Posts tagged ‘Christchurch’


In the wake of terrorism in your own country

20.03.2019


Above: Flowers at the Islamic Centre in Kilbirnie, Wellington on Monday.

On 9-11, I wrote an editorial in Lucire immediately. It was clear to me what I needed to write, and the editorial got quite a few readers at the time.
   Today is March 20, five days after a terrorist attack on our country, and it’s only now I’ve had some idea of how to put my thoughts into a longer-form fashion, rather than a lot of Tweets, some of which have had a lot of support.
   I guess it’s different when the attack happens to your own people in your own country.
   One of the earliest points I made, when the death toll hit 49, was that this was “our 9-11”, at least when you consider the per capita loss of life. When it hit 50, it actually exceeded the number of lives lost per capita in 9-11. This helps put the matter into some context.
   While the terrorist is a foreign national, who was most likely radicalized by foreign ideas, it has generated a great deal of soul-searching among New Zealanders. Even the right-wing talking heads have suddenly changed their tune, although, if a friend and colleague’s experience as a waiter in New York City in September 2001 is anything to go by, they will return to their regularly scheduled programming in two weeks’ time. Certain media bosses, especially among foreign-owned companies, would have it no other way, since they are not here to benefit New Zealanders, only their foreign shareholders and their own pockets. Stoking division is their business and I do not believe leopards change their spots.
   Therefore, the majority of right-thinking New Zealanders are not complicit, but a minority of us harbour bigoted thoughts, and enough of that minority infect the comments’ sections of mainstream media websites and social networks to make it seem as though they are more numerous in number. The outpouring of support for our Muslim community highlights that the good far outnumber the rotten eggs in our society. And I think more of us are now prepared to call out racism and bigotry knowing that, in fact, public opinion is behind us.
   So many Kiwis, myself included, say that hatred toward Muslims is not in our national character. But it is sufficiently in our national character when Muslim groups have pleaded with government agencies to step up, to be met with endless bureaucratic roadblocks; and many political parties have stains on their records in appealing to Islamophobia, something which indeed was foreign to this nation for all of my childhood.
   I grew up with a Muslim boy and we remain friends to this day, but I never thought of him by his creed. If I was forced to “label” him I would have called him a Pakistani New Zealander. I am willing to bet many Kiwis were in the same boat: we probably knew Muslims but never thought once about their religion.
   It takes certain people to make changes in mainstream thinking. I thought I might be labelled a ‘Chinese New Zealander’ till Winston Peters, now our deputy PM, droned on about ‘Asians’ out of some fear about the weakness of New Zealand culture; and we might have only become aware of Islam to any degree after 9-11. But these are, in fact, foreign ideas, adopted here by those who lack imagination or a willingness to do some hard work. They have been imported here through the sharing of culture. While I support the exchange of ideas, in some misguided utopian belief that dialogue is good for us all, I certainly did not anticipate, during the first heady days of the web, that we would have so much of the bad come with the good. I believed in some level of natural selection, that educated people would refrain and filter, and present their country’s or community’s best face. But as each medium boganfied (yes, I am making up words), the infection came. Newspapers changed thanks to Rupert Murdoch cheapening them, eventually morphing into publications that sensationalized division, especially against Muslims after 9-11. Television went downhill as well largely thanks to the same bloke and his lieutenant, Roger Ailes. The web was fine till each medium became infected with negativity, but Google, Facebook and Twitter were all too happy for it to continue because it increased engagement on their properties. Each fuelled it more with algorithms that showed only supporting views, deepening each user’s belief in the rightness of their ideas, to the exclusion of everyone else’s.
   Most Americans I know believe in civility. I’ve spoken often enough in their country to know this. They don’t believe their freedom of speech is absolute, and personally draw the line at hate speech, but their big websites act as though this is absolute, and allow the negative to fester. It seems it is for profit: we see Twitter remove Will Connolly’s (‘Egg Boy’) account but not racist Australian politician Sen. Fraser Anning. It is tempting to believe that Twitter is following the dollars here without regard to their stated policy. We have, after all, seen all Big Tech players lie constantly, and, for the most part, they get away with it. We let them, because we keep using them. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t need to say anything about Christchurch, because we’ll keep using his websites (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp) and he’ll keep finding ways of monetizing us, dehumanizing us. He won’t show up to the UK when summoned, and Facebook will continue to lie about removing videos and offensive content when we know many reports go unheeded.
   Umair Haque wrote in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attacks: ‘Facebook and Twitter and YouTube etcetera really just bring the American ideal to life that there should be extreme, absolute freedom of speech, with zero consequences whatsoever, even for expressing hate and violence of the most vile and repellent kinds.’
   As people become dehumanized through words and campaigns, it makes it easier for people to commit violence against them. They no longer see them as deserving of respect or protection. In the foulest version, they no longer see them as having a right to life.
   Now, I don’t believe that this absolute approach can be branded American. And I do believe Big Tech has very different values to Americans. Their newsmedia have, too. When regular people are censored, when big money talks more loudly than their laws, then there is something very wrong with their companies—and this is the common enemy of both Republicans and Democrats, not each other. And this wrongness is being exported here, too. I’ve said it for years: we are a sovereign nation, and we have no need to copy their failed idea of a health system or even their vernacular (on this note: retailers, please cease using Black Friday to describe your end-of-year sales, especially this year). We do not need to import the political playbooks, whether you are a political party, a blogger, or a local newspaper. There are Kiwis who actually talked about their ‘First Amendment rights’ because they may have watched too much US television and are unaware we have our own Bill of Rights Act. Even the raid on Kim Dotcom’s home seemed to be down to some warped idea of apeing their cop shows, about impressing the FBI more than following our own laws on surveillance and our own beliefs on decency.
   I honestly don’t see the attraction of turning us into some vassal state or a mutant clone of other nations, yet foreign-owned media continue to peddle this nonsense by undermining the Kiwi character and everyday Kiwi unity.
   Did the terrorist see any of this? I have no idea. I equally have no idea if the people he came into contact with here cemented his hate. However, I think he would have come across sufficient international influences here to validate his imagined fears of non-whites and women. By all means, we should call out bad behaviour, but when we do, we shouldn’t restrict it to individual cases we see in our daily lives. There are entire institutions that are doing this, strings pulled from faraway lands, and to them we must also say: enough is enough. The way you do business isn’t in line with who we are. We need to be aware of who the non-Kiwi players are, often masquerading under locally grown brand names (such as ‘Newstalk ZB’—a quick peek of shareholders suggest the majority are as Kiwi as Ned Kelly), and, if need be, vote with our time and money to support those who really understand us. Be alert to who’s really trying to influence us.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, globalization, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, USA | 1 Comment »


Go well, Dave Moore

02.06.2017

I was very saddened to learn of the passing of my colleague and friend Dave Moore on May 31, which I learned about a few hours after.
   You don’t expect your mates to drop dead at breakfast while on a press trip, especially not at the age of 67, and it’s particularly painful to know he leaves behind a wife and two children.
   The only solace is that he was doing something he loved, in a beautiful part of New Zealand, Wanaka.
   One of my good memories is driving with Dave along south Auckland roads, each of us in a new BMW 650i Cabriolet, during the press launch in 2011. Good manners prevent me from saying what speeds we were doing, but as this is a public blog, let’s say it was 101 km/h on a 100 km/h road. Remember Dave was 61 at this point but he still had the reflexes of a guy half his age.
   Having travelled up this road earlier (this was our return journey), we knew the likelihood of anyone coming the other way was remote. We decided to wind things back down to 50 km/h when we hit the main road and about 200 m down was a police checkpoint!
   We beamed innocently, as though we were doing the legal limit all the time.
   Back at BMW, Dave said to me, ‘That was good, but you could feel a bit of flex in the chassis. Let’s hope they fix that for the M6.’
   Dave was a good bloke. We didn’t always agree but we were always civil about it. On that I have no regrets. He hated mispronunciations (d’Or being pronounced as Dior was his pet peeve) and his politics tended to be further right than mine, but we never let that get in the way of a healthy respect for each other. He was in a good place in his life after quitting the top motoring post at Fairfax New Zealand, and doing his own thing. His daughter was moving up in the foreign service and doing exceptionally well, and he was deeply proud of her. The only photo I have of him is a silly one (he’s on the left and no, I don’t remember why three of us put the napkins on our heads) but usually when you’re on a press junket, you’re not taking photos of your colleagues!
   Dave was still posting on social media right up till his death, remarking how he was enjoying his view at his accommodation in Wanaka.
   There’s something fitting about his Facebook cover photo being his beloved dog, Ruby, walking alone into the distance.
   Our last conversation online was discussing the death of Sir Roger Moore a week before. Dave remembered Ivanhoe and we talked about Robert Brown playing the serf to Roger Moore’s Sir Winifred. Sadly, it wasn’t a car conversation, but it’s not a bad one to end on.
   My condolences to Dave’s family on the passing of a much loved and respected man.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, media, New Zealand | No Comments »


Some positive news a month on from the Christchurch ’quake

21.03.2011

Tomorrow, it will be one month since the Christchurch ’quake.
   It’s tempting to argue scale—the Japanese earthquake and tsunami versus our own—but at the end of the day, people are people, and our nations have both been hurting. We have become united, through disasters that emphasized that we live in an emerging global community.
   I’m glad that our government saw fit to send some of our rescue personnel over to help with the Japanese recovery effort, because they have a grave need for international help. It was the least we could have done with Japan’s fast offer of aid and personnel on February 22 itself.
   There is still a lot to do in Christchurch, especially for those families here and overseas rebuilding their lives after losing loved ones. However, I had a glimmer of hope from running our first positive piece from post-’quake Christchurch on Lucire.
   Kip Brook of Word of Mouth Media wrote a lovely piece about a B&B, Hope Villa, in the Canterbury region, as Christchurch begins reaching out and people begin returning.
   I hope this will be the first of many positive articles to emerge from the region as it gets back on its feet, as we know it can.
   While I haven’t heard of any plans to commemorate the ’quake with a moment’s silence tomorrow, I intend to have a wee break at the office at 12.51 p.m. I hope many of us will take the time to remember the events of the 22nd, and remind ourselves of the solidarity we have with all Cantabrians.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing | No Comments »


In the wake of the ’quake, a time to be bold

06.03.2011

The Christchurch earthquake is certainly not over, not while the city rebuilds. And the bill, at a meeting I had with some other luminaries last Thursday, is estimated to be in excess of the NZ$20,000 million that the New Zealand Government predicts.
   So, other than juggling the funds, what does the Government intend to do?
   Because for the last decade or so, I cannot see anything from either major party that has fundamentally encouraged the New Zealand entrepreneur to build an international enterprise, nor can I see anything that shows me that the government of the day understands that we face an ever widening gap between rich and poor as foreign-owned companies’ profits go offshore.
   Yet if both major parties are so intent on the idea of global trade and this so-called level playing field, then why has New Zealand always buried under it? It’s not level when our best firms become subsidiaries of foreign corporations, and our innovation makes our innovators very little money.
   A truly level playing field would have seen more Kiwi companies acquire overseas ones—and I don’t mean solely in the dairy sector. Only then can the free-trade pundits claim success in raising real GDP and standard of living for New Zealanders.
   If the bill runs into the NZ$60,000 million region that we bandied about, then those funds have got to come from somewhere. Selling more of the family silver or shifting money around a limited pool aren’t going to cut it. We know this from the post-1984 experience.
   While the world has a demand for intellectual capital, and products and services that are based around the sort of innovation that New Zealanders are well poised to deliver, it’s still astonishing that this sector contributes under 10 per cent to our GDP. It should be doing twice that.
   It should have been grown a long time ago, certainly since the late 1990s when I had begun banging on about it.
   I certainly wasn’t the first, not by a long shot.
   Any effort like this must be coordinated, as any venture: both private and public sectors need to be geared to this reality. But the Government acts as though it doesn’t matter if we keep slipping behind, or if we get locked in to industries as a result of TPPA.
   Singapore might not be perfect politically—as Mr Brown’s blog details—but there is much to admire about its willingness to embrace intellectual capital as a means of economic growth.
   The negative growth we have had over the last few years—and Labour’s complacency during the good years before that—is going to lead to a credit crisis in the future, no matter what the credit-rating agencies say. The earthquake as only hastened this date.
   It’s not unbridled growth I’m talking about here. I am referring to us getting our fair share of the pie rather than ‘make the pie higher’, with the independent thinking I have seen New Zealanders being capable of, time and time again.
   When I was asked on Thursday what I expected to see, I answered: (a) strong New Zealand-owned businesses that are globally oriented; (b) cooperation between public and private sectors on innovation; (c) a real understanding of a level playing field—which does not mean furthering the technocratic agenda, which, ultimately, decreases the potential tax take any government could have to fund social services.
   It’s a long-term plan, and for me, Wellington could have served as a microcosm of what is possible.
   Under Mayor Wade-Brown, it still can, and she has certainly stated on a few occasions that she has a desire to see the tech sector grow in this city. It’s a start.
   And now is not a bad time to start on this course, because Christchurch is going to take us years to rebuild and to pay for.
   If only we had vision on the national stage. Now is, Prime Minister, the right time to be bold, and work for the interests of New Zealand once more.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Christchurch in happier times

25.02.2011

Christchurch, as it once was. These are some of the images that appeared on my old Vox blog (or, what is left of that).


The Cathedral, as shot from my room at the Millennium Hotel


The Holiday Inn


The ceiling of the Isaac Theatre


Taxis and a tram



Gloucester Street


Manchester Street


New Regent Street Mall

   Christchurch was home to a lot of lovely classic cars. Right now, it really doesn’t matter if they survived—more important are the people and the families. These were nice mementos of earlier visits:


Iso Fidia, one of 146 of this type made


Volvo 1800S


1959 MGA, by Latimer Park

   Christchurch, you will be great again. You will outshine the beauty I saw on my last journey, because Cantabrians are among the strongest people in the nation.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, New Zealand | No Comments »


Glimmers of hope for the people of Christchurch

24.02.2011

As jobs are vital to any economy, there is, at least, a glimmer of good news from Christchurch’s manufacturing sector.
   Tait, Sanitarium, and Steel & Tube appear to have escaped major damage, says The New Zealand Herald.
   It’s not much solace to those who have lost everything from homes to limbs to family members, though I console myself by saying that it’s better some things have been left standing than the destruction having been, literally, total.
   Hopefully these engines of commerce will begin turning, at least bringing back a little life into the local economy. Those who work there, I’m hoping, might recover some semblance of normality—I know my solution has tended to be to keep busy, even in situations when life feels emptier than usual.

Earlier on Thursday, I delivered bags of Farmbake Cookies and eight litres of water as part of my first contribution to Arise Church’s charity drive.
   The Church is sending down containers of supplies from Wellington to Christchurch on a truck, and tell me that it is repeating the feat on Friday.
   So for those of you who missed today’s two containers, head to 44 Wigan Street (off Taranaki, one down from Abel Smith) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, media, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


To the bastards who did over Donna Manning’s home

23.02.2011

Donna Manning’s home was burgled yesterday. You have no idea how angry I feel.
   Even if I didn’t know her, I would, right now, want to go “Gene Hunt” on the thieves.
   To the person or persons who did over the Mannings’ place: you are the worst kind of human being.
   You have taken advantage of a family that has lost a daughter, sister and a mother and added to their suffering.
   You have acted without any thought or compassion that any normal human being would have at a time of loss.
   You are scum.
   Even worse, if you knew who they were.
   If you saw the photo of their suffering and spotted an opportunity.
   While we all sympathized with the Manning children, you decided to do over their home.
   I will tell you this: you sick freaks had better run.
   Because there’ll be fences who have more compassion than you do when you confront them with these goods.
   And don’t think the law’s too busy to deal with you.
   Donna Manning was well respected in Christchurch.
   After the judge has thrown the book at you, your fellow inmates will know exactly what to do on your arrival.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in New Zealand | No Comments »


We all belong to the Christchurch region

23.02.2011
Good Living
Above Good Living, November 11, 2009, with Angela Stone and Megan Banks. Or, the day I met Donna Manning, who produced the show.

I drove in a total daze today. The last time I felt like this was September 12, 2001,* the day of the World Trade Center attacks.
   And then I learned a colleague I had met was among the dead in the CTV building.
   I felt ashamed. Ashamed that Donna Manning was not someone who was top of my list of people to text when the earthquake happened.
   After the first lot of friends all responded to say they were OK, I was playing the probability game: that if seven out of seven were fine, then it would likely stand that the percentage would hold if I contacted eight.
   Not so.
   But, I tried to tell myself, I only met Donna once, on November 11, 2009. It’s not like we were best friends.
   Yet in those few hours I thought she was a tremendously nice lady, professional, and respectful.
   I grabbed her card, which I still have, with the hope that we would continue to keep in touch.
   We didn’t.
   So it’s a bit hard to explain why I feel a friend has been taken from me—even though it was someone I only met briefly.
   Maybe someone can be a friend even on the briefest of meetings. I say to my friends living on the other side of the world that our friendships remain strong, even if we only see each other once every decade. We catch up as though no time has passed.
   And Donna Manning, in her accommodating, welcoming manner, realizing she had a guest and colleague from out of town, might be one of those people who you feel that level of connection with, quickly.
   It’s not a desire to “belong” to a tragedy. I ruled that out quickly. I counted myself as lucky that those I knew well were all OK. I lost a friend and colleague in the London attacks on July 7, 2005, and I didn’t feel a longing to be “part” of it. I didn’t blog about it much, and kept my feelings to myself and our mutual friends. I was sorry I lost a friend, and I felt the pain his widow had when she was searching for news of him. Maybe a terrorist bombing seemed so unreal, while earthquakes are something that are known to us Down Under.
   This case, I think, is part of the humanity in all of us: while we were lucky enough not to have experienced the Christchurch earthquake first-hand, we feel a sense of unity with those who did.
   This is not anything to do with nationality, as the international rescue crews have ably demonstrated by rushing to our aid. Whether they are our Australian brothers and sisters, or whether they have ventured here from Japan, the Republic of China, or Singapore, or even further afield, they see people to help and tasks to do.
   Just as we in New Zealand felt for those in Haïti, or in Australia as floods, bushfires or cyclones reached them in recent times.
   Now, we want Cantabrians to know that we might not know what they are going through but we understand loss and grief. We empathize with them for their loss.
   When I saw a photograph of Donna’s kids and ex-husband in an Associated Press photograph, my fears were confirmed. I wanted to reach out to tell them just how I felt for them.
   I wrote a few words about how I felt at the time, though that’s not much to someone who has lost a mother.
   We don’t have a desire to belong to the tragedy because we already belong to the tragedy. It has affected other members of the human race, and that’s qualifies us for immediate membership of this tragedy. They suffer, and we all suffer.
   On my Facebook and Twitter accounts, there’s no difference in the sincerity of the writer when they wish the people of Christchurch and the Canterbury region well whether they are locals or Swedish, German, Dutch, American, English, or any other nationality.
   On my Tumblr, that universality was felt in one quotation I cited—based on how many people it resonated with.
   There’s no difference in the helplessness we feel, whether we are a ferry crossing and a few hours’ drive away, or whether we are 10,000 miles away.
   If we could come and bring back your loved ones, we would.
   If we could bring back all our colleagues at CTV and The Press, we would.
   If we could bring back those Japanese students who perished in that language school, and to have them go home to their Mums and Dads happy for their Kiwi experience, we would.
   All because we know our feelings of grief that we felt in our own tragedies and we do not wish them on you.
   Yet tonight, the Manning and Gardiner families experience those very feelings of loss.
   I grieve for a colleague, and, I would like to say, a friend. Someone who touched me positively in my life.
   I am so sorry for you all.
   And I am so sorry to all those who are awaiting news, or are dealing with the horrible news that someone has been taken tragically before their time.
   I don’t want you to feel this down, but I know you do. And I wish, I truly wish, you didn’t have to go through this.

* In New Zealand, it was already September 12, 2001 when the attacks commenced.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, TV | 4 Comments »


Raw footage from Christchurch

22.02.2011

It feels more raw when it’s been shot by a regular Joe and uploaded to YouTube: some first-hand footage from the earthquake in Christchurch today.

I am, in spirit, with all people in Christchurch in the wake of this tragedy.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in internet, New Zealand, TV | No Comments »


Type-changing bug identified—not that it matters next to Christchurch

22.02.2011

It’s quite pathetic to be blogging about something like this on the day of the Christchurch earthquake, but Jonathan Kew, who has kept on the font-changing bug in the Firefox 4 betas after I mentioned it to him, has created a patch that sorts the problem out. Apparently, it applies to old PS1 fonts: Firefox was rejecting the glyph index 31 in these fonts.
   Jonathan is a real ally to the type community, and understands the industry’s needs very well. We’re lucky to have a guy like that involved in browser development. Here’s hoping for approval for the patch.

I’ll repeat parts of what we wrote on the Lucire site today: ‘New Zealand Red Cross is accepting donations
   ‘Twitter updates can be found at hashtag #eqnz.
   ‘Google has a Person Finder for those who are looking for people or wish to report they are OK.’

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, New Zealand, technology | No Comments »