Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Well done separatists, you've got your way!"

If you're anything like me, you saw the front page story on the decision to fly the Maori flag (look, no ironic quote marks!), thought "That's good," turned the page, and became engrossed in news of Tiger Woods' latest mistress.

People on Your Views, however, are nothing like you and me.

"Should the Tino Rangatiratanga flag be used on Waitangi Day?"

For balance you would probably need the New Zealand First flag up there too.

He died in World War One and Two? That's commitment. Now, to find the part in the story where it said anything about changing the flag...

You mean you didn't see the notices about the hui up in the marae? Surely you heard the kaumatua talking about it? Oh.

And yes - as a pakeha I feel very offended that I didn't get a choice regarding a Maori flag. But I'm used to it; so far no other nations whatsoever have so much as asked me what I thought of their new flags.

Apartheid was truly terrible. The way that white South Africans made the government display their own flag next to the national flag in public places on one day of the year truly makes the blood boil.

Who needs racism by stealth when you can just blurt it out in a public forum?

Ian of Kerikeri writes:

Dear Ian,

I've considered your proposition, and have come up with the following solution.

Kind regards,
The Head Maori

I agree with you, pCb - NOT!

"I'm sick to death of hearing all this racism towards Maori. I want to hear some racism aimed at the Chinese!"

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's a column, Jim, but not as we know it

The great thing about online publications is that, whenever you discover a new blog or opinion column that you like, there is usually an archive, and you can - hypothetically, of course - spend the whole day at work reading over past posts and columns.

When, for the first time, I read Jim Hopkins' column last fortnight - and what a load of feverish bollocks it was - my opinion of him changed significantly. I had thought of him previously as just slightly embarrassing, like the awkward uncle you only see at Christmas - the one who can't resist making groan-worthy puns and telling tortuous jokes. At least he's not boring, you think, but you still don't want to be seated next to him at dinner. Actually reading his column and finding that the cause of all this merriment is the worst, least-scientific kind of climate change denial is a bit like the scene in Father Ted where Ted stumbles upon Father Fitzpatrick's collection of Nazi memorabilia.

As usual, the conflict between my repulsion and... whatever emotion it is that makes you want to stare at a car crash... was won by the latter. A simple search for "Jim Hopkins" on the Herald site brings forth a smorgasbord of literary delights. For instance, his previous column was a bizarre rant about Hone Harawira:

You're a fomo, Hone; a foul mouth.

Not a white fomo or a black fomo, though you say you are both. But you're just a fomo, Ho. A bog standard, dime a dozen, no colour, no class, swaggering shock jock fomo.


But let's get back to the present. He obviously felt he was onto a winner last week, as he's writing almost exactly the same thing: the climate email 'scandal' means that climate change isn't happening. Presumably, if I told Mr Hopkins that the sky is blue because of the high concentration of smurfs in the troposphere, he would conclude from the falsity of my statement that the sky is not, in fact, blue. Except, unlike a normal person, he would compose a poem about it.

Christmas spirit yet to register in sales, say worried retailers - News Item.

The cheque book's on idle, it seems, the credit card on hold. We're spooked by the recession, and more besides. We'd rather keep the money, honey, than have a Wii fling. (Why didn't Tiger think of that?).


Someone should explain to our melancholy merchants that people don't spend when they're gloomy. And, boy, are we gloomy. The till's not ringing 'cos the heart's not singing. And the heart's not singing 'cos there's sod all to sing about, sunshine!

We can't even sing about that anymore without some sobbing celeb sanctimoaniously banging on about our bloody carbon footprint.

Memo to Mr Tindall and chums: It's hard to get a tingle in our Jingle Bells when there's a colossally wasteful, doom-on-steroids loath-in happening in Denmark. And tough to get the goodwill going with 30,000 and four hoarse men of the apocalypse screaming "Repent! Repent! The End is Nigh! Last chance to save the planet" at their taxpayer-funded religious rally in wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen.

Yeah, the alleged drop in consumer spending has everything to do with global warming 'propaganda' and nothing to do with the economic recession and high unemployment. But now I guess it looks to the editors like you've written about something new, rather than the exact same thing you crapped on about last fortnight.

That's why we're not shopping, Mr T. Because we're numb with despair. Because we feel hopeless, bludgeoned by shonky science and dodgy data into a state of abject grovelment - ashamed of our sinful selves and terrified our delicate little planet is going to hell in a (very hot) handcart.

It isn't and it won't. She's a tough old Mother, Earth. She's endured many truly enormous indignities - the cosmic collision that created our moon, the enormous asteroid that did for the dinosaurs, a rent in the land in Siberia that leaked lava, like blood from a wound, for one million years.

I think the point you missed here, Jim, is that the asteroid "did for the dinosaurs". I'm not certain that most people are primarily concerned with the survival of the planet per se. Unlike the planet, species living on it have an unfortunate tendency to die out during massive ecological crises.
Though you do have to wonder what prompted these apocalyptics to unleash their millennial hysteria in the middle of our busiest retail season when people should be buying things and maintaining jobs. But if their deeply depressing opening video is any guide, those in Copenhagen would rather have children clinging grimly to trees than finding presents under them. Which makes it hard for retailers to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. But they must if we are to unlimber our purses.
Yeah, why now? You would think that the planet would have the decency to stop heating during the festive season. I haven't actually seen anything telling anyone not to spend money because of global warming, other than maybe not buying a fleet of Humvees this Christmas. Next we'll be hearing that religious unrest in Pakistan is being orchestrated by Al Gore. Or that the cricket against Pakistan is somehow involved. Oh, hang on.
Perhaps the Black Caps can help with a win in Napier. Unlikely though, unless the ICC makes underarm bowling compulsory. We sank without trace at the Basin. Against a team who couldn't catch Osama bin Laden if he was edged off a gentle full toss. Seriously, Pakistan dropped more than Tiger Woods' standards.
'Tis odd how everyone's in a tizz about his cheating but no one seems to care about scientists doing exactly the same in relation to a matter of much greater importance. Tiger's fictions affect his family, those fabricated in East Anglia and elsewhere affect all of us.
"No one seems to care" - no one, that is, but just about every single article that has been in the paper about the Copenhagen conference, not to mention at least three opinion columns in the New Zealand Herald. But now, like a distracted puppy, he's off on another topic:
Alas, as is so often the case, the more trivial a matter is, the more rapt our attention and prurient our interest. Which may well explain why, at the end of a very hard year, the extinguished poet laureate, Sir Jam Hipkins (honour pending) has forsaken his muse and embraced a more venal mistress, joining the burgeoning ranks of news readers, porn stars, nightclub hostesses and lonely hearts who have teed off, so to speak, with Mr Woods.

[Excruciating "poem" begins - you'll have to brave the link yourself, sorry.]
So that's climate change fakery, the spending downturn, Tiger Woods' infidelity and the cricket.

Interestingly, the article sharing the opinion page with Hopkins is "Deniers don't have a rapidly melting glacier to stand on" - perhaps a headline that Hopkins could have improved. But at least that means that the Herald's coverage is fair and balanced, right?

'Party on, Garth' enters the digital age!

I wasn't going to bother writing about Garth George's latest column. I've got to the point, just about, where the urge to expose Herald-related awfulness is overwhelmed by feelings of futility and misanthropy, and visions flash before my eyes of bearded madmen shrieking wildly as they charge into battle, scimitar aloft.

But then I discovered a new feature on Garth's online column: comments!

The article itself is reasonably unremarkable, going with the standard 'Christians are repressed' meme that he does so well.
A flash of anger ... then sadness ... then perplexity over why anybody would choose to produce a scurrilous - nay, blasphemous - so-called comedy [some play called 'Christ Almighty'] about the central characters in the biblical Christian story.

[...] We Christians - well, most of us anyway - can certainly laugh at ourselves, because we don't take ourselves too seriously.

We do, however, take our faith seriously, and while we rarely have issues with irreverence, many of us find downright pornographic profanity deeply offensive and, for some, profoundly hurtful.

Oh dear. Garth's upset at a play that I'm pretty sure he hasn't seen.

Simei-Barton's review makes another good point: that if such blasphemies were aimed at the Prophet of Islam the consequences would be dire.

How about, instead of portraying Joseph as perhaps having an improper relationship with his donkey, "some virgin who claims she's been knocked up by God" and a cross-dressing angel, the writers could have chosen to make a farce out of Muhammad and his harem and his prurient interest in his camel.

Is anyone else as sick of this argument as me? Oh, we're so grateful that you don't threaten us with violence! It's like a politician getting a knighthood, or a dog getting a treat for not pooping on the carpet - not threatening violence is the default option, and you don't get praise for it. Sorry.

As someone who finds all religions/metaphysical philosophies equally ridiculous - don't get me started on Buddhism - I can say that, while Muslims might have cornered the market on violent outrage at blasphemy, Christians are still tops when it comes to self-righteous moaning.

The thing I find most disturbing about this latest denigration of Christianity is that tens of thousands of New Zealanders will be deeply hurt by it - again, since it's only the latest of several.

[...] No one seems to be concerned that the salacious slurs cast upon these revered historical figures might bring real distress to thousands of believers, reduce many to tears and drive others to their knees in lamentation and to beseech God to forgive the perpetrators.

Laying it on thick today, Garth. He doesn't seem concerned that if he hadn't written about it "tens of thousands of New Zealanders" would never have heard of this play, and would be happily tucking in to tea and scones without having to worry about Joseph buggering a donkey.
But, I suppose, it's not surprising. Jesus himself warned his original disciples that they and their faith would often be ridiculed, and we modern disciples can expect the same. However, on the bright side, we Christians can be grateful that, unlike those early followers, we are not persecuted in this country - yet.
Yeah... but you had a good run, didn't you? I mean, 1500 years at the top of the charts! You got a lot of persecuting done, but every party has to come to an end. And it could be worse - gays may be roaming the streets, but at least they can't get married - yet.

Fittingly, he finishes off by plagiarising borrowing the words of the Magnificat, apparently penned by the Virgin Mary herself.
He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.
Sounds about right.

Anyway, the most exciting discovery was the comments!


It's spelt 'prophet'.

I think you're in the wrong forum.

ANYWAY. I hope everyone is as excited by this development as I am.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Headline of the day

Not more news about this interminable saga...

"Tiger buckles to animal instincts"

EDIT: They've changed the headline... that's odd!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Golden Garths

It's that time of year - the time of year when we cease doing any real work, and start reminiscing about the past twelve months. Depressing, isn't it.

On that note, I would like to introduce the First Annual Editing The Herald Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Journalism, and I hereby call for nominations - nominations that may well result in nothing less than the awarding of cynical and pedantic media criticism's highest honour, the Golden Garth - in the following categories:
  • Worst Opinion Columnist: It's going to be difficult to budge the man himself from this award but, if anyone can do it, it's almost anyone else writing opinion columns for the New Zealand Herald.
  • Most Egregious Example of Advertising Masquerading as News: A Herald favourite, be it a press release dressed up as news, or just an unprompted gushing about a major advertiser.
  • Biggest Media Beat-up: Once the Herald has tasted blood, there's no limit to how many times they'll ring up Bos McCoskrie and find out what he thinks. Hone Harawira is a racist, AND didn't wear a motorcycle helmet? AND he went to Auckland Grammar?
  • Worst Article: The big one. It's the 'Best Picture' of the Golden Garths, and there's a lot to choose from.
This is where I need you. Send in your nominations, either by leaving comments or by email. If there's an important category you think I've missed, suggest it. Once the nominations are in, the EtH editorial board will convene, locked in a sealed chamber until the decisions have been made.

This is your chance to participate in real democracy, which I'm told doesn't really exist anymore now the Dancing with the Stars has been canned. We've fought wars for this, and a lot less. Don't forfeit your birthright - submit your nominations now.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hedging their bets

Are they sure they're speaking with a man?


Well that cleared things up.

Please don't read this article

"Weatherston's account of killing Sophie Elliott too gruesome"

From the page A3 article on TVNZ's censure for overly graphic coverage of the Weatherston trial:
TVNZ has been reprimanded for failing to run warnings before the 6pm news when it screened graphic evidence during the Sophie Elliott murder trial.

[...] Shona Thompson complained to TVNZ over its coverage of the trial, when footage was aired showing Ms Elliott's former Otago University tutor and boyfriend Clayton Weatherston giving evidence on July 13.
Next paragraph:
The footage showed Weatherston describing what happened when he stabbed 22-year-old Ms Elliott 216 times and mutilated her body in January last year. Weatherston said: "The most vivid recall I have next is of standing or kneeling over her with a pair of scissors in my right hand, and um, the scissors had gone through the front of her throat and I can feel a crunching sound, like it's against her spine."
Broadcasting Standards Authority > Press Council.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Listen to the transport professionals

From the Herald's front-page story on plans to build a new harbour crossing in Auckland:

But yesterday's developments have given new hope to promoters of an "Anzac Bridge" across the harbour on a similar alignment to the tunnels route, making it at least one and a half times longer than the existing bridge.

A group led by former Auckland City Council member Richard Simpson and including companies such as Jasmax and NZ Steel wants construction to start by 2015 to commemorate the centenary of Anzac Day.

Yes, that seems like an excellent basis for sound long-term transport planning.

Stranger in a strange land

I don't really want to write about Tiger Woods, and I hope that you don't really want to read about him. But in the context of what I wrote the other day about what happens when sportspeople do everyday things - blow their nose, open a bank account, cheat on their wife - I thought I would point out for your perusal today's article on Woods by the Herald's Chris Rattue. It's fascinating to skim-read, in that it's a piece of sportswriting - full of clich├ęs, tortuous extended metaphor and matey nudge-nudge-wink-winks, that is - but about something that is important, at least to two of the people involved.
It was difficult to know exactly how Woods would react in the immediate aftermath of his mis-drive, but certainly no surprise that he retreated behind the walls while throwing a dart over the top containing his vague statement.

Left hand, meet right hand

Now, I'm not trying to say that all the people writing in the same newspaper have to interpret things in the same way. I'm certainly not saying that everyone has to agree on every single aspect of everything. But I going to say that I find it a bit odd when the writer(s) of the editorial don't seem to have read their own newspaper.

It's not even that unusual. The editorial is usually, although not always, a reasonably sober reflection on the issues that are at the same time being manically screamed about on the front pages and the website. What interested me today about this was reading the Herald's two musings on the Maori Party's dealing with Hone Harawira, the party having announced that Harawira would be staying on. Let's just say that they took a rather divergent view of the outcome.

John Armstrong, "Political Commentator of the Year", wrote a piece entitled, "Maori Party flouting fundamental law of politics", where he argued that the Maori Party "made a complete hash of" the situation. The editorial, meanwhile, is headlined, "Party gets full marks for Harawira test" and claims that the party has "handled this affair well".

Put that down to inexperience, a lack of established procedures for maintaining discipline, plus being a small party constantly distracted by other priorities - points made by co-leader Pita Sharples. However, he also insisted the party had handled the Harawira problem "our way". The question is whether in choosing "our way", the Maori Party can flout a fundamental law of politics, namely that disunity both personnel-wise and policy-wise is death.
Yesterday, he issued his third apology and this time it was unequivocal. In the way of these things it seemed more abject than the offence warranted but this incident was about more than meets the eye. It has been a test of the Maori Party's status as a competent, respectable and effective participant in national politics. It may even prove to be the last gasp of mindless antagonism.
Of course, political predictions are a chump's game. Much like short-term weather forecasting, the best 'prediction' strategy is usually to claim that tomorrow's political situation (and weather) will be much the same as today's; you miss all the turning points, but at least you right more often than not, just like I was right about it being overcast in Auckland today. What, to me, that means is that how this series of Hone-Harawira-related events will affect the future of the Maori Party, the current parliament, and NZ politics in general is pretty inscrutable, and I don't think there's any more reason to accept Armstrong's account, or the editorial's, than there is to believe the one scrawled on the toilet cubicle wall.

Presumably, however, that's not going to be the position of the Herald editorial board, employers as they are of a collection of political experts whose job it is to interpret political events. So I do find it odd that, in writing 'their' editorial, 'they' haven't really bothered to find out what their leading political 'expert' thinks of the issue. Maybe they have, of course, and I'm not going to call a side that I think is 'correct', but it's odd to see two positions in the same paper that are less 'divergent', and more 'completely opposite'.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Mistake

Normally I have far, far better things to do - but last night I watched 3 News. It's a mistake I shan't be repeating any time soon. Here are just some of the wonderful things I learned.

1 ) The lead item was about the rapid melting of ice in the Himalayas. "Oh, this is all right," I thought. It did feature Mike McRoberts standing at a screen, rather than sitting at a desk (possibly due to haemorroids). He then pushes 'buttons' on the screen, although I'm almost certain that either no buttons exist or the producers just decided to have buttons to make it look more... interactive?

Anyway, eventually we got to the item itself. It appears the ice in the Himalayas is melting at an unprecedented rate, leading to worries in some quarters that the rivers that water South and East Asia, the most populous region on Earth, will start to diminish. The interesting thing about the piece was that there was almost zero analysis. Why is the ice melting so quickly? Shrug. What could be the consequences if it keeps going like this? Who cares; what's Tiger Woods doing?

2) The next piece was a live cross to a reporter in Australia - you know the one, the woman who is always incredibly overdressed, as if she is covering a state dinner but is actually standing outside a factory reporting on a chemical spill. Remarkably, it wasn't even a news item with a live cross in it; it was a live cross with news items in it. She talked for a bit about the Liberal Party leadership elections, and told us who won, but again really gave no analysis as to what that meant. She then talked about other, less interesting things happening in Australia - all the while with Mike "It's All About the News" McRoberts standing there, itching to push the button.

3) And in American news... there was a 'piece' that literally lasted seven seconds on Obama's plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan - apparently something is going on there - before a neat segue into the latest on Tiger Woods.

4) Best of all, and leading the 3 News promos, was a really interesting story from Dunedin. It seems that there was a Guinness World Record in the offing! That classic world record, that is, for the most scrambled eggs cooked at once, a record for which humanity has strived since the discovery of the egg. Oh, did we mention it was being done for McDonalds? To advertise their switch, in 19 South Island stores, to 'free range' eggs? They cooked a free breakfast - I trust the sausages were made from free range pork - for people in Dunedin's central city, which worked nicely because it got them some free advertising on the national news. If you don't watch the clip, at least follow the link and see the still of McRoberts, now happily ensconced at his desk, next to those famous golden arches.

5) Lead story on Campbell Live: an exclusive interview with the mother locked in the closet by her infant. A few weeks ago I had a dream that I was sitting in the back seat of a car with John Campbell. I remember asking him why it was that, when he is - or was - obviously a competent journalist, his show was so awful. All I remember after that is him getting really angry and physically assaulting me. So yeah... if you see him around town, maybe don't bring that up.


On another note, here's an update from today's paper - page A3 - on the apparent epidemic of infants locking insufferable middle-class mothers in closets. Warning: the headline is quite funny but it's all downhill from there.

In the case of another mischievous youngster, Clare of Glendowie was busy sorting her 2-year-old son's wardrobe when he closed the door behind her.

[...] "I asked my little one to try and open his bedroom door, but he said he couldn't get out of bed because of the sharks in the sea (his bed is his boat)."

[...] About half an hour later her partner thought he heard something and came to check on the pair.

"My partner thought that I had fallen asleep with our son in his bed. Aren't they just lovely!"

APN Holdings also publishes the New Zealand Woman's Weekly. I think that, in the business world, this is what they call 'a synergy'.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nanny state

From today's front page:

"Playful Harry pushes the closet door shut and starts a nightmare in the dark for his mother"
The worst thing is that, under current law, he has to be tried as a juvenile.