Sunday, 26 August 2012

OH BLESS!

That's not something that I say but Jim Mora always does. It never fails to make me chuckle.

I am blessed though ....with good friends.

I've been a lazy friend over the years, having moved away from Wellington in the early 1980's and not really made the effort to keep in touch with the people who helped shape my life and who have been very important to me. Over the years I would just turn up at their places (many didn't move around as much as I have) and would be welcomed and good times would ensue.



I guess this is the mark and test of good and enduring friendship.

Our place is always open to friends coming to visit but what I've noticed is that not that many Wellingtonians come North, they are content to stay in their region and why not (unless you are talking about Stokes Valley?).

Last weekend The Old Girl and I, with another good old friend Mike traveled to Wellington to share in Richard's special weekend. Boy am I glad we did (although when Richard told me that The Prowse Brothers might get togethether and perform on the weekend of the 17th August I booked my plane tickets in February).



Richard, Robert, Tracey and others have mentioned The Prowse Brothers' concert and the wonderful Saturday event in other blogs and posts so I won't go over it again except to say that I am gob-smacked as to how much talent there is amongst us. Forget American Idol and all the wannabe rockstars imitating Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber ... listen to friends, neighbours and enthusiasts who have developed skills over the years and just need an audience. The prodigious talent in The Prowse Brothers humbles me.  Chris, Richard, Robert, Rod and Darryl have a lifetime of musical experience and understanding that leaves most of us (and all the wannabes ) for dead. But, they are not arrogant about it. Quite the reverse they are almost self-effacing. They are comfortable in their own skins I guess, having working lives and families that balance out their musical aspirations.

I doubt that I really got across what I wanted to say (blame that on the Huntaway Central Otago Pinot Noir I bought on special at Pak 'n' Save) but believe me there are things in life that enrich us and last weekend was one for me.


STRANGE KIDS - AN OCCASIONAL SERIES # 3

Kevin was one of the kids who lived in the old neighbourhood. I don't know what school he went to (if at all). He was one of those kids who weren't really part of the after school set but was just always there. Know what I mean?
Kevin smelled funny. He was a gangly kid and lived in the old house at the top of the hill. Probably everyone can remember people who lived in 'the old house at the top of the hill'. The strange ones. As kids we didn't really know much about them except snippets we overheard from our parents -sotto voce  " .... the A's did.....".
Kevin ate dirt and coal.


FOR RICHARD (OF RBB)


STRANGE KIDS - AN OCCASIONAL SERIES #2

John was different from the other boys at Marist Brothers Newtown. Sure he looked like the others in his black uniform with the green edging but he came from Karori. This was Newtown. Strange.

The boys had heard rumours of the weird kids who went to Marist Thorndon where most of the Catholic boys from Karori, Northland and Wadestown went to. There was, it was said, one kid who would put his cap back on his head after dropping it in the urinal!

John was an only child.
 This in itself was strange in a Catholic school where most kids came from large families.
John also had no father. What had happened to him? We wondered.
John's mother was a martinet. We had seen her at school on parent's days. She was prim, proper and severe. She was Scottish.



One morning in Standard 6 John walked up to the headmaster's desk and put down his prefects badge. He handed over a letter and asked the headmaster to read it out. Brother Paulinus duly did so. He read:

"I am a disgrace to the school and am unworthy to hold the position of prefect. I disobeyed my mother and wilfully stayed out late last night past tea-time. I am handing in my badge. I am sorry that I have let everyone down"

We all looked at John in a different way after that.


STRANGE KIDS - AN OCCASIONAL SERIES #1

Philip came back into class after the morning break. 'Playtime' it was known as then, at St Anne's Catholic Primary School in Newtown in the late 1950's. Philip had a secret. It was warm and comforting and he wanted to share it with everyone.
When everyone in the class settled down at their desks with their slates in  front of them at the ready, Philip remained standing. Sister A (the Terrible) looked up and noticed Philip and told him to sit down. Philip refused. Sister A then commanded Philip to sit down and once again he refused. Incensed, Sister A stormed down the class room to the back where Philip's desk was and told him again to sit down. Philip, wanting to cry but also wanting to share his secret, again refused. Sister A used the long leather belt she wore around her habit as a strap and whacked Philip around the legs. (The nuns wore belts that had a trailing end that reached to the floor.)



 Philip yelped and climbed up onto the desk. This 'refuge' only made his legs an easier target for Sister A and she repeatedly strapped him with the belt and smacked him with her ruler. Philip cried and alternately tried to shield his legs and his pocket which didn't go unnoticed. "Philip. What have you got in your pocket?" asked Sister A. The rest of the class looked down or away. They all knew what Philip's secret was. After repeated prompting Philip eventually put his hand in his pocket and withdrew something and handed it to Sister A.

She gasped and whacked his legs again. In Philip's hand was a now cold and slightly squashed turd.

Friday, 24 August 2012

INNOCENCE LOST

Isn’t it annoying nowadays when you are forced into behaviour worrying what others may think.
I’m referring to propriety and the way that adults, particularly men have to act around young women and children. It is said to be one of the reasons that early education and primary schools don’t have enough male teachers.
Admittedly Stewart Murray Wilson types and that school teaching fool recently arrested for paedophilia exist but in general they are in the minority. Why then do we adjust our behaviour?
Today I went for a walk to Auckland Domain from our city apartment. I decided to take a short cut through Grafton Cemetery as I hadn’t seen the bottom part of this large, sprawling, delightfully unkempt bit of Auckland’s history. I thought that I would get to the bottom of the gully on the slopes of which the cemetery and bush cling and be able to easily cross over to the other side where Auckland hospital and the domain are.



Well, I got lost. The tracks petered out and I had to bush-bash a bit, cross a stream and climb up the other side.
It was here that I encountered a young German woman. She was also lost. When I asked here which way she had come from she answered ‘Germany’.
Oooookaaay – I twigged that, so eventually found that she was trying to get to Mt Eden (quite a way from where we were). As we were already on the other side of the gully we kept going up and met the motorway (or at least one of the 2 lane off-ramps going in to the city). Waiting for a break in the traffic I darted across to climb the bank at the other side.


 This was at the base of the Grafton Bridge towering above. This old bridge spans Spaghetti Junction with a total of about 12 or more motorway lanes and entry/exit lanes. 


 Unfortunately it was impossible to get anywhere at the other side so turned to go back and found that she had followed me across the motorway. We returned. We re-crossed the motorway off-ramp (which had got busier) and bush-bashed back down the gully to the stream and up the other side. Eventually finding one of the many criss-crossing paths in the bush that lead back to the cemetery I went right and she went left. I pointed out the direction she needed to get to Mount Eden, strongly suggesting that she goes back up to Symonds Street and go South from there. I told her that I was going to get to the bridge and cross it to the East.

I was conscious that I was in the bush alone with a young blonde German student (about 20) in one of the city’s dodgier areas which is haunted at night by drug addicts, down-and-outers and unsavoury characters. I wanted to take her hand and help her up the slippery and muddy paths to the top but was aware that it could freak her out. As it was I kept my distance, directed her where to go and watched over her as she made her way back up to the (slightly more) established cemetery paths.





She was obviously in no danger from a sexual predator with me but on reflection I had led her across several motorway lanes, down and up slippery banks, across a fallen tree that spanned the creek and through a decaying and decrepit cemetery. All this from a joker who got lost in Western Springs park (see here).  

WILD WEST END
I went on across Grafton Bridge (that any sensible person would have crossed in the first place) to the domain and visited the delightful Winter Gardens with the magnificent old tropical greenhouse (a sort of mini Kew Gardens).
On my way back across the bridge I couldn’t help wondering if my bush companion had in fact made it out to Symonds Street or would she be doomed to be lost there to become feral.

I hope she made it out of the park

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

STOP SHOUTING AT ME

.... it won't induce me to buy your product. In fact, it will cause me to avoid buying your product.

Does New Zealand have the highest percentage of 'shouty' ads on TV and radio? I haven't seen any research evidence on this but I certainly believe that it is true.

 With a small population, New Zealand doesn't have the buying power to support a high level of brand activity. It is generally only the fast food, beer ,soft drink,  banks and insurance companies that can consistently and heavily advertise across multi-channels.



 Sure, some smaller brands have some clever and interesting advertisements but these are usually low frequency and in targetted media. Increasingly most others resort to the incredibly annoying and obviously cheap 'shouty' ads.


Some idiot obviously told them that these are effective and it may well have been the case years ago. Now they are simply intrusive.
It has got to the point now when at any time of day some buffoon is screaming at us to take advantage of a 'never to be repeated' special (which is repeated each week.
Watching children's morning TV recently I was gobsmacked at a brand using a kid in shouting mode to sell their shit.

Gruen Transfer discuss 'shouty' ads here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGhyyKddovY

I'm amazed that these ad guys like them (although they go where the money is I suppose).

I think its time for viewers and consumers to take a stand and do any or all of these things:

  • turn the TV or radio off
  • boycott the annoying brand in question
  • complain to the radio or TV station
After all, who likes a shouty bastard? I don't.

Prick

Saturday, 11 August 2012

CHEAP AND NASTY

Remember Boxing Day sales?

I mean the real ones where, the day after Christmas, many retail stores opened their doors for half a day to sell items at discounted prices - maybe as much as 10 or 15% off enduring items and 50% off consumable/perishable merchandise. These were very popular and a chance to buy things to put away for the coming year.

In Winter the big department stores like Ballantynes in Christchurch, Kirkaldie & Staines in Wellington and Smith and Caughey's in Auckland would have big clearance sales with even bigger discounts.

This was real exciting retailing and you felt really good if you got a bargain.
Nowadays there are so many sales that they cease to excite and, worse still a lot of the merchandise is cheap stuff brought in especially to be 'on sale'

In the late '70's and early '80's supermarkets developed from the previous small format grocery stores and began to show what they would latterly become, gobbling up wine shops, bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers and most other traditional produce providers as they grew.



All good said Joe Public and raced along to shop for cheaper (at first) product with the convenience of parking.

In the mid '80's, because everyone was looking for a bargain Stephen Tindall made sure they got one with the establishment and subsequent growth of The Warehouse. Never mind that this behemoth destroyed local community shopping, led to the creation of shopping strip wastelands (and rise of $2 shops) and that most of the product was made in dodgy countries using even dodgier production methods which in turn was the last straw for much local manufacture - everyone was getting a bargain - or so it seemed until the $20 gumboots leaked after a month of use and the garden spade bent at striking the first stone.



Following on from the model of The Warehouse, electronic, home ware and variety stores (mostly owned or influenced by Australian companies) increased their formats and upped the levels of discounting. Great? Yes there were deals to be had, especially coming on the back of generations of import quotas, high duties and tariffs and cautious overseas borrowing and spending that had been controlled by successive governments. The 1984 Labour government, like 'em or hate 'em,  put paid to that and opened the gates for a flood of shit stuff imported goods that consumers hadn't previously been given access to. Initially the same TV, radio, computer, electric appliance, fridge, stove or washing machine became more affordable and, with a relaxation of credit controls and lending, anything could be bought on tick ( although it would end up costing twice as much over the may years of debt incurred). But hey. Live for today, not tomorrow. Soon though a huge amount of our country's overseas funds was used up by cheap, shoddy, throwaway junk that, whilst being initially cheap doesn't last as long as the quality product, cannot be repaired  and has to be replaced much sooner.

"No thanks, I'll wait for the 100% off deal"


In 1999 Trade Me started up. A novel idea for New Zealand, based loosely on eBay, Trade Me was a boon for buyers and sellers alike. No longer needing to hold or go to garage sales kiwis could buy treasure or get rid of unwanted junk. This site was phenomenally successful, eventually being sold to Fairfax for hundreds of millions. The trouble, eventually, with Trade Me is that it has developed into a site dominated by professional and unprofessional traders selling cheap and tacky rubbish. Sure there are still bargains to be had and opportunities to move stuff (we successfully sold some items of furniture recently - a good buy for the purchasers and some extra funds for us) but these are now buried amongst all the other shit.



Supermarkets, which as said before replaced local grocers and other providers have relentlessly ripped the heart out of most other fresh produce retail including wine resellers. The wine sales that are a regular feature offer wines at very cheap prices. While there are still great deals to be had it is a case of caveat emptor as a lot of brands that have been regularly promoted at '$10 off normal price' have been engineered downwards to be cheap imitations of their former selves. Also the 'normal price' is often a fiction dreamed up by the store owners.

With 'everyone seeking a bargain' it wasn't long before wine companies started using web sales to move product. Sites like www.blackmarket sprang up in the early 2000's. Blackmarket is the consistently best of them and is an honourable site offering good product and prices to the consumer and fair deals to the wine companies. Wine companies sell extra to requirement product through this and other sites for several reasons. Sometimes they do have legitimate 'failed export shipments' (although this is a well known marketing ploy nowadays). They often do have stock they wish to move before a new vintage arrives. Selling through websites is often more profitable than dealing through the  'greedy grocers' and is a way of largely keeping the discounts hidden and thus protecting brand equity.


There have been some new wine websites spring up that are less reputable. I had the experience of buying some wine recently that was advertised as X brand of Y varietal from  Z region of a 2009 vintage. When it arrived I saw, when pulling the cork that it was 2008 vintage (printed on the cork even though the label said 2009). More alarming was the fact that the cork also had the wine providers name and region on the cork. This region had no pedigree for the type of red wine I bought and if I had known it would not have purchased the case. The label as per the advertising stated a different region that had a higher reputation for the varietal and thus commanded higher prices.
Incensed I contacted the website company and asked for an explanation. The stammered and stupid response was that the wine provider had made a mistake and put he wrong cork in the bottle. Not accepting this I told the website company to come up with a better story real quick or I was going to the authorities (wine fraud is a serious offence). Meanwhile I contacted the wine company who were appalled at what had happened. They said that they had sold a large quantity of 'cleanskin wine' to the website (cleanskin is wine with cork or screwcap but no label) and were told that it would be properly marketed as coming from their region and correct vintage). The website provider soon rang back to apologise that they had got it wrong. They pretended to have mixed up the shipments and put the wrong label on the wine bottle. I had checked the label a bit more thoroughly by this time and found that of the thirteen mandatory requirements of information on the labels (front and back) no less than eight of them were either incorrect or missing. When pushed they admitted that they did not have a red varietal from other companies in the region that they stated on the label so the 'mixed them up' excuse held no water. The label in question was one that they had created. I told them that if the product was not immediately removed from the website then I would report them to the various authorities whose regulations they had contravened.
I am pleased to say that they did remove it and I received my credit.

Buyer beware.



This leads me to what I really wanted to write about (huge sigh of relief from Richard (of RBB) if he is still reading - ed).

We are all aware of the rise of Grab One and similar sites that bombard our e-mail in-boxes. Initially of course these were a good idea with retailers, wholesalers and service providers being able to get rid of excess stock and to increase their trade in quiet periods. Everyone got a bargain and everyone was happy. It didn't take long before the charlatans, wide boys and crooks got in on the act and Fair Go, Close Up, Target and other consumer watchdogs have reported on the problems of people not getting what they paid for or, when turning up to redeem the service they ordered being surprised to discover that it was no longer available.

Like Trade Me, these sites are being taken over by dodgy traders who take your money first before importing cheap and nasty product (sometimes knock-off or imitation product) from overseas and, if you are lucky you receive it weeks or months later.

A recent TV investigation into dangerous knock-off brands being imported from China warned consumers of buying them. No doubt this stuff will turn up on these sites.

Chinese brand interpretation


"Where Everyone gets a Bargain' was a good advertising slogan a few years ago. Unfortunately the good old 'There's no such thing as a free lunch' or 'Caveat Emptor (buyer beware)' may be more than ever appropriate now.

Friday, 3 August 2012

BECAUSE IT'S FRIDAY FOR PHÛK’S SAKE

We live in Auckland's CBD during the week and are spoiled for choice with many cafes nearby.
As we live next to Auckland University and AUT most of these are affordable and interesting with Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian and others galore. Within easy walking distance (no driving required) are wine bars, pubs, theatres and restaurants.

Tonight I am staying in Auckland as I am working tomorrow at The Food Show and, as The Old Girl is up North I decided to have fish and chips for tea.



Walking from High Street, up Queen Street, Wakefield Street, Symond Street I looked for a good old-fashioned 'greasy shop' and checked out all the Asia restaurants to see if any did fish and chip takeaways. There were none and none did.

Bugger!

I like the Chinese, Japanese and Thai places usually but tonight was Friday Dammit! I just wanted plain old fish and chips, something that the suburbs offer in plenty.

NEW POST - THE NEW DIFFERENT TIME ZONE BILL

Bill just got back from travelling and published a new post      HERE   It's good that he's busy but I'm starting to ...