30 November 2014

The Irish police force

It's only when you've been and experienced American cops that you're so glad to be either Irish or British, where our Old Bill don't get a gun routinely. Does everybody know about the Irish police force, An Garda Síochána? They're a quality police force, and they're the friend of the comedian. When I was sixteen, I got arrested for teenage drinking in a park when I asked the cop, 'Have you got a gun?' And, I quote, he said: 'Why would I need a gun when I can take off me shoe and beat you wit' it?'

Less guns, more shoes! That's why Ireland has no history of tragic school shoeings.

- Andrew Maxwell, The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, 28 November 2014

16 November 2014

Mr Putin departs Brisbane

Walking up Elizabeth Street in Brisbane on a furnace-like Queensland Sunday during the G20 conference (16 November 2014) I spotted a collection of crowd barriers and a phalanx of motorcycle cops in the middle of the road, awaiting something important. They were outside the Hilton hotel, and a young chap with a camera nearby informed me that the officers and several dozen spectators were waiting for the departure from the hotel of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had stated that he was departing the G20 conference several hours early in order to catch a few extra hours of sleep on his way back to important business in Moscow.

After about 20 minutes of waiting in the 40-degree Brisbane heatwave, during which time the traffic backed up down the length of Elizabeth Street, the Russian party emerged behind obscuring glass shields placed in front of the hotel parking zone, and boarded a fleet of vehicles. Putin's Mercedes limo emerged swiftly with the Russian leader in the rear right-hand seat; he waved briefly to the crowd and was soon out of sight as the convoy headed to the airport. Despite the icy diplomatic conditions of Putin's visit there was no animosity in the crowd; like me, people just seemed to be keen to spot a world leader in person.  

While waiting for the Russian leader's departure I took a few scene-setting photos in case they turned out well later. One prominent sentry in front of the hotel cut a particularly imposing figure - the man pictured below. I assumed he was a scary Russian secret service officer, trained to snap enemies of the Russian state in two with his bare hands. Upon returning home and examining the image more closely, I noticed from his name-tag that it was in face Officer Mark Fyfe of the New Zealand Police. So for frying for nearly half an hour in direct sunlight in 40 degree temperatures whilst wearing a full business suit and tie, and looking appropriately mean while doing so, I salute you!

14 November 2014

The Ox

Just the bass of The Who's John Entwistle, otherwise known as 'The Ox', from the epic live recording of Won't Get Fooled Again at the Shepperton Studios on 25 May 1978. This was the last live appearance with drummer Keith Moon, who died on 7 September of the same year. Entwistle was famed for his taciturn stage presence, but anyone would've paled in comparison to his bandmates. He does look rather morose and blasé about the whole thing in this clip - just playing astonishing bass runs on one of the most enduring rock tracks of the 20th century, nothing to see here...

See also:
Music: The Who at Monterey Pop, 31 January 2014
Music: L-o-o-o-o-ng songs, 11 June 2008
Music: The Who - The Real Me (live, 1979)

12 November 2014

Competing in a market of fluff and titillation

From an interesting discussion with Russell Brown on 'Media Take' the week before last, on the outsourcing of Maori and Pacific broadcasting from within TVNZ to external providers:

'[These shows] have been around for 30 years. [Like] Tagata Pasifika: there is nothing else on TV for our Pasifika whanau. And Waka Huia and Marae, [they] are the programmes that have documented our histories. We can't compete in a market that's looking for fluff and titillation. There needs to be a place that by purpose and by design records and represents the oral histories, the recorded histories of our people in this country, in a mainstream way. Not everything has to come through Maori TV'.
- Marama Fox MP, 'Media Take', Maori TV, 28 October 2014
I completely agree with Fox - it's vital that Maori stories and culture are shared by dedicated experts to the largest possible audience. But I'd go one step further and point out that the same exposure should be everyone's right in New Zealand, and is what we had via TVNZ until its public service remit was killed off, and which was then extinguished more comprehensively by the closure of public service digital channel TVNZ7. What we have now - a corporate, ad-driven national broadcaster that only serves advertisers, not the public interest, is a ridiculous embarrassment. And as commentator Richard Pamatatau points out in the same programme, it's a broadcaster that increasingly fails to reflect the diverse multicultural reality of modern New Zealand:

'What will happen is that the expertise from inside TVNZ that can correct what will become an increasingly white broadcaster or publisher won't be there. So when TVNZ risks making a mistake around broadcasting something that is connected with the Pacific population, the in-house expertise won't be there, and then it becomes an organisation that is less credible, and it's not best practice. It becomes "the white man's view of the world"'.
- Richard Pamatatau, Pacific Island Media Association, ibid.
See also:
TV: Watching 7 Sharp (so you don't have to), 10 August 2014
TV: Diversifying TV1's schedule, 25 March 2014
TV: TV flashback 1976, 12 February 2014

11 November 2014

Obama's domestic legacy

Joe Biden called it straight. When Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010, the vice-president was heard to whisper by his side, "This is a big f...... deal!" It really is, too.  This is as good as it gets for Democrats of every vintage [...]

This is a political legacy all on its own and Obama has his name on it. Ten million Americans who had no insurance before 2010 do so now. Premiums are lower than feared and the rate of the uninsured has fallen from 20 percent to 15 percent. Into the bargain, Obamacare has also created 9 million jobs.

Which is the second part of the case for Obama. The inheritance from George W Bush was awful but, where Reagan inflated the deficit, Obama has reduced it. The unemployment rate, which almost doubled under Bush, has fallen from 10 percent to less than 6 per cent under Obama. The US$800 billion pump-priming plan attracted criticism but it helped to stimulate a recovery that has been quicker than in any European nation [...]

Obama has also won victories in the chronic culture war. His first executive act was to sign the Fair Pay Act into legislation. Two women have been appointed to the Supreme Court and Obama lifted the ban on gays in the military, another cause that eluded Clinton.

Obama has actually done, in other words, what Democrats have before only talked of doing. The gap between the appearance and the reality is precisely because Obama was such a good talker. Ascending to the White House on a wave of gorgeous sound, Obama excited hopes that could never be satisfied but that should not obscure the fact that he has achieved more than the Kennedys or Clintons that British politicians so oddly revere.

- Philip Collins, The Times, 7 November 2014 (reprinted in Dominion Post, 8 November 2014)

09 November 2014

Cadets at Parliament

150 cadets from around New Zealand commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Cadet Forces, on the steps of Parliament, 9 November 2014.

Guy Fawkes 2014

Photos of last night's Guy Fawkes fireworks display in Wellington harbour, taken from Queens Wharf. It was a perfect night for the display: mild, with no wind.

See also:

08 November 2014

Two-thirds of the distance to the Moon

Lyall Bay, 8 November 2014

During my recent long weekend drive to Hawke's Bay my own little exemplar of vintage motoring had a significant birthday. Not content with merely passing 20 years on the road this year, my 1994 Ford Laser GL wagon (KE model) also passed 250,000km. I've had the Laser slightly more than three years, and in that time have added only 18,000km to the odometer, so it's hardly been a challenging workout. It's been a good reliable runabout, particularly good at long-distance drives. And it's nice to think that it was actually made in New Zealand too, having been turned out by the Ford factory in Wiri before that was closed down in 1997.

07 November 2014

Something For The Weekend

Commemorating the 44th birthday of Northern Irish singer-songwriter Neil Hannon today, here is the first charting single of his band The Divine Comedy, which climbed to number 14 in the UK charts in June 1996. This was the first of a run of 12 UK top 40 singles for the band over a period of eight years. Something For The Weekend, if memory serves, was written for Kate Beckinsale - note the repeated lyrical references to Cold Comfort Farm - and features her giggling at the opening and during the bridge. The track was from the band's breakthrough album Casanova, which also contains two songs that were originally written as potential themes for the classic sitcom Father Ted. The video, shot in and around Venice's St Mark's Square, features the typically dapper Hannon and a model (not Beckinsale). Aside from 10 Divine Comedy albums, Hannon has also gone on to make two appealingly eccentric concept albums about cricket with collaborator Thomas Walsh of the band Pugwash, under the name The Duckworth Lewis Method.


06 November 2014

How to do good sentences

Why sentences? Well, that question answers itself, really. Look at it: “Why sentences?” There’s something missing, isn’t there? I’ll tell you: yes. What’s missing is the rest of the words. And it’s shoddy. It’s shoddy and lazy. It’s shoddy and lazy and frustrating, sticking out there like a bad piece of junk. I’m disappointed on both our behalves. It could have read:

  • Why is sentences good?
  • Why are we be using sentences?
  • Why sentences appropriate?
  • Why should I do sentences?

All of the above is correct. Give yourself a clap if you knew that. You’re well on your way to being really good at this!

- James Thomas, 'How to write a sentence', New Yorker, 24 October 2014

04 November 2014

Nature's fury caused 'by atheist excretions'

‘The immediate reason for last year’s floods in this region may have been excessive rain,’ [India's] water resources minister Uma Bharti told a committee meeting of the Himalayan Institute of Glaciology and Forest Research in Dehradun (northern India), ‘but I know the real cause. The underlying reason was defecation and urination by atheists near to the shrine of Kedarnath.  Human excretory activities have been forbidden within the area around the shrine since 1882, and for a century all was well.  But in recent years, non-believers started coming here for business purposes, and they used the area as a toilet.  This angered the Gods and resulted in nature’s fury at Kedarnath in 2013’.

Despite protestations that her comments defied scientific logic, Bharti explained that ‘I am here to discuss the reconstruction of the Kedarnath shrine. I intend to restore the status of no-man’s land around the shrine, and have already reinstated the ban on human excretion. And as you can see, the Saraswati river has since reduced to a mere trickle’.

- Hindustan Times, 16 September 2014, spotted by Tim Poston & quoted in Private Eye 1377, 17-30 October 2014

03 November 2014

Bill Bailey

Bailey gets one up on Mamma Mia
Bill Bailey – Limboland
Michael Fowler Centre
2 November 2014

In last night’s Wellington performance, English comedian Bill Bailey showed the advantages of knitting together a comedy set with good-natured tangential rambling, strong energy and physical humour, and by not dumbing down a routine for international audiences – for example, leaving in a Wildean reference to a seemingly ageless David Cameron ‘having a portrait in his attic’.  

Commencing with an introductory conversation about the recent New Zealand election, Bailey showed that he’d done more research than just scanning that morning’s newspaper, but fortunately he swiftly moved on to more interesting fare, issuing a mild but entertaining rant about the underwhelming world of British politics. (On Labour leader Ed Miliband: ‘The man looks like he’s just caught the bouquet at a funeral’).  

Satire soon merged into Bailey’s traditional mix of musical comedy and observational whimsy, both of which still work admirably on stage with Bailey having honed his performance skills over many years. Tales of run-ins with wounded geese, Buckingham Palace security, the perils of taking your elderly in-laws dog-sledding to see the Northern Lights, intimidating catchphrase-quoting Estonian airport security, and the marvellously British phrase used to appraise weekends: ‘Not too bad really, all things considered’, all attracted Bailey’s deft mock outrage and bewilderment.  

The musical aspects of Bailey’s act still provide many of the most memorable highlights, including his justifiable scorn for the jelly-legged performing chimps in boyband One Direction, the strident Teutonic joys of rendering pop songs in German as if they were performed by Kraftwerk or Rammstein, and an updated foray into dub reggae for his reimagining of the Downton Abbey theme, replete with ironic dialogue clips (‘a bouillon spoon!’). He also made a daring venture into impersonating the New Zealand accent (emerging largely unscathed) for his spiel on inappropriate accents for metal bands - ‘Sux Sux Sux, number of the Beast’.  

Bill Bailey might be a pricey night out in New Zealand, but with his years of experience and well-honed affable stage presence he’s still worth every penny.   

See also:
ComedyReginald D. Hunter, 8 May 2014
Comedy: Bill Bailey, 3 October 2012
Comedy: Dylan Moran, 23 April 2006