Friday, February 26, 2010

Flag Debate III: Flag Debate Goes Bananas

Courtesy of Joseph:

"I was sceptical, but some of the Herald's suggestions for a new flag are actually surprisingly edgy and out-there..."

Edit: 'Rusty' - incidentally the name of my old dog - suggests number 41 is superior. Here's the link to 41 and the whole gallery so you can make up your own mind.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Graphic violence

There's a story in the paper today about an Israeli study supposedly showing that smokers have lower IQs than non-smokers. The story's interesting as far as it goes - it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that cigarette marketers aim for the stupid.

But what I found interesting about the article in the Editing-the-Herald-sense was how the Herald decided to turn the Reuters article into a bit of a joke. First, there's the pointless Emmerson cartoon which I won't bother to reproduce here. Secondly, there's a Herald Graphic pointing out some famous smokers and non-smokers, compiled by some wag at the paper:

Right, so I get the joke: Einstein was smart, and he smoked. Meanwhile, Dubya was dumb and he didn't. But the research says dumb people smoke and smart people don't! So there's a very funny inversion going on here. I get that.

But how exactly did the Herald decide which eight examples to cite? Are the famous smokers just famous people who smoked, or people who are famous for smoking? Einstein was certainly famous, but I'm not sure people reminisce along the lines of, "Einstein, yeah, I remember that guy - he smoked like a train." Freud you can possibly get away with - sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Kate Moss is an odd addition; wasn't the point of the graphic to get smart people who smoked?

How about the other side? Making a list of 'famous non-smokers' seems a bit like making a list of 'famous right-handers': pointless. But let's bear with them. Helen Clark? Is she a notorious straight-edger? I suppose she did bring in the restaurant smoking ban. But then it just gets weird. George Reeves? I dare say that if you have to put what he's 'famous' for in brackets after his name - "(1950s Superman)" - he's not quite famous enough to make the Top Four Famous Non-Smokers. What's more, using the latest online research techniques I discovered the following on his Wikipedia page:
Reeves took his role model status seriously, avoiding cigarettes where children could see him and eventually quitting smoking.
So not really a non-smoker, and more a former smoker - especially seeing he's been dead for fifty years.

Then there's Hitler - well that was original. What should one read into the juxtaposition of Helen Clark with Hitler and - worse - Bush? I'll leave that up to you, the reader.

Anyway, an exercise in pointlessness, and I can't believe - and I'm sure my boss wouldn't either - that I spent so long wondering about it. Or that you bothered to read it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Page A3 hosts the next installment in the Herald's series on 'Shit That Happened To Animals'. It's not a dog - sorry 'Rusty' - but, if anything, it's even cuter!

A man will appear in court today charged with animal cruelty after apparently using a lop-eared rabbit to threaten passersby on Auckland's Queen St.

Police say the 53-year-old stole the bunny - which the SPCA has subsequently named Larry - and swung it by its ears at pedestrians, while verbally abusing them.

[...] When officers arrived, the man allegedly tried to hide the rabbit under his shirt. Police had to wrestle the rabbit from him, and the security guard held it as the man was handcuffed.

More details! What colour was the shirt? What wrestling techniques were used? Greco-Roman? How did the guard hold the rabb... er, Larry?
The man then allegedly spat at police.
Oh, who cares about the person involved.
* Anyone with information about the rabbit should call the Auckland downtown police station on 09 379 4500 or Vicki Border at the SPCA on 09 256 7300 x867.
Yes, I'm sure that this is exactly what the police need to be dealing with - animal-crazed lunatics ringing them up with unsubstantiated rumours concerning missing pet rabbits.

Anyway, the good news is that the rabbit seems to be all right.

SPCA inspector Vicki Border said the rabbit was checked by a veterinarian at Mangere headquarters, but appeared to have escaped uninjured.

"He was in a very stressful state. It's very remarkable he's in one piece considering what happened."

Excellent. Now where's my bacon and eggs?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Always look on the bright side

Anyone up for some schadenfreude?

Well that doesn't sound too bad. Until you keep reading, and find out that lauding this 'improvement' is a little bit like saying that, say, the Black Eyed Peas are improving because each song is only a little more soul-destroying than the last.
APN said that although revenue fell 10 per cent at its publishing business in this country for the entire half, fourth quarter revenues had improved that trend to be down 6 per cent.
So by improving you mean worsening less quickly. Unfortunately, that's the only 'good' news.

Earnings before interest and tax (ebit) for the NZ Publishing division in the six months to December fell 11 per cent from a year earlier to A$36.4 million ($46.7 million). In local currency terms the decline was 9 per cent.

Revenues at NZ Publishing fell 13 per cent to A$164.3m, or 10 per cent for local currency.

At the NZ Radio division ebit fell 22 per cent to A$7.7m, with the local currency drop 20 per cent. Revenue at NZ Radio was down 15 per cent - 12 per cent in local currency - to A$43.4m.

[...] For the full 2009 year, APN reported net profit down 34 per cent from a year earlier to A$94.2m, while underlying revenue fell 14 per cent to A$1.03 billion.

But don't worry:
Hopkins said APN had been able to mitigate the full effects of the global financial crisis through a combination of effective cost management and targeted sales campaigns. Total costs fell A$78m.
For example, you could cut the number of journalists writing business articles:

"The directors have seen an improvement in trading over the fourth quarter and in the early weeks of the New Year that provides confidence that 2010 will be a better year," APN said.


Who would have thought?

Page A2 of today's paper - "Most Kiwis feeling financially shaken by crisis - survey":
Three in five female New Zealanders and just over half of Kiwi men say the global financial crisis has made them feel financially stressed but most don't plan to change the way they spend or invest, a survey by a financial industry lobby group has found.

[...] Only 8 per cent of those questioned said they were better off since the financial crisis with lower taxes and interest rates, and 41 per cent said they were in the same position.

A further 38 per cent said they felt slightly worse off than a year ago and 12 per cent said they were significantly worse off.

[...] The survey found 23 per cent were still saving nothing from their income while appetite for credit remains high.

Of the 81 per cent holding a credit card, 19 per cent admitted they sometimes pay interest while 26 per cent said they usually end up paying interest on their credit card debt.

Yawn. Perhaps 'Tamsyn Parker' is, like Alan Smithee, a default name. In this case, it's just when a staff reporter has cut and pasted from a survey press release.

Anyway, just to see if you were reading properly:

Three in five female New Zealanders and just over half of Kiwi men say the global financial crisis has made them feel financially stressed but most don't plan to change the way they spend or invest, a survey by a financial industry lobby group has found.

[...] Two-thirds of female respondents and 55 per cent of male respondents to the survey said they were feeling financially stressed.
Three in five, two thirds... same thing, right?

Meanwhile, tagged on at the very end of the article:
Dr Fahy said New Zealand's ageing population meant the current superannuation entitlement age would become unsustainable and the rising cost of superannuation and healthcare meant people should no longer rely on taxes paid during their lifetime to fund superannuation or free healthcare.
Don't worry, status quo. I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who made it that far.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Biggest Loser: Dog Edition

At the top of today's Page A3:

Editor 1: "We can only run one dog story today. Do we go with the dog mauling the woman and child, or the dog that... lost weight?"

Editor 2: "Or no dog stories at..."

Editor 1: "You're fired."

"He loves fruits - especially blueberries," Mr Chin said. "But he also loves the odd cheeseburger ... but only for a treat."
He's a dog, and he'll eat his own faeces if you don't stop him.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Amazing column by the notorious Deborah Hill-Cone today. Most of us have written something late at night, sent it off, and re-read it the next day, hungover, only to feel that shudder of awful realisation: it's awful, and quite possibly laden with racial and sexist epithets. Then again, most of us don't get that piece published in a national newspaper.

But isn't the best part of Conegate, as I've dubbed it - Danyl from the Dim-Post having mobilised at 5.30am to deal with the offending piece - that she's an opinion columnist, and therefore the most ridiculous and unnecessary species of expert extant? Or does it just make her one monolithic vox pop?

Answers on the back of a postcard.

PS My second favourite part is how the end of the column reads like a promo for The Secret.

Monday, February 8, 2010

16 minutes of fame

For anyone who is extremely bored at work, propping up the 7.3% unemployment rate or 'studying' on my taxpayer dime: you may wish to waste 16 minutes listening to bFM's José Barbosa and myself whine about the flag 'debate', Alison Mau's new 'lady-love' and Kerre Woodham's Twitter nightmare. (The recording is here.)

I can't imagine why, though.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Accentuating the positive

Sports 'stars' on changing the flag, the Herald's sudden and inexplicable hobby horse. If you can't see properly, the green box says "Change", the black "Undecided" and the red "No Change".

More on this flag business after I've had a cup of tea.

Turns out I was too 'busy', but if you want some compelling reasons not to change the flag, then have a look at this Herald design collection.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Chinese are coming!

The last Herald cartoonist got fired for insulting Israel.

Party on, Garth 2010

Ready for some philosophy?:

There are three things I acknowledge, and accept that they exist, but which I have never been able, for the life of me, to get my head around. They have always remained far beyond my understanding, no matter how much I ponder them or how old I get.

The first is child abuse, paedophilia and cruelty to domestic animals; the second is male homosexuality; and the third is vegetarianism.

Firstly, Garth, let me say that I'm glad that you've come to the realisation that, say, homosexuality and vegetarianism exist; although, as a vegetarian, or something approaching one - mmm, scallops - I'm slightly vexed to see myself mentioned in the same context as a paedophile.
I have written often about child abuse and paedophilia, have touched on male homosexuality but find it expedient these days simply to ignore such an infinitesimal minority, and every time I encounter a vegan or vegetarian (I'm told there's a difference) I simply shake my head in wonder.
Let's give him some credit. He has managed to distinguish between paedophiles and homosexuals, which is more than we might have expected. I like his explanation for not "touching" more often on male homosexuality, homosexuals being a far more "infinitesimal minority" than pedophiles. I suspect that the lack of writing on homosexuals has less to do with their minority status and more to do with the fact that the editor sat him down and told him that it was the twenty-first century, and he wasn't allowed to do it anymore because advertisers would complain. As for the vegan/vegetarian distinction, that's just the sort of quality, Google-led research I've come to expect from Garth.

As someone pointed out to me, the combination of an allegedly strong disgust toward animal cruelty and a complete dismissal of vegetarianism might be considered paradoxical, or worse - albeit not uncommon. In fairness, however, he does specify that he opposes "cruelty to domestic animals", neatly resolving the paradox and leaving him free to punch cows and kick chickens to his heart's content.

That leaves cruelty to domestic animals, examples of which laid before us in the media from time to time, are enough to turn my stomach.

[...] The cruelties which sicken me are those perpetrated, invariably by males, which torture defenceless domestic animals, inflicting on them fathomless fear and excruciating agony.
I love how again he has gone to the trouble of specifying "domestic" animals. Meanwhile, torturing defenceless farm animals - or, I don't know, circus animals - inflicting on them fathomless fear and excruciating agony, is fine, as it leads eventually to pies.

Other than that, he's right, of course: I can't comprehend domestic animal cruelty either. It seems to me that it's almost completely a mental health issue, and that locking someone up in prison for five years isn't exactly the best way to solve the problem, although it does seem like that's the 'Kiwi way' these days. But I digress.

Garth talks about this for a while, before taking an... interesting diversion:
I can no more understand why anyone would torture and slaughter a Jack Russell terrier that I can understand anyone doing so to a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, an exceptional example of which has been part of our family for the past five years.
Okay... what?

Almost all my life there has been a cat in the house. I have always liked cats. They are independent creatures, content to look after themselves and as long as you feed them they will do their own thing.

The incumbent, a chocolate and cream long-haired Birman, has been with us for nearly 12 years. She is beginning to show her age but remains mistress of the household, particularly where the dog is concerned.

Archie - for, being of royal Scottish descent, that is his name - learned early not to mess with Madam - and a right little madam she was, too - and only later discovered she liked to tear round the house playing hide and seek, but only ever on her terms.

For years I resisted my wife's entreaties to get a dog, fearing the physical and emotional commitment it would entail. But I gave in and all I can say after five years is that the experience has been hugely enriching.

How marvellous it is to have pets in the house, little creatures which never talk back or argue with you and which are enormously loyal, trusting, guileless and affectionate.

Well that was weird... but then I suppose we've all talked to an elderly relative and had the same experience of conversation suddenly veering off course. Then again, most senile old folk don't have columns in the country's leading daily newspaper, a column which has swung from righteous rage at animal abuse to advice on getting a dog.

Next week: vegetarian paedophiles.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Thanks to James W for pointing out the goldmine that was Monday's Herald. I hadn't read it, as I was rocking out.

Let's start with the front page article "Climate change: another gaffe":

First - yeah, it's bad science, and the people involved should feel rather ashamed of themselves. But it's still rather questionable that a relatively minor 'gaffe' is front-page news when it's one paper out of thousands written on climate change. It's a bit like claiming I'm lazy because I didn't blog one month out of twelve.

But more importantly, the last paragraph above discusses "a feature article published in a popular climbing magazine which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them."

Oh, you mean like this article?

When I was undertaking research as curator for the displays at the Department of Conservation's Aoraki/Mount Cook Visitor Centre, I came across a Timaru Herald clipping from the mid-1930s.

The chief guide at Mount Cook, Vic Williams, was reported as being concerned about the warming that was taking place. He had seen significant changes in the glaciers since he first went to Mount Cook, at the end of World War I.

Half a century ago, when I started climbing and writing about mountains, I soon came across photographic evidence of what had happened to the Mount Cook glaciers since the first photographs were taken in the 1860s.

Et cetera, et cetera. I trust the Herald will be doing a full recall and replacement of all eyes that have seen that piece.

But it gets better. If, for some reason, you're still reading Monday's article and reach the bottom of the page, you'll be invited to turn to Page 3, at which point you'll be greeted by this:

Yes, that made it into the printed newspaper; it sounds more like a URL than a headline.

Looking back at page A2, we're in for more fun - wholesome, family-oriented, church-approved fun, that is - with "Rain fails to dampen Parachute festivities". Here is a selection of quotes for your consideration:
  • Some of the 25,000 people attending the Parachute festival, more than 17,000 of them camping in tents alongside the Waikato River at Hamilton's Mystery Creek, packed up and headed home early last night.
  • "We're going to travel home overnight instead of staying another night," said Tom Goodger of Waipukurau, who brought his whole family to the festival.
  • Swiss visitors Pauline Reymond, 21, and Yvonne Liechti, 19, were desperately trying to light a gas cooker in a big open tent when the Herald visited. "All our clothes are wet, all our cooking stuff is wet," Ms Reymond said. "It's very funny. I don't know what we will do tonight." [Knowing the legendary Swiss sense of humour, 'funny' was probably a mistranslation of 'arse'.]
  • [...] Cameron Pratt, 19, had holes in the bottom of his tent and slept last night in his car. It was Mr Pratt's fifth year at Parachute, but he wondered whether he should have come. "For the amount of money we paid for the tickets, we could have just driven on a massive road trip to a beach somewhere," he said.
Rain definitely failed to dampen the Parachute festivities then.

Anyway, maybe after all that you just want to wind down with some hard-hitting political analysis:

Next week's exposé: "PM reveals 'Key' to catching the big fish".

Letter of the day

And you wonder why I stopped blogging:

Things are still up in the air at the moment. I would like to keep doing this, however, and I have had enough feedback along the lines of 'get back and fucking blog' to provide some sort of encouragement. So... fingers crossed.

Laneway Festival

I had a dream last night that Warren Ellis was feeding me Hungarian bread puffs.

This is relevant, of course, because the Herald didn't even mention Dirty Three.

The problem with writing an article by committee is that different people care for different things. Hence the contrasting descriptions of Daniel Johnston's set in the same article by "the Herald Entertainment Team" - all two of them.

Online edition:

Print edition:

Anyway, hi everybody.