Here’s to 2015

It is usually around this time of the year a lot of folk take stock, discard the old, wheel the new into place, and make various promises to themselves about the coming 12 months or so.

I’m not going to get too carried away with this stuff. There’s a few priorities I’d like to be able to put a tick next to by around this time in 2016, I suppose: these involve nothing particularly earth shattering or original.

A bit less weight around the middle: a bit more money in the bank: that sort of thing. I’ve started a regular walking programme, or rather, a Sweating and Turning Red programme. By the time I’ve walked to the bottom of Mt Vic, done some weights at the Freyberg, and then walked back up the hill, my face makes the pohutakawa flowers in this picture, here, look a bit on the pale side.

Also doing a bit of writing, in a bit more of a focused and organised fashion. Deep in Muldoon-related stuff right now: it is oddly cheering, not so much about what happened then, but about today’s economic issues.

Eternity – Don Walker

There isn’t, unfortunately, a clip of Don Walker’s epic song about trying, and failing, to hitch a lift out of Queensland mining town Mt Isa.

With an oblique nod to the Aldous Huxley’s mystical novel ‘Eyeless in Gaza’ (or perhaps to John Milton’s poem Samson Agonistes, in which that phrase first appeared) Walker’s song is called ‘Carless in Isa’.  Love it.

If anyone has done any hitching, he captures a sense of the waiting, the longueurs, drawling out the sense of an approaching car as it, and hope of a lift, arrives and then passes.. “I’ve been heeerrre………….fr’ever.”

This one, though, delves even deeper. It has been nearly 20 years since I have been hitch hiking: most of it was done at a time of inward as well as outward searching.

And ‘Eternity’ catches this feeling so accurately it hurts:

The withered skin on my hand was lined
 Like a map of the land I´d left behind alone  
A drifter and a pharisee 

On a highway straighter than the barrel of eternity.”

The song goes on to talk of being picked up by a driver of “a long black car” who calls his name…and the narrator recognises the driver, and his diseases, and how, “ you ate up the seed corn
All this side of the Sambatyon River,
How the cattle died
How the pain o’ your fever
Spread across the moon like a thunderhead
Like a lost will,
A hole in the law,

Split the stone o’ the cathedral floor.”

It is eerie and evocative – and for those who do not know, the Sambatyon is the legendary river over which 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel disappeared.

It then becomes hallucinatory, spinning out the images like a Biblical Yeats….

“I’m hookin my thumb
Round a well sucked bottle of Inner Circle rum
And I’m handin it over
He’s whackin it down
His old man’s Adam’s apple’s jumpin around
Kickin at a rope-burn under his chin
And I’m lookin at the sky like a sheeta hot tin
And I’m feeling so sick in the head
An’ I fall to one knee,Then another
An’ all that I can see
Is a highway straighter than the barrel of eternity…

Long ago, and far away
I opened my eyes and attempted to pray
I opened my eyes on a land as frozen
Cold as the hole where Jesus rose
And I layAnd wondered if he died for me

On a highway straighter than the barrel of eternity…”

I still often dream I am out on a road, somewhere, nothing happening: just the tarmac’s flat upward radiating heat and smell, the white noise of the approaching vehicles and the vast flatness of notorious hitchers traps like Sanson, Murchison or PioPio.

Walker is most famous as the guy who wrote most of Aussie band Cold Chisel’s songs: – ‘Flame Trees’, ‘Khe Sanh’ ‘Cheap Wine’, and a personal favourite (also about hitch hiking) ‘Houndog’ are all his.

A few years back he wrote a great, if idiosyncratic, memoir, ‘Shots’.  I’ll return to that another time: all I’ll say now is it takes a chapter or two to get the rhythm of the writing (Walker is very stream-of-conscious at times) but its worth the effort.

Don Walker appeared last night in Auckland and is appearing tomorrow night in Leigh. I can’t make it there, to my deep regret.

Vengeance with a Back

The osteopath has been doing an Eddy Izzard on the spinal column  – yeah I know that’s chiropracty…chiropractory…chiropractism…whatever they call it – and yeah I know osteopaths and chiropractors view each other with the kind of warm regard normally associated with relations between Black Power and Mongrel Mob, or maybe between the local Playcentre Committee and the local Kindergartetn Committee….but the general approach, when you’re on the slab, seems awfully similar.

They both sort of try to turn you into a gibbering, breathing pretzel.

A few things I have been reading – stuff about NZ’s economic imbalances, mostly, and I really want to get away from it right now, because I think we’re going to have to have someone turn our economy into a gibbering pretzel.  Which would be an improvement, I suppose, and at least our economy only needs a ‘crack yer bones’ treatment rather than the economic equivalent of chemotherapy, although we’re going to need it for about a generation.

We’re not quite Greece, although another recession or another earthquake and we will be.

I’d planned to get away from all this stuff, and I now shall do so.  Elsewhere on the web, Dr Yobbo has been visiting hotels in Auckland and working out what he can nick:

 ‘Vanity kit’, consisting of three cotton buds in a small cardboard box. I stuck one in each nostril and still didn’t look like Prince’s ex. It’s possible I was doing it wrong, but I reserve the right to sue.

Dirk Flinthart has been sleeping badly:

 …when I heard a stentorian electronic monotone blaring out from somewhere downstairs at 0300, I groaned and pulled the pillow over my head. But Natalie got up and investigated, and didn’t come back, and that kind of meant I had to do something manly and tough, so I got up and grabbed my robe.

A bit closer to home, and a bit more seriously,  Chris Trotter – and others – are saying the polls understate Hone Harawira’s support because a lot of his supporters use cellphones, and/or are young.

It is now an article of faith among some sections of the Left that the methodology of New Zealand pollsters is irredeemably flawed. They argue that since more and more young, brown and/or poor Kiwis no longer use landlines, polling agencies that continue to rely on interviews with landline subscribers are bound to produce results significantly skewed towards the opinions of old, white and rich voters.

Ah, yeah.  Parties doing badly in the polls always seem to argue that for some reason their supporters aren’t getting polled.  I heard Labour and, particularly, Alliance people run it in 1996, (and Labour people again in 2008)   on the grounds that a statistically significant chunk of their supporters couldn’t afford phones at all. 

In 1996, just under 1996 of NZ households had a landline: in 2008 it was around 98%.

I’ve heard National and Act people run  the same argument, in 1999 and 2002, on the grounds that a disproportionate number of their supporters are self employed, and too busy to answer polls.

It was almost  all self-deluding, whistling-in-the-dark stuff, although from memory Act did do a bit better than the polls suggested in 2002 (National did worse).

There might be a bit more variation in tomorrow’s byelection, because it is for the country’s northern-most Maori electorate, and if the stereotypes are true, there is a disproportionate number of the country’s drug dealers in that electorate – people who famously buy cheap prepaid cellphones on Trademe rather than have a landline. 

  But I’m always dubious about stereotypes, especially self-serving ones, and this one is a bit too pat. I’m also not too sure if drug dealers are particularly conscientious about voting.

Tim Watkin, meanwhile, was on the panel with Winston Peters last weekend and wonders if it is all over for the guy.  I had a similar response, watching the same interview, especially Peters’ ‘We’re still relevant’ at the end:  it had the same slightly desperate  and defeated tone as Muldoon’s ‘I love you too, Mr Lange,’ in the last debate in the 1984 election.

Watkin also notes something I think is being under-estimated by most of the opposition parties – especially Labour: that there is a very different mood in the country.

 The earthquakes in particular have changed the mood of the country in ways we still don’t entirely comprehend. There’s a wariness abroad in the land; a sense that things have changed.

He’s right, although I’d say the change started before the earthquakes – Canterbury’s tragedy has, however, made the mood deeper and stronger. I’d say the origin is in the global financial crisis and the realisation that the country can’t go on running up debt.  The earthquakes have given this an even sharper focus:  they’re a reminder that we are very vulnerable on a number of fronts and we need to be a lot more prudent if we’re going to deal with these. 

Banana surprise

Stephen Stratford reminds us it is the always slightly disturbing Barry Humphries’ birthday today.

Here he is with Deborah Harry.  The duet at the end is …something.  I would like to have seen them do ‘Picture This’ but I suspect even Harry would have trouble hitting the notes in the chorus on that one these days.

Dame Edna and Debbie Harry

Round the traps….

A series of choice lines from blogs I checked out this evening.

Ally rises up to the challenge of her rivals:
I wrote an awesome song based on my experiences in the campground showers, it is called “Pubes of a Stranger” and it has the same tune as Eye of the Tiger.

Stephen Stratford visits the ‘great literary lines that might get you laid’ and votes for  “Stuff me in a tutu and let’s screen experimental videos all day.”

Doesn’t do it for me. I’d go for the Amisian 

“You know how it is when two souls meet in a burst of ecstatic volubility, with hearts tickling to hear and to tell, to know everything, to reveal everything, the shared reverence for the other’s otherness, a feeling of solitude radiantly snapped by full contact — all that?”   

because I love the way the last two words deflate the whole thing. 

Afterthought: Amis junior’s prose here borrows from a passage in Evelyn Waugh’s great novel about journalism, ‘Scoop’ which also uses two words at the end of a long, apparently emotive sentence, to undercut what has gone before:

Why, once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn’t know any different, got out, went straight to a hotel, and cabled off a thousand-word story about barricades in the streets, flaming churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll, spread-eagled in the deserted roadway below his window — you know. 

In more serious mien, Cactus Kate in one sentence puts her finger on the great thing about court coverage and in the next sentence the problem with it:

“Publishers must love court reporting because it is generally excluded from possible Press Council complaint and other proceedings because the court is public. If you study court reporting in any depth to a case you are familiar with because you have sat in court everyday with them during it...”

Every day.  All Day, or most of it.  When you could be chasing other stuff.  And the court staff hate journalists and usually will do anything they can to obstruct you.  

Oh, that’s not the bad bit…in fact, that’s the fun bit, because unless you do something really objectionable they can’t throw you out, so you can entertain yourself coming up with ways to subtly annoy them.  

No, its the all day thing.  Opportunity cost and all that.  

How can I?

DPF has a most common google search thing of ‘how can I get my girlfriend/boyfriend to….’

Danyl has responded with a ‘how can I get my husband/wife to….’ search.
I’ve just done a straightforward ‘h

ow can I?’ search. It’s a little more thought-provoking, I think.
and another simple ‘How can you…?’ question.
The commonly asked questions show the Interweb in all its infinite variety, don’t they?