Hard News by Russell Brown


Public Address Word of the Year 2014

It's that time again! The time, that is, when Public Address readers nominate, debate and vote for their Word of the Year. What winning word or phrase will emerge? Will it come from the hurly-burly of the weirdest general election ever, or from another part of the culture?

As ever, the Word of the Year 2014 will unfold thus: in the discussion for this post, readers will nominate their favoured words or phrases. Then, after a few days of fussing and fighting, I will draw up a short list of nominated words for voting.

Last year, "metadata" beat out the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year, “selfie”, in a final Top 10 that also included "Lorde and "berm". (Disappointingly, Lorde did not then go on to record a hit single caled 'Berm'.)

In 2012, “brainfade, “Marmageddon” and “Planet Key” were the key words (and the the case of the winner, the John Key Word). To be honest, it wasn’t a great year for words. 

In 2011, the word “munted” found its its destiny – beating out popular memes “nek minnit” and “ghost chips” for the top slot.

In 2010, of course, Public Address readers bypassed the news and opted for a neologism – the great ungendered insult that was “twatcock”. In 2009, the list was dominated by words involving Michael Laws and an “h” and  in 2008, “credit crunch” came in ahead of “rofflenui”. In 2007, another coinage, “Te Qaeda” topped the poll and in 2006, the big word was “unbundled”.

How will 2014 shape up? Well, that’s up to you.

Te recap, the process is this:

- Words are nominated in the discussion for this post. If you want to join in, you'll need to register to comment, which will only take a minute.

- Eventually, I’ll compile a list of finalists for voting.

- Everyone votes.

- We have a winner!

Well, more than one winner, actually. The first reader to suggest the eventual winning word will receive a glorious gift hamper from Farro Fresh, as will a reader drawn at random from all those who vote.

Massive props to the award-winning Farro Fresh for supporting the conversation. If you're struggling for an ideal Christmas present, check out the full range of artisan food hampers at their online store.

(Thanks also to Beer Without Borders . My current advice is that the law now prevents us promoting any alcohol as a prize, but you can be sure that Hadyn Green -- who codes up the voting form -- and I will be enjoying a sneak preview beers from San Diego's Modern Times brewery, which launch here in January.)


Some reprehensible bullshit

EXCLUSIVE, trumpets the Herald on Sunday's front page lead story today, HIDDEN ROOMS IN MAYOR'S NEW OFFICE. 'What secrets are concealed in Len Brown's flash new office?' the headline inside demands. A better question might have been: is anybody really proud of this nonsense?

The story is billed in the paper as a "Herald on Sunday special report". It's actually a ridiculous beat-up constructed around a Local Government Information Act request made by Councillor Cameron Brewer and brought to the HoS. 

As reported in 2012, Auckland Council has purchased the former ASB tower in Albert Street to bring under one roof all its CBD staff, who are currently scattered through seven buildings, some of whose leases are expiring. The building cost $104 million, but an official analysis found the move would save ratepayers about $100 million on rents, ownerships costs and travel over the net 20 years.

That might be an ambitious estimate, but I don't see anyone seriously contending that it's not a cheaper and more efficient option. Apart, of course, from Brewer, who told the same Herald on Sunday reporter back in July that the move was a "waste of money", but provided no numbers to back up his claim.

The "secret rooms" are not actually a "secret" in any meaningful sense of the word: their presence, design and, fittings and budget are literally a matter of public record. They are a dressing room with a two-seater sofa, an ironing board and a wardrobe, and a small ensuite bathroom. But, in what would seem to be a bid to blend the office's ceremonial and practical functions, the door between the formal office and its ensuite has been designed as part of a bookcase. That's it. That really is the sum total of the scandal.

The HoS does not suggest exactly how a door with books on it makes the room any more likely to hide bad deeds than a door without, given that everyone knows the ensuite is there, but you know what's coming:

And eyebrows have been raised about the secret rooms, given Brown's past indiscretions.

During a two-year affair with Bevan Chuang, the pair had sex in the mayoral office and other council rooms.

The graphic with the story goes to farcical ends to try and wrench more out of the mundane facts. The mayor's office will not have blinds like any other office, but "blackout blinds", and the wardrobe will be a "full-length mirrored wardrobe". They've even Photoshopped Bevan Chuang into a picture with Brown, dutifully noting that the picture has been "digitally altered".

The rest of the story is padded out with inane quotes from failed mayoral candidate and leader of the deranged "Stand Down Len Brown" protests Stephen Berry, and four of the five council dead-enders who got crushed by their peers in a vote over Brown's censure motion last year:

Last night the hidden rooms were labelled "inappropriate" and "a really bad look".

Councillor Sharon Stewart said she had not seen the new office, but "I don't think it's a good look ... I don't think he should have secret rooms in light of what's gone on."

Councillor Linda Cooper said the mayor had a perception problem. "When you've been caught before ... you've got to be wise about your actions and how they'll be perceived by the public, given your history."

Affordable Auckland leader Stephen Berry said hiding rooms behind a bookcase was "highly inappropriate and a really bad look".

"Didn't he learn from the Bevan Chuang incident?"

Councillor Dick Quax said the rooms sounded too elaborate for a city mayor: "A mayor requires working places, he doesn't need play spaces."

You know, if I was building myself a "play space", I think I'd do better than a two-seater couch and a dressing mirror. But Brown actually seems to have had no role in the design. Which make sense, given that the office is supposed to house mayors for at least the next two decades.

Brewer, as usual, gets more space to blather inanities than the others:

Brewer said most would see the bathroom as "more James Bond and probably better suited for the general manager of Hotel Versace".

"Given these are times of austerity according to the mayor, I don't think communities facing local project and service cutbacks will appreciate this kind of showing off."

Is he fucking serious? The bathroom cost $10,000, including tiling. Anyone who has renovated their own home will know what a $10,000 bathroom looks like, and it don't look like much.

But everyone involved here knows that. The editor, the reporter and the rentaquote councillors all know the story is bullshit. For the latter, it's another chance to have a crack at Brown and for the paper it's just more cheap clickbait. If Bevan Chuang gets used yet again -- and Photoshopping her into a picture really is quite the sleazy touch -- that's just what happens to women who have sex, right? 

Is this what you people got into journalism for?


Friday Music: Memories of a strange day

When Audioculture published my article last year on the worst disorder to take place at a concert in New Zealand -- the 1984 Queen Street riot -- it turned out to be anything but the end of the story.

As soon as it was published, people started coming forward with their own memories of that strange day -- on Facebook, on Twitter, and here on this site. Most of those stories had not been publicly told before, and some of them were remarkable. No more so than Jeremy Jones' tale of seeing the police prepare to deploy tear gas -- and then decide against it:

We went to a mate of a mate's mate's flat above a shop, where we watched the riot unfold both out the window and on the TV live.

We were enjoying our relatively prime position when some cops in gas masks entered with gas canisters to access the awning, they later returned back inside and advised us they were not going to unleash the tear gas as there were too many innocent people, like movie goers and diners.

I'm not sure that part of the day has ever been acknowledged.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the riot-- this Sunday, December 7 -- I've collected and edited the stories and they're published today on Audioculture. Go and have a look.


If you haven't seen Justin Harwood's web series High Road, do yourself a favour and binge-watch it the next time you can't face leaving the house. The first six-part series, shot at Piha on no budget, seemed to arrive fully-formed -- sweet writing, nicely-pitched performances -- and was good enough to earn NZ On Air digital funding for a second series of eight episodes, which hit the wires recently.

It's the story of, as Justin puts it, "an English rockstar who starts a radio station and has trouble with the ladies" and the love of music is threaded through the whole thing: the montages of classic (and not-so-classic) album covers that link scenes; the hit tunes we don't hear but are invited to recall as Terry Huffer lowers the needle and enters headphone ecstasy; the songs we do hear, including 'Jesus I Was Evil'; and the in-jokes about the Beatles. They even made an actual vinyl record for it:



Also well worth your while watching on demand: Oscar Kightley's documentary for Tagata Pasifika, Ladi6 -- Return to Africa, which screened last Saturday morning with no fanfare at all. It's a revisiting of the teenage experience that seems to have shaped Ladi personally and artistically: when she and her family followed her community-worker Dad to live in Tanzania. The musical jams are a lovely touch too.


There are advantages to having a lot of followers on Twitter. Case in point: earlier in the year, I was working on something one morning, and by the time I got my head up, I realised that it was the day that tickets for Nick Cave's solo shows went on sale -- and I'd missed out.

So I had a bit of a cry on Twitter, and someone got in touch to say a friend and her husband had accidentally both bought tickets and might be willing to part with the spares. It happened, and now Fiona and I have tickets for tomorrow night -- near the front of the circle. Kate and your husband, thank you so much. I trust you'll enjoy your weekend in Auckland.

For those who are going, or who aren't, here's a taster from the New York City Town Hall in September:


Two new videos with bewitching digital imagery this week ...

Firstly, another intriguing clip from Auckland's Princess Chelsea, directed by Simon Ward, who she's worked with before:

And a non-dystopic sci-fi scenario from young Auckland techno producer Suren Unka. The excellent trans-Tasman music blog Happy has a story on the making of the video:


The Fader has a feature on Wellington's Eddie Johnston, aka Lontalius, aka Race Banyon, under the glorious billing Meet The New Zealand Teenager Behind The Internet's Best Rap Covers. It sheds some light on why Eddie makes these recordings (he likes the sad songs, basically).

I'm glad he does. His version of Drake's 'The Real Her', with its soft, drowsy vocal and beautiful, subtle instrumentation, is one of my favorite tracks of the year:

It seems that this style is now finding Eddie his place on original hip hop recordings too. He takes the chorus on this new track by the US artist-producer Tunji Ige:

And there's even a new Lontalius original, posted this week on Eddie's new "official" Soundcloud account:


Thanks to the folks at Flying Out for putting on a boffo Christmas edition of their regular The Other's Way shows at the Wine Cellar last night, with Bunnies on Ponies, She's So Rad and and Totems. My boy and I needed some air after after the first two and we missed Totems, but I'm assuming it went fully off -- I've never actually seen that venue jumping like that. Word up for K Road last night too -- I counted three sets of DJ decks actually out on the footpath as we walked to the venue and the strip was busy and buzzing.

And a reminder that Flying Out's sale ends today. Lots of excellent bargains on LPs, CDs and cassettes(!), with free shipping in NZ. Ideal for Christmas shopping, you'd think.


Tracks ...

Auckland's DPTRCLB have been keeping the funky house flame for a while now, and they've come up with another big tune:

Local producer POLO flips Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off' and throws in a 'Time After Time' sample. Heh, in a good way. Click through for a free download:

Some righteous electronic funk from Hamiltron's prolific Terrorball:

One sweet hour of older-technology funk and disco mixed by She's So Rad's Jeremy Toy:

Martyn Pepperell put together a short, interesting mix introducing New Zealand music to the United Arab Emirates webzine The State:

On TheAudience: another week, another impressive female solo artist from Christchurch. This time in an R&B style:

And finally, if you've read David Byrne's 'How Music Works', you'll be familiar with his description of Talking Heads' dub-style recording process during the band's heyday: establish a groove, have everyone in the room play over it, then reveal the song through a process of subtraction.

That makes their work a particularly good candidate for a reinvention by The Reflex, the British DJ who works strictly with the original stems of classic tracks. He's just posted this pre-release "revision" of 'Burning Down the House', and sure enough, there were tracks laid down that you never heard on the record ...


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



Great New Zealand Argument: A limited-time offer!

Back in 2005, I published a book based on Public Address's Great New Zealand Argument historical blog feature. The book, Great New Zealand Argument: Ideas about ourselves, did fairly well -- we got to a second printing -- and I'm still proud of it as a piece of work.

It's most notable, I think, for containing what is still the only published transcript of David Lange's famous speech to the Oxford Union, arguing that 'Nuclear weapons are morally indefensible', along with an exclusive insight on that night in Oxford by Margaret Pope.

It also includes Bill Pearson's famous, bleak but ultimately rousing meditation on New Zealand culture, 'Fretful Sleepers', Sir Keith Sinclair's brilliant and prescient 1963 lecture 'The Historian as Prophet' (which had been out of print for more than 40 years) and Robin Hyde's rediscovered 1938 essay 'The Singers of Loneliness', which was described by Jolisa Gracewood as "equal parts celebration, indictment, and call to action."

With the exception of my introductory essay, Margaret Pope's commentary and Tze Ming Mok's original Landfall essay, 'Race You There', you can still read these works for free on Public Address. Indeed, part of the triumph of the project was showing that you could make these things freely available online and people would still buy the book. In particular, Donald Stenhouse, who cares for Bill Pearson's literary estate, was told by quite a number of people that he was a fool to allow the essay to be published online. He ignored them, and it was with pleasure that I personally delivered him payment for its use in both printings.

Anyway, time passes. First, I realised that running a publishing imprint was demanding and not a good way to pay the rent, so I withdrew from Activity Press. Later, the distributor was wound up and I got word to go and fetch the remaining copies, a hundred-odd, from storage.

I've kept most of them, but I think this is the time to let a few go. Things will be quiet work-wise for the next three months or so, and if I can make a few dollars to underwrite some summer fun, that's a good result for me.

At the moment, I'm releasing 30 signed copies at $35 each: that's the retail price plus $5 for postage and handling. Just click on the button below to buy with either your PayPal account or a credit card. Note that there's a text field for a dedication if you'd like me to add one of those.


UPDATE; Well, that's the 100 copies sold, folks. I've signed and sent 40 and I'll try and get them all away this week. Foreign buyers, yes, I am hearing you and will be in touch.


Meanwhile, you might also care to enjoy a couple of other free gems from the GNZA era: the original audio of the Lange speech, and the very cool dance track made from that recording by Tomorrowpeople.


Park Life

Julian Lee's Campbell Live report last week on plans for Auckland's Chamberlain Park golf course repeatedly made the point that its status as an inner-city everyman's course makes it unusual, perhaps even unique. Somewhat inevitably, it was brightened by shots of the reporter good-naturedly taking divots out of the turf. The time might have been better spent explaining exactly what's going on.

The angle of the story was summed up in John Campbell's introduction: this is a much-loved course and " ... the local community board wants to carve it up into a sports field and car parks." Well, actually, the proposal is to convert the park to a nine-hole course to free up land for a variety of other uses, including "passive recreation".

As you would expect, golfers vox-popped on the course thought this was a dreadful idea.

But hold on here: this is 32 hectares, zoned as open public space in the Unitary Plan, to which the public currently does not have free access, and the council and the community board are entitled to consider the best use of the land when the opportunity arises. That opportunity did arise in June last year, when the lease held on the land since 1996 by a private company, Auckland City Golf Course Limited, ended and the council took over operation of the course.

There were rumours that the land would be sold for housing development, but in June this year The Albert-Eden community board received a report on development options for the park, including this image:

Golf remains the central use for the park, but the report found that "Chamberlain Park offers a type of golf course for which there is understood to be an oversupply in the region" and proposed a smaller course with a driving range and a coaching facility for new players. Land freed up to the east would be used for a playground, a garden and half a dozen sports fields, which are in short supply in Eden-Albert.

The western fringe of the site and an area around its whole boundary would become a "passive recreation" area -- actual public parkland, allowing connections with existing reserves and neighbouring streets, and potentially the "daylighting" of Meola Creek, which could be uncovered and restored to its natural state, much as Oakley Creek has been.

Given that the area is already losing green space (those trees) to motorway expansion flowing on from the Waterview Connection, this seems quite appealing. And the fact is, this is a very large piece of open space in an area where the population is expected to intensify considerably in the next few decades. Is is that important to retain an 18-hole inner-city course at the expense of everyone in the area who doesn't play golf?

Chamberlain Park isn't far from my house: I've been past it countless times over the years, most notably on the northwestern cycleway. But I've never been able to set foot on it without paying money. That part of the story was really missing from the Campbell Live report -- along with the fact that the community board is taking feedback on the plan until December 15. The online questionnaire canvasses options like a performance space, a community garden, "nature play" areas and walking, cycling and  exercise infrastructure. I think the potential to enhance access to and from the existing cycleway is really exciting.

Whatever floats your boat, that's a a hell of a lot of community potential to be setting against the maintenance of a fenced-off 18 hole golf course. Just sayin'.