Daily Bite November 2009

By Nicola Harvey

This month in the Daily Bite: Beyonce bounces, women's boxing, reality tv, Kanye West and much more.

30.11.09: The next big thing

Eleanor Catton, the young, rather brilliant New Zealand novelist, whose debut book The Rehearsal has been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, talked to the Guardian’s book editor Claire Armitstead last week.

If you’re interested in following the next great New Zealand literary talent, it’s worth a listen (fast forward to 27mins).

29.11.09: Crazy in love

We touched on the best Noughties album list last week, care of NME, so it come as no great surprise that we have a singles list to peruse this week. It all starts off very predictable with Arcade Fire, MGMT, The Strokes and Blur making the top ten – don’t forget NME loves those hipster Indy bands – but then, wait, what! It’s Beyonce, yes indeed, sitting aloft in champagne glass at number one.

According to NME, the greatest single of the decade is Crazy in Love by Beyonce.

Wouldn’t have been our first pick, but there you go.  What do you think?

21.11.09: Two fingers to the global community

Despite actress Lucy Lawless turning up on the New Zealand parliament steps this week with a giant boarding pass for Prime Minister John Key, it’s unlikely he’ll be joining the masses in Copenhagen this December to debate the woes of the world’s climate. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Key reckons he will not miss much. “‘There is not going to be a deal,” he said. ”What you will get out of it, is you’ll get a high-level political statement and work program in 2010.”

However, he does believe the world has a ”moral obligation” to deal with climate change, and that consumers – more to the point, voters – broadly agree that action is necessary but ”you don’t necessarily write a cheque to eastern European countries because they are polluting less”.

Not all are overly pleased with Key’s remarks. Writing in the UK Guardian newspaper Fred Pearce claimed New Zealand had offered ”two fingers to the global community” for allowing greenhouse gases to rise 22 per cent since signing the Kyoto treaty.

Key’s response was to point out  that the growth of emissions has been completely offset by planting 600,000 more trees, which is all well and good but international opinion still guides the country’s reputation for being clean and green.

Nonetheless Key is putting his faith in science not politicking. ”All roads lead to technological solutions,” he says, with a final wave of goodbye to Copenhagen.

20.11.09: Casual Claudia and her cashmere wares

After lending her image to fashion designers for more than two decades, supermodel Claudia Schiffer says she is now ready to create her own fashion business, which could include cashmere wares and handbags. The 39-year-old-German born model told Reuters said she was looking to give her life a new direction and was on the lookout for partners to back the launch of her brand. “I want the brand to be timeless and classic, with a fashion sensibility.”

Schiffer, who has been living in England for the past nine years, iterated she is shying from the limelight of late. “I do enjoy having a quiet life and on the weekends, we go away to the countryside and do normal things which make me feel good.”

Nice gig if you can get it.

19.11.09: Entourage

Nicolas Cage, one of Hollywood’s highest paid leading men is on the verge of financial ruin, according to the Wall Street Journal. He is suing a former business manager for $US20 million, claiming Samuel Levin gave bad advice putting the actor on the path to near bankruptcy.

In a counter lawsuit, Levin alleges the Oscar-winning actor was broke by the time he was hired in 2001, and “had already squandered tens of millions of dollars”.  The Sydney Morning Herald elaborates the actor, in 2007 alone, bought $US33 million in property 22 cars and nearly 50 pieces of jewellery and art. He also “spent huge sums taking his sizable entourage on costly vacations and threw enormous Gatsby-scale parties at his residence.”

Sounds like a bad TV show, no?

18.11.09: Noughty Albums

Predictably the best band / single / album lists from this decade are starting to appear, and yes we’re still loving the list trend.

The British music mag, NME, is infamous for hyping young indie bands on the release of their first album only to see them crash and burn in the charts when number two rocks around (consider The Vines, The Datsuns, The Darkness and Brazilian poppets CSS as examples). 

Nonetheless, it has released a top one hundred albums of the Noughties, with New York rockers the Strokes topping the list, beating British indie stars – and tabloid darlings – the Libertines (Peter Doherty et al.) into second place.

Here’s the top ten.  If anyone wants to refute this rather hipster-heavy list feel free to vent on the MiNDFOOD forum.

1. The Strokes – Is This It

2. The Libertines – Up the Bracket

3. Primal Scream – xtrmntr

4. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell

6. PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

7. Arcade Fire – Funeral

8. Interpol – Turn On the Bright Lights

9. The Streets – Original Pirate Material

10. Radiohead – In Rainbows

17.11.09: Amid the smoldering wreckage of popular culture

We all have our reasons for loving or loathing reality TV.  But James Wolcott, writing in Vanity Fair magazine, really despises the whole phenomena. He opines the genre has ruined Culture – with a capital ‘c’, of course.

“There was a time when idealistic folk singers such as myself believed reality TV was a programming vogue that would peak and recede, leaving only its hardiest show-offs.  Instead, it has metastasised like toxic mould, filling every nook and opening new crannies.  To Wolcott, reality TV encourages and rewards vulgar, selfish, anti-social and puerile behaviour.

“Emotionally, reality TV is emaciated, envy and spite being the alternating currents.  Nearly everyone conforms to crude, cartoon stereotypes (bitch, gold digger, flamboyant gay, recovering addict, sofa spud, anal perfectionist, rageaholic), making as many pinched faces as the Botox will permit: a small-calibre barrage of reaction shots that can be cut from any random stretch of footage and pasted in later to punctuate an exchange”.

Well, that about says it all, really … or does it?  Have your say on the MiNDFOOD forum.

16.11.09: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… Or is it?

Beauty really is skin deep according to German scientists who claim that the evenness and radiance of a woman’s skin is the key factor people use in judging beauty. One experiment showed people were less willing to look at someone with uneven skin tone, which the researchers believe indicates that humans have developed an acute awareness of skin tone because it is a powerful indicator of health and reproductive fitness.

15.11.09: Animals and us

The British Government has decreed that children should be taught not to hurt a fly.

New curriculum guidance says citizenship classes should pay due regard to the wellbeing of “mini-beasts”, including bees, ants and worms.

A spokesperson for the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, which drew up the guidelines, said: “The loss of individual organisms, however small, may have unforeseen consequences for a whole habitat”.

14.11.09: Yes, another list

It was only August when Forbes named US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the 36th-most powerful woman in the world. Now Forbes is out with a new list of the most powerful people in the world, and guess what? Hillary clocks in at Number 17, second among women behind only Angela Merkel.

Any idea what accounts for this meteoric rise? A new hair style?  Her strong criticism of Burma’s political regime? Her plea for Filipinos to support the Philippines? Her declaration pursuing nuclear weapons was not in Iran’s own interest?  All worthy possibilities, for sure, and this is only in the last week!

13.11.09: Are these Britain’s beautiful people?

It’s not often we’re given cause to come out in sympathy for the Brits, but a recent story on the world’s ugliest people might be cause enough.  According to Reuters, Britons are among the world’s ugliest. However the source of the information, it must said, is slightly dubious – it’s an online dating service called Beautifulpeople.com.

Existing members of the “elite dating site” rate how attractive potential members are over a 48 hour period, after applicants upload a recent photo and personal profile.

Swedish men have proved the most successful, with 65 per cent being accepted, while Norwegian women are considered the most beautiful with 76 per cent accepted, the website said.

“I would say Britain is stumbling because they don’t spend as much time polishing up their appearance and they are letting themselves down on physical fitness,” Beautiful People managing director Greg Hodge said. “Next to Brazilian and Scandinavian beauties, British people just aren’t as toned or glamorous.”


But don’t worry all you unpolished, unglamorous people, in some circles a dishevelled appearance is quite admired.

12.11.09: Noughty Films

It is only as the decade draws to a close that the “best of” lists start to appear.  First off the rank is the UK Times’ top 100 films of the Noughties. We adore these sorts of lists but don’t always agree with the suggestions. What do you think?  Here’s their top ten:

1. Hidden (Cache) (Michael Haneke, 2005), starring Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil.

2. The Bourne Supremacy / The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2004, 2007), starring Matt Damon.

3. No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, 2007), starring Javier Bardem.

4. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005), starring the mildly unhinged bear-watcher Timothy Treadwell.

5. Team America: World Police (Trey Parker, 2004), from the makers of South Park.

6. Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2008), starring Frida Pinto and Dev Patel.

7. The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006), starring Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy

8. Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006), starring Daniel Craig as James Bond

9. The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006), starring Helen Mirren

10. Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008), starring Michael Fassbender

11.11.09: Hanging with Elmo and Ernie

The most famous street in America and arguably most famous children’s TV show in the world celebrated its 40th birthday on November 10 with a basket of vegetables and a visit from the US first lady, Michelle Obama.

Obama is famously an advocate of healthy eating and her birthday present to Sesame Street’s stars of lettuce and carrots was in keeping with the dried apples she distributed to trick or treaters on Halloween last month.  Long gone are the days when cookie monster actually consumed cookies. 

To mark the special occasion Sesame Street rallied its favourite puppet troops, who were all suitably star struck in the presence of the uber-cool Michelle O. Even a lettuce managed to peer up at its idol and mutter, “We think you’re great!” Which, pleasantly, sent the first lady into a fit of the giggles.

10.11.09: Is Suu Kyi finally to be released?

The Nobel peace prize winner has spent 14 of the last 20 years under house arrest. In August a court sentenced her to an additional 18 months after an American, John Yettaw, swam across a lake to her villa in Rangoon and stayed overnight.

Yet this week it has been reported in the UK Guardian that Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s opposition leader, may soon be released so she can play a role in next year’s election.

Pro-democracy campaigners cautioned against reading too much into the latest hints on Suu Kyi’s release. “They’ve been saying these sorts of things for a long time but they have never delivered on them,” said Anna Roberts, the director of the Burma Campaign UK. “The regime’s main concern is get economic sanctions lifted and get approval for the sham elections next year.”

09.11.09: The Winslet algorithm

One of Britain’s finest actresses, Kate Winslet, has been labelled a £60 million national treasure, according to the UK Times.  The UK Film Council has “audited” the actress, among others, in order to put a monetary value upon the country’s creative industries.

David Steele, head of research and statistics at the UK Film Council, has developed a formula for assessing the value of a “creative person” to the economy.

The “Winslet algorithm”, as it is jokingly becoming known in political circles, is made up of several elements.

The first is the star’s salary.

Despite her role in the blockbuster Titanic in 1997, for which she was paid about £1m, Winslet prefers to appear in cheaper art-house films. But Steele estimates she has earned roughly £20m from films since 1995.

The second economic factor is the “production investment effect”, in which a star’s high profile helps ensure the film is made in Britain.

The rest of the money comes from three sources: first, profit generated from the “box-office chain effect”; second, the tourism boost from Winslet films, such as Sense and Sensibility; and, finally, the “general promotional effect” for Britain.

Dare to hazard a guess at what Peter Jackson’s national treasure value would be for New Zealand?

08.11.089: 15 minutes of fame

A British man on the run from police sent a picture of himself to his local paper because he disliked the mug shot they had printed of him as part of a public appeal to track him down, reports Reuters.  The excessively vain thief, Matthew Maynard, is wanted by officers investigating a house burglary, as part of a crackdown on crime in Swansea.

The police thanked him for helping them in their appeal, saying: “Everyone in Swansea will know what he looks like now.”

07.11.09: Lighting up the night

Despite Guy Fawkes celebrations being almost obsolete around New Zealand, across the UK the sky lit up with fireworks to mark the night when Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to destroy the Houses of Parliament, in London on November 5, 1605.

06.11.09: I’ve explored obsession, I’ve explored loss…

She has always remained tight-lipped about her ten-year marriage to actor Tom Cruise and now Nicole Kidman vows she will take all her secrets to the grave.

But in one of her most revealing-ever interviews, Kidman has told a no-doubt agog British GQ interviewer that she has “explored strange fetish stuff”. She’s not naming names, but never fear – there is still room for ongoing speculation, as Kidman assures readers her marriage to country star Keith Urban is “incredibly raw, incredibly dangerous . . . You’re exposed. You could drown.”

Fortunately Kidman is known for her prowess in the pool, so hopefully there will no cases of drowning in the near future.

05.11.0:  Peace in Sydney

The celebrated Australian journalist, author and filmmaker will be presented with the Sydney Peace Foundation award later today.  Sydney Peace Foundation Professor Stuart Rees said the jury was impressed by Pilger’s courage, “His commitment to uncovering human rights abuses shines through his numerous books, films and articles.”

Previous recipients of the prize include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and last year, Aboriginal leader Patrick Dodson.

04.11.09: Unacceptable accusations

Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet has accepted libel damages of 25,000 pounds this week over a story in the UK Daily Mail, which accused Winslet of publicly lying about her exercise regime.

Winslet said in a statement: “I am delighted that the Mail have apologised for making false allegations about me.

“I was particularly upset to be accused of lying about my exercise regime and felt that I had a responsibility to request an apology in order to demonstrate my commitment to the views that I have always expressed about body issues, including diet and exercise.

“I strongly believe that women should be encouraged to accept themselves as they are, so to suggest that I was lying was an unacceptable accusation of hypocrisy.”

Quite right.

03.11.09: In the money

The race that stops the nation might be better billed as the race that breaks the bank given the Sydney Morning Herald’s claim that Australians are expected to spend over $150 million on bets for this year’s Melbourne Cup race.

That’s not even counting hats, lunch, frocks and champagne! 

Happy Melbourne Cup Day everyone.

02.11.09: All for charity

For the past few months, actor Edward Norton has been touting his New York City Marathon Run on behalf of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. Though the November 1 run was his first, he ended up completing the 42km in a very respectable 3:48:1, and according to his official fundraising page, has raised almost US$300,000 (Norton’s pal and fellow marathoner/fundraiser Alanis Morissette finished the race in 4:28:45).

01.11.09: Yes, that’s Matt Damon in the middle

According to New York Magazine a film about rugby is actually an Oscar contender in next year’s award ceremony.  Seriously.


The trailer for Clint Eastwood’s Invictus hit the web today, and we have to say Matt Damon is not too shabby on the accent front.  The film tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s (played by Morgan Freeman) campaign to lead, with the help of captain Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon, who does bear a slight resemblance when his hair is bleached blond), the South African rugby team to victory at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. We all know the end to that story, but the plot of the 2010 Academy Awards is yet to be revealed.

Here’s a sneak peak at the film while we wait. 



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