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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pope's pervy pedagogical proclivities

So, Helen's teacher/bully sleazy, mad-facial-tic-twitching Minister is trying to wriggle out of yet more (seemingly accepted) allegations of pervy goings on with the girls at a school camp in 1997 when he was a teacher (for 24 years). This gross man is the epitome of the parliamentary Labour party and thus is protected by the arbiter of standards, the Prime Minister.

The PM says whatever he did was consistent with or not against "school policy" - there was no school policy! So what!? Murder isn't in the school policy either, does that mean it is acceptable? After Benson Pope they have a policy to say that the stuff Benson Pope did is now against school policy. How's that for your school policy!

School fucking policy, school bloody rules - what a crock of shit.

School policy is that teachers can do anything they want and the Principal will act arbitrarily, unilaterally and without consultation as if they personally made all the rules. The Board of Trustees are very rarely informed of anything. Officially, according to Ministry of Education guidelines etc. etc. they are supposed to inform them; but in real life the absolute tryanny of the Principal (sometimes in collusion with the Chair of the BoT) is unreported and usually unchallenged. Breaking the law routinely with school "fees" and punishments for those who don't pay these illegal charges are all too common. There are quotes from the school's letter to parents about the complaints - but of course the Principal is only going to write it up in the best possible light and admit nothing - so what value would that have.

I said earlier, about the other gimp-gagging/hitting/bully allegations, that if the students were female the PM would view the victims as humans and thus get rid of him (as she did with Dover Sameuls when he treated a teenage girl badly). Well now they are. But she seems to accept that he just bellowed at the entrance to the showers and that was that. But that isn't what is being alleged. Someone's not telling the truth - and Pope has no credibility in these matters after last time. The PM is even more evil than I previously gave her credit for. Maybe females aren't human to her either.

The Labour party in government and Helen Clark in particular are so deeply mercinary that they need the skills, knowledge, integrity, honesty, credibility, personality and competence of a sleazy, pervy, dodgy, creepy, bullying, gimp-gagging, lying, evasive teacher so badly that they are prepared to entertain the most outlandish fabrications and credulous excuses to retain such a hideous talent. And in doing so they smear themselves with his shame. They are hopelessly compromised: morally and ideologically. As in Animal Farm the liberators become the purportrators as power corrupts given long enough. So too with the PM's ridiculous statement that peoples' memories can't go back longer than 7 years. If she can't remember signing paintings she didn't paint then so too can the rest of her ministers suffer similar belts of selective amnesia. How many legs good again?

He should resign because of his constant misleading of parliament and the public. Had the party known of these events in his past he should not have been given the portfolios he has (at the very least). The public think he's a creepy old perve as well as a bully now. So it's all up to the media. If they keep it as the No. 1 story all week they could force a resignation. If another ex-student comes forward with an allegation that could also force a resignation. And there's two more days of parliamentary question time to get through this week. But if the pressure slackens then he could make it, wounded, but still standing and still a Cabinet Minister in Her Majesty's Government. Uuugh.

Oh, and naturally the Govt. announcement of the details of a free $5000 each for the middle class is totally coincidental. Designed to push the Benson-Pope story off the front page it has suceeded with the Herald and Scoop websites as of this evening.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Too popular - or too popular with the wrong crowd?

It's so popular that we had to cancel it:

27 February 2006

Cancellation of Dancing in the Street #3

The third event in Auckland City's Dancing in the Street series on March 17 has been cancelled due to the event outgrowing its current location.

The programme of free street parties, a component of Auckland City's Music in Parks series, are held in front of the Auckland Public Library in closed-to-traffic Lorne Street.

The popularity of the series has meant Lorne Street is no longer a suitable venue. Due to a shortage of time to find a new venue, Auckland City has decided to cancel the next scheduled event.

Or is it because of the outbreaks of violence reported towards the end of the event last time? I mean it sounds stupid enough to be a decision that the council would make; but is it just spin? Cancelled due to police pressure doesn't sound so good.

Russell Brown's experience of the last one:

I love these events; they're mad and energetic, and Lorne St was packed with kids when we arrived [...]

Around us, kids hopped up on BZP hopped around and texted their friends. Then Concord Dawn came on and they hopped 30% faster. Drum and bass isn't my favourite kind of music, but I do love the energy of drum and bass crowds, and it's not hard to see why Concord Dawn are regarded as one of the top D&B acts in the world. Here and there, a pair of cops wove through the throng, seeming almost stationary against the hubbub and clatter around them.

Apart from a brief scuffle near the front, there seemed to be nothing to trouble the plod. But as we left afterwards, someone working on the production said there had been several people staggering away from the mosh pit [...] dazed and bleeding, on account of several other people - on the P, no doubt - going way too far. There had been perhaps half a dozen arrests.

In which case, allow me to salute some intelligent, organised policing. There was a time when New Zealand police would have piled in on something like this; aggravated people, created a disturbance, stopped the music. But not this Friday night in town. They appear to have dealt with genuine problems so swiftly and efficiently - whipping miscreants to vans round the corner - that we, and a couple of thousand other partygoers, had no idea anything was amiss.

Mr Brown perhaps sees intelligence where others see necessity - or negligence. The result of low-level policing may not have been by design - it may have been understaffing and being taken by surprise at the sudden turn of events. Having attended only once before (last year or so) it was all very nice and civilized and there was no need for any heavy security presence. Perhaps that has changed? I heard from someone who was there that afterwards was no safe place for skinny white kids (although, where is, really? - not even the North Shore where there is nothing but).

No doubt the cops acted appropriately in that situation; but maybe they would find it easier to recommend cancellation than have to re-jig things to get more staff on? ie. they can't be bothered.

What about Aotea Square if it's so popular and is "outgrowing its current location." Is it just the historical association with the 1984 Queen St riot that stops them recommending that? They can use the market stalls erected for the following day as a perennial excuse not to have it there and avoid having to deal with that aspect of our past. (sorry- can't find any pics of it on google).

I wouldn't be surprised at all if this council decision had something to do with the violence and arrests last time round. And I'm not surprised that they wouldn't say it outright either.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Film Review: Syriana

Released today. The official website as usual needs a bit of bandwith.

Director/Writer: Stephen Gaghan
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, Alexander Siddig

Gaghan (acclaimed for his screenplay for Traffic) manages a multi-layered twisting thriller that is nevertheless intelligible and enjoyable even with Matt Damon.

The written synopsis is far more convoluted than it plays out, suffice to say Clooney is the CIA operative man-in-the-middle for all manner of US-Middle East oil scheming involving politicians, Arabian princes, Muslim terrorists, American corporations, Lebanese Hizbollah and oil futures analysts. There is action, adventure and a hefty travel itinerary needed to get from a conspiracy to double-cross the Iranians in a tin-pot arms deal to a conspiracy to take over a Gulf State's oil reserves.

This movie is a critique of the US world order as much as it is of it's internal politics. It could be just another lefty whinge from the liberal elite on a Bush-bashing outing - but these issues transcend whatever muppet sits in the oval office at the moment. The historical background to the various players are wedged into the mix sparingly. This is no preachy excercise it is a pot-boiler of intrigue, high-stakes and ruthless men - and Damon's wife trying to insert some female-ness into the testosterone zone with a traumatic episode to get over with their child is tolerable.

Clooney put on some weight for this role and the torture scene isn't his sexiest on-screen moment. We want Damon to get the same treatment but it never seems like happening: ditto wife. Wright as the super-straight lawyer does a fine job as we see him get with the corporate programme over the length of his investigation and also the relationship with what appears to be his enigmatic father. Cooper's ruddy faced, Texas tough-guy, oil man character is right on the money, literally; and the two Arab princes vying for power are disturbingly similar in looks and inclination to Uday and Qusay Hussein and are thus the best cast decisions of all.

As far as pace goes it is just right and as for the characters, they are just far-right. It's an engaging, watchable, topical, thoughtful thriller.

I'll give it a 4 out of 5. But I wouldn't blame those who would deduct at least half a point for having to cope with the always weak, pretty-boy, blank-face Matt Damon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Film Review: Goal

Goal is being released today. The official website is a bit wanky and takes some time so the director and cast info comes from here.

Director: Danny Cannon
Cast: Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, Marcel Iures, Stephen Dillane, Anna Friel

As someone who particularly dislikes soccer, this motion picture advertising (and threatened trilogy) for the soccer World Cup reads like a nightmare: poor Mexican wetback kid gets lucky break and leaves LA to play for Newcastle United - but the acting is great, the story and characters realistic, and the cinematography in the few actual scenes of play is long on action and short on the mid-field pussy-footing that drives the sceptical to distraction.

We're rooting for the kid from the very start as we witness the drudgery of his illegal immigrant life, living in LA with his hard-arse father, doting grandmother and younger brother and his dream of international football fame in the form of a roll of banknotes tucked into his old work boot as his ticket out of deprevation. He's spotted by an ex-Newcastle talent scout and former player who gets him a trial and then his introduction to the big league begins, commercially, socially and professionally. Given the climax was an inevitable first game victory and is preceeded by beginnings of a daliance with drugs and a lifestyle like it was Miami in the 80s there is a lot of ground left to cover for the rest of the movies.

The kid works his way quickly through the training camp and after a the usual ups and downs (including a particularly weak non-issue of having asthma) forms a somewhat improbably immediate friendship with the No.1 glamour striker. He pulls a girlfriend, earns the respect of the Sven Goran Erikkson-type coach and his family back home learn of his exploits which even his father will respect in the end. It has very good pace and ends at the right point (where so many films these days are far too long) but some things just get brushed over. The most nagging is the total non-explanation of how he, as an illegal Mexican immigrant in the US, goes back to Mexico, and then gets to stay and work in the UK - the lack of paperwork was annoying - you expect an immigration officer to intervene at any moment to boot him out.

This is a surprisingly well-made flick that delivers a solid, simple story and apart from a few niggles didn't have to rely on tricky sub-plots to sustain interest - that was all down to Becker and he look set to score from a long way out.

I'd give it a 3 out of 5. A soccer fan may give it half a point more and as far as achieving what it set out to do it would be closer to 5/5.

[Syriana is also due to be on general release today - I'll post my review on that shortly.]

City-wide cover-up

NZ Herald report neglects to mention that what has occured looks like corruption, or economic sabotage or gross and deliberate insubordination - either way these characters must be dismissed:

The council introduced a new footpath policy in 2003 to stick with red-chip footpaths in mostly heritage and character areas after the public voted red-chip tops when different materials were laid at a site in Sandringham.

Senior officers, including directors Dr Jill McPherson and Paul Sonderer, decided in November 2004 to stop using red-chip, according to documents obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act. [...]

Professional services manager Neill Forgie instructed the contractor, Fillmore Contracting, on November 19 to cease all work for seven days as there was a policy change. The stoppage led to a $118,150 claim by Fillmore for "major disruption" to the planned work programme. Mr Forgie expressed "great disappointment" about the claim, but the council paid up. [...]

Council chief executive David Rankin [...] has stopped Dr McPherson speaking to the Herald on the issue [...] was satisfied officers had not changed council policy but simply suspended it when they felt what was happening was not what the policy intended.

And the reason why these officers decided to unilaterally change the policy that went through the usual exhaustive and expensive rounds of public consultation?

They had become concerned about a colour clash between red-chip footpaths and white driveways, problems matching vehicle crossings, and matches between the new and old red colour. The officers decided that in general all footpaths would be done in black with matching vehicle crossings.

Colour clash!? They did the footpath outside here last year in the red chip concrete and it looks great. There is no colour clash worth mentioning. My problem was that they did not take the opportunity to underground the overhead wires meaning that we are stuck with the mass of cabling for 40 mother-fucking years - that upset me. And in more measured language I put my concerns to the Finance Committee incl. the Mayor who ummed and arred and seemed to pass the buck (as usual).

Now we have some cunting little Council boffins personally decreeing that asphalt with a quarter the life span of the publicly acclaimed concrete should be put everywhere incl. across driveways where they are obviously unsuitable. Just so monumentally typical.

Whale Oil suggests:

...the reason for the change is less about aesthetics and more about the fact that the officers are trying to penny pinch on spending on footpaths to compensate for extra spending pressures elsewhere.
Asphaltic Concrete, particulalry Mix10 which I suspect the council is using, is only rated to last for about 10 years. The red chip concrete was consulted with at length by Aucklanders who wanted a surface that would last 40 years.

What about the obvious questions:

1. Are the asphalt companies paying kick-backs to these officers?
2. When will these officers face disciplinary action?
3. When will these officers be made to pay back the $118,150?
4. If 1 is yes then when will they be prosecuted?

I ask the first question because since amalgamation in 1989 perfectly good concrete roads have been asphalted over - for no reason. Pt. Chevalier Rd and Beach Rd along Mechanics Bay come to mind first. These surfaces have a viable lifespan that is still current - see the last remaining strip at the bottom of College Hill and the cul de sac on Federal Street to confirm this. How often have we seen the asphalt stripped off the street to be replaced while the concrete underneath is perfectly fine? Leaving the concrete costs $zero in maintenance - replacing asphalt every decade costs $millions. Why do they do this? Why is this their policy? To increase their budgets and waste more money and/or because of corruption with the asphalt contractors who obviously would be damaged by the concrete move.

The only thing I find remotely humourous about this scandal is that the contractor is called "Fillmore."

Cursing the hijackers

Washington Post article about blogs in China:

Four and a half months after he began posting essays challenging the Communist Party's taboo against discussing politics, Zhao published an item protesting the purge of a popular newspaper's top editors. Officials called Microsoft to complain, and Microsoft quickly erased his blog. [...]

"In this political system, everyone has to compromise," Zhao said. "It's not black and white. Many of the people who delete my essays are also my friends."

And that's censorship in a nutshell - all the apparatus need do is threaten and everyone does the censoring for them.

Blogging arrived in China in the summer of 2002 as a response to censorship, but not by the government. Fang Xingdong, the author of a book that attacked Microsoft's market dominance as a threat to national security, said he created one of the country's first blogs after an essay he wrote about Microsoft disappeared from chat forums. [...]

Fang said he believed, then as now, that big corporations like Microsoft presented the greatest threat to freedom of speech on the Internet, not government censors. But when he launched his firm, he said, he devoted meeting after meeting to persuading party officials to accept blogging.

"At the time, they thought, 'If everyone can publish, wouldn't we lose control?' " Fang said. "But I argued that a blog is like a person's home, and very few people would put something inappropriate in their home."

I guess our home life, here in the Free World, is a little less polite than that in the The People's Republic of China.

While Chinese firms used filters to stop bloggers from posting entries with prohibited keywords, Microsoft applied its filter only to the titles of entries. And while Chinese sites often erased politically sensitive content, Microsoft didn't appear to be deleting much. Meanwhile, other foreign blog sites, like Google's Blogger, had been blocked by the government.

So this blog is banned in China? But with Google now censoring on behalf of the PRC govt. for their search engine is it still banned? I have a suspicion that Google staff will deliberately under-censor and make it that anyone in China with any sense will be able to skirt around all the prohibitions that the govt. wants. If they are really not being evil they will leave in many holes.

One popular Shanghai blogger, who declined to be identified, compared Zhao to an airline passenger who stands up and curses hijackers. "He makes the other passengers uncomfortable and nervous," the blogger said. "What he is saying might be right, but it makes the situation unpredictable, and perhaps more dangerous for everyone." [...]

One day later, on Dec. 30, the Shanghai Municipal Information Office, an arm of the party's propaganda department, called Microsoft's joint venture.

Zhang Xiaoyu, a senior official in the agency, said the government told Microsoft to remove Zhao's blog because it contained comments on the news, and only Chinese Web sites with licenses could publish such material. He said bloggers were barred from writing about "political, economic, military or diplomatic news."

Microsoft, which by then was hosting 3.3 million blogs in China, deleted Zhao's blog the next day.

And when you can't discuss "political, economic, military or diplomatic news" then what the fuck is the point? Thus the rise of sexually risqué blogs and all the worst infections of "Western" culture plus the usual banal what-I-did-at-the-weekend crap. Of course there could be some cutting parables and vicious satire that fly under the radar and a developing culture of sarcasm given the restrictions - but that may just be wishful thinking.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bloody Helen

Benedict: simply gushing.

The Minister for Arts and Culture, Miss Clark has shared her opinion on the great cultural debate of our time:

""Those who publish in these circumstances of course have their right to free speech in New Zealand, but that doesn't take away from others the right to say what they think about it.

"From what I've heard of it, I'd consider it quite offensive personally but, if the network proceeds, they are going to have to deal with the public debate around it.

"As a woman I find it offensive."

She said that at the interfaith dialogue conference in Cebu, she would be "talking about people talking to each other and not past each other and being tolerant and respectful of other people's beliefs".

Helen Clark describes herself as agnostic.

"I don't expect everybody to share my beliefs and I don't expect others to expect me to share theirs.

"But I think the critical thing is we show respect for other people's beliefs." "

Unless it's the Exclusive Brethren, or course.

So, PM finds humour offensive as a woman. Oh great, and like a bloodied rag to a bull dyke the PM confirms gender. *wince*

What makes these cartoons, Life of Brian etc. humourous is that it is offensive. If no-one would be offended or shocked then it would not be funny.

The only people who would be truly offended rightly deserve to be. Their foolish beliefs, cult practices and mad cap ideas will be eternal targets for those who are not idiots. If someone chooses to believe something stupid they get what they deserve when the un-stupid point it out in the form of parody.

Respecting an idiot's idiotic idiocy makes an idiot of them too. An agnostic at an inter-faith dialogue! - does it get more idiotic than that? Finding ways for fools to co-exist - what a ridiculous chore.

The more absurd the religion the more "respect" they demand from everyone else. Are we not to laugh because the Emperor has no clothes? Are we to hold our tongue, supress our smirk, doff our hat - for foreign, discredited, superstitious bunkum?

Has it dawned on the Minister that evil continues and ignorance pervades because their systems of reinforcement are patronised, tolerated and protected by those who should know better? Has the recitation of that quasi-Masonic uber-Christian cult prayer at the beginning of every Parliamentary sitting brainwashed the Minister?

Monday, February 20, 2006


From the Sunday Star-Times:
"Toia, 27 who has lived in Australia since she was one... has been jailed more than 30 times... did not pass the character test to keep her Australian visa... immigration authorities had to consider whether a person might qualify for an 'absorbed person visa' if they failed the character test."

"Absorbed" into the Australian borg. Freaky. Interesting that a disreputable character may still be absorbed - what does that say about them? Consistency?

What is absorbtion? Linguistic, cultural, social, economic?

Who decides character? I think it is Switzerland where the locals decide who their local citizens can be and it is only local citizens who can be national citizens. Not a bad idea that the locals in that area where they have lived some time get to decide on the character and worthiness to enter the community. They will presumably know them after a few years. And if they don't then the reclusives better be nonetheless likeable or inoffensive. I'm not sure what the veto should be or how many citizens have to vouch for them. Filling out paperwork, writing out cheques and recieving something in the mail seems a very unsatisfactory method of transmitting, verifying and authorising our nation's citizenship. Expect nothing at all to ever be done about this as the government has direct control of it at present and can manipulate the system from freeze to floodgates and clipping their ticket at every stage.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Film Review: No. 2

No. 2 (Opens on screens in NZ today)

Director/Writer: Toa Fraser
Cast: Ruby Dee, Mia Blake, Taungaroa Emile, Tuva Novotny, Xavier Horan, Nathaniel Lees, Miriama McDowell, Rene Naufahu, Anthony Starr, Pio Terei.

To Mt. Roskill what this year's other Auckland suburban homage to Pacific Island communities (Sione's Wedding) is to Grey Lynn: part nostalgic vibe, part comedy-drama; but No. 2 seems to fall short of it's potential with an otherwise pleasing theme hobbled by an awkward mix of actors, storylines, pace and ultimately, plausability. Even on account of dramatic ballast Sione's Wedding would trump No. 2. There is a critical lack of the necessary elements of comedy and drama - the effective evocation of tension and feeling is left stranded somewhere between Dee's irksome ventalin excursions and Novotny's irratably smug presence.

Plot goes: Fijian matriarch summons grandchildren suddenly one day for a feast where she will name successor, but the whole extended family end up there with all the family disputes and antics that ensue.

Problems go: She's unlikable. Not feisty and staunch, just senile and insufferable. And she doesn't look remotely Fijian - at least the other actors in the family are various degrees of Polynesian. Novotny's cutesy, bjork, impish thing becomes grating once she has all her clothes on properly. The whole "successor" thing is confused and like all of the film the cultural practices are barely recognisable as Fijian and are left annoyingly unexplained. (The reviewer in Metro thought the confused ownership status of the house was what was centrally nagging - but I took that as a method of sorting out who of the matriarch's progeny were in it for the money.) To the general overseas audience these details may be invisible and irrelevant - to an Aucklander they might think many scenes odd: a female singing a solo performance unaccompanied while the entire male chorus and guitars are silent? Kava made for only two women? There are many such incidents.

Naufahu was last seen on Shortland Street. What a waste, he was excellent. Emile, going from the evidence of his part in TV2's critically accliamed but Chartercided late night drama The Market still thinks a permanent scowl is real acting still makes a mark, as does the ever reliable Lees (who also cameos on Sione's Wedding). The remainder of the cast do a reasonable job with what we ought to remember was entirely Madeleine Sami (who appears on Sione's Wedding) and her multiple personalities in Fraser's original solo play. It is very far removed from a solo show and much may have been lost in the journey. So much so we must even dare ask whether it should have been made at all.

This film does have touching moments, I just can't recall any. There are funny moments too, I just can't remember what they were. The music's supposed to be good, but I nothing stands out. I'm left with the impression of a feel-good family flick but robbed. Deprived even of a really meaningful ending, let alone sustaining it through, because the whole concept of the "succession," the entire cultural import, was never, ever made clear to us. Under the circumstances it is difficult to care. There wasn't enough emotion, no murder, no death, no devestating familial revelations to sustain a drama. There wasn't enough genuine hilarity or comedic characters to sustain a comedy either. It's as if we are left leafing through just another family photo album with a haphazard, incomplete and rambling commentary from someone we don't really like.

If you have to see one comedy-drama this summer about Pacific Island families in an Auckland suburb then (and let's just plug it one more time) Sione's Wedding would squeak in first. No. 2, I'm afraid, is just that.

It's like the Fijian family I lived next to for 6 years: they provided the best singing to get to sleep to on Wednesday nights; but brazenly harboured the recidivist burglars who terrorised the neighbourhood and stole my top shelf Euro-porn and drugs. I'm ambivalent. I'll give it a 3 out of 5 stars max. because I'm being uncharacteristically generous.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Film Review: Sione's Wedding

Sione's Wedding

Director: Chris Graham
Writers: James Griffin & Oscar Kightley
Cast: Oscar Kightley, Robbie Magasiva, Shimpal Lelisi, Iaheto Ah Hi, Teuila Blakely

This enjoyable, modest comedy from the "Naked Samoans" must surely be Grey Lynn's finest hour. Between religious pressure, family expectations, and clubbing the Polynesian misfits must scrub up for their mate's wedding, get girlfriends, and behave themselves - or else they will be barred from Sione's wedding. A rather tenuous scenario, but a necessary threat it seems in transforming the (usually drunken) lads into something resembling adulthood. Given they are entering their thirties their predicament is not exactly confined to their ethnicity either - and their experiences and world as first generation migrants will resonate well beyond the inner suburbs of Auckland.

The four friends are tight - except when they turn up to other people's weddings - and then they proceed to get very loose and trash it in one way or another. They have shamed their church, families and community by lamentable antics and it seems to draw them closer together. The rapport between them is conveyed well and as we follow their individual dilemmas we are drawn in easily. As the date of the wedding approaches the boys are forced to confront their seemingly imploding love lives.

It crosses over somewhat from being a buddy flick to the ostensible romantic comedy it seems to be aiming for without any tensions about half way in as the pace quickens. At this point the female characters begin to exert themselves on the course of events and pull the plot into the serious relationship crises of which elements of drama flow naturally and are conveyed with gravity, especially the performance of Blakely. Kightley doesn't seem to need to try too hard to play a nerdy dork, and Magasiva has been type-cast as women bait long enough to know the ropes; but it was Lelisi and Ah Hi who were the stand-outs.

As a comedy the writing is fairly sharp and robust, the situations suitably absurd and the stereotyped white people laughable. But are they too crudely drawn? It might be genuinely hilarious to lampoon Glenfield wannabe gangstas, but as far as the portrayal of marginalised ethnic groups (ie. non-Samoans) is concerned the rude hand of Bro Town hovers. White people are either wiggers or a mute series of notches on Magasiva's bedpost. One wonders whether those Samoans would have taken roles where their ethnicity was to be directed as a Fawlty Towers' Manuel? Or perhaps these issues are just noticeable when it is the other way around for once.

For all the realities of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Auckland this is a NZ Samoan story with NZ Samoan characters, seen through NZ Samoan eyes. It even includes a Miss Samoa - doing an adequate job given the background. But they are not drawing on a limited pallet by any means. There is depth here in personnel and an accessible sense of humour that should see audiences anywhere set for family-friendly, date-friendly entertainment.

I'll give it a respectable 3 out of 5 stars. Although the mist in Grey Lynn Park in one of the scenes is just so superb a more parochial reviewer might be tempted to go as high as 4. The release date is set for March sometime I believe.

Also No.2 is on screens in Auckland tomorrow - I'll put my review of that up soon. Anyone who read this month's Metro articles on these two films may have been disappointed by the review of No.2 that followed. I will concur with it in general, but not for the same reasons.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Newspeak from the PM

Parliament opened this afternoon. If I heard correctly the Prime Minister accused the National Party of promising a "spend-up of tax cuts." Oh dear, the logic of the bureaucratic Left looks awfully foolish when they actually attempt to articulate it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Of Muslim mobs, the NZ Herald and the student press [Updated 14/02/2006]

In 2000 Martyn Bradbury and I, (thanks to editors Ben Thomas & James Cardno) guest edited an issue of the Auckland University Students' Association weekly magazine Craccum. Martyn was twice editor previously and I was News Editor and reviewer and columnist off and on over the years. Following the success of a previous satirical version of the NZ Herald we had published as an insert in '97 (probably the best work I've ever done in print) we made another one.

On the cover of this mock Herald* we parodied the usual outrageous claims of innuendo, anonymous sources and baseless hearsay that NZ's biggest newspaper hypes from time to time and presents as a legitimate public scandal. In '97 it was the absurd claims that mussels could cure cancer (TVNZ also fell for these snake oil quacks) - which eroded their credibility considerably. In 2000 we picked up another so-called Herald "world exclusive" - that an Afghan family's garage in suburban Auckland had yielded evidence that there was a plot to attack the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney during the Olympics. For a week or so the Herald led coverage of this supposed atomic terrorist conspiracy which always seemed to come back to an unnamed source (a cop) who had been at the search of this garage and had seen a map of Sydney which had the Lucas Heights area circled. Horror! Shock! Crisis! Drama! NZ Islamic terrorist cell set to nuke the Olympics... Some days later the storm of hysteria that the Herald had been whipping up suddenly stopped once they realised this was all a load of paranoid nonsense predicated on one policeman's over-active imagination. Their news judgement had been found wanting and their reputation critically damaged (once again).

Accusations about this family of immigrants in particular and aspersions about all Muslims had been planted in the public consciousness by the furious tone and irresponsibly speculative and tenuous propositions dressed up as matters of fact by the Herald. And of course after the whole thing was debunked and the evidence proven to be non-existent we never heard anything about it. The Herald has effectively erased their own history when they all but never refer to the incident or if mentioned it is in a very circumscribed way without revealling that it was all disproven hype - which is itself continuing the distortion of the truth. Part of the reason for making this our lead issue was to remind people of the fallible nature of the press and the illusory aura of respectability our local newspaper monopoly cultivates, and as a matter of record that whilst they can pretend their lapse never occured we never let them forget it!

So for our parody paper's front page we put a huge picture of a nuclear mushroom cloud with a headline like "Muslims nuke Sydney" and a string of hypotheticals presented as certainties - and yes it was harder than you'd think to make any more crazed assertions than the Herald had in real life. I put in a comment from George W Bush (then a candidate for the US presidency) that referred to his nemisis as: Osama Bin Laden, "the towel-headed Dr Evil" - I think that was rather prescient considering the spectacular events that were to follow. So we wrote the accompanying article with a conspiratorial angle but then saying the source was a guy who talked to one of the wives of the policeman who had overheard something in the station etc. And projecting massive casulaties and death tolls etc. for any blast in Sydney etc. Just ridiculous stuff.

However, some Muslim students didn't get the joke apparently. After that Craccum issue was distributed on campus a group of angry muslims confronted the editors at their offices demanding retractions. The editors attempted to explain that we were actually on their side and against the Herald. So there you go - swarming hypersenstive muslims with no sense of humour demanding editors apologise - nothing new at all.

I also recall a Bangladeshi guy, Mahmud (I think he was an engineering student who also did a politics paper with me) was going to stand for the student executive around that time and wanted to know whether it was appropriate to get a group of supporters together and go around campus chanting with banners and loudhailers in a... you know... mob - as part of his election campaign. He said it was the normal thing to do where he came from. I said that swarming muslims would put people off him and would probably freak people out as it would be seen as too aggressive.

So nothing has really changed in New Zealand. If Ben Thomas is out there he could tell you more about the actual incident than I can. He did convey to me that they were highly irrate, threatening and just could not grasp the context. Whoever would have thought that cult groups could be irrational and angry?

* Somewhat typically, albeit the only issue of Craccum I can claim credit for editing, I cannot find a copy of it anywhere - thus the lack of direct quotes.

--------------------------UPDATE 14/02/2006------------------------

Ben Thomas has just emailed me his recollection of the events (of which I have emphasised where appropriate):

The week following the publication of the NZ Herald parody, I was approached in my office by two Islamic students – one a fairly new immigrant from Afghanistan, the other from Pakistan. They were concerned, which is to say irate, about the parody image, which they said was offensive to Islam.

One of the things everybody, and Martyn and Tim in particular, used to parody about the Herald under editor Stephen Davis was its use of 'key points' in a box-out for each story. There was nothing that the Herald couldn't summarise in four word, bullet-pointed sentences. In which vein, Tim and Martyn's parody 'key points' had included the point "Muslims bad", which was a pretty accurate reflection of the Herald's hysterical coverage of the road map discovered in an Afghani family's garage.

Lesson in cultural difference #1: Modern western society prizes irony. Islamic culture has not heard of irony.

It took me a while to figure out these guys were angry about the Herald piece - because we didn't think of it as having been offensive to anyone except Davis, an ex-tabloid hack we had been taking shots at all year. I tried explaining that by writing "muslims bad" we were making fun of the Herald's standards, not literally decrying the Muslim faith.

"No," one of my visitors said. "If you are attacking the Herald, you say 'Herald bad'. Not 'Muslims bad'." That's the only direct quote I can still remember from our exchange. They basically refused to leave and I attempted to explain freedom of speech. At University, freedom of speech is a trump. Nothing beats free expression (ie the Tim Pankhurst "I'm sorry you were offended but I had every right to print it" line). Yet these guys would have none of it. They insisted there must be an apology. I insisted that would not happen and they had political avenues they could take if they were unhappy with the magazine. (A group of socialists had tried to roll James and me earlier that year, with risible results.) Their response was to insist that we must run an apology. I said, you cannot make me, so you are wasting your time. They said, we will make you.

Eventually, I left my office and they removed themselves later.

In the fine tradition of student magazines, I wrote an editorial making fun of my critics for the next issue. (A sardonic apology - "Most of all, I'm sorry these two perpetuated the stereotype of Muslims as extremists willing to declare Jihad over a misplaced comma," or something), and thought nothing of it.

Strangely, the last straw was a letter. In consecutive issues we ran letters suggesting (respectively): the Islamic institutionalised disrespect for women made marrying into Islam a poor choice for western women; that the previous correspondent should shut up; that Muslims shouldn't respond to any perceived slight with threats of violence; that the previous letter writer should shut up; repeat.

I think we finished the year on a "muslims bad"-style letter. That's all I knew until I was drinking at the pub, when someone told me that there were "Islamic students" overrunning my office. This turned out to be a wild exaggeration, but there were around thirty or so Islamic students (of various ethnicities) outside in a kind of vaguely threatening vigil, and one of them had punched my brother in the face, the only actual incident of violence.

(Like Edgar Allan Poe's raven, they just sat and perched and nothing more for the next two or three days - and nights – always intimating when they saw me that they were going to do me violence, but never getting closer than a few inches away. Whereas earlier that year I had been jumped by an angry socialist at a party – the shambling Scott Hamilton, who currently blogs as "Reading the Maps". So let's remember that all of this "violence and intolerance" by Muslims is relative.)

It's hard to tell what the point of any of that was, although it made sense a few years later. In 2004 Craccum put a female student in a burqa and took pictures of her drinking beer from a jug etc. The response: no threats; no stake-outs, no violence. But the next weekend the ground floor windows of the university library was adorned with anti-Craccum graffiti. "The Muslims", it seemed, had become just as puerile, obnoxious, and unthreatening as every other disgruntled
student group. Which, believe it or not, is progress.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Gender differences: A woman is always right and other rules

I've come across some evidence the other day (from our Japanese correspondent) of what I believe illustrates a classic female response pattern. What you are about to read occured in real life - the words are her own and have not been altered:

I whistled in class to get the students' attention, at a point when they were being particularly raucous after a game. The class went silent – great! Aim achieved. But one of the students tentatively did a tiny whistle in return and Sensei gave them all a bollocksing. After class some students came up to comfort me; I had no idea what they were on about, until Sanemasa explained that he had scolded the class for whistling after I whistled when I wasn't supposed to; he'd gone on to scold me, too.


I apologised and explained that teachers in NZ often give a sharp whistle to quieten the students; he explained that it's not common in Japan. OK, fair enough. But goddamn it, he pushed the point, going on to say,
"It's not the Japanese custom, so please respect Japanese custom."
"I see. However, it's a common custom in New Zealand."
He said, "You are in Japan. Teachers and students are not accustomed to whistle."
I said, "It's lucky that it was an English and Internationalisation class – now they know a common New Zealand and Western tradition."
He said, "It's not so. It's not common to do such a thing in Japan."
I said, "It's considered more polite to whistle in New Zealand than to yell and shout."
He said, "It's the custom in Japan to talk loudly to the students. Not to whistle."
I said, "Okay. It doesn't seem so important. But I will remember."
Mostly I was pissed off that he'd told me off in Japanese, in front of the students, so they could understand it but I couldn't.

Now in this case the respondent is male; but that is unimportant in this case. The key exchange to note here is when she says "he pushed the point." From the account above it is quite clearly her that is "pushing the point" - not him. He has made a statement that is also an order or form of instruction to her and she insists on challenging and questioning it. The reason she does so is because Rule #1: a woman always believes that she is correct. She engages in an argument with him despite her lack of knowledge in this area. She finishes with a typical female qualification attempting to undermine and lessen the instruction by saying that "It doesn't seem so important" - all of which she interprets as him "pushing the point." Her anger at him about the circumstances is secondary to understanding the exhibition of female behaviour. The qualification is a normal consequence of Rule #1 and can be characterised as Rule #2: a woman must always have the last word.

This is why female feuds are seemingly endless - neither will accept they are wrong and both must have the last word.

I offer the extract as an example of gender differences. And in the same way I have noticed that often a woman in the role of being correct and telling someone not to do something will go on and on about it well after the point that the other person has accepted the position. Once again: because a woman is always right that is valueless to them unless they can articulate it verbally at length, because Rule #3 a woman views verbalisation as an ends rather than a means to an end. Having that view it means their understanding of a solution to a problem is restricted to more talking or writing and directed away from other action eg. non-verbal or physical action. Obsessive focus on the pedantic aspects of verbalsation usually manifests itself as well given it's high status and use for females. A speech to the school assembly is often seen in popular fiction as the epitome of female achievement.

Men's rules are quite different. Many problems arise here when men have to deal with females going about their natural following of their rules. Likewise women have problems when men are just following their rules too.

Seeing as how it's taken about 6 million years to work out the first three rules for females I'll post the male ones later on.

Disclaimer: There simply isn't one. As a man I demand respect (regardless of whether I actually command any), claim universal objectivity (despite that being patently impossible), and assert the capability of physical domination (although never seem to be around when it's needed).

Thursday, February 09, 2006

In 48 hrs everyone in NZ with an internet connection will have played this game.

Have you played the Lee Tamahori game yet?

Get cruisin' crew. I didn't get Eddy Murphy - but he's probably in there too. The gimp mask is just so him!

He's judging a short film contest in Pt Chev. along with Russell Brown next month. I don't know if he'll be able to attend in person.

Film Review: Jarhead

It's on general release at the moment. Here's my impression:

Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard.

Memoirs of a Jarhead. Gyllenhaal plays an often distant (or just plain blank in a Matt Damon way) recruit in Uncle Sam's Marines. It starts with a tirade of shouting by the drill instructor and threatens to never end as Foxx harangues the sniper unit into shape ready for Gulf War One and the Kuwait theatre and continues to follow the "jarhead" to the end of Operation: Desert Storm.

Mendes is a skillful director and though slow in parts he has created velocity enough to penetrate initial reticence. It's all psychological depravation punctuated by group dry humping in preparing for the invasion. The actual battle scenes and action is very limited and occurs near the end - so in those respects it may be closer to the autobiography it is based on than any conventional war movie - perhaps a sort of American Das Boot.

Sarsgaard's character begins to flip out too and the bond between the pair grow when they finally see combat and that relationship is tested amongst the unit as the morality of some of their individual actions are explored. But for all the realism - and some scenes were horrifically enough presented to almost smell the cordite - the tale was too slow burning. As a comment on current American foreign policy, or war doctrine, this film does not confront directly: it is first and foremost one man's account. If only that man didn't have such a dumb facial expression.

It's around the 3 out of five star mark. Don't get me wrong - it has it's moments: the characters get well developed and you feel for their fates and there are moments of real poignancy; but this was never going to be All Quiet on the Kuwaiti Front. It is personal and modest and we don't see the other side except for miles of charred corpses.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


The Islamic prohibition on idolatory and portrayals of the prophets seems to be a bit fraught with problems.

Oh, Crickey! has an example of a nice Persian painting of Muhammed and even a cheerful emoticon, ascii whatever you call those smiley-faced things:


Even a dot or a spot with a label that says "Muhummed" could be blasphemous possibly? What about a voice? Could a radio show or conversation be blasphemous if one of the voices is supposed to that of Muhammed? I recall a 60s or 70s film about the life of Muhammed on TV and they never showed him at all even though people were talking to him. Their technique was to show his horse and the camera was from his point of view so that people would talk direct to camera addressing him - which was a good idea and actually worked quite well. But I thought that by having us mortals seeing everyone through his eyes was perhaps more basphemous. (sp?)

It seems every blog has some sort of comment to make on this issue - and it is good to see the Malcolm Evans Star of David NZ Herald cartoon sacking case being mentioned. I thought his only racist stuff was the anti-Maori stereotyped filth that the Herald used to run all the time - and he gets the arse to satisfy Zionists!? How typical. There are oceans of hypocrisy washing around the world and this country on this issue at the moment. Muslims swarming all over the show to protest about a few silly cartoons instead of any number of other issues like slavery in North African Islamic states, Israel etc. Newspapers prepared to hand down the most sanctimonious editorial leaders against people who offend their ever-changing sensibilities proclaiming a right to offend. Govt. ministers tut-tutting... The Catholics jumping on the band-wagon to support the Muslims in order to strengthen their cult's hand... it's all so very stupid.

If we have to have a serious discussion about religion and toleration then I guess it might as well be over a dozen, lame Danish cartoons.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Second plastics fire

TV3 is reporting a huge fire at a South Auckland plastics factory. Is it in any way connected with the plastics recycling factory that was struck by fire a week or so ago? Insurance pay-outs for struggling firms? Any links here, or unrelated coincidences? Hmmm.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Will be working with or without the help of others on producing a basic document for public discussion through the Convention for a Republican Constitution to be finished the day before Waitangi Day, ie. by the end of the weekend. The purpose being to derive some principles or foundations (hopefully by consensus) upon which this country can proceed to become a republic and to map out a pathway to what a republican constitution might look like. Please keep comments to the site anon.

If it all comes down to a mad rush on Sunday it will be much closer to the original deliberations on the Treaty than I would have wanted - but that's our heritage, isn't it.