Wednesday, 31 May 2006

NZ Broadband to get worse before it gets better

The wait for "Cheaper, Faster Broadband" could still be some way off for Kiwi web surfers.

The Labour-led New Zealand Government recently took the heavy handed step of regulating private company Telecom, "unbundling the local loop" and removing constraints on the UBS broadband service resold by local Internet Service Providers.

While the question remains whether any Government should be involved in the affairs of private business, at least it should eventually lead to more choice, and cheaper, better quality telecommunications services for New Zealand consumers.

The Government's full announcement could take 12-18 months to be turned into actual legislation (Western Governments like to waste their time ;-), although commentators are tipping the "Faster, Cheaper Broadband" component to be on the market by October... This should translate to Telecom and its competitors being able to offer broadband with download speeds of up to 24MB and upload of up to 1MB).

(Although you never know with Telecom... The company recently defended their TV marketing, saying the use of the phrase "Faster, Cheaper Broadband" clearly meant either Faster or Cheaper Broadband... but not necessarily both at the same time! ;-)

However, it seems many local users will penalised while they're waiting for that to arrive... Ihug have announced they'll be counting customers upload data against their monthly data allowance. Previously, they were the only local provider to provide free uploads, only counting downloads.

Ihug say the change is needed, because Telecom are now enforcing customer data limits. Their move follows the launch of the 3.5 Mbps plans earlier this year... customers moving from Ihug's old 2MBps bliink plans had their peak data allowance slashed in half.

The best spinoff from the whole regulation decision hasn't really been covered in the mainstream media... the dodgy sounding "Naked DSL". It's the part I have to admit I'm most looking forward to (although it's likely to be over a year away from reality).

Basically it means you'll no longer have to pay Telecom (or anyone else for that matter) to rent a home landline, when all you want is broadband internet access. I had to connect to Telecom when I moved house recently, and have to pay them $42.20 a month for the privilege of having a home phoneline which I never use, just because I want to connect to the internet.

I have 200 free minutes in the evenings and weekends through my work cellphone plan which does me just fine for my personal phone calls. I wouldn't even have a clue what my landline phone number is, so friends and family won't be inconvenienced when I can finally ditch the Telecom line, as I've never managed to give it out!

* NZ Herald: Ihug counts uploads
* Ihug: Changes to Broadband Plans
* NZ Government: Government moves fast to improve Broadband

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Friday, 26 May 2006

Disney's High School Musical DVD Breaks Records

Proving Disney can still cut it with today's teens, their latest hit tv movie-musical has just broken DVD sales records in the United States.

High School Musical, a modern-day Grease, has already broken records for Disney. The original TV movie was the highest rated telecast in the Disney Channel's history.

Now, with the release of the High School Musical DVD ("Encore Edition"), more records have been smashed. The DVD sold over 400,000 copies in North America on its first day of release (May 25th), making it the fastest-selling tv programme on DVD this year, and the fastest-selling television movie of all time on DVD.

The DVD features the original broadcast version of High School Musical, plus a special "Sing-along Version", so that fans can play Karaoke at the appropriate musical interludes, plus a bunch of special features and "never seen before extras. (A "dance-along" version has also screened on TV, but doesn't appear on this DVD).

A CD of the High School Musical Soundtrack (featuring all the songs from the film) is also available... It has been to #1 in the US Billboard charts, has sold over 2 million copies, and certified 2 x Platinum for sales by the RIAA. An unprecedented nine original songs from the "High School Musical" soundtrack made Billboard's Hot 100 chart... 5 in the top 40!

High School Musical stars Zac Efron from WB's Summerland, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, and Ashley Tisdale from Disney TV's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.

There are now plans for a Broadway version of the show (featuring new actors). Producers are planning it as a 3 part series, with the first movie sequel, High School Musical 2: Sing It All Or Nothing! (featuring the original cast) planned for release later this year, or early 2007.

* High School Musical DVD Breaks Records
* The Birmingham News: Going back to High School `Musical' song and dance make winning team
* MTV News: What Is 'High School Musical' And How Did It Get To #1?

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Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Oh Lordi! They Won The Eurovision

Controversial heavy metal band Lordi were the suprise winners in this year's Eurovision Song Contest, held in Athens on Saturday night. The shock rockers, who perform in latex masks and monster costumes, won the long running European song contest with their entry "Hard Rock Hallelujah".

Lordi's win is the first for long suffering Finland (after 44 attempts), and means next year's Eurovision contest will be staged in Helsinki.

The result was a surprise for many fans, although it wasn't the first upset of the week... Pre-contest favourites, Kate Ryan's Je T'adore failed to even make it through last week's semi-final.

Pop songs still performed well, with Dima Bilan coming second for Russia with Never Let You Go, and Carola coming fifth for Sweden with Invincible (in her 3rd Eurovision contest... failing to repeat her 1991 win, but a big improvement on last year's Tom Jones-lite entry, which gave Sweden the embarrassment of being relegated for the first time). Meanwhile Daz Simpson only managed to score a 19th place for the UK with his rap-pop track Teenage Life.

Lithuania managed to finish 6th with LT United's awful We Are The Winners... an amateurish little ditty where the band proclaim themselves the winners of Eurovision. They didn't win, but didn't do too bad either, considering few were picking them to even qualify for the final.

2006 winners Lordi are now planning to release their song all over Europe (including a UK release), along with some promotional concerts and tours... I won't link to their song, as I think it's pretty awful really!

Instead, check out Iceland's amusing entry... Ms Silvia Night (a fictional Icelandic star of stage, screen and music, and apparently a character on a top rating tv show over there). Her song Congratulations and performance was apparently meant as a joke, but the rest of Europe didn't get it... Ms Night being booed during the Eurovision semi-final, and failing to qualify for the final.

In the Britney-esque song, Ms Knight declares how her amazing abilities will herald Iceland's first Eurovision win... "I'm Silvia Night and I'm shining so bright, Eurovision nation, Your dream's coming true, You've been waiting forever for me to save you!"

However her behaviour before, during, and after the contest have drawn criticism from Eurovison Song Contest organisers, the Media, and those from her home country. She was warned by officials for using the "f" word in her song. She also swore on tv when describing the Swedish and Dutch entries, and had her bodyguard eject a journalist from a press conference for looking at her the wrong way. (Both actions were later described as "media stunts", with the "journalist" apparently a fellow actress).

(Even one of Silvia Night's biggest fansites has shut up shop, after declaring her "embarrassment for our country").

And here's her post semi-final antics... (Warning: Some language may disturb the more sensitive of you out there... ;-)

* DotEurovision: Silvia Night told to Mind Her Eurovision Language

* Life Style Extra: Oh Lordi! Rockers take Eurovision

* M&C: Finns hope to cash in on Lordi's surprise victory
* 20 Finns about the World's Strangest Little Nation

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Monday, 22 May 2006

Stagedoor the Movie - the Doco...

It'll probably never make it down this part of the world, but a great new film is now screening (on limited release) in the United States...

Stagedoor is a documentary which follows five different teenagers, as they attend the prestigious performing arts summer camp Stagedoor Manor, in the Catskills Mountains of New York.

I was able to work there as a Camp Counselor and Stage Manager in the summers of 2000-02, and had some of the most fun and rewarding times of my life.

Stagedoor Manor has nurtured and spawned a huge range of talent, including the likes of Felicity Huffman, Robert Downey Jr, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Zach Braff and Mandy Moore.

Stagedoor the documentary's the work of Director Alexandra Shiva... the wife of former camper Jonathan Marc Sherman, who went there for five summers in the 80's, and is now a top playwright and actor.

Those featured include a few names I recognise ;-)... Randi Kleiner (Hey Hey Randi!), Taylor Rabow (Hey Hey Taylor!), Nicole Doring, Maddy Weinstein, Robert Wright, plus the long serving staff like Barb Martin, Konnie Kittrell, Jeff Murphy, Larry Nye, Phil Shute, Doug Quinn, David Moellenkamp, Karen Lynch... and a ton of familiar old camper faces I spotted in the trailer alone!

It follows on from the success of the 2003 movie Camp, a fictional film partly based on the experiences of Writer/Director Todd Graff as a camper at the prestigious US Summer Theatre camp, Stagedoor Manor.

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Thursday, 18 May 2006

MTV New Zealand makes a comeback

International youth television giant MTV Networks plan to launch a 24 hour MTV New Zealand channel from the middle of August. The Nickelodeon channel will be relaunched at the same time, customised specifically for New Zealand audiences.

The new MTV channel will be fully owned and operated by MTV Networks Asia Pacific, and will be carried on Sky Television's Digital satellite service (Channel 35).

MTV say the channel will feature local programming and presenters, while drawing on the wide range of programming already produced by their US and European channels.

It's not the first time the MTV brand has been seen in New Zealand... State TV operated an MTV New Zealand service between June 1997 to June 1998, using a feed of MTV-UK as their basis.

It was operated (badly) by TVNZ as a free to air UHF channel in the main centres, using the frequencies of the axed Horizon Pacific Television regional network. MTV-NZ was launched in reaction to CanWest's new youth-oriented channel at the time, TV4.

In more recent times, CanWest's C4 Music Television (which replaced TV4) has had a partnership arrangement with MTV, playing popular signature shows like Jackass and Pimp My Ride in a branded MTV-30 programming block. It's understood that deal will remain in the place when MTV NZ launches (at least for the time being).

MTV plan to work closely with New Zealand record labels to promote local acts, and hope to tap into the youth advertising market that C4 have successfully targetted. Warner Music, Sony BMG and Dawn Raid Entertainment have already expressed support for the new music and entertainment channel.

* Scoop: 24-Hour Localised Mtv And Nickelodeon in NZ
* NBR: MTV to launch in New Zealand

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Saturday, 13 May 2006

Lloyd Webber listens for the Sound of Music

Reality television has found its way into the Theatre World, with the BBC climbing every mountain in their search for undiscovered talent in their newest entertainment show in the UK...

A nationwide search has begun to find an actress to play the iconic role of nun-turned-nanny Maria Von Trapp in Andrew Lloyd Webber's revival of The Sound of Music

The budding West End stars auditioning around the UK will be part of a new BBC TV show hosted by popular Irish comedian Graham Norton, cleverly titled How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

Those showing promise in the regional rounds will receive further training before being reviewed by a panel of experts (including Lloyd Webber). The actresses will be whittled down to 10 hopefuls, with the public getting the chance to vote on their favourite when the series
screens on BBC One later in the year.

Julie Andrews starred as Maria in the famous film version, but producers are keen to find an unknown to open their revival of the show. Jeremy Sams (Noises Off, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) will direct the musical, which is due to open at the London Palladium in December.

* How do you find a singer like Maria?
* Sams to Direct London Sound of Music Revival

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Monday, 8 May 2006

Lost's Bad Twin book a Bestseller

Fans of the hit ABC TV drama series Lost have made a mysterious novel a US bestseller.

The book Bad Twin is supposedly written by Gary Troup, one of the victims of the doomed Flight 815 in the hit television series Lost. The fictional author's name is an anagram of the word "purgatory", spurning internet chat that the characters on Lost may all have died in the plane crash, and are now in purgatory on the island.

Publicity over the show and the book have pushed Bad Twin into Amazon's Top 20 bestseller list. (The actual author of the book hasn't been revealed, although some fans are tipping Bad Twin may be the work of Stephen King). The publishers official promo states, "The author didn't survive the plane crash, but his manuscript did".

"Bad Twin is the highly-anticipated new novel by acclaimed mystery writer Gary Troup. Bad Twin was delivered to Hyperion just days before Troup boarded Oceanic Flight 815, which was lost in flight from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles in September 2004. He remains missing and is presumed dead".

* Order the Bad Twin book here now through

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Imagination runs wild for "Lost" fans

Here's one of the latest and most comprehensive (albeit complicated and technical) theory on why everyone is trapped on the island on the ABC TV show "Lost".

The Ultimate Comprehensive Lost Theory

And here's a message board where fans can promote and discuss the wide range of theories on what's actually going on with the stranded residents of Flight 815.

Learn about the Backwards Wizard of Oz Theory, the Nine Unknown Men Theory, the Ancient Culture theory, Ockham's Razor Theory, and many more!...

Dharma Secrets: Lost Theories

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Broadband TV is here!

American TV Network CBS is the latest to embrace the internet revolution, and launch its own standalone Broadband-only web broadcast network.

Their online channel, innertube is promoted as a "High-speed broadband channel featuring original programming, with hot new shows and cool new stars".

CBS says the channel's programming will be free to watch, supported by advertising spots and product-placement, just like regular TV.

Already online are a new frathouse makeover show Geek to Chic, a special featuring Irish Magician/Illusionist Keith Barry, and a behind-the-scenes Beyond Survivor show. CBS are promising innertube will eventually feature repeats of current shows, along with new programming. This channel can be viewed by web surfers worldwide (for the moment, anyway ;-)

CBS's offering follows the recent decision by the ABC network to offer some of its most popular television shows, including Lost, Desperate Houswives, and Alias over the internet. The episodes include three one-minute interactive advertisments, which can't be skipped over by viewers. However, their viewing is restricted to surfers in the United States.

ABC are also launching an interactive game, The Lost Experience. The web-based game will feature a parallel storyline that is not part of the TV show.
Time Warner meanwhile was the first to offer a major broadband TV network, with their channel In2TV. It boasts the largest
collection of free TV shows anywhere on the Web. The internet tv channel (run in association with AOL) features a wide range of programming from Warner's vaults, including Eight is Enough, Growing Pains, Spenser for Hire, and Wonder Woman.

The Fox TV network is also offering clips from hit shows like 24 and American Idol and original online shows like The Late Night Fox Show and behind-the-scenes talkshow, 24 Inside.

The NBC network have a range of programme promo clips online, plus extras like The Office 'Public Service Announcements'. UPN also have an online section with show clips and behind-the-scenes specials.

The offerings from the New Zealand tv networks, State TV and TV3 are limited to highlights from their News and Current Affairs programming.

All we need here in New Zealand now is for Telecom's rivals to offer surfers some decent broadband speeds, so we can actually watch all this Broadband TV content without the picture suddenly freezing, or quickly going over our small monthly data quota ;-)

* More reading: Free TV Shows on the Internet - But only in the United States.

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Christchurch Beauty & the Beast Recce

I'm spending most of my free time outside work at the moment rehearsing for the Dunedin production of the musical "Beauty and the Beast". The set & costumes (designed by Weta Workshops) are doing the rounds at various centres around New Zealand, but most of the cast is local in each place.

Wellington held the NZ premiere in January, and Christchurch was next on the schedule. I managed to catch their production while I was working in Chch recently, along with another Dave (Halalilo) also from the Dunedin production.

We managed to catch up with Russell Dixon (aka "Russell the TV3 Weather Guy" ;-) after the show. He was playing Gaston (the self-centred comedy villain), having already performed the role in Wellington, and due to come south in June to repeat the part in Dunedin. He was fantastic - a role he was made for! - and definitely stole the show.

Check out this site for more information about Dunedin Operatic's production of Beauty and the Beast (opens June 22nd at the Regent Theatre, and runs until July 1st).

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Comparing production notes...

We also met up with a couple of members of the Wellington Musical Theatre NZ Premiere production, Rebecca and Claire. They'd come down to check out Christchurch's version of the show, and to catch up with Russell again.

It was great to hear about what they went through with the show in Wellington, and to get an idea what we might be in for in Dunedin ;-)

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Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Get a load of those gas prices! ;-)

I came across this amusing image this evening while browsing around... (Although I don't really have that same smile on my face when I'm visiting the petrol station nowadays... The prices seem to keep going up every time I return to fill up!)

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