Brian Edwards Media

Archive for October, 2010

1a. Indiscreetly release kitty. (3,3,3,3,2,3,3) Cryptic Crossword Nut Reveals All

If you, like me, are a cryptic crossword nut, the Weekend Herald will provide your most challenging and rewarding mental workout of the week.

You’ll also be aware that the common view that cryptic crosswords are more difficult than ‘ordinary’ crosswords is entirely incorrect. Once you’ve learnt the tricks of the trade and become familiar with the particular style of the compiler, the cryptic crossword is a walk in the park compared to its synonym-finding alternative.

Nonetheless, there are days when you will be stumped and face the demeaning (and costly) prospect of having to ring 0900XWORD to be told the answer/s. Those days are now over, my friend, for fans of the Weekend Herald’s  cryptic crossword at least.  That is because I am about to indiscreetly release kitty. (3,3,3,3,2,3,3.)

The Weekend Herald cryptic crossword is actually taken from the UK newspaper The Independent. And, if you go onto the Net, you can find a site which includes not only all the answers to The Independent’s cryptic crosswords, but also explanations by the compiler of how each clue was constructed and comments from nuts like myself on the more interesting clues. There are also solutions to cryptic crosswords in other British papers.

There are two  occasions to visit the site:

1.  When you’re totally stumped by a clue and are certain you’re never going to get the answer. 

To find your particular crossword: Go to the site; In the ‘site search’ box, type in the solution to any one  of the clues you did get and press ‘search’; The solutions to every Independent cryptic crossword in which that clue was used will then appear.  

2.  When you’ve successfully completed the crossword, but are uncertain how a  particular solution was arrived at or would like to read other people’s comments or make a comment yourself.

Cryptic crossword nuts in other centres may discover that their local rag also borrows from one of the UK papers, so it’s worth visiting the site to find out.

Spoiler Alert!

If you don’t want to learn the internet address for this site, DO NOT Read the rest of this entry »


‘The Hobbit’ – A Layman’s Attempt to Make Sense of it All

pic: 3 News


Two things astonish me about ‘The Hobbit affair’. The first is that, despite the now tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of words written about the dispute, no two people seem to have an identical understanding of what it was all about. The second is that I have seldom seen opinion or feeling in the country so polarised. Actors on both sides of this drama have been abused, vilified, even threatened with death. A dispute that very few New Zealanders really understand has led to bitterness and recrimination, often expressed in intemperate and hysterical terms. There are echoes here of the ‘smacking’ debate, perhaps even of the divisiveness of 1981. And there are no real winners.

I have now spent hours discussing the issue with Judy, an award-winning television dramatist, former Chair of the Board of the NZ Academy of Film and Television Arts, inaugural President of the NZ Writers Foundation and former President of the NZ Writers Guild. She ought to know what is going on. But at the end of our discussions, I understand the rules of the game, but not how this particular game was played. To really understand that, you needed not merely to be party to discussions and conversations that took place on both sides of the dispute, but an insight into the mindset, motivation and real intentions of all the players.  

Given all those limitations, this is as close as I can come to a layman’s assessment of what happened.   Read the rest of this entry »


An Interesting Moral Dilemma: Should Graham Henry have Insisted on Being Given a Ticket?

There was a time, believe it or  not, when drink-driving was not considered the unforgivable sin that it is today. If you were arrested for having a blood alcohol level well over the legal limit, your name was unlikely to appear in the paper. Nor would friends shun you. On the contrary, most would express sympathy for your bad luck in getting caught. A drink-driving conviction was almost a badge of honour.

I have never been a heavy drinker and consider myself a responsible driver. My half-century motoring history includes three tickets for speeding. I scraped a few bumpers but have never been involved in a major accident. Where driving is concerned, I’m a goodie-goodie. But… [I have told this story before, but in a different context.]

 … a couple of decades ago, I was stopped and breath-tested at 2am after a lengthy session with friends and the proprietor of Valerio’s restaurant in Parnell. Valerio had produced a bottle of his finest Grappa around midnight and we were all as pissed as newts. I am ashamed to say that the thought of not driving home never occurred to me.

To cut a long story short, the traffic cop asked me if I’d been drinking. I admitted to the usual ‘couple of glasses of wine’. He told me to get out of the car, an exercise I performed with difficulty. I was unsteady on my feet. He told me to blow into the breathalyser. I knew I was a goner.  Read the rest of this entry »


Stephen Fry on pedantry.

Sketch by M. Haywood

Max Cryer sent me this lovely piece by Stephen Fry on the idiocy of pedantry in everyday language. 

It’s about six minutes long.

Enjoy – but please, no more of the comma debate!


Let’s Have Labour Weekend Driving Rules Every Day Of The Year.

Pic: Sarah Ivey/Herald

On Saturday we drove up to Mangawhai for an overnight stay with some friends. There were numerous signs along the route reminding us that police were out in force over Labour weekend. We’d already been warned that for this one holiday period the cops’ usual 10k tolerance on speed limits would be reduced to 4K and that anyone caught exceeding that tolerance would end up paying a fine. 

It was pretty clear that the message had got through. Our journey in both directions was the most pleasant and stress-free I can remember in 46 years of driving in New Zealand. There were no snarl-ups. Tailgating was conspicuous only by its absence. Other than waiting for traffic lights to change, there were never less than four or five car-lengths between vehicles. On the entire journey we were overtaken no more than half a dozen times and then only by motorists doing 104 while we were sticking to the 100K. On passing lanes the right-hand lane largely remained unused. In a nutshell, drivers were obeying the law. And we got to Mangawhai in record time. 

The closest we’ve come to these sort of driving conditions is in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. But the difference is that in these Australian states people drive like this all the timeRead the rest of this entry »


Who gets the dough when you take part in a TVNZ/TV3 text-in poll? I find out and it ain’t pretty!

'How come there was no Guinness ads in the final? Sure it must be rigged.

You may have noticed that text-in polls are becoming increasingly popular with the major television networks. And you many have wondered just why it costs so much to text one of their programmes, why the charge varies substantially from channel to channel and programme to programme, and just where the money is going.

Leaving aside for the moment that these polls have zero statistical value, you might think that by getting free programme material, paid for by viewers,  they are on a much better deal than you and me. And it might occur to you that if there has to be a charge, that charge should be a) reasonable and b) consistent. So far as I can see, it’s neither.

In recent weeks I’ve seen ‘text-in’ charges of 50 cents, 75 cents and 99 cents.  This week, for example,  it would have cost you 50 cents to answer ‘Campbell Live’s question: ‘Who is to blame for The Hobbit fiasco –  a) the union or b) the film studio?’

But if you watched the Fair Go Ad Awards on Wednesday and wanted to vote for the worst and best television ads, you’d have had to pay 99 cents … twice!

So my first question is: Since the most you can pay to send  a text internally in New Zealand is 20 cents – and considerably less if you’re on a plan –  why does it cost two-and-a-half times that much to send a text to Campbell Live, and why does it cost five times that much to sent a text to Fair Go? Fair Go of all programmes!

My second question is: why should there be any difference in the cost of sending a text to different channels or different programmes?

And my third question is: how much money are we talking about and  where is it all going?    Read the rest of this entry »


An invitation to readers of this blog to nominate the words or phrases most overused or misused by the New Zealand media.


The previous post on the misuse by media reporters of the word ‘miracle’ produced a number of other examples from correspondents of words and phrases overused or misused  by the New Zealand media. So I invite readers to send in their favourite (or non-favourite) examples, so that we can compile an ongoing list. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll make a start:

Most Overused/Misused Words/Phrases in the New Zealand Media

  • icon, iconic  
  • shock, in shock, shocked 
  • miracle, miraculous
  • exclusive, exclusively
  • live, reporting live     
  • across the story
  • in breaking news
  • now…
  • showed no emotion [on being found guilty of murder]
  • inferred [for implied]

Over to you, dear readers!

  • dramatic
  • carnage
  • decimated
  • under the microscope
  • injury cloud
  • refute [deny]
  • fulsome praise [high praise]
  • gutted
  • going forward
  • long fight with cancer
  • slam, slammed [strongly criticised]
  • Colmar Brunton Survey, Reid Research Poll
  • it was a game of two halves 
  • awesome
  • crossing now for a live update

Many more follow so:  Read the rest of this entry »


What’s the Connection between Mary MacKillop and the Chilean Miners?

Associated Press

Thirty-three men are trapped more than half a kilometre underground when the copper mine in which they are working collapses. Nothing is heard from them for 17 days and there is the reasonable, if unexpressed, assumption that the men must be dead. Sixty-nine days after their ordeal began, all 33 men have been brought to the surface and reunited with their families. Only two require hospital treatment. The families speak of having prayed for the safe return of their husbands, lovers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles… They thank God for his mercy. There is talk of ‘a miracle’.

The Shorter Oxford gives two principal meanings of the word ‘miracle’:

1)    A marvellous event not ascribable to human or natural agency, and therefore attributed to the intervention of a supernatural agent, esp. (in Christian belief) God.

2)    A remarkable or marvellous phenomenon or event.

The first of these definitions does not fit the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, since it is clearly attributable to the courage, intelligence, ingenuity, determination and compassion of other human beings. This remarkable and marvellous event was entirely the work of man. It was not ‘a miracle’ in the first sense of the word. God had nothing to do with it.   Read the rest of this entry »


A Dissenting View on Chris Carter’s Expulsion from the Labour Party

In May 1996, six months out from a general election, the New Zealand Labour Party was in dire straits. Its poll ratings were in the low teens, while its leader’s ratings as preferred prime minister were around what is generally referred to as ‘the margin of error’.

In the same month Helen Clark received a delegation which she recalls as having included Phil Goff, Michael Cullen, Annette King, Koro Wetere and Jim Sutton.

“These people had rushed around the caucus counting numbers and then decided they’d come and confront me and ask me to stand down, and say there was a majority who wanted that to happen. And the line was, you’re a nice person, blah, blah, blah, but you can’t win the election and we don’t want to have to challenge you directly at the caucus, so it would just be better if you resigned. And I said to them, “Well, if you want a change of leader, you’re going to have to go into the caucus and move a motion.”’ 

The plotters declined to take that course of action. Clark’s decision to call their  bluff was not because she was certain she had the numbers, but because she knew that there was no-one capable of taking her place. Twelve years later there was still no-one capable of taking her place. Fourteen years later Labour is polling significantly better than in  was in May 1996, but its leader is languishing on single figures as preferred Prime Minister, while his predecessor, a non-candidate, still has support for the job.

In the interim, Helen Clark would keep the Labour Party in office for an unprecedented nine years. I’m uncertain which of the coup leaders had ambitions to wrest the leadership from her in 1996, but I’m willing to give  odds that, had he or she been successful, neither would be able to lay claim to that record today.

Even more interesting than the remarkable similarity between the situation in 1996 and 2010 – Labour miles behind National in the polls and its leader more than 40 points behind John Key as preferred prime minister – is the way Clark dealt with the mutineers in her party. Far from demoting or exiling them, she not merely brought them in, she promoted them as well. Better, as Lyndon Johnson observed, to have one’s opponents inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.  

Read the rest of this entry »


A Final Tribute to (and positively the last word on) Paul Henry


I Indulge in a Bit of Amateur Psychobabble about Paul Henry

Herald on Sunday

Many years ago Ian Fraser and I had a conversation about the qualities needed to be a successful television interviewer. Of course you needed to be reasonably intelligent, reasonably well informed, reasonably articulate, have a reasonably pleasant voice, be reasonably OK to look at and an extremely good listener.

And then Ian added one further talent: ‘To succeed on television you have  to be able to act yourself.’

The concept is also relevant to people being interviewed on television and we sometimes pass on Ian’s theory to our clients. The problem is partly that the nerves which affect most people, including the professionals, when appearing on television before an unseen audience of possibly hundreds of thousands of people, can strip you of many of the qualities you normally have in everyday life – confidence, fluency, animation, the ability to think on your feet, express yourself clearly, even, in extremis, to express yourself at all.

The successful television performer recognises this problem and makes a conscious and concentrated effort to restore those everyday qualities. To achieve this, he  becomes an observer of the ‘actor’ playing himself, simultaneously monitoring and fine-tuning his performance on a second by second basis. There is an almost schizophrenic quality to the host/interviewer’s job in which one person – the actor – is totally engaged with his guest or audience while the other is ‘reading’ the guest’s response, thinking about the direction of the next question, calculating how much time he has left, preparing to  introduce the next item and a host of other details that are essential to a successful performance.

So I agree with Ian that, in order to succeed on television, you have to be able to ‘act yourself’, that every appearance is ‘a performance’.  ‘Being’, as distinct from ‘acting’ oneself on television, is extremely difficult.    Read the rest of this entry »


Still Not Time to Go, Paul? Still Not Time, Rick Ellis?

“Is [Anand Satyanand] even a New Zealander? Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time? Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander this time?”

And to add insult to injury:

“The audience tell us over and over again that one of the things they love about Paul Henry is that he’s prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud.”

 - TVNZ  spokeswoman Andi Brotherston

And if you thought it impossible to make things worse by offering an apology, check out this quite extraordinary performance by Henry on this morning’s Breakfast.

Update: TVNZ has suspended Paul Henry from Breakfast for two weeks without pay. He may also be replaced as frontman for This Is Your Life.