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Mobile telephone network ‘2degrees’ launched in New Zealand three years ago with kiwi comedian Rhys Darby as the face of the brand. It was probably the best decision they could have made. In 2012 his ads are still going strong and still hilarious.

Lots of people know Rhys from his role in the Flight of the Conchords’ series on HBO. Like in his stand-up, FotC character Murray Hewitt uses a great high-pitched New Zealand accent as he makes jokes about kiwis and the NZ way of life. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and Rhys sticks to his winning formula in the ads for 2degrees, which feature him as an hilariously oddball (yet somehow “everyman”) kiwi bloke. Like Murray, his 2degrees persona is wacky, lovable and clueless.

2degrees wants to keep New Zealand talking, so get off your MyFace and FriendBook pages, stop twatter-bleeping, and have a good old-fashioned chinwag. For free!

The ads featuring Rhys show him in a various of NZ situations but always with a (totally mental) twist. Even the animated ads for mobile plans for which Rhys provides the voice-over typically take a turn for the ridiculous. Like the “Pay Monthly” ad featuring small business owners Ben and Bernie, which ends with 2degrees customer Ben throwing a staff party and Bernie running off to join the French foreign legion.

C’mon, Bernie – five years and you’ll get a beret. Sacrebleu!

I really like the Christmas ads each year (though the one with the detachable arms was pretty weird), especially the one featuring Rhys in his knitted jumper with a kiwi on his lap and his pronunciation of “the original name for NZ” in the language of the native wood pigeon.

Like an old lady’s slipper – with a beak

My favourite ad to date has to be the one with the joke about Cambridge. It just highlights the fact that we’re laughing at ourselves – but really we still know we’re the best in the world :p

With 2degrees you can stay close to your mates for only 44c a minute. Whether they’re in Cambridge England, Cambridge Australia, or actual Cambridge, here in New Zealand.

I was reminded once again of Rhys’ genius when I went to see The Dark Knight Rises and the pre-show “cellphones off” message came courtesy of 2degrees.

Aaaah… you’re at the movies. It’s time to relax. Imagine you’re a bear, hibernating in a cosy cave. You’ve slowed your heart rate down to one beat per year. Every year you sleep you get older, but you look younger. Because you’re a wise young bear who’s moisturised long before you’ve needed to.

 

…just, what?? Love, love, love. And to top it all off, a reference to every kiwi kid’s fave movie lollies:

Alright, wake up now, bear! You’ve dropped your Tangy Fruits pottle!

Oh Rhys, how you made me yearn for a plastic pottle of Tangy Fruits!

If you’d like to watch some of Rhys’ ads for 2degrees you can find them on their YouTube channel.

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This documentary is hosted by UK actress Joanna Lumley in which she shares a very personal journey to learn about the culture of the Northern Lights and finally see them for herself.

Joanna’s voice is deep and breathy, with a very proper English accent. Her narration gives the film a dreamy, romantic quality and her eloquence, style of speech together with her warm personality make her an altogether charming guide. She openly shares her own fascinating experiences – living with her family in Malaysia (which she pronounces “Malay-zee-ya”) as a child she dreamed of cold and of the mystical North and especially of seeing the Northern Lights. In this film she travels through Norway, into the Arctic Circle and moves ever northward, meeting and staying with local people along the way.

The thing which struck me most about Joanna as a presenter, as herself (rather than an actor), was her humbleness, her amazing rapport with those she meets. She has a wonderful openness, an obvious great affection and generosity of feeling towards everyone else. She is very genuine in her appreciation of people, not at all condescending. When speaking to someone who doesn’t speak much English she listens patiently, earnestly, to what they’re saying. She in really involved, tries to understand everything she sees, and is happy to be corrected. She always tries the local language. She is open in her enthusiasm.

Joanna shows her glee at being able to finally experience the journey she’s dreamed of, and is ready to laugh at herself in ridiculous situations, like being taught how to right a snow mobile by a 4-year-old. One of my favourite scenes is when she is in the quaint fishing village of Å (“Or”) in a rorbu, a fishing cottage. Sitting at a table with her pastels and drawing book, Joanna creates a lovely picture of the scene from the window. I think it’s so brave of her to expose herself like that, to show the world such a private part of her life.

I think there always comes a time in anything you do, like drawing or painting, or indeed acting, when you think “will I ever be good enough to please – well, myself, let alone anybody else? Will it ever be good enough? Will I ever come up to scratch?” Or worse still, people lean over your shoulder and go “…don’t you think his eye is a little more like that?” and you just go “yes, I know, I know, I’m dealing with the eye later. Just, leave me-“. So you know I can’t bear being judged on the things like this because they’re really only for fun and if it pleases you – which it might not, but I mean try to make it please you – try to do things which please you, that’s all. And therefore if it’s not good enough – get better.

And after all this isn’t going to be exhibited anywhere.
…Except on television(!)

I think it’s great how her documentary is at once entertaining and informative, and you get to see a Norwegian journey you couldn’t see with anyone else. Joanna explains how since a young age she’s longed to see the Northern Lights after reading a children’s book called ‘Ponny the Penguin’ by Veronica Basser, in particular an illustration by Edwina Bell of Ponny standing under the Southern Lights and looking up. I think it’s great that when Joanna finally gets to see the Aurora Borealis there’s a shot of her in the film where she looks just like Ponny the Penguin!

I also love her dry sense of humour and I can’t wait to see more of her documentaries in the future. May there be many!

I highly recommend this DVD and if you’d like a taster, it’s also on YouTube.

Director: Archie Baron
Producer: Helena Braun
Starring: Joanna Lumley

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Today I saw a documentary about a creepy seventeenth century English witch trial in which a 9-year-old beggar girl testified against her mother, sister and brother, condemning them to execution. The girl’s name was Jennet Device*.

PhoebeBoswell.com

Image by artist Phoebe Boswell (from PhoebeBoswell.com)

The documentary by BBC Four is hosted by Simon Armitage, who tells the story with interjections from various historical experts and with the aid of very spooky, pale, spectral, sketchy animations of important scenes by Phoebe Boswell. For me, it is these which make the telling of the story so chilling, and definitely worth watching.

This is the story of Jennet Device, as I remember it.

Four hundred years ago a poor rural family lived together in their stone home called Malkin Towers; a grandmother, mother, a son and two daughters. The mother’s husband had died some years before and the youngest daughter, Jennet, was illegitimate. The grandmother, Elizabeth Southerns (known as “Old Demdike”), was a “cunning woman”, a woman with gifts in naturopathy and healing (different from a witch, who turns such gifts to curses and evil). One day Jennet’s sister, Alizon, begged a travelling peddler for some pins, but he ignored her. She cursed him and was terrified when soon after he fell prone, displaying symptoms of what we now would call a stroke. Alizon was overcome with guilt and remorse and went to his bedside to beg for forgiveness. However the peddler’s son accused her of witchcraft.

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In 1612 James the First was the king of England. Intensely Protestant, he not only denounced Catholics and witches but was paranoid that both were out to get him. (As documentary host Armitage noted, being paranoid doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong. Case in point: Guy Fawkes’ Catholic plot to blow up the king and parliament). King James published his own book called Daemonologie instructing that witches and users of witchcraft must be prosecuted and punished. In 1612 he ordered every JP (Justice of the Peace; magistrate) in Lancashire to record the name of every person who didn’t attend communion. Roger Nowell was the JP for Pendle, and an over-zealous butt-kisser who sought the approval of the king.  It was to Nowell that the peddlar’s son made his accusation of Alizon’s witchcraft and she and her mother and brother were summoned to court. Ultimately it was Old Demdike, the grandmother, and three neighbours who were sent to gaol to be tried for witchcraft.

ImageThat year on Good Friday, the mother (also Elizabeth) held a meeting at Malkin Towers, a gathering for which son James stole a sheep to be roasted. Roger Nowell heard about the meeting and as a result of his investigation eight more people were sent to be tried for witchcraft, including Elizabeth and James Device.

It is interesting to realise that many of those accused of witchcraft believed themselves that they were witches. Many, like Old Demdike, had been openly practicing home remedies and charms for many years, sometimes for payment, while some like Alizon were wretched and distraught with guilt. Others accused, though, like the more well-to-do Alice Nutter (from a prominent Catholic family, two of whom had been executed for being Catholic priests), had nothing to do with witchcraft and were probably “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Note that in our story there has been no mention, yet, of Jennet Device.
But now we come to it.

Four months later the trial at the Lancaster Assizes took place in Lancaster Castle, a prison then and right up until 2010. The prosecution’s star witness was young Jennet Device, about nine years old. Although children that young weren’t usually allowed to appear as witnesses in court, King James wrote in his Daemonologie that children were acceptable witnesses in cases of treason or witchcraft. When she was brought into the court her mother went mad yelling and screaming at her (probably trying to make her understand what she was doing), and Jennet asked that she be removed.

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In one of the spookiest scenes in the documentary, the small girl then got up on a table and gave evidence against her mother and sister. She told the court her mother was a witch and had brown dog named Ball as a familiar, who her spirit entered and who helped her commit murders. Her brother James also testified against his mother saying he’d seen her making clay figures, but Jennet said she had also seen his spirit moving about and had seen him conjure a black dog, his familiar called Dandy, and tell him to kill a man. Jennet Device also identified those who attended the gathering at Malkin Tower. In a very creepy scene in the documentary the spectre of the small girl walks along lineups of people produced by the court and picks out each one who was at Malkin Tower.

The hangings of the witches of Pendle

Of the ten found guilty, nine were held in a tiny cell with other inmates at Lancaster Gaol, where Old Demdike had already passed away. They were hanged on nearby Gallows Hill, probably with Jennet Device in attendance. Today the hill is a park and children’s playground.

Jennet Device’s testimony had wide and far-reaching consequences as her case became a precedent for using children as witnesses in cases of witchcraft, particularly through a book called Dalton’s Country Justice. This book was used by British magistrates as a handbook for applying the law in the UK and in the New World, and was used in the Salem witch trials eighty years after the Pendel witch trials; it cited the case of Jennet Device as precedent for seeking children as witnesses in cases of witchcraft.

Simon Armitage with Jennet

Simon Armitage with Jennet

So what happened to Jennet Device? Why did she do what she did? Was she resentful, as the bastard child, of the rest of her family and wanted revenge? Was she intimidated and afraid of the court and the judges and magistrates? Had she been schooled, in the months before the trial by Nowell? How did she live with herself afterwards and as she grew up?

Well. In a spectacular case of “tasting your own medicine”, twenty years later Jennet Device was caught up in another witch trial, this time with the star witness/accuser as a young boy, made possible by the precedent she herself set years earlier.

The young Edmund Robinson returned home late one evening. His excuse? (Phoebe Boswell’s illustrations of this are really great:) He had been picking berries when he saw two dogs sleeping. He tried to get them to chase a hare by hitting them with a stick, but they turned into a witch and a boy, and then the witch turned the boy into a horse and took Edmund away to a house full of witches, where ropes hung from the ceiling and when the witches pulled on them, wonderful food fell down. Edmund was afraid, so he escaped but on the way home he ran into a boy with cloven hoofs and they fought, which is why he was so scruffy when he got home.

Not only did people believe this story, but the boy’s father took him from village to village for three months identifying the witches he had seen. He would go into a church and stand on a stool or table and gaze into the congregation, picking out those who were witches.

One of those he selected was named Jennet Device.

Edmund had chosen twenty women, nineteen of whom were found guilty. However the times had changed and King James’ son, Charles the First, was more credulous of accusations of witchcraft. The matter was referred to the privy counsel in London, where the public could view four of the women in the gaol for a penny, and see a theatrical performance of The Witches of Lancashire, a play of Edmund’s story. The “devil’s mark” (where the devil had suckled) in the women’s “secrets” was examined by the king’s physician and they were found not guilty. Edmund admitting lying, basing his story on stories he’d heard of the Device family. His father had been blackmailing women, if they didn’t pay him he would tell Edmund to accuse them of witchcraft.

Despite their acquittal, the women remained in the Lancaster Gaol and probably died there.

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* (her surname is pronounced “Dev-iss”).

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Drink driving ads have always freaked me out. Some of them have been terrible, and some have been based around pretty cool ideas (like the “mate-mate-mate-Dave” one). But Waka Kotohi, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) recently released a new drink driving ad that lots of people are talking about.

The ad features a Maori teenager (who shall be known as “Legend”) at a party where he can see that his sober driver mate (George) is really “wasted” and not fit to drive them home.

The ad follows the guy’s internal moral debate as he tries to decide what to do. He doesn’t want to look “dumb”, but he thinks about what would happen if his friend was killed. He imagines that he’d have to move in with George’s lame family, and that Ghost George would haunt him for the rest of his life, tempting him with delicious ghost takeaways.

Ghost George: Wanna chip?
Legend: You know I can’t grab your ghost chips.

The ad is pretty slick and looks more like a (really) short film than an ad by the NZTA. Which I’m sure is what they were going for. The lighting, cuts, use of slow motion, music and humour – it’s just really cool. It’s probably the first drink driving ad in the world by a government agency that’s really hip.

I love lots of things about this ad: the spotlight on Legend to show his separation and internal conflict at the party, everyone’s sweet accents, dead George’s brother’s hair, the awesome editing of the clip, but my favourite thing is in the party scenes near the end when one of the chicks does a wicked slo-mo party pukana.

According to the NZTA website, over 40% of all drink-driving crashes involve drunk drivers under the age of 24 years and in 2008-2010 38% of the drunk drivers under the age of 24 were Maori. So I guess an ad featuring Maori young people makes sense. Pity it came too late for the ad awards. Legend.

Watch the ad on the NZTA website.

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I was flicking through channels tonight and found a show on TV called Big Ideas for a Small Planet. As a show about sustainable/eco-friendly living I thought it was quite cool ‘cos it showcased designers and companies who actually utilise environmentall-friendly practises in their businesses every day.
 
One of the companies featured was Rerun Productions, a small business that makes lamps out of salvaged and repurposed materials. I say “one of the companies” but what was really featured was not the company but the Bewley family, who came across as a very friendly, close, “normal” family. Except that I guess most “normal” families don’t go into business together designing and selling eco-friendly art, do they?
 
Old propane tank
The show followed one of the men (sorry, have forgotten names!) as he visited various places to salvage materials like discarded wine bottles, brake rotors, propane tanks and computer parts. From these unlikely beginnings come stunning works of art that also serve a function in buyers’ homes. So much design, work and resources go into creating something like a break rotor or a propane tank, and it makes no sense at all to just discard them when they get old or something better comes along. There’s beauty there, and the Bewleys can see it.
 
Below is one of their designs made from the curved top and bottom of a propane tank, welded together after the middle section was removed.
Excalibur lamp - Bewleys Rerun Productions

'Excalibur lamp' (aka Propane lamp) from Bewleys Rerun Productions

The show also showed mum Bewley (Jan) making the eco-friendly lamp shades which looked like a very fun (read: messy) process. According to the company’s website

Our lamps and furnishings are around 80% recycled, being comprised of salvaged materials , including brake rotors, guitar strings, piano strings, computer parts, propane tanks, reclaimed woods, and just about any other usable scrap parts.

I can’t see any prices in the website’s gallery, but on the TV show they said pieces cost around US$150-800. That’s a lot, but these are both pieces of art and quality household objects which will be the antiques of the future. I say, if you’ve got the money and are looking to decorate your home with nondisposable furniture, then this’d be a great way to spend it!

Recycled Wine Bottle Chandelier from Bewleys Rerun Productions

'Recycled Wine Bottle Chandelier' from Bewleys Rerun Productions

I’ve reserved a place in the entrance to my dream house for the Rcycled Wine Bottle Chandelier. Colours and light!

It looks like the 15min segment on Rerun Productions from Big Ideas for a Small Planet is featured on their website. Worth a watch just to see the raw selvaged materials transformed into stunning objects of want.

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Miranda Hart
Photo by Jay Brooks

I am a little bit in love with Miranda Hart. She is just so beatiful and quirky and hil-arious!

 
Also, she is tall. Very tall. There is (according to Wikipedia), 185cm of her to love. Such fun!
 
This is one of the only TV shows that I’d actually really love to own on DVD. Miranda’s like the cool, kooky friend you like to hang out with because she makes even talking about herself really entertaining.
 
In the show Miranda is a single 30-something woman whose mother is desperate for her to get married. She lives above the joke shop which she owns and is managed by her best friend. Hilarity ensues. The whole cast is brilliant, and even includes the quintessential “sexy nice guy”. Huzzah!
 
Miranda - single ftw!
Something most people probably love about the show is Miranda’s asides spoken directly to the camera. It’s just so easy to love her and be on her side in any situation.
 
Something else I love about the show is there’s so much of Miranda Hart herself in the show and she’s so likeable as a person. That’s always a relieft, isn’t it? Watching her on the Graham Norton Show was really fun too.
 
Her playfulness and sense of humour are also obvious in her official website, which in my humble opinion is well worth a visit if you’re a fan of the ‘Randa.
 
 
Foxy ladyThe most fun I’ve ever had watching this show was with a roomful of other women. A lot of the jokes are so much part of the female experience. So many lol moments and a room full of ladies howling with laughter – seriously contagious! One of my favourite moments was when Miranda was in the changing rooms getting into her togs at the swimming pool. She started contorting herself around inside her towl in the most awkward way to avoid showing any body parts. Meanwhile there are other (slimmer) women just stripping off all around her. She ended up in a tight little ball on the floor. I just about wet my pants it was so funny – and come on, we’ve all been there!
 
Last year a friend asked me if I know any good British shows and I had trouble thinking of any that weren’t either period dramas or reality shows. Now I have one! An awesome one! Watch Miranda and feel good 😀
 
the cast of Miranda

Such fun!

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Hello, Wisconsin!!!!

Oh man. You know which old TV show rocks? Yup, That 70s Show. One of my favourite things to do is hire an entire TV series on DVD and just watch them and bf and I have just started watching the first season of That 70s Show, which I didn’t see from the very beginning when it was on TV.

If you’re interested in checking it out, there’s this awesome website with a detailed episode guide, plus it’s got clips from the show, cast info, gallery and all that good stuff.

Cast of 'That 70s Show'

 

Reasons it rocks:

#1 There are, like, 8 seasons to watch, man! And each season has about 20 episodes… I’m no genius, but that seems like a pretty decent number.

#2 The clothes. Whether you’re into Starsky jackets/man cardi’s, bellbottoms, rock’n’roll t-shirts, leisure suits, or hippie blouses, the 70s were the decade for you.

#3 Debra Jo Rupp as Eric’s mum, Kitty. That woman cracks me up!!! She does a wicked job as a 50’s housewife who loves fonduefundue” and making punch. Whenever someone makes a daggy, unfunny joke now I hear her laugh in my head. Also, her hairstyle in the first season is so rad.

#4 Those moments when you’re watching and you go “oh yeah! Remember [insert random nostalgic memory from “back in the day” here] ?!” For example all the shops being closed on Christmas Eve, family dinners, cassette tapes.

#5 I love that me and my bf can both watch it and find it funny and entertaining.

#6 The way that although it’s set in the 70s, the kids are pretty much the same as today. I love it when someone’s like “C’mon man, this is the 70s!” Like, “Our technology is so modern and our society so advanced!”

#7 The whole “gang”. Ya love them, and some (*cough* Red, Laurie *cough*) you love to hate.

#8 The theme song. I dare you not to sing along by the 3rd episode. (“HELLO WISCONSIN!”)

#9 The scenes around the basement table. Remember how there’d be like 4 (stoned) people around the table with the camera in the middle and it swivels around as each person talks? Genius.

#10 Because I said so. …ok, this isn’t a real reason. But I think everyone should give it a chance!!

'That 70s Show' cast

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