Friday, August 31, 2012

Where are the Paralympics?

Where are the Paralympics? They don't exist if you live outside the United Kingdom. The media coverage is virtually nil. Here is New Zealand live coverage the Opening Ceremony didn't even feature on our news. We only were shown a few stills and even these were outside the Stadium.

Having failed to find anything on NZ Sky  or TVNZ I tried the BBC World News and Sport and surprise, same story. Only stills but a few shots from outside the arena of the fireworks and this is from the major UK broadcaster in the host country.

I listened to World Have Your Say on BBC World radio and it appears that in many countries, Kenya, USA, Norway to name three there is no coverage by the television companies either. NBC took 5 hours of footage but has not shown any on free to air.

WHY? The answer appears to be that only Channel 4 in UK bought the rights and no other country has paid for coverage not even the BBC!

I hate the copyright laws and the free market! They are stifling in many ways. The Paralympics are a great innovation and should be free to all. Shame on you officials for allowing this to happen.

Very, very disappointing!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ecuador Assange and Diplomatic Immunity

Assagne is holed up in the Ecuador Embassy in London

My answer to the problem would be for Ecuador to give Assange full diplomatic immunity by making him a Deputy Ambassador and drive him to the airport. Simple!

Try to separate the concept of justice from the individual to whom it should apply. Assange is an unsympathetic character but his case raises deep issues potentially affecting us all. 
While rape is no light matter, what matters much more is the freedom of global society to expose mass murder of civilians.

If it were another European country Assange could not be extradited for questioning as at the moment he is not guilty until proven. That is why this extradition is so questionable. 

If Assange only had to face these allegations and at the moment that is what they are and there was no threat of extradition to USA he would gladly go back to Sweden and speak to the police. We live in the IT age so why not use Skype to question Assange? Because Skype would not give the opportunity for the USA to get its hands on him.

It seems a case of Assange's word against the womens. I believe he remained in Sweden for quite some time and at first the case was dropped so its resurrection does give the appearance of being manufactured for convenience.

USA and UK have a vested interest.

USA is also behaving appallingly in the case of the young British hacker whose name escapes me, who has autism and foolishly broke into the USA codes. They want to put him in prison for life and just want UK to hand him over to face certain death. UK also harbors some unattractive Russian gentlemen who are wanted for criminal fraud  in Moscow.
1. Of course, it is a SET UP. It's a trap. 
2. The trap is deadly. The Swedes purposefully have not even issued a legal charge against Mr. Assange, but so strangely have issued an extradiction warrant for help in their enquiries. This is so Mr. Assange will go to Sweden, or someone cotton wool wrapped (or an actual wolf in sheep's clothing) will think it is alright to enforce the warrant without any legal charge. 
3. The trap is intended for that Mr. Assange end up in USA being tried for espionage, which could have him put to death 
4. The women in Sweden involved were set up. And, there is no legal charge against Mr Assange.

P S on a lighter side. I had an Eccentric auntie Jo who was terribly British and quite a character rather like Miss Marples. She lived in a run down mews in Eaton Square and shopped at Harrods buying a shilling's worth of Bicarbonate of Soda to get a Harrods bag  and look as though she had bought some caviare.

This day we were walking past the building above and out of the door tripped Shirley Bassey in her prime, beautifully dressed in a  leopard skin coat and the highest heels you have ever seen. It was 1960!

My aunt recognized Miss Bassey immediately with a gasp of pleasure and then Miss Bassey tripped down the stairs on her high heels and a stream of the foulest language ensued. 

I was used to bad language as my father was a Major in the army in the war and had a ripe vocabulary but my aunt was  raised in Chiswick. She was visibly shocked.

The two women glared at each other in deadly silence. Miss Bassey knew she had committed a faux pas! My aunt glared at her and said in a loud voice 'Come away Babs!'

Miss Bassey knew she had become a fallen idol.

I never forgot it. That door step is indelibly printed on my memory.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Best Cities to live Auckland Number Ten

It seems I am lucky enough to live in one of the world's top ten cities -

Ten Best Cities to live in  Number 10 Auckland

There is no doubt about it  Auckland is beautiful. It used to be more beautiful when it was less built up and in fact back from the shore line it is now not as attractive as it was.

By accident I live by the Harbour Bridge which is perhaps the very best spot to have a house. The view is glorious and my rates reflect this! When we bought 37 years ago this locality was extremely unfashionable. The building of the bridge had meant a large scale exodus and only the brave or mad considered living in its shadow.

We were warned not to buy here and definitely not to buy the run down villa we favored which in the opinion of our NZ friends was only fit to be pulled down.

We did buy, we did it up and now it is a desirable residence which if I sold at this moment would buy back the house I  sold in Shepherds Bush to come here.

However I would never, never swop Auckland for Shepherds Bush. I think Auckland's main asset is the weather. No frosts and for a gardener that is a bonus. My geraniums never die! I love being able to drive out into the country within twenty minutes. It used to be ten minutes but Auckland has spread out over the strawberry fields.

Public transport leaves a lot to be desired. NO TUBE yet. One is on the way but should have been put in 30 years ago. Traffic jams are also a fact of life but nothing like Marble Arch and the Bayswater Road.

No theatre to speak of but great orchestras and wonderful restaurants! Great wines and of course the beautiful harbor with its great sailing opportunities.

Yep I can see why Auckland is numero ten. Mark you I still love visiting London and Paris and New York but not to live.

Ten worst Cities

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Best Films of all time Janette Miller's list

Marilyn Munroe Prince and the Showgirl 
Over the past month the list of the ten best films has been to the forefront and it made me think about my personal list of best films.

For the first time Citizen Kane by Orsen Wells has been superseded  by Alfred Hitchcocks Pyscho. The latter is a film I have yet to see as I missed it!

Here is a list of my very, very favorite films ever! These are the ones I watch on a regular basis, say once every two years. Some of these films make me feel good. One or two I like the strength of the story and in one case the brilliance of the actress. All the films, except one, I consider technically magnificent.

So here goes  my first six and in no particular order:

Perfume - the story of a murderer

Bought this in the local supermarket as something cheap to watch. Best buy I ever made. Magnificent film, the acting the direction the plot with the most wonderful denouement. Perfume should not be given to anyone with a weak constitution and not watched when feeling blue. Very scary and best end ever.

The Prince and the Show Girl starring Marilyn Munroe

Again did not see this film until last year when it turned up on YouTube albeit with a advertisement plopped in the centre of the screen, sadly this version has now been removed. It was a revelation. I think Munroe's performance in this film which she co produced must rank as the most wonderful screen performance ever! She acts Sir Laurence Oliver off the screen much to his annoyance.

Tom Jones director Tony Richardson

Based on the novel by Henry Fielding this film was revolutionary. It is a glorious romp through the 18 century England. It has a glorious music sound track, it technically superb, true to the novel and makes me feel good. Albert Finney is delicious.

North by North West  Hitchcock/Cary Grant

Brilliant 1959 film that needs no introduction. The crop spraying sequence is compelling viewing. Cary Grant and Hitchock at their best. Beautifully crafted old fashioned Hollywood movie which is not made today, thank goodness, but for its time and even today this film is riveting for sheer terror with no violence.

Marie Antoinette 

Comedy-drama film based on the years that Marie Antoinette lived at Versailles. I love it especially as it was filmed in Versailles where the film company was allowed to recreate the period with curtains and furniture. Lovely performance by Kirsten Dunst and brilliant direction by Sophia Coppola.

Mama Mia  based on ABBA songs

The best feel good movie for me ever. Makes me feel good at any time and is first choice for viewing while at the dentist have  crown fitted.  If I feel blue I watch this or Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. This I enjoy too but it s TV programme and so doesn't count.

Some Like it Hot

This film needs no introduction. Brilliant plot but again brilliant performances by Marilyn Munroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Boo boo be doo!

The Importance of Being Earnest both versions

Love the play, love both films, This is the complete work of art as it actor and film proof. It is impossible to give a bad performance of this play. Even I have had a go at it. (See below).

So that's eight. I take it that we all agree Citizen Kane is included as it is one of a kind. Why not tell me your list?

Six months on and I have remembered a couple more that made a big impression on me and should be on my list.

The Third Man and the Harry Lime Theme

Never forgot the fingers of a desperate Harry Lime poking through the street grating as he is killed. Loved the theme music and had it on an old 78. Scared me stiff.

Fantasia Walt Disney

Wonderful! Such vision. Who would dare to do what Walt Disney did in 1940? No one. Sadly the Empire he created is in danger of ruining creativity with its copyright protection legislation. Everything that can be done to protect Mickey Mouse is being done but the films are magic.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olympic Drug Cheat Robs NZ'er of Gold Medal

One should never say Never! Yesterday I thought, incorrectly, that my blog on the London Olympics was over.  I was wrong! As you can see from the above photo our brave, gallant New Zealand shot putter was robbed of her rightful Gold Medal by the Belarusian Nadzeya Ostapchuk who has been stripped of her gold medal for testing positive to the steroid Metenolone.

New Zealander Valerie Adams  is now a double gold Olympic  medal winner!

Valerie Adams was expected to win. She was really New Zealand's best hope of Gold. She is a truly lovely person and took her defeat with grace but it hurt. She cried on NZTV as she said she felt that she had let New Zealand down.

To stand and watch the Belarusian accept the Gold and hear the Belarusian National Anthem with dignity must have been very difficult because she and New Zealand knew that the chance of hearing God Defend New Zealand in the London Olympic Stadium was now over.

It was pretty obvious if you watched the competition that something was wrong. Ostapchuk looked strangely masculine. Nothing wrong with that if that is your natural gene make up but Ostapchuck was like this because of a drug. Belaruse does not pre test its athletes and as only 10%  drug cheats get caught  Ostapchuck had possibly hoped to get away with it.

I could see this and felt almost guilty for remarking on it to my friends. Ostapchuck had tested positive the day before the competition and in hindsight it is a pity that she was not removed then and there as to let Valerie have to go through the disappointment of losing and losing the chance of her moment of double glory  in front of the world and her country is unacceptable.

Fortunately justice has been done but the damage cannot be undone.  Some brave person has to go to Belarus and get the gold medal back! New Zealand is going to give her a heroine's welcome. The whole country feels for her.

Well done Valerie Adams. You are the BEST!

Monday, August 13, 2012

London Olympics Happy and Glorious

Bravo London! You certainly put the Great back into Britain! Very well done indeed. For the first time in many years I felt horribly homesick. I had tears in my eyes as the beautiful Olympic flame flower was extinguished and I shall suffer withdrawal symptoms after my four yearly feast of sport.

I loved the Closing Ceremony. The 1948 Opening Ceremony was much better than 2012 but the 2012 Closing Ceremony was a vast improvement on the 1948 version which just featured Show Jumping. I was delighted to see the Guards Bands were back and ballet with Darcy Bussell as a phoenix/ firebird made the Olympic flame dousing a little more palatable for me.

The Music Director David Arnold did a superb job. Personally I do not care for this style of music and I have never attended a rock or pop concert, this will be possibly the only one but I thoroughly enjoyed it especially the John Lennon song  Imagine which was so appropriate. The Spice Girls too were amazing although Victoria Beckham still looks as if she would rather be somewhere else. Perhaps having separate cars was more than a good idea.  I loved Always Look on the Bright Side of Life with Eric Idle that was an inspired choice of understated British humour which I suspect will mystify the rest of the world.

What did I like best?

The tussy mussy posies that were presented to each medal winner. Took me ages to discover that the additional foliage was, scented herbs, rosemary, mint and lavender with a few springs of corn for good measure. Posies like these were held during the Great Plague of London.

I loved the Olympic Flame. So creative and so beautiful. Now why didn't I think of that? So simple and stunning.

Sports I enjoyed, Sail Boarding, Dancing Horses, Mountain Bikes, White Water Canoeing. It goes without saying I enjoyed the gymnastics and track and field.

I watched all the road races so I could look at London again. I shall never be well enough now to visit or indeed afford a visit. I lived, went to school worked in the West End for 12 years and it looks just the same but perhaps a bit cleaner.

Congratulations to all involved! You did the world proud! After Beijing, London had a hard act to follow. The London Olympics were Happy and Glorious, Jacques Roggue  the president of the Olympic Association must have pondered over that one and indeed the crowd did seem disappointed but in retrospect it was a tremendous compliment.

For the first time in many years it felt good to be British.


So goodbye to sport for another four years. Sadly football and cricket will now return to the mass media and the less said about them the better.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics Redemption

For sheer beauty, guts, intelligence and brilliance Rhythmic Gymnastics is hard to beat but over the past 50 years this women's sport hase been under a cloud.

The horrors of the Nazi regimes which favoured mass performances by women sporting clubs, hoops and balls, appear abhorrent today  as do the mass displays of the North Koreans .

Next the was the domination of the old Soviet Union Club. Again this sport was favoured by this regime and it was promoted throughout the Soviet Empire. Rhythmics is a subjective sport as it relies on judges and judges can be got at! The Soviet block could  guarantee placings across the board as their judges dominated the judging panels. The medals were doled out ensuring Soviet domination.

How do I know this? For a short period of four years I was a fully qualified Rhythmic judge. I was just below international level as it takes 7 years to attain this and I became disillusioned with this sport  as I saw how the marks could be easily manipulated. It was all done cleverly and quietly but I know this went on.

I became a judge because I had the honor and pleasure to be the balletic coach for New Zealand Commonwealth Games Rope Gold medalist, Angela Walker in  1990. I never imagined that I should ever be part of a sporting event let alone train a medalist.

The main reason I left Rhythmics was the way the gymnasts were encouraged and in the case of the Eastern bock teams forced to become anorexic.  In those days the gymnast had to be ultra thin to win plus being part of the eastern block. This was also happening in ballet at the same time. Up until this time I had never heard of anorexia. In my day dancers were about dress size 12 and being ultra thin was not fashionable. e.g. Marylyn Munroe and Margot Fonteyn.
Seeing and experiencing the horror what happens to girls who become anorexic solely for sport and ballet I felt I could no longer be part of the scene. After having 7 very competent young ballet dancers failed by a major examining body because of being as the examiner stated as being too fat  I and another ballet teacher left the art. I felt I could no longer teach or be part of organizations that covertly promoted anorexia.

It has taken about 20 years for Rhythmics to address these problems. This was helped by the fall of the Soviet Union as the judging system could at last be reformed. Now all gymnasts have to submit routines which can be assessed for difficulty and TV re-runs can ensure fair play.

The code of the sport is renewed after every Olympics. In the past the Eastern Block could influence this and ensure that the code favoured their  gymnasts. Now this is no longer possible and codes are chosen to ensure that a gymnast's career is not over at the age of 18 as in the past.  The dress code was also modified  as the stark leotards were cruel to any woman over the age of 18. Decoration and style. tunics and tights were allowed.

These changes have taken a couple of decades to introduce but in the London 2012 Olympics the results can be seen. The range of countries competing who are now in for a chance of a medal has increased. The judging is no longer manipulated by the Eastern Block although the Eastern Block is still dominant as today they put in the work that is required to win.

After a decade of just sheer sporting gymnastic elements the artistry has been allowed to return and the sport has regained its beauty.

The groups have been outstanding this Olympics. Especially the Italians whose choreography is brilliant. They could spar with the Russians on equal level would never have been possible in the past.

Would I allow a child of mine to compete on an International level in this  sport?  No, I don't think so. Subjective sports are still just that - subjective. Much better to be in a sport where the first past the post wins and there is no argument.

Spanish GroupTelegraph

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Google London Offices from Hell?

Googles granny flat look

Google has just unveiled its stunning new office headquarters in London. An event to be eagerly anticipated by all fans of this innovative and slightly secretive company.

Having had a look at the photos one has to admire the sheer audacity of the design. Truly ground breaking and original and straight back to the suburbia of the Metro Land of the 1930's or in other words horrible. I cannot think of anything worse.

This period of interior design must be the ugliest in the whole history of interior decoration . The busy chintz, the over padded plush furntiture and oh those awful lamp shades not to mention the horrible busy carpets. One could pick up the whole shabby lot second hand for a song in the Shepherd's Bush Road.

I am just so relieved that I am not working for Google! The meeting rooms are like padded cells and are the stuff of nightmares. I must be getting old.

There was just one office I liked and in keeping with my Olympic theme for the fortnight it had a 1948 poster on the wall that I have on the Opening Ceremony programme but even this office is a bit retro 60's, a little bit Formica.

Oh, Google what a joke! I give it three weeks before the decorators are in with the magnolia paint.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Super Synchronized Swimming Suits Olympics 2012

Wow! Hats off to Synchronized Swimming for their fabulous swimming costumes. Absolutely gorgeous. Here is the Telegraphs salute to them in their fashion parade

I always thought of Synchronized Swimming as a bit of a joke but the sport has matured and is now really NO Joke. It is so intense and clever and the swimmers have to be dedicated, brilliant swimmers, strong and intelligent to achieve such perfection.

I was amazed at the performances of these women. The years of deferred gratification that is required to hit this standard is daunting. One must really love doing it to attempt it.

The amount of trust in your partner is another trait that one must have as a mistake by either of them at this level is disastrous.

I was a Rhythmic Gymnastics judge for a short period. In my day only the simplest of leotards were allowed and even these were expensive. Today with the complexity of the costumes the expense and complex construction  and skill in making them I am so glad I am not a mother trying to fund my daughter. I certainly could not afford one!

However I have always loved fashion and it is a joy to see the creativity that has gone into these beautiful costumes.

PS I discovered the ugly nose plugs are purely for health and safety to stop the chlorine going up their noses. During training the swimmers also wear goggles for the same reason. During the long 4 minute routines the swimmers feet must not touch the bottom of the pool. This requires the tremendous strength of an outstanding sportswoman.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Northcote Point Ferry

If you are feeling blue there is nothing like a ferry ride to pick you up. Of course you have to live near a ferry and by chance I am lucky enough to do just that for at the bottom of my road is the Ferry into Downton Auckland.

It takes just ten minutes and it is pure magic as one is transported under the beautiful Auckland Harbour Bridge on the way. My ferry terminal is just to the left of the bridge behind the group of pohutakawa trees. One has to hail the ferry as it comes up from Birkenhead rather like hailing a London Bus at a request stop. This sort of adds to its charm. Sadly if you miss it there is not another one behind!

Not many people use my stop during the day and one has to request the ferry to call in on the return journey. Be warned the button one has to push to exit from the pier is well hidden and the first time I used the ferry it took me quarter of an hour to find it! It was like being in a cage.

If I was still in the workforce this would have been my mode of transport. Even on a bad day this trip makes you feel good. It even has a coffee bar and there is just time for a latte to start the day.

Sadly my working days are over but now I don't have to pay. My trips are free! Mark you I pay for them on my rates so each trip possibly costs me $50 as I travel rarely and Auckland transport is part of our rates.

If you are a visitor to Auckland the ferries are the way to see this beautiful city. London, New York and Paris have parks but Auckland has a harbour.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Road Walking the Monty Python Gold of the Olympic Games

Road Walking! What can one say about this ridiculous sport? It is the one sport that could easily be removed from the Olympic Games events and other than the competitors themselves I don't think anyone would miss it.

It looks stupid and it is stupid! The athletes are supposed to use a toe heel, straight leg technique to prevent running but none of the athletes seems to bother about this rule. At every Games athletes are disqualified for running and this year was no exception. I can see the athletes are running , the TV cameras can see the athletes are running, the crowd can see the athletes are running and yet the judges can't. 

This year we had TV slow motion close ups of their feet and on one occasion virtually all the runners were in the air! Were they disqualified? Not on your nellie to coin a useful English phrase. 

If we are to continue with this farce why not employ modern technology that is available. Why not have a small censor in the athletes shoes that would record every illegal step. Lets be generous and say twenty illegal steps and you are out. That should stop the blatant cheating and blind judges and restore a semblance of fair play to the whole sorry sport. Something similar is utilized in fencing to score the hits which are too fast to be seen.

If one sport has to be dropped drop Race Walking would get my vote,  leave rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming alone and bring back baseball which was dumped. 

PS  7 August 2012 - Since I wrote this the Italian winner of this event has disqualified himself for taking drugs. Road walkers seem prone to cheat it appears. I rest my case.

Surprise NZ beats Australia in Medal Table!

Surprise! This does not happen very often but for a couple of days tiny New Zealand has beaten Australia in the Olympics 2012 medal table. When you consider there are just 4 million of us and 20 million of them and Australia is the richest country in the world it is some feat.

If medals were given out on population New Zealand would be top as there are one billion Chinese and they only have 25 gold medals! Sort of puts it in perspective.

We have about the same population as Norway, perhaps the second richest country in the world and they are 39th. Mark you because of the large amounts of snow Norway heads the Winter Olympics and NZ gets unplaced even though we have a bit of snow most years and occasionally a lot.

New Zealand won't stay in 13th spot for long as we are not strong on athletics and indeed 3 gold medals is more than enough. We can really celebrate all our Olympians but we do have a healthy rivalry with Australia! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

An Olympic Addiction

Double scullers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan have painted gold on New Zealand's Olympic campaign.
The defending world champions won the title with a sizzling second half on Eton Dorney to roar home and collect New Zealand's first gold medal of the Games. NZ Herald

Have I said that I love the Olympics? It seems I am addicted to them. For two weeks every four years I catch up on what has been happening in the world of sport by seeing the best both night and day. Then I can forget sport for the next four years.

It is known in the statistical world that women do not like or favor sport whatever the coverage women's sport gets on the TV. Only 2.5% of women participate. I know this is correct for I edited a sports magazine for NZ sportswomen and our sales were bang on 2.5% of population.  It didn't last long! Sport once every four years is about right for the majority of women.

What I enjoy is seeing the range of sports I never normally see like fencing and archery. The fencing was so fast I could not see the hits at all. The huge clumsy bows that dwarf  the archer are not what was used at Agincourt. I think they should go back to the long bow and no technology as it spoils the fun of seeing the misses! 

Then there was the thrill of the canoe white water races. I had never seen them before. If I were young I'd love to do that. Handball seemed to me a bit of a silly game as the goalie hasn't a shot at defending that huge goal.

The gymnastics of all sorts is the culmination of four years work as the code changes after the Olympics and the gymnasts start again to learn new skills, 

I am watching rifle shooting at the moment and oh the thrill UK has won another gold and I never knew the sport existed.

Lastly I loved watching the sail borders off the Weymouth coast. They looked like a line of flying ants. I see sail borders everyday but never appreciated what they achieved in speed and beauty.

Oh I could go on and on with the plethora of riches Sky and TVNZ manage to broadcast during this two weeks.

Now on to Track and Field and my four yearly interest in athletics. One week down and one to go!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympics NZ 2 Bronze Medals!

I love the Olympics. I went to the Olympics when I was four in 1947 and I have enjoyed every Olympics ever since. I discovered then that the best way of enjoying the Olympics is on TV and ever since the normal world stops for me and I indulge in two weeks of wall to wall sport.

I live in New Zealand. I have lived here for most of my life so although I am English as well I can't help supporting the country that has given me everything I wanted out of life. New Zealand has two bronze medals and I am so proud of them. It means more than the gold medal that the UK won during the same competition.

We have just 4 million people, China has a billion and UK 69 million to chose from. Up until yesterday my home country UK had no Gold at all and China just 16. It sounds a lot until you think how huge is their pool of talent. NZ is about the same size as Manchester!

New Zealand performs well outside its talent pool and I think head for head possibly gets the largest tally of medals. The last Games was exceptional as we got ten, yes TEN golds. This time the total will not be as much as simply NZ cannot afford it but two bronze is enough.

Hopefully NZ will get a gold. We have some excellent rowers and cyclists so fingers crossed.

This four year feast will soon be over and I can get back to reality. I prefer artistic pursuits myself.