Hollow Mentions

Finally went to see The Hollow Men film tonight. It was just me and about ten lefties.

I’d been apprehensive about going since I found myself chatting to the editor, Abi King-Jones, at the Film Festival gala night.

“Oh I’m probably in that,” I joked, not for one moment suspecting I would be. After all, I’d escaped mention in the play.

“Yes you are,” she replied.

Oh gawd.

I thought it was a movie, with actors recreating the scenes from Hager’s book.

Naturally I enquired as to which portly, follically-challenged thespian was going to be putting my words in his mouth.

“Cohen Holloway,” said Abi.

I was pleased.

And terrified.

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Plain English

Gareth utters the D word

“Main Street just told Wall Street to get stuffed.”

So Gareth Morgan told Paul Holmes on Newstalk ZB this morning.

Then, just when I thought financial English couldn’t get any plainer, Gareth said this: 

“We’re toying with a depression.” Ouch.

And this: “New Zealand is extremely exposed.” Double ouch.

Even Gareth can’t get much more black and white than that. And this morning, his mood was all black.

Clearly the American moms and dads are leaning on their congressmen to exact revenge on the fat cats.

Yet by vetoing the $700 billion bailout of the finance sector, guess who they’re really punishing?

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I’ve been making radio ads for Kapiti Olive Oil.

The campaign features the impassioned critiques of my second-favourite chef, Raffaele Abbate from the wonderful Nicolini’s in Courtenay Place.

(No prizes for guessing my favourite: my son Paul from Logan Brown.)

Being immersed in olive oil culture for a week brought to mind this beautiful metaphor penned by St Augustine. It was a favourite of the great copywriter David Ogilvy.


The Stricken Chicken

“Oh why did the chicken cross the road?”
The chicken farmer cried.
The clairvoyant answered:
“To get to the other side.”

“You mean it wanted to be dead?”
The stricken chicken farmer said.
“Why else with death would it have diced
If not to be… a poultrygeist?”

(c) J Ansell 2008

An idea that came after a meal of satay chicken and an episode of Sensing Murder.


Peters-beater Bob bows out


The congenital lawyer… and the builder who demolished him.

I like Bob Clarkson. He gets things done. 

Like the clubhouse that he thought he’d build for his drag racing mates in Mt Maunganui.

Only he got a bit carried away and it ended up as a stadium – built in a matter of months.

“How did you put it up so quickly, Bob?” I once asked him.

“People,” he shot back.

“I’d just say to my guys, ‘You build me X number of rows this week, and I’ll put on the beers for a big party Friday night’.”

Winston Peters got done by Bob too. Twice. (If you count the electoral petition.)

How did he do it when so many more articulate Nats had failed?

Another one-word answer:


Only he said it without the g. “It’s all about reconization.”

That’s Bob-speak for branding.

He really should stick to the short Anglo-Saxon words. Long ones like testicles and foreign ones like burqa can be problematic. 

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Historic Lionic mauling

I’ve done this graph to show the magnitude of Jamie Joseph’s team’s achievement in winning the Shield in Auckland.

(Mind you, as you can see, the 27-0 mauling the Lions gave Auckland on Saturday is still ten short of the 37-point hammering Wellington got the last  time the two teams met in a Shield challenge at the same ground fifteen years ago.)

Remarkably, it was only the second time Wellington has ever lifted the Shield at Eden Park. The other time was in 1963, when victory was by the more sober margin of 8-3.

Wellington have won two other Ranfurly Shield matches in Auckland. But not at Eden Park. And only one of those was a challenge.

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26 years, 27-0!

They scored a point for every year it’s been gone – plus one for luck.

Tonight’s 27-0 shutout of Auckland was the biggest win by any Wellington Shield challenger in the 104 year history of the Log o’ Wood.

During the Great Black-and-Golden Shield Era of 1981-82 (yeah right), I paid a high price for waiting five games to get into the Shield spirit.

The first challenge I watched at Athletic Park turned out to be the last for a generation. 

To put it in perspective, my eldest son, who arrived three years after the Log’s departure, has had to wait until adulthood to have a chance to experience the otherprovincely phenomenon known as Shield Fever.

(Not that you give a stuff about rugby, eh Mike?)

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Heineken refreshes the parties other beers cannot reach

Averting my gaze from the billboard of Helen Clark on the Hannah Playhouse, what should I find on the other corner of Courtenay Place but this?

Yes, the Greens’ concern with unhealthy food clearly doesn’t extend to drink. (Or, of course, dope.)

But more to the point…

Have Sue and the Greens counted the value of this prime central city advertising site under their expenses cap? I’m sure they don’t want to breach their own Electoral Finance Act again?

(So far, all the parties that rammed the EFA through have fallen foul of it, and all parties that opposed it have not.)

If they need an estimate of the site’s market value, I’m sure the media buyers at Clemenger BBDO can help.

They’re on the opposite corner.

(Oh, if you’re not in advertising, you probably won’t understand my headline. Check this example of one of the great English campaigns – voice over by Victor Borge.)


The PM is spying on me!

Every morning when I open the curtains, she is there.

Ogling me. Mocking me. Cheesily orthodontic. Ludicrously inauthentic. My stationary stalker.

She’s been grinning up at me from the wall of Downstage Theatre for weeks now. She’s still there as I write this. 

[Go away or I’ll call Rodney!!!]

A parody of herself. On a parody of a design in which I have an emotional investment – and possibly the copyright.

We pay a high price for living in the centre of town.

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Plain English

Gobbledygook going forward

My highlight of the week was the WriteMark Plain English Awards dinner at Shed 5. 

Last year, I had the honour (and pressure) of being the after-dinner speaker

This year, I could just relax and enjoy the wit of Fair Go’s Kevin Milne, and the wisdom of my former Colenso colleague Ian McDougall.

Turns out Kevin’s most loathed piece of gobbledygook is the same as mine: 

…going forward.

The explosion of cheers at its every mention suggested that this ghastly phrase has attained the status of Plain English Enemy Number One.


Because it’s mind-numbingly, teeth-gnashingly, hair-tearingly, eye-gougingly superfluous. That’s why.

No prizes for guessing where it came from, either.

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Language, Uncategorized

The First Post

Gentlies and ladlemen,

Welcome to the latest newest blog on the entire internet.

Before long, it should be chock-full of quirky observations about the crazy words we use, and the weird world in which we use them.

Hey, did you notice that the words entire and internet are cobbled together from the same five letters? 

And did you know that each of them – e, n, t, i and r – will only earn you 1 measly point in Scrabble? That’s because they’re five of our most common nine letters – along with a, o, s and h.

And did you know that, etymologically speaking, letters are indeed French?

Sorry, sorry. Now I’m getting carried away. (Some say I should be.)

Anyway, here we are. Stuck in a blog. With no paper.

Which is the perfect image for introducing my next category…

You see, we’ll also be plumbing the murky depths of advertising, and politics, and the advertising of politics – since that’s what a lot of people think I do.

(I did. But I don’t. Now I do public speaking, and private writing.)

And there’ll be the odd rhyme too, I dare say. Most of my rhymes are odd. Especially the ones that don’t rhyme.

Mary had a little lamb.
She couldn’t eat the rest.

When the time is right, I’ll be unveiling my new New Zealand flag, which is not the least bit odd. And my new Taiwanese National Anthem, which is.

Who knows what else we’ll be getting up to?

At the very least, I hope you and I will be able to use this humble forum to simplify the world, so I can understand it.

Mank you thery vuch.