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24.11.06

Five hundred posts 

Somewhere along the line today, I crossed the 500 mark on this blog. And I noticed my posts have got more personal, like a where the writers begin exploring the characters more. You know, I dislike those TV shows. I wish they would stick to the characteristics that drew me in and left the characters two-dimensional and wooden. For those who have the same tastes as me, I apologize.
   But it has been quite a journey this year being a —and to observe how things evolve, including what interests me. I believe my writing about everyday things is my way of balancing an ever-busier life. And, as I have also noticed, blogging beats contributing to some Yahoo! Groups, which I notice have become quieter over the last year. For me, and I am sure for others, has replaced the groups as our outlet to share our opinion, part of an in the of where we are now all .
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Farewell to the distinguished gentleman 

In the post-mortems on Don Brash’s time as Leader of the Opposition, one word keeps surfacing: . That , say the , was too much of a gentleman to confront the major-asshole comments of the likes of Dr Michael Cullen. In fact, Cullen said much the same thing, without referring to himself as an asshole.
   This is very sad. Most of is gentle, so if this is a , Don Brash should not be the exception in being a fellow—yet he was. Even if I complain about him, at least I found affinity with this aspect of his . I imagine many did, and wish there were more people with a sense of in Parliament.
   Our only solution is to bear this in mind at the 2008 , or even the 2007 local body elections. Who, we should ask, represents our character? Yes, even I might go on about , but our choice should be the person who best reflects not just our policies (for these provide little guidance to what someone does when they are actually in power), but our character and manner. And perhaps even our —Māori concepts often go further than Anglo ones.
   Maybe then we can create a Parliament built around , civility and public —something sorely lacking with this present administration, and the smugness of the likes of the less than competent Finance Minister and the Foreign Minister-outside-Cabinet.
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Radio plug 

I’ve made plugs for Helen and Chelfyn Baxter before (Chelfyn took the photo of yours truly with the Aston Martin at the top of this page, and Helen’s South Park character’s hair is eeriely accurate) but I have forgotten to mention their weekly radio show on National Radio here, not to mention Mohawk Media’s new blog, which now appears in my Blogroll at right.
   Some of you may remember Helen Baxter from Knowledge Board, and now she and Chelfyn have become rather well known here for commenting on issues. It’s a Digital Life goes out every second Wednesday.
   These are useful programmes, as they give a glimpse into a possible future, nicely summarized. No one can ever predict the future, but at least we can dream. And as Brigid will tell you, I like living a little in the future.
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23.11.06

TradeMe just spammed me 

I have just been spammed by TradeMe, the Ebay-like service bought by Fairfax, the firm. A arrived at an address that is not even on my profile today.
   I realize the chances of detection are not great, since so many people in have accounts. But I am always wary of spam, and have a reasonably active Spamcop account just for folks like this.
   TradeMe, which, as far as I can tell, was with back in the day when it was independent, seems to have fulfilled the fears of some people: that, part of a large, offshore corporation, it has begun to act in a very strange way.
   To the Australian parents of TradeMe: we Kiwis don’t like spam. Spam is not media: there is a difference. We don’t like other Australian companies sending us to circumvent your domestic telecommunications’ laws. So lay off. All this does is damage your , and make us remember just how much better these companies were before we were forced to sell them to you.
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The next right step 

, the Leader of the Opposition, has resigned, and favoured to replace him—as has been speculated for years—is Shadow Finance Minister .
   The reasons Dr Brash cites are reasonably coherent and logical, though it’s clear he has taken a beating this year, first over his alleged extramarital affair, and now the publication of a book, The Hollow Men, critical of his party’s election campaigning.
   It matters little whether Key is competent or not at this point, in my view. tend to vote out rather than vote any in with passion, and as long as Key presents an image of a credible alternative, then has a chance.
   It will depend on policy. For starters, I do not know what this guy looks like, and I live here. There are no pics of him in Flickr (as far as I can tell). He has marginally more Google references than me, though I imagine this will increase as of today. And when he had been interviewed on the radio, he wasn’t exactly charismatic, though he is an improvement on Brash.
   Being from the finance and capital worlds, Key may find it natural to side with big , but that does not really contrast him. Under , has found it far easier to seep into ordinary New Zealanders’ lives, with small and medium-sized enterprises facing extreme difficulty under its employment law and other legislative régimes.
   Should Key wish to win favour among New Zealanders, and present a financially sound policy for the country that could lead to a 2008 victory, then a common-sense, fair approach to business might just work.
   But what I want to see is recognition of everyday New Zealanders’ hard work and contributions, something that the 1999 Bright Future programme his party initiated was meant to do.
   By championing the best , the innovative thinkers that is so good at generating—and often losing to foreign nations—might just think twice about staying and benefiting their nation.
   Labour, by contrast, has done a lot to damage that drive, with government departments that are far from useful in encouraging and , and policies that have plenty of flash and little substance. Design and programmes have the right buzzwords but litle follow-through.
   At the end of the day, I do not care which party begins delivering common-sense policies—only that they emerge. But Labour has had since 1999 to do this, and shows no signs of making the shift.
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22.11.06

Six hours in LA 

At the weekend, I was in , having arrived there with nine hours scheduled, but due to heavy security checks at Frankfurt, we didn’t take off until at least an hour after the original time. I would have had seven hours, tops, and by the time I got into the lounge in one of the least logically laid out in the world (that’s ) I had about six left. Still, I was in a good mood because of the courteous, but still professional, treatment given to me by Frazer of the DHS’s passport control. These can be nice.
   What is odd about LAX is how poor the design is, at least the I had to use. Did the airport authority never sample other airports? I remembered it being far better before, but for some reason, nothing clicked this time. There is, from what I can tell, one elevator at the Air New Zealand– terminal to get thousands of passengers between floors. It had one speed: dead slow. If you were in a wheelchair, then this airport was saying, ‘F*** you.’
   The is crap and nothing like what we saw on the Heather Locklear–Blair Underwood TV series on a year or two ago, which actually made LAX look modern. Instead, we are treated to a terminal which even the Air New Zealand check-in counter girl said was dull: at LAX, ‘There’s nothing to do.’
   The Air New Zealand lounge, therefore, seemed like utopia—if you could find your way there.
   Still, with six hours to go, I could go and see weeks before it premièred in New Zealand, and decided to go into Manhattan Beach. Barbara and Thierry at the lounge told me that there was indeed a cinema at Manhattan Village. Thierry was, by my guess, a French Canadian, so here we have a Yank, a Canadian, and a Chinese guy all knowing about . Sadly, that did not mean that Mr Hughes, the cabbie, had any clue.
   With his football game volume turned up to maximum, he proceeded to ask me the address. I said I did not know after I got him to repeat his question four times: surely Manhattan Village would be obvious to someone who operated in the area? At least Manhattan Beach? No clue. He asked if I had a phone. I could not see the relevance of that, nor could I understand whom I should call. Nine one one?
   Instead, Mr Hughes dropped me two miles away from the cinema, since I knew we were getting nowhere fast, and I had to ask locals how to get there. A normal cabbie would have asked himself, or even driven around, but no, he would rather look thick.
   Speaking of thick, I had to walk the two miles back, in what the Californians call . I am sorry, chaps, but that ain’t fog. I have seen fog in three other continents, and have walked through it, and whatever that disgusting mist was there on Saturday was closer to foul from hell that surfaced with the last episode of Angel and the first episode of Bones. I could feel the carbon monoxide levels rise in my bloodstream as I walked the two miles, not a cab in sight, not that I would be dumb enough to let lightning strike twice on this journey.
   What I experienced in those two miles was a sterility that can do so well, a characterless neighbourhood with folks peering at you from beyond the poison air, or from the air-conditioned comfort of their Bugatti Veyron (yes, I did see one). You see, you need a flash car in America because if you didn’t have one, you would die of boredom.
   I got to the cinema, called the Pacific Theatre (yes, they do spell it correctly) and paid my US$8 for my fare. The film, as mentioned in my last post, was very good. It was nice to see a that wasn’t predictable, even if I had read the book countless times. The screenwriters, which included friend-of-a-friend , kept the Bond–Vesper Lynd affair at the end, a nice change from decades of scripts that demolished novels far worse than what Dean Martin ever did as Matt Helm. Let’s face it: : International Man of Mystery was closer to Thunderball than Never Say Never Again. And the abandonment of the flashing dot (while retaining a very different gun barrel) worked: this was Bond Begins, as sought to discover a character that the audience already knew. That element worked far better because it was the core of the story, quite unlike when Ben Affleck took over from Harrison Ford as Jack R. Yan, I mean, Jack Ryan, in The Sum of All Fears.
   On exiting the cinema, I realized: this is People do not hail cabs after a movie in California. Crap. A Crown Vic went by and that was the last cab in Manhattan Beach.
   I asked a local where the nearest ‘taxi stand or cab rank’ was—I still do not know which term is correct for these parts. Basically, Jay, the Californian, said, ‘Good luck.’ But there was a nearby hotel, 400 yd away, which he could drop me off at once he located his 13-year-old son, who had also gone to see Casino Royale.
   I was quite prepared to walk it, but Jay insisted that he give me a lift. We went off in his -powered Honda Civic. For all the poison fumes that I had sampled three hours before, I knew Jay was not responsible. He loathed the inconvenience of finding a CNG station; I tried not to be too smug when thinking that CNG was in New Zealand a long time ago, at virtually every petrol station in the country, and that it was abandoned for the most part in 1996. Still, at least Jay was one of the conscientious Californians, and I applauded him—this was a guy helping out a total stranger and tried to give a sense of down-home American hospitality.
   The hotel staff were charming, too, and one chatted to me about the availability of Nissan Skylines in ; while my Indian cab driver was the antithesis of Mr Hughes, offering clever conversation, and why he was putting himself through college.
   I got back to the lounge to shower, drink and eat, though an apple caused me serious indigestion. Was there fertilizer in the apple, made out of Californian poison air?
   So we had one Yank who was less than smart. Only one. You find that in any country. I encountered heaps of folks prepared to extend a hand of friendship. They might not apologize for the quality of their air, but they sure as heck make up for it by having the same, universal . When a stranger is in need, you give him a hand. Thank you, California: you did your state proud.
   In the words of the Governor, ‘You people, you are the true action heroes. I’ll be back.’

Del.icio.us tags: California LAX humour
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11.11.06

Six hours in Hong Kong 

They say has changed a great deal since I was last there in 1976. Then, there was no , no building taller than the Connaught Centre, and a population in the three millions. Sure, the basic info has changed and images of the waterfront look different to last year’s ones; and the airport may be a long way from town now instead of being located between ; but after venturing to my old ’hood, I can report nothing has changed.
   The building I lived in is pretty downmarket now, and the yuppies (people like my parents) have gone. Even the apartment block across the road, which was being built in 1976, has been torn down and higher ones erected. But look at ground level and the smells, the , and the character are unchanged.
   The Reds will be happy I wrote that, proving that they have kept Hong Kong the same since 1997. I have written elsewhere about that and don’t necessarily agree that multiple recessions in the last decade and -meddling croneyism are good things. But this visit proves the of the Hong Kong people and now is not something that can be easily dismantled.
   The strange thing is the amount of one hears in transit: on the flights to and fro, there were - attendants, but the announcements were mostly in Mandarin and English (with German first on ). To us southerners, at least southerners who left in the 1970s, this is as foreign a development as American street slang would be to al-Qaeda. It may be , but not as we know it.
   And, despite being a , I can hear a distinctive on my . Pity: I can no longer pass as a local in my own home town. Further, being someone who has travelled is no longer a credential of any particular importance, since Hong Kong is very much the . I never saw so many people without yellow skin there before.

Del.icio.us tags: Hong Kong travel character change language accent
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6.11.06

An Oasis in the SAR 

img_fleetI’ve a couple of days to get my stuff together before jetting about this busy month, but Nicholas Ind sent me this link, which is a perfect illustration of why people hire us: to avoid cobblers in propositions. Excerpts (sic):

The stylized i of OASiS represents the essence of both our company and : international, innovative and inspired. …
   The energy of our brand extends to the aircraft cabin interiors, where the theme is “refreshing and cosmopolitan”. colours are warm, inviting shades of purple, magenta and orange for the seat covers and aubergine for the carpeting. Our specially-designed seat cover pattern is called “infinite oasis,” and features an ever-continuing flow of dots that represents the joy of mobility and discovery.


   I can only assume the same person who worked on this worked on the subtitles for early Jackie Chan movies. The actual livery on the planes and the web site look pretty neat, admittedly, but not the puffery that goes along with it.
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5.11.06

The United states of Tom 

Sometimes I get my predictions wrong, but I was on the right track when I linked Tom and United Artists in a post back in August. And yes, this happens to me all the time: I either get it spot on, or I link two unrelated concepts but dismiss my conclusion.
   Or, I think is reading this blog and trying to prove me wrong. Call me paranoid. Just don’t call me a Scientologist.
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I bet Robert de Niro had a Pug for longer 

Months ago, I blogged a list of cars that I have driven. Many of them were loaned to me by the automakers or their dealers. If the loan is done through the concessionaire, it is usually for a longer time—Ford and Porsche are happy for me to drive a for extended periods. Audi will fly me to a location. I prefer not taking a car from a dealer since they need to use it to make money through selling.
   But what if I need one on demand and reasonably urgently, prepared to provide the manufacturer with a page (worth thousands) of coverage? There, because my surname is not Clarkson or Setright, it can prove harder.
    and Renault have leasing programmes in Europe, so last month I checked out whether I could get a comp in their home country for a week. It was an outright no from the former, with an offer of $500 if I sold them my story and it got published. I am (inter alia) a publisher, so why would I wish to give my story to someone else?
   When I total up the coverage we have given Peugeot over the last year, it adds up to tens of thousands of dollars.
   I’m not swayed by the negative response: if a vehicle deserves coverage, I will find a way to get it. But you’d think there’d be a tad more quid pro quo, especially since I have owned one of their . Perhaps they are not happy that I bought from the competition.
   Still, I am not giving up. I’ve just filed a request at head office in Paris, but I would not be surprised if I wound up driving German. As far as I can make out, the longest term use of a Peugeot by a celebrity was for Columbo and that was a long time ago. And I can’t recall anything after Ronin.
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4.11.06

What is Kiwiness? 

I have to admit I am a bit envious sometimes of Jones Publishing’s Julian Andrews. Not only is he a successful publisher of Dish and Top Gear New Zealand, he is a committed family man, and a bloody nice bloke. He cares about his industry and even gives advice to pretenders like me.
   I was fascinated to see the latest issue of NZ, and I should note this is doing very well. It’s a real success story and it is perceived as a local magazine. And I have to wonder what is it about the mix that does it, because inside are the usual columns by Messrs and May, and for a few pages, it is as Pommy as it can get. When I read the editorial and the editor mentioned a Cavalier, I thought he meant a Vauxhall, not a Toyota.
   The envy comes in where he can make these mags and they are perceived to have a Kiwiness about them, hence translating well to the side of the Kiwi buyer. Dish, the food magazine, is world-class and it kicks all its foreign and foreign-owned so hard that their coverage looks like it was done by Garfield.
   It’s come in a week where two more folks have told my team that they thought Lucire is foreign, and on sale is the issue that has the flag and a girl—Amber Peebles, the local presenter—on the cover.
   They mean it as a compliment, and the theory is that because we are so used to putting crap to our name, that if it’s this good, it must be foreign.
   Ironically, it is one of the very few domestically owned titles on the shelves—indeed, New Zealand Fashion Quarterly is the foreign entrant. Perceptions, however, are reversed.
   But my theory doesn’t stack up when you look at Dish and Idealog. These aren’t “so good they must be foreign”. And Idealog is not a particularly local name.
   Maybe I should accept that needs to be exported more, and that this is spirit hinting at the next deal—and that I should pursue accordingly. After all, the local magazine publishers’ association won’t answer our membership enquiries, and the logical thing to do last year was to collaborate with the US equivalent.
   The , when I developed it, was always meant to transcend borders, hence it was geographically indeterminate, and now that it does post a profit, maybe the decision one should take is financing expansion, rather than acquisition.
   But it still doesn’t answer my original inquiry: what makes Kiwiness? If Jeremy Clarkson and Amber Peebles don’t affect geographic perception, then what does?
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2.11.06

Stefan goes to NYC 

Speaking of the States, Stefan Engeseth is giving 10 free lectures in New York, a city he adores. His book, One: a Consumer Revolution in Business, has done awesome business worldwide, and he wants to introduce his concepts to America, where they are greatly needed. He has one condition—you have to buy 50 for attendees before you qualify for a free —but I have to hand it to Stefan: he lives his .
   Earlier this year, he gave what was probably the highest-altitude lecture on a FlyNordic plane filled with businessmen. Not many speakers are in the 30,000 ft club.
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Marc versus Martha 

That is everywhere. Commenting on Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News last night, her daily show, Martha Stewart Living still selling reasonably well, and, in , her cancelled same-again Apprentice show is still going through its first run.
   The community has sided with her, probably because they sensed that she got a raw deal: while Ken Lay and his mates were running free, she was hauled before the courts and got done. Had the trials happened first, I wonder if things would have worked out as well.
   Post-‘Yale’ Martha is a bigger than ever, with the sort of worldwide that she lacked prior. Mention Martha Stewart to lay people outside America, and they would look at you puzzled five years ago.
   But if jail made Martha more famous, why do I still feel bitter about New Zealand sportsman ? He’s his book, has huge displays everywhere for it, and yet we knew this guy was buying drugs that were a bit harder than pot. New Zealand have forgiven him, but I still find his comeback leaves a sour taste. Maybe it’s the sheer illegality of Ellis’s versus Stewart’s share trading.
   I am sure he is a nice chap, and it goes to show what a friendly face and adoring fans will do to soften the blow. If he looked like a harder bastard, I doubt his mug would be in my local Paper Plus store window. Will New Zealanders buy his book, or will we make a judgement that we won’t buy from a cocaine user? And if we do not shun it, then will we admit the media have had a greater role in our forgiving Ellis than we think?
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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