Digital Rollout spells end of an era in NZ cinemas

October 31, 2012

Adapted from Unite News

With the announcement of Fox Studios that they will stop the distribution of 35mm films, the Digital Rollout in Aotearoa has speeded up in both Hoyts and Events cinemas. By the end of this year, the share of movies being distributed on 35mm film will decline to 37 per cent of global cinema screens, with digital copies of movies accounting for the remaining 63 per cent. This will accelerate, and as Universal and Warner Brothers wind down their 35mm operations, spells the end of an era in cinemas.

A meeting of projectionists who received word of the restructure at the Queen Street Reading Cinemas site. High up, through the roof in the Glass Elevator, lies a darkened flickering cavern, where projectionists have played their reels as projectionists have done around the world for over a hundred years. Increasingly though movies are huge digital files,-too mega for even Kim Dotcom to upload- which will be injected into an increasingly automated system, with the computerised TMS (Theatre Management System) replacing humans with an iTunes style playlist of films

Unite, who represent cinema workers is arguing for redeployment where possible, with former projectionists at least keeping the pay scale and hours that they had before. The working class principles of Last IN, First Out should apply to any remaining projectionist shifts. For those who do not want to move to Front of House and wish to move on, Unite has pledged to “fight hard for the best exit package possible” to fit the workers length of service to the company.

Teachers get warning about ‘Disaster Capitalism’

October 29, 2012
Karran Harper Royal

Karran Harper Royal

Adapted from a PPTA media release

The keynote speech at The Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) conference earlier this month was given by American education activist Karran Harper Royal. Royal is a native of New Orleans and the founding member of advocate group Parents Across America. Her speech was entitled, ‘From New Orleans to New Zealand with Love: A Warning About Disaster Capitalism and Public Education’

Royal shared the story of how the introduction of charter schools after Hurricane Katrina decimated the New Orleans public school system, saying that New Zealanders have an opportunity to stand up against an attack on public education that the New Orleans community never saw coming.

Royal sees a parallel between the way charter schools are being forced on the New Zealand population” particularly in quake-stricken Christchurch” and the situation in New Orleans and hopes similar mistakes will not be made here.  Read the rest of this entry »

Gender and Video Games

October 26, 2012

Kassie Hartendorp

Anita Sarkeesian

Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian

Earlier this year, feminist media critic, Anita Sarkeesian created a Kickstarter project to raise funds in order to explore tropes of women within popular video games. The project raised a backlash from the male gaming communities who launched a vicious online attack against Sarkeesian. This included abusive emails, blog posts, and social networking comments of a sexist and racist nature. The attacks also involved the creation of hate sites, Wikipedia vandalism (editing her page with crude messages and porn until it was locked) and hacking/DDOSing her website. There was even an online game made called ‘Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian’ which allows the player to ‘beat the b**** up’ until bruises and welts appeared on her face.

Many observed the events in shock and disgust as the attacks rolled in, while others were sadly unsurprised at the outpouring of misogyny towards a seemingly small and harmless venture. To feminist critics, especially those involved in gaming and the internet, this backlash was a manifestation of a wider problem. As background, the gaming industry itself is widely understood to be a male-dominated sector, with only 11 percent of gaming developers being women. There are many contributing factors to this; some argue that technology and gaming have historically been seen as the domain of boys and men. This perception (reinforced by the lack of outreach to females) is argued to have been a barrier to girls playing and enjoying video games, and therefore, creating a lack of motivation to pursue work in the industry. With few women involved in the development process, the cycle tends to continue over and over again. Read the rest of this entry »

Nationalism, Ethnicity and Gender in the Olympics

October 24, 2012
Nadzeya OstapchukBen Ritchie

The London Olympics have now been and gone, and by most accounts it was a pretty successful one for the New Zealand team, winning six gold medals. It was a successful one for casual sports observers such as myself, too - the competition itself was fascinating - a truly amazing range of physiques and athletic ability were on display. The story behind the last of New Zealand’s medals to be awarded - Valerie Adams’ shot put gold was belatedly presented in an Auckland ceremony on the 19th of September - is a fascinating microcosm of the role of elite athletes in modern capitalist society, and the many-faceted exploitation that is critical for the functioning of the current incarnation of the Olympic Games and modern elite sports in general.

Adams finished the competition in second place, behind her Belarusian rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk, only for Ostapchuk to be disqualified days later for returning two positive tests for the banned steroid metenolone. But Adams involvement in the Olympics was already subject to a degree of media sensationalism before she even made her first throw - an administrative mishap by the New Zealand Olympic Committee lead to some doubt as to whether Adams, the defending Olympic champion would even be able to participate. This was gold for the New Zealand media. Very few of their market know the first thing about shot put, so to have so much material to draw on enabled outlets like Fairfax to generate revenue with headlines such as ‘Adams entry blunder needs full NZOC inquiry’ and an out of context photo of a frustrated Adams in support. How often would you normally read an article about the correct forms being filled out for a shot put event? But, by exploiting the general enthusiasm for sports generated by the Olympics hype, this was front page news in New Zealand. Read the rest of this entry »

Same-sex mirages: Beyond the marriage debate

October 22, 2012

Equal marriage rally in WellingtonBy Anne Russell
Originally published on

A thousand people marched to Parliament in support of Louisa Wall’s same-sex marriage billon the 29th of August. As a conscience vote, the bill drew support from almost all parties, with the exception of New Zealand First, and passed its first reading with 80-40 votes. Such widespread support shows that the same-sex marriage debate seems to be almost an afterthought, piggybacking the Civil Union debate which happened in 2005. Moreover, unlike providing employment security, healthcare and housing for sexual minorities who have been discriminated against, changing the definition of marriage will not cost any money. Hopefully, the passage of the bill will be short and sweet.

 However, as the Wellington-based Queer Avengers said, “we’re only just getting started”. Jacinda Ardern’s same-sex adoption bill was drawn from the ballot on Thursday morning, and will make for a more difficult and prolonged debate. It seems that New Zealand culture is about to undergo a rigorous assessment of what constitutes both relationships and family. Read the rest of this entry »

Activist cancels benefit to protest lax security

October 21, 2012

A beneficiary rights activist has cancelled her benefit to draw attention to the vulnerability of beneficiaries’ private information following the revelation that thousands of private files were accessible through public internet kiosks at WINZ offices.

Olive McRae, a domestic purposes beneficiary and spokesperson for Welfare Justice Dunedin, said she believed the incident was the largest breach of privacy of a government organisation in New Zealand history.

“I have been raising concerns about the systemic institutional disregard for privacy within MSD for the past two years,” Ms McRae said. “This large scale privacy breach is shocking but not surprising. What’s worse is that these issues have been raised time and time again by clients and advocacy groups across the country.”

“In 2009 the Minister accessed client’s personal information and leaked it to the media for political point scoring. The Human Rights Commission and the Privacy Commission raised concerns and ruled that her actions constituted a breach of privacy.”

“The Minister refused to accept their findings, and threatened to do it again. Earlier this year we had ten WINZ staff fired for accessing client’s private information. And now we find that the entire IT infrastructure is in jeopardy.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Who watches the watchmen? Kim Dotcom and the GCSB

October 20, 2012

Kim Dotcom

Joel Cosgrove

The Kim Dotcom affair is an intriguing one. As interesting as Dotcom might be as an individual (see Mega Conspiracy: Kim Dotcom, SOPA and Capitalism in the Feburary 2012 issue of The Spark or online) the issues swirling around him and the wider ramifications of the behaviour of the police are even more important.

The arrest of Dotcom on January the 20th of this year was as much media stunt as anything else. More than 70 police (including the Armed Offenders Squad) with helicopters swarmed Dotcoms mansion. Much was made of his fleeing into his electronically locked safe room with a loaded shotgun. It was only later on in the piece that it was revealed that unidentified plain clothes police scared him into retreating into his safe room and that there was a shotgun within a gun safe on hand (technically close to him though).

Dotcom stands accused by the US government of using the MegaUpload site to engage in the largest series of copyright infringements in history. He was denied bail soon after due to fears from the crown that he would flee to Germany (which currently has no extradition treaty with the US, as opposed to New Zealand, which does). Read the rest of this entry »

October issue of the Spark online

October 18, 2012


Last month saw the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street Movement. Despite the New York Police Department closing off the financial district, the one year anniversary protest attracted just a few hundred people, far less than the thousands involved at the movements height. Marni Halasa, a protester interviewed by the Associated Press during the demonstration said “One year ago it was a movement about direct action, and thousands and thousands of people on the street, and I think now what you have is you have many working groups that do really good community activism, so I think in that sense the focus has changed.”

In its first year the movement brought about significant change. Following a coordinated nation-wide series of actions against ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), a number of their corporate sponsors and legislators dropped their support. After being hounded by protesters everywhere he went in New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had campaigned on the promise that he would not enact a “millionaire’s tax,” enacted a millionaires tax. Occupy Wall Street has influenced the minds of many. According to a Pew Research Poll, about two-thirds of Americans now believe there are “strong conflicts” between rich and poor in the United States, compared to just half in 2009.

The “really good community activism” that Halasa mentions is still ongoing, though we hear less about that this side of the world. Among those actions are ‘Occupy our Homes’ which involves protesters delaying home foreclosures by camping out on the foreclosed property, as well as rehousing the homeless. Occupy Providence struck a deal with the city to open a homeless shelter during the winter that would also provide social services, and many local Occupy groups across the US have set up community gardens; while not in itself a radical act, it is significant in a country where many people in poor urban areas lack even a supermarket in their neighbourhood.  Read the rest of this entry »

A radical mental health consumer’s thoughts on the welfare reforms

October 18, 2012
Welfare reform will have a negative effect on those experiencing mental illness or distress

Welfare reform will have a negative effect on those experiencing mental illness or distress

Polly Peek

This month, the Mental Health Foundation is organising activities and events for Mental Health Awareness Week. For the last few years, the theme of awareness week has been based on the ‘Five Winning Ways to Wellbeing’, the essence of a number of studies into what makes people (whether labelled with a mental illness or not) well and happy. From the research, five key aspects of wellness have been identified, namely, connecting with others – family or friends, being active, keeping learning, taking notice of the small things around us, and giving to others.

For people living with the assistance of welfare benefits, ‘giving’, this important aspect of wellness is considerably restricted. Not only do most people living on state assistance receive less than is adequate to look after themselves, let alone have surplus to give to charity or lend to friends in need, but they are also excluded from offering their time voluntarily to charitable organisations or community groups as Work and Income policy sees this as potentially interfering with their ability to find work, or, if they are receiving a Sickness or Invalids benefit, proof of their ability to be in paid employment. I spoke with one such person a few days ago who has received support for a long period of time due to disability and she expressed sadness and frustration that a person she knows in a similar situation is having to hide the fact that they are helping out with a local charity from WINZ.

Recently, the government has revealed welfare reforms which will have a further dire impact on people’s mental health and that of mental health consumers in particular. These follow an initial wave of welfare reforms which have made changes to assistance available to youth in particular. Announced changes to welfare policy include completely cancelling assistance for three months for people who are considered to have turned down a suitable job, halving assistance for people whose children are not enrolled with a GP or early childcare centre, and cutting assistance for people who fail or refuse a drug test at a new job, or have outstanding arrest warrants. Read the rest of this entry »

NZ’s Injured Workers “Would Fill Eden Park Four Times Over”

October 17, 2012

work injuriesThe number of injuries occurring in New Zealand workplaces every year would fill Eden Park almost four times, and that’s on top of the hundred workers who die in the workplace every year- an average of nearly two a week.

“This is simply not good enough and needs to change” said Rob Jager who chairs the Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety which will make recommendations to government on how to reduce workplace harm. New Zealand’s workplace injury rates are about twice that of Australia and almost six times that of the UK.

The Taskforce is made up of six members- five from business and just one form organised Labour. Jager is the chairman of Shell in New Zealand and General Manager of Shell Todd Services. Other members are Mavis Mullins, Director at Paewai Mullins Shearing; Michael Cosman, Managing Director of Impac Services; Paula Rose, former National Manager Road Policing; William Rosenberg, Policy Director/Economist for the Council of Trade Unions; and Paul Mackay, Manager Employment Relations at Business New Zealand.  Read the rest of this entry »


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