Sunday, 25 June 2006

Torn - The Mime Remix!

This little video is great... (Some of you might have seen it already - it's been doing the rounds recently...)

The video features a brilliant Mime/Impressionist performing his interpretation of Natalie Imbruglia's hit single "Torn"... :-)

* Hat tip: Holy Moly

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Friday, 9 June 2006

Is NZ being left behind in the Digital Era?

There was an interesting story on State TV's Close Up at 7 programme tonight, on the future of the humble tv...

Titled "Is Television Dead?", reporter Bryan Seymour looked at whether the internet could be sounding the death knell for regular free-to-air television.

He spoke to a couple of (anonymous) people who download tv shows over the internet, through bit torrent systems. Friends download different shows, and swap cds/dvds between each other. They acknowledge what they're doing is technically illegal... downloading the latest episodes of popular US shows like Lost, Nip/Tuck, and the latest hit Prison Break (yet to screen in New Zealand, but advertised as "Coming Soon" on TV3).

It's hard to criticise their actions... While a handful of shows screen on New Zealand television within a month or so of their American broadcasts, many others sit on the shelf for 6 months to a year or more... Others never even make it onto our screens. For many people, the frustration of waiting to see what other viewers are talking about online is just too much.

For some fans, it's the only way to see a cable or "cult" tv show. One example mentioned recently in a local tv magazine was sci-fi showThe Dead Zone. Based on the Stephen King book/movie of the same name, Series One of the USA Network show played here on Prime TV, but the network said it had no plans to buy any more. The show's now into its 5th season in the United States.

Kiwis currently have no legal option for downloading tv programmes. While American surfers can now pay to legally download a selection of tv shows and movies through sites like itunes, no such service exists here. Indeed, New Zealand is becoming one of the few non-third-world countries where Apple's popular music and video download store iTunes still hasn't been launched.

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is the other growth area, offering streamed tv programming directly over the net. Even the overseas networks themselves are starting to get in the action, launching their own Broadband TV channels.

(* See my earlier post: Broadband TV is here! for more info)

The other way to see a broader range of programming is through pay television. New Zealand has pay tv courtesy of Sky Television via digital satellite and a limited UHF service. (Telstra Clear offer cable television, but this service is operated through Sky and has a similar lineup).

Sky's offering is massively overpriced, has an extremely limited lineup, few package options, and poor quality picture (you can often get a noticeably better picture through a clear VHF channel signal, than from the same digitally-compressed channel on Sky Digital). For some reason though, around 40% of NZ households subscribe!
Sky NZ's interactive tv guide is slow and clunky (partly because they chose to upgrade the tv guide software, without upgrading the set-top boxes its running on). The company are pushing their "My Sky" interactive 'personal video recorder'. It's integrated with a tv guide, and lets you record up to 60 hours of television onto its hard drive. It's not as intelligent as the popular US service Tivo... You can't skip through adverts (although you can fast forward like on a video recorder), and it costs $600 to install, although the box is still actually owned by Sky.

The basic "Start Up" Sky package costs $46.61 a month and gives you just 30 TV channels (including the free-to-air State TV and CanWest Mediaworks ones). Adding the 3 Sports and 4 Movie channels (as many households do) will take the monthly Sky bill to a whopping $80.38! For just 36 channels?!

Compare that to Sky UK... Choosing all 6 Channel categories (Variety, Kids, Knowledge, Style & Culture, Music and News & Events) on its digital satellite service will give you over 260 channels, and cost £21.00 a month (~ $61.70 NZ). (You can choose to have fewer categories... £15.00 (~ $44.11 NZ) will still give you well over 200 channels... or choose to add extra Movie, Sports, and Premium subscription channels).
For UK viewers unwilling to pay a monthly subscription just to watch telly, there's a couple of "free" options. After buying a special digital satellite set-top box, you can view 120 free TV channels through Sky's freesat service... or 34 free channels through the more common Freeview service, pushed by the BBC.

Here in New Zealand, firm plans for the future of television, and a digital changeover date have yet to be announced. The former National Government were working on a digital tv proposal with UK cable company NTL as far back as 1999, but those plans were ditched at a cost of millions when Helen Clark's Labour Party took power.

The Government's now working with local free to air broadcasters on a Freeview service based on the British system (albeit one with far less channels ;-) A final decision is expected within the next month or two.

It's possible it may be broadcast on both Digital Satellite (TVNZ and CanWest have agreed a 15-year leasing deal on the new Optus D1 satellite) and through Digital Terrestrial (DTT - the modern version of the current transmitter/aerial setup).

* Close Up: Is television dead?
* Aardvark: The changing face of ISPs
* Wikipedia: IPTV

UPDATE: According to MediaCom's Marketing Digest newsletter out today, the Government will be announcing its intentions on free-to-air digital television next Thursday (15th June).

They point out how far behind New Zealand is... "The world is going digital -- analogue television has already been switched off in Berlin, the UK will close down in 2012, the US a couple of years later. Just last month, for the first time more British viewers watched free-to-air digital television than watched via analogue".

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Thursday, 8 June 2006

I so have to try this... Coke + Mentos = FUN!

Check out this hilarious video from the guys at

You may have seen various videos on sites like where people create real "Soda Fountains", using just Diet Coke or Pepsi, and Mentos candy mints.

Now these guys have taken the Diet Coke and Mentos rockets idea to an extreme level, creating an amazing choreographed "mint-powered version of the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas"...

(Hopefully the New Zealand versions of Diet Coke/Pepsi + Mentos have the same effect?!)...

* More info at:

* Hat Tip: attention seeking rubbish

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Saturday, 3 June 2006

Sony's bouncing balls turn fruity...

I'm sure you've all seen Sony's fancy bouncy coloured balls advertisement for their Bravia TVs.

Now, a great spoof version of the famous commercial has been made to promote UK soda/soft drink/fizzy drink brand Tango, complete with the now familiar song Heartbeats by José González.

The bouncing balls have been replaced by bouncing oranges, apples, lemons, watermelons, and kiwis (the fruit - not the people ;-). The 43 crates of runaway fruit break windows, and cause havoc as they hurtle down the streets of Swansea, in South Wales.

The funniest part is the site hosting the advt... It claims to be representing the 'Swansea North Residents Association', and features downloadable versions of the "banned commerical" ("thanks to Huw's nephew David"), photos of the "destruction by the TV commercial film crew" and interviews with "outraged local residents"...
It's all part of a very clever marketing campaign by the ad company (the Residents Association site's actually registered to one CHI Advertising ;-) They've even created websites for "local paper" the Brecon Beacon Herald, and the Swansea Press Association, who both supposedly covered the event.

The Swansea Residents site makes for amusing reading in itself... basically taking the p*ss out of small towns...

The site looks like one of those really badly designed personal homepages about "My Cat", complete with flashing text and a bad colour scheme. Locals are enouraged to join the new 'Swansea North Yodelling Club', as part of a celebration with their twin city in Austria!

* Watch the "banned" Tango bouncing fruit ad here...
* Swansea North Residents Association's site...
* The original Sony BRAVIA Ad is here...

* Hat Tip: Cool Hunting: Tango Clear Commercial

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It's my Budget, and I'll cry if I want to

Poor Dr Michael Cullen... An esteemed MP for the Labour Party seats of St Kilda and Dunedin South between 1981 and 1999 (now a Labour-lister), Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the House, Minister for Tertiary Education, and of course Finance Minister for the NZ Government.

But it seems even fans of his own party aren't convinced by his recent financial decisions... Last year's Chewing Gum Budget almost lost Labour the election (before he pulled the swifty of "free money for all students").

Dr Cullen tried to temper expectations this year with his Bondi Budget, but despite insisting there was no room for tax cuts (they're committed to spending on the Cullen Fund, more Welfare, and Free loans) announced a surplus of around $8.5 billion.

That brought another drop in the polls for Labour, and more criticism from business groups, financial analysts, and the media.

But apparently the media aren't supposed to publish or broadcast stories saying anything bad about the Labour-led government, and when some of Labour's long-time friends joined in with the criticism, Dr Cullen decided enough was enough.

Last Thursday, an agitated little Michael Cullen lashed out at "friend of the family", State TV's Political Editor Guyon Espiner as he was preparing for an interview, accusing him and others in the Parliamentary press gallery of driving the debate over tax cuts for their own personal gain.

To Espiner's credit, he decided to run pieces from that pre-interview "chat" with Dr Cullen, in which the 64-year old MP ad makes it clear he's "quite angry about this!" ;-) It's absolutely one of the funniest political pieces seen since the glory days of Tennis-gate!

* TVNZ: Cullen attacks press over tax cuts
* TVNZ Video: One News item
* NZ Herald: Cullen accused of losing the plot after outburst caught on camera
* National Business Review: The other face of Michael Cullen

* Hat Tip: Whale Oil

* Sir Humphrey's: Cullen: Guyon Espiner, Tracey Watkins and NZ Herald staff chasing tax cuts for themselves

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