Who’s blogging? by underground
March 9, 2009, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Journalism, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , ,

Blogging is the internet version of newspaper’s letters to the editor and radio’s talkback. Rather than the media dictate what comments and opinions are aired or published, these formats allow for feedback from the general public. But who is talking? Who is it that writes to the editor? Who rings up the radio station? Who keeps an active blog?

At our community paper with a readership of around 25,000, we get a steady stream of letters to the editor. A vast amount, however, are from familiar names. Typically, but not always, these people have a lot of time on their hands as they are retired. Their gripes are usually with council, many are valid, many are the products of idle minds.

The same people get on the phone calling up late night talkback, complaining about anything and everything.

So who’s blogging? Who are the people behind the most active blogs, many updated as often as daily?

My last post was a month ago, and even then it was a book review. As a reporter I spend most of the day in front of the computer either writing the news or reading the news. In my spare time, doing the same thing but for my blog is hardly appealing. It has to be something I want to get off my chest or something on my mind I want to put online that spurs me to put up another post. Last year as a student I could put up as many as a post a day. Readership skyrocketed! But now I simply do not have the time nor the energy. So who does? And why do they?

I’m not quitting my blog. I’m just writing when I want to, not writing to keep the weekly ratings above 300. Next post might be some time away!


Review: Where underpants come from by underground

Writer Joe Bennett’s energy and enthusiasm is legendary, captured not only in his regular television appearances but also in his newspaper columns. His sentences race wildly like a high speed chase, weaving through ideas, from one thought to the next, ceasing abruptly with a bizarre observation. It is his ability to describe scenes and experiences which I love, as he will use the most inappropriate words to most aptly convey what he means. It is truly a wonder how he does it.

Where underpants come from follows Bennett’s exploration through China, as he searches for the raw materials that constitute his $8.59 underwear¬† purchased from the Warehouse. The underwear serve as the vehicle for Bennett’s investigation into globalisation and China’s evergrowing role in the world, as well as the country’s social, historical, political, religious and economic makeup.

His energy and enthusiasm are what makes his quest possible, as he convinces firstly the Warehouse, and then their numerous suppliers, to allow him to see how his cotton undies got from the cotton fields of China to the shelves of New Zealand. What to some may sound like a boring story, Bennett ensures is anything but, with typically bright descriptions bringing his observations to life. For example, a maitresse ‘d at a Shanghai restaurant is described as “wearing what looks like the uniform of a London parking warden and her hair is tied back in a manner that the Soviet Union’s champion woman tractor driver of 1956 would have found just a little severe”. From then on she is referred to as the “tractor-driving champ”. Genius.

I’ll be hunting down Bennett’s numerous other books to give me more late night laughs.

Israel is not an island. by underground

As if contestants in the TV show survivor, Israeli soldiers have been granted immunity from prosecution by their prime minister for participating in the last game show challenge.

From the BBC:

In Israel, Prime Minister Olmert told a weekly cabinet meeting that soldiers who had put their lives on the line for their country need not fear prosecution for war crimes overseas.

“The commanders and soldiers that were sent on the task in Gaza should know that they are safe from any tribunal and that the State of Israel will assist them in this issue and protect them as they protected us with their bodies during the military operation in Gaza,” he said.

What is Olmert saying here? That international law does not cover Israel? That, theoretically, an Israeli soldier could rape, massacre, torture, in fact do anything they desire,  safe in the knowledge that their PM will not allow them to be held accountable? Does this not encourage the crimes we have heard reported from Gaza in the past conflict? Why concern oneself with abiding by international conventions when you are exempt from their consequences?

Olmert expects the international community to condemn and punish Hamas criminals for violating international law, rightly, however will not play ball and allow his own forces to be held accountable for their actions. In insisting their troops are outside of international law, with the assistance of the US, Olmert and his predecessors are allowing and even encouraging Israeli soldiers to violate human rights. So when kids on beaches are shelled, when homes are bulldozed with the occupants still inside and marked UN buildings and refugee camps are fired upon, Olmert and his associates are as culpable as the commander who gives the order to fire. Perhaps the next time he is outside of his country’s borders, Olmert should be held accountable to the international laws he flouts and be tried at the Hague.

Obamania: Sickness or cure? by underground

I was bored today. That is the only way I can explain me watching Entertainment Tonight’s inauguration special. I now know what Barack, Michelle and the girls were wearing, who performed live, who thought what, when, why and how. Thousands of people were in the streets, celebrating as though World War Two had just been declared over. Everyone was so excited, every superlative exhausted, every glowing face crying tears of liquid patriotism. It was beautiful. It was history. It was mindnumbing crap.

On a level with perhaps only JFK, Obama is as much a politician as he is a celebrity. What he wears and who he is seen with is as important as what he says and what he does. For all some people seem to care, he could be a chart topping rapper. His number one single is “Yes we can” and his Gold selling album is “Change we can believe in”. People are going crazy over a politician. A politician!¬† Is this a good thing?

Is this a case of style over substance? Surely it is great people are inspired and interested in politics and ideals, but is Obama much more than slogans and great oratary skills? During the campaign he initially impressed me, particular during the Democratic Primaries, but gradually he has appeared to me as less of a deviation from the status quo as his slogans declare him to be. I was excited as anyone when he won the election, as excited as a non-American could (should) be, but I believe the hype is going over board. Is this man really the messiah? I’m not writing him off, I know he will be an improvement on his predecessor, but considering the mammoth tasks ahead of him I’m keeping my expectations low!

The question I am pondering, is will Obama get people who previously didn’t care about politics, society or the world to follow important issues with interest and participate actively in democracy, or is he simply a cult of personality, divorced from any substance, popular for who he isn’t, worshipped like a teen heart-throb?

I suppose I’ll know in four years time.

Review: Auckland Big Day Out ’09 by underground

A notably smaller crowd filed its way around Mt Smart Stadium on Friday January 16 for Australasia’s premier music festival. Headlining this year was veteran rocker Neil Young, a surprise choice which aimed to pull older music fans, but risked deterring younger fans. As it turned out, Young was one of few highlights as unenthusiastic bands struggled to impress an uninterested crowd. Well that was my take anyway!

Most the early bands were unremarkable, although Clap Clap Riot were an early highlight, with catchy upbeat songs. The Naked and the Famous were the first of many indie bands to disappointed, particular as the sound was so poor. For many bands of this genre the bassist had an awful distortion effect on their set up, while the guitarists abused a lineup of pedals. Either that or the sound guy hates indie bands. What might work on a studio recording doesn’t necessarily sound good live.

Not just awful on the radio, the Ting Tings were best avoided live. With few options we headed to the main stage to check out Welsh metallers Bullet for my Valentine. An unexpected breath of fresh air, Bullet for my Valentine offered a reprieve from the uninspiring indie bands that dominated the event’s bill. The sane were safely tucked away in the stands, far from the mayhem in front of the stage. As if possibly the largest circle pit ever wasn’t dangerous enough, for the final song the vocalist asked the crowd to part through the middle, before giving the word for the insane to close the gap in a hail of fists and feet.

The boiler room leaked onto the main stage with Pendulum reminding non-ravers that drum and bass hasn’t changed much in the past decade. The fluro-clad masses were pleased nonetheless, with a huge hands-in-the-air crowd filling most of the football field getting their groove on.

TV on the Radio was the epitome of what was wrong with this year’s event. Like so many in their genre, TVOTR lacked energy, enthusiasm, and sounded poor. The vocalist was the only band member with any stage presence, the guitarist spending most the time with his back to the crowd. It took several songs for the band to really get going and the crowd, apart from a few die hards, hardly got into it. As an up-and-coming band TVOTR disappointed many fans who had come to the event to see them, playing almost only their new album.

Next year I’m bringing my own food. Following my $3.50 slither of watermelon, I splashed out on a $6.50 “lamb” burger. I should really contact the consumer complaints people, because there was definitely no lamb in the sausage tasting patty slapped between a slice of tomato, beetroot and buns. Needed to be washed down with beer. The beer was good though.

Showing all before him how it is done, Serj Tankian put on a true performance. Having seen System of a Down twice before I had high expectations, although was not too sure what to expect. Like most in the crowd I didn’t know any of the songs, but was absorbed by Tankian’s theatrics and phenomenal voice nonetheless. Two days later, I bought the CD. Brilliant. Would love to see what the Lebanese-born American-Armenian Piha-resident has planned with the Auckland Philharmonic Orhestra in the near future.

The Living End played the “Shihad slot”, performing a typically impressive and entertaining set. Unfortunetly the D-barrier requires fans get in early to see a big band before the enclosed area is closed off, meaning the crowd in front of the Living End were mainly Arctic Monkey fans. Chris Cheney’s attempts to get the crowd involved fell flat on its face with only sections of the crowd singing along. Still the Aussie trio gave their all, not letting an unenthusiastic crowd dampen their spirits.

Those who squeezed past my during the Living End to see the Arctic Monkeys must have been disappointed by their performance or have never witnessed a decent band play. Perhaps because the only song I know is upbeat and danceable, I expected a fast and exciting set, but instead the Arctic Monkeys were laboured and boring. Knowing where to find a real live show, I left early to see the Dropkick Murphys.

All the reviews I have read so far have failed to mention the Dropkick Murphys, which is a shame because the Boston punk band put on one hell of a show. Even if you are not into punk, these guys are worth checking out, as they are arguably the best dance act of the event’s bill. Playing with the passion lacking from most bands’ sets, the celtic-influenced Dropkicks had the considerable crowd on their feet with their folk-punk ditties. I never thought so much Irish jigging was possible until I saw the Dropkick Murphys. Superlatives fail. Extra credit for the lead vocalist’s Tino Rangatiratanga t-shirt!

Back to the main stage for the headlining act Neil Young who, as many have already said, showed many of the preceding bands half his age how to perform. I’m not a fan, but I can appreciate and respect the talent of the man. However good Neil Young was though, he clearly wasn’t the crowd puller organisers had thought, with the field and the stands only half full and the D barrier area still open. A year ago Rage Against the Machine had the whole stadium packed and singing (screaming) along to every word. Young simply isn’t most young fans’ cup of tea, and perhaps Young fans weren’t keen on mixing it with young fans.

In the end, despite a handful of special performances the overwhelming mediocrity of many bands ensured this wasn’t the best Big Day Out.

Ceasefire: Hope for the gullible. by underground

Delivering a speech laced with propaganda Goebbels would be proud of, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced a unilateral ceasefire in Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

Apparently Israel has achieved its objectives in the war, which must have been to inflict as many casualties on the Gaza’s civilian population. Claims by Olmert that the military have resisted attacking “terrorists” in some cases during the operation because of the potential harm to civilians runs contrary to media reports and UN claims. No doubt the insulated ignorant within Israels borders will lap up Olmerts assurances. Few outside the nation will.

The unilateral ceasefire is hope for the gullible. Hamas is not a signitary and have pledged to continue the fight while occupying forces remain in Gaza. Israel have reserved the right to respond. Considering it was Israels inability to honour the conditions of the last ceasefire which began this disgusting war, this ceasefire is as worthless as Olmert’s word.

So what has been achieved? Israel points to the damage inflicted on Hamas and the governments infrastructure as evidence of the operation’s success. Hamas leaders are dead or in hiding. Many militants are dead. However Hamas will not struggle to recruit replacements. With over 1,000 dead and 5,000 injured, it won’t be hard to find people who want to fight against the Israeli aggressors. Israel has won no support from Palestinians. With every war crime a new terrorist/freedom fighter is born. Peace is very clearly not on Olmert’s agenda. And so the war continues.

Caveat emptor or something like that. by underground

I bought a TV the other day. I had no idea what I was looking at when I bought it, I just wanted the cheapest one with a screen large enough to be seen from the beanbag positioned one and a half metres away. I’m pleased with the one I got, despite the poor reception we have to put up with and will continue to put up with until I get up on the roof to wiggle the aerial or pay to get the satellite operating as more than a roof ornament.

Dubbed the “4x4s of the living room” plasma screens have just been banned in Britain. Turns out they are “energy guzzlers”, and hardly the acquisition of a responsible world citizen. And with global warming an accepted reality for everyone that can comprehend that pollution must obviously have an adverse effect on our environment, banning the sale of these living room equivalents to a coal-power station makes sense, doesn’t it?

Apparently not. Continue reading