Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Stupid stupid stupid

"I have not been guilty of, or involved in, any inappropriate behaviour in my 24 years as a secondary school teacher. As well, I am not aware of any complaint of any kind."

I raised complaint with Benson-Pope, says Headmaster

How to get to Galli Galli Sim Sim

Not so long ago, I expressed my outrage at Kermit and Piggy getting pimped by Pizza Hut and Ford. In what I'm treating as an equal and opposite reaction, India is launching its own version of Sesame Street.

Mr Hooper's bakery has been supplanted by a corner store run by the multi-lingual Basha Bhaijaan. Basha's wife, Dawa Di, hails from north-east India and teaches dance. Although Elmo and Big Bird will have guest spots, the main muppets include a surreal hedonistic lion called Bhoombah, a character named after either a cricketing term or subtle product placement (Googly) and a storyteller called Aanchoo, who is transported to another place when she sneezes. The UK Independent has the story.

For more Indian spin on an English-originated story, check out the Bollywood version of Fight Club!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Telephone numbers

I'm no accountant, but things at Telecom must be getting dire. Back in '99, AAPT was worth A$2,300,000,000. Now it's reckoned to be about A$628,000,000, although comms analyst Paul Budde says it could go for half that.

Then there's the imminent death of CDMA in Oz, which will portend Telecom's inevitable switch from CDMA to GSM here. Rebuilding a GSM network is estimated to be between NZ$500,000,000 to 800,000,000. That's not including the opportunity cost on the redundant CDMA equipment, currently used to cover less than 10 percent of the globe. I could have told Telecom back in '99 that they should go GSM instead of mucking about with CDMA. In fact, I did tell them. Just no-one was listening.

Assuming rough parity with Oz & Kiwi dollars:

= -1,672,000,000
- 500,000,000
= -2,172,000,000

To give some perspective to this $2.2 billion or more pricetag, that is around 2 and a half times Telecom's annual net earnings for last year. $2,200,000,000 could have bought a LOT of fibre.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cult of Dagg

My twenty-something mates may look blankly at me at the mention of Fred Dagg, but Fred Dagg is in the panthenon of my household gods. Without him, there would be no Gumboot Day in Taihape. We wouldn't have that in-joke of "That'll be the door." We would have never known how lucky we were. Without him, NZ would have been left with the sole male role model of that fucking bastard Barry Crump.

Fred Dagg is one of many who will one day end up as a link somewhere in the Wall of goNZo. A big "we are not worthy" to RB for raising the Dagg Sea Scrolls to my attention. Tune in to TV One on March 6 at 9:35pm for a sniff of Dagg.

While RB hopes some more Dagg material gets released online, I'm going for broke. Fingers crossed that the doco makes its way online somehow, and I find out about it beforehand. It's on at a time that would clash with another god, Shihad. There's a students only gig at Vic Uni on March 6. The doors open at 8pm, with Autozamm opening. If I'm lucky, Shihad will start after 11pm, so I can have my Dagg and Toogood. Realistically, Shihad would probably start their set around 10pm. Bugger.

March 6 also happens to be my 36th birthday. I was born in yep, you guessed it, Year of the Dog. As you can see, this is a matter of some import. What should it be, people? The Shihad or the Dagg?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Good for a laugh

Jeremy Greenbrook has a plug for Wellington's answer to the Orkland's Classic Comedy Bar New Faces gig. The Green Room upstairs at Kitty O'Sheas is a chance for new comedy talent to give it a go on stage. Hosted by MC Cori Gonzalez Macuer (no relation), the next show on March 5 features 6 acts for $8. At less than a tenth of price of a shrink, it's good value medicine. See you there.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Bullshit detectors work best at night

Everyone has three bullshit detectors; the head, the heart and the gut. John Ralston Saul broke these down further in On Equilibrium: the head (reason and common sense), the heart (ethics and imagination) and the gut (memory and intuition). I prefer to reduce his complexity somewhat. Besides, three is a good strong number.

An interesting experiment in the Netherlands seems to show that high-cost decisionmaking works better when we sleep on it. If the brain alone is allowed to wield too much control, it tends to overanalyse the problem, resulting in poor decisions. Another important prerequisite is that the decisionmaker must be aware of the choice in order for the bullshit detectors to work properly.

The upshot of all this would be that complex questions should not be answered the same day, if one is to maximise one's critical faculties. Read more about the experiment here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Close to Homer

Nostalgia may be tinting my sunnies, but state television isn't what it used to be. I hated Close to Home. The theme music grated in much the same way as Coronation Street's still does. Thankfully, there was plenty of other local content to keep me happy. Who can forget the fantastic Natural History Unit which produced such gems as Landmarks, or the kid-news Video Despatch. McPhail & Gadsby introduced some treasured NZ colloquialisms. Before Billy T James went solo, he performed as part of the ensemble of Radio Times. For the tone deaf and tasteless, there was That's Country.

The loathing of Close to Home has been replaced by the equally loathesome Shortland Street. Instead of Landmarks, we have Frontier of Dreams. Dragonball Z has replaced Video Despatch as market research shows that children don't give a shit about the world around them. Eating Media Lunch has superceded McP&G, Dancing with the Stars instead of Radio Times. Nothing could replace That's Country, thank Dagg. Speaking of whom, characters such as John Clarke's Dagg have been eclipsed by celebrities such as... well, none are worthy to be compared with Fred Dagg.

I have some sympathy for the likes of Dame Cath, Sir Ed, et al, and their letter to Steve Maharey stating that an excessive zeal for advertising revenue has ripped the guts out of public broadcasting. They are largely correct. While we have greater width of NZ content than almost ever before, the depth is sadly lacking. For every nugget of meaty goodness such as EML or Beginners' Guide, there are a dozen cheap and nasty reality programmes that require no writer to imagine, no director to steer, no brain to engage.

Investigative reporting and in-depth analysis on current affairs are anathema to advertisers. How many toothpaste salesmen want the audience so enlightened by thinking during a program, they dicuss the import of discussion and rebuttal during the ad break and ignore their pearly whiteners? None, if they wish to continue employment. Braindead viewers are uncritical sponges with money. Little wonder we have presidential election campaigns like the Yanks. Television programming has been subsumed into the US TV format, a Milky Way bar of wanky packaging and appearance, of little substance or sustenance.

TVNZ is bleeding out its arse so badly, it makes South Park's Bloody Mary look like light spotting. For almost ten years, a series of clusterfucks by various partisan cronies has reduced a once-sellable and highly successful company to a postmodern parody of The Larry Sanders Show. Digital TV, the only realistic long-term survival option, was sold off with the Sky TV shares. The glorious TV Charter, that hormunculus of wishful thinking, lies stillborn on the floor. All the wrong people are in the headlines. And there's no sign of light at the end of this tunnel. It looks set to go on and on and on...

So where to from here? This is a chance for Labour V to do the Vision Thing. In her speech from the throne earlier this week, Helen Clark has shown a willingness to adopt a Big Picture on the Telecom broadband thing. I'm hoping she has the guts to do the same to TVNZ. After all, she is the Minister of Arts & Culture. Here's a few starter ideas:
  1. Dump the Charter in a way that allows Labour to save face. NZ on Air has proved it can handle the jandal. Focus funding on this and this only. Partition a set percentage of TVNZ revenue and direct it straight to NZ on Air.
  2. Promote the Maori TV model to introduce seat of the pants production in much the same way as South Pacific Television did back in the late '70s.
  3. Headhunt down at the art centres, the theatres, the comedy lounges. Hell, even the universities might have some ideas. Take risks, or at least delegate the risks to someone who has an eye for this stuff.
  4. Introduce more online NZ material through the Film Archive, in a similar way that British Pathe has open sourced its archives. Context is everything.
Like the broadband thing, the TVNZ mess is not going to go away of its own accord. NZ music has been going ballistic. Given the right encouragement, the same can happen with TVNZ. I mean, it couldn't get worse could it?

Days of miracle and wonder

Congratulations to Aysser Aljanabi, the new Head Prefect at St Mary's College and the first Muslim Head Girl at the state integrated Catholic School. While the Old Girls Association thinks the choice is controversial and the principal deems it inappropriate to comment, this blogger says Nice One, Aysser! It's great to see someone overcoming religious snobbery and breaking through the stained glass ceiling.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Why tangi? Celebrate!

Decisions, decisions...
  1. Porirua's Festival of the Elements - very good day there last year, recommended
  2. Waitangi at Frank Kitts, featuring kapa haka, Cook Island drumming, Bollywood Dance, Latin American Dance and Soulcake.
  3. One Love promises funkin’ good time at the Hataitai Velodrome - The Black Seeds, Cornerstone Roots and a licensed bar.
Only in NZ, eh? I think I'll pick Number 3, Selwyn.

From all of us here at the goNZo Freakpower Brains Trust, we wish you a very Hippy Waitangi Day.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Democracy per capita

"The past tempts us, the present confuses us, and the future frightens us ...and our lives slip away, moment by moment, lost in that vast, terrible in-between." - JMS

Congratulations to Tim Pankhurst, chairman of the NZ Commonwealth Press Union Media Freedom Committee and editor of the Dominion Post, for publishing the Mohammed cartoons. It was the right thing to do. Was the story newsworthy? Was publishing the cartoons helpful in communicating all the relevant facts, giving readers as much information as possible to decide for themselves? Was the story framed in a manner that gave least possible offense, while balancing the right to know? Did publishing the cartoons show solidarity with fellow newspapers around the world? Most certainly.

Perhaps the decision weighed more heavily on Mr Pankhurst than other NZ editors. Being boss of the NZCPU Media Freedom Committee is no bed of roses. It means you must stand up for the very best of reasons, leading where others fear to tread. Yesterday, he fulfilled the role admirably with an eloquent explanation of why this is all so important. I do not, and cannot, accept the view that the publication was gratuitous or in poor taste, as some commenters at DPF's submit. No doubt it's a touchy subject. Some Muslims were offended and that's understandable.

When I was working in a conference centre ten years' ago, we had a delegation of Japanese businessmen over for a few days. The restaurant manager (call her Edna) refused to work at any of the functions. As a Brit who had strong memories of WWII, Edna found it offensive to kowtow as a servant to them. Most, if not all, of the other staff disagreed with her sentiments. To bear a grudge against a race of people for past injustices beyond their control is futile and ultimately self-destructive. But we did support her right to express that deeply-held core principle, an integral part of her character. She expressed it forcefully to management, angry tears in her eyes.

The boss rostered Edna elsewhere and I looked after the Japanese functions. The restaurant manager came over once or twice to glare at The Japs from behind the servery door. On these occasions, I ensured that staff were prepared to jump her if she looked like she was going to throw a plate or knife at them. Fortunately, the only daggers thrown were mental ones. Later, we'd be in the pub and I saw that somehow the process had been cathartic for her. We all got over it.

I have faith that the NZ Muslim community understands all this, and it is not just the lack of numbers that keeps their anger in check. I disagree with most of what Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand president Javed Khan has been quoted in the NZ Herald:
"Freedom of expression does not mean 'absolute' freedom"
he mature and honourable thing to do now is for The Dominion Post to apologise and retract such printing."
There is hope in his calls for order. In the DomPost:
"We won't call for a boycott, and we don't want to see one, but news gets around the world pretty quickly. Muslims will make their own decisions and as you know, they've taken drastic action against Denmark."
Or in the Herald:
"The Federation would also like to call upon the Muslims in New Zealand to show restrain (sic) in the face of such flagrant provocation and seek God's grace for patience and forbearance," Mr Khan said.
They will endure this because that is one of the opportunity costs of living in a secular democracy like ours. We all own freedom of speech and a free press. Nothing is sacred. Everything is sacred. This is non-negotiable. It is part of what makes us us.

NZ's non-Muslim community is also on a sharp learning curve. Pankhurst's lead has forced some of our alleged representatives to finally speak for the nation. Chris Carter went on record accusing that the DomPost and The Press "had ignored their social responsibility and undermined New Zealand's reputation as a tolerant country." Jim Sutton was choosing his words very carefully last night, inferring that it shouldn't have happened. PC Eradicator Wayne Mapp is staying silent on a matter which would largely seem to over-qualify for his portfolio. Parliament's two Muslim representatives have remained curious by their absence on this crucial matter. Don't expect any help from any of them. No word from anyone important yet. The wordsmiths in the PM's office must be trawling dictionaries to find some words to negotiate through this.

Let's be clear about this. A free press and the rights to expression are bigger than the nuclear free thing, the last best example of NZ cutting its nose to spite its face. It would be helpful, though not necessary, if the MPs were on our side. There is precedent for artists, thinkers and other humans to say what we mean more articulately than the party hacks.

Perhaps this is what Geoffrey Palmer was getting at during his lecture the other night. For the things that really matter, like a constitution, it comes from all of us. It has to. Something to bear in mind during Waitangi Day tomorrow.

My captain! My captain!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Kermit & Miss Piggy turn to prostitution

DisneyCorp, who purchased the rights to Kermit, Miss Piggy and many non-Sesame Street muppets in 2004, will start pimping Kermit & Piggy out tomorrow during the Superbowl. Miss Piggy will plug Pizza Hut, while Kermit will sell his soul for the Ford Escape SUV.

How fucking wrong is this?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Perfect Day

It's definitely been a day of sensory overload. Another typical day in Wellington.

I left my hole in the hill at the properly civilised time of high noon (Whoever invented the 9 - 5 work day was a sick pervert). A cruisy scenic walk down OK Road, eyes left at the harbour and the sedimentary horizon of water, hills, cloud and blue. Down the 147 steps to Garden Road, grabbing a handful of blackberries from the bushes for breakfast. Cut through the Botanic Gardens and a short stop to smell the roses. Turn right at Seddon's bones, walk over the motorway (keep passing the open windows) down into The Terrace.

Suits thick on the footpath in their clockwork feeding frenzy. A shroud of cigarette smoke keeps them at bay. Weave down Woodward and run into a parade. Oh yeah, the Sevens thing. A fine turnout of chicks going gaa-gaa for the teams. While their attention is distracted, I get a good chance to goo-google them. Niiiice. Wellington chicks have come a long way since an ambassador justifiably compared their dress sense with combat soldiers. Wellington chicks are hot, and not in that Stepford Wives way that Newmarket chicks have. These ones have character.

Over to Oriental Bay, sitting above the only beach I know where the pigeons outnumber the seagulls three to one. If I wasn't going to a lecture later, it would have been a good idea to bring the togs and towel. Ah well, there's always tomorrow.

Turn on the iPod and set the autopilot to Te Papa for the Treaty Lecture featuring Judge Joe Williams and Hon Geoff Palmer. In the museum, Geoff from Thorndon Bubble has to practically throw himself in front of me to get my attention. Wise move. Tag along with him and his mates into Soundings Theatre. It slowly fills to capacity, over 300 people. Good cross section too. They weren't all guilt-ridden white liberals and Maaori activists. Recognise a judge near the back, slumming it in jeans and t-shirt. Is that Dame Margaret Bazley? A large handful of Wellington luminaries are there. Although no actual politicians are evident, Geoff points out Chapman Tripper Stephen Franks on the far left, for a change.

A good couple of speeches (more on them tomorrow) and some complex questions followed. Judge Joe answered honestly and concisely, while the Honourable Geoff got frank with Stephen, humiliating him quite badly.

What a day.

The Centre Cannot Hold

Chris Trotter has a mind-blazingly enlightening column in the Independent, outlining the battle lines in what looks set to become a really interesting parliamentary term.

Only one quibble. Remember Marilyn Waring? It goes to 11.

Productivity gain

Some female students are taking up Don Brash's advice and working smarter, not longer hours. Why work 20 hours at $10 an hour when you can earn up to $100 an hour and work 2 hours? Lady, get thee to a sugar daddy.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Heads up virus alert

Nyxem, a virus that all versions of Microsoft is vulnerable to, is on the loose. The virus, which goes under a number of names including Blackmal, Kama Sutra and MyWife, was first detected on January 16. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the virus is supposed to activate on Feb 3, destroying a wide range of files including Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Acrobat on infected machines.

Be warned.

Te Papa, proud supporter of Sara Lee

Te Papa, NZ's national museum, has decided to dump Cafe L'Affare as its coffee supplier, preferring to buy US made. L'Affare has supplied coffee for Te Papa's cafes and restaurants since the museum opened its doors back in the days of Shipley. That all changed when Te Papa tendered the contract by invitation to two multinationals and Cafe L'Affare. Douwe Egberts, a subsidiary of the Chicago-based Sara Lee Corporation, won the tender. A talking head at Te Papa told Capital Times that the change "was a commercial decision, and one also based on quality."

Two words can describe that response: bull and shit.

Firstly, let's examine the commercial decision. According to the Te Papa Cafe menu, a coffee will set you back $3.50. Coffee at non-taxpayer subsidised cafes range from $2.50 to $3.50, depending on how much milk goes in, so Te Papa charges well above average prices for coffee. I doubt whether Te Papa will be dropping prices now that they've sourced cheaper stuff.

If Te Papa were truly looking for a competitive deal, why tender by invitation and then only to three suppliers? L'Affare boss Tony Kerridge was also told that "price was not an issue in the decision and he doubts that Douwe Egbert can supply better coffee than local roasters."

Were Te Papa implying that Supreme, Astoria and Havana roast crap coffee and are not even worth considering? Wasn't Faggs worth giving a nudge and a wink, or did they reckon the name would put off some of the tourists? As the King of Cuba, Geoff Marsland, said:
"Coffee-wise, we are up with the best in the world. People come from Italy and go ‘shit, you have the best coffee in the world’."
Damn straight. And as far as triple bottom line reporting goes, at least Havana and Supreme actively support Fair Trade prices. Sara Lee are a bit slow on the uptake, sourcing only 10 percent of its worldwide supply from Utz Kapeh-certified beans in 2005.

All in all its a poor look for an alleged national icon. What's more, they do themselves no favour by showing what looks like airport coffee on its site:

Streamlined Stats

Well done to the Department of Statistics for the online census. It's good to hear they are giving more options, lowering the hurdles and other necessary evils associated with our five-yearly family snapshot. If it all goes good, this could be the start of a wonderful trendshift. Once you start lowering the barriers to democratic participation, who knows where it will end? Voting?

We're the first country in the OECD to have a go at an online census. This in itself is a milestone. NZ hasn't been first in anything good in the OECD for yonks. Finally, a leader not a follower! (The lowest unemployment stat doesn't count. It isn't real)

Bonus points for transparent advertising, asking ordinary people to explain what the census means to them. Juxtapose that with the artifice of actors pretending to be ordinary people, reciting adman lines such as "Wendy Petrie? She's hot." The why's guys vs the advertise guys. I know who I'd put more trust in.