Hard News by Russell Brown


Not off to bed

Damian already has some thoughts on the party pills issue - including a very good taxi-driver story - so I won't give it too much space. But I'm not entirely surprised at the decision. While the great majority of users of piperazine (or, as the pronunciation wallahs at Radio NZ have deemed it, "pip-razeen") based products will suffer no more than the infamous party pills hangover, a crucial few have experienced significant adverse reactions, not all of them related to overdose.

As I have noted before, it's just a shame that we happened to have the great social experiment of permitting a new recreational drug with BZP and TFMPP. Both of them were legal essentially because they were not clearly illegal, rather than through any particular merit. There may well have been better alternatives in the great acronymic playground of the "research chemicals". On the other hand, Matt Bowden's short-lived ecstasy substitute, methylone, was removed from the market not because it was deemed harmful but because, eventually, it was deemed to be an analogue of ecstasy itself, and therefore already illegal. It's a shite way of running things.

Jim Anderton is already copping the scorn of a generation - on the Herald's Your Views page at any rate - but I'm inclined to credit him for actually commissioning research in the first place. On the other hand, Ross Bell of the Drug Foundation is probably right when he says the government would have achieved more control of the BZP market through regulation than an outright ban.

Anyway, this is what will happen:

1. There will be a a rush on party pills (so to speak) before they become illegal at the end of the year. People will stock up, and they will be in use for as long as a year afterwards. The stockpiling may encourage overdose. I don't expect a long-term black market in BZP - it's just not that good - but I would expect it to start turning up unannounced in pills being sold as ecstasy. That could get ugly.

2. Party people will not suddenly start going to bed early. Some might soldier on with alcohol as a social lubricant, others will seek illegal drugs. Patterns of methamphetamine use may change, with P -- smoked methamphetamine -- retaining its social stigma, but snorting seen (with some justification) as a less risky means of consumption.

3. New quasi-legal substances will emerge. Anderton is talking about reversing the burden of proof, and making suppliers "prove" the safety of new substances. No one will know quite what that means. The promised revamp of the Misuse of Drugs Act will turn into a ghastly and unproductive bunfight in which National, New Zealand First and United Future will pick on the Greens. The fond idea that something should not be prohibited unless there is a reason to do so will not get much airtime.

Anyway, I recently became a "Moto-Ambassador". This is essentially a scheme for ensuring that I always have a cooler phone than you do _ whether I deserve to or not. It also means I occasionally get invited to Motorola ligs, as was the case on Wednesday night when I went along to a private gig by Hollie Smith at Orams Marine in Beaumont Street.

As configured on Wednesday night, Orams Marine is a groovy little lounge bar overlooking the marina - with the best foyer ever. It was a sci-fi experience entering through the vast hangar stacked 20 metres high on either side with leisure craft. And nipping outside where a Waiheke Island ferry was up in dry dock was pretty wiggy too. Oliver Driver and I proposed a news story whereby a drunken Campbell Smith had stolen the ferry after a big night at a Waiheke winery and woken up high and dry with no idea how he got there. I daresay the Herald on Sunday will be interested.

Anyway, in the lounge bar I got my first chance to see Hollie Smith play live. She really is quite extraordinary, and the music is intriguingly arranged and hard to pin to any particular genre. I can't help but feel that a year in, say New York (and away from Wellington) will render that music a bit harder and wilder, and that will be a good thing. But the gig itself fell prey to the perils of the promotional lig. By the time it ended fully three quarters of the people in the room were more occupied with yakking away at each other than listening to the music. That was disrespectful.

Elsewhere, Reason magazine has an astonishing story on the "troubled teen" industry in the US (with the odd Guantanamo-like offshore operation), which has seen well-intentioned parents commit their children to "tough love" camps run by frightening sadists.

The Guardian has a story about the "nuclear letter" that Gordon Brown must write, in his own hand, issuing instructions to submarine commanders in the case of a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Possible options for the commanders include retaliation in kind, coming under the command of the US, if it exists, and "go to Australia". New Zealand appears to be missing out badly on the post-apocalyptic tourism market.

I watched part one of Andrew Rawnsley's The Rise and Fall of Tony Blair last night, and I can recommend it to those with the ability to employ Friends in England. It's cohesive and intelligent. Don't expect it to turn up on telly here.

If you have bought the new Metro you will be aware that (a) it contains a choice feateru on moving to Wellington by Damian Christie, and (b) it contains a picture and a little bit of text about me as one of the 47 "influentials". But here's something you probably don't know about the group shot in which I am seated next to David Cunliffe: it never happened. David, P Money and a couple of others sat for the picture at a different time and were Photoshopped in later (when I arrived, the photographer, Toaki Okano, even had a mock-up of the shot populated by multiple instances of his own asssistants). You can tell if you look very closely, but it's still quite impressive.

And, finally, I know there will be a bunch of you interested in this: bFM's Jose Barbosa scored an interview with Joss Whedon. An edited version aired on Breakfast this morning, but the full version is available on the 95bFM podcast here. Yowsa.

PS: Looks like I won't have time to update our own Public Address Radio podcast until the weekend, but we have a good show in the can for tomorrow: audio from the Google Press Day in Paris; an interview with Jason Paris about TVNZ's YouTube deal; a feature on mobile phones in Mumbai; and an interview with Mr Brown of Singapore. That's 2pm tomorrow on Radio Live.

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