Saturday, July 31, 2010

When Good Sport Goes Bad...!

To most of us, a sports game is just that - a GAME - great to win but it's not really a matter of life-and-death. Except...most of us don't play sport for North Korea!
Following its failure at the World Cup (losing all three group games - including a 7-0 defeat to Portugal), North Korea's football team was shamed in a 6-hour public inquisition and the team's coach accused of "betraying" Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il. The squad was forced onto a stage at the People's Palace of Culture and - watched by 400 government officials, students and journalists - verbally flailed by the sports minister for failing in their "ideological struggle".
The players were pressured into blaming their coach, who was then forced to become an unpaid construction worker and expelled from the Workers' Party of Korea - he now fears for his very life. The North Korean people's benevolent friend and fellow sports lover, Kim Jong-ilOnly two Japanese-born players avoided the inquisition, as they rather wisely flew straight to Japan after the tournament.
And let's not even mention the Nth.Korean football fans in South Africa... who were actually conscripted from China! The People's Loving Dictator couldn't let real Nth.Koreans go to the World Cup... in case they never came back!
But by all accounts, these players got off a bit lightly by Nth.Korean standards: in the past, athletes and coaches who performed badly were sent to prison camps!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Plastic Fantastic Spreads The Word

It just goes to show what you can achieve, if you put your mind to it. A catamaran made of 12,500 recycled plastic bottles arrived in Sydney this week after sailing 15,000km across the Pacific, to draw attention to plastic pollution. The Plastiki, held together with sugar cane and cashew glue, is proof that rubbish can be turned into something useful. More than 13,000 pieces of plastic litter the surface of each square kilometre of ocean, about the same amount that made up the boat. The Plastiki website contains alot of interesting information about the journey...
Skipper David de Rothschild and his crew of scientists sailed through the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating man-made disaster twice the size of Texas, located between California and Hawaii. For more on these floating garbage patches, click here...
People who don't properly recycle plastic, or simply throw it away, are responsible for the ocean pollution. Plastic dropped on the ground is blown into storm drains, sewage systems and rivers, which eventually carry it to the ocean. Merchant ships, ferries, cruise liners and fishing vessels that lose plastic or throw waste overboard are also responsible.
This is a global problem – pollution of these oceans can and does happen everywhere: it's everyone's responsibility to clean it up. The fact that plastic pollution in oceans is increasing shows that people, companies and governments need to change the way they think about and use plastic. Plastic is useful but often not necessary: the more disposable a product, the more of a problem it is.
How much do you recycle? Could you do better? Will you try?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bloodlust Traditions Must End

Lawmakers have thrust a sword deep into Spain's centuries-old tradition of bullfighting, banning the blood-soaked pageant from the Catalonia region from 2012.
In practical terms, the ban's effect is limited: Catalonia has only one functioning bullring, in Barcelona. It holds 15 fights a year, out of a national total of roughly 1,000 bouts per season. But animal rights activists say it's the "beginning of the end" for all bullfights across Spain.
There're some customs and traditions that can't remain frozen in time as society evolves. We don't have to ban everything traditional, but the most degrading and torturous things must be abolished. Bullfighting is one such cruel tradition - the bloodlust sport dates back to 711AD, but that's no justification for its continuence.
The same argument can be levelled at the Faroe Islands' traditional pilot whale "grindadráp". While there have been efforts to develop more efficient killing weapons, the fact remains that it too is a cruel inhumane tradition.
Supporters of bullfighting maintain it is an art-form: Spanish newspapers publish bullfighting reviews not in the sports pages, but in the arts and culture sections. The Faroese are under no such illusions about their "grindadráp": it has always been a harvest. Originally that meat ensured the survival of the isolated population, but today it is just an unnecessary indulgence for those who still eat it.
I hope the Faroese who read my blog (and there are a few) may see the parallel, and reconsider their position. Traditions are important - they're a part of who we are and where we've come from - but cannot be used as an excuse for perpetuating cruelty and violence.

PS: 26 Sept.2011 - Today, Catalonia's final bullfight.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


They know what you ate last summer. Devilish hackers have stolen valuable customer information from NZ-based Hell Pizza. A database containing the sensitive personal data has been doing the rounds since last year, without any confirmation of the breach from the company!
The 400 MB database lists info on 230,000 customers (including several notable celebrities)! No credit card details or other type of financial information, but full names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, hashed passwords and even order history.
The most obvious danger here is that many people tend to re-use both their usernames and passwords. This mean hackers can use the stolen information to access other accounts belonging to those customers, including ones that do contain financial details. And that's not theoretical: a similar thing happened in Israel just this month - information was sourced which compromised the PayPal accounts of some customers.
Hell Pizza (which operates 64 stores in NZ, nine in Oz and three in the UK) was contacted by concerned customers last year...but it failed to verify the claims! The company's only recently contacted the NZ police after being provided with excerpts from the database. It's also emailed customers to inform them of the situation, and to suggest they change their login if they use the same password for other websites.
One has to wonder why the hell it took 'em so long...!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Faroes Does It Again

Oh, hurrah! Jolly hockey sticks!The Faroe Islands again has blood on its hands. Just over a week ago on July 19th.2010, a pod of 236 pilot whales was butchered in the town of Klaksvik.
Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd had a man undercover, posing as a Swedish film student, in order to capture footage. He saw not only bulls killed, but also pregnant and lactating females, juveniles, and unborn babies still attached to their mothers by the umbilical chord.
Mother and baby doing fine...NOT!While the Faroese government and the participants claim the deaths of these whales are quick and painless, the newly released grisly footage shows otherwise. One whale had five or six brutal chops to her head before her spinal chord was eventually severed: it would have been a slow, extremely painful death. Some whales were hacked repeatedly for up to four minutes before they died.
The Faroes have been whaling since the islands were first settled by the Norse. It is regulated by local authorities but not by the International Whaling Commission. Pilot whales have protection under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, which was signed by Denmark. However Denmark granted autonomy to the Faroe Islands many years ago, so now has no power to ban the massacres.
Clever Klaksvik killersThe Faroese claim to kill about 950 Long-finned Pilot Whales a year, so this month's slaughter accounted for nearly a quarter of the annual kill. And yet the "grindadráp" is not performed for any valid economic reason - it is simply a perpetuation of an ancient (and, in this modern world, unacceptably brutal) tradition. Its only purpose seems to be for providing free whalemeat treats to the populace - meat that has been proved to be contaminated by toxins.
There is no logic to the islanders' continued stubborn entrenchment, yet sadly they remain arrogantly impervious to the worldwide condemnation of their cruelty.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Can Te Reo Save Maori?

Tariana TuriaIn a speech today marking NZ Maori Language Week, Tariana Turia (co-leader of the Maori Party) asked: what will it take to revitalise the maori language?
"In 1972, 70,000 maori were fluent speakers of their language. Today there are less than 20,000. Te reo Maori (maori language) is in my mind 'food for the soul'...the sustenance that feeds our spiritual strength, cultural competency, identity. It is the fuel that drives us on, providing the energy and the momentum to search for a greater understanding. Our language can help restore ourselves to the essence of who we are. It is said that the limits of our language are the limits of our world. Conversely confidence and competence in te reo Maori opens the door to the wider horizons of our world - providing access to greater knowledge about our ways of seeing and being in the world."
That being said, with maori comprising 51% of our prison population (@ March 2010) but only 9% of the country's population, could it be argued that a competent grasp of their own language - and thus, according to Turia, a grasp of their own identity - might reverse this trend?
Perhaps a solution (albeit simplistic) is for maori tribes to invest wisely the fruits of their Waitangi Tribunal settlements, into education and self-esteem programmes for maori youth. This would mean maori working FOR maori with maori MONEY, maori DIRECTION, maori PROGRAMMES...NO government money, NO fuel for the backlash over endless pay-outs, NO forcefeeding of te reo to the entire population, NO reason for any white negativity. Quite literally, it would be a chance for maori to put their money where their mouths are.
On Breakfast TV this morning (and all this week too), every name on the weather map had been changed to a maori one: the presenter even delivered an entire forecast in maori. Now that's all very well for the less than 20,000 fluent speakers, but it smacks of tokenism, pandering to a minority...and offers more confusion than assistance with the advancement of the language.
For maori language to not only survive but thrive requires a major commitment of time, effort and money...from maori. I feel that from this would flow great improvements in NZ society - a decrease in crime, an increase in employment, an easing of racial tension which collectively will head us more positively toward the all-inclusive nation we claim to be.
But, just like someone quitting smoking, maori have to WANT to do it for themselves...
PS: 21 October 2010 - Despite $220-million being spent on it annually (!!!) the maori language is dieing. The warning cannot be more clear. Use it or lose it.
PS: 21 October 2010 - A maori academic says the responsibility for the language's survival rests with maori.
PS: 01 November 2010 - Today's Dominion Post"Put health before beaches" says Pita Sharples. Finally someone in the Maori Party has the right priorities! God, vindication feels good!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Media Manipulation

It's interesting how our perceptions are easily shaped by what we see. Here's a pretty powerful demonstration...

If you wanted to show that soldiers are merciless in wartime, you'd use the cropped picture on the left. But if you wanted to illustrate that soldiers are decent human beings, you'd crop the right-hand part of the original photo.
Simple. And very effective.
Photos speak for themselves, but the implications are scary.
Should we be more sceptical about pictures used by the media?
Just last week, BP was busted with a poorly photoshopped image of its oil spill site from the cockpit of an approaching helicopter. This was on its website, explaining its response efforts through pictures.

+ While the helicopter appears to be above the boats ahead, the readouts on the dash show the door and ramp are open, the parking brake engaged, and the pilot's holding a pre-flight checklist!
+ In the upper left-hand corner, there's an air traffic control tower!
+ Then, look to where the water abruptly changes shades of blue (centre left) in a blur of pixelation, and a disappearing vessel!
And so on...
This is not the first time BP has been caught photoshopping its public image. Every time it does so, it undermines what little credibility it has left. This oil spill is a disaster so large that the only possible approach by BP must be total transparency and honesty. However this shows a company still more concerned with image than reality.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Well-Oiled Machines...or Dead Dogs?

There's no doubt we need a military arm, despite the protestations of the peace-love-and-mugbean do-gooders who rip satellite dish covers "for the greater good".
Whatever we ask of the military, its ability to actually perform that role must never be compromised. But, as has been the case for a number of years, Those Who Know Best have done a pretty good job of screwing the Green Machine (and wasting a lot of public money at the same time).
Cool! Let's have a mass armoured cavalry charge with 105 LAVs!The Skyhawk mothballing is a good starting point (for want of anywhere better). Then there was the purchase of LAVs - the army’s light armoured vehicles that arrived five years late, cost $37 million more than planned and had a string of difficulties. Why was it thought we'd ever need 105? And how would we transport them anywhere in a hurry...? Ahhh, the roll-on roll-off (nearly roll-over in rough seas) Charles Upham (such a humiliation to the late great warrior's name). It was sold within three years and now ships freight around the Pacific! Let's not forget the purchase of $590,000 of bullets unfit for use in the army's weapons - resold last March at a quarter million dollar loss.
HMNZS Otago, limping into home port for the first time...on only ONE engine!And now, eeee-by-gooom troooble-at-mill with the navy's new Project Protector fleet. Both the HMNZS Otago and Wellington have been two years late in arriving, delayed by faults (in wiring, control systems, gearbox oil seals), and then sustaining more en route to NZ. Otago limped home this week on one engine! While the ships are still under warranty and thus aren't our cost to repair, the damage to their credibility cannot be underestimated. A scathing independent review last year said the offshore patrol vessels' poor performance in high seas would now "just have to be accepted".
So has NZ once again bought 'dogs', or are these simply "teething problems" as dismissed by Defence Minister Wayne Mapp? If so, when will our navy have two ships it can utilise to their full potential? When will our army get equipment it actually needs, not what someone in government thinks would be cute to have? When will our air force (a) get transport planes that can actually carry the LAVs without too much dismantling, and (b) get a strike capability?
When will NZ support its military?
PS: 08 Nov.2010 - Chug-splutter-gasp...12 HOURS into its first overseas deployment, HMNZS Otago has had to turn back!!!
PS: 08 Dec.2010 - Oh no, not again!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Credit Card Refund? Yea..nuuhhh!

I regularly post warnings about scams doing the rounds.
The most current one involves people being phoned and told they're due a refund for excess charges on their credit card...but they have to pay money in order to receive the payment.
The NZ Commerce Commission has received several reports recently. The story used is slightly different each time, but similar enough to indicate they're from the same group of scammers. In each case, people are told they're eligible for a $3,000 refund: in one case the complainant was told it was on behalf of the Commerce Commission, in another case the scammer said they were from the New Zealand Banking Association.
In each case, complainants were asked to pay from $100 to $300 in order to receive the $3,000 payment. It's an unsophisticated simple ruse: the key element is that you're being asked to pay money in order to receive a refund.
That's the purpose of the scam, and it should ring a very loud warning bell. [Click here for more scam examples...]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rowing Ready To Rock!

With 100 days to go, New Zealand’s plans for the 2010 World Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro will make the event unique in rowing history. For the first time, an extra day has been added to the programme, for a spectacular Opening Ceremony. And, in another Kiwi innovation, top NZ bands will perform throughout the week to create a true party atmosphere for spectators.
This'll be the country's biggest international sports event since the 1990 Commonwealth Games and, despite the recession, ticket sales are off to a flying start with more than 20,000 sold.
Organisers've been working to create an amazing party around the rowing competition, and there'll be something for everyone off the water. The Opening Ceremony on Saturday 30 October will begin with a nostalgic look back at the 1978 Championships (the last time the event was held in NZ), followed by a flotilla of water craft with athletes and celebrities celebrating the history of the oldest Olympic sport and the success of NZ rowers – and other sports – over the years. After the formal part of the Ceremony, a 90-minute rock gig will bring the day to a close. And horseracing fans won't miss out either, with the running of the legendary Melbourne Cup (2nd.Nov.) broadcast live on big screens.
For the first time, there'll be four days of medal finals, after the international rowing federation revised the traditional format in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics.
With over 3 months to go, there've been more tickets sold than the World Champs in Poland last year. The aim is to sell 50,000+ tickets: with the quality of competition, the support for NZ rowing and the entertainment off the water, it shouldn't be difficult!
[see also my post about Tirau, just up the road from the Champs...]

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bennett Bows Out

TVNZ has set a new course for its current affairs show Sunday, but frontman Cameron Bennett is out...after 24 years! The channel's refreshing the TV One and Sunday brands, and that involves a reduction in reporting and current affairs positions. Curious how one can run a current affairs programme with fewer current affairs journalists...
Cameron BennettThere's speculation that Breakfast co-host Pippa Wetzell may take over as Sunday presenter early next year after her maternity leave...but she's really just lightweight fluff. It's interesting that, even though he's still employed by TVNZ for another six weeks until the end of August, his comprehensive profile has already been wiped from the TVNZ website! For the record, here it is:
Cameron Bennett is both the host and a senior reporter on Sunday.
As one of NZ's most experienced journalists, his wide-ranging career includes 20 years reporting for TVNZ, both as a News and Current Current Affairs reporter.
He was TVNZ's Europe Correspondent, based in London, between 1991-95 and his extensive international reporting experience has included coverage of the Bosnian civil war and the post-genocide exodus from Rwanda.
Reporting assignments have taken him from Somalia to Palestine, Iraq to Afghanistan. Cameron has also covered conflict in East Timor, Fiji, ethnic rebels in Myanmar and the rebellion against Boris Yeltsin in Moscow. He reported the historic post-apartheid elections in South Africa, extensively in Western Europe, SE Asia and the Pacific.
More recently, there has been an undercover assignment in Zimbabwe, coverage from the rebel zone in Ivory Coast and the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami in Sri Lanka.
His career highlights as a reporter for ONE News, Holmes, 60 Minutes and Sunday have included the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington DC and a challenging insight into the prison centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He also anchored TVNZ's Foreign Correspondent programme and co-authored the best-seller 'Foreign Correspondents' about his reporting experiences out of London in the 1990s.
Cameron has picked up Qantas and New York Festival awards since joining TVNZ in 1986.
He began his journalistic career as a general reporter on the Northern Advocate (Whangarei) and later as a general/industrial round reporter on the Evening Post (Wellington).
He began his career in television as a script-writer with the London-based news agency Worldwide Television News (WTN).
When one reads that, one does wonder why such a multi-talented extremely experienced journalist has become yet another budget casualty. What a bloody waste!
PS: 29 Aug.2010 - Tonight was Cameron's last night on tv. As always, calm, poised, professional til the end...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Coro, Coffee and Cat Crap...

Give the cat a cuppa!One of the best headlines I've seen all year appeared this week: CAT DUNG COFFEE "MAY BE UNCLEAN".
No shit, Sherlock! On the face of it, you'd think that was fairly self-explanatory - and thus 'end of story'. Turns out (1) the item IS actually talking about coffee from cat poo, and (2) the "cleanliness" aspect is religion-based.
To explain: the world's most expensive coffee is called Kopi Luwak. It's made from hard coffee beans that're eaten by civet cats (a mongoose relative), fermented in their stomachs, then pooped out, extracted and roasted. Kopi Luwak is highly prized for its smooth flavour and bitterless aftertaste, sometimes fetching well over $US440 (NZ$630) per kilo. Only 450kg are produced annually worldwide.
Now...Indonesia's top Islamic body may ban its followers from drinking said brew, over concerns it's "unclean" religion-wise. If the farmers actually clean the beans before they're ground, then under Islamic law, the beans will be ruled halal (ie: ok for followers to consume). But why the mullahs are mulling over this purr-fect cuppa now, when the process has been around since at least the Dutch colonial days, is anyone's guess!
Frisky never DID catch a pigeon...Speaking of cats, the ashes of the cat that was in the opening credits of Britain's longest running soap opera Coronation Street for 11 years, are to be auctioned this week and expected to reach £150.
Frisky beat 5,000 other cats in 1990 to win a place in the opening credits, crouched atop a pigeon loft. Frisky died in 2000 aged 14, but continued to appear in the opening credits until 2001 and earned thousands of pounds for charity from personal appearances over its lifetime. Eeee, by goooom!
PS: 22 July 2010 - Frisky's remains sold for £700 – five times the estimate!

Monday, July 19, 2010

When Good PR Becomes Bad News...

Recently in Australia, several media outlets ran a story about the perils of excessive texting. They named several new "serious mental and physical disorders" - such as Textiety, Post Traumatic Text Disorder and Textophrenia. However, these "disorders" were actually part of an online advertising campaign for a mobile phone company promoting cheap texts to teenagers!
The journalists who reported these shocking new "disorders" fell into the trap of so many overworked (or lazy) penpushers these days: not checking their sources before publication! The press release morphed into something much bigger than it actually was...and in the resultant backlash, Media Watch accused the PR company of "unconscionable" conduct for its "cynical campaign"!

What?! This is a classic case of "don't shoot the messenger" - rather, question the journos who bought into it. The problem – a big one for journalism – is that a lot of newsrooms are squeezed by financial and time constraints. If the PR content is entertaining, then the newspaper won’t ask too many questions about whether it’s true – just whether it’s a good story. It's 'cut and paste' journalism.
But that responsibility lies with the journalists, not the PR people. Unfortunately, entertaining the publics comes higher on the agenda these days than getting to The Truth.

You can read more (and see the TVads featuring "real" sufferers of these "disorders") at mUmBRELLA, an Oz media and marketing site.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Do Criminals Deserve Justice?

It could be the plot-line of a John Grisham novel...the country's biggest armed robbery. Long jail term. Father tries unsuccessfully to clear son's name. Years later, son dies of natural causes. Father told by 'underworld sources' that son was actually poisoned.
But it's real. Charles "Chas" Willoughby served time for the 1984 holdup of an armoured truck on Auckland's North Shore, though he always claimed he wasn't involved in the heist: the raid netted a record $294,524.
When he died, a decade after his release, his family was told it was by natural causes: no autopsy was performed. Now his father, Charles Willoughby snr, has been approached by one of Chas' former associates and told his son died after his drink was poisoned. He was even given the name of the alleged murderer: that person no longer lives in New Zealand.
Dad deserves the truth...Following this shock, Charles spoke to Chas' colleagues, but was told to "let sleeping dogs lie". That's made him more suspicious about the true cause of death, and he now wants his son's remains examined.This process may be sped up if police decided to open an investigation into Chas' death.
Chas consistently denied he was guilty of robbery. While Chas did get some of the robbery money, Charles believes he didn't take part in the armed stickup, as his son's speciality was safecracking. He spent thousands on an unsuccessful appeal over his son's conviction. While his son was no angel, Charles is determined to get justice if he had been fatally poisoned.
Personally, I hope Charles is granted permission for the exhumation - for his own peace of mind, and for some final closure. And if poisoning is in evidence, it is hoped police will investigate further. While some may say "live by the sword, die by the sword", regardless of Chas' criminal activities he did not deserve to die in such an alleged manner. Society has evolved a system of justice that no-one can step outside without consequences.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Local Faroes Police Chief In The Gun

Saving the left-overs for the next day...
On July 9th., 193 pilot whales were herded onto the beach at Húsavík (on the island of Sandoy, Faroe Islands).
This town has an aging population of 126 and there were not enough hands available to kill the whole pod at once. So, at the end of the day - contrary to Faroes law – the 24 survivors were tied to boats by their tails. Thrashing about in panic and trying to make contact with their family members, the terrified whales spent the whole night tied to the boats in the bloody water before they were slaughtered the next day!
This particular “grind” was doomed from the beginning. There were far too few helpers on-hand and the local police chief responsible knew exactly that the majority of residents were too old: 25% were aged over 65 and most of them could not participate in this exhausting hunt. [Only 1300 people live on the entire cluster of Sandoy islands. In contrast there were 1870 participants in the hunt of 108 pilot whales which took place at Thorshavn (pop.19,800), capital of the Faroes.]
It's estimated the Húsavík whales would produce about 90,000kg of meat and blubber. So every person living on the island of Sandoy would receive a share of 70kg, enough for a year’s supply if every person eats a 200gm steak every day! Of course this would be completely contrary to medical advice, which strongly recommends residents consume whale meat and blubber no more than once or twice a month because of high toxin contamination. The Húsavík meat mountain therefore could not be consumed by the small amount of people living on Sanvoy, and is being sold in open and black markets (a fact constantly denied by FI).
Both the German Whale and Dolphin Protection Forum (WDSF) and PROWAL organisations have sued the police in charge of the hunt on the Faroe Islands for animal abuse.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bulletpoints For Friday 16 July 2010

Yes, Paul, you really ARE a dickhead!The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has ordered TVNZ to broadcast a live statement about Paul Henry's remarks describing singer Susan Boyle as retarded. It has one month to read an agreed summary of a decision, which found TVNZ took insufficient action over Henry's outburst in November last year. It certainly seemed to me at the time that TVNZ let Paul Henry get away with his insult, so I'm very pleased others also saw fit to complain to the BSA. Perhaps Henry will learn from this. Probably he won't. If not, then TVNZ should. After all, BSA says for the last few years, Paul Henry is their most-complained-about individual.
Besmirched eco-warrior Pete Bethune, and leader John dog John Key says anti-whaling protester Pete Bethune is "downright ungrateful" for the help he got from Kiwi officials in Japan. Bethune's back in NZ, complaining about a lack of support from our government. He's strongly attacked NZ's attitude to the sinking of Ady Gil, and is damning of NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully, who was critical of him and Sea Shepherd on the day his boat was rammed by a Japanese whaler. "He immediately sided with the Japanese. I remain disgusted with the way McCully treated us from day one. I get the feeling NZ has become a fat little lap dog." Despite any spin John Key may put on this entire issue (notwithstanding the support from embassy staff in Japan), our country's stance on the deliberate ramming of Ady Gil was pathetic, and Bethune makes a valid point. ARE we a Nippon lap dog? Is this why our govt.'s anti-whaling position was so modified at the IWC? When did we decide that we would turn our backs on whales?
Hullo. I'm Murray. I look stupid. And I AM....and the 'blame game' begins in Auckland, with the Regional Council (ARC) saying the govt. should share responsibility for the fiasco of the Rugby World Cup "Party Central". ARC says it was the Historic Places Trust (a that wanted to save the old wharf sheds, thus disrupting the agreed-to plans. World Cup Minister Muddling McCully (yeup, the same ditherer who also wears the Foreign Ministry crown) has already criticised the council's about-face, and is now also looking at other venues for its fan zone, including Viaduct Harbour. Well, hello! Wouldn't that have been more sensible from the outset? That entire area, so successful during the America's Cup, is bursting with restaurants and bars. Why spend millions on one giant venue for a piss-up? And let's completely forget McCully's ludicrous suggestion of moving "Party Central" to Wellington. Does he really believe thousands of fans will travel that far for a party? The semis and final are in Auckland: THAT'll be party time! Duuuhhh!!! He really must be as stupid as he looks!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tirau - Not A Tin-Pot Town!

Welcome to Tirau!NZ is dotted with small rural communities, often existing simply because at one stage they may have been a pioneering settlement or a farm supply depot. Now they just...are.
Fancy a pint?Tirau used to be like this, but these days the friendly little South Waikato town (pop.800) seems abuzz with energy! It has a growing reputation as a great place to shop for curios and antiques – and of course have 'a cold one' in the archetypal country pub at the top of the hill - but down along the main street is a healthy collection of craft shops, clothing boutiques, cafes...and corrugated iron!
The unique information centreCould these be the world's biggest poppies?Yes, that classic kiwi construction component appears everywhere: from signage and decorations, to the largest corrugated iron sheep and sheepdog in the world! Tirau's great Information Centre is housed in a building shaped like a dog, and complements the sheep-shaped building next door which is home to a wool and craft shop. Wonderful landmarks for any tourist! And a giant corrugated Good Shepherd stands just along the road - appropriately right outside the local church.
Corrugated iron signage is everywhere!Bras! Bras! And more bras! Are Tirau Girl Guides busting out??!!Tirau is right in the middle of some of the most fertile land in New Zealand, with a variety of outdoor high-adventure activities nearby...and only 15km away is Lake Karapiro, which hosts the 2010 World Rowing Championships (October 31st - November 7th). So I suspect many tourists will discover and love the tin-shed town of Tirau this year (and make the local corrugated iron fabricator a bit wealthier too!).
And when they visit, I hope they remember to donate their BRAS! Dunno what the local Girl Guides actually want them for...but this is the sort of sign you'll only find in Heartland New Zealand!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ambushing The World Cup

The World Cup was the most watched sporting event in the world this year, and a raft of big companies paid FIFA millions of dollars to be official sponsors.
Adidas spent an estimated $US351 million for the rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments. But based on several studies, it may want to reconsider paying to be a tournament sponsor in the future.
USA Today reported that Nike - not Adidas - was the brand most associated with the World Cup. The catch is that Nike had no official affiliation with the event at all! Nike opted to put the money it would have spent (if it had made a FIFA deal like Adidas did) into a well-timed global marketing campaign. Well, it sure fooled me!
Nike started its campaign a month before the tournament, initially releasing its 'Write The Future' ad on YouTube and getting more than 16 million hits! And as long as a brand doesn't try to pass itself off as a sponsor or use the FIFA or World Cup branding, it can essentially do what it wants. It's called "ambush marketing".
Nike wasn't the only company that skirted the line, between being accused by FIFA of ambush marketing and piggybacking on the world’s largest sporting event at no charge. Danish beer company Carlsberg marketed itself in the UK by association with the English national football team... while Budweiser paid big money to be the official World Cup beer. And Pepsi had deals with some top football players in the World Cup... yet Coke was an official sponsor (see both the Nike and Pepsi ads here).
Learning lessons from South Africa, New Zealand is planning laws to combat ambush marketing for the *yawn* 2011 Rugby World Cup and the 2015 Cricket World Cup... ha, good luck!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bulletpoints For Saturday 10 July 2010

...but what IS it?A three-tonne, 3m.sculpture made from junk has been stolen, possibly for scrap. The Oblivion Xpress' built by Frank Womble (aka Frank Zimmerman), sat in Auckland's Aotea Square in the 1980s, but it went missing from a storage yard last month. While the sculpture has value as an art piece, it's made of pieces of junk, which themselves are not worth much. Personally, I find it extremely difficult to take seriously (1) an artist called "Womble", and (2) a pile of recycled junk being labelled as "art"!
Nik, you are da MAN!An Herculean effort culminated this week in a new world record. Uawa FM radio announcer Nikora Curtis broadcast non-stop for 176½ hours, breaking the existing record of 175 hours. The amazing and exhausting effort was to raise money for the small radio station in Tolaga Bay, north of Gisborne...
Oy! Gimme back my board!Staying in the Hawkes Bay region, a squabble's broken out over the body of Moko, the friendly bottlenosed dolphin that cavorted with swimmers around Gisborne for several years, before heading north to the Bay of Plenty last summer. His remains were discovered this week – it's thought he may have been struck by a propeller in the busy Tauranga Harbour. Both regions want Moko's burial: the decision will be made by local maori elders...which means it may take years!
Mother and baby doing well.And still with news cetacean, a humpback whale believed to be just two days old, has been spotted in our waters for the first time. Department of Conservation (DOC) spotted it during an annual survey of whales migrating from Antarctic waters to the South Pacific. DOC says, for it to be born while the whales are still off NZ's east coast, indicates it was a premature birth. There have never been any reported sightings of humpback calves in NZ, even in the days of commercial whaling, which ended here in 1964.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cargo Sheds: ANOTHER Change Of Mind!

The pipe dream...Auckland Regional Council (ARC) has now backtracked, and voted unanimously to keep and revamp one of the two old cargo sheds on Queens Wharf, for *yawn* Rugby World Cup's "Party Central".
It had previously supported Government-led plans to demolish the sheds and build an entirely new cruise ship terminal and space for World Cup fans to gather in. Instead, it now says Shed 10 will be overhauled to become both the official fan zone and also a cruise ship terminal. Only the smaller of the two sheds will be demolished and relocated.
...the reality!Strange: the ARC is on record as regarding the sheds as 'old and cheap and nasty' - now it accords them heritage value after the Historic Places Trust weighed into the fight. This is the third time this year the ARC's approved a "final" redevelopment plan for the wharf!
Whatever happens with the sheds, the government is adamant "Party Central" WILL go ahead in some form or other. Prime Minister John Key says the government is not ruling out moving "Party Central" somewhere else entirely, as it would probably ultimately be cheaper: "We've never been a great supporter of keeping those sheds there and we don't think they have any great particular beauty."
The restoration of the shed is estimated to cost about $7 million more than the $9.6 million proposed for the temporary structure. And I'll bet this wasn't included in the Cup's expected $40 million budget "blow-out" that I mentioned in August 2009!! The clock is ticking...very loudly.
[see also my earlier post about the sheds on 03 July 2010]
PS: 03 Feb.2011 - ...and they still haven't started "Party Central" yet!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pete Bethune Is Coming Home

Pete Bethune is one lucky fella!
The New Zealand activist - who boarded a Nippon whaling ship in an attempt to stop a whale hunt - has been sentenced by a Japanese court to two years in prison...with the sentence suspended for five years.
Bethune, former captain of the high-tech boat Ady Gil operated by hardline anti-whalers Sea Shepherd, is expected to be deported from Japan and return to New Zealand.
Well, IS he that lucky? Sure, he's escaped the hell of a Japanese prison. But back home, his marriage has gone down the plughole, and it was well-publicised in June that Sea Shepherd washed its hands of him, for violating the organisation's policy against carrying weapons (Bethune had a bow and arrows with him aboard Ady Gil, although he never used them and never intended to do so). And let's not forget (because I'm sure Pete won't...EVER!) that he experienced the horror of being run down by a whaling vessel in the most inhospitable waters on the planet!
"All I did was to board the boat that I feel deliberately attacked and sunk my vessel. I wanted justice for the loss of my boat and the attempted murder of my crew. I still want justice, and I strongly urge the Australian and NZ Maritime Authorities to continue putting pressure on the Japanese whalers to cooperate with their investigations into the collision."
Whether you rate him courageous for his stand, or a bloody idiot, I suggest he's paid a high personal price for his moral position. I wonder how many of us would be willing to do the same?