30 September 2008

Automotive bling

Would-be gangsta rappers seeking to augment their collection of car-badge neckwear should look no further than Constable Henderson of the Wanaka police.  He's got a bag containing 30 car badges lifted from vehicles in the area.  Should be enough to outfit an entire army of Central Otago Beastie Boy wannabes?
- Otago Daily Times, 27 September 2008

29 September 2008

The thankless role of the local radio host

Martin Kelner discusses the favourite 'Alan Partridge moment' from his local radio career:
I was presenting an evening show across several northern local radio stations, combining news and sport. My guest was the former Liberal MP Michael Meadowcroft, newly returned from former Yugoslavia, where he had been advising on how democracy could be brought to the region.

Alongside my conversation with Meadowcroft, I was to take regular reports from numerous midweek football matches across the north. While I was lining up the football reports, I half-listened to the internationally renowned expert on democracy explaining how unstable the situation is in the Balkans, and how it was essential for the future of Europe that a lasting peace was achieved.

"The Balkans," he said, "is where the flame was lit that ignited the Great War, and it is no exaggeration to say that if we do not get this right, it could lead to a confrontation from which the world might not recover." To which I responded with the immortal words: "I'm afraid I'm going to have to interrupt you there, there's been a goal at Chesterfield."

- Guardian, 29 September 2008

27 September 2008

New Zealand logic

A New Zealand voter was asked what was the deciding factor for him in the upcoming general election:

[I]n Invercargill, 24-year-old travel consultant Rob Wilson said he was switching to National because Labour had simply "had their day".

"New Zealand needs a strong leader to get it economically focused and Labour is not providing that," he said.

"Neither is National really, but change is as good as a holiday."

- NZ Herald, 27 September 2008

25 September 2008

The key to happiness is low expectations

From an article offering possible explanations why Denmark has yet again been ranked as the world's happiest country:

In 2006, researchers from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark examined a range of possible factors, from genes to cycling habits to cuisine. In a charming report, they offered two explanations: the Danes have never got over their rapture at winning the European football championships in 1992 (their happiness rose to new peaks that year, and has stayed on a plateau since), and—the main finding—Danes, unlike the woeful Greeks and Italians, have very low expectations of the immediate future. "Year after year," the researchers write, "they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark."

- Sally Laird, 'Why Hamlet's Heirs Are Happy', Prospect Magazine, September 2008

Sarah Millican

The winner of the best newcomer award at the 2008 Edinburgh comedy festival, standup comedian Sarah Millican discusses marriage guidance counselling, divorce (the inevitable result of marrying the first person who likes you), and the lamentable lack of attention paid to the culinary properties of hash-cakes.

See also her interview with Lauren Laverne on the Festival Show.

23 September 2008

Fly on the wall

Transcript of the fascinating fly on the wall doco 'Coverage of People Running a Safari Park':

Presenter: Hello and welcome to 'Coverage of People Running a Safari Park' and I'm talking to John who looks after the zebras which you can't see because they ran away from the camera.  John, what are you doing?

John: I'm getting the zebras their zebra food. 

Presenter: Do the zebras find it colder here in Wiltshire than in Africa?

John: They do, because it is.

Presenter: Well, while we let John who you don't know get on with his job which he does every day, Jilly has been talking to Head Tree-counter Mike.

[Cross to Jilly]

Mike: Fifteen thousand, fifteen thousand and one...

Jilly: So Mike, we're getting coverage of you counting trees, is that right?

Mike: Yeah...  Oh, I've lost count.  [Starts again]  One, two, three, four...

- That Mitchell And Webb Look, s1 e2

22 September 2008

What men don't get about women

'...And, please, do not become angry if she suggests that she looks fat. Fretting aloud about weight is womankind's least charming habit but you can't stop them. Awful Men don't understand this and will either accuse women of fishing for compliments or scream "You're not FAT! For GOD'S SAKE stop going ON ABOUT IT!"
You must, always, simply put your head on one side and say, as if it's the first time you've had the conversation: "You don't look fat to me," and smile'
- Independent, 22 September 2008

18 September 2008

Elementary mathematics

The Timaru Herald reported on the low turnout at a meeting held in Timaru by the United Future candidate for the Rangitata electorate, Brian Ward, with his party leader, Hon Peter Dunne, Minister of Revenue attending too.  Under the headline 'Three listen to Dunne speak', the Herald observed that:
Peter Dunne came to talk but no one came to listen.

The United Future leader didn't pull the punters to a public meeting yesterday with just three members of the public attending.

So, no-one apart from the three people, that is?  Those little numbers are so fiddly, after all. 

- Timaru Herald, 18 September 2008


16 September 2008

Conchords posters

Gigposters.com has a selection of 12 stylish Flight of the Conchords gig posters; my two favourites are these ones:

[Courtesy of Wellmedicated's guide to great gig posters]

The musical significance of The Rutles

'Listen, lookit - very simply, musicologically and ethnically The Rutles were essentially empirical melangists of a rhythmically radical yet verbally passe and temporarily transcended lyrical content, welded with historically innovative melodical material transposed and transmogrified by the angst of the Rutland ethnic experience, which elevated them from essentially Alpha exponents of, in essence, merely Beta potential harmonic material, into the prime cultural exponents of Aeolian cadenzic cosmic stanza form'

- Stanley J Krammerhead III, Jr. (Occasional Visiting Professor of Applied Narcotics at the University of Please Yourself, California), played by Eric Idle, in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, 1978

Golfing fashion don'ts

'[T]hey still look like a bunch of publicans on a Licensed Victuallers' Association outing to Plumpton races who have tried to reach a compromise with dressing down while not excluding the possibility of passing a nightclub's no-jeans entry policy later in the evening'
- Guardian, 16 September 2008, on the dress standards of the European Ryder Cup golf team

Coffee, tea or Prozac?

From an article following the daily work of flight attendants:
As with the flight attendants I worked with earlier, my new companions described their job as being one where they constantly had to calibrate the mood of the passengers. "Over a typical month," said Tim, "I will be a teacher, I will be a pastor, I will be a counselor, I will be a mediator." As he slid his 5-foot-11-inch frame into the sliver of space between the cockpit and the first-class bathroom, he slumped into the jump seat and let out a barely audible sigh. "I'll have to tell people that a two-and-a-half-foot-deep bag will not fit in a one-and-a-half-foot hole," he said.
"People need to understand that the rules of social order do not go away when you get on an airplane," Tim added, his Texan twang kicking up a notch as he laid down his commandments. "You cannot have sex on an airplane. When you purchase a ticket, that does not give you the privilege of yelling at me. It does not give you the privilege of sitting anywhere you want to sit. They assign you a seat. I do not have an extra airplane in my pocket if my flight's delayed."
- 'Flying the unfriendly skies', New York Times, 14 September 2008

15 September 2008

'I can see Russia from my house!'

Tina Fey and... er, another lady I don't know (sorry!) her Baby Mama co-star Amy Poehler as Governor Sarah Palin (the former 'small-town mayor of Alaska's crystal meth capital'), and Senator Hillary Clinton (who is in no way bitter, nuh-huh), uniting (sort of) to take a stand against the evils of sexism in politics. Brilliant!

12 September 2008

The dignity of high office

Entertainingly, reports of the party antics of a new minister in the New South Wales state government have circulated around the world, mainly due to the fact that the minister in question was reported to have been dancing in 'very brief underpants' during a rowdy party in his offices in Sydney's Parliament House. The story contains a quote that no employee wants to hear from their manager:

...there are too many reports of you in your underwear for me to ignore.

- NZ Herald, 11 September 2008

[Courtesy of Matthew]

11 September 2008

Growing up at the side of Chairman Mao

The music today's young people listen to? I dunno. Back in the day, songs for young people had meaning and purpose... like the ones on this stirring children's classic, I Am A Sunflower. The two catchiest numbers from this vinyl relic from the (first half of the 1970s) years of Chairman Mao's rule in China include Little Red Guards Attend A Repudiation Meeting, and that chart-topping smash, Criticise Lin Piao And Discredit Him Completely. It's also worth mentioning that the cover art depicts happy, smiling Chinese kids marching with rifles.

(Lin Biao (also Piao) was a famous revolutionary general who rose to become Mao's anointed successor, but died in a 1971 plane crash after what appeared to be a coup against Mao)

LP Cover Lover - Mao Sounds

Sexism is bad

Jon Stewart on the Republicans' recent stand against sexism (...when it applies to their own candidate). Many politiLOLs.

Free accommodation in Napier

A young Napier man was imprisoned for two nights by a judge known for his hard-line stance on tagging and graffiti, when he was caught defacing the Napier District Court Building.  How was he caught?  Well, it wasn't that hard:

It was bad enough that he targeted the Napier District Court building, worse that it was broad daylight, and still worse that it was in front of a security camera.

They're right you know: there's a very clear CCTV picture in the article. Wave hello! Bit of a waste of money imprisoning someone for a tagging offence, but still, he did make it rather easy for the authorities so perhaps there was some lenience in the sentence!

- Dominion Post, 11 September 2008

10 September 2008

Secret Irish speed limit

'As you go to cross the tiny, narrow, decorative bridge over the Shannon connecting Killaloe and Ballina, there is a large, vulgar, dirt-encrusted notice which says: 'Speed limits in kilometres per hour (km/h)'. The legend is repeated in Irish, for the benefit of the millions of fantasy people in this country who can only read Irish and know no English. But there is no number on the sign - that is, there is no actual speed limit specified. Just the statement.

The notice would be perfectly valid as a reminder for foreigners at the exit of a seaport or airport or crossing the border from Norn Ireland, but in Killaloe, you're just crossing the Shannon to the other side, so why is it there? And it's supported on two huge pieces of scaffolding embedded in concrete, so whoever put it there, put it there for keeps. Who is the guy on the County Council who sanctioned the notice and signed off on its construction, and what was he thinking of at the time? Wouldn't you just love to find out how his mind works?'

- Irish Independent, 8 October 2006

09 September 2008


Popdose writer Jason Hare is challenged by a blogger foe to aural purgatory: he must listen to an album by New Zealand's very own Asian singing sensation Wing, who once featured in an episode of South Park and whose singular talent bears striking similarities to that of Margarita Pracatan of Clive James fame. In part one Hare struggles through Wing's Beatles covers album, and in part two he receives a personal singing performance from the great lady herself via the medium of a telephonic device! Now that truly is service to blogging above and beyond the call of duty.

Wingmageddon pt.1
Wingmageddon pt.2

The consolations of weedy leaders

From an article celebrating 'uniformly mild, paunchy, metrosexual British politicians', here's Caitlin Moran's survey of leadership criteria:
'...wanting a slightly anaemic-looking accountant as leader seems to be the watermark of all peaceful, civilised countries. The election of a buff leader almost invariably leads to trouble. Ólafur Grimsson, President of Iceland, for instance, looks like someone who eschews the viscerality of tea in favour of a weak, lemony drink. In New Zealand, Helen Clark had her most controversial moment when, at a charity auction, she attempted to pass off another person's watercolour sketch as her own. As for Pascal Couchepin of Switzerland, he might - just - be able fight his way out of a single wet paper bag. But if two were to come at him at once - game over.
Russia elects Vladimir Putin, on the other hand - a man who releases topless, buff shots of himself - and suddenly there's nuclear and Chechnya and Cold War all over the place. It's almost as if, should you vote in a leader who appears to have a "surviving a geo-political meltdown, merely with the power of his fists" function, you shouldn't be surprised if, one day, he wants to test it'
- Caitlin Moran, The Times, 8 September 2008

The young and the feckless

'Despite all the hoopla about young voters -- the great hope of the future! -- only one news story in 2001 drew the attention of a majority of them: 9/11. Some 60 percent of young voters told Pew researchers that they were following news about the attack closely. (Er -- 40 percent weren't?) But none of the other stories that year seemed particularly interesting to them. Only 32 percent said that they followed the news about the anthrax attacks or the economy, then in recession. The capture of Kabul from the Taliban? Just 20 percent.

Six years later, Pew again measured public knowledge of current events and found that the young (aged 18 to 29) "know the least." A majority of young respondents scored in the "low knowledge" category -- the only demographic group to do so.

And some other statistics are even more alarming. How many young people read newspapers? Just 20 percent. (Worse, studies consistently show that people who do not pick up the newspaper-reading habit in their 20s rarely do so later.) But surely today's youth are getting their news from the Internet? Sorry. Only 11 percent of the young report that they regularly surf the Internet for news. Maybe Obama shouldn't be relying on savvy young voters after all'

- Rick Shenkman, '5 Myths About Those Civic-Minded, Deeply Informed Voters', Washington Post, 7 September 2008

Tasmanian net browsing habits

Even in our own homes, you go home, turn on your home computer and bingo - out come the p0rnographic sites. You are hit again and again.
~ Senator Guy Barnett, Lib, Tas

You have only got to press P on the Internet and all this stuff appears free of charge in front of you
~ Senator Paul Calvert, Lib, Tas

I can only hope I never work out how to 'press P on the internet' so I can avoid getting punched in the face by bingo-p0rn.
For an interesting discussion of seemingly ham-fisted moves towards net censorship in Australia, see the link to Emma's article below.

- Emma Hart, 'Young and sort of free', Publicaddress.net

08 September 2008

Throw Me

Kate Russell, the BBC's Click website-hunter, included this game in her latest roundup, and she's right about it being *addictive*...  Swing the little guy round and round in big long loops to build up momentum at the start, then fling him into the sky and see how long you can keep him flying.  Clouds give him a boost, particularly the coloured ones, as do the construction cranes at ground level; you also have a set of balloons you can use for a certain length of time to give yourself a boost (spacebar).  For the record, my best effort so far is 5120 7748 feet (max altitude) and 35,978 59,969 80,128 154,895 feet (max distance).  Right, I'm stopping playing now, else I'll not get anything done. 

05 September 2008

New York in black and white

A lovely selection of 19th and 20th century archive photography from the greatest city on earth...

NYC in B/W

[Courtesy of Netguide]

04 September 2008

Driving tests

Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What it Says About Us), discusses the bizarre alternate reality of the driving test:
It is a strange world, marked by an aching pedantry, Talmudic parsings of fine-printed traffic tomes, and ridiculously hypothetical scenarios that tend to have nothing at all to do with the traffic environment in which we will spend our lives.
Any driver, anywhere, can recall the darker moments of these tests. I was told of a nettlesome question from the UK test that has taken on a near-mythological status; namely, what to do when approaching a horse and rider on a roundabout. The correct answer is something of a national refrain, gaily sung from Bournemouth to Blyth: you should expect the rider to go in any direction! On the French test, I had read, lurked this query: "If you are driving down the road and a woman with a pram steps out from the pavement, should you stop or keep going?" The answer, which seems part of some covert Gallic population-reduction scheme, is: "Keep going. This will discourage pedestrians from behaving recklessly."
- Guardian, 3 September 2008 

When flowers just don't cut it

A 40-year-old man from Stratford appeared in the Hawera District Court yesterday and was fined $500 and given a final warning for his offence.  The crime?  Wanting to give the gift that just keeps on giving, he posted two grammes of cannabis to his ex-wife in Whangarei, apparently 'helping his former wife financially and did not want her to pay for things she did not have to'.  Unfortunately the postal address was incorrect and the mail centre staff noticed the strong smell coming from the package!
- Source: Taranaki Daily News, 3 September 2008

03 September 2008

Not rocket science

The key to the train departures listings on Livedepartureboards.co.uk is particularly helpful and illuminating:
Delayed = This service is delayed
No report = There is no report on the progress of this service yet
On time = This service is on time
Starts here = The service has not yet started the journey
Cancelled = The service has been cancelled
Any questions?  I didn't think so.

The Republican Convention

'Political conventions are supposed to be celebrations, where you consume complimentary food and beverages and brag about how great your party is and note roughly 125 times per hour that your opponents are tapeworm slime. That's what the Democrats did in Denver, and it's what the Republicans planned to do here.

But now they can't. They don't want to be seen celebrating during Hurricane Gustav. And the Democrats don't want to be seen celebrating about the fact the Republicans can't celebrate during Hurricane Gustav.

So at the moment everybody on both sides is being sensitive; nobody is engaging in the hyper-partisan cheap-shot dung-flinging that is the life blood of American politics. Yes, incredible as it seems, both major parties have managed to set aside their sleazy attack-ad gamesmanship to focus on what is actually best for the nation. We can only pray, as Americans and as members of the news media, that this does not last'

- Dave Barry, Miami Herald, 1 September 2008

Alert the IOC

Noting the ongoing devotion to mandatory skimpy costumes for womens beach volleyball at the Olympics, perhaps the International Olympic Committee should pay heed to another girly sporting endeavour held recently in Sydney. In the largest stiletto heel running race ever held, 265 competitors donned three-inch heels and competed in a free-for-all dash along an 80 metre course in Circular Quay. Perhaps London could attempt to break the record with a similar race at Canary Wharf in 2012? Or if you want to make it interesting, what about running on the cobblestones at Covent Garden? You might need a few ambulances and a battalion of cobblers on hand, mind.

- Brisbane Times, 2 September 2008

02 September 2008

Offshore oil drilling

Stephen Colbert explains with the aid of a two-headed debate with his very special guest (himself) the logic behind high oil prices and the need for offshore oil drilling. More non-Tim Allen-related comedy sketches should involve power-tools, I think.

The most famous ladder in Jerusalem

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is believed to be built on the site of Christ's crucifixion and burial, and its present form largely takes the shape set down in the reconstruction financed by Byzantine Emperor Constantine VIII, which was completed in 1048. Any work done on the Church nowadays is tricky to organise though, because of its highly complicated stewardship. This has led to an odd historical glitch that can be witnessed as you enter the site:

The primary custodians [of the Church] are the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic Churches, with the Greek Orthodox Church having the lion's share. In the 19th century, the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities, which include shrines and other structures within and around the building...

Under the status quo, no part of what is designated as common territory may be so much as rearranged without consent from all communities. This often leads to the neglect of badly needed repairs when the communities cannot come to an agreement among themselves about the final shape of a project. Just such a disagreement has delayed the renovation of the edicule, where the need is now dire, but also where any change in the structure might result in a change to the status quo disagreeable to one or more of the communities.

A less grave sign of this state of affairs is located on a window ledge over the church's entrance. Someone placed a wooden ladder there sometime before 1852, when the status quo defined both the doors and the window ledges as common ground. The ladder remains there to this day, in almost exactly the same position. It can be seen to occupy the ledge in century-old photographs and engravings.

Monty Python would've appreciated the logic. Plus it's always a hassle putting ladders away. Far better to leave them out (for 160-odd years). See below for pictures of the ladder in 2005 and 1892:

- Source: Wikipedia

01 September 2008

Chicken are people too

Seattle residents have recently been taking advantage of changes in city bylaws enabling them to keep chickens in their back yards, and have benefitted from the eggy byproducts produced by their pets.  But city-folk have a different attitude to keeping poultry than your conventional farmer, as a report on a chicken owners' website forum shows ('dual-purpose' means the chickens are both for eggs and for eatin'): 
An email pops up from a new member with a question: "At what age are 'dual-purpose' hens reasonable eating?" And that's when "it blew up," explained long-time member Laura McCrae in a phone interview last week. "It was the first time the subject had ever come up."   
The first email back was a sardonic slap. "Eat them now. Why wait? The little nuggets are the best ones!" McCrae remembers, "There had been a couple people asking what to do with extra roosters, and a couple of times it was jokingly suggested that you could eat your chicken, but this was the first time somebody had deliberately asked, what if I wanted to eat my chicken." A second member shared her own recent run-in with the distasteful topic. "Since I found out I have a rooster, many people have suggested we eat him. Yikes! He's just a little guy."

"Here in Seattle, we're allowed to keep chickens only as pets," someone reminded the group. "I understood when we got Mikala that we were making an agreement to keep Seattle ordinance. I love her and would do anything I could to stop anyone or anything from harming a feather on her body." The group's leader weighed in. "Simply take the unwanted bird to the vet and have it humanely euthanized. If you wish, hold your pet while it is being done. I can hear you farmer types laughing but most of us were not raised on farms and these chickens are our PETS."

Eating pets?  Come to think of it, who determines the boundaries here - dachsund doner with tabby tebbouleh, anyone?

- 'The chicken lovers' nightmare', Macleans.ca, 27 August 2008   

The best of frenemies

From an article on the remaining months of the George W Bush presidency, a passage explaining his relationship with former bitter rival and current Republican presidential candidate John McCain:
Over the years, the two have become "frenemies," as Time magazine put it; not quite friends, not quite enemies. "They're friendly," said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican and McCain ally who has watched the two men up close. "They don't hang out together. I don't think John's ever been to Camp David. I think it's respectful. President Bush respects Senator McCain, and I think Senator McCain respects the office of the presidency."
- New York Times Magazine, 29 August 2008