Matt Nippert - Bigger than (the historical) Jesus, Auckland

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I Palin Comparison

Rumors of my multiple mystery personalities have been greatly exaggerated. I inhabit only one body, can barely organise one life, and run only under one name - pseudonyms are for cowards, obscenity peddlers, and those stuck working as mouthpieces for The Man. Lyndon Hood is his Own Man, although I am tempted to appropriate his name, and location for that matter. With my sweater on, prowling through Epuni with my homies, I'd be "Hood the hooded hood". Killah. All you can do with Nippert is "Nippert's on the buds."

I'll keep this short, as the baton looks to have multiplied in the past week. Aaron needs to find himself a job, playing content manager of the global interweb doesn't fit his talents (may I suggest Breakfast newsreading, or perhaps the Wanganui mayoralty?). Lyndon is a very funny boy, and Hamish can ghost-write my battleraps any time he likes. Dogbitingmen look have a great career ahead of them as event managers. Case closed and onto real news...

The SIS allegations are very entertaining. A serious journalistic enterprise from Hager and Hubbard (not to mention the back-room contributions of Brett and Tucker) is followed by their competitors trying to discredit, what seems to be, one of the scoops of the year. It's interesting to note the catch-up game being played by the Herald, and the degree to which Clark is able to use Old Granny as a personal mouthpiece. Still, it's all still on. Two out of three sources remaining, as appears to be the case, ain't bad. The Sunday Star-Times deserve credit, albeit only grudgingly from competitors.

Speaking of the Herald, whoever approved their web relaunch have done their paper a huge disservice by removing the search function. The depth of content, accessible up until last week, was unparalleled in New Zealand. I suspect you will see far fewer serious visitors to the site, and subsequently far fewer mentions of Herald reports in other media- including academic publications. New Zealand has lost a highly valued, and extremely useful, research tool. One question: Why?

UPDATE: Words taste good. It appears the site is still under construction, and the search function being rebuilt. A relief for sure...

And, as alluded to in my last post, I have the pleasure of scooping Damian Christie, with my Michael Palin transcript. (Speaking of scooping the competition, it is interesting to see month-old features migrate to the front page of the NBR.) Palin here covers topics that couldn't be squeezed into a shortish piece of the Listener; cricket, Mao, the British Empire, old-school Peel and inflammable canines.

Matt Nippert: Circuses have clowns, acrobats, lion tamers and ringmasters. What role did you play in the Monty Python Flying Circus?

Michael Palin: I think probably one of those dogs who jump through hoops.

Would the hoops be on fire?

Yes, certainly if John Cleese was holding it it’d probably be on fire. He likes spicing things up a bit. I never really liked the clowns in circuses, I wouldn’t have been a clowns. I think one of those very versatile small animals, who can balance a ball on their nose and jump through flaming hoops, just a creature of all trades.

You travelled through Nepal and met the King in the course of your Himalaya series. Wasn’t there that strange incident in 2002 that saw eight members of the royal family – including the then-King – killed by a “malfunctioning” AK47?

Yes, “accidentally discharged”, by a mad crown prince who was as high as a kite. That’s a very odd thing, because I met the king, he was about the only survivor of this massacre. There are all sorts of theories about it, but no one seems absolutely certain. Of course, there are some who think the current King was involved, so you really don’t know.

And where do the Maoists fit in with this bloody monarchy?

The monarchy in Nepal is quite … in a way it’s quite powerful and respected, a lot of people want to monarchy to survive. But the monarchy is at loggerheads with the Maoists in rural areas, and it seems to be quite a serious situation. While the Maoists seem to be sporting a discredited political philosophy, they have adapted it what they see as the problems of corruption and illiteracy and poverty in the rural areas. Kathmandu is quite middle-class, with well-educated people, nice shops and all that, while the rest of Nepal is quite different, because it’s a backward rural economy and the Maoists want to change that. So nothing’s getting done, which is why they’re going head to head. Something’s got to give, I don’t know quite what.

Did you encounter much anti-western feeling in the region?

Much, much less than I expected. This was just after the Iraq war. I thought that they’d be waving their fists like you see on television, shouting “death to the infidel!” and all that, but mainly people get on with their own lives, they’re fairly preoccupied. I think you could whip up a crowd there fairly easily if you wanted to, but there were some great moments. We were in Rawalpindi, in Pakistan, and this guy comes up to me and says “you CNN?” And I said “No, we’re BBC.” And he said, “Good. BBC good, CNN shit.” And he was wearing a NY Yankees baseball cap, and he said to me “I have something for you. Videotape. Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omah. Together, never seen before. Everyone is looking for them, all over the world, I give to you. Tape.” It’s just so strange, I said “Not at the moment thanks.”

I understand you're a train enthusiast. What’s the attraction?

Are there trains in New Zealand?

Not really up here in Auckland, we mainly use them to transport cattle.

I was born and bought up in Sheffield and did trainspotting, and love the trains. It was partly school, collecting numbers is a big sort of competitive thing – don’t ask me why, but it did – and the other thing was my father was quite keen on trains, loved train travel. I’ve never particularly enjoyed driving, especially on big crowded motorways, I’d far rather go by train. You can sit there, someone does all the work for you, unlike a plane where you’re strapped in like a battery hen. You can walk around, and go out to the bar, and go to the restaurant. I love train travel, it’s a great way to see the countryside, I just think it’s rather sensible, we should encourage it.

Also, in terms of the programs I do – it’s a good way to meet people and get the feel of the country. Go on a train, people are more relaxed, you can’t really interview people in a car on the road, nor in a plane. That leaves boats and train, trains are good, people seem to be quite jolly and relaxed. It seems to be some sort of limbo time, they’re all going somewhere, for a while everybody’s just in a little bit of limbo, they’ll talk and get food out– it’s a very pleasant way of life.

You attended High School with John Peel, didn’t you?

Yes. I was at what they call in England a public school, which is a private school, yes. I was there for one term with him, he was older than me, and we just sort of overlapped by one term.

Even over here the tributes flowed long.

He was very popular here was he? It was quite odd, there was this real feeling of loss in England as well, it went on and on. There’s something about him, he just did his job really well. And he knew so much about music, and he helped so many people. I can remember than when Terry Jones and myself did an rather extremely obscure album called Diversions - we wrote some songs that were recorded by a man called Barry Booth - the only airplay we ever got was on the Peel Show. It was a song called ‘He’s Very Good With His Hands’ which Peel rather liked and played two or three times. And that was all he wanted really, he didn’t go over the top, he was a man of very good taste actually, and never believed in any hype of any kind. I think people really respected him for that, and in a sense, that’s what left a bit of a gap in these hype-filled days, just rather low-key, humorous, but kind of a gentle wit, and very knowledgeable.

Has the declining English empire been a boon for comedy? Perhaps, if not necessarily making the country a laughing stock, perhaps it’s given you a larger stock of laughter – as there's no need to take yourselves so seriously anymore…

I’m not sure if it’s true that that’s caused people to laugh at themselves, although maybe laugh at themselves more. I think the British people have always been quite good at criticising whatever was going on in the country, even at the height of Victorian times there were lots of people writing racey stories, even back to Jane Austen who was quite satirical in a way. If you feel reasonably comfortable and at ease, this is my theory, you can attack in a sense more deeply because people well go “we can cope with that, we can deal with that”.

And then of course in the 60s everything began to fall apart, pink bits, red bits, dropped off the map. I think for a while, certainly the 60s and 70s, there was such an oppressive rump of the old authority system – the army, the church, the monarchy – all these sorts of things were very strong, but they were losing a little bit of relevance. They weren’t able to adapt to the way things were changing in the 60s, everyone was loosening up a bit, and the reaction from authorities was “Shock! Horror! Well, we can’t allow this, close that down.” We had a Lord Chamberlin who made sure we didn’t say anything rude on stage – one completely forgets the amount of censorship there was. It was very good, there were people like Monty Python who thrived on being told not to do something, it certainly makes you want to do it.

I think for a while, that’s when some of the best sort of comedy was done, Peter Cook came along, and even the Goons – although it doesn’t seem to be obviously commenting on the situation, it was actually when you looked at it, you see lots of pompous figures reduced. Those years it seemed as though comedy was an essential part of the loosening up process.

And then the 70s and 80s the decline became far worse than anyone had expected and the entire country was in a terrible mess, completely chaotic, and then the attack switched away from comedy to something like music. Punk came along, and punk had the attitude, "rah, rah, Fuck the Queen". And now, after Thatcher, it’s all a "me" society, it’s all about me me me, as we coast serenely into 90s on a wave of Starbucks coffee and general comfort and materialism, I think it was quite harmful for comedy now. Comedy nowdays more seems to be with certain individuals and certain attitudes that comes down to “Do you like gameshows? Do you like reality shows on television? There are disgusting, shocking!”, says some people “We’ve got to send these up!” Which is a bit superficial. I think what was genuinely in the 50s and 60s and early 70s a feeling that there was a repressive, authoritarian view out there, if you were a thinking person it was your duty to take up cudgels against it.

You managed to get cleaned up first ball playing cricket in Pakistan. How has cricket managed to be so successfully exported to the subcontinent when it is viewed with bemusement by America?

I think cricket's one of the few games England actually invented. Most of them they purloined from other places, like snooker, billiards, polo, all which seem particularly English, taken form India, the Persians, and then given rules and made into British sport. Skiing was just what Sheppards did in the Alps, the English went out, put a few poles in the way, and go round it, and suddenly “We’ve got a new sport! Skiing!"

But I think cricket did begin, as far as I know, in England, a long time ago. The same roots as rounders and baseball and all that. It just caught on in India certainly, and they’re tremendously keen on it now, in Pakistan as well. You find it played all over the place, on waster ground, half-ay up a mountain. It’s quite now, it’s now, through sport and success, of the Indian and Pakistan teams, in that most British of games, cricket. It’s a way of saying “Now we’re the countries to be reckoned with and we’ll scare the life out of the Brits.” So it’s got a slightly political role as well.

Lyndon Hood - another man's freedom fighter, Lower Hutt

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Oh, honestly.

If you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies, then I need to get some better enemies.

Lyndon Hood - "sporadic" blogger, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Now, Aaron.

If you're not too busy quoting other bloggers without linking to them or being unelected or something, I'd like a word.

I wouldn't normally be offended (and I certainly wouldn't be surprised) by a right-wing ideologue sneering at somebody who disagrees with him. Especially when said ideologue's name is written in such big letters at the top of their blog.

And yet...

Why are you so angry Aaron? Is Rodney Hide your momma, that you rage so when I diss him? Is that why you were googling alternate spellings of his surname?

I can't deny that I did spell His name in vain. Normally I would care. I was, for example, mortified to realise that, referring in a post to the belief that students' spelling ability is not as good as it used to be, I put the apostrophe in the wrong place.

But it's Rodney Hide and I don't care. I would have made up a spelling for his first name as well if it had occurred to me. Rodneyweiler. That would have been pretty funny.

Perhaps I just wanted to use a joke other than the one that no doubt plagued his childhood but still works admirably ("It's Rodney! Hide!","You can't run, because you're Rodney Hide!").

At any rate, somebody who managed to add no less than ten characters (a p p o i n t e d space) when quoting the personal description in my title line is in no position to cast stones.

By the way, do you actually know what the word 'dramaturg' means?

I admit that it's ACT's economic and social policies that really get on my wick - the fact that one of you occasionally says something sensible about human rights (other than property rights) is just the icing on the razor blade.

Now, by the end of that my little dialogue I was actually talking about the party generally. For instance, I'm aware that Stephen Franks may be one of the very, very few MPs who actually care about freedom of speech. Which is why his response to the flag-burning issue was so striking. And that's what I was thinking of.

I find that ACT's stated policy on cannabis reform is reasonably liberal and Mr Hide is 'strongly supportive' but their actions have yet to earn them a matching reputation. And really, for a party whose overriding principles are freedom of choice and personal responsibility, a reasonable drug policy is well, for pussies. They should be working actively to legalise them all! Let the invisible hand sort it out!

You address neither my main point (the hypocrisy of ACT's particular solution to the Awatere-Huata Question) or, I note, my unsupported general aspersion of Deborah Coddington.

And then, Aaron, you called me names. Though it is the most misunderstood of the seven words they never used to able to say on American radio, it's word that I last used in anger to characterise David Irving. Sure, I called him a cast-iron tit, but I object being placed in the same category.

Anyway, Aaron (if that's your real name), you wrote a post to sneer at me and you'll no doubt describe me as whinging now. So we're even now, right? I promise that, should we ever meet, I won't try to nationalise you. Oh, except...

It was a joke, Aaron.

You know what a joke is, right?


Tom Goulter - "Actor" - Christchurch

Saturday, November 20, 2004

In Which I Heartily Endorse The Efforts Of Right-Wing Crazies

There's this cat named Daryl Mason. He does not, it's fair to say, like Skinny Puppy much. In fact, he dislikes Skinny Puppy so much, does Daryl, that he has made it his mission to eradicate them from the airwaves. (Daryl's task is made all the more herculean by the fact that Messrs. Puppy aren't really played by real radio stations, per se, and as such their airwave prescence is limited to the insidiously untrackable breeding ground for militants, revolutionaries and stoners that is college radio. DAN-dun-duuhhhh).
Mason, however, isn't alone. Oh no. Mason, as his form letter (readable on most of the links above) would remind us, is part of a majority. He's the status quo, motherfucker. And he has the MANDATE (oh God, that felt good) of PABAAH[1]!
PABAAH - Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood, for those who find it hard to take that acronym seriously - is the harelipped, eleven-fingered baby of Jon Alvarez, who sounds to me like he's just jumped the border to take jobs off decent Americans like Colin Powell, but I'm not here to judge.
PABAAH, however, most definitely are! The folks at Sorry Everybody are branded "Sick, disgusting, dangerous, and irresponsible... traitors", whereas advocating public lynchings and photoshopping your mysogynist fantasies is a Good Idea. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.
The problem with PABAAH - well, obviously, there are plenty of problems with PABAAH, such as they're crazy and they want to repeal the 22nd Amendment and they're totally crazy - but the main problem, as I can see it, with PABAAH, is that they're nowhere near complete in their list of dangerous counterculture insurgents whose work must be ignored at all costs.
(It's at this point in the writing of this article that I tried to become a member of PABAAH, so as to explore their fine gallery of hatred further, but they started sending me here wherever I clicked, so I don't know, they must be psychic or have magical computer-seeing powers or something).
Nowhere on PABAAH (before it branded me a liberal moron, that is) could I find a single reference, for instance, to Halo 2. Nor on Boycott Hollywood, of whose misguidedly amateurish [2] design I have fond memories as something of a proto-PABAAH. (And don't go telling me that Boycott Hollywood's function is to highlight artists whose public comments are at odds with the webmaster's opinions, because I'd be interested to see what movies have given Ben And Jerry's icecream above-title billing). Indeed, googling any and all right-wing boycott groups and crossreferencing them with references to Halo 2, you'll find nothing[3].
Which is simply ludicrous. After all, we're talking about - I'm quoting official Xbox sales personnel here - we're talking about "The Biggest Retail Release Ever" here. We're also talking about a game whose writer, Joe Staten, was quoted desribing his work as "a damning condemnation of the Bush administration". Staten later clarified that, actually, a "damning condemnation" was exactly what he wouldn't call his game; but that's exactly what these money-grubbing champagne Liberals would say, isn't it? Bungie? Bunjew, more like. (Just to be sure, Republican Radio put out Staten's response way under their original "damning condemnation" headline and story. It's good to see someone's remaining creative with their slander).
Boycott Hollywood list includes George Clooney ("Now THIS one is a heartbreaker - - he's just so darned cute, isn't he?"), but not David O. Russell, who directed Clooney in the incendiarily subversive Three Kings. Thanks to neglect on the part of Boycott Hollywood, David O'Russell is able to keep on spewing his virulent anti-American propaganda unchecked!!1!!! They also neglect to call for any sort of action against Ed Kowalcyk, who as we speak is making dozens of dollars with his new cd, Awake: The Best Of Live. Live. A band who once fearlessly sang something about "blood and oil on a bayonet" in a song called What Are We Fighting For?
SERIOUSLY, Boycott Hollywood! Your fellow grassroots-nutcases are calling for a boycott of The World's Most Hated Insidious LifeStyle Conglomerate, Starbuck's, because they play Sheryl Crow sometimes in their stores and Sheryl Crow said something sometime about not liking war, and you can't even connect a few fucking dots and not buy Awake: The Best Of Live? Really! Seriously!
Probush.com do a little better: their list is longer, and it's less organised, so you have to read all of it, and they really grab for that brass ring by calling for a boycott of the work of Viggo Mortensen. Oh shit: There goes New Line Cinema, Cause Stone Cold Probush Dot Com Said So.
Also, boycott Tom Morello?? Do these people not remember the crashing-and-burning of the alt.music boom in the late 1990's? Tom Morello was on, like, every fucking record! How the fuck are you going to boycott the missing link between Rage Against The Machine, Prodigy, Puff Daddy, Bone Thugz 'n' Harmony, Atari Teenage Riot, The Crystal Method, Henry Rollins, and - most crucially and - The Class Of 1999?? That's impossible!
Problem, basically, is that none of these people go far enough. Moby, Madonna and REM? Sure, fine, so to boycott all these artists and any use of their work would require you to scrupulously avoid a disgusting amount of fine media, and also The Bourne Supremacy. But what's needed is a grand overarching list of everyone who's spoken against the war or the President, and every piece of art - if you can call it that! - they've been associated with. And these brass-balls-having guardians of truth and justice and paranoid vitriolic raving insanity need to put their fucking money where their mouth is and avoid everything on the list.
And then those of us who are not crazy nutbars can go on enjoying whatever movies and music and artists we like. (In fact, we might do our best to adhere to artists on The List: after all, Carrot Top isn't on anyone's lists yet, and Britney won't be on it anytime soon - which I know will make a lot of you very happy indeed).
After all, as President Bush has noted, all who are not with him are against him.

(NOTE: This line was previously used by Lawrence Fishburne, who is on The List; and also by Jesus Christ, who advocated Loving Thine Enemy, so He's on The List; also, He was in the Bible, which had that whole swords-into-ploughshares thing, which is so anti-war, so it's totally on The List).

[1] If you can read that link, we here at Fightingtalk aren't doing our job very well. Even Livejournal manages to make PABAAH's list of undesirable source links: if you try to access www.pabaah.com from LJ, you get the following message:
Your[sic] coming from a site that we don't like. So why dont[sic] we send you back! [sic]
powered whit Protector System
[sic] - perhaps they meant to say "Powered White Protector System", I don't fucking know.
Policing the parts of the Internet from which people can access your site has always seemed to me like one of the lamest, most insecure things you could ever do. But that's just me.
[2] You can't call for a boycott of the work of Lawrence Fishburne and simultaneously take design cues from his biggest movie. It doesn't work that way.
[3] We who aren't in the journalism business call this "the poor man's Nexus-Lexus".

Lyndon Hood - self-dramaturg, Lower Hutt

Friday, November 19, 2004

ACTing Out

The following is a transcript of an interview conducted in my head during today's Morning Report.

Lyndon Hood: Mr Hyde, you've just proved that it's possible for parties to kick elected MPs out of Parliament by expelling them. How do you feel?

Rodney Hyde: Pleased as punch, thank you.

LH: I discover that ACT is against the party-hopping legislation.

RH: Yep. We voted against it and we're glad it expires at the next election.

LH: So you just went all the way to the Supreme Court to set a precedent for a piece of legislation you don't agree with?

RH: No. We did it to kick Donna out of parliament.

LH: But you're against parties being able to remove MPs?

RH: That's right. It's okay if we do it, though.

LH: You don't think that's hypocritical?

RH: No. I think it's mightily convenient.

LH: It's almost as if you've got two personalities.

RH: I think ...

LH: As in, may I speak to Doctor Jekyll?


RH: I don't think that's funny or clever.

LH: Is this a new attempt by ACT to seize the moral low ground? I mean, what with the way you are for property rights but apparently dead against drug liberalisation and freedom of expression, and what with, how shall I put this, Deborah Coddington? What do you say to that? Huh?

RH: Duh, look at me, I'm Rodney Hyde!

LH: And we'll have to stop there.

Finish Off the Last One, Have Yourself Another

It seems the people who brought your the campaign against drink-driving are ready to try and make New Zealand drink less. I'm considering pitching an ad where, just as he's starting his third triple bourbon, the protagonist's liver explodes out from under his ribcage Alien styles.

I don't want to go too deeply into the principles of behavioral psychology, but I had issues with the approach of the drink-drive ads. Showing terrible things happening to people who drink and drive won't work nearly as well as show people being rewarded for not drink-driving. For being a sober driver. For leaving the car. For not taking the car because you're going to be drinking. For stopping someone else driving drunk.

Since, in the real world, the reward for driving sober is not injuring yourself or others (or at least being less likely to), there's a place for the negative message by way of comparison. And I understand there has been the occasional positive ad in the drink-drive campaign. I never saw any. Mind you, I haven't had a TV in a while.

The new campaign has been announced amid much tutting about the level of and attitude towards 'binge drinking' in New Zealand. I'm not sure how many of the newsreaders and talkback hosts would be able to keep a straight face if every time they quoted the ALAC study they had to say that a 'binge' is defined as seven or more standard drinks in one session. Ah, yes. How often have we heard it: "I went on such a bender last night. I got through seven-eighths of a bottle of wine!"

Drinking at that amount in one go is no doubt bad for you. Probably worse that drinking rather more but spread over the whole week. And god knows drunk people get into enough other trouble. But there will be a lot of resistance if they expect people to limit their consumption that much.

Anyway, trying to stop people getting drunk is not so much like stopping them drink-driving as it is like stopping them smoking, This can be expected to be much harder. Not only are they both addictions but in both cases the health consequences arrive on a scale of years, quite unlike the immediate results that can be achieved by driving while intoxicated. This makes it harder to sell and, as I say, the negative approach isn't the best anyway. All it will do is make the drunks surlier.

Besides, ads about the dangers of smoking just make smokers realise it's time for a cigarette. And as a matter of fact, I'm feeling more and more like fixing myself a gin and tonic as I write this.

There are other options. Jim Anderton suggests putting the drinking age back up, and there's always more tax. Both of these would vex me intensely, but they would have a noticable effect on the levels of drinking. The Government (though it is talking about more enforcement of the current laws) is dismissing these as 'not enough' and is instead concentrating exclusively on an option which even they expect to take years before it starts working.

Which probably explains why the campaign has the support of the Beer Wine and Spirits Council.

Listening to their spokesman maintaining that it wasn't actually in their financial interest to have people drink as much as they can, I was reminded of a pamphlet I once saw (I think they put it out). It was about the benefits of moderate drinking. As I recall, beer contains some vitamins and minerals as well as many important calories. One the positive side, I don't think they resorted to calling wine fruit.

There was, however, a graph showing the point where the benefits to the heart of drinking was outweighed by the detriments to the liver. It was drawn as a line graph when it should have been a bar chart and the illness curve bottomed out at a liquor consumption that I estimated to be about twice as high as it should have been.

If these people are in favour of an ad campaign, I take it as conclusive proof that it won't damage their sales.

Besides, if the consequences are supposed to make stop people drinking, how come people put up with hangovers?

Max Johns - aimless baiter, Blenheim

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Taking things too far

Someone asked me if I thought I was taking this (here for part two) too far. At first I thought maybe they had a point, until I remembered that it all started with someone telling me that they had US$28,000,000 to give me. I'm way off the pace.

Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 02:09:10 -0800 (PST)
From: david kwame
Subject: From David.
To: Max Johns

Dear Max.

Do i send you the application letter?

Await your resposne.


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Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 09:03:19 +1300 (NZDT)
From: Max Johns
Subject: Re: From David.
To: david kwame

My dear David,

Please do send the letter, with all haste. I will hope to receive it most urgently.

I also have a weekend's fishing to look forward to. Truly these are happy times in this the summer of the globe's south.

Yours as always and ever,


Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 00:23:09 -0800 (PST)
From: david kwame
Subject: Application Letter.
To: Max Johns

Dear Max.

Find below the specimen application Letter which you are going to transcribe and send to the bank immedaitely by email. As soon as you contact the bank endeavor to give me feed back.

Await your response .ASAP.

Best Regards.




37 High Street, Accra,

Ghana, West Africa

+ 233 - 277514420, 21771983-4

Fax : + 233 - 27515005

EMAIL: info@ecowasbank.com



Address:………………………… …………………………



Ref: A/c D14-A55-096/utb/t of MR STEVEN WITMAN JOHNS

This is to inform you that MR STEVEN WITMAN JOHNS. is my relative, who died in the plane crash, along with some of the passengers and crew on board.

On checking the various records of my relative, we found that he maintained an account with your bank with the above a/c D14-A55-096/utb/t . Some of the deceased's records suggest that there was a credit balance of above USD28, 500,000 (Twenty eight million five hundred United States Dollars) in the account. As next of kin, I would now like to submit my application to your esteemed bank for release of my relative, MR STEVEN WITMAN JOHNS .funds in your bank, in the above said a/c #D14-A55-096/utb/t , and also in other accounts, if any.

Please let me know all the information I am required to provide to back up my claim. You may note that these funds are needed to pay off MR STEVEN WITMAN JOHN'S liabilities, and also to complete some of unfinished urgent projects started by MR STEVEN WITMAN JOHNS . Therefore, I would request you to please process my claim and release the funds as early as possible.

Thanks for your co-operation.

Yours faithfully

AUTHORISED SIGNATORY ................................................

Note The simple information you need about the deceased are:

1. Age: 51 as of the time of death

. 2. Height: 5.10 3. Spouse: none

4. His wife died ten years ago of cancer of the breast.

5. His address was never stated to the bank because he opened a secret domiciliary account, which allows this. This is mostly the important thing, which I can remember at the moment but if I miss out any, I will inform you when I find out

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Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2004 15:08:53 +1300 (NZDT)
From: Max Johns
Subject: Re: Application Letter.
To: david kwame

Mr. Kwame,

An incredible occurance has occured!! And it's incredible!! I have not replied to you for some days, but only some and not many, because of the thing which I must explain to you.

I had a glimmer of recognition when I first read the name of the deceased, Mr. Steven Witman Johns. At first I considered it to be simply due to the fact the I and he shared a last name. But it played on my mind (though not literally) through a day and a night, and I took it upon myself (in a metaphorical sense, of course), to look into this Steven Witman Johns matter.

I asked my mother, whose memory of the family is long and usually accurate - odd, since she can never remember what happened yesterday, or how she likes to take her tea - if she knew of any Steven Witman Johns fitting the description below. She told me that she did!! My father - may the gods rest his souls and treat him goodly - had one second cousin born in 1945.

He was a strong hunter, a sportsman, one who dabbled in fine wines and politics, who never stood down from a fight, could cook a fair game pie, and was known all around his district. He went by the name "Wittie". Everyone knew him as Wittie, and his real name was soon forgotten. Even at his wedding, in his vows, he called himself Wittie. It was the way his large-breasted, lucky bride wanted it to be. One night, early in the 1980s, before even the new wave, Wittie was celebrating a good day's hunting with liquor. A fight broke out amongst other men, and Wittie tried to solve it. The next details are blurry, but it is believed that both the other men swore to find and kill Wittie once he had interfered with their business. Wittie took this to heart, and disappeared.

His wife and family wept for three years, and accused the men of murder. It was in the newspapers that he was probably dead. But after those three years, his wife, too, and his children, also disappeared. It was assumed thereafter than they had joined him somewhere far away.

Wittie, as a name, was short for Witman. That he had lived as Wittie for so long had meant that people had forgotten that he was also Steven! I believe that you have helped solve the mystery of Wittie's disappearance! The secrecy of his account makes sense to us, as he was in hiding, and he was certainly a fine enough man to earn such riches. I have contacted police here, and they have ended their now decades old murder investigation. This has made us all very happy to have known that he lived, but also very sad that he is, again, dead. The news of his wife is also tragic, but thank-you from many Johnses for having informed us. Do you know where the bodies are buried? Our family may visit the graves.

Yours, and yours again,

Max Johns.


Matt Nippert - working dog, Auckland

Monday, November 15, 2004

Pilger’s Progress

The say when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And going I have been, much like a rampant infection of the clappers. As you might have noted, work has been keeping me busy, but fortunately some of the fruits of my labour have been allowed to fall to ground. You can catch an off-the-cuff letter to Democrats asking them to consider moving to New Zealand here. An interview with Rex Weyler and analysis of the origins of Greenpeace is available here. Unfortunately a piece on investigative journalism featuring an interview with John Pilger is off-line, but I am able to offer some tit-bits further down.

I consider writing to be less a science, and more an art, and an ugly art at that. I fully agree with economist, former US ambassador to India and architect of the American World War II economy John Kenneth Galbraith when he said "effortless prose takes at least six drafts". I usually stop my own turgid prose at three. I have no truck with grammar Nazis like Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves. (For an excellent dissection of her book, read this review by Louis Menand. Scroll past the tedious section until you get to the part where he describes writing as singing.) Writing is about rhythm, verve and creativity. Rules are guides only and should be bent and broken in pursuit of a better sentence. The world is not going to hell (although perhaps my subeditors might be) because I don’t use apostrophes correctly.

But to the point, writing, nonfiction especially, is about gathering ideas and evidence, and then channeling that into words, sentences, paragraphs. Eventually a piece, fully-formed, emerges. Spooky. It’s painful, tedious and does nothing for my blood-levels or ethereal motivation to quit smoking. That said, I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.

So, in my roundabout way, I introduce what I hope to be a regular feature at Fightingtalk, peering behind the curtain at the elements that make up a story. This week, it’s an interview with John Pilger. Wanting to avoid a straight profile (and inevitably rehashing the entertaining but pointless tête-à-tête with Kim Hill), I instead discussed his latest book in terms of New Zealand.

Tell Me No Lies rates as one of the best pieces of non-fiction I’ve read this year, and I’ve steered clear of fiction for the last wee while – reality is weird enough for me, thank you very much. A collection of staggering journalistic scoops ranging from the first piece out of Hiroshima (where the reporter sneaked out of the official tour party to dispute the claim of radiation as "Japanese propaganda"), to Seymour Hersh’s first My Lai piece, to this sweet story by Jessica Mitford on craven exploitation by the funeral industry.

Anyway, here’s John Pilger on investigative journalism. I’ll be busy for the next week, but might have something particularly amusing and Python-oriented when I return. Enjoy.

Matt Nippert: Do the journalists whose work features in your book share common characteristics?
John Pilger: Professionally I would say yes. The theme of the book is that these are journalists who have tried to call great power to account, which I’ve described as one of the paramount principles of journalism. I do associate myself with a number of these people and personally they’re all very different, they’re all mavericks, there are a rich range of personalities, as you might have noted.
MN: Doesn’t being a maverick put them offside with both their subjects and their editors?
JP: Well yes it does, although not with good editors. Good editors nurture mavericks, which makes them good editors. Mediocre editors don’t exploit them fully, the talents of mavericks. I think it puts them offside with authority generally, again, that ought to be another principle of journalism. I’ve used, possibly my favorite quotation, on the cover of the book: “never believe anything until it’s officially denied”. That is a truism actually, as we’ve seen over the recent events over Iraq.
MN: There must be motivation for doing this work – after all, it can’t be fun getting heavied by your boss or authority figures.
JP: I think part of it is an affinity with the underdog, believing in social justice, that’s basic journalism. Many of these great mavericks have expressed an understanding of humanity, humanity running through their work. Journalism originally was that, and the idea of the journal, go back to Swift and Dickens and so on.
MN: What sort of world would we be living in if these stories you included were not broken?
JP: I’m not very good at speculation, so really the answer to that is I don’t know. But let’s say if William Burchett had not revealed that nuclear weapons, when they exploded spread radiation. Undoubtedly somebody else would have done that along the line. I think that one disclosure alerted large numbers of the human race to this great threat, to their survival, the world’s survival. Perhaps we’d be living in a differenet world – I don’t know. I think some of these are scoops that almost, you could say almost, changed the world, but you never know if they did or not. And it’s political action, at whatever level government or whatever, that changes things. That’s how human beings change conditions and they do it on the basis of information. Information ought to come from those of us whoa re paid to keep the record straight.
MN: What inhibits investigative journalism?
JP: The answer to that is the same that it is anywhere: those who own newspapers are not prepared to put the resources into what will be long and patient work that may not necessarily succeed. Investigative journalism needs time, it needs resources. These days, especially these days, editors want quick-fix journalism. Investigative journalism can embarrass politically, it can embarrass commercially. There are plenty of cases of investigative work being curtailed because of that.
MN: How can more investigative journalism be encouraged?
JP: I think it starts in the media colleges which have now taken over the training of journalists. When I started this kind of journalism, although it was never called investigative, the term didn’t exist then, this kind of journalism was encouraged by other journalists in a kind of journalist apprentice situation. But now it’s been formalised in an academic, or quasi-academic, setting. So that young journalists seem to emerge thinking that their principle source is going to be authority, government, various people in authority – they are the source of news – and they’re not. And if media colleges taught the Martha Gelhorn dictim, that you report from the ground up and not from the top, I think it would begin to turn out better journalists and investigative journalists. Perhaps one of the problems is editors have become managers, they become economic managers – the cult of corporatism runs through everything. This is all the nonsense that has been exported from America and contaminated practically everything that we do. We have the news last week that Reuters is outsourcing to India. From their point of view it makes sense: they get cheap labour and they make a fortune out of it, but if editors were editors and not managers, if they didn’t have to forever think of the bottom line, if they were allowed to edit and that their principle loyalty was to their staff and to their readers, not to the boardroom, the quality of journalism would change almost overnight.
MN: You recently screened a documentary on the Diego Garcia military base and how locals were expelled extra-legally for military purposes. How was the reaction to that?
JP: Terrific, just overwhelming actually. In the first couple of days I had over a thousand emails, from people wanting to do something about it and demanding why this has been allowed to go on. Others wanting to give to the support fund, but mostly people wanting to call to account the governemnt, because the present government is up to its neck in it. The law firm that has been representing them [the locals who were expelled from their homes] were contacted this week by two Law Lords who said privately they wanted to give their services free to helping this case. It is such an irrefutable scandal, an act of injustice that runs against the grain of all kinds of people and interests in this country. And it’s a British story – it’ll probably be shown in New Zealand, TVNZ have shown an interest in it, and they usually show my stuff.
MN: How did you go about digging up the 30-year-old government documents which proved central to establishing culpability by the US and British governments?
JP: I wanted to do this story for some time but it just took some years to get the right time and space to do it. And then I heard about these documents. These documents have been available, they have been in the public records office in London, for about seven years. It’s a comment on journalism as well that no journalist has gone into the public records office and looked for them and found them. One academic, an historian called Mark Curtis, mentioned them. And then the lawyers went in, we all went in there. There was this treasure trove of documents that fill a long table, just piles of them. It took quite a while just to go through them and pull them together. This year we went to the national archives in Washington and spent quite a long time working through the papers there. We found the American side of it in papers as well. So we showed where it had all begun, the Americans had demanded the lease on Diego Garcia and there’s the correspondence between the officials and how they hid it from congress – there’s no record of payment. Instead $14m was taken off the cost of a Polaris missile that was being supplied to the Royal Navy, that’s how they hid it before Congress found out about it later on. At the center they were hiding it because the Americans wanted the island to be depopulated, which they were.
PS: Did anyone else feel a chill, during Bush’s acceptance speech, when the President-elect called Karl Rove “the architect”? Read it in conjunction with this section from a New York Times Magazine article where Ron Suskind talks to a Bush aide in the heat of the campaign:

"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'" The aide then said, "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality."
Matrix anyone?

I'd also like to extend my thanks to the Peace Foundaton, generously gave me an award for my piece on the (then) coming prison crisis. Now, with stories "breaking" on prisoners being held for weeks in police and court cells, I almost feel like saying "told you so." Or, as Pilger put it so combatively last year, people just need to read.

Max Johns - Responsible personality, Picton

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Giving My Family More Better Life

The communication between Mr. Kwame and myself (here's Part One, in case you missed it) continues, having so far avoided eyebrows and not passed through any back doors...


Date: Tue, 9 Nov 2004 09:31:32 -0800 (PST)
From: david kwame
Reply-To: david kwame
Subject: Urgent Mail From David.
To: "max.j@paradise.net.nz"

Dear Max.


I received your email. I quite understand your worries and fears. But I want you to erase those fears and doubtfulness from your mind and lets deal our self wholeheartedly and devoid greed.This transaction has nothing to do with hoax or scam is 100% risk free and safe .

Your friends may not be 100% telling you the truth. The truth of the matter is that those emails are normally sent out by government sponsored propaganda to stop foreigner from assist our past and present African leaders , top civil servant directors of bank from moving huge funds out side the shores of Africa to foreign accounts abroad. However I want you to also understand that criminality’s is practiced eventually in the whole world even your country NZ. All we should be praying for in life is to meet with right persons in life .

Nonetheless this transaction is a divine opportunity we can not afford to lose this great opportunity . We need to give our family more better life.

I look at you as a responsible personality this why i contacted you .I expect you to use your wide experience in dealing with this transaction professionally to enable us complete this transaction successfully.

I have put in place every modalities to ensure hitch free transaction . You are not going to pass through any back doors . You are going to be dealing with the bank legally so don’t be skeptical your security is my security. I’m a man of my word. We all have our integrity and personalities to protect in our various communities . We are very much on track this I can assure. I believe action speaks louder than voice .

My guarantees is that the funds is right there in the bank. Try to understand that nothing is more than we having trust for each other and also standing by our words.

Mores we can exchange our international passport for us to be more comfortable
with our self . what do you think?

Acknowledge the receipt of this email.

Best Regards.


Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page. www.yahoo.com


Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 14:55:27 +1300 (NZDT)
From: Max Johns
Subject: Re: Urgent Mail From David.
To: david kwame

Hello and Greetings and Hi David,

Many thanks and cheers for your reassurances concerning this matter and its major legitimacies. I now feel much calmer like the eye of the storm and able to proceed as a pawn. The trust we have building between us is highly good. You write truly about the prevalence of criminals and such, and convince me that while we must be wary and attentive, we need not distrust all of those who send unexpected emails promising the easy gain of millions of dollars. After all, as the lesson of my favorite book (now also a major motion picture) preaches, if we never believe the words of strangers, never will we find what growths might enter our persons.

I understand that you will need numbers of my passport from me to allow this transaction to occur. Sadly I am not a passport holder at this time, as my passport which I once owned has been unfairly dealt to by a heavy-handed government. I am sure you understand much about governing appointees and the weight of their decisions and limbs. And it is before my appeal occurs, therefore I am left stranded like an island in this my home country, unable to travel or even visit airports for my once-regular shopping sprees. I hope to soon win over the authorities and convince then that I always travel with carefully rolled grass clippings and also crystals of great worth in my sock. I feel that travelling with a piece of one's home land facilitates the bringing of good luck and the keeping away of the bad.

As it is I am happy to hear that your work on this matter has proceeded well and on track and with no problems or hitches or glitches. I trust that the transfer can happen soon, and that we will both live happily ever after.

Yours in gleeful anticipation,

Max Johns.


Lyndon Hood - harmless drudge, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

After all this time, it’s become tempting to accept the default Pentagon-style terminology in discussing those chaps in the orange jumpsuits in Cuba. Since this can be confusing, I though I’d take this opportunity to provide a glossary.

Guantanamo Bay A location supposedly outside any legal jurisdiction, like the duty free zone at international airports but with no shops or even vending machines. Hence, a useful place for detaining those who it would be inconvenient to treat in accordance with the law or received moral standards.

The recent discovery that Guantanamo Bay is, in fact, a little slice of America has caused important changes. Most notably, detainees have a new joke: "Land of the Free. Ha ha ha ha ha ha." Further court rulings promise to provide more hilarity in the future.

The playful abbreviation "Gitmo" appears to be a reference to "Pomo" or Postmodernism, a philosophy known for questioning traditional enlightenment values and rational thought.

Camp X-Ray So called because it transparently breaches human rights.

Detainee One being held by the authorities who has not yet been found to be a prisoner. Detainees should be kept uncharged as long as possible; it is assumed that the case against them will mature with cellaring.

A detainee has no noteworthy human rights. These are considered forfeited by said detainee’s being captured fighting in the hills of Afghanistan, or in the Tora Bora caves, or sitting in a cab in Kabul, or minding their own business in Pakistan or Africa.

Terror Suspect A form of detainee. Held, for all this lexicographer can tell, under suspicion of being scary.

Geneva Conventions A series of rules drafted with the wide-eyed idealistic intention of making life less horrible. Under the conventions a prisoner may be either a civilian charged with some particular crime or an enemy fighter held as a prisoner of war. Both are to be treated according to certain standards.

Once ratified by the government the Conventions have the force of law and as such are cited indignantly or breached flagrantly as circumstances dictate.

Prisoner of War One who was fighting for the other side and is now in your custody. Under the relevant Geneva Convention, cannot be charged with fighting against your soldiers etc. and is to be released once the war in question is over.

War in Afghanistan A war that you would have thought was over.

Enemy Combatant One who was fighting for the other side and is now in your custody. Also used of those suspected of terrorist actions or sympathies. The outmoded concept of ‘criminal justice’ is apparently not able to deal with such people, necessitating the invention of this admirable legal fiction.

War on Terror Not a proper war. The on terror should be taken as abrogative rather than descriptive. Compare counterfeit money, virtual sex, Republican moral values.

Max Johns - Negotiator, Picton

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Another blog about another email scam

One of the great things about the internet is the way you get to meet interesting people from all around the world, and have them offer you millions of dollars...

Date: Tue, 02 Nov 2004 19:21:22 -0800
From: Mr David Kwame
Reply-To: "davidkwame24@indiatimes.com"
To: "max.j@paradise.net.nz"

37 High Street, Accra,
Ghans, West Africa.

My name is Mr. David Kwame, the Manager, credit and foreign bills of ECOWASBANK LTD .I am writing in respect of a foreign customer of my bank with account number D14-A55-096/utb/t who perished in a plane crash[Ethiopian airline 961] with the whole passengers aboard.

Since the demise of this our customer, I personally has watched with keen interest to see the next of kin but all has proved abortive as no one has come to claim his funds of usd.28.5 m, [twenty-eight million five hundredthousand united states dollars] which has been with my branch for a very long time.

On this note, I decided to seek for whom his name shall be used as the Next of kin as no one has come up to be the next of kin. And the banking ethics here does not allow such money to stay more than Eight years, because money will be recalled to the bank treasury as unclaimed after this period. Inview of this I got your contact through a search on the internet .I Shall give you 40% of the total sum .

I will not fail to bring to your notice that this business is hitch free and that you should not entertain any fear as all modalities for fund transfer can be finalized within five banking days, after you apply to the bank as arelation to the deceased.

When you receive this letter. Kindly send me an e-mail signifying Your decision including your privatetel/ fax numebrs for quick communication.

Respectfully submitted,

MR.David Kwame
Manager, Credit and Foreign Bills

Date: Wed, 03 Nov 2004 10:25:38 +1300 (NZDT)
From: Max Johns
Reply-To: Max Johns
Subject: Re:
To: "davidkwame24@indiatimes.com"

My dear Mr. David Kwame,

The opportunity to help such a fine and concerned fellow as yourself is surely one worth looking into. But first I must ask a question or two of you.

1. Why is a West African bank manager like yourself using an email address from indiatimes.com?
2. How did you find my contact details, and why did you decide to trust such an important job to myself?
3. Are you aware of the banking and tax laws of my country, and how they might interfere with the transfers you are attempting to make?
4. Who is the deceased party and where can I obtain proof of their death?

Submitted hopefully,
Max Johns.


Date: Wed, 3 Nov 2004 01:22:11 -0800 (PST)
From: david kwame
Reply-To: david kwame
Subject: Details From David Kwame.
To: "max.j@paradise.net.nz"

Dear Max.


Thank you for your response I was actually thinking about your matter and the best possible means to transact this deal with you. This is no Joke and I am not saying you are the actual next of kin.

a.)My email address has nothing to do with my office or my status as bank manager .It is a matter of choice it all depends on where i wish to have my email address you can see i have not in anyway deviated.

b)I look at you as a responsible personality this is why i contacted because of your position as an educationists and also a sports man.i believe you will use your wide experience to safe keep this entire funds as soon as it gets to your local account.

c).First and foremost.We should be praying that the bank should approved this funds in your name. To transfer the inheritance funds to your local account will not be a problem. If that time comes you can as well instruct the bank to moving the funds to your local account bit by bit to avoid eyebrows,well as we move ahead i shall advise you on how the transfer of the funds is going to be handled in other to avoid problems.

d).Since the plane crash in the year 23-11-1996.Nobody has come forward to lay claims to this funds.Not even his friends or relative.However he did not disclose to anybody that he own account with Eco's bank before the incident.The bank did his own investigation to investigation to know avail.The only proof now is that the funds is with the bank.

I am explaining the whole process underneath and if you feel they are stone unturned, then inform me and I shall turn them. The deceased customer shared the same surname as you, and it will be much easier with my help to use your name as the next of Kin for you to make claim of this money. This will take 5 working days from the day we start the process.

But first we must get something straight that this transaction is a deal and it is only between you and I. By helping me make claim of the funds, you are at the same time helping yourself. You really do not need so much work from your side, just the simple fact that you must keep this transaction confidential because I am still a staff of the bank.

The time where your banking details are needed is not yet. The process is really simple because all you have to do is legally apply as the next of kin and with my connection at the bank, I will push all the necessary buttons to make sure your claims are approved.

But before I send you the Application Letter that you will then forward to the bank, what proof or guarantee do I have that you will not make away with the whole money after it has being transferred? How do I know you are honest?

All the procedures and process will be done legally so that it will not back fire in the future. We shall not go through any back doors and this will guarantee you that there will be no trouble after receiving the money. There is no hitch to this but for the fact that we are doing everything legit. I do not want my share invested; I will shed more light on this issue when the time

Await your response.

Thank you.

Your's Truly.
David Kwame.

Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page. www.yahoo.com/a

Date: Mon, 08 Nov 2004 15:33:45 -0500
From: davidkwame24
Reply-To: davidkwame24
To: Max Johns

Indiatimes Email now powered by APIC Advantage. Help!
HelpClick on the image to chat with me


From: Max Johns
To: davidkwame24
Subject: Re: REMINDER
Date: Tue, 09 Nov 2004 11:46:28 +1300 (NZDT)

Mr. Kwame,

Apologies for my lack of recent communication, I was on a hunting trip with friends in one of New Zealand's many bird game reserves. We were blessed by God and had many great successes, including the winging of one of New Zealand's famed kiwi birds in full flight. Do you enjoy hunting? The finest of our winnings was a full metre from beak tip to tail. The dogs eat well when the men shoot straight! But now our attentions must be returned to the financial matters at hand.

My hunting friends, whom I trust very much with all my soul, allowed me to learn from them about a number of deceitful people trying via email to defraud with tricks. I am told my these trustworthy gentlemen that a number of false claims are emailed to many people, in the hope that trust can be gained by the emailer and money dishonestly gained from the recipient. Can I be ensured that this is not the method of the current transaction? I would dearly love to trust you and help transfer the money of your bank, but I am now cautious.

What guarantees and assurances can you give me to differentiate yourself from electronic mailing scamsters? I trust that a swift answer can calm my fears and allow this helping of mine for you to continue.

Max Johns.


Should I hear again from this new friend of mine, I'll let you know...

Lyndon Hood - misundercommentator, Lower Hutt

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Sustaining an Election

At the time of writing it’s too early to tell whose attempt to win the American ‘swinging voters’ has been most successful. Regular readers may realise that I’m not a ‘swinger’ myself (though I have done some personal research into the subject). At first glance I would have assumed that swingers were a natural Democrat constituency, but commentators seem to agree that they are undecided. And it seems to me that the campaigners are not doing much of a job wooing this particular interest group.

Certainly, voters who might currently swing either way will be attracted to Kerry’s pro-gay stance. And he has promised to bring Americans together in a way that Bush has not, evoking images of interracial harmony and consensual international action. But Kerry has not shown the skilful handling of the American swinger that Bill Clinton famously displayed.

He has not demonstrated that he really shares the swingers’ interests - has not got inside them, does not understand how their heads work. Still, while the Democrat’s central claim, that Kerry is ‘Better Than Bush’, seems to be inherently implausible to almost half the population of American, these swingers seem prepared to at least consider it.

Republicans responded by playing on the perception of Kerry as ‘soft’, where the President is considered ‘hard’. The campaign has been punctuated by Bush leading crowds of supporters in the merciless chant of “flip-flop!”

But what’s important to swinging states like Florida, Iowa, and Ohio is surely that intimate touch. The sense of personal connection. This modern campaign is far removed from those vanished days when you could expect a candidate knocking on your door, saying something like, “I have to confess I find your girlfriend very attractive, and my Laura thinks you’re pretty hot yourself”.

Besides, if we contrast Bush’s rhetoric with actual policy then, as usual, discrepancies emerge. His negative interpretation of Kerry’s claimed ‘multiple positions’ reinforces his fundamentalist reputation. But still more unhelpful is his avowed determination to put the “affairs” of Americans “into their own hands”.

Coverage of the race has centred on personal style. Bush has played up his unyielding firmness. Some claim that very rigidity allows him to be used as a tool, covertly manipulated to the ends of the rich and powerful. Kerry has contrasted this with his own flexibility and willingness to respond to feedback. Detractors wonder whether he has the resilience to stay up through the wild ride of a modern presidency.

Bizarrely, the Bush campaign seems pleased to stand on his record. I don’t know just what this presidency may have achieved for these swingers who are suddenly the centre of so much international fascination. But a vote for Bush is a vote for even more of the same.

If you think America’s been fucked now, imagine how much more fucked it could be after another four years.

Max Johns - NZ music industry outsider, Blenheim

Monday, November 01, 2004

The man who led the New Zealand arm of Sony Music through a record year in 2003 is now out of a job. 51-year-old Michael Glading was, until very recently, enjoying his 26th year in the industry. Then the recent global merger of BMG and Sony cost him his job this week. Fans of irony will no doubt enjoy a smirk at the fact that Glading once hired Michael Bradshaw - the BMG boss who beat Glading to the top job in SonyBMG's New Zealand offices - to work under him at Sony Music. The merger was one of a number of recent rationalisations within the music industry (Warner, EMI and Universal have been cutting costs and shedding staff as well). These moves have been brought on by a recent downturn in music sales. This lack of sales, as we all know, has been driven by availabilty of free music. Downloading and CD burning is having the negative effect on music companies that the companies themselves told us it would. Don't act surprised.

Most people think that helping themselves to something by System of a Down or Nelly won't hurt anyone, because these guys already sell heaps of stuff, right? But money from Nelly CDs doesn't just go to Nelly. The top end of a company's artist roster is its main resource, and funds pretty much everything, including management, recruitment, and even development of lesser-known artists. Most people won't notice when the company producing and distributing their favourite CDs has to merge with another or sell itself. Most people won't notice when fewer people are employed to find new talent to promote. Most people won't notice if the cuts go beyond management and hit artist rosters, because it's the least popular artists that go first. That's why most people don't really mind accepting free music. But when the top managers are getting cut, things are serious. The musicians themselves can't be far from the axe. Those that aren't mainstream money-earners will be "rationalised" and suddenly it's the fans of artists that aren't selling overproduced crap by the shipload that start missing out.

New Zealand had such industry-led backlashes as the BRN+GTBRNT campaign and it seems that we largely got the message, at least as far as music from our own shores goes. Even though the international music industry is shrinking, we're enjoying our best days ever here. In 1998, NZ music (that is, music by NZ artists signed to NZ labels) only made up 4.33% of music sales in NZ. This year that's up to 11.94%. We put about $23 million over the counter for our local sounds last year (retail sales have doubled since 2000), and in the past seven years radio has come to the party in a big way, with kiwi music growing from 5.26% to 25.4% of playlists. Our own music is finally featuring heavily on the charts. Against all global trends, we're on one hell of a roll.

It's the support from us consumers that keeps our music industry growing at such an incredible rate. And this is made all the more amazing by the fact that we know we can almost always get what music we want without paying a cent - let alone $23m a year - for it. Campaigns like BRN+GTBRNT have hit home, at least to some degree. The Recording Industry Association (RIANZ) launched that particular high profile assault on piracy in 2001. Its success, though, is probably now cold comfort to the long-serving industry boss who was RIANZ president of that time - one Michael Glading.

This piece began life as an editorial from muzic.net.nz's semi-regular email newsletter. Sign up for it - you know you want to.