Hard News by Russell Brown

After SpongeBob

The youth of the nation tumbled into my inbox like a great, anguished wave yesterday. Disturbed, confused and alienated by the brief gay snog in a public health cartoon condom ad, they were also spilling over with gratitude to National’s Murray McCully for so generously voicing their pain about it.

"First Spongebob and now this," they wailed as one.

Well, actually, they didn't. At all. But a couple of people were pretty funny on the topic. Matt Powell said "my flatmates love those ads", and exclusively shared a real conversation from his house:

Female Flatmate: I love how there's a boy/boy one.

Male Flatmate: (perking up considerably) There is? Is there a girl/girl one?

Female Flatmate: ...

Male Flatmate: Uh, never mind.

Sam Finnemore, meanwhile, reported that "the most fuss I've heard about the Hubba Hubba trailers is when me and the people at my girlfriend's flat run wagers on whether the gay or hetero couple appear." Aha! State-funded advertisement lures young people into gambling!

Several bloggers have ventured opinions on Te Ara The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, which launched last week. It has the silky command of Internet syntax that you'd expect from Shift, and I really like the fact that the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand has been incorporated in the new website.

On the other hand, the contemporary culture sections would seem to have a way to go yet. The music page reads a bit like a pamphlet for the government's culture policies, and the "further sources" page is fairly institutional (if you're going to post a link to Art New Zealand, why not nzmusic.com?). I'd be interested to hear what readers think about other parts of the encyclopaedia.

David Farrar has an idea for which there might yet be room: divert the equivalent of 10% of Te Ara's foundation cost to funding updates of New Zealand entries in Wikipedia. Allow me to lend my voice to that in principle.

On the other hand, Rodney Hide is just being silly in suggesting that an expanded wiki entry under "New Zealand" could have substituted for an official online encyclopaedia. The two do quite different jobs. Meanwhile, Christiaan Briggs has been inviting debate via the Wikipedia entry on the New Zealand flag.

Stephen Judd reported that, to judge by discussions on the NZ Network Operators Group list, problems reaching Stuff yesterday were most likely something to do with to its shift last week to peering at the Wellington Internet Exchange (WIX). Ironically, this change was made to improve performance over Stuff's former 10Mbit/s connection via TelstraClear. This has had the desired effect for some people - but unfortunately, both Telecom and Telstra Clear last year ceased peering at WIX, for commercial reasons.

This is also the reason you might not be able to access the new streaming content on the Radio New Zealand site (I can't get it via Wired Country or JetStream at the moment). It is, in my view, unacceptable that the two big players should be breaking the Internet in this way. I think it's time for the government to wade in and mandate open peering (or at least threaten to do so, which is usually what it takes to get a result in that industry).

Some audio content you should be able to hear with no problems: Zach Bagnall has archived my 95bFM Wire interviews with Barbara Sumner Burstyn and the Ministry of Health's Jane O'Hallahan regarding Sumner Burstyn's story on the meningococcal vaccine scheme, which attracted the attention of National's health spokesman, Paul Hutchison. The MoH also issued a slightly snotty press statement in advance of the interview last week, which pointed to An Attempt To Swindle Nature:Anti-Immunization Press Reports in Australia 1993-1997. What do I think? Well, my kids will be vaccinated …

Australia's Howard government caught lying - again. Rod Barton, a former officer of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, alleged last night on ABC TV's Four Corners programme that ministers and officials were lying when they said they had taken no part in the interrogation of Australian prisoners - and that he personally had participated in such interrogations. Barton says he quit in disgust after learning that the CIA had censored a crucial report on the presence, or otherwise, of WMDs in Iraq. One of the Australians interned, Mamdouh Habib, reported being subjected to sexual torture, which seems to have been an extraordinarily widespread feature of the war on terror. And they wonder why some people don't understand …

And finally, Lisa Williams has posted an excellent little video called Four Minutes About Podcasting, which tell you what you might need to know.

PS: Separated at birth? The website of Capital Times. The website of The Listener. Crikey …