Thanks for joining me, here in the 2004 Archive! What you see here is all the columns I wrote, in the order I wrote them. The "Chronicles of Critic" were not published until January 2005, and "Arthur, King of the Burgers" was not published at all. Interim Editors, what are ya gonna do?

Debut piece
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
Holiday specials - unpublished in 2004!
January - June 2005
July 2005 to Today!!
Individual Game Reviews

Still in the box

In my room, there sits a brand new fan heater, still in its box from the beginning of winter, "sold" tape intact. On top of that, lays a letter from Kevin Ross confirming that Councillor Ian Brown and Council Officer Rosemary Hovey would be at the affectionately named ICEhouse last April to discuss "Community Outcomes". This meeting did indeed take place, and at the time all parties came away with a very positive feel to the whole situation.

Sixteen months later, I can turn the letter over and find everything that has resulted from that meeting - it's blank. So many things had been discussed that would have made significant positive impact on Wanganui in various areas, and nothing has come of it. I was looking to spearhead some great initiatives - most of them aimed at improving Wanganui's catering to its youth. Let's face it, there's not exactly much to do around town. Why not do something about that? Of course at the time, the Council reps were all for this wonderful new thinking. So why is it that a project for the Council to listen to what the citizens have to say then go ahead and take action, has not seen any action?

If all they are going to do is smile and nod, why not replace them with those drinking birds? Far cheaper, surely. I think I saw some the last time I was bored enough to wander into the $2 Shop.

The positioning I mentioned at the beginning today brings with it a striking irony. It's completely random that this letter ended up on top of an unused heater, but think about it - the heater is an attractive concept, it keeps you warm in winter. This if course comes at a cost of the purchase and subsequent electricity use. My heater is sitting in its box, doing nothing and has been since it arrived (which also means no electricity cost). It seems at least with my example, Councillors and their Officers are an attractive concept - they'll fix things that are broken and take action to improve the town. They come at a cost of rates, primarily. But, like the heater, they've sat around in their box not doing much of anything since they arrived.

The major difference between them? My heater was an unexpected gift which I have no use for - I'm quite warm as it is. These Council representatives are simply not doing what they promise. Of course, here I am talking about promise-breaking like it's a new thing in politics. Go figure.


Spirit of competition

You wouldn't know it, but it got really scary for a moment there. When it was announced to us that our course was to be discontinued, we got into battle mode. We were in it for the long haul. Six days later, everything's worked out. Since it's over and basically a non-issue now I don't want to dwell on it, so big thanks to everyone who helped get things back on track again. It's hard to describe how much it means to me that things are as they should be, suffice to say that education is very important, and it's nice to see 'the system' work properly.

And now, for our feature presentation...

You may often hear me say that apathy is Wanganui's greatest problem. Today however, I'd like to take some time to talk about the spirit of competition.

'It all' started when Burger King moved into town. The then manager of McDonalds lobbied against it to no avail, and I'd like to say there was fierce competition to provide the best service - but over the years it has sometimes seemed like they're competing for worst service. Price competition has never been a focal point when it comes to burger joints, both companies displaying the ravages of inflation steadily.

A few weeks ago, I was walking up the Ave and outside Pizza Hut’s delivery shop there was someone waving a sign at traffic. This sign proclaimed that Domino's was selling Large Pizzas at a low low price of $5.95. I stopped to talk with the guy, mainly sharing that I thought the strategy was Evil but Brilliant. I thought "this is the kind of fierce price competition consumers could really do with". So further down the road I walk past Domino's, to find Pizza Hut employees advertising they have Large Pizzas for a low low price of... $5.95... Hmm. It makes you think, is it more effective this way, or if they were outside their own establishments? I was left with one main thought - "if only I hadn't already eaten..."

Not too long ago now Video Ezy had a big sale on. Big, big sale. Four large tables and some surrounding floor space coated with videos and DVDs for sale, some at incredibly low prices. I went to check it out early Saturday morning, knowing I'd miss out on the best stuff if I went much later. After I'd been through there, I went on my way and noticed that Blockbusters had a whole reel of red tape exclaiming "SALE!" wrapped around its entrance. Intrigued, I wandered in to find nothing. Well, nothing out of the ordinary, anyway - the exact same stuff that's in there every day. Two small tables of $15-$20 videos that have held relatively the same stock for months standing unannounced where they always have.

Sometimes it astounds me, this surge of innovative sales tactics. It all leaves me thinking that I can’t possibly be witnessing all the unusual behaviour going on, but I’d like to be. To me, the recent craziness seems like it’s only shimmering at the surface. If you have any potentially interesting stories, feel free to send ‘em along to me via email.

InfoTainment

There's a chance, albeit a slim one, that you caught my on-screen acting debut. I played the part of 60s Pop Artist Tom Wesselmann in a sort of mockumentary for my friend's Fine Arts Theory class. It was a great experience setting up the shoot, acting a character (whom by all rights I should hate for being partly responsible for the movement which allows for anyone to do anything and call it art), and going through the whole editing process. I hear the final product was met with awe. It gives me a huge sense of confidence for ICEntertainment's future projects, and so in my spare moments I've been busy working away on various plans for The Nexus Trilogy.

Speaking of film in Wanganui, the River City Film Festival took place last weekend. I regret not being able to make it out there, but I already had quite solid plans. I'm positive it would have been a success, and really hope I'm able to organise an entry into next year's competition.

This week has been Adult Learners' Week, and on Monday there was a small but prestigious enough award ceremony where I received a Commendation for my achievements this year. It was a nice event, and once again I have to remember that when there's free food, I shouldn't eat beforehand. Interestingly enough, Rosemary Hovey caught up with me there and we tracked down where the breakdown of communication happened. We swapped current contact info, so hopefully we can get something rolling. Before I move on, I must say Congratulations to all the other award winners.

Earlier in the year, I competed in something called SkillEx and won the regional competition for IT skills. As a result, I'm headed to Auckland for the national finals next month. My travel itinerary is all planned out, as I found out earlier in the week. There is a slight hitch, as there always is - my name according to the ticket is "Ms Morgan Hunter". Not quite accurate, but I do hope someone makes a point of it later on, so I can tell them: "Yeah, I'm on a new reality show where six lesbians vie for my affection. What they don't know, is that I'm really a man".

Of food and electronics

When I'm really hungry, nothing fills me up quite like a large, meaty burger. Usually, BK's BBQ Bacon Double Cheese hits the spot, but in recent months it's been rare to find one that isn't burnt to a crisp. I actually had a manager try to convince me there was no way to flame grill a burger and not horribly char it, and then proceeded to get me a new burger which didn't feature a rim of charcoal designed to make the first and last bites awful.

My other option gets me strange and bewildered looks every time: A Half-Pounder from McD's. "Don't you mean a Quarter Pounder?" Nope. The QP is called that because it contains a quarter of a pound of beef, so a Half-Pounder would be double that. Once this formality is out of the way, I discover that there's some sort of policy against them adding an extra layer of beef. So I order two and combine them, discarding one upper bun half. As I chew on through, I get a feeling of déjà vu… Add mayo and they already marketed this as the Rugby Burger! I sure do love them, but at roughly $8 a pop, they have to be a strict luxury.

Someone mentioned to me that in my look at Wanganui competition a couple of weeks ago, I neglected a glaringly obvious example: Noel Leeming and Harvey Norman. Looking back on my old notes, I had actually intended to talk about that directly after the other next-door-neighbours BK and McD's.

It's really quite an interesting setup. Noel is far back off the road, with a decently sized parking lot out front, and Harvey has its front wall right on the footpath. If you're walking from the top of the Ave, you can't even see Noel until you're past Harvey. Luckily though, if walking from the other direction, Noel has a sign on the side wall of Harvey that's plain as day. Thinking about Noel's parking lot, it's both a blessing and a curse. While being convenient for customers and suppliers, sometimes it can be extremely hard to navigate through a field of massive delivery trucks (not to mention reduced storefront visibility), and of course, it also gives people wanting to visit Harvey that same convenience. Oddly I'm left wondering if these stores are the namesakes of real people, like Dick Smith…

Tune in next week, when I should have some exciting news about ICEntertainment!

Competence, and the lack thereof

I said that I'd have some exciting news about ICEntertainment, and I have two lots. First and foremost, we're back online with a brand new sparkly home - www.ice.org.nz. Come along and find out a bit about our team, read some entertaining columns, and stop by the forums for a bit of a chat. The second news is that on my way back from the SkillEx competition in Auckland next month, I may well be stopping by in Hamilton to work on filming ICE's next adventure with The Prof and Ratman - Matsumoto MacLeod, the Scotch Bushido.

I'd like to talk briefly about The Sims 2. I know we have a game review on this page already, but we're entering the biggest gaming season of all time and with at least two huge games coming out every week for at least the next three months and I figure Zac is probably going to feature Burnout 3 this week being the car fan that he is. As far as the review goes, all I can say is that if you liked the original Sims or the console versions, and/or want a game that can easily consume your life without you noticing, then The Sims 2 is for you.

Where this becomes my column again, is a tale of a subject close to my heart - competence, and the lack thereof. On launch day (last Thursday) I went in to Harvey Norman with a friend of mine, looking for TS2. We saw a large poster advertising it, and it's launch date on the side of the display PS2 which was odd enough since it's a PC game, not for consoles. We couldn't find the game on the shelves, and so asked the staff. We were told in a very defensive tone that they didn't know when it would be out, their suppliers didn't know, no one did. We were told that hopefully it will come out within a month. So we went next door to Noel Leeming and there it was, sitting on the shelf. We checked with Dick Smith Electronics and The Warehouse, it seems that Harvey Norman was the only one not in the know and not in stock. This is far from being an isolated incident.

It disheartens me to see someone simply not care enough about their job to put any proper effort in to doing what they're paid to, and instead spending all their energies on trying to make customers seem uninformed, naïve or downright stupid. I'd like to say that this person is not exemplary of other Harvey Norman staff, but the truth is that when you put on the uniform of any job, you instantly represent the business you're supposed to be working for. If you were to ask me about Wanganui Ucol offering a business degree next year, I would by no means tell you that "I don't know if it's happening, management don't know anything, no one knows anything about it. Hopefully maybe within the decade". It's just not right, is it?

What I will say, is "See you next week".

Impersonal Demons

I haven't been all too topical lately. A shot here and there, maybe a nice punchline… So I'm here this week to talk about what is almost inevitable for most of Wanganui's youth - dealing with WINZ.

Can't you just feel the chill as I say it? Like legendary demons of olde, their very mention brings such a strong and immediate reaction it's remarkable.

I was unemployed and flatting for most of last year, and there was only about six weeks where I didn't have any form of part-time employment. One job I got by going down the ave and literally stopping in every store asking if they had any vacancies - this landed me a graveyard shift at a service station which didn't really agree with me at all. I spent two weeks doing more job searching before deciding to ask WINZ for their assistance. I signed a contract which basically said that I would keep up my search, declare any income I received, and they would pay me a weekly benefit and notify me of any and all suitable jobs that they could find.

In the ten months that I was on the dole, they couldn't find a single job for me. They did call me about a job once - I was in Wellington for the weekend and they asked me to come on Monday. When I got there, they had zero recollection of any phone call taking place. Their idea of helping me was to send me to "Work Track", which equates to a weeklong seminar not unlike 6th form Health class - abstract intelligence tests, self-confidence rituals… all that was missing was sex ed. Other noteables include constant miscalculation of my benefit, threats to cut me off for not attending events they didn't inform me of, and a wrongfully created debt which lingered for four months despite constant reminders from me and reassurances from my case manager.

I initially found it quite shocking that a Govt. department designed to help people find gainful employment was full of the under-competent. But now it makes perfect sense - when WINZ was largely established, they saw an opportunity to give a whole stack of jobs to people they couldn't ordinarily provide for. I dare say a lot of the people who are currently on the benefit could be doing better than the current WINZ workers, and therein lies the problem: If the people who are supposed to be helping people off the benefit are not only not performing to their job description, but also actively in the way of someone who could be, then we've got ourselves a grand little circle of welfare state.

Before I go, let me mention the positives. By no means are all WINZ workers evil or incoherent, there are two people from the Wanganui office whom I've encountered that are genuinely nice, friendly, helpful people with outstanding dedication to their goals. I can only hope their shining example encourages their co-workers to follow, instead of blinding them.

Game Reviews

I must apologise for the lack of a real "From the Morg" this week. Things have been and will be changing all around me, and the only potential topics I have on mind seem like petty throw-away lines. So since there really has been an absolute torrent of games flooding through, I figure it can't hurt to put the spotlight on a few titles this week.

I'm not really a fan of Hip-Hop, but oddly enough I now own two games that star Snoop Dogg. The first was True Crime: Streets of LA, and now Def Jam: Fight for New York. DJFFNY is a rarity in that it's a 4 player simultaneous fighting game. No tag teams, no tournaments, just four guys in a ring, cage or bar scrapping it out. Polished graphics, unique gameplay, a host of unlockables and interactive arenas / crowds make it a solid effort by AKI (and EA, everyone's parent company).

Burnout 3: Takedown is the latest in a very innovative yet simple racing series. Arguably the only thing now-bankrupt Acclaim had going for them, developers Critereon took the sequel to who else but EA and have suffered the consequences. The focus has moved from the nigh-perfect system of driving dangerously to gain boost, to implementing a rubberband AI that no matter how well you perform, they're always right behind you, and if you make one mistake, you might as well restart. The only option they give you is to cause your opponents to crash, which is fun but futile. They should have split the game in two - Road Rage (where there's no actual race, just smashing your opponents until you get totalled) is undeniably thrilling, and a Burnout 2 style racing mode would have made it perfect.

Doom 3 would normally be the most anticipated game of the year, if this was any other year. With Halo 2 and Half-Life 2 on the horizon in the First-Person Shooter genre alone, it has to fight for supremacy. I hired it out the other day, and after getting 'owned' online for a while, I decided to check out the single-player campaign. This is without a doubt the finest looking game I've ever played. I had a good laugh at some of the screenshots released during development, but they do no justice to the game in action. Right about when the wall-crawling mutants start throwing fireballs at me, I feel a great sense of nostalgia overcome me… and then I'm dead.

Meet me back here this time next week, when I should have something that more closely resembles a column...

Of politics and correctness

Aren't we all glad that the age of absolute political correctness is behind us? People are short, not 'vertically challenged'. It's okay to say 'blind', we don't have any pressure on us to tip-toe around it and say 'visually impaired'. Even such a widely accepted term as 'actress' is on its way out.

It's great when you think about it - if I say "She's a great actress", that paints a different picture than saying "She's a great actor". 'Actor' gives a stronger sense that they can act, whereas 'actress' has a sort of air about it that acting isn't what it's all about.

This trend gives me great hope that the one title I despise more than any other will soon be axed - 'Manageress'. What on earth is it supposed to mean? Are the women who choose to call themselves manageresses under the impression that their role is so vastly different from being a manager that it requires a specialist term? If you're appointed to manage part or all of a business, you're a manager, plain and simple. There's a good reason you don't see companies advertising for the position of 'Marketing Manageress' - because there really is no such thing. Maybe I should train to become a Nurseman...

The idea that a search for equality lead to a series of outlandish special terms to describe anything about a person that isn't either completely average or 'perfect' is absurd at best. Luckily for the most part, people have regained their rational thinking.

Now, you might expect me to say something about the local body elections that have just passed by. I haven't got anything along normal lines, to be honest. While I'm writing about political movements of the non-governmental kind, I'll say that I haven't got anything against Ross Mitchell Anyon, but perhaps I can offer one of the possible reasons he wasn't elected into council this year. His 'sell yourself' piece in the voters' information pack was full of all the marches and protests he'd been involved in, most of them for causes that failed. Maybe it's all fine and good for me to sit here and say it, but if I were trying to convince people to have me represent them, I'd focus on the positive.

As for the Mayoral race, I'd like to thank Chas Poynter for all he's done for Wanganui and for being the driving force behind getting my course back. Also good luck in all future endeavours. And hopefully I'll be having a chat to our new Mayor Michael Laws soon enough, to see if good can be made of a common idea we shared about a new project.

I'm off to Auckland next week for SkillEx, I'll see you back here next Friday, hopefully with some good news.

Live from Auckland

I left you last week saying that hopefully I would have some good news for you this week. Unfortunately, my deadline rolls around before the SkillEx prizegiving ceremony.

I do feel confident though. The competition has been both fun and challenging, with its fair share of drama. Closely surrounding me were emotional breakdowns, light rigging explosions, chemical burns... and my biggest worry was the sawdust drifting over us from the carpentry competition area. I managed to surprise myself with how well I handled the various tasks set for me, and can still see how I could improve in different areas.

So I've been staying at "X Base" backpackers just off Queen street, with fellow competitors Carla (Cookery) and Michelle (Hairdressing), and our brilliant support team of Tim, Karen, Jax and Marty. Living seven-to-a-room is undoubtedly cramped, but we've all managed to get the best of the experience. Also, apparently going to bed around ten and waking up at six agrees with me. I never would have guessed.

This is my first time in Auckland, and of course I'd heard all sorts of opinions about the place. What no one bothered to tell me, was that walking down Queen street would take me past more Burger Kings than there are in all of Wellington. It really is like its own town, just in this one street - everything you need is here, several times over. Around the other corner from where I am in one block are five internet cafes and two massage parlours. For the name 'Commerce street', I kind of expected more of a corporate presence.

There are so many people here, and yet it's never crowded. So many different kinds of people that it matters naught whether you're a resident or tourist. It's the kind of place where you just naturally fit in, no matter what - I could see myself living here if I needed to. My big issue though, and probably a strong enough deterrent is this: Just about everyone smokes. There are plenty of good looking girls around, but there's only one I've come across who was both single and a non-smoker. And I can't even be absolutely sure about that.

See you again next week, when I'll know more things to tell you!

Bling, Food and Film

Wow, my tenth column already. I don't have a picture of me on this page, but you'll know it's me walking around town when you see the shiny Silver medal around my neck. I won second place in the Skillex National finals, which means I can claim to be the second best young IT professional in the country. To me at least, that's pretty huge. You might have seen my team mate Carla in the paper on Tuesday with her Gold in Cookery, she definitely deserved it.

Of course, as soon as I'd written my column last week I walked out into town and there were enough people to constitute a crowd after I'd just said it never got crowded. Still, I came away with a glowing image of Auckland. My stop over in Hamilton was a great wind down, and it was great to catch up not only with The Prof and Ratman, but also RM's younger brother Craig who I hadn't seen in 7 years. Hilarity ensued, to say the least. We didn't get any filming done, but we did come to the shocking realisation that next month the whole ICE team will be in one place at one time, for the first time ever.

Would you believe it? I actually ordered a Half-Pounder from McDonalds and got one! Don't get too excited, it wasn't here. Apparently it's all run-of-the-mill up in Hamilton, but here in Wanganui? I tried ordering one yesterday. After explaining what a Half-Pounder is in the simplest of terms, a manager or two were called over to discuss the impossible notion of adding another layer of beef to a Quarter Pounder. What they could do, was give me a Boss burger, without any salad in it, and change the bun to a sesame seed instead of Keiser split. What a bloody round about way of doing things! After a longer wait than they promised, they also gave me a free Sundae, which was sure nice of them. My friend and partner in justice (as opposed to crime) Antz joked that I could make some money out of taking a bite of the sundae, then convulsing on the floor, claiming I was allergic to chocolate.

I don't know why I'm actually advertising this, but you can now download Subarashii: Eggsellent from the ICE site. It's an awful short film that I made back in 2000 and only just managed to get onto my computer for editing. If you want to laugh (in pity, mostly) check it out at www.ice.org.nz . In the short film pipeline, apart from The Scotch Bushido we also have a few new ideas brewing, including a zombie movie entitled Everyone Stupid Dies. To find out more, you can sign up on our forums - Avoid Regret!

I'm Morgs, as always I'll see you next week.

Charities & Violence (not necessarily related)

I was talking to Antz on the phone the other day, and as it happens he was checking his mail and found a pink plastic bag. Upon further inspection it was found to be from the charity working to stop Sudden Infant Death Syndrome aka Cot Death. This brought us to two clear and unnerving thoughts - why is it charities don't actually come to your door anymore? I used to collect for ihc and ccs, never had any problems. If it's a thread along common decency of not disturbing people from their daily lives, then why can't religious nuts take a hint? But the one thing that sticks out to me is - what ever happened to Red Nose Day? It used to be a national icon, with celebrities of the mid 90's singing away on our TV sets, hard-to-breath through plastic noses, badges that said "I'm too chicken to wear a Red Nose", even cars had their own Red Noses! Now? It seems like it's been replaced with 'Fill a pink plastic bag with money' day. Kind of hard to get excited about.

I've seen some bad movies in my time (Resident Evil: Apocalypse can now be added to that list), and it saddens me that the absolute worst is based on my favourite video game of all time. So imagine my horror when I was walking along the Ave when a familiar scene popped into the corner of my eye, and I turn to see Farmers Home playing the dreadful… Mortal Kombat: Annihilation! There are a lot of 'experts' who say that violent movies and video games cause abnormal aggression in those who partake in them. What gets my blood boiling isn't the world famous Fatalities in MK, or the martial arts action in movies, but how severely they bastardised the story and characters in MK: Annihilation. Plus in every aspect it's just a terrible film.

There are many paths I could follow for a career, and I have to say that one I heavily consider is to become a (Multi)Media Psychologist, specialising in Video Games. There are just too many people out there who are willing to claim and believe that by playing Mortal Kombat we're going to try and rip someone's head off, or steal their soul. That playing Grand Theft Auto makes us car thieves. That any guy who plays Perfect Dark secretly wants to be a woman. It's all ludicrous really; by the same logic playing Mario should dictate we all become tubby Italian plumbers who jump on turtles in order to save a princess. I heavily doubt any of these theorists actually play games, and therein lies the fatal flaw. I say it's high time for a fresh approach - someone who actually knows what they're talking about!

Home is where the Flame is...

It's been said that Burger King is my home away from home. I visited one every day I was out of town, which is probably why I didn't get homesick, and definitely why I had to take a break from it until this past Tuesday. When I did go back, it was as if someone had burned my home to the ground, and the burger I was served was the only thing salvaged from the ashes.

A BBQ Fat Double Charcoal Burger wasn't what I ordered, but it was damn sure what I got. I have had a slight change of heart in how I deal with people; call it a misguided hope that if I pay them enough, eventually I'll get the service I originally bargained for. So I left my original burger alone, ate my fries, and went up to order a second burger.

"Hi there, could I please have a BBQ Bacon Double Cheese Burger? ... And what I'd really like, is for there to be more bacon than fat, and perhaps for there not to be a disgusting rim of charcoal around the edge of my burger?" I asked in a most honest tone. "Um, sorry, we can't change the burger like that", came the reply.

Hang on a minute... Did I ask for something out of the ordinary here? Is it too much to ask for what is being advertised? I didn't think so, and explained that it wasn't actually changing the burger from the menu, but a manager got called into it. Surprise! It was the same manager I'd dealt with before on this issue. Seemingly not recognising me he, tried again with his half-hearted argument that there is no way to flame-grill a burger and come out with a product that tastes good right the way through.

I reminded him that we've had this conversation before, and that straight after that, I was served a burger that was good. Could he please see if that might happen again? Sure enough, this time I got a good burger. No charring, and a heaping helping of actual bacon. It essentially cost me $10 just to get a decent burger, and the people working there still see it as a wild inconvenience to them to provide quality product and service. My total purchases that day alone paid someone's wage for two whole hours. Hmm, no wonder they seem unmotivated.

Game Reviews 2

I don't know what's happened to Zac this past fortnight, so how about a round of game reviews from the Morg?

Easily the biggest PS2 release this year has to be GTA: San Andreas, the latest in a wildly controversial series of free-roaming adventure where as a gangster you're given essentially total freedom. In many respects, I feel that True Crime: Streets of LA offered a deeper gameplay experience but San Andreas has made enough improvements to warrant some real excitement. Gauging your character's fitness and various skills, the ability to aim weapons properly, and swimming are just the surface of the enhancements to the much-loved engine. I'm not about to buy it, but it is a lot of fun.

I honestly don't know why EA still make sport games. Apart from Fight Night 2004 (simply the best boxing game ever), they haven't made anything great in the past decade. I played a bit of NBA Live 2005, and it was alright, but nothing to cheer about. I remember having more fun with NBA Live '95. FIFA 2005 is absolute crap, I don't know how they were thinking that anything in that game would spark even the slightest interest out of anyone. Konami have them pegged with their Winning Eleven series, hands down.

Interestingly enough, after an online journal entry by the spouse of an EA employee revealing hideous acts of slave-driving by the company, the workers are filing a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for 90+ hour weeks, which they did not get even the most basic of overtime pay for. Hopefully this will knock some sense into the suits, and with less insane conditions on the designers, programmers, etc - maybe they'll start putting out consistently good games…

I want to finish this on a positive note, and I can think of no better way than to talk about X-Men Legends. There just aren't enough games in the 4 player co-op beat-'em-up genre, Shrek 2 springs to mind, but was extremely short (what can you expect from a kid's game, though?). Being a huge fan of the X-Men (and all of Marvel), and having plenty of friends frequenting my house for multiplayer games, Legends is the perfect concept. If course you have to start off as the highly overrated Wolverine, but when the 4p co-op opens up, it's all gravy from there. Flawless gameplay, good story, crisp graphics, RPG elements of skill building and strategic team-based combat make X-Men Legends an absolute dream.

That's it for me this week. Sorry to all you X-Box players out there, but I haven't played Halo 2 yet. If you need to know, head into Dick Smith Electronics. They'll tell you all about it.

Back to the point...

My deadline is Thursdays at 3pm. I wrote my column (game reviews) last Wednesday night as I had a test on Thursday morning and didn't think I'd have any brilliant flash of inspiration afterwards. Over lunch I picked up the paper to find Kim Vinnel on the front page begging for something for Wanganui's youth to do.

Wanganui's youth… sounds familiar. Oh yes, my 'target demographic'! Let's face it, things have been unentertaining for a long time. I can't help but think 'Vinnel - Gary Vinnel, owner of Embassy 3?'. My immediate advice for Kim is to start the battle at home - how about some decent movies at the Cinema? Kill Bill was one of the most talked about movies of the past two years, but did the Embassy get either volume? From what I understand, the only reason they're showing Fahrenheit 9/11 is due to petitioning from local enthusiasts.

Of course a few movies isn't going to stop the raping and stabbing in the streets. In fact, some (misguided) people would argue that films like Kill Bill would only increase that activity. So what's the answer? How can I be assured restful sleep at night, with the knowledge that the people I care about are safe and sound? The sad truth is that I have no idea. I'm not usually one to buy into this sort of hype, but it has me genuinely worried. I feel obliged to be a part of the solution too, since my column is supposed to be all about Wanganui youth, and I started it out by challenging a council officer about putting entertainment plans into motion.

We do have some things around. A few months ago an internet and gaming centre opened up called "Catch 22", which is a top notch facility far better than any I've visited elsewhere. They hold regular tournaments of various games and it's a good atmosphere. The Bowlarama is open again these days, and offers a (mid)range of activities. But besides that? The nightlife here is crap. It doesn't matter how long the pubs and clubs are open; they're just not nearly as good as they could be. Playing the same 15 songs over and over, and evaporated sweat from the dance floor dripping down from the ceiling do not scream out 'quality'. Where are the karaoke joints, arcades and pool halls? When was the last time a good concert was held here? These are basic elements of any other decent town and we're getting passed over.

Mayor Michael Laws has great visions of a Youth Summit, and a Youth Council. Nice ideas on paper, but how exactly he expects that he'll get enough people to show up is beyond me. Who knows, maybe these recent events will be what finally breaks the cycle of apathy.

Sir Morgs

There's a chance that you met me for the first time this week. I'm a student, but for the first three days of this week, I was a teacher. Six classes, two hours each, teaching 4th formers how to build web pages. With my initial relaxation plans cut short, I'm still not quite recovered from it all.

Whenever someone asks me how teaching was, I tell them quite quickly "It was an experience", which often gives the impression that it is not something that I would soon wish to repeat. Which is about right, I guess. People seem to think that this teaching experience will have given me a newfound respect for teachers, but the truth is I already had that. I already understood the difficulties involved, all the prep work and outside hours. If there's something new I learned, it's how hard it is to teach a class when they're all sitting behind computers. There are no guarantees that anyone's paying attention, and with my teaching style being full of subtle jokes it was hard to see if I was getting across.

Of course students never change, only evolve. Passing notes has evidently moved on from physical ink on paper to text files moved between user folders. Quite innovative, I thought - and they made an interesting read. Oh yeah, the flaw with this new system is that the teacher can see what you're sending.

I did enjoy it all immensely, and according to the student feedback I did a pretty good job. The classes that really wanted to be there got a lot out of it, and the classes for whom my subject was their last choice liked it more than they thought they would. There was at least one student in each class that cottoned on to the fact that I was the same Morgs who writes this very column, and it was good to see that I do actually have a decent audience amongst the younger of the youth. I had been a little worried about that, since it seems most of my columns tend to focus on the elder of the youth.

One thing that never ceased to amaze me is this: I know that I'm not a great teacher; I could see all the flaws in my work as it was going on. I was very casual (and my Ethics tutor might suggest 'unprofessional'), and yet none of my classes realised that I wasn't actually a proper tutor at Ucol. I had to explain that I'm only 19, normally a student, and this was my first time in any sort of teaching role.

"I beat the regular tutor to death, and then dumped their cement-laden body in a nearby lake, just so I could teach this class..." I said with a cheerfully sarcastic tone to my afternoon class on Tuesday.

Of oddities and such

I've been working hard finishing off my Ucol course work for this year, and apparently I've missed a few things. I had planned to go and see Shaun of the Dead which promised to be a uniquely good comedy, but Embassy 3 had decided to only show it for two weeks, ending the day before I was free of work. Ah well, good thing I've got a stack of DVDs I haven't had time to see yet.

There was a big council/public meeting which tackled various youth issues. I'm sorry I missed it, its something I would have been eager to attend had I known about it. Apparently it was quite a success. I just wish the police spokesman would stop referring to the offending group as "hard core". It might be a case of generation gap, but as far as I'm concerned "Hardcore" is a compliment.

The police are back in the heart of the city! I can't say that I'm excited, the old kiosk didn't ever seem to do anything. I've got a few stories I could tell, but this isn't the place.

Mayor Laws is being labelled everything short of fascist by angry artists. I can't recall the last time I read so many stale political buzzwords in one space than Brit Bunkley's letter to the ed on Wednesday. Comparing artists to bicycle racers concerning elitism? The velodrome doesn't even have a roof, and the gallery wants a multi-million dollar extension. And a friendly tip to anyone - as soon as you mention Nazis, I fall asleep. Unless Hitler's zombie walks down Vic Ave with a Gestapo and legion of mislead youth, leave the obvious and overdone history references where they belong.

I definitely like the sound of the idea where instead of wasting millions of dollars on extending a building with a small patronage, art is displayed throughout the city. But I can only pray that this art on display is of some widely appreciable variety that people can recognise as being art. Earlier in the year outside the Ucol library someone had placed an old computer with it's case open and a few parts ripped out and scattered, with some random quote placed in front of it. Apparently, that's art to someone. I cant comprehend how dismantling technology and using someone else's words makes one an artist.

But then, what do I know of art?

Minister Morgs

"There are Jews in the world, there are Buddhists. There are Hindus and Mormons and then…"

If you go to any city where they actually have billboards, chances are you'll find a Tui board that says "It's a church, not a cult… (Yeah right)" which references the infamous Destiny's Church, prominent anti-Civil Union group.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when the Civil Union Bill (CUB) is mentioned, is the prospect of Homosexual marriages. This rang alarm bells not only with the cultish, but the regular loud Christians and Catholics. Let's take a look at the actual situation here, shall we?

Marriage is almost universally a Christian event, whether the participants are wholly religious or not. It's something that has been bred into our culture and the very vision of the perfect wedding involves a church and a minister. Generally, the Christians who make themselves heard are usually trying to impose their beliefs as law for all peoples. I'm positive that I'm not alone in that getting on my nerves.

New Zealand prides itself on being a multi-cultural nation, with diversity abound and an incredibly low level of racism compared to many other societies. Why is it then, that some people are stuck in the mentality that what's good for the goose is good for the whole Ark? If a religious group does not want its members to marry members of the same sex, that's fine for them. People are free to leave the faith if they so choose to. But when they try to impose their will upon an entire nation, that's simply wrong.

What the CUB offers is an alternative for all peoples. I'm not about to elope with a man, but I'm not entirely comfortable with being married in a Christian setting. So the CUB provides me with a way to solidify the bond between myself and my future fiancée, though I'm sure the right woman could convince me to step into a church if she so desired...

You know, here I am talking about not being sold on the necessity of a minister, and I realise that I was ordained as a minister of the Universal Life Church over the internet a few years ago.

Before I say Adieu for this week, I'd like to touch upon the other major law change which occurred last week. No smoking in bars! Woohoo! Finally I'll be able to actually go out and enjoy such establishments as fully as possible, without choking to death on second hand smoke. Apparently the change has been welcomed by all in Wanganui, which is great. I do agree with the thought that perhaps special 'smoking areas' be provided instead of just shoving people outside. Something to work on for the future.

Adieu for this week!

The Chronicles of Critic (Part 1)

Every day in Letters to the Ed I read people who have no idea of what's going on, people who are angry for the sake of being angry, and people who just can't get enough of political scapegoats. And of course, those who believe that 40 people constitute a 'mass' protest.

I visited the Sarjeant Gallery twice this week, for the first time since I was made to go on an Intermediate School trip. Once as research for this article, and again to show Antz what I'd been talking about over lunch. I have to say again that I may not know art (I just played an artist on film), but I had mixed reactions to what I saw.

The first thing I noticed was an awful racket coming from an exhibit about animal testing. Featuring eerie taxidermy (like there's any other kind) and photos of creepy looking animals - except the Kiwi, which didn't seem to have anything abnormal about it. Prying a microphone from a dead rabbit I opted to recite the rules of Fight Club, having forgotten Tyler Durden's more appropriate speeches.

There was some excellent painting on display at various points, though some of it was hard to tell if it was intentional or accidental. I was a big fan of the Young Maori exhibit - there was a shimmering blue tropical sunset piece which was excellent, and while I wouldn't class novelty hoodies as art, they were cool also. The major exhibit featuring clay, china and sculptures made out of polystyrene meat trays was very interesting to me.

Then there was the main central room. What on Earth was going on in there? Blank canvases, four cotton bracelets arranged in an askew square, and repainted Big Bird & The Smurfs standing on an old can of Corned Beef all trying to pass themselves off as art. Someone please, email me and explain exactly how these things qualify as being art at all, let alone worthy of being displayed in a supposedly prestigious gallery!

People must be really hungry in Wanganui. "Indigo" has just opened up where the old Police Kiosk was in Majestic Square and looks to be quite a nifty place, with that "Auckland Waterfront" feel to it. The other half of Wanganui Security's new ominous building is going to be a café and I'm not sure how valid this is, but apparently there's a plan for another restaurant up at Queen's Park. If it's true, I don't understand it. Surely Indigo would be close enough to qualify as part of that same area, and it definitely looks big enough to handle a crowd.

Well, I've gotta go for this week. There's a knock at my door - better not be the mutants...

The Chronicles of Critic (Part 2)

I've come to two conclusions, if not more. Number one - I know far too many artists. These people that I know, whether they're artists by profession or hobby, are all great people who I am for the most part proud to know. The problem is, they have these friends and colleagues and collectively, the arts world is one which I despise. Together somehow the air rises that the arts are far more important than any other facet of a community, and that it is imperative that the entire community support whatever grand scheme they come up with.

Did you hear? There was a protest the likes of which Wanganui had never seen before recently. Forty people, count 'em FORTY massed outside the Sarjeant gallery to tell Michael Laws where to stick it. That's really an unbelievably high number, right? Much higher than the hundreds of high school students who protested against teacher striking in 2002. These forty artists and sympathisers left a far greater mark than the Motua Gardens protest of '95, of course. Newsflash people: Laws was very vocal about his view on the arts for two years prior to the election. If the people of Wanganui really wanted a gallery extension, Laws would not be the Mayor. Come to think of it, I didn't really see any signs of talent in those protest cards. How about some creativity, vibrancy, colour? Effort?

My second conclusion, is that I'm in the wrong business. If I stood up with 39 friends and said that Wanganui needs computers more than anything in the world, and asked for millions of dollars to come from ratepayers to upgrade the telecommunications systems to provide everyone with high speed internet, I sure as hell wouldn't get anywhere near as much media blitz as the artists have. And yet, more people would benefit from my idea. How many people actually go to the gallery? Why should we? I've been there, and there was some extremely questionable stuff being passed off as art. How about instead of just sticking your hand out, be holding something in it that justifies wanting it to be filled with cash?

Computers of course isn't the only business I'm in. I get $40 gross per week for my column. I'm definitely not complaining, I love getting paid for doing something I love. On the other hand, I have different fingers - and I'm not fetching hundreds or thousands of dollars for each 'piece' which I create. I went through a ‘private’ gallery which had a stack of paintings for sale and what I saw was, to me, a lot of panhandling for crap. The only piece that I actually liked turned out to be the cheapest there - $850. Ouch, to say the least.

I’d like to thank everyone who has been emailing me with such positive feedback. It’s both reassuring and fun, and I’m getting to converse with interesting people I wouldn’t know otherwise. Keep it up!

Arthur, King of the Burgers

It's good to be back, hand delivered to your homes, in dairies, bookshops, libraries and cafés. My last published article (mostly about the Civil Union Bill) caused quite the splash, and I'll take this opportunity to thank everyone who gave me such awesome feedback.

If you've been reading my column from near the start, you'll recall I seem to have some sort of beef with bad service. Especially when I get bad service with beef. I last talked about this sort of thing in November, where I regaled with a tale of the BBQ Fat Double Charcoal Burger from BK. Today, I wish to tell you my version of a minor Christmas Miracle…

On Xmas eve, I and three mates decided to meet up at BK for a meal. All of us were on fire comedy-wise, a great time to be sure. These days I've switched away from my usual burger, opting to swap a layer of fat for an extra layer of charred beef. Right then, I couldn't really be bothered repeating my usual conversation with the on-hand manager about it, so I just got to eating it. The drinks machine bench was covered in sticky filth and there was no grill to place your cup on, making it tricky to juggle with a tray, to say the least. When it came to dessert, we were all shocked to find that we had been given forks to eat our sundaes with. Forks, you know those things with the long holes in them - not exactly ideal for eating soft serve ice cream with.

So we went up to the counter thinking that it must have been a simple mistake - just grabbing from the wrong pile. Surely if they knew they were giving us inferior utensils, they would have mentioned and apologised for the inconvenience in the first place. No such luck. Forks were all they had, and the staff were quite rude about it really. Then the room started filling with smoke, and none of them even batted an eyelid. Just as we were about to leave, I noticed that there was one of those "We value your opinion" forms on our table. I've filled plenty of them out before, but never had any feedback so I decided just to have some fun with this one. I was 100% serious regarding the state of the place and my complaints, but "Arthur, King of the Britons" apparently filled this in. Off it went in the freepost up to BK Head Office.

Could it be? Around 8am on the 5th of January I got a voice message on my cell phone from Carl, top guy at BK Wanganui. He apologised and explained the two main issues - someone had messed with their vents, and someone should have taken a quick walk down to the supermarket to pick up some more spoons. This was sweet music to the ears of a very jaded "Morgneto". Maybe I should impersonate royalty more often...