Brian Edwards Media

Archive for December, 2010

Who the hell is buying all these cookbooks?

The leader in the latest Listener looks at the likely effect of the e-book on the publication and sale of the printed word. As a virtual non-reader, now for the first time enjoying reading newspapers, magazines and books on my iPad, I suspect that the effect, if not fatal, will be both negative and significant.

But what interested me most in the Listener editorial was to learn that, in an otherwise flat book market in 2010, Annabel Langbein’s – her surname, if you’re interested, means ‘longlegs’ – The Free Range Cook had sold 88,400 copies. As the Listener rightly pointed out, ‘This is a phenomenal figure for a New Zealand-published book, which would more commonly sell fewer than 5,000.’ ‘Phenomenal’ may almost be an understatement. It’s bloody amazing.

It helps of course to have your own television series. Thanks in no small part to the small screen,  the newly-damed Alison Holst may well have sold more cookbooks than Ms Langbein, but not in a single year. And there were Graham Kerr and Des Britten and Hudson and Halls and others whose names I have forgotten.

But you don’t have to be on television to sell a cookbook. Indeed the cookbook seems to have displaced the sports book as the publication most likely to succeed. Non-fiction authors expecting their just-published memoir to head  the top-ten-selling non-fiction books in any one week, are likely to find themselves at #9 for the first week and nowhere at all thereafter. To rub salt into the wound, six of the books above them will have been cookbooks. As a nation we appear to be obsessed with food. And our obsession is fed and fattened by television, where you can not only see three cooking programmes on a single channel on a single evening, but indulge yourself in non-stop, 24-hour viewing of channels devoted to nothing else.

You can of course do that for free, or virtually for free. But you have to buy a cookbook. So the question remains – why do Kiwis buy so many cookbooks?  Read the rest of this entry »


Are our political beliefs hard-wired? New research suggests that they are.


Conservative MP Alan Duncan's Brain

Are political beliefs hard-wired? This was a question put to Professor Geraint Rees at UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience earlier this month by actor Colin Firth, guest editor of BBC 4’s Today programme.

To attempt to answer the question Professor Rees invited Thatcherite Conservative MP Alan Duncan and Labour stalwart Stephen Pound to undergo a structural brain scan using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). He then extended the experiment to include a pool of 90 undergraduates and post-doctorates who had previously been scanned at the Institute in other, unrelated experiments. They were asked to fill in a questionnaire assessing their political values, and their answers (along with those from the two MPs) were compared with the earlier structural brain scans. Today reports:

The results showed a strong correlation between political belief and two specific regions of the brain. The grey matter of the anterior cingulate was significantly thicker amongst those who described themselves as liberal, or left wing, while the amygdala – an area associated with emotional processing – was larger in those who regarded themselves as conservative or right wing. 

“It’s a remarkable finding” says professor Rees. “We were very surprised to find two areas of the brain from which we could predict political attitudes.”

Interestingly the results from Alan Duncan and Stephen Pound were consistent with the overall findings. Stephen Pound’s scan revealed a thicker anterior cingulate – consistent with those students who described themselves as left-wing – while Alan Duncan’s was thinner. Both MP’s recorded similar densities for the amygdala.   Read the rest of this entry »


A little yuletide surprise – coming to a mall near you.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!



Extra! Extra! Read all about it – Newpaper editor sets out to prove blogger right!


Some of you may have thought I was overstating the descent of the New Zealand Herald from quality broadsheet to trash tabloid in yesterday’s post. If so, today’s front page might just give you pause for thought. The style of the Hotchin headline – provocative quote from bad guy, screamer fonts, cut-through red for the damning evidence – combined with a photograph of Hotchin looking like someone you might expect to see on America’s Most Wanted and body copy which essentially says, ‘Filthy rich bastard wants even more!’ – all of this would sit perfectly comfortably on the front pages of the News of the World or The Sun.

There is  just a slight problem with the headline  which is clearly intended to convey the idea that the words ‘I need $7000 a week’  are a quote, that they were actually spoken by Hotchin. But there’s nothing in the story to support that at all. Indeed, the third para of the story reads: ‘But that’s not enough for Mr Hotchin and the Herald understands he has sought to increase that limit to between $6000 and $7000 so he can pay for rent, living costs, a hire car and private school fees for three children.’  Unless I’ve misunderstood the story, Hotchin didn’t speak the words in the headline at all.  Read the rest of this entry »


Shock! Horror! Front page Herald investigation reveals Mark Hotchin is wealthy man!!!!!

Herald/Brett Phibbs

The Herald devotes most of today’s front page to a story headlined ‘LUXURY HIDEAWAY – Mark Hotchin hot and bothered as Herald calls in’. There’s a large photo of Hotchin looking ‘hot and bothered’, a photo of the ‘luxury hideaway… overlooking the golden sands of Mermaid Beach’ on the Gold Coast and a sidebar reminding readers (How could they have forgotten?)  of other properties owned by Hotchin, including ‘the $30 million extravagant Paritai Dr home in Auckland’.

From this story you will learn that Mark Hotchin is a very rich man with lots of expensive real estate in nice places, whose assets have been frozen but who has been granted a $1,000 a week living allowance.

In other words, from this story you will learn absolutely zip, except perhaps that nothing delights journalists so much as the opportunity to climb on a bandwagon, even if that involves flogging the dead horse pulling it. (Sorry!)

But I did like the use of the term ‘calls in’ in the headline and, later in the story: ‘He’s unhappy that the Herald came calling on his multi-million-dollar Gold Coast property during the weekend.’ I had no idea that Hotchin and the Herald or its reporter Andrew Koubaridis were on such friendly terms that they could just ‘call in’ or ‘come calling’ on their old buddy Mark.  But it does make his angry reception of them all the more bewildering.

As with Tristram Clayton’s airport ambush of Hotchin on Campbell Live, the only sensible words spoken in the Herald story came from Hotchin himself: ‘Leave it to the courts, they’ll sort it out.’  Read the rest of this entry »


Not getting the laughs? No worries, mate – just say f*** and c*** a lot!

My extremely intelligent two-year-old grandson, Johnny Rakai, recently invented his own naughty word – ‘poonana’. For several weeks he went around saying to everyone, ‘You’re a poonana!’ I was not excluded. ‘You’re a poonana, Grandad!’ He would burst out laughing and, for a while, so would we. After a time, of course, it ceased to be funny and we dealt with the situation in that infuriating adult way, by not being shocked and not laughing. Because he is extremely intelligent, Johnny Rakai quickly read the omens and moved on.

Watching last night’s comedy train-wreck Roast of Mike King on Comedy Central I was reminded of Johnny Rakai’s ‘poonana’ – infantile, intended to shock, clever in a two-year-old. I’d prefer to leave the comparison there; anything further would be an insult to my grandson.

If you were fortunate enough to have missed last night’s show, I should tell you that Mike King was ‘roasted’ by Brendan Lovegrove, Michelle A’Court, Jeremy Elwood, Andrew Clay, Dean Butler, Jan Maree and host Willy de Wit.

There were some clever lines, some demonstrations of wit in the programme, but they were few and far between, host, roasters and roastee preferring to rely on peppering everything they said with ‘fuck’, ‘fucking’, ‘cunt’ and jokes about one another’s vaginas, ‘tits’ and ‘cocks’. I didn’t count, but the number of times these words and references were made over the 45 minutes of air time, must have run into the hundreds. This is the template provided by the American version of the show.  Read the rest of this entry »


Before you think about booking a cheap flight…

Here’s a little warning for all our gentle readers who are contemplating air travel during the holiday season.

(Warning – bad language may offend!)


Trouble with HP – and I don’t mean Sauce!

Update on this post:

Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) a very nice lady from Hewlett Packard in Auckland rang me. She offered a generous apology for the problems I’d experienced in getting information from HP here and…  well…  somewhere else, and explained that the switchboard in Auckland had gone down on the very day that this curmudgeonly blogger had happened to call. She also told me where I could get the wireless printer I wanted and gave me some free advice on how I could get the same result with a cheaper model. Now that IS service and I thank her very much. Now HP just needs to sort out their call centre in… wherever.]


Now sometimes you just need to get something off your chest. And if you’re a blogger what better place to vent your fury or frustration than in an inflammatory post. So here goes:

I recently bought an iPad. I won’t bore you with my love for this product and for Apple and all its works. Suffice to say, the machine is wonderful and so are they.

Well, like most iPad owners, I’ve been buying various nifty attachments and applications to add to my enjoyment of this wondrous machine. I won’t bore you with that either, except to say that Apple’s wireless keyboard is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

I now want to be able to print directly from my iPad. To do that I need something called ‘an Airprint-enabled printer’, in layman’s language a wireless printer. I already have an HP Officejet 6300 All-in-One printer. It works fine, but it ain’t wireless.

Fortunately the nice Apple people have provided a list of wireless printers compatible with their iPad. And Hewlett Packard make a whole lot of them. Wunderbar!

But this is all pretty new technology and it occurs to me that these particular printers may not be available in Godzone. Ringing round all the computer and printer outlets would be cumbersome. Much easier to get the answer to my question straight  from the horse’s mouth, in this case Hewlett Packard.  Read the rest of this entry »


The Shower Scene from Psycho



Alfred Hitchcock gave us one of the most famous scenes in cinema history in Psycho. The Shower Scene has been the subject of endless essays, articles and rumours.

Some of the facts are still in dispute – for example, Hitchcock and actress Janet Leigh both insisted that she didn’t use a body double in the scene. Others disputed this, and there’s an interesting Guardian article by Will Hodgkinson which seems to give credence to the idea that this was simply a ploy to gain more publicity for the film. A naked star is worth a lot more column inches than a naked no-name.

Anthony Perkins, however, was doubled for the entire scene – he was in New York rehearsing a play.

The scene itself was shot in black and white for effect, as indeed was the entire film. It only increases the suspense and the horror.  The scene is less than two minutes long, but contains over 70 edits and took seven days to film. The ‘blood’ is chocolate syrup (sorry if I’m shattering some illusions here).

So – here it is. It stands the test of time. The old master at his best.


“Photo-Op PM” (revisited)

Hawkes Bay Tribune

I have only met John Key once. He was either standing for parliament or recently elected. I can’t remember. A prominent television newsreader, whom we were helping to add ‘interviewer’ to his range of skills, had invited him along as a guest. It was usual for trainee interviewers to rope in politicians as interview subjects. The would-be interviewers could practise their interrogation skills and the politicians could practise fending them off.

We knew little or nothing about Key at the time, so the impressions we had of him were first impressions which, they say, are the most lasting. Key was easy, engaging, pleasant, a man seemingly comfortable in his own skin and a good listener. If he was indeed going places, he displayed neither arrogance nor self-importance. You would have said, as the country has been saying for two years now, that he was ‘a nice bloke’. We may have given him a couple of tips on how to improve his on-camera performance, but not enough to constitute disloyalty to our #1 client.

I was reminded of this occasion by John Armstrong’s column in the Weekend Herald,  ‘Politician of the year: John Key’, sub-headed ‘Get used to it, Labour, he’s the man the country wants in charge’.

The column was as much a critique of Labour and its leader Phil Goff as it was  a paean of praise for the Prime Minister.

The left dismisses the most popular Prime Minister in New Zealand’s recent political history as Smile and Wave John Key, Do Nothing John Key and Lucky John Key. The left’s fatal error has been to constantly underrate Key in terms of ability and the fact that though he is of centre-right disposition, he is firmly at the moderate end of that broad spectrum. Key does not fit the left’s mould, which assumes or even dictates that someone as wealthy as him must be an acolyte of the old New Right. In short, Key’s critics on the left still don’t get it. Maybe the Mana byelection will remove a few scales from a few eyes. It should. That result was a gruesome preview of the slaughter that may well be inflicted on Labour at the end of next year.

Armstrong went on to list Key’s achievements and Goff’s failings.

But has Key been as good a Prime Minister and Goff as bad a Leader of the Opposition as Armstrong – whom I regard as our most astute political writer –  suggests?

Goff, it must be remembered, faces the same problem as every other Leader of the Opposition – he has to work much harder to get coverage than the PM or even a middle-ranked Cabinet Minister. Governments act, oppositions react. And generally the reaction is carping and negative. Put slightly differently, governments do, oppositions just talk.

The advantage of being in power is never more evident than during times of national crisis. Though it may seem cynical to say so, disasters, handled well, are a boon to politicians in power, while their opposition counterparts are largely sidelined. Who wants to talk to Phil Goff about the Canterbury earthquake or the Pike River mining disaster? He can do nothing  about either beyond expressing his concern and sympathy for the victims and their families.  Key, it must be said, handled the two events superbly, both in terms of being there and offering his personal and his government’s support. Goff, through no fault of his own, was conspicuous by his absence from the media coverage. If anyone doubts the role which a disaster can play in shaping a political leader’s fortunes, they need look no further than Jim Anderton and Bob Parker.   Read the rest of this entry »


Taylor Mali in praise of teachers.

Taylor Mali delivers a powerful response to the accusation:   Those who can’t, teach.


Is it Time for Paul Holmes and Dennis Conner to Kiss and Make Up?

An intriguing little item appears in this morning’s Herald. It’s about a question Radio Live’s Martin Devlin put to Dennis Conner in a phone interview at the weekend: Was there a chance that, when he attends an America’s Cup Legends charity dinner in Auckland this month, he might ‘make complete peace with Paul Holmes’.

Holmes was due to front the event, but was dropped after Conner, though not demanding that he be replaced, had expressed discomfort with the arrangement.

Conner’s reply to Devlin’s question was: ‘I don’t really remember that. Never say never to anything but certainly not high on my agenda.’

 And then, without pause: ‘Thank you, have a nice day and thanks for the call.’ And he was gone. A walkout of a sort and a minor re-run of the end of the original Holmes interview.

Devlin commented: ‘Hmm. He doesn’t remember, eh? Remembers enough though to insist that the bloke isn’t going to be the MC.’

Not according to David Higgins, one of the organisers of  the event,  who told the Herald that  Conner had not specifically said he didn’t want Holmes as MC:

“I gathered that probably wasn’t the right way to go… I like Paul. I have a lot of time for him but I spoke to Dennis on the phone and he actually came across as sharp.’

Holmes was quoted in the Herald on Sunday as having said it was ‘pathetic’ a person could hold on to something for 21 years.

Devlin is probably right that it’s barely credible that Conner can’t remember his interview with Holmes, given his response to Higgins. I suspect the truth is that he would find a public appearance with Holmes uncomfortable and that he doesn’t want to revisit or discuss an unpleasant episode in New Zealand 21 years ago when he’s returning to speak at a function to raise funds for Asthma New Zealand. He was an asthma sufferer himself as a child and it’s a cause close to his heart.

It might have been better if he’d just said so. But Conner is clearly someone who, both in a physical and a metaphorical sense, ‘walks away from’ disagreeable situations. I have some sympathy for him, I’m a bit like that myself.    Read the rest of this entry »


Musings on the Sexiest Man and Woman on the Planet

While waiting in the doctor’s surgery I was browsing through some old women’s magazines (old magazines, not old women) when I came across an article which stated that Robert Pattison had been voted ‘Sexiest Man on the Planet’. There was a photograph of Mr Pattison who was handsome enough but looked rather ashen and hollow-eyed. This may have something to do with the fact that he is apparently the male lead in the Twilight vampire movies. Someone called Megan Fox was apparently the ‘Sexiest Woman on the Planet’. I have no idea who she is, but she looked rather sulky and pouty in her photograph, which is perhaps a sign of sexiness.

I have never really understood the concept of ‘sexiest man’ or ‘sexiest woman’, least of all ‘on the planet’. Strictly speaking, one can only be judged in such superlative terms by comparison to every other man or woman on the planet. There may well be, and almost certainly is a chartered accountant in downtown Milwaukee who is far sexier than Robert Pattison, or a goat-herder in Uzbekistan who leaves Megan Fox for dead in the sexiness stakes. We will never know.

But perhaps this is mere quibbling. To be considered at all for the title ‘Sexiest Man’ or ‘Sexiest Woman’ on the planet,  you have to be internationally famous.

But this tells us very little about what actually makes someone ‘sexy’ or ‘sexier’ or ‘sexiest’. It isn’t even clear whether such terms refer to the person or to the effect that the person has on others. Some well-known female ‘sex-symbols’, such as Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Kim Novak, Ann Margret, Brigitte Bardot, Raquel Welch, Samantha Fox, Madonna, Sharon Stone, Pamela Anderson and Angelina Jolie convey an image of themselves as highly sexual beings. Their male equivalents would include Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, Steve McQueen, David Bowie, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Kevin Kostner, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, David Duchovny,  George Clooney and Hugh Jackman. But whether the image has anything to do with the real person’s psychosexual make-up, whether, to put it simply, these people have an intense need for and enjoyment of sex, we can never (without benefit of sex tape) really know. And even then….

It may not matter. Both halves of Brangelina may be as cold as ice in the sack for all we know, Sharon Stone may be the most modest creature on earth, Samantha Fox’s thrusting Page Three breasts and come-on looks may disguise a nun’s soul,  David Duchovny may be hetero- or even gen-phobic, but it is a media truism that image and perception are more powerful than reality and truth. Because we think these people are themselves ‘sexy’, we are more likely to find them ‘sexy’.  Read the rest of this entry »