Thursday, 29 December 2005

My 2 missing Christmas Presents...

I hope everybody had a very Merry Christmas, Oy! Hannuka, and a Merry Kwanzaa season...

I had a good time, despite working over Christmas... we made our own fun in the office, and still managed to scoff a huge Chrissy lunch.

The only disappointment is that Santa managed to leave two presents out of my Christmas delivery ;-) ...

(News story from 20/12/05... Police have found a case against a second Dunedin MP... but have again decided not to take further action.

Police found Pete Hodgson guilty of "technical assault", when he grabbed the arm of student Madeline Flannagan, while she was protestesting at Otago University during this year's election campaign. However they say the offence was minor, and no further action will be taken.

Hodgson says he's glad the issue's over, claiming it was a political stunt from beginning to end. Flannagan's also happy with the result, claiming the police investigation vindicates her, and proves what she said was true.

It follows the decision by Police not to charge Dundin South MP David Benson-Pope recently, despite finding a prima-facie case against him, in relation to charges of bullying and brutality while he was a teacher at Bayfield High School).

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Thursday, 10 November 2005

The cast of 'Life as we know it' move into 'Urinetown'...

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The Swinging 60's...

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Spamalot: He is Not Yet Dead...

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Life as we know it...

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Saturday, 29 October 2005

Serenity on DVD December 20th?

It seems Joss Whedon's Sci-Fi movie Serenity (a continuation of the prematurely cancelled Fox TV series Firefly) could be released on DVD in the USA just before Christmas.

The film's been out in the US/UK/Australia/etc for a few weeks, but still hasn't made it onto general release in New Zealand. (I've managed to watch the first nine minutes of Serenity, when Universal posted a preview online for a limited period following the film's US release).

DVD website Digital Bits reports Universal will announce the DVD release of Joss Whedon's Serenity for 12/20. Early word indicates that the disc may include Whedon audio commentary, along with at least 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes (Future History, We'll Have a Fruity Oaty Good Time, Re-Lighting the Firefly and What's in a Firefly), a video introduction to the film by Whedon and 6 minutes worth of outtakes.

* Serenity the Movie - Official site
* Serenity Movie Trailers @ Apple

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Sudoku, The World Wide Phenomenon

What's with this whole Sudoku craze??! I just don't get it!

I first encountered the things when I was visiting friends in England around the middle of this year. They started appearing in New Zealand a few months later, and even our old-fashioned local paper now prints the bloody things!...

Here's an article from the London Times about how Sudoku puzzles are now popular the world over. Includes an interview with the owner of

read more | digg story

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Monday, 24 October 2005

Theatre Restaurant Rehearsals

Things have been flat-out lately, mainly with rehearsals for the Theatre Restaurant I'm directing/co-MDing, Life as we know it.

Melinda and Kate organised a cast Singstar & BBQ Party on Saturday, before we had two full-on day and night rehearsals over Labour Weekend Sunday and Monday.

We learnt the last full company song this evening, so now we've got around 3 weeks to finish all the blocking, and commit everything to memory!...

Sure!... We know exactly what we're doing!

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The girls give an impromptu street performance (while the lads play silly buggers in the background ;-)

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The cast practice "Come Look at the Freaks" (almost too convincely! ;-)

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Aargh! There's more of them!

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At Melinda's cast party... Kate shows everyone how much she's been practicing with her Dancemat game...

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Gina & Hayley take their Singstar round very seriously!

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Ben & Chris K battle it off Singstar-style...

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Grant belts out a Duran Duran classic... Jenny doesn't look all that impressed ;-)

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Monday, 10 October 2005

'Life as we know it' Theatre Restaurant

I currently busy Directing and co-Musically Directing a Theatre Restaurant production for Dunedin Operatic, entitled Life as we know it.

It's a mix of songs, mostly from current or recent Broadway and West End shows. The season goes on in mid-November, and we're currently rehearsing like mad the list of 60+ numbers ;-)

Here's a few light hearted pics from recent rehearsals...

The cast of "Life as we know it" rehearsing Supercalifraglisticexpialidocious...

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Sure... we mightn't know any of the words, but at least we can audition as ushers for the show?

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Um... Does anyone know how this number's supposed to finish up?!...

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Our 3 U.S. Cops practice their number from 'Urinetown - The Musical'...

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Thursday, 6 October 2005

Don't Eat Pigs 'cause they're made from Ham... Eat that nasty Butcher Man!

What the?! AA Milne's cute little Piglet character is now evil??!...

In a bizarre fit of madhouse-PCness, the Conservative Party controlled Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (in the UK's West Midlands) have decreed that "all work pictures and knick-knacks of novelty pigs and 'pig-related items' will be banned".

This frenzy follows a complaint by one Muslim employee of the Council. The ban extended to another employee's personal box of tissues (because the box featured the cartoon characters Winnie the Pooh, and his little friend Piglet).

(As the Telegraph points out, Muslims regard pigs as "unclean"... apparently even cartoon pigs, wearing scarf & bright colourful singlet ;-)

It follows another mad incident, where fast food giant Burger King went into its own PC-frenzy, withdrawing ice-cream cones from all its British restaurants. This behaviour followed a complaint from a Muslim customer, who claimed the creamy swirl symbol on the lid resembled the word "Allah" in Arabic script!!?!

* Cox & Forkum: Perils before Swine
* Hat tip: Sir Humphrey's: Funny if it weren't true

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Saturday, 1 October 2005

Great Kiwi Inventions

Now, this is funny... Check out this great kiwi invention, currently listed on auction site, TradeMe...

* Great Kiwi Invention of the Week

(I'd love one myself, but the bidding's already up to $1,200... wonder how strictly TradeMe applies their rules on winning bids?!)...

* (Hat tip: Sir Humphrey's)
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Cents of Entitlement - Who Do You Love?
^ DJ Bobo - Amazing Life ]

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Nandor, Robson, Shanks all out

The final results of NZ's General Election have come out as the more intelligent political commentators were predicting...

* The Greens did not gain enough extra votes to return former poster boy Nandor Tanczos to Parliament (their historical boost from special votes was lost this time, due to Labour's "free money" student loan policy). (Quelle de'mage ;-).

* Same deal with the JAP's (Jim Anderton's Progressives) - their vote only needed to go up a smidge to return Matt Robson, but it actually went down a smidge, so Old Jimmyboy is now a party of One.

* The Maori Party's ex-pat campaign in the likes of Australia helped them increase the proportionality of Parliament, by lifting their final vote to 2.12%, thereby reducing the overhang to just one MP (they still have four MPs, by virtue of winning 4 Maori electorate seats).

* The National Party's Katrina Shanks is the one that misses out by pulling Parliament back to just 121 MPs. Unlikely to be a big shock for her, but National could have done with the extra female MP.

* Mrs Peter Davis now needs to secure a majority of 61 votes to pass crucial legislation...

Likely odds on running a minority Government "coalition" with Labour and Jim Anderton, relying on the support of the Greens for most policies (now commonly known in media circles as the "LPG Government" ;-) ... however, playing off NZ First/United Future/Maori Party for any items which the Greens turn their nose at.

* NZ Herald: National lose one seat in final count

* NZ Herald: Full list of MPs after final election result
* Elections NZ: Official Count Results

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Tina Cousins - Come to Me
^ Funky People - Waiting for You ]

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Sunday, 18 September 2005

Get Set for a Bumpy Ride!

Well last night's election results are fairly inconclusive, especially with around 218,000 special votes still to be counted. Voters largely deserted the minor parties (according to Frogblog, in 2002, one in three kiwis(32.91%) supported the five elected minor parties... in 2005, just one in six kiwis(16.36%) gave their party vote to a minor party).

Mrs Peter Davis's Labour Party look to have the upper finger at the moment, but it's going to take a lot of negotiating/compromise/arguing to come up with a workable arrangement. Whatever the end result, it looks like we're in for a bumpy 3 years (or less, if you believe some commentators)

Lessons learnt from this Election Campaign:

* LABOUR: Many journalists and commentators have pointed out what an appallingly bad campaign Michael Cullen has run.

Starting with his "Chewing Gum" budget, through to finding billions of dollars hidden under the sofa, through to his poor performance against John Key, questions must surely be asked about his future in charge of the purse strings if Labour leads the next Government.

One possibility could be Cullen to work alongside United Future's Gorden Copeland as Associate Minister of Finance?

Saddest loss of the night was that of John Tamihere (who didn't want to be on the List)... A rare breed - an honest politician! ;-)

* NATIONAL: New Zealand currently has an MMP voting system. You need allies/friends/partners in order to form a stable government. Labour to their credit understands that, which is why they co-operated with the Green Party during this campaign.

Another term in opposition may not be all bad, given the large number of political newbies entering Parliament this election. Some good talent amongst the new intake though, which is good news for the party.

* NZ FIRST: Back in, but with losing Tauranga, Winston Peters will have to tread more carefully. He's no longer got an electorate lifeline, so needs to ensure his party stays over that crucial 5% mark.

Unpredictable as ever, and likely to be a restrictive/tempering influence on whichever party leads the next minority Government.

* GREENS: Mike Ward is well and truly on his bike, after having already cycled all over the North Island ;-) The Greens are about as close as you can get to the 5% threshold (5.07%!).

They'll also be hoping a good number of special votes again swing their way, or their weed poster boy, Nandor Tanczos, will also be out after being dropped down their list. A lesson that Parliament is not the place to be promoting working class drugs? (If he does make it back though, that extra seat could come from one of the Centre/Right parties).

* ACT: A lesson for the party as to the importance of an electorate seat under New Zealand's MMP system. Parties without that security blanket spend half their time battling against the 'wasted vote' argument, with the country's tough 5% threshold. (The Royal Commission's original recommendation was 4%, still high by international standards).

Now that Hide has secured the Epsom seat by a respectable margin, he can go about rebuilding the party with voters assured that a vote for ACT will not be a wasted one.

* UNITED FUTURE: The moral conservative vote appeared to go back to the National Party, and "the worm" failed to turn tricks for Peter Dunne in this election.

The big question will now be whether the Outdoor Recreation Party - who have been working with United Future during this campaign - opt to stay with Dunne, given they did not achieve representation through him. (Outdoor Rec's top candidate, Paul Check, was #7 on UF's list).

* MAORI PARTY: Possibly one of the smartest parties this election, having increased the size of Parliament to 122 MPs, by creating a two seat overhang, thanks to Maori Party supporters splitting their votes to Party Vote Labour. (This despite the fact that the Maori Party is closer to the centre on economic and other issues than Tariana's former friends in Labour).

Pita Sharples has impressed in this campaign, but it remains to see how Hone Harawira will go in Parliament. (I would struggle to stay awake in Parliament, so I don't know how he'll find the whole system!) There will be big pressure on them to deliver on the Foreshore issue.

* PROGRESSIVES: Only Jim Anderton has made it back (thanks to his Wigram seat), based on election night figures, although a small percentage increase when the special votes are tallied would also return his hard working friend Matt Robson, who has some unfinished business in the form of raising the drinking age back up to 20.

** Update: David Farrar over at Kiwiblog has way too much time on his hands ;-) , and has got a complete analysis of the likely winners and losers in terms of seats, once Special Votes are counted.

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Benassi Bros Feat. Dhany - Make Me Feel
^ Army of Lovers - Son of a Gun ]

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Sunday, 11 September 2005

"I don't do small gatherings"

It seems that some Labour politicians have "better things to do" than speaking at small-time "Meet the Candidates" meetings.

I was just reading on Aaron's Bhatnagar's blog that Labour's Judith Tizard walked out on one such meeting this afternoon, after finding out no media were present. She decided the 50 plus people who did attend the meeting at Forbe's Frontbench were not worth her time, asking the audience to Party Vote Labour, before announcing she had "better things to do" and leaving.

Her place was taken by another high profile Labour offspring, Stuart Nash, who's currently heading for a bronze medal in Epsom. By all accounts he was very well received by the audience, after being put on the spot once Tizard had departed.

* More details on Aaron's site: Judith Tizard - MP for Arrogant Central

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Friday, 9 September 2005

Labour accused of scare tactics in the South

The Labour Party, fresh from accusing Don Brash over dodgy deals with a group of Exclusive Brethren members, are being accused of gutter politics in Dunedin.

A number of state house tenants have received personally addressed letters, disguised as Eviction notices. The one page "letters" have the words 'EVICTION NOTICE' printed in bold blue type at the top, along with the statement 'Don't let National sell your house!'.

Some recipients of these letters intially believed they were genuine eviction letters, meaning they were going to lose their homes. The fliers were folded in three, with a personally addressed sticker securing them. The Labour Party's logo is printed at the bottom of the page, and mentions the name of the Labour party a number of times in the letter.

National Party list MP and Dunedin North candidate, Katherine Rich, has accused Labour of "preying upon the nation's most vulnerable", with some tenants still in shock over the letters days later.

There are also concerns over how the names and addresses of state house tenants were obtained, as Katherine Rich says she believed that information was private.

* ODT: Gutter politics in South

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Tatu - All About Us
^ September - Satellites ]

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Thursday, 8 September 2005

Apple annnounce cool new iPod nano

Apple have announced a new model in their hugely popular iPod series, the ipod nano. The nano effectively replaces the iPod mini, which introduced the innovative 'click wheel', but was starting to look long in the tooth compared with rival offerings.

The iPod nano is small and super slim (as thin as a pencil), but features a colour screen, and can hold up to 1,000 songs (4GB version), or 500 songs on the 2GB version. They come in other white or black (no colours this time around).

The new device uses flash memory like the iPod shuffle, rather than the hard drives of the bigger models, making for much longer battery life.

Apple have also launched a ROKR iTunes phone (but not too many details about it), and an update to version 5.0 for their iTunes media player software, which has a few new features like being able to organise playlists into folders, and greater control over random playback.

* Apple - iPod nano - Photos & Specs
* iPod Garage - Apple's brave move...
* (Hat tip - Aaron Bhatnagar)
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Darin - Step Up
^ Helena Paparizou - The Light in our Soul ]

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State Radio suspends host for asking questions?

Radio New Zealand has apparently suspended Morning Report co-host, Sean Plunket, after what was described as a "confrontational" interview with Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

The interview was about the controversial pamphlet on the Green Party, which a group of members of the Exclusive Brethren church had printed and delivered to homes around the country. (Apparently an independent group distributing a pamphlet is called "a smear campaign, according to the media... while Union pamphlets with dodgy takes on National party policies are classed as "legitimate freedom of speech").

(On that note, an interesting question of the day courtesy of David Farrar at Kiwiblog... Which sinister group has spent $353,000 on smear ads during this election campaign? Answer: The PPTA...)

The Greens expressed "disappointment" with Plunket's angle of questioning, but Fitzimons insists the party did not make a formal complaint to Radio NZ, or asked for disciplinary.

This action shows the true colours of State Radio. Gone is the idea of tough questioning, when that question line is at odds with the preferred coalition Government of Radio New Zealand.

New Zealanders are used to incredibly tough question lines (many which could be considered as a tad biased), but it's just accepted as part and parcel of the way the media works. I believe most people would admit to hearing more than a couple of "tough" interviews between Politicians/Public figures and the likes of Kim Hill, Linda Clark, Paul Holmes, etc.

One more reason why the State should not be involved in the media industry as a Broadcaster in any way.

* NZ Herald: Radio Host in hot water
* Scoop: Fitzsimons surprised at Plunket suspension
* Too Right: Sean Plunket suspended? (includes link to an mp3 of the interview)

*(Update: According to today's reports, Plunket was suspended after a shouting match with the boss, which followed Fitzsimons interview. Obviously he strayed a little from the Radio NZ Party line, in that he gave a tough interview to a potential coalition partner for the Labour Party. The EPMU (The Engineering and Print Manufacturing Union) have refused to comment.

(They're the ones that represent many journos, and are the same ones that are spending the journos money in national papers this week, with half page advertisments featuring misleading claims about National Party policy. Why is it that "balance" only applies to the media when they're talking about the centre left??)

* NZ Herald: Plunket's suspension due to row with boss
* NZ Herald: Brash hits out at media
* Insolent Prick: Labour's Pay-Off to Unions

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Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Rivals See Red over Labour's Junk Mail Drop

The National Party is accusing Labour of abusing taxpayer funds, by using Government money to pay for their political propaganda.

Labour has had a copy of its 'Seven Point Pledge' card delivered to homes around New Zealand, tucked inside a glossy brochure.

Fair enough, it's election campaign time. The problem is, both the card and the pamphlet feature the Parliamentary Crest, which means the advertising pieces are funded by the taxpayer.

How on earth can a party (albeit one leading a minority Government at the moment) get away with using State funds for blatent electioneering? The pledge card has been a core part of Labour's election campaign, and isn't simply an information brochure on policies already adopted (as most people accept the rules mean).

The pledge card Mrs Peter Davis had delivered to potential voters in 1999 were paid for and delivered by Labour Party fans. The National Party says Labour's campaining on the public purse, and should refund the money they're using in an attempt to get re-elected.

* NZ Herald: Pledge cards 'abuse of taxpayer money'
* Scoop: Taxes wasted on Labour's pledge card
* Scoop: Clark's leader's fund paid for red pledge card

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Friday, 2 September 2005

Owen becomes a Geordie!

Great news for Geordie fans the world over, as England star striker Michael Owen formally announced his signing for English Premier Football club, Newcastle United.

The four year, £17 million deal, ends Owen's short stint out of the Premier League, while he played for Spanish club Real Madrid.

Over twenty thousand fans loudly welcomed the centre-forward onto St James' Park on Wednesday... Owen proudly wearing his new black and white #10 Magpies uniform.

The Toon Army are hoping Owen's arrival will revive their season - he's promised to end Newcastle's goal drought - along with other signings like Nobby Solano.

Some bitter Liverpool fans and journos claim Owen didn't really want to sign for Newcastle, saying his new contract has "an escape hatch in it as wide as the Tyne, a clause which he hopes can get him out of there in 12 months". We'll see.

* NUFC: Owen puts pen to paper
* NUFC: Michael's in the frame! (Official photos of Owen's signing)
* IOL: Owen welcomed by thousands of Newcastle fans
* ITN: Owen promises Newcastle goals

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Saturday, 20 August 2005

One News ditches Exec. Producer

Expect a few changes on State TV's One News over the coming weeks and months, following the news that Executive Producer Melanie Jones has left the building.

According to the papers, Jones finished work at 10am yesterday (Friday), after a meeting with TVNZ's Head of News Bill Ralston.

It follows a slow but steady slide in the ratings for flagship show One News, as viewers moved across to rival 3 News... a rating's slide which has accelerated over the last four months.

Concerns that John Campbell and Carol Hirschfeld's move to their own 7pm show, Campbell Live could hit the ratings of 3 News proved wrong.

Campbell Live has performed better than TV3's initial expectations, while Hilary Barry and Mike McRoberts have proven a successful combination as news presenters at 6pm.

(Maybe TV One could return to a 2 presenter format? What about sitting Simon Dallow beside Judy... a competent presenter and a very intelligent interviewer to boot).

The changes at TV One will also likely impact late night news show, Tonight, which still has ratings problems when pitched against TV3 rival show Nightline, now presented by former reporter Carly Kirkwood.

State TV's move comes just weeks after Prime Television decided to cancel Paul Holmes' weeknightly current affairs show, which had continued to struggle in the ratings after moving to 6pm opposite One News and 3 News.

* NZ Herald: 'One News' chief out after ratings slide

Update: One News presenter Judy Bailey has come out in support of Melanie Jones in today's Sunday Star Times. It says other senior members of the news team were very angry about Bill Ralston's decision, and questions whether Bailey's comments could hint at problems when TVNZ come to renegotiate her contract later in the year.

* Stuff: News star joins fray over axing

* NZ Herald: Speculation grows over Jones' dismissal

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Uniting Nations - You and Me
^ Tina Cousins - Wonderful Life ]

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Friday, 19 August 2005

Benson-Pope Encourages Vandalism

David Benson-Pope has resorted to gutter politics in his home electorate of Dunedin South.

Following a recent "Meet the Candidates" meeting in Mosgiel, just south of Dunedin City, Benson-Pope slapped a Labour sticker on the car bumper of National Party candidate, Conway Powell.

Benson-Pope publicly accepted responsibility for the incident on local television tonight, but tried to brush it off as just a harmless bit of fun.

However, many people may remember DBP's own response to people sticking things on other people's property...

During the debate over the Civil Union Bill, protestors pasted spoof-Tui-billboard posters to the window of Benson-Pope's Dunedin South electorate office.

DBP was outraged, even calling on Police to call round to the alledged offenders' home, to collect money to pay for the cost of removing the posters.

Conway Powell is rightly disgusted as DBP's actions, and his arrogant response. Can we take from Benson-Pope's actions that he's concerned his safe Labour seat might be challenged?? He should be having a ball on the campaign trail!?

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Thursday, 18 August 2005

Stop your Balling!

I see the tennis balls theme has made a reappearance in National's new "Taxathon" TV Ads.

I wonder how the police investigations are coming along?...

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Daniel Powter - Bad Day
^ Goldfrapp - Ooh La La
^ Sisse Marie - Boom ]

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Have you looked behind the sofa?

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Labour's 0% Tax Pledge discriminates against Singles & Couples without kids

Spend! Spend! Spend! Quickly, before anyone else figures out it's there!!

It's intriguing to see just how many money Labour has managed to "find behind the sofa cushions" since Dr Cullen's Chewing Gum Budget ;-)

Back in May, there was apparently no room for extra spending, but now that we're in election mode, there's billions of dollars spare for items like Free Student Loans, and more Operations.

Now, Labour's announced plans to go even further than the current policy of the ACT Party... apparently slashing the effective PAYE tax rate of people earning under $35,000 a year to 0%.

That's right "at least" 0% apparently (and possible more). Nix. Nada. Not a bean, according to Labour's Family Tax Relief Calculator.

$1.3 billion has been "discovered" for the new policy... However, the catch is, it only applies to people with children... Not for the growing number of single people out there.

According to Labour's calculator, a family with one child earning $35,000 a year would get "tax relief of $7,300 a year by 2007... effectively paying (less than) no tax on their wages/salary.

A single person - or a couple without children - on the same income would pay around $7,245 in direct tax, with little or new relief. Labour's policy would mean the country's single people would be working to subsidise the country's families.

How fair is this? On top of Labour's zero tax plan, many services paid for by the Government out of taxation funds are disproportionately used by families rather than single people or couples without kids (Health, Education, Welfare).

Shouldn't families be expected to make some sort of direct contribution to the Government's coffers, if they want to have the free or subsidised services in return?

I'd be happy for the Government to introduce PAYE tax rates of 0% for the entire population, letting everybody keep everything they earn, and giving them the choice and flexibility to just pay for the services they want and need themselves.

A fair deal for all... not forcing many hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders to totally subsidise the lives of one group.

* Stuff: Labour announces boost in family tax relief

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Thursday, 11 August 2005

Courts decide NZ TV Programming

Today's decision by the High Court to order private broadcaster TV3 to make room for two more minor party leaders in tonight's debate is a little disappointing, and very bewildering.

United Future leader, Peter Dunne, and Progressive Party leader, Jim Anderton, took TV3 to court, after the broadcaster invited just the top 6 polling parties (based on their last TNS poll) to their first election campaign debate. Labour, National, NZ First, Greens, Maori Party and ACT were all invited on that basis.

According to the NZ Herald, expert testimony from the prosecution said the poll that TV3 based its decision on "had a margin of error greater than the margins between the smaller parties".

No further details were given, but I wonder whether those "experts" actually understand what "margin of error" actually means... (ie. A margin of error of + or - 3.2% doesn't actually mean you can add or subtract 3.1% for a party registering, say, 2% support. It's a fatal error many people - including most journos - seem to make).

Justice Ron Young said he was reluctant to tell TV3 how to run its business, but did so all the same. He also admitted "it may not make for ideal television". He may well be right on that count.

Even juggling 6 party leaders in a commerical one hour format was going to be a tough workout for John Campbell. Now that TV3 have to squeeze eight leaders in, the debate could be in danger of being light on informed debate, and high on theatrics.

It also seems unfair to other minor parties who are polling above or around Mr Anderton's party... Destiny NZ polled 0.6% (above Anderton's Progressives on 0.4%), and I'm guessing others around that level could include Christian Heritage, the Legalise Marijuana bunch, and the Liberterianz?

If the judges decision were to be followed further, broadcasters could be forced to have 12-way debates?!

TV3's Director of News and Current Affairs, Mark Jennings, says he's "deeply concerned at the serious precedent this ruling has created... the ruling has significant implications regarding media freedom in New Zealand".

The decision surprised many others in the New Zealand media, and could have wider implications if left unchallenged. (TV3 say they're examining their legal options for challenging the precedent this ruling has caused, and will make a decision over the next few weeks).

I also wonder what this decision (by the same judge that rejected TV3's Corngate appeal last year) means for other proposed leaders debates on TV3 and other channels, many which were set to include just Helen Clark and Don Brash?

See also...
* Sir Humphrey's: Free Speech Is Dead

* DPF's Blog: Did the Judge understand Margins of Error?

* NZ Pundit: Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber v. a Free Press

* TV3 Media Release: Mark Jennings on High Court Ruling

* NZ Herald: MPs win bid to be included in TV3 debate

* Stuff NZ: MPs win case against TV3

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Saturday, 23 July 2005

Coke not drug of choice for Kiwis

The frenzy continues over the possible identities of the "two celebrity sportsmen" caught up in the recent Auckland drugs bust, with debates raging over the pros and cons of name suppression.

Meanwhile, as Police reveal their investigations have "thrown up the names of other celebrities", suggestions of a range of kiwi sports stars and other celebrities also being passed around via email, and on internet message boards and chatrooms.

However today's NZ Herald quotes one New Zealand Police officer (
Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Potaka, who oversees the National Drug Intelligence Bureau), as saying Cocaine isn't a huge problem in New Zealand. An economist says that's because its a "rich person's drug" here..

It seems the apparently high cost of Cocaine, E, and
methamphetamines puts kiwis off those drugs. Meanwhile, daily newspaper court reports are full of people appearing for cannibas offences (the peasant people's drug of choice).

The story also notes:
In Britain, cocaine has become the drug of choice for the middle classes, who dub it "Charlie".

Speaking on his first day as Britain's top policeman, Sir Ian Blair said this year: "People are having dinner parties where they drink less wine and snort more cocaine."

He criticised them for wrongly believing it was "socially acceptable" to enjoy a "wrap of Charlie" at weekends.

* Full story here... NZ Herald: Stars ask 'who's next' after drugs bust

In unrelated news, it looks like a good few weeks on the telly ahead... The hilarious BBC comedy series Little Britain returns for a second season, beginning Sunday night (24th July) at 9.50 pm on Prime TV.
* Prime TV: Little Britain Series 2

Another good sketch comedy series to catch is Skithouse (from Rove's production company). The Aussie show's now sadly buried on TV3 at 11.20 pm on Monday nights, but is worth staying up for.

The new series of Survivor (in Palau) starts this Tuesday (July 26th) at 8.30 pm on TV3.
* TV3: Survivor: Palau

Meanwhile the hilarious duo of Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge return the following Tuesday (2nd August) for a new series of travel antics. This time they're travelling around South America...
* TV2: Matthew and Marc's Rocky Road to South America

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Labour's Real Seven Point Pledge Card...

Prime Minister Helen Clark recently announced that Labour will offer voters a new seven-point pledge card this election campaign (similar to the ones they had in '02 and '99).

Prolific kiwi blogger, David Farrar managed to obtain an advance leaked copy of Labour's Seven planned Pledges, and now fellow blogger Whale Oil has got hold of the first copies, hot of the press... ;-)

Hat tips to: David Farrar (kiwiblog) and Whale Oil Beef Hooked

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Sunday, 17 July 2005

MMP vs the Media

The Herald on Sunday have published a poll, which shows ACT party leader Rodney Hide currently running third in the electorate of Epsom (although an apparently unpublished question has him winning if Epsom voters believe that this win will ensure a centre-right government).

Epsom's currently held by National's Richard Worth, who at #16 on the National Party List is safe as houses, whether or not he wins Epsom. Meanwhile, ACT are keen to pick up an electorate seat, to act as an MMP insurance policy if they somehow fail make 5% this election.

More important though is the way minor parties are look at by the New Zealand media, if they do hold an electorate seat. It is common for minor parties to poll below the 5% threshold outside of an election campaign. However, in the monthly opinion polls, parties that don't currently hold a seat are discounted in the final seat breakdown... which can eventually turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy when inexperienced party members start agreeing with inexperienced members of the media.

(Most journalists have little understanding of economics or math (just ask your average journo to explain what they mean when they say the phrase "margin of error" ;-) Another concept the bulk of the media are failing to comprehend is that of "overhang"... Rather than the 120 MPs we now have, September 17th's General Election will likely return at least 126 MPs (largely thanks to the Maori Party, although even Labour could contribute to this). That increases the likelihood of 3 or 4 way coalition or support deal to form a government).

Former ACT Party leader, Richard Prebble secured Wellington Central in the first MMP election, only to lose it '99 when Labour persuaded the Alliance and the Greens not to stand candidates in the seat, allowing Ms Marion Hobbs to steal it.

In reality, the Greens are just as likely to be left out of the next Parliament, after Jeanette Fitzsimons lost Coromandel last election. Last time around they had the GE-free campaign momentum... the Zimbabwe Cricket debate may have come in the nick of time to save them, giving the Greens an issue that can bring them a wider base of support.

However, the ACT Party are good election campaigners, and should succeed easily in nailing the 5% threshold this election. However, the party needs to also succeed in bringing home Epsom if they're to have a secure stepping stone with which to build the party's support above the current 10% or so that are currently leaning in their direction.

* Epsom Poll: Rodney Hide's take
* Epsom Poll: Aaron Bhatnagar's take

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Saturday, 16 July 2005

CTV blunders in Local News decision

Okay, first a bit of history... Regional/Local television has had a chequered past in New Zealand. A number of stations and companies have come & gone since local operators began UHF broadcasts.

Dunedin's Channel 58 was the first local station in the country to make it on air in mid-1991, followed around a week later by Joanana McMenamin's original CTV in Christchurch.

Regional news broadcasts were previously the domain of State TV, however a major gap opened up in the market when they canned their 4 regional news breakouts altogether (The Top Half (out of Auckland), Today Tonight (Wellington), The Mainland Touch (Christchurch), and The South Tonight (Dunedin).

State TV did have another go a few years later, by taking control of Horizon Pacific Television (HPTV), which had stations in Auckland (ATV), Hamilton (Coast to Coast), Wellington (Capital), Dunedin (Southern), and later buying Christchurch's CTV.

However, State TV and Neil Roberts panicked when CanWest managed to rejig their frequencies to create a 2nd semi-national network, to launch their new youth channel, TV4. HPTV was dumped (despite showing signs of being on the right track) in favour of launching MTV into New Zealand as a spolier (albeit one largely sourced via satellite from MTV-UK).

Now, decades later, the Government are finally coming to the party, with a small package of funding for local television. (Although to be fair, when I say "coming to the party", what I really mean is they're bringing a couple of bags of Ready-Salted Crisps and a half-eaten tub of dip ;-)

The new funding announced recently translates to less than $1 million a year spread across all the local stations... compare that with around $40 million a year for the over-hyped and under-watched Maori Television. While Australia gets SBS, providing a broad range of multicultural programming, New Zealand's Labour Government funds a "politically correct" service, while largely ignoring the country's other large ethnic populations in terms of State TV funding).

Anyways, some money's on the way, and a positive start's better than nothing. NZ on Air are still consulting on how to allocate the money. I can only hope that common sense prevails, and they don't simply divide the small pot equally amongst the 12 or so groups calling themselves "regional television broadcasters".

In reality, less than half a dozen of these stations are providing what can reasonably be described as a local service, and even some of those are turning out product which borders on "tin-shed tv". Dunedin's Channel 9 is one of the few stations in the country turning out a full-service local news broadcast every weeknight.
Southland TV also broadcast a nightly news/sports/lifestyle show in Invercargill, although their reporters seem to have an aversion to compiling network-style voiced tracks, seeming to prefer to broadcast raw footage instead. (Southland TV actually broadcasts on VHF in the south, and nationwide on Sky Digital if you pay at least $45 a month for Sky's grossly overpriced "Startup" service)

CTV did have a local news service up until last year, when they ditched it in favour of a basic "CTV News Line" headlines service, plus a few stories in Southern Week, their weekly news in review show compiled in association with Channel 9. Now the station's cancelled both Southern Week and the Headlines service altogether, preferring to focus on its Shopping and Lifestyle programming and new Tourist Channel.

Huh?! A local channel without local news and information?! Surely local news is the reason d'etre for any local television station?! It's baffling that in a South Island city with a population of over 338,000, CTV believes there is no call for a local news service.

At one stage, 3 tv stations were providing a nightly news broadcast in Christchurch... an excellent quality programme from the local Prime TV crew, along with a passable one from CTV-FTN, and a slightly dodgy one from CHTV. Now that the current incarnation of CTV has the market to itself, it's decided it can't produce even a 15 minute local news wrap.

Now, I accept that local tv news is a relatively expensive beast to produce. However, it should be the Flagship show of any local station, and as such should be accepted to some extent as "a loss leader".

Westpac and CanWest both understood this, in continuing TV3's 6pm and Nightline news broadcasts during times of an extreme shortage of money. Canning one or both of TV3's news shows would have saved millions of dollars, at a time when neither shows were bringing in huge ratings. However, they understood the station needed News, both as a flagship product, and to help attract viewers to their evening programming.

CTV's management are also claiming there is little or no demand in Christchurch for a locally produced news service. I find these claims highly dubious. Maybe the public of Christchurch are sick of "being burnt" by their local stations, having seen the most transformations of any tv market in the country. However, I see no reason why a quality locally produced news broadcast, carefully scheduled and promoted, would not attract a large and loyal audience in Christchurch.

There are murmurs that CTV News could rise from the dead around December (presumably once NZ on Air's money comes through). That may be too little too late for the people of Canterbury.

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Sunday, 3 July 2005

Labour's Billboard campaign to promote Red Tape

It seems Billboard advertising is the current focus of this year's Election campaign...

National came out with their simple and clever billboards showing clearly the differences between them and Labour... ACT followed with an amusing twist on National's billboards, adding a third column with a photo of leader Rodney Hide, and contrasting the policies of National and Labour...

Here's a few of my favourites... Actually, not all are "real" billboards, but ones created via ACT's interesting "Design an ACT Billboard" competition on their website...

* Design an ACT Billboard... Lots of fun for the whole family!

Meanwhile, Labour's fighting back on the Billboard front... beginning with one proudly promoting how much the Labour Party loves Red Tape, even for our littlest kiddies...
(Cheers to Anna's blog, Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour for that one...)
* ECB Blog: Labour. Wrapping New Zealanders in red tape from birth.

* STUFF: Back to the drawing board for Labour
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Mel C - Next Best Superstar ]
^ Tina Cousins - Wonderful Life ]

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Is it still 'Best News' when it's two weeks late?!

Gobsmacked! That's what I am after catching one of the top stories on State Television's news on Friday night.

I usually manage to stay well away from their 6pm One News broadcast (just before the dire Close Up & Go Home At 7), but caught a promo for an item their late night news, Tonight, that made me stick around and watch. (I'm guessing it was probably on at 6 as well).

One of their top local stories was a piece by one little Benny Tornquist, about how many Lions fans don't consider themselves part of the 'Barmy Army' (that's really a Cricket thing)... and about how Barmy Army organiser Freddy Parker has apparently over-hyped the impact his travelling crew would have.

Ben spoke to Lindsay McKinney, a Dunedin bar owner and local representative of the Hospitality Association. McKinney was encouraged by Freddy to bring in big screen tellies, and organise around the clock live music & entertainment for the onslaught of Barmy Army supporters.

Unfortunately, only a handful of Lions fans stuck around the official Barmy Army base at Dunedin's Railway Station. That left McKinney thousands of dollars out of pocket, with 77 kegs of beer and lots of food going back to suppliers.
Good wee story... problem is, it was actually done a lot better by TV3 and local station Channel 9 around a fortnight ago...

Come on State TV!! Doing a story a day or two after the others is fairly common... but trying to do it two weeks later, just because you missed it the first time around is a bit suss for a major national broadcaster?! There's been two test matches since the Lions game in Dunedin!

Freddy Parker apparently wouldn't talk to State TV on Friday... despite appearing on the items on 3News and 9 Local News a few weeks back.

The saddest part of all this is... How many other stories are viewers of State TV's news missing out on? Officially, One News was judged 'Best News' at this year's Qantas Media Awards. Good to see standards aren't slipping then... ;-)
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Tina Cousins - Love Comes Back
^ Natural Ex - Stay by my Side
^ Darin - I Can See You Girl ]

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Thursday, 30 June 2005

Are the Labour Party getting rattled?

After crusing along in Government for the last few years, PM Hillin Cluck's Labour Party suddenly seem to be edging towards panic mode...

With recent polls putting National about equal, or even slightly ahead of Labour, they now seem a little concerned that a third term might not be a shoe-in, and are refusing to announce an election date until the last possibly minute.

Late last month, Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen rushed out a Press Release ahead of National's annual conference, entitled Tax policy announcement from National on Sunday?. In the release, Dr Cullen called on Dr Brash to reveal his tax policy during the conference...

“National Party delegates are surely entitled to expect that Don Brash will announce this weekend the tax platform National will take into the election,” Finance Minister Michael Cullen said.

It seems Labour are anxiously hanging out for National's taxation policy, so they have time to try and come up with some legitimate sounding reasons about why they can't do it. (Despite the fact they just suddenly found an extra 1/2 a billion dollars, which they promptly committed to "transport"... and apparently $500 million translates to less than "the proverbial packet of chewing gum" for taxpayers, according to Dr Cullen's unique math!)

PM Clark's also getting rattled. She was upset that one of her bezza mates, Speaker of the House Margaret Wilson, kicked her out of the House recently for butting in while Nick Smith was speaking. She said the incident was "frankly, a little ridiculous". Apparently the rules of Parliament should apply only to everybody else.

She then called a Media conference to announce the 'apology' to Israel at 3pm on the Sunday afternoon of National's annual conference, forcing journalists to fly from Auckland to Wellington to catch the afternoon apology.

The reason for the unusually timed weekend media conference was (according to Ms Clark) because it was being "synchronised with the Government of Israel"... despite the notion that politicians in Tel Aviv were rising at 6am on a Sunday morning especially for a cabinet meeting to hear a statement from the New Zealand Prime Minister seemed highly unlikely. (That was apparently confirmed shortly after, with Israel saying the apology had been approved by their PM two months earlier!)

Finally, David Benson-Pope's happily back at work for the Labour Government, and seems unlikely to face charges following 'Bullygate'. Speaker Margaret Wilson ruled earlier this month, there's no question of privilege against Benson-Pope.

Apparently telling the House that you "didn't stuff tennis balls in students mouths, didn't tie students hands together, and didn't whack a student on the back of the head so his nose bled", doesn't constitute "lying in Parliament". Huh? Am I living in North Korea?!

Even some of Benson-Pope's supporters have said "well he might have done it, but lots of others probably did similar things back then... it's just how things were in schools". That's as may be. But any other teachers who did similar acts aren't now Associate Ministers of Education launching anti-bullying campaigns...
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Gavin DeGraw - Chariot
^ Bodies Without Organs - Open Door ]

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Saturday, 4 June 2005

Quick bite of the Big Apple

Just about finishing my quick stint in New York - it's the shortest time I've spent in Manhattan in the six years I've been here!

I spent the bulk of the time doing Broadway shows... saw Monty Python's new Spamalot musical, which features most of the well known routines from Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail movie.

Waited around with crowds of others after the show to try and get autographs - got Hank Azaria's (Huff, Simpsons) and David Hyde Pierce (Frasier), plus a few others. (Unfortunately, Tim Curry didn't come out for a signing session with the others, but Hank Azaria was the best of the bunch anyway - he did the French Taunter part brilliantly, plus Lancelot and Knight of Ni... however he leaves just after this weekend's Tony Awards to shoot the new season of his TV series, Huff).

Yesterday, I hopped on a bus and went back to my old summer-camp-day-off-stomping-ground, the Palisades Center Mall in Middletown... had to make the essential trip to pick up some new gear from Abercrombie & Fitch/Aeropostale/American Eagle/Steve and Barry's!) In the evening, I went to see the musical Wicked - saw it last year as well, but this time had a front row seats, and the cast was largely changed.

Today I nipped down to CNN to do a tour of the place there - pretty cool setup and studios, altho unfortunately there were no live shows going on while I was there. The rest of the day was spent doing a double header of shows - Altar Boyz at the new Dodger Stages in the afternoon (very cool setup - five small-mid size theatres in one converted cinema multiplex)... and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in the evening (great book/script - very funny - but the music was a bit crap unfortunatley).

Have an early morning start tomorrow to fly from New York back to LA to catch up with the Pheloung gang... we've got dinner at the Medieval Times theme restaurant/show at night, which should be fun, then Disneyland/Universal Studios for the next few days before I have to come back home, and back to reality again ;-)

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ My brand new Apple iPod Photo 30GB! ]

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Thursday, 2 June 2005

Leaving Old Blighty

I've finished my stint in England, and have just come off a long series of flights which ended up in New York.

I met up with Janine, Ted, and Vince Pheloung, plus Stuart Walker (all Operatic peoples) in London (Victoria) on Friday, to see a few shows and do a bit of sightseeing.

We all went to the new Mary Poppins on Saturday afternoon, meeting up with DrWeeSean at the theatre. WeeSean used to live in Dunedin, and I also used to board with when I lived in Luton. The rest of the gang went to The Producers in the evening (I'd seen it in New York previously), while Sean and I went to see the movie The Kingdom of Heaven in Leicester Square, which wasn't flash - started off pretty slow and was kinda confusing for a long while.

On Sunday, Stuart went with me to do the London Eye (massive slow-mo ferris wheel type thing)... It went up for the Millennium, and altho I did the Millennium Dome while I was living over there, I'd never actually done the Eye.

Also checked out an IMAX 3D film, Aliens of the Deep... great screen, as big as 5 double decker buses!

In the evening I caught up with some rellies in London - Uncle Paul and Rebecca, and my only two cousins on Mum's side, William and Max. It was good to catch up - the annual exchange of news from both sides of the family, as the rest of the kiwi bunch will never make it to London ;-)

On Monday, Vince and I headed down to Buckingham Palace to see Liz and the Lads, and to see the Changing of the Guards.

Got a fairly good spot, altho it started to rain heavily just as they came by us, so everyone taking photos had to contend with the moron tourists in the front row who stuck their huge brolleys up in the air.

After that, the boys all went to an English pub for a traditional meal of bangers and mash before seeing Guys and Dolls in the evening, starring Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski (Elaine from Ally McBeal apparently).

The UK leg finished with a tour of the the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday, and seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber's newest show, the Woman in White in the evening. I was seeing it for the second time, after catching it in previews last year. I enjoyed it, altho the guy playing Count Fosco (Michael Crawford's old character) was absolutely shite. Very cool projection video-motion sets, and not a bad score from Sir Andrew.

The rest of the crew are now in Las Vegas, but I wanted to nip up to NYC instead. Had a strange and long-winded series of flights, which included a bit of backtracking. The leg from London to the States had a plane load of Indians on their way to Delhi, who seemed to be taking the entire contents of their homes with them, by the amount of big cases they were trying to squeeze into the bins as "carry on luggage"... However, for the internal flight from LA to NYC I had a seat with extra legroom, and noone beside me :-)

Unfortunately, I also had an envelope of american cash disappear from my suitcase, while it was in transit, somewhere between LA. I got some cash out in LA, but in the US they make you leave your baggage unlocked, so I had to take the padlock off before I checked it in. When I picked it up at the other end, the whole case was in a shambles, and my money bag had been opened, with only random coins scattered throughout the case.

Unfortunately, it seems my travel insurance doesn't cover it, and the Transportation Security Administration claim procedure (they do all the security bag searches) seems pretty complicated and unlikely to produce a result for the small value. Oh well, lesson learnt... I've now bought myself a brand new "TSA-approved" padlock, which means you can lock your luggage, but they can open it if they need to check inside with a special release key. At least it would stop any baggage handlers along the way being able to get into it?...

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Saturday, 28 May 2005

Good ol' London Town

Had a relaxing few days out in Luton, catching up with old work friends from when I did my 2 year OE a few years back, and watching a bit of English telly, like the new series of Doctor Who...

Headed into London yesterday, and saw Billy Elliot the Musical. It's written by Lee Hall and Elton John. Booked my seat on the net, but was waiting in the ticket collection line at the theatre when a vaguely familiar face walked in beside me...

It was David Schwimmer (Friends), wearing a military-style cap to try and not look so obvious, with an attractive brunette by his side. He's just started a stint in the West End, performing in a play called 'Some Girls' at the Gielgud Theatre. He obviously doesn't have a midweek matinee, so was taking the opportunity to check out what else is on around the West End.

Also bought myself an England Football 'Away' shirt, with Gerrard's name and number on it, after he helped lead Liverpool to their 5th UEFA Cup win. Everyone's a scouser now... even the morning TV presenters were wearing big boofy scouser afro wigs and moustaches, and saying "calm down, calm down" ;-)

I leave Luton this afternoon, to meet up with the rest of the bunch I'm travelling around a bit with. Everyone's been doing their own thing in the UK, but we're staying together at a Hotel/B&B in Victoria through till Wednesday, then they head off to Las Vegas while I head over to New York for a few days, before meeting back in LA to do the theme parks...

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Monday, 23 May 2005

I'm a kiwi in Luton

Well, after many hours of sitting on aeroplanes (five to be exact), I've finally arrived in Luton for the start of my three week winter escape.

The journey here wasn't without its problems, beginning when I first tried to check-in at Dunedin. I was flying Air Nu Zillund through to LA (via Christchurch and Auckland), then switching to United to get to London (via San Fran - yeh, I know, huh?).

Anyways, despite the fact that both sets of tickets were booked with the same contact details, somehow on the Air New Zealand ones my first and last names were switched around...

They told me that would mean I couldn't check my bags right through to London (which would normally be okay, being Star Alliance), but would have to collect and recheck my suitcase at every stage... the reason being a "Mr David" was flying to LA, but a "Mr Goosselink" was flying the rest of the way.

Luckily the Air New Zealand staff in Christchurch saw sense and managed to get them checked right thru, altho I think it confused them in San Fran, as one of the stewards had to come up to me on the plane with a note of instructions to check they'd put the right bag on ;-)

I also got selected as one of the "lucky random travellers" to have go thru the extra security screening in LA... the delay wasn't too bad, so didn't miss my next flight like happened with a bunch of us heading to summer camp in '02. LAX is still a shite airport tho, full of grumpy people and a serious lack of signs pointing anywhere... The sooner Air NZ (or a real airline) fly direct from NZ to New York the better!

Got a few snoozes on the flights over, but I'm currently surviving thanks to my trusty XTZ tabs (caffeine, guarana, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, gotu cola, and kola nut... All the good stuff!!)

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Thursday, 19 May 2005

The saga continues...

Prime Minister Helen Clark has accused TV3 of running a “sting” operation, in relation to the David Benson-Pope affair... What The?!

* Labour Spin

State TV One, who came to the party late after trying to pretend it wasn't a story, have broadcast comments by one of the men behind the bullying allegations. He calls Benson-Pope "a liar for refuting the claims, and says he'll return from Australia to give evidence in an inquiry".

* TV One News

Meanwhile, the Otago Daily Times are going with the theory that the whole thing's all made up. They've spoken with former and current principals, colleagues, and students who are backing Benson-Pope and say the allegations are rubbish. And if it's in the ODT, it must be true.
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Christian Walz - Wonderchild
^ Bodies Without Organs - Sunshine In The Rain
^ Mel C - Next Best Superstar ]

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Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Minister steps down as Accusers go public

The emphatic denials by Associate Minister of Education, David Benson-Pope, that he assaulted and bullied students have encouraged his accusers to go public.

Following questions in Parliament about his behaviour while a teacher at Bayfield High School, Benson-Pope challenged those behind the claims to come forward if there was any truth to their accusations.

That seemed to be enough to persuade a couple of those students to go public, after earlier being too afraid to do so. The saga was broken by TV3 Political Reporter, Duncan Garner, and the initial interviews with the students behind the claims were broadcast on 3News last night (Monday).

Benson-Pope apparently watched the broadcast with Prime Minister Helen Clark and a few other senior colleagues, before announcing about an hour later that he was standing down from Cabinet while the inquiry ordered by the PM took place. His portfolios, including Associate Minister of Education, and Fisheries, were reallocated to other Labour MPs.

The inquiry could take months, which makes it unlikely Benson-Pope will return to Cabinet before the election. If the inquiry finds any validity to the allegations, it could spell the end of his Parliamentary career, based on his denials in the house.

However, PM Helen Clark says the fact the Benson-Pope is standing down does not necessarily rule him out of a return to Cabinet in the future. She claims the allegations are "the start of what is a rather ugly election campaign".

* NZ Herald: Benson-Pope steps down as bully inquiry looms
* NZ Herald: Benson-Pope allegations not political, says accuser
* Stuff: Minister stands down in bully row
* D-B-P Round Out

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Friday, 13 May 2005

Minister denies bullying students

Associate Education Minister, David Benson-Pope, has denied suggestions he bullied and assaulted students at Dunedin's Bayfield High School, when he worked there in the 1980's.

ACT Leader, Rodney Hide, made a series of allegations under parliamentary privilege yesterday, along with National's Judith Collins. It follows Benson-Pope's unveiling of an anti-bullying campaign this week.

In Parliament, National MP Judith Collins asked "Did he ever tie boys' hands together and jam a tennis ball into their mouths as punishment for talking when he was a teacher?"

Mr Hide then asked "Did he ever smack a pupil with the back of his hand sufficiently hard enough to make his nose bleed at a school camp in the Catlins and is this the reason along with throwing tennis balls at pupils in the classroom that he has the reputation of being a terrible bully and in fact the students to this day still suffer from his treatment?".

Benson-Pope denied the suggestions in Parliament, saying "I have not been guilty of, or involved in, any inappropriate behaviour in my 24 years as a secondary school teacher".

Rodney Hide today withdrew those allegations after Benson-Pope's reply, but said he'd spoken again to the students who made the initial claims, and they were sticking by their story. Hide called on the students to come forward publicly if they stood by their claims. He said "... the rules of Parliament mean that I have to accept the minister's word, but boy, if he's wrong he's a goner."

Meanwhile, National Radio's Linda Clark has interviewed a former Bayfield pupil today, who claimed Benson-Pope had "a very nasty and bullying personality and he knew which people he could pick on and he made a damn good job of it….. He chose the people who wouldn’t fight back… He caned me which he enjoyed doing and he laughed while he did it… enough to draw blood…. He shouldn’t be a minister full stop".

I found it interesting that Benson-Pope's Labour colleage, Jill Pettis, seemed to know about the allegations, with her comment "You sat on that for months"?

One to watch...

* NZ Herald: Associate Education Minister denies beating pupils

* NZ Herald: Hide withdraws assault claims against Benson-Pope

* Linda Clark's Nine to Noon I/V

* Link to audio of the interview between Linda Clark and a former pupil

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Sunday, 8 May 2005

Happy Mother's Day

It's officially Mother's Day today in Kiwiland. Mom always gets the short end of the straw, as her birthday is always within a few days of Mother's Day. We went out for a family dinner last night, and then we had a suprise birthday party organised for her "significant" birthday.

Mom's sister and longtime school friend came down from Christchurch for the weekend, and they're taking her back next week to get away from Mr Goosey for a few weeks.

In honour of Mother's Day, here's an amusing email list of "Evening Classes" that Tara (Lake Greeley Camp) sent me a while back. (Warning: Some blokes may find it offensive ;-)...


* HOW TO FILL ICE CUBE TRAYS - Step by step guide with slide presentation

* TOILET ROLLS - DO THEY GROW ON THE HOLDERS? - Roundtable discussion



* LOSS OF VIRILITY - Losing the remote control to your significant other -
Help line and support groups

* LEARNING HOW TO FIND THINGS - Starting with looking in the right place instead of turning the house upside down while screaming - Open forum



* REAL MEN ASK FOR DIRECTIONS WHEN LOST - Real life testimonial from the one man who did



* HOW TO BE THE IDEAL SHOPPING COMPANION - Relaxation exercises, meditation and breathing techniques


- Individual counselors available

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Thursday, 5 May 2005

Regional TV To Receive Government Funding

"Broadcasting Minister, Steve Maharey, has announced a multi million dollar investment in New Zealand's regional television and Access Radio stations.

The Government's set aside $3.5 million for regional television, over the four years. Non-commercial radio will get another $900,000 over the same period.

It's the first form of Government funding for regional TV, since the State-owned Horizon Pacific Television Network was closed in 1997.

(Horizon Pacific TV was owned by TVNZ, and operated 5 stations - ATV (Auckland), Coast to Coast Television (Hamilton), Capital City Television (Wellington), Southern Television (Dunedin), and CTV (Christchurch) which they bought from Joanna McMenamin along the way).

Chairman of the Regional Television Broadcasting Association, Jim Blackman, believes it's a clear signal that the Government recognises the worth of regional television, and the role it plays in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, CEO of Allied Press's TV Division, Daryl Clarkson, says the funding has been a long time coming, and he's cautiously optimistic about the decision."

A small amount good news from the Government for local television in New Zealand... even if the announcement did have to come from Smarmy Maharey ;-)

Regional News was a key part of State TV's news coverage in the days before deregulation, with shows like The Top Half (out of Auckland), Today Tonight (Wellington), The Mainland Touch (Christchurch), and The South Tonight (Dunedin).

There are apparently 12 "regional" stations on air around New Zealand, however only four or five of these are broadcasting any form of local news and current affairs programming - surely the reason d'etre for any local television station?!

Even CTV in Christchurch (the market most capable of supporting a local station, based on population and location) decided to drop its nightly news programme this year, in favour of a basic headlines service... along with a weekly "News in Review" type programme, Southern Week, which compiles stories from CTV and Channel 9, and screens in Dunedin, Christchurch, and Auckland.

Hopefully, NZ on Air will see sense and set up a good contestable system for allocating this new funding... to help ensure the money goes towards serving local communities with quality news and current affairs coverage, rather than just giving out free handouts to anyone who happens to be operating a "local tv" transmitter in New Zealand.

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