Saturday, November 28, 2009

Erebus, 30 Years On...

Erebus crash site, 1979On November 28, 1979, an Air New Zealand DC10 sightseeing jet flew straight into the side of the world's southernmost active volcano, the 3794m-high Mt Erebus in Antarctica, instantly killing all 257 aboard.
It was said at the time that every single person in NZ either knew a victim or knew someone who did: in other words, in such a small country, we were all touched somehow by Erebus and its aftermath. Thirty years later, there's an entire generation to whom Erebus possibly means little...but for others the disaster, the rumoured cover-up, the blaming and the classic line "an orchestrated litany of lies" have left an indelible mark.
tail section at Erebus, 1979So much was written, debated, confused and jumbled about in the years following the crash and the enquiry, that many may still not have a clear understanding of it, but the Dominion Post's 2008 article seems to have put all the ducks in a line quite well. The NZ Air Line Pilots Assn also has a comprehensive site, worth reading.
Air New Zealand recently apologised to victims' families for the manner in which the enquiry was handled, with a sincere hope that today, on the 30th anniversary of the disaster, they and the country can gain closure.
Erebus crash site, 1979

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Harawira Legacy

That's my boy! GO, son! Stick it to dem honkeys!You may/may not be aware, but Hone Harawira (subject of recent NZ political controversy) is the son of veteran maori activist Titewhai Harawira, regarded by some as one of the most vicious women in New Zealand.
Harawira's notoriety stems from 1989 when she assaulted a psychiatric patient while heading Carrington Hospital's Maori Health Unit: she was convicted and jailed. In 1998 she reduced then-Labour Party leader (future Prime Minister) Helen Clark to tears at the Waitangi marae...no small feat! In 2000, she urged a traditional maori punishment for sex criminals - tying flax around the penis and pulling until the appendage was torn off. Two years later, she demanded pakeha (ie: all non-maori) pay rent to live in NZ: presumably she wanted the rent to go to maori.
Ex-MP John Tamihere wrote this piece in February 2004 following yet another Waitangi Day fracas...note how the Harawira clan features actively throughout. Google her name - you'll find all this and more out there in the 'public domain'. She's even mentioned somewhat derisively several times in Hansard (the offical record of the NZ Parliament).
For some interesting background on the family militancy, have a read of this Herald article.
One wonders what's in the Harawira heart, that has raised children to be as radical in their views as their mother. Figure this out, and maybe understand why Hone behaves the way he does.
Recently on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report, Titewhai Harawira said it was ironic her son's email scandal occured on November 5th, the anniversary of the destruction of Te Whiti's Parihaka settlement. She claimed that at Parihaka in 1881, colonial troops "raped the women, cut off their breasts and turned them into tobacco pouches, and murdered their children and men". Refuting this on Maori News, historian Dick Scott - author of Ask That Mountain: The Story of Parihaka (1975) that popularised Te Whiti's story - said her wild atrocity stories had no factual basis. He says Titewhai Harawira knows this, but continues to propagate her fictional version of events. (Interesting to note that two of her warrior chief ancestors fought on the side of the British against another chief, Hone Heke! How does she reconcile that..?)
Now, son, the next stage in the plan is this...In this enlightened age, with more opportunities for all, why do the Harawiras continue to wage a '70s-style campaign, using fabricated propaganda, demanding a return of all land to maori, an expulsion of all white people, control of every beach in the country, and seemingly not giving a damn about simple basic mainstream guidelines for living in and being an effective part of a modern society...?
Hone Harawira seems to have been raised by a woman with warped methodologies and beliefs, who leaves no opportunity untaken to push her radical point. This does not excuse his behaviour or outbursts, but it is little wonder he is such an angry man!
PS - See also my 10 Nov.2009 post about Hone's actions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

24: The Final Countdown...?

24 logoCounting down...24: Season 8 begins in USA with a 2-day 4-hour premiere from January 17, 2010! For your pleasure, here's the official promo!
Day Eight begins at 4pm, roughly two years later, in New York City amidst the shadows of the Statue of Liberty and the United Nations.
JACK BAUER's (Kiefer Sutherland) cute granddaughter Teri (named after Jack's late wife) is talking now.  JACK's retired...as if that's ever possible! He wants to move back to Los Angeles to be with his daughter KIM BAUER (Elisha Cuthbert).
CTU's been reactivated, relocated to New York, upgraded - lotsa glass and a slick access tunnel.  It's now run by MBA-schooled and razor-sharp BRIAN HASTINGS (Mykelti Williamson: Bubba, Forrest Gump). Running CTU’s Field Operations is COLE ORTIZ (Freddie Prinze Jr.), an ex-Marine who wants to follow in JACK BAUER’s footsteps. Ortiz is engaged to expert data analyst DANA WALSH (Katee Sackhoff: Battlestar Galactica) who collaborates with systems analyst ARLO GLASS (John Boyd: The Notorious Bettie Page) inside CTU. Arlo fancies Dana...but what's lurking in Dana's past?
ROB WEISS (Chris Diamantopoulos, The Starter Wife) is PRESIDENT ALLISON TAYLOR’s (Cherry Jones) new Chief of Staff - replacing last season's Chief of Staff ETHAN KANIN (Bob Gunton) who's now Secretary of State. MEREDITH REED (Jennifer Westfeldt: Grey’s Anatomy) is an ambitious journalist with ties to PRESIDENT HASSAN of the Islamic Republic of Kamistan (Anil Kapoor: Slumdog Millionaire) who has come to USA on a peace mission.
Of course CHLOE O'BRIAN (Mary Lynn Rajskub) returns, also FBI agent RENEE WALKER (Annie Wersching) - Annie Wershing says something from Renee’s past comes back to haunt her and directly involves her in the U.N. crisis - and I'm hoping for a cameo by Mr.Honesty himself, Special Agent AARON PIERCE (Glen Morshower).
It's been confirmed that TONY ALMEIDA (Carlos Bernard) will not be returning for season 8, but OMG! Why's crazed ex-president CHARLES LOGAN (Gregory Itzin) coming back?
24 Season 8 cast collage
Speculation's rife that this 'day' may be the last: indeed, the promo says "All he needs is to survive - one - more - day!" In a recent interview Sutherland said, "There's only so much you can do to Jack before you lose realism. I think a movie would be a good way to end this story."
A 24 MOVIE?? Bring it on! And remember: in 24, anything's possible!
PS: 29 Dec.2009 - some official photos from the first two episodes can now be seen! Plus a featurette!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jess Crosses The Equator

Jessica WatsonWhen her adventure first began, alot of people decried her supposed lack of seamanship and her age...but Jessica Watson is going strong.
The Aussie schoolgirl has just crossed the equator, a month and a day into her single-handed non-stop journey around the world.Just cruisin'...So far, no problems - although the first leg across the Pacific from Australia was expected to be troublefree. As her circumnavigation continues, conditions will toughen up, and Jess's abilities will be stretched to the limit, especially around the tip of South America.
She is posting daily updates on her blog, and many wellwishers link in regularly. If you'd like to support her, or just keep updated on progress, come back to this blog regularly...or for more, check out her website and blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gotta Get It Right...

I recently received a widely-circulated email entitled "World SHAME", illustrating graphically the annual slaughter of Calderon dolphins in the Feroe (sic) Islands.
Though I'd seen this before, the photos still shocked me. Then I noticed errors in the blood-red text. The impassioned author was struggling with a competent grasp of English, writing:
Denmark is a big shame The sea is stained in red and in the mean while its not because of the climate effects of nature. It's because of the cruelty that the human beings (civilised human) kill hundreds of the famous and intelligent Calderon dolphins. This happens every year in Feroe island in Denmark. In this slaughter the main participants are young teens. WHY? To show that they are adults and mature.... BULLLLsh
In this big celebration, nothing is missing for the fun. Everyone is participating in one way or the other, killing or looking at the cruelty “supporting like a spectator”
Is it necessary to mention that the dolphin calderon, like all the other species of dolphins, it’s near instinction and they get near men to play and interact. In a way of PURE friendship
They don’t die instantly; they are cut 1, 2 or 3 times with thick hocks. And at that time the dolphins produce a grim extremely compatible with the cry of a new born child. But he suffers and there’s no compassion till this sweet being slowly dies in its own blood Its enough!
We will send this mail until this email arrives in any association defending the animals, we won’t only read. That would make us accomplices, viewers.
Take care of the world, it is your home!

Faroe Islands pilot whale masacre collageWhen circulating a petition, fluency and accuracy are vital. Apart from the script making very little sense, the writer has made a number of factual errors:
+ The Faroe Islands (nb: correct spelling), while technically a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, have had virtual autonomy since 1948 and are self-governing in most matters. So this is a Faroese issue, NOT Danish.
+ The butchered creatures are long-finned pilot whales. Some Spanish-speaking countries call them Calderon dolphins, but the Faroese and most of the English-speaking world know them as pilot whales.
+The Faroe Islands are NOT "in Denmark" but actually halfway between Scotland and Iceland.
+The inference that the killing is a rite of passage for young teens is WRONG. The killing is carried out traditionally by men while the children, youths and women watch.
+ Pilot whales are NOT "near instinction"(sic) but are listed in the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species as "Lower Risk".
+ "All the other species of dolphins" are NOT near extinction either, although freshwater species such as the Sth.American pink dolphin and Cambodia's mekong dolphin are in dire (and heavily polluted!) straits.
+ Pilot whales are NOT known to “get near men to play and interact”, but dolphins often do.
+ Pilot whales are not generally regarded as "famous and intelligent", though bottlenosed dolphins are.

Yes, these traditional hunts (or "grindadrĂ¡p") ARE completely unnecessary, no longer needed to provide food for islanders, do not meet humane slaughter standards at any level, and recent studies show the meat contains PCBs and other toxins. The Faroe Islands’ reputation internationally is tarnished by these hunts. Its government needs to end them permanently, to improve its global image and most importantly to spare hundreds of pilot whales annually from brutal deaths.
Highlighting this email's errors IN NO WAY supports this barbarism (far from it) but the Faroes administration will never take seriously any petition written this way. To be effective, the message has to be correct!

Monday, November 16, 2009

5,000 Crosses For 5,000 Losses

poster of Passchendaele displayOver the past four months a display titled "Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten" has toured New Zealand. It marked the 92nd anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.
Every Anzac Day, kiwis commemorate Gallipoli as the focus of our country’s WW1 involvement, yet the losses on the Western Front far outweighed any battles before or since. NZ lost 5,000 men in Belgium from 1917 – 1918, more than double the number killed at Gallipoli, and the NZ Division won three Victoria Crosses for bravery. Of all the battles fought by New Zealanders overseas, there are more NZ soldiers buried in Belgium than in any other country.
On October 12, 1917 (the day of the greatest casualties), 845 NZ men were killed – more than the combined total from the Mt Tarawera eruption, Hawke’s Bay earthquake, Tangiwai rail disaster, sinking of the ferry Wahine and Erebus plane crash!
the 5000 crosses erected for the display - sobering imagePasschendaele had a devastating effect on the social fabric of what was then a very small nation. This exhibition was the Belgian people’s way of showing that they have not forgotten the great sacrifice made by New Zealanders 92 years ago.
Thank you, Belgium: your poignant gesture of remembrance was very much appreciated.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Would You Like Ice With That, Sir?

So where the #@%* IS Macquarie Island?Nearly three years ago to the day, NZ watched in awe as two huge icebergs slowly drifted past Christchurch, just 100km off the South Island coast: the first time in living memory. The spectacle was billed as "once in a lifetime" and many took sightseeing flights – some even landing on the 'berg via helicopter!
Life must indeed be short...as another monster iceberg (500m long!) is on its way north, having just passed Macquarie Island (where?!)... 1200km down in the sub-Antarctic nether-regions [video]. Twice the size of the Titanic and dwarfing Auckland's Sky Tower, tourism operators hope this one too will cruise close to our shores.
Shaken or stirred, sir?At it's current speed of 2-3km per hour, it may reach New Zealand in time for Christmas!
PS: 13 Nov.2009 - Whoever writes the headlines for the on-line Daylife news service has mistaken 500m for 500 miles! Opps!
Opps!
PS: 15 Nov.2009 - But wait, there's more! MUCH more! Now there's a swarm of TWENTY icebergs heading our way, one estimated at 2km in length! Even if only half of them get here, we're in for one helluva sight!
PS: 20 Nov.2009 - Now they say there's a HUNDRED en route!! Unreal!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fluvia Lacerda and "16"

The plus-size brand IGIGI (pron: ee zhee zhee) has commissioned a short promotional clip entitled "16", starring the stunning Brazilian plus-size supermodel Fluvia Lacerda. In the company’s words:
This film is about beauty – real beauty. Not the artificial, airbrushed, enhanced, starved beauty we are bombarded with everyday. It is about a powerful, sexy woman who loves herself and her body.
It’s certainly beautifully shot and Fluvia looks amazing. Whether or not you appreciate plus-sized women, have a look...and wait for the line at the end: it'll make you think!

PS: 26 March 2010 - Here's the next clip in the IGIGI/Fluvia series...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Face Of Racism in NZ

Every country has 'em: racists. Sometimes they grumble in private: others are in full public view. Hone Harawira is one of the latter.
The Maori Party MP, recently on parliamentary business in Brussels with wife in tow, thought he'd skip a meeting and go sightseeing in Paris. Ahhhh, another Rodney Hide! But wait – there's more!
Bite me, ya white motherf****ers!Back in New Zealand, he boasted in a newspaper column about how much he and his wife enjoyed their trip. Media hounds sniffed a potential misuse of taxpayers' money and bayed for blood. Hone responded that he doesn't care about such criticism, because he answered only to his constituents, and only "boring" people would deny him his fun.
Then the former director of the Waitangi Tribunal, Buddy Mikaere asked him via email who'd paid for his wife to accompany him. Hone let loose with both barrels, claiming Buddy was just parroting "white man bullshit", and that white motherf*****s had been "raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries and all of a sudden you want me to play along with their puritanical bullshit." Here's the full email.
Prime Minister John Key has labelled the email "deeply offensive" and he wants action from coalition partner the Maori Party because, although Harawira cleverly apologised for the language he used, there was no apology for the sentiment (after all, he's held those sentiments throughout his separatist/activist life).
No-one can make such racially-enflaming statements publically without repercussions. Like all of us, he's entitled to his own views but his position as an elected Member of Parliament is not a (figurative) 'bulletproof' platform for public poisoned prose.
PS: 11 Nov.2009 - to date, the NZ Human Rights Commission has received a record 250 complaints about Harawira's comments! (Final total reached was over 800!!)
PS: 13 Nov.2009 - a Black Friday indeed for Hone...his party is saying "Jump or be pushed": read more. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy...
PS: 15 Nov.2009 - Hone digs his heels in, saying he can't understand why he's been asked to resign. He must be the only person in NZ who doesn't get it!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Change One Letter

Here's your challenge for today: take a movie title and change or add or remove just one letter, thereby changing the whole theme of the film. For example: "Shaving Private Ryan", "Pilates of the Caribbean", "It's a Wonderful Lime"...that sort of thing. Yeah, it's silly and a bit of time-waster, but fun too, and who isn't up for a little distraction from the more mundane aspects of our day?
So here're some altered titles I prepared earlier. I'm sure you'll figure out what the original movie titles were...but then allow your imagination to envisage how the "new" title might change the plot!
"Planet of the Ales", "Fatman Begins", "Cinderella Ran", "The Bedding Singer", "Some Like It Not", "The Pound of Music", "Raid In Manhattan", "Gone With The Wine", "The Bookie", "The Lake Mouse", "Never Been Missed", "Fission Impossible", "Riding In Cars With Toys", "Graveheart", "Dunces With Wolves", "The Dummy" (and it's sequel, "The Dummy Returns"), and my favourite: "Lord of the Rings: The Two Mowers"!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hide - You Hypocrite!

Rodney, lookin like a possum in the headlightsTo say this wasn't the best week in Rodney Hide's political life would be an ever-so-slight understatement.
The MP for Epsom/ACT Party leader, self-proclaimed 'perkbuster' of the NZ Parliament for several loud and vocal years, has been revealed (and reviled) as nothing more than a perk pilferer himself!
Hide took his girlfriend on a global jaunt on the taxpayer (“Politicial life is very trying – I couldn't be away from her support for two weeks.” Yea, right!) and curiously, the trip coincided with her brother's wedding in Britain. ...but did anyone actually READ it?Then he was overheard bagging the Prime Minister as a "do-nothing". John Armstrong's Herald article wraps the whole thing up nicely...well, that is until the next revelation rolls out. And waddya know: here it is! Now we discover Rodders took girlie on a $10,000 mid-winter tropical break in Hawaii, also taxpayer-funded!
Hide is surely approaching the thin ice, perhaps relying on the safety net of his party's links with the National-led coalition government. I recall Rodney's 2007 book, My Year Of Living Dangerously - all in all, a rather prophetic title!
PS: 08 Nov.2009 - Rodney apologises to the public, to Parliament and to his electorate, promising to repay all taxpayer money. But is this enough? Should MPs caught with snouts in the trough be able to simply walk away this easily?
PS: 10 Dec.2009 - More details have emerged about how much/little time Rodders actually spent on official business while happily spending our money on his overseas trip!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Let's Be Frank About Fiji...

It's hard to know just what more can be done about Fiji.
Since it's independence in 1970, Fiji has had four coups d'etat, became only the 2nd.country to be suspended from the Commonwealth (was reinstated and later suspended again), became the 1st.country dumped from the Pacific Islands Forum...and borne the military yolk for 13 years.
Despite the travel posters' big "Bula!" smiles, it's not a happy place. Quite apart from its political upheavals, Fiji's had constant simmering dissent between ethnic Fijians and Fiji-Indians (labour imports in the 1870s), this tension "supposedly" the cause of the military actions.Gee, nobody understands me!
Both NZ and Australia, major Pacific geopolitical players seeking a return to peaceful democracy, have increased pressure by reductions in trade, aid, and travel permits for regime-associated persons. But just this week, Fiji's dictator Frank Bainimarama expelled both countries' envoys, supposedly for interfering in judicial appointments. He still maintains both countries totally misunderstand his "mission to bring democracy to the nation" (the same "mission" that's delayed promised elections numerous times, blown the economy, imposed heavy media censorship and slowed anti-regime websites!!).
So what options remain? Suggestions include a tourism boycott, stopping sporting contacts or total trade suspension...through to ridiculous notions of military blockades or even invasion!
Any pressure must hit the regime, not the population. Perhaps the solution lies in the will of the people themselves – only they know the true effects of the infrastructure deterioration, the mortal risks in any uprising, the downstream impact of a true bi-cultural administrative change. But if the majority of Fijians actually buy into Frank's racist agenda, then maybe they're happier to 'tough it out' with him.
Either way, there's not going to be much "Bula, Bula!" (good life, health and happiness) in the lovely Isles Of Smiles for a long time to come...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Greed and Terrorism

Having survived Hallowe'en – and the slobbering streams of costumed kids parasitically prowling for tasty treats – tonight we face the fireworks of Guy Fawkes Night.
This marks the infamous 1605 Gunpowder Plot, when a group of conspirators nearly blew up the British Houses of Parliament (and all within, including the king). But the baddies were arrested, tried and executed by being hung, drawn and quartered...all except for Guy Fawkes who avoided the gruesome latter part of his sentence by jumping from the gallows, breaking his neck and killing himself.
Guy Fawkes, 1605A very English tradition transplanted to NZ, it's slowly fizzling out here, but we'll still see hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of fireworks blasted into suburban skies from many backyards tonight.
I don't mind public fireworks displays, run as community fundraisers – the dosh goes to a good cause, there's a high calibre of pyrotechnics, and safety. But due to fingers being blown off every year, children blinded, animals hurt, fires caused... I'm in full support of a total ban on private fireworks use.
Gordon Gecko, from the 1985 movie Wall StreetConsider what we're subliminally teaching our kids at this time of year. On Hallowe'en, we let vulnerable youngsters roam the streets, expecting free food from every house. Stuff your faces, kids! Pig out! "Greed is good!" Gordon Gecko rides again! Who?? And every stranger is your friend...
And tonight on Guy Fawkes, I'd be amazed if many kids – let alone their parents – actually know the night's historical background: that our society is immortalising a murderous terrorist!
Greed and terrorism: two cornerstones of today's reality.
Ha! Maybe the kids are getting the right lessons after all...!

PS: 04 Nov.2011 - Now here's a weird twist: a descendant of the man who caught Guy Fawkes works as a fireworks expert!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bill, The Economy... and "those Aussies"

Hoi, U'm Bull Unglush!I for one will be rather relieved when Bill English's ad for TVNZ7's Focus On The Economy programme finishes its run.
Is it appropriate for NZ's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Of Finance to actually front a TV promo (other than featuring via a clip from a press conference or other such event)? While the programme aims to translate the recession into plain English, the title chosen is curiously also the title of Mr.English's personal newsletter! As the Labour Party has screamed, it smells of a National Party political broadcast.
But my concerns are more from my perceptions of the promo.
QUOTE: "We've underperformed compared to the per capita income growth of Australia." So? Some countries are surviving far better than others. Why specifically compare ourselves to Oz? Perhaps the Wizards of Oz have been a bit more effective than you, Toto?
QUOTE: "Y'know, we can beat those Aussies!" Ah-ha! So is this an Oz-bash? And doesn't that line illustrate a poor-little-us hung-dog mentality? Digging out of the recession is not about beating “those Aussies” – since when did they become an enemy or an economic threat?
And finally, QUOTE: "Us kiwis can do it!" That attempt at motivation merely highlights Bill's regularly fumbling grasp of English (excuse the word play). "Us kiwis?" Surely this learned Member of Parliament means "We kiwis"???
(Mind you, this is the same chap who saw no problem claiming accomodation expenses from the taxpayer, for a property he rarely lived in. Maybe he has a limited grasp on a lot of things...)
PS: 18 Nov.2009 - TVNZ discovers hindsight: read on...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Arnie's Secrets...?

If you grew up in the '60s, you'll remember ads like these... promising to make you the strongman in the crowd. Be the admiration of your friends as you flex your ripply pecs at every occasion...pose like the best of 'em...watch those muscles grow and bulge...and all for just $1 (post paid too)!
"The pal who before could handle you with ease will get a surprise of his life as you handle him easier than he ever did you." Hmmm...you could certainly read some double entendres into these old muscle ads!
So just how do you perform strongman tricks without strength? You don't need super-power when you know these amazing secrets! Tear telephone books in half, break a plank with your bare hands, support a wooden beam containing five nubile gents with just your…er...what an odd picture! Looks like he’s pretending to be a park bench, just to "poke" some fun at the five guys all dressed the same!
Who the hell ever came up with the creative copy for these ads???!!!