‘Steven..? Grab the cat…’

 

“Red wire, blue wire…”

I’m not a big fan of shoot ’em up fillums, but this one had perhaps one of the best opening sequences I’ve seen.

Mel Gibson’s psychotic nihilistic side was seldom more in evidence.
Found myself thinking of this scene when pondering the governing arrangement talks going on between New Zealand First and the Labour and National parties this week.

Do I have any great insight? Nothing I haven’t already shared with the readers of NBR. The fact neither Labour nor National are saying anything about what their policy priorities are, and allowing Winston Peters to look like he’s setting the agenda, leads me to think we’re not going to see a deal emerge out of these talks.

 

Election 2017 – on voting

Finding my voting place? (Scratches head…)

Where was the last place I had it?

Ok, seriously… I’m currently sitting in a house deep in a mid-Auckland suburb, at the tail end of probably the most interesting campaign I can remember in 21 years in the press gallery.

And most difficult election to predict I can remember.I don’t know what the results going to be – but there is a feeling that this is very important election.

On the subject of actually a casting vote, I’m not one of those political journalists who feel I can’t or should not vote.

Voting is a sacred act. People died to give us the right to vote. They died defending that right.

There is blood on those ballots. Human nature and a wicked world being what it is, people will probably have to die to defend that right again.

Which doesn’t mean, to use that often heard, simplistic phrase, “if you don’t vote you can’t complain”.

You are always allowed to complain. That’s the whole point of democracy, or at least one of the points of democracy.

You have a say.

Voting is the tail end of that process in which you have a say. Voting essentially picks who is going to form the government for the next three years. It is mostly about picking people, not policies.

Which means you can complain all you like about policies – and the people for that matter – but if the smorgasbord of people on choice, come election day, isn’t to your liking, you’re perfectly entitled to not to vote.

And to go on complaining.

Voting is not democracy. Its a part of it, certainly, but its probably not even the most important part.

Democracy goes on in the arguments, discussions, shared annoyances, shared ideas, shared hopes and dreams, of human beings everyday.

Nor do I believe there is such a thing as a “wasted vote” if you are voting what you believe. That right, to vote what you believe, is what people fought and died for us to have.

To me, the only wasted vote is if you vote for something you don’t believe.

Finally, a more general comment about New Zealand election is this: we’re okay, I think. If you look at the options available for New Zealanders, we’re doing better than most democracies. Views may vary intensely on the qualities of the two alternative prime ministers, but from my observation, and certainly compared with certain other democracies, they’re basically decent and not at all dim people.

And whatever happens at the polls, we do, I believe, have a more economically secure base than we’ve ever had before.

There’s still a long way to go: a country of less than five million people, spread over a land mass the size of the UK or Japan a long way from anywhere else and with geological difficulties, not to mention an inconvenience strip of water across the midriff, is always going to have a high level of economic vulnerability.

But for a whole lot of reasons, the scope for reducing those vulnerabilities now is better than it ever has been in our history. I just hope that whoever forms a government after this weekend maintains a focus on reducing those vulnerabilities.

Thought for the day – for John Clarke’s birthday

“It’s a wee bit on the horrendous side, is this town-going.” – John Clarke/Fred Dagg

The late, and very much missed, John Clarke. For his birthday.

Contains Harris Street, just outside where the library is now, and bits of Victoria Street in that vicinity. Filmed in roughly 1976: it looked much the same when I moved to Wellers in 1982.

Third Test against the Lions…40 years ago

This was Graham Mourie’s first test. Huge build-up. The ABs had lost the previous test and only had an iffy win in the first test. Coming the year against a lost series in South Africa, there was a sense of crisis.

The selectors went berko after the second test loss, making six changes and – most shockingly of all – dropping veteran halfback Sid Going.

It was an extremely wet winter, and Carisbrook had been rained on all week. From memory, the rugby union hired a couple of helicopters to fly up and down the ground for hours before the test, trying to dry out the ground with the downdraft from the rotor blades.

This may be a bit of a legend. I don’t know.

The dropping of Going at halfback was seen as a signal the All Blacks would run the ball through the backline rather than having Sid Going have a go on his own and fold it back into the forwards.

Anyway, they showed they would do that, right in the opening minute. Bruce Robertson – Counties’ only player in the side, something I kind of noted, as a Waiuku lad – had a fantastic day.

After a couple of years without a decent goalkicker – Joe Karam, who has since gone on to fame in other areas, had been a dead-eye dick with the boot for years but in 1975 he went to league – the new boy at fullback, Bevan Wilson, was a real find.

And of course it was Kirkpatrick’s 50th try.

Anyway, it was a really great game. Here’s the highlights.

And here’s hoping to a decent win tonight.

For Kiwi Music Munff: Giant Friend – Mutton Birds

I don’t think I’m the only person who, when this came out, thought they were singing about Janet Frame. 

That, though, would have been a bit too direct for Don McGlashan. 

Someone once defined the Muttonbirds as being like the a Kiwi version of the Kinks with a touch of Twin Peaks’ undefined menace to them.

That to me is almost right. The band – and Don McGlashan’s other work, with Front Lawn and Blam Blam Blam and elsewhere – certainly get, and convey, New Zealand culture in a way the Kinks, at their peak, were able to do for the English. 

But Twin Peaks?  Hmm.  You can see it a bit in this video clip, I suppose. But really, you don’t need to go offshore to seek influcneces.  The band is  like a rock muso version of Maurice Gee’s novels, or of some of our infamous ‘Cinema of Unease’.

If peoeple still bothered to market music compilations, someone could do a very good ‘Music of Unease’ of Kiwi Music. 

In fact, of course, you could probably make one of your own. 

John Clarke/Fred Dagg.

The late, great John Clarke/Fred Dagg on the meaning of life. An excerpt therefrom.

 

“Of course, in the 20th century, we have produced a fair array of theories about what life’s actually about and probably the existentialists take the buttered confection for getting closest to thinking they had it all worked out. They used to hang about in the Paris area, which is in what we used to call Gaul, and talk about how terrible life was and how they didn’t know if they’d really get to the weekend. They reckoned life was a pretty dreadful business and was filled with a thing called ennui.

“Now, ennui is a terrible thing, and seems to have roughly the same effect as terminal boredom. Ennui actually is a French word meaning Henry. And the story goes that once you get a touch of the Henry’s, it’s all downhill and the only way to relive the symptoms is to whip down the harbour and pull a wave over your bonce and call it a day.”

The full piece is here. 

Rest in Peace. Reports through from Sydney this morning he’s died, aged 68.

Clarke was the closest New Zealand has come to a genuine comic genius. An original, one who, mostly, based his humour on the way New Zealanders talk rather than by just adapting a sketch from Monty Python or Stan Freberg or the Frost Report to local conditions.
He first appeared to a wider audience on Country Calendar in the mid-1970s, just as the country’s economic reliance on pastoral products and the Brits was being pulverised.

He was a breath of fresh air, in so many ways: mostly because of how he talked.

It was very buttoned down Kiwi, but with an ornate side to it: “It’s a wee bit horrendous, this towngoing,” a diffident Dagg mutters in a voice over as he is seen parking his Landrover in Wellington’s Harris Street.

He laughed at the way we talked, but it was a laughter without jeers.

Clarke had the true comic’s gift of being able to show what was funny about New Zealanders but in a way which, somehow, celebrated rather than sneered at it.

There was always a sense of heart, a generosity of spirit, as he laughed – or rather, as he showed us what was funny.

 

 

 

Murray Ball

Murray Ball, RIP. Got a huge collection of Footrot Flats books. You didn’t have to have grown up on a farm to have got the humour of them, but by crikey it helped.

IMG_3274One of my favourites: just a one frame shot of Wal and Cooch, cleaning out either the shed or a pigsty, in the pouring rain. Wal is looking particularly grim and determined, and an air of resigned misery hangs over the entire picture.

Dog is looking out at the viewer, and is saying, ‘Well, it was either this or do the accounts.’

Ball was a junior All Black and perhaps could have gone further but, having spent some formative years in South Africa was particularly vehemently opposed to apartheid. I recall a story of his being on one of the early protests against the 1981 tour – it may even have been the Hamilton riot – and being appalled when fellow protestors starting pulling down the fence to the ground.

When a tour to South Africa was planned in 1985, he withdrew Dog from being the All Black mascot, in an open letter to the Rugby Union.

I clipped it and its selotaped on the inside of one of the collections of Footrot Flat cartoons [see pic]. It captured the turmoil a lot of us felt about rugby contacts with apartheid, at the time: his drawing of Dog taking off his black and white scarf and walking away in sorrow was eloquent and sad and so, so bang on.

Happier was the film of the cartoons strip the following year: it brilliantly caught the entire New Zealand farming world at a time it was changing forever.

Saw the film at Mission Bay cinema: it was thrilling to see something so New Zild on the screen, so recognisable; hilarious in bits and I remember even shedding a tear at one point.

RIP, Murray.