall Pass, from the album Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky. This was filmed in a two-storey warehouse, in the Echo Park neighbourhood of LA. The amazing 'machine' was designed and built by the band over the course of several months.
The video won the LA Film Fest's Audience Award for 'Best Music Video', and the UK Music Video Awards' 'Best Rock Video' and 'Music Video of the Year Winner 2010', among others. Since its release in March 2010, it's had over 39 MILLION views!
It's a helluva tough boring life, being a muso...!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Prepare To Be Boarded

Aussie Police are expected to raid the Sea Shepherd ships on their return to Australian waters.
After clashes in the Southern Ocean with Japanese whalers, police are tipped to swoop when the ships arrive in Hobart in coming days. The news comes as the Japanese fleet heads north, well out of the whale sanctuary. SS Oz director Bob Brown says it's highly likely the hunt has ended with fewer than 100 whales killed, probably the lowest tally in 200 years outside world wars!
Ram Jam! Bob Barker sandwiched...
But if/when SS ships arrive in Oz (probably Hobart, Tasmania) they'll face police raids. Japan is highly likely to request them after the well-documented ramming incidents involving SS and Japanese vessels, and the oil spill from the whalers' tanker Sun Laurel. On top of that, if SS observer Paul Watson (subject of an Interpol red notice) is on board, he faces arrest if Japan requests extradition.
The whaling season is due to end this month: both Bob Brown and Watson are hoping it's wrapped up already. As always, the nasty Nippons bleat that SS ships endanger the safety of their "research" vessels. The videos from both sides, circulating over the past week, look decidedly in favour of SS!
...meanwhile Australia's case against Japan in the International Court of Justice drags on. Baring an early (unlikely) decision by the court, the whalers are expected back in the Southern Ocean again this December. Even if the case began shortly, a decision is not likely until next year. If the court did find in Australia's favour, would Japan abide by the law? But if it does not, it would be contravening international convention... something it seems quite comfortable with.
And then who would intervene, if not Sea Shepherd?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hobbit Part 2 Sneak Peek

Sir Peter Jackson has revealed he'll be live-hosting a first look at The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in The Hobbit trilogy, on Monday 25 March.
Martin Freeman is The Hobbit
This news comes as details are revealed of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey's foray onto the small screen. The film, which has already netted over $1 billion in worldwide box office sales (not a bad effort for a film the Oscars ignored!), will be out on DVD and Blu Ray on 01 May in New Zealand, with over 2hrs of production diaries from Sir Peter and the Weta team.
It's believed the sneak peek of the second film will last somewhere between 10-20 minutes (a fairly sizable chunk!) - but details have yet to be confirmed.
No word yet on whether an extended version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be released -but Sir Peter already hinted there was one in the works, at Wellington's world premiere of the film last year.
...meanwhile the final instalment of the trilogy, called The Hobbit: There and Back Again, will now be released on 17 December, 2014... five months later than planned. It'll follow The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which came out in Dec.2012, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which will reach cinemas in December 2013.
Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.distribution president: "We're excited to complete the trilogy the same way we started it, as a holiday treat for moviegoers everywhere."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Could They Somehow Be Related #7?

While enjoying a recent concert in Queenstown, I was struck by the similarity between Randy Bachman (one-time member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive) and Sea Shepherd's founder Paul Watson.
Both are Canadian.
One formed a rock group...
the other an environmental group.
One had a hit with You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet...
the other often yells that phrase at Japanese whalers.
Do you think somehow they may be related???

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bear Grylls Hunts Moa in NZ

Hot on the heels of last November's very clever Hobbit in-flight safety message, Air New Zealand rolls out its latest video.
The new video, Bear Essentials of Safety, captures survival expert Bear Grylls - famed British adventurer and host of Man vs. Wild - delivering important safety messages while tracking the extinct moa in the wilds of NZ.
It took three days to film the four-and-a-half-minute video along the Routeburn Track, a 32km trail on the southern tip of the South Island. Yeup, no actual shots of a plane interior - instead, plane seats and passengers at various stunning outdoor locations.
The video features Grylls being...well...Grylls, stowing a fish in an overhead locker (a moss-covered hole in a rock), eating the exit path lighting (glow worms) and oxygen masks falling from a tree, which Grylls describes as a could-be 'portable loo.' The video builds perfectly off the back of the strong imagery generated globally by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
If you're not a kiwi (er, a New Zealander), then the video references to the extinct moa bird may be lost on you. But suffice to say, it's a now-extinct flightless bird the size of a bloody giant ostrich! The video also has a cast of native NZ creatures including a kea (moutain parrot), a tuatara (lizard), glow worms, a moa and also features NZ entomologist Ruud Kleinpaste, known as the Bug Man.
Air NZ's in-flight videos are the envy of the global industry. Previous videos have featured the All Blacks rugby team and US rap artist Snoop Dogg. The video that attracted the most attention was a 2009 creation, entitled Bare Essentials, showing cabin crew dressed only in body paint made to resemble their normal uniforms!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Shark Attack: Priorities

"It's astounding…time is fleeting…madness takes its toll."
Yes, a line from the Rocky Horror Show soundtrack, but equally illustrative of the madness surfacing after last week's fatal shark attack at Muriwai.
Swimmer Adam Strange was killed by a great white shark…or two…or three…depending on which media report you've read. In the rapid and heroic attempt to save Adam, a police officer shot at one of the sharks. It's believed he killed it, though no trace of the beast has
been found.
Now that same officer is lieing low, fearing a backlash from certain elements of the public. Astoundingly, some dickheads on Facebook have taken issue with shooting the shark, writing such madness as: "It's absolutely disgusting – animal cruelty. There is no need to kill the shark for its natural instinct."
Muriwai Surf Club has defended the actions of the officer. Spokesman Tim Jago: "They weren't here. They don't know what was going down." He says the shooting action was necessary: "You don't often get the chance to retrieve the body (after a fatal shark attack), or not so soon. We were presented with that opportunity. We're 100% comfortable that the decision to shoot the shark was right."
Shark expert Tom Trnski, Auckland Museum’s head of natural sciences: "The only thing they could do to recover Adam was actually get the shark away from him and it wasn't obliging, so they had no option but to shoot it. I fully support what they did."
Those stupid pillicks posting such thoughtless Facebook crap should think first about the (slim) possibility of rescuing Adam Strange alive…or at least recovering his body for his grieving family. Then think how that could possibly have happened, without the selfless efforts of the lifesavers and police.
Diddums to da poor liddle iddle biddle sharkie…the savage vicious man-killer that it actually was! On this occasion, a human being has a far higher priority!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Are The Whalers Leaving?

Last Saturday, Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin and Bob Barker escorted the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru, Yushin Maru, Yushin Maru 2 and Shonan Maru 2 past 60 degrees South and out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Fuel tanker Sun Laurel and Yushin Maru 3 are 120 miles further N accompanied by SS's vessel Sam Simon. The whaling season climatically is drawing to an end, with plankton and krill that the whales feed upon reducing quickly, the storms of autumn setting in and the whales preparing to migrate north for the winter.
Paul Watson, an observer on Steve Irwin, is 80% certain that the actual whale hunt is over for this year. When calculating the logistics of refuelling the whalers, their return to the sanctuary would take the best part of a week - a week the whalers really don't have: "They're on a course direct for Indonesia. Hopefully that means they're going home. We don't know for sure but they're definitely leaving the whaling ground."
Watson said SS would not intervene against any legal transfer of fuel between NM and SL above the line of sixty degrees South. But SS has intervened on at least three occasions to stop the transfer of fuel below 60 degrees. But the major conflicts occurred when SS blockaded and obstructed NM from coming alongside the Panamanian-registered Korean-owned SL to refuel.
SS alledges that heavy fuel oil (HFO) is used by the Japanese fleet, and that refuelling with this fuel in Antarctic waters is illegal. The whaling fleet regularly refuels illegally in the treaty zone below 60 degrees south.
So how has SS's campaign goal of 'zero tolerance' measured up this year? Well, the number of whales slaughtered has been very low. SS can only confirm the death of two minkes. Some whales could have been taken on the run westward - NM and YM2 had two days to whale unobstructed until SS caught up with them. SS can confirm that YM and YM3 did not kill any whales this season, as those two vessels were under observation at all times.
Watson's estimate of the number of whales killed is no more than 75: "It could be much lower but certainly not higher. Last year I predicted the whalers would take 30% of their kill quota. The actual kill was 26%. Although Operation Zero Tolerance did not realize zero kills, this campaign will see the lowest take by the Japanese whaling fleet in the entire history of their Antarctic whale hunts."
But the campaign has come at a cost, with Sea Shepherd USA and Paul Watson being declared as true pirates by a decision of the US 9th District Court. This could have implications for its US assets and fundraising abilities. But the campaign this year was run fully by Sea Shepherd Australia, with the fleet of vessels sailing with Australian and Netherlands registration.
Director Bob Brown: "We've had hundreds of thousands of dollars' damage done to our ships by the ramming by the Japanese fleet. We will be reliant on public help to refurbish that, but it won't be long now before our ships are headed back to Melbourne and I know they're going to get a big welcome."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Jetstar Gets Another Red Card

For an airline - with a lousy reputation for faux pas, pissing off passengers, being unfriendly and less than reliable - to stoop any lower, may seem impossible.
But budget airline Jetstar has done it!
Shitstar refused to allow the grieving mother of a NZ man, killed in a shark attack, to change her flight on compassionate grounds!
Jeanette Strange was already booked to fly Wellington -  Auckland next week but tried to move the flight forward last Wednesday, after learning her son had been fatally mauled by a shark while swimming.
Her sister called Shitstar and told them about the tragedy, but the airline refused to fly Jeanette to Auckland to be with her son's devastated family unless she paid a $320 fare change fee. Jeanette was given a discounted ticket with rival Air New Zealand after telling it of her circumstances.
Shitstar says changes to flights are available on compassionate grounds but it needs supporting documentation, with any charges to be paid up-front then refunded later: "Jetstar appreciates this would have been a stressful situation and regrets if the service received by her relative from our call centre caused further distress. We have contacted the relative and apologised for the way the call was handled."
Appreciates this may have been stressful???
Regrets if it caused further distress???
Adam Strange died when he was attacked by a great white at Auckland's Muriwai Beach last Wednesday in NZ's first confirmed shark fatality in more than 35 years. The story was plastered all over the why didn't the Shitstar call centre know? Ahhhh, that's the point. Because it's in...the Philippines!
A classic example of why outsourcing the call centre of a business calling itself 'local' to a cheaper option overseas is stupid! The Manila operators can't possibly have local intel to respond correctly to all situations.
Well done, Air NZ, for picking up the ball and running with it.
Red card, Shitstar - you dropped the ball AGAIN!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Argo, Ergo Reality

The Canadian ambassador, on whom the Oscar-winning film Argo is based, is concerned a new generation will be misinformed about NZ's role in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
Former diplomat Ken Taylor helped six US diplomats flee Tehran after their embassy was stormed. The movie Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, portrays this dramatic escape and suggests NZ's Iran embassy refused to offer help to the Yanks! Affleck has previously agreed the film is not fair on NZ, but the controversy's reignited after this film recently won an Oscar.
Ken Taylor emphasises he had "outstanding assistance" from NZ diplomats in Tehran, in particular Ambassador Chris Beeby. He says Beeby and 2nd.Sec.Richard Sewell were "world-class diplomats" and "very much part of the team" that helped in the escape: "They were extraordinary and I'd like NZers to understand that at no time was the NZ Embassy asked to take diplomats in and refused." He says he's concerned Argo could rewrite history for young people: "As long as people realise this isn't the historical record." NZ PM John Key says it's unfortunate NZ's role was not accurately presented.
Affleck said he had to make 'creative choices' for the film: "You try to honour the basic truth of what you're telling. The story is constructed as well as it could possibly be." Hmmm, that's debatable. I felt the film was a US Argo(ego)-stroke, and was quite surprised to read of its Oscar!
At almost every turn, Argo puts the Americans to the front in heroic fashion, while all the Iranian characters are brutal and savage. When the escapees are driving through Tehran, the surrounding populace is seen as the frightening enemy. Iranians are lumped together as scary and barbaric, while the good ol' CIA steps in to save the day...but that's not the worst of it. Argo is riddled with so many inaccuracies, as to make it little more than a gung-ho flag-waving vehicle for Ben Affleck...

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Natter Project: Last Of The Wonder Weapons

In the twilight of WWII, a desperate Nazi Germany invented lots of ingenious and often bizarre new weapons.
The 'Natter' Project was one.
The Natter was a vertical take-off interceptor, designed to blast up into an oncoming bomber stream (somewhat like a manned surface-to-air missile). Here's how:
The Natter would be standing against a launch tower, nose pointed skywards. Its pilot would press the start button, thus firing the main rocket. A second later he would switch to full power, the Natter being held in position on the tower by a brake. The ground crew would then ignite four powder booster rockets by hand, using a burning wick on the end of a long bamboo cane (!!!). When all motors were burning for at least 10sec., the brake would be released. The Natter would then leave the launch pad at 800km, controlled from the ground for the first 1.5km and, once the powder rockets had burnt out, control would be handed over to the pilot.
He would then find the biggest concentration of Allied bombers and head towards them. Pressing the firing button would set off several functions at once. A plexiglass cover over the missiles would fall away, and they would fire altogether in a staggered salvo towards the oncoming bombers, like a shotgun effect. At the same time the rocket motor would detach and return to earth on a paracute, to be retrieved and used again. The pilot would also return using an automatic parachute. The rest of the aircraft was made of cheap wood construction and would be lost after the flight. In theory.
Today in history, on 1st.March 1945, the first manned rocket-powered Natter blasted off from the Heuberg Military Training Area near Bachem. After 55sec., it exploded, killing its pilot Lt.Lothar Seiber. He became the first man ever to take off vertically from the ground under rocket power. Parts of his body were later found in a crater 7km away.
As the Allied armies were closing on Bachem, the project was cancelled...four Natter aircraft fell intact into enemy hands, three to US and one to the Russians.
If the Natter had been successful, could it have reversed the war? Not a chance, given how far the Allies had advanced. However, the somewhat nutty Natter makes for an interesting WWII postscript...