Archive for the ‘Fun Things’ Category

The Sony Pictures board of directors

December 20th, 2014 at 9:26 am by Lindsay Addie

This cartoon by Gary Varvel in my opinion perfectly sums up the Sony Pictures Entertainment board of directors.


© Gary Varvel – found at Real Clear Politics

Barack Obama today spoke about the decision by Sony Pictures.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like,” he said.

The President is a 100% correct.

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Fact checking US politicians and Vladimir Putin

December 19th, 2014 at 9:22 am by Lindsay Addie

One of my favourite political blogs is Glenn Kessler’s at the Washington Post who awards Pinnochios (from one to four) for porkies and lies told by politicians’. Here is a sample of Kessler’s biggest whoopers from 2014.

They aren’t in any particular order.

Barack Obama: “I didn’t call the Islamic State a ‘JV’ team”

President Obama repeated a claim, crafted by the White House communications team, that he was not “specifically” referring to the Islamic State terror group when he dismissed the militants who had taken over Fallujah as a “JV squad.” But The Fact Checker had obtained the previously unreleased transcript of the president’s interview with The New Yorker, and it’s clear that’s who the president was referencing.

JV means junior varsity. He didn’t seem to be aware that ISIS (ISIL) were a major threat in the Middle East then told a porky about his previous comments.

Rand Paul: “John McCain met with Islamic State terrorists”

Intraparty slap downs are pretty rare, but Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have radically different foreign policy views. With no evidence but Internet rumors, some promoted by liberal groups, Paul declared that McCain unknowingly met with members of the Islamic State — and even had photographs taken — when he had slipped across the border with Syria to meet with rebel forces. But the claim was proven to be absolutely false. As we said as the time, “there are days when we regret we are limited to just Four Pinocchios.”

Paul clearly had a severe bout of foot and mouth disease on this one.

Barack Obama: “Republicans have filibustered 500 pieces of legislation”

President Obama former senator, got quite a few things wrong here. He spoke of legislation that would help the middle class, but he was counting cloture votes that mostly involved judicial and executive branch nominations. Moreover, he counted all the way back to 2007, meaning he even included votes in which he, as senator, voted against ending debate — the very thing he decried in his remarks. At best, he could claim the Republicans had blocked about 50 bills, meaning he was off by a factor of ten.

I’ll give the President the benefit of the doubt and opine that he was merely repeating what his researchers/speech writers told him to say. It is still a clumsy attempt though to a score political point.

John Boehner: “There’s been a net loss of people with health insurance”

Nope. Boehner added apples and then subtracted oranges. At the point he made the statement, it was clear that the net gain was in the millions.

Boehner was talking about Obamacare. As in the case of the previous lie, Boehner was using shoddy research to try and score a political point.

Vladimir Putin: “A referendum was held in Crimea in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms”

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech announcing the annexation of Crimea that was full of whoppers, but none more so than his claim about the referendum. The referendum was rushed, political opposition was squelched, and the choices did not allow for a “no.” (The options were either joining Russia — what the ballot called “reunification” — or remaining part of Ukraine with greater autonomy, effectively making the region independent in all but name.) Moreover, the Crimea vote met none of the conditions for a referendum in the Ukrainian constitution. Clearly it’s time for a fact-checking organization in Russia.

This for me is the biggest lie on Kessler’s list. Putin would have real trouble convincing most people he’s a true believer in democracy and freedom of speech.

Note that Kessler provides web links to all the original stories. It is a pity that no one in New Zealand fact checks politicians on a regular basis.

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Review: The Hobbit #3 (2014): Battle of Five Armies

December 18th, 2014 at 10:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer

For many of us, reading our first copy of The Hobbit, (published 1937) was seminal. It is still one of the most favourite children’s books of all time. CS Lewis comforted his recently bereaved adopted son with a copy inShadowlands (1993) while discussing The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (Tolkien led Lewis to the Christian faith. Both classics were written within the fraternity ofThe Inklings pub group) And for many of us, the magic never really left. (50-year-old men like me still mention this). I went last night to a closed premier with a group of male and female friends in their fifties. It was a great ride and a fitting climax to the trilogy prefacing the LoTR trilogy.  It was nice to see Bilbo back in the story, center stage where he belongs as the hobbit in The Hobbit.  He was a bit awol in Hobbit 2.

Thorin Oakenshield’s ‘dragon madness’ is also center stage, like “Achilles’ wrath, the direful spring of woes unnumbered” from the Iliad. Sir Peter Jackson has captured the personality and forces of this mania in Homer-esque fashion in-keeping with that epic meter.  Thorin’s driven lust for gold, home, and his ultimate redemption through killing Azog the Destroyer are central weaves to this tapestry.

Our premier was prefaced by a short intro from the actors and crew, opening with aTVOne News piece of the first production announcement. (Those nineties hairstyles and Richard Long’s moustache!).  They all thank New Zealand for hosting this long three-film production, reflect on their connections here, how much they all loved New Zealand (except Cate Blanchett who has a cheeky Aussie riposte.  Stephen Fry says, “Just like Australia, but without the boasting”). Not too cheesy and cringe-worthy.

For me, Peter Jackson’s greatest achievement is forever marrying LotR and Hobbit to New Zealand.  And this is his film, not the Tolkien Trust’s.  I was saddened to learn chief trustee Christopher Tolkien, who finished some of his father’s work, such as The Silmarillion, has declined to ever meet Sir Peter.

Jackson Divergences and Women Added.

So, we have some Jackson divergences in this movie:

1) the creation of Turiel and a female elf love triangle between Legolas Greenleaf and cross-cultural dwarf interest Fili.  I think this works.  Tolkien was an Oxford don and his appreciation of women was somewhat distant and worshipful. Jackson (well, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens I guess) provide an updated version with Turiel written in to the script.  I like her; she works, and modernises the gender appreciations we have now that were not present between 1937-49 when LoTR and Hobbit were written (no dwarf women-folk; and few heroic female characters). Without the update, a Jackson-Tolkien literal would already be outdated. It had to be modernised and I agree with Jackson on this (also deleting Tom Bombadil altogether).

2) Jackson also gives us Dune-esque “were worms,” who chew through the mountain and allow Azog’s army to ambush the squabbling Elvish, Dwarfish, and Man armies.  This was brilliant and I liked them immediately, huge Dune worms with triple-lipped mouths like the diamond head of a tunneling mine drill.

3) He also gives us more of Radagast the Brown and his Disney bunny sleigh.  Didn’t like that in Hobbit 2, but he works here, and I really liked his link to bringing the eagles to the Battle of Five Armies (the fifth army: elves, dwarves, men, orcs, eagles).”The Eagles are coming!”  They always save the day, so heroic and clean amid all that orcish/troll scum filth. Radagast’s link here is an addition that fits with the spirit of Tolkien.

4) Dain Ironfoot II and his Iron Hills dwarf army of the north (near the Lonely Mountain, arrives on a kune kune pig and there are some mountain goats with large horns.  But I accepted this; it makes sense, and when Thorin and his hand-picked team of four hurtle toward the orcs, the horned rams make excellent mobile…well…batteringRAMS. They then pronk up the mountain side towards Azog’s command post. As a Jackson interpretation of Tolkien, I think that works very well. Dwarves delve in and love rock, mountain goats also, so that’s a symmetry that makes sense in Middle-Earth despite being absent in Tolkien. Movies are about interpretation and new layering.

5) In Jackson Legolas kills Bolg, but it was Beorn in the book.

But there the departures end. The rest is very faithful, even down to the book’s “Bolgers” at the Bag End auction, a nice hat tip to our former prime minister Jim Bolger. Jackson again cements this epic to New Zealand.

Empowering Women

This is not The Hunger Games, but there are lots of empowered women in this film (like Jackson/Walsh did with Rohan’s Lady Eowyn in LoTR). There’s Galadriel, Turiel, and a peasant woman in Laketown played by Sarah Peirse who was the murdered Honora Parker-Rieper in the famous true Christchurch murder Parker/Hume crime (see here: Parker & Hulme Pt 5 (Review: Peter Graham’s 2011 Book). That story was immortalised in Heavenly Creatures (1994) Jackson’s first ‘proper’ movie (the film that ‘found’ Kate Winslet) and really launched Jackson as a serious film maker.


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US politics cartoons of the week: 15 December 2014

December 15th, 2014 at 9:32 am by Lindsay Addie

As usual two cartoons lampooning both sides of the political divide in USA politics.

The first makes fun of John Boehner and compares him to Moses!


© Gary Varvel – Found at Real Clear Politics


The second refers to the cover of the 23rd October edition of Rolling Stone magazine and also this extremely glowing appraisal of President Obama by Paul Krugman.


© Michael Ramirez – Found at Real Clear Politics

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Grumpy Cat makes $130 million

December 9th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Who knew looking so fed up could be quite so profitable? Most of us have been doing it since birth for free.

However internet sensation Grumpy Cat has proved that malevolence is really quite marketable after amassing a staggering $NZ129.5m (£64m) fortune for her American owner in just two short years. …

Her impressive earnings trump that of Hollywood stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, Cameron Diaz and Matthew McConaughey, according to Forbes.

And what’s more, the melancholy moggy’s fame has allowed her owner, 28-year-old Tabatha Bundesen of Arizona, to give up her waitressing job.

I hope she shares the money with her cat!


US politics cartoons of the week: 8 December 2014

December 8th, 2014 at 4:12 pm by Lindsay Addie

Two this week, one making fun of each side of the political spectrum.

The first one questions the sanity of those in the GOP who want to shutdown the US federal government again.


© Andy Marlette, found at Real Clear Politics


The second is about the huge increase in public debt since 2008 featuring an oblivious Barack Obama.


© Gary Varvel, found at Real Clear Politics

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Capital Blood. Vamping It Up in Wellyblood

December 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by Kokila Patel

Review: What We Do in the Shadows (2014).

~ by John Stringer.

2014’s What We Do In The Shadows written by and starring Taika Waititi (Boy) and Jemaine Clement (Fot Conchords) is a short black comedy about a group of vampires flatting together in Wellington, New Zealand.

  • Viago, a dandy Victorian vamp. (Waititi);
  • Vladislav, a Roumanian vamp. (Clement);
  • Deacon an eastern European vamp. (Jonathan Brugh) who knits and whose excellent gypsy-cum-Indian folk dance prefaces the movie’s opening template (hilarious); and
  • Petyras the 800-year-old Nosferatu vamp (Ben Fransham).

Together they rework the Flight of the Conchords wannabee-musicians-in-NY cycle but in NZ via a contemporary goth vamp romp. Also featuring is ‘Murray’ (Rhys Darby) as the alpha male pack leader of a group of counter-gang Westside Story werewolves (“not swear wolves!”).

It’s hilarious and there are some great lines in the film.  “Leave me to do my dark bidding… on TradeMe–I’m bidding on a table” and jokes about age disparities, blood, werewolves, trying to get invited in to nightclubs, the police coming by to check on fire alarms and whether they’re installed correctly, etc.

The essence of the film is that now hallmark New Zealand (Napoleon Dynamite) ordinariness juxtaposed with the ludicrousness of historic vampires adjusting to mundane life flatting in Wellington (“Stu’s in to computers and stuff”).  There are flat meetings (“Do your bloody dishes!”), chore rosters (“I dragged a body down the hall, so in a way, I swept the dust up“) and farcical attempts to attract ‘wictims’ to their flat.  I laughed a lot.


One of the downsides of being a vampire, is you cannot eat chips.  One chip, and a rookie vamp. suffers projectile blood vomiting of Peter Jackson Brain Dead proportions.  It’s also difficult on relationships to eat friends, the main one of whom is appropriately called “Stu.”  Stu helps the vampires catch up with technology; they can watch sunsets on-line, and send txt messages, and most importantly, Google virgins.

It is maladjusted immigrants and geeks adjusting to Nu Ziland but remaining true to themselves and having lifestyle issues, filmed as a reality TV documentary; The Osbornes meets Blair Witch and Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I liked the “Unholy Masquerade Ball” organised by the Karori Zombie Association, Wellington Vampire Society and Upper Hutt Werewolves Group which has a showdown when the flatmates bring Stu,  a human, to the undead ball (ie vestiges of Cinderella). There is also a great “vampire fight!” as two vamp.s flit in and out of bat and human mode.

Lots of visual puns over vampire reflections in mirrors; virgin jokes; “bisketti and spaghetti;” stakes and crucifixes; and several workings of the vampire powers of hypnotism (stronger and weaker in various vamps) “No, the electriceety bill is p-a-i-d. …No, you will not cut off the telephone, we-paaaid-the-bill!”

I got the joke after a minute (but kept laughing all the way) but this would perhaps have been better as a more compressed one hour TV programme (47 minutes with ads) rather than a full length film.  It also lacked a central narrative and would have been richer if there was a stronger story woven through, perhaps a romantic narrative or a quandary.  Otherwise it’s just an episodic extended joke.

I did like the editing cutaways to magazines and historical books early on, which cleverly conveys the historical backstory in a quick run.  The music is perfect and the actors are all great; Jonathan Brugh and Clement especially turn in talented performances.  But my favourite vamp was actually Petyr, who never speaks.

The title is clumsy, why not just Wellington Vamps or Capital Blood? Sometimes the setups for the jokes are a bit laboured. I would have also omitted the dvd Extras as they diminish the finished product.  As a more edit-compressed faster TV one hour, this would have become a cult classic.  But as a film, it’s just too stretched, but nevertheless a hilarious Saturday night TV watchwith popcorn. 6/10.

Here’s the trailer.

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Chimps are not human

December 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A chimpanzee is not entitled to the rights of a human and does not have to be freed by its owner, a New York appeals court ruled.

The three-judge Appellate Division panel was unanimous in denying “legal personhood” to Tommy, who lives alone in a cage in upstate New York’s Fulton County.

A trial level court had previously denied the Nonhuman Rights Project’s effort to have Tommy released. The group’s lawyer, Steven Wise, told the appeals court in October that the chimp’s living conditions are akin to a person in unlawful solitary confinement.

Wise argued that animals with human qualities, such as chimps, deserve basic rights, including freedom from imprisonment. He has also sought the release of three other chimps in New York and said he plans similar cases in other states.

But the mid-level appeals court said there is no precedent for treating animals as persons and no legal basis.

“So far as legal theory is concerned, a person is any being whom the law regards as capable of rights and duties,” the judges wrote. Needless to say, unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.”

We may look back one day and point to this day as how Planet of the Apes started :-)

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US politics cartoon of the week: 1.12.14

December 1st, 2014 at 8:51 pm by Lindsay Addie

This one features John Kerry the US Secretary of State and the endless talks with Iran over their nuclear program.


Cartoon by Lisa Benson. Found at Real Clear Politics.


Episode 7

November 29th, 2014 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

38 years after Episode 4!


Just a big cat

November 26th, 2014 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

A lioness greets the man who raised her since birth.



November 16th, 2014 at 9:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer




All Blacks in Chicago and the politics of USA Rugby

November 4th, 2014 at 6:24 am by kiwi in america

On Saturday November 1 something remarkable happened – one of America’s most iconic NFL football stadiums, Soldier Field in Chicago – home of the Chicago Bears, hosted the first game between the USA Eagles and the All Blacks in over 30 years in front of a sellout crowd of 62,000 AND the game was broadcast live on NBC, one of America’s big three broadcast TV networks (not on NBC Sport – one of its subsidiary channels only seen on cable). This was unprecedented exposure for rugby here in the US. I was caught completely off guard by the popularity of this event procrastinating getting tickets for only a few weeks only to hear it had sold out! What was even more remarkable was, according to expat mates at the game, the bulk of the crowd were Americans.

Since 2006 I have been an assistant coach of a High School rugby team and I referee Union 15s and 7s plus Touch rugby. I knew something big was brewing when 14 year old boys on our team asked about the game and asked me whether I’d ever seen the All Blacks play. As I recounted the many test matches I’ve watched the ABs play at Lancaster Park, Carisbrook and Eden Park, the new boys this season all gathered around and peppered me with questions about the men in black and rugby in NZ. These are boys who live and breathe football, most of them play it and attend college and NFL games regularly, are enrolled in numerous fantasy football teams and watch gridiron on TV as much as parents will allow. And yet despite that, they are in sheer awe of the All Blacks and ripple with adolescent excitement at the prospect of their first game of rugby. I have probably coached several hundred boys since moving here and 2/3rds of them also played football (the two seasons don’t overlap – they play high school football August to November and rugby January to May). A good number of these boys were starting Varsity players (equivalent of the 1st XV)  for top high school programmes here in Arizona. And yet once they began to play rugby, there was not a one of them who did not prefer rugby to football despite still loving football and some even managing college scholarships. I call it the rugby drug – a few hits and these boys get addicted. They get infinitely more game time than football’s large squads, they all get to touch the ball as opposed to just the quarterbacks and receivers in football, rugby is player managed/football is coach managed – teenagers love the independence to make their own plays in real time as a rugby game unfolds and the clincher, and any current and former rugby players will nod their heads in agreement, is the post-game adrenaline high is so much bigger and lasts longer with rugby because they are on the field exerting themselves aggressively for so much longer!

I’m sure you are wondering that, knowing all this, why the US, with all its vast wealth and its tens of millions of athletic kids (and believe me I still marvel at the massive factory of fast, physical and genetically gifted athletes here) is still only able to produce a team that an All Black B team can put almost 70 points on and trust me, had the field been the regulation 50m width (not the 43m forced by the narrower gridiron configuration), the ABs might’ve nudged the ton. The answer can be summed up in one word – politics.

Don’t get me wrong – the game on Saturday will do much good for the game here and it was fantastic that the NZRFU agreed to do it. The Blacks clearly had a great time, they were very gracious in victory and it was a great warm up for Dan Carter and a stunning reminder of Sonny Bill Williams’ supreme talent that, rusty from his post league transition, he came within one forward pass of a hat trick of tries. But this was a top down exercise born of pure financial expediency. The NZRFU made a very tidy profit to compensate for its dwindling gate sales in NZ’s major city stadiums, NBC got to preview rugby to its vast US Olympics audience so it had its eyes firmly on 7’s at the Rio Olympics rather than grassroots rugby in the US and AIG, major All Black sponsors based in New York, got to get its name in front of a large prime time US network audience.

Rugby administration in the US is dominated by men who grew up playing what passes for club rugby here. The pattern is repeated cross all major and medium cities across America. For decades, most Americans discovered rugby as adults albeit young adults picked up from: a high school football coach who spent a stint in the UK in the military and played rugby, a Canadian work mate who played rugby there before emigrating (where the game has a more solid footing); some worked for a period in rugby playing countries or in locations where Kiwi, Aussie, South African and English expats congregate and discovered rugby there, still more are expats themselves wanting to keep playing the game and others still discovered it from expat work mates in the US. The bottom line was and is the same – Men’s rugby clubs typically cover a large age range of 19 to 40’s and include fit and capable athletes with overweight and out of shape older men in it for the boozing and socializing. A few promising players would travel overseas to play rugby in heartland countries but for some reason the generation that now administers the game in the US, they mostly visited the northern European countries and so learned that style of playing and refereeing.

The biggest growth of the game in the US in recent years has come from college rugby and it from those ranks that the US 7’s and Eagles National team is usually chosen. The game is beginning to grow more rapidly at the high school level and so development squads of U19 players have also fed to the national level. But unfortunately the stultifying politics of USA rugby is dominated by men who really have no clue what top class rugby playing and administration looks like. This is manifest in a variety of ways summed up by my own experiences and observations:

  •  When you come from NZ, you naturally draw on what you saw when you were growing up and knew as an adult about rugby in NZ – you are brimming with ideas and suggestions as to how to improve the game in the US because when you first arrive, you become immediately aware of the gaping holes in quality at every level (playing, coaching, reffing and administration). The Americans mostly don’t want to know about our experience. They don’t care where you are from and what you might know coming from the world’s best rugby playing nation – they are comfortable in their dysfunctional space and don’t want upstarts telling them what to do. This acts as an immediate dampener on getting involved with the administration of the sport. For one thing who will vote for you when they all elect their local mates who won’t (and can’t) point out their inadequacies. For that reason, I and other expats have concentrated on building a good programme with our local high school teams. Even then after helping build a programme that has won the AZ state championship 3 times on the trot, lost the 2014 US High School Nationals by only 5 points and ranks 5th nationwide, my fellow kiwi coaches and I are still largely ignored.
  • Sometimes opposing coaches ask us to only do old men’s uncontested scrums even when the players our boys are playing are normal size kids or, get this, to persuade our players to not tackle too hard!
  • I referee in the southern hemisphere style. My heroes are Jonathon Kaplan, Paddy O’Brian, Steve Walsh, Craig Joubert and Glen Jackson. I play the advantage aggressively (only half the refs here know how to properly play the advantage). I also try not to be whistle-happy and talk to players to avoid excessive penalties. Here lack of fitness and English style pedantic refereeing means lots of whistle blowing despite playing on mostly hard fast fields in dry weather. When reffing High School rugby, I am commentating the game a lot because you are almost coaching and reffing due to so many inexperienced players. One of my referee coaches criticized me for being too vocal and when I told him that’s how the Super 15 coaches ref, I was told not to follow them! For real!
  • When talented former NZ coach and administrator Dick Thorburn was appointed as Performance Manager of USA Rugby he didn’t last long and left frustrated over these very same issues. Whilst some of it is a lack of a budget to pay for talent from down under, some of it is the ‘we don’t need your help’ attitude. The sad thing is often here they don’t know what they don’t know. If you don’t even know the scope of your deficiencies then it’s hard to ask for the right help to overcome them.
  • One time a fellow Kiwi coach and I were assigned to coach the U19 AZ select side for a national tournament in Denver. We had the head of the AZ Rugby Union constantly interfering and telling us how to coach and do our job – a guy who’d never coached and only ever played the crappy Club rugby here. We could never choose the best players in the State and only took those players whose parents had enough money to pay for the trip so naturally we couldn’t perform as well.
  • This problem is replicated all over the US. Salty Thompson, a gritty former Irish International player from the 80’s, is the US U19 coach. He visits our team to watch for talent and we’ve had the odd boy chosen to play for the USA U19 team but again, he can’t pick the best team, only the players whose families can afford the cost of flying the kids to the training camps in Indianapolis. He has any number of big fast Polynesian boys born in the US who are real talent and would lift the game of the USA U19 team but he can’t get the few rich white men who sponsor such things to look beyond their usual comfort zone of white middle class boys.
  •  For years the State High School final was reffed by an aging white haired ref (who is a prominent ref coach here) who was a good ref in the day but just couldn’t keep up with the pace of a high school game and missed a lot plus he was grumpy and whistle-happy. Finally the High School rugby administrator had a ref mate of his from Colorado in town who agreed to ref the 2013 final. He was the best ref we’d ever had at our level as most of our games are reffed by shockingly bad refs (I can’t ref my own teams’ games). So for the 2014 final, a good mate of mine from the North Harbour union (who has reffed Men’s Div I and High School finals in Auckland) was visiting to watch his son who plays for a Utah college against ASU and I asked the local union if he could ref – he had all his credentials from NZ that showed he was experienced. They said no because it ruffled too many local feathers!

I could go on. Suffice it to say that it’s frustrating. We’re making progress where we can. We’ve built as good a programme as we can with the limited experience of boys not raised in a rugby culture. We bring boys up from NZ to go to school here and play on our team to help mentor our local players, we travel out of state to play teams in states where high school rugby is more developed and we have formed U14 and U12 teams to feed to us and get them started younger. And finally in the last year we have an energetic Aussie expat as the local union head who is also driving youth development hard and he’s managing to break through the flabby layers of useless attitudes and administration and make a difference. America could be a rugby El Dorado. The sheer number of amazing athletes here, even at the high school level, is staggering. One day hopefully USA Rugby will do what US Soccer did when they hired German super star soccer player and Manager Franz Beckenbauer to teach them how to build a world class football programme. That was 25 years ago and now the US women are now ranked No 1 and the Men No 22 in the world in soccer. It can be done. It’s exciting to be here and watch the game we love grow and be a small part of it but boy you sure come to hate the politics!

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Review: Still Mine (DVD) 2012

November 2nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer


I watched this relatively new film (2012) on DVD with an old friend yesterday.  It stars James Cromwell (Farmer Hoggett, Babe; LA Confidential etc) who I love, and Denevieve Bujold who was new to me.

Cromwell is Craig Morrison, a tall, proud, wiry 89-year-old New Brunswick (Canada) traditional farmer.  His strawberries are no longer wanted, because they must now (due to bureaucracy) be delivered in refrigerated trucks.  He can’t afford that. “They were on plants 2 hours ago.”

Bujold is Anne his wife of over 60 years. She begins to suffer from early onset Alzheimers and starts smoking again, for example, after 50 years, and forgetting basic things.  This was therefore a very poignant film for me. See…

The title STILL MINE I think refers to his wife and marriage, but also his retaining his honour and credibility as a master craftsman in the face of bewildering and oppressive modern rules, and managing to build a new home on his land for Anne (a bit like Noah inThe Notebook). It is a blend of The Notebook and Man Alone vs the State.  It is beautifully filmed, with lovely colour vistas and the sensitivity to humanity, family and relationships Canadian films do so well.

The plot revolves around his building a new, smaller house, after his wife falls down the stairs.  But bureaucracy hinders him.  So, we have this proud gritty resistance set against the time delays of bureaucracy and modernity. There is also a lovely Babe Ruth baseball sideline.

If you liked the scene, “That’ll do Pig. That’ll do” from Babe, you’ll love this, especially when Craig goes to the funeral of an old community friend.  Craig Morrison has the same single determination and self-respect as Farmer Hoggett.

Life-long friends die, the community rolls timelessly along, except that change (modern rules around lumber, farming and building – Craig was taught building by his shipwright craftsman father.  Houses in the area are still standing 200 years on), and his wife’s failing memory and their changing relationship.

This is a wonderful movie.  It deals with aging, and the humanity of decrepitude.  There is passion, love, frustration, anger,disconnection (with his adult children). There are no easy answers, just a story of courage and the nobility of facing death and decline with human dignity.

This was great, and I’d recommend all young people view it in schools, because it’s about aging, which faces us all.  This is a perfect film for a wholesome audience, your kids, a chick flick, but also a great date night DVD.  Watch it,  8/10.

Here’s a clip.

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Review “Fury” (Brad Pitt) the Tank movie 2014

October 27th, 2014 at 9:59 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer

44KoreaPic copy

FURY opened on Friday and I went to the premier.  I really enjoyed this movie and give it 9/10 stars. It is directed by David Ayer of Fast and the Furious (2001).

Spoiler Alerts.

Set in April 1945 as the war is drawing to a close, Bratt Pitt, the Sgt commander of a US A4 Sherman tank crew, has been “killing Germans first in Africa, then in France, now in Germany…It’ll be over soon, but before then Norman, a whole lota more people gotta die.”

The Allies are making their final push towards heartland Germany but encountering dogged resistance every step forward, so the merciless killing escalates. The film actually opens with a txt on black…“In WW II American tank crews were out gunned and out armoured, and suffered greatly at the hands of superior German technology” or words to that effect. Ok, that pretty much sets the scene for us.

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This is a grimier, dirtier, more ghastly portrayal of war, especially tank warfare, than Saving Private Ryan 1998 (Tom Hanks). It’s more in common with Enemy At the Gates 2001 (about Stalingrad with Ed Harris, Jude Law). But it’s a quality addition to the WW II war movie genre. It’s about the traumatised men: their numbness, shock, endurance, and tenacity.

Brad Pitt plays a battle-hardened tank sergeant (Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier) commanding a M4 Sherman tank and her five-man crew (2nd Armoured Division). They are out-numbered, out-gunned, and have a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon who was trained to type 60-word- a-minute.  His first task is to literally scrape the face of his predecessor off the inside wall of “Fury,” the tank, their “home.”  He vomits.  The bucket of cold water just smears the blood everywhere.

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Clockwise left to right: 1) Navigator radio op. Boyd ‘Bible’ (arya saved?) Swan; 2) asst. driver the greenhorn Norman; senior driver ‘Gordo’ Garcia, Sgt Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, and the sinister brute gunner Grady ‘Coon-ass’ Travis.

The gunner is a volatile menacing moldy-teethed brute called Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis played by Jon Bernthal, better known to us as Rick’s family friend Shane in Walking Dead 2 whom he was forced to murder at the end of the season.  Then there’s Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan, a weeping, smoking “are you saved” Christian with doe eyes (Shie LaBeouf). Latino Michael Pena plays ‘Gordo’ Garcia the all-important driver, and “Norman” is the rookie assistant driver and machine gun operator who goes to church.

There’s lots of philosophical jostling about war, life and death.  “Boys, God says we can kill ‘em but not screw ‘em!” There is a facetious tank crew motto, “Best job I ever had.”

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This would be their tank shoulder patch [the 2nd Armoured Div] and you glimpse it occasionally in the movie.

The 2nd Armoured Division crew are advancing with the 66th Armored Regiment in a normal platoon of four tanks. Pitt’s 5-man team is the only crew to have come through together since D-Day.  Pitt has the usual head-holding stress attacks like Cpt John Miller of Private Ryan (Tom Hanks) about losing men, but hides it. But you can see it in his eyes.  Nevertheless he’s ruthless, cynical, hard-bitten, and will do whatever he has to keep himself and his men alive. This includes ‘blooding’ Norman in to shooting a German prisoner in the back.  “It’s you or him…you gonna get me killed Norman?…shoot him.  Do your job.”


There’s no Cpt. Miller letting Germans go in this movie and Pitt rips up the Germans family photos before he’s shot.  This is tough love and the raw morality of the jungle.

Norman resists and, a church goer, tries to hold on to his humanity, but as they pass power poles with children hanging from them and other SS atrocities, this incongruity is evoked.  His ‘humanity’ risks the lives of his crew-members and when he acts too slowly, a tank crew is hit in front of them and a tanker burns to death.  “That’s your fault Norman, that’s on you, you see what you did? Do your job!” They are, lirerally, a killing machine and must not falter.


Some great scenes in this film.  A highlight is their encounter with a much-feared Panzer VI (Tiger I) tank which ambushes their 4 tank platoon and “boils up” three (men roasted alive) while Pitt and “Fury” charge it to get around behind it and pierce the back armour.  Their missiles bounce helplessly off.  It takes composure and nerve while their mates are being blown to literal roasted pieces around them. High stress white knuckle stuff.


This is the best tank duel I’ve seen on screen.  It is fierce, deadly, nerve-wracking and desperate. You get how vulnerable, scared cr**pless the tankers must have been up against a Tiger, and how utterly brave they all were. The American attrition rate was catastrophic.

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Two of my own 1/72 painted WW II models. I have four 3-tank platoons of Tigers (top) and about 40 Shermans (right); about the right ratio for a fair duel.

The Tiger was actually the first German tank to be captured by the Allies.  There is only one working Tiger left in the world today. Some sobering statistics: it took ultimately several thousand Shermansto wipe out 1500 Tigers (each tank has a crew of 5).  Shermans were a piece of tin against a better-designed, harder-hitting, longer-range metal monster.  It would normally take 4 or 5 Shermans to take out a Tiger, which is why it was feared so much.  The Russians simply mobbed them with T34s.  There are supposed to be no more Tigers left, but Pitt’s platoon is ambushed by one.

I really like how the CGI is done for the armour-piercing rounds.  It’s so violent, so fast, so total in its devastation. Like lasers of death.

Another great scene, is after a battle and the US Army haven take a town.  Pitt and Norman go upstairs and connect with two German civilian women. It is tense with suggested occupier rights to imminent rape, but Pitt intervenes with some eggs he’s found and asks for them to be cooked (women as cooks rather than rape victims). There is some piano playing and singing, a sanctuary of civilisation in this otherwise ghastly hell-hole. Until the other crew-members arrive.

before they arrive, young Norman takes the younger women in the back room (Sgt Collier: “If you don’t take that healthy lookin’ girl in back, I will!”).  When the older German woman tries to intervene, Pitt says forcefully, “Nein!  …They are young, and alive.” (ie, let them be).

But belligerence arrives emphasized by some discordant gorilla bashing on the piano in contrast to Norman’s previous playing by the other tank crew-members as Pitt attempts to preserve this small island of normality centered around the poached eggs. (Sarcastically) “Oo, it must be Norrr-man day.” “You weren’t there in France Norman.  You like horses? It took us three days to shoot all demhorses…the swarms of flies were like fog.”

In this scene we also see that Pitt’s back is completely burned.  However, the war calls, and they have to press on.  It is reminiscent of the little French girl scene and her parents in the sniper incident in Private Ryan. Good people die.

The film comes to an almighty climax, as Pitt’s platoon is ordered to hold a cross roads to stop an unknown German troop getting around the side.  3 of the 4 tanks are knocked out en route by the Tiger, but Fury decides to go anyway and hold the cross roads alone. Their track gets blown off and they are immobilised.  Then a crack SS Panzer Grenadier troop (“maybe 2 or 300 hundred”) with tracked vehicles advances down the road toward them on dusk.

They disguise the tank with a burning German and other debris and set a point blank ambush. All hell breaks loose and it is a sustained and dramatic finale to an excellent movie.

One brickbat (Spoiler). When some Germans finally get two stick grenades inside to finish off a dying sniper-riddled Pitt, they explode. But when Norman crawls back inside through the floor hatch, Pitt is not minced all over the interior of the hull, as he should have been. I deleted one star from 10 for that. I guess Pitt is too pretty for that.

The action is dramatic and riveting.  The characters are solid. I especially liked the interplay between several of them about theology and in the end when Pitt surprisingly quotes Isaiah 6 back at ‘Bible’ Swan.  Like Pitt, I knew the reference, which was gratifying. This recalls Cpt Miller and the secret of his pre-war vocation (English teacher) among his platoon.  Perhaps Pitt was a minister or something before the war and has hidden it to be a killing machine to keep his men alive. It surprises ‘Bible’ Swan. Later he does the same when he’s shot and dying, quoting scripture to Norman. So there is a strong tilt to the redemptive qualities of Christianity in terms of duty, death, and redemption in this movie. This is contextual and valid in the context of WW II American soldiers.

But it is not clean.  Human flesh is squashed indiscernibly into the mud. Heads and limbs get blown off and people rejoice in their killing.  I also appreciated this is not American 100 bad guys shot to every 1 good guy Gun-ho. No, this is more realistic. Americans are out-gunned. They die.  No nationalist propaganda here, just the cruel hard, soul-destroying realities of tank warfare in the mud of 1945 German fields and towns with Tigers prowling around.

Some great lines in the movie:

“Norman, ideas are peaceful, history is violent.”

“Ya see that Norman?  That is a city on fire.”

Some visuals I enjoyed: the grimey mud and subdued palette of the film without drawing too much attention to itself; the small round tanker rock climber helmets they wear, which are a bit dorky, but utilitarian and for me, juxtapose the heroic male coolness factor. Just men doing the hard stuff.  I liked the look.

I totally recommend this film, especially for the blokes. To conclude, I can’t leave you without this commentary and the Tiger fight scene (spoiler).

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Air NZ does it again

October 24th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Another viral smash video from Air New Zealand. Really well done.


The Internet Party of Ukraine

October 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Love this ad by the Internet Party of Ukraine.

Related to this Stuff reports:

In a galaxy far, far, away – Odessa, the third-largest city in Ukraine – several Star Wars characters have managed to register as official candidates in the upcoming election. With names like Darth V. Vader, Stepan Chubakka (Chewbacca), Master V. Yoda, and Padme N. Amidala listed on the candidate roster, voters can’t be blamed for looking twice at the ballot.

Here’s another of their campaign videos

In a galaxy far, far, away – Odessa, the third-largest city in Ukraine – several Star Wars characters have managed to register as official candidates in the upcoming election. With names like Darth V. Vader, Stepan Chubakka (Chewbacca), Master V. Yoda, and Padme N. Amidala listed on the candidate roster, voters can’t be blamed for looking twice at the ballot.


Great ad from Powershop

October 12th, 2014 at 12:14 pm by David Farrar

Was sent this by e-mail:









Very well done. I like the spelling mistakes, and the caps, just like real scams.

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Nudists coming to Wellington

October 10th, 2014 at 1:46 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The capital will bare all in 2016 when it hosts the world’s largest nudist conference at the Wellington Naturist Club’s HQ in Upper Hutt.

The 2016 International Naturist Federation (INF) World Congress was secured in a joint push from the New Zealand Naturist Federation (NZNF), Tourism New Zealand’s conference assistance programme, Upper Hutt City Council and Business Events Wellington.

Every two years the INF World Congress is hosted by different Federations around the world and this is the first time New Zealand will be hosting the event.

”Along with the Federation Executive and our 1500 members nationwide, we look forward to welcoming the many expected international delegates to New Zealand,” NZNF national president Wendy Lowe said.

You have to feel sorry for the conference staff and waiting staff :-)


Election Race 20 September 2014 ~ John Stringer

September 21st, 2014 at 12:51 pm by Kokila Patel


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iPhone 6

September 10th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Apple have announced details of their new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+. The 6 has a 4.7 inch display and the iPhone 6+ a 5.5 inch display. The iPhone 4 by comparison is 3.5″ and iPhone 5 is 4.0″

Features include:

  • Thinner (6.9 mm and 7.1 mm)
  • Higher Res (1920 x 1080 for the 6+)
  • 64 bit A8 chip
  • An M8 co-processor that can calculate elevation, number of steps climbed etc and also be a barometer
  • 8 megapixel camera
  • A near range wireless chip which can be used to make small purchases – very exciting
  • Battery life of 11 or 14 hours
  • Handoff to allow you to switch between Apple devices

I’m definitely buying one. Not just for the new features – but mainly because my 4s battery only lasts around four hours now before draining!

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Google Drones are coming

September 1st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Google has made a big bet developing airborne drones capable of delivering anything from candy to medicine – and has been testing the flying vehicles on a Queensland farm on the Darling Downs.

Google X, a division of the US-based technology company dedicated to making major technological advancements, tested Project Wing near Warwick earlier this month, the first time “non-Googlers” had been involved.

Google X director Astro Teller said Project Wing’s goal was ultimately to build a system for delivering small and medium sized packages within minutes to anyone, using self-flying vehicles.

Bring it on.

“There’s no reason we should all have a power drill in our garage when, at any one time, the world is using one hundredth of a per cent of its power drills,” he said from the company’s headquarters in California.

“Also, there are situations like emergency response after a flood, or an earthquake, or a tornado, where bringing medicine or other supplies to people who are in need can be very valuable and time can be of the essence.

“We’re looking at the whole spectrum of value that can be delivered using self-flying vehicles.”

The prototype drone used in Queensland was a “tailsitter”, which allowed for vertical take-offs and landings and high speeds during flight – up to about 90km/h.

Very cool.


French Minister says women have a duty to wear bikinis at the beach!

August 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It is a French woman’s duty to wear a bikini on a beach, says the former minister for families, Nadine Morano.

Ms Morano, 51, provoked a political row yesterday by complaining that she had seen a Muslim woman sitting on a French beach in headscarf, long-sleeved tunic and trousers while her husband stripped off and bathed in the sea.

“When you choose to come to a country of secular laws like France, you have an obligation to respect our culture and the liberty of women. Or you go somewhere else,” Ms Morano wrote on her Facebook page.

I never realised bikinis were compulsory in France!

I am pro-bikini but as a classical liberal I do not support it being mandatory :-)

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12 reasons cats suck

August 18th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I love cats but Elite Daily gives you 12 reasons to join the Gareth Morgan camp:

  1. The reason you even like cats in the first place is because of a parasite in your brain
  2. Cats who cuddle with you don’t actually love you
  3. The way cats do show their love is really creepy
  4. If you are alone with your cat and you die, he will eat you immediately
  5. Cats don’t like sweet things, which means they don’t like dessert, and everyone knows you can’t trust a dessert-hater
  6. Cats kill a hell of a lot of innocent animals for literally no reason
  7. Cats are irritating show-offs
  8. Cat poop could give you a fatal disease
  9. Cats’ purrs are manipulative
  10. Cats are f*cking stupid losers
  11. You know how when you like someone, you’re attracted to his scent? Well, cats hate your scent.
  12. Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Mussolini and Hitler were all afraid of cats

No 4 is the one that worries me!


The best scrabble player on Earth is a Kiwi

August 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Oliver Roeder at 538 writes:

When the 2014 National Scrabble Championship begins Saturday in Buffalo, New York, the odds-on favorite will be a 47-year-old New Zealander who resides in Malaysia named Nigel Richards. He is currently ranked first in North America. The difference between his official rating and the second-place player’s is about the same as the difference between second place and 20th. 


Beyond all that is the sheer virtuosity of his gameplay, his uncanny gift for constructing impossible words by stringing his letters through tiles already on the board. The ultimate Richards word story: In a game in 1998, then-newcomer Richards had a rack of CDHLRN? (“?” denotes a blank tile). There was an E available on the board; Richards could have played CHILDREN for a bingo and a 50-point bonus. Instead, Richards played through two disconnected Os and an E. The word? The 10-letter CHLORODYNE.

If like me, you wonder what that is, it was a 19th century patent medicine!

Richards’s rating sits at 2180. His peak rating of 2298 is the highest anyone has ever achieved with a minimum of 200 games played. According to Scrabble data site, his peak rating is even higher than that of Quackle, a powerful artificial intelligence Scrabble player developed by human tournament players Jason Katz-Brown and John O’Laughlin.

He can beat an actual computer with a full dictionary!

So, really, how does he do it? As Richards said in an interview posted on YouTube, “I’m not sure there is a secret. It’s just a matter of learning the words.” All 178,691 of them.


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