Hard News by Russell Brown

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I'm happy enough with the All Black side - if not entirely confident that Graham Henry actually has the time to train up a team to beat the relentlessly-drilled England side. The selection certainly indicates that the All Black trial mattered: only two of the Probables pack from last week will run onto the field at Carisbrook.

The Possibles front row - Meeuws, Mealamu, Hayman - basically picked themselves by shunting their opponents all over the pitch during the trial, and Henry said yesterday that Jonno Gibbes, picked as a blindside flanker a week after the coaches identified him as primarily a lock, had been the standout forward in that game. This will be Gibbes' first test match, only one fewer than Xavier Rush, but both of them are old heads: I don't expect them to freak out.

While we fret about our unknown quantities, the Poms are worried that their side harbours no secrets - especially given the recent British experience of the coaching team. According to the Guardian, "Rarely has any New Zealand coaching panel known so much about the opposition in advance and Sir Clive Woodward badly needs to produce a tactical curve-ball of some description." Interesting.

There's more pithy NZ sports comment - well, more pithy than you'll get in the mainstream press, anyway - in the rather good sports blog Blogging It Real.

The Greens want the government to introduce country-of-origin labelling on imported produce - pointing specifically at the cheap Chinese garlic that has landed by the tonne in our market, largely pushing out the local product. Actually, my local vege shop is advertising just that distinction at the moment - and I'm surprised that the rest of the market hasn't done more. By the time it lands here, the Chinese garlic is frankly terrible - dry, tasteless and sprouting - and I'm sure I'm not the only shopper who'd pay several times the price for locally-grown garlic. Price isn't everything, you know …

Tim Michie pointed that the Maxim Institute is running a tertiary student essay competition - six lucky winners will get to work for Maxim in the holidays. Six? These people have money. The suggested text for the essay topic is C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man, one of the sacred tomes of the whole hell-in-a-handbasket movement. (You can crib and buy an essay on that.) It's fairly obvious that an essay which does not accord with the Maxim worldview will not be a winning one, but if anyone wants to enter such an essay I'll be happy to consider it for publication here after the contest has closed. We might even be able to manage a prize of our own …

Michelle Elleray emailed from Canada with a further comment on the views on Maori and homosexuality advanced by Bishop Vercoe at the weekend:

Bishop Vercoe's opinion that homosexuality is a product of colonialism goes well beyond NZ shores - you can even find the sentiment in as astute a thinker as Frantz Fanon. But Ngahuia Te Awekotuku is the one to turn to here. In Mana Wahine Maori she argues that colonialism brought not homosexuality, but homophobia: "My challenge is this: we should reconstruct the tradition, reinterpret the oral history of this land, so skilfully manipulated by the crusading heterosexism of the missionary ethic" (Mana Wahine Maori, p.37).

Duane Griffin drew my attention to www.theyworkforyou.com, a new website from the people behind Fax Your MP and Public Whip in the UK:

It is really, really amazing. You can search Hansard through everything said in parliament since 2001. You can link to each speech within a debate, and add comments to them. You can see a profile of you local MP (by typing in your post-code) including how they voted on key votes, how often they vote against their party, and what their 'registered interests' are. You can get RSS feeds for individual MPs, and on search topics (i.e. you'll be notified whenever that topic is mentioned in parliament). There's more, much more. Now I'm wondering, how long before the NZ version is up & running?

Me wanna AirPort Express. Apple's new portable wi-fi base station doubles as a receiver for wirelessly streaming music from your computer to the stereo in the lounge - or anywhere else in the house. It's way cool.

Staying on the Mac tip, I popped along to a launch for Microsoft's Office Mac 2004 last night. I'm normally immune to Microsoft feature creep - just tell me it's faster and more stable, okay? - but I couldn't suppress a yelp of delight when I saw that MS has added a simple scrapbook utility to Office. I've been looking for a Scrapbook replacement ever since Apple unaccountably removed it from the MacOS. Mark Webster from MacGuide has been using the Office beta and he swears that it is faster and more stable. Jolly good then.

World Press Review rounds up international editorial reactions to the death of Ronald Reagan. And Billmon has an interesting look at his domestic and economic legacy, among other things.

I'm interviewing David Slack (yes, the same David Slack over to the left there) about his new book for Penguin - Bullshit, Backlash and Bleeding Hearts: A Confused Person's Guide to the Great race Row - at 1pm on The Wire on 95bfm today. You can connect via the website and listen online if you like. There's a big orange sticker on my manuscript, warning against "divulging its contents" before publication date: I take this as license to divulge its style: which is highly accessible. The book does show signs of having been written quickly, but David has the speechwriter's knack of writing prose that people can grasp at first pass. I think it's going to be quite an influential book. David wrote about how the book came to be, in the Sunday Star Times.