Stunning photos capture human drama

The old cliché has it that a picture is worth a thousand words. It's an understatement. A picture can tell a whole story better than words alone. A picture can capture the drama, the agony, the human feeling in a moment, as well as recording the bizarre and the seemingly unreal.

The World Press Photo Exhibition which is open in Wellington until 29 August presents a disturbing array of images, many reflecting the violence and despair of the Middle East, but also of the world's many other trouble spots.

Beware the Budget

So what about the budget then? Who cares? There's sod all extra spending, not much extra borrowing and some rearrangement of spending.

Does that amount to a social and economic transformation? I don't think so. On the other hand does it amount to the biggest disaster since the Titanic left Southampton on its maiden voyage a hundred years ago? Well hardly.

Budgets (and governments for that matter) just don't have the impact on people's lives that they did thirty, forty, fifty years ago., Back then the nation huddled around the radio in the evening listening to the Minister of Finance drone on in Parliament breathlessly waiting for news about the prices of petrol, beer, spirits, fags and government charges for things like rail fares and electricity.

Chekhov in Hell wows audience

Tired of the usual didactic indictments of modern society where the characters' actions and statements are reflections of the writer's politics?

Exhausted by polemics on the meanness of western society in the 21st century - but unconvinced about the alternatives which typically involve sacrificing good coffee and hot showers? 

Bored by angst ridden existential trivia masquerading as theatre, but still seeking something that asks interesting questions about modern existence?

Then you need look no further than Circa's latest powerhouse production of the Chekhov in Hell, a play which will have you crying out in despair at one moment and tortured with laughter the next.

The show opened on Saturday and won much applause.

Is David Shearer another Jim McLay?

All the talk about David Shearer being a failure after only a few weeks in the job must be concerning to Labour voters as well as to the man himself.

There are parallels between Mr Shearer's situation and that which Jim McLay faced when he became leader of the National Party in late 1984.

McLay replaced Robert Muldoon after the 1984 election when National lost heavily to Labour under David Lange.

McLay was supposed to be a breath of fresh air, a social and economic liberal who represented a decisive break with the socialist, war generation, conservative party of the controlled economy that Muldoon had created over the latter years of his reign.

Respect the RSA - well maybe

There has been a complete change of attitude about ANZAC Day since the days of the anti- war protest movement, and seemingly we are all now proud of what our military has done in peace and in war. At least that is what the RSA and various other establishment figures would have you believe.

There is no question that the sacrifice of those who fell in defence of our country is worth honouring, but there is also a dirty political motive lurking among all those new found respect for the dead. Who benefits from the new national mood of reverence towards our soldiers?

Hurrah, the spy cam car is dead

At last the people have a victory over the forces of evil. The nasty, vicious, spy cam car is going. Positively makes me want to sing.

Ding Dong! The Witch is dead.

Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!

Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.

From the Wizard of Oz as sung by the Munchkins; also in the 1960s by a vocal group called the Fifth Dimension, and more recently by Glee.

But before we celebrate too much let us remember the damage that this car has done to the pockets of hapless motorists, and also of the damage it has done to the council's standing among its citizens.

Is Steven Joyce the real deputy PM?

Three important things happened last week. Two of them reveal a story about what our rulers and would be leaders think is important. The third got little attention.

First John Key announced the formation of a super Ministry combining the Ministry of Economic Development, Building and Housing, Labour, and Science and Innovation.

The media's focus was on job losses. The forgotten aspect was what this says about who is wielding power in the Beehive.

Getting a new super ministry and getting to be in charge of it marks the ascendancy of Steven Joyce over Bill English.

Is it April already?

Looking back at the very miserable summer Wellington and New Zealand have experienced weather wise (and sporting wise in the case of Wellington) it has to be asked; are we in autumn already?

Certainly the howling winds, sometimes accompanied by driving rain, that we have had over the past few weeks encourage the view that autumn and winter are close at hand, if not already present.

The sooner the Firebirds stop playing cricket the better it will be for them and for whatever fans they might have left. Rarely has a team so disgraced Wellington and so belied their name. The only team to do worse than the current Firebirds was last year's Firebirds.

Great to be back in Wellington

It's great to be back home. Out of town can be unreliable and I don't just mean the weather.

Order a latte and it used to be that you never could be sure what you would get. Happily I can report that my recent travels have shown that the coffee culture is alive and thriving in many parts of the country.  Which is not to say that there weren't some interesting moments.

Like the owner of the tearooms in Sanson who went round and personally thanked each of his guests for coming to his place. (We were there because our usual place was closed). It was a gracious act which went someway to compensate for all his sandwiches being made with white bread - excitement city - oh yeah.

Is there a way back for Labour?

This was the heading on an article I wrote shortly after the 2008 election. It is still relevant today and that is a commentary in itself on what the Labour Party has and hasn't done in the last three years.

David Shearer, who is now the new leader, agrees with his opponent David Cunliffe on one very important thing: the party in future cannot be the party it was in the past.

Cynics will say that Labour's MPs have finally realised that the Helen Clark era is over; they have finally rejected what the country rejected three years ago, and again in 2011.

Shearer is a clean break from the past, although he lacks experience in Parliament. He looks like a six year investment, as it will take time to shape a new team and find serious weaknesses in National.