Friday, July 31, 2009

Nicholson Baker on the Kindle 2

It was pale, about the size of a hardcover novel, but much thinner, and it had a smallish screen and a QWERTY keyboard at the bottom made of tiny round pleasure-dot keys that resisted pressing. I gazed at the keys for a moment and thought of a restaurant accordion.

The plug, which was combined with the USB connector, was extremely well designed, in the best post-Apple style. It was a very, very good plug.
Otherwise, he’s just not that into it. Read the whole review here.

Monitor: Marginal Revolution

Take a gander at this

Dim Post has the scoop on a major constitutional intervention by the Governor-General, who in the interests of a stronger democracy has dismissed Phil Goff as Leader of the Opposition, and in fact all Labour MPs, and replaced them with. . .

Well, see for yourself.

Game of the week: fireball hockey

James Delingpole introduces us to fireball hockey:
God, what a fantastic game! You wrap a bog roll in chicken wire, douse it in paraffin, set fire to it and then play hockey with it — preferably while drunk and wearing black tie, as I was lucky enough to do myself three years ago in front of the officers’ mess at the Norfolk HQ of the Light Dragoons.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pink Floyd as futurologists

In their 1968 single “Point Me at the Sky”, Henry McLean builds a “beautiful flying machine” and invites his girlfriend to join him in space and escape the horrors to come when there would be standing room only on Earth and no food:
And if you survive till 2005
I hope you're exceedingly thin
For if you are stout you will have to breathe out
While the people around you breathe in

People pressing on my sides
Is something that I hate
And so is sitting down to eat with only
Little capsules on my plate.
People did believe this in the 1960s – the junk science was settled.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A hot economics formula

Matt Nolan reports that there are now 12 New Zealand blogs written by economists
… that is approximately one per 358,333 people.
This is epic. It makes me proud of our country.
He is possibly being ironic. In another post he quotes this:

Call me a former maths student but that rocks. I miss formulae like that so much. It’s great editing novels and biographies and Brian Turner, but what I really want for my next job is a maths textbook. Is that so wrong?

Modern madness

Christopher Lane reports that the American Psychiatric Association is debating whether “avid shopping” should be considered a sign of mental illness. More than that:
The APA isn’t just deciding the fate of shopaholics; it’s also debating whether overuse of the Internet, “excessive” sexual activity, apathy, and even prolonged bitterness should be viewed, quite seriously, as brain “disorders.”
That covers just about everyone I know.

Monitor: Mick Hartley

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pop goes the fact-checker

I love dopey pop lyrics. Paul McCartney’s “In this world in which we live in”, the Fourmyula’s “The horizon looks much closer than it seems”, and on and on. So Word magazine’s August edition offering some wonderfully innumerate and otherwise challenged pop lyrics was a delight. Here are a few: do buy a copy – it’s really good for pop fans of a certain age.

“The Wrestler” by Bruce Springsteen:
Have you ever seen a dog with one leg making its way down the street?
With three crutches, presumably, or possibly on a skateboard.

“Cities” by Talking Heads:
Did I forget to mention, I forgot to mention Memphis/
home of Elvis and the Ancient Greeks
Memphis was about 22 km south of modern Cairo. Not very Greek at all.

“Pride (in the name of love)” by U2:
Early morning, April 4/
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Memphis again. Martin Luther King was shot just after 6 pm, more like early evening.

“This Time I Know It’s for Real” by Donna Summer:
What would I have to do to get you to notice me/
Do I stand in line, one of a million adoring eyes?
Ms Summer, happily, is sighted in both eyes.

“Killer Queen” by Queen:
She’s a killer queen, gunpowder, gelatine/
Dynamite with a laser beam, guaranteed to blow your mind
That would be gelignite not gelatine, which is not an explosive. At all. Unless you are really, really crap at making jelly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Peter Williams, party animal

The Herald reports:
The stars came out to Auckland’s Viaduct on Friday night to celebrate Peter Williams’ 30-year career at TVNZ.
The camera does not lie: he clearly loved every minute of it.
Williams started working at the state broadcaster in 1979 as a sports anchor and has since covered seven Olympic games.
Thirty years at TVNZ – what a survivor. I think he should be reading the 6 pm bulletin every night – he’s far and away the best newsreader we have and he’s a very good interviewer too. But I guess that would interfere with his afternoon golf, which would never do.

Friends and family

Chris at NZBC is having trouble with his waterworks.

Kate at LaughyKate is suffering from visual food poisoning.

David Cohen at NBR wonders if the free lunch is no longer a viable business model.

Chris Trotter at Bowalley Road is depressed by Phil Goff.

Chris Bourke at Distractions has been a bit quiet lately – he must be writing another book. Or maybe he’s still in mourning for Michael Jackson after writing this obit for the Listener.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Big Mac and obesity

Richie McCaw is obese. So says this Herald report:
Four All Blacks in the starting line-up for tonight's clash against the Wallabies - including captain Richie McCaw - are officially obese and the rest are overweight, according to their Body Mass Index reading. . .
According to the New Zealand Heart Foundation website, people of European descent with a BMI reading between 25 and 30 are overweight while those with a higher reading are obese.
And Maori and Pacific Islanders with a reading between 26 and 32 are overweight and those with a higher reading are obese.
Every All Black had a reading of higher than 26.
This is yet more evidence for the Stratford Theory of Numbers, isn’t it. Really, if Richie McCaw is obese, which he clearly isn’t, what word do we use for Parekura Horomia?

So this tells us that the BMI is a useless concept – it does not measure obesity at all. What it measures is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in metres squared. This makes no allowance for the proportion of fat (light) to muscle (heavy), and so for two people of the same height, the muscly one will have a higher BMI than the lard-arse. Then there is the distribution – it matters a lot where the fat is.

The current obesity panic was sparked by this report that New Zealanders are the third most obese people in the world, after Americans and Mexicans. Cue calls for action: the government must do something. Mac Doctor has a typically robust comment here.

Then again, if Australia wins tonight, we’ll have to reconsider.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Michael Jackson’s record sales

It’s that Stratford Theory of Numbers again.

Wikipedia says of Michael Jackson:
A double-inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his other achievements feature multiple Guinness World Records—including the "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time"—13 Grammy Awards, 13 number one singles, and the sale of over 750 million records.
The BBC report on the Black Entertainment Television Awards show, which was “the first big tribute to Jackson”, says he sold:
750 million albums
The New York Times says:
At the height of his career, he was indisputably the biggest star in the world; he has sold more than 750 million albums.
The Wall Street Journal says: bollocks. Essentially, his publicist claimed sales of 750 million units, meaning songs. Not the same thing at all, but that is how journalists read it and what has been uncritically repeated ever since.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Twitter, Facebook and stalking

From Despair Inc. comes this Venn diagram of today’s exciting new social media and their relationship with narcissism, ADHD and stalking.

They call it, and who am I do disagree?, a masterpiece which:
captures ever so brilliantly the three behavioral disorders propelling the continued phenomenal growth of today’s most widely-trafficked social media sites. And at the intersection of the dysfunctional forces of Narcissism, ADHD, and Stalking resides today’s fastest growing social media experiment of all – Twitter.
You can order the T-shirt here.

Monitor: Penny Wise

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Best 2009 world leader’s name

No contest: it’s the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov.

His country borders Iran to the south and Afghanistan to the south-east. Not to mention Kazakhstan to the north and Uzbekistan to the north-east. On the whole, as W.C. Fields would say, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.

How to cook a hairy sausage

News at English Russia of the latest in Russian cuisine. My nephew lives in St Petersburg – I must ask him if he has tried this at home:
A new dish became extremely popular among some Russian bloggers lately. Now it’s not quite clear who was the first one who invented this mod by pinning some uncooked sausage with hard spaghetti sticks and then boiling this all together and getting first “haired sausage” ready.

Then, publishing the outcomes on Internet caused a real wave of interest from many who wanted to try making their own haired frankfurter.

As one might guess different variations emerged.

Even the black-haired ones.

It became a real hero, and seems is still not very known abroad.
There’s a reason for that, droog. However, if you are keen to explore this culinary by-way, don’t miss the instructional video.

Monitor: Mick Hartley

Waikato Times headline of the month

From the 14 July edition, page 13 (not online), over a report on the Paeroa stock sale (that’s cows, cattle, sheep and pigs):
Boners firm at Paeroa
I’m guessing that’s good news.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Serge Gainsbourg for Bastille Day

Last time I was in Paris I saw Serge Gainsbourg in a televised concert singing (if that is the word) his Jamaican-flavoured version of the Marsellaise, “Aux Armes et Caetera”. He was smoking, in both senses. It was a fantastic performance which unfortunately has not been stolen and posted on YouTube, but here he is miming (and smoking) to his studio recording: the music is played by Sly and Robbie, with backing vocals by Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths. Reggae heaven.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The world’s worst tourism slogans

Titanic Awards is a new website dedicated to horror stories of bad tourism. Many travel writers nominate the worst local delicacy, worst toilet, worst attraction, worst flight etc. Sample entry, from a former travel editor of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Worst Pizza: Canned spaghetti on toast, New Zealand, 1982.
And Spud Hilton’s Worst Beach:
The Hilton resort beach in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates; tanker ships going through the Strait of Hormuz spill so much crude that the beach showers are equipped with industrial cleaner and pot scrubbers to get the tar balls off your feet.
There are loads of videos, too, presenting the evidence for the prosecution. Contributors include authors Tim Cahill and Rory McLean as well as the publishers of Lonely Planet and Rough Guides.

Anyway, they’re looking for nominees for the World’s Worst Tourism Slogans. So far they have:
Hilton: “Travel should take you places.” (Yes, it should. I think we can all agree on that totally meaningless statement. Would be nicer to say “take you someplace unique” but if you stay in a Hilton that wouldn’t quite work since the rooms look virtually identical no matter which country you go to.)

Fargo, North Dakota’s “Always Warm!” (No, everyone knows it’s warm in the summer and you freeze your ass off the rest of the year.)

British Colombia’s “The Best Place on Earth.” Why not just come right out and tells us how fucking great B.C. really is.

“Andalucia. There’s only one.” If you can’t think of anything else to say about a place, this should work.

Annapolis, Maryland’s “Come Sail Away” — inviting visitors to come… and leave, preferably by boat.

“Wales. The Big Country” No, Canada is a big country. So is China. And India, Brazil, Australia. If you’re going to start making shit up, why not say Wales is a tropical island with white sandy beaches and attractive, well-tanned natives who serve free beer around the clock.
But here in New Zealand we can do much, much worse than that. Dunedin’s “It’s all right here” must be the most dispiriting and defensive slogan ever. It’s not alone – an amusing academic paper by Dr Steven Pike of Queensland University of Technology discusses and categorises our “Destination Positioning Slogans” used between 1998 and 2003. Rotorua’s “Feel the spirit” is meaningless, as are Taranaki’s “Real people – special place” and Nelson’s “Live the day”. Of Canterbury’s “Fresh each day”, Pike mildly observes that it “offers an attribute that any region could claim”. His conclusion?
The relatively short term use of a number of the slogans may indicate that many may not have been regarded as effective.

Toby Young on Bruno

Unlike almost everyone else, Toby Young did not enjoy Sacha Baron-Cohen’s Bruno:
A sophisticated, metropolitan audience is being invited to laugh at poor Southern blacks for not having the wherewithal to conceal their visceral disgust when being confronted by someone who looks suspiciously like a pederast. If the purpose of satire is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, then Bruno doesn’t qualify as satire. On the contrary, Baron-Cohen is comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.
He also thinks that at least some of it is staged, not real:
For instance, there’s a scene in which Bruno is asking a stage mother a series of provocative questions in order to determine how far she’s prepared to go to get her baby cast in a film. If it turns out her 30lb baby is ‘too fat’ for the role, would she be prepared to put him on a diet so that he loses 10lb in the course of a week? Yes, she says. And if he hasn’t lost the full 10lbs, would she be prepared to give her baby liposuction? Once again, the answer’s yes. That can’t possibly be true — what mother would countenance such treatment of her baby? — yet the scene depends for its humour on the audience believing the mother is real. Once it dawns on you that the mother is being played by an actress, the laughter dies in your throat. More importantly, it loses its satirical point: we’re witnessing an actress playing a cultural stereotype created by Baron-Cohen and his co-writers to confirm their prejudices about what stage mothers are like.
Over at the revitalised NZBC, Mark Broatch doesn’t like it much either:
. . . it is soon clear that there is no story, only a clanking, predictable skeleton of laser-bleached segments wired roughly together. My suspicion is that Bruno was originally meant to be a spoof of the fashion industry, but they, wise to Borat, saw Bruno coming.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones: the T-shirt

Further to this post on producer Quincy Jones’s working relationship with the late singer, there is now a T-shirt available expressing his views on Jackson’s vocal performance during the recording of “Billie Jean” (click on the image to enlarge):

There are more in a similar vein here.

Several readers overseas found the original post by Googling “quincy kicking rags”.

Monitor: PopBitch

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Happy birthday David Hockney

Home Paddock reminds us that the great Yorkshire artist was born on this day in 1937. Nowadays he not only paints but uses computers (Tablet and Photoshop) to create images such as the ones in this exhibition currently on in London. He is also making art on his iPhone. Seriously. Look at this:

He tells the Daily Mail:
I like to draw flowers by hand on the iPhone and send them out to friends so they get fresh flowers. And my flowers last!
There’s a very good interview with him by art critic Martin Gayford in the 27 June Spectator here.

Cactus Kate on John Key


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Vela helicopter flies again

One of the big stories in the Waikato is the resource consent hearing into the proposed expansion of Neil and Linda Porritt’s sand quarry at Tamahere. There are objections to increased heavy traffic across the region, dust affecting horses’ hooves – a serious concern, apparently – and increased noise. Buried in this news report was a familiar name from the saga of Winston Peters and his election finances. And, indeed, a familiar helicopter:
Phillip and Peter Vela’s Pencarrow Stud is among those supporting concerns about noise effects on horses.

But Mr Porritt said the major source of noise in the area came from the Velas’ helicopter.

Delhi beloved

Good news for gay Indians, and a gift to headline writers everywhere.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Open season on Paul Krugman’s cat

Harry Hutton has one of the funniest blogs ever. Intermittent, but the gems are gems. Here he is on, as advertised, Paul Krugman’s cat.

I like his copyright notice too:
Not copyright. Take anything you like, I couldn’t give a toss.

Simile of the week

Damian Morris reviews the new Tortoise album, Beacons of Ancestorship, in The Word:
Northern Something has all the delicate beauty of a pile of smashed bricks, while the distorted bass and sheets of stalling tank sounds on Yinxianghechengqi appear to chronicle the band’s attempts to fit a bullfrog into a wine bottle.
I am so downloading that.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Waikato Times letter of the week

Number three in a series. This is from the 30 June issue (not online yet). As always, one wonders what the full, unedited version was like:
Secret silence
The hands-on information our television news service is giving us of what foreign brainwashing is doing to Iranians is a far cry from the secret silence of what our military has been doing in Afghanistan since 2001.

Some years ago we learned we are a nation at war by news that three years previously a New Zealand soldier had charged into a hail of tracer bullets, grabbed up a badly wounded soldier and carried him to safety somewhere.

This casualty was the first, and to this day the only casualty, sustained in combat since our heroic soldiers served and saved their country from the peasants of Vietnam.

The recognition of Willie Apiata’s heroism not only awakened our nation to an ever present peril of invasion it also strengthens our resolve to accept a devouring tax and debilitating health needs. (Abridged)


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hugh Jackman snogs Nicole Kidman

Well, sort of.

In this less-than-hot still from the Baz Luhrmann less-than-masterpiece Australia, run as a half-page in today’s Waikato Times, she kisses him below his nose while he kisses her on the chin. It’s not how I remember young romance.

The review, incidentally, gave the movie five stars. This may be a record.

Sentence of the day

Really having Labour go on about public sector neutrality is like Charlie Sheen go on about monogamy.
David Farrar, of course. Ungrammatical but he can be excused as he is posting from New York. The context is here.