Sunday, 31 January 2010

United Dunne points out Greens' Record of Failures

United Future "Party" leader Peter Dunne isn't known as the country's most charismatic or inspiring politician, but his latest blog post seems to have really offended Tumeke! blogger Tim Selwyn. (Although Selwyn does correctly point out that Dunne has a fight on his hands to retain Ohariu next election).

I certainly couldn't describe myself as a fan of Peter "party of one" Dunne, but he does sometimes come out with some good thoughts, and his most recent blog post contains a number of interesting truths about the so-called Green Party of Aotearoa NZ.

Dunne argues that despite the regular praise heaped on the Greens by the news media, the Green Party has actually "been our most unsuccessful small party under MMP".

He comes to this conclusion by arguing that "the usual hallmark of political success is being part of a government", which of course the Greens have spectacularly failed to accomplish, even under Hillin Cluck's watch!
First, no member of the Greens has ever held office as a Minister in a government.

That sets them apart from every other small party that has emerged under MMP. The Alliance, ACT, New Zealand First, the Maori Party and UnitedFuture have all had Ministers in government, able to push through key aspects of their respective parties’ policies.
Apart from a short-lived term following the famous/infamous "worm" debate on State TV, Dunne has helmed a very small parliamentary party. Yet he has somehow managed to persuade the majority party that his one or two votes are useful and beneficial to forming a government.

And to give Dunne due credit, he has managed to extract more in policy concessions over the years than ACT's Rodney Hide has managed to get out of National in the current parliament with 5 MPs.

Dunne sounds frustrated but is correct in his assessment of the attitude of the self-proclaimed "mainstream" media towards the Greens. There is a definite media bias towards the Greens here, with reporters happy to repeat statements and assertions by the party's MPs verbatim, while often treating comments from other MPs with scepticism.
"... the news media and the commentariat have failed consistently to acknowledge this point, let alone draw it to public attention.

Moreover, they have actually gone to the other extreme and generally lauded the Greens for their “success”, although they have been noticeably light when it comes to pointing out what those successes have been."
A survey completed in 2008 by Dr Babak Bahador from Canterbury University looked at the media coverage of New Zealand's political parties in the 2008 election, comparing the level and tone of the coverage for each party.

The Greens received 32.6% positive media coverage, 49% neutral, and just 18.4% negative coverage. In comparison, National's positive media coverage was just 22.3%, along with 39.8% neutral and 37.9% negative coverage. Labour got 25.4% positive, 39% neutral, and 35.6% negative.
The most glaring evidence of msm bias in NZ was the finding that during the 2008 election campaign, every party received more media coverage than electoral support, except for National and ACT.

Stories specifically featuring the Green Party made up 7% of the stories during the election campaign. (The Green's other big political failure is the fact that their pre-election poll ratings have never translated into the same level of support on election day.)
Some have questioned whether the Greens can crack the 5% MMP threshold next election, with Jeanette Fitzsimons leaving the building, Sue Kedgley on her way out, and loudmouth Sue Bradford already gone.

Electoral statistics guru David Farrar blogged last year about New Zealand's 5% MMP threshold, and the effects on representation if the threshold was lowered or abolished altogether.

Even Winston Peters has been analysing the success (or otherwise) of MMP this week, with a speech to Political Science students at Auckland University. As usual, Peters has some bold claims, but manages to make a few good points...
The Royal Commission recommended that a hundred MPs in a new MMP system would work. We ended up with 120 because the two old parties reckoned that the 20 extra would put voters off the change.

In time, the Maori seats were supposed to go. We were all to be blended in – as we should be!
It's time for MPs to become bold enough to introduce MMP as the Royal Commission recommended... Reducing the threshold to 4%, axing the separatist Maori electorate seats, and increasing the Parliamentary term to 4 years.

* Peter's Position - A couple of Unpleasant Facts to Ponder
* Kiwiblog - Final Results of the 2008 Election Media Study
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Friday, 29 January 2010

Coke Vending Machine Dishes out Pizzas!

The dark brown sugary soda drink known as Coke apparently equals Happiness, or so their marketing people like to tell us.

Now the soft drink giant is endeavouring to spread a little bit of happiness across the US with random acts of vending kindness.

The Coca-Cola Happiness Machine was installed recently in the cafeteria of an American college campus, with the reactions of students becoming a viral video hit.

Luzern: Expensive Coca-Cola vending machineImage by Chris Devers via Flickr

Students using the normal-looking coke drink vending machine are initially surprised to receive multiple bottles of Coca-Cola, before the vending machine starts handing out (quite literally!) bunches of flowers, balloon animals, a pizza, and a giant sub sandwich.

The viral marketing campaign is part of Coke's global 'Open Happiness' campaign, and the company says many other similar stunts are planned, asking "Where will happiness strike next?"

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

NZ TV viewers will be Lost a little longer

New Zealand fans of the tv drama Lost will unfortunately have to wait a little longer to see the final season of the show, according to a post on Throng.

The final season of Lost begins on February 2nd in the United States on ABC. Hopes were raised last month that TVNZ was going to screen the opening episode less than half a day after its American premiere, after information in the broadcaster's Planit ad schedule.

The official response from TVNZ was that tapes of the episodes cannot be contractually released by the distributor before the show has been broadcast on ABC in all US time zones.

TVNZ told Throng that such a turnaround was just too tight for the distributor to "physically take the tape to a completely different location and feed them to us via Satellite in real time."

The network also says there would be issues timing out the schedule, promoting the show, and adding captioning in just a few hours.

These excuses are somewhat acceptable, although still disappointing. The NZ television premiere of Lost's final season has been scheduled for a week later, on February 10th. However that is still a big improvement on the 6 month+ delay that New Zealand viewers used to faced for US shows.

Television New ZealandImage via Wikipedia
The one hole in TVNZ's excuses is that ABC is launching Season 6 of Lost with a double episode, whereas TV2 is apparently only playing Episode 1, following the premiere its new show Flash Forward.

That will put New Zealand fans 2 episodes behind America. One wonders whether TV2 could have overcome the problems outlined above with the breathing room of just a single episode? I suspect the gap between overseas shows and their New Zealand broadcast dates will continue to close in this high-tech, download-heavy era...

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Former Clown Activist replaces Jeanette in NZ Greens

Former Ronald McDonald impersonator Gareth Hughes will take Jeanette Fitzsimons' list MP spot in Parliament next month, after the former Green Party co-leader announced she was retiring.

Hughes' claim to fame is being arrested while dressed as Ronald McDonald, during a protest against the use of 'genetically engineered' chicken feed. He stood for the Greens in the Ohariu seat at the last election.

I love this photo and headline caption from Stuff!

The 28 year old will become the youngest MP in the current Parliament. He plans to live in Wellington's inner city with his wife and son, and will walk to work (what a good greenie).

He is apparently "confident the Greens would be back with at least their nine current seats in 2010." Not surprisingly, Hughes has worked for Greenpeace, recently running its 'Sign On' global warming campaign in New Zealand. He also camped out with the hippies in the 'Save Happy Valley' anti-mining protest.

Hughes' arrival follows the sad sad departure last year of another Green Party protester clown, Sue Bradford...

Gareth's parliamentary goals are to focus on Transport (as in not having as little as possible, that's Green policy), Climate Change (as in keeping the propaganda machine rolling, despite the growing cracks), and Tertiary Education (as in more free money from the Government and less accountability).

* Stuff - Meet the Green Party's new MP
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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Lie Flat & Cuddle with Air New Zealand's Skycouch

Air New Zealand's new 'Skycouch' seats have attracted a lot of international interest, but in all honesty failed to live up to their pre-launch hype.

Dubbed 'cuddle class', the new skycouch does offer lie-flat or curled-up seating for a couple of passengers, provided they buy a row of 3 seats.

There will be 11 rows of skycouch seats, with the arm rests fully retracting, and foot rests coming up to meet the seats in front and create a 1.75 metre-long couch. A thin mattress fits over the top.

Speculation has been going on for the last 6 months or more about how Air New Zealand's design team was going to "revolutionise" economy (coach) class for passengers.

Suggestions have included seats which reclined back to an almost lie-flat position, staggered seating, and lie-flat stackable bunk beds along the sides of the aircraft.

The reality proved somewhat less revolutionary, although they are still the world's first lie-flat seats in economy or coach class, and will suit couples travelling long-haul, and those with a small child.

A team of designers have been working on the project for three years. Air NZ's Chief Executive Rob Fyfe says the challenge he gave was to "have passengers able to lie down in economy, but I don't want the seat to take up any more space and I don't want people to have to pay any more for it."

I guess the catch of two passengers also having to buy the middle seat (albeit at half price) to get a lie down means that goal wasn't quite achieved.

However, Air New Zealand is predicting strong growth in the Premium Economy section of the market, the airline's also talking up a sideline licensing deal of the new seating designs with Boeing (to on-sell to international airlines).

Interestingly, investors seemed unimpressed with Air NZ's seating revamp, with shares slipping slightly on launch day.

And it will be interesting to see how long the "2 seats at standard price + 1 at half price" skycouch deal lasts. Presumably giving away 22 seats at half the going economy rate is fine while capacity is down, but that policy may come into question once planes start filling up again or the seats "fly out the door" as the airline hopes.

The new skycouch option launches in November, when Air New Zealand's new 340-seater Boeing 777-300 comes into service, between Auckland and Los Angeles. The airline plans to refit all its long haul aircraft in the skycouch configuration by 2012.

There will also be changes for all other flying classes on Air New Zealand. Regular economy/coach class will get bigger video screens for the personal entertainment system, plus iPod ports (yay!), and a narrow head cushion that attaches to the seat.

New 'Spaceseats' in Premium Economy class will be enclosed within a hard shell 'cocoon', meaning reclining your seat doesn't impede on the space of the person behind you as normally happens now in Economy cabins.

A herring-bone layout with seats angling either inwards of outwards will also allow Premium Economy passengers to choose to have more personal space, or to interact with another traveller, including the ability to share meals.

There will be new contoured seats in Business Premier, with a thicker mattress and better seat lighting.

New oven technology will allow flight attendants to prepare fresh food 'on demand' for passengers... Steaks for Business travellers, Pizzas for Premium Economy, and Toasted Sandwiches in Economy (ordered via the onboard entertainment system).

However, I'm not sure about the planned new colour scheme. "A luxurious blend of chalk and deep ink colours", economy seats are black with a white back, and premium economy seats are chalk-coloured leather.

It all sounds nice and classy, but it also sounds like the kind of colours that would get dirty and damaged pretty easily.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Wayne's absence disappoints Denzel Washington, Antonio & Melanie, Brendan Fraser

An increasing number of celebrities are expressing their public disappointment at not being able to meet Wayne, an uber-geek billed as "one of New Zealand's best kept secrets".

TV3 news and entertainment reporter David Farrier describes him as "my manky pasty friend Wayne". His minders tell us that "Wayne is a hardworking employee of a large New Zealand media organisation, who works so hard, he simply could not be here." :-(

That hardworking attitude has meant many music and movie stars have missed out on their chance to meet the secretive kiwi lad. However a YouTube Channel has been set up for celebs to send messaes, after being saddened and disappointed that Wayne could not be here...

Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger and guitarist Ryan Peake were disappointed recently during a concert stop in Auckland, New Zealand, when they learned that Wayne could not be there.

And many celebrities in Los Angeles have taken time out from their busy schedules this week to send a personal message to Wayne, who couldn't be with them for the busy week in Hollywood.

Stars disappointed recently include Ray Winstone & Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder), Amanda Seyfried (Big Love, Mamma Mia), Gerard Butler (300, Phantom of the Opera), Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe, Step Up), and Brendan Fraser.

Youtube fan cuttyface says he finds the videos amazing, and really hopes "that one day Wayne is revealed to the world, gets out of the office and gets the fame he deserves."

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Monday, 11 January 2010

Dunedin looks to revamp its image

The city of Dunedin in Otago, New Zealand is on the hunt for a new slogan. The city's marketing team have decided to drop the current nondescript slogan I am Dunedin, which it admits is getting a bit old.

The city is apparently planning a nationwide search for a new slogan and marketing strategy. The I am Dunedin slogan was introduced by the City Council in 2001, replacing the similarly nondescript branding campaign, That’s the Spirit of Dunedin.

Dunedin is also known as 'The Edinburgh of the South', but its most recognisable slogan was in the late 80s/early 90s with the bubbly It's all right here, which came with its own catchy little campaign song.

However it was often confused with (or replaced by) the lacklustre 'It's alright here', or more recently by locals as 'It's a Riot here' after a run of late night street parties by the city's students (and friends).

(Unfortunately Otago University took the antics all a bit seriously, invoking 'Code of Conduct' clauses to kick students out, forcing the cancellation of the annual First Year Toga Parade through Dunedin's main street, cutting up sponsorship contracts with alcohol companies, and trying to buy up pubs close to campus with the stated intent of simply closing them down. In the words of their own marketing campaign, Get Over It!)

But Dunedin still wouldn't come close to winning the award for the country's worst city/town slogan. Te Puke probably scores New Zealand's top prize for its former pearler - Stop and taste Te Puke - which didn't go down well with tourists not used to pronouncing the town's name.

Hamilton's old slogan was a sign of self esteem, More than you'd expect. South Canterbury is also big on hopeful dreams. For years Rolleston has branded itself The Town of the Future, but the future has so far refused to move in.

Timaru tries to assure tourists the town still has a pulse with its slogan Feel the Heartbeat, while Mayfield somewhat optimistically informs motorists Blink and you will miss out. But there's no holds barred in keeping visitors in Ashburton, which loudly proclaims Whatever it takes!

There are some chirpier slogans around New Zealand though. Kerikeri goes the happy route, with It's So Nice They Named It Twice, while Matamata opts for comfort, You matter in Matamata.
In the Southland town of Tuatapere, large signs proudly declare it New Zealand's Sausage Capital, but to be fair I don't think anyone else is actually challenging for the title.

Invercargill has the more cryptic The City of Water and Light, perhaps referring to the fact that it's always raining in the south, but that doesn't deter the boy racers.

In Wanganui, they're still debating whether or not the town's new slogan should have an H in it (Whakit, it's still the same old place), although Wanganui used to have more optimism, telling people It’s well worth the journey.

Some places don't even bother with a slogan, although Shag Point (south of Moeraki) could do with one. It's never really lived up to its obvious potential as a hotspot for young luvvin' ;-)

Can you help Dunedin City come up with a world-beating new slogan and brand? Avid Twitterers have been busy tweeting their suggestions already...

@five15design: At least it will be dry in the Stadium

@five15design: We've only had a couple of mass murders

@zazie9: Dunedin: Four seasons in one day, three of them are winter

@CherylBernstein: Dunedin: Not nearly as bad as Invercargill

@ajamesgreen: Dunedin, Edinburgh of the South (but with more rain)

@ajamesgreen: I can see Antartica from my house

@markleggett: It's not that cold. Harden up. Dunedin.

@Artandmylife: If you like bagpipes, you'll LOVE Dunedin

@hamish_keith: We burn the sofa at both ends

@HamishCR: Home of the ironically named Maori Hill

@Artandmylife: Dunedin - lots of famous NZ's used to live here

@Artandmylife: We used to be the biggest city in NZ, you know

@BexieLady: "Better than Gore" for 6 days in a row

@BenShipley: 100% in favour of global warming

@badtom Dunedin: it's not all bagpipes and binge drinking. Well, not entirely.

* ODT - Dunedin looks for new slogan
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No Pants Ride takes off despite cool temperatures

Improv Everywhere's biggest annual international stunt went off with only a few hitches yesterday, as thousands of travellers in 42 cities over 15 countries took part in the 9th Annual No Pants Subway Ride (mass transit trains, buses, and trolleys also accepted).

New York City again headlined the day, with an estimated 3000+ participants (known as Agents) taking part in the massed 'flashmob' event. The NY stunt was spread right across the city, departing from 6 different locations.

Leaders/captains were appointed as participants were split into smaller groups, and allocated their travel route. The rides finished off in Union Square with activities reportedly including a break dancing competition, a pants-less pyramid, pants-less game of duck-duck-goose, and a pants-less conga line! ;-)

In the US capital of Washington D.C. a few hundred riders hit the Metro, while about 350 people took part on a similarly cold day in Toronto, Canada.

In London, sub-zero temperatures and weather-related travel warnings reduced the 200+ intended participants to just over 30. The Londoners renamed their event the 'No Trousers Subway Ride', to avoid any confusion as to whether 'Pants' meant underpants or overpants ;-)

Participants are encouraged to give a simple and innocent explanation if questioned about their lack of pants. One London rider, Ryan Miller blogged about his experience yesterday...
I just leaned up near the door, at the end of the car. Reading. Finally the guy next to me (after a few stops) asked me why I took my trousers off.

“It’s hot in here,” I explained.
“But what about them?” he asked, gesturing to the other bare legs in the carriage.
“Yeah, they took theirs off too,” I agreed.
For some reason this seemed to satisfy his curiosity.
It was substantially warmer in Australia, the closest place to New Zealand to take part in the No Pants Ride 2010. Summery southern hemisphere temperatures brought out a good group of riders in Sydney, as well as Brisbane, Adelaide, and Melbourne.

Like in other cities, participants had to remove their pants while riding the Metro, and stay on until a pre-determined station. The task was then to get off and switching trains before completing the journey.

Sydney agent SexyNinjaMonkey reported that some of the group tried to go for a drink afterwards but noted it was "amazing how many pubs won’t serve people without pants."

Riders around the world got a range of reactions from their fellow travellers. Boston agent Maya reported one guy got pretty angry at participants, "yelling that we were all sick". She says her favourite response to the situation was "walking up to several bystanders and innocently asking why so many people were wearing pants today."

* Improv Everywhere: No Pants 2010 Global Reports
* Improv Everywhere: No Pants 2010 NYC Reports

UPDATE: Improv Everywhere - Full summary of No Pants Subway Ride 2010

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Saturday, 9 January 2010

No Pants 2010 Subway Ride Tomorrow

The 9th Annual No Pants Subway Ride is scheduled for tomorrow (Sunday January 10), with participants in over 40 cities standing by to ride their local subways or buses sans pants.

Organised by the Improv Everywhere group, the annual stunt attracts a wide range of participants, with the simple common goal of riding the subway/train/bus without their pants, but while keeping a straight face!

In the major cities, participants are organised into groups and assigned specific train cars, as well as stops which stops to switch trains.

Those taking part can't reveal what they're up to, and if questioned by other passengers as to why they've taken off their pants, must offer a simple excuse like they were "getting uncomfortable".

The event's founding city New York has six meeting points for the start of the ride, with all trains converging on Union Square.

No Pants Ride 2k10 will also be held in over 40 other cities across America, Europe, and around the world on mass transportation services ranging from subways to trolley buses.

There's full information here for the groups organising individual cities including
Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne (Australia), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain), Berlin (Germany), Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco (USA), Toronto and Vancouver (Canada), Tokyo (Japan), Stockholm (Sweden), and Warsaw (Poland).

(New Zealand seems to be missing out again... Noone in Auckland or Wellington keen to take up the challenge of organising a crew?)

* Improv Everywhere: Information for individual cities for No Pants Ride 2010
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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Sky & Prime TV to share Commonwealth Games

TVNZ has sold its broadcast rights for this year's Commonwealth Games to Sky Television, which says it will screen 12 hours a day live on its free-to-air channel Prime Television.

The 19th Commonwealth Games begins in New Delhi, India on October 3rd 2010 and runs for two weeks. Details of the sale were not revealed, but it's believed Sky paid around US$4 million for the rights, half what TVNZ originally paid.

Prime will also broadcast a daily highlights package, while pay broadcaster Sky TV plans to dedicate five 24-hour channels to the sports event, along with highlights packages, and "extensive" coverage online and through mobile phone services.

TVNZ last year revealed it was trying to offload broadcast rights to the Commonwealth Games to Sky. The State broadcaster has been the rights holder for 40 years, but is under financial pressure after a big drop in advertising revenue.

TVNZ was expecting to face a loss of around $5 million to cover this year's Games. The time difference between New Zealand and Delhi would mean most of the Games' main events would screen here late at night or early in the morning.
Sky CEO John Fellet says the combined coverage of the broadcaster's pay and free-to-air channels will give New Zealanders "more extensive and comprehensive coverage than they have ever seen before", with over 1400 hours of television coverage.

Sky is preparing to cover next month's Winter Olympics in Vancouver, including free coverage of events on Prime TV. The Commonwealth Games coverage plans will be a good test for the broadcaster, which also has the rights to the 2012 Beijing Olympics. Sky is proposing 22 hours a day of free-to-air coverage for the Olympic Games.

* Radio NZ: TVNZ sells 2010 Commonwealth Games rights to Sky

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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Quick Turnaround for NZ Lost Fans?

The sixth and final series of ABC's tv show Lost is due to hit American sets on Tues February 2, and TVNZ may have some good news for New Zealand fans of the tv show.

Throng says TVNZ will be playing Lost just 6.5 hours after it screens in the United States (as in 9.30pm Wednesday nights on TV2, from February 3rd), following ABC's hit new show Flash Forward. (The information came from TVNZ's Planit schedule and ratecard information released to advertisers.)

Screening a weekly TV show so quickly after its US airdate is ambitious, but impressive if the plan comes off. (However, there may still be a gap in the screenings at some point, to fit in with a corresponding season hiatus in the US.)

Broadcasters here (particularly TV3 and Prime TV) have been trying to get American and English shows to air more quickly over the last year, to try and limit the ratings effects from illegal downloading and overseas DVDs.

Lost was given a definite ending date by the network a few years ago, after ratings started to drop as viewers either lost faith with the show, or became increasingly confused by the flash-backs, flash-forwards, and mystical storylines.

US Network ABC is expecting (along with international broadcasters) that viewers will return to Lost for its final 18 episode season, to find out how all the complicated puzzle pieces fit together. (Lost was also the second most downloaded tv show for 2009 via BitTorrent).

The show's creators say fans will definitely get the answers they've been waiting five seasons for. In fact, EOnline says there are more "answers" to Lost's mysteries in the show's 2-hour 6th season episode (titled "LA X") than there were in all of last season combined.

John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) takes centre-stage in the final season. It's also a reuinion of sorts, with many of the Lost characters who've died/ disappeared/left over the past 5 years coming back in some capacity, including Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan), Boone Carlyle (Ian Somerhalder), Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond Hume), Jeremy Davies (Daniel Faraday), and Rebecca Mader(Charlotte Lewis).

ABC has released a promo trailer for Season Six, although the clip does not contain any new footage, as the show's creators said it would give away what happened after the hydrogen bomb, and how things now stand with the island.

However a couple of new publicity photos have been released... 'The Lost Supper' (in the style of da Vinci's famous painting The Last Supper), which apparently contain a number of hints about the final series...

* Wall Street Journal: “Lost” Last Supper Promo Pic: Clues Buried Within?
* Daily Mail: Can you decipher it? Lost fans promised a 'shocking finale'
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