Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009: Second attempt

This is hardly optimal. It turns out that excellence in news-rage journalism is not strongly correlated with top-notch time-management skills. I'm going to have to think this through - send your guest editor applications to james dot coe at gmail dot com. Unpaid internships are available.

Elephants: I'll keep this short. Here are some pertinent questions:

  • Do we really need or want zoos?

  • Do we really need or want elephants - intelligent, expensive and social animals - at zoos?

  • Do we really need or want more elephants at Auckland Zoo?

  • Do we really need or want the Auckland councils to spend $13.5m on more elephants?

  • De we really need or want the Auckland councils to spend $13.5m on more elephants in the middle of 'The Worst Recession in Living Memory'?

  • Do we really need the Herald to publish an article so uncritical of such a ridiculous idea? Where is the outrage about such a flagrant waste of money? The Herald likes to complain about the council raising rates for just about anything. Maintenance of sewage pipes? No way! Dinners for the homeless free of asbestos? Outrageous! I guess it's up to Your Views to lead the way on this issue.
(The answer to the above questions was 'no'.)

Laughing at youths: It's tough being a youth in New Zealand these days: you can't vote; old people hate you; all of society's ills are blamed on you. If things weren't already bad enough, now Christchurch 'city' council wants to scare you away from the places you in which you congregate with the music of that walking, talking cliche, Barry Manilow. And if things weren't bad enough then to make you want go and cut yourself, the Herald thinks the whole concept is hilarious. Now, I'm no huge fan of youths - frankly they scare me, and I am pretty sure that last night I dreamt about 'them' throwing buckets of water at me. But they are still people - they just happen to be people who invariably don't have their own houses or places of business where they can hang out. They're not allowed to go to bars or gentleman's clubs. They're not welcome at members' clubs or debating societies. So - surprise surprise - they gather with their friends in parking lots, town squares, that kind of thing.

Now, this sometimes results in some unsavoury behaviour, to be sure. But does no one remember being a teenager? Of course there need to be boundaries - I'm not saying that we should just let them do what they please - but can we please remember that we're not dealing with an infestation of vermin. They're people too; annoying, short, poorly dressed people, to be sure, but people nonetheless, and as such they ought to be taken seriously by the media, not alternately dismissed with a laugh and held up as the Devil incarnate. If they are causing damage to public property with enough regularity that something needs to be done, that's a public policy problem, not a joke. Where will these kids go once they have been driven away from these public areas? If the councils think that they will just go home, say their prayers and go to sleep I imagine they are mistaken. So there are definitely problems with this as a solution to the issue. But this is a news-rage blog, and I suppose my main objection is simply to the tone of the article and its place in the bad-cop/cop-who-laughs-at-you dichotomy of media treatment of youths.

Here's today's readers' poll:

"Which music would you use to scare hoons?"
  • Barry Manilow's?
  • Kiri Te Kanawa's?
  • Bob Dylan's?
  • Kings of Leon's? [Hey, look at me, I work at the Herald and I've heard of a band that kids like! And for some inexplicable reason I have shoehorned it into this poll!]
  • Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture?

Ha! That's so funny! Youths crack me up. Oh, except when they're stabbing me and stealing my icecreams.


  1. Forget playing crappy music, it might work but would drive away tourists as well.

    Eugenics is really the only solution to youth crime and domestic violence. But no-one would seriously consider... oh wait, I just had a look through Your Views. It seems to be a pretty popular option.

  2. Reader's Poll response: Barry Manilow

  3. At least you're not living in LA where on every "news" channel all we hear about is OctoMom ...

  4. The great thing about that woman having eight babies is that in 15 years they will be able to just form a gang with themselves, thus not corrupting any other innocent local kids.

  5. Oh and this is entirely unrelated to either the post, the Herald, or this blog, but I think it's in a similar spirit - rage against Self-Obsessed People Who Talk Loudly On Airplanes About Inane Crap.

    In between explaining how her advertising career was really taking off, the girl behind me on the plane managed to explain, for the benefit of the three rows in front and behind her, that:

    - Wellington is a lovely city, though the weather isn't that great
    - But you can't beat Wellington on a good day
    - Auckland gets humid in summer
    - Seafood is expensive in Europe
    - Isn't it sad how the Pakistani cricket team got shot
    - Pakistan has had a lot of electoral problems

    Arrrrgggh. I spent the entire flight wishing that Lashkar-e-Taiba (disenchanted with the outcome of the Punjab district by-election, of course) would storm the plane and shoot me repeatedly in the head.

  6. Did you consider the previous few day's articles and other material on the elephant project?

    If you had then you would know there was a substantial cost associated with a. redeveloping the land currently used for the elephants, b. offloading the remaining female elephant when Kashin dies and then making several staff redundant, c. introducing alternative animals into the elephant enclosure, d. New Zealand likely losing the capacity to have elephants and the far greater expense of reintroducing this capability in the future, and e. the loss of revenue that the elephants generate for the Zoo.

    Gosh, amazing what a little research can do. Even John Banks, fiscal conservative, can understand the business case.

  7. Hi Andrea,

    I don't really intend to get into shitfights in the comments, but here goes:

    a) My understanding was that the current land will have to be redeveloped anyway, but that's not the main point - the Herald article states that "22,000sq m of land from the Western Springs park" will also be added to the enclosure. So, Auckland loses a significant park space, and presumably has to pay to redevelop that, unless I suppose they just let the elephants roam around in an unfenced park. So that's a saving, right?

    b) Sure, offloading the other elephant may be a cost, but I'm not sure it amounts to $13.5m, or will cost $460,000 a year. Of course, perhaps the elephants pay for themselves in visitor tickets, but the initial investment seems a bit risky for a council at this time. As for redundant staff, unless they are specific elephant experts, surely they can be reassigned to look after...

    c) The alternative animals. Of course that will cost money, as the zoo's director (an interested party, I suppose) mentioned on Tuesday. Whether the elephants really need to be replaced with a 'flagship' species is debatable. I don't really care for zoos at all, and it is, after all, my blog. But I suppose there is a potential point here ONCE one accepts the premises - which I don't, necessarily.

    d) Oh no, our national capacity to have elephants? What will the army ride into battle? I refuse to believe that this is a significant issue in the financial context. Elephants in New Zealand is a reasonably daft idea anyway - leave the poor buggers alone in Africa.

    e) The trouble with this point is that it has already been covered in your other points. Yes, they'll have to replace the elephants, or at least put in a bigger cafe. So the money from that will replace (some) of that loss.

    Anyway, I'm over it. As you'll know, I'm more concerned about the reporting than the actual story, and I stand by my claim that the main insight coming from the Herald is: "Elephants are cool."

  8. Jesus, that was like an extra blog post.

  9. How the hell did Bob Dylan get in that list? Retards.

  10. Come to think of it, being shut out of the debating society *did* launch me on my life of crime and associated hooliganism...

  11. James,

    Without wanting to protract the debate but still wanting to get my 2 pence in;

    the argument for housing elephants in auckland zoo sounds similar to the one for NZ to maintain a jet fighter strike force.

  12. Why is "Andrea" such a massive douche? If she has so many problems with your blog, she should write her own. I'm sure it would be very well-researched.

  13. James,

    I think there is some merit in the "zoo's help kids connect with the natural world" argument so personally I wouldn't want to see them done away with altogether.

    Elephants however shouldn't be kept in such small enclosures anyway...they're not ideally suited to being in zoos as it is. Regarding "the worst recession in living memory"...poetic hyperbole aside...I believe there are still wrinklies around who would argue with that point..'29 ain't THAT long ago.

  14. Elephants on an isolated island in the south pacific is not particularly natural though is it.

  15. The idea of elephants in a zoo at all is pretty dumb - it reduces their lifespan by half

  16. the zoo is one of my favourite places! i spit on ye unromantic and cold-hearted news-rager

  17. Oh I do have a blog - I'm just not sure one on female hygeine products would appeal to the male audience here. And I get criticised or challenged all the time - its part of the idea behind having a blog.

    All fair points James (though they are Asian elephants, not African). But if the criticism is directed more at the article than the topic itself, it comes across in your intial piece like an attack on the topic as much as the article. Otherwise, why all the points?

    And given the context of the Herald reporting on this story, ie. over several days, your criticism is itself out of context. I say this from a part time journo's perspective (and part time female hygeine expert), so I hope it's taken as constructive.

  18. Personally, I would hope that she applies her knowledge of female hygeine at all times, not just on a part time basis.

  19. What made you conclude it's a male audience? I'm a girl. Where can I access your insights on feminine hygiene products? Note spelling by the way - one would think you'd know that with a whole blog on the subject.

  20. Personally, I'm only seeing synergy here.

    Elephants: Too expensive to keep.
    Kids: Public menace, what with all the loitering and whatnot.

    1+1=5 : Kids as the main attraction at the zoo! They can stab each other for icecream and you don't have to pay for the redevelopment of all that land (they wouldn't need it, surely). Think of it as a cross between child slave-labour and Gladiator, at the zoo.

    You win, I win, the ARC wins. Kids lose, but isn't that the point of the scary music in the first place?