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Laural Barrett is Miss Universe New Zealand 2007 

Laural Barratt, Sylvia Laurenson and Jessica Body, winning the top three prizes at Miss Universe New Zealand 2007. This image is copyright. Please do not steal it.[Cross-posted] (Miss The Edge ) is Miss Universe New Zealand 2007. It was not easy. As we tallied our scores in the judging room, we noticed that in many cases, positions were determined by half a point.
   Naturally, I can’t discuss whom wound up second to some of the prizes, but one of the non-placing prizewinners got her special award by that narrowest of margins.
   But as we saw Laural up on stage as Miss Universe (and seeing that sudden surprise on her face, just as on TV), we knew that we had made a good decision. I believe she will represent the nation well, and have the confidence and poise at 2007 in Mexico City. It will also give her singing career an amazing boost, and I am confident that she will place very well at the international competition.
   Calling someone ‘second’ is not an insult here, given the closeness of the competition. Sylvia Laurenson (Miss Boulgaris.com) was runner-up (with the usual conditions of ‘If Miss Universe New Zealand cannot serve, then you are it’) but as I told her earlier, I expect to see a lot more of her in broadcasting and . She has a drive and confidence. As my friend and co-judge said, she did not win her pageant in the 1980s, but wound up with a 20-year career. Sylvia gets my vote for the contestant most likely to get in to a profession in the public eye here in New Zealand.
   Jessica Body (Miss Asta Club & Lounge) placed second runner-up. At 5'4", one might think she was at a disadvantage. But then, Miss Universe 2006 is 5'5". Jess (one of three girls with the Christian name) has those eyes that follow you around a room, no matter where she was looking. She was clearly Miss Personality, a unanimous decision from the judges. I say this without being flattering: she has star quality. She shone from beginning to end.
   What was interesting was that every one of us had shortlisted nearly the same ten girls to go in to the finals. Our first to eighth contestants were identical, with a bit of back-room negotiations to determine the ninth and tenth.
   What audiences did not see was the Thursday night judging that went from 6 p.m. to midnight. We met with the young ladies casually, then at an interview. We also had a preview of the swimsuits on that night, and there were some changes earlier tonight in terms of our top 10. The interview was a massive part, however: while it is a beauty pageant, we took into account the girls’ intelligence, speech, succinctness, rapidity of response, depth of response, and appropriateness. We also got to see them sitting on an armchair, not dissimilar, as it turned out, to the one on stage that Laural got to sit on.
   Laural did interview very well. Now the real work begins, as I have to organize a shoot with her for a future feature as part of her prize. As some know, Laural’s twin sister, Sharaine, placed runner-up in 2006 with her natural hair colour; now-blonde Laural probably made the right choice with her hair, accentuating her skin and facial features.
   The three prize-winners on stage were a true vision. Then, so were all the girls. Eye-candy with substance: as the only male judge, and in many settings the only man other than the director’s partner, I was in danger of sensory overload.
   And if you saw what stress director Val Lott was under, having to be compère, organizer, surrogate mother, judging coordinator, press relations’ director, etc., you would admire her no end. Allan, by her side, was still working at 1.35 a.m., when I left, after hanging out with and the Cassie clan. A great night; and I can only imagine how the prizewinners are buzzing.
   For those wanting to check the earlier contestant photos from Miss Universe New Zealand, I can say with much authority that they do not do them much justice. We had been very surprised as to how different the girls actually looked, with Katie Taylor far more impressive in every respect in person.

PS.: The 5'5" claim was made by one of the contestants last night and may or may not be true.

P.PS.: The photograph is copyright. I do not want to see it on other blogs. Please respect this. We are currently in the process of removing a car blog page because of a copyright violation, and I hate being a bastard.
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Red China gets whatever it wants from Labour 

The press release says it all, really. No one voted in the Communist Chinese as the government of New Zealand, even if a lot of us voted Labour. Pity that some of our senior government figures and cops decided to take their orders from Beijing, or are too scared to confront the Politburo when given the chance.

Publisher outraged at barring of Nick Wang from Parliamentary event

Jack Yan reminds Red Chinese that their sovereignty ends at Embassy doors

Wellington, March 27 (JY&A Media) Jack Yan, publisher of Lucire, says he is ‘outraged’ by the barring of from a Parliamentary event last night, and says it is among a ‘pattern’ of suppression that the Government is either ignoring, or endorsing.
   Earlier reports indicate that Red Chinese Embassy officials had pressured Marie McNicholas, the head of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, to bar Mr Wang from reporting on the visit of Zeng Peiyan (Tsang Pui Yam, 曾培炎), an official from Beijing. Mrs McNicholas refused, and told Radio New Zealand that officials may have approached members of the New Zealand police force.
   ‘We generally have some of the best police officers in the world,’ says Mr Yan. ‘The government needs to understand that they do not have the right to give orders to our cops, especially not the right to suppress a New Zealand-based in the course of his job.
   ‘This is New Zealand territory, and missions are here by convention, not by right.
   ‘Red Chinese sovereignty ends at their Embassy’s doors. They do not extend on to New Zealand soil,’ he says. ‘Why certain MPs like Peter Dunne and I have to remind of this, constantly, is beyond me.’
   Both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister are saying the incident is a misunderstanding which has been blown out of proportion.
   ‘A and New Zealand deserve to be protected, and if the Government believes either can be so readily dismissed, then they are ignoring, or endorsing, a pattern of pressure,’ says Mr Yan.
   ‘Red China’s actions, once again, make me question their understanding of other nations’ rights, and why we should even pursue a deal with a régime that does not respect New Zealanders or New Zealand jobs.’
   Mr Yan says that he has found Mr Wang to be a fair and balanced journalist, who has never been staunchly anti-Beijing in his reports in the Capital Chinese News.
   Mr Yan adds that he was disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition, , did not raise the matter with Mr Zeng in his meeting earlier today, and questions why no other MP with ethnicity has publicly stood by Mr Wang.
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A gay-safe article? 

Audi TT, as photographed by Douglas RimingtonI would not mind some advice on my latest motoring column for the next Lucire, from those in the . From a minority’s point-of-view, I found shows such as Mind Your Language or the Chinaman gag in The Benny Hill Show to be hilarious. The reason is probably because the joke was not on the minorities portrayed, but on the ignorant Englishman. Yet these shows fall foul of the types—the PC thugs—who see us minorities as so weak that we need their defence.
   I have written about the , a car which I associate with female buyers. The new one, however, is more butch. The gag is that heterosexual men like me have a degree of , and we have tended not to buy a TT. All that changes with this new model.
   Is the article appropriate? I hate toning things down for political correctness. That’s not the point. The point is to understand where the limits lie. Many gay men read , and the last thing I want them to feel is that the magazine is prejudiced when it is not. Read it here and then come back and let me know.
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Letter from New Zealand, no. 6 

I thought it was the fifth when I made the recording, but it’s actually the sixth. This is a long recording: 15 minutes long, but I think it is more enjoyable than a few of my earlier ones. Click to stream.

0.00 Introduction
0.06 My -hating phase
0.53 SFist attacks : America does not want transparency
2.40 Earlier today on Good Morning: what if your partner is gay?
4.24 Helen Clark goes to Washington
6.39 The free-trade agreement with the US
7.08 Helen Clark must know that our economy is shaky and visits Arlington National Cemetery
7.57 Irish company outsources editing and layout of its New Zealand publications
8.51 I buy Pam’s orange juice and not the foreign stuff
9.11 Marc Ellis is not the quintessential Kiwi bloke
10.04 Miss Universe New Zealand
10.25 Running into Lorraine Downes: her tips on who should win Miss New Zealand
12.00 Text and vote for Miss Universe New Zealand
14.24 Sponsors of Miss Universe New Zealand
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My father, news junkie 

Dad is a junkie. I even said I would get him Fox News via satellite if he liked it that much, but he has gone off it a bit now that is not on , and some former CBS journo has taken her place. (And this is coming from a leftie.) I have gone off it since I do not see ’s legs any more. (Jack’s law: the perfect woman must have ‘Juliet Huddy’s legs’ as part of her specification.)
   He’s a bit pissed off because , which used to carry Fox News for a few hours before his bedtime, has reduced coverage to about half an hour, squeezed in between Prime’s ever-skilful programming of infomercials, airing between 3 and 3.30 a.m. It used to start around 11.30 p.m. and carry on till 4 a.m., and, once upon a time, even went straight to dawn. He used to record the lot overnight.
   Now, he just doesn’t even watch Prime. He used to catch a bit of Letterman that aired before the switchover to Fox, but now he just goes on to . Methinks Prime keeps putting its foot in it: no new s for a while, and … um … well, actually, I don’t know what else it has on. Maybe some Frasier re-runs.
   I know: he could get Sky. But he doesn’t like Sky. He has had too many mates who had it, and then cancelled it, because the more channels you have, the more nothing you have to watch. And besides, while Fox News is now on Sky Digital, here is an email from the service dated July 13, 2005, when I enquired for Dad whether it would ever carry the :

Thank you for your email.
   No plans at present to add this channel, firstly we are currently operating at almost full capacity on our bandwidth, and Prime TV hold the rights to this channel in New Zealand.

   All of a sudden it has capacity in 2007? Well, of course. Follow the money. It realized that there were people like my Dad watching. And it decided it would try to move them to pay TV, just as it got the rights for football (that’s soccer) off terrestial television.
   The result: he just stopped watching. There’s plenty else on free TV. And if free TV goes more and more low-brow, we have our DVDs and tapes of programming from nicer times.
   I doubt Dad will ever get Sky, and as long as he has the BBC World channel and al-Jazeera, he might forget about Fox News Channel in general. would not be pleased.
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The Helen Clark image isn’t as tough any more 

Here we are, crossing the 600 mark. This means, with this post, I have managed to equal the three-year output of the Beyond Branding Blog in 14 months. I had hoped, originally, to do it in a year, and my closest friends know that certain personal reasons meant I had to take December off.
   The topic this time is that of the Prime Minister of , , and her meeting with President . Didn’t go too well. Photographs show the “hard woman” of New Zealand very much at unease in the . It doesn’t surprise those of us who have met the PM: she is actually quite a gentle soul, and being in the presence of meant she couldn’t control her tough-gal image that she portrays on her own turf anywhere nearly as well.
   It was a photo opportunity gone sour because the PM didn’t carry on her anywhere nearly as well. And the fact that we saw a small smirk from Dubya when the PM mentioned, half-heartedly, as she was always going to do, a with the .
   Of course the United States is not going to smile readily on a nation not willing to join the Willing in the Coalition of the Willing. We had defence ties with the US once upon a time, and we would probably plead for help from the US if the invade us in 2020, so right now, Dubya is probably thinking that any relationship with New Zealand is going to be rather one-sided. A visit to by the PM, which was meaningless back home, did little to sway the President. Sitting in the old Cadillac that President used, complete with Old Glory flying from the front staff didn’t signal anything, other than a leader not too confident about showing her own flag.
   PM Clark would have found it easier to talk to , so she headed there before seeing George W. Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry would have loved her, but she didn’t hang out with the senators.
   I suppose you could say, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ but you could also say, ‘Too little, too late.’
   When in need, when the is looking dodgy and ’s BS doesn’t go as far, it didn’t surprise me that New Zealand would turn to the United States, once again. The difference is that this administration has a memory, just as I remember that the President and I have similar tastes in footwear.
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Paddy kicks Kiwis out 

When I advertised Lucire with The Herald and did not get the promised positioning 100 per cent of the time (the claimed that we would not get a promised positioning in 1 out of 10 cases), I asked its department if foreign like the Herald had something against New Zealand-owned publications. The reply from the ad rep, perhaps misunderstanding the question, or perhaps suffering a Freudian slip, or perhaps stating the truth, was they supported foreign-owned publications.
   I wrote back to say that we were the New Zealand-owned publication, and they were foreign. In case the rep didn’t know that. There was a chance she didn’t. I don’t recall if she ever replied, but whatever the case, we stopped giving to a newspaper that could not honour its promises.
   I often call the Herald the newspaper, for you can trace the ownership back there. And I bet the newspaper today is wishing it was a bit more supportive of the home crowd, on the announcement that its parent could eliminate 70 New Zealand jobs, and place and with Australians.
   I didn’t want the money I put in to the newspaper to go to foreign-owned media, which had a clear conflict of interest in wishing to see a New Zealander do well. Today, I believe the Irish showed that they have even less interest in supporting Kiwis. Evidently the decision APN has taken is driven by money. Well, if they didn’t piss advertisers off, maybe this announcement need not have come to fruition today.
   I know where the union can target some of its wrath.
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Voting update for Miss Universe New Zealand 

[Cross-posted] The public voting for is going quite well and three girls seem to be leading there. I actually believe these will have an impact on the night, probably as though all of New Zealand was a “sixth judge”. (Note: I do not know this for sure: I am guessing.)

1. Melissa Lowe (535 votes)
2. Amanda Hiroti (494 votes)
3. Laural Barrett (480 votes)

There are various codes you can text to 946 in New Zealand. Go to www.missuniversenz.co.nz to get the actual codes. Cellphone bill payer gets charged, etc.
   I didn’t pick that Miss Lowe would poll so highly, though it is no surprise about Mlles Hiroti and Barrett (who is a twin—her sister was runner-up last year). Still, these are just based on a cursory glance at their appearance.
   There’s a part of me that has become quite objective about looks through involvement in the , and whether a girl will well. Sometimes they have a great personality and the pic looks horrid—which is my case for retouching (to bring the image to a standard where others can feel the model’s goodness). I am afraid the winner needs it all, and Miss Lowe’s photograph doesn’t quite measure up, but I am not going to go in to judging with that preconceived idea. I’ll have to on their merits and if she’s a confident person and that beams out to where the judges are sitting, then I will put points in her favour—just as the international judges in Mexico will do in May.
   The danger is that the points’ system usually produces an aggregate winner, who may not shine in any one thing.
   So the key is to find someone to represent this nation brilliantly, express our values (which are very appealing globally, especially to Americans, since we remind them of what they used to be), but also be ultra-confident. I’ll be warning my fellow judges about the “aggregate” winner. I’m judging so we can send someone who will win and this will be good for our nation.
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The French can get away with it 

In my May 2007 Desktop column:

   , one company I have worked with for a long time, is also known for creating quality products but not always the best type. Yet, bad doesn’t seem to dim this French , even in the face of competitors who look after their type far more sensibly. In most, there is a mixture of the different types of rule-breaking: squashed type, faux small caps, and usually, inconsistent families being used between campaigns.
   My original theory was that the image of Claudia Schiffer or Scarlett Johansson would sway anyone from bad , but a recent without any model suggests L’Oréal still manages to maintain a glamorous image.

Anyone want to advance their theories? (Mine’s in Desktop.)
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An hour of Aston Martin 

Thanks to the great folks at Autoblog, there’s a one-hour video on from the Victory by series posted there. I’m going back to watch it: the sound from the DBR1 that the programme opens with is musical. (The typography is crappy, but here, who cares?)
   Since it’s an hour long, I expect it to be twice as good as the Aston special hosted back in the mid-1990s.
   ‘Cue the Elgar.’
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Intelligent blog commenting has become rare 

Holden EpicaSean and I are discussing the Daewoo Tosca, a.k.a. , on the Australian Car Advice blog. While Sean and I don’t see eye to eye, this is the sort of conversation that should be taking place: respectful, civilized and with an acknowledgement that the other party has a brain. Funny that I should have to note this: it means that on so many blogs and forums, this sort of behaviour is lacking today.

PS.: The things lacking in the photograph above are the word Taxi in Korean on the door, and one of those little ‘Best Driver’ taxi signs on the roof.
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Lectures this month 

I will give two academic lectures this month, so not all is lost for audiences. Both are for AUT: March 29, I will be addressing postgrad candidates, while undergrads will get me on March 30. These are for the faculty. These have been rescheduled, since my April 3 speech was cancelled. I’m really looking forward to them, and to think they came about because I bumped into Dr Leong Yap of AUT in January while walking in Mt Vic in Wellington to get my car.
   Sorry, there are unlikely to be notes for this one posted at my site, since I plan to make parts of it improvised.
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I want the ’net to be an experimental utopia 

What has dawned on me these days is that the is no longer a place of escape. Not that long ago, businessmen like me could go online, easily find colleagues who were interested in making a difference on the planet. Go online now, and you’ll find , petty jealousies, gossips—everything that you might confront in the physical world, but more invasive. The shield of civility often disappears, replaced by the biting tongues of those who are ill-educated, but think they are armed with all the knowledge of the ancients.
   Inevitably, we will all congregate into groups, only to find that as those groups grow, the same pattern is followed. The ’net in general gave way to the , where many of the better thinkers went. But as I watched the whole Jennifer Siebel-attacking matter unfold over the last week (SFist’s obsession seems unnatural, but try telling its contributors that), it is fair to conclude that the blogosphere is suffering from the forces that made the web clunkier, slower and less exciting. The new frontier, just like California must have been to its first settlers (I do mean the native Americans), gave way to the white settlers, lawlessness and disease, before an experimental began to take root. That , occidental civilization is now armed with the internet, slagging people off while ignoring the homeless people minutes away from their residences. It just seems easier to be nasty, but is it more natural given one’s ?
   I imagine we must start with other communities, other groups, and hope that contact with the educated class rubs off some knowledge on to the ill-educated. We now live, at least in this medium, in a world of the information-rich and the information-poor, but even we must depend on schools and governments—perhaps online schools (?)—and the hope that reasoning is something we are born with. That the internet remains somewhere where all can learn and better themselves, not a medium where pettiness and hate are propagated.
   The realignment of what the internet is must start with those of us who write in it, conducting ourselves in the hope that we are working toward a that will, God willing, transmit its positive energy in to the real world.
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Between marketing 

Hop over to Dan Gordon’s blog where he discusses ‘Between Marketing’:

“Between Marketing” or “BM” is , usually but not always advertising, that comes between something I’m doing and something I want to do.

His conclusion: they are -damaging, and would do better by shifting their focus on creating destinations that citizens simply want to go to. I think the best way to do that is to work with consumers, à la Stefan Engeseth’s One principles.
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Judge cred 

I am getting a lot of questions about how I became a judge for Miss (officially Miss Universe New Zealand). Answer: because Val Lott (organizer) asked me. I imagine that being a proprietor of gives me some cred. I also think the fact I am not single—albeit separated by 12,000 miles with the woman I love—means I must know something about broads. I, personally, would like to think the reason is that I have a good appreciation for : the winner must exhibit the New Zealand , be strong at , communicating and symbolizing herself, and be so confident that she doesn’t fold at the mere sign of Miss Venezuela and her gravity-defying boobs because she knows her own ones are ‘real, and they’re spectacular.’
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Heil to the PC thug 

This whole -bashing at SFist has continued, with the usual biases. It reminds me of why I hated to begin with: many early ones were put together by wannabes, who couldn’t see if it danced up to them wearing a G-string and offering a shag. They would, say, quote a letter but only the parts that supported their side, then say that the only omissions were for clarity. SFist, for example, has gathered up its favourite comments and links relating to the non-story that it perpetuated, coming through with a generally anti-Jen view of the world. No equal time to those with whom it disagrees.
   Now that it is a non-story that has run out of steam (as opposed to a mere non-story earlier in the week), it continued today. Boring.
   But fair enough in some respects. Of course SFist is not going to push the other side of matters. It has a prerogative to showcase its own view of the world, but we need to be careful as readers. We also need to realize that for some people, attacking others is a fun pastime.
   The basic claim is that Jennifer had no business commenting on an affair her boyfriend had. So how does that make it a blogger’s business? In the few years I have blogged, I have usually stayed on topics I have had dealings with. Some exceptions, but I certainly don’t give this much attention to someone who had expressed an opinion. I might counter with my thoughts, but I don’t bash them for days on end.
   You have to wonder about the type of person that does bash and turns it into a hobby. I bash the odd public figure, but I like to think I have reasons. Here, there were no solid reasons. Just entertainment, playing on the organ-donor audience that seems to be growing here in the . (Once upon a time, email had no spammers. Guess where blogs are heading?)
   I’m no psychoanalyst, but I have watched The Bob Newhart Show. That makes me a freaking expert.
   (1) The writer must have a distaste for the person. This may have stemmed from childhood, and is usually linked to some . Hence, on the blog, (s)he acts out a fantasy, since you can look like anything online, till you get found out. Thus, the attacks need not correspond with any human values, as long as they are personal.
   (2) The writer must have a distaste for reasoned arguments, the truth, or basic civility. I put a pretty good defence on there, and the worst the anti-Jen camp could do was accuse me of working for the Mayor or saying I spelled defence wrong. (Look in the dictionary, dumbass. And not one that deals with minority, i.e. American, usages. An English dictionary, used by more than just 300 million people.) Supportive arguments were mocked.
   In other words, there was no reasoning in return. Just attack the person, as any good Party member would do. Here we are, in 2007, claiming we want and people saying that they mean. SFist evidently believes that we should not have either on the first sign of both, while inferring that we should have them. And that blogs, supposedly , cannot be democratic for those whom the writer disagrees with, so she cannot express her opinion without the consequence of being mocked or discredited for a few more days. Perfect Maoist Commie playbook stuff, all in the good ol’ US of A. I think the Nazis did something similar against the Jews.
   (3) Pretend that you are taking someone’s side and say that you are defending a victim, when in fact, you use that as a licence to attack a party and hide your own insecurities. This is a typical bleeding-heart approach. For example, those types saying that Mind Your Language, the old British sitcom, was . The odd thing is, if you go to the IMDB page discussing the show, the loved it and did not need defending. But the critics have had their say against the show’s producers, or whomever. The result: the critics look more powerful, and the minorities look weaker because (usually through silence, because they think the critics are just nutjobs) it appears as though they needed defending. If anything, the “majority on top” idea is actually strengthened, with the critics wrongly claiming they speak for others.
   (4) The writer does not understand subtlety and sweats the small stuff in his or her daily life. Nothing much to explain here. Go over the top in the discrediting, and before you know it, you have exterminated a few million people in concentration camps.
   Gosh, it was rather easy spotting the behaviour. If only I watched more Bob Newhart episodes. I could have got a Ph.D.
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Why Minogue looks like Madonna 

Why, many readers at Lucire’s online edition asked, did we run images of Madonna for a Kylie Minogue story?
   Well, because we trust people.
   When we first got wind of the Loves Kylie range, we popped over to the H&M website’s press section, found the company’s statements, and there they were, along with all the pictures of modelling her line.
   Of course we know what looks like. And we also thought the model bore a striking resemblance to Madonna. But then, Rory Bremner can sound like Tony Blair. We assumed what anyone would: it was a lookalike. H&M had had a relationship with Madonna, so they wanted to continue signalling that association, even with the Kylie range. They even detailed a ’s credit that we had to use.
   The problem was, with hindsight, rather clearer: H&M goofed. And we propagated their goofness.
   It showed the wrong images. They were eventually corrected, not that their IT guys will admit that now there’s no trace of the crime, and in our haste to scoop the competition, we ran them.
   Sometimes, you just have to trust people, and every now and then, you eat humble pie.
   But I wouldn’t change our way of doing things. Better to be like us than to presume the world guilty first. Life is so much less stressful that way.
   We probably won’t remove the article—may as well live by our mistakes than try to cover them up. Not our style, even if it is with others.
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Jen at Lucire: not all the media are bastards 

[Cross-posted] It may be best to fight ignorance with kindness: I have arranged for Jennifer Siebel’s 2005 article on conservation to be put up at Lucire’s online edition. They may discover the real Jen through that: it’s in her words.
   She is not the only person who ran into trouble defending the one she loves through a blog. It has happened to the best of us, though I wasn’t dating a mayor. But whatever the case, I expect to speak freely. I have done in my interviews. It is 2007, something that ’s (and my) critics do not seem to realize when we talk about our love lives. , holding an opinion, treating blogs as democratic —surely , the capital of Googleland, Liberalia and American progressiveness, understands this?
   Or does the city really prefer sinking in standing and becoming ’Frisco again?
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Beauty-Schnellkur: any more info? 

For those who wondered how a German magazine got hold of one of River Clark’s images without his permission, it turns out that the model had high-res copies. How they got from her to the German is anyone’s guess.
   HSB believed the in question is called . Does anyone know more about this title?
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How to make a fake story (and sustain it) 

Nothing like a manufactured scandal to raise your Google hits: Jennifer Siebel had 45,000 not long ago, but with this whole furore over the fact she has an opinion and states it—something that seems to surprise her critics—her name, in quotes, now fetches 255,000. Only thing is, it wasn’t her who did the manufacturing, but publicists and blogs that made this into a low-brow story, and a few willing journos with nothing much to do.
   Those who are attacking Jennifer are saying that it was none of her business—so why are they making it theirs?
   I make it mine because when you go after my friends, I don’t stand from the sidelines.
   After my defence of her post on SFist yesterday, I notice that two people believe I work for , ’s boyfriend, one basing her judgement on the fact I use the word folks. Ah, how blissful it must be to have such a simple view of the world. Guess since they couldn’t refute my argument, they have resorted to personal methods, which is, of course, how this whole thing has managed to sustain itself in the .
    can really play a massive part in propagating a story. The organ-donor audience can always be played to: just make a few impassioned bleeding-heart comments, and bingo. Everyone thinks they are being nice, which is just a cover for being nasty. It would make a great Ph.D. study, especially with the internet element.
   NW, the Woman’s Weekly, New Idea and the can be rest assured that the human race has not become more civilized, and that we can still be grouped with apes. Darwinian scientists are looking for the missing link. I suggest they go to SFist, read the anti-Jen comments and start researching.

PS.: Just go to the first comment of my previous post and see how “educated” the anti-Jen camp is. Like I say there, the arguments are too easy. I am so resisting using the American stereotype as a counterpoint because I know there are many smart folks there in that country whom that post is not representative of!
   Meanwhile, SFist lists its Jennifer Siebel links of the day, loading that page up with negative ones, of course. Conservatives talk of a liberal bias in the media, liberals talk of a conservative bias, and you know, they’re all probably right when you have willing exponents taking sides.—JY
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In defence of a friend 

My friend Jennifer Siebel has attracted some negative press over some comments, in the . To my colleagues in the media: give over. So, someone can’t express an opinion any more, just because she’s dating the mayor? Did she lie, based on what she knew? No. Is she doing the right thing by standing by her boyfriend? Yes. I know Jennifer Siebel to be a quality gal, and in the 21st century, even if the supposedly progressive San Francisco media is surprised by this, actresses are allowed to go on the internet, even blogs, and state what is on their minds.
   I don’t know the other parties to this, but for a spokesman on the other side to say that they were ‘mortified’ by Jen’s statements is just one of those bleeding-heart exaggerations that we non-Americans laugh at. If you were embroiled in an affair, then I doubt an opinion that you will have heard countless times, and have come to expect from the Mayor’s side, is even surprising.
   Sounds to me like Jen’s not the one wanting to score points here, just a publicist wanting to look like he is doing something worthwhile. Congratulations, you succeeded. What surprises me is how he has suckered some journos into covering this story for days, with all that ‘Woe is me’ language.
   Fortunately, has friends in the media who can see through all of the BS. There’s no story here. Move on. It’s 2007. People blog and write comments. This was tame.

PS.: It may be worth appending my comment from one blog, where Jen had also written (and was attacked further).

I hope y’all will move on, especially now that Jennifer has issued an apology.
   There are two sides to every story and maybe now we have heard from Gavin’s camp in the clearest manner possible.
   But call me silly, I think folks are allowed to express an opinion, misguided or not. Bad judgement? Maybe. I, for one, don’t think it’s a huge surprise that she typed away one day, on this blog—do people seriously believe that actresses are not part of the blogosphere and do not express themselves like the rest of us who do not appear on celluloid? I thought that was the democratizing promise the ’net was meant to give us. You are no longer getting this filtered through the . You got it straight from Jennifer.
   I thought that in 2007, we demand . She operated from the heart. That is Jennifer Siebel. You may or may not agree with her, but you knew where she stands in relation to Gavin Newsom. Heck, wouldn’t it be great if Maria Shriver did the same thing about the Governor?
   The only person in this whole affair who has expressed herself without and -machine double-talk here has been Jennifer Siebel. I hear all the time that folks are tired of the scripted comments and the political BS. From the sounds of it, we aren’t ready for the rawness of and people expressing exactly what they feel. We say we are: this page is evidence we are not. We want to be cosseted through the PR departments, dressing things to be so we don’t have to deal with reality.
   If Jen had made her comments on her own blog (if she had one), few would have batted an eyelid over the appropriateness. Yes, people will have attacked her in the comments’ section, but I think the issue here is the venue, not the statements themselves.
   I might have known Jen for only four years—a fraction of the time that LiveAndLetLive above has—but I vote for the knives to be put away. Those of us who are Jennifer’s friends know her to be genuine, heart-driven and decent. None of this changes our impression of her.
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Holden ruins another sector 

I am glad I am not the only one who thinks the is an ugly looking car, undeserving of the . The Australian Car Advice blog lashed out last month at the Tosca, which was unveiled in Brisbane as the “new” . I assume capital letters are optional in Queensland:

Anyway, last friday at the Brisbane International Motorshow, the Epica was unveiled, and my god was it ugly!

The comments about this warmed-over are interesting (two are from me). The positive ones are argued rationally, the negative ones are brand-based. Other than the few soulless fleet operators who count beans, somehow I think most of us judge products based on .
   I still like my comment and stand by it here:

If you must buy , the is looking a much better bet. The only reason Vectra C sold poorly is that Holden spent more on Denny Mooney’s haircuts than the of the entire range over the last three years. They will push the Daewoo Tosca, a.k.a. Holden Epica, just to prove the naysayers wrong, only doing irreparable damage to their brand. …
   Remember that Tosca, the car’s original name, stands for ‘Tomorrow Standard Car’. That’s right: Standard. In other words, not Special.
   Holden Standard? Special? Where I have heard that before?

   I pleaded with Holden New Zealand not to follow the Australian example. After all, it brought in the original Vectra A when Australia was stuck with rebadged Camrys, and, in the 1980s, the superior Isuzu Aska instead of the underpowered JD Camira. Somehow, I think the Kiwis will be as gutless as the Australians, looking at the per-unit cost of the Tosca and not the cost to the Holden brand.
   I would respect Holden more if it simply levelled with the public and told us its was: selling cheap-ass supermarket goods unless you pay enough for a Commodore.
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Remember the Ford Escort 1·1? 

Once upon a time (last year), I rented a car which the Avis rep assured me was ‘Australian’. It was a Classic 1·8 sedan, which I am pretty sure is . Holden, now Korea’s Own Car, has shipped a few lemons over the years and I was shocked to find that the Australian market would even put up with a Polish-made car with wind-up windows. Still, I am reliably informed (by colleagues in the press and as suggested by the OAP whom I met last week) that the Astra remains superior to its successor, in these markets the Lacetti, badged as the ‘’.
   My rental over the weekend had electric windows, but, strangely, wind-up rear windows. It also had pretty cheap plastic, and it gave me the impression of poor assembly, even though we now get our Focuses from Germany rather than South Africa.
   I can deal with wind-up windows. This is why the got on to the Car to Be Seen in 2006 shortlist at Lucire, because simplicity is in line with mid-decade values. However, I wonder about the cheap plastic and the feeling of crapness, the massive awareness that I was driving the Claytons Focus.
   I can guess that the nicer plastic may cost a fraction more but probably not that much that Ford couldn’t recover on economies. I am guessing here. But why it was ill-fitting compared to the 2005 C307 Focus Zetec I drove some years ago, I don’t know.
   One would have thought that post-, and with the success of , that the idea that good and quality can only be for the bourgeoisie had long gone. The Focus’s interior could have been slightly better presented. can make its bits fit better, even if the ninth-generation Corolla, which I have sat in, looks crappy design-wise on the inside.
   In Europe, the rental market would never stand for this. All the cars I have rented over there have been mid-rangers. But the C307 Focus I had over the weekend reminded me of the Cortina Mk III—not Gene Hunt’s, but the one with the 1300 cm³ Kent pushrod engine.
   How much worse the is, especially with a 1·8 rather than the Focus’s two-litre, is anyone’s guess.
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Aston may be British again 

The media are expecting an announcement from Motor Co. today over the sale of its unit. The price is expected to be $850 million, a little down from the billion that I first heard. As reported at Bloomberg:

Ford Motor Co., seeking to raise cash after last year’s record loss, will sell its profitable Aston Martin luxury sports-car unit for as much as $850 million to investors led by U.K. auto-racing champion David Richards, a person familiar with the transaction said.
   Richards, founder of Prodrive Ltd., a U.K.-based maker of race-car parts, will be joined in the investment by Adeem Investment KSC and Investment Dar Co., two Kuwait-based Islamic investment companies, Adeem Chief Executive Officer Mustafa al-Saleh said in an interview yesterday.

   If there’s no will to carry Aston on within the Ford group, then it should go. I had thought it would wind up with LVMH, and from a standpoint, it made sense, particularly as it was said that Ford would retain some control, which would allow the technology and testing procedures to continue. (Remember that before Ford came along, Aston found it hard to even develop its own airbag.)
   The good news for patriots is that Aston will be again, albeit with Arab help.
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Now I have to hang out with beauty contestants 

[Cross-posted] Looks like my BrightStar speech for April 3, indeed, the whole conference, has been cancelled. (The April 2 one on marketing for the over 50s continues.) I think there is a greater divine reason for it: we shall see. It might mean I go to earlier and finish on March 31, and make the judges’ evening for Miss New Zealand the Thursday before. (How tough is that? Hanging out with the contestants, and Hilary Timmins, Megan Alatini and Bridgette O’Sullivan. Life is hard.)
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Even old ladies hate the Daewoo Lacetti 

was fun, as usual. The adventures were non-stop, but this year I had the added pleasure of renting a car.
   Last year, Cooke Howlison BMW gave me a 320i sedan to use, and it wound up getting a flat tyre. This year, the same car was assigned to the folks at Sky and Prime TV, whom I understand put it to good use.
   Therefore, on Friday, I had planned to take the Hong Kong contestants at the Emerging Designers’ Awards out, since they had come all this way and had hardly any contacts. They didn’t take me up on my offer, but it was just as well that I did get a car.
   I called Avis, as I normally do, and when it was ascertained that there was a city-based agency (the website only lists the airport), I hired a mid-sized vehicle (of Camry size).
   When I called up again, I was told that the mid-sized car was unavailable, but I had been ‘upgraded’ to a . I said, ‘I am a heterosexual man. I can’t drive that.’ The alternative was, according to Avis, a Viva, a smaller car. I grudgingly said that I could accept a Lacetti, which the Viva really was. I can’t bring myself to even call it a Holden.
   Fast forward to Saturday morning (since Avis needs a day’s warning down in Dunedin). I saw a red Lacetti in the drive. It looked nice, though I know Daewoos to be comparatively underdeveloped compared to western cars. There is a reason the Lacetti was withdrawn from the market in 2003: it was a load of junk and the public hated it. Slapping a Holden badge on to it made little difference.
   Thankfully, I was told by the Avis rep at the Moray Motel that I had a Ford Focus. I was grateful. Picking up Doug Rimington, our photographer, we went off to Mt Cargill so he could take some pics. I ran into an OAP from outside Glasgow who had hired a Corolla. She had, she old me, rented a Lacetti earlier in her holiday, in the North Island, but that she refused to take another when arriving in the South.
   So, an OAP, who may well have owned a Mini Metro some time in her life, hated the Lacetti.
   You don’t hear that comment about the Lacetti’s predecessor in this market, the Polish-made Opel Astra Classic.
   And when I learned that some friends here wound up with the godawful as their rental, I felt very concerned that Holden would dare jeopardize their lives.
   I can’t bring myself to like Holden these days. I find nothing appealing about the range other than its full-size cars. And that means it can’t really pass a definition as a ‘range’, where one gets a taste of higher model by sampling a lower one. If you started off with the Kalos or the Lacetti, you would automatically think that the billion-dollar-developed was a load of junk. When you hear that the Commodore’s sales aren’t as good as they should have been in 18 months’ time, then the lack of consideration of the entire Holden range and complementary models must take part of the blame.
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My Dunedin address 

We announced my in Dunedin after clearing it with their PR folks there. For those down there (David B. and David C.), I look forward to seeing you.
   I am likely to put some rough notes on this site well before Thursday.

Jack Yan gives Emerging Designers’ speech at Vodafone ID Dunedin Fashion Week
Dunedin, March 5 (JY&A Media) Lucire publisher Jack Yan will give the Trade & Enterprise breakfast address for the Vodafone ID Emerging Designers’ Awards on Thursday, March 8 in .
   Mr Yan will speak about how young designers can launch their internationally, and how to seize the ’s imagination. He will touch on topics such as and staying true to one’s vision.
   Mr Yan founded in 1997 as New Zealand’s first online commercial . Today, Lucire is a fashion magazine in both print and web media, and is New Zealand’s only fashion magazine published internationally.
   What is less known in New Zealand, though quite well known in Europe and Australia, is that Mr Yan is an international branding consultant, and the only antipodean member of the Medinge Group think-tank. In 2003, he co-wrote Beyond Branding: How Transparency and Integrity Are Changing the World of Brands (Kogan Page, London). In 2005, his Typography and Branding (Natcoll Publishing, Christchurch) was released. He is a regular international speaker.
   Each of Mr Yan’s businesses has become international, from JY&A Fonts, Australasia's leading font software company, to Lucire. He was most recently profiled in Idealog (March 2007).
   The breakfast is hosted by Mark Lockwood of DFI, the Dunedin Fashion Incubator, and Alan Richardson of NZT&E. It commences at 8 a.m. at Plato Restaurant, 2 Birch Street, Dunedin.

   Plato. I am so looking forward to the food.
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When New Zealand planned a Bright Future 

Google, it appears, has stopped indexing this blog, ever since the shift to . Ironical, considering Google owns Blogger.
   Still, one day, when it gets its act together after I leave Blogger, it may come across this PDF.
   It’s the Bright Future document from 1999, when laid the foundations for a programme and a means to get rid of our . While it wasn’t intended as a new , I find that the country did all the relevant research and the launch process was handled quite well.
   When the National government was voted out that year, this programme was killed off, and, consequently, any solid nation brand that the country could have built on. Instead, New Zealand has a reasonably successful , ‘100 Per Cent Pure’, but it is hardly one that enterprises outside the tourism sphere can rely upon.
   The document is of academic interest these days. During my last Google search, it could not be found, so I have kept a copy here for those who may wish to research nation branding and New Zealand in future.
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Can anyone identify this magazine? 

[Cross-posted] I was chatting to River Clark, a young New York , who shot the image below. It appears that it was published without his permission. Can anyone identify the ?
   I know it’s not ours, and it’s unlikely to be Elle or Condé Nast (the typography is too good to be from the latter).

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Lucire 22 cover 

[Cross-posted] Just so folks know, despite being very near the deadline, I managed to get in a lot of feedback from this blog for Lucire’s latest :

Lucire 22 cover

   The photograph is identical, but the is more restrained. I’m glad we took out the red type. One cover line was removed. We also decided on a widely spaced ‘Tenth Anniversary Year’ underneath the masthead.
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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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