Hard News by Russell Brown


The Sunday Capers

Having passed up on a comedy show, a memorial gig and yum cha with Keith Ng's gang in order to tend to a cold, I had plenty of time this weekend to play the game of finding the most absurd story in the Sunday papers.

The Herald's on Sunday's lead was particularly desperate. Brothel in Nat MP's house, it shouted from the front page. Underneath the headline (but not in the actual story) was the paragraph:

A house owned by a National MP was used by tenants as a brothel and has been shut down after complaints from horrified neighbours. The MP, Kanwal Bakshi, said yesterday he was unaware of what the tenants were up to, as residents in the leafy street spoke out about their neighbours from hell.

You have to read the story to find out that Bakshi appears to have moved to evict the tenants of the property he owns with two other men as soon as he was personally contacted by a resident, and they were out within three weeks (which was still too swift for the city council to investigate). He's a little hazy on what his property manager might have told him about the business being conducted, but it's not actually illegal to operate a brothel in a residential property -- it's just that this one seems to have quite clearly been in breach of the fairly tight regulations on sch a business. I suppose it's a story, given that John Key has agreed he should have been informed; but a shock-horror lead? Hardly.

In the Sunday Star Times, the week's most stupid story is on page A6 (although not, apparently, online): 'Herbal sex remedy round-up leans on lattes':

Imagine needing a prescription before placing your coffee order or biting into a bar of chocolate. It could come to pass -- in theory at least -- if some of our most popular foodstuffs get caught up in a change of legislation aimed at tackling herbal se remedies.

No it bloody couldn't -- as Medsafe's Stuart Jessamine explicitly states further down the story. The problem is that some "herbal" products targeting erectile dysfunction contain the same PDE-5 inhibitors -- sildenafil and its analogues -- as drugs such as Viagra, but are not prescription medicines. Selling these things off supermarket shelves is potentially very dangerous. So Medsafe wants them t be defined as prescription medicines.

The reporter, Lois Watson, has presumably copped her angle from a supplier of the "herbal" products, hence the bizarre angle. But this is what Jessamine says:

"Medsafe is aware that a number of substances, including coffee, chocolate and pomegranate juice, contain naturally occurring substances with very weak, clinically insignificant PDE-5 inhibitory effects. Caffeeine is one million times less potent than sildenafil.

"There is no intention that substances such as those you have mentioned with clinically insignificant activity will be captured by the proposed legislation."

The entire premise of the story is nonsense.

And is there a word for the sin of pride in one's own comprehensive ignorance? Michael Laws' column on swine flu would take it.


Speaking of ignorance, Ian Wishart's new book Air Con: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming gets disembowelled by Gareth Renowden on Hot Topic.

And Tane at The Standard discovers the source of the book's cover art. Good grief.


I was at Friday night's New Zealand Music Month showcase when I acknowledged to myself that I had a cold and should go home and be warm, even if it meant missing Sola Rosa's set. And then, just to rub it in, I walked a kilometre to my car in cold rain.

But up till then, it was sweet. The bar at the Montechristo Room was not, as many people seem to have anticipated, a free-for-all (but really -- eight bucks for a light beer?), but the music was excellent.

Before The Checks took the stage to play a set of the new songs on their forthcoming album (recorded in only three weeks), I could see an arm at the side of the stage, furiously back-combing some hair. I couldn't think who that might be. Turned out, it was the band's new keyboard player, who has a funky 'fro. Which is as good a touchstone as any for the new sound: think the groove of Black and Blues period stones, with a bit of stoner rock and, I dunno, some Muse thrown in? Anyway, I'll look forward to seeing them again.

Then, downstairs, it was Bang! Bang! Eche, who were absolutely full of beans with their dance-punk thing. I really enjoyed them, even if they did make my ears hurt some more.

And, finally, Midnight Youth, this year's industry hope. I had an idea that they'd be another Zed or, lord forbid, Goodnight Nurse. They certainly are not. It's not quite my thing -- I'm not much of a Coldplay fan -- but Midnight Youth's stadium pop is extremely convincing, and Jeremy Redmore has a hell of a voice.

It can seem with a band that suddenly breaks the surface that they've sprung into being fully-formed -- and it felt that way on Friday night -- but I gather the band have been honing their popcraft for some time, much of that with a different singer. Intriguingly, all three bands I saw got their start with the Smokefree Rock Quest. That contest really has become important.


While the family was off at the Wolverine movie on Saturday, I lit a fire and watched documentaries. Anyone who feels that their political indignation needs stoking should watch the PBS Frontline documentary Black Money, which explores the way in which governments of the "free" world have been complicit in global corruption around the arms industry. The world would be a better and cleaner place without the odious Saudi regime.


In Friday's linkfest, I missed two things. One was my own damn show -- the swine flu discussion is dating a little already, but anyone who's been around the internet a while should enjoy the 20-years-of-permanent-connection panel with Nat Torkington, David Farrar and Colin Jackson. There are some good stories.

And I'm very proud to say that the Waikato episode of the landmark 1974 documentary series Tangata Whenua has been cleared and posted on NZ On Screen. The script, by Barry Barclay and Michael King, won a Feltex award. Clearing these rights is no small feat.

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