Friday, September 05, 2003

Bad day at the office
Last Thursday, Pizza delivery man Brian Wells went to work at Mamma Mias Pizza-ria in Erie, Pennsylvania. By the end of the day he had robbed a bank, been arrested by the police, and blown to bits by a bomb strapped to his body, in that order. Its a pretty horrifying story - he made a delivery and ended up with a home-made metal 'collar bomb' chained round his neck. The Police caught him shortly after robbing the PNC bank, handcuffed him, but didn't do anything to get the bomb off him. It blew up, killing him.
Now it appears that "Such bombs were the subject of an episode of the CBS drama "CSI: Miami." The episode, which last aired July 7, was called "Losing Face." It was about a serial bomber suspected of attaching an explosive collar to the neck of a wealthy Colombian importer in Miami." The FBI has pictures of the collar bomb on their website, and are calling for information. They also announced that "Agents also are unsure of something else: why Wells was carrying "a sort of gun" when a homemade bomb exploded on his chest a week ago. A top FBI agent in Pittsburgh disclosed the existence of the makeshift gun on Wednesday."
Former co-worker Lisa Sadowski said "(The robbery and bombing) is way above something he could even think of. He was not a violent person. We had parties at our house. He played volleyball. He was funny."

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Barks like a dog
On monday I wrote about TV Ones new variety entertainment show A Big Night In. Its pretty dodgy - seems Dave Dobbyn agrees. He phoned up TVNZ and complained after his name was mistakenly associated with "that atrocity". Can you blame him? Even the promos for the show make it look bad.

The NZ Herald reports that "Dobbyn was so appalled by what he saw that he rang TVNZ on Monday morning half-seriously threatening legal action for damage to his career. He wanted it made quite clear he had nothing to do with the programme.

"I suggested ... that the white piano in the foyer of TVNZ should be lodged firmly up Ian Fraser's bum it was so appalling. The people who made that should be shot at dawn. I think there needs to be a lot of dead people after this. Although they must be dead already, really, to have made it. They have no cultural connection with the New Zealand of today, or indeed yesterday, or indeed the Neanderthal age."

The article investigates who was behind this show and its chequered history. Some of the suggested performers include the likes of Che Fu, who was considered to be too borderline for middle New Zealand, and don't even mention Nesian Mystic - too radical. Excuse me? The Topp Twins were considered to be top-billing material. As the Herald suggests, do you get the feeling that TVNZ are a bit out of touch?

"When it comes to responsibility for the shape and sound of the final product, no one's too keen to take the, ah, credit. TVNZ say Southern Star Endemol were responsible. "They came up with the way it looks, the artists, the host ... " says TVNZ spokeswoman Zara Potts.
Producer Dawn Aronie, on the other hand, says TVNZ had final approval on everything and chose the directors. "We supplied precisely what the network wanted."

You can polish a turd, but at the end of the day its still a piece of....

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Kiwi musicians get rich!
Unlimited magazine's September issue has an excellent feature on NZ musicians and their recent successes here and overseas, written by Russell Brown.
"Locally produced music has roughly doubled its share of a stagnant music retail market in five years, to just over 11% in the last quarter. More artists, and a wider range of them, sell gold and platinum. The proportion of overall commercial radio airtime devoted to New Zealand music has reached 15%, up from 2% seven years ago, and at least one commercial station, Channel Z, tops a once unthinkable 30%. The industry is looking healthy... At this point a reality check is necessary: selling gold (10,000 units) and platinum (15,000) in New Zealand will not make anyone rich, especially not the recording artists, or, in most cases, their indie labels."
The story contains plenty of hard numbers detailing the growing success of New Zealand music on the radio and in the charts here. So, whats the payoff? "If we score the big one we could be looking at serious money for New Zealand — Ireland reaps $600 million annually in music exports; we currently earn about $5 million. But even if we don’t, there would be something terribly sad about living in a country that couldn’t make its own music."

For the flipside of the successes of the Datsuns, D4 and Pacifier, our bands taking it to the US, Murray Cammick has dug up some numbers too. "We hear all the good news, the hype about NZ musicians gaining releases in the USA, but we don't hear much about the reality, the sales or the cost of trying to sell those recordings."
According to Murray's research, The Datsuns album has sold 24,000 copies in the US, D4 are at 26,000 (remember their label trumpeted about shipping 100,000 copies to shops prior to release?) and Pacifier, despite 4 months intense touring in the US, have sold 9,600 albums there. Given the huge amount of money thats been pumped into their new album by their US label, you get the impression that unless one of their songs takes off at US radio, their latest shot at the big time will be chalked up to experience, and they'll shuffle back to Melbourne.

Still, they rock the bejesus out of local crowds - at the end of Pacifiers jubilant gig at the St James in Auckland, Jon Toogood walked back on stage, pulled down his jeans (exposing his Pacifier panties - ladies variety) and sprayed the front rows with a water bottle held at crotch level. The he turns and waddles offstage, with jeans still round his ankles. He's all class, that boy.
Murray told me recently that when Pacifier toured the States for this album, they didn't take their own soundperson. This is something that bands just never never do. You ALWAYS take your own soundperson, they're generally seen as an integral part of the band. Apparently the reason they didn't take one was the expense, and the soundman for the band they were supporting had a very good reputation. Weird.
So, Bic Runga may have sold 90,000 copies of her latest album, but her label Sony expect to maybe break even from that, against recording and promotion costs. Thats how Kiwi musicians are getting rich? No, its in music publishing. See Russell's article for more on this.

Monday, September 01, 2003

All this and World War II
The American miniseries "Hitler: rise of evil" finished its two part run last night. It was a rather one dimensional portrayal of the rise to power of the 'evil dictator'. He came across as a twitching psycho, who was also a brilliant politican well-versed in cleverly manipulating the political climate to meet his own ends. Robert Carlyle played Hitler, and his characterisation wasn't a million miles away from his lunatic 'Begbie' character in Trainspotting.
Diana Wichel in The Listener says the miniseries "demonstrates that no period of history is too dark to eventually produce some truly excruciating miniseries moments. The drama was in trouble from the start, with some fearing that it might humanise Hitler. He always was human, which is the really scary part.
Then, in an interview, one of the Canadian production's producers, Ed Gernon, drew parallels between the rise of Fascism in a demoralised post-World War I Germany and the climate of fear in the US after September 11. Gernon was fired, which rather made his point."
The series seemed to suffer from a bunch of well meaning actors, mainly American, attempting to emote something that they didn't seem to really get. And casting Matthew Modine as the concerned German newspaper editor battling to expose Hitler and his thugs was unfortunate - he acts with all the integrity and grace of a wet blanket.
This interview with Peter Sussman, one of the executive producers says that "some of the criticism we took on the film in the early stage was, 'Don't you run the risk of making Hitler human?' And my answer was, 'I hope so.' ..."We just wanted to tell the story about how Hitler came to power. Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said it well. He said the film shows us how fragile democracy is."

If its entertainment you are after, then theres always NZ tvs latest ofering, A Big Night In. Its a variety show, with live performances from the Topp Twins, Mark Williams, Mary, and Goldenhorse, to name but a few. The set resembles a throwback to the variety shows on TVOne back in the 1970s, and some of the acts date from then too. Graham Reid in The Herald observed that "sometimes you wonder what country you are in. With TV One's Saturday night line-up you are certainly in another country. It's the past.... Big Night In was embarrassing, amateurish and shapeless. And there's nothing to be done about it. The series has been made and New Zealand on Air helped to fund it. Your tax dollar at work, folks....In the promos during the week, Pio said this was a show which made you feel okay about staying home on a Saturday night." If this show makes you feel okay about staying in on saturday night, god help you. You obviously are taking some really good medication to feel like that. Let me know where I can get some.