August 17, 2007
Ode on the Flightless & Intrepid.
Posted by William Birdthistle

It's Friday, so I hope you'll forgive a light digression.  After Gordon's favorable review of yesterday's "Conchords" clip, perhaps readers will endure just one more to help raise the profile of antipodean comedy:

All this contemplation of the far down under forces me to confess something of an enduring respect for the hardy New Zealanders.  Not only did the Europeans who settled there travel to the farthest ends of the earth to do so, they went voluntarily, not at the end of a criminal's shackle.  These Kiwi forbears happened across the Australian continent en route, evidently deemed it too crowded or cosmopolitan, and kept going a few hundred more miles.  And now the four million of them comprise the world's greatest sailors and rugby players.

In this year's America's Cup, both the teams competing in the final were captained and manned by New Zealanders.  (The "Swiss" winner, Alinghi, who defeated Team New Zealand, are in fact predominantly mercenary veterans of Team New Zealand.)

In world rugby, no team inspires more fear than the All Blacks, who start each game with the haka, this Maori war chant (here reciprocated by their fellow Polynesian overachievers, Tonga):

For some specific flavor, here's a highlight of Jonah Lomu, a 6'5", 250-pound menace who runs the 100 in 10.89 seconds:

And for the people who invented bungee jumping, apparently the effete diversions of whitewater rafting can't compete with their version of aquatic lunacy: blackwater rafting.  Strap on a spelunking helmet, form up a chain of chums atop inner tubes, and launch yourself hurtling through underground rapids.

Finally, we discover that, in addition to all this athleticism, they're also big into epic cinema (featuring small Hobbits) and musical comedy.  Oh, how the gods shine upon the Land of the Long White Cloud!

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