Hard News by Russell Brown



I'm doing something exciting on Monday. I'm going to the media preview of This is New Zealand at Park Road Post in Wellington. Say what? Let me explain.

Let me take you back: It's 1970, and New Zealand's showpiece at Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan, is a visual feast called This Is New Zealand - a dazzling 45-minute film by Wellington director Hugh Macdonald that employs three synchronised projectors.

Rightly, or wrongly, the nation perceives that this technical and artistic feast has made us the toast of the Expo, and there are queues around the block when it returns for a triumphant tour of New Zealand cinemas.

Whole classes of schoolchildren are taken to see the film. Among them are myself and, I'm assuming Peter Jackson. Last year, Jackson granted the use of his Park Road Post facility, as a gift to the nation, for Macdonald to digitally remaster the film, which has barely been seen since the early 70s because of the technical challenge of staging it.

Older readers will remember the part that everyone remembers from the film - the aerial shot early on, belting over the Southern Alps to the fanfare of Sibelius' Karelia Suite: DUM DUM DA DAT DA DAT DADA DAT DA DAT DA!!

I confess, that film, and that sequence, probably had a major impact on the way I have seen my country since.

Gaylene Preston once told me about how she got to see it: on OE, in London, taken on a magical mystery tour by friends, gotten stoned, then plonked down on front of this unexpected, vivid torrent of images of home. Jack Body, the composer, told me how he'd love to re-score it, so that this film of New Zealand had a soundtrack from New Zealand too. People who were there remember this thing.

Not everyone remembers it fondly, of course. Sam Neill sniffed at it as a sign of our cultural immaturity in Cinema of Unease, but who cares? The new version has already picked up a gong in the New York Festivals (could someone point out to the Herald how to spell "Sibelius" though?).

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to it.

It's been quite the week for gems from the archives. I sat down last night and watched, in full, from TVNZ ondemand, Simon Walker's infamous 1976 interview with Prime Minister Muldoon. Man, TV was different in those days. Muldoon got all his questions in advance - they concerned a crop of dubious public claims he had made about Soviet military penetration in the Pacific.

Walker quoted at length, in the affected accent New Zealanders used in broadcasting in those days, from Janes's Fighting Ships, Muldoon (correctly, actually - the young man was quite the smartarse) called him a nitpicker and complained about a question he hadn't been given in advance, and the pair of them wrestled for control of the interview.

It's remarkably obscure in some ways, but it marked a turning point for the way broadcast interviews with senior politicians were to be conducted. It also reminded me quite a lot of the equally infamous Corngate interview, in which John Campbell was Walker and Helen Clark was Muldoon.

Speaking of TVNZ ondemand (I'm using the official marketing spelling, see?), the Public Address diaspora is reporting the ability to view all the free programming (and not just the "classics") from various places in the world - which wasn't supposed to happen. (Reader Paul Capewell, who had been happily downloading a range of content from the new site, reports that he's now seeing "access denied" messages, even when he tries to download ads from the site.)

The unexpected access may be a quirk in the Akamai content distribution network that TVNZ is using for the service. Speaking of which, how come TVNZ went with an American company for content distribution within New Zealand?

I gather there's a story to it. TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis and Theresa Gattung met to discuss Telecom operating the kind of cacheing network this kind of distribution requires. It was not a very happy meeting, perhaps because TVNZ's view was that Telecom should do the decent thing and peer with all other networks at the regional peering exchanges, like it used to. Gattung's view was that instead TVNZ should pay Telecom for the privilege of reaching Telecom internet customers. There was not a meeting of minds, even a little bit. Enter Akamai.


Anyway, I'm just about recovered from the Hustle for Russell fundraiser on Monday night, which was fabulous and a bit overwhelming at times (and those who know me will know that I am not often overwhelmed in social situations). Thanks so much to everyone who came and contributed, and especially to Deborah Pead and her brilliant team. The $30,000-plus raised will go toward tuition for Leo and a couple of other projects, including a new website which will be a base for advocacy, support, lobbying and storytelling for and by the local autistic community and their families.

The website is humans.org.nz. The name comes from something our older boy, Jimmy, used to say: he'd talk about "humans" instead of "people". It's also deliberately intended to invoke the idea of human rights.

There's a placeholder and a mailto: link at the site now, and if you are interested and would like to help, you are most welcome to send me an email. Please also indicate if you'd like to be subscribed to a two-way mailing list I've set up (but don't expect any action on the list until some time next week).

I'm provisionally looking at launching the site in August, in Wellington, alongside David Cohen's book, A Perfect World, perhaps with a Hustle-type event to benefit autism-related causes. But gimme time …

I've actually been really busy this week. Yesterday, I made my oral submission to the select committee considering the Copyright Amendment Bill. If you read this blog, you'll have a good idea of what I might have said. I was also joined by Mike Hodgson from Pitch Black, and it may have been that the members enjoyed a break from hearing from intellectual property lawyers all day. Shane Jones remarled that I had been "iconoclastic and forthright as usual". Heh. One tries …

I also heard some of TVNZ's submission. The most interesting thing is that TVNZ says it actually doesn't want the proposed new provision removing the right to time-shift (ie: record for later personal viewing) TV broadcasts where there is an on-demand version of the programme available. Its lawyer said such a provision was unrealistic. Which was nice, but I think it's a good illustration of the draft bill's overly indulgent approach to rights holders.

Anyway, it's Friday and Leo has more Colin for you. You're going to have to wait until next week for the best one yet, in which Colin the Kitten opens a can o' whoopass on a Disney character, but for now there's 'Colin Scared of the Camera':

And 'Me, Colin, And dad (And a dingleball)':

PS: The latest Aye Calypso World Cup cricket blog missed this morning's mailout, but Part 11: Death and Weirdness in the Surfing Zone, is posted now and a top read.

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