Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Marquee Scandal

This is what I got about a week ago (at the end of a long list of forwards). Below the emails I've published the aftermath...

From: Paula Brosnahan
Sent: Thursday, 16 November 2006 11:57 AM
To: Georgina Hall; Catherine Somerville; Cameron Law; Vernon Rive
Subject: FW: Thank You From The Great Marquee Company

Check this out ... Steve's email may have been a little harsh, but really!!!! We're thinking we'll forward the email to Bride and Groom magazine!

From: Steve Hausman []
Sent: Thursday, 16 November 2006 11:39 AM
To: Paula Brosnahan
Subject: FW: Thank You From The Great Marquee Company
Well I did not think my email was that bad? But I could very easily get on the telephone and sort this cow out! But why bother.
Love you

-----Original Message-----From: Events Team []
Sent: Wednesday, 15 November 2006 6:30 p.m.
To: Steve Hausman
Subject: Thank You From The Great Marquee Company
Hi Steve,
Thanks for your reply. Your wedding sounded cheap, nasty and tacky anyway, so we only ever considered you time wasters. Our marquees are for upper class clients which unfortunately you are not. Why don't you stay within your class level and buy something from payless plastics instead.

Kindest Regards
Office Manager
The Great Marquee Company

----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Hausman
To: 'Events Team'
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 4:06 PM
Subject: RE: Quote #00002417; from The Great Marquee Company Ltd.
Hi Klaus
Paula and I went and viewed your marquee setup at Devonport the other weekend and unfortunately we did not like it. So this is just to let you know we will not require your services on 7 April 2007.Thanks for your assistance and we are sorry that it turned out this way although we are glad we looked at the marquee prior to booking as that would have been a huge disappointment.

Steve Hausman

-----Original Message-----
From: Events Team []
Sent: Monday, 2 October 2006 6:08 p.m.To: Steve HausmanSubject: Re: Quote #00002417; from The Great Marquee Company Ltd.
Hi Steve,
This email is confidential. If it is not intended for you please do not read, distribute or copy it or any attachments. Please notify the sender by return email and delete the original message and any attachments.Any views expressed in this email may be those of the individual sender and may not necessarily reflect the views of Auckland City Council.
(on their website)

This is not the view of The Great Marquee Company
If you are emailing us or visiting our website because of the recent (inappropriate) email communication between a customer and one of our staff.
We would like to advise that we regret the exchange. We have apologised to the customer concerned and this staff member's contract has been terminated and processes has been put in place to ensure it won't happen again.
We most certainly do not condone rudeness on the part of any of our staff or endorse the views in this particular response. With a long history in Auckland of supporting events with our marquee hire, we know that planning a wedding is one of the most stressful times in a person's life and we do what we can to make it easy.
You may be aware that the email that was forwarded by our customer has now reached some thousands of people. We do not believe it is fairly representative of the service that we usually provide, and perhaps more importantly it is generating many calls to the former customer which is stressful for him.

We would rather not comment any further but move on having learned from this situation. Again, we pass our apologies on to this customer.
Klaus Jorgensen
The Great Marquee Company

'Cheap and tacky' wedding email that went global
Sunday November 19, 2006
By Jonathan Marshall

A marquee company has apologised to a bride-to-be and her fiance after an employee sent them an abusive email describing their wedding plans as "cheap, nasty and tacky". The firm also claimed the couple was not suitable for their marquees, which were intended for "upper class clients" and advised them to goto budget firm Payless Plastics instead. Now, the shame-faced owners have apologised after the rude email went global. Thousands of Kiwis received the marquee email, and bridal message boards worldwide carried copies of the exchange. The marquee company's CEO, Klaus Jorgensen, said he had sacked the employee responsible - who turned out to be his wife Katrina, and she in turn said she was feeling "suicidal" because of the furore her email had caused.

Lawyer Paula Brosnahan, 33, and her fiance Steve Hausman, 36, who will marry in April next year, sought a quote from The Great Marquee Company for their Whangaparaoa cliff-top wedding. They viewed photos on the company's website and arranged an appointment to inspect a marquee in Devonport. But when the Mt Albert couple decided the marquee would not be suitable and sent a polite email to the company saying they would look elsewhere, they were shocked to receive a reply from the firm sayingtheir wedding wasn't posh enough for its tents. The couple, who met 17 years ago, had written a polite letter saying: "Paula and I went and viewed your marquee setup at Devonport ...unfortunately we did not like it ... thanks for your assistance and we are sorry that it turned out this way." Two hours later the firm's office manager, Katrina Jorgensen, replied to the couple: "Your wedding sounded cheap, nasty and tacky anyway, so
we only ever considered you time wasters. Our marquees are for upperclass clients which unfortunately you are not. Why don't you stay within your class levels and buy something from Payless Plastics instead."

Brosnahan told the Herald on Sunday that their wedding was far from a frugal affair. "We are spending $30,000 on this day, they don't know anything about our wedding so I can't see how they can label it cheap," said Brosnahan, who is a Resource Management Act specialist for law giant Chapman Tripp. She is currently acting for the Eden Park Trust Board in the stadium debate. Her fiance Steve Hausman, a builder, said he was appalled by thecompany's email and hurt by the remarks. "We have had all sorts of dramas and we didn't need this, I just got fired up. I am blown awayand have forwarded the email on ... it has ended up going to about 400people." Brosnahan said she sent the email to a Chapman Tripp colleague and asked him not to send it on. He replied: "It is too late." Company director Klaus Jorgensen said in a statement: "The Great Marquee Company is extremely sorry that one of our employees chose to enter into a highly inappropriate exchange of emails with a potential customer. The emails were not sent with the knowledge of the CEO nor does the company endorse or stand behind them." Klaus said he has "sacked" the company's office manager Katrina, who is his wife.

Katrina Jorgensen contacted the Herald on Sunday and said: "I'm suicidal ... I just don't know what to do. I am so apologetic and just want to say sorry to everyone." The New Zealand president of the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia - of which The Great Marquee Company is a member - said the company's membership was in jeopardy. Dona White said the email exchange would be tabled at a committee meeting on Tuesday. "This is highly inappropriate and really quite bizarre, it is completelyunprofessional and they should not be involved in our organisation."

Lesley Walker, editor of Bride and Groom magazine, labelled the emailcommunication as "strange". "Their marquees are good, but their PR isn't."In the meantime, the couple has booked another marquee for $8000.

Don Brash resigns as Party leader

[Wise man to step down before being pushed.]

Speaking notes for media conference
23 November 2006 - 13:00 - Dr Don Brash
Party Leader

Today I want to make two announcements.
The first is about my own position as Leader of the National Party.
As most of you will recall, I let it be known before the election last year that, should National lose the election, I expected to step down as Leader – or be asked to do so!
In fact, I prepared my election night comments on the basis that, if we didn't win, I would announce my resignation.
In the event of course, we didn't win, but we achieved a better result than any of the commentators expected six months before the election, and indeed a better result than National had achieved in any election since 1990.
On Election Day itself, I was urged by my closest advisors to stay on as Leader in the interests of the Party, and subsequently by both the caucus and the wider National Party.
But it has become increasingly clear in recent months that there's a growing expectation that I'll step down well ahead of the next election.
That ongoing speculation is damaging to the National Party, and to our future prospects.
Accordingly, as we approach the end of the Parliamentary year, I've decided to resign as Leader with effect from a special caucus meeting which I'll call for early next week.
I believe the Party is in very good heart, with a highly experienced and determined caucus, and an organisation outside Parliament which is in better shape than for many years.
Polls vary, but on average they show National leading Labour by some 6 to 8%, with the Colmar Brunton poll showing us at 49%, ahead by 13%.
For some weeks now, I've been giving consideration to the right time, and the right way, to announce this decision.
I've held off because I've been very keen to have two untidy matters dealt with before my departure.
The first was the GST error made by the Party in the election campaign last year. Although this had nothing to do with me personally, it was a source of embarrassment and I was very keen that a solution be found before my resignation. The National Party Board agreed the best solution we can find yesterday, and that's already been announced.
The second was the matter of the emails stolen from my computer system.
As you all know, there were a number of emails to or from me leaked to the "Sunday Star Times" and other media during the election campaign. We took no formal action on these leaks, accepting that leaks occasionally happen, either accidentally or deliberately.
After the election, Winston Peters talked about having "telephone books" of my emails, but offered no proof of that fact. He eventually produced one more email and an attachment in the House.
We commissioned a formal investigation to see if we could discover the source of these emails, but found nothing.
In recent weeks, Helen Clark and Michael Cullen have both made knowing comments about the imminent publication of my emails, and suggested they would implicate me.
We've also seen articles in both the "New Zealand Herald" and "North and South", talking about the imminent publication of a "book" of my emails.
In September, we asked the police to investigate what seemed to us at the time – and still seems – to have been criminal activity in accessing my computer system. This police investigation is ongoing.
In early November, I decided that the publication of a "book" of emails to and from me would be totally unfair to the many hundreds of people who correspond with me by email, and would potentially hinder my ability to operate as a Member of Parliament and as the Leader of the National Party. Such people, from all parts of New Zealand and from all walks of life, should reasonably expect their correspondence with me to be private.
And so I sought and obtained an interim injunction to prevent a book of those stolen emails being published. I felt, and still feel, there's an important issue of principle here.
Great was my surprise when, two days ago, what got caught by the injunction was not a book of my emails, but a scurrilous book by Nicky Hager attacking both the National Party as an institution and me personally.
Unlike Helen Clark, Michael Cullen and, I suspect, Winston Peters, I had no knowledge that such a book was under preparation, and consequently Mr Hager's book was not the target of the injunction. But publication of that book has been stopped by the injunction.
I utterly reject Mr Hager's conspiracy view of the world, and recall Helen Clark's comment on Mr Hager's recent attack on the SIS as "a work of fiction".
From what little I've learnt about the contents of Mr Hager's book from media comment, I utterly reject also his latest attempt to discredit the National Party and me. It's simply nonsense to suggest that the National Party was, or is, under the influence of American neoconservatives; or received funding from the Exclusive Brethren; or broke election spending rules – the only party found to have broken the election spending cap was the Labour Party.
But, to paraphrase the words of Voltaire, though I utterly reject Mr Hager's view of the National Party and of me, I defend his right to hold those views, and to publicise them.
So this is my second announcement.
Over the last 24 hours I have taken legal advice about how the publication of Mr Hager's book can proceed, while continuing to restrain the ability of other people to use my stolen emails.
The court order provides that nobody in possession of my stolen emails can publish them unless I provide them to that person. I'm advised that Mr Hager can legally proceed with publishing his book if I provide him with copies of those of my emails included in the book. I'm willing to do that.
As a result of discussions I've asked my legal counsel to initiate, I anticipate that Mr Hager will be able to publish his book tomorrow morning.
Unfortunately, that will not protect the identity of people who have sent me emails, and on the assumption that Mr Hager has not obtained their permission to publish their emails, I regard his behaviour as totally reprehensible. It will certainly tend to inhibit the ability of the public to communicate frankly with Members of Parliament.
The announcement of Mr Hager's book almost caused me to defer my resignation as Leader. I deeply resent the lies and distortions which seem to have been included in his book, and I intend to vigorously contest those allegations.
But I can do that just as effectively having stepped down as Leader, and that I will do with effect from the special caucus meeting, probably on Monday.
Over the past three years, it has been a great honour to be the 10th Leader of the National Party, and I take a great deal of satisfaction at the progress we've made over that time.
I want to thank all those who've helped me – the President and Board of the Party, the thousands of volunteers all over the country, my Parliamentary colleagues, most of whom have been unswervingly loyal to the National Party and to me, and my staff.
In that regard, and at the risk of failing to mention a whole host of others, including media staff, communications staff, research staff, IT staff, and others, I should make special mention of my chief of staff, initially Richard Long and now Wayne Eagleson; my special assistant over the two years prior to the election, Bryan Sinclair; the campaign director, Steven Joyce; the man who master-minded our billboards and advertising, John Ansell; my two senior press secretaries, Jason Ede and Kevin Taylor; those who helped me in the preparation of Parliamentary questions, Phil de Joux and Sarah Boyle; and my loyal secretary, Anne Small.
And of course a special thanks to my wife Je Lan and family, who've put up with a huge amount since I entered politics more than four years ago, and have supported me loyally through it all.
There's still an enormous amount to achieve if we're to give New Zealand the future we all want for our children and grandchildren, and I look forward to wishing the next Leader, whomever he or she may be, every success.
I have no doubt that, after the next election, New Zealand will have the National-led Government we need and deserve.
It is, of course, quite possible that I will play some part in that Government. That's a matter to be resolved in due course between the next Leader of the National Party, my wife and family, and me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Recent Happenings :)

It's the lull before the storm I suppose. The tean at work, from what I've gathered, has slowly grown over the last month or two (and by grown still think very, very small) and then has had three people added in the last fortnight. Seven or so more are due to start in the next month. At the moment, however, there seems to be a lack of work. Part of that, I suppose, may be because the manager is away on holiday for a fortnight and probably has a number of things that she wants done but hasn't necessarily left instructions for them. There's supposed to be a huge data project starting as one software system gets phased out and a new one comes in (with a lot of the initial data transfer being done by hand) but we're not too sure exactly when that starts.... When it does I imagine there'll be a seemingly endless stream of work (or at least the job offer runs through to next June although I'll be leaving far earlier for my course) but right now I'm trying to work out if I can nap properly with my eyes open.....

Nick & I went down to his family's bach, in the Coromandel, for three days this weekend. It was absolute bliss. The weather wasn't great, it was better last time we went down - in May, but the company was and it was cosy and lovely and wonderfully relaxing. We managed to watch an entire season of House (Season 1) in one weekend! I do love Hugh Laurie playing cantankerous and sarcastic. Nick's right that the episodes are fairly formulaic but we couledn't help staying up for just one more, and then another, and then maybe another one until it was 3am and common sense suggested that perhapsit would be wise to get some sleep while the sun was down. Part of the reason it works is because you do get attached to the characters and you want to see Mr Big get taken down (not his real name but he reminded me of the Bond villain), or see Chase get punished, or see if House and Cameron can possibly get it on. We're already eyeing up Season 2.... I'm starting him on Twin Peaks first... I love Twin Peaks. I started watching it in one of the screening rooms, deep down below the Arts Dept in the AV Room, with James and Conan in my first or second year of University. Conan had seen it all before while James & I were T.P. virgins and would thus theorize endlessly while seeing what reaction we could get from Conan. And thinking about pie. It's hard not to watch several hours of T.P. in a row and not suddenly realize that pie really does sound good (though I'm not sure how keen I am on cherry). I was trying to work out why Season 1 had so few disks until I went online and realized that of course Season 1 actually finishes part-way through Season 2. It's hard not to think of them in terms of the first key story-arc and then everything that comes after it loosely revolving around the second key arc.

We spent a fair bit of time playing Sid Meyer's Pirates this weekend as well. I highly reccommend it. There don't seem to be that many decent games these days that actually have a full install and can be happily played without a disk but this is one of them. I still have a long way to go before i'm ruling the Seven Seas, so to speak, and have raised a truly fantastic Spanish bounty on my head but I'll get there. Nick's beating me at the moment in terms of fame and such not :) [competition is a wonderful thing].

One of the great things about the bach is that it's only a short drive/walk from the beach (accessed by walking through the midges, I mean forest, well, no, I mean midges...). It's beautiful down there and it felt so good to finally get in the water again. It was freezing but warming too in a bracing kind of way :)

Oh, before I forget, kudos to Nick for his two technological breakthroughs this weekend. The first was getting sound for the computer down at the bach. The stereo & speakers down there weren't compatible with the leads we had which was making watching House look problematic until he remembered that his sister had given us a converter (tape deck to presumably cd player) to try and use in the car. Didn't work in the car cause the portable cd player was broken but worked a treat with the computer :) The second was getting my dvd player working. I hate when electronics break. There's no degrading or signs of discomfort like you'd get in a biological unit, instead one minute they're working perfectly and the next they're not with no apparent reason or cause etc... It's frustrating & unfair. I'd left the room to find a screwdriver when I head an exclamation, the bad kind rather than the eureka! sort, and walked back into the room to find my man capering gleefully proclaiming that he'd broken it. Well, ok he wasn't capering but he was pretty darn happy. Breaking it further had fixed whatever was broken to begin with (looks like the drive had been knocked out of alignment or something) and now it's working perfectly, yay! So no new dvd player to pay for this week, just the car licensing instead :)

The Hobbit

Peter Jackson has publically announced that he will not be directing the new film version of The Hobbit. Apparently Wingnut Productions and New Line Cinemas are in a lawsuit over the earnings from The Fellowship of the Ring and New Line have therefore contacted Jackson to say that they are actively seeking applicants for the directing role elsewhere. While it's possible that the film will still be fantastic it does suck that we won't see a Jackson version of it. I can see him making a fantastic film and one that would have the advantage of continuity with the film trilogy. Still, the Lucas prequels sucked (in my opinion, not my Dad's) so perhaps it's just as well.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stop me if you've heard this one...

Two sisters, one blonde and one brunette, inherit the family ranch. Unfortunately, after just a few years, they are in financial trouble. In order to keep the bank from repossessing the ranch, theyneed to purchase a bull so that they can breed their own stock. The brunette takes their last $600 with her to find a bull. Upon leaving, the brunette tells her sister, "When I get there,if I decide to buy the bull, I'll contact you to drive out after meand haul it home."
The brunette arrives at the man's ranch, inspects the bull, anddecides she wants to buy it. The man tells her that he will sell it for $599, no less. After paying him, she drives to the nearest town to send her sister a telegram to tell her the news. She walks into the telegraph office, and says, "I want to send atelegram to my sister telling her that I've bought a bull for our ranch. I need her to hitch the trailer to our pickup truck and drive out here so we can haul it home."
The telegraph operator explains that he'll be glad to help her, then adds,"It's just 99 cents a word."

Well, after paying for the bull, the brunette only has $1 left. She realizes that she'll only be able to send her sister one word. After a few minutes of thinking, she nods and says, "I want you to send her the word "comfortable."
The operator shakes his head.
" How is she ever going to know that you want her to hitch thetrailer to your pickup truck and drive out here to haul that bull backto your ranch if you send her just the word "comfortable?"
The brunette explains, "My sister's blonde. The word's big.
She'll read it very slowly .... com-for-da-bul."


At least the weather's starting to improve, hopefully I'll even get out and about in it this weekend :) We're going away for three days and I have no AL so I'm pulling long shifts all this week. It was freaky earlier when we were getting the 150km winds; we didn't find out the wind speeds till the next day (or that Sky City had to evacuate). The winds were strong enough to make out building sway. I was feeling nauseous and swaying but couldn't work out why; I figured it was just that I'd been at work for far too long already. But then I heard someone else say 'Thank God it's not just me' and realized that everyone else was feeling it too! It's moved down to Wellington now apparently. I've been doing insurance follow-ups for the past week and I've rung one of the companies often enough that the girl on reception recognises me and stops to chat!


I'm back working at National Bank for another summer. I was kind of worried as I hadn't done any temping work for about 2 months - sometimes due to uni and sometimes because there were simply no phone calls... Manpower came through though and have me another job for the summer. It''ll be nice when the rest of the temps start in December for the project; I'm glad that I was able to start early though! It was good timing too, they took the floor out for dinner and drinks a couple of days after I started :)

The women's who's desk I temporarily have possession of has just had a little boy (a 2h drugs-free delivery, you should hear the good-natured jealousy in the office!). Apparently she'd been on a health/diet/gym regime for ages complaining bitterly that she was starting to get tubby. She didn't realize that she was pregnant until 6-7 months in, freaky huh!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I went out with Anna to the Chocolate Boutique in Parnell to destress after all the mail (thanks hon) and that was fantastic. Then it was pretty much wrapping up the semester. My research project had to be handed in for Nazi Germany (it replaced an exam) and then there was study. Lots and lots of cramming. Thanks to Nick by the way for proof reading my essays this semester and all :)

The results so far are:
Adolescent Fiction Essay on the Representation of Women in Romantic Comedy A+
Arthurian Fiction Essay on the Quest for the Holy Grail A+
Nazi Germany Essay on WWII Propaganda A

Coursemarks History -
Nazi Germany A

Haven't heard back on the other two yet. There's the long, long wait and trying not to compulsively check NDeva every day :P


It's been weeks since I've updated this; I'm a slacker, I know, I'm sorry. The problem as well is that whenever I do actually have the time and inclination to post something either my crappy [but free thanks to Josh] internet connection is non-existent or Blogger isn't working. I think the weekend after I last posted was my weekend of crappy mail. I had a request for payment by the IRD, my credit card which was supposed to have been cancelled months ago sent me a statement, I'd obviously forgotten to tell my vet that Galahad had passed away, the Faculty of Education wanted me to jump through hoops and the IRD was threatening me with court over tax fraud.

Rant 1 - I've had a number of problems with the tax department over the years. When I first started doing television work (just as an extra) IRD gave me the wrong tax code and somehow projected my earnings for the following year as over $40k (up from $400) which meant ACC was demanding huge payments in advance and f**cked up their database changes every single time that I called them over the holiday season. I lost it at them about when they started getting ready to set court dates until someone finally corrected my entry in their database. Anyway, the next agency I signed up did the withholding tax for me but forgot to make the ACC payments so...more fluffing round. This year I was determined to do everything right. I'm with about 5 office recruitment agencies that get me temping work so I contacted them well in advance and told them my tax code needed to be changed to S from a certain date (due to WINZ - student allowances). They all assured me that this had been done. No worries. Until I get a letter from IRD accusing me of tax fraud! Turned out only of the companies had made the change and I'd been on the wrong tax codes for months with multiple firms.... I was so pissed off at trusting these firms and then getting into trouble for their screw-up. Thankfully after I'd explained the situation (helped that I hadn't worked in a month) and they'd checked my records IRD decided that I simply didn't earn enough for them to bother chasing me for money and let me off with a warning.

Rant 2 - ACE is now the Faculty of Education for Auckland University and you would think, therefore, that they might make an effort to actually be part of the university and operate similarly. Oh no. I have the grades and the invites by teachers to do Honours automatically next year. The English Department does a meeting every year and provides all of the information on how the post-grad courses are structured and what papers are available. Not so, FE, in fact just trying to get the enrollment guide for them required me to be transferred three times, dumped on an a/p and rung back several days later. They won't provide full course information or details on papers until after you're already enrolled~! They have what I can only assume is a general application guide. A poorly put together guide since it asks if you have an adequate understanding of English while having grammatical errors and spelling mistakes! You have to supply two 2-page references and a big write-up on yourself just to apply for the course; attend an interview and do another written test on why teaching is so great and why you should be allowed the honour of paying them a large sum of money to sit their course.... Now, don't get me wrong, I understand that we want competent teachers for our kids and if it was a free course then it would be entirely understandable. Since, however, we have to pay them around $4,000 or so in fees to sit the course and will be failed if we don't pass the assessments it annoys me no end that it's such an arduous procedure to enrol.
Oh, and I'm annoyed with them since last year (when they joined AU) they bought property in town and told me that it would be possible to sit the entire course at the city campus. This year they told me they'd sold that building but that my subject papers (and therefore half the course) would be taught in town, then at the interview I was told that the website/enrolment guide etc... are wrong and that the plan for next year is to fully retract to Epsom and be part of AU in name only. Grrr."

On the bright side, I ran into a high school mate of mine, Richard F, coming in for the interview session after mine and it would be good to see him on campus next year.
London: 21st August -
A public school teacher was arrested today at Gatwick Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule, and a calculator. At a morning press conference, Home Secretary John Reid said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the Met Police with carrying weapons of maths instruction. "Al-gebra is a problem for us," Reid said, "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute values. They use secret code names like 'x` and `y`
and refer to themselves as `unknowns,` but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with co-ordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, "There are 3 sides to every triangle". When asked to comment on the arrest, Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking from his holiday resort before the planes stopped flying, said: "If God had wanted us to have better Weapons of Math Instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes."

Wouldn't you want to write this on a whiteboard and see how many people got it...

{Chrisodeo} veni, veni, veni.
(CrazySteve) Pervert.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.
- Woody Allen

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
- Shakespeare, Sonnet XLIII 13-14

For the person who has everything...

Wed Nov 1, 2006 9:30am ET

By Henrique Almeida
LISBON (Reuters) - Any Roman Catholics who have vowed to make the pilgrimage to Fatima in Portugal, which is famous for religious visions, but can't fulfill their promise, help is at hand -- rent-a-pilgrim.
For 2,500 euros ($3,169), Pilgrim Gil will make the journey in your place -- and send you a certificate stamped along the way to prove he walked your every step.
Carlos Gil, 42, who owns a small computer company, took up this medieval practice four years ago when he suddenly "felt an urge to walk to Fatima" and said charging each client was simply a way to keep doing what he loves.

"I make the trip to Fatima once or twice a year because it elevates my spirit," said Gil. "Sometimes the trip is so intense that I forget I'm doing it to fulfill my client's promises."
Like a true pilgrim, Gil begins his seven-day journey to Fatima on foot from his home in Cascais, a small town on the outskirts of Lisbon, about 160 kilometers from the shrine. It takes him another six days to walk back.
Fatima's claim to fame is the Sanctuary of Fatima, built after the Virgin Mary was reported to have appeared six times to three shepherd children on a hillside near the town in 1917.
One of the children, Lucia dos Santos, became a nun after having the visions and is said to have foretold the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in May 1981. She died in 2005 while the other two children died in 1919 and 1920.
Pope John Paul later placed one of the bullets that nearly killed him in the crown of the statue of Fatima.

Ever year about 3.5 million visitors flock to the shrine to celebrate the Virgin's appearance -- and Gil goes in the place of some of would-be pilgrims although he would not say how many people he walks for each year.
"It is a romantic way for my clients to thank God for what they have, like buying a candle or a plaster statue of Fatima," he said.
To guarantee to his clients that he made the trip on foot, Gil has a system of handing his customers a certificate after every journey with various stamps from places along the way.
"That way they know I kept their promise," he said.

He insists he makes the trips because it makes him feel good and the money he charges is used to compensate for time-off from his company and expenses along the way.
"As long as I'm not making a profit, I don't see a problem in this," he said. "It doesn't matter if you can't make the trip yourself because you are I and I am you, if you know what I mean."
Those who wish to hire Pilgrim Gil can do so through his Web site, which is translated into three different languages and includes a credit card payment system.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Breaking Up is suddenly easier to do...

Another random gem from the pages of TIME is a review of You no longer have to stress about how to let your significant other that you are tired of them, now you can show your true colours and pay someone else to do it for you! For only US$25 you can send them a nice little certificate to inform them that they're dumped and they even get a cute wee monkey as a souvenier of their broken heart. It's free shipping within their states and they'll even call the dumpee to confirm that it's for real and not all some horrible, twisted joke. Just to rub salt in the wound, they'll even publish the names involved on their site i.e. Dumper, Dumpee, Time & Date ended, relevant state etc... It's some small consolation that the service has now become so popular they haven't had time this year to update that page...

Religious Cartoons

Last week the Vatican released: John Paul II: Friend of all Humanity, so that the little kiddies can learn all about how wonderful the pope is. Apparently it's educational.

Looking far more modern and funky is a new comic-book series called The 99, by a Kuwaiti-born entrepeneur. It's based around the 99 attributes/names/faces of Allah, with each aspect being represented by a different superhero. The picture in TIME this week is of a kick-ass looking chick in cool street-wear. I'm sorry to say that spunky sass beats the Pope in terms of coolness factor.
Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.
- J.F.K.