Friday, September 30, 2011

Buttock-toning for pleasure and profit

The Federal Trade Commission said yesterday that Reebok, a unit of the German group Adidas, agreed to pay US$25 million (NZ$32.2m) in customer refunds to purchasers of its EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes.

The funds will be made available for consumer refunds either directly from the FTC or through a court-approved class action lawsuit.

Reebok falsely claimed that walking in EasyTone footwear had been proven to lead to 28 per cent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles, and 11 per cent more strength and tone in the hamstring muscles and calf muscles than regular walking shoes, the FTC's complaint says.
Gosh. They lied. How good of the NZ Herald to tell us so. But then, right next to this story is a link to this one from June last year:
They may look like a throwback from the 80s, but new toning sneakers can do much more than put the spring back into your step.

Two versions of the specially designed shoes have just gone on sale in New Zealand, with the makers promising they will improve muscle tone in the thighs, calves and buttocks.

Reebok's EasyTone and Shape-ups by Skechers, can also straighten posture, and help weight-loss.
Well, no. What happened was this: the Herald received some PR flannel from the usual sources and printed it, complete with minor-celebrity endorsement:
Gillespie, a breakfast DJ for ZM, said she noticed the difference as soon as she first started walking in EasyTones.

She said: "It would be like you've been to the gym and had a hammering on your hammies and glutes.

"The next day I felt like I had a huge long workout."
With the release of the FTC's findings, purchasers of these shoes might feel like they have had something huge and long. Herald correspondent Anna Rushworth - "I felt good bouncing along Queen St after work in my bright, white Reebok EasyTones" - might be wishing she had spent more time talking to Bruce Baxter, president of Podiatry New Zealand. The Herald might be wishing it sent its journalists out to do real stories, in sensible shoes; but then, probably not.

With thanks to André for noticing the contradiction.
Painting by Paul Paede.
Meanwhile, Richard Ashcroft feels really crepe barging along a street:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cat scratch fever

A man who crashed his trail bike, striking his groin on the handlebars, is lucky he wasn't injured somewhere more private.
Where? Home, the little boys' room, the corporate box? Why this coyness, why this story? Why the headline, Groin smash horror, when no such horror took place?
"He lost control at a low speed and the handlebar went into his groin area. It was actually just off to the side of the groin area, the upper thigh area - it wasn't quite in the private parts," he told APNZ.
Meanwhile, the Herald on Sunday pursues the stories that matter with investigative reporting:
When the Herald on Sunday asked Dixon for comment, he offered an opportunity to say one word. The reporter said: "Jonathan..." then he cut in and said, "Chloe Johnson, that was your word". And hung up.
Meanwhile in 1978, Ted Nugent risks trouser groin horror:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm on a wharf

No, I am not. I was on a wharf but I did not stay. I went to Captain Cook Wharf, the Official Overflow Wharf for the Official Fanzone Wharf, which is not to be called Party Central, no sir. It works like this: when everybody wants to get on to Queen's Wharf because everything is happening there but cannot because the wharf is not big enough for everybody, the authorities open Captain Cook Wharf. This solves crowd problems immediately.

No, you're right; it doesn't. What happens is this: everybody wants to get on to Queen's Wharf, so the authorities open Captain Cook Wharf. Everybody still wants to get on to Queen's Wharf, so they stand in a huge queue. Meanwhile, a few people go to Captain Cook Wharf. In the interests of actualité, tonight I was one of them.

I can report to you that Captain Cook Wharf is a very big wharf. In its present configuration as an overflow partyzone it contains four sorts of thing. These are a big screen, some piecarts, many portaloos and an infinite number of barriers. And that is it. There is nowhere to sit, nowhere to buy the Official Piss of Rugby World Cup 2011, nowhere to run baby, nowhere to hide.

You arrive. You pass through corridors of barriers. Your bags are checked by people in flouro to ensure you are not carrying any unauthorised item such as a gun or a Steinlager. A woman hands you a leaflet. It is too dark to read the leaflet. You buy cholesterol products from the pie carts and you stand in front of the big screen. If you are feeling adventurous you sit on the concrete. It is dark, apart from the security lights, which give a gulag archipelago tone to the evening. It is cold.

After a short while, you realise that all sense of purpose to your life is ebbing away. Besides, you no longer have any sensation in your genitals. You turn to leave. You pass the pie-carts. You reach the entrance. A man in flouro says that the way to the exit is back where you came from and round in a loop. You can see that this journey will take you to a point beside you and the man in flouro, a point you could reach in less than ten seconds by walking forward. But you have lost all will to resist. You go back. You go round; in a loop.

Back on the street, you find more portaloos. Thousands of these things are standing in lines all over the Queen's Wharf Demarcation Zone, or whatever it is called. It is like Checkpoint Charlie for the incontinent. Barriers, security people, women with leaftlets, portaloos: that is all there is to be seen. And yet nobody uses the portaloos. From my own experience, I can tell you that in my life I have never wanted to pee less. The feeling that one will be watched, prohibited or handed a leaflet removes any desire to do anything. The comforting realisation that one is still alive is balanced perfectly by the dreadful sense that everything around is entirely devoid of life. This place is Limbo, with lavatories.

The people around you, the teeming hoards of people trying to get into the other wharf, make many noises, none of which sound like speech. They seem to be shouting in a language that is beyond words, an esperanto for the young, witless and pissed.

So you run, back to the safety and calm of Queen Street. You run past the worst covers band you have ever heard, one of the nouveaux pasticheurs, those musicians who do not bother to learn the tunes of Hotel California, Sweet Home Alabama and the other songs they slaughter but just play the same chords in differing tempi. You run past numerous gangs of marauding evangelicals, refusing their tracts and their prayers. You run past the somnolent masses of members of the glue-sniffing community. You run past fifty kebab shops and then you wake up and it was all a dream.

That last bit wasn't true. It is all horribly real. If it rains, it will be even worse.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shirtlifters of the world unite

“David and I were sunbathing on a very busy beach, when, out of the blue, two men, one middle-aged and the other much younger, approached us. One spoke perfect English, the other perfect French.

“They seemed nice and invited us out for a very generous lunch and poured us vodka. David and I had consumed quite a bit of alcohol and may have been a little intoxicated when they began hitting us with questions. It all seemed rather strange.”
Golly. Two young chaps, on a beach far away from School in an exotic foreign land are approached by friendly foreign gentlemen. Fortunately, young Cameron was not going to be taken in:
“They were clearly trying to sound out our political views. David’s weren’t particularly socialist at the time. They quickly grasped that he wasn’t a Lenin sympathiser or anything like that. We were not going to make disobliging remarks about Britain or our prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.”
No, that would be treachery and, as we all know about the Soviets, their trade is treachery. Fortunately, the young chaps were not Lenin sympathisers or, as we know them, Bolsheviks.

Young Cameron showed something of the mettle that has made him Britain's most decisive Prime Minister since Sir Alex Douglas-Home:
He said Cameron’s relaxed demeanour swiftly changed as he became suspicious about how the men could afford to pay for an extravagant lunch, when they claimed to work in a hotel.
Together, the two chums decided to be discreet and not to turn up for dinner
We decided it was probably best to be discreet and careful during our two-week wander around Russia, so we failed to turn up for dinner. David’s words were: 'Let’s definitely not go.’
Many years later, Griffith and Cameron - long-retired from public service - would often recall their adventures in the Caucasus over a glass of whiskey after dinner. On one such occasion, as the sun went down and the shadows crept across the lawn, they talked again of those two men whom they had met on that beach. As their laughter subsided, Griffith turned to Cameron and - looking him in they eye - said to his old friend, "you know, it's never occurred to me before but, come to think of it, maybe those Russian chaps just wanted a shag."

Shoplifters of the world shut up

"I have taken responsibility for my actions and am being accountable for the fact that what I did was wrong. I do regret everything that happened," she said.
That's nice. In this day and age it is a rare thing to hear someone accepting responsibility for her actions.
However, she said the justice system treated her unfairly.
No, no, there's no however.
"I did apply for name suppression to protect my son but the judge said 'no, because the public had a right to know'."

She said she gave a false name and address to the clinic because she did not want anyone to know she was having the treatment.

"I gave the correct phone number and I never ran out of the clinic. I was parked nearby and had left my wallet in the car. I went to get cash out and saw an ex.

"We have bad history and I thought he was going to stop and talk to me so I bolted. I didn't want to deal with him," she said.
No, stop now. Please. Ask yourself, what have you gained? Everybody now knows you did the crime and that you are rubbish at making excuses.
"I am too young to have Botox all the time but I had it once before.

"I did think I needed it because I have a strong frown line but it didn't change the way I look," she said
Stop , stop, stop. Not only are you dishonest and vain, you are also quite boring. Go away, please.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Strange things happen everyday

The fathers of two US Eagles rugby players were among the occupants of a van who had a lucky escape yesterday when their New Plymouth-bound vehicle veered into the path of oncoming traffic
This is a news story. In New Zealand news rooms, potential news stories are judged by a triage journalist who looks for vital signs of tragedy, celebrity and property. The ideal news story would be something like that of an All Black and his weathergirl wife being killed by a falling housing market. These things rarely happen, so newspapers have to look for carnage on the roads, much as do magpies. Usually they find some dead teens, at least by Sunday morning.

However, this is Rugby World Cup time, when normal rules do not apply. Thus the fathers of unnamed Americans can be substitute celebrities, simply by the inclusion of the word rugby. And, as can be seen in this instance, one does not need tragedy; the avoidance of such is enough.

Other strange things are happening every day. Readers may have noticed the recent adventures in social commentary enjoyed by Rachel Glucina, while today an equal but opposite event occurred when Fran O'Sullivan drivelled:
Watching the former Cold War warriors toughing it out in New Plymouth the other night was great sport on several levels.

Particularly, the arrival of Miss Russia, Natalia Gantimurova, on a private turboprop with billionaire Russian Standard Vodka founder Roustam Tariko.

Good also to see our Prime Minister cosying up to Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, making one of those special connections that will assist New Zealand as we move to cement a trade agreement with that country.
A simple but terrifying explanation is behind these two phenomena. In the New Zealand Herald's secret laboratories, scientists have managed to fuse these two columnists into one supercolumnist, a being so powerful that no event, whether important or trivial, will remain uncommented upon. This being is known by the name Fran O'Glucina. Where is your god now?

On Later with Jools Holland, as it turns out. Here, Mr Holland and Mr Tom Jones sing Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Note also the woman at 1:35 clapping enthusiastically but out of time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Were you there when they crucified Len Brown?

Everything you need to know about the political management of the Rugby World Cup in Auckland can be found in this Rudman and in this photograph. Murray McCully, the Cabinet's Kenneth Widmerpool, is quick to take the credit and quicker still to avoid the responsibility, just like his Prime Minister. When it was all going swimmingly, Murray was in charge. When the going got tough, Murray was gone as soon as he could point a pudgy finger of blame at Mayor Brown and shout "you're it!"

The Dear Administrator also made sure the buck would stop nowhere near him, not this close to an election:
Asked if Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully was wrong not to apologise he said no. "Party central worked perfectly".The Government had responsibility for The Cloud the police and the opening ceremony. Most got to the game but a small group did not. Key said he was more than happy to apologise, but responsibility was with the delivery agents in Auckland.
Party Central did indeed work perfectly, for the simple reason that most people who wanted to enter it were kept out. Those people, tens of thousands of them, blocked the entire waterfront. Since Auckland's waterfront is also its transport hub, Auckland found itself hosting a very large party on its train, bus and ferry stations.

So, party out of bounds, who's to blame, who's to blame? Perhaps the blame lies with the person who thought it would be a smashing idea to create Party Central on the waterfront. That person would be Mr Key. Or perhaps blame lies with his creature, Mr McCully, who had the job of managing the event. But no, they blame the Mayor.

Pausing only to reflect that these are quite contemptible people, we might then look at what was happening in the middle of the city while chaos reigned at the waterfront. Not a great deal, as it turned out: Aotea Square, the public space recently refurbished at great public expense, was largely unused. It contained a covers band of the not-terribly-good kind, a face-painting facility and two Land Rovers. These last occupied most of the Square, which had been fenced-off to provide a space in which they could drive round and round, showing off their extraordinary ability to go over ramps. This could be done by a 1983 Corolla but then Toyota is not a Global Partner of the Rugby World Cup. And that was it. The centre of our city, recently landscaped to within an inch of its life, looked like the remnants of a third-rate A&P show. And it does to this day: as I write, those bloody Land Rovers most likely are still going round and round.

Pausing only to reflect that this shows how public space can so easily be corporatised - this is our public square, not Land Rover's car park - we might consider what went wrong. Here's a working hypothesis. Mr Key had a vision. He knew what had to be done. Mr Key has a can-do attitude. Unfortunately, he can't.

Mr Key's vision was rubbish from the start. Queen's Wharf, his envisioned site for Party Central, is - as its name suggests - a wharf. As such, it has characteristically wharfine features. It has four sides, three of which are bordered by water and only one that is attached to land. This means, as I am sure you have realised, that is has only one entrance from the land. It is also much longer than it is wide. So this happens: people go on to the wharf from the landward end. Of course, they cannot leave it other than at that end; in any case, they may not want to leave, since the wharf has a pub, huge television screens and Dave Dobbyn. However, lots of other people also want to experience these attractions but they cannot do so, because the wharf is full. So, they go elsewhere, but there is nowhere else to go, because this is Auckland. They fill up the adjoining bus and train stations as well as the small parts of the waterfront available for public use, including the ferry terminal. They walk up Queen Street, filling the pavements and then the road. Soon, nothing is moving - except the Land Rovers.

Then, some hours later, everybody with a ticket wants to go to the game. Despite official encouragement to walk, they all pile on the train, which cannot take the strain.

In retrospect, it may occur to Mr Key that the best place for public events is a public space. Aotea Square could not have held everybody but at least it would have kept them away from the transport system. The Domain would have been a better idea still.

But Mr Key had a vision. The wharf would be Party Central, as well as a cruise-ship terminal, which would be built in record time. What's more, the local authorities would pay for it. The local authorities were understandably reluctant to do so. There was no time to build the cruise-ship terminal. Instead, we wound up with a tent and a shed. The shed was there already; the tent cost $9.8. Unfortunately, both were on the wharf.

Build it and they will come. That they did. And they had drunk quite a bit before they got their drinking together, shortly before they really got into it. Having no idea what to do with a large mass of understandably drunk people, the event organisers - Messrs Key and McCully - had made no provision for them. Some could get on the wharf but most would have to go somewhere else. That they did. Chaos ensued.

Of course, there is no retrospect about this, not for Messrs Key and McCully. They have shifted blame and moved on, just like they always do. We, the citizens of Auckland, are left with the chaos and the bill.

In Scotland again

So, I am walking across K Road where it meets Queen Street and a sound carries across the ether, the sound of bitterness and of rancour. A man in a white van is leaning out of his van shouting at the driver of a car, presumably because of some slight that the man in the van believed said driver had committed. And the van is decorated with a thistle motif and bears the company name Celtic Solutions. Ah yes, of course, this would be a Celtic solution. Fortunately, it did not lead to a Gorbals kiss.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Funny old world, isn't it?

According to Idiot/Savant, we now live in a world without secrets, thanks to Julian Assange and his chums.

The identity of Idiot/Savant remains a secret.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Could have been a contender


The Queens Wharf fanzone and function centre was completed this week and will host the Pacific Islands Forum from September 6. The last touches are being applied to Shed 10, which is expected to be ready early next week.


Construction of the waka-shaped pavilion is complete and it is ready to be assembled on-site at Te Wero Island in the week of September 26.

The three marquees that are also part of Waka Maori and will showcase carving, ta moko, weaving and fashion will be built after the waka is in place. Event planners say Waka Maori will be ready to open on October 13. It runs until October 23

Are we ready? No. The Great Manager's vision of Paaarty Central, now reduced to an inelegant shed and a giant tubigrip, will just scrape through, all things being equal (which they are not). The waka-shaped pavilion, cruelly named by this blogeur as the "tupperwaka," might be ready in time for the closing ceremony, with any luck (of which there is little).

And that is it, just about; three structures in search of a purpose, two of them also searching for new homes once the rugger buggers have gone. What will happen in these structures is still something of a mystery. The shed was repurposed without any real purpose. The waka-shaped pavilion will promote Maori enterprises, useful for any visitors who prefer trade fairs to football. The tubigrip (officially known as the Cloud, since it is long and white) has some giant screens for the watching of games and perhaps some other attractions beyond getting pissed; no, hold the front page: it will be a trade fair.

Of course, we have the Events Centre, which is nice if you have an event to hold, such as a trade fair. Then there is the Wynyard Quarter, in which it sits: a curiously distracted work of urban design, where various family-orientated amusements are scattered. These include a basketball hoop, some seats and a sculpture which had been in storage for several years after being ousted during the last project of urban design, the repurposing of Queen Elizabeth Square as a transport hub (in common parlance, bus stops).  And there is a piano.

Families will find nowhere to buy family necessities, since there is no dairy or superette, while the lavatories are far and few. Instead there is an artless row of restaurants and bars, the urban designers presumably having decided that Auckland's waterfront has not quite enough places for eating and drinking at a substantial price. And there is a tram, which travels around the Quarter. For ten dollars you can sit on it all day; five dollars if you can prove you are not a tourist. If you have an interest in old industrial buildings, you will enjoy the sightseeing.

What you will not see is anybody in charge. The Wynyard Quarter seems to have been purposefully designed to minimise staffing costs. The Council is now asking for people who are passionate about the waterfront to step forward. However, only those who are so passionate that they are prepared to work for nothing need apply. The women who used to be passionate about the waterfront, the ship girls, are nowhere to be seen.  In their stead, the latest up-and-coming musical talent will be there during the summer, presumably playing for nothing.

Of course, we architectural theorists love this sort of thing. It is full of absence, of loss, of memory and the possiblity of memory loss. It is peculiarly inanimate, as this animation shows. For ordinary kiwi mums and dads, it might prove to be something of a disappointment, a place to go where there is nowhere to go.  It is not really for us.You are really only wanted round these parts if you have money to spend, if you are part of the business class. Perhaps we should call it the Empty Quarter.