Thursday, November 25, 2004

And coming down from the roof like Sting..........

Aaron Bhatnager and Lyndon Hood are having a ruckus.

But what piss poor job they're doing of it.

There are no verbal fireworks, no cutting or incisive insults, no gore, no money shot. Just pomposity from the only man capable of being voted out in the one ward in the country where having a rich dad is an advantage, and, on the other side, drivel from Lower Hutt.

Matt Nippert did a better job and he can't even wash.

I wouldn't have thought, Aaron Bathhater, Auckland Political Activist that you would be so active these days, what with the being voted out and all. Sorry I wont mention it again. (Loser)

And Lyndon, stick to web design, Aaron Barklater had a point: it wasn't funny.

But for fucks sake Aaron Bathjelly what do you think you are doing?

This is the tip-top that AB could muster in response. Although he may wish to be Churchill, what with Churchill's ability to be voted out (sorry) yet still get back in to office, he may have to work on the old wit.

Lets run through with notes shall we. I'll be in brackets.

Lyndon Hood - part two

Lyndon Hood, who I described as a self appointed tit in a previous blog posting (self appointed perhaps being slightly better than not elected?) has taken umbrage (nice word, or with my comments and launched into a spectacular Fallujah like offensive in his most recent blog posting (Yes, just like Fallujah). Except he's on the insurgent side (there I was figuring the insurgents were those without, say, office?(sorry)). And like any fanatic, he appears to desire his own being slaughtered (if even metaphorically) (If even metaphorically????? what the fuck - please point out all your radical language tricks in case we miss them like you missed the seat(sorry)) by choosing to respond to my criticism. (lets see how Aaron takes him downtown - looks promising doesn't it?)

He accuses me of not seeing the joke he was trying to make (to be fair he does look like he is squinting a bit in his photo, maybe Lyndon was concerned). He is right. This would have presupposed that his posting was funny. It was not. It was, in fact, an amateurish collection of dipsomaniacal (more nice use of ramblings - an imagined conversation between himself and Rodney Hide. At least I hope he was drunk at the time. There would be real concerns if he imagined such conversations while sober (real concerns indeed, in fact the thought of a conversation with Rodney is, in itself, enough to make me want to get drunk). There was nothing particularly humorous about the posting, except that for all his efforts he repeatedly spelt Rodney Hide's name incorrectly. Riotous. (Riotous Bathwater, just like the way you are totally wasting him real-funny-guy, you're, like, totally metaphorically slaughtering him dude)

We can no doubt look forward to the feverish and deluded recollections
of his polemics with Don Brash, his affair with Winston Peters, and perhaps even
imagined recollections of his transvestite experiments with Peter Dunne. We
shall wait in earnest for the tales of these hallucinations - and pray, Lord,
how we shall pray that his humour becomes more apparent to us mere blogosphere denizens.
(I'd say something about how lame and pompous this excerpt is but I reckon that it is so apparent that such a move would be redundant, much like Aaron (sorry))

Still, his response shows that he has some spine. I like that. It looks very nice on my home office wall. (What does, his spine? You barely even tickled his stomach. I'm fucking shaking myself, and have a few reference books handy in case you reply and provide me, too, with a metaphorical slaughtering.... I just hope the Marines are doing a better job with the insurgents in Fallujah than you are with the ones in Lower Hutt.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Honesty in Advertising

A certain publication that I hadn't worked for in this capacity asked me to review a film this week.

I imagine they wont be asking again. The film was Open Water and this is the unprintable review...... fair enough really.

Open Water

Open Water was heralded around the world as the new Blair Witch Project, and after riding in on the wave of such hype has managed to deeply disappoint audiences everywhere.

Not this reviewer though.

Such a billing as ‘Next Blair Witch’ was enough to let me know what I was in for; cheap production values, artificial suspense, hammy characterisation, and sweet fuck all actually happening in an overlong movie malnourished of content.

Deep breath time. The scenario is easy enough, and based on a true occurrence – the leaving behind of a couple from a dive trip in shark-infested waters.

This is all the movie is – a quick scattershot approach at characterisation at the beginning where all the clichés of money-rich time-poor successful American power couple types are wheeled out, then the being on the Island and then the being left behind.

How it ends for them cannot be divulged because the resolution of that question is the only thing likely to keep you in your seat as this thoroughly dislikeable couple bob in the water for a full two-thirds of the film.

I’d tell you their names or their jobs or their hopes or their dreams, but I can’t. I really just didn’t care enough to write them down. Never a good sign for a character driven dialogue film.
After so much time with such disagreeable characters, seeming as they do to have fallen out of a bad bad bad Starbucks commercial, one thing you can say is that you hope some sharks turn up quick.

The only shining lights in a film rife with poor camerawork, repetitive suspense techniques that lose their punch somewhat after the fourth outing, paint-by-numbers scene setting, secondary characters so obvious that they may as well have had cardboard cut-outs with signs on them denoting their roles and all the rest of the problems in this overlong undergood film is that the dive instructor was alright.

Really, that is about the best to be said of this film that plods through its excessively obvious and formulaic first third into a devastatingly boring ending.

But then again if you liked the Blair Witch Project maybe you deserve to see this film.

anyone else feel like getting the worst-tempered reviewer in the world on board - I quite enjoyed demolishing a film..........

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Investigate the editorship

This is the extended, untidier script from my Agenda media thing three weeks ago...

Investigate Magazine is one of those absolute gems - a self-styled home for true hard-hitting investigative journalism, a bastion for the truth, and, incongruously, the home of very conservative Christian values.

Editor Ian Wishart is well known for his investigative journalism and best-selling books looking into solid public-interest topics like the machinations around the sale of the BNZ.

Of late though he has become better known for his conviction in his Christian beliefs, expounded through his radio shows on Radio Rhema and Newstalk ZB. And also of course through Investigate Magazine.

This magazine is always worth a look for the shock value alone. All manner of otherwise contradictory values sit alongside each other, as with that other prominent Christian values proponent - United Future.
In the same way that United Future manage to be the Hunting Fishing Shooting Gambling Smoking and Drinking Christian Party, in this same all over the place manner Investigate Magazine manages to combine; hard hitting investigations into serious material like organized crime in New Zealand, Prime Ministerial character assassinations, bible lessons about everything from personal morality to the reality or otherwise of Noah's flood, discussions on, in fact almost a preoccupation with, intelligent design as a theory over Evolution or Darwinism, Business stories, conspiracy theories and, in the kitchen sink capacity, film and DVD reviews.

Wow, a bit all over the place.

Investigate really hit the headlines with their Nov 03 Helen Clark is a Lesbian Issue. The story combined very amateur Freudian analysis with a bunch of bare-faced and unsubstantiated 'secret friend' claims that our Helen was, aside from legislating the downfall of western society, engineering a secret homosexualising of the public service and country as a way of getting back at New Zealand for her having to bury her true sexuality.

No really. That was the story.

In an interview on bfm with Noelle McCarthy about the article Wishart pronounced that he knew the PM was gay. How? He just knew. Investigative journalism at its best.

The evidence amounted to something like look at her mates, check out her haircut, she didn't even want to get married and her fondness for wearing trousers - or some other list of similarly flimsy arguments, but the media splash was created.

Helen had the magnamanity not to sue them, though I'm not sure her doing so would have served to discredit them more than a cursory glance over their publication would.

The religious right sits very uncomfortably in easy going NZ, yet still they bang away at it. Investigate Magazine is a conspiracy theorist theologian mag. Kind of aliens stole Elvis because he was against abortion and man those homosexuals are ruining society.

Other notable stories have included a detailed look at why the moonlanding never happened, which to be fair left the jury out, campaigns against the Civil Unions bill and the Decriminalisation of Prostitution and the continued advocacy of Intelligent Design, which is kind of like Creationism in drag.

Well, what else to say about an Investigative Magazine that quotes the Old Testament to explain truths to readers? Buy it, I guess is all I can say. it is the most unintentionally entertaining read around.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


stole this link off NZPundit tag board. Bob Hawke off the wagon.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Agenda Piece

This is the extended script from which my Agenda piece was culled for last Saturday.

There was a little something that I reckon was overlooked when the decision was made to enlarge our existing papers and to set about publishing another weekend paper: We don't really have the content to pad out the advertising.

It is a problem peculiar to NZ. We have one of the most crowded radio and print environments in the world. Over 4000 magazines. More radio stations in Auckland per capita than anywhere else in the world (or at least it was 5 years ago, not sure now). 6 major weekend papers.

Which is great. Except with only 4 million people that means the talent pool is spread pretty thinly. Conversely it also means that we must have the best advertising sales managers in the world.

This situation may explain why our Sundays see us having certain columnists inflicted upon us.

The Herald on Sunday, in a candid and souless fashion, came right out and said it - advertiser pressure was one of the reasons for its existence.

How else can you explain, living in a civilised country steeped in Christian-traditions, on a weekly basis our having Rosemary McLeod, Michael Laws, Mike Hosking and Frank Haden, to name but a few, inflicted upon us on the Sabbath.

Nothing personal against this lot, of course, talented and wonderful etc. But well, the weekend read in England is what they save the cream of their talent for. Writing of note about people of note.
In NZ however, it is a different story. It is a dual indignity too, for some reason we aren't simply happy with our tendency to examine our public figures through Celebrity Treasure Island as opposed to insightful profiles, no, on top of this we also get to also read their innermost thoughts on our day off.

You can't help but be reminded of that old joke - first prize one week in Sydney, second prize two weeks in Sydney, third prize - well, you get the idea.

The trick is that personal musings are much cheaper and easier to fill the space between ads with than investigative pieces or even worthwhile profiles and essays.

Perhaps if we look at three of our columnists to illustrate- Michael Laws, Mike Hosking and Colin Meads.

Michael Laws is now a bonafide media guy. From enfant terrible of NZ politics to talking head in ten years. Still it could have been worse, it could have been five.

Laws wrote one of the best books on politics here, The Demon Profession, but has spent the intervening time espousing NZ First heartland attitudes through all mediums and undoing that original good work.

It is quite fitting, I guess, that a man who left politics for being inventive with words, through that forgery kerfuffle, is now a wordsmith in the Sunday Star Times.

Still, there is something disquieting about getting up on a Sunday and reading about his sex life, as so often happens to be the case with his column.

Perhaps the real problem is his talking about sex, in mildly misogynistic and never-quite-got-his-head-around-women terms, considering that he bunks down on that page with Rosemary McLeod.
Something about the juxtaposition can really throw me off my weet-bix.

Laws also examines the issues of the week, and after a whole week of trying these out on talkbalk land, through his radio....... show, they are turning into Garth George-light offerings.
Thank god, one Garth George heavy is quite enough.

For ample examples of these twin problems you only have to look to last Sunday's offering.

He manages to get a sexual reference in by line twenty "ready for bed, but the difference is that these days it is for sleep", and even before that, just ten lines in, he sets up a mental picture of himself naked, cellulite and all, in front of a full length mirror.
All that in the first two, short, paragraphs, and this is by no-means a record.

The term Florid doesn't do the writing justice - "....the problem with post-modern liberalism. It gives out like a whore but considers itself Mother Theresa".
A sentence that overburdened on both axes really needs a fulcrum, and probably ought to look like a see-saw.

The talkback honed simplicities soon emerge too. Talking on the Burqa case, they come thick and fast - "Much the same argument, presumably, runs through the minds of Muslim Fundamentalists who can fly jet planes into buildings, kill children in schoolrooms and incinerate Aussie partygoers with car bombs."

All in all, and about the only thing you can say charitably, is that it would appear that the only shades of grey Michael Laws sees these days are in his hair.

Moving right along then, to Mike Hosking.

I'm slightly concerned as to where to start with Hosking. After undergoing the most public mid-life crisis in New Zealand's history everyone has had a shot at him. His columns in the Star-Times come second only to 'About Town' in the much bagged but even more read category.

My only real concern is his frequent mentions of his twins - up there, almost, with Linda Clark. As an aside what is it with media personalities and twins - Mary Lambie, who must be milf to the nation if Judy Bailey is mother to the nation, has just popped some out also....
Anyway these mentions come after the costly and emotionally taxing case he took through pretty much every court in the land to stop New Idea publishing paparazzi pictures of them.
Because, he maintained, he wanted them away from the public eye.......Yet on a number of occasions there they are.
Still, as their father it really is up to him, though it does look a little funny in light of the cash that pictures paid for of the twins bring in as opposed to papparazi pickings.

Right - so his Wine column.
Hosking describes it as being written from the position of enthusiast rather than expert, and this allows it to be free of jargon. Refreshingly free of jargon. Unfortunately it is also mostly free of content.

My personal favourite must be the one in which he mentioned a recent mid week 2? day trip to San Francisco. A trip taken on a whim. How does one afford to do something like that, you have to wonder, how is this in keeping with the idea of a non-elitist wine column? It did serve to make concrete my jealous suspicion that it was criminal that he should be paid to write such garbage.

The real danger with wine writing is the trap of pretension that encircles the entire pursuit. A trap Hosking continues to stumble into. Columns are peppered with mentions of long lunches at trendy establishments, offers being put to him, junkets, in fact he doesn't so much write them as effuse them. Your average Joe might find them a bit painful, though Hosking goes to some lengths to assure us that Central Otago Pinot Noir, aside from being delightful, is not out of reach of the average man - he should just buy less and better. Thanks Mike, I'll put that cask down on your say-so.

The final straw for me really was the column talking about the increasing use of screw tops on wine. I paraphrase here but you'll get the drift - 'Tradition is being ignored' thundered the man formerly famous for being prematurely fuddy duddy, before his hip, gay-Sydney make-over. 'If ever', he finished the column by saying, 'Mouton du Rothschild, that wonderful French winemaker were to use a screw top then I would take my own life'.
Aside from the vaguely hysterical reactionary pomposity it put me in mind of a very funny scene - a French postman struggling under the weight of his mail sack - it has to be a man - this is France ok - making his way up to the Mouton du Rothschild vineyards.
On reaching the door he collapses, the owners come out and can't work out quite why their postman expired bringing them a full sack of letters from New Zealand.
'Nouvelle Zealande?'
And every single one, for some reason entirely unfathomable to them, asking that they produce a screw top vintage for New Zealand.

Enough of that before it gets silly - now perhaps Colin Meads.

Pinetree is known for a great many things; bravery, stoicism, taking the Cavaliers to apartheid South Africa, strength, investment advice. He is the only NZer alive that can be mentioned in the same breath as Hillary in icon terms.

What he has not previously been so widely known for is his writing.

The Herald on Sunday have fixed this by getting him on board as a rugby writer. And a very good idea too, as when Meads has commented on things of late, before getting the column that is, he has always been classic.

My favourite would be his pronouncements on what was ailing the John Hart era All Blacks. What they didn't need, according to Meads, was all of these sports psychologists and media managers and personal assistants and dieticians and all the other modern day soothsayers. No opined Pinetree, they didn't need all that clap trap. What they needed was more mongrel. And the best way to get that was from more red meat.
- ok so maybe they did need dieticians but only of the Meads variety.

Absolutely brilliant. When I heard he was getting the column I was really looking forward to seeing what Meads would have to say about the new look metrosexualised david beckham influenced sports stars of today.

Surely the man who played on with broken bones would have something to say about the All Black wearing eye-liner, or Daniel Carter's grin and package adorning everything from buildings to bus shelters, or Carlos Spencer's variations-on-roadkill hairstyles.

But sadly no. Thing is that Meads comes from a school of manly manners in which taking a bloke down a peg in public isn't on. Much to our loss.

Instead his columns have been real meat and two veg stuff, no flourishes, just non-egotistically dispensed advice and gruff opinions.

I really enjoy the easy blokiness of his writing - "He's a tremendous fella and I bet he and Richie McCaw are great mates". Great stuff even within the brief remit he has set himself and by far the best thing in the Herald on Sunday.

So there we go. Perhaps, just as a thought, this little review would have been a lot rosier if we'd been looking at the returns these papers must be making, rather than looking at the returns to the reader for a Sunday morning spent on them.

Tourism and Pure NZ puffery

This first appeared in an Australian business mag that has since gone under before paying me. I do hope the appearence of this limp puff piece and the demise of the rag are not linked.

I have two or three gold stories, of getting in a fight, appearing in a dating show(!) and perhaps the tale of the music video-making, to be posted later this week, so do excuse my using this as a recycling bin.

The Australian government have just released the Tourism White Paper that allocates $235 million to market ‘Brand Australia’ internationally over the next four years. Australia’s trans-Tasman occasional adversary New Zealand has had such an over-arching approach in place since 1999 under the auspices of Tourism New Zealand; their approach and results are of especial interest.

Before George Hickton was appointed CEO for Tourism New Zealand in 1999 he had worked as a manager in a number of Government Departments, and, immediately prior, as Chief Executive of the TAB, New Zealand’s betting agency. Which was appropriate, as in one of his first moves with the Board he put all of their chips on just one project.

Before the introduction of the 100% Pure NZ campaign five years ago Tourism New Zealand had funded many different campaigns in many different markets. Each campaign was devised and administered in conjunction with an agency based within the Country targeted. Although this allowed for a great level of specificity, it also led to excessive duplication of costs and a severely fractured message. It quickly became apparent that this sending of mixed-messages could not be sustained in an age of increasing globalisation and utilisation of the Internet as a marketing tool.

So taking into account these twin international trends the need was identified for a campaign that could span markets around the world and provide a unique internet presence; or, as George Hickton concisely says “a consistent positioning campaign.”
Now all creative work is done in New Zealand through M&C Saatchi on the basis of exhaustive market research, both of those who have visited or intend to, and of the wider public in their many target markets.

This attempt to cut down the clutter led the Board to a single, unifying idea – 100% Pure NZ. The decision was made not to market the culture of the cities because the research clearly identified that visitors came for the landscapes. The customer research continually turned up the same themes; scenery, environment, authenticity, purity. The choice was simple - people felt that their greatest experience – the feeling they were left with - was the purity of the landscape, and so a campaign was devised around this theme.

To add to the universality of the campaign it has been, and is now, primarily image driven, with landscapes playing a much larger role than activities. In certain markets, those that respond well, elements of Maori culture are stressed. Maori culture features to a larger or lesser extent in all campaigns as it is so vital to the experience, essence and perception of the country. Purity and authenticity are closely related concepts.

New Zealand was recently provided with an unparalleled opportunity to increase its international profile as a tourist destination on the back of the success of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The films were shot in the Country, with the scenery playing a significant supporting role. Interest generated by the films was such that a guidebook to locations used in the film, written by Wanaka author Ian Brodie, has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. While Air New Zealand, the national carrier, was quick to brand itself as the ‘Official Air-Line to Middle Earth’ the Tourism board saw it as a chance to turn the increased profile into increased recognition of the Pure NZ brand. George Hickton explains, “with something like LOTR it may raise our profile, but the role of the tourism board is to capitalise upon it. So in a time of heightened awareness we have to push our core messages harder.”

The relationship between the Pure NZ campaign and the National carrier is important. Air New Zealand is the natural partner in many things, but, as in the case of the divergence over branding in the case of the Film Trilogy, it is vital that the two retain differences. To this end Pure NZ and Air New Zealand share strategy and ensure that their separate advertising schedules, where possible, complement each other. The overriding focus for Pure NZ is to keep promotions as simple as possible so all players in the tourism industry can rally behind the banner. Throwing their lot in too heavily with one group, even such a significant one, would alienate other parties and undermine the efforts to have an all-encompassing brand associated with the country.

In order to maintain a single-vision rallying-standard approach the Pure NZ campaign is entirely Government funded, a project of Tourism New Zealand. The organisation, set up in 1901, is the oldest state-funded board in the world. CEO George Hickton believes that it is crucial for the industry’s success that such a body is operating. “The tourism industry is different to any other. If you do not position your country appropriately you will simply be advertised as an airplane destination and a hotel room.” Without an overall branding in place he believes you miss the opportunity to attract tourists as “people do not come for these reasons, they come here to see our landscape and our environment.”

Which comes back to that central theme identified by extensive research – it is the natural beauty, the environment that brings people to New Zealand. Even when faced with the international downturn in international travel following September 11 2001 the importance of keeping the message clear and simple was not compromised. No moves were made toward touting New Zealand’s isolation, stability and relative safety. Hickton made that choice and firmly states that it was the right decision. “The campaign was appropriate and we needed to stay focused. As a result, in the end, we recovered better than most other regions.”

Tourism New Zealand are very happy with the results of the approach. The official tourist information websites are attracting ever-growing numbers of visitors, exceeding the stringent targets set down as conditions of budget provision. They believe that the current campaign, already five years advanced, has a further three to five years to run before significant changes have to be introduced. It is assessed continuously, always being refined and refreshed, but George Hickton and the Board are determined not to mess with success. “What normally happens is that marketers get sick of a campaign before the customer. All the people we work with offshore say ‘just don’t change this’ – people understand it now and associate it with New Zealand.”