Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009: The return of Vivawatch

Economic cycles: In case you hadn't heard, the National government has announced, as one of the major prongs of its fight against economic meltdown, the construction of a national cycleway from Cape Reinga to Bluff at a cost (a rough estimate, says John Key) of $50m. (Today's 'big news' is that it has been determined by no less than the prime minister that it shall be paved with concrete, but that's as may be.) That seems like a lot of money to be spent on a cycle track, but the idea is that this investment will create jobs and stimulate the economy in a 'New Deal' sort of fashion. I must say that I am suspicious - as nice as cycling is, I'm not certain how a cycling track is going to help New Zealand's productive capacity or anything (a legion of cycle couriers delivering packages up and down the country?) and the alleged benefits to tourism seem fairly speculative.

The reason I bring up the 'national cycleway' is that I was recently talking to a 'source' in a ministry who had had something to do with the proposal. He (or she) intimated that the plan was a bit of a joke in the ministry: a kind of desperate offering to a government demanding some visible scheme the nation could rally around. Just yesterday I was watching an episode of the brilliant BBC political satire 'The Thick of It' and thought that it captured the situation of the bureaucrats nicely (you can watch it here, from about 5.29). Forced by the prime minister's media mastermind to drop his policy on benefit fraud, but on the way to a major press conference to announce it, the Minister for Social Affairs and his advisers must come up with an alternative announcement in the back of the car:
Hugh: What about zoos? My kids went to the zoo the other day and they said it was fucking disgusting. You know, the state of it....(Pause.) That's shit, isn't it.


Glenn: No, no, but there is an idea there, because in the middle of the city you've got wild animals.


Glenn: What if everybody had to carry a plastic bag? By law. You know how the identification cards are coming in...

Hugh: You've fucking cracked!

You dirty ape: Please forgive my current obsession with zoos, but I don't write the news, I just rage at it. In the world section today, AP reports on a chimpanzee in a Swedish zoo that, evidently rather sick of its lifestyle, calmly and over a period of time gathered a collection of small stones which it then threw in a fit of rage at leering zoo visitors. In an interesting twist, the article describes Santino's behaviour as "anti-social", when surely this kind of interactive behaviour is precisely what the modern zoo ought to be about - not to mention that this is just about as social as the behaviour of a caged chimpanzee can get. Put aside the puerile puns - the chimp "apes human behaviour" with its "guerilla tactics" - and what you have is a rather sad story about quite an intelligent creature locked up and pointed at. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you: zoos. But elephants are totally different, right?

Vivawatch: In a new approach to Vivawatch, I will simply quote passages from Viva without commentary. Not only do I feel that it is largely unnecessary, it nicely complements Viva's approach of just running ads masquerading as articles without adding any commentary.
  • "Did you know that accessories make an outfit? Of course you did, because fashion writers have been using that line for years, encouraging you to buy bags, necklaces, shoes, brooches, bangles, headbands and every other possible adornment. But you know what? They say it because it's true. Accessories are cheap and easy - this Xcesiri necklace from ..."
  • "Future Classics abstract peasant dress, $1090 ..."
  • "Girls gone bad: How feisty females are inspiring designers ... London Fashion Week hasn't lost its rebel spirit - Pixie Geldof, Pamela Anderson ... There was even a jumper that read "BOO!" ... If Todd Lynn is the place where any woman worth her bad-girl credentials will shop for tailoring next year, she would do well to buy her cocktail dresses from Marios Schawb..."
Did you know eleven people contribute to Viva? Eleven! They have a designer and three sub-editors, and they still managed to stuff up an article/ad on pages 14-15, just repeating the first half of the article twice. But then I suppose that no-one - except, ironically, me - reads Viva for the articles; it's just fashion-porn. At least Playboy had Norman Mailer.


  1. James,

    Regarding the Chimpanzee article, I must say the Herald has the rediculous pun for a headline (I like to claim that the heralds incesant puns as one of the driving reasons behind cancelling a subscription I once had) but the article has a lot of merit from a scientific perspective, and I do wonder whether it was authored by a Herald Journo at all as it's signed AP.

  2. I think with this recent upsurge in chimpanzee related attackes, we need to do something to respond to those thug-like lower primates. Wont anyone think of the non-ice cream stealing children? How many more violent ape attacks will it take before people start standing up to them? My plan is as follows, although I should point out my research was limited to casually watching an episode of "CNN- The Chimp News Channel":
    1) Destroy all banana plantations worldwide
    2) Place international sanctions on trading and transport of PG Tips
    3) Cut down every second tree, and ensure that tarzan style vines are taken with them.

    That'll show them who's Tony Danza.

  3. I'm not sure destroying banana plantations will hurt the errant chimp half as much as the mooted solution Swedish vets have come up with - castration. Now there's a word to make the eyes water. Of course, the Herald won't have got around to reporting that bit yet, as they'll have to wait another week for that part of the story to filter through to their newsroom...

  4. If a million monkeys working on a million typewriters can produce the entire works of shakespear, is it safe to assume that one chimp working on a laptop is capable of producing a news rage blog?

  5. On slow news-rage-blog days I like to read the online property section of the Herald. Each day has an article indicating property prices going up or down in direct conflict with the article posted the previous day (sometimes even in conflict with an article posted the same day), and most sources at best have a conflict of interest.

    This really gets my blood boiling, and that's what news-rage is all about.

  6. Lol...guerilla tactics...

    Big hit from Anon @ cold I had to put on a jersey! Un-mask yourself you rascal...with cutting prose like that you could be the guest editor we longed for mid week??