“God is on OUR side…”

Here’s what that got me thinking … some new posters for some classic movies including this:

"They'll never be caught. They're on a mission from God." Hmmm. Image: Olly Moss (click)

During the first and second World Wars, both (all) sides told themselves they had God on their side. The Armed Forces had padrés and priests in place, performing their pastoral duties and administering their religious services and last rites etc.

In many countries after the wars, including ours, War Memorials of all shapes and sizes were erected to mark the catastrophic loss of life inflicted by the fighting. (And rightly so.) Continue reading →


Hey, I like Google’s new image results page… ‘endless’ images like Bing.

Here’s a snapshot of ThePaepae.com‘s result today — although they’re not all actually from ThePaepae.com* (click to enlarge):
Google search result for ThePaepae.com August2010

It provides a nice retrospective, doesn’t it? – P

(* Most are. I don’t know how they select which images to display. There must be a link somehow, I guess. And knowing Google — but I’m not claiming to be an expert! — a ‘most viewed’ algorithm is bound to be part of it.)

‘Wretch of the week’ — that’s a nice phrase

I enjoyed satirist Steve Braunias talking with Radio NZ’s Jim Mora on his Eight months to Mars slot this week.

As part of it, Steve described his own ‘The Secret Diary of …’ column in the Sunday Star Times as ‘Wretch of the Week’ and disclosed that in getting the voice of the subject right he sometimes comes to ‘despise‘ them. (about 22 mins in the audio below)

I know just what he means.

lumiere.net.nz  — from a profile by Tom Fitzsimons (click)

Sometimes flipping through the semi-literate, self-serving pap that some of those I describe here write and publish at great length on the internet in their unceasing hunt for fresh victims, I feel my bile rising.

The hypocrisy, the naked lies misstatements, the convoluted over-promising marketing bullshit they assiduously pump out to part the naive and gullible from their cash — it leads me to the same conclusion as it does Steve Braunias. Yeah. I see them as contemptible.

Wretches? I can think of better words. (Or worse.)

Here’s the Steve Braunias interview with Jim Mora courtesy of Radio NZ National.
Worth listening to.

Not a bad ‘hands-on’ review of the iPhone 4

image: apfelnews.eu (click)

New iPhone 4 – the verdict is in

By Stephen Fenech, National Technology Writer The Daily Telegraph (AUSTRALIA) July 30, 2010

WE’VE heard a lot about the iPhone 4 ahead of its launch in Australia today – and not all of it has been good.

I knew it would be impossible to review Apple’s new iPhone 4 without first discussing the antenna “issue”.

Before I received the iPhone 4 I’d already heard the reports of the “death grip”.

Users holding the bottom left corner of the stainless steel band, which holds the front and back glass panels together and also act as the antenna, could reduce the number of signal bars in weak reception areas.

I’ve been using the iPhone 4 for nearly a week to make calls, send and receive emails and surf the web from various places around the city and suburbs.

Is the antenna an issue? No it’s not. Have I dropped calls? No, I have not.

Have I noticed an impact on the device’s performance? No.

Read on…

OK, some might say he overuses the word ‘impressive’ (twice) … still, he’s got one in his hands, so, fair comment?

Oh, and sing it with Jono: “If you don’t want an iPhone 4 …

The escape of exnzpat, Part 2

Conversation with an Angel

“Lincoln?” I asked again.

A sharp bark reverberated through me.

“It is you!  It’s really you; but how?” I called out delightedly.

And then…  Something more: Lincoln was not alone! Continue reading →

Pattern recognition

An ADHD friend of mine, a medical doctor from New York, once described medical diagnosis as ‘pattern recognition’.

That’s why, he said, a competently written computer-based questionnaire can actually be more effective at diagnosing medical conditions than a human being: because the computer will ask ALL the relevant questions, not skipping some that don’t seem appropriate, or being disarmed by ‘appearances’ or noble-sounding ‘assurances’ presented by the patient … as some human doctors will do.

A computer will follow the questions and answers where they lead … whereas a human will sometimes think, ‘No, that’s not likely…’ and perhaps miss a clue. A computer will ask the embarrassing questions about, say, sexual partners, alcohol consumption or needle use.

Paying attention

I mention this because, although I (deliberately) don’t make a fuss about it here, I’ve run a training company since 1991 and been involved in many seminars teaching aspects of investment, business and personal development before then and since. (None of them have involved selling property or investments to ‘students’.) As such, I’ve paid attention to what’s offered in the investment education ‘marketplace’ and seen various operators over the years posing as ‘educators’ to pitch their snake oil.

I talked elsewhere about working with one of my authors, Olly Newland, in uncovering the Blue Chip scam, and how he and I and another colleague collated evidence and material which Olly then laid before the Minister of Commerce, various Members of Parliament, the Commerce Commission, the Serious Fraud Office, the Police, and the news media in an effort to hold the Blue Chip operators accountable.

It’s a matter of public record that when his direct negotiation with Blue Chip broke down, Olly’s public agitation and his formal complaint kicked off the Commerce Commission and SFO investigations. The wad of Statutory Demands he and I personally served on the Blue Chip companies on behalf of BC victims were met a few days later with a raft of company liquidations. Bastards. It’s been frustrating to see how slow and seemingly ineffectual the authorities have been in that situation.

Anyway, back to pattern recognition: Over the years, I’ve observed various wide boys, liars, salesmen and spruikers preying on the innocent — sometimes posing as ‘investment educators’ etc. At times, for the reasons I explained  yesterday in ‘Why Speak Up?‘, I’ve tried to oppose them and sound warnings about them. I even sued one whom I regarded as particularly pernicious.

Here, from my files, is one of the FIRST I ever spoke up about: Investors International. These guys were so smooth they even sucked then ACT MP Rodney Hide into being a speaker at one of their seminars in Fiji. Window dressing.

I warned people at the time, even contacting some involved in the pyramid scheme-style selling of the seminars, telling them straight that Investors International looked very dodgy and they should avoid them. Eventually I was proved right, with Investors International boss Rudy van Lin even jailed for fraud in the US. But only after sucking a LOT of money out of Aussies and NZers with their claims of ‘quick and easy massive riches’. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?)

I warned about this 'financial education scheme' that turned out to be fraudulent. (click to enlarge)

Continue reading →

Talk about product placement!

Funny, I’ve got one of those MacBook Pro laptops like the one President Obama used to demo the new healthcare.gov website … but mine doesn’t have the Presidential seal plastered over the Apple logo.

OK, I know I'm a geek, but why cover the logo? (WhiteHouse via 9-to-5mac.com - click)

Jeez, those of us using Macs used to be ‘oddballs’, ‘outlaws’ and renegades (‘the elite’ I always used to say, which infuriated some of my ‘but I can build it so much cheaper using PC bits’ friends).

Oh boy, times sure have changed. Now even my best friend from my Radio Tech days is using a MBPro (running Windows, he assures me), is on his third iPhone, and just posted on my Facebook wall this morning that he wanted to buy an iPad duty free but they were out of stock.

My, my. Now we’re mainstream.

I remember Tom Clancy (yup, the writer) advising:

Never ask what sort of computer a guy drives. If he’s a Mac user, he’ll tell you.
If not, why embarrass him?



Kiwi super hacker wows Vegas

By Alice Neville | NZ Herald Thursday Jul 29, 2010

Kiwi Barnaby Jack wowed an American crowd this week by making cash spew out of an ATM machine like magic.

But although he was in Las Vegas, Mr Jack is no magician – he’s a super hacker. …

A key quote:

If it sounds like a criminal mastermind’s dream, it is. But Mr Jack is using his knowledge for good, not evil.

Yes, that’s the test, isn’t it?:
With what aim are we using our time, attention and energy? Huh?

Click to see a video of John Campbell's TV3 Campbell Live interview with Barnaby Jack.

And here’s a link to a video of John Campbell’s TV3 Campbell Live interview with Barnaby Jack.

Why speak up?

Recent events have seen me revisiting a theme (or meme?) of this blog — and central to my own thinking:

WHY SHOULD one speak up about perceived wrongdoing?

Adapted from Neil Roberts' slogan, Wanganui Nov 1982

Let me start by saying this: Life is complicated.

Sometimes people and things can appear to be one thing on the surface but as you look closer, you begin you notice cracks in the façade or artifice. You may detect inconsistencies in the narrative, or note a dichotomy between a person’s words and deeds, or be subject to broken agreements … even being strung along with excuses for non-performance.

You may start to experience a feeling of dissonance.

Later, you might even reach a point of seeing the person or situation as 100% the opposite of your original impression. It’s happened to me. When it does, the chain of events leads one to reach certain conclusions.

But back to the question, Why speak up? Why not just quietly go about your business, live and let live, look the other way and let the chips fall where they may? Why open yourself up for criticism as um, well … a critic? Why do it?

I’ve discussed part of it before: I’m sick of seeing the effect on the victims of certain types of ‘sales’ operations. It’s tragic in some cases … and just downright wrong in others.

I also personally think that the decision to remain SILENT in the face of what you perceive as wrongdoing is a perverse mistake and causes a ‘social harm’. (I’m not going to use the word ‘sin’ because it’s loaded with baggage, but, hey, if it fits for you… ) I’ve expanded on this aspect in another discussion prompted by a claim that ‘God told me to cover sin’ … on my way to drawing conclusions.

There’s another very important reason why I think people who SEE what’s going on have a duty to blow the whistle. It’s this: Continue reading →

Ode to a whistleblower

I’ve only met Bruce Sheppard once — at a Howick school gala one wet Saturday, but I’ve read his columns and long admired his outspoken advocacy for small shareholders.

Now, apparently, he’s been snaffled up to be part of the new Financial Markets Authority’s establishment board and is leaving the Shareholders’ Association.

Sheppard said he learned New Zealand’s corporate leadership was “greedy, grasping and self-serving but frightened when challenged”.

Good on him. We need more straight-shooting truth-tellers like him.

And WikiLeaks.

Tumbleweed Dean Letfus pitches the next ‘goldmine’

I take no satisfaction in being proven right (again) about ‘Tumbleweed’ Dean Letfus, the itinerant get-rich-quick spruiker who from time to time features in these pages.

Missing ingredient? (image: Pete Laburn - click)

I observed earlier “He seems to flit hyperbolically from one cash flow generating event (for him!) to the next without much regard for consistency …”

This afternoon a friend directed me to the latest marketing effort from this self-proclaimed “property expert”, “internet marketing expert”, and “sin coverer” and I have to say, it seems very thin, even for him.

Read this blurb (my comments in green):

DEAN Letfus
“Snipr Laser Targetted Niche”

Dean Letfus has been a full time property investor for over 6 years and a part time internet marketer for 2 years.
[Comment: Is it just me, or does 6 years make a property guru? and, even less so, does ‘2 years part time internet marketer’ fill you with confidence that he knows what he’s talking about? Not me.]

In that time he has built, sold and traded over $250,000,000 worth of property [That’s quite a claim. What’s he actually worth?] and he’s not ashamed to admit that along the way he has made a bunch of mistakes. [Yes, we know about some of those: Coral Lagoon, Sponge Bay, Perriam Cove, Storage Zone, Azzura Gold Coast Apartments.] However, that’s what makes him so qualified to teach others about how to create a successful life… [Oh really? Doubtful.] He’s been there, done it and made the mistakes for you, so you don’t have to. [But hang on: haven’t many of the mistakes been over-selling to his gullible naive, trusting clients and students? Not to mention his ‘mentoring’ people while he still had his training wheels on … and he himself hadn’t invested through a property downturn?]

Sales pitch (click)

In the last 18 months [18 months? Crikey.] he has focused his energies on building strategies to create cash flow on the internet to counter act [sic] the disastrous economic situation [Whose ‘disastrous economic situation’? His own, perchance?] and he has successfully built a secondary income from the internet. [Really? From the internet? Or just ‘Selling the dream’ as he and fellow spruiker Steve Goodey did with Shaun Stenning and the doomed Geekversity scheme before it shut down with huge losses and a string of broken promises?]
Now he is not your normal Internet Marketer, he is not in his mid-twenties, he is not a computer geek, he is an everyday person [Is he? I thought Dean Letfus said he’d been ‘a professional sales and marketer for a long time’?] using simple strategies [Simple? Or deceitful? Like YouTube Traffic Thieves?] to get massive results [‘massive results’? Oh, so vague…] online. [Online? Really? So why the near-constant touring and personal appearances at hard-sell ‘events’? Is he selling the ‘system’ instead of using the system? You’ve gotta ask.]

Pardon my cynicism. (Maybe you had to be there?)

But then … look at this current marketing letter emailed broadly about the same upcoming ‘event’ from the very same spruiker with these remarkable ‘afterthoughts’ in the PS and PPS… Continue reading →

Still one of the best

This back page ad from TIME magazine is still one of the most memorable for its ‘tone’.

It was part of a ‘A True Story’ campaign in the late 1990s by the mighty American Express to show their services are more than just a credit card…. that they really do try to serve international travellers’ needs.

I like the photography and the humour:

THE AMERICAN EXPRESS “Had I known the Salavdor Dali etching you purchased a year ago in Italy was never shipped to you, I would’ve tried to get this lovely picture of … er … whatever, to you sooner” SERVICE.

Nice work from Amex's ad agency.

And the nice touch of the ‘snap’ of an attractive, hard-working Amex rep on the phone, holding the picture sideways … well, it’s just a nice ad.

It makes me smile — which is a good attribute for their brand.
How can we encourage that response in our own marketing (for… er… whatever)?

Comments are open.

Why not say it with style?

Here’s a funny and pointed video making a series of good points stemming from the unrealistic, unattainable ‘beauty’ images young women are presented with every day … and the ‘deception’ effect of make-up.

Jenna Marbles — a great example of setting a bad example, satirically (click) for video

How to trick people into thinking you’re good looking is a good-hearted (be warned: foul-mouthed) ‘tutorial’ for young women by Jenna Marbles on changing one’s appearance to get over the fact that ‘you were born ugly’. (i.e. It’s not too deep.)

Watch it below the fold.

And in the meantime, in the same vein as my earlier post, ‘Re-touching to the point of distortion‘, this pic from Photoshop — The Perfect Lie is yet another example of the beauty industry taking what’s already a breathtakingly beautiful image of a person and making it impossible — not a single blemish. I personally think this is unfair to women.

Left: already beautiful. Right: 'Flawless' — and impossible. (click for link)

Continue reading →

High profile conman jailed for at least 10 years

Apropos my comment yesterday about liars being stopped in their tracks:

Go on working your con-game and feeding your lies to anyone who will listen … until you are finally exposed by inconvenient truth (like Bernard Madoff?) and STOPPED IN YOUR TRACKS.

What's behind the facade of some 'motivational' speakers?

I heard this guy (below) speak once. He was very memorable. Highly engaging, funny, seemingly sincere and oh-so-persuasive. I felt ‘motivated’ after hearing him. (I even got a recording of his talk!)

Just a few short years later …

A MOTIVATIONAL speaker who ripped off investors to the tune of $1.7 million has been jailed for 10 years.

Kate Jones | Herald Sun July 22, 2010

Christopher Philip Koch, 60, was found guilty by a County Court jury of 15 counts of obtaining property by deception, seven counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of making an offer or invitation in a prescribed interest scheme.

During the Koch’s three-month trial, his lawyers told the jury he had not intentionally scammed his victims but was in a reckless state of mind. [Comment: Good grief!]

But in sentencing Koch today, Judge Carolyn Douglas rejected this defence and found that Koch had deliberately taken large sums of cash from his victims to invest in a high-yield scheme he knew was fictitious.


Christopher Koch jailed for $1.7million investment scam

By David Olsen on Thursday, 22 July 2010

Christopher Koch, formerly a high profile motivational speaker, has been sentenced to 13 years jail after being found guilty in the Melbourne County Court on charges brought by ASIC.

Christopher Koch, of Point Cook, Victoria, was found guilty on Friday 11 June 2010 and sentenced today. Mr Koch was charged with 15 counts of obtaining property by deception and seven counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception totalling $1,152,000. Mr Koch was also charged with one count of making an offer or invitation in a prescribed interest scheme totalling $1,742,000. Continue reading →

How liars deal with a challenge

Rachel Maddow telling the truth to Bill O’Reilly … gee she’s good at this stuff!

Whaaat? Meeting abuse meeting your facts with more facts? (click)

Spot the pattern:

Rather than contribute to a debate about ‘the facts’ Maddow asserted about him and Fox News, (e.g. ‘This is why what she’s saying is wrong…’) Bill O’Reilly merely whacked Maddow’s sincerity (‘you have to be kidding’) and mental alertness (‘Unbelievable. Do you even live in this country?’) and then trumpets the relative ratings of their networks (Fox ‘kicks your network’s butt every night, madam’).

In other words, a smoke screen. (A classic example of a bully’s crap argument style.)

That’s pretty much how liars deal with someone challenging them:
(1) Ignore the facts or assertions of facts
(2) Abuse and smear your critics as somehow mentally deficient or ‘envious’ of your ‘achievements’
(3) Go on working your con-game and feeding your lies to anyone who will listen … until you are finally exposed by inconvenient truth (like Bernard Madoff?) and STOPPED IN YOUR TRACKS.

Then, when you’re out of jail again, move on.
Find another niche (maybe in another country?) Rinse and repeat.

Watch the Rachel Maddow video below the fold. Or visit her page at MSNBC Continue reading →