26 February 2016

El chico con la espina en el costado

Mexican Morrissey tribute band 'Mexrissey' perform The Boy With The Thorn In His Side at a chilly-looking London bus stop, and discuss why their home country has such a strong bond with the northern indie legend.

See also:
Music: Balkanistas, 13 December 2015
Music: Brigitte Bardot, 13 November 2015
Music: Dr Feelgood, 4 July 2015

25 February 2016

Debating whether Rush Limbaugh would be a better president than SpongeBob

On Wednesday I had a serious conversation with my eldest son, who will be voting in his first US election, about which of the top contenders – Cruz, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump – would make the least dangerous Republican nominee, and was forced to concede that it might be Trump. A year ago this would have been tantamount to debating whether Rush Limbaugh would be a better president than SpongeBob. A year ago you still could have said, “Don’t be silly. Donald Trump isn’t even a real person.”

Now we’ve reached the stage of counting delegates, things aren’t looking too hopeful for Cruz. Even the people who are meant to like him – evangelicals, ultraconservatives – appeared to prefer Trump in Nevada. But I’m not going to say “Write him off” again. Even if I had the confidence, my heart wouldn’t be in it [...]

On further reflection, I’m tempted to think that my rash election prediction simply wasn’t rash enough. So here’s a rasher one, ready for demolition at some point in the coming year, something I’ve always secretly hoped would happen in my lifetime: the outcome of the US election will be determined not by voters but by the electoral college.

The 538 designees who actually elect the president of the United States are not constitutionally bound to vote the way they’re pledged to. Those who defy this convention are known as “faithless electors”.

It doesn’t happen very often, but it happens: sometimes in protest, sometimes in error. In 2004 a Minnesota elector wrote the name of the vice-presidential candidate on a presidential ballot by mistake, granting John Edwards a single electoral vote. More than half the states now have laws designed to punish faithless electors, but slightly less than half don’t.

- Tim Dowling, Guardian, 24 February 2016

21 February 2016

Pre-1840 European visitors to Wellington

It was to be many years before Europeans discovered Wellington harbour. Captain Cook came close to doing so on his second voyage, but the first recorded entry of Wellington harbour is by Captain James Herd in the barque Rosanna in 1826, accompanied by Captain Barnett in the cutter Lambton. The ships carried Scottish emigrants sent out by a Company that had similar aims to those later incorporated in those of the New Zealand Company. However, the project failed, and little was achieved except the charting of the harbour. In 1832 Herd published a description of the harbour in The Nautical Almanac as a place where 'all the navies of Europe might ride in perfect security'. Either Herd or Barnett was responsible for naming the harbour Port Nicholson, after a Captain John Nicholson formerly of the Royal Navy and harbour master in Sydney for 21 years. Nicholson had visited New Zealand in the brig Haweis in 1820, and knew both Herd and Barnett personally.

Between the departure of Herd and Barnett and the arrival of the New Zealand Company's emigrants a small number of Europeans had visited Wellington harbour or settled along its shores. These men were traders, whalers or missionaries for the most part. David Scott came from Sydney in 1834 to buy flax from the Maoris, and lived in a hut on the waterfront. In 1834-35 a whaler named George Young lived on the same beach and the famous, or infamous, Dicky Barrett, also a whaler, had been to the harbour prior to piloting the Tory into port in 1839. The same year two Methodist missionaries, the Rev J.H. Bumby and the Rev John Hobbs, entered the harbour in the schooner Hokianga. They held religious services at Pipitea and Te Aro where there was a congregation of over 100 Maoris. When they left some 30 Maori teachers and preachers, who had arrived with the missionaries, remained behind continuing to conduct services and classes for the Maori people.

This visit was shortly afterwards followed by that of another Methodist minister, the Rev James Buller, who walked from Kaipara to Wellington to meet the emigrants arriving on the Aurora. His timing was excellent if fortuitous: for his 'walk' consisted of a 500 mile hike through trackless country and various tribal districts. He arrived the day before the Aurora, and preached a sermon on board that vessel on Sunday, 26 January 1840.

- G.M. Betts, 'The First Wellingtonians', in N.L. McLeod & B.H. Farland (eds.), Wellington Prospect: Survey of a City 1840-1970, Wellington, 1970, p.53-4.

See also:
History: Map of pre-European Wellington, 8 February 2016
History: Wellington 150, a capital anniversary, 26 July 2015
History: Wellington's first settler ship, 22 January 2014

14 February 2016

Chinese New Year parade 2016

See also:
Wellington: Chinese New Year parade, 15 February 2015
Blog: Hong Kong loves weird English names, 25 October 2012

1st test v Australia, Day 2

Wellington turned on a brilliant day for test cricket yesterday, which was excellent for the many genial visitors from across the Tasman - including Allan Border, who I rubbed shoulders with in the Vance Stand - but perhaps not so brilliant for the New Zealand team, who had to slog through an entire day of perfect batting conditions, picking up only three wickets along the way. It must have been doubly galling to have had to watch Adam Voges' measured, careful ton, given he was spared on 7 in the last over of Day 1 by an incompetent no-ball call from umpire Richard Illingworth. Voges' innings ran on to an impressive 176 not out by the end of Day 2, almost eclipsing New Zealand's feeble first innings single-handed. Class act Usman Khawaja also dominated with a classy 140, the fourth test century he's scored in his last six innings. The only joy for New Zealand supporters was a brief fired-up over from Trent Boult with the new ball, which accounted for both Khawaja (caught LBW by a straightening delivery) and Mitchell Marsh (caught and bowled for a two-ball duck after being denied a wicket by DRS the ball before).

An unsuccessful Mark Craig appeal
Khawaja's ton
Inspecting the wicket block 

Dry summer on the bank

08 February 2016

Te Whanganui-a-Tara

Two detailed maps from David McGill's 1984 history Pioneers of Port Nicholson (AH & AW Reed, Wellington, p16-18) illustrating the pre-European settlement of Wellington harbour. Click the images to enlarge.

See also:
History: Wellington 150: A capital anniversary, 26 July 2015
History: Wellington Anniversary Day 1850, 22 January 2015
History: Wellington's first settler ship, 22 January 2014

The peculation of Benjamin Franklin

There are many reasons why a general peace did not follow in early 1778, chief among them the impossibility of conducting confidential negotiations with Congress when the only conduit was Benjamin Franklin [...]

Nobody disputes Franklin used his privileged position to play both sides off against the middle. The error in historical appreciation has been to assume that 'the middle' was the greater good of the United States. Along with the rest of the American delegation [in Paris] he was raking in commissions on supplies bought with French money, peculations more than tolerated by Vergennes, and had much to lose by an early peace. In 1811 John Adams, trapped between the rock of the reality he observed in Paris, and the hard place of the myth carefully constructed by Franklin, wrote feelingly (my emphasis):

Had he been an ordinary man, I should never have taken the trouble to expose the turpitude of his intrigues, or to vindicate my reputation against his vilifications and calumnies. But the temple of human nature has two great apartments: the intellectual and the moral. If there is not a mutual friendship and strict alliance between these, degradation to the whole building must be the consequence ... To all those talents and qualities for the foundation of a great and lasting character, which were held up to the view of the whole world by the University of Oxford, the Royal Society of London and the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, were added, it is believed, more artificial modes of diffusing, celebrating and exaggerating his reputation than were ever before or since practiced in favour of any individual.

In sum, a pioneer PR man whose principal client was himself.

His wider interest lay in land speculation in Ohio, inconveniently encumbered by Native Americans, and extensive property in Nova Scotia, even more awkwardly occupied by Highlanders who neither at the time nor since have shown any desire to join the United States.

- Hugh Bicheno, Rebels & Redcoats, London, 2004, p111-2. 

See also:
HistoryBenjamin Franklin's plans to colonise NZ, 7 December 2015
History: From NZ troopship to Confederate raider, 16 February 2015
History: The Brotherhood of Tramps, 7 March 2013
History: Fighting Joe Hooker, 15 February 2013
History: Lincoln: The great high road to his reason, 22 November 2012

07 February 2016

NZ players in IPL 2016

Brendon McCullum (Gujarat Lions*, $1.688m, 219 matches)

Corey Anderson (Mumbai Indians*, $1.012m, 67 matches)

Trent Boult (Sunrisers Hyderabad*, $856k, 51 matches)

Tim Southee (Mumbai Indians, $563k, 109 matches)

Adam Milne (Royal Challengers Bangalore*, $157k, 51 matches)

Kane Williamson (Sunrisers Hyderabad*, $134k, 85 matches)

Mitchell McClenaghan* (Mumbai Indians, $66k, 79 matches)

Colin Munro (Kolkata Knight Riders, $66k, 102 matches)

* = retained from 2015; cost is listed in NZD

Source: Cricinfo

05 February 2016

1000th post!

Slightly Intrepid commenced with my first post on 4 January 2007 just before my return to England, and with this post reaches the mighty four digits. That's nine years of blogging. I had the initial intention it would be my travel journal, but later it broadened its focus and became less of a personal diary. There was a definite increase in the rate of posting after I retired the Very Friday Blog (2005-12) and started including those sorts of fun found posts. More recently I've not had the time or energy to write the lengthy travel reports I used to, and have focused more on shorter pieces on New Zealand history, music or film clips, Wellington photographs, and extracts from whatever book I've been reading lately.

The top 10 Slightly Intrepid posts are still a decent mix, with the clear leader remaining the highly informative and not-at-all-amateurish Cook Strait tunnel blog. Obviously there's a great untapped market for sci-fi engineering blogs out there, so I really must get round to writing that piece about a new rail tunnel connecting Waterloo in Lower Hutt with Wainuiomata and a new commuter town built on the western side of Lake Wairarapa. The other blogs on the list are a mix of film trivia (The midgets of Casablanca, the LOTR set on Miramar peninsula), London ephemera (Mr Tibbet the Putney highwayman, a Buckingham Palace visit for a royal garden party), my first and so far only visit to Portugal (Obrigado Lisboa), and random TV and gaming fare.

Slightly Intrepid top 10 blogs by date and pageviews

16 Apr 2008
16 Feb 2011
1 Jan 2010
19 Oct 2013

The long list of post categories shows that the top five themes for blog posts have been New Zealand generally (174 posts), Wellington specifically (162), history (154), music (153) and comedy (122) - closely followed by the all-important movies tag (108 posts). The top five source countries for pageviews have been the US, UK, Germany, New Zealand and France. Total recorded pageviews across the blog currently stands at 370,577.

I don't have a firm plan for the blog, so I guess I'll just keep posting as long as it stays interesting. Probably there won't be as many posts as I put out in 2013-14, when there were an average of 17.4 posts per month. I'm a far lazier blogger than that now! As always, any blog comments or feedback on Facebook or Twitter is very welcome, and thanks for visiting. And to close, here's a sample from the remarkably small field of 'thousand'-referencing songs - sorry Vanessa Carlton, Street Chant, Patti Smith and Snooks Eaglin, the title's been snaffled by Tenpole Tudor with their April 1981 UK no.6 hit, Swords Of A Thousand Men:

04 February 2016

Featherston St timelapse

Timelapse recording: Featherston St, Wellington, afternoon of 4 February 2016, looking north past the Rydges Hotel. Duration: 29 min 8 seconds. Spoiler: nothing particularly exciting happens - just a bustling street scene for posterity.