Praise

I am not a great follower of the media.
My family life, home life and work all take precedence over what is happening on a current affairs level.
It stands to reason too, the way news is accessed these days has changed. I have read and heard much of what is occurring on a day to day basis, long before the six o’clock news.

As it stands, we don’t have a freeview box or sky in our house. To watch the news, we would have to stream it but at that time of the evening, our main meal is being prepared and eaten. The world can be doing whatever it wants, Wifey and I have four growing mouths to feed and there is nothing which will stand in the way of a hungry child.

Like most people, I am a fan of the distracting escapism a good movie or series can provide. Music plays a big role in my life and forms, in large part, the entertainment I might seek at any time.
If ever I do access any given media outlet, it is usually to find results on, or to follow live, one sporting event or another. Sports is the other thing I find a valuable entertainment.
Late last week would have seen the end of the test match between New Zealand’s Black Caps and Bangladesh. Ok, the game might not have stretched that far, given the current form of the respective sides but it’s cancellation, for obvious reasons, was a sad way for our international summer of cricket season to end.

I work in a rural location. I don’t have access to the AM network and I don’t have reliable cell phone coverage for streaming purposes etc. I do have FM capabilities on my phone and over the last week I tuned to Magic Talk.
The station, previously known as RadioLive, is part of the Newshub collection and in the past has captured my attention, as much for it’s presenters and hosts as for content. I am a fan of the input someone like Marcus Lush has on our airwaves, found a guy like John Tamahere refreshing, whether I agreed with him or not.

Those names have gone, however I was pleased to hear the tones of Brendon Telfer when I tuned in to Magic Talk, sitting in for Peter Williams.
Telfer is an intelligent man, thinks before he opens his mouth and has a broad range of tolerant opinions. He is a broadcaster who has been in the business for many years and as such, is an opinion I trust and a voice I was able to find comfort in.
I love the energy and vitality Duncan Garner brings, even if I at times don’t agree with him, and the balance he gets from the likes of Amanda Gillies, someone I feel is one of the better broadcasters and journalists out there currently.

Sean_Plunket

And then there is Sean Plunket.
A strong, forthright, highly vocal and independent voice. A man I personally have struggled to like or listen to at times in the past.
Yet, conversely, he turned out to be the person who helped me the most to reconcile things over this last week.

I work alone predominantly. I have flora and fauna for company but can go days on end with little or no human companionship. I love it.
The problem with spending so much time on your own is the intensity your own thoughts can reach. Luckily, I have become very adept at moderating myself, tempering the type and direction my brain can travel. While it is fun to let the mind wonder and ramble, it can also be disconcerting and distracting.

Self moderation and tempering were just two of the traits exhibited by Sean Plunket, a man no stranger to courting controversy.
During his broadcasts, he was able to remain strong yet empathetic. He could lend a sympathetic and caring ear, take a breath, then be vehement.
I listened as the man crossed all sorts of emotional barriers, as we all were doing, yet he did it openly, in the public eye so to speak and he did so with a measure of reflective realism.
He was hurting, just like us and just the same as his colleagues. What a job they are tasked with, when the world suddenly crumbles around them and human tragedy is before their lenses, cries of anguish and fear and the wails of pain at he end of their microphones.
I have already praised the police, feel there is a need to strongly acknowledge the leadership of Jacinda Ardern, her government and the all the members of parliament. And now praise for our collective media.
Have we ever been so together?
We can thank that man for that.

Our media has played a key role in that leadership. Bipartisanship to the fore in our political realms and also in our newsrooms. Ego put aside, agenda’s postponed or cancelled altogether.
Plunket had the finger pointed at him. It didn’t take long for things to get personal, then political, despite the urging of the man himself.
Plunket stayed pious throughout but I fear was always fighting a losing battle. Hideous things were leveled at him as if his ilk, social commentators like him, somehow had blood on their hands, that he was as responsible if not more so, than the foul person who pulled the trigger many times over.

Through it all, Plunket, just as many others were doing, used his platform to spread a message of tolerance, of peace and love. He spoke of a commitment to togetherness, he stayed reasoned and calm, even as his voice cracked.
How the hell he stayed so strong ow any of our media representatives did, I really don’t know. One and all of them get my respect, from the sound dude to the camera operator to the presenter to the makeup people to the producers…a big heart felt thanks.

Sean Plunket sounds like a smoker. He sounds like he is not a bloke I might have a lot in common with. He sounds like a guy I would end up arguing with.
I reckon he is a guy who will buy me a beer, half way through that argument. He will gladly accept one in return and I think, if I saw him in that same bar a week or so later, we would be at it all over again.
A beer, a debate, even an argument.
A shake of the hand, a laugh and a smile.

To Sean Plunket….
Not sure I could have done it without ya mate. Not alone like I was.
But I didn’t have to go far to find a bit of support. I just turned on the radio. How old fashioned, how quaint.
Of course, I spoke with my wife, other members of my family, my employers and friends. People just as lost, hurt and confused as I was.
I imagine there is a someone for everyone at times like this. The days we have been through as a nation over the last week, proved just how wrong the gunman got it, just how perverse the response to an act of terror can be.
How unifying.

Now is a time for reasoning. For conversations to take place.
I needed a voice to guide me, to moderate me, to help me. As much by coincidence as anything else, Sean Plunket provided that voice.
I will never forget that, as much as the events of the 15th are indelibly printed on my brain.

Thanks

 

Summer Soundtrack

In a world where identity is constantly under question, bent by questions around gender and labels, transformed by changes in acceptable norms, is there a place anymore for individuality?

Everyone has the right to be different, has the right to be exactly who they see themselves as. It is no easy feat, being the the person you want to be, the person you are and perhaps it is that bit harder again, to be the person you wish others to see you as. Everyone forms impressions and makes judgments. Doing so gets harder, the more boundaries are shifted, but people will do it anyway.

We are conditioned by the culture we are raised in, the house we are bought up in, the education we receive, the books we read, the movies we watch and the music we listen to.
We want to fit in, want to branch out, find a new path. We want to recapture a feeling, a vibe, we want to be challenged, feel something original.
At least, that is how it always is for me and music.

I was always happy to let anything into my ears my ears didn’t object to. Pop, classical, reggae, electronica in all it’s forms, jazz and blues and soul and R&B and rock’n’roll, you name it.
I had my preferences of course, still do but I made a point of always allowing myself to be influenced by friends and family, by the radio, the television, open to advances from whatever culture or media I had access to.
As a young g fella, growing up in the South of New Zealand, Dunedin to be exact, my location as a youth was both a blessing and a hurdle.
Quite apart from being raised prior to the digital era, there was often a sense, certainly when I was young, that the ‘on-trend’ stuff was late to get to NZ, let alone find its way south. Maybe this was a perception thing but there was no doubting there was another hindrance to fully developing your own ear.
The Dunedin ‘sound’.

I was a small part of it. That sound. After the hey-day, but I made my contribution to the noise pumping out of various old pubs dotted around the ‘scene’
That recognised sound, the style and energy emanating from Dunedin, was distinctive and more than a little commercially successful. Although recognised as a ‘sound’ it was an era in New Zealand music and musicianship where there really was something new and innovative.
Even then, everything was a little bit the same, people seeking to fit the sound and scene. Seeking to find their place meant there was the chance for a bit of individuality to be expressed and there were pockets of it, heads popping up above the pulpit, doing things the same way everyone else was but doing it their way. The same, a bit like The Jam were doing in the England in the late seventies and early eighties, but different in a way Chris Knox was always going to be.

The point is, there was a clear pathway in Dunedin at the time for a musician, for a band. As a drummer, I didn’t set about re-inventing the wheel, I just went along for the ride with some like-minded guys and enjoyed every moment of it. Essentially, I hung out in rooms full of musicians and hit things.
We got to be heard by the right people, got to play in the right venues and did our thing, just like every body else. I had the feel, at times, if you didn’t adhere to that scene, be a part of the ‘sound’ in one way or another, then you were a little on the outer. Frowned upon if you were not listening to the right thing, shunned if you were too interested in anything popular or mainstream. Perhaps you weren’t quite ‘coo;’ enough. Maybe your were yet to prove yourself.

And then Nirvana.
A shift. A change. A thing all shiny and new.
I was drunk and stoned, laying in someone else’s waterbed in the wee small hours of the morning, when i first heard Nervermind.
Grunge was not new to me. I was already a fan of Pearl Jam, had heard Soundgarden and Mudhoney, was mad for Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains. Grunge existed before Nirvana and Nevermind and I knew it.
Dunedin didn’t and it was no wonder. Indulging in my tastes meant boot legged recordings, often of poor quality, meaning it was difficult to let my influences feed through to others and no one got that I wanted to drum like it was Flea making up the other part of a dream rhythm section, a whole new direction it seemed I was destined to do solo if Dunedin was where I was doing it. The Chilly who? The Peppers what?

Dunedin and her sound was individual, peculiar to the region. Time and place. Seattle was the same. All sorts of other sounds and styles were developing or changing or warping, as all kinds of other peoples did their thing. Distinctive and new or the same but different.
It filtered to you, wherever you might be, or those sounds never made their respective way through the airwaves, the radios waves or via MTV, into your ears and your consciousness.
Then boom, the digital era. The internet. Music was everywhere, from everyone and there was no excuse not to miss a thing. Or to miss out anymore on the things you had already missed out on. Confused?
In fact, thanks to modern technology and how it has changed the way we communicate, the way we educate and ‘publish’ it becomes impossible to be ignorant of new sounds and new takes on old ones.
At the end of your fingers, anyone you want to hear, doing anything audible. And yet, there is a lumping, a grouping, of artists and their efforts, which inhibits individuality, identity, the same way it did in Dunedin, but different.

Spotify. Soundcloud. Before that, think I-Tunes. A new way our music was and is presented to us. For a nominal dollar figure, you can be listening to what you like, on what you like, when you like.
And the advent of the of the ‘playlist’ means the artist becomes anonymous.

I am a bit of a nerd  or geek or whatever. I hear a song I like, on an advert, the radio, a movie soundtrack or played by someone else and if it rings my bells, I check it out. But, I don’t stop there.
What album did that song come from? When was it released? Is it recent, or something from their back-catalogue? Most importantly, what do they sound like live?
That, to my ear at least, is the true test of any bands real ability and thanks to YouTube and the likes, it isn’t hard to find out. No need to fly to exotic locations, shelling out hundreds of dollars in the process.
That is me though. Not many are like me. Bothering to troll through Wikipedia and Spotify and Google and YouTube and Facebook and whatever, just because I liked that one song you did that one time.

Sometimes I just click play. If I am feeling really adventurous, I even click shuffle.
Spotify knows what I like. Algorithms or whatever. Based on what I have already clicked, it puts together a bunch of this and that’s which takes away the necessity for me to even go to that much effort. Searching. Clicking. Listening.
The latter part I still very much do and me being me, I will stop what I am doing and look deeper, further, if my ears have been tweaked.
But, like everyone else, beer in hand, good company to left and right, that playlist becomes little more than background. Daily Mix, or whatever.

And there it is. A band, an act, and artist, become a ‘sound’. Identity stripped from them, starved of individuality.
So do the artists a favour and yourselves while you are at it. Make your own playlist.
Right here is where I was tempted to post my taste in tunes, but I think that is your job.

Mixed tape anyone?

 

 

Glaze

How much do you care?

A broad question I know. And if I am perfectly honest, I don’t have any interest in your response, if indeed you bother to. Which, undoubtedly, you won’t, whoever ‘you’ are.

The thing is, now that the internet or World Wide Web or whatever it is actually called, is well and truly established, so much so the web has become an integral and in many cases vital part of people’s lives, everyone and anyone with a keyboard or a phone or a ‘device’ has been afforded a voice.

For a long time I resisted. Not because I was concerned or worried, suckered by one conspiracy theory or another, but more because the internet simply didn’t have a strong, direct, influence on my life.
As a parent, particularly a stay at home one, and living in rural and relatively remote environment, the internet and all it has to offer has quickly become a far more prominent part of my life. But there is very little of that ‘vice’ I care about.

I like YouTube, because of the instant access it gives me to new music and comedy. I like a tune and I like a laugh. So right there, I am entertained. I like search engines. I love that I can have the answer to any and every query, right there and then and I love how easy it is to delve deep into a topic, find all sides of an argument and even join in if you so chose. So right there and then, I am informed.
What I don’t have time for is all the vitriol, all the hate, all the ignorance, ironic in itself given the wealth of information and expert opinion out there and readily available at your fingertips, and not to mention all the bad spelling. For all the wealth of information and entertainment out there, there is an equal measure of ignorance, stupidity and plain old dumbness.
All avoidable, simply stay away from comment sections. Unless you want a derisive laugh now and then.

It only takes a few minutes, less, logged onto your PC or phone or tablet or device of choice, to see all the dross permeating the internet. You need a strong and reliable personal filter not to be caught up, or worse, put off, by all the drivel clogging up your data.
Not advertising. People hosting sites and blogs and all the rest, need to be able to pay for it or are in it for financial reward in the first place. Good luck to them and it is entirely up to you what you click on.
By drivel I am really referring to poorly informed opinion. The world has always been full of it – there are many who would freely claim I am indeed ‘full of it’. People will always have their say and full credit to them for being bold enough to do so. A keyboard and a potentially unlimited audience, just makes doing so all the easier. But there are many who would have their say regardless of the advent of the internet. These are the folk who carry their own soapbox with them wherever they go, on the off chance one isn’t readily available.
You know the type; the finger waggers and pointers, the head shakers, deaf to other opinions and standpoints, ears only capable of selective hearing. It is difficult to fault the passion of people like this, but it is hard to get on-board with the pig-headed stubbornness.

And then there is the abject dross. We are supposed to care, are we, about someone’s change in diet? About their exercise routine? About their weight loss or muscle gain? Do we have to feign interest in their crafts and hobbies, their holiday’s or travels?
No, we don’t have to fake interest, because this is the internet and therefore everything and anything is as avoidable as it is accessible.

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What I do here is no different. I do not claim any ability to garner the interest of the big bad world, any more than anyone else. In fact, if you looked at the number of followers/readers I have been able to draw in, during my few short months sharing my rambled thoughts, you would see I hold an exclusivity on mass disinterest.
My blogging is of no particular relevance to anyone but me, maybe my wife and then an decreasing order of interested parties, counting through family and friends, then vague associations and those who chose to click ‘follow’ for their own purposes and agenda.

I am not here, banging away with abject futility, to inform, to engage, to enrage, to entertain or to debate the issues, big and small. At best I am offering some observations, things anyone and everyone is welcome to share in, or not, as they see fit. Cherry-picking what, when and where you delve into the world of blogging and bloggers, is the real joy of it.
For my part, if I can offer nothing more than a few moments respite from the madness of the wider world, then job done. It would be disingenuous of me to suggest I don’t care if people like what I do here, but that said, it makes little difference to me if people do or don’t. Just don’t come here looking for too much inspiration, information or facts and stats. Lower your expectations.
All I can do is hope I am not boring, but more importantly, back myself to not be dumb, stupid, ignorant, rude or offensive (although I have no control if someone chooses to be offended). If I can put a smile on your face great and better still, if I can teach or inspire, absolutely brilliant.

So, while it is too easy to glaze over at all the humdrum, the sameness and repetitiveness and anger, hype, agenda driven rants or even the measured, well articulated but plain old boring stuff, go ahead and dive right in.
Delve into the wacky and the wonderful and the outright weird. Have fun with the bloggers world.
You never know, you may learn something.

 

 

Success

Maybe a long way from what one might consider and author or writer, but the journey has finally taken its first tentative steps.

A few years ago Wifey came to me, having eavesdropped the off the cuff bedtime stories I told the children at bedtime, suggesting I write them down. Her idea was, as a stay at home Dad, I might be able to find the time to formalise the whole thing, get those random story-lines and characters onto the page and maybe, if the gods of literature and publishing smiled on me benevolently, I could make something from it.

The concept of being a paid, professional author was not necessarily the immediate idea and certainly was not something either Wifey or I envisaged would happen in a hurry. But I duly did some study, earned a qualification while learning a lot about the process, about myself, my abilities and my wants and desires. There was no way I could have known going in that the average author takes about ten years before they are published in the traditional manner; not self published or an e-book.

So the first hurdle was going to be perseverance, let alone finding my ‘voice’ and identifying a readership and all the rest. When I did sit down in front of a keyboard, what came out was unexpected and largely, unstoppable. Three or so years have gone by and I can see I will never refine what I try to do adequately, will never be fully satisfied with what I have done and will never be able to completely identify with myself as a writer.

Today is a bit different. Some strides were taken, some boxes ticked, progress made. Yes it feels good, yes it feels right and yes, it feels a little like justification, both in the belief placed in by my wife and in myself, for sticking with something, no matter how piecemeal that has to be around the kids and life and all the etc etc.

Today something I wrote was published.

As it eventuated, the finished article, for that is exactly what it was, is not remotely close to the type of thing I would have thought it would be. I wrote an opinion piece related to what I blog about here, for a website owned by a multinational multi media conglomerate. Not a novel, not a short story, not a competition winner, just a rant like so many I have punched out here. Not paid. There was an option to make a contribution so I did, as I thought I might have something to offer on the topic at hand and as it stands, so did the staff at Stuff.co.nz

So, I guess first and foremost a thanks to them and their publication. But that isn’t right is it. Thanks has to go to my Wife (yes with a capital), long suffering and all of that. She is the one who sowed the seed, pushed me in the right direction and set me up with a computer and a blog and said ‘Right (in that way only a short woman can) off ya go”. So, off I went.

And here I am. It isn’t much and is highly unlikely to lead to anything but it is one thing…a boost. It feels good. To see my smiling mug, my name on top of my work, digitally visible for all to see. My work is officially immortalised.

Okay, maybe immortality is a bit of a stretch but I will take this small success as a sign that there is something I might have of note to say now and then, that people are prepared to read it and more, might even like it, if just a little. It goes to prove too, how far a little tenacity can go, a bit of stickability. Every journey is made up of small steps and I suppose I have managed to stretch out for a moment. And if I keep coming up with cliches like that, it won’t last much longer!

Vindication? Yes. A return on promise? Maybe. Certainly a small pay back for effort and determination and paying attention and yes, a bit of self belief. Might not look like much, because it isn’t. But it means a lot.

If you are interested, the article is here to peruse. Hope you like it, don’t care if you don’t. Just wish I was flexible enough to pat myself on the back…

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/105213974/in-2018-people-still-think-its-weird-im-a-stayathome-dad

Be a Good Sport

The All Blacks play France at the Cake Tin tonight in their second test match up. Head high anyone?

Play hard and play fair. That was the message I received as a child growing up and learning various sports. I turned my hand to a lot of different options, from racket sports indoors and out, to water sports in and on, to all the others on muddy, frosty, grass paddocks with balls of numerous shapes and sizes. I learned to use my hands and feet and to hold sticks and to swing and hit and catch and pass. I never mastered any of it but a heap of fun trying.

‘Get into it’

‘Have a go’

All and any other cliched line Dad’s threw out there to encourage the gaggle of kids they were coaching to glory on chilly winter afternoons at poorly drained council recreation fields up and down the country to ‘Give it a crack’.

I didn’t then and don’t now, know what a crack is meant to be or how I was supposed to give one but I did understand the sentiment. The idea is to put some effort in, to apply yourself, to be a part of the team, to be involved and to do your best.

All of the above.

Let’s take a moment here, to thank all the Dads, giving up their own time to slog through the mud every Saturday morning, resisting the urge to yell out from the sideline shouts of encouragement, be one of ‘those’ fathers, taking his turn on the whistle, standing for an hour or so behind the stumps pretending he knows anything about the LBW rule.

And the Mum’s, forlornly hoping one day there will be an indoor sports venue in their town, one large enough to cope with multiple netball games, hordes of young girls sheltered from the worst of the elements as they spend winter afternoons and mornings dodging around in slippery courts in bibs and skirts. Think of all the bumps and bruises and scrapes and cuts and scratches. The tears and tantrums and fusses and fights. And that is just from the parents.

Thousands of kids giving it a crack. Those Mum’s and Dad’s are role models, the true ones of the sporting world. Personally, I have never felt just because someone is built athletically, can run and catch and pass, do it all at the same time, they are necessarily people we should, as parents, teachers and schools, the media, have our kids aspire to be like. Praise that sports-persons work ethic, their application and dedication and desire to succeed. Applaud the systems in place in many different sports and recreations which allow participants to reach pinnacles and peaks, to be at the top, the best in the world. So a thanks there too, for the administrators and managers and volunteers and everyone who contributes, often above and beyond, to make levels of success like that happen.

Sure, for every clap and shout out, there are going to be detractors. The good ole Kiwi tall poppy syndrome. I think we, as a nation, have gotten better. We a more prepared to celebrate success, the gold medalists and the big pay day professional contracts. It is no different for our All Blacks, the most high profile team, grouping of and individual sportspersons in this country.

Ryan Crotty took a dive. The guy should play football in Europe or South America. Or maybe take up a role on Broadway. He was way too convincing for Shortland Street. There, his antics wouldn’t look so ridiculous. Cane and Ofa made direct contact with the head of an opposition player and circumstances aside, should have been sanctioned, at least in the form of a penalty.

These are not the actions of role models. Heat of the moment stuff, ‘dynamic’ ‘fluid’ situations, call it what you will. I agree with the general consensus…It is a heavy contact sport and accidents are going to happen. There is no cheating, no intent. The All Blacks, Le Blue, the Kiwis, the Wallabies the Dallas Cowboys all play hard and fair. Some individuals, some teams, bend the rules, play to the letter of the law and the ref’s whistle and here we go with the cliches all over again…

It is how we, as kids, as teens and young adults, reinforced as senior representatives, are taught to play the game. Whatever that game may be. So I reckon, as media and avid sport fans, we need to not beat up on the rough stuff. By all means, legislate against the dangerous and the unhealthy, sort the rule books so the violent and the nasty is eliminated from the game and make it so the accidental, the reckless and careless actions are strongly discouraged. And then, move on.

Highlight too much of the bad and the ugly, you detract from the good. Participation in sport for our youth, particularly team sports, is a vital and healthy thing in society and needs to be nurtured, encouraged and given every opportunity to grow. It helps our kids do just that, grow. Think of all the bonds and friendships and good memories we can all take away from our time on the track, in the gym, on the pitch, the sideline, in the clubroom. Don’t forget to thank the ladies for the feed and honour the opposition for the half they contributed to the game.

Let’s instead show the good and the great and the excellent. Let’s not have photo after photo after video footage repeated daily via every media outlet imaginable showing forearms to the head, cracked cheekbones and swollen eye sockets. Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to want their precious little ones involved in all of that and sport will suffer for it. Not just contact sport, not just rugby or league. Kids love the crash and the bash of it and boys in particular, will find away to do it regardless of a contact sport like rugby. Bullrush anyone?

A controlled environment, with coaches and trainers and all the rest. Technique and back up and support and encouragement and praise. Show our young how to do it right, how to do it fairly. How to do it for the result. To win. Just not at all costs. Teach integrity. There is a culture in sport we cannot afford to lose.

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Show us the runaway tries, the behind the back passes, the banana kicks for touch. Tell us about the never say die attitudes, the ‘big engines’. Talk of the handshakes afterwards, the mutual respect given freely between two teams who have given there all, had a crack, played hard and fair.

And while we are at it, let’s keep our heads.

C’mon the All Blacks!!

(Last weeks performance lacked timing and there was punch missing. Where is Naholo? If not him, Laumape? Given it is the same squad, let’s see the likes of Squire running wider with a bit more room and freedom and the injection of Fifita, with the same remit, a little earlier. Expect a more attacking French outfit, their defense to be as resolute as it has been all season and the AB’s attempting to achieve the same hectic pace they started with, and stayed with, last weekend but add accuracy, timing and cohesiveness…AB’s by 12)

 

Challenge

It is a bit of an old adage. Too many people with their hands out, not enough with their hands up.

That saying is, unfortunately, typically true of far too many communities in this country, let alone the region I live in. So many people and groups asking for help, not helping themselves. What is worse, those who can’t even muster the gumption to ask.

Is that worse? I think, in many cases, there are groups, and by groups I mean pockets of Maori, Pacific Islanders and refugee communities, lower socio-econimc enclaves, who are either ignorant of, non-plussed by, or adverse to, the assistance of a government they do not believe in, have no faith in, or are blase about. Put that up against a system which is inherently uninformative, having so much to offer yet constantly finding ways to block and obfuscate, making access not only difficult but sometimes damn near impossible.

I hate using the term ‘system’. They are all broken and bent, systems, only as good/ bad or effective as the people operating them. The governments fault? The failing of their agencies and the staff and personnel, representing the offices charged with actioning policy and legislature? Sometimes, clearly, yes. Can we blame the departments and those who are cloistered within their Wellington-centric confines? Can fingers be pointed at policy, the interpretation and implementation thereof? Is the blame, the fault, if that is what we are seeking, one of funding? Is it a lack of understanding, a failing in qualification?

These are fundamental debates, base questions. While they are being asked, the people who need the result, those who require the outcome of a measured, thoughtful, complete and secure option, are missing out. Some choose to. They wish to have no part and are so entrenched in being ignored and ignoring, something like a Census, online or not, is irrelevant. Others will keep asking, keep pushing, keep agitating. All the while the masses will accept, ready to receive whatever meager offering is dropped, wafting like the light-weight measure it is, into their out-stretched hand.

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So many of our social watchdogs and commentators are guilty of it. I have respect for the Duncan Garner’s and Kanoa Lloyd’s of this world, all the others, whether I agree with them or not. Engaging, intelligent and apparently well informed television presenters. Trained, qualified and experienced people, a new breed in the wake of the Mike Hoskings and Paul Henry’s. They are charged with giving the masses something to think about. They attempted to do just that, to highlight and to question and to interpret and add feeling and provide understanding and in doing so, for me at least, offer an insight into the big failing in New Zealand and New Zealanders.

A while ago Lloyd sought to comment on the claim, snatched upon by the media, that the newly appointed National Party leader, is not Maori enough. Whatever that means. (I am not in a position to ask, let alone answer, what it means to be Maori, so will not even attempt to go there). She took her allotted minutes and tried to convince us we were, are, better off asking why so many Maori are reflected in our court systems, our prison populations and as our homeless, our drug dependents and our mentally unwell and all the rest.

At face value, good questions you might think. Picture any area in our society where it is not good for people to be and Maori are disproportionately represented. Kanoa Lloyd was simply asking why. Well Kanoa, I say save your breath.

We know the questions. They have been asked again and frustratingly again. They will always be asked. OK, fair enough, until the issues are fixed, let the Kanoa’s of this world have their space and time to ask, to agitate, to seek discourse and create debate. Good things, undoubtedly.  It is just I, for one am sick of hearing it.

The questions raised around the plight of Maori, particularly urban Maori, are not new. Should we go ahead and throw in all the rhetoric around Meth abuse too, while we sip our non label reds as the Chilean Chardonnay chills. Grab another craft beer and sit down for a chat. Grab a box of Lion red and kill the hours it takes for a day to pass when you don’t have a job, because there is no job. I can only hope, somewhere around the fifth or sixth stubby, someone says something, through a toothless grin, of import. I’ve heard all the questions before, heard why they are raised.

Now, I am privileged, which is not the right word, to be seeing it first hand, and still I am waiting to hear anyone come up with a solution. Because at the coal face there is so much more than just queries over an over inflated proportion of the prison population or registration on the dole. It is all the little grass roots stuff and at risk of sounding like I am firm believer in a ‘nanny state’, perhaps a few of the values of our grandparents era wouldn’t go astray.

Why are people buying pies and a bottle of coke for breakfast?

A sugar addiction maybe? It has been touted in the press, expanded upon by the experts. The answer being touted? Tax. Levies and fees and all the rest. Doesn’t work with smokes, so why is it going to work with sugar. Taxing sugar is tackling the problem backwards. Drop the taxes, the G.S.T on water and milk and veggies and fruit and if needed, subsidize the hell out of market gardens and orchards and all the rest, so their product reaches the shelves cheaper, making them more accessible.

I don’t really know. Maybe ban the operation of a pie warmer before the hour of 11am, so the crusty deliciousness that is one of New Zealand’s staple treats, isn’t available before lunch. Fizzy drinks cannot be cooled. You want a cold coke, you have to take it home and put it in the fridge. Not such a big effort but maybe on a hot day, you’ll reach for the bottled water instead. Take the enticing labels and packaging away from the ice-cream and the lollies and the fizzy, the same way it has been done for cigarettes.

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Subsidize gym membership for the obese, offer subscriptions to sports clubs and recreational facilities. Organised community activity days; nothing more complicated than a healthy food truck or two, selling CHEAP quality food and drink to a bunch of people kicking a ball around, throwing a frisbee, swinging a bat, building kites, fishing, surfing, dancing, riding bikes, yoga…whatever, just being active and doing so in an encouraging and nurturing environment. Even have instructors and coaches involved, paid professionals, offering experience and expertise.

Maybe these are expensive options and maybe there will be difficulties in certain communities. But where there is a problem, there is always a solution and it is the very same people in those communities who will identify those issues and solve them.

I have heard it said too often it starts with our kids, the idea if we can get them on-board, what they learn, the right things and the good things, then they take it home and the learning is passed on to their parents and wider whanau.

Bollocks. It is up to us, as parents and as adults, as councils and governments and all the agencies thereof, to make the change, shift the thinking. It is up to us to lead, show the next generation where we have gotten it so wrong and then help them be part of the fix.

I am a chubby, unfit guy. I like a beer and a pie as much as the next person. More than many. I don’t exercise and while my diet isn’t atrocious, it isn’t great either. I am lazy, look for the easy way out and can get too comfortable on the couch for long periods of time. There are four kids in this house who are fit and slim and energetic, blessed with youthful metabolisms which keep them firing on all cylinders. I could take a lot of lessons from them for sure. And I could sure as hell lead by example a lot more too.

Before I can do any of that, I need to stop asking the same questions over and over again and start providing answers. Because, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we have just as many of them, the answers, as we have questions.

A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. A good catchphrase. Healthy, happy, content and engaged people don’t end up in prison. They don’t join a dole queue. Fully functioning, supported members of society contribute and participate. Something we all need to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptance

It is a hard enough job teaching the next generation what is considered acceptable, when we still don’t know what to accept in and of ourselves.

 Sex and sexuality.

Just by  banging two words like that down, you can garner a headline or two. Start questioning gender, gender roles, take a look at something kinky or a fetish or delve into fantasy and before too long, you find you might have fired a few people up. In more ways than one.

Dominatrix and Submissives  and all that, so de riguor for a moment there, what with the Fifty Shades fixation. As tame as those portrayals were, they were at least a vessel for opening a few minds and mouths, starting conversations around cafe and dinner tables, in our main stream media, which might not have happened so readily otherwise. I succumb to the hype around that story. The fact I found it a dull, forced, passionless, prescribed read unable to drag me passed a handful of chapters, doesn’t preclude the fact it grabbed the worlds attention. Question is, did it need to?

 

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Tame and lame. Fifty Shades titillated the press and in a country like New Zealand, so open and forthright and honest and earnest on the one hand, a book like that took many things out of the bedroom and placed them firmly in the limelight. Apparently, as we were told, our eyes were being opened, our minds expanded.

One the other hand, while some New Zealanders flirted with the idea of wild, crazed, mad passionate love making, testing boundaries and opening now pathways to pleasure, others were handed a gilt-edged opportunity to huff and puff for a whole bunch of different reasons.

To many folk, topics like sex and sexuality are controversial. For all the enlightenment a country like ours displays, there is no getting passed the fact we have an aging population and with that, an inherently conservative one by modern standards. That isn’t to say the old and elderly are not as willing and capable as the next person of changing and adapting. I like to think attitudes to all manner of things ‘new’ or at least more widely and openly viewed,  are fluid. That as a supposedly better informed populace we are more open to sensible, intelligent, questioning and debate.

LGBT and what ever other labeling letters are thrown in the mixing bowl, the cake mix of life. We are handed those labels. Fed them. Perhaps some are derived directly from the communities they are intended to be descriptive of. More likely they are catchy little phrases and terms heard and leaped upon by a scribe here, a journalist there, a blogger or opinion piece writer, an internationally best selling author.

The questions and so called issues around sexuality and sex, around gender and all the rest, are deemed controversial because we are told they are. Articles and opinion pieces roll hot off the press as if they are scheduled. “Time to wind the populace up again”. A cynic might have you believe it was a deliberate attempt to divert and obfuscate. A conspiracy theorist might make you want to consider the concept of an agenda. Driven and motivated by who or what I have no idea.

The thing for me, the ‘every-man’, is I would never give these things any thought at all. Not a moment of contemplation, not a time to pause and reflect. The sexuality and the sexual practices of others has absolutley no bearing on my life, the lives of my family. Until it is force fed on a regular basis by mainstream media outlets. Paraded as such, like a winged, hairy legged fairy on Auckland’s man drag once a year.

We are told we need to accept. Told we need to be more open and tolerant, less judgmental. Quite apart from the fact it is human nature to judge the actions of others, why am I having it dictated to me what it is and isn’t I should have opinions on?

I could care less if you fancy a hook up with another woman, another man, two men, two women a whole bunch of them all carrying whips and chains and wearing masks made out of natural fibers (read leather) or slick shiny synthetics. If you like to tie people down, be tied, strangle them, tickle them, be tickled, humiliated, exposed, damn near tortured before you cast your mind back for that agreed upon safety word, then woohoo for you.

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If I am into any or all of that, or none if it, isn’t relevant to you and nor is it going to feature in any part of my life if you are. Writing it down in newspapers and flashing it across our television screens robs people, the young in particular, of the opportunity to learn, explore and develop their own thing or things, in their own time. We moan about the porn culture, then offer a softer version we are told should be socially acceptable. We tell people they are prudish and close-minded, then tell them what they should be thinking and feeling. By trying to open up everyone’s minds to the realities of what goes on, or not, behind closed doors, we are removing the mystique, the fantasy, the taboo. We are taking away the titillation and normalising all the things which apparently what set us apart. In our rush for mass acceptance, we are categorising everyone and the things they do, forming a great big lump of mild-mannered numbness.

Go mow the lawns. Wash the dishes, scrub that ring off the bathtub. Mundane tasks which allow the mind to wonder. If you end up mentally counting keys in a bowl or musing over how many colours gimp masks are available in, cool. If you are worried about the price of petrol or Myrtle Rust, that’s cool too.

I don’t care.

Neither should you. Because I told you so.