The Hunter Method

Out of the ashes of From the Morg, comes a brand new column. Unpaid and Unleashed, The Hunter Method will bring out the words that just didn't fit before.

For the full story on the change, check out The Aftermath and All Too FAQ.

2005

23 September - General Politics
30 September - Enter: Morgneto

21 October - A whole lotta shakin' goin' on

7 November - Munted Day X
22 November - Unusual musings

5 December - History never repeats, I tell myself before I go to sleep...
14 December - It's Official!
23 December - Truly Moe-mentous

2006

25 May - On with the Show!
20 June - Xtra, Xtra, read all about it! (An exercise in English)
25 October - The longest Free Lunch of my life
25 October - A comparison of business strategy
30 November - BadHorse '06

General Politics

If you're expecting a hard-hitting column focused entirely on the recent General Election, with deep and insightful analysis on the future of New Zealand... you don't know me very well, do you?

About half the country acted as if we were back in "First Past the Post", completely undermining MMP and as such this election was a Two Horse Race. People voted Labour to stop National from getting in, others voted National to stop Labour from getting in. All the minor parties suffered heavily, losing almost all their votes to National. It would be nice if people would vote for whatever party has policies that they actually think benefit NZ (of course, with slight bias towards policies which benefit them personally). However, the general media has a different idea. "Why bother focusing on anyone but Helen and Don? No one wants to hear from anyone else, except maybe Winston Peters for a good laugh".

If you've read my ICE Team bio, you'll notice my quote is "... so I said to Don Brash, 'Get outta my house'!". The story behind this one goes - back in High School, I felt the need for a hook to randomly say in crowds and have people ask "wait, what was the rest of that story?" as if they'd just caught the end of something great. So I made up a story where Don Brash (who had just left his position as Govenor of the Reserve Bank) had crashed out hungover on my couch for a week. At one point I had to flesh it out quite a bit, but I can't remember all the drunken details.

Anywho, one thing that pisses me off is referring to every scandal as ____gate. Paintergate? Um, yeah okay... Nixon's Watergate scandal was named after the hotel. Where exactly is the Paintergate Hotel? Are the journalists paid to come up with names for these things really that piss-poor at their jobs? And what's worse, these pathetic adaptions actually catch on. Seriously folks, originality is the key.

In other news, things are looking up from last week. The Chronicle has agreed to take WYC'Ds suggestions about the Whatever page on board, for what that's worth. We'll also be getting some proper press time including the front page of the Midweek (for real this time). And on the other side of Whanganui news sources, it really was time to contribute this post over at LawsWatch (You'll need to click "show original post"). As you can see, when presented with all the hard facts, the commentors there can't keep insinuating bullshit for long as they often do. It feels great to know for sure that we have all the necessary answers.

Next week: A new chapter in the story of Morgneto, the bad-service-battling vigilante.

And here it is...

Enter: Morgneto

If you followed From the Morg last year (or looked it up conveniently here), you might have noticed that I'm not a fan of bad service, to put it midly. When dealing with bad service, whether it be fast food, 'Customer Care" representatives over the phone, anywhere... I am "Morgneto", much like the comic villain of a similar name. Dealing with people who are either unwilling or unable to do their jobs, that's Morgnetism. Enjoy if you will, the latest adventures of Morgneto...

The Student's Association at Whanganui Ucol (SAWU) held some trivia nights not too long ago. James (Jimmy Rouk) got me and Sam (Mister Whitey) to come along and join his team. We blitzed the competition. There was a moment of shock when the hosts said "There's a tie...", but it turned out that was between 2nd and third places. The prize that night was a $30 bar tab, and since our other teammates had left it was the three of us sharing it. I grabbed a couple of Mudshakes (which I'd already had a few of during the event), and we went to meet Gary (of Mockumentary fame) at McDonalds.

Felling hungry (as you do), I ordered a Half Pounder combo. I went through the usual process. Explaining that it's twice the beef of a Quarter Pounder, to charge it as a Boss, but still a manager gets called into it. He knew me from times before and repeated exactly what I'd just told the girl. Then it gets interesting.
Staff: "Okay there's going to be a wait on the burger."
Morgneto: "I know, I expect that."
Staff: "Oh. Well you can have your fries and drink now while you wait if you'd like."
Morgneto: "Yeah, that'd be great. I'll have a Coke with no ice, please."
What's put on my tray doesn't look right. They see me staring intently and inquire.
Staff: "Raspberry, right?"
Morgneto: "What?"
Staff: "You ordered a Raspberry?"
Morgneto: "Coke, no ice. Who's been drinking, me or you?"
Staff: "Okay, I'll get that for you."
A moment goes by where she stands around, as if there's nothing to do.
Morgneto: "Um, I don't suppose I could get my fries please?"
Staff: "Oh no there's going to be a slight wait on those too. That comes to $7.95."
Morgneto: "Oh, sorry. There's going to be a slight wait on the cash!" I say as I wave the $10 note in front of her. Unfortunately I did have to pay before she could try to serve my friends, otherwise I would have stood my ground until the burger and fries arrived.

In other foods, Dominoes here has turned to shit. Since they opened up their store here, me and my mates have brought business their way at least once a week, often with some hefty orders. It's almost always been good - fast, accurate, friendly - all the major things you need in such a place. The past four times (over the past two weeks) have been absolutely shocking.

Visit #1
Order: 2 Large, Deep Dish Pizzas. Meatosaurus (MS) & Double Bacon Cheeseburger (DBC).
Vegetables on a pizza called "Meatosaurus". This needs no explanation, and has no excuse. We are awarded a voucher in the mail.

Summary: 2 large pizzas, $13.00

Visit #2
Order: 3 Large, Deep Dish Pizzas. MS, DBC & Meatball Monster, hold the Onion (MM).
It's a rainy Sunday night. We get home and discover that these are not Deep Dish at all, but "Thin & Crispy", which I personally don't consider to be real pizza. I call up, and talk to a manager who assures me she'll cook three personally to our order. So in exchange for a second trip, we end up with 6 pizzas total. We invite more people over to share.

Summary: 6 large pizzas, $19.50

Visit #3
Order: 3 Large, Deep Dish Pizzas. MS, DBC & MM.
Using the voucher we received in the mail, this would come to $13. While we wait for our order, we go to Pak n' Save for drinks. Upon our return we are told that they accidentally made one of the pizzas on "Classic Crust". I explain that this is the third time in a row they've screwed up, and they offer to give us that pizza free and throw in a drink as well. "We just bought drinks, any chance of a Garlic bread?". We were in luck, because though we would normally have to wait for it to be cooked, there was one on the rack already.

Summary: 3 large pizzas and a Garlic bread: $6.50

Visit #4
Order: 4 Large, Deep Dish Pizzas. MS, 2xDBC & MM.

This time we knew what we were in for. I explained very clearly that the order was to be held as gospel. The right bases, and no onion or vegetables anywhere. I even checked the pizzas there in the store before I paid. Of course, what I couldn't see was the plentiful layer of Onion on one of the DBC's.

I call them, and have a lengthy chat with the manager out of pity mostly. I explain the repeated fouls, how much of a contrast this is to normal times, and that with Pizza Hutt moving in next door they really need to improve their game. He couldn't offer anything apart from condolences. No answers to how it happened again, no measures to ensure it doesn't happen in the future. I almost asked if there's any openings for a Supervisor, so that I might personally watch over shoulders to guarantee people get what they order.

Summary: 4 large pizzas, 6 disenchanted customers, 1 manager with no clues, $26.00

A whole lotta shakin' goin' on

It's been a crazy few weeks. I'm in a new house now (still in Whanganui), and I must say I like it a lot. Two blocks from town, three blocks from Ucol, spacious, recently refurbished... it's all good. How about a catch-up on things I've previously discussed here?

The Chronicle are absolutely full of shit, sorry to say. Four weeks after they claimed to be taking on WYC'Ds suggestions about the Whatever page, nothing has changed - it's geared for the insecure 14 year old girl who'll buy in to any fashionable philosophy. Cheesy Lovescopes, ads for the latest clothes with the imperative "GET NOTICED!", suggesting that pies are too fattening to be eaten, and a 'shout out' section where people can indirectly txt their friends. If I had to give it a rating, it would be Bullshit/10.

Don't ask me about the Midweek article about WYC'Ds survey if you want me to say anything nice besides "it got the most basic message across". The survey itself is going phenominally well, with over 2,000 already filled out and sitting with us, and more to come. Carla and I did an interview with ZM that's been going out as radio spots hyping the group and our activities. I haven't heard the final results personally since I don't listen to the radio, but apparently they're pretty good.

Another quick note - Dominoes have recovered from their slump in quality and are now right back to the top of their game.

So on to new happenings! The Sarjeant Arts Gallery hosts a little thing called the BadHorse Video Awards each year, basically a showcase of 3 minute maximum crazy films. We decided that Gary's second Mockumentary (Hobo's bedroom) would be a good candidate, but since it ran over three minutes, we re-shot it with some twists. It took us three takes to get one we were happy with, and tacked on a brief title sequence and credits.

The award show was last night. It was an alright event, I caught up with plenty of people I knew and had a good time. It was 'fancy dress', so I went as The Punisher (I've got the official Tshirt, wore black pants & coat, and replaced my usual stylish beard with generic stubble). Jarrod found a towel which matched his shirt to wear as a cape and went as "Retro Man", James dressed up like an 80s Rock Star, Sam went as a Texas prison guard, Grayden as "Thugs G" with ridiculous gangsta flava, and Hayden in his full Countdown uniform.

I was a little nervous as I hadn't been contacted at all about whether our film would be shown on the night, but luckily it was indeed a finalist. We didn't win any awards (most of those went to the organisers and their close friends) but apparently it was a favourite of the hosts - The Bad Horse and Courtney Place (Andrea du Chatenier and Paul Rayner respectively). Overall it was a fun time and I loved the overall winner - Noir Life, which had a brilliantly funny irreverence to the "Dance of the Dream Man" theme from Twin Peaks.

Next year, I'll definitely do two things:
1. Make use of music, since there don't seem to be any licensing issues there.
2. Enter as many times as I possibly can. One guy had four entries in the finals!

Munted Day X

It's the 7th of November, a day which holds great significance in my heart. It started back in 1996 as a day that simply didn't feel like any other day. Instead of dismissing the feeling, I took it as... a higher, cosmic sign? Perhaps. This year, the 10th anniversary of the day, once more it did not feel like any particular day. The only guideline I had was that there was a WYC'D meeting on, which meant it had to be a Monday. In any case, it was from Munted Day that I developed the philosophy of "Avoid Regret".

I've been a busy man lately, despite what Ucol might tell you if you were to ask them. There's been a lot of WYC'D work, mostly concerning the survey which is going great. I've put a considerable amount of effort into creating the new-fangled entrance videos for the AWC characters, including providing my voice for the ring announcer. Other than that, there's been a lot of script work done on Everyone Stupid Dies - it's really shaping up now, and I say hopefully that it will be finalised by year-end.

I have to say that it's been a great relief not having to deal with any media these days. It's always been a double-edged sword with me - I love it and I hate it, much like Morgnetism. I love having a wider voice and audience, but when it all comes down to it, there will always be a factor of "The Parent Angle" - where anyone higher up in the chain can twist your input however they like in order to put their own message across. Although having said that, half the time I don't think local media even has its own angle - they just can't be stuffed presenting that of the people supplying the stories. The other half, it's usually that they're trying to twist a positive into a negative.

I'll leave on a positive note - today at the WYC'D meeting, Juddy and I were discussing how I might be able to get paid for my ICE work - if I wrote a film which helped promote Smokefree. I pointed out to him that indeed Everyone Stupid Dies does feature some people smoking and dying. Sure, Zombies are a far cry from the usual Lung Cancer, but it's worth it... right?

Unusual musings

I've been meeting a lot of new people lately, and catching up with a lot of people I haven't seen in ages. This has mostly been due to attending 21sts (big shout-out to the Alder family if you happen to be reading!), but for some reason I've been more sociable with the everyday people I meet. In all cases, I find myself with a personal dilemma - when people ask me what I do. When I had my column in the paper, that was something I'd be very forward with, as I was proud to be a professional writer.

Now? I'm not really a student, and the course I'm on isn't what I really want to pursue nor is it very impressive. I'm not sure whether I want to call myself a writer because it has connotations to being a glorified bum, which to be fair is half-true. I do need to find myself a job, preferably one I don't end up feeling like burning down the store of. On that note, avoid KFC, especially the Whanganui store. I have no idea how they passed their health inspection this year, everything was unnacceptable from the service being constantly innacurate to the severely undercooked bacon.

It's a strange sensation when an entertainer dies. Of course it varies from say Barry White to Ronald Reagan, so there's also no one kind of impact. Don Adams, better known as Maxwell Smart and the voice of Inspector Gadget died a while ago now. He was an impeccable comedic actor, and really owned his star role. I grew up watching Get Smart and still find it hilarious to this day. A shame that he passed away too soon to film a cameo appearance for the upcoming "tribute" movie starring Steve Carell.

More recently, professional wrestler Eddie Guerrero passed away suddenly due to heart failure in his hotel room last week at the age of 38. I know a lot of people don't "get" pro wrestling, so I'll try to sum it up. Yes, the results are pre-determined. Yes, the competitors co-operate to put on a show rather than just beat each other up. No, weapons and blood aren't fake. The thing is, it's more real than most movie fights (except like, Ong-Bak). Eddie was a brilliant entertainer both in the ring and on the mic. His character of Lying, Cheating and Stealing in a light hearted way brought fans to cheer him like crazy even when they were supposed to be booing him. For him to pass away so early is a real shock to the system. Fittingly, the two tribute shows WWE put on were easily among the best shows of the year.

Shifting to Act III now, imagine the hopefully familiar situation of stepping up to the counter of a food bar after a fairly down day. The worker who steps up to serve you is gorgeous, with a warm beam in her eyes as she engages you in a genuine conversation. You could swear there's something of a connection being made there. The encounter balances out whatever you've just been through, and you leave feeling great. Then it hits you - you were too distracted by all this to even read her nametag! Oh well, hopefully better luck next time!

History never repeats, I tell myself before I go to sleep...

Two weekends ago, I competed in this year's Regional SkillEX IT Competition. SkillEX is a the NZ branch of a worldwide Youth Skills organisation / competition which spans many trades and pits the best of the demographic into a series of challenges. It's a hell of a lot of fun really. You might recall I did much the same 18 months ago, and made it to the National level in Auckland where I came back with a shiny Silver Medal.

One thing I don't think I mentioned last year was my tactics in the competition. Unsure of what I'd be up against, I had to make sure I had something to fall back on if need be. First up was the thought of what equipment I'd be using. I feared a bunch of crappy keyboards and mice, so brought my own along. It turned out that they had brand new HP sponsored machines, but I used mine all the same. At the first lunch time, one of my opponents spent the whole time crying, never did find out why. I heard from a judge that one of my opponents (never named) was really worried about me, that they were in over their head. why?

Essentially I spent the whole time acting naturally confident no matter what. If I was stuck, I'd lean back and stretch as if I'd just completed a huge task. If I couldn't possibly squeeze any more marks out, I'd leave as if I'd finished early. I never showed any sign of weakness or doubt, and it paid off. It was a close race, only a matter of one or two points between us all. At the awards dinner, the guy who beat me came up and said "Shit man, I was sure you were gonna beat me! I thought I had no chance against you!". My plan had worked, and there was much rejoicing.

This time around I apparently improved a hell of a lot, despite not doing anything of the sort for over a year. As I suspected at the time, just the experience of the National competition was enough to boost my performance this time. And guess what? I'll be the only one at the next Nationals to have competed at that level before. Advantage: Hunter.

In other news, I may well be going back on the unemployment benefit, if only for a little while. You might recall I hate WINZ with a passion. I called the 0800 number to get an appointment, but they told me I had to go to a seminar at 8.30 the next morning. So I went, and explained that I knew everything they were going to tell me, I'd been on the benefit before and this was a waste of my time. Their answer? The seminar was voluntary.

WINZ Seminar leader: "I'm surprised they didn't tell you that."
Morgneto: "I'm not."

I proceeded to talk about how from a year of being with them they only called me once - then denied all knowledge of it. How They created a substantial debt on my account and didn't remove it until 6 months later, despite constantly assuring me that maybe one day they would do their jobs. How they threatened in a very poorly written letter to cut my benefit for not attending some unnamed seminar they never told me about in the first place.

WINZ Seminar leader: "Is this some kind of personal attack on Work and Income?"
Morgneto: "... Yes!"
WINZ Seminar leader: "Well, did you know that you can fill out a Review of Decision form, and go through a mini-court process to remedy your grievance?"
Morgneto: "It's hardly a single 'decision' that needs reviewing."

It's Official!

People are always asking me, am I running for council?

By that, they are generally referring to the upcoming By-Election to replace Graham Taylor on the Wanganui District Council. Currently it's a two-horse race between Mark Simmonds (Wanganui Security) and Margaret Campion (ex-councillor). Seems like the sort of opportunity for a wildcard entry to step forward...

Apparently someone thought that wildcard should be me - starting rumours over at the infamous Laws Watch that I would be running. It's true, I'm in a pretty good position politically to run - I'm friendly with the current set of councillors, as well as the Mayor. At the same time, I've earned the respect of some very anti-Laws folk simply by being so up-front and honest about everything - a quality most would say that every politician lacks (y'know, besides Honest Abe).

In that spirit of honesty, here are the key points I need to address at this point:

My intentions
I do indeed intend to run. I didn't at the time, I applied for a front desk customer service job at Council just last week as I enjoy the atmosphere there and am in serious need of positive income, which leads me to...

Funding
Of which, I have none. I understand that a traditional campaign can cost a stack of cash, and that just to put my name forward officially, that's $200 gone. I will say that I am currently researching my options, and will consider any sponsorship proposals that come my way.

My leanings
I'd like to point out that contrary to speculation, I have not been approached by the Vision party about running under their banner. I did talk to Cr Sue Pepperell and Council Officer Rosemary Hovey at the recent WYC'D end of year BBQ, who both expressed an interest in seeing me run. If I do run, my own name will be what goes on the signs and pamphlets. My message and mission specifics are still being ironed out with my potential campaign managers, so keep a look out for that - rest assured it's not entirely youth-centric.

Campaigning
Assuming the other steps carry out, I can assure you all that my campaign will be individual. That is to say, I have a few somewhat non-conventional plans in formation about my message and how I'll get it out there. I guarantee at the very least, I will entertain you.

--- Morgan Hunter-Bell

Truly Moe-mentous

Right now I am extremely proud of myself, the rest of the ICE Team, AWC cast and other contributors... Why, you might well ask?

The script for Everyone Stupid Dies is complete!!

Almost exactly 11 months since I started the script, it is now in a form which I consider to be whole. No doubt there will be some tweaking here and there, but the hard part of writing is over. Soon it will be on to the task of taking words on a page (or sixty odd) and turning them into the vision I have in my head, or something which resembles it to a degree. I'm looking forward to it.

The race for Council in the By-Election has heated up considerably. Since announcing my intentions (and landing myself a nice article at the top of the front page of last Friday's Wanganui Chronicle), the field has gone from three to eight. Perhaps partly this is like "well if that guy can run, why can't I?".

I had a pretty good interview with Sean Hoskins at the Chronicle on Monday, I felt a lot more confident than I thought I was. However it also served as a trigger leading me to realise what I figured might have been the case from the get-go. That is to say, that looking at the main things I want to achieve for Whanganui, I can do wihtout being elected District Councillor, and that with a field this large, I just don't have the cash reserves to campaign well enough to be worth it.

In short, I won't be running for District Council this time, though my passion for seeing this town prosper has not been diminished. In the meantime however, I did guarantee that I would entertain you - and that I shall. Stay tuned!!

On with the Show!

The Hunter Method is finally back! Yes it's been a long time, and I apologise. There were a few things I needed to make sure were sorted out before I could launch back into the column, so here I am again now.

A few things have happened or changed since December - for one, it's now 2006! Crazy, I know. Another major change is that I turned 21 - which doesn't actually mean anything legally anymore, but is still considered a milestone. I had two celebrations for it - one with my usual group of friends, and one with both sides of my family (who had never all been in the same room together) as well as Antz, Gin and Rob. They both went really well - I had a great time, and I don't think anyone else came away with complaints :).

I'm also a (halfway) licenced driver now, and a lot of the time I get the feeling like I'm the only safe driver on the road. I tell ya, I thought there were some crazies out there when I was a pedestrian, but this is some real Frying Pan / Fire stuff going on. Although, you wouldn't think I'm all that safe if you looked at the left side of my car... I feel an Eddie Izzard paraphrase coming on.

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go aglay. Some of the not-so-good plans do alright, but the best laid ones usually fuck up. What exactly are these plans that mice make, though?"

Cars are fragile pieces of work. Maybe I should have been more like other guys in the past, utterly obsessed with the things - horsepower and bling bling and all that's inbetween. Is it really so naive to believe that a slight scrape against the corner of Blockbuster in order to avoid a giant pothole should not completely implode my left rear door? Are the doors just covered in the same aluminium that forms Coke cans?

Scary thought - what the hell would a real impact cause? Tear the door off it's hinges, send it flying three blocks away where it beheads some poor, unsuspecting citizen?

Well that's it for me this week, I know it wasn't much but hey - better short & sweet than drawn out and sour, right? Stay tuned!

Xtra, Xtra, read all about it! (An exercise in English)

Introductory note: This entry might as well be called The Duxfield Method, as it was entirely Anthony's idea, but he never has time to write anything so he told me to run with it.

The comma is an inclusive element of punctuation. Apparently Xtra have a problem in understanding that. Not surprising, since most of their "customer service" phone operators can barely speak English. Just another shortcut to build some nice dividends for the shareholders.

"Faster, Cheaper Broadband" the slogan reads on all the horrendously crappy ads. Xtra always has (and likely always will) treat the general populace, especially their own customers, as complete idiots. By creating a world of Bullshit in which "Xtraodinaries" install "Jetstream", and by blatantly lying to anyone who asks them anything, they get a lot of customers because too many people just don't know what's the what. Thankfully people are starting to wise up, which is probably why they haven't been voted "Best ISP" since 2003.

So a corporation exploits a naive section of the public. What's new? Not a lot, but that doesn't make it any less evil. Their latest campaign is under attack for false advertising. Why? Well quite simply Xtra aren't offering exactly what they promise (funny that). You essentially have the option of Faster or Cheaper Broadband. They believe that the comma clearly indicates this. Let's investigate, shall we?

Hopefully you're old enough to remember this, but if you're not then take my word for it - there was a huge campaign years ago that stated simply "Drink, Drive, DIE". Clearly this was saying that if you Drink and Drive, you will Die. Notice that these are all inclusive, there is no seperating them. Drink and Drive and Die.

Now let's apply Xtra's logic to this. Drink or Drive or Die. You've got three options! Personally I'll take Drive, but in reality that doesn't immediately exclude the possibility of death.

The reality is that a comma never represents "or" unless it is used in a list which ends with "or". Take Danielle Russo's speech from the end of Lost Season 1 - "You have three options - Run, Hide, or Die". Clearcut. But Xtra's slogan is only two elements - so if they mean "or", they have to state it. They don't.

Solution? If you or anyone you know is with Xtra for their internet, switch over to iHug and take your tolls with you. You won't regret it. It's free to switch and you get a lot more for your money, and in the end isn't that what we all want?

The longest Free Lunch of my life

First up I have to apologise for the giant gap inbetween ICE updates, and the particular lateness of this entry. The short answer is that I've been remarkably busy studying towards a BA in Media Studies extramurally with Massey.

Anywho, in around May 2004 I was encouraged to partake in a free lunch. The only catch being, I had to compete all day in a series of challenges using the Microsoft Office suite, on a Saturday. Did I say 'only catch'? I honestly think I'm still not done. The competition turned out to be a small part of a much larger whole. I competed in the regional level of SkillEX, which is New Zealand's branch of a global competition called World Skills. So (as it's been documented), I continued to compete later that year in Auckland at a National level, gaining Silver. Of course, that wouldn't be the end of it...

In the dying hours of my course at Ucol last year, they decided to hold the next round of Regionals (they had until March this year to do so), and I was easy enough to track down and rope in. I was fairly easy going about it anyway, though. So I won the regional level again, and just last month went to the Nationals again, this time in Wellington.

Everything improved over last time. Living conditions, food, chance to hang out with friends (thanks to Jessie for two great days and a heck of a lot of inspiration!)... and above all else, the competition. While I had significantly improved, I was up against tougher opponents. Congrats to Manukau for producing two kickass IT competitors. I got third place this year, but I agree with their decision not to call attention to it at the Awards Ceremony - I would have felt a bit stink going up for Bronze when I had a Silver from last time sitting in my pocket.

But that's over now, right? I didn't win so no trip to Japan, and I'm too old to compete again... right? Well, SkillEX is built on volunteers. If my memory serves me right, only three people draw a salary, with over 400 volunteers working for the cause. That's staggering. Of course, being that this is the longest free lunch I've ever known, after the awards I was asked "would I stay involved after this?"

We'll see. Honestly I don't feel like I have any right judging at a National level since I don't have all the answers myself (the main judge / National Skill Expert competed twice, winning the second time). Maybe at a regional level... if there's enough people around to actually compete in IT here - I don't think Ucol even have a computing course any more. I don't particularly care to find out.

A comparison of business strategy

The first thing you should find weird about this column is my expressed opinion of Telecom (whom I've often referred to as TeleScum), is a reasonably positive one. Earlier in the year they turned over a huge financial loss, a huge flip from previous years profit. I believe they took good note of this, finally realising that their competition has been generally far superior in the past few years.

Unfortunately for them and their customers, they don't appear to have made any efforts in the Broadband area, but taken their focus to a market where they only have one major competitor - Mobile Phone Service.

The only thing easier than a two-horse race is a one-horse race, and Telecom know this well, what with owning the phonelines and all. So, how to win a two-horse race? By having the better horse. And, because I don't actually know much of anything about horses, I'm going to cut the analogy and talk in real terms. Telecom has by far and large, a much better plan that Vodafone. It pained me to admit that at first, because I've been loyally on Vodafone and entirely anti-Telecom for many years.

Telecom has had $10 text for a long time now, and keep putting out ads with their infamous interviewer "Gary" to remind us that the deal is always being extended. Though the latest ad says "for all of 2007"... Hopefully we don't have to sit through the same ad for the next whole year. Anywho, to combat this Vodafone announced "Free TXT Weekends" where you can text as much as you like between midnight Friday and Midnight Sunday... so long as you only text people on the Vodafone network. Okay, fine so far but with $10 TXT, it meant that a lot of my friends started texting me far more often, and sent my Vodafone bill sky high. Why? Because there was no plan which allowed for any decent number of free minutes, as well as any more than 20 TXTs.

So now Telecom has introduced "Flexi" plans. Meaning you don't have to guess how you're going to use your mobile. Every month you can expect a relatively small bill, because it adjusts to what you use. It works fantastically, seriously - just go to their site and plug in your past few months' phone bills into the calculator there. Instead of telling you what your plan includes, you decide by actually using your mobile. Your minimum bill of $30 (for "MyTime", $45 for "Anytime") gets filled up by what you use - whether that's 100 minutes and 500 TXTs, 200 minutes, 500 TXTs and a bunch of Ringtones and Games... whatever. It fills up before it goes over.

Meanwhile, Vodafone have launched "You Choose" plans, supposedly designed to give you freedom as well. Supposedly. No matter what, you HAVE to choose a number of "anytime" minutes. The lowest amount is 20 minutes, and costs $20. Instantly, it's not about freedom if you are forced into something. Then, you can stack on a range of "your time" minutes. 100 of these (half my old plan) costs $15, and 200 of these costs just $12, BUT you can only use them to call other Vodafones. No home lines, no Telecom mobiles. There is no option for 200 "anyone" minutes, which is absolute bull shit. Then, you can add TXT bundles! 100 for $6, 200 for $8 or 600 for $13.

In short, the plans invariably start high, and climb higher. Also, whatever you choose, you are locked into for at least until the end of the current month, meaning you still have to predict how you might use your mobile in advance. Also, you can never switch to any plan with less (read: that is cheaper) than what you start out with. So, who wants to lock in to a contract that rigid? Anyone?

I tried to exit my vodafone contract which has long since passed it's minimum length (especially upon hearing that in addition to having crappy plans laid out, they were also ending Free TXT Weekends). Instead they lost my application in the system. To make up for it though, they've offered me 6 months worth of what my contract includes (200 Off-Peak minutes, 20 TXT, 10 PXT), absolutely free. I guess they think they'll have something new by then to try and wow me with to get me to stay.

Good luck, Vodafone! And I mean that sincerely.

Bad Horse '06

So the competition rolled around again, as you might have heard. We put a fair bit of effort into entering this time around, compared to last year's quick reshoot of Gary's visit to a Hobo's Bedroom. We entered six pieces - The Search for Jimmy, A Scorpion in The Eye, Gary at the Flat, the first Deathmatch, an all new and specifically taylored for the event film Excuses, and a freshly filmed excerpt from Everyone Stupid Dies, the Pizza Scene.

We did what we said we would do after last year's comp - that is, multiple entries and unlicensed music. We even had Waata lay down some original tracks for us, which turned out great, albeit better on Excuses than on the Deathmatch, which they were written for. On the night, we got all "Black Tie"d as the flyer suggested which actually afforded us a great opportunity to get started on one of our next projects before the show. Oddly enough me and Jarrod were the only two who went last year that could make it this time around, alongside Jessie, Moni, Gary and two of his classmates Peter and Zara, who were both very cool.

There's a bunch of things I'd like to be able to tell you about the event this year. I'd like to say that Excuses made it to the finals, that the hosts were hilarious and added a lot to the show, that the sound system kept feedback and distortion at bay, that the official photographer took at least one shot of our group along with everyone else and their dog, and that the award ceremony was not completely ruined by some disgustingly drunk bitch trying to steal the show.

But, I'm no liar. "Bah Gawd, it was all sizzle and no steak", Good ol' JR might say. Aside from the Helicopter entrance of the Bad Horse, if I didn't know better I'd swear it was only their first or second time putting on the event. I know I'm sounding rather harsh here, but I'm calling it like I see it. Something tells me I'm not the only one with my opinion either - as soon as the "Best Overall" was announced, the whole auditorium stood up and quickly filed out. The presenters clearly had something more to say, but they stalled and soon realised whatever it was, wasn't worth saying with everyone on their feet.

Yes, there were some nice entries, I enjoyed quite a few of them. On the other hand, for every one I liked, I doubly disliked at least one other. Far too many used "bad noise" (static, warbled garbage, etc) as their soundtrack, for an attempted surrealist effect perhaps? Regardless, it doesn't stop being crap, especially when the sound system is up so high that everything is polluted with feedback and distortion. Speaking of which though, the room had fantastic acoustics - as in, standing on stage you could easily be heard just by speaking as you would to an audience. Unfortunately, they insisted on using not one but two microphones, with no grasp on how to keep them apart (yay, more feedback!). And the horse had great difficulty in being heard at all - though I don't see that as a terrible loss.

Come to think of it... Initially I was worried that the Pizza Scene had terrible audio issues (a low humming, and a bird!), but honestly it would have fit right in.

Call me crazy, but generally I expect people to follow their own rules. So colour me taken aback when a six minute film won an award at a festival strictly for three minute films. I mean, with the entry form clearly stating that any entry over 3 minutes will be immediately disqualified, isn't it strange? The technicality is that it was split in to two 3 minute parts. Hell, if I'd know that was an acceptable practise, you can bet there would have been "Killing You... A Week Ago!" parts 1 and 2, The Search for Jimmy in two parts instead of edited down, and for the hell of it The Voice of Electronics parts 1, 2 and 3.

The ICE film that did make it in to the finals was A Scorpion in The Eye. We were all really disappointed, as we thought Excuses was the best in terms of humour and production values. I have to say I loved seeing/hearing the voiced-over intro on the big screen and the audience seemed to get a kick out of it, but for the rest of it I don't think people knew how to react. And yet it wasn't strange enough to beat out a 5 second clip of a claymation Panda (and fair play to the Panda!).

Odd as it is, apparently Bad Horse judges aren't alone in their choice of ASITE. Since uploading all of ICE's videos to YouTube, it got 80 hits in the first day, everything else paling in comparison. Crazy? You bet!

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