Monday, 28 April 2008

James Blunt

It seems I missed an opportunity this evening. The above mentioned was busking in the subway at Wellington Railway Station. Sadly for me, I was made aware of this event after the fact and I am gutted to have missed it.
After all, opportunities to throw rotting vegetable matter at useless, self-indulgent, pathetic whingers, seldom crop up, do they?

Friday, 25 April 2008


I think Facebook is making me paranoid about my levels of sophistication. My Facebook friends all have superior tastes, it seems. I am not, in general, anxious about my ability to discriminate, and certainly wasn’t before the Facebook phenomenon. I am also not the sort of person that sits around in 3-day-old knickers with the index finger of my hand up my nose… BUT I do feel slightly persecuted that I cannot admit to having enjoyed Bravo Two Zero. Which is the sort of thing I would admit to friends in the pub and I might even get a few approving nods (depending on the company) but dare not plaster on my precious profile. Similarly, while other Facebookers enjoy Jim Jarmusch films, my feeling is that Rambo III was a bloody sight more entertaining than anything he has had a hand in.
One of two possible conclusions can be drawn. Either, the paranoia is real and I am a dolt with the intellectual capacity of a retarded slug or these people are pretentious wankers.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Retail 101

I admit that I don’t care a jot for debits and credits. I also bear a great deal of ill will towards prescriptive Accounting Statements and I will own up to being a very mediocre accountant, at best. However, despite these feelings I find it impossible not to analyse business processes especially when they seem to be operating at sub-optimal levels.
(Retail managers will want to grab a pen and paper for this next part.)
The objective is sales. If your business is not making any sales it will go bust. If you have retail space you need to make sure that you have products on the shelves, preferably ones that a lot of people want to own.

To connect the dots: Customers can only buy products that you have to sell, if the shelves are bare you cannot make any sales and no money comes into the business. The consequences are inevitable.

I don’t think the basic theory is too difficult to grasp yet the empirical evidence suggests otherwise. I went into a large department store on the outskirts of Wellington. The store was part of a well-known chain aimed at middle class shoppers, the kind that normally have cosmetics counters near the front, brightly illuminated and with rows of neat little boxes stacked up behind testers. It was definitely the sort of place in which you would expect to be able to buy spot concealer. And in fact they did have the tester for it, but no neat little box I could take to the till.

The store shall remain nameless, since I don’t have enough money to defend a libel action. Also, if they want a trouble-shooting consultant, they can darn well pay me for my advice.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Hell's Gate

If you visit Hell’s Gate near Rotorua, on the North Island, you’ll see terribly thrilling geothermal activity, bubbling, boiling mud pools, geysers and thermal springs. A whiff of the sulphur flavoured air conjures up images of a horned underlord and eternal damnation. It also provides the best opportunity to fart that you’re ever likely to have.

You may also have the chance (for a fee) of wallowing in natural occurring thermal mud. The mud has all sorts of delicious minerals to take years off your skin. I can definitely swear that it is effective. I now have the skin of a teenager, including spots on my chin….

Friday, 14 March 2008

Mooving on...

My first newsworthy activity in New Zealand has been cattle herding. I can say honestly that although I demonstrated a great natural ability to shout at cows and get them moving through a gate, it is not the career change I was looking for.
As an aside, cows deserve to be eaten because of their immense stupidity, as do sheep.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Antarctica -The spell binding desolation of the frozen wilderness...

I confess to have given in to hyperbole– being summer it was really less frozen than you might imagine, certainly if your sole experience is watching March of the Penguins and docudramas that revolve around Shackleton and his calamitous endeavours.

Also, it isn’t really that desolate, not if you count the penguin inhabitants, who are, on the whole very noisy neighbours. In fact, the breeding beaches are more crowded than Oxford Street on a Saturday morning. One of the most amazing things about these flightless birds is that regardless of how many you see, they seem to become more fascinating, not less, with each encounter - to the extent that your average Antarctic photographer might have nearly 90% of photos that include a penguin. The balance would consist largely of icebergs…

There are a great many motivations for joining an expedition and that these are as diverse as the accents you hear on board a ship bound for Antarctica, there was at least one representative nation from every continent.

The Antarctic expeditionist will be driven by a composition of: the experience of exploring the last frontier and a sense of the spirit of the pioneers of the white continent, to see rare wildlife such as humpback whales and the not so rare Adelie and Chinstrap penguins and to be one of a small number of humans to have set foot on the seventh continent, since only 20 000 people visit each year.

And (cue violins) to add a touch of the dramatic to somehow own a piece of the magic of Antarctica… it seems that from the first certainty of the existence of the continent, when von Bellinghausen clapped eyes on its ice-fields in 1820 to the Scott.- Amundsen race, everybody has tried to bagsy bits and pieces of it.

Antarctica’s status is regulated by the 1959 Antartctic Treaty and other related agreements, collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System. The treaty was signed by twelve countries, including theSoviet Union (and later Russia) the UK, Argentina, and the United States. It set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation, environmental protection, and banned military activity on the continent.
Interestingly, this was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War.

Infact they are still trying- the UK has a post office, the Chileans have put up a hotel and the Argentineans have babies on their fragment. And pretty soon, at least with the way the oil price is going, there will an international scramble and oil drills will be disfiguring the landscape, sooner than you can say “climate change is a man made problem.”

Getting to Antarctica requires the crossing of the Drake Passage, a body of water that ranks as the most violent in the world. I don’t use the term violent loosely either, as our ship ploughed southwards, and the view from the portals alternated between sea and sky (and tales of folk being thrown from their beds were no exaggeration), I was nearly decapitated by an octogenarian wielding a breakfast plate as he was thrown about the dining room.

I can assure that the Antarctic experience is worth dancing with death, in no uncertain terms.

We got to witness first hand a leopard seal catching a penguin and thrashing it against the water in order to enhance its taste appeal by beating the wretched creature out of its skin. The penguin made a dash for safety by scampering up a little ice flow, only to be seized by the seal that had extraordinary leaping skills. You would think it would make your heart sink to see such a sight, though as indicated earlier, they are penguin heavy and one less will not have a measurable impact, besides what of the seal? Surely it too, must survive?

This episode took place against a back drop of calving glaciers at Neko Harbour…another quiet day in the Antarctic.

That evening was spent sitting in the Captains suite (myself and a select few), off the bridge and sharing his hospitality and vodka. The latter proved to be a useful ingredient to the occasion, given that we spoke no Russian and he spoke very little English. It also allowed me to obtain the dubious honour of having, not only visited all seven continents, but also having been inebriated on all seven of them too.

My remedies for hangovers include lots of painkillers, lots of sleep, or where possible, a revitalizing swim. Seems lady luck was smiling on a poor soul that day as we were invited to take to the waters off Pendulum Cove…where temperatures drop to an agonizing 1.86 degrees below freezing. Volcanic activity below the shoreline of Deception Island means that the first 3 feet of water is heated probably to a temperature not dissimilar of a recently boiled kettle. The result of all of this is that one is forced to jump from blistering hot water to freezing water and vice versa in a process dubbed the Boil ‘n Freeze.

Nothing I say can really capture Antarctica, it is one of life’s experiences that has to be undertaken firsthand to really get a sense of the place with its history of pioneers, the Majesty of the glaciers, the snow covered mountains and the abundance of wild life are reason enough to undertake this adventure. One exuberant New Yorker returned to the boat after our first Zodiac rubber boat tour and stood shaking on the boats deck, "How will I ever explain the beauty and awe inspiring sights, the humbling of me as Man in such a wilderness.”
Although possibly a little over the top, it may go someway to explaining why it has taken me far too long to get this written.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Oh and it's raining again!

Having spent a week in Rio (a week in which we bore witness to several thunderstorms with all their attendant annoyances, being firstly, a large amount of rain and secondly, a fair number of mosquitos) we travelled south, back towards Argentina. I might add that the journey would have possibly been bearable, were it not for the fact that TC and I were squeezed into the back of a bus, sans air con for 18 hours and to add to the misery we had seats conveniently located next to the toilet, which had been used several times by each person during the journey.

For my part I was looking forward to landing in Patagonia, and leaving Rio. It isn't that I hate Rio, it is simply that I did not love it. Rio for me is the Christmas equivalent of a large and decorative gift under a monstrous tree in a shopping mall, outside a commuter town somewhere in Wisconsin or Detroit or somewhere else expansive and unimaginative. The shiny wrapper makes it look enticing, but don't get excited because you know dissapointment, like an invisible jack-in-the-box, lurks inside.

And so it it is with Rio, from the too-tight speedos and barely-there bikinis of the rich 'n beautifuls on Ipanema to the ridiculous notion of favela parties. Worse still, is that seems to take itself seriously.

Connolly once levelled criticism at his fellow Scots for being the only nation that thinks its tourist tat (furry haggis -on-pens and nessie plushies) is culture. He was just being funny, though there is undeniable truth at the core of that statement. I think it is absurd that travellers to Rio shell out cash to attend an organised favela party where the foreigners outnumber the favela dwellers by a ratio of 3 to 1. Surely, the cultural experience has to be spontaneous for it to have any meaning.

But perhaps I am being unfair. After all, someone has to be the dimwit at the dinner party with well put together aesthetic genetic material, and I suppose they, like Rio are entitled to exist. Just don't expect me to like it.