Thursday, December 26, 2013


Steven Joyce's elves at Worksafe have closed down a popular tourist attraction at the start of its busiest season.

They may have been AWOL at Pike River Mine, they couldn't stop the Interislander ferry's propellor from falling off, but they can make damned sure there's no mayhem and carnage caused by the Kapiti Miniature Railway & Model Engineering Society.

I had the good fortune to get invited over for Xmas drinkies with the neighbours, who happen to be donkey deep defending against this great train snobbery. The courts are on glide time, and the soonest the train nerds might get the attraction running again is mid-January. By then, school holidays will be over.

Something smells about this whole affair, and I have offered my powers of beligerence to help their cause in any way. I have no particular love of trains, but I don't like seeing bureaucrats pick on trainspotters for no good reason.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Kiwi Killjoys; 5 Fun Criminal Acts That Weren't Illegal in NZ When I Was Born

1) Drinking on Wellington's Waterfront at 3am. In the parlance of The Wire, on a hot summer night, the corner is the poor man's lounge. There are few things more memorable than getting drunk in the small hours with a beautiful woman on Wellington's waterfront, the best lounge in the world (weather permitting).

Unfortunately, an unholy alliance between local government busy bodies and national government police goons have produced liquor-free zones that would make alcohol prohibitionist Kate Sheppard proud. Soon, every part of NZ will be highchair-friendly 24/7 , and no-one will witness those Yayoi Kusama-like infinity moments on the Wellington harbour again. Not without a private patch of Oriental Bay real estate, at least.

2) Dancing til dawn at an NZ nightclub. The party may never end at John Key's house, but due to new alcohol laws which came into force this week, all bars must now close at 4am. It's like a puritan mash-up of 6 o'clock closing and daylight saving. Patricia Bartlett must be genuflecting in her grave. Her vision of a bland NZ mindset has come true.

David Farrar points out the empty vessels of youth binge drinking hysteria. Lest we forget, NZ is out-drunk by 48 other countries.

3) Cycling without a helmet, another National party crime. Jim Bolger's car-happy used car salesmen constituents got a fuel injection in the 1990's. Not only was a new line in cheap Jap imports flooding in after import restrictions were lifted, cycling was actively discouraged as an alternative form of transport by making it illegal to cycle without wearing a polystyrene tit on one's head.

Even rotan-happy Singapore, which cruelly and unusally punishes people for smoking, long hair and chewing gum (among many many other fickle deviances) has no laws mandating bike helmets. New news everyone, legally required bike helmets may cause more harm than good.

4) Smoking in an adult environment (i.e. bar). One of the great joys I used to look forward to after a hard day of dealing with other people was sitting down at the local bar with a pint of ale, a blank pad of paper, a pen, and a pack of cigarettes. Alas, this is now considered a crime against humanity. This just in, a longitudinal study has shown that second-hand smoke cancer does not fucking exist .

5) Cannabis. First grown in NZ by a nun, popularised by visiting US soldiers during WWII, blamed by the vanilla people for the Bassett Road murders. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 gave police increasing powers, to the point where dope fiends are now treated more harshly than murderers and fraudsters. Persecution on this level hasn't been seen since the Anglicans tried to wipe out the Catholics.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Black Abbott

Back when I was going bananas in Queensland, the Oz grape vine hummed about how the Great Barrier Reef was dying. Arguments could be had whether the farmers or the tourist industry was to blame, but no-one argued that something was killing it. If nothing changed for the better, within fifty years or so, the Great Barrier Reef would be as real as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. That is, not at all.

Sometime between then and now, someone wisely threw a World Heritage Site designation upon the Great Barrier Reef. This has not stopped newly-minted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott blacking up the place with one of the world's largest coal ports on its doorstep, nor permitting it to infinitely crap on its front lawn:
Unfortunately, soon a massively destructive coal port will be built just 50 km north of the magnificent Whitsunday Islands. The port expansion was approved by the Abbott Liberal National government on Wednesday 11 December, and it will become one of the world's largest coal ports.

The coal export facility is ironically located on Abbot Point. The construction of this port will involve dredging 3 million cubic metres of seabed. The dredge spoil will be dumped into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

To give you an idea of the scale of this dredging, if all of the spoil was put into dump trucks, there would be 150,000 of them lined up bumper to bumper from Brisbane to Melbourne.

This is the desperation of a mining industry grasping at a downward spiral, Dutch disease by environmental hari-kari. NZ learned a less harsh lesson with Solid Energy.

Dagg knows what a disappearing Great Barrier Reef will do to Oz weather patterns. Here's hoping those Queenslanders have their nonsense on reinforced stilts.

And now, here's an Xmas message from the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Atkinson. This message managed to become the most complained-about thing on Brit TV for the year.

Happy Summer Solstice, whinge pom pom pom pom.

If You Wish Upon a Pineapple Lump

Felix Na'vi Dad; James Cameron's pet blue Santa. Nicked from here.

The Smiling Assassin has done it again, dividing and conquering his political foes with glamour and a fistful of taxpayer dollars.

Some of Key's most vocal critics this year agree with the Avatar deal announced this week.

Gordon Campbell yums it up, rallying against Treasury as he ponders some mystic economic multiplier effect that they haven't discovered yet. At least he recognises the singular nature of the scheme:
You could call the 25% top rate the Avatar clause, because the conditions seem to have been devised simply to attract and retain the next three Avatar films in this country.

They said that about the LOTR deal back in the day too. See how the sheltered bubble grows? Rod Oram, who has been hard nosed on everything from the Chorus copper to the Tiwai Smelter pay-off this year, gives the scheme a big tick also.

Fortunately, saner voices still exist. Here's Matt Nolan at TVHE looking at the high cost of sexy:
Ok, so who are the people who get all this “pride” from the movies? Generally, middle class New Zealanders. Who is paying, generally wealthier New Zealanders (as they pay most of the tax). What spending is likely to be sacrificed in order to pay for subsides, poor New Zealanders.
Eric Crampton chips in. Patrick Smellie suffers slings and arrows from the Na'vi lovers. Bernard Hickey sums up the bad math:
The Government spent nearly half a billion dollars in seven years and got back NZ$13.6 million in net economic benefits. Not only that, but the extra spending actually reduced the Government's fiscal position by NZ$168 million.

The Labour Party sold out to the luvvies and drama queens ages ago. The best Labour can come up with by way of opposition to the scheme is that it should have been sooner. There's no room for principles in either of the main parties these days.

Here's the conclusion of my father's Maiden Speech to Parliament in 1981. For the purposes of this discussion, replace the farmers with film producers, Timaru with Cameronton/Jacksonville, and wool bales with box office takings:
I do not think people know what happens with supplementary prices. In Timaru, at a sale before Christmas, a station received 620c a kilo for merino wool - a New Zealand record: $5600 for seven bales. Yet tax gathered from the widows, the widowers, and the poor was used to pay that station another $1400 in supplentary minimum prices despite that record price. The reason was that the coarse wool average reduced it below 320c, down to 255c. So to the rich again shall it be given, and from the poor shall it be taken away. There is immorality and injustice in that.

I say to all members on the government benches, and to the farming people who are listening, if they are not aware of it, that privelege and class distinction - long since gone from New Zealand- are raising their heads again under the National government. The poor are refused bread, that the rich may eat cake. Many of our ancestors left England and other countries because of hereditary land rights, and because they could not get a chance. That is happening again to New Zealand.

Peace on earth, except the Na'vi Dad. I hope a pineapple falls on his head while he's holidaying in Hawaii.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

LOKI Awards 2013

What a year it has been, this foul year of our Borg 2013, bogged as it was with evidence of widespread perversions of justice, rule of law breaches and abuse of public office. It could easily be called Year of the Misanthropist, due to the usual benefit of the doubt being aborted in favour of universal suspicions and thinking the worst of everyone.

So take heart that it's time for the LOKI (League of Kiwi Intellectuals) Awards, which celebrate NZ shit-stirring above and beyond the call of duty.

The joint winners of the Long Form Forensic Journalism Award goes jointly to Rebecca Macfie and David Fisher for their books Tragedy at Pike River Mine: How and Why 29 Men Died and the Secret Life of Kim Dotcom: Spies, Lies and the War for the Internet respectively. Necessary narratives for our times.

The Benjamin Franklin Kite Flying in a Lightning Storm Award goes to Colin Espiner, for being the most outspoken MSM commenter on public matters. He may not always be on the money, but as far as getting digressing policy points across, he's streets ahead of the self-aggrandising Three Stooges of brother Guyon, Duncan Garner and Paddy Gower.

The Aaron Gilmore "Do You Know Who I Am?" Award goes to Andrea Vance, for no other reason than being challenged by a protestor during the Million Mask March that she hadn't done her bit to fight oppressive state surveillance.

You don't have to commit the perfect crime in NZ to get away with it. Sloppy or negligent criminality will do fine too. Therefore, the "Someone's Got to Do It" Award goes to Graham McCready, who has found a niche in privately prosecuting people the Crown can't or won't. First scalp was John Banks, now he's gunning for Pike River.

But the Big LOKI 2013 Award goes to Mihirangi Forbes and the team at Native Affairs for exposing Kohanga Reo financial irregularities. Brave, sometimes thankless, investigative journalism at its finest. Onya.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Signs of the Times

The first round of results from the census in March have been spitting out of the government statisticians this week. The data has been impressively visualised, but the big surprise was in the language department:
Hindi [is] now the fourth most common language[.]
There was a slight decrease in the percentage of the population who spoke Māori, at 3.7 percent in 2013 compared with 4.1 percent in 2006. Younger people were more likely to speak Māori than older people.

Use of New Zealand Sign Language fell. In 2013, 20,235 people used New Zealand Sign Language, down from 24,087 people in 2006.
I have a theory on why NZSL use is dropping, even as Deaf Culture has become increasingly mainstream over the last decade.

Firstly, the surge in NZers born Deaf due to the Rubella epidemics and other curable ailments of the 20th Century has passed, leading to fewer people born Deaf. Short of another bout of Rubella (possibly caused by Soccer Mums objecting to immunisation), or similar epidemic, the proportion of Natural Born Deaf has shrunk to the usual infinitesimal probability.

Secondly, mainstream schooling has divided and conquered a unified Deaf. While it has naturalised diversity within schools, it islanded the Deaf in the dead sea of Norm Conformity. How does one learn NZSL when you're the only Deaf in the village?

Thirdly, the growth in the Deaf population will increase most in the post-lingual section, through workplace habitat, age or earplug tinnitus. NZSL might be intuitive, but the older one gets, the less brain plasticity there is to learn a new language.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Hooton Factor

Bomber rightly fears Hooton. Smarter than a kangaroo whip, savvier than Sally the saveloy, can leap polysyllabic phrases that leave John Key strangling on Struggle Street. If party leaders are adding an extra finger to their Friday tonics this week, Hooton most certainly is Bomber's Kryptonite and a half.

Act is surely burnt toast. Factions calling for Rodney Hide's return are simply delusional on too many axes. Never mind why he went in the first place, how about learning a repeating lesson now and then? For example, there is no second bite of the political apple. Roger Douglas was a man out of time. Banks was too. Same mistake three times is loopy behaviour.

Politics is about timing and numbers, and is wedge-shaped in at least six directions. Act's arc has passed in at least five dimensions, and the calculus adds up that there is space for something new on the political menu, or Neo, as Hooton sez (gated). One must spot while the knives are hot, as Toronto Mayor Bumblefuck might say.

A problem remains. Where does a supreme political dark artist turn to for a second opinion? There's a fine line between being singular and becoming a singularity and disappearing up one's own arsehole.

Might this foolish blogger humbly suggest 5 positive media opportunities that could increase public exposure to Hooton, aside from his sober rant over the passing of Nelson Mandela at Public Address?

1. No Dancing With the Stars. But that's just teaching how to suck eggs. Let's get serious with a Krypton Factor of fluffy bunnies.

2. Hooton's Drunk History of NZ Politics. Matthew Hooton and a panel of experts get drunk and a live studio audience quizzes them on various aspects of NZ political history. Some recounted scenes are improvved by a band of local actors in front of the studio audience.

3. Hooton reads extracts of Nicky Hager's book The Hollow Men and uploads them to YouTube. Chapters are performed in various styles; Orson Welles, William Shatner, Pee Wee Herman, Margaret Thatcher, Christopher Walken, etc.

4. Hooton's Got Talent. Hooton goes on NZ's Got Talent, showing off his masterful wit and ventriloquism skills with his caustic dummy companion, Worzel Scrummage.

5. Hooton Off. Hooton has a new show on Radio Live, replacing Willie and JT's time slot. The basic premise of Hooton Off is that Hooton says something outrageously neo-liberal about issues of the day, and rebuts his callers with Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, instead of the right-wing libertarian's favourite blunt instrument, the Wealth of Nations.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Patsy Who

The Act party ideology has always had difficulty trying to find a face to front it.

Roger Douglas could never be leader. Rogernomics had forever corrupted the name of Roger Douglas in the public mind. Today, he is the far Left's grand bogeyman, even as they benefit from his legacy and pinch his policies from his book Unfinished Business (for example, Gareth Morgan's Big Kahuna, Labour's forlorn tax free threshold, and the Greens' minimum family income is not a million miles away from what Douglas called the GMFI).

Richard Prebble ended up becoming the first Parliamentary leader of Act, seeing as he had the least worst image issues combined with the experience and wit. When it all went Pete Tong on Prebs and the Act party needed a new face to regenerate interest in its existence, the mad-sack-of-cats caucus abdicated responsibility to the members and Rodney Hide became the new leader, beating rival Stephen Franks in a primary face off.

After electoral decimation and Rodney Hide's mid-life transmogrification, the sack of cats caucus was replaced by a freak show line-up. Joining Gomez Rodney were Morticia Hilary Calvert, Uncle Fester David Garrett, Wednesday Heather Roy and the shadow of Roger Douglas Lurching away in the background.

Don Brash fouled up Act's next regeneration, resulting in the Zombie John Banks that they can't seem to get rid of. John Banks today announced he won't be seeking re-election in Epsom. However, he will remain leader until the next election.

The next Act board meeting that takes place in the phone booth had better realise that they can't afford the luxury of getting hotboxed by a zombie farting away in the corner before debarking at his leisure. Give the next patsy some clean air.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Moving Pictures

NZ on Screen has compiled a list of NZ's top 10 films. All due respect, but I beg to differ with their conclusions.

I first learned the power of public persuasion through the art of film. Not long after accidentally watching Peter Weir's head-fucky The Last Wave at the precocious age of seven, the author as a child witnessed Sleeping Dogs at the movie theatre as well. Futures were changed.

Around a decade later, in the '80s, I discovered the fulcrum of one. I had given the old man a Footrot Flats poster for Xmas; the one with Wal as successful duck shooter, with Dog nagging him about the orphaned ducklings. Then-journo Genivieve Westcott used the poster to frame Trev's opposition to film subsidies as then-Revenue Minister in a Close Up special, seeing how the Footrot Flats movie was going through the art of funding at that time.

My argument was more nuanced than the old man's, and I let him know it. The arms race of film subsidies is a game we can't win. And don't get me started on the laws of Hollywood quantum accounting methods. The best we can do is tell universal truths through our specific NZ qualities. If it reaches a larger audience through striking the right chord, woohoo.

But there's no point in blowing a subsidised bubble only for it to burst, shattering the illusions of an industry. Hobbit and Avatar tax breaks are just SMPs for the already-wealthy and wise. It feeding money into the wrong end of the film beast.

I agree with six of NZ on Screen's choices: Goodbye Pork Pie, Smash Palace, Utu, Vigil, Once Were Warriors and In My Father's Den. But the Piano? Oscar, schmoscar. Here's my top Five NZ films not included on NZ on Screen's list, in no particular order.

1. Sleeping Dogs - Duh. Years before I read Orwell, Sleeping Dogs was a mad reflection of Muldoon's idea of NZ. One of Don Brash's redeeming features, seeing how he helped fund it. Watching the DVD is worth it for getting a taste of the sparse Kiwi conversation on the so un-Hollywood Director's commentary. Worth a reboot, if for no other reason than token Yank Warren Oates arrived so close to filming, he was holding his script as a prop.

2. The Quiet Earth - NZ's only hard sci-fi film. Bruno Lawrence at Eden Park in a tutu.

3. Christmas - Seasonally appropriate look at the painful tradition inflicted upon NZers by their baby boomer nut job parents. The Royal Tenenbaums watching Bad Santa.

4. Bad Taste - Peter Jackson before the bloat. Splatter comedy with Caesar Romero levels of satire, at a fraction of the budget. I lived around the corner from the Hataitai house they used for Brain Dead, Feebles will always splat Hobbits, and Heavenly Creatures was well crafted enough, but Bad Taste was something new.

5. Stickmen - Wellington's answer to Guy Ritchie. The windy city has villains too, y'know.