Thursday, February 28, 2013

Elephant And Mouse?

It's one of the most tense anti-whaling Antarctic clashes of the past decade.
Japanese whalers have made several attempts to break Sea Shepherd's blockade of their Korean tanker Sun Laurel. The 8,000 tonne factory ship Nisshin Maru has collided several times with Bob Barker while trying to force its massive bulk between BB and the tanker.
Paul Watson: "NM first rammed BB and pushed it into the side of SL. Concussion grenades were deployed against BB, and near the tanker. Then NM rammed Sam Simon in the port quarter...very intense." 
Earlier, the 12,500- tonne Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force icebreaker Shirase arrived on the scene in Mackenzie Bay, near the coast of the Aust.Antarctic Territory far to the SW of Perth. Asked if the military vessel would be used in the conflict, thus escalating the situation, Japan's consul-general in Melbourne, Hidenobu Sobashima, said: "We are not in a position to comment on the movement of the ships." Riiiiight! The icebreaker was scheduled to be in the region conducting Antarctic marine scientific work. Coincidence...?
Of course, as expected, the nasty Nippons claim that SS rammed into NM, and quickly released video footage in support. But as always it comes down to the angle of the camera, and SS's footage from its helicopter puts the aquatic action into dangerous perspective...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beats Working

Workers have often been told by bad bosses that their jobs could be done at a fraction of the price by any number of diligent folk in China.
One American office worker arrived at an elegant solution. He found a Chinese software company to do his job for him, paid for the work using a fifth of his own six-figure salary, and spent his days surfing the internet, watching cat videos and taking long lunch breaks!
For over six months, he lead a leisurely life while receiving glowing commendations for his tremendous productivity. He also boosted his income with some freelance work for other companies, which he outsourced to the same computer code writers in NE China.
He'd probably have got away with it too, had it not been for a review of the company's private computer network, which showed what looked like someone in China logging into the system. They appeared to have hacked into the computer network using the credentials of an employee who was, at that very moment, sitting quietly at his desk!
The company's IT department called in investigators, thinking hackers had used some kind of malware to log into the worker's computer. Instead they found hundreds of invoices on the computer from China. A review of the worker's activities suggested he arrived each morning at 9am, departed for lunch at 11.30 and spent the long afternoons on eBay and updating his Facebook profile. At 4.30pm he emailed his manager with a progress update. His performance review noted he was the best developer in the building.
It's not clear if the man has committed any crime, but he's been fired for violating internal company policy.

Monday, February 25, 2013

All Over, Bar The Spreading

Marmite's coming the bully-boy bulldozer won't waste its time on the little ant any more.
Just days after announcing the return of Marmite, Sanitarium has dropped legal action against a Chch man who imported over 2000 jars of the British stuff.
Rob Savage saw a gap in the market, after NZ production of Marmite stopped last year, so he decided to import some. But his stock was seized, when food monster Sanitarium claimed his spread infringed on its trademark.
Sanitarium offered a deal whereby he'd get the UK Marmite back if he covered all the labels and didn't import any more. At the time Rob refused the deal, saying it would admit infringement. The jars will now be released, after he agreed to affix labels to cover the English brand name. Savage says he's disappointed the outcome wasn't reached sooner, but he still plans to import up to 40,000 more jars in the near future. So there! Nyah-nyah!
Marmite lovers won't be going without for too much longer though: Sanitarium says post-EQ factory repairs are complete and the black spread will be back on shelves from March 20th. The company's one and only Christchurch factory was forced to shut down in March 2012 because of earthquake damage to a cooling tower. For almost a year, Marmite has been "black gold". Fans rushed to stockpile and supermarkets quickly ran out, sparking a "Marmageddon" with ridiculous on-line prices being paid by Marmite junkies.
Quite frankly, I could never see what all the drama was about - Marmite is so totally inferior to Vegemite! And the flow of that wonder never stopped...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Who Trashed This Tagging?

Once temporary home to hundreds of stock, now a dump for used spray cans...
As an entity, the Canterbury Sale Yards has been around since 1874, but its building's stood vacant for over 25 years. Now sporting weeds, no roof or windows, its blank walls are canvasses for myriad 'street artists'.
You'll find the Sale Yards on Chch's Deanes Avenue, across the road from South Hagley Park and just up from Moorhouse Avenue. I've visited there several times to look at the graffiti...before I continue, I'll put on record that I'm not in favour of graffiti on public walls. To me it's multi-coloured vandalism with limited and base vocabulary...however, a good point about the Sale Yards graffiti was that all the tagging was confined to the internal walls where it was not hurting anyone. Indeed, it possibly helped reduce tagging around the local area. Though most was just coloured scribblings, there're some very good works of 'street art'. This all provided a vibrant backdrop for many photo/art students and some wedding photographers too.
I write in the past tense because last Sept/October, a community group "tidied up" the ruin. These do-goody-good wowsers took it upon themselves to roller insipid beige paint over almost all of the work, and thoughtlessly erased two pieces of special significance to the taggers: a memorial to a teenage girl, and a 7ft. tall face.
The roller work's happened at least twice! I'd be very interested to hear the reasoning behind the community group's vandalism. Under whose authority was it done? The building owner's? The council's? Did The Lord move in mysterious ways?
Unless there's sound justification, this was nothing but social bullying under a thin holier-than-thou pretense of 'tidying up the neighbourhood'. Ironically, it's also provided a clean slate for new tagging!
Whilst I don't defend tagging, I say: leave the Sale Yards alone until it's bulldozed.
As a taggers' easel, it's not hurting anyone!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Used And Abused

It might be inconceivable that you may misuse a word.
But a quick look on the web or tv shows plenty DO. And it's all too easy, when we hear or see words used incorrectly, to repeat them without knowing we're wrong.
Often good advertising, articles or books deliberately break grammatical rules. But when you break the rules without knowing it, you can look like a right plonker. Here're some commonly misused words: some pretty basic - others more obscure and just interesting to know.
Averse / Adverse: Averse - reluctant. Adverse - unfavourable. ("I'm averse to go sailing in such adverse conditions").
Carnage: This is being used regularly and wrongly by young tv weather reporters. Carnage means a great slaughter, a massacre. A storm cannot deliver carnage unless it claims many lives. Heavy rainfall is not carnage.
Complement / Compliment: Complement - something that adds to or supplements something else. Compliment - something nice someone says about you.
Criteria: Criteria (standards by which something's judged) is plural - criterion is singular.
Empathy / Sympathy: Empathy is relating to someone's feelings, without them having to say anything. Sympathy is supporting the emotional experience of that person.
"I empathise with how Sam must feel over losing his father."
"Sam, I offer my sympathy at the loss of your father."
Farther / Further: Farther talks about a physical distance: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? How much farther is it?" Further is talking about an extension of time or degree: "Take your business further by buying X!" But then again, anxious Little Timmy may well be enquiring about the timeframe of the journey…!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

There's Money In Pine Trees

In NZ tv advertising, The Briscoes Lady seems to have been around forever but, when it comes to sales longevity, she's got nothing on Colin Meads.
Amidst hundreds of accolades, Meads has been described as "the purest and most ferocious All
"Pinetree" and SsangYong
Black there has ever been" - Donald McRae in the Guardian. Now, 40 years after hanging up his footy boots, the mighty "Pinetree" is the advertising frontman supreme.
While other All Blacks gradually fade away, this icon remains a sporadic constant on tv, selling everything from farm utes to finance companies.
Apart from the ads, there's also a public-speaking career that's always boomed. At 76, Sir Colin Meads is still on the road as a public speaker, a career that's become a way of life kept organised by his wife Lady Verna: "Once he gave up rugby I thought that would be it, but now he's busier than ever!" Meads does 30-40 speaking engagements a year. In 2011, he went to Wales and did 14 speaking spots in 18 days. He says he never uses notes either, instead saying whatever comes, for whatever duration the organisers ask.
Times sure have changed. When Meads wrote his first book, the rules of amateur rugby meant he wasn't allowed to take any money. He had to make a trust to remain part of rugby, and none of his family were allowed to be involved.
Can Colin remember all the products he's endorsed? Well, of course most NZers recall the legendary one for tanalised fence posts, showing Meads striding across a hill-country farm with a fence post over each shoulder, as if on a Sunday stroll. For the record, we've seen the Big Man in ads for baling twine, Remington razors, Nissan Patrol, Honda ATVs, Bob Charles' Deer Velvet, SsangYong, Vogel's Bread, lifejacket safety awareness, Provincial Finance, Mastercard, Revitive Circulation Booster, even Mainland Cheese. And while he doesn't have any ads in the pipeline right now, he recently featured in a short award-winning mockumentary about gumboots!
In short, The Legend is a highly respected NZ household brand... good on ya, Pinetree!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It's Twisted, Sister

Destined to be a memorial...
The Medway St footbridge was taken away for safekeeping last week. The bridge became a symbol of the destructive power of Christchurch's earthquakes after it was twisted beyond repair by the Sept.2010 EQ.
Last week it was lifted in three sections by a 300-tonne crane from its Avon River site, and taken to the Ferrymead Heritage Park. It'll remain there until a permanent home can be found for it to become an EQ memorial.
There was some sadness among locals to see it go, but also relief because it was a stark reminder of the EQs for many people. Some residents had wanted the bridge to stay as it was, but safety concerns meant that was not possible. It was only being held on a few bolts and, every time there was an aftershock, it was getting worse.
It's hoped the bridge may find a place as a memorial within the Avon River park.
+ ...and another EQ reminder also looks set to disappear soon. The hands on the historic Victoria Clock Tower have been jammed at 12.51pm for nearly two years, but Chch City Council staff say time should now move on.
The council is committed to repairing the EQ-damaged tower, which marks Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee, but considered leaving one face of the clock permanently fixed at the time of the quake on
Feb.22, 2011 as a memorial.
Now a report recommends the council abandon that idea and restore the clock to full working order. Council's parks heritage contract manager, Maria Adamski, says if one face of the clock remained at 12.51pm it would alter the purpose of the clock as a memorial to Queen Victoria's jubilee. She said visitors would not understand the significance of the time displayed, the clock would not fulfil its purpose as a timepiece, and complaints about the time being incorrect were likely.
On the contrary, I feel Adamski has missed the point. Few visitors to Chch nowadays would even know who Queen Victoria was, let alone the date of her jubilee. This is not about being anti-Royalist, but leaving even one face of the clock marking a moment the city will never forget has far more meaning than a tugging of the forelock to a long-dead distant dame...
How about the council doing something that the people of Chch want, if that's not too twisted a suggestion..!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Louie, You Piece Of Filth!

We've been trying to kill him off for more than 50 years...
Now Louie the Fly is causing a buzz by trying to be immortalised in wax.
But the character in insect repellent Mortein ads, described by the company as "the lovable rogue" and the star of countless tv commercials, has been rejected by Madame Tussauds after he put in a bid to have his own waxwork created.
The waxworks museum based its rejection of the cartoon fly, who has more than 273,000 Facebook fans, on popularity. It said Louie would never be one of the "most requested" characters and wasn't the "right fit" or "popular enough" to earn a spot alongside some of Australia's biggest stars.
So now the household name - the face of Mortein since 1957 - is calling for Aussies to sign a petition to support his bid:"I'm an Aussie legend and have been buzzin' around a lot longer than some of the folks they have in there." Madame Tussauds have previously unveiled wax models of other non-human characters, including ET, Wolverine and Astroboy.
If Louie wins his battle, he'd be the smallest wax model in any Madame Tussands around the globe. His nearest rival is the UK museum's Tinker Bell who stands at just under 14cm.
Louie the Fly's long career includes countless tv commercials, newspaper and magazine appearances and his own cartoon in The Sunday Telegraph. But many readers may be unaware that Louie was actually created by the late novelist Bryce Courtenay! In an career in the advertising industry spanning 34 years, Bryce was the Creative Director of McCann Erickson, J. Walter Thompson & George Patterson Advertising. Among his award-winning campaigns were Louie the Fly and the original Milkybar Kid commercial.
The petition to help Louie's waxwork bid is available on
See Louie's ads over the years: [old] and [new].

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Skyfall Scene A Haunted Desolation

The 007 film franchise hit $1 billion at the box office by the end of 2012 with the latest film Skyfall.
Like the previous films, this one has an array of eye-catching locations, and one particular island stands out for its desolation: Japan's Hashima. The island makes the perfect setting for the film's villian - a rotting heap of buildings sitting out in the ocean, so creepy that you think it can't be real. But it IS. And it's history is even creepier.
The island is known alternatively as Battleship Island or Border Island, and it's about nine miles off the Japanese coast in the East China Sea. In the late 1880s, coal was found on the sea floor beneath the island. The Mitsubishi company, which was mining the coal, ferried miners to the work site from Nagasaki. Then it decided it would be easier to simply build houses for the workers and families on Hashima itself. Giant multi-storey concrete apartment blocks sprang up. Schools, bathhouses, temples, restaurants, markets, even a graveyard were built, all on a space the size of a football field. Once they reached 5,000 people or more out there, it was the most densely populated place on earth…ever.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

GBA Slams The Nasty Nippons

It's not only environmental groups targetting Japan's continued "research" whaling in Antarctica. A group of Latin American countries has joined the fray.
In a statement from Argentina's foreign ministry, member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Buenos Aires Group (GBA) expressed their "strongest objection to the hunting of whales."
The statement says the whales hunted by the Japanese are species "classified as endangered in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The GBA notes with serious concern that Japan issued 'special permits' authorising the hunting in the Southern Ocean of 850 Minke whales, 50 Fin whales and 50 Humpback whales."
The GBA said the hunting limits clearly proved the commercial nature of the operation, urging the Japanese government to stop whaling in the sanctuary.
Japan has been hunting whales for claimed "scientific" purposes under a clause in an IWC moratorium in 1986, which bans commercial whaling but permits hunting for scientific research. Its whaling has been widely condemned by the international community, but continues...because of stubborn Japanese pride and face-saving - and to hell with the multi-million dollar financial support bled annually from an unsuspecting Japanese public!
The GBA is comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay.
That LatAm countries are anti-whaling is not new. In Feb.2011, I blogged about Sea Shepherd's 2,000-mile pursuit of the Nisshin Maru factory ship, which nearly had the nasty Nippons entering Chile's Exclusive Economic Zone. Chile passed a law in 2008, making it "illegal to kill, hunt, capture, transport, disembark, commercialise, store or perform any process of transformation on an alive or dead cetacean" in its EEZ. It was ready to take strong measures against the factory ship - what a damn shame it then scurried back to Japan!
Also in that month, many South American IWC member countries joined together to take a strong stand against illegal whaling. They urged Japan to stop its "scientific" whaling in Antarctic waters and to respect sanctuaries: among them - Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.
Yet still the whalers come...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Culture Clash: Say What?

In our Brave New World, so strung out on Political Correctness, racial tolerances, cultural acceptance, minorities rule etc etc *yawn*... we'd be most likely to view this photograph, and assume the two Islamic women are muttering: "Shock! Horror! Probe! How dare she dress like that, and strut her stuff in public??!! Western harlot!"

In actual fact, what's the bet they're really saying:
"Hmmm, nice Jimmy Choos..."
"They'd match your Louis Vuitton handbag very well, darlink!"
"True...but how is she able to walk on grass in stilettos???"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sea Shepherd Severs Whalers' Fuel Supply

More success on the high seas for Sea Shepherd...
Its ship, Sam Simon, found the refuelling tanker for the Japanese whaling fleet, the Panamanian registered / Korean-owned Sun Laurel, 1,250 miles south of Albany, Australia.
SS's Steve Irwin changed course to RV with Sam Simon and will block access to the tanker by any illegal whaling ships attempting to refuel (just as was done so effectively in 2011).
The Sun is setting...
SL refuels the Nisshin Maru factory ship several times during the whaling season. By intercepting it, Sam Simon has literally cut off the fuel supply to the whaling fleet with the potential of forcing the whalers to end their season early.
Bob Barker continues to pursue the factory ship NM. Based on the course of the SL when located, it's believed NM has run for approx. 1,500 miles. This averages 200 miles per day, giving the whalers very little time to stop and kill whales. The harpoon vessel Yushin Maru III continues to be unable to kill whales, as it tails SI and reports the ship's position to a fleeing NM.
Despite informing the Australian Govt that its operations would be in the Ross Sea this season, the nasty Nippon whaling fleet has spent the entire time in Australian Antarctic Territorial waters and in waters near Macquarie Island...yet the Wizards of Oz still do nothing!

APP Change Of Heart?

A 'People Power' victory? A reprieve for highly endangered animals?
Global paper and packaging giant Asia Pulp + Paper (APP) has said it's stopping clearing natural forest across its entire supply chain (for now...), after worldwide accusations of deforestation.
APP is the Indonesian owner of Cottonsoft, which makes CottonSoft and KiwiSoft toilet tissue, Tuffy hand towels and Paseo toilet tissue in NZ.
You may recall I blogged back in 2011 that forensic tests on CottonSoft showed some APP products contained rainforest fibre. Soon after, NZ supermarket chain Countdown stopped using Cottonsoft to make its own-brand loo paper, and The Warehouse suspended all new orders of Cottonsoft toilet rolls. Cottonsoft has not been profitable of late, with a NZ$2m loss in 2010 and a NZ$2.3m loss in 2011.
In March 2012, Greenpeace tests of logs at APP's Indonesian factories found the mill that made raw materials for Cottonsoft regularly processed ramin, an internationally protected species growing in peat swamps where highly endangered sumatran tigers struggle to survive.
Now APP has announced all its suppliers have suspended natural-forest clearance, pending independent assessments to identify high-value conservation areas that would be protected through a long-term management programme (note the word "suspended", not "ceased").
Cottonsoft CEO Steve Nicholson says it's already made significant progress in NZ: "Our products are made from plantation sources and are certified by PEFC, the world's largest forest-certification scheme." [NB: the PEFC Scheme was formed by the very milling groups that forest certification schemes are meant to be watching. Its impartiality has been questioned by various global environmental watchdogs.]
NZ GP chief policy adviser Nathan Argent says the APP announcement is a very public acknowledgement of its devastating role in deforestation. He calls it's Forest Conservation Policy a significant milestone in trying to protect what's left of Indonesia's rainforest, home to the highly endangered sumatran tiger and orangutans.
However, until such times as APP shows a total committment to backing it's position reversal with sincere environmental concern, and makes concerted efforts to assist in saving those same species it's pushed to the brink of extinction, I'll be very very sceptical...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Race War On The Tarmac

Is this guy plain (plane) suicidally stupid?
Prosser: no
swastika lapel badge?

New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser thinks no young Muslims should be allowed on Western airlines because most terrorists are Muslim!
The Waimakariri list MP says he accepts most Muslims are not terrorists, but it's "equally undeniable that most terrorists are Muslims". His 'final solution': an all-encompassing radical prohibition of all Muslim males from "our aeroplanes." He says they shouldn't be allowed to fly again until Islam has "taken upon itself and proven it is able to prevent extremists". Prosser said he wants an end to "pandering to an upstart minority''. (Hmm, perhaps he should look closer to home…but that's another story.) He writes in his Eyes Right column in Ian Wishart's Investigate magazine: "If you are a young male, aged between 19-35, and you're a Muslim, or you look like a Muslim, or you come from a Muslim country, then you're not welcome to travel on any of the West's airlines...I will not stand by while [his daughters'] rights and freedoms of other NZers and Westerners, are denigrated by a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan.''
Sound familiar...?
He was inspired to write his two-page rant "Enemy of the State" after having his penknife confiscated at Christchurch airport. Awwww!!! Precious Prosser has conveniently forgotten the lessons learnt from previous in-flight incidents involving seemingly innocuous items such as box-cutters...instead he claims "ordinary people are being treated like suspects and pariahs".
Prosser, a self-titled 'Kiwi Nationalist', ran unsuccessfully for the Waimakariri electorate in 2011, getting only 538 votes. He later joined Parliament as a list MP for the party. Oh, bloody great! So NZ will be painted as an Aryan state, by someone wanted by only 538 voters!
Prosser's pillick prattlings have sparked on-line outrage and been slammed by a Muslim leader. NZ Muslim Assn president Haider Lone says the "senseless" comments are racist and will tarnish NZ's good reputation abroad. Lone has called on NZ First leader Winston Peters to discipline Prosser.
What do you think of this plonker's comments? He certainly has not balanced his attack by pointing out that most Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding – but is there an element of truth in his diatribe? Can Islam in general be blamed for the outrageous acts of an extreme few?

PS: 14 Feb.2013 - Prosser sorry but backlash continues.
PS: 14 Feb.2013 - I'm staying - get over it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Pope Has RESIGNED!

For the first time in almost six centuries, a living former pope will be looking on as his successor leads the Catholic church.
"Great! Now that that's over,
bring on the dancing nuns!"
Citing his failing strength of mind and body, Pope Benedict XVI has announced he'll become the first pontiff to resign since 1415. He will step down from the papal office on Feb. 28. "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to (the position)."
The surprise resignation of the 85-yr-old German, born as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger and ordained a priest in the aftermath of WWII, shocked not only most of his flock but also his aides.
During a tumultuous 8yr. tenure, Benedict guided the church through sexual abuse and financial scandals while seeking to reinforce Conservative doctrine among the 1 billion+ faithful.
Quiet and soft-spoken, especially in comparison to his gregarious predecessor Pope John Paul II, Benedict nevertheless maintained a vigorous travel and speaking schedule, and in December launched the first ever papal Twitter account. He was 78 when elected pope in 2005, the oldest person chosen since the C18th.
The Pope's decision, announced while the Vatican is wracked by allegations of internal power struggles, has ignited speculation about the selection of the next pontiff. At a time when the church is declining in its former stronghold of Europe, but gaining strength in Africa, Asia and Latin America, pressure is growing to break with tradition and elect a non-European pope. My black sense of humour always hoped the (now deceased) Philippines' Cardinal Sin would one day become Pontiff (for obvious reasons!)... 
The conclave of cardinals, which chooses the next pope, is expected to convene in mid-March.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Iran: Monkey Or President - Any Difference?

Soon after Iran said it'd sent a monkey into space at the end of January, observers started wondering if it'd been just monkeying
Spot the difference...
Iran's official pre-launch photos showed a distinctive monkey with a mole above its right eye. But footage after it supposedly returned showed another monkey altogether - one without a mole, with darker fur, and with a changed facial structure and nose shape. Opps!
If Iran's going to blow its own trumpet after ' yet another great Iranian triumph', you'd think it would get it right in the propoganda pictures stakes! Duuuhhh!!! Iran now claims this was merely a mix-up in pix, but has declined to produce both animals at the same time...
However, another possibility: a conspiracy theory of multiple monkeys! Iran sends numerous monkeys into space and then (in another great Iranian triumph) surgically joins together a composite creature from the various limbs of countless monkey corpses strewn about the spacecraft after it lands. Is this "new monkey" one monkey? Is it every monkey? Is it all of us? At what point does this become more of an philosophical question and less of a biological one?
"Eez der clone ready...?"
Being able to put a live monkey into space would allow Iran to move one step closer to launching a human. That may be a golden opportunity for its dickhead president to put his money where his mouth is! Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he's willing to be the first human to be sent into space by his country. It's unclear if he's serious, but some hopeful Iranians have set up a Facebook page: "In support of sending Ahmadinejad into space". One user posted: "We'll even pay for the shuttle's fuel costs!"
Prez Ahmadinejad's political star has been on the wane since he fell out with parliament and lost support of Iran's supreme leader. But could he soar again? Or would Iran produce a Ahmadinejad replica after landing? No, one of him is more than enough!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Korean Peninsula Tension Rises

Sth Korean border patrol:
"Hi-ho, hi-ho,
it's off to work we go..."
As North Korea (DPRK) prepares for a third nuclear test, South Korean border soldiers now have orders to shoot back immediately if they're attacked.
Stung by criticism three years ago of the time it took South Korean artillery to respond to a burst of shelling from the North, Seoul's Defence Ministry has relaxed rules that required its command centre to sanction any response. Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin has urged soldiers to "punish automatically... until the enemy surrenders."
Though unlikely, in a country whose military is kept in check by the US (its main diplomatic ally), the prospect of nervous conscripts randomly firing back across the border has raised concerns that a small incident could get out of hand.
The US heads the joint command that's in charge of the two countries' military response to any North Korean military action. Both the US and the South have kept a lid on activities that could risk further escalation, even when the South has been attacked – as it was in 2010 when the North shelled a South Korean island, killing two civilians. The South fired back but was criticised by the public for the length of time (supposedly 15 minutes!) it took to respond. The North also torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel that same year, killing 46 sailors.
Tensions are again climbing on the Korean Peninsula, with DPRK stepping up its rhetoric and saying it'll stage a third nuclear test soon as well as unspecified "stronger" measures. It seems new immortal leader and fat boy Kim Jong Un is more concerned with following in daddy's aggressive footsteps, than resolving the REAL issues in his mass starvation and cannabilism!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jesus Loves Wine

"Let there be sauvignon..."
There is a God - and He loves wine!
A certain incident at a wedding in Cana should be proof enough. But here's even more evidence - most NZ wine regions will be delivering bumper crops this autumn.
Marlborough's harvesting will start with sparkling wine grapes about mid-March. The harvest of sauvignon blanc, the region's dominant grape, will begin about a fortnight later.
Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens describes the pending bounty as "...looking like an absolute belter", adding that a good sauvignon harvest was crucial to NZ's economy, export earnings and global wine reputation. "It really is our biggest and most important grape variety by a long shot."
He says there isn't enough wine to meet demand in many local markets, and expects some pressure on releasing wines into the market from July.
A damn good summer in most places means most of NZ will start the grape harvest earlier than last year. The exception is NZ's pinot noir capital, Central Otago. Prez of the local Winegrowers Association James Dicey says a cool spring and early summer will mean a late March/early April start to picking the pinot noir grapes. Vineyards had recovered from November frosts and other cold spells in early summer but, even so, Central pinot noir is likely to be 5-10% down on last year. Vintage 2013 pinot noir will hit shops next year or 2015, depending on quality.
Meanwhile, consumers love the 2010 wines. That vintage is renowned as an exceptional vintage, while 2011 is slightly more of an elegant perfumed vintage. Prayers were answered...
vineyard in Lowburn Valley, Central Otago

Friday, February 8, 2013

Wakey-wakey! Hands Off Snakey!!

The Lunar New Year arrives this Sunday, with a new animal: the snake.
To capitalise on Asia's biggest shopping season, global luxury brands are rolling out a menagerie of merchandise. For the Year Of The Snake, fancy a Vacheron Constantin watch: $US150,000 ($144,800) with an engraved snake on its face? Or a serpentine, limited-edition Mercedes-Benz Smart Car (only 666 made)?
Lunar New Year is now part of many brands' annual retail cycles. It's debatable how much is actually Chinese and how much is Westerners thinking 'Let's put a red dragon on it, and the Chinese will love it.' But there's certainly a market...China's growing wealthy class is now more likely to splurge on more luxurious gifts. And their shopping spills across borders: Chinese shoppers last year became the largest group of luxury consumers in the world, overtaking Americans and Japanese for the first time in 2012.
To cash cater for Chinese clientele,Harrod's in London is selling its own snake-embossed gold bullion bars, weighing from 5 to 100 grams that sell from $US320 to $US5,700.
Last year (the Year of the Dragon), several European and US brands had limited-edition, dragon-themed products to attract Chinese bucks. One of the more extravagant was Rolls-Royce's "Year of the Dragon" Phantom car, priced at more than $US1.3 million, featuring embroidered gold dragons on the headrests, dragons painted on the wheelbases, and LED "Year of the Dragon 2012" lights on the tread plates. It sold out within eight weeks.
The Year of the Snake is an easy year for jewelry brand Bulgari. The company has carried its Serpenti line since the 1960s. It relaunched it last autumn, adding new items like a one-of-a-kind diamond-and-jade Serpenti necklace priced at more than $US400,000.
Just remember though: merchandisers may be guilty of cashing in on The Year of the Snake...but Hissing Sid was INNOCENT!

PS: 08 Feb.2013 - "Bomb your boss" with specially-branded Chinese New Year fireworks!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Seven Ain't Too Sharp

I tuned in to TV One 7pm Monday night to catch the first ep of its Current Affairs/young adult/humour/news prog Seven exactly is it trying to be??
I found little substance in Seven Sharp's news items at all.
The set of the show (supposedly aimed at a younger demographic) did not fit its concept.
Audio sounded as if the talking heads were in a bathroom.
Boom mic shadows across said presentators were amateurish.
And was that humour between the presentators? If so, it was too staged and didn't work.
The video voiceovers showed no change from TV One's standard painfully stilted stylisation. Wasn't this meant to be a new zinged-up all-singing-and-dancing different approach, with shorter bites and tighter production?
Graphics appear to have been scribbled on a TV One cafe napkin by an intermediate pupil.
A on-line poll, asking who should lead John Key on to Te Tii marae, mentioned Bellarusian shot-putt cheat Nadzeya Ostapchuk. Funny? I didn't think so. And how many of the new target would even recognise her name...?
The Facebook posts and Twitter bubbles (supposedly the favoured arena of the target demo) appeared too often. And if that turf IS the target's domain-of-choice, then would they even be bothered watching 7-Dull???
Bill Ralston, former TVNZ news boss: "all pastry and no pie."
Media commentator Brian Edwards: felt the sharp shift between comedy and a serious item did not come off too well. Also felt the presenters were trying too hard to be funny.
A comment on Twitter: "A fly is dying on a flypaper as I watch. Buzz."
Maori TV presenter Julian Wilcox: "This is rubbish."
If 7-Dull is meant to be a weapon in a battle between TV One and TV3, then TV3 - even with boring Campbell Live - has already won the war!

PS: 08 Feb.2013 - As I predicted, TV One's ratings dived in the 7-Dull timeslot!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Wonders Of Rubber

Here we are: New Zealand Day.
And what could be more Koiwoi than gumboots?
Around the world, they may be known as rubber boots, wellies, wellingtons, topboots, billy-boots, gumbies, gummies, rainboots, or Alaskan Sneakers...but here in Godzone, they're gumboots!
(And roll patriotic music) Our landscape was carved by men in gumboots! One of our comedic icons had a hit song about gumboots!! Taihape has an annual festival for gumboots!!!
Recently Tess Novak emailed me - she's writer, director and a producer of a short film called 'A Kiwi Legend'. This is a mockumentary about the use of that ultimate koiwoi icon, the gumboot. It features a star-studded cast of Kiwi legends: Melanie Lynskey (Hollywood actor), Valerie Adams (champion shot-putter), Colin Meads (rugby legend), Dai Henwood and Steve Wrigley (comedians), Denise L'Estrange-Corbet (designer), Beauden Barrett (All Black) and Kane Barrett (Blues player).
Gumboots: a bit of a dagg, mate!
It premiered at Tropfest NZ, our branch of the largest short film festival in the world. Tropfest is held in the US, Israel, Oz, China and France. Each entry in this year's inaugural Tropfest NZ had to include the signature item, a gumboot.
The 16 finalists' 7min. films played in front of 8,000 at New Plymouth's Bowl of Brooklands in late January, followed by the announcement of NZ's first Tropfest winner. 'A Kiwi Legend' won the Viewer's Choice Award.
So, for your viewing pleasure this NZ Day, check out 'A Kiwi Legend'! What could be more koiwoi...?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Te Tii: Maori Circus

It's never a dull moment at Waitangi for New Zealand Day, when the nation's bigwigs gather to spew platitudes… or to hear how certain ethnicities feel sooooo hard done by.
Today, it's 'maori welcomes' time on the lower marae at Te Tii, with official celebrations at the Treaty House tomorrow. There'll be the usual diatribes from rabid radicals like the Popata bros (nephews of Hone Harawira), who generally only raise their venomous heads when tv cams point their way.
Maori cling-on...
Today though, expect tribal tiffs at Te Tii…after moves to oust Titewhai Harawira (Hone's mum) from her role of escorting the Prime Munster on to the lower marae. Harawira, long-time activist and foul mouth, is a divisive figure even among her own Ngapuhi people. In 2011, Te Tii Marae's board threatened to ban her, accusing her of being a bully and breaching maori protocol. Ngapuhi trustees decided this year it was time for a change: they don't want Titewhai to escort visitors on to the marae.
Elder Kingi Taurua says the trustees have appointed their own "kuia of esteem" to escort Key on to the marae. But he delicately said Harawira went "ape shit" when given the news! She herself has no doubt over who'll do the job: "There is no confusion. It lowers my mana to even respond to something that isn't true." In other words, it'll be HER.
Harawira's role as self-appointed prime ministerial escort at Waitangi has bugged marae elders in the past - in 2009, they tried to replace her with Nellie Rata, widow of the late esteemed Matiu Rata. But as Key arrived, Harawira physically elbowed her out of the way!
To make things difficult, the trustees either didn't have the balls – or were too scared - to demand Harawira stand down. All they've said is that they've put forward their own honourable lady, and she'll be there. But the poisoned dwarf's said, no f***ing way!
With the interesting prospect of TWO escorts for the PM, expect fireworks and serious loss of mana today…as Titewhai once again shows her true colours. These days, we're used to seeing a maori circus at Waitangi. So enjoy your ringside seat!!!
Update: The bully has got her way...again!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Make Them Pay

PM John Key has rolled out a big to-do list this year...
He wants to bring NZ's budget back into the black, make the labour market more flexible, press ahead with energy privatisations and turn jails into "working prisons" with 40-hr weeks for inmates.
The PM announced these last week as Parliament kick-started for the year. He said NZ faced a construction boom, centred on EQ- savaged Christchurch, where an est. $30 billion was being spent. But the impact would be felt everywhere, as manufacturing geared up to supply materials: "Overall, the Christchurch rebuild is forecast to contribute 0.7% a year to growth over the next few years."
Johnno said operating deficits and govt debt increases had been "appropriate responses" to a recession, the global financial crisis and the Canterbury EQ. Now the govt hoped to hit a modest $53 million operating surplus in 2014-15, then start to reduce debt as a proportion of GDP.
There's plenty of talk about this wish-list already so I'll not add to it. One thing that did impress me was his idea of more working prisons, where crims are in a 40hr week work/rehab programme.
It's long past time for these misfits to pull their weight, pay their dues, and return something to the society they've damaged. In my opinion they should NOT get paid for it either - but be penalised further if they do NOT participate.
NZ Herald polled the question, "Should prisoners be paid for work schemes?" Of 3,000+ responses,
+Yes - they should receive minimum wage. 15%
+No - they're in prison for a reason. 70%
+How about giving them extended privileges instead? 15%
Based on that poll, and others more in-depth of late, NZers want those inside to pay their dues. We're not talking 'chain gangs' here... well, not YET...but prison is not a holiday camp. It's time inmates, wannabee crims, and do-gooders learnt that...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Why Pete Bethune's Not Laughing

What hope do the critically endangered Hector's dolphins have, when illegal fishing occurs in their supposed protected sanctuaries at night?
Pete Bethune and Earthrace NZ recently received info about vessels fishing in a manner very likely to lead to already critically endangered Hector’s dolphins (endemic to the South Island) being killed in fishing nets in the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary. So they undertook covert surveillance by plane, motor boat and kayak, by day and night from 3-13 Jan.2013. They saw and noted numerous vessels fishing, not only in areas like to put the dolphins at grave risk, but also well inside sanctuary boundaries.
The local Hector's population ranges from close inshore including within harbours, to 20 nautical miles (nm) offshore. They are found regularly in waters up to 100m in depth. By comparison, the Sanctuary (which includes both Lyttleton and Akaroa Harbours) only extends out to 12nm, whilst Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) regulations for fisheries currently allows gillnetting to within 4nm of the coast, and to within 2nm for trawlers, taking no account of the depth factor.
Current estimates are that only around 1,000 Hector's remain in this area - between 7-10% of the total population remaining.
Bethune: "Although not in as dire straits as North Island's endemic Maui's dolphin population (a sub-species of Hector's with only an estimated 50 remaining), this population of Hector's is rapidly heading in the same direction towards extinction, due to unsustainable by-catch in fishing nets and a lack of any effective response by the NZ Govt. Our surveillance clearly proves the sanctuary needs to be extended much further offshore, to take into account the depth as well as the distance that Hector's travel, and only fishing methods that don't kill dolphins should be used inside it."
Earthrace has demanded the Dept of Conservation (DOC) and MPI implement a new Hector's and Maui's Threat Management Plan to include:-
+Exclusion areas for gill netters and trawlers immediately introduced in all areas where these species exist in waters up to 100m deep, and up to 20nm from coastline.
+The number of inspectors and fisheries inspections within all marine mammal sanctuaries in NZ, where both species of critically endangered dolphin exist, must be increased.
+Fisheries inspections must also be carried out at night.
It is rarely if ever that observers are placed on board fishing vessels at night, despite previous evidence showing it is highly likely trawling at night does catch dolphins.
Scientists from NIWA and Otago University estimate gillnets kill 23 Hector's dolphins each year off the east coast of the South Island, with a similar number caught in trawl nets.
Earthrace Conservation has passed the surveillance info and names of vessels to MPI, asking them to seize their GPS tracking data, to verify observations of the gill-net vessel and the trawlers fishing illegally within the 4nm exclusion zone with a view to prosecution.
But will anything happen? For the sake of these tiny rare dolphins, something MUST and SOON!
These marine sanctuaries are a joke...but no-one's laughing.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Hobbit: Sooo Preccccioussssss!

Nyah-nyah, nasssty movie criticsssess!
Those same orcs who bitched that Sir PJ was just milking The Hobbit for all it was worth by turning it into a trilogy, who said it wouldn't fly, who didn't throw any awards at it...bite me!
As of last weekend, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has made more money worldwide than either Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring or Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in their entire time in theatres.
The international box office total for The Hobbit is currently $940 million, continuing the upwards trend of Jackson’s Middle-earth movies (Fellowship made $870m and Towers $923m).
The only Tolkien movie to make more money worldwide than The Hobbit is 2005's Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which grossed
We hates thems movie criticsss!
Only in the US are things are a little different. Currently, The Hobbit is lagging behind all three of PJ's earlier Tolkien movies, at a mere sniffling trivial 294m... although it's still in the middle of its run, and has only been out for seven weeks versus the 243, 250 and 170 days that Fellowship, Towers and Return enjoyed, respectively. At its current rate, it's highly likely The Hobbit will eclipse Fellowship at least before leaving theatres, if not also Towers. Return of the King, however, can relax on its throne made of the $377m it scored from US audiences.
So, lessons learnt? Maybe chalk it up to the power of a recognisable brand...or note that each successive Rings movie was more financially successful than the one before...or that critics don't always know what they're Tolkien about...or that Sir PJ is pure preccccioussssss!
Some things may simply be critic-proof, which is a relief given there're two more Hobbitssss waiting in the wings for this and next year. If the box office returns hold up, maybe talk of a final trilogy based on material in The Silmarillion won't seem so crazy after all!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Is It 'Game On' - Or 'Game Over'?!!!

At midnight last Tuesday, Sea Shepherd's ship Bob Barker found the Japanese whalers' factory ship Nisshin Maru and began pursuit.The nasty Nippons' security ship Shonan Maru II responded, and is following BB at a distance of 2 miles.
The day before, SS's Brigitte Bardot found the harpoon vessel Yushin Maru III. It headed off on a line designed to throw Bardot off the track of NM. However, Bardot decided to pursue YM3, forcing it to put as much distance between it and the mother ship as possible. Result? YM3 has now been pushed 400 miles from NM!
The Japanese whaling fleet has not yet killed a single whale. All four SS ships are guarding the approaches to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and interception was made before the fleet could enter the killing area.
Co-Campaign Leader and SS Oz Director, Jeff Hansen: "We have visual confirmation from the crew of the Bardot that the harpoon mount on YM3 is tarped up and has not been loaded, meaning that the fleet hasn't begun firing their harpoons."
This means January has been free of whales killed, marking the first time ever that no whales have been killed in this peak month of whaling.
Update: The security ship Shonan Maru II, with armed Japanese Coast Guard aboard, chased SS's Bob Barker into the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone around Macquarie Island. The Oz govt officially notified the Japanese govt to order SM2 out of its territorial waters. Meanwhile, Steve Irwin is being tailed by Yushin Maru I. With Bardot pushing YM3 well south, only Yushin Maru II remains with the factory ship far north of the whaling area, and running from the SS vessels. Sam Simon continues to pursue NM, free of a tail and assisted by aerial drones performing search grids. Once BB loses the tail of SM2 it will return to the pursuit of the factory ship.
All SS ships have enough fuel to remain in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary until the end of the whaling season...