Hard News by Russell Brown


Blowing up the PA system is the stuff of ordinary legend in garage rock. It takes a special talent to set the PA on fire by playing through it. And that, friends, is what the D4 managed at the King's Arms on Friday night.

There was a sudden burst of cheering on the far side of the room, and it soon became clear what it was about. Orange flames were licking out the front grill of the stage-right speaker. The D4, as you would fully expect of a group that has mortgaged its soul to 100% rock 'n' roll, kept on playing. Eventually, just as the mood of the crowd was turning from how-cool-is-this? to shouldn't-somebody-be-doing-something-about-now?, some guy turned up and put out the flames. With a hose. While the band kept playing. Cool.

It was the you-had-to-be-there moment of a you-had-to-be-there evening, which began for us when David Slack, Damian and I converged on the London Bar for a pint or three with our offshore blogging brother Che Tibby. Damian had later duties befitting a hip young media guy, but the rest of us, plus Che's mate Spencer, headed up the hill to the KA, where we arrived to a packed-to-the-gills crowd, just after the Fanatics had played.

We assembled in the old chaps' grandstand in time for the MintChicks, who were electrifying. I don't quite know how to describe them: punk rock art-pop with a little Gang of Four, maybe? Anyway, they clearly know what they're doing. "What did you make of that?" I asked Che. "I didn't know what to make of that," he confessed. But good, anyway.

The incendiary and electrifying came back around for Sunday morning, when a young All Black side summoned one of the great All Black performances to destroy France 45-6. With the exception of a few lost lineouts, it was hard to find any fault with the performance. A tight five that operated with such controlled fury that the vaunted French just about gave up; a loose trio that for once was not carried on the back of Richie McCaw; and some really pretty good backs.

It would be unreasonable to expect quite this sort of showing every time, and perhaps it was the old-soldier factor, with the poppies on the sleeves and the Dave Gallaher trophy up for grabs, that was the key to it. I was interested to hear both So'oialo and Kelleher talk afterwards about creating "a new All Black legacy". It might be a bit soon for that, but I wonder if this "new legacy" thing was a particularly clever bit of psychology from Henry and co., in the sense that the key to releasing the young All Blacks was getting them out from under the weight of old All Black legacy and letting them create something of their own.

I wonder what Simon Barnes - the sort of arrogant little snot that tends to converge on rugby writing in the British Isles - is planning to say in his follow-up to his pre-match sneer-fest under the headline All Blacks trading on nothing but worn-out myths.

Meanwhile, I got a stern email from Stephen Glaister, who professed himself very pro-civil unions and same-sex marriage, but was "disappointed" in me for lashing Stephen Franks, rather than Jacquie Grant over her "vaguely Orwellian threats" in two emails to the Campaign Against Civil Unions. I understand his point, and Grant, as she admitted, shouldn't have identified herself as a member of the Human Rights Review Tribunal (which she had been for two weeks before writing). But it might be useful to look at what she actually said rather than relying on the interpretations of others:

I will debate these issues with you anywhere anytime but I think you are basically cowardly people and I do not expect to have that opportunity soon. Rest assured you will be taken to task at every opportunity for hate crime.

I don't like the term "hate crime", and I think the concept probably amounts to gimmick law (in a similar way to, say, the home invasion legislation). But the emails are clearly personal (full text here) and I just don't think they can reasonably taken as a threat to bring down the dark hand of the state. (A definition of take to task ...) Unwise? Probably. Orwellian? Sinister? Hardly.

Indeed, and ironically, it's not Grant or any of her friends seeking to bring official retribution to bear, but the Campaign Against Civil Unions itself, which claimed in a press release to have obtained legal advice that Grant's words were a "threat of legal action against our website on the basis that the dissemination of its contents constitutes a 'hate crime'."

So, um, they were being threatened with prosecution under a law that does not and may never exist? Wow. The campaign followed that up with a letter to Margaret Wilson seeking to have Grant (who says she, too, is a Christian) fired from her new job. Meanwhile, everyone seems to have missed the fact that Peter Dunne tried to get the Human Rights Commission to act against Express newspaper because he didn't like being called "the ugly face of homophobia". Now, when some people even talk about doing this sort of thing, they're "liberal fascists", but if Peter Dunne does it, he's ... oh, whatever. There is no consistency.

And certainly not in the person of Franks himself, who is perennially happy to shout down the speech of others, and - as when he tried to have Haami Piripi dismissed after his submission on the foreshore and seabed - summon official retribution if he doesn't get what he wants. On the other hand, he is so obsessive about the right (which is not presently being challenged) of religious fundamentalists to use lies and bogus science to vilify a group in society that he wants to insert a bizarre amendment into the Civil Unions Bill to specifically approve it. Go figure.

There was more on the CUB from the Weekend Herald's pet conservative, Sandra Paterson, who said in her column on Saturday that:

Contrary to widespread belief, same-sex couples already have exactly the same next-of-kin and hospital or mortuary visitation rights as heterosexuals, according to human rights legislation and in hospital codes of practice. Telling the country that we need to pass this new legislation to give gays those rights is downright dishonest.

It's a bit glib to say that the only reason Nigel Pearson was not allowed to see his deceased partner or deal with the body was because "normal process was not followed". Feel free to read the submission by Calum Bennachie, in which he notes that on entering hospital in 1998, "despite my father having disowned me, and my wish to have my partner, and my partner alone, listed as my next of kin, I was forced to nominate my father as next of kin." One problem appears to be that the meaning of next-of-kin is subject to the interpretation of individual hospital staff. Would you want to gamble on striking a supportive nurse in your time of crisis? I understand Nigel Pearson has already sent a right-of-reply letter to the Herald.

Still, best of luck to Sandra in the soul-saving league table. You go girl!

There wasn't a whole lot added to the SIS story in the papers this weekend - in either the Star Times' crusade or the Herald camp's all-to-eager attempts to dismiss the whole thing - although the private security consultant retained by Tariana Turia did emerge for a front page story, to confirm his view that her phone had been tampered with. Trouble is, no one seems to think it was the SIS that did that. I thought Chris Trotter's comment in the Star Times - weighing up the idea of a younger, more nationalistic faction in the SIS leaking information to the likes of Scoop - was actually the best of the writing, but it doesn't seem to be online. Anyway, this post is already over 1300 words, so perhaps I'll leave that weighty topic till tomorrow.

Bridget Saunders really ought to stick to what she knows, even if that does narrow things down quite a lot. In an ill-informed snipe at bFM in her celeb section in About Town, she claimed that "95bFM is not the crowd-pleaser it once was. Ratings, in fact, are a bit depressing and advertisers are rolling their eyes." Darling, ratings in fact went up in the latest survey (and, for that matter, the one before that, I think).

The 12-2pm weekday slot that is The Wire has added 1.6 points of share in all listeners 10+, and 7000 listeners to the weekly cume since the last survey. In bFM's - ahem - target demographic of 18-39, the Wire slot has a cume of 9400 listeners; 10th overall and more than Newstalk ZB. I don't think anyone's grieving over that.

Just one more thing: the New Zealand Herald popped up with a nice new website on Saturday. Among other things, it makes it much easier to find the opinion writing. But mostly, I was relieved to see the search window finally turn up on the home page this morning. It's still not actually working, but I was afraid that through some mad reasoning, it had gone away for ever …