Hard News by Russell Brown


The Big Bang

It was, it must be said, a bloody big bang. The All Blacks finished the haka ('Kapa o Pango' again) and a second later, BOOM, sheets of flame and a shockwave. Unexpected explosions thrill us because our bodies respond as if it's a threat and our brains turn up half a second later to tell us it's all good fun. Which it was.

Except it quite clearly wasn't fun for the three people in Eden Park's West Stand who were injured by stray pyrotechnics. It seems that some waste also made its way on to the playing surface, possibly presenting a risk to the players.

The use of pyrotechnics at big matches is far from new, but that one did seem out of the ordinary. Additionally, there were so many fireworks on a still night that the smoke just stayed in the stadium for a good 10 minutes into the match. I got a little video of the All Blacks running on to the sound of Shapeshifter -- and remember, this was before the big bang.

I was sitting with my buddy Richard in the "restricted view" seats I'd grabbed at the last moment. It turned out that Row D really was quite restricted:

But it was okay once we adjusted and got used to looking up at the screens where necessary. And really, it was great to be in the stadium for one of the All Blacks' top-drawer performances. The outside backs' tactical kicking was quite a revelation -- they'd clearly worked out that the Wallabies were vulnerable down the tramlines.

Man of the Match? Brodie Retallick. Without naming names, there have been All Black locks who haven't seen their job as much more than catching lineout balls and pushing in the scrums, but Retallick contributes furiously in almost every area of the game. He's almost redefining the role.

To get to and from our seats, we had to pass the media room. Time was, just getting some copy in for the Sunday paper was what the job was about, but we live in a real-time world now. These guys were sweating over their laptops during the half-time break.

But not everything of note happened inside the ground. As Richard and I were walking up Bond Street to the ground, one member of the group of young rugby fans in front of us yelled "Fuck John Key!" and someone behind us immediately responded "Fuck Cameron Slater!"

The liberal left might not want to hug the young man too closely: he shouted his piece just after he chucked a plastic bottle into the park. So let's say his position was more anti-authority than party political. But it was ... interesting.


The next morning I rode over to Avondale Markets, where there was an election campaign on. The Internet Mana crew were at the front gate again:

Just inside, the ladies from New Zealand First were fascinated by the man with ankle-length dreadlocks who had paused to talk to them, and eagerly reached for their cameras.

Over behind the grandstand, Labour people were out in force -- and in red.

I gather the Greens and the Conservatives were also working the crowd, but I missed them. I hope they all had a good time. It seemed a good day for doing democracy.

After lunch I walked over to Western Springs College to have a look at the Internet-Mana campaign launch. By and large, it was full of the same jolly spirit. And then this weird thing happened.

Like almost everyone else, I missed it. I needed a beer, so we strolled home and caught the sunset on the deck, which quite delightfully lit up my awesome Avondale Markets purchase. These two little beauties from Temuka -- for five bucks the pair!


Didn't see that coming

Firstly: Kim Dotcom did not "admit to hacking" at the Internet-Mana campaign launch today, as both network news shows claimed this evening.

His "teenage hacker made good" story is Dotcom Bio 101. It's on his Wikipedia page. It was traversed extensively when he was a witness in John Banks' court case this year. It's been part of his stump speech at every stop on the Internet-Mana roadshow. You can basically read exactly what he said today in the Southland Times' report on the coalition's Invercargill stop two weeks ago. The point he makes is that he accepted a business development loan from the government, went straight and was very successful.

The idea that Dotcom made a big reveal in saying it again today is ludicrous. I didn't take the reference to John Key ("another Prime Minister I don't like") as implying that Dotcom was involved in the hacking of the Whaleoil site. No one around me seemed to. He'd probably do better to leave out the digs at Key (twice, I think) altogether.

Secondly: The job of press secretary is one of composure, even if it seems the journalists are being annoying or even malicious in their angles. Anger, be it necessary, should be left for when cameras are not rolling, mics are not live and people are not listening. Pam Corkery's meltdown at One News' Michael Parkin was ruinous and unprofessional.

I suppose there will be reasons why Corkery, who is the press secretary for Laila Harre only, was running interference for Dotcom, but having him do a runner and her do her nana was never going to work.

I gather Dotcom wasn't doing interviews in order to focus attention on the coalition's policy announcements -- aspirational goals would be fairer -- on "the right to work" and full employment. It didn't work out that way. Basically, if John Key is expected to talk about things he really doesn't want to talk about at his campaign launch, then so is Kim Dotcom. Deal with it as best you can. Your job is to prevent this sort of clusterfuck, not provide it.

Thirdly: I really, really don't think Dotcom is @whaledump, as Parkin suggested in his report. Whaledump projects a very different personality and seems more likely to be part of a wider circle of IT-savvy people who knew the late Judd Hall and were incensed by Cameron Slater's vile description of him as a "feral". We also now know there's another "hacker", in contact with David Fisher, who seems to have logs from the Whaleoil website.

Fourthly: I dropped in for a look with my son and a friend of mine, because we live around the corner. Like all the other people inside the Western Springs College hall, we were unaware of Corkery's confrontation with the the press. What we saw -- and I presume it reflects the rest of the roadshow -- was more Mana than Internet. Almost every word spoken and sung for the first 20 minutes was te reo Maori: a karakia, a waiata ('Whakaaria Mai') and a kapa haka group.

Mana's Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidate Te Hamua Nikora was a noisy, entertaining MC, and King Kapisi and former Warrior Wairangi Koopu spoke in fairly entertaining vein before Dotcom was introduced to the strains of  'Eye of the Tiger'.

Harre (introduced with Joan Armatrading's 'Drop the Pilot') focused on education (free, and they promise to erase student loan balances) and employment. But was Annette Sykes, sounding more the firebrand activist than the prospective MP -- who got the bigger response from the crowd when she set herself against the neoliberal revolution and promised to reverse recent privatisations. She spoke instead of Hone Harawira, who arrived but took a back seat because of of injuries suffered in a car crash this week.

The crowd? Varied, in age and ethnicity. The urban liberals on the Internet side might not subscribe to quite the same views as the old-school socialists, who might not be on exactly the same page as the whanau present (there were lots of kids). The whole thing was an odd but quite happy blend of old-fashioned people politics and too-cool-for-school branding.

It was so hot inside (seriously, it's August- what's that about?) that I'd withered after about 90 minutes and we made our way out, with no idea that anything untoward had happened. I'm not sure how much we missed, but I felt due for a beer on the deck at home.

It had been an intriguing affair. And it would be fair to say that when I left, I did not see the evening news angle being what it was.


In The Green Room

Update: here we go, folks: an embedded player so you can watch The Green Room withouthaving to go to any other websites ...

Next Thursday, John Key and David Cunliffe will meet in the first TVNZ leaders' debate. At the same time, Green Party co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman will appear in The Green Room, a "companion" debate streamed live online.

I'll be hosting The Green Room on the same basis that Finlay Macdonald did it last election: it's a paid gig (ie: I'll be paid by Zoomslide, the company hired by the Green Party to produce the event) . I'm not a Green Party member or even voter.

But I know some Public Address readers are or might be both and I think it would be good to get you involved. There will be a few things happening in the webcast, but most of the talking will be before and after the TVNZ debate -- and during the ad breaks in it. The idea is that you can flip between screens. It should be fun.

I will be asking actual questions of the Green co-leaders on policy areas traversed in the televised debate and others besides. I'm keen for Public Address readers to propose and discuss questions for next Thursday. You can read the Greens' policy positions here and their fiscal costings are here. I'm looking for thoughtful questions, not softballs.

With all the blathering about "the blogs", it seems useful to demonstrate that blogs can also be places where people engage in good faith about things that matter to them. Jonathan Mosen's recent post The Problem with the Greens' Disability Policy -- A Description, which drew a good response from the party's disability spokesperson Mojo Mathers, is an example of how things can be, and I'll look to provide more of that before the election.

But for now, make a note in your diary for The Green Room.

The Green Room

6.30pm - 8.30pm 

Thursday August 28



Friday Music: A Strange Road

It was one thing when the Electoral Commission declared Darren Watson's 'Planet Key' song and video to be an "election programme" under the Broadcasting Act. But quite another for it to then find it to also be an "election advertisement" under the Electoral Act, meaning the song can't even be sold on iTunes without a formal promoter statement.

Watson declared yesterday he'd be adding such a statement pending a legal challenge to the Commission's decision, then apparently decided that he'd instead be taking down the song to avoid a potential referral to the police. It's still on iTunes this morning (Apple is not very responsive at the best of times) but it's gone from YouTube.

This isn't the place to argue the legal interpretations (although you may care to dip in to the Edgeler archives), but I rather wonder if the Commission has bitten off more than it can chew on this one. Because Darren Watson's song isn't the half of it.

This week, Powertool Records released The Election EP, a compilation of eight quirky songs, including Jordan Reyne's 'Dear John', which the singer says had to be re-uploaded to YouTube in June after "a mysterious banning coinciding with a radio interview where John Key & this vid were discussed."

Also, Gold Medal Famous's "barbecue reggae" remix of their 2011 election song 'John Key is a Dick' and the same outfit's 2014 electropop update 'John Key is Still a Dick'.

There's also F.U.N.'s 'I Don't Recall', which is nearing 14,000 views on Vimeo.

One last one, also from The Election EP. George Henderson and Matthew Bannister got together (for the first time?) and made a song about Kim Dotcom, explaining it thus:

This song was not about Kim Dotcom originally, but somehow the verse crept into it. The protest is not that Dotcom is innocent, but that anyone accused of a crime in New Zealand should be charged and tried in our courts. To extradite a suspect to a foreign jurisdiction for a crime not committed on their soil is a betrayal of sovereignty; to expect such extradition is a sign of overweening imperial hubris. The Kim Dotcom case, venal and ridiculous in itself, will nonetheless define New Zealand's role in the world for decades to come.

If there was some indication that these are actually advertisements created for the purpose of influencing voting decisions, rather than composers and performers expressing themselves -- or simply having a laugh -- it might be different. But I think the Commission has gone down a strange road here, and might rue the implications.


I've heard nothing but good things about Stuart Page's Paul Fuemana documentary How Bizarre, which screens on Maori Television at 9.30pm on Monday. Peter McLennan notes that the OMC's How Bizarre album has been remastered and reissued for the occasion, and Stuart will be talking to Trevor Reekie on Radio New Zealand's Music 101 tomorrow, along with Simon Grigg and Alan Janssen.

Also, this looks really interesting: a seven-part podcast on the history of sampling and "appropriation music".


Local reggae is coming on strong. Majic's twinkling roots tune 'Mi Deh Yah' has vaulted to the top of the chart at TheAudience:

And there's another barnstormer from Dub Terminator. This guy's amazing.

That's available as a remix EP on iTunes or Beatport.


The Basesment Tapes is back with this delicate little tune -- a free download if you like him on Facebook:

The Austraian DJ Copycat has this swingin' bass-enhanced edit of the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There', which you can buy here on Bandcamp, along with similar nice reworks of Jill Scott's 'Golden' and the Wailers' 'Small Axe':

I think this is the best thing Bobby Busnach has posted in a while -- get in while the 100 free downloads last.

Wellingtonian Paddy Fred goes electro-soul on Jordan Rakei's 'Run Away':

Hat-tip to Charlotte Ryan for this wicked preview from Caribou's new album, which unexepctedly and unbashedly lifts the motif  from Inner City's 'Good Life'. (It's a free track with an album pre-order or available separately -- click through on the player for details).

How's this Lontalius cover version of Partynextdoor's R&B hit 'Grown Woman'? Get the download while you can:


And, finally, one of Jackson's pictures from last night's Broods show at the Powerstation. Nice ...


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



Never mind the quality ...

Well, hold the top of the post. Before you read on, the update on what's written below. New Zealand Herald editor Shayne Currie has tweeted the following:

I never like the feeling of doing anyone out of a gig, but this does seem an appropriate decision. The Herald has also emphasised that Bryce Edwards will continue to write for the paper's website.

Also, I didn't connect it at the time, but althgh he set Twitter a-flurry, Bryce didn't really "reveal" anything. Audrey Young's column of July 28 was about the paper's campaign lineup and included this:

Guest columnists will include the acerbic Cactus Kate from the radical right, former Labour candidate Josie Pagani and broadcaster Mark Sainsbury.


Bryce Edwards revealed on Twitter last night that he hasn't been invited back as one of the New Zealand Herald's outside columnists for the election campaign. Instead, the paper of record has opted for Josie Pagani and Cathy Odgers.

Yup. Cathy Odgers.

I presume the decision was made before Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics cast its unflattering light on on her character. (Well, let's be frank: on her humanity.) But the Herald's editors presumably believe the value of her dull, clunky prose and facile zingers outweighs the reputational damage of showcasing someone who solicited a journalist's address in the hope of "vicious" retribution.

Pagani, on the other hand, seems more popular with the mainstream media than amongst people on the "left" she'll be nominally representing in the paper and spends a lot of time justifying herself. (Last week on Pundit, she somehow managed to make an outraged post on Dirty Politics be about people being mean to Josie Pagani.) She writes serviceably well but I wouldn't be looking for any dazzling distillations of the political zeitgeist.

The pair have been picked for the printed paper, but will also presumably have their columns online. Odgers will say stupid shit and commenters will reply by quoting passages from Hager's book at her. Pagani will dispense her usual third-way nostrums and Martyn Bradbury will write three posts a day denouncing her. Both will be boring.

But here's the dirty little secret of newspaper opinion columns. Tendentious, partisan arguments generate more traffic via comments than finely-worked theses and sparkling prose.

At which point I should confess: you know what else drives traffic? Angry political conflagrations like that generated by Nicky Hager's book.

I was out of town working last Thursday and Friday and my Wednesday evening post about the book wasn't much more than a way of launching a topic I knew people would want to discuss. We're now at 738 comments on that post and Analytics is showing 119,000 page impressions off 47,000 user sessions in the past seven days.

This is gratifying, but also a bit of a pain. The fact that this place works as it does is a matter of active moderation, almost all of which is done by me. You're a great bunch, but I've had to remonstrate a lot more than usual. It's going to be a busy four weeks.

But I am interested in receiving pitches for informed commentary during the campaign, especially on policy, but also on the political process. I can't promise I'll want to run it, but send me your best shot and we'll see how it goes.