Saturday, June 30, 2012

Magnificent 7 go to Deadwoodville

In a little under two hours, TVNZ7 will be dead; buried before its time like a certain HBO historical drama. The imperfect five year experiment boldly went where no talking head had gone before, and probably won't go to again. I've already mourned one last stand with Back Benches. The final showdown can be seen here. There's other colourful characters from TVNZ7 worthy of literary tombstones. Here's two more of 'em.

At least one character has survived the massacre, with Russell Brown's Media 7 transmogrifying into Media 3. The closest NZ had to a show anything like this was Ian Templeton's Fourth Estate from back in the day. But Russell's show is/was a quantum leap ahead, featuring everything from Afghanistan to the Zeitgeist.

The final episode of Media 7 is here. The last one looks at the future of media, what with Oz oligarch Gina Rinehart stomping through Fairfax with all the subtlety of a rhinoceros trying to text on an iPhone.

The Court Report surpassed what could have easily been a dry, jargonistic audio-visual newsletter for the Law Society into a riveting look at aspects of justice and law for all. About the only way the public would ever have the opportunity to pick a QC's brain without picking up the tab is on a show like this. You won't see the Walrus or the Unicorn dissecting terrorism laws and suchlike with such a sharp scalpel.

The final episode of The Court Report is here. It features Tony Bouchier and Robert Lithgow starkly describing the bitter stand-off between lawyers and MiniJust over Legal Aid. Linda Clark also interviews original host Greg King, who is visibly animated by the humane court system he witnessed in the US (of all places) compared to NZ's punitive puritanical Whiteadder Lynch Mob justice system.

The Great Rugby Racing Beer Swindle Cont'd

The NZ Herald continues its look at the festering corruption within the gaming machine swindle. David Fisher reports on a former gaming chief executive:
Mr Wevers said attempts to reform the industry failed as those involved "reverted to behaviour to maximise returns to venues" and trusts. "There were a whole of lot of people and lawyers assisting them who were looking at ways to avoid the law."
 Fisher also talks to convicted gaming fraudster Noel Gibbons:
Counties Manukau Bowls Inc (now in liquidation) became the beneficiary of an ever-increasing level of grants once Gibbons worked out how to get into the pub business, care of investment structure devised by people he knew in trotting circles.
You'd have thought reform would have begun after the great Gold Times court case way back in 2005, which highlighted the broad grey areas where fraud might flourish. Te Ururoa Flavell's Bill is a belated start, drawing much needed scrutiny on the industry. But larger reform is needed to tidy up this Pleasantville Mafia family.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Helen Clark on Cannabis

The 2012 World Drug Report has been released by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). A graphic example of its content is portrayed by the Economist in this Bongoland Chart:

To commemorate the UNODC's report, here's a blast from the past of a current United Nations leader. Here's Norml News Spring 1994, back in the day when Nandor Tanczos was editor. The article below looks at Helen Clark's views on cannabis from that era. As always, click images to embiggerate:

Last call at Back Benches

Just catching the last train home after witnessing the final episode of Back Benches live from the Shepherd's Arms Speights Ale House in Tinakori Road. It was the busiest show I've attended, with something like 350 people spilling out of the place. Adding insult to injury to the final show was a fire alarm in the middle of filming, which rendered the audience and panel onto the winter streets of Wellington (note the Goodnight Kiwi loitering on the left of the shot:

I've attended many Back Benches shows, mainly as an audience member, and on one occasion as a Soapbox speaker (for the Republican movement) as well as a vox pop or two. Rough and boisterous as the show is, I hope it gets picked up elsewhere as it serves a purpose as well as reaches an audience.

Whether it has been the professionalisation of political communication through media advisors, press secretaries and so forth, or other causes, Politics has suffered a disconnect between the apparatus of representative government and the people. Back Benches has helped mend that wound by bringing strangers and political animals alike back into contact with their alleged representatives.

As David Farrar attests in his autopsy of the show, it has also proven to be an excellent training ground for new MPs to gain their feet in the public. Young people are once again interested in political debate. Collegial talk across the cross benches is not unheard of either.

Unlike Farrar, I believe in audience participation. Peter Dunne earned his boos during the introduction tonight. Witnessing the filming of the Native Affairs election special last year, with its nana hecklers, brought home the important part the public plays in this feedback loop.

I hope Back Benches is reincarnated elsewhere, and that the live pub format is not neutered by some timeshifted slot in some arcane morning slot.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Good Gottfried 2; A Game of Stones

No-one has set the lawyers on me for this post on Gottfried Lindauer and some of his work. So, seeing how popular the post was with schools in particular, here's a few more from the gallery. The commentary is by James Cowan, so any mokopuna annoyed by what is written, take it up with him. Happy Matariki.

Children Playing Knuckle Stones

The game of knuckle stones - known to peoples the world over - was popular with Maori children under the name of ruru. It was played with five stones thrown into the air and caught deftly on the back of the hand.

Mr A.W. Reed writes: "In the Maori game a rough square is traced on the ground and the stones are placed in the corners. The player tosses the remaining stone in the air, picks up one of the corner stones and catches the first before it touches the ground. As the game proceeds it becomes more difficult as two, three, or four stones must be picked up before the first stone is caught."

Digging with the Ko

This picture shows a typical scene in a Maori commune in former times. A group of men is preparing the ground for planting the kumara (sweet potato). The ko was used for the first loosening of the soil which was later turned with the broad-bladed kaheru (spade).

The diggers gathered in one corner and worked diagonally across the planting area. The practice of planting in diagonal lines was almost universal with the Maori. The diagonal lines were so designed that the sun, as it travelled across the sky, went "between the rows" as the Maori said.

The men with the ko chanted as they worked and moved as one man to the rhythm of ancient and sacred chants.

There were four processes in connection with the planting of the crop - the loosening of the soil, the pulverising of the earth with wooden clubs and careful removal of the roots, the formation of mounds, and the distribution of the seed tubers at the mounds. The planters then attended to the actual planting. Chiefs, commoners, and slaves - men and women - joined in this work in most districts but there were tribes who forbade women taking part in the important task of planting.


Taraia Ngakuti te Tumuhuia was a fierce, uncompromising old firebrand until the end of his days. From his boyhood he was constantly on the warpath, leading his tribe, the Ngati-Tamatera (a sub-tribe of the Ngati-Maru) on one expedition or another. He was one of the principal fighting chiefs of what was known as the Marutuahu, a confederation of numerous and powerful tribes living around the Waihou Valley.

At one time he joined Te Rauparaha and went with him on one of his marauding expeditions to the South Island. He fought at Kaikoura and Kaiapoi against the powerful Ngai-Tahu of Canterbury. After this action he returned to his home at Puru, near Thames.

In 1842, he set off once again, this time to settle an old score with the people of the Ngai-te-Rangi at Katikati, near Tauranga. In this skirmish four men, one woman, and a child were killed, and also some men who were trying to escape in a canoe. After the action, an old-time cannibal feast was held; one of the last in New Zealand. When the news reached Auckland, Acting-Governor Shortland visited Taraia at his pa near Thames to make inquiries. He was received with civility by Taraia. When questioned about the alleged cannibal feast, Taraia freely admitted that it had taken place. But, he said, as it was an old Maori custom and no European was involved, he considered it concerned the Maori alone and he advised the Government to mind its own business.

James Mackay records an example of the imperious manners of the old chief in commenting on the method of administering food to a person under tapu, as illustrated in an earlier picture in this book (goNZo's Note: See top link).

He wrote: "The last occasion on which I saw it performed wan in 1866 at Ohinemuri when Taraia received a drink of water from a slave. Taraia placed his two hands close together with the thumbs outwards and palms upwards; he then put the wrists under his chin and elevated the fingers and the water was poured from a gourd, or calabash, into his mouth. In removing the vessel the attendant happened to touch the chief's extended fingers with it. Taraia cursed the man, seized the calabash and broke it into fragments, collecting the pieces and burnt them on a wahitapu (sacred place).

Paora (Paul) Tuhaere

The chief Paora Tuhaere, of Orakei, Auckland,was one of the best known and widely respected members of the Maori race and a fine example of the old time Maori rangatira. He could speak of the time when he saw the first European settlers put up their tents and raupo whares on the fern covered hills where the city of Auckland now stands.

He was born about 1825 and was a nephew of the famous warrior Apihai te Kawau who was sketched by the artist Angas in 1841. On Apihai's death, Paora became the most influential chief of the Ngati-Whatua, of the Auckland district, known to the Maoris as Tamaki.

Paora was a man of peace. Throughout his life he was a friend of the white people. In 1844 he and other chiefs of his tribe went to Whangarei and made peace with Te Parawhau, then hostile to the Ngati-Whatua.

His kindly and genial tattooed face was familiar to all living around Auckland during the city's early years. He died in 1892 and at his home settlement at Okahu Bay, on the shores of Auckland harbour, a monument marks his last resting place.

*          *          *           *

This picture and another Lindauer painting of Paora Tuhaere supply a fascinating demonstration of how the moko was equivalent to a signature or finger print. The second painting was presented to the Auckland City Art Gallery by another donor. It was painted in 1878 and shows Tuhaere as a much younger man, in European clothes. The picture reproduced here shows him in Maori garb toward the end of his life.

There is little in the appearance of the two pictures to suggest that they are of the same man except the moko, which is identical in each painting.

Major Ropata Wahawaha N.Z.C.

A remarkable figure in the history of the wars with the Hauhaus was Major Ropata, warrior chief of the Ngati-Porou, East Cape. A fearless and determined, even ruthless, soldier, he took the side of the Government at the outbreak of the Hauhau wars and the story of his stubborn chase after the rebel leader, Te Kooti, reads like wild romance.

In his boyhood he was taken prisoner by a Poverty Bay tribe and kept as a captive for some years, a number of his people being killed and eaten in the raid in which he was captured. In his later life Ropata took a grim and stern revenge on his oldtime enemies.

In 1864 he began to distinguish himself on the side of the Queen against the Hauhaus. In a fight at Tikitiki he killed a chief with his stome mere, in single combat out in front of his people's lines. For his attack against heavy odds at Ngatapa in 1868 he was awarded the New Zealand Cross. After the capture of Ngatapa, Ropata was left by Colonel Whitmore to deal with the Hauhau prisoners. He gave them short shrift.

In 1870-71 he grimly pursued Te Kooti through the wild forests of the Urewera, in spite of starvation, cold and snow. Innumerable stories are told of Ropata's prowess in battle, of his fearless leadership and of his unrelenting treatment of captured enemies. When a pa was to be stormed or a dangerous position to be won, there was Ropata in the forefront of the charge. His column was the last to remain in the field against Te Kooti.

In after years of peace he was the recipient of a Highland claymore from Queen Victoria. He became a respected member of the Legislative Council and was more than eighty when he died in 1899.

Huria Matenga (Julia Martin)

Heroine of an exploit which earned her the name of "the Grace Darling of New Zealand", Huria Matenga was a daughter of a chief of Whakapuaka, a village on the shores of the Nelson province.

Early on the morning of 4 December 1863, the Maoris saw a vessel lying wrecked on the rocks off shore. It was the Delaware, a brigantine that had sailed from Nelson the previous day. In trying to beat against a strong gale, the vessel was driven on to the rocks, with a huge sea sweeping over her. The mate made an effort to swim ashore with a line but a big sea caught him and dashed him against the rocks. He was hauled back to the ship severely injured.

The Maoris on shore saw the distress of the crew and hurried to the beach. Huria and her young husband Hemi Matenga and a young man named Kahupuku threw off their clothing and swam half a mile through heavy seas until they caught a line from the ship and brought it ashore. Then they assisted each of the crew in turn to safety, sometimes dashing into the surf to rescue those who had fallen from the rope.

When it was learned that the injured mate was still on the ship, Huria and Hemi swam out once again and brought him ashore. The bravery of these Maoris created a great stir at Nelson and money was raised on their behalf. When Huria died in 1909 at the age of seventy-five, both Maori and pakeha united to do her honour. A memorial portrait also by Lindauer, which hangs in the Art Gallery at Nelson, shows her at a later stage of her life.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Seen to be done

You wouldn't know it from the MSM, but there is more to courtrooms than murders. Whether it is the morbid fascination borne of watching too many UK murder mystery dramas on TV One, or the bleeding leading headlines of our ambulance-chasing tabloid papers, all eyes are on the big murder trials. All the nuance, precedent and day-to-day miseries of the majority of dock jockeys are largely ignored, never seeing the light of day.

It's one of the reasons I support court transcripts being published online at the end of each day. Instead of the MSM being the gatekeepers of the public's access to the courts, these judicial Hansards would be available for all to read.

Stephen Stratford over at Quote Unquote links to one particular court transcript which shows the potential for such a scheme:
How to talk to a judge. This PDF of a transcript of a Queensland trial has gone viral but here it is in case you missed it. It’s only 167KB so is a tiny download and well worth it. A small sample follows (warning: this is from Australia so may contain coarse language).

And now, here's Nick Cave and Samuel L. Jackson playing the same song differently:


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Orwell and the second law of thermodynamics

If this fascinating account of a 10-year old Civ II game is anything to go by, mankind's future is in an Orwellian Total War Dystopia, surrounded by a sea of entropy caused by the four plagues of the Athropocene Era; war, pestilence, famine and nukes. I encourage you to read the original post and comments.

Friday, June 08, 2012


It's a sad day for political animals, cartoonists and bon vivants, as the Backbenchers Pub was ravaged by fire this morning. Jeez, I haven't felt this bummed out since they closed the fish and chip shop opposite Parliament to build the Kate Sheppard apartments.

Thankfully no-one was injured or killed in the fire, however National coalition MP puppets for Peter Dunne and Pita Sharples were among the casualties, as well as an unknown number of original political cartoons.

The makers of the world's only live political TV show hosted in a pub, Back Benches, had only three more shows to go before death by National party firing squad. Maybe they'll take over the Sports Bar or find an alternative room at the labyrinthine Backbenchers building. Maybe they'll wind up at another venue entirely. The scouts are out for the final three.

Things will never be the same again. But at least Wellington's secular cathedral is fixable, and the wine cellar intact. And so it goes.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

At war with the non-laws

About the only way you'd get my interest during the Olympics is if they made swearing a competitive sport. Alas, it will only be non-professional level curses on Wellington's sports fields and in its parks if anyone tries to tell me that Wellington City Council has banned smoking there.

In truth, this do-gooding bylaw has no power. One can't be fined or punished in any way for breaching it. No court in the land would uphold its constitutionality if it was ever tested. It is just one of those vacuous "sending a message" laws from the Department of Something Must Be Done.

However, if some safety nazi wants to help me limber up my offensive lingo by tut-tutting the next time I fug past them while smelling the roses, be warned. The air will not be blue because of the smoke.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Nothing for Harry?

Tracy Watkins reports on John Key's trip to the UK, where our endorphin-rich PM tanked up UK counterpart David Cameron with the finest wines known to plutocracy. I'd have gone with a Kumeu River Merlot Cabernet and a Stoneleigh Riesling, a better match for duty-free cigars and barbecues.

Lizzie Windsor was handed cheese, whilst Wills and Kate were drooled over a bit by their loyal subject John Key, anticipating their visit to NZ later in the year. Kate and Wills were flattered to know that John Key will bail out Wanganui Collegiate indefinitely in the hope that their progeny will one day grace its halls, like the uncle Prince Eddie did in 1982.

Presumably none of NZ's Finest was in the diplomatic bag for Harry, which is a shame. I think he would have appreciated our epicurean product, which surpasses that Moroccan stuff he is fond of.

Monday, June 04, 2012


John Armstrong reports from the Green Party's AGM in Silverstream. Good to hear they're working on some protocols for when (and no longer if) they become a potent force in government. The lot of them are governmental virgins, and will face a baptism of fire and pain when they finally lie down in the Beehive and on the Cabinet table.

Labour are still lost in La-la Land, currently looking at raising or lowering the Super entitlement age, depending on the time of the day. Mallard and Little are playing Clowns to Crusher's Keystone Cops. I can't even remember what their Shadow portfolios are any more. Cunliffe still thinks he's the second coming, and there's a cadre of Believers and Enablers still clutching his sandal as a sign of their faith in his miracle powers.

The Greens aren't going to leave all that political territory go to waste, especially when Labour is defending it with all the discipline of the British army on LSD. In all likelihood, the next coalition government with be co-led by Labour and Green party leaders.

In at the deep end. Will they sink like all the others, or will they swim? Don't get delusions of flying when you haven't even packed a flotation device. At least they're getting some swimming lessons in before getting into the Captain's Bunk.