As Seen by Rachel Hunter

I’m currently reading “Unexplained New Zealand: Ghosts, UFOs and Mysterious Creatures” by Julie Miller and Grant Osborn. It’s “interesting” thus far; i’s just a catalogue of haunted sites from post-colonial New Zealand with little theory as to how and why. Chapter Three, however, is a collection of sightings by celebrities. It doesn’t present the material explicitly as “And here are famous people you admire who claim to have seen ghosts; must be something to it” but the implication is there. We get a litany of celebrities such as Peter Jackson, Sir Edmund Hilary and… Rachel Hunter. I can’t really judge her as an expert; I’m no follower of former fashion models, but whilst these people might well be examples of New Zealanders who have excelled in their field I can’t really imagine them to be examples of clear and critical reasoners. Hilary, for one, has been responsible for some fairly weird statements about conservation, eco-tourism and the like (and made the unfortunate mistake of not condemning outright the theory that the Celts got to New Zealand first).

I’m not sure whether I’ve written about the fallacious appeal to authority and I’m not sure I need to. Some of us will remember the ad for painkillers fronted by one of the actors from “The Flying Doctors:”

Hi, I’m not a doctor but I do play one on TV. When pain persists I use…

I don’t seem to recall it lasting particularly long; I think the public rightly found it laughable. Still, such appeals seem to fool certain parts of the population and it’s probably because we value celebrity in a fairly obnoxious way (which could be cultural or it might just be a biological urge; evolution has done some funny things to the development of our psyche (he says in such a way that it seems to suggest it could have been formed otherwise)). Beliefs, such as those found in ghosts, which are usually frowned upon seem to gain some kind of weird, context-specific, justification if you find out so-and-so also believes it. This seems true of Conspiracy Theories; much is made (on the interweb) of the fact that Charlie (sorry, Charles) Sheen not only thinks 9/11 was an inside job but that he believes it so fervently that he wants to narrate the third edition of “Loose Change.”

Convinced? I wasn’t….That’s what people like me think, anyway.

Hmm.

(A short note, seeing that I’ve just finished the book. It seems that a lot of sightings of anomalies are often made by the same person and this seems suspicious, but as I was deliberating what to make of it there was a section on the catching of the record-breaking colossal squid that was caught a few years back off the coast of Aotearoa and the skipper of that trawler was responsible for catching the last record-breaking colossal squid. Sometimes these things happen; no one said probability theory was intuitive.)

Postscript

I wrote this post several days before Sir Edmund Hillary died. I make no apologies for the tone in re his intellect. He did do great things with ‘Citizens for Rowling,’ after all.

Another infrequent update…

My Doctor Who shoes are nearly dead; three to four months and the seal around the sole is going.

So, what else is new?

Season two of ‘The IT Crowd’ was a disappointment. Whilst some of the episodes had some great sequences and featured some great acting the host of those ‘somes’ didn’t add up to a glorious second run. The biggest ‘pity’ is Matt Berry. Loved his work in ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and ‘Snuff Box’ but as Chris Morris’ successor he felt well-overplayed.

The other problem was the utter lack of resolution or even movement on the ‘Will they/Won’t they?’ dynamic set up in re Jen and Roy from season one. Moss was still Moss, which was great, but the stories strayed away from the workplace dramas and into generic sitcom land, which made it less and less about the dymanics of IT geeks and more about just how much fun you can make of nerds.

Also, was it me or did this season go for one too many easy jokes at the expense of the Gay Community, Foreigners, et al?

The opening episode for ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures,’ Revenge of the Slitheen’ was perfect kids TV. Elizabeth Sladen works in the titular role and the returning villian from ‘New Who’ was better realised here than it was there. Much better than ‘Torchwood.’ 

‘Heroes’ season two starts off… well, indifferently. Time has passed since season one and yet it doesn’t seem all that mysterious. There’s no sense that ‘things are happening.’

Also, aside from Hiro, none of the characters seem all that interesting. I’m sure the mystery will ramp up; it took season one awhile to find its narrative feet.

‘Hyperdrive,’ which I saw a bit of in the UK, was better on rewatching and season two was better still (but still not great). Jeffers and Yorke made the show; Kevin Eldon’s sadistic Spock-like character makes the show; I now am actively working on my very own banato.

Finally, Atlantis’ season four has just started. I’m beginning to dislike the tendency in that franchise in not only having cliffhanger resolving season ends but having them as two sets of two-parters bridged by a six month hiatus. I just want to know how it all ends; I don’t want to have to wait another week. Still, I thought they were going to kill off my favourite character but he’s still alive. Go Radick!

The Insiders Guide to Happiness

I recently watched all of the 2004 New Zealand ‘drama’ ‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness,’ which was something I should have watched at the time and never got around to. When I was told it featured time-travelling, the dead coming back to life and reincarnating monks I was sure it was going to be worth my while.

And it was, for the most part.

‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness’ is a thirteen-part mini-series which starts off with one of the main characters dying but not, importantly, passing over. The first half of the series explore his limited interaction with the world and how he is able to see what people knew and thought about him, and how his death shapes subsequent events. Then, in an interesting twist, he manages to go back to the moment of the accident and change everything so that he didn’t die. The last half of the season then explores the character relationships that result from this.

The first half of the show; brilliant. The second; not so much.

I recently watched all of the 2004 New Zealand ‘drama’ ‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness,’ which was something I should have watched at the time and never got around to. When I was told it featured time-travelling, the dead coming back to life and reincarnating monks I was sure it was going to be worth my while.

And it was, for the most part.

‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness’ seems to suffer from having a really good idea that wasn’t quite big enough to encompass all the episodes. It also suffers from a few too many characters; whilst everyone interacts at some point whole chunks of the story end up being unrelarted. Paul and Lindsey’s reunion and separation is interesting but doesn’t really have much effect on the adventures of Tina, Matthew and James. Some of the plot points that get set up never eventuate either, and so the show starts off with a lot more promise than it has when it reaches its conclusion.

And the conclusion is a little weird in its almost deus ex machina ending.

The show is slick, though, when it comes to presentation. For a long time New Zealand TV shows always looked as if they were shot on video with a lighting crew that was on a smoko break. ‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness’ looks really, really good. It’s also funny, wry, witty and cleverly scripted; it just doesn’t quite gel. Every so often characters do things for the sake of a line; Tina, who you never see smoke before or after, starts to light up in one scene simply to justify a post-coital joke. Small nitpicks, but these are things that detract from what is otherwise a damn fine show.

The team behind ‘The Insiders Guide to Happiness’ wrote a prequel series, ‘The Insiders Guide to Love’ which is five episodes shorter and has a smaller core cast, came out just as I was leaving the country in 2005. It’s up next for the viewing slot and I have high hopes for it.

In other news, the FHG has started me on a course of New Zealand literature. Thus far I am enjoying reading ‘our’ stories, even though it does make me appreciate just how much damage the coming of the Europeans caused.