29 March 2015

A long time between visits

It's worth remembering as we look forward to the grand Cricket World Cup final tonight just how out-of-touch Australian cricket is with their New Zealand neighbours:

  • In the time since New Zealand last played an ODI at the MCG, there have been 15 ODIs at the ground, 12 of which involved Australia. 
  • Since the last time New Zealand played an ODI in Australia (a no-result on 13 February 2009) Australia has played 63 ODIs at home
  • That total includes 16 matches against England (of which Australia won 14), another 16 against Sri Lanka, 10 against the West Indies, 7 against India, 6 against Pakistan, and 5 against South Africa; there were also one-off pool games against Scotland and Afghanistan as part of the current World Cup. 
  • Before the stirring one-wicket victory of New Zealand over Australia in Auckland during the pool matches, Australia's captain Michael Clarke had not played New Zealand in a one-dayer since the previous World Cup in India.

A total of 143 one-day internationals have been played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but the last time New Zealand was invited to play an ODI there was more than six years ago. That match, on Waitangi Day 2009, saw New Zealand defeat Australia by six wickets: Australia was put in first and only managed 225/5, and then New Zealand knocked off the total with ease, having six wickets and seven balls to spare. Naturally, the parochial panel gave the man of the match award to Australian captain Michael Clarke for his 98 not out, despite being on the losing side. That was the last time New Zealand played at the MCG; six of the current playing XI scheduled to face Australia in tonight's World Cup final played in that 2009 match.

If that's not motivation enough for New Zealand to remind Australia that it doesn't own the game, I don't know what is. Perhaps there's also the additional frisson of just imagining what the Australian fans' faces will look like if New Zealand snatches this most unlikely of victories.

27 March 2015

I'm so hidden they can't find me, but then again they might

Falling into the 'guilty pleasures' category, here's Kim Carnes with Crazy In The Night (Barking at Airplanes), the first single from her 1985 album. (The huge and more widely-remembered hit Bette Davis Eyes was from Mistaken Identity in 1981). The video is a low-rent affair replete with regrettable hair (hey, that rhymes!), and I enjoy the way Carnes sings along to the bridge even though it's supposed to be only the chaps singing as a counterpoint to her verses. This isn't a particularly memorable song, I admit, but I have a soft spot for the daggy ageing bandmembers and the oh-so-80s synths. The song reached as high as no.3 in the South African charts and no.11 here in New Zealand, but in the US it only managed no.15 and it failed to scrape into the top 40 in the UK. Also, it seems Keith Lemon used to moonlight as a pop drummer in the 80s.

26 March 2015

A thing of beauty

A new Logitech Extreme 3D Pro joystick, the first step in my mission to begin playing Frontier Developments' marvellous game Elite: Dangerous. Now all I need is the small detail of a new computer capable of actually playing the game!

22 March 2015

Guptill gets his 200

The final stages of Martin Guptill's quarter-final journey to his one-day international double century, the first by a New Zealand batsman. This was an astonishing innings, the sort that could only be dreamed about a few years ago, but who'd be a bowler amidst this sort of slaughter? Guptill's ODI average now tops 40 (at 40.10) and now all it will take is for Ross Taylor to return to form and the World Cup final beckons!

(The camera-work does get a little wonky near the end - I was trying to film and take photos at the same time, which is seldom a great idea)

19 March 2015

The myth & reality of stagecoach travel in the Old West

Several factors have combined to create in the public mind a glorious but entirely false conception of stagecoach driving in the West. First there were European tourists and newspaper editors from the East who crossed the continent by stagecoach in the late 1850s and early '60s and then hurried home to write glamorised articles and memoirs. Few of them failed to include a stagecoach careening down a snakelike, precipitous mountain road hacked from the sheer granite walls with six horses galloping wildly, the driver flailing them with his whip and shouting at the top of his voice to urge them on while the skidding wheels struck sparks and "hurled rocks into the awesome canyon thousands of feet below".

Then there were the magnificent and highly imaginative paintings by Frederic Remington and Charlie Russell of Indian attacks on stagecoaches, the horses running frantically and the driver pouring on the leather.

The third factor was the western novel, stories of a romantic, glamorous, imaginary West that never was, with violence and fast action the chief ingredients used to achieve suspense and drama. In these sagas of the fantasy West no cowboy ever rode and no stagecoach ever rolled at less than an all-out gallop.

To complete the misconception, the movies, and now television, have firmly fixed the image, presenting visually this West-that-never-was, where every stagecoach is driven up hill and down at a breakneck gallop.

One may form a fairly good idea of the speed at which stagecoaches generally travelled throughout the West by making a few comparisons. A hundred and fifty miles a day - equal to six and a quarter miles an hour - was considered excellent cross-country time. This, of course, included stops for meals and for changing teams at relay stations, but a man has walked a rate of six and a quarter miles per hour. Ten miles per hour - six minutes to the mile - was bragging time for a stagecoach run over reasonably good non-mountain roads, but men can run a mile in under four minutes.

- Ralph Moody, Stagecoach West, New York, 1967, p.49-50.

Wells-Fargo stagecoach, San Francisco, April 2013
See also:
HistoryPublic transport comes to Onehunga, 10 February 2015
History: Coach travel from London in 1658 & 1739, 4 October 2013
History: The mysterious Mr Tibbet, 27 April 2009

18 March 2015

How chip speed growth has slowed

Year Processor Clock speed (MHz)
1971 4004 0.108
1974 8080 2
1982 286 6
1989 486 25
1993 Pentium 66
1997 Pentium II 300
2000 Pentium 4 1500
2006 Core 2 Duo 2660
2012 3rd generation Core 2900

(Click to enlarge)

Source: Adapted from a graphic in Matthew Chalmers, 'Need for speed: Why computers stopped getting faster', New Scientist, 21 February 2015, p.42-3.

17 March 2015

A big night out in Invy

A "mystery pooper" has pooed in Invercargill's Splash Palace swimming pool five Friday evenings in a row. City council aquatic services manager Pete Thompson said the culprit's acts had cost the pool "tens of thousands of dollars" in lost revenue. The pool was closed for cleaning for about six hours each time faecal matter was found in the water.

"It generally happens after 5pm each Friday night," Thompson said.

It was unclear if one person or more was involved, with poo found in three pools in the complex on a Friday night about three weeks ago.

"They did one in the leisure pool and we moved the kids to the learners' pool, and they did one in the learners' pool and we moved the kids to the main pool, and one appeared in the main pool, so we had to shut the whole thing down."

- Evan Harding, 'Mystery pooper' plagues Invercargill swimming pool', Southland Times, 17 March 2015 [Via Liz]

16 March 2015

On the profusion of comic-book and superhero movies

The real problem lies not with the films, but the echo chamber of hype, speculation and analysis, against which the actual number of comic-book movies is that big a deal. To put things into context, critic Devin Faraci crunched the numbers and found that in 1957, 61 "notable westerns" were released in cinemas - and that was before the Italians started adding Spaghetti to the recipe.

The western provides a pertinent historical model for the comic-book movies' future direction. The genre dominated cinemas for decades with good reason, as its mythic themes matured alongside audiences, especially after WW2 when the western offered a reflection of troubled times. A similar trend exists in modern superhero movies, the best of which deliver a genre-inflected commentary on contemporary concerns like the War on Terror.

Importantly, look past the hats and horses, and the western was a playground where other genres happily coexisted: war westerns, comedy westerns, even musicals.

- Simon Kinnear, 'Superpower trip?, Total Film, January 2015, p.39 

15 March 2015

Once more to Red Rocks

Highlights of this morning's walk from Owhiro Bay to the seal colony at Red Rocks on Wellington's south coast. It was out of season for the seals but we still saw two sunning themselves on the rocks.

Red Rocks & Cook Strait


Looking back to the harbour entrance

14 March 2015

"The shareholders' dividends were ring-fenced against pirate zombie infestations"

It's a bit tricky to develop fresh stand-up material when the only movies you've seen recently are a single viewing of an art film about middle class people on a disappointing holiday (Archipelago) and approximately 180 viewings of Scooby Doo and the Pirate Zombie Jungle Island. Still, Stewart Lee has a good old go at making his source material 100% relevant to a contemporary audience, particularly those deeply concerned with the funding and maintenance of the formerly world-beating British publicly-funded jungle canyon rope bridge network. (From his 2012 stand-up DVD, Carpet Remnant World).

11 March 2015

Key events on the NZ waterfront, 1894-1951

1894 Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

1915 Waterside workers vote not to work overtime after 10pm; formation of the New Zealand Waterside Workers' Federation with James (Jim) Roberts as the first national secretary.

1917 Industrial Agreement: waterside workers may take ballot in wet weather to decide whether to continue working; some restrictions placed on weight and constitution of slings.

1922 Industrial Award: basic formula established for waterside workers' wages as unskilled rate plus 25%.

1924 Industrial Award: special clause allowing negotiation over 'specially dirty work'.

1932 Industrial Award: wage cuts in addition to 10% cut imposed by the Arbitration Court in 1931; extension of working hours; prohibition of smokos. However, control over admission to union given to Branch executive.

1935 Election of first Labour Government (1935-49).

1936 Pilot labour bureau scheme in Lyttelton (equalisation of hours of work); Arbitration Court refuses to apply 40-hour week to waterfront; Jack Flood becomes NZWWF president.

1937 Labour bureaus opened in Wellington and Auckland; Marine Department given responsibility to collect accident statistics on waterfront; Industrial Award 1937-38: provision of guaranteed minimum weekly wage.

1940 Waterfront Control Commission appointed to run wharves and makes changes to conditions of work, including cooperative contracting (bonus scheme) and change in pay formula (now 6d above unskilled rate and 1d above skilled rate of pay).

1941 James (Jim) Roberts steps down as NZWWU secretary.

1943 Wellington and Lyttelton vote to end all-night work.

1944 Harold (Jock) Barnes defeats Jack Flood for NZWWU presidency.

1946 Waterfront Control Commission reconstituted as Waterfront Industry Commission with direct union and employer representation.

1947 Labour government initiates discussions with NZWWU about an 'overall contracting system'.

1949 Election of new conservative National government led by Sid Holland.

1950 Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Waterfront Industry established; reported in 1952.

1951 Waterfront lockout/strike, February-July (defeat for waterside workers).

- Source: Anna Green, British Capital, Antipodean Labour: Working the New Zealand Waterfront 1915-1951, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 2001, Appendix B.

See also:
History: Shipowners & the 1951 waterfront lockout, 26 February 2015
History: The break of gauge, 14 January 2014
History: Shipping in Wellington 1850-70, 12 June 2009

08 March 2015

Sorry mate, I'm actually rather out of shape at the moment

Source: John Christopher, British Posters of  the First World War, Stroud (Gloucs.), 2013.

07 March 2015

Sven Olsen's Brutal Canadian Love Saga

Pictured below, the lighting rig show at last night's Fringe Festival performance by Sven Olsen's Brutal Canadian Love Saga, a Wellington-based 19-piece orchestral pop collaborative singing bedsit epics of life and love in New Zealand, the land of the laid-back catastrophe and the mythical rockstar economy. Plus the odd ditty about Kron, the most famous tagger to ever adorn the walls and buildings of the fine conurbation of Hastings. The concert put me in mind of a local embodiment of the pop spirit of Tim DeLaughter's Texan hippie orchestra The Polyphonic Spree, which I enjoyed seeing in the big tent at the Big Day Out in Auckland in 2004 (or perhaps '05). 

The Svens play two more Fringe gigs in the beautiful St Peter's on Willis Street, tonight and tomorrow night. Entrance is by koha.

06 March 2015

Rosy-fingered dawn

A spectacular dawn sky over Wellington this morning, viewed from Thorndon.

05 March 2015

Cracked Actor

A must-watch for all Bowie-freaks: Alan Yentob's famous 1975 BBC doco capturing post-Ziggy Bowie in America during the '74 Diamond Dogs tour - chem-raddled and alarmingly emaciated, yet lucid and surprisingly open in interviews and in fine voice on stage. Author Peter Doggett notes that the documentary's glimpses of Bowie's American stage performance are actually fantastically rare:
David Bowie undertook two lengthy excursions across the United States and Canada in 1974: the first, designed to promote Diamond Dogs, was recorded for the album David Live, but only a few fragments of concert footage have survived; the second, for which he abandoned the scenery and iconography of Diamond Dogs and set out to prove himself a soul singer, was glimpsed briefly in the 1975 BBC TV documentary Cracked Actor, but otherwise exists only in memory and on illicit tapes made by audience members.
- Peter Doggett, The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie and the 1970s, London, 2011, p.217.
Cracked Actor was also seen by Nicolas Roeg and led to Bowie being cast as the lead in The Man Who Fell To Earth, and who better to play a creepy multimillionaire alien in human form?

03 March 2015

Frankenstein in the Alps

I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stood beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial nature was broken only by the brawling waves or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche or the cracking, reverberated along the mountains, of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling, and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillized it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mind from the thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month. I retired to rest at night; my slumbers, as it were, waited on and ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes which I had contemplated during the day. They congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountaintop, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine, the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds--they all gathered round me and bade me be at peace [...]

It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent. For some time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist covered both that and the surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipated the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier. The surface is very uneven, rising like the waves of a troubled sea, descending low, and interspersed by rifts that sink deep. The field of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where I now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league; and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock, gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea, or rather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains, whose aerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed, "Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion, away from the joys of life."

- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, 1818, Chapter 10.

01 March 2015