Friday, 29 June 2007

Breakers become interesting again as Penney signs

Great news for kiwi basketball fans, with confirmation today that the New Zealand Breakers have signed Tall Black Kirk Penney.

The former NBA player's signed a one year contract with the Auckland- based franchise, for the 2007-08 season.

The Breakers have been courting Penney for the last year, to help bolster their local roster as the team looks to make a mark on the Australian NBL competition.

Penney's three point ability will come in handy, especially with the retirement of Aaron Olsen. The twenty six year old guard's one of only two kiwis to have played in the NBA, and is coming home after eight seasons overseas.

The Breakers were also chasing Wellington-born centre Craig Bradshaw, but lost out to current NBL champions the Brisbane Bullets, despite apparently offering him more money.

I used to be an avid following of the Breakers, but gave up a bit after the brilliant Lindsay Tait departed.

However, Penney's signing is a great move by the Breakers, and along with the news that the games will be on free-to-air TV (Maori TV), local fans like myself will have a lot more to cheer about over the next season (and a local star that isn't Paul Henare ;-)

Penney will make his debut in the #6 singlet for the Breakers on September 20th, in their home season opener against the Cairns Taipans.

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When Newsreaders think they know better

Hopefully US netowrk MSNBC have fired morning newsreader Mika Brzezinski, after she pulled a childish stunt on-air this week.

The female anchor refused to read the lead story about Paris Hilton's release from prison, before later trying to light the script on fire. Having failed with that attempt, Ms Brzezinski then ripped up the script, and later in the show fed a new script into a paper shredder.

Some are speculating the tantrum might have been faked, but her two male co-anchors on MSNBC's Morning Joe show appeared genuinely embarrassed and rattled, as Brzenzski threw a childish fit, complaining Producers wouldn't listen to her and chose the Paris Hilton story as the lead.

"I hate this story and I don't think it should be our lead ... My producer Andy Jones is not listening to me. He's put it as the lead," she said.

The highly unstable and emotionally unhinged "newsreader" thought some boring comment of the day by a US politician should have been first up, rather than the story about Ms Hilton.

New Zealand news is in danger of heading in the same direction, with its bizarre obsession with boring court stories and "stabbings of the day".

Unfortunately, tv companies too often believe their "viewer research", which tells them people want to see more "worthy but dull" stories... when in actual fact they really prefer celebrity news, and stories about cool new techy gadgets and cute little animals.

* Stuff: Newsreader loses it over Paris story
* NZ Herald: News anchor's flip out over Paris faked?

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Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Team NZ upset the bookies again

Looks like a few more late nights to go, as things heat up in the America's Cup.

Unfortunately I gave up in the early hours of this morning, after it looked like racing would be postponed for the day... only to miss out on the exciting, lead-changing race which saw Team New Zealand go 2-1 up.

Here's hoping for a few more days of light winds, as an antidote to Alinghi's slightly-pacier but not-really-a-rocketship SUI100.

If you haven't done so already, you can add your name to the "ultimate support boat" for Emirates Team New Zeland. SPARC's Support Waka will be covered with the names of thousands of supporters, and presented to the team at the end of their campaign...

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Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Camera Conscious MPs get Paranoid

New Zealand's MPs are drafting draconian new rules aimed at forcing the media to only show them in a good light. MPs are keen to ensure their increasingly bad behaviour in Parliament isn't broadcast to the nation's voters.

The new rules will make it a potential contempt of Parliament to use any images for the purposes of "satire, ridicult, or denigration". Offenders could apparently face heavy fines, or even be put in prison. (New Zealand is becoming more like China/North Korea/Zimbabwe by the day!)

Footage of "general disorder on the floor of the House" will be banned, with still photographers still restricted in what they can shoot in the House (because apparently MPs want to "minimise the prospect of disturbance by photographers" ?!?).

The Press Gallery made a number of submissions against the new rules... not surprisingly under the current administration, every single submission was rejected by Parliament's Standing Orders Committee.

Private broadcaster TV3 was banned last year, for playing footage of NZ First MP Ron Mark making a "rude finger gesture".
They also previously faced criticism and ban from NZ's 'Popular and Competent Prime Minister', for showing David Benson-Pope (aka PSB) fast asleep during a session of Parliament.

Going back even further, TV3 were banned from media briefings by the National Party after one of Bill Ralston's "Yo, Nightliners!" segments... where Ralston and crew produced a clever montage of Jim Bolger's Heartland Tour, backed by a school choir singing "Nowhere Man".

At this stage, footage and photographs taken outside of Parliament are still fair game... but expect to see new laws aimed at further curbing free speech very soon if the current motley crew have their way. Even the days of the political cartoon in the newspaper may be numbered.

The New Zealand Herald notes that not all MPs are against banning freedom of the press...
ACT Party leader Rodney Hide is quoted as saying, "The difference between living in a dictatorship and living in a democracy is that we are allowed to make fun of our politicians."

Mr Boring (aka United leader Peter Dunne) meanwhile sniffs, "I think that taking parliamentary broadcasts and turning them into a joke is going a bit far."

* NZ Herald: It's official: Politicians just can't take a joke

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Monday, 25 June 2007

Chav-tastic Merry-go-round of Death

A very popular clip of what ITV News called "a teenage prank that went horribly wrong" ;-)

A group of bored Chavs park the wheel of a motorbike up on a merry-go-round, while their two Chavette friends sit in the middle of the roundabout.

The fun starts when the lads rev up the back tyre of his motorbike, which spins the girls around like a washing machine. (Shot in a children's park in Crawley, England)... Chav-larious fun for the whole family ;-)

(Cheers to Dick for the tip-off).

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Thursday, 21 June 2007

Bain 1 up for retrial; Bain 2 put to the vote

The Solicitor General has decided the recently bailed David Bain will face a fresh retrial over the 1994 murders of five members of his family.

Bain was released on bail last month after the Privy Council quashed his convictions, ruling he had been the victim of a "substantial miscarriage of justice". However, the Solicitor General says the Privy Council's judgement didn't actually decide whether he was innocent or guilty.

Bain's long-time supporter Joe Karam quite rightly points that out a retrial will be costly. Dunedin Police say all but three of the original witnesses and evidence are still available.

Meanwhile, Police Association President Greg O'Connor has called for the retrial to be televised in full so that "the public will have the opportunity to hear all the evidence in full... not just the selective pieces published in the media."

This seems an interesting stance from the Police, given the extreme efforts they go to rally their "old boy network" to try and bury any media coverage of the growing avalanche of evidence revealing widespread corruption, misconduct and blatant law breaking by the country's officers (Dunedin being one of the worst offending regions).

It's expected Bain's retrial will be held in Dunedin early next year, although it remains to be seen how an impartial jury can be put together, given the barrage of media coverage of the case over the last 13 years.

In completely unrelated news, Dunedin 48Hours Film Competition Regional winner, Bain - The Musical (The Trevor Bain Story) has joined the myspace-verse, and is looking for new friends to help spread the word...

The locally-made short film is now one of 3 Musicals in the 48Hours National final on July 1st (8.30pm on C4 TV), after Director Peter Jackson chose two musicals amongst his wildcards (one apparently featuring some of New Zealand's top hip-hop stars).

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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

When a spy goes underground

What does a professional spy do when their employers turn on him? That's the question being asked by new USA Networks TV show, Burn Notice...

In the new action/spy series (premiering June 28th in the US - commercial free), CIA Operative Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) receives a "Burn Notice" while on assignment... basically a job termination notice, which is copied to all international intelligence agencies.

That leaves Westen alone in a strange city, without his normal contacts or spy connections. He starts by travelling back to his hometown of Miami to try and find out why he's been "burned". Putting his Special Ops training to good use, he works to stay under the radar in trying to uncover the truth, while helping out others to help fund his investigation.

While spies are often the fantasy of tv and movies, there are a lot of "private investigators" working every day in most cities (although their missions are probably a whole lot less interesting than those we see on the tv and big screen ;-)

I don't know that I'd make a very good top-secret spy... I'd enjoy using all the high-tech gadgets like you see in the Bond films and other spy stories (I even checked out a "spy store" in London last year, and was surprised by the range of products on sale in the "real world"!)

I think to be a good spy you'd have to be comfortable with always being on the move, and not want to settle down in one place for too long. Spies and superheroes seem to have to be guarded about their true identity, which must mark it hard to develop relationships (just look at the trouble Clark Ken has on Smallville ;-)

I think USA Network's Burn Notice should prove a successful new tv show, given the similar style to the popular Bourne film and book series, which follows former CIA assassin Jason Bourne as he tries to evade his former employers.

The intriguing new action series also stars Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell and Sharon Gless. Check out the official Burn Notice website for more information, including 'behind the scenes' video clips, interviews and previews...

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Thursday, 14 June 2007

Broadway's 'Spring Awakening' scoops 8 Tony Awards

Congratulations to Stagedoor Manor alumn Skylar Astin and the talented young cast of Broadway's Spring Awakening. The hit musical scooped eight Tony Awards this week, topping the 2007 bill.

Spring Awakening was named Best Musical, and also won awards for Best Director of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, Best Orchestrations, Best Featured Actor in a Musical, and Best Choreography and Best Lighting Design of a Musical.

Watch as fellow Stagedoor Manor alumn Zach Braff introduces the cast of Spring Awakening, with their medley from the 2007 Tony Awards. (Includes: Mama Who Bore Me, The Bitch of Living, Totally Fucked)... Skylar's the one with the funky hairdo that sings the second verse of The Bitch of Living - complete with lyric changes for US TV ;-)...

The Tony recognition has helped boost demand for tickets for the highly acclaimed Broadway show. The musical, being staged at New York's Eugene O'Neil Theatre, as taken US$1.3 million since the awards ceremony.

Other big winners at this year's awards - including musicals Grey Gardens (about eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) and Curtains (from Chicago creators, Kander and Ebb) - have also seen a box office boost following their awards.

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Monday, 11 June 2007

Reserve Bank takes aim against NZ Dollar

New Zealand Reserve Bank Governor, Alan Bollard, has taken the highly unusual step of intervening in the foreign exchange market, selling off $1.5 billion NZ dollars in a bid to cap the value of the NZ dollar.

Media reports say it's the first time the RBNZ has intervened in this way since the New Zealand currency was floated in 1985. The kiwi dollar is now track for its biggest one day loss since March 2006.

Bollard's move follows the kiwi dollar hitting a post-float record high of US76.2 cents. Last week, he surprised financial markets by raising New Zealand's already high Official Cash Rate to 8 per cent, the third rise in four months.

The rises are an attempt by the Reserve Bank to curb inflation, but have had the effect of encouraging more foreign investors to move money here, to take advantage of the high interest rates. That in turn forces up the exchange rate, as investors buy more kiwi dollars.

There is an argument that the New Zealand dollar should be left as is, leaving the economy open to an inflationary period, which should include strong wage and salary driven inflation.

That could drive up the relative earnings of New Zealanders, who often find the Pacific Peso doesn't go very far overseas. (The NZ$ fell as low as US39.22 cents in November 2000). In the early 80s, the kiwi dollar was worth more than US $1, and was also much stronger against the British Pound.
Financial analysts point out the Reserve Bank intervened on a quiet day (the Australian markets were closed for a holiday)... It remains to be seen how willing it may be to repeat the action in a stronger market, when there is more money in play.

Dr Bollard has reserves of just $7 billion to play with. That's a small amount against what overseas currency speculators have in their arsenal. Some analysts wonder whether speculators could call the Reserve Bank's bluff, and try to force the New Zealand dollar even higher than US76 cents.

American currency speculator George Soros famously "broke the Bank of England" on Black Wednesday (16 September 1992). The UK Conservative Government was forced to withdraw the Pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, when it ran out of funds. (The UK Treasure estimated the cost of 'Black Wednesday' at £3.4 billion.)

* Stuff: RBNZ confirms intervention in NZ dollar

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Sunday, 10 June 2007

Paris out of Jail... Spotted on the Beach ;-)

It's hard to keep up with Ms Paris Hilton... Sent to an Los Angeles prison for DUI offences, released a few days later for unspecified medical reason, then sent back to jail by a nasty judge.

Here's a great spoof video "Paris in Jail", to the tune of her awesome debut single Stars are Blind...

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Saturday, 9 June 2007

Pocket Money in the new digital world

Most kids grow up with the concept of pocket money... getting bribed with small amounts of cash for doing "horrible" chores like cleaning your room, doing the dishes, washing Dad's car, and mowing the lawns.

Now in the States, a new kindof "teen debit card" has been launched for kids as young as 13 years old. The PAYjr Prepaid Teen Card lets parents load up their children's cards with allowance money, and aims to teach their teens good money management skills.

The special Teen Visa doesn't have big fees, and parents can use a unique "Chore system" with the card, which pays their children when certain household tasks are completed, or particular targets are met (eg, good exam results).

Kids will be keen on the PAYjr cards because carrying cash around is often a hassle (especially when you're hitting the teen party spots ;-)

However, parents will love it too, because they get to see all card activity, so can keep an eye on what their kids are spending their hard-earned money on, and suspend the card if their teens get out of control.

For younger children (aged 12 and under), PAYjr has a 'stepping stone' option with the same Chore & Allowance system - getting paid for completing jobs - just without the actual card. (You can see how much Mom & Dad owe you, but you'll need to take them to the store to buy that PS3 ;-)

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Bain Free to Compete against NZ's Top Films

Our 48 Hours film team is still in a bit of a state of shock, after we managed to win the Dunedin regional final of the 48 Hours film contest on Thursday night.

Our Musical genre entry, Bain: The Musical (The Trevor Bain Story), won the top Dunedin award for Best Film (as well as Best Score, which was the main one we'd been hoping to win ;-)

Go the Jumpers! The team after our win...
The Burt Hall Banana Republic Productions film will now represent Dunedin at the National 48 Hours Final, which screens on C4 TV on July 1st. The result leaves Bain free to compete against the other 5 city finalists, plus Director Peter Jackson's wildcards. Vote Bain on the night!

Cheers to the judges and to many of our fellow teams for your kind and positive comments after our win.

Major Congratz go out to the many other quality teams in the Dunedin Finals... especially Runners Up, Team Almost Fabulous for their Horror film, Dark Turn.

Other corkers in the Dunedin Final were:
* Skipped: The Birth and Death of Extreem Skip-it
(Team Zapstein The MFCG - Yeh Callum!)
* The Track (Monumental Tool - Yeh Patsy!)
* C.O.C.S. (Team Super-Best-Friends)
* The Felt-tastic Four (Bantha Fodder - Yeh Bushy!)
* and the classy but unrewarded The Divine Seduction
(Team Queenstown - Yeh Ben!).

The 'Bain Musical' crew with the famous 48 Hours Gorilla trophy...

** More Photos from Bain: The Musical (The Trevor Bain Story)...

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Attack of the Spyware... and Prevention

Spyware is the new bane of computer users' lives. While virus writers often have a weird fascination with corrupting files or formatting the hard drives of strangers, spyware is often created by companies and individuals, with profit firmly on their minds.

Modern spyware tries to track the surfing habits of computer users, can steal passwords, email addresses, and anything else typed by users, takes over affiliate links for online purchases, slows down computers, and likes generating random popups.

I now take much more care when downloading files or surfing to unknown websites, after a bad Spyware attack last year. I'm still not exactly sure how I managed to acquire the spyware on my PC, but knew something was up when my regular homepage changed to some random search engine I'd never heard of.

I also found many words on regular websites started turning into clickable links, with hover-over ads. The final straw was having random spam directory websites popping up in my browser, with new windows popping up as quickly as I closed them.

It took many hours of internet searching, online "disinfecting" of files, and deleting problem and suspect files to finally rid myself of the various Spyware programs that had managed to embed themselves in my PC.

I now try to use the much safer Mozilla Firefox web browser, and installed good Spyware protection software. One of the best solutions against attacks is Spy Sweeper. PC World named it as the "Best Buy", while the software was the "Editor's Choice" at PC Magazine.

With spyware becoming more sophisticated and more malicious, software like Spy Sweeper is vital to protect your computer. It offers advanced spyware detection, with custom blocking and removal available to beat the more dangerous spyware programs.

Spy Sweeper subscribers also get regular automatic updates of the program's spyware definition database, ensuring you're always protected against the latest threats.

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Wednesday, 6 June 2007

48 Hours Film - Bain: The Musical - The Photos

Through my mate Matt Landreth, I was involved recently in the Dunedin heat of the 48 Hours NZ Film Competition.

The challenge is to create a short film (less than 7 minutes) in under 48 Hours. Each team draws a random genre, and has to include 3 assigned random elements in their films... a particular character, prop, and line.

Matt had seconded some of his flatmates, family members, and other friends... and after we drew 'Musical' as our genre, we nabbed a few extra theatre mates to feature in our mini-spectacular.

For our film, Bain: The Musical (The Trevor Bain Story), Matt & I shared the songwriting duties, and once all the songs and music were recorded onto computer, we started shooting and lip-syncing to the music.

Burt Hall Banana Republic Productions' film got a good response in the first Dunedin heat, picking up the Audience Award and going through to the Dunedin final on Thursday night.

Here's some Bain musical photos from over our 48 Hours weekend...
(Photos courtesy of Anna Muirhead)

Trevor Bain (Campbell) contemplates his fate in prison

The Jersey Boys... (Matt, Dave, Tim, Terry)

Trevor Bain with a friendly jailer (Anna)

Doing our best impression of a Knitting Pattern pose ;-)

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Tuesday, 5 June 2007

The latest News content... Free for your website

A great new website is helping link some of the major news publishers, and the world of blogging and the internet.

The News Room is one of the latest "mashup" sites... (Wikipedia describes a mashup as "a website or application that combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience.")

The News Room provides bloggers and other small web publishers access to a huge library of content... fully licensed news stories that can be published (or "mashed") on individual sites, according to their interests or web niche.

The site offers content from many big name publishers like the Associated Press, Reuters, CBS News, and the NHL. And it's not just regular text stories... The News Room also offers a huge range of high quality, regularly updated video clips, audio clips, photos and images of the latest news stories.

The content is provided free to websites, because each item includes a small advertisement. That also means a bonus for web publishers who can receive a share of the advertising revenue, each time an item of mashed news is viewed on your site. (Advertising sharing ranges from $1 to $4 per thousand impressions (CPM)).

The content is updated regularly with the latest news stories, ensuring you can keep your blog or website current and relevant. Here's one of the biggest stories of the day... Paris checks into her very own Hilton ;-)

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New Zealand dollar continues to climb

Great news for New Zealand travellers and importers... not so good for the country's exporters.

The New Zealand dollar has restarted its climb against the US dollar, hitting a new post-float high today of US 74.94c. The previous post-float high was 74.93c in mid-April.

Some financial commentators believe the NZ dollar could break the 75c mark against the Greenback overnight. When the New Zealand dollar was floated 22 years ago, it was worth just US 44.4c.

The latest rebound is being put down to strong offshore demand for New Zealand's interest rates, which are already the highest in the developed world.

* 6/6 - UPDATE: The Kiwi dollar continues to soar upwards, and was this afternoon trading at US 75.51c. Economists are no longer seeing the rise as a short term trend, with speculation the NZ$ could now trade as high as US 80c over the coming months.

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Monday, 4 June 2007

Scope out Space with the real MySky

Some New Zealand tv viewers know the brand "MySky" as a Tivo-lite style of Digital PVR (Personal Video Recorder).

But the new MySky from Meade is actually one of the hottest new astronomy gadgets... a handheld interactive Planatarium, giving even non-scientific minds a simple and revolutionary way to explore the universe.

The Meade MySky is just like having your own private astronomer, guiding you through the night sky and letting you instantly identify over 30,000 stars, planets, and asteroids at the click of a button.

The Meade MySky Personal Video Planetarium has a full-colour LCD screen, and can also control computerized Meade telescopes.

It's just one of the newest gadgets available over at, but the site also features a huge range of Telescopes, Digital Camera Binoculars (binoculars with a built in camera), Night Vision gear, and lots more cool stuff.

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Sunday, 3 June 2007

When Buffalos Attack!

An amazing am-cam video of a battle over a baby calf between a pride of Lions, a herd of Water Buffalo, and 2 Crocodiles. Shot by a visitor on a safari tour at South Africa's Kruger National Park...

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Friday, 1 June 2007

A couple of funnies...

A few funnies, courtesy of UK celebrity gossip email Popbitch...

This morning on the way to work I rear-ended a car at some lights whilst not really paying attention.

The driver got out... He was a dwarf.

He said, "I'm not happy"...

I replied, "Well, which one are you then?"

And courtesy of YouTube, a possible cautionary tale if you ever happen to venture into a hi-tech bathroom while travelling overseas... ;-)

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Maroon 5 - Makes Me Wonder ]
^ The Sheilas - (I'm So) Happy Happy (You're Mine)

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