Lyndon Hood - Man With Plan, Lower Hutt

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Wanted: Flash developer with too much time on hands

Soon, it will be Christmas. A time of togetherness and love. A time where we pause to contemplate the humanity of all those around us - even our enemies. A time for us to recognise the things that we share in common.

In that spirit, I have a proposal for a seasonal web toy based on something that has caused unprecidented unanimity among New Zealand bloggers: mocking our new Foreign Minister.

I call it "Pin the Baubles on Winston".

Imagine the scene. The leader of the New Zealand First Party in a pot in your living room. You with a bottomless box of baubles. Hours of fun!

Come to think of it, imagine it in an office instead. The office of baubles!

Of course there should probably be more to it than that. I wouldn't want people to experience the disappointed expectations I felt with the Don Brash Flip-Flop-O-Matic (which now seems to be gone). It sounded like he would do acrobatics! But he didn't! There should have been a different trick for every flip-flop. That way, people would have falling over themselves to see all of them.

Plus, if there'd been a button that made him go "aeh" whenever you clicked on it, I would have been addicted.

So at the very least the should be a way to turn the lights out and have your baubles flash on and off. And a gallery with pics other people's bauble-icious masterpieces.

Actually, I have whole a bunch of ideas, and I reckon I could hold up the illustration end. I just don't have the software or the expertise for everything else.

And that, gentle reader-who-knows-about-this-stuff, is where you come in. C'mon. You know it has to happen. Get in touch if you think you can help.

For free, of course, but it'll look bitchin in your CV.

Kelly Pendergrast - gaining weight rapidly, San Diego

On Thursday it was Thanksgiving. Or "Starchgiving" as I now like to call it. And, of course, being a non-American, this Thanksgiving was my first one.

I knew it was coming up because my neighbours erected a giant inflatable sculpture of a turkey wearing a pilgrims hat and holding a knife and fork (in the same way, I knew when Halloween was impending because of the giant inflatable jack-o-lantern). I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner and told to bring a side dish and maybe a desert. So I made onion tarts, bread, and an experimental apple-blueberry pie. Mmm mmm.

Since the dinner was hosted by grad students and attended mostly by grad students, there was possibly less familial argument and football watching than most Thanksgivings' have. However, there was the obligatory alcohol-imbibing and food-stuffing. Someone even made a beautiful turkey. I didn't eat it, being of the vegetarian persuasion, but I could have had an "unturkey", a wheat protein mound shaped like a turkey, with fake little wings and even an authentic soy-protein "skin". Uuuugh. Aside from the poultry, there was: sweet potato mash (I don't even know what sweet potato is, somewhere between a kumara and a pumpkin and something else, I guess), potato gratin, pasta salad, rosemary bread, roasted chickpeas, brussel sprouts, green beans, and green salad. Now, I don't know about you, but that seems like a lotta lotta starch. Strange that the US is so obsessed with the evil of carbohydrates, when Thanksgiving is practically a celebration of the joy of carbs.

Also there was apple pie, apple pie, apple and blackberry pie, pumpkin pie, some other weird thing, meringues, profiteroles, and little pinwheel spice things.
Gwaaaar! (That is the sound of me eating).

I don't know how newsworthy this all is, but sometimes we just need to take a little time and remember how wonderful it is to eat until you can eat no more.

Oh yeah, and something about remembering that time some Native Americans bailed out the dumbass pilgrims as well. I forget the details.

Wooh! Food!

Hamish McKenzie - student, London, Ontario

Caricaturising the Treaty

The Treaty of Waitangi is not the rigid old document Keith Ng would like to dismiss it as. It is a living, breathing agreement between two peoples with noble and fair intentions. It is a compromise, a deal; it is a point of reference for two distinct cultures each hoping to preserve their ways of life and what is important to them.

The treaty is the condition on which we are all here. Without it, white people would still have come in large numbers, but they may have tried take the country by force (although as the New Zealand Wars proved, they would've had a mighty struggle in doing so).

And it's an agreement actually worth celebrating. It is an attempt to ensure indigenous peoples don't get trampled on, stolen from, exploited, abused, ignored, or ethinically cleansed. It is an attempt by the British Crown -- its conscience pricked by humanitarian groups such as the Aboriginal Protection Society -- to make sure indigenous people are treated as people rather than impediments, as they were in Australia, the United States, and Canada.

It is far from perfect, of course -- hurriedly compiled, roughly translated -- but to our great credit we've developed enough as a society to recognise the seeds of respect and a sense of justice within that document; seeds we've allowed to grow.

Yes, to some extent the treaty can be used as a last resort legal measure -- thanks to the State Owned Enterprises Act of 1986, and subsequent legislation -- but that should only happen when there's been a breach of the treaty. Because Maori have complied with their end of the deal by ceding sovereignty to the Crown, it stands to reason that, historically at least, the Crown is going to be the guilty party most often. I'm glad there are laws in place to protect against that.

I don't need to give you a history lesson for you to know that, since Ngai Tahu's first complaint to Queen Victoria in 1848, there has been a litany of breaches of the treaty, accelerated by the forming of a settler government in 1853 that demanded Maori be cleared off the land to make way for more settlers.

But more recently we've seen some laudable attempts to redress those injustices. The process goes on, and so does the resistance, but we continue to make progress despite hostile attacks on the treaty's worth. Today, Maori have some of those forests, fisheries, lands, and taonga they were promised in 1840 but were subsequently robbed of via war, confiscations, criminal purchases, and criminal connivances.

Okay, so: last resort legal document? Yes, to an extent. Flexible agreement ensuring respect and fairness for two distinct cultures? Absolutely. Not that it's always worked out that way.

Today, of course, we have more than two distinct cultures. But there's nothing to fear from the treaty. It's not threatening anyone's New Zealandness. Despite what some rhetoricians might say, there is no complicating point in the treaty about who is a New Zealander. We are all New Zealanders. What Maori want, however, is the right to be Maori as well; just like how Asians don't want to turn their backs on their heritages. The treaty ensures/insures that.

There's no need to be scared of the treaty. Maori aren't going to rise to become our overlords anytime soon. Maori aren't going to steal your property. Maori aren't, for God's sake, going to fence off the beaches. No, more likely they'll stay at the bottom of society, where too many have languished now for more than 145 years. (I'm giving them a grace period of 20 years since the treaty was signed, until they were ultimately outnumbered by Pakeha.)

It's sad. Maori, the original people of New Zealand, the tangata whenua, are the ones who have had to adapt to a new way of life; Maori are the ones who have had to make the sacrifices so this country could be what it is today. Yet, when they speak up for themselves, they're shouted down by opportunist politicians eager to capitalise on rising redneck sentiment, while Garrick Tremain sketches a cartoon proving the murrys are nothing but big-lipped money-hungry whingers who want to live in the past.

Respecting the treaty is not a matter of coercion by law. It is a matter of behaving like adults, of seeing both sides of the coin, of not reducing complex histories to caricatures. One would hope we're mature enough to achieve that.

Holly Walker - Golden Girl, Dunedin

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Cool Nanas

How cool are these ladies? Assuming I'm left behind after the death of a spouse with an inferiour life expectancy, I fully intend to get some mates together and go flatting when I'm their age. Think of it: a roster to reduce the pressure of looking after a place by yourself, built-in buddies to combat loneliness, an expanded pool of people coming to visit, and reduced power and phone bills and cheap rent (cos a pension ain't worth much and that Cullen fund doesn't look too promising). Not to mention having gfs on hand to share clothes and gossip about your neighbours with, and of course, a red card system.

This could be the answer for all those families guiltily thinking about shipping their parents off to rest homes and into full-time care: just get them together with their buddies and put them up somewhere. You could even make money off them as their landlord. Brilliant!

Lyndon Hood - Coincidence, Lower Hutt

Monday, November 21, 2005

Forgive me if I livejournalise, but I have a novel incident to relate.

On Saturday night the WIT (Wellington Improvisation Troupe) - including me - did a show. We called it "The Lab", by way of indicating that we were trying stuff out.

One of the thing we were trying out was a revival of the 'Micetro' format, invented by improv guru Keith Johnstone (scroll down). The less said about the details, the sooner I finish writing this post. Suffice to say, at the end of the evening one player wins. They are the 'Micetro'.

It was agreed that it went very well. I'll let you know for the next one.

Now. Something happened after the show which, for the benifit of those Fighting Talk readers who are not also members of WIT, I present for your diversion.

Most of us toddled across the road to the Cambridge for a drink. And not long into that someone notice that one of the horses in the lineup for the next chariot race (you know, with the little buggies - whatever they call them) was "The Maestro".

Well how about that.

There was a clear favourite - not The Maestro - whose odds, despite lengthening suddenly just before the race - were a lot shorter than everyone else's. Then there were about a half dozen other horses the collective reasoning of the punters put ahead of The Maestro.

A couple of WITsters put a little money down. The one who bet two bucks each way didn't win quite so much.

The Maestro led for the whole race and won.

Now, how unlikely something is depends primarily on what conditions are or aren't taking into account. I'm not going to embark on investigation of the probabilties of horseracing, and I'm not going to try and find out if anyone out there, for example, bet their life savings on some even more sychronicitous nag and lost.

And of course I'm one of those people who think that some things in this life happen just because.

Still. Oooo.

New Hood: Satirist 'Apologises' to Howard

I can't pretend that this is the whole of my thinking on the matter, but it never is, is it? Anyway, it might seem more relevant and less self-indulgent if you imagine that it's the middle of last week and the streets are full of unionists.

Hamish McKenzie - news commentator, London, Ontario

Breaking news from New Zealand, as interpreted from a distance of 15,000 km

Nicky Watson dates Warriors' teen star

The Story

Twenty-eight-year-old stick-figure cover art Nicky Watson is dating 19-year-old pig-skin chaser Simon Mannering, a star of a local sports team. Simon is originally from Nelson. Watson used to be married to Mannering's boss, Eric Watson, who is more than twice Mannering's age but still probably couldn't beat him in a fight. Mannering is 10.8 years younger than the average age of Watson's five most recent partners.

News Value

The romantic lives of minor celebrities are always in the public interest -- and for good reason. It is widely accepted that stability in relationships of public figures is usually indicative of a stable economy and solid governance. It remains to be seen whether the union of Watson and her teenage lover will flourish to the same degree as, say, our burgeoning tourist industry, but the fledgling couple does offer hope to a country that has just suffered a significant drop in economic confidence. Safe in the knowledge that Watson will have the rippled and supportive arms of a recent high-school graduate to sink into at night, investors should soon feel free to return their attentions to spending and restoring faith in a robust economy. Certainly, this budding partnership at least goes some way to deflecting attention from the already troubled relationship of Prime Minister Helen Clark and her cantankerous toy boy, Winston Peters.

Victorious Wood back on air

The Story

Prime-time TVNZ presenter Susan Wood will return to her job on Monday night. She had earlier taken TVNZ to the Employment Relations Authority over a pocket money dispute. After some sulking, TVNZ eventually agreed to pay Wood her full pocket money, provided she stop crying on national television.

News Value

As Judy Bailey proved, newsreaders are the mothers of the nation. Except when they're guys, in which case they're regarded as kinds of pseudo-queer ventriloquist puppets. But that's beside the point, which is that newsreaders are the mothers of the nation. Who can dispute that? Don't try to tell me your mother didn't read you news before you went to sleep at night. I for one have many fond memories of my mother's soft voice lulling me to slumber with the daily round-up of rural events from the Alexandra region.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, that's right -- newsreading mothers. Well, clearly we all think it's very important that our mothers are paid fairly, so Wood's heart-wrenching saga has been very dear to us. Her return to the soft-news desk on Monday night will mark not just a victory for savagely underpaid teleprompter readers but a stirring triumph for the children of New Zealand. When you tune the telly to TV1 at 7 o'clock tonight, take a moment -- just a moment -- to pay tribute to the sacrifices Wood has made for you.

Herald's criticism treason, says Peters

The Story

Winston Peters, hurt after the national newspaper said nasty things about his limp performance at APEC, took the unusual step of lashing out at his media adversaries, accusing them of treason. The Herald, which is, of course, above such petty insult-flinging, ran the story with the ugliest picture of Peters they could find and a judiciously-placed "[sic]". The story is the latest in a series of Peters-mocking pieces that apparently seek to bring down the government.

News Value

Sure, it might seem like it's nothing more than a running squabble between a moody foreign minister and a prominent advertising leaflet, but the repercussions of a story like this are not insignificant. Which is to say, they're significant.

Let's take treason, for a start. As the reputable Wikipedia explains, "treason is the crime of disloyalty to one's nation". Traditionally treason was punishable by death, even "an extended and especially cruel death". It's not unreasonable, then, to suggest that the Herald could soon face extinction at the hands of Winston Peters after being forced finally to succumb to the Otago Daily Times' long-held ambitions for national dominance.

Ha! Nah, just tricks. The ODT's got its hands full enough just trying to cover Roxburgh and surrounding districts.

Seriously though, if Winston and the Herald continue to not get along, the New Zealand media faces the concerning prospect of a complete collapse in public confidence -- for if the media can't harness the respect of politicians, who can?

Hamish McKenzie - student, London, Ont.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Pass it on

The Rugby World Cup? How the fuck did that happen?

Did a South African waitress give the Japanese delegation food poisoning the night before the vote? Was their fish not cooked thoroughly? Was the voting panel (is that what it was?) dazzled by Helen Clark's beauty and Chris Moller's charm?

Meh. Doesn't matter. We're getting the Cup, and a likely windfall.

Just remind me to stay far away from NZ when it's on.

Holly Walker - RugbyGirl, Dunedin

Thursday, November 17, 2005

How I learned to stop worrying and love the funny-shaped ball

I used to hate rugby. With a passion. I was brought up in a home that didn’t watch it, with parents who didn’t care about it, and with the mindset that it was a violent, ugly, homophobic, distasteful, meathead game. I wanted nothing to do with anyone who played it, or with anyone who liked it, and was openly disdainful when friends wanted to watch it.

From all these things, let me publicly retreat. I’m not sure how it happened, but I am now, as well as a recovering vegetarian, a reformed rugby hater.

I think it started with moving to Dunedin as a first year student, steeling myself to the fact that rugby would probably be a dominant force and I’d better get used to it. Actually, Dunedin is no more rugby-mad than anywhere else, if you don’t want it to be, but I think convincing myself that it would be was the first step to accepting rugby into my life. The same thing happened with Speight’s, actually.

Later, I gained a sense of community and camaraderie from being invited to watch test matches and Super 12 finals at friends’ flats, something which was entirely new to me. I liked the group anticipation and excitement, the feeling of being part of a national obsession, the beer and chips. Also I realised that my erudite, clever and funny friends liked rugby, and this didn’t make them meatheads. My hostility began to thaw.

By 2003, I’d progressed to the stage of watching every All Blacks game, but still had no idea how the rules worked, couldn’t name many players, and didn’t know what to look for, except for someone breaking away and running for the try line, when it came to watching. And there I stayed, with probably the same level of interest in rubgy as many New Zealand sheilas, until this year.

A combination of things intensified my newfound interest in rugby this year. Working through the excellent Ginger series, I purchased Spiro Zarvos’s How to Watch a Game of Rugby for my beloved, and then read it myself, gaining an appreciation for the complexities and subtleties of the game of which I had previously been unaware. I attended my first real live rugby game, on a whim, at Carisbrook, and was transfixed by the carnival atmosphere and the very different view of the game you get when you see the whole field at once. I had the rules explained to me for the umpteenth time, and actually understood them. I had the chance to practise my watching skills with two games a week while the Lions were here. I met James Ryan. I saw Anton Oliver on Frontseat. And I went to another live game, in a corporate box. Later that night, I walked home from Carisbrook to the city and my boyfriend fell asleep with his head on the toilet floor, but earlier in the night I think my understanding of the game was enhanced.

Which all adds up to me being now, a certified fan, though I probablty still wouldn't wear these. I read the rugby columns in the newspaper, am biting my nails over our bid for the 2011 World Cup, and am feeling genuinely bereaved at the thought of no rugby to watch until next year after this Grand Slam Tour finishes.

Which brings me to another thing: what is the best way to watch a test match played on the other side of the world at an ungodly hour? For the Wales game, we favoured sleep over an early start, and watched the TV3 delayed coverage the next afternoon. This proved unsatisfactory, however, when Hamish McKay’s commentary became too much to take. It’s all very well if you’re playing the 3 Sport drinking game (drink every time Hamish McKay says “Caaarter!”, Clint Brown says “Booyah”, one of them laughs at their own joke or says something truly retarded, and waterfall when Byron Kelleher is on screen – very effective game, actually), but if you’re after an afternoon of quiet code, it really is unbearable.

So, for Ireland, we tried staying up to watch live coverage on sky, starting at 3.30am. Others managed it, but not me. I made it as far as kick off, and them promptly fell asleep and missed the whole thing.

This leaves me in a bind for this England game, which will probably be the best of the tour. I think this time I’ll try going to bed early and getting up for the game, although given the difficulty I have rising at 7.30am these days, I’m not sure how I’ll fare with 3.30am.

Anyway, there you have it. My personal odyssey towards becoming a rugby fan. I still hate the meatheaded culture which sometimes surrounds the game, but I feel I now have a true appreciation for it as a sport. If we get the World Cup, which admittedly seems extremely doubtful, I’ll be there with bells on.

Lyndon Hood - Sympathiser, Lower Hutt

Monday, November 14, 2005

Seeing as tomorrow's the 15th, I thought you should all be reminded of something. After all, I was, in my own small way, involved. I wouldn't want this information to be forgotten at such a critical moment.

Random Contributionz's Millie, nigh on a week ago, wrote that Australia was "apparently" under threat of imminent attack, issued a warning to the Australian diplomatic posts in Wellington and Auckland and specified a date of November 15.

Millie has previously show Jihadi connction with such statements as ... um ... nothing.

Millie's 'more' link went to a page about protests against Howard's draconian employment legislaton.

Still with me? Right then.

David Farrar rapidly picked up on the post. If he got the point - and if he didn't then it has to be said the joke about his view is in unusually poor taste - he clearly failed to pass this understanding on to his readers.

At least one of whom was apparently a journalist. Who either couldn't be assed clicking through two sets of links before calling the cops or who has a really lousy ability to comprehend satire.

On the front page of the next day's Herald (which has gone premium [Update: A helpful reader points out that the Herald story was not premium, merely mislaid - It can be found here]):
However, an anonymous internet claim that there is a threat to the Australian High Commission in Wellington next Tuesday is not being dismissed, although its authenticity can not be judged.

The Australians are due that day to co-host a function at Parliament for new MPs.


Assistant Commissioner Peter Marshall said there was no evidence or information to suggest there was any threat to any establishment or organisation in New Zealand.

"However, we will thoroughly examine any current and ongoing information to maintain vigilance against any possible threat to New Zealand security," he said.
The story was, it seems, checked out by a rather more levelheader NZPA staffer, in a story picked up by a couple of Australian news outlets, or a least their websites. For instance, The Age:
A claim of an anonymous "threat" against Australian diplomatic posts in Wellington and Auckland this month appears to be linked to protests against Australia's new industrial relations reforms.


In an apparently tongue-in-cheek reference to Australia's new counter-terrorism laws, which were rushed through last week in response to allegations of an impending terrorist attack, two New Zealand internet blogging sites warned authorities would have to contend with "fierce resistance from what are reported to be insurgent nationals".

Somewhere in amongst all that Millie issued an response to Farrar and then claification to the world at large.

Farrar has since blogged about the coming protests, making no obvious effort to draw the connection. [Update: DPF, apparently having some sort of bad hair day, has mentioned Millie's 'dupe' in the course of a big ole grump - though without explicitly saying if he was a ... um ... dupee]

So anyway, you have been warned.

[Protest details here]

New Hood: International Briefs

One Law For All: A French Success Story
Bush Clarifies Position on Torture
Watching Opening of New Zealand Parliament Turns Queen into Republican

Hamish McKenzie - authority, London, Ont.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The 2005 Fighting Talk Power List

Earlier this week, the Listener published its second annual list of New Zealand's 50 most powerful people. By remarkable coincidence, they just happened to do it in the same week in which Fighting Talk's first annual list was due. We would have beaten them to the punch, but it turns out they had earlier printing deadlines. So, suck for us.

But, while the Listener might have been the early birds, all they've managed to come up with are a bunch of dirty old worms. Their list is riddled with inaccuracies, poor judgment calls, and other credibility-destroying faux pas, none of which I'll deign to mention.

Lucky for you, then, that Fighting Talk (in this case represented by a PowerPanel of one -- me) has taken on the task of producing a more authoritative and altogether less retarded power list.

Not only is our list a better reflection of where power lies in this country, but it is also more diverse than the Listener's soon-to-be-infamous white-bespectacled-male-dominated effort. Our list is made up of actors, writers, bloggers, politicians, retired sports stars, and even a warrior princess.

You'll notice in some cases we've conflated two people to fill one position on the list. This has been done in cases where it was deemed the members of the relevant duo/group completely lacked their own distinct identities. On one occasion it was done because I couldn't remember the christian names of the twins.

So, without further ado, I have great pleasure in announcing the real 2005 power list. Enjoy at your leisure...

50. Martin Henderson - actor

Probably the only New Zealander who can claim to have kissed Britney Spears while she was sober.

49. Marjorie Neilson - fictitious character

The ebullient and, yes, sometimes stubborn screen mum of Martin Henderson's character in the popular medical soap opera Shortland Street. No, you might not think that's a powerful position, but I can tell you, that Stuart was quite a handful. He wasn't at all like that nice Daryll. So dark; so brooding.

48. Brian Tamaki - leader of men

One of those precious few great leaders who can find superfluous cash in the wallets of the poorest people.

47. Matt Nippert - former volunteer writer for Salient

A young journalist with an attitude -- and mullet to match. Living the low life in New York City, tempting tantalising tarts with promises of oddly-named chihuahuas. Not powerful at all, but, you know, he's from Lower Hutt.

46. Jeremy Wells - deadpanner

Has attracted the talents of Anita McNaught, Finlay McDonald, and Steve Braunias to work on his evening news show. Once convinced half the nation that Eating Media Lunch filmed the killing of Shrek the sheep. Was rightly pilloried in the fall-out.

45. Jon Johansson - political science academic

Johansson was derided after he came out in opposition to Don Brash's retarded plan to expunge the murrys from New Zealand. Johansson's clearly ill-considered stance was pegged as "partisan" and "liberal" (note: quotes fabricated) and his credibility as a political commentator was attacked. Clearly, a respect for race relations means one can never be considered politically neutral. His name would be much further up this power list if TVNZ hadn't pulled him from their election night coverage after caving in to the right-whingers.

44. Tony Blair - homonym

Tony Blair of Nelson has a name that opens doors. Quite popular with females of the elderly persuasion, I understand.

43. There was no candidate suitable for this position.

42. Matthew Flanagan - moralist

Flanagan has shaken off prior associations with the disgraced Graeme Capill to found the respected Locke Foundation. Well, it would be respected if it weren't a complete farce.

41. Madeleine Flanagan - Matt's wife

The other half of the Locke Foundation.

40. Moana Maniapoto-Jackson - Moa Hunter

Obviously a token inclusion to get a Maori woman in the top 50. Really though, we all know Maori women have very little power in this country.

39. Olo Brown - former All Black

Good straight back position for a tight-head prop. Powerful scrummager.

38. Sir Kenneth Keith - judge on International Court of Justice

A wild card entry. Only in here 'coz I just saw his name in the news.

37. Mika - prominent homosexualist dancer

Besides poets, dancers are amongst the most influential artists in the country. You could say Mika is the choreographer for the nation. As a flamboyantly gay Maori dance leader, he's certainly in-step with mainstream New Zealand.

36. Katherine Rich - MPIL*

Clearly the most attractive member of Don Brash's National caucas -- although Lockwood Smith runs a close second. Rich has been tipped as a future leader, or at least deputy, for the party, which means, unlike Brash, she might actually get a shot at proper power come the next election.

35. Lucy Lawless - warrior princess

A brooding vixen who still has the power to bring a computer geek to orgasm in 30 seconds without so much as a heavy breath.

34. John Manukia - craftsman

Fiction writer of the highest order. Somehow managed to dent the reputation of the seemingly indestructible compact newspaper, the Herald on Sunday.

33. Sam Hunt - power poet

Poetry is perhaps the most influential art in New Zealand, and Sam Hunt is probably the most influential poet of our time. Likes dogs.

32. Murray Mexted - commentator

Murray the man of many mangled words is more recognisable to New Zealanders than the Governer-General. Actually, who is the Governer-General?

31. Jesus - Son of God

Not really a New Zealander as such (I think the Israelis are still trying to claim him), but you've got to admit he's a man of the people; so any country can rightly claim a piece of him. And, while his popularity has taken a tumble in recent years, it's probably fair to say he still exerts a fair degree of influence over certain sectors of our society -- particularly the Christians. That's enough for him to scrape in at number 31.

30. Helen Clark - Prime Minister

Leader of the nation for the last six years, and will be for the next three. That's got to be worth something, I guess.

29. Darren McDonald - newsreader

Still the only New Zealand newsreader to admit reading the news while high on P. Technically he's an Australian, but you're not one to split hairs.

28. Jim Hopkins - humourist

The next New Zealand columnist to admit he's been high on P for the last 20 years.

27. Precious McKenzie - former powerlifting world champ

No further explanation needed.

26. Louise McKenzie - mother of the writer

Although her place on the list may be questioned by many critics, it should be noted that Louise has been told by palm-readers on repeated occasions that she has very prominent fame lines.

25. Murphy Su'a - left-arm medium pace

A solid performer on the professional cricket circuit in the early 1990s. Once allegedly verbally abused Ken Rutherford. Now plays golf.

24. Susan Wood - presenter

Got an extra $100k out of TVNZ. Previously, that's something only New Zealand Idol could do.

23. Tame Iti - spitter

A brown and less intimidating version of Gerry Brownlee. But with more political clout.

22. The members of True Bliss

"Tonight's the night we'll make love to the end..." Lyrics so powerful they still resound in our ears. After all these years, Carly, Jo, Erica, and those other two are still impossible to forget.

21. The Ingham Twins - stowaways

Never before has a pair of ratty little teens stopped a nation by illegally boarding a cargo ship and going for a long swim.

20. Russel Brown - internet nerd

A column in the Listener; a news show on bFM; a blog on Public Address; and a column in Unlimited. The hardest-working journalist without any discernable audience.

19. Stuart Thom - high school English teacher

Not really that powerful. But he was a good teacher, and it's probably about time he got some recognition for that.

18. Murray Deaker - radio host

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Oh, what? He actually made the real list?

17. Jason Gunn - TV personality

Cool, crazy, wacky, fun -- he's the son of a Gunn. Yes, ever since he parted ways with Thingy his star has been on the wane, but he is showing signs of recovering from those dark days as host of McDonald's Young Entertainers with that curly-haired blonde who looks like the new editor of Metro.

16. Robin Charteris - editor

The able helmsman for the Newspaper of the Year.

15. Antarctic Lemur - blogger

Considered, reasonsed, logical, amiable, and probably very handsome. A power blogger from an incomparably powerful blogsite.

14. Prince Tui Teka - musician

Okay, so he might be dead -- but he's still the only prince this country has produced.

13. Shrek the Sheep - celebrity mutton

Captured the heart of the nation and refuses to let it go.

12. Muriel Newman - founder(er)

The irrepressible former MP is the founder of the poorly-fonted Centre for Political Debate. As you would expect, the website... I mean, Centre... has been a runaway success, already perhaps maybe attracting hits numbering in the tens. The second poll in the website's existence asked: "Should the Maori seats in Parliament be abolished." Its findings were nothing less than astonishing -- 97% of respondents said "yes"; 2.3% said "no"; and a curious 0.7% said "don't know." Why wasn't this reported in the mainstream media? You've got me stumped. If it were on-form, the Sunday Star-Times would have been onto it faster than you can say "this isn't actually a poll, and it probably doesn't have any credibility, but we're going to run it anyway because there's a chance for a decent headline that might be popular with the tabloid-loving public."

11. Steve Crow - pornographer

An uncanny ability to persuade women to take off their clothes for the cameras. Commands respect.

10. Keith Ng - student media mogul

As well as securing a well-read blog on Public Address, Keith has managed to hold a seat in the Press Gallery and appear in national newspapers and on breakfast television and Agenda multiple times. Perhaps the most powerful student journalist the world has ever seen.

9. Wayne Mapp - Eradicator

Finally a man who's willing to take the brave steps into battle against a subjective political construct.

8. Tim Watkin - former Chaff editor

Gets to devise an annual top-50 list of the most powerful people in the country.

7. Flight of the Conchords - recording artists

Recently made it onto the Conan O'Brien show, which is really the measuring stick for any recording artist. Followed it up with a very well received HBO show. They're talking about the issues but they're keeping it funky.

6. Brian Connell - National MP

Anyone knows that whoever takes Rakaia takes New Zealand.

5. Hayley Westenra - singer

Once met Kofi Annan.

4. Aaron Bhatnagar - blogger and statesman

There are so many titles you could put beside this guy's name: "man of leisure," "political activist," "lover not a fighter," "bon vivant," "like a God to me." Bhatnagar personifies power -- and boy does he know it. When it comes to hoardings, local body politics, or perfect hair, Bhatnagizzle is the man to go to. His will be a long-lasting legacy on the New Zealand political scene.

3. Richard Meros - mysterious author

The man who would be Helen Clark's younger lover enjoyed a brief moment in the literatti limelight this year following reviews in The Guardian, The Age, and, most infamously, the Dominion Post. Meros has been largely ignored by anyone with any common sense, but his newfound fame has, apparently, made him quite a hit with the ladies.

2. Alan Duff - author/man of infinite wisdom

Is someone going to finally stand up and say: who bloody well cares about the rights of minorities? How about the rights of the majority? How about the rights of the children? Who cares about Alan Duff? Who cares?

Not me.

1. Joe Tui - fish 'n chips baron

A surprise selection, perhaps, not least because of the regionally-specific nature of Tui's operations. Owner-operator of Tui's takeaways in Dunedin, 'Mr. Tui' as he is affectionately known to his patrons, is the dominant force in the underground fish 'n chips market in the Otago region. Tui has been feeding drunken Dunedin students for many years now as they make the fabled trek across the road from the Captain Cook Tavern to stuff their faces on chunky greasy goodness. One could say Tui is feeding the future face of the nation. And with rumours circulating of an impending Tui's franchise with tentacles reaching into the North Island, this man may be set to grasp culinary power on an unprecedented scale.

Holly Walker - Protester, Dunedin

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ditto, and ditto again

When I received a text message on Sunday afternoon informing me of Rod Donald's untimely death, I got that feeling that I got when Princess Diana died, and also on the morning of September 12, 2001. It's like a shift of some sort, a radical pull in a direction unexpected, a realignment. It's not that the world has changed, or that things will never be the same again, but for a second, it's like something totally unexpected has thrown your comfy existence into a tailspin.

Of course even within hours of hearing such news, you start to process it, and it starts to become part of the background of known information that informs your existence. But just for a second, it's like you can feel the political landscape changing.

And change it has, with the loss of this special man. He was, in the words of another friend who sent a particularly flowery text to inform me of the sad news, "one of the most humble and tirelessly honest politicians" New Zealand has ever known. Noone could have predicted his death, or the amazing outpouring of grief and condolence that has followed it, but this at least is testament to the fact that it wasn't just Green voters who saw how valuable Rod Donald was as a leader and politician.

For my part, my favourtie memory of Rod Donald was my introduction to him: watching a video in 4th form social studies about the 1981 Springbok tour, which followed five individuals, some pro-tour, some anti, during that fraught time. Rod Donald was "the radical", and dressed in his tight 80s pants, fluro bike helmet, and with crazy ginger beard, he certainly made an impression on me. I thought he looked pretty silly, but I actually remember going home and telling my mum that I wished I had something to protest about like that.

She told me to protest the cost of tertiary education; good advice, it turns out, $26,000 later. Otago's University Council is holding its fee setting meeting this afternoon, and while I am no longer a student here, I intend to go and make my presence felt at the protest outside - the bouncy castle, sausage sizzle, balloon animals and vertical bungy are just an added bonus. Actually, compared to most institutions this time around, Otago's fee setting process has been pretty admirable - they didn't hold their meeting out of town, haven't applied for an exemption from the Fee Maxima, and didn't slap an injunction on Critic. But they will probably raise fees by 5%, despite running a massive surplus and wasting millions of dollars on that stupid advertising campaign, so I'll be there.

And I'll spare a little thought for Rod.

Lyndon Hood - mourner, Lower Hutt

Monday, November 07, 2005

Rod Donald

Ditto. And this is really just a longer, more self-indulgent version of Hamish's post.

If it makes any difference, I want to extend my sympathies to Rod's family, friends and colleagues. It's a tragic loss and a sudden one. He will be sorely, and widely, missed.

Right now, Scoop has the reactions of parties and, down the page, other groups and individuals to Rod's passing (Update: Those releases are now here). There are a lot of them. DPF has links to news articles, PC is indexing blog reaction, and info and online condolences are at frogblog.

Based on the radio feedback, it sounds like many supporters of other parties hope for a Rod of their own one day.

There is a plenty of love out there, and a whole lot of respect.

So, Rod Donald is dead. The only MP ever to tell Critic that his favorite films were Battletruck and Rocky Horror.

I spoke to Rod for Scoop before the election. One thing I recall was that he had an uninterruptable way of talking; I realised he was actually taking the breath after starting a new sentence. I got to ask my next question when he was good and finished.

What I've thought about most since is the discussion of electoral issues. I've been in favour of MMP since the start but I'm more of an enthusiast for talking to him.

He cared about, and actively supported, really representative democracy. And human rights (my kind of human rights). What I saw in his political behaviour, as memember of the public, was those principles in practice. Sincerity. Reasonableness - in that, even if you disagreed, he seemed like someone you could talk to. Recognition that everyone else is a person too - when even Marc Alexander speaks of Rod's unfailing (and apparently contagious) respect for the humanity of his opponents, one can't help thinking there's something in it.

Who else, in this new parliament, can we say all that of?

I actually don't know. I hope we'll see.

Always the good ones, eh?

Anyway, I didn't know him. I know I'll miss him.

Lyndon Hood - Not Very Light Relief, Lower Hutt

New Hood: Howard Demands Emergency Anti-Wolf Legislation

Of course I can say that shit; I'm not in the country with the terrorism threat. Apparently the legislation is now in use, but it's still kind of amusing that, if you didn't accuse him of exaggerating the threat for political gain, you could accuse him of blowing the investigation.

Hamish McKenzie - admirer

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bye Rod

I just want to express how sad I am to hear of Rod Donald's death. I'm so sorry that we've lost someone of such principle, integrity, and heart. And so young. My heartfelt condolescences, for what they're worth, go to Rod's family, the Green party, and all his many supporters.

We should all be thankful for what Rod gave us, and what he leaves behind.

Kelly Pendergrast - groupie, San Diego

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ok, so after being in long-distance love with him for almost ten years, I finally got to see Beck (or "Bahk", as I have to call him over here, or people think I'm saying "bic" and talking about a ball-point pen) LIVE! IN CONCERT!

In the last few years I'’ve belatedly seen most of the musicians and bands that I loved as a teenager, and these belated encounters have had varying degrees of enjoyableness for me. Nick Cave was fantastic, Bob Dylan less so. Kraftwork were awesome, Jane's Addiction were OK. But since Beck was my pretend celebrity husband for about six years, I was pretty excited about seeing him in San Diego.

However, I failed to take three things into account: that the show was at my university'’s sports auditorium, and that San Diegan university students are, for the most part, intolerably bland and offensively drunk. The third thing is that Beck is a scientologist and married to the redhead girl from Dazed and Confused, and while this didn'’t affect my enjoyment of the show, it probably means he wasn't gonna be marrying me (and, judging from Katie and Tom, being married to a Scientologist is kinda freaky).

Anyway -– the show was weird. I arrived late with my friend Sara, and walked down the bleachers into the aircraft-hanger-esque space. The crowd was large, but immobile and loosely packed. We easily made our way up to the front (this was amazing to me. No one shoving me, me not standing on people's feet or having to squeeze myself between thousands of sweaty huge stinky dreadlocked dudes or whatever, and no one giving me evil looks or anything), but when we got to within feet of the man himself, this heinous drunk girls-gone-wild type took offense at us being near her, started shoving Sara, and then they almost got into a fist fight. Serious - people had to pull them apart! It was wild! Then, after that first bit of badness, these things happened:

-Beck pulled a girl on stage to help him play the harmonium for one song. She startedawful this aweful grinding booty dance as she pumped the harmonium. This was all during, like, the saddest Beck song ever.

-The guys standing behind me were like Beevis and Butthead in the flesh: "huh, dude, that'’s Beck! Hurr, hurr. Wooh! Beck! Rock out, man! Hurr, hurr".

-No one danced, not even a little bit.

-At the end, people swarmed onto the stage and finally danced, and not in a happy-love Flaming Lips animal-suits way, but a tank-top skanky bleach blond drunken awful way. I think some girls made out, and people cheered.


Whatever. I still love Beck, he still has the best hair in showbiz, but man, San Diego crowds suck baaaaad.

Holly Walker - Inward Bound, Dunedin

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Free advertising

Exactly one year ago today, I rode a shitty all-night shuttle van from Dunedin to Picton, and 12 hours later, arrived dishevelled, disoriented and shit-scared at the ferry terminal ready to be collected and transported to Outward Bound, Anakiwa, for three weeks. A year before, I had been given a voucher for the 21 day Classic course as a 21st present, and, after prevaricating for 12 months, scared by my lack of physical fitness, had finally committed myself.

I don't think there are words to describe how terrified I was (my boyfriend can attest to that, having dealt with an increasingly hysterical girlfriend as the time to depart grew closer). I was overweight and unfit after a year of sitting on my arse writing - either for Critic or my Honours dissertation, and, while well-grounded from a childhood in the outdoors, quite apprehensive about the bushman style adventures that might await me. I was also trying to dismiss as rumour something I'd heard about running a half marathon (it's true).

I loved it, of course. How could I not? I consider it possibly to be the best experience of my life so far, (and I'm well aware that I sound like a cheesy commercial, but it's true) and have been reflecting recently on the sad fact that even if I went back and did the same course, I will never again replicate the experience of doing something like that for the first time. I've already written a feature article about the experience, which, interestingly enough, Outward Bound didn't like too much. I'm of the opinion that it describes the real experience, which is bloody hard at times, but still conveys how very rewarding it was. They think it might have put people off.

This week I've been thinking about the goals I set while I was there. One was to put $10,000 towards paying off my student loan, at which I failed dismally. Luckily it will be interest-free next year and I won't have to worry about it (yes, I'm sure my attitude is unhealthy, I'm the poster-girl for the nay-sayers, etc. I don't care. I simply can't process the fact that at my age I am tens of thousands of dollars in debt.). I fared better on another: to do another half marathon, which I did in September, though after another year of sitting on my arse writing, it damn near killed me. And Critic won the ASPA award for Best Publication, which was the third. More importantly, I know myself better, am a stronger, healthier person, and will always, always have something to call on when things are tough: "If you can tramp for 12 hours a day for three days and then run a half marathon the next day, you can do this".

I've also been thinking about the people I met there. I've lost touch with most of them, but I think about them quite often - when you have such an intense experience with a group of people, you're not likely to forget them in a hurry. Of those I do keep in touch with, OB seems to be been a catalyst for good things: one even bought a cinema.

So, in an ideal world, I think it should be compulsory for every young person in New Zealand to do an Outward Bound course, or something similar. Kind of like military service, but way, way better. One teengaer who was there at the same time as I was (but not in my group) had been offered a choice by a judge; prison or Outward Bound. He chose Outward Bound, and, while I don't know what he's doing now, it seemed to have a pretty amazing effect on him. How do we solve youth crime in South Auckland? As far as I'm concerned, the answer's simple.

Hamish McKenzie - man of the world, London, Ont.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

New York Minutes

Friday, 11:59 p.m.: Arrive in Manhattan after 11-hour ride from Toronto and a frustrating detour through the armpit of America, New Jersey. Try not to get too irritated at SUV-driving rideshare buddies who seem hellbent on driving in opposite direction to New York City, which I am at pains to suggest to them was somewhere near that large mass of lights, bridges, and tall pointy building in the distance. Am rather amused/concerned, however, to see a bonafide posse-fight at a gas station near Jersey city. Feel safe in the ridiculously oversized gas guzzler.

Saturday, 12:17 a.m.: Meet kiwi friend in Times Square. Immediately make plans to find somewhere to drink.

12:45 a.m.: Arrive at a different friend's apartment in Lower East Side, where there's something of a small party going on. Delight in meeting a Georgetown grad who now works as an event planner. He lives near P-Diddy, but doesn't exchange pleasantries on the curbside, apparently. A Wall Street financier spontanesouly undresses in the living room. I have photos of his penis. Don't know how that happened...

1:45 a.m.: ... but it might have had something to do with the bottle of Jim Beam I purchased duty-free at the Canadian border for CDN$13. It was gone by this stage, thanks to much help from friends, including to the recently-arrived Matthew Nippert, a former volunteer writer for the student magazine Salient.

3:00 a.m.ish: Our party of nine walks round the corner and attends two of New York's crappier bars.

4:00 a.m.: We're kicked out onto the street when the bar closes. My two kiwi friends, despondent at no longer having access to alcoholic beverages, circumvent NY's licensing laws by negotiating with a 24-hour chemist to purchase beer, which is then promptly transported home and ignored.

4:38 a.m.: ... except for two bottles, both of which were probably consumed by Nippy.

5:00 a.m.--midday: Sleep happens.

Midday--7:00 p.m.: Sensible tourist-like activities take place, with no drinking to speak of.

7:01 p.m.: Drinking to speak of commences.

Sunday, 5:00 a.m.: Drinking to speak of ceases. Of course, I stopped long ago, but my ravenous kiwi friends try to prolong the activity. I get grumpy at barmen who continue to serve my clearly-fucked buddy even as the bar is closing. I even tell them what they're doing is illegal. How's that for righteous? Get me to a temperance union, I say.

In the meantime, us three kiwi boys have enjoyed a private screening of the Flight of the Conchords' HBO special and subsequently shared the in-jokes with each other to our own great delight.

Then we went to a Halloween pre-party and a Halloween post-pre-party at a bar that must have been at least 600km away. It was a Columbia j-school gig. People were dressed up as scary things. Matt wore a suit.

My other friend and I smuggled bottles of Grolsch into the bar from a convenience store across the street. I was successfully surreptitious. My big-arsed friend got nabbed and almost kicked out. He felt so bad he was compelled to purchase beverages in excess from the bar. His credit card took a real hammering, but not as bad as his body. He had to be helped back to his accommodation in Brooklyn.

I, on the other hand, managed to find my way back to Matt's apartment all by myself. And it only took me two hours. I had a minor mishap. Fell asleep on the subway train, homeless styles, and woke up 150 streets past my intended destination. When I finally made it back to the apartment at the reasonable hour of 7:30 a.m., Matt had beaten me back -- although he doesn't remember how. I was consigned to the two-seater couch for a spine-injuring four hours of sleep.

Sunday, midday--midnight: Sensible non-drinking hungover activities: showering, snoozing, eating, aborting a first viewing of Desperate Housewives. Oh, and I read a great article in The New Yorker about why George Bush Snr.'s national security adviser and best friend, Brent Scowcroft, doesn't like George Jnr. The implication was that George Snr. probably doesn't agree with what his son is doing either. Well, that was my inference. I love New York for its magazines and newspapers: The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's, The Nation, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Observer, The Onion. It's a news junkie's wet dream.

Monday, 7:15 a.m.--10:30 p.m.: ride trains and buses back to London, Ontario. Home to the London Free Press. An inspiration of a newspaper.

Holly Walker - Not pregnant, Dunedin

Contraceptive conundrum

This morning I heard Linda Clark's interview (audio not up yet) with Dr Joseph Hassan, the Catholic GP who has decided to stop prescribing contraception to his patients because of his religious beliefs, and have been discussing the issue with some of my learned colleagues who should probably be studying for their university exams, but who are instead hanging out with me in the Critic office (because it's such a cool place to be). The general consensus is that this is a very tricky issue, with some seriously worrying consequences.

Obviously, Dr Hassan would like every facet of his life, including his work life, to be in harmony with his religious beliefs, and this is a right most people in New Zealand can enjoy without too many problems. For most of his career, Dr Hassan has been prescribing contraception and making referrals for abortions against his better judgement, but for whatever reason he has now decided he can no longer do so. It cuts too deeply against the grain of his strongly held convictions. Yet many of his patients will not share these convictions. When Dr Hassan's desire to live in accordance with his beliefs begins to impact on the ability of his patients to access contraception / be referred for an abortion / request a sterilisation - major life decisions - whose rights should prevail?

Apparently, if there are alternative services available to his patients, there is nothing wrong with Dr Hassan's stance. His patients may go elsewhere - to Family Planning or another GP. He may even point them in the right direction. Luckily, Dr Hassan is based in Nelson, where there are alternatives available, but if an isolated rural GP was to make the same decision, it might well be a different story. It remains to be seen what would happen in such a case, but it is not an easy one. Surely the rural GP would have the same right to religious expression as Dr Hassan? It would be very odd if city GPs were to be allowed to take such stands, but rural GPs were not.

Forcing patients to go elsewhere is also not ideal - they may not feel comfortable discussing such issues with someone other than their trusted family doctor, and there could very likely be impacts on teen pregnancy, as some have claimed. Sure, most savvy teenagers these days know about Family Planning, but what if you were a 16 year old girl who couldn't imagine talking about these issues with a stranger, finally built up the courage to ask your GP, and were rubuffed because of his religious beliefs. Does the doctor in this case not have more of a responsibility to your wellbeing than to simply turn you away?

And then, no matter how nicely it was explained, would you not feel like your doctor was judging and disapproving of your lifestyle if you were refused access to contraceptive services? Would that not inhibit your ability to speak freely to him about other lifestyle-related health issues? What if you were a Catholic who had reconciled yourself to the use of contraception despite your faith? You're supposed to be going to the doctor, not confession.

This case sets a dangerous precedent in a number of regards, not only from the perspective of the patient, but also for rural doctors who may not be afforded the same luxury of religious expression as others. I can't help but feel Dr Hassan's stance is a more than a little irresponsible.