Hard News by Russell Brown

Born to Text

Our 11 year-old is back in school, after several months' complete estrangement from the system, and - fingers crossed - it seems to be going pretty well. Part of the arrangement was that he'd get a mobile phone, and after a frustrating hour of trudging around yesterday (is Noel Leeming at the St Lukes Megacentre the most difficult place in the country to actually buy something at?) we found the right phone at the right price.

The thing is that without actually being told how, he's texting like a pro. I got an extensive message from him at school this morning, and replied to tell him that he was born to have a mobile phone. "Hehe," he shot back, "I learn quick."

Clearly. I think a bravura performance in a tricky class spelling test has boosted his self-confidence in the new environment. He explained to me why he did so well: many, many hours playing MMORPGs. "That's where I learned those words," he explained. "Like 'suffice'. Everyone else spelled that with one 'f'."

I'm not surprised. I don't think it would pass the sniff test for home-schooling, but I did think that for most of last year he was getting more educational engagement out of World of Warcraft and its cultural ephemera (hell, he may even know how spell "ephemera") than the system. (NB: This isn't a criticism of any of the people who taught or helped him at primary school - we got huge support from his school - just the reality of conventional classrooms for some kids.)

Meanwhile Autism Diva touches on something we thankfully haven't had a problem with - bullying - in an intriguing post on the social skills of presumed normal people.

No Right Turn has a non-shrill look at the Labour Party's referral to the police on the issue of campaign overspending - and isn't impressed, while noting that in a broader sense, the campaign spending rules are a mess. The rules around the leaders' funds - which in theory can't be used for electioneering - are bent by every party in Parliament, but if Labour was in fact clearly warned as to the status of the pledge card spending before the election, and then ignored the advice, somebody's in big trouble. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe they don't have a slightly better defence than "we did it last time and the rules are unclear". He also looks at private members' bills in the ballot, including a stupid one from New Zealand First, which Labour has agreed to support to committee stage as part of the coalition deal.

When Christiaan Briggs emailed a pointer to a post titled 'They murder while we accidentally kill' with the subject line "Do you think the photo's too much?" I hesitated: I don't much like looking at pictures of dead and dismembered people. But I had a look eventually, to discover that the photo is in fact a portrait of David P. Farrar. The horror

We've had a number of new entrants for the Public Address Virtual Super 14 leader board since I blogged on Monday - and we have a new leader! John Pagani has overcome the considerable disadvantage of being in France to score 47 points in week one, just edging out James 'Outrageous Fortune' Griffin on 45. The full list of Public Address Playas can be viewed here. (We've had a few new entrants since I saved the page, so they'll be in next week's list.) If you're playing Virtual Super 14 and would like to join our crew, just hit the reply button below and tell me your player name.

Meanwhile, Hadyn Green and his mates have launched a rugby podcast called Dropkicks. Go listen.

And one of our players has a little job working for a telecommunications company in Brisbane. He blogs it. " "FYI," he notes in one post, "don't try to cure a hangover with a laxative. It doesn't 'get it out of your system'." Well, obviously

Matt Fordham notes Not Your Usual Bollocks, a podcast/blog whose slogan ("… because mainstream radio is shit") may seem oddly familiar. That's because it's run by Marenco Kemp, a London-based New Zealander who learned the way and the truth as a bFM listener. The podcast focuses on unsigned artists and is attracting quite a lot of attention.

Who says journalists are no good for anything? The Herald's Alan Perrott tells me he's now busting some grooves as the DJ at (where else?) the Shakespeare on Friday nights, from 8.30-ish to midnight. It'll be "totally old school of all shades."

Alan also notes that he managed to score some Kanye West tickets, but wonders if it'll work for him, because, well, rap gigs usually don't. I know what he means. I have golden memories of seeing Boogie Down Productions at the Brixton Academy and Public Enemy in a variety of venues (the last being their feel-good gig at the Power Station), but I've also come away underwhelmed from shows by rap acts I've loved on record.

Elsewhere, Akweli Parker asks what the hell's wrong with hip-hop. Damn right. Just quietly, most of the best rap music these days is being made by little girls from London. Specifically, MIA and Lady Sovereign. Lady Sov's riotous single 'Random' is available as a free MP3 download.

On quite another tip, WFMU has found something amazing: a 1966 album of Batman-themed music for children - performed by an uncredited band consisting of most of Sun Ra and the Arkestra. The main Batman theme is brilliant.

And from the same source, the perfect thing to spring on yer mate when he's tripping: Composer Thomas Dimuzio has cut 'Stairway to Heaven' into 666 pieces, reversed the pieces and then reassembled it in forward order to retain the melody. It's very strange.

PS: Thanks to everyone at the Hero Debate on Monday night. You gotta love gay (well, mostly gay) audiences. Full value for every joke.

PPS: Look out tomorrow for some stuff on the campaign to roll over "network neutrality", aka The End of the Internet. You should be afraid.