Tuesday 19 February 2019

The Otaki Kite Festival 2019: a photographic essay

On Sunday we went to the annual Otaki Kite Festival.It promised fun for the whole family. We drove south, with songs by Mary Poppins and Kate Bush floating through our heads. The first kite we saw looked like a giant sperm.

Though, in fairness, from beneath it retained a much more PG rating.

Kite representations of animals filled the air. Many floated together in symbiotic harmony, though this carefree panda seemed blissfully unaware it was being hunted by some demonic hentai spirit.

Other kites brought to mind annoying childish ear worms, whilst posing marine taxonomic questions such as 'is it a fish or a mammal?'.

Whale shark do do do do do do, whale shark do do do do do do

Of course, it wouldn't be a kite festival without blatant political statements and protest. The country paid $26 million so this guy could fly his stylish kite. Money well spent? Who's to say.

There were no Red Peak kites. Nor Lazer Kiwi ones, sadly.

Other kites were demonstrated more of a human anatomy and physiology theme. This man flew a representation of the morning after a hot curry.

Others took on a nautical theme. Are the often any pirate kites at the Otaki Kite Festival? Yes, there aaarrrrrrrrrrggggghhhhh!!!!!!

As we headed  up the beach, what could only be described as a massive tribute to the comic actor Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010) took to the skies. Nice Beaver!

It launched right as we were about to leave. For the sake of this blig, it was the Just in Beaver.

Finally, we got back in the car in order to drive back north. Leaving the festival, I couldn't help but feel a little deflated.

Friday 18 January 2019

Guest Post: an anonymous patriot writes 'I performed my civic duty, and all I got was banned from Wild Bean Cafe'

A patriotic lover of families writes anonymously:

'I love my country. I love my family too. And I want to see my children grow up in a country that I would be proud of. And that my proud ancestry would be proud of.

A country of progressive values. A country of freedom of opportunity. A country of equality: equality in the workplace, equality in love, equality in access to medical care and education. A country where the mother of a young child can also be Prime Minister, and where she would be admired throughout the land. All these are virtues I can't stand to see our country signal on a daily basis. And that's why I support the Thinking Man's Think Tank, Family First New Zealand. An intellectual behemtoh not afraid to campaign to launch our once proud land back into the 1950s, if that's what it takes to shake such foppish ideas from the brains of millennial snowflakes.

Needless to say, when I heard  a rumour that certain cafeterias, restaurants and public places around our fallen nation were offering free access to the world wide wireless web at their establishments, I was shocked. The Internet! The den of all evils: of gambling, of swearing, of satire, of Rick Astley, of pocket monsters, and worst of all, of nudity and fornication! This would not do. Thankfully, Brave Bob McCroskie and the Boys at FFNZ were onto Tim Berners-Lee's case (more like Tim Burn-in-Hell if you ask me), with a cunning plan to expose ourselves to these dangers. Or expose these dangers ourselves. Sadly I can't remember which was around he put that sentence.

First though, research! I'd heard a rumor that Family First had put out a press release stating that 60% of people had stumbled across naughty images whilst innocently browsing the information superhighway. I had to find this research! I entered the term 'family first p*rn' into my googlemachine, and imagine my shock at the results! (Editor's note: please do not search for this press release in public. Results may cause embarrassment, especially if you actually find the aforementioned report) If this was how easily led astray one could be simply by searching for a reputable and honest piece of evidence from a respectable charity (yes I said it, a charity), imagine if you came onto your computer or portable smart telephone with more nefarious deeds in mind? I had to combat this. My country needed me.

Not photoshopped

Family First were after volunteers to enter cafes, restaurants, and public spaces throughout the land, and attempt to enter such illicit websites. Not by accident, mind, but in full knowledge of what we were doing. My favourite local joint, the Wild Bean Cafe, offered free wireless access! This was my chance to perform my civic duty, as a morally upstanding citizen, but in the knowledge I that I could enjoy those tasty Southern Style Chicken Bites! I entered the local establishment, smart telephone in hand, and sat myself at one of the low tables with plastic chairs, and tapped on the three small curved bars signifying the remote interweb connection in the bottom right hand corner of my screen. I was in!

Not knowing any other way, I went searching for Family First's press release once again. I clicked on a linked page, plugged in my headphones, and, not knowing what to do, pressed on a triangle on screen. A wave of excitement of doing something so forbidden, and all for the greater good of my Nation, ran up and down my body, before settling around the nether regions. What a thrill! I looked around, as a metaphorical... no, a literal orgy of flesh hit the screen. No one was paying any attention.

Surely this was a mistake? Surely, upon detecting such illicit activity, the page would automatically shut and my phone screen freeze? That was the sensible assumption to make, but I had to make sure. I had come too far not to. I watched on, sinking lower into my seat, as the onscreen moans transmitted into my ear. My resolve to see this assignment through stiffened. I shoved another chicken bite into my mouth. The video reached it's climax, and I marveled at how much egg would be on the face of the internet provider when they were fully exposed. But surely this was a mistake? Surely authorities would cotton on soon and my connectivity would diminish? As an upstanding citizen, I decided to crack on. I clicked on another video.

I wriggled. I'd slid down in my seat, and prided myself on being more erect in stature. At that point, my headphone jack slid out of it's socket, and a load moan was emitted from my phone. A passing mother shielded her son's eyes from the frenzy of naked bodies on my screen. 'Good job,' I commended her. 'You just can't get young people away from it anywhere these days, can you.'

The authorities were called, and I was expelled unceremoniously from the Wild Bean. I found my mission had been efficiently rubbed out, unceremoniously tossed, and my pleas for leniency fell upon deaf ears. No longer am I allowed to visit the Wild Bean for my titillation. I have a date in court next week. Still, Bob assures me my sense of moral superiority should help me get off.'

Sunday 14 October 2018

Film Review: Paw Patrol, Mighty Pups

On Friday night, I was hoping to see my good friend Sam Smith live in concert at Palmerston North's Royal Hotel. Unfortunately, one cancelled flight later, I found myself instead part of a hastily arranged Palmy Fringe comedy concept show, answering deeply personal questions fired at me by inebriated audience members for six minutes. Nothing, apparently, was off limits. It was a deeply unsettling and uncomfortable experience. And as such, a good comparison for when today I took the older two children to see Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups.

No pup is too big, no merchandising excuse to fleece money from parents is too small

It may come somewhat as a surprise in a film that features a gang of seven talking dogs, but you should prepare to check your expectations of scientific believability in at the door before viewing this film. As soon as the tinnitus-inducingly loud theme song had died away, we're straight into an improbable scenario in which Farmer Al has attached an oversized balloon to his back in order to clean the upper levels of his silo, but his floating away into the ether! What better way to rescue him than to launch a ladder, not for him to climb down, but from which to pop the balloon and send him plummeting to earth, ONLY AFTER WHICH THE PUPS SET UP A NET IN WHICH TO CATCH HIM. Not a moment too soon, either, as the net catches the rural bumpkin, with his hat, presumably subject to a different force of gravitation to that pulling Al himself earthwards, landing a couple of seconds later.

'It's not scientifically possible,' cries absent father Cap'n Turbott, nearby. Not about the plot of the film, mind you, but about the rocket ship that Foggy Bottom's evil Mayor Humdinger is planning to man on his mission to be first mayor on the moon. But of course, the good captain/bad parent is wrong, because screw science, and the rocket is accidentally launched, colliding with a meteor which JUST HAPPENS TO BE PASSING BY at low enough altitude, setting it on course for a catastrophic collision course with our heroes' home town of Adventure Bay. In the absence of Bruce Willis or Ben Affleck in late 90s action hero mode, the pups race around town, telling the townspeople to take shelter in their homes from the impending apocalypse, before the giant space rock lands, creating not mass destruction and extinction, but a tiny crater on the beach.

Oh, and it gives the pups super powers. Marshall can summon fire! Chase can run really fast! Sky turned into a member of Westlife and is flying without wings! Rubble is improbably strong! Everest can breath ice! Rocky has a big tool he can do amazing things with!

And Mayor Humdinger's nephew Harold has also gained new powers, which he uses to kidnap the pup's fearless but sadly mortal leader Ryder. Mayor Humdinger, a man clearly unsuited for public office, and who appears to see his position as an opportunity for personal aggrandizement rather than a calling to civil service (metaphor alert!!!), rides along in order to try to savage his ambition of achieving the frankly meaningless title of First Mayor on the Moon. What follows is a frantic blur of half an hour, as the Paw Patrol led by Chase dressed as an early 2000s Sri Lankan cricketer in one day international mode, tries to rescue the precocious Ryder, and save Adventure Bay from.... well, it's never really certain how Adventure Bay is at peril in the first place, but it's sure to be from something bad, anyway.

Aravinda de Silva


What a caper. There's action. There's repeated callbacks (hahaha, Mayor Goodwin's tulips got flattened AGAIN!!! It's just like when that guy kept saying Ari at that show we went to last night!!!) There's more twists than in a season of Game of Thrones, though considerably less sex and death), and there's an ending that may be a sly wink towards Raiders of the Lost Ark, or could just be coincidence. I dunno, I kind of lost track of the plot only slightly less convoluted than the puns at teh Wellington Pun Battle (November 22 San Fran Bath House) when the small child behind me delivered their own scathing review into their nappy. In the end though, it was loud, it was colourful, and it had more talking dogs than it had naughty words, so the kids liked it. And it was slightly less uncomfortable to sit through than trying to find an evasive but humorous answer to yet another personal question from an innebriated audience.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Revealed: All you need to know about Jacinda Ardern's pregnancy!

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced she and her partner are expecting their first child. The baby is due to be born in June. Ms Ardern plans to take six weeks off after birth, then return to work. That's it. Nothing else concerns you, it's a private matter. Stop complaining and get on with your own life. That goes for you, too, Mark Reason. There's plenty more stuff articles that need commenting on in disparaging terms, like this one about ageing reggae star Shaggy. Go on. Go to the bottom of it and type 'Who's Shaggy,' you big time wit. Or maybe pretend to confuse him with Scooby Doo's friend. It'll be hilarious, trust me.

No, seriously, that's it. You don't need to know any more, and we don't care about your reckons. OK Karl du Fresne? And whilst I'm at it, we don't care why you think that restaurant's racist menu was ok and oh my god why can't the PC brigade take a joke any more. Listen to people who actually were hurt by it, and who were offended by it instead. Or maybe you should get a twitter account and shout into the abyss where no one will hear you, and no one will answer you. Because no one cares.

Stop scrolling down. That's it. Go away. You too, Garner, with your lazy open letter format. And keep your Jimmy Carr fanboy defences to yourself, too. That joke about how Dunedin needs an earthquake was really distasteful. People are still hurting from that.

Stop it.


Friday 3 November 2017

Leaked! the extremely rough demo of Max Key's Eminem Diss Track

Almost a week has gone by since former fist son of New Zealand, and probably carrier of the dominant Ponytail Pulling gene Max Key announced on social media that he would record a diss track targeting one of the National Party's many nemeses, the rapper Eminem (as distinct from their other nemeses the Labour Party, Winston Peters, MMP, the general electorate, and common sense). The only catch was he wanted ten thousand Facebook likes first, surely an easy target in a world where a teenager managed to get 3.6 million Twitter retweets in his quest for some free chicken nuggets.

A rap rivalry for the ages
And indeed as predicted, Max has past his target, and Netflix and Children can officially revealed that he ha started recording demo versions of his track in his bedroom late at night, trying not to wake up his parents John and Bronagh. Unfortunately, given technical difficulties, he's been reduced to using freely available, Apple software, so we can only hope that the eagerly awaited final cut sounds a little more polished, Max.

And of course, we eagerly anticipate the Real Slim Shady's response to these vicious rhymes!

Monday 23 October 2017

Finally, the truth behind NZ Political Sporting Witchcraft Revealed

The rule book keeping politics out of sport has been firmly ripped up today, as New Zealand reels at revelations of the extent to which their leaders have been meddling with the results of their favourite teams through the medium of curses, evil spells, and general witchcraftery.

The scandal, which threatens to destroy the very seat of parliament, the Beehive, in a large prophylactic bonfire, started to unravel following the shock loss of national rugby team 'the All Blacks' to their Australian counterparts in a closely contested game on Saturday night. Curiously
named New Zealand Herald reporter, NZ Herald-Staff, noted that the loss came barely days after
noted woman Jacinda Ardern had been selected as Prime Minister. Logically, rather than sub-par
performance, excessive hunger for a win in front of a home crowd by Australia, luck of the bounce of
a ball, refereeing performance, or scapegoat waitresses being to blame for the defeat, the reversal of
result was instead due to Ms Ardern placing a supernatural hex upon the team. Further investigation
by Herald-Staff noted that this sort of unsporting behaviour had precedents, with Ms Ardern's
predecessor as Labour Party Leader, Prime Minister, and sub-duck-weighing woman Helen Clark
having held office for nine long years during which the All Blacks had lost some matches.
Furthermore, Dame Jenny Shipley, who like Ardern became Prime Minister despite not even winning an election, once was working when the New Zealand representative team failed to make the final of the World Cup.

When questioned on this anomaly, Ms Ardern was surprisingly forthcoming. 'Look, absolutely, I placed a curse on the All Blacks,' she confessed at her Mt Albert electorate office this afternoon. 'Labour campaigned on a promise of a fairer New Zealand, and really, what could be fairer than letting Australia win a game once in a while? All through the campaign, we were displaying big signs saying Let's Do This. If anyone had stopped to ask, 'what exactly is This?' I'd have been only too glad to clarify. Let's Do a Curse On The All Blacks.'

Actually, Mark, it's pronounced Winggardium LevioSAR
 Further investigation has turned up multiple instances of politicians use witchcraft to influence the outcome of games of sports teams they may see in a negative light. After Ms Clark was made patron of New Zealand Rugby League, her successor, John Key, put a jinx on the Warriors' NRL team. 'At the end of the day, I just feel like being a bit of an arsehole, actually,' he is rumoured to have told his deputy, Bill English. English was in turn himself the victim of an evil spell cast by Don Brash in 2002, which saw him lose a charity boxing bout and an election by embarrassing margins, and set in to place a chain of events that saw Brash become leader of the National Party, and threatened to send the country back to the 1840s.

Don't worry guys, he got up again. Cos they're never gonna keep him down.
Perhaps the most potentially infamous practice of dark magic, however, was Judith Collins's 2013 use of a dark incantation when, with Emirates Team New Zealand holding a seemingly unbeatable 8-1 lead in the America's Cup, she mistook Dean Barker's giant catamaran for a modified Subaru WRX. Sources say Collins had become drunk with perceived power after being placed in Slytherin House on a Pottermore quiz, and that to this day she still boasts about the time she made Dave Dobbyn cry.

One man who wants to reduce the influence politicians are having on sports results is Wellington philanthropist, economist, politician, footballing mastermind, ailurophobe, beach lover, witch-smeller pursuivant, and all-round good guy Gareth Morgan. Morgan, perhaps more than most, knows the lengths to which members of government will go to manipulate a fixture to their own ends.

'For ten years, the Wellington Phoenix have attracted the wrath of the Peter Dunne,' Morgan stated. 'People have long suspected him to look the part of a slightly creepy children's magician, the bow tie, the hair... But he's actually a dark, dark wizard. People think TOP was The Opportunities Party; Actually it was Take Out Peter, but the general public were too fucking stupid to see that, to see the evil in the man.'

The real reason they didn't get in is Gareth kept standing in front of the instruction to vote 
Morgan states that when the current ownership consortium took over the club, they hoped Dunne may have called his curse off, ending the run of poor results. 'We thought it was Terry Serepisos's unpaid tax bills that we're getting on his goat. But it was the crest. The Phoenix on the crest had a powerful bouffant, and Peter saw it as a challenge to his own. He needed the poor results to see the club go under, so his magnificent hairdo could remain unchallenged. But then he got voted out, so with a best squad ever, we think the Phoenix this year are going to have their strongest season yet.'

Some sort of freaky mirror image
Morgan famously launched his party in 2016 with a promise to light a fuse under parliament, fire being the only known way to destroy a known evil wizard or witch. So with Dunne gone, does that mean he will rest? 'No. The evidence shows that New Zealand needs a strong anti-black-magic party in parliament to keep the bastards in check and protect the integrity of our sports teams, but the public are just too moronic to see that now. Maybe the All Blacks losing will wake the Sheeple up, finally.'

And the cat culling policy? As with all TOP policy, it's based on sound evidence.'Kill their familiars,' says Morgan. 'The magic can't survive without the familiars.'

Sunday 1 October 2017

Thule Uban Glide running buggy review

A little while back, I interviewed professional ultra- and stroller- runner Michael Wardian, for what I had hoped at the time would be an inspirational and motivating piece for the Spinoff. My intentions were pure, but alas the sitting back and awaiting sports journalism awards to fall into my lap meant I wasn't doing much in the way of actual running. Again, something needed to change.

It was my lovely wife who suggested that perhaps what I needed for motivation was to enter a race. Not just any race, but my all time favourite race, the Tarawera Ultramarathon. If I entered in June, that would give me eight or nine months to get myself up to pace before race day. Of course, my recent history of entering ultramarathon a was hardy stellar. Three years previously I had signed up for the same race, only to find out barely weeks later that we were expecting our second child. Surely history couldn't repeat though, could it?

Don't let me down, Neil Finn

History repeated. Barely weeks after paying a few hundred dollars for the provision of a day of pain, we found out we were expecting our third child.

But... There was still an opening here! Rachel seemed convinced that this was an excuse to upgrade our perambulation equipment, and it turned out there was a specialist paediatric transportation shop just down the road from my parents' house! Soon, an expensive Thule Urban Glide double running buggy had arrived on our doorstep in a massive box, bearing the promise 'fits through most doors.'

Perfect for transporting your relationship's third AND fourth wheels

Unsurprisingly, pushing a stroller with twice the child-carrying capacity came with some downsides compared to the standard single buggy I was used to pushing. For one thing, it was twice the weight when fully laden. Secondly, I couldn't get into supermarkets with it, as although Thule had taken into mind the width of 'most doors,' they hadn't given any thought to those one way clacky supermarket security gates.

I needed to test the pram with a decent run, however. I checked with my old mate Mike as to whether there is a current double-stroller marathon world record, in the hope that if it was vacant, I could claim it by default. Unfortunately he thought there probably was. So I'd have to do some training, build up to the distance, so I allowed myself to be talked into a local charity 10km fun run along the local Manawatu river tracks.

The use of the term fun run should have raised alarm bells to start off with. I enjoy running. At least the idea of running. I'm not sure I could every describe it as truly 'fun' though. It's a grind, especially when you find yourself pushing a combined 40kg of child and pram.

So this morning I packed the kids into the Urban Glide, chucked in a couple of soft toys and snacks in the oh-so-sizeable zipable compartment at the base of the buggy, and headed out towards the startline. We started at the back of the pack in expectation of lack of fitness causing slow going, but soon, true to its name, the wheels started to smoothly glide across the frictionless asphalt, and we were impatiently overtaking other competitors. However, It wasn't long until my arms began to let me know exactly how displeased they were at having to propel the equivalent of a fully laden shopping trolley in front of them.

Ooooh, political

Not just a sedate, well-behaved shipping trolley though. This one had an attitude. Two attitudes even. 'Start running faster,' it scolded. 'I don't want to come last, overtake those people in front of us!'  'Can I have some chocolate now?' 'Why are you walking up this hill?' 'Why did grandma send their goldfish to the old goldfish hospital, and when is it coming back?' 'I'm hungry, I want some chocolate.' 'DON'T PUSH ME IN THE WATER!!!' 'PLEEEEAAAASE can we have some chocolate?'

Still, having a couple of not completely unsightly small children being pushed in front of me was proving a good way of getting additional support from bystanders. We reached the turnaround point, and headed back along the river. 3km to go, and a martial shouted at us, 'you're 4th, 5th and 6th.' It barely needed pointing out that the 6th place was held by the guy doing all the work. We passed a couple of firefighters, waking the 10km distance in full uniform, and with oxygen tanks on their back. Their extra load at least seemed better distributed than mine was.

A further 500m on, we were suddenly surrounded by walkers out for the shorter 5km option, and the superior manoeuvrability provided by the single front wheel, far in excess of what you'd expect from a double pram, came into its own. The comments kept on coming from other competitors: 'Oh, seeing you push that makes me feel guilty!' Feel free to trade places with me, then.

Finally, the finish line was in sight. A few posed photos, then I deftly tried to flip around, so I could cross the finish line before the kids. I'd done all the hard work, and I was going to be damned if the free-wheeling kids finished before I did. Unfortunately, all I managed to was to narrowly avoid flipping the buggy right in front of their mother. Insult was added to injury as my son was handed a consolation spot prize as soon as we'd uprighted ourselves. Nothing for Dad.

This was probably the first long run I've done where I've ended with my arms notably more weary and sore than my legs, but all in all, the three of us did have an enjoyable time, and the Thule Urban Glide provided probably the easiest and most comfortable means for me to complete such a run with two preschoolers in tow. And we beat the dad with the Phil and Ted double buggy, so read into that what you will.

And now, I guess, we're looking onwards, to the Ashhurst to Esplanade half marathon next month. That double buggy marathon record awaits.