Neui…er, no…Neiu?…no—Niue! Yeah, yeah, that’s it.

Why don’t people go to Niue? Why have you never heard of this place? I just discovered this island and I’m an expert.

Well, one reason might be that the language is challenging. They all speak English, sure, but the word for thank you is fakaaue. So if you’re in a hotel and you compliment them they will say…well—just sound it out. Another reason that this place went unnoticed for so long after the rest of the Pacific was sliced and diced by European and American interests is that when Captain Cook stopped by in 1774, he was met on the beach by warriors with blood smeared all over their lips and teeth throwing rocks and spears. Cook named Tonga the ‘Friendly Islands’ and Tahiti the ‘Society Islands’ but he called this place The Savage Islands and as a result ships steered clear. In fact, the locals were really a bit miffed that Cook didn’t realize the Niueians were just playing hard to get because in 1900 the islanders petitioned England to include them in the British Empire. Queen Victoria initially said yes, but when the British realized that they really wanted to just go on the dole the Queen suggested New Zealand might take them and they did. Niue is a self-governing independent nation and all the citizens are also citizens of New Zealand. They have a GDP of about $10 million which is almost entirely remittances from family in New Zealand and NZ government grants.

Not that they haven’t tried mightily to develop an economy. In the 1980s they dabbled in offshore banking and you can still establish a private bank there for a few hundred dollars. In the 90s they built a phone network featuring 900 numbers used for scams and sex chat lines which were advertised all over the world on late night TV and sketchy talk shows. For a time, this was the biggest source of revenue.

In 2000 the Lord Liverpool University-George Washington School (catchy name) opened its doors, or door, in a room in an abandoned hotel. The university motto was: “This is where your medical career begins.” Predictably, they had few takers and the founders were soon advised to leave the country or risk arrest; and this in a place where more or less anything goes businesswise. So if you go to the doctor and see a diploma from this place, I suggest going to your local veterinarian instead.

If it sounds like the islanders are always on the con at least it isn’t populated by about 20% child molesters like on Pitcairn. This is not a made up number.

Since joining up with NZ a 120 years ago the population of 6,000 has dropped to 1,300. 24,000 Neuians live in New Zealand so basically all the kids skedaddle.     

This tiny island is home to some mosts and firsts such as their boast that it has the highest penetration of landline phone installations per capita, even if that’s no longer a thing. They were the first nation to have free internet for all in 2003 and they have fiber optic cable to all the villages so they can pirate movies in seconds.

The island is a single 96 square mile limestone rock surrounded by one of the world’s largest coral reefs.

Don’t drive too fast as you can see the entire place in two hours

They don’t have many sandy beaches and with only two flights a week to NZ the place has a limited appeal to visitors though they do keep trying. They recently declared they are the first tobacco free nation though no one smoked anyway. In March of 2020 they became the first nation to be dubbed a ‘dark sky’ country though there was really no light pollution as the capital town, Alofi, has only three streetlights.

From what I’ve read these folks are a cheerful, friendly lot even if the population is vamoosing quicker than hooker at a Baptist prayer breakfast. I’d like to visit the place though it’s a bit hard to schedule right now. I found a single Airbnb and it’s $25 a night with two bedrooms so the price is right.

Oh and the bloody teeth. It was actually a type of red-juice banana called hulahula that stained their faces and they are still apologizing for throwing rocks at Captain Cook.

So if you want to move to a tropical island the folks will welcome you with the few open arms they have left and you can have a free house (if somewhat moldy). One can windsurf, scuba dive, open a bank, run a porn site or do brain surgery and they will simply say fakaaue!

Easter Egg: This film is from 1930. You can tell it’s stop motion animation sure. But how do they take a real Model T and scrunch it slowly without the image jerking all about? I can’t figure it out. Can you?

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  • ollie says:

    ya know, cause I don’t i pushed every key on the pad to say iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii eye
    my computer went dead and had to re boot everything
    itz back but wow what was that

  • Vikas Kapur says:

    hi Jamis – great writeup 🙂 . My colleague has visited Cook islands with family -4- times in the last 20 years and loves the place – he showed me some pictures. Keep ’em coming and w/ all regards, Vikas

  • Tyler MacNiven says:

    Looks like that short is from a slightly longer piece:

    Was reading some forums on how they did it and here are two excerpts from folks that seem to piece it together convincingly:

    1.) Even today, a shot like that with a car being built is extremely difficult. It looks to me like they didn’t do much destruction to the car, as the fully assembled pieces appear to “pop” into place once the de-crumpling/assembling animation is finished. It does look like they used some fabric and other materials to complete the effect. Because it was black and white and they didn’t have HD back then, the tricks they used are very convincing and hard to spot. An awesome example of stop motion animation.

    2.) I watched the scene where the body unfolds several times and I believe that the body was actually canvas stretched over a framework (most apparent at 1:55 – 1:58). That is at least until the body was complete enough to mount the tires and wheels and headlights to, then I think a real car was swapped in. The rest of the parts such as axles, springs, and tires were probably the genuine items that were systematically cut into smaller and smaller pieces.

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