Brian Edwards Media

Archive for May, 2010

Bring Your Own Basil (and Garlic and Fresh Vegetables)

Assortment of fresh vegetables and fruitbasil_plant1garlicbraidsetup-77020711  

Now the first thing I want to say is that I don’t want anyone to stop eating at GPK in Ponsonby Road. The food there is good and reasonably priced. We went there today and opted for the $25 ‘express lunch’ – glass of wine, entree and main. Good value. The entrees were fine. For her main, Judy had ordered the snapper, olive mash and salad. I had ordered the Margarita pizza.

The mains arrive. Snapper fine, though the salad is minuscule. And the Margarita pizza? Crisp pizza base? Tick. Mozzarella cheese? Tick. Tomatoes? Tick. Basil? Oh dear – no basil. Chopped parsley instead. A Margherita pizza without basil is like Eggs Benedict without hollandaise sauce. The basil is an essential ingredient. Without it, a Margarita pizza just isn’t a Margarita pizza.

I point this out to the pleasant waiter, who says he will speak to the chef. He returns with the chef’s apologies. The kitchen has run out of basil.

Now here’s the thing. If the kitchen has run out of basil, it isn’t possible to make a Margherita  pizza any more than you can make Eggs Benedict without hollandaise sauce. What to do? Well, you have to ask the customer whether they’d be happy with a cheese, tomato and parsley pizza. And if they wouldn’t, they can select something else off the menu, or go somewhere else.  

Now I wouldn’t have mentioned this, were it not for the fact that this is the third time I’ve ordered a Margarita pizza at GPK and the third time they’ve ‘run out of basil’. I’m reminded of Lady Bracknell’s words to Mr Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest: ‘To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.’

To run out of basil three times when you have a Margarita pizza on the menu looks to me like carelessness or poor management at best. And this especially since I had mentioned the problem on the two previous occasions and actually brought my own basil on the second occasion just in case. Read the rest of this entry »

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Did you hear the one about the Irishman and the Maori?

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01I don’t want to take sides in the Andy Haden versus the Crusaders debate. Much, it seems, can be said on both sides. But I was interested in a comment Haden made to the effect that racism related less to the words people said than to what was in their hearts. I think that’s right and it is nowhere more true than in the area of humour, of what we call ‘racist’ jokes.

                      To illustrate the point, here are two jokes:  

1) An Irishman, an Englishman and a Scotsman are marooned on a desert island. One day they find a curious lamp on the shore. When they rub the lamp a genie appears. He is so grateful for his release, he offers the group 3 wishes, The Englishman wishes to be back in his local pub in Essex. Whoosh – he’s gone. The Scotsman wants to be having a pint with his mates in Glasgow. Whoosh – he’s gone. The Irishman looks dejected. ‘What’s the matter?’ asks the genie. “Sure it’s awful lonely here without my two friends. I wish they were still here.” And whoosh – they were.

2) Rangi gets a job felling trees up North. At the end of his first day, the foreman comes to check on his work. Rangi has felled only one tree. “What the hell’s going on here, Rangi? Only one tree felled in a day.” Rangi says, “This bloody saw’s no good, boss. Doesn’t cut at all.” The boss says, “Here, give us a try.” He starts up  the chainsaw. Rangi looks startled. “What’s that noise, boss?”

The first joke says that the Irish are incredibly stupid. It’s ‘an Irish joke’. Most Irish jokes say that the Irish are incredibly stupid. There are millions of Irish jokes. You hear them everywhere. You hear them on the radio, you see them on TV, you read them in newspapers and magazines.

I’m Irish and that’s fine by me. I like Irish jokes.

The second joke says that Maori are incredibly stupid. There are a lot of jokes about Maori and they say a lot of different things – that Maori are stupid, lazy, unemployed and often in trouble with the law. (The Irish cop all of that as well.) You hear Maori jokes everywhere.

Hold on a minute! No, you don’t! You don’t hear Maori jokes on the radio, or see them on TV, or read them in the papers. Publishing or broadcasting a joke that suggested Maori were stupid, would get you in trouble with the Press Council or the Broadcasting Standards Authority or the Race Relations Office.

There’s a double standard here. It’s OK to make racial jokes in public about the Irish. But it isn’t OK to make racial jokes in public about Maori.

How could you justify such a double standard?  Read the rest of this entry »

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Bouquets & Brickbats (An Occasional Series)

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Fair Go (TV1) – Despite the OTT set, had returned to its knitting – sorting out viewer complaints – by programme 3. The yellow circles were gone and none of the stories were split into two or three parts to increase the tension and keep you watching.

Sunday (TV1)  - A really excellent programme which I’ve neglected to praise in the past. Cameron Bennett is the consummate professional and enough time is given to issues at home and abroad to make you feel you’ve had a satisfying meal and not just a side-salad.

Comedy Central – for Live at the Apollo, Saturday Night Live and The Jon Stewart Show (But see below!)

And Comedy Central again for The Gruen Transfer, an entertaining and somewhat enlightening Aussie show on advertising, though host Wil Anderson makes my flesh creep.

7 Days (TV3)  - irreverent humour in the worst possible taste. Perfect.

Desperate Housewives (TV2) and The Graham Norton Show (UKTV) – Oh, you are awful, but I like you!

The Panel on RNZ’s Afternoons with Jim Mora – Great listening and not just because I’m often on it. Well, partly because of that.

Toms Scott’s cartoons in the Dominion Post. Things of beauty and a joy forever.

Throng – ‘New Zealand’s TV watching community’. The essential website for anyone interested in New Zealand television. Find it at http://www.throng.co.nz/

  Read the rest of this entry »

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On the Death of Dr Paul Reynolds

paul1At the bottom of this page you will see the words ‘Site: McGovern’. They refer to McGovern & Associates, the web designers Judy and I went to when we were thinking of launching this site. We really had no other choice, not through any shortage of web designers, but because it would have been unthinkable not to go to people I had known and liked ever since coming to Auckland in 1989 and perhaps longer than that – Paul Reynolds  and his partner Helen Smith.

Paul died suddenly yesterday morning, a death as unthinkable to his legion of friends as it was unexpected. Russell Brown on Public Address and Bill Ralston on Facebook have both paid tribute to him and those who did not know him will find Paul’s extraordinary life and achievements graciously and affectionately summarised there.

My earliest memories of Paul Reynolds are of hearing him on National Radio. He was a regular on Kim Hill’s Nine to Noon programme where he enthused about books, commented in his lovely, lilting Scottish accent on anything and everything and, later, introduced so many of us to this new-fangled invention – the Internet.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Media Tip: The eyes have it.

glassesThe eyes have it on television.  They tell us what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, they make us like you, they make us trust you - or not. We need to see a person’s eyes  to make an assessment of them, and to make connection with them.

So – glasses on, glasses off? It’s a question we’re asked all the time. There’s no simple answer, but there are some guidelines:

  •  A pair of glasses is a barrier between you and the viewers. All glasses obscure your eyes to some extent.
  •  If you sometimes wear glasses, you’re probably better without them
  •  If you always wear glasses and you take them off, you’ll probably look a bit like a mole

Our general advice is, if you’re comfortable without them, take them off.  If you’re not, don’t.

That said, there are definitely specs that work and specs that don’t.  Many broadcasters who wear face furniture have special pairs for the studio.

  •  Transition lenses can darken under the studio lights. They’ll definitely go darker if you’re outside in daylight. They should be avoided for television.
  •  The best glasses for the screen have fine frames, and lenses large enough not to cut across the eye. Better still if the lenses are frameless.
  •  The new, fashionable glasses with small lenses and strong, dark frames look dreadful on telly. Even worse are the ones with tinted lenses. You might as well be wearing a carnival mask.
  • Sunnies may be cool – but they’re not cool when you’re being interviewed on television.

And the most important tip of all:

  •  If you’re wearing glasses on telly, make sure they’re sitting on your nose properly. If the top of the frame cuts across your eyes you’ll lose all your impact.

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Why I liked Yehudi Menuhin (and Alan Duff) better than Kiri Te Kanawa

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In five years on National Radio’s Top of the Morning show, which older readers of this blog may remember, I interviewed over 750 nationally and internationally well-known people. The stroppiest was undoubtedly Alan Duff, but by the end of the interview I liked him very much. The least pleasant was Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and by the end of the interview I disliked her intensely. Duff was hostile because, despite appearances, he is a very insecure person. Te Kanawa was unpleasant because she is a prima donna in both senses of the term and has such an elevated opinion of herself and of the respect which she believes she deserves, that she is contemptuous of lesser beings.  Read the rest of this entry »

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$50 Million PM Counsels Poor Not To Envy Rich

johnkey11In what can only be described as an egregious piece of bloody cheek, the $50 million man, our Prime Minister John Key, has told those who can expect to be better off by between 85c and $5 a week after Thursday’s budget,  that they should not be envious of the rich because the rich are crucial to the economy.

‘We can be envious about these things but without those people in our economy all the rest of us will either have less people paying tax or fundamentally less services that they provide… But those who pay the top personal rate fit into some core and critical categories for our economy. They include doctors, entrepreneurs often, scientists, engineers, lawyers, accountants, school principals, nurses…’

This will come as distressing news to the nation’s wage and salary earners, whose median annual income is $30,200 but who may nonetheless have considered themselves as fitting into ‘some core and critical category for our economy’. They now know better. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reflections On Not Caring In Hawaii

Sunday Star Times

Sunday Star Times

I seem to recall reading somewhere that ethicists recognise five levels of moral development in human beings, from absolute selfishness, lack of conscience and indifference to the welfare of others at Level 1, to pure altruism, a highly developed moral sense and deep concern for the wellbeing and happiness of others at Level 5.

I suspect that most of us hover between Levels 3 and 4. We’re reasonably honest and caring, but if it comes to them or us, we’ll probably put ourselves or our families first. Few of us are saints and few of us are monsters.

We may also exhibit different levels of moral development in different areas of our life, what you might call the ‘Hitler was fond of animals’ syndrome. It’s the phenomenon that allows us to rip off the insurance company or cheat on our taxes, but be horrified at the idea of stealing money from a blind beggar’s cup. We distinguish between doing close-up personal harm and long-distance impersonal harm, between child abuse and dropping a bomb on Hiroshima.

My mind was drawn to this concept of people being at different levels of moral development when I read the front page story in this morning’s Sunday Star Times headed Inside Hotchin’s Hawaiian Hideaway. Just above the headline was a photograph of Mark Hotchin’s wife Amanda with the quote: ‘We don’t have to justify where we get our money or what it’s spent on, to anyone. I don’t care what anyone says.’  Read the rest of this entry »

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Enjoy Yourself – It’s Later Than You Think!

Methuselah

Methuselah

Gotcha! So you thought a few chocs, a glass or two of cab sav and a soothing flat white were good for your heart. After all, you read it somewhere in the paper. One of those “recent research” stories or some nutrition expert had said so. You can’t quite remember who. There’ve been lots of these stories anyway. Something to do with antitoxins or antioxidants. Some sort of “anti”. And you were so tired of all this can’t/don’t/mustn’t/bad-for-you stuff, that it was great to have some news that not everything you ate or drank was going to give you cancer or a heart attack or diabetes or something high, like blood pressure or cholesterol.  What the hell is cholesterol anyway?

Well, as Bart Simpson’s nemesis Nelson Muntz would say, “HA, HA!” The latest research, the most authoritative nutrition experts now take great pleasure in telling you that you were kidding yourself. Well actually it was the previous research and the previous most authoritative nutrition experts who were kidding you. But let’s not quibble.

The word from the New Zealand Heart Foundation today is that eating chocolate or drinking red wine or coffee has no cardiovascular health benefits. The Foundation’s  National Director of Healthy Weight, Susan Anderson  – healthy weight has a National Director?  – is quoted in this morning’s Herald as saying that the message  to chocolate, wine and coffee connoisseurs from a review of more than a hundred scientific papers is that any cardiovascular benefit from their treats is more a case of wishful thinking.   Read the rest of this entry »

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R.I.P. Fair Go

 

images3I am in mourning for Fair Go, the programme producer Peter Morritt and I devised 33 years ago.

Fair Go was designed to be, and has remained for those 33 years, a court of last resort for ordinary Kiwis, ripped off by conmen, crooks and shysters.

Its format was simple: three stories each week in which the Fair Go team brought to book dishonest traders, heartless corporations, shoddy tradespeople and assorted other rip-off merchants. Plus the occasional light hearted look at your rights as a consumer.

It was in essence a ‘goodies and baddies’ show. The viewer’s satisfaction was in seeing the baddies get their comeuppance and the wronged get justice.

And the programme got results, often to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, for those who came to it for help.

To do all this, Fair Go needed no flashy sets, no gorgeous presenters. In many ways Kevin Milne,  its host for around 20 years, exemplified the programme he presented – honest, unpretentious, down-to-earth, a real Kiwi institution.

All of this changed last night as Fair Go was transformed into little more than a glossier version of Target – trivial, insubstantial, more interested in effect than in doing its job on behalf of those not given a fair go. As Herald television critic, Linda Herrick, quite rightly concluded, ‘a lemon of a programme’.

It may not be too late for Fair Go to return to its brief, to abandon the bells and whistles, the gimmicks and devices, the fake cliff-hangers that it believes will hold its audience, but which will in reality alienate that audience. The popular saying applies: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Fair Go wasn’t broke. It has not been out of the top five programmes in living memory. If it is to stay there, it must get back to its job of looking after its customers, the thousands of ordinary Kiwis who have not had  a fair go.

Please.

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‘Photo-Op PM’ Revisited

Pic: NZPA

Pic: NZPA

Pic: Maggie Tait
Pic: Maggie Tait
Pic: Maggie Tait
Pic: Maggie Tait

 

 

 

 

 More than 20 years ago Judy and I ran a 2-day media training seminar for 150 business executives in Wellington.  The final session took the form of a panel discussion, which included former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon. During the discussion Sir Robert referred to the diffiiculty cabinet ministers often faced in responding to what he called ‘television’s forceful visual images’.

From memory, he used the example of an elderly woman complaining about the inadequacy of the pension. The pleasant looking woman is interviewed in her little pensioner flat. She is seated in an armchair with a blanket around her shoulders. A raggedy looking moggy is asleep in her lap. She complains of the cold and of not being able to afford to keep a heater running in the flat. She often stays in bed to keep warm. It’s impossible for her to afford anything but the barest necessities. She regards a banana once a week as a luxury. She’d love to get out a bit more, but could not possibly afford the expense of owning a car. It’s heartrending stuff and there’s more, much more.

After the film has been shown, the Minister of Social Welfare is interviewed in the television studio. He expresses sympathy for the elderly woman and outlines a number of services and special benefits that are available to someone in her situation. But he might as well not bother. His coolly rational responses, delivered in the hostile and sterile atmosphere of the television studio, cannot match the emotionally charged scene which the viewer has just watched. Television’s ‘forceful visual images’ almost invariably take the day.  Read the rest of this entry »

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TVNZ Responds to “A Little Bird Told Me” (Updated Tuesday, May 4)

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I have received the following email from Mike Valintine, Editor of Close Up:

Hi Brian …your little bird is completely wrong. There was no attempt to delay or prevent the Serepisos story from going to air. It is correct Daniel did the interview with the businessman a month before the item went to air but that is easily explained. Firstly Mr Henshilwood and his wife went on holiday immediately after the interview and we were awaiting documentation from them to support their claims. This was in storage and it took more than a week after their return to access the files. We also wanted them back to approach Mr Serepisos in person. Secondly at that time their story was part of a wide ranging investigation into Mr Serepisos’s debts. My expectation was that Daniel’s story would be aired as part of a more comprehensive insight. When it became clear that the wider investigation would take longer than anticipated Daniels story was put to air.
 
There was certainly no pressure placed upon me and I instructed staff working on it to treat it like any other story- without fear or favour.

Regards
Mike V.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

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A Story That Beggars Belief

Suzette Martin. Pic: Kerri Vernon

Suzette Martin. Pic: Kerri Vernon

 Sometimes what you read in the papers beggars belief. The most recent example is a story which appears in today’s Sunday Herald. It’s about the sacking of a private school teacher for using a ‘morally defiling’ text in her Year 13 English class. Lolita? Portnoy’s Complaint? Lady Chatterly’s Lover?  No, worse than that  - King Lear by that well-known pornographer William Shakespeare.

 

And this isn’t the part of the story that beggars belief. That is to be found in the teacher’s contract with the school which bars her, and I assume all teachers in the school, from encouraging children to go to university.

So what we have here is an educational establishment not only opposed to higher education but to the freedom of speech implicit in being able to encourage children to seek higher education. Read the rest of this entry »

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