Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hello, Is it Beer You're Looking For?

Remember that ever-so-slightly-creepy video?
Almost 30 years after Lionel Richie romanced a blind art college student in the original video for his No.1 hit Hello (from the 1984 album Can't Slow Down), he's back performing the classic in a quirky beer commercial!
Oh, and for the much-younger among the readership, yes, Lionel IS the father of Nicole
(Mrs Joel Madden) Richie, ok?
Anyway...although the tvc doesn't debut for several weeks, below is a sneak peek at the crooner as you've never seen him before - hanging out in a fridge to showcase Lion's new home draught beer dispenser, Tap King.
The word is, it took more than $1.5 million to secure Richie and his signature song!!!
The 60-second ad shows a man peering into the fridge, only to find Richie in there playing a piano (!), then pouring a beer and passing it out. Is that a touch of bro-mance in the air?
Maybe we should leave the boys to share their moment privately...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Ties That Bind

Nice to know New Zealand isn't the only country where businesses inadvertently distribute confidential information to all!
In Massachusetts, USA, Emily Dreyfuss's fiancé ordered a tie and pocket handkerchief on-line from the Gap chain Banana Republic, to go with his suit for his upcoming wedding.
What came in the mail instead? Confidential files of about 20 former employees, including Social Security numbers and tax forms!
Emily had misgivings about the package as soon as it arrived. It was quite heavy and didn't say Banana Republic, but Gap Inc. She thought it may have been a really heavy piece of clothing with catalogues. But inside were three folders sealed with tape and labelled 'HR Administration'. They contained tax and Social Security information as well as handwritten resignation letters, doctors' notes and salary information: the employees' entire record at the company.
San Francisco-based Gap Inc. blamed the mix-up on human error. It sent a self-addressed, stamped envelope to return the information in.
Richard Dreyfuss:
"We're gonna need a bigger boat tie!"

It also offered the couple a free tie and pocket handkerchief ($61 value): they declined.
As Emily Dreyfuss is the daughter of actor Richard Dreyfuss, I wonder if this wee episode will one day be turned into a movie plot...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Shearing of the Beasts: More Spanish Cruelty

The Spanish call it La Rapa Das Bestas.
It's a 400yr.old festival where wild horses are rounded up in nearby hills and herded into an arena called the Curro of Sabucedo (a kind of big stone corral), where they are sheared and branded.
Fourteen of these Rapa Das Bestas occur across Spain between June-August. The one in the village of Sabucedo (4-7th July this year) is the most well-known: since 2007, it's become an international tourist event.
The Shearing of the Beasts evolved from a tradition of caring for the animals and keeping them cool in the summer by shortening their hair. The purpose was to keep track of the different groups of horses that lived in the area.
That's all well and good...but do you see much caring going on? See the big brave villagers (and tourists!) leap onto the horses, grab them however they can (while spectators look on), and immobilise them to cut their tails and tag them. This is not the American Wild West of the 1800s! It's not Don Quixote's 16th century Spain! It's akin to the tourist stupidity of Running the Bulls! The traditional reason's long-gone: now it's bordering on brutal barbaric bravado! Further, it's unnecessary: in a civilised society, this animal maintenance (the supposed reason) can easily be done more gently and humanely.
I believe there's a time and place for preserving old traditions and customs but, when animal cruelty or outdated actions are involved, then events such as this (and bullfights, the grindadráp, La Mattanza, Toro Jubilo, Luminarias etc) should all be BANNED!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Return Of Rudd

"I'm baaaaa-aaaaacckk!!!!"
Australia awoke this morning to a new Prime Minister...or rather a familiar face returning.
Kevin Rudd will lead Labor to the federal election after PM Julia Gillard lost a leadership ballot, one of her key backers switched camps and six ministers resigned.
A 57-45 caucus vote in favour of the former prime minister was the third time the Labor leadership had been tested, since Gillard ousted Rudd to become Australia's first female leader in 2010.
PM Rudd could face his first parliamentary test as early as tomorrow, if the opposition moves a motion of 'no confidence' in the minority government on the final sitting days of parliament. However Opposition Leader Tony Abbott talked down that prospect, saying Mr Rudd should instead name an election date as quickly as possible:
"It's up to the prime minister to demonstrate that he has sufficient support to confirm and maintain a government, and tell us when the election will be." Rudd could call an election for 24 August, instead of the September 14 poll decided by Ms Gillard.
Rudd says he's resuming the prime ministership with a sense of "energy and purpose". He'd previously stated that under no circumstances would he return to the leadership. The Liberal Party immediately launched a new ad campaign quoting Mr Rudd's "broken" promise not to contest the leadership.
Rudd: "I will leave it to you, the Australian people, to judge if I have made the right call."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Breakfast Drinks Are Up-And-Gone

Breakfast serenity was shattered yesterday when the Sydney Morning Herald informed us that several popular liquid breakfast products are making dodgy nutritional claims! Egad! Can this be TRUE???
Ozzie consumer watchdog Choice points the tablespoon at the likes of Sanitarium's Up&Go and Kellogg's breakfast drinks. An investigation into 23 liquid breakfast products found they make false claims about being high in fibre or a good source of protein!
Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey says shonky claims on liquid breakfasts such as 'high in fibre', 'fibre for digestive health', and 'goodness of three grains' are a cause for concern: "Liquid breakfasts have on average 1.5% fibre, which is well below the 10% benchmark for high fibre. It is grains away from the 39.5% fibre offered by some bran cereals." Choice also found 10 of the 23 products investigated have more than 23g of sugar per serve - that's about the same as a chocolate bar. Godfrey: "If its energy you're after, the breakfast drinks Choice reviewed ranged from 700kj-912kj and fall short of a regular meal that comes in at 2000kj."
The consumer group says liquid breakfasts are a growing category in the supermarket aisles with Santarium's Up&Go ruling the Ozzie market since its launch 15 years ago, selling 34 million litres through supermarkets in the past year alone.
These products appeal to those who feel their lives are so busy that everything must be rush-rush, and that their entire existence must be conveniently packaged for them.
I suspect this revelation - confirming doubts long-held by the wiser among us about their nutritional value - will go unnoticed by their consumers. But if they want fibre from these products, they're probably better off chewing the carton on their rush to work!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Battleground For Friends

Australia is hopeful it will win its case against Japan's 'scientific' whaling.
Its Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus will lead the case for the final stretch of the 3wk. hearing, beginning tomorrow in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. He says both sides have filed very lengthy legal and factual arguments: "Our views are well-established. We strongly oppose all commercial whaling, including so-called 'scientific' whale hunting by Japan. We believe Japan's whaling is contrary to its international obligations and we want this practice brought to a halt once and for all."
Australia and Japan, a key trading partner, remain friends despite their disagreement over whaling. Naturally. Money makes more noise than a harpooned whale, screaming in agony...
Dreyfus: "We both agree the ICJ is the best place to resolve differences between friends. Both countries value our strong bilateral relationship and the friendship forged between our nations over
many years."
These hearings mark the end-game of proceedings started by Oz in 2010, and its hopeful of a decision before the start of the next Sthrn Hemisphere whaling season at the end of this year.
More than 10,000 whales have been killed since 1988 as a result of Japan's whaling programmes in the Southern Ocean. The annual 'research' killings in the Sthrn Ocean has provoked anger from conservationists, with Sea Shepherd tailing the nasty Nippon fleet each year and clashing with the ships. This year the season logged a record low catch, with the Japanese blaming "unforgivable sabotage" by SS.
Dreyfus: "Of course we're hopeful of getting the result we want."
And then what? Who will stop Japan continuing to hunt? Will the Australian Navy intervene? I think not.
So...with the best of intentions, the 'best of friends' will be back to square one.

PS: 30 June 2013 - Drefuss has faith that Japan WILL abide by the ICJ decision...

Monday, June 24, 2013

TWA Jet May Have Been Missile Casualty

TWA investigation reconstruction
There's nothing quite like a good conspiracy theory...
Former investigators are pushing to reopen a probe into the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of New York. they say new evidence points to the often-discounted theory that a missile strike may have downed the jumbo jet.
A documentary, being released next month on the 17th anvsy of the crash, questions the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)'s conclusion that the crash was caused by a fuel tank explosion.
Jim Speer, accident investigator for the Air Line Pilots Assn: "We don't know who fired the missile, but we have a lot more confidence that it was a missile."
The NY-Paris flight crashed July 17, 1996, just minutes after takeoff, killing all 230 aboard. Talk of a missile strike began almost immediately. Theories of an errant US Navy missile were widely refuted, but conjecture about a shoulder-fired missile launched by terrorists in a small boat has never completely gone away.
NTSB spokesman Kelly Nantel: "While the NTSB rarely re-investigates issues that have already been examined, our investigations are never closed and we can review any new information not previously considered by the board." She notes the TWA Flight 800 investigation lasted four years. "Investigators took great care reviewing, documenting and analyzing facts and data and held a five-day hearing to gather additional facts before determining probable cause."
NTSB said after the first investigation that it found no evidence of a missile strike. Some witnesses still maintain that a streak of light they saw started at the waterline and zoomed up towards the plane.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Missing Link

Retro time wrap!
Do you recall the early 70's tv show Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, a US adventure/comedy series airing from 1970-1971, featuring supposedly talking chimpanzees as secret agents? We saw it in black and white in New Zealand (colour tv wasn't introduced here until 1973).
With considerable cap-doffing to tv show Get Smart! (1965-1970), the plot featured Lance Link and his female colleague Mata Hairi. The duo worked for APE (Agency to Prevent Evil), battling the baddies of CHUMP (Criminal Headquarters for the Underworld's Master Plan). APE's chief Darwin gave them their orders as part of his 'theory', a play on the Charles Darwin (after whom the character was named) scientific theory of evolution.
CHUMP's monocled chief Baron von Butcher hatched a new plan to endanger the world every week. His network of international fiends included shifty chauffeur Creto, mad scientist Dr.Strangemind, imperious Dragon Woman, drowsy Wang Fu, singing sheikh Ali Assa Seen, and the cultured Duchess.
A regular feature was chimp tv host Ed Simian (a take-off of US tv host Ed Sullivan) introducing a musical number by an all-chimp band, The Evolution Revolution. The cast included:
Lancelot Link.
Mata Hairi: a la Mata Hari (the WW1 spy).
Commander Darwin: named after Charles Darwin.
Baron von Butcher: modeled on evil character "Siegfried" from KAOS in Get Smart!
Dragon Woman.
Creto: his name was a play on the word "cretin" and also on "Kato", the Green Hornet's chauffeur and crimefighting sidekick.
Wang Fu.
The Duchess.
Ali Assa Seen: sounded like "assassin".
Dr. Strangemind: modeled on Béla Lugosi, famous Dracula actor.
There was so much passion for the show within the production team that two of the three producers (who'd been writers for Get Smart!) quit their jobs as head writers on The Carol Burnett Show to work on Lancelot Link.
And what fun they had! To make the dialogue fit the chimps' lip action, the voiceovers were ad-libbed live, creating mad moments where the chimps broke into songs at the end of sentences or recited nursery rhymes so it would look... kinda...right!
An album of The Evolution Revolution's songs was released at the time, there were Lancelot Link comic books and other merchandise. In 2006 most of the episodes were re-released on DVD. 2012 saw a re-release of a 3-disc collector's edition, the first complete collection with all 17 episodes and Evolution Revolution music videos.
The chimps were much-loved on-set and well cared for. Lance's still alive and in good health, living at a retirement home at the Wildlife WayStation in Los Angeles. Proceeds from the boxed DVD set benefit the Wildlife WayStation and go towards keeping Lance well.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


This week, lotsa sports talk has centred on the switch of UK footie, from TV to laptop.
Never take your eyes off the ball!
Sky TV put in its biggest-ever bid for the NZ rights to all English Premier League matches for the next three seasons, but was beaten by Coliseum Sports Media which will stream live to laptops, iPads etc...
Coliseum's unsure just how many English Premier League fans there are...especially those prepared to stump up with the dosh. Founder/director Timothy Martin says customers can watch all 380 games of the league on-line for $150 a season. Meanwhile TVNZ has the free-to-air rights and will show 38 premier league matches a season.
Sky's gotta be concerned at the possible subscriber drift. In fact, it must be seriously pissed that someone else waltzed in and took a piece of the proverbial pie. Its live sport monopoly was the main reason why Kiwis were attracted to Sky and why they're willing to pay $70-90 monthly for a package bundle of channels, the majority of which they don't even watch.
Coliseum has looked into what Sky doesn't provide or does poorly, and obviously one aspect is that the viewing is restricted to inside the home. Even though Sky still has all the other sports, people may decide that the luxury of mobility is a better alternative. The main obstacle for Coliseum is that consumers have got comfortable with Sky, warts an' all: being able to settle down in front o'telly-like with comfy slippers, pipe and wife, is perfectly acceptable for some. But if this new age of viewing takes off over the next few years, that scenario may become a distant memory.
The next move will be up to Sky...and its current consumers.
 [...with thanx to Anthony Murphy]

Friday, June 21, 2013

Muslim Terror Doll Is Funny?

If you think 'death by suicide bomber' makes a great greeting card, you may find this story disturbingly funny...
A US card company has used an educational toy meant for Muslim girls, for a terror-themed birthday card!
A doll in a pink hijab or headscarf is depicted on the card saying things like 'Pull string for message IF YOU DARE!' and 'She'll love you to death!' insinuating the innocent-looking doll is packing a load of C4 under her dress. Inside: 'Hope your birthday is a BLOW OUT!'
The card's based on a real doll for Muslim girls - the Aamina Muslim Doll, which speaks Arabic phrases - created to teach Muslim and Arab culture with toys.
But that message has been corrupted into a joke greeting card by NobleWorks Inc. The card (first released in 2011) was only recently noticed in a Chicago novelty store by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which claims it 'criminalises' their culture: "Islamophobic generalisations and negative stereotypes often hurt those most visibly perceived as Muslim, and women wearing the hijab are often the group hit the hardest."
Innocent educational dolls

On its website, NobleWorks publisher Ron Kanfi says he strives to impart "a sick, provocative, and sometimes controversial spin" to politics, religion, and current events: "As our motto goes: 'F**k 'em if they can't take a joke!' " Riiigghhtt.
The card's since been removed from the website. Couldn't risk a bomb doll through the window, huh, Ron?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Facebook Crashed - Did The World End?

Facebook, the world's most popular social network, temporarily crashed globally yesterday afternoon.
OMG! Who was to blame?
No, it wasn't Chinese chopping into the Pentagon, nor Iranians intent on injuring Israel. *shock*horror*probe* Anarchist digital group Anonymous patted itself on the back and claimed credit.
But why would it wangle such a wicked thang?! No explanation was given...evil, huh?
Here in New Zealand, the site appeared to stop loading and, for a while after it returned, a number of its search and news group functions didn't work. Sinistre...oui?
Over on rival social media Twitter, this caused major multi-lingual melt-down. One Portuguese Twitter user said: "TANGO DOWN by ANONYMOUS LEADER Blame it for global warming and everything else."
Diabólico! Others on Twitter were ever so slightly lighthearted:
"Where were you during the Great Facebook Crash of 2013?"
"Productivity rates just skyrocketed after that Facebook crash". [Methinx a truer word was never written in jest!]
Another wondered if they were personally responsible: "I used status update on Facebook, and now seem to have caused the entire site to crash for the last 5 minutes. MyBad. Sorry."
Mega founder and internet millionaire Kim Dotcom jokingly tweeted that the crash was linked to the American NSA's PRISM programme:"NSA is upgrading Prism capacity on Facebook today. Expect service interruptions on Facebook for the next few hours. :-)"
...meanwhile the rest of us - actually functioning happily in the real world - carried on, oblivious to this global catastrophe! *sigh*

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MediaWorks: THIS Is How It's Done

NZ taxpayers may wind up covering MediaWorks' butt. Again!
A restructuring deal may allow it to worm out of a $22 million bill to Inland Revenue. Bankers have put the company into receivership. Those big lenders have formed a new company, and the debt's miraculously shrunk from $700 million to $100 million along the way.
This phoenix-from-the-ashes transition will be managed by receiver KordaMentha. It says under the new set-up a disputed $22m IRD debt before the courts probably won't be paid. That means taxpayers will carry MediaWorks. Again. Just like in 2010, when it scored a $43m govt loan to pay for radio licence renewals!
MediaWorks' most recent financial accounts show total liabilities of $698m, and KordaMentha says the current debt's about the same. It says a disputed debt to IRD before the courts over the use of Optional Convertible Notes is likely to be unpaid: "If it was to come home and be a legitimate debt, it will be very unlikely it will be carried across to the new company." Receivership was chosen as the means to restructure debts that had become unsustainable for Mediaworks: "This is a story about a debt structure that has killed a business."
But wind that thought back to Ground Zero, and one must ask: when a media giant operates two TV networks, and eight nationwide radio networks covering every possible demographic, how could it still not have been able to reduce these debts?
How did its debt grow from $561m (in 2007) into today's $700m? Surely its various repeated financial restructurings would have straightened things out? But no, MediaWorks seems to have performed like the proverbial bottomless pit!
No business can expect to run at such monstrous loss, and still be smiled upon benevolently. Either there've been inept hands at the tiller...or MediaWorks was just too damn greedy. Take your pick: there aren't too many other options.
Meantime, if you want to dodge a $600m bullet, that's how it's done!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

MediaWorks Bites The Dust

The troubled owner of TV3 and half of New Zealand's commercial radio stations chomped into the dusty ol' receivership sandwich yesterday.
MediaWorks owes about $700 million - that's from its 2007 sale to Australian private equity firm Ironbridge by Canada's CanWest Global Communications. After more than six years, MediaWorks has struggled to pay even the interest bills!
But managing director Sussan Turner says there're no plans to make any of the company's 1400 staff redundant: "It's business as usual." It's hoped it'll emerge from the receivership in a restructured form, with debts of less than $100 million. So, just how will it either discover a spare $600m or write it off? And with no redundancies? "Our core business is strong and all divisions are trading well. We're confident we can successfully build on this solid platform." She did say no redundancies, right?
A possible new board appointee may be Julie Christie, reality tv show producer (who can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - see how her tv shows manage to score taxpayer subsidies while not adhering to their original briefs!)
MediaWorks' tentacles extend over the whole country. It operates two TV networks, and its insatiable hunger for every possible radio frequency has enabled it to establish eight nationwide radio networks. It also owns five regional stations, and a new media division, MediaWorks Interactive, that includes 18 websites and a mobile network.
Ironbridge bought MediaWorks in 2007 for $561m, but the broadcaster has needed repeated and ongoing financial restructuring, breaking several debt deals. In 2010 it scored a $43m govt loan to pay for radio spectrum licence renewals - remember the howls from opponents, citing Communications Minister Steven Joyce's conflict-of-interest as past managing director of the company's RadioWorks division??? (That loan was repaid in Oct.2012.)
It's understood Ironbridge and its co-investors have lost all the money they invested. MediaWorks was significantly larger than any of their other investments.
OK, so just to clarify: no redundancies? Watch this space...

PS: 18 June 2013 - MP Winston Peters calls the deal "shonky"!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Kakapo World’s Favourite Species

New Zealand's flightless parrot, the kakapo, has been named the World's Favourite Species!
As part of its 10th birthday celebrations – a popular online multimedia guide to the world's endangered species – sought to find the world's top 10 favourite species, with 14,000 voters from 162 countries taking part. In an online poll featuring 50 animals from across the globe, our own kakapo took out top honours ahead of the tiger in 2nd place and African elephant 3rd.
Sirocco the kakapo has been pivotal in bringing attention to the plight of his species, and for gaining global awareness.
Kakapo Recovery programme mngr Deidre Vercoe says the most pleasing aspect of the poll is that voters are most concerned about the need to protect the species from extinction: "It's become increasingly apparent that kakapo are treasured worldwide. It would be wonderful to reach a stage when all kids throughout the world know what a kakapo is, like they do a tiger."
The kakapo's first real introduction to the world stage was through the BBC documentary Last Chance to See - remember those scenes of Sirocco trying to 'mate' with the presenter's head? As a result of that, Sirocco shot to fame. He's now the official 'spokesbird' for conservation, goes on annual display as the ambassador for Kakapo Recovery and has more than 20,000 fans online.
The current kakapo population is 124, up from a low of 51 in 1995. There's been no breeding during the past two summers because of poor rimu crops, but the team predict a small breeding season for early 2014. The flightless birds rely on a good rimu fruiting season to trigger breeding. The long-term recovery goal is to have 150 females at three separate sites, one of which is self-sustaining.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Seeing Red In Christchurch

For the first time in more than two years, Christchurch people can explore another stretch of the city centre.
The red-zone cordon has been reduced to open up Colombo Street between Gloucester and Armagh Streets.
The cordon reduction will allow folk to see the remains of the 21-storey PWC tower, which once dominated the CBD skyline but which is now just a concrete frame, a tangle of steel and shallow water. Though not Chch's tallest building, it was its largest by land mass, and thus the city's biggest demolition job.
The cordon reduction is part of a programme that'll see all the main streets in the central city open to the public by the end of this month.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) CEO Roger Sutton says lots of people have been in to explore the newly-opened stretch of the city: ''Opening it as much as we can as fast as we can gives everyone a boost. I expect the central city to be busy as people explore those areas that they haven't seen in two years."
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Tower demolition, September 2012

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Bold And The Beautiful: Air NZ

The old...
Air New Zealand is laying on the Kiwi look thick.
It's ditching its old teal colour, keeping the koru on the tail of its planes, adding the silver fern and going black and white on all its aircraft!
Air NZ CEO Christopher Luxon says the Government-owned fern mark is used by Tourism NZ and NZ Trade and Enterprise, and the airline has negotiated the rights to use it as well.
The repaint of the entire fleet of 103 planes will start later this year and should be completed in about 18 months. Most would be white with the new black livery, but there'll be a select number of all-black planes with reverse white graphics, including the first of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, due for delivery next year.
...and the NEW!
Luxon: "We think it's iconic and very distinctive, and we hope it gives all NZers a sense of pride when they see this aircraft."
Air NZ unveiled a version last year without the fern, but that was labelled too conservative.
Luxon says the new look has "more movement and a dynamic feel" and was decided upon after extensive market research here and overseas, where it received a 78% approval rating. He reckons the repainting would not be a significant cost.
Experts say it'll help the airline stand out in a crowded market.
I think it looks clean and crisp, quite stark and bold - I look forward to seeing it! What do you think?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Last Call At Historic Dunedin Bar

As iconic as Auckland's Gluepot Tavern, so too is Dunedin's Captain Cook Tavern.
Every student of Otago University will have solid memories of that venue. But the historic pub, which first opened in 1860, closes its doors tonight, after the bar's owners and DB Breweries gave up the lease.
No one's taken over the lease, and the University says it won't be buying the pub, even though the Otago University Students' Assn (OUSA) wanted to save it and retain it as a student pub. OUSA Prez Francisco Hernandez: "A lot of students live in this area (close to the tavern), and students are a lot safer going to a bar where they live, compared to going all the way to the Octagon, which isn't safe on some nights."
Former students took over the bar's lease about nine years ago. The pub's a student institution, but has come under increased scrutiny from licensing authorities and the police.
Dunedin's already lost two other student bars. Otago Uni bought The Bowler in 2009 and converted it into teaching spaces. A year later it also bought and closed down The Gardies to make way for a study centre.
The owners of the Captain Cook building hope to attract a new operator to continue its legacy. Meanwhile they say a notice given to DB Breweries (which led to the building closing earlier than planned) was not a notice to vacate. It was given because the company considered the lease had been breached, as the building had been deteriorating. A lease condition was to keep the building in ''excellent working order'' and, if DB did not bring the building up to scratch, the owners would consider chasing it for the cost of any work that needed to be done. DB said it was unable to comment because legal proceedings were under way...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Desolation of Smaug: First Promo

Eagerly awaited: the brand-new trailer for Sir Peter Jackson's Hobbit part two, The Desolation of Smaug.
Midway between the release of An Unexpected Journey and Smaug, here's a wee taste of things to come. What's in it?
+ Most interestingly, a female elf warrior. More on her in a mo...
+ A glimpse of the title beastie Smaug at the end of the promo but no sound from the actor playing him: Benedict Cumberbatch (the recent villian in Star Trek: Into Darkness).
+ Gird your loins for the return of Orlando Bloom as Legolas.
With Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, Sir Peter expands on every detail he can in order to be informative, and sometimes adds entirely new was the case with LOTR's love story between Aragorn and Arwen. Tolkein wrote Arwen a more passive role as Aragorn's love interest and future wife. Peter Jackson put a twist on this by giving Arwen additional screen time and more action.
This time, PJ has added an entirely new character not present in the original book: Tauriel, the female elven warrior (Evangeline Lilly). PJ says she'll have a tremendous impact on the upcoming this space. But what will die-hard Tolkein addicts think of her red hair? The Sindarin "Moriquendi" - to whom the tribe of the Elves of Mirkwood belonged - were said to be dark-haired. In fact, they were called Dark Elves. Still, Legolas had blond hair (wasn't that strictly a High Elf thing?).
Overall the trailer promises action a-plenty, a relief after Journey's slower character-establishing moments.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug arrives December 13th.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

US Invades New Zealand

Go, Nat!
During World War II, about 100,000 American servicemen were stationed here in New Zealand.
Sgt Nathan E. Cook, 145th Regt., 37th Infantry Div., came down the gangway at Prince's Wharf in Auckland to become the first US soldier to step onto NZ soil, today in history, 12 June 1942 (Sgt Cook was chosen in commemoration of the explorer Captain James Cook).
Our country became a rear base for the Allies' counter-offensive against Japan. This American 'invasion' led to a considerable clash of cultures. Many local lads resented their presence: the phrase "overpaid, oversexed, and over here" was coined at this time, and ignited many an ugly brawl with the 'doughboys'.
At any one time between June 1942 and mid-1944 there were 15,000-45,000 US servicemen in camp here, mainly around Auckland and Wellington. Most spent time in NZ either before or immediately after experiencing the horrors of warfare on a Pacific island.
For both visitor and host, it was an intriguing experience with much of the quality of a Hollywood fantasy. The US soldier found himself 'deep in the heart of the South Seas' – a land of tree-ferns and semi-tropical 'jungle' (in the words of his US Army-issue pocket guide). Little wonder that marine Leon Uris later wrote a novel about the experience (Battle Cry) and Hollywood made a film (Until They Sail), based on a James Michener story, starring Paul Newman.
"Hi-ya, dollface!"
Many NZ women were swept off their feet by the strange accents and smooth manners of the newcomers and, after the war, followed their hearts to USA.
Almost 1500 NZ women married American servicemen, and were known as 'war brides'.
And the first steps were taken today in history...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

IKEA Massacres Garden Gnomes: News At Six!

Sensitive Brits are complaining about a tv ad depicting garden gnomes being murdered en masse!
I'll be BACK!!!
Swedish retailer IKEA has released a 2min. ad, showing *shock*horror* gratuitous scenes of garden gnome carnage, while broadcasting blatant anti-gnome/pro-garden furniture propaganda.
In the ad, a gang of garden gnomes attacks a suburban couple who're upgrading their backyard. A full-on fight ensues with the IKEA-loving, gnome-slaughtering couple emerging triumphant (or do they?).
If you hate garden gnomes, you'll love this ad. But some gnome-loving Brits are so disturbed by it that they've moaned to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) - no joke! ASA has received 50 complaints over the "frightening", "offensive" and "violent" ad which apparently encourages "emulation and anti-social behaviour." [OMG, get a LIFE!]
IKEA responded, saying the ad's a light-hearted depiction of an ordinary family attempting to bid adieu to "the ultimate embodiment of everything that's tired and dreary about British gardens: the garden gnome." IKEA assures us that no gnomes were harmed in the making of the ad, thanks to brave stunt doubles and some clever post production...
ASA is taking the complaints seriously but has no immediate plans to pull the ad. Quite frankly, the only thing in the tvc that should be complained the hideous IKEA garden furniture!

Enjoyed the music track? Time for Change is performed by The Palace Of Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra.

Monday, June 10, 2013

When In Denial, Blame The System!

A new study blames doctors' aloofness...for scaring male maori away from the health system!
In AlterNative, the indigenous peoples' quarterly journal (June 2013), professional distance - when it stops maori returning to healthcare centres even if they need help - is institutional racism!
A man goes to the doctor.
Why make it a race issue?

Researchers interviewed 47 maori men from Waikato (with a chronic condition or cancer) and 15 family members, about their healthcare experiences. Many of those reported responses to their illness shaped by dysfunctional relationships with their healthcare providers.
Some patients, even if they knew their family had a history of cancer, diabetes or heart-related conditions, felt there was little/nothing they could do to prevent the disease. Other patients preferred to 'wait and see' before asking for support. [Hmmm, thats more like STUPIDITY, not a 'dysfunctional relationship': "My dad and his dad died of diabetes. Let's see if I die too, before I seek help."]
Me? An agenda?
Researcher Erena Kara says most of the men were dismayed by doctors lacking cultural awareness and understanding. [Did these men go for a cultural experience... or medical attention?]
To clarify: 53 maori were interviewed - hardly representative, more like careful selection to make a result fit the hypothesis! From these, Kara found institutional racism oozing from the health system [ = nasty whitey's health system] to repress the underdog [ = poor downtrodden maori]. She wants mainstream health professionals to get cultural awareness training [Aren't  they overloaded enough..?].
Quite frankly, this sounds a crock of shit! Everyone is quite capable of going to the doc if they need attention. This has NOTHING to do with race...though it fits Kara's agenda to beat that drum.
If you're sick, seek help. If you're lazy, leave it til too late, then blame 'institutional racism' for making you too scared to see a doctor!
Institutional racism describes any kind of system of inequality based on race. If maori were to get preferential treatment by the NZ health system, that would be institutional racism - 'inequality based on race'. No-one can have it both ways.
The health system is there for all, regardless of race. Don't blame any precious ethnic timidity if you can't/don't/won't use it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Eyes Open In Cook Strait

The Cook Strait will be a hub of whale-watching activity over the next month, as Department of Conservation (DOC) researchers, former whalers and many other volunteers carry out the 10th. annual whale survey.
A record 106 humpback whales were counted in last year's 4wk.survey, with a second highest tally of 73 humpbacks the year before. It's hoped an upwards trend in humpback numbers will again be seen this year. Last year's survey also recorded the highest number of humpbacks in one day: 21 spotted on June 22.
The Cook Strait Whale Survey started yesterday and continues until Sat.July 6. It's been carried out annually since 2004, to assess humpback whale recovery since commercial whaling ended in New Zealand in 1964. It's timed for humpbacks' northern migration from Antarctic waters to South Pacific breeding grounds.
Seven former whalers have been part of the survey team from the outset, keenly putting their whalespotting skills and experience to use for the research which helps to protect whales in our waters.
Information to identify individual whales is gathered by approaching whales in boats, endeavouring to take photos and get skin samples using a biopsy dart tool. These are checked against photos and genetic samples from whales across the South Pacific to see if any match. The identification information to date shows some humpback whales, migrating through NZ waters, are also seen off the east coast of Australia and around New Caledonia.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

SQ308: Why They Tell You To Buckle In...

When turbulence strikes, it's better if it happens before mid-air mealtime.
On Singapore Airlines flight SQ308 from Singapore to London last Saturday, passengers were warned to expect "a bit of turbulence". It was announced the breakfast service would be temporarily suspended and the 'fasten seatbelt' sign flashed on. Then about a minute later came a rather urgent-sounding order for all flight attendants to immediately take their seats...
Passenger Alan Cross described what followed as "like being in an elevator with a cut cable or free-falling from some amusement park ride." Everything that wasn't tied down, including a few people, hit the ceiling!
After the severe speed-bumps, the flight attendants quickly came through the cabin to check for injuries (yes, injuries!!) and then calmly began cleaning up the mess. The flight continued normally for the next 10hrs, but the plane was met at Heathrow by paramedics: 11 passengers and one crew member needed attention. The passengers were given boxes of chocolates as they deplaned.
Cross said the cabin crew was amazing, as were fellow passengers who helped everyone around them in a calm and efficient clean-up "...and the chocolates were a nice touch."
Cool under fire...
SQ308 hit the worst type of air currents - clear air turbulence. Mostly, pilots can fly around storms because they know where they are. But clear air turbulence is like black ice on the roads: pilots often don't know when they'll hit a pocket, and a jet can drop a hundred metres in a few seconds as the currents slam the plane down.
But the good news is: if you're buckled in, the chances of injury during turbulence are almost nil. Lesson well learnt.
[photos thanx to Alan Cross]

Friday, June 7, 2013

Why So Angry, Little Fella?

Did you know there're 6000 little Lego faces?
And they're getting grumpier!
New research from the University of Canterbury says the increase in angry Lego faces reflects the times we live in. Robot expert Dr Christof Bartneck says the faces of the figures have changed, with an increasing focus on darker themes of conflict, where good forces struggle with bad. While there are Lego sets with a military theme (eg: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Toy Story and Lego Castle) there're no directly military-themed sets. This is in keeping with Lego's policy of not wanting to make war seem like child's play. However the Lego faces, previously all smiling, now include a range of emotions, and there's a high proportion of angry faces.
Dr Bartneck says the debate continues over the impact of violence in toys, but there's clearly a shift towards conflict themes.
Bartneck's work involved photographing the 3655 figures released between 1975 and 2010 - a labour of Lego Love! He says while the '70s figures all had the same smiley face, from 1989 the range included hundreds of different emotions.
Grrrrr!! Another bad hair day!!
He says the faces can be grouped into six main clusters: disdain, confidence, concern, fear, happiness and anger: angry and happy expressions are the most common. This worries the good doctor, coz he feels even something as simple as a smile or a frown on a toy can influence a child's behaviour or development over time.
He'd like Lego to stay positive and stop making the figures with angry expressions. He says, with more negativity, Lego may struggle to hold on to its highly positive reputation with today's kids.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Prize Dick Now Voted Top Prick

Australia's national communications minister calls it "bad taste".
One of the dickhead DJs linked to the suicide of a British nurse has been awarded the title of "Top Jock'' by his employer!
Michael Christian was joint winner of the metro category, in the contest that recognises Southern Cross Austereo network's "best in
I may be a prize dick...
but now I'm the TOP Prick!

the land''.
Christian, who now works at Fox FM in Melbourne, says regardless of everything that's happened, he's still at the top of his game, " it felt good to see my name at the top of the final leader board.'' Such ARROGANCE! Such ZERO COMPASSION! Such SOULESS SHIT!
This amazingly callous in-house honour comes six months after this bloody buffoon broadcaster and his offsider Mel Greig made a prank call to a London hospital, following which nurse Jacintha Saldanha took her own life.
In a statement, Southern Cross Austereo said it was "thrilled" to crown Christian. THRILLED!!! But Federal Comms Minister Stephen Conroy has criticised the award, saying it was not appropriate to give it to Christian: "There were some very serious consequences of the prank, and to be seen to be rewarding people so soon after such an event is in bad taste." Interesting that the other prankster, Mel Greig, has been cut off by management, and has no job...while Christian gets patted on the back for his 'brilliant broadcasting'! There're strong rumours that Greig was stopped from sending condolences to Ms Saldanha's family.
The awards' judging panel - Austereo's head of content Craig Bruce, Fox FM content director Dave Cameron and 2Day FM content director Derek Bargwanna - should do some serious soul-searching, if they believe fake phonecalls constitute 'good radio', especially ones with such disastrous consequences! SHAME ON THEM!
Following the original dickhead dial-up, 2Day FM's Facebook page was hit by 13,000 complaints. Wonder how many they'll receive now, for THIS acknowledgement of Top Fuckwitism!

06 June 2013 - British Labour MP Keith Vaz says "distasteful and disgraceful...", nurse's family gutted; Brits livid; TNT Mag calls it "grotesque".

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

ICR In Desperation Mode

No-one seems to know the exact size of Japan's national stockpile of unwanted whale meat.
Current estimates put the figure at around 5,000-6,000 tons of unsold whale meat sitting in the ICR's freezers. And more is on the way, with imports of endangered fin meat from Iceland...
Japanese health food shop?
Roughly 75% of Japan's own 2012-2013 catch (er..."research by-product") went unsold, and the ICR (Institute of Cetacean Research) is struggling with significant financial losses.
Though the public desire to eat toxic-laden whale meat is in steady decline, Japan refuses to abandon its annual hunts, spending millions of public dollars on equipment, fuel and repairs. So the ICR is desperately trying to pull out of it's nosedive, by advertising whale meat as 'a nutritious food that enhances physical strength and reduces fatigue.'
While whale meat used to be a staple of Japanese school lunches post-WWII, today's younger generations rarely consider eating it. The ICR is now aiming to promote the meat as a large source of
balenine, a substance believed to enhance energy and physical health. Balenine (or ophidine) is found in the muscles of several species of mammal (including man), and chicken...but it's nothing new. It's been touted as a performance enhancer for athletes for quite some time. But is the health gain also worth the risk of imbibing toxic pollutants?
The campaign's trying to sell whale meat to Japan's Self-Defence Forces too, as a way of improving servicemen's health and strength. The ICR will also distribute 7,000 brochures, meant to make the food more appealing by including recipes for dishes like whale meat sashimi and whale cooked with Chinese chives. Yum
Toxins for dinner, anyone?
yum...yeah, right.
Still, no-one can say the Japanese aren't very clever! This latest ploy sees the govt literally selling the whale meat back to itself! Tax money from the fisheries budget's spent on whaling...then tax money from the tsunami reconstruction budget's spent on whaling...and when the govt can't manage to get the whale meat auctioned off, tax money from the education budget's spent to buy whale meat...and now tax money from the defence budget's also spent to buy more whale meat...all to justify more whaling.
It's a self-sustaining loop spreading the 'whale debt' across four separate ministries of government!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Whales Wash Up On Wild West Coast

Three dead whales have washed up on along the South Island's wild West Coast in as many days.
Curious locals were drawn to the beach at Greymouth after the 6m carcass of a mature Cuvier's beaked whale washed up on Saturday morning (only eight to 10 Cuvier's beaked whales have washed up on West Coast beaches in the past 25 years).
On Sunday, a 15m sperm whale washed up halfway between Hokitika and Greymouth. Then on Queen's Birthday Monday, a small 2-3m whale or dolphin of unknown species washed up near Westport.
Department of Conservation marine scientist Don Neale says it's unusual for whales of different species to wash up so close to one another: "It's not unusual to have whales washed up on the beaches on the West Coast - we do get up to half a dozen a year of various species. But when they come up one after the other, it's a little bit less usual."
Neale says its unlikely the deaths are directly connected and they could be a coincidence - big storms lashed the West Coast last weekend, and these may have disoriented the whales and led to their deaths.
The whales have been inspected and photographed, but there are no obvious signs of ship strike or other external injuries. They'll either be buried or left to decompose naturally on the beach.

PS: 07 June 2013 - Make that FOUR whales washed up now... scientists are baffled.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How DOES Evian Do It???

Evian's done it again!
Its newest TV ad is a global viral hit! It's so popular that American tv shows have brought in experts to discuss its huge success!
The dancing babies commercial features adorable, nappy-clad stars movin' to the groove. It's a follow-up to Evian's 2009 TVC that featured roller-skating babies (which was viewed more than 65 million times), and Evian's water babies ad in 2010.
So, what do babies and bottled water have in common? Well, Evian has a long history of incorporating infants and toddlers into its TV ad campaigns. When it first launched, Evian mineral water was recommended for babies because it was PH neutral.
The new dancing babies ad takes place on a city street. It... well, rather than me describing it, see it for yourself. It's proof that good clean fun and undeniable cuteness can sell-sell-sell!

Evian's also produced the water babies tvc [click], and rollerskating babies tvc [click].

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thar She Flows! Really...?

If this story's true, it must be one of the most stunning finds of the last few centuries!
Russian scientists claim the frozen body of a 10,000-15,000 yr.old mammoth yielded blood so well preserved that it flowed freely!
Scientists announced the amazing news this week, following the study of the carcass of a female mammoth in good condition found on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean.
Semyon Grigoriev, head of the expedition and chairman of the Mammoth Museum: "The blood is very dark...found in ice cavities below the belly. When we broke these cavities with a pick, the blood came running out."
The temperature was -7 to –10C, so there's speculation that mammoth blood may have had some cryoprotective properties. The muscle tissue of the frozen carcass was also supposedly "stunning" - the colour of fresh meat, totally unlike meat that's centuries old.
Woolly mammoths died out around 10,000 years ago, although scientists think small groups of them lived longer in Alaska and on islands off the Siberian coast. Having deciphered much of the woolly mammoth genetic code, some believe it's possible to recreate them if they find living cells in the permafrost.
Is this story really true? COULD that blood have flowed freely after such time? And remembering how bad a piece of steak looks after being in the freezer for a year, COULD ancient mammoth flesh really have looked "a natural red colour"? REALLY???
Methinx this may be another "aren't we wonderful, leading the world" chest-beating exercise from Russia...