Daily Bite July 2009

By Nicola Harvey

This month in the Daily Bite: the perils of wearing cozzies in the middle of winter, Michelle O, state censorship and a return to middle earth, and much more.

31.07.09: How big is too big?

ever morphing matriarch of pop, Madonna, has built her reputation on
keeping up with the cool-kids.  But when did body building biceps
become the in thing? As the Telegraph noted, the fitness devotee looks to be pumping a little bit of iron and the results are rather odd, to say the least.

30.07.09: A noble man pays tribute to a woman’s struggle

month the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi spent her 64th
birthday in prison sharing biryani rice and chocolate cake with her

She has spent most of the past 19 years in detention,
after her NLD party won elections in 1990, a result the junta refused
to honour. She was re-arrested last month after an American man swam to
her lakeside home. The world has been drawn to her cause as her trial
plays out in the media.  But she is expected to receive a guilty
verdict. This situation is unjust, morally corrupt, yet, strangely

In a fitting gesture of solidarity, printed in the Guardian,
Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu pays tribute to this courageous woman and
fellow laureate on the week she is acknowledged as Amnesty
International’s Ambassador of Conscience.

Desmond Tutu: “I think
of my sister Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi every day. Her picture
hangs on the wall of my office, reminding me that, thousands of miles
away in Asia, a nation is oppressed. Every day I ask myself: have I done everything I can try to end the atrocities being committed in Burma?” 

29.07.09: Oh Michelle O!

Michelle O fans have been frenzied this week after the First Lady revealed her sleek new shorter do.

critics call it too “marmish,” which may be true if it was worn by a
marmish sort of women, but this is Michelle O: champion of emerging
designers, bare arms and white house jazz concerts.  The woman has fine
taste so we say it’s sleek and worthy of Jackie Kennedy’s style

The LA Times are not so sure, however, writing:
“We can’t help noticing a Hollywood celebrity inspiration for
Michelle’s cutting edge chop. Did Michelle Obama copy Katie Holmes’ mop

Erm, does anyone else believe a highly successful,
educated, elegant woman would be taking tips from a 30-year-old who
married Tom Cruise?

We think not.

28.07.09: A game of cat and mouse, but with pepper spray

is fair to say parking officers are not well loved by the majority of
urban car owners, but the relationship has always been a test of wills
– of who can out smart who. This is, apparently, no longer the
situation.  The Sydney Morning Herald reported this morning that: “Parking
officers want self-defence training and the right to carry capsicum
spray and batons to protect themselves from increasingly violent
attacks by enraged motorists and others”

Do you not think
arming parking officers will increase rather decrease violence?  Wht’s
more it is a sad day when people are willing to face assault charges
over a parking fine.

27.07.09: Return to middle earth

The possibility of The Hobbit
gracing the big screen after the box office success of the Lord of the
Rings Trilogy has long been talked about.  However, according to The
film giant Peter Jackson has told Tolkien fans and movie
buffs that the finished project is still some time off.  “The two-film
production is still in the “very early stages” and is still unfunded.”

will reportedly produce the movies and co-write with the acclaimed
Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, the talent behind the graphic
masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth.

26.07.09: Cozzies in the middle of winter!

Sydneysiders are enjoying unusually warm weather this week. According to the Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday’s 24.7 degrees was the hottest July day since 1990, which meant, as per usual, people rushed off to the beach.

you’re a New Zealand reader and a swim or lie on the beach in the
MIDDLE OF WINTER sounds appealing then we have good news. Apparently
that little shake earlier this month off the coast of Fiordland caused the country to inch a whole 30cms closer to Oz, so you’ll be on the beach in no time.

25.07.09: Raybans and plaid shorts: The new Republican uniform

almost everyone outside of the US (and a good portion within for that
matter) the political goings-on are akin to good ole fashioned

Governors run off to Argentina with the mistress or sell senate seats for cash. Presidents get elected cause their Daddy knows “people”, White House interns
become overnight talk show celebrities and every now and then a few
policy decisions are made. It’s all good stuff and when viewed from
afar makes for rather decent TV gossip fodder. 

Perhaps the
entertainment value is why politicians manage to rally so many
impressionable Americans to their cause.  The Grand Old Party
(Republicans) is terrific at doing so.  They simply choose a few choice
causes – abortion, free market power and the right the bear arms –
employ an ex-beauty queen to deliver the rallying cry (Sarah Palin) and
watch the votes trickle in. Unfortunately Obama managed to steal the
limelight this past election so the GOP is resorting to new strategies
to target their youth market, such as youtube! and autotune!.   Armed
with these tools they’ve since harnessed the talent of a young, white, plaid-short-wearing college kid to rip off a Lady Gaga tune while espousing the party’s new youth agenda.

performance is highly entertaining even more so because its not
intended to be satirical. The boy is completely serious behind those
Raybans. Surely they don’t actually think the “kids” will dig this. 
But then again Lady Gaga’s beats are top of the charts, and every time
Kanye West roles out the autotune he manages to sell a bunch of
records. So maybe they are on to something.  Either way it’s amusing to
watch from afar.

24.07.09: A lesson in state censorship

Melbourne International Film Festival is facing a tough season this
year as yet more films are withdrawn under a cloud of diplomatic
tension. Early this month British director Ken Loach withdrew his film Looking for Eric in protest against the Israeli government’s sponsorship of another filmmaker Tatia Rosenthal, whose film 9.99 is an Israeli-Australian co-production. According to The Age
Mr. Loach wrote, in a letter to the festival director Richard Moore,
that he was protesting not Israeli films or filmmakers, but the Israel
“illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and
livelihoods”.  Now this week the MIFF is again reeling after the
withdrawal of three Chinese films in what appears to be retaliation for
the festival’s backing of a documentary The 10 Conditions of Love about exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.

The withdrawal of the three films follows pressure from the Chinese government on the filmmakers.  Quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, Sylvie Blum, the producer of Petition
said she had to be careful what she said to protect the films director
Zhao Liang. “I don’t want my director to be afterwards worried by the
Chinese police. […] He asked me to withdraw the film from the festival
because if not it could have created problems for him continuing to
work in China”.

Greens Leader Bob Brown, who will launch The 10 Conditions of Love at
the festival, was vocal in his opposition to the chain of events
stating: “the Chinese Government is giving us a lesson in censorship”.
Not only that but it is also evident that independent filmmakers are
determined to give viewers a lesson on the socio-political struggles
many are faced with daily, which is as it should be.  Let’s only hope
the MIFF continues to support these filmmakers and not be weighed down
by diplomacy.

23.07.09: A great author is remembered

Frank McCourt, the Irish American author best known for his harrowing, Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes that chronicled his impoverished upbringing, died on Sunday, The New York Times reported. He was 78.

unlikely literary star rose to fame at the tender age of 66. While
working as a New York City high school teacher he penned what is
regarded as one of the most vivid accounts of the poverty and violence
that has crippled the Irish diaspora for generations.

As the news of Mr. McCourt’s death spread, hundreds of admirers, including many former students, posted their recollections on nytimes.com. They talked about his influence as a teacher, meeting him or hearing him read, and the joy that his books had delivered.

20.07.09: Celebrating the other moon walk

Forty years ago today, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar landing module and into history.According
to the Times, Armstrong, in a rare public appearance spoke fondly of
the colleagues who gave their lives for America’s early space programme
and how their sacrifice laid the foundations for his spectacular lunar
debut. “Any
time you go to a place where everything you see is different than
anything you’ve ever seen before in your life, it’s unique and it’s
memorable. And that certainly was,” he recalled of the moment that he
gazed across the lunar landscape and planted his footprints in the dust

17.07.09: The wonderful world of Tellers and Jacobs

a coffee table book to covet if you have spare change floating around.
Released this month by London book publishers Steidl, Marc Jacobs Advertising 1998-2009 charts the creative partnership between fashion boy-wonder Marc Jacobs and photographer Jeurgen Teller
Together they defined an aesthetic of wistful indifference that came to
dominate the fashion world during the glorious bubble of the early 21st
century, before the big R kicked in.

Jacob’s choice of muse – Sophia Coppola (Director), Charlotte Rampling
(actress), Meg White (of the White Stripes) and Cindy Sherman (artist),
has consistently set the brand apart and cemented its 
indy rep. Who could forget the enlightened decision to recruit uber-WAG
Victoria Beckham for the Spring / Summer 2008 campaign.  We’ve not seen
her look as fine or wholly post-modern as when she posed squatting in a
giant shopping bag adorned with a flowerpot headpiece.  We applaud both
Marc Jacobs and Jeurgen Teller for putting a bit of style back into the
style industry.

16.07.09: Quake rocks Southland

The east coast of Australia was put on tsunami alert last night, according to the Sydney Morning Herald following a powerful undersea earthquake off the coast of Fiordland in the South Island of New Zealand. The NZ Herald reported the “GNS recorded the quake as 7.8 magnitude at 9.22pm followed 20 minutes later by a 6.1 magnitude”, and Radio New Zealand said “residents hundreds of kilometers away from the epicenters reported items falling off shelves”. 

Tsunami alert was assured after a small tsunami was reported off the
South Island following the first quake. The Australian Bureau of
Meteorology initially said NSW, Victoria and Tasmania were under real
danger of being swamped by powerful waves last night.  In the early
hours of this morning the warning was downgraded, however authorities
are still suggesting people to stay out of the water and away from low
lying areas. 

damage in the lower part of the South Island is being reviewed and
Prime Minister John Key is expected in the region later today to assess
an appropriate government aid response.

15.07.09: Kate and her boys take on Disney

content to sit back to enjoy his Idol profits, reality TV maestro Simon
Cowell is reportedly joining forces with the high-street fashion
aficionado Kate Moss and her billionaire Corydon side kick Sir Philip
Green (of Topshop fame) to: “form a global entertainment super- company
to rival Disney. The multi-million-pound deal would see Miss Moss directing the style and image of the £1billion as yet unnamed brand, as well as giving fashion advice.”

wonder if this means Cowell will be joining Walt on ice in the coming
years, or whether the rivalry will be limited to cartoon knockoffs and
theme parks. Imagine an American Idol theme park!  Is that not a little

14.07.09: Is folic acid on the “must eat daily” list?

a useful date in the annals of New Zealand history to remember: May 3
1841.  As most will know it falls not soon after the Treaty of Waitangi
was signed, and stands as the “official” date when New Zealand was
proclaimed a colony independent of New South Wales.  Big moment for New
Zealand wouldn’t you say?  At last! New Zealand gains independence from
the lovely folk across the Tasman.

But that was then. According to Green MP Sue Kedgley New Zealand’s sovereignty is not standing the test of time. The Sydney Morning Herald
reported this morning that, “a diplomatic stoush is brewing across the
Tasman, prime ministers and foreign ministers have become embroiled and
Australia stands accused of trampling on New Zealand’s sovereignty”. 
What on earth?

 Bread, people. That’s the problem. 

Zealand’s sovereignty is coming under threat because of a 2007 decision
(during the Howard / Clark era), which mandated that all bread produced
in the two countires should include a certain level of folic acid. The
proposal was pursued (with a deadline of September ’09) on the premise
that including folic acid in bread would reduce the frequency of birth
defects such as spina bifida.  Only problem is recent US studies (which
it should be noted are under debate)
have linked excessive folate in the human diet to higher rates of
prostrate cancer and bowel disease. So, understandably, New Zealand now
wants to stop including folic acid in bread.
However, to do so a decision must be made by a joint ministerial
council in which New Zealand has only one vote and Australia has nine.

Erm, small problem would you not say?

is an obvious voting imbalance here, but is this issue really important
enough to come to diplomatic blows over? Some might say it’s only bread, but others would argue it’s about BREAD AND CANCER AND

What do you think? 

13.07.09: Taser or no taser?

month 39-year-old Queenslander Antonio Galeano died after being stunned
with a 50,000 volt Taser gun 28 times.  The Queensland government
subsequently suspended the use of Tasers pending a four-week review. 
Now, according to The Australian,
a report due to be released this month suggests
the Victoria Police  (already considered the nation’s most deadly)
“should not be trusted with Taser stun guns”.  Furthermore highlighting
a need for “sweeping changes across Victoria Police to safeguard the
public from poorly trained officers unable to defuse life-threatening situations.”

how dangerous is this equipment?  The New Zealand Police recently
released the statement that “Police are crediting the deterrent effect
of their latest tactical option, the taser, as being sufficient to make
a violent offender give himself up. The appearance of the device ended a three hour standoff between a violent offender waist deep in the Waikato River and Police in Hamilton today.”

June of this year the Green party called for the New Zealand Police
rollout of Taser stun guns to be suspended in the wake of the
Queensland incident. However, on Radio New Zealand early this month
Inspector Jason Ross commented that “while people have died after being
tasered overseas no-one has died as a direct result of the electric


who to believe?  Are the New Zealand police, who have long maintained
an unarmed status, on the verge of being an armed force, minus the guns?

12.07.09: Where are all the ladies?

Every year the ABC’s (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
youth radio programme Triple J (which to be fair attracts a substantial
demographic of +30s who spent their teenage years listening intently)
releases a “Hottest 100” list based on votes from listeners.


In 2009 they decided to go all out and pitch for an “all time” countdown, the first since 1998. The usual suspects (Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Queen, Jeff Buckley, Nirvana et al.) were predictably featured in the top 20. However, what is striking is the lack of female voices.

There was zilch, zero, not-a-one in the top 100.

there is a distinct possibility the voter demographic leans to the side
of male circa 22, but what about the women, such as Patti Smith, Bj
örk, Janis Joplin, Blondie, Annie Lennox, even Madonna, whose voices resonated with multiple generations?

closest women get to a mention is in the background of the well-loved
‘90s bands The Pixies (Kim Deal), The Smashing Pumpkins (Melissa Auf
der Maur) and The Dandy Warhols (Zia McCabe). 


putting this down to a clear bias from the Australian voting public,
but it does raise a question: If we are to jump up and down and decry
the absence of women, just who should we be advocating for?  Who are the greatest female voices of all time?

10.07.09: They’re not exactly Bond, are they?

you are under the impression the cold war with its predilection for spy
games, espionage and thrilling late night car chases was a thing of the
past (or the movies) then this week’s spook news should be enough to
dispel such assumptions.

To start the week the newly appointed head of M16 (the home of Bond,
Graham Greene  and other such rogues) was exposed very publicly, and
rather embarrassingly, by his wife on Facebook. She was so excited
about his appointment to an agency that is supposed to define secrecy
she celebrated by posting his code name (it’s “C” for the record),
details  of their residence, location of holidays and names of family
friends on her unrestricted profile page. Ed Davey, the Liberal
Democrat foreign affairs spokesman’s comment that this was a little
“reckless” would be an understatement, no?

Closer to home a
wily news reporter apparently spotted the head of a United States
intelligence agency strolling around Wellington earlier this week.
According to the NZ Herald he’s been on “ a secret visit to Wellington for talks with his New Zealand counterparts”. 
Not so secret really is it? A spokesman for the MP stated that Key had
“nothing more to add as the Prime Minister did not comment on security
matters.”  What, ever?


And finally, it seems Australia’s
love-in with China is on the rocks following the detainment of a Rio
Tinto executive by Chinese authorities on charges of espionage. 
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “the
Rudd Government has no channels for dealing directly with the powerful
Chinese spy agency that detained the Australian Rio Tinto executive
Stern Hu and three of his senior staff”
. Which is probably part of the reason why “Rudd has rejected an opposition call to personally intervene”. It’s difficult, we suppose, to intervene if you don’t know who to call.

Tough week for the spy industry we reckon.

09.07.09: Is that Tom Cruise dressed in drag?

Tom Cruise was in Melbourne last week to deliver his wife Katie Holmes to the set of her latest film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,
which starts filming this Monday. Never shy of the limelight and a
constant target for gossip and innuendo Cruise is reportedly holed up
on his good friend James Packer’s yacht off Tahiti’s Port de Papeete
According to Melbourne’s Herald Sun the two men are long over due for a
little bonding.  This latest development should appease the lovely
Rachel Weisz who recently proclaimed: “sometimes the paparazzi, on the
lookout for Tom Cruise who lives nearby, trickle onto my street, take a
few pictures of me, and disappear.”  Surely as the Sydney Morning Herald
suggests she’s not likening herself to Tom Cruise in drag! The fine
English actor, who is about to hit London’s West End for a run of  A Streetcar Named Desire, would be doing herself disfavour!

08.07.09: Water out of the tap tastes good too!

water has been a flourishing business venture for sometime now.  It’s
put many a nation (Fiji), region (Swiss alps) and town (Putararu!) on
the map and made a handful of wily business people a decent income.
But, the downside of this enterprise is the environmental impact.  Just
where are all those plastic bottles ending up?

This week a small town in New South Wales has put its collective foot down and stated enough!  According to the Sydney Morning Herald,
the business owners of Bundanoon have agreed to support a ban on
over-the-counter bottled water sales. The reason: “In order to combat
the hefty carbon footprint associated with bottling water and trucking
it around the state”. 

Huw Kingston, who owns a café / bike shop
is reported as stating: “It’s a moral thing, in that it has just been
such a  wonderful marketing job by the beverage industry, selling
people something they can have for free”.

The old adage of the green movement is starting to ring louder every day: Act local, think global.

07.07.09: Mr O’Leary what happens when we hit turbulence?

content with plans for £1 toilet charges, “fat tax” or making all
passengers check in online, Michael O’Leary, the master of air travel
torture and CEO of Ryanair, is now proposing to fill all the spare room in his planes with ‘bar stools’,
which passengers will be strapped on to for landing and takeoff. The
additional 90-odd passengers will then be free to wander aimlessly
around the plane during the flight. 

As Crikey
so wryly pointed out: “Even in a low speed accident, or sudden braking,
legs could be broken, or ripped out of their sockets, a risk that could
make Ryanair uninsurable, and unsaleable.”

Indeed, crass but true.

06.07.09: Russell Crowe up to mischief…again?

Dominic West, the English actor and star of the cult HBO series The Wire
has lambasted Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp and Renée Zellweger for
“stealing our great heroes” by playing British characters.  In the
weekend Guardian, he went on to comment, in regard to his new role playing the Australian scientist Professor Howard Florey in Breaking the Mould,
a forthcoming BBC4 drama about the discovery of penicillin: “ I was
sort of smarting from Russell Crowe coming over here and playing Robin
Hood and all these foreigners coming over here and stealing our great
heroes. I felt I was striking a blow back by being a Brit playing a

Fair enough. It
should also be pointed out that we think the Old Etonian is far more
suited to cavorting in tights with Maid Marian than the lovable
larrikin Russ. But, alas it’s not to be this time. 

05.07.09: What’s a point guard?  Anyone?

Palin, the quirky former beauty queen, Republican vice presidential
candidate and pin-up mom for middle America, announced this weekend she
would be stand down from her position as Governor of Alaska. The US media are feverish with the news, and theories for her early departure (some 18 months before the end of her term) now abound.

The reasoning behind the decision, according to Palin at a press conference at her home in Wasilla,
is best understood by means of basketball strategy. “A good point
guard”, she said, “drives through a full court press, protecting the
ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the
basket. And she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team
can win. And that is what I’m doing — keeping our eye on the ball that
represents sound priorities — you remember they include energy
independence and smaller government and national security and freedom!
And I know when it’s time to pass the ball for victory.”

In true form Governor Palin’s reasoning
is far from erudite but commentators are considering matters beyond the
quaint sporting analogy suggesting the decision might be her first
(misguided) step towards the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. But then again, she might just be taking a moment to work on her memoir and hit the lecture circuit, which if you consider Tony Blair and Bill Clinton as a precedent means making a lot of money very quickly.

the reason it’s very unlikely Governor Palin will disappear from the
spotlight any time soon. After all, you can’t just challenge the
President to an endurance race and then recant – that would just be poor sportsmanship and we all know how much she likes those games!

04.07.09: Where are the naked flight attendants?

Does anyone else find this a little peculiar? Surely there is virtue in wearing pants when serving steaming hot (often rubbery)
airline meals to demanding hordes of travellers? We’re all for price
wars and kooky marketing campaigns, but perhaps Air New Zealand needs to
contemplate just where its staff’s strengths lie.

03.07.09: Algae bath anyone?

Garnering the
support of the world’s most populous nations – namely India and China –
was always going to be essential for climate change campaigners in the
lead up to the Copenhagen conference later this year.  However, India
has turned its nose up at the proposed emissions targets
claiming its priority is to address poverty while developing a strong
economy.  But all is not lost.  China, surprisingly, has emerged as a
leader in eco / green / environmental / carbon credit  /
pollution-focused initiatives.  This June the country marked a year-long ban on plastic bags. Applauded by the green brigade when first launched, the Guardian’s
Jonathan Watts points out that: “Banning flimsy plastic bags [was]
dismissed as a drop in the ocean when it comes to dealing with the
world’s environment problems, but multiplied on a China scale, it
appears to have made a big difference.”

Next we shall be applauding the algae campaign
– a rather noxious initiative designed as a way to off-set carbon
emissions. Who would have thought ten years ago, when China was pumping
pollutants into the atmosphere at an unprecedented level, they’d be
setting the new standard. Watch carefully everyone the tiger’s stripes
are changing colour.

02.07.09: A jazz hand performance worthy of an Oscar

love Hugh Jackman. Really, we do. And apparently the Academy does also.
Who could forget the opening cabaret performance full of rollicking
vocals and jazz hand moments during Jackman’s first stint as host
for the Annual Academy Awards earlier this year. We’re hoping for a
repeat performance in 2010, but short of that the news Jackman is among
the 134 industry stars
invited to join the Academy membership, and thus have voting
privileges, is enough for now. Other new invitees include Anne Hathaway,
Casey Affleck, James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Seth Rogen, Michelle
Williams, Emile Hirsch, James Franco, Dustin Lance Black, Danny Boyle
and 123 others of lesser-known fame.

01.07.09: Move out? Don’t be silly, I like it here

many young New Zealanders leaving home, or truly flying the coup and
heading overseas, is a rite of passage and the gateway to adulthood,
if you will. Most manage to stumble through laundry duties, vacuuming
and learning to feed oneself with a moderate degree of success.  But
across the Tasman such experiences are now almost a minority.  According
to a recent survey
more than a quarter of young Australians between the age of 20 and 34
still live at home, and a large number are heading back into the nest
because of tough economic times or a desire to study full time or
because it’s “convenient”. Parents beware!  If you thought the job would get easier when your children hit their twenties, you are mistaken.


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