Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Quantum of Hobbit

As I understand matters so far, a Lord of the Rings model maker's out of court settlement crossed a chasm between contractor and employee. In order to prevent an Australian actors' union from using the tenuous precedent to disrupt filming, the Nats are passing an urgent law on video games. I'm quite attuned to convoluted plots, but this one has me stumped.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sentence of the day

Another essay deals with a group of aphasiacs - people who through damage to their speech centres can no longer understand speech - who watch a televised speech by an unnamed politician (heavily hinted to be Ronald Reagan), and who are brought to hysterical laughter by the insincerity of his tone and body language.

From the Telegraph. I have never got around to reading Oliver Sacks, but this sentence might tip me off the chaise lounge of procrastination.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Painful confetti

Nicked from here

Whoever won the UK election was always going to be facing seven shades of shit on their plate. If you want to see Rogernomics writ quite large in a modern font, go to old Blighty these days. Meantime the US teeters along on another round of artificial stimulus, putting off for one more day the sad fact that the junkie is broke. Whenever that taco breaks, it'll make the collapse of the USSR look like sanity.

Portrait of ugly

The bill to strip the vote from all prisoners passed its second reading last night. The bill's sponsor, National MP Paul Quinn, began the vote:

I urge you to watch the clip above for a study in hollow arguments and poor communication. Of the nine minute clip, the first two minutes plods across the glaring hole in the legislation as pointed out by Andrew Geddis (That was the part of the bill which gave all prisoners the right to vote). Paul Quinn places the blame on the Parliamentary drafters, not his own daft bill. Quinn then spends the rest of his time defending the bill against the minority reports from the select committee, brushing Bill of Rights Act protections aside.

This vulgar speech was followed up by further ugliness. Team Nat backed up the bill with token Me Too-isms:

Act the allegedly Liberal Party's Heather Roy chimes in with 30 seconds of nodding:

I have been angered in the past with abuse of parliamentary action. MPs rushing through additions to their Superannuation entitlements in the dead of night, smash and grab tax increases on tobacco and alcohol. But this is law without reason. It is ideological not logical. This is a new low.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Fordian Enlightenment

The teachers are striking, the National Standard testing regime is a goer. Time for another RSA Animate. Sir Ken Robinson looks at the "modern" education system's batch-cooked, medicalised, standardised, bastardised, 19th Century paradigm:

Full speech here. Viva diversity.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Outrageous Outrage

It seems you can't say cunt on TV3 at 8:42pm on Outrageous Fortune. The producers of the show can claim innocence based on the assumption of a usual 9:30 timeslot. Calling Draska a cunt saves a lot of time of needless flashbacks of why Cheryl would call her that. And it's not as if the word hasn't been thrown around before at judicious moments.

If I had any complaints about this last season of Outrageous Fortune, dropping the c bomb is not the biggest of my complaints. Aaron Spiller's airtime and the times Robyn Malcolm literally phoned home her lead status are bigger crimes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Twangy Wig-out

Richard Feynman's dad was a uniform salesman. The physicist learned from an early age that the pope was just some guy in a suit. Power and authority legitimised by tradition's accumulated mass of threads. My old man was a lawyer, a bastard granted legitimacy with horse hair and mad rector cape. His function was to keep another bunch of uniforms, the police, from ruling the masses like sheriffs from Nottingham.

So I dig Feynman's principle. In her own way, it's what Helen Clark was aiming at in her own blinkered efforts to bring the lofty halls of justice back to street level. Earlier signs of levelling came through Chief Judge Eichelbaum's decision to remove the wearing of lawyer robes and wigs in court proceedings in 1996.

So what's all this about bringing the wigs and gowns back?
Lawyers should return to wearing gowns in court, the Law Society says – but the suggestion has been mocked as silly and elitist, with one legal bigwig arguing the attire should remain "in the dress-up box". 

The Stuff story sources this archaic novelty as the Law Society, but this story at LawFuel reckons it was from Attorney General Chris Finlayson. Wellington Governor's Counsel Lithgow has been liberal with his scorn:
Funny clothes are for private clubs, private schools, freemasons and sects. The gown is the last remnant of the ill-matched black gown of the medieval scholar and teacher and the powdered wig of the restoration fop. Individually and collectively, with or without little bibby things, they are silly, elitist, and serve no proper function in the support of a people first justice system.
TVNZ vox pops the legal brigands as well.

On the police front, Police Minister Collins is foreshadowing the routine arming of police car patrols and holsters as part of police uniform. John Key is saying that to avoid arming the police with guns, we must arm them with tasers. Police mouth Greg O'Connor is ecstatic. It's all his para-military dreams come true.

Guns and taser training. That looks good on an NZ cop CV looking for a job in Queensland. TV3 has more on that story here.

Not only do Finlayson and Collins share a taste for men in uniform - albeit one cross-dressing, one fascist - but they point to a worryingly authoritarian swing in the seat of power. I don't know what kind of pep talk that Nat cabinet had over recess, but something's in the water. Even Simon Power is acting passive aggressive on a relatively sound idea.

Maybe there's something that cabinet knows that we don't. Could be an interesting silly season.

Free Zealandia

Zealandia, formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, is offering free entry to locals this Saturday and Sunday. In other news, the Kakariki has been crowned NZF&B's Bird of the Year.

The winner of last year's title, the Kiwi, was not returning calls from the media.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crisis, the musical

HBO is making a TV movie based on Alan Sorkin's book Too Big To Fail. William Hurt, Billy Crudup and Ed Asner will play Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and Warren Buffett respectively. Hot on the heels of NZ Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard's book Crisis, how long before NZ on Air funds our own version of the meltdown? Karl Urban would be a shoo-in to play Bollard.

Wade-Brown Town

Congratulations to Celia Wade-Brown, the new mayor of Wellington. David Farrar sez that Celia is nominating Westie Councillor Andy Foster for Deputy. I'd second that. The Lambton clique have been ruling the city for long enough.

And I presume that's the last we've heard of a Wellywood sign too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inflatable assets

Inflatable Russian tanks are making news, but the stunt has been around a while. More novel is the US attempt to inflate an artificial university in northern Iraq. The students are keen to learn but the faculty are a mixed bunch. It runs like a neo-con version of Animal House:
The first sign that he was not exactly committed to intellectual integrity was his choice of textbook for the course: an abominable book called America: The Last Best Hope, by William Bennett. Yes, THE William Bennett, Reagan’s Secretary of Education, the buffoon who sermonized on virtue until his gambling losses added up so high that they drowned out his pomposities, the man who once scolded a child in public for wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt.

Bennett’s title sums up the thesis of his textbook clearly: America is literally, simply, the last and best hope for the human species. Tough luck, China — or Burma, or Ecuador, or any other nation on the planet — because we R it, the alpha and omega. It’s a classic reactionary thesis: “I can’t imagine any nation ever being as great as America; therefore no nation ever will be.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Key of Man

Dim Post and Red Alert are holding caption contests for this photo:

Danyl suggests a bowler hat, and so here's my hasty etching:

Evil Boy

Paul Henry has pulled the pin and TVNZ are left wondering what to do with the advertorial news and current affairs show Breakfast. Just as Outrageous Fortune was always the Cheryl West Show, Breakfast was the Paul Henry Show. The niche that Henry's escalating village idiot persona drew on ended up swallowing his cushy job.

A left swinging dick like Oilver Driver couldn't save TV3's Sunrise, and Henry the right swinging dick might just bury Breakfast. I don't really care either way, but the housewives deserve something to dilute the soap operas. Maybe they could try an all-chick line-up for a change. If not, TVNZ really needs some non-threatening entertainer in there who is more Selwyn Toogood than Les Patterson.

EVIL BOY (official) from Die Antwoord on Vimeo.

Song backstory at MoJo.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Landslides and other spillages

The people of Auckland should give themselves a pat on the back. As far as first stabbings at a Supercity Council goes, that's a pretty good result. Congratulations to Len Brown becoming the first High Mayor. From early fumbles and quite creative spin out of the blue corner, Len Brown has swept decisively into the job. Even with the clunky FPP vote splitting the right with Colin Craig, the gap between Brown and Banks was huge.

The Banks campaign was not helped at all by John Banks. He was never quite firing right from the beginning, but I think he had an "Anderton moment" with that boy drinking himself to death on his doorstep. The meltdown at his surprise appearance at the inquest a few days before polling closed was a strange and desperate last fling at meshing the populist with the parent.

There were other odds and sods too, titbits such as Banks only going to the movies three times in his life. Small joys that the masses take for granted, communal enjoyment which this robot just couldn't compute. Tens of thousands of hours Banksy has given us with his received wisdom over the years, nay, decades of talkback, etc. He has not managed to spend any time at all immersed in someone else's story for 90 scant minutes. Banks was also linked to the big bailout of My Fair Lady not so long ago, a stage production of epic failure proportions. His finger on the pulse of the city plank was all shot to hell.

Auckland also gave the C&R ticket a good caning too, with only five getting a seat on the Council. The North Shore has forsaken its brush with change after the Williams fling and has returned George Wood as their Councillor. Wood was probably doing C&R a favour, same as 90s throwback Christine (Chris) Fletcher who also got in. But the Born to Rule aristocracy got a serious telling off, especially by the Smart Young Things; Brewer, Swney, etc.

Of course, there were some races which were utter stitch-ups:

But on the whole, the turnout, the balance of the Council forces, the very clear mandate, it's all good for Auckland. There's hope for them yet.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sam and Nummy go to New Zealand

I am loathe to revisit the story of NZ's most highly paid twelve year old, especially while he is still in the naughty corner. However, out of bullshit springs daisies. I have been enjoying the thread of this post of Russell Brown's over the affair, which has morphed into an exposition on what it means to be One of Us in the forum. It all brings to mind a couple of tales; the story of Sam and the story of Nummy.

I bumped into both characters in my chequered restaurant career. Sam was the best cold larder chef I ever met. Hailing from Indonesia, he was a demon at appetisers and desserts, part of an award winning team of gastronomes. One of this team still works Courtenay Place, but not Sam. Sam is now offshore.

Sam had been in NZ ten years and had working himself into a respectable position in the Wellington culinary scene. Worked hard, paid his taxes. He had been at Restaurant X for well over two years when he was locked up and deported in short summary.

Sam had done two things wrong. Firstly, he had overstayed his workers permit by some years, and had never faced the outlaw status before it was forced upon him. The immigration service was informed of his whereabouts by his then-NZ girlfriend, who had feigned contraception during their relationship in order to go on the DPB. One day they locked him up in Wellington police station. Within three days he was deported to Indonesia.

Nummy escaped from Mugabe's Zimbabwe, selling up his middle class assets as the currency devalued by the minute. Gone was the land, the boat, the job at the supermarket. His cashed up savings a tenth of what it was worth before Mugabe lost the plot in the late Nineties and the family emigrated to NZ.

I met Nummy in Auckland in the early 2000's. He was managing a central city restaurant near Sky City. He ended up not long afterwards, like me, scrounging a living at that temple of Mammon itself. We didn't have much chance to talk on the floor there, but he confided in me that his NZ residency was merely a means to ends, the endgame being Oz. Sure enough, that's where he is now.

NZ is not an easy place to live. I reckon that if anyone makes it 10 years in this place and wants to stay, good on them. And their kids.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Chariots of FIRE

What would the US House and Senate look like if you ordered members by major campaign contributions? MoJo slices and dices.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Repartee machine

What was said:
 Click image to embiggerate
What TVNZ thought was said:
 What John Key should have said:
What Paul Henry's apology said what he meant to mean:
Make your own highly rating insult:

Monday, October 04, 2010

The popular vote

Get your local body vote in soon. If you don't, you lose the moral prerogative to whine for the next three years, and will have to shut up.

And Paul Henry can just shut up altogether. His ooze on TV is like the secreted fluids left after Noel Edmonds spent the night shagging Glenn Beck on the roof of the Death Star, the leaking of toxic juices rotting through to the studio floor and passed off as a morning TV host.

But didn't we learn a lot about the PM though.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


This just in from the MetOffice. The whole country is guaranteed a week of sunlight. About bloody time, La Niña!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Letter to Bernard

Some smart dead Greek guy once observed that you can never step in the same river twice. The good keen trampers of NZ don't need to be told the truth of that. Even the best of plans, through the entropy of time, erode downstream. Chaos theory is based on the concept of System Dependent on Initial Conditions. Due to measurement rounding and time, what started out as predictability is rendered to white noise.

So I've always treated economics with as much respect as religious tomes; spiked with historical observations and occasional pearls of wisdom, but still requiring too large a leap of faith to base an entire philosophy upon. Sacred texts of rationality and ineffable logic, all of them. But there's everything else as well.

It's also why I get so annoyed with the USA. The founding fathers were wise enough to realise that their sentiments would fall into disarray over time without the strong voice of its people to guide and reinvigorate their government. Now it's all professional lobbyists from K Rd riddling Washington DC, nutjob teabaggers swamping the forecourts of mainstream media and mid-term elections. Where are all the smart Americans? Offshore or working for a hedge fund?

I haven't been shackled to neo-liberal orthodoxy the way Bernard Hickey has. I'll defend what the Fourth Labour government did, but I never liked Thatcher or Reagan. Economics is only a tool, an abstract one at that. The larger task at hand for any government is the long term well-being and prosperity of its citizens.

Most of Bernard's wrath is aimed at the Global Financial Crisis. Sure, we had to deal with the ripples to our shores, as detailed in Bollard's book. The crisis, in part, can be blamed on the loosening of rules around investment banks under Clinton, as well as a heap of bad lending and mutton sold as lamb. Reagan's wholesale slaughter of regulation was also a big factor (Reagan's crimes go on, from corrupting the Supreme Court and regulatory bodies to the unresolved Iran Contra scandal, but that's another post).

The wild currency swings that the NZ dollar faces on the open seas has made it hard going for exporters. Not only do they need to be good at manufacturing and selling, they have to become experts in hedging the dollar as well. Wrong bets can and have killed businesses. It has been this way since the NZ dollar was floated in 1985.

Now don't go blaming Rogernomics for the floating dollar. The pegged dollar had been dead for some time, just stuffed with borrowed overseas cash and Muldoon's cackling ventriloquism. It died the day of the Nixon Shock, itself wedged between two other catastrophic effects on NZ exports of the era; falling wool prices in the late sixties and the UK joining the EEC in the early seventies.

The end of the Bretton Woods Agreement marked the end of the era of American Empire, just as Britain abandoning the gold standard had relinquished its empire decades earlier. The USA has limped along since then, relying on increased government borrowing for the last thirty years to keep up appearances of normality.

The absence of an international trading standard allowed the foreign exchange traders into the pond. These were amongst the scavengers feeding off the pegged NZ dollar before devaluation in 1984. George Soros did a similar thing to England on Black Wednesday. It is scenes such as these that makes me very wary of returning to a fixed peg currency.

There is talk of a new international currency, IMF Special Drawing Rights. Until something like that happens, there's no way a minnow like NZ can outbid the big fish in the international waters.

And as for tariffs, the big problem with tariffs is how to remove them when they're no longer warranted and the money could be more productively spent elsewhere. We went through all this with SMPs and farmers in the '80s. America has distorted its farm subsidies beyond belief. As the documentary Food Inc demonstrated so well, the price is much higher than that advertised. The US will one day have to face a balancing of the books. It will not be pretty. Do we really want to go back to that trap?