The best of The Spinoff this week

Bringing you the best weekly reading from your friendly local website.

José Barbosa: Red Dead Redemption 2 might be a hit, but Rockstar’s star is waning

“Rockstar’s in the business of making games that are EVERYTHING. They’re at once both intense simulation games and quick fire shoot ‘em ups (Grand Theft Auto V), or sprawling Westworld-esque theme parks where anything goes and play-by-rails linear movies (Red Dead Redemption 2). RDR2 is the latest and therefore the most advanced example of a open world game in which every polygon appears to be dripping with potential. But it’s more game reserve than amusement park. It’s been noted numerous times that Rockstar seem to have ramped up the more quiet, slow and contemplative parts of the game world; the game wants you to take your time and seep into the world. So what about the missions?”

Emily Writes: What to do with all your shit that you Marie Kondo’ed

“I went into my local Salvation Army store only to be told that every other motherfucker is KonMarie’ing the shit out of their house so they were full. I called Opportunity for Animals and found they had space though not much. It got me thinking about how busy this time will be for volunteers. I’ve been a clothes sorter for an op shop and it’s a nightmare. People give garbage – like why would you give one shoe? Why would you give a blanket with BLOOD stains on it? Why would you give trackies that are so worn they have no crotch anymore? Nobody wants a bag full of socks that have no match. Nobody wants your shoes that you wore so much they fell apart. Absolutely nobody wants your undies with rag stains on them.

So I thought I’d ask stores what they do want.”

Hannah McGowan: Instead of Marie Kondo-ing your house, why not just buy less shit?

“With so much focus on getting rid of stuff – an excellent step in reclaiming your home and life from the tyranny of objects – no one seems to be bringing up what should be obvious: why are we buying all this stuff in the first place?

If we brought less into our homes, couldn’t we avoid this tedious elimination process altogether? It seems backwards to focus on purging when purchasing is what got us into this literal mess.

The truth is that we are still not being taught how to spend our money most efficiently on what we actually need.”

The lightest touch with a hot wire sends smoke pluming from ambergris. Photo: Sylvie Whinray

Don Rowe: Ambergris, the whale poo worth more than your car

Dragon tears, meteorites, or just plain shit – ambergris is an olfactory miracle of the deep. Sought after for thousands of years, and worth upwards of $10,000/kg today, ambergris washes up on beaches across New Zealand all year long. Don Rowe goes looking for it.

Madeleine Chapman: How $14.99 plus ‘FREE’ can really mean $614.96

“P&H is commonly understood to mean postage and handling, while the asterisk suggests more fine print. That fine print can be found by scanning the rest of the ad until one finds ‘*terms & conditions apply’ in tiny lettering next to two large, red ‘FREE’ texts. There’s a lot going on in this ad.

As a person of reasonable intelligence (thank you, please, don’t get up) I looked at that ad and surmised that for the price of $14.99 + postage, I could purchase an Air Roaster – or at the very least I could trial it for 30 days without the risk of further cost. Like every “as seen on TV” deal, it sounded too good to be true.

It was.”

Toby Manhire: ‘I’m completely squeaky clean’: an interview with Matthew Hooton

“And what does Exceltium, well, do exactly?

‘The bread and butter product is the people that come in thinking they have got a problem thinking that someone in Wellington can solve it for them,” he said.

‘They think that if they only go into the media and attack the minister all will be well. And we normally look into the issue, see what various stakeholders might think about the issue and usually we tell the client to do nothing, and to focus on their core business.’

It’s a compelling business model: advise people to do nothing, then bill them for it.”

The Spinoff Food: The average Kiwi bloke who’s breaking the influencer marketing mould

“In a market awash with manicured and massaged influencers selling skinny tea and modern-day corsets, it’s a rare move for brands to aim for relatable over aspirational. But the ebbs and flows of family life rarely look like cocktails in Kuta; day by day, things tend towards the average, if not the easy.

‘There’s always a place for the Dan Carters and whatever out there, but there’s also this shift in our habits and what we relate too, and people are looking for something more personable,’ says Jaco. ‘I’m really just a standard guy, making dinner. What’s more everyday than dinner?'”

Don Rowe: How a pet bearded dragon got abducted by a government vet

“It started with an anonymous tip: ‘Request all government communications regarding the theft and transportation of a bearded dragon – you’ll like what you find.’

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When those communications arrived – after the Ministry of Primary Industries pleaded extra time to consult employees and lawyers – the evidence was disturbing. It appeared that a lost bearded dragon had been flown to an MPI vet in Wellington, at her request, despite some of those involved knowing to whom it belonged.

‘I guess I’ll just have to deal with the bad karma,’ they said.”

Alex Casey: I’m the girl Marie Kondo warned you about

“A chronic hoarder and a categorically messy pup, I first reached out to world-renowned professional tidier Marie Kondo in 2017, long before her Netflix show, feverishly ploughing through The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Upduring a trip to Europe. It’s a very specific type of stress to be halfway through your hour wait time for Space Mountain in EuroDisney, and suddenly start to hear your balled up socks screaming in pain all the way from New Zealand. The elastic! It is strained! I need to free them. I need to fold them. I need to thank them.”


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