Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Here's a Quiz

Who is the best, technically most accomplished, grittiest, most soulful, sexiest female pop singer of the last 25 years? Come up with your own answer before reading on.

Now, check out these clips and tell me I'm wrong:

Maybe start with this one.

Then this one.

This one for some variation.

This for an encore if you will.

Note that these are all live clips, the first two within the bright, hard walls of TV studios, where many performers sound tinny and a little off-key, and most pick one of their more less ambitious songs to play. Spot the difference with this young woman.

You've just gotta love YouTube.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Deborah Does Callous

If this website sometimes threatens to degrade into "New Zealand Mainstream Mediawatch Blog", it's not my intention. But things keep appearing which can't be let pass without some finger wagging.

In the past, I've commented on the print media's flippant looseness with facts and figures, and more recently, its occasional malicious intent.

Could those two inclinations be combined to perfection in a single article? You bet. Deborah Coddington's latest rant on "Asian crime" in North and South effortlessly manages to be both dumb and mean.

Keith Ng's deconstruction of the piece is a must-read. Though, perhaps because he's wary of being seen to take personal offence at what is effectively a racial slur, he's surprisingly restrained in his concluding comments.

This in the same week as I have watched the development and publishing of a piece which whipped up a potent cocktail of woeful misunderstanding and wilful distortion. Unfortunately, I'm prevented for professional reasons from making specific comment on the article in question.

It's these kind of contributions to our public discourse, and the paucity of editorial standards maintained even by our so-called "serious" publications, that remind me why I never tried to get into this game when I was younger. Despite my current regrets about not being half way to becoming a columnist for the Guardian, it was probably the correct decision.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

This Just In

Don't normally do the "link only" posts, but got diverted to this amusing cartoon while following the mid-term races (no, not the Melbourne Cup). Dems pick up the House, but not the Senate...? Worth a look.

Update: the Democrats have picked at least fifteen seats in the House and four in the Senate. The latter still not enough to give them control, but it may go down to the wire.

Early days yet, but as I said to someone in a fit of unreasonable optimism earlier in the week: the world is about to change for the better. That was based on US politics too, though more on my prediction that the 2008 race would be McCain vs. Obama...Is the US ready to elect a black man? Maybe. Is the US ready to elect a woman? Maybe. Hilary Clinton? ...?

Either which way, it's got to get better. The Dark Lords (Darth Cheney et al) will no longer rule us (or at least not quite so blatantly). And yes, I know that Clinton oversaw the complete rejection of Kyoto, and ushered in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act with barely a murmur...but that was a Republican-controlled Congress too.

Come on, it's a good day. We just disabled the reactor core in the Death Star. Well done, Ohio.

And finally: it seems that the Democrats may have secure the Senate as well. And Donald Rumsfeld got fired, I mean resigned. Only six years too late.

People commenting on New Zealand's Public Address blog picked up some of the highlights from Little Green Footballs, where some posters were sure American would immediately suffer a nuclear terrorist attack as a result of having elected Democrats. The scary part is...they were looking forward to it.

Mind you, we have our own, resident, Mark Steyn-suffering-from-advanced-dementia nutjobs as well, as the comments thread on this post shows.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Would You Like to Scrape the Barrel?

Talk about tempting fate. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that the Sunday Star Times "veers from quite good to abysmal" in the quality of its reporting. On that occasion, I had to give some plaudits for the story on female genital mutilation in the Somali community, buried as it was inside the Focus section.

Then, as if to deliberately emphasize its abysmal side, last Sunday's edition proceeded to plumb new depths of banal meanness.

The leading article on the front page was, desperately wanting to be sensationalist, an "exposé" on a Christchurch school teacher who at one stage in her misspent youth had acted as the getaway driver for a couple of bank robberies, and had ended up doing a couple of years in prison.

It was found that the school was aware of the person's past, proper process had been followed by the board, and that she appeared to be a pretty good teacher. The article thus lamely fizzled out.

So, please excuse my language, but what was the f*king point? Here was somebody who pretty much fit the definition of having "made some mistakes", had done the time, and had turned her life around. Given our pretty abysmal rate of imprisonment and reoffending (New Zealand is not as bad as the US, but beats out most other OECD countries), this should be a good news story. Or really, no story at all. How would you feel if you'd been really dumb when younger, managed to straighten out, then woke up one day to find your whole life splashed over the Sunday paper?

Oh, but it's in the public interest, because she could be influencing our kiddies. Yeah, she could be, like, teaching Getaway Driving 101, just after Social Studies. Right.

I used to think that NZ papers mainly dwelt in a boring middle ground. Rarely of much quality or insight, they also haven't traditionally indulged in the calculated viciousness of the British tabloids. I guess articles like Sunday's signal a course further towards the gutter.

The same edition featured in its magazine section a rambling, abjectly bad piece which revisited familiar territory: the well-known "we women are being forced against our will by the fashion industry to be incredibly neurotic about our weight, and men, who of course don't have a care in the world, are in league with them and don't like us anyway, boo hoo" genre.

It would have looked amateurish in a student mag. The writing was laughable (sample: "Does this mean it's jsut a matter of time before all men want women to weight as much as a kitten? Quite possibly.") It got two pages of smallish font. Two whole pages! This is the same publication that so far hasn't even deigned to reply to any of my submissions. [Declaration of interest: I'm a bitter and frustrated wannabe feature / investigative writer]. Grrr.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Throwing Stones in Glasshouses

You think the political mudslinging has got bad recently in New Zealand, with expressions like "cancerous" and "corrosive" thrown around, hints being dropped about people's marriages, and increasing scrutiny of what members of Parliament may or may not have done in their extracurricular lives?

Think again. This summary from Slate of the concerted personal attacks in the US mid-term elections shows that we've got a long way to go yet. Not only are scurrilous personal attacks a deliberate strategy, they seem to have become practically a mandatory component of any serious campaign.

And yes, the Republicans are a lot worse.