Monday, August 30, 2010

Hijacking The Headlines

As it happened in 2008On-line over the past few days was a short story from Radio New Zealand, with the eyecatching headline: Hijacked pilot gives up flying - this after the hijacker was sentenced last Friday. Here's the story in its entirety:
"The Air Line Pilots Association says the captain of a passenger plane hijacked over the South Island has given up flying.
A woman who stabbed both pilots on an Air New Zealand flight from Blenheim to Christchurch on 8 February, 2008, was sentenced in the High Court in Christchurch on Friday to nine years in prison.
Asha Abdille, 33, a Somali-born refugee, faced 15 years in prison, but her sentence was reduced because she pleaded guilty and had mental health problems.
The Pilots Association says the community has been sent the message that the hijacking of an aircraft is a very serious offence.
While the captain of the aircraft involved no longer flies, the association says his co-pilot is still flying domestic services."
When I saw that headline I immediately thought: "stress" - poor guy must have been so traumatised by reliving the event through court, that he's hung up his cap this very week (after all, he did sustain extensive injuries).
But nowhere else on-line did any news service anywhere in the world (yes, it's gone global) imply the same thing, or even use a similar headline. In fact, virtually all the stories were "bleeding heart" articles about the hijacker's sad life: readers seem expected to feel sorry for her (instead of the shocked passengers and injured crew)!
The pilot Dion MacMillan has stopped flying, but this happened some time ago. This is not a new fact, and should not have been linked by headline insinuation with last week's sentencing. Don't imply his ceasing flying was because of the court decision! The journalist concerned should have shown more respect for the pilot, his bravery... and the journo's own integrity!
Is it just me, or do more people want a return to quality journalism, that sets out facts without resorting to sensationalism, manipulative headlines, innuendo and cheap tricks to draw in readers?

[For more on the incident than we ever heard in the news, see the 2008 magazine archive of the NZ Air Line Pilots Assn...]

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sensations Sell Stories!

Danial Craig 007 in Casino RoyaleBritish newspapers are having a field day with the stuff that headlines are made of: the murder of Gareth Williams, an analyst at GCHQ seconded to the UK spy service MI6 (GCHQ eavesdrops on telephone conversations).
Whether he was killed by Islamic extremists, Russian gangsters or someone closer to him, Williams died a spy's death. Killed in his penthouse, his body was found in the bathroom stuffed inside a sports bag. As murders go, it could be from a James Bond film.
If you have spare time, you could wade through this article in the Daily Mail...which touches on every possible angle.
But in his frenzy to add as much 007-like excitement as possible, the journalist has not double-checked his sources. He's assumed if it was published in another source, someone else MUST have checked it, and therefore it must be legit. My eye was caught by this particular quote in the article:
"After the entire electricity grid in Auckland went down in the late 1990s, GCHQ helped the NZ authorities trace the cyber-attack back to a group named the 'Anti-Christ Doom Squad', which had managed this feat from a laptop in an Amsterdam drug café."
The original source for this was Thinking about the Unthinkable: Australian Vulnerabilities to High-Tech Risks, a research paper by Dr Adam Cobb, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group, 29 June 1998. This story was fabricated for the Australian research paper as an example of what MIGHT be possible by hi-tech hackers, in the lead-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The researcher even STATED that it was a myth. But now it's being circulated globally as fact...
As we in NZ know, the massive power blackouts were caused by aging equipment failures and maintenance oversights (which were well-researched in the witchhunt that followed).
Daily FAIL!
PS: 03 May 2012 - Finally, the coroner's report on Gareth Williams' death. And it's a "No shit, Sherlock"!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gossip Is Never News

It's nice to know, in the media, there are still some broadcasters with principles.
Mika Brzezinski is a presenter on MSNBC in America. In June 2007, Mika refused to read a story about Paris Hilton's release from jail. An hour later in another news bulletin, her producer again wanted the story as the lead, ranking it over an item about the Iraq war, which Mika considered more important. After sarcasm from a co-host, she tried to set the script on fire on-air, but was physically stopped by another co-host. She then tore up the script, and an hour later fed another copy of the script through a paper shredder...

Over the following days, she received large quantities of fan mail, supporting her protest as a commentary on the tension between hard news and entertainment news.
Perhaps more people in the media should follow her example – not in such a dramatic fashion, but by impressing upon their editors that "entertainment fluff" is not news material. The public deserves more respect than to be fed gossip and 'padding' material disguised as news (Lindsay Lohan's recent prison and rehab drama is a classic current example).
Gossip and "fluff" is never news, let alone the lead story in a prime bulletin...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eeee, What Really 'appened, Like!

In a reverent doffing-of-cloth-cap, Britain's ITV is filming the story behind the birth of Britain's favourite soap, Coronation Street. the dragon lady herself, Ena SharplesAnnie Walker, owner of the Rovers Return pub
As The Street reaches its 50th anniversary, this one-off drama takes viewers back to 1960. Back then, fledgling writer Tony Warren dreamt of bringing to the small screen characters from the northern area he knew well – ones we came to love like 'the tart with the heart' (Elsie Tanner), the snob (Annie Walker), the old nosy battleaxe (Ena Sharples).
The drama charts how Warren's vision of Florizel Street made it to the screen against fierce executive opposition. It's a story of boardroom battles and hopes dangled by threads. Elsie Tanner during filmingIt shows how Granada Television's workforce stood behind one of their own and how bosses finally took a gamble – but not before one important thing was changed: the show's title. Florizel Street died on the evening of 9 December 1960 as Coronation Street was born.
the only original cast member left, Ken BarlowQuite a stellar tv cast is lined up...with The Street's longest-serving cast member William Roache (who plays Ken Barlow) played by his real-life son, James Roache!
Coronation Street is the longest running and most watched British soap, and is about to become the world's longest currently-running scripted tv show. It's watched worldwide by staunchly loyal fans: in fact here in NZ, when the government-owned tv channel planned to reduce the screenings per week, public uproar forced the issue to be raised in parliament!
So Happy Anniversary, "Corrie"! We look forward to peeking behind the scenes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Power And The Glory

Lake Tasman with Mt Cook towering behind itIt would have been quite a sight to see: 30-50 million tonnes of ice breaking off the Tasman Glacier in the central South Island, forming around 20 icebergs now floating in Lake Tasman.
The process began earlier this month after heavy rain, when the terminal face rose 20-40m, lifting millions of tonnes of ice from the water across the entire 600m width of the face.
Last Wednesday (18th.), a small section of ice calved (broke off), resulting in a massive spectacular iceberg separating from the face. Then this past weekend, the rest of the uplifted ice broke away in the biggest-ever calving of the lake's 35 year history.
At 27km., the Tasman Glacier (in Mt Cook National Park) is NZ's longest glacier. If you're holidaying there Glacier Explorers - which takes cruises on the lake - resumes operations on 3rd.September, a month ahead of schedule to take advantage of the opportunity to see these magnificent new icebergs. Their scale is enormous: the biggest one is about 300m x 200m and 40m high (that's 13 stories high and the size of dozens of football fields!) - and that's literally only the tip of the iceberg. And they flip, turn and move as natural forces take action.
This video will give you some idea of the view awaiting visitors...
it will certainly be a stunning iceberg and glacier cruising season. Before...and after

Monday, August 23, 2010

U2 For A Song

U2 returns to NZ in November... with tickets from only $40! The band plays Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium on November 25th as part of its 360 degree tour.
The new stage structure with a raised platform lets punters see the action from all sides, hence why the tickets start at just $39.90 (promoters say 54% of the tickets will be under $100).
The set includes a 45m-high four-pronged steel structure, dubbed The Claw. With a cylindrical video system, interlocking screens and rotating bridges, the stage will allow full view by all fans no matter where they are seated - this is something the industry has been trying to figure out for some time.
The 360 degree tour has earned $400 million globally already, and last year the band grossed $182m, making it the world's highest-earning band.
Mt Smart Stadium has already started installing extra seating, which will also be used for sports crowds and the Bon Jovi gig on December 5th. U2 tickets go on sale Friday September 3rd. - at that price, they will be gone in minutes! And, although not confirmed (yet), there's space on its touring schedule for U2 to play a second Auckland concert...

PS: 05 Sept.2010 - After tickets sold out in under an hour, a second show has been confirmed in Auckland on Friday, November 26th at Mt. Smart Stadium. Tickets go on sale this Thursday, September 9th.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Child Abuse: Maori To Pay

Minister of Social Development Paula BennettPaula Bennett called a spade a spade last week, and hit maori leaders right between the eyes with one! Our Social Development Minister said maori had to make a stand and pay up for child abuse.
About a quarter of NZ children are Maori, but they comprise half of the abuse cases and family violence deaths. Bennett said efforts were needed to find children before they were abused, by identifying mothers with low self-esteem who let "mongrel men" into their homes as they searched for "some warped kind of love". She also said maori had to stump up with their own funding, so abused kids could be placed in iwi not state care.
Bennett challenged the Iwi Leaders Forum to "put your hands in your own pockets" to find care-families within their own iwi "because the government doesn't have the money, quite frankly."
Ahhh-haa! Take responsibility and action - the crux of the matter. Now read the response...
Ngati Kahu chair Professor Margaret Mutu said the suggestion iwi provide funding and resources was ridiculous: "We can't. We don't have them. It's a state responsibility. We know how bad it is, we know the helplessness and hopelessness... that we are the only ones who can save ourselves. But we also need resources and the support of the state to do that."
Ngati Kahu can't afford it???!!! A quick Google search says otherwise! Their treaty settlement with the Crown (Sept.2008) scored them a sweet $21.5 million - $14m financial redress and $7.5m for 'social revitalisation'. If protecting kids from abuse and murder is not 'social revitalisation', I dunno what is! (I've used Ngati Kahu as an example here, but collectively maoridom can afford it!)
Are these kids simply victims waiting to happen?This takes me back to the sentiments of my post during July's Maori Language Week: "...maori working FOR maori with maori MONEY, maori DIRECTION, maori PROGRAMMES... (it) requires a major commitment of time, effort and money... from maori (which) will only work if maori WANT to make it work."
So the gauntlet is down: do maori really want to make it work?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Another Karikari Stranding

Where is Karikari Beach?Most of a pod of 63 pilot whales that stranded on remote Karikari Beach near Kaitaia in Northland have died. They beached on Thursday night but were only discovered mid-morning Friday.
Heavy rain and wind meant no danger of the whales drying out, but it made conditions hard for rescuers. Weighing up to 1500kg each, it takes at least five people to work with each animal. The whales need to be positioned facing out to sea and held there for at least half an hour to allow them to re-orient themselves, before being released. The rough seas made this task very difficult for the trained volunteers from Project Jonah and Far North Whale Rescue.
Tough weather, tough jobDOC decided to transport the 13 remaining whales across 1km of road and refloat them in nearby Matai Bay, where sea conditions were more favourable. This technique has been used successfully in the past - and over longer distances, and it wasn't necessary to tranquilise the whales, as they were already in quite a docile state.
moving the whales from Karikari BeachBut just nine survived: one tried to strand itself on rocks, one rebeached and two others kept swimming upside down and in circles, so the tough decision was made to euthanise them.
Since 1840, NZ has recorded over 5000 whale strandings - more than most other parts of the world - and most commonly, they are long-finned pilot whales.
Karikari Beach was the scene of another mass stranding back in 1997, when 101 pilot whales died.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Elephant That Never Forgets

Google CEO Eric Schmidt claimed recently we share too much personal information online, and people may one day reinvent themselves to escape their digital past. Sounds extreme, but social networking HAS forced us to look closer at on-line privacy and identity.
The WWWeb and social networking bring many benefits. Facebook and Twitter have enabled people to reconnect with friends and family. They've also transformed online search and breaking news. But social networking also allows you to embarrass yourself or ruin your reputation - once it's online, it's global in seconds, and can still be found decades later!
It is not uncommon now for a job application to include social network account information: tech-smart employers may check out Facebook profiles and Tweeting histories. This gives employers an unfiltered look at who you really are, and is a much more effective tool than psychological personality tests: what you say/do online says a lot about you.
So, a bad idea to bad-mouth your boss or job on-line, or post pics and status updates about the fun you're having at the beach... after you called in sick. Employers are watching.
Who you know may decide if you get a loan. Some banks check your social contacts that also do business with them. Based on their credit history, the bank may make an assumption about what sort of credit risk you are. So ask yourself: how well do I really know those 10,137 friends?
Lawyers too find these sites can be evidentiary gold mines. Did your husband's new girlfriend tweet about getting jewelry? Courts might see that as marital assets being disbursed to a third party. Did your wife tell the court she's incapable of getting a job? Then why is she chasing job interviews on-line?
The Internet is "the elephant that never forgets". I would not recommend changing your whole identity to dodge your digital past, but I always recommend discretion and common sense online.

PS: 20 Jan.2011 - And if you need proof, here it is...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This Bird's Ready To Fly

The Birdcage in the shadow of the Victoria ViaductThank goodness at least ONE of Auckland's landmarks is being saved!
At the end of this month, the Birdcage Tavern (a Category One historic building) will be jacked up and gently transported 40m up Franklin Road. Auckland's original waterfront, 1841
     The move is part of the Victoria Park tunnel project, which will run directly beneath the Birdcage's present site. The delicate job will take 6-10 hours.
When the hotel was built in 1885, as The Rob Roy, it was actually on the waterfront but since then reclamation has location of the Birdcage beside the Viaductpushed the harbour several hundred metres away (as seen in this 1841 map).
When the tunnel is finished in about six months, the 125-year-old hotel will be moved back - not exactly onto its current position, but about 10m further forward, and rotated so its façade sits better with the Franklin Road/Victoria Street West junction. This'll create more open space for people in front of the tavern, where a public plaza has been planned.
the Birdcage, ready to fly!
So put Tuesday 31st in your diary now... it'll be a (slow and steady) sight to behold!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When It's Raining Cats...

There's a saying that dogs have masters, but cats have servants.
I am therefore greatly encouraged by the discovery of this new organisation — Cats Against Climate Change — because it suggests that finally something’s going to get done!
This video was submitted as part of the 'One Minute to Save the World' Climate Change short film competition, a competition that offered a unique opportunity for filmmakers to have their voices heard on the climate issue. Entries flooded in, from budding filmmakers and animators through to seasoned professionals. The winning campaign virals were shown at the Copenhagen Climate Conference (CCC) last December, and used in a global campaign to raise awareness of the CCC.
And no, I don’t like puddles either…

"Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was possible only after you're done." - Paul Hawkin 2009

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Are Ya: A Poofter or a Wuss?!

It seems the NZ gay community has its knickers in a twist, over the word 'poofter'.the troublesome twosome, Vinnie and Kirt
Last May, one of the breakfast team on More FM Tauranga used the word on-air... and the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) subsequently received a complaint (yeup, one complaint).
In its wisdom, the BSA cleared the station over the exchange, which you can listen to here...pretty innocuous, right? The BSA ruled the word was used to mean 'wuss', rather than as a term of abuse directed at gay people. But its decision has upset some gays - a Facebook group has 200+ members, calling for an apology. Instead, yesterday morning (Monday 16th.August) More FM Tauranga replayed the 'poofter' clip, asking listeners to vote on whether it should apologise.
Now, there seems to be a pallet-load of 'PC preciousness' associated with this story. I'm not gay but over the years I've enjoyed many pleasant hours socialising with gay colleagues. And I've heard them call each other "faggot", "bugger", "homo", "dyke", "queer" (and other names that still cause me to cringe).
So, if it's ok for gays to slag off each other with such brutally honest names, why is it not ok for the word 'poofter' to be used on-air? And let's reiterate: this instance was ruled by the BSA to be not any form of gay abuse.
Is this a 'beat-up' by A moment to milk mileage out of a minor melee in a miniscule mug?! Or perhaps this is *gasp* just the tip of a vile verbal gaybashing iceberg? The rise of the rednecked recalcitrant vocabulary-endowed viper?
Come down off that hobbyhorse, ya wuss - your average kiwi bloke just ain't no cunning linguist!
*stage whisper* Yea, he's probably a poofter!

(Interesting to see that on the website in May is an article covering the same issue, about which label fits you best.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Seeing Red

Guys, if you keep 'striking out' with women, it may not be just because of your yellowing teeth, unkempt appearance, dirty fingernails, dull lack-lustre eyes, lecherous smile or overpowering body odour! It could simply be...because you're wearing the wrong colour!
New research apparently reveals that wearing a red shirt is like waving a red rag to a bull, where women are concerned. Supposedly red makes guys more alluring to the opposite sex!
Geekazoid Sheldon from 'The Big Bang Theory'Women in the USA, UK, Germany and China said they found men, pictured wearing red, more sexually attractive than in other colours. Previously red was thought to be a sexy colour for women only, but the new study suggests the link between red and sex also applies to men.
The attraction over-rides any cultural differences related to the colour.
It even applies to red T-shirts and red frames around men's pictures too (although, as this image shows, there're exceptions to every rule!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bad Weather: Snow What?

Why WERE these people stranded???Gale-force winds stranded about 1200 people on Mt.Hutt skifield overnight Thursday: skiers, snowboarders, schoolkids and staff squashed into a cafe 1600m up the mountain, as winds gusting up to 200kmh (hurricane strength) roared across the South Island skifield. Extreme winds closed the skifield about 11.40am Thurday, with the access road shut at 12.30pm as gales piled up snow drifts and cut visibility.
NZSki chief executive James Coddington said the quick arrival of the bad weather (which he claims was not expected until Friday) had surprised staff. In contrast, the MetService said winds up to 180kmh were expected Thursday, easing around dawn Friday.
Hmmmm, it sounds like someone in NZSki didn't read the forecast properly! Last week, a storm dumped ½m of snow all over that region. And from the start of this week, the MetService has warned of inbound seriously crappy weather due to hit the South Island on Wednesday! On all the tv maps, the imagery looked bad.
But NZSki are not the only ones in error. I wonder why a 300-strong school party went up on that day - surely organisers would have seen the forecasts too? Why didn't they delay the trip until after this storm had passed?
Operators in high-altitude locations, who rely on accurate forecasts, would be monitoring the weather extremely closely, on far more detailed alpine forecasts than what the public sees on telly. So there is NO reason why a small town's worth of people should have become stranded! The skifield should have been cleared and closed before the conditions got so severe!
Was nothing learnt from the 2008 Tongariro canyoning deaths?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Panic-demic No More

Swine flu's back in the news. *yawn*
Remember last year's donning of face masks and begging doctors for Tamiflu? All those mixed messages from overwhelmed health officials? The huge estimates of how many would die of swine flu (H1N1)? The panic rush to medical centres with every little winter sniffle? The hints of bribery by big pharmaceuticals?
Well, this week the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the H1N1 pandemic is officially over. But just to be sure, H1N1 has been added to this year's flu vaccine jab...
What's not been widely discussed is how well (or rather how badly) health officials predicted the growth of H1N1. The hundreds of thousands of predicted deaths turned out to be wildly inflated. The actual number of deaths is estimated at 12,000 - still a terrible toll but one that's eclipsed by the 50,000 deaths a year caused by seasonal flu. And ironically, the outbreaks started to decline naturally around the same time the vaccine finally became readily available. But by cricky, the panic sure boosted sales!
And now it transpires that more than half the USA's massive stockpile of H1N1 vaccine (US$1.6 billion!) was not used: only 80-90 million out of 229 million doses were administered. The rest, untouched and soon to expire, will be dumped!
There's no doubt the vaccine helped the pharmaceutical companies...but did it really contain the epidemic? And surely most journalists will now be a little deflated that they can no longer use in their repertoire that deliciously-emotive word "pandemic". Awwwww, such a shame!

[For all my postings on the inflated Swine Flu scare, click here...]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Indonesia's Face Of Evil

Evil incarnate, Abu Bakar BashirTo look at him, you'd think he was everyone's favourite granddad...but this is the face of evil in Indonesia. He is radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir...long believed to be the spiritual inspiration behind extremists in that region.
Linked to the terror group Jemaah Islamiah (behind the 2002 Bali bombings), he was arrested this week for involvement with a new militant network, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT).
Indonesian police say not only did Bashir appoint key members to run the JAT, but he also funded it. So this arrest is significant - if police can make charges stick. Three members of JAT were also arrested for fundraising, for a terror training camp set up by Bashir. Bomb-making gear was found, with a target list including Australia's embassy in Jakarta. Naturally Bashir's arrest has been hailed by Australia as a step in the right direction for Indonesia's anti-terror unit, under pressure to show results.
While it's fair to say that most Indonesians dis-associate themselves from Bashir's extremist form of Islam, there're concerns his arrest may spark a wave of sympathy among followers...but any attacks to secure Bashir's release will surely point to his guilt. And in such a volatile "Wild West" type of country where police are often hindered by a less-than-pure legal system, a "fight-fire-with-fire" enforcement attitude towards jihadists could easily be excused...or even condoned. I'm normally a strong proponent of 'law and order'... but for rabid dogs like Bashir and Bin Laden, I'm very happy to see legally-sanctioned exceptions.
Either way, this man's evil rhetoric must be shut down, before he incites more violence and sullies the image of innocent everyday Muslims (who coincidentally begin their holy month of Ramadan today - no doubt praying for long-overdue peace).
PS: 15 Feb.2011 - "I was only defending Islam" claims Bashir...but he does admit to running a terror camp!
PS: 16 June 2011 - Bashir gets 15 years' jail!!! Good bloody job too!!
PS: 22 June 2012 - Bali bomber gets 20 years.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nigerian Fraud Soldiers On!

3/25th on patrol, Iraq, 2004Got two emails recently from a guy on active service in Iraq, a Capt.Dick Kelsey of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regt. – very keen to get in touch! Have a read:
Dear Friend,
Good day and compliments, i know this letter will definitely come to you as a huge surprise, but I implore you to take the time to go through it carefully as the decision you make will go off a long way to determine my future and continued existence. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Capt Dick Kelsey, a US Marine Capt. serving in the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment which Patrols the Anbar province, Iraq.
I am desperately in need of assistance and I have summoned up courage to contact you. I am presently in Iraq and I found your contact particulars in an address journal. I am seeking your assistance to evacuate the sum of $10,570,000 (Ten million Five Hundred and Seventy Thousand USD) to the States or any safe country, as far as I can be assured that it will be safe in your care until I complete my service here.This is no stolen moneys and there are no dangers involved.
Some moneys in various currencies was discovered and concealed in barrels with piles of weapons and ammunition at a location near one of Saddam Hussein's old Presidential Palaces during a rescue
operation and it was agreed by all party present that the money be shared amongst us.This might appear as an illegal thing to do but I tell you what? No compensation can make up for the risks we have taken with our lives in this hell hole. The above figure was given to me as my share and to conceal this kind of money became a problem for me, so with the help of a German contact working with the UN here(his office enjoys some immunity)I was able to get the package out to a safe location entirely out of trouble spot.He does not know the real contents of the package as he believes that it belongs to an American who died in an air raid, before giving up trusted me to being hand over the package to his close relative.
I have now found a secured way of getting the package out of Iraq for you to pick up. I do not know for how long I will remain here as I have been lucky to have survived two suicide bomb attacks by Pure Divine intervention. This and other reasons being put into consideration have prompted me to reach out for help. If it might be of interest to you then Endeavour to contact me and we would work out the necessary formalities but i pray that you are discreet about this mutually benefiting relationship. 
Contact me...blah blah blah...
Yea...yea...yea...except (1) way too much detail; (2) letter structure so not how an American writes; (3) his "buddy" Capt. Brian Morgan also of 3/25th., emailed me the very same story but with an even larger sum of US$21,580,000!
(4) Wikipedia says the battalion is not in Iraq: it rotated out in Sept.'05, and deactivated in Jan.'06.
(5) And digging deeper, Kelsey was killed by a roadside bomb in '01!
Jeez, the levels these scum scammers will stoop to...!! RIP, Kelsey.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"The Milkybars Are On Me!"

Eeet's da Meelky Bar Keeed!The search is on for the next Milkybar Kid! Nestlé wants a vibrant, engaging child with star quality, aged 7-10, to wear the badge and say that famous catch phrase in a new TV ad.
The Milkybar Kid's always been portrayed as a blond, spectacle-wearing young boy, dressed as a cowboy in the Wild West. The ads' original jingle (I reckon the chirpiest jingle to ever hit tv!) extolled "the goodness that's in Milkybar" - more recently, the jingle was changed to "the good taste that's in Milkybar". And the pronunciation of the company's name was also corrected from "nessulz" to the Swiss "ness-lay" (Nestlé).
The iconic kid first appeared in 1961, and has been played by ten actors since - rescuing his mates from various situations, often by lassoing a bad guy. The MB Kid would then shout "The Milkybars are on me!" providing the cue for one big, almighty cheer as he hands out the white chocolate bars.
The TVC below is from 1991: it's actually the original clip, but with the new pronunciation and the 30th Anniversary title in colour at the end. Enjoy the nostalgia!
And let the PC Brigade note: the kid has always had blonde hair to match the Milkybar - no other reason, ok?

PS: 19 Nov.2010 - It's all decided...the Milkybars are on HER! Yeup, HERRead on...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Are Overdue Apologies Ever Worth It?

Hiroshima devastation - can this be justified?America apologises for Hiroshima – well, sort of. It recognises the suffering caused – well, kind of. A US ambassador attended a memorial ceremony yesterday in Hiroshima... but don't confuse that with saying "sorry".If you apologise for killing civilians, you have to do it quickly and for humanitarian reasons. Wait too long or do it for political reasons, and it loses its effect.
Today many believe the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were "war crimes". And the attitude at the time, that the bombs spared a bloody Allied invasion of mainland Japan, skirts the fact that the bombs mostly killed civilians.
So then, will Japan apologise for the murder and rape of a million Chinese civilians in the attack on Nanking before WWII? Will it apologise for Pearl Harbour? 
And really, what good does it all do? In 1997, Britain's PM Tony Blair recognised the suffering of the Irish potato famine victims, saying the government did not look after its Irish citizens...even though the famine took place 150 years ago! Note: no apology. Then the Brits waited almost 30 years to say sorry for the Bloody Sunday killing of 14 civilians by British paratroopers. Had the truth been told at the time, Northern Ireland's civil war may have been far less bloody, but the lies helped IRA recruitment. Even now, USA and its tag-team show no intention of apologising for the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. And here in NZ, the public purse is constantly raped for cash apologies to maori tribes, over colonial errors of the 1800s.
Hiroshima is a symbol for mankind's guilt, but it raises the question: do "war crimes" and colonisation heavyhandedness have an expiry date? If not, what about 1066? Or the Spanish brutalities in South America? Or even the death of Jesus? I guess Italy would have to apologise for that...and then lots of Christians would need to apologise for blaming the Jews.
Yeup, its a thorny issue, this 'post-dated apology' business. Is it a step in the right direction? Or far too late?
PS: 11 August 2010 - Surprise-surprise! Japan has apologised for the 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula, while quickly adding it's not willing to discuss any compensation claims!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hone: Prejudice...Or Racism?

Once again, firebrand Maori MP Hone Harawira has leapt in front of a speeding train, this time stating he would not be "comfortable" if one of his kids dated someone non-maori.
Because of his public dislike of white society, the PC Brigade screamed "Racist!" This is a multi-cultural society - what's wrong with a mixed relationship? I'm sure everyone knows a successful relationship with partners from opposite sides of the ethnic fence. Harawira's own grandfather was white!
However there's an equally strong argument for marrying / partnering within one' s own ethnicity: advocates claim there're no cultural chasms to bridge, there're more likely to be similar aspirations, expectations, quicker understanding of one's partner and family background. This is not xenophobic: it's just practical and logical.
But we're all aware that love knows no bounds: this hard-to-define emotion has a sneaky habit of crossing boundaries with zero regard for social constructs.
So is Harawira's comment racist? If he said it because he wanted to keep his family bloodline pure...well, that's racism. But surely this is prejudice, not racism...and how many of us don’t have prejudices?
If we’re honest, we've all got a mental pre-set image of "the right sort of person" for our kids. Would you truly be happy watching your daughter date a tattoo-covered beer-swilling motorbike-revving labourer? You'd surely prefer the date to turn up clean, dressed neatly and driving a tidy car. Would you suck it up for the sake of your kid, and look for the warm heart inside that tattooed shell? I think not...well, not without some discomfort anyway.
Prejudice is part of life. We've all told jokes about different races... and the world didn't stop because of that. We're all a product of the society we grew up in: if it was riddled with prejudice, it's likely we have a touch of it too. Current PC thinking says we must eradicate that.
But so what if we have prejudices, preferences, pre-sets? By bringing them into the open, isn't that more honest than hiding behind the "love all, offend none" whitewash of Political Correctness?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Death of Heavy Metal?

Ok, so why do I find this funny? Off 'the wires' comes this current story from USA:

A van carrying two metal bands crashed Monday on Interstate 5, killing a vocalist and injuring two guitarists.
The San Francisco-area bands Early Graves and The Funeral Pyre played a show in Oregon on Sunday and were heading to Nevada when the driver lost control after falling asleep, said state police. Makh Daniels of Pacifica, Calif., died at the scene. He was the vocalist for Early Graves, which recently released its second album, 'Goner'.

You're right: I have a very sick sense of humour...but with band names like that, perhaps they were a-visit-to-the-morgue just waiting to happen...?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bulletpoints For 03 August 2010

Mistress PamFrom broadcaster to politician to brothel madam? Pam Corkery is being linked to plans for NZ's first brothel for women. She's looking for a property in Auckland where sex workers will be male, and clients female. It's believed the brothel plan will be shot as a reality TV series (focused on the hiring of male sex workers) and then continue to operate once complete. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight...
Available to the highest bidder......and from NZ Prime Minister to turn-coat to UN investigator, Geoffrey Palmer will head a probe into Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. All I can say is: Israel's just damn lucky that no whales were involved, or Palmer would've already sided with the Palestinians!
...a report says Auckland's Rugby World Cup venue Eden Park may not have a viable business plan, and poses a significant risk to Auckland ratepayers: they may have to pay a $40 million bill to complete the park's upgrade for next year's Cup! Is that the same multi-million "small beer" blow-out kicked around by Minister Murray McCully last August? Or extra?
We won, right?...US President Obama has confirmed the August 31 deadline for withdrawal of all American combat troops from Iraq will be met. Plans are afoot to ship in thousands of vestal virgins for the Taliban celebrations! Meanwhile, Americans are searching for the definition of "victory"...
Jeremy takes the long way home...and finding a different route home, kiwi Jeremy Burfoot has started his journey to set a world record travelling London-Auckland on a jet ski. The 5-month 32,000km journey, to raise cancer awareness, will take Burfoot and his team along the waterways of Europe, through the Suez Canal, around the Arabian Peninsula and down the coast of India to Australia, before finally berthing in Auckland. Yes, this country IS full of nutters!!!
PS: 19 June 2011 - Pam's brothel idea has been shot down.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Generation Kill"...It's Dead.

It's finally over: GENERATION KILL's run has been excruciating!
I sat through it, hooked by the hype that likened it to the excellent BAND OF BROTHERS and the not-bad-but-not-great THE PACIFIC. After each episode, I convinced myself there HAD to be better to come...just wait for one more episode...etc etc.
And so, in the post-analysis, my stats will be added to the overall viewing total to trumpet another tv success story. Well, sorry - but contrary to many raves, I found GENERATION KILL's depiction of the Gulf War to be deathly dull.
Almost none of the central characters are likable, intelligent or even believable. They stroke their own egos about each being worth a million bucks of training (as if that matters to a 25c bullet!), yet their gung-ho military tactics and assessment of potentially hazardous situations are appalling. So too is their attitude to the Iraqi locals, and the other countries assisting them in their 'War On Terror', eg:
+"Is there anyone else in this war - or just us again?" (What, y'mean like WWII?)
+They drop an airstrike on an Iraqi village...just because they can.
+They want to "become MEN" by 'greasing' a raghead.
+A mentally unstable officer is allowed to remain in combat.
+Attacks are undertaken, not for the strategic good, but so their unit can beat another unit.
+There is slack discipline and little sense of purpose.
+There's no court-marshal when a soldier kills two Iraqi children.
+They abandon a broken-down fully-loaded munitions truck...then complain when the enemy destroys it.
+They stop their entire convoy, bunched together, on a bridge - a perfect target.
+They strafe civilians because...well, they're Iraqis, right?
+This war is portrayed as one big video game.

Now some may say: "It's only tv"...but this was supposedly closely based on reality, as seen by a journo with a front-line unit. And if that's so, then it highlights problems within the US military at that time - one only hopes they're fixed now!
I've never been in combat, though having served in the army I fully understand "hurry-up-and-wait", military boredom, inadequate and insufficient supplies...but there's a lot more to winning a war than rushing in like cowboys, "kicking ass". Public opinion (both at home and at the front) has been part of winning wars as long as people have been waging them. An unpopular war will almost always be lost, no matter what strategic or tactical measures are used.
GENERATION KILL not only highlighted for me that the US mind-set lost the Iraq war before it began but also showed that, as a supposed tv tour de force, GENERATION KILL also lost the battle.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

They're Just Words...Aren't They?

Such care must we take, lest others we offend. Verily, it must be so or berated we would not be, for using what seem to be innocuous terms...
A seminar organiser was scolded recently for asking the attendees to do some brain-storming. The phrase conjures up images of the zip-zap of lively debate...but no. 'Brainstorming' is not PC, lest it be perceived as referring to the electrical disturbances that are part of epilepsy! I jest not! The Politically Correct phrase to use now to describe a hectic exchange of ideas is...thought shower. How wet that sounds. How limp. Wait...what's that...'tis the drip, drip, drip of opinions cascading from above..!
Of course, because news now comes in sound bites and headlines, clever word manipulation is mandatory in politics and business. And some people make a good living, telling people how to do it. Thus oil companies benignly explore for energy, not wantonly drill for oil. And some expressions have become infamous: enhanced interrogation techniques are no more appealing than torture ever was.
One of USA’s most influential word wranglers, Frank Luntz (author of Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear) says, if you’re a business / political leader, five words you should be using now are: consequences (because people think there should be consequences), impact (because we want to know what’s really happening), reliability (because we’re sick of things not working), mission (because we want to know our leaders really care), and commitment (because we care that leaders are personally committed to things, and not just making empty promises). He says 'being on a mission' is different from dreaming up some cold corporate "mission statement". Remember those? What a crock of s*** they all were!
There're a few words that should be on the Good Words For Leaders list: truth, authenticity, and honesty...though today if someone in charge says they’re giving us the honest truth, that just reeks of being inauthentic. Ha! It’s got to the point where we're doubting everything we hear on the news!
(...with thanx to Lindsey Dawson at Grownups New Zealand)