Naked in Nuhaka: The Pursuit Of Happiness
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
ARE WE HAPPY YET? Today - unless you're a homophobe, a xenophobe, or a smelly smoker - New Zealanders have got quite a bit to be cheery about.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants go smoke free, and all of a sudden non-smokers can go out for a fun night and not come home reeking of nicotine and numerous unlisted burnt chemicals.(1) Our gay and lesbian populace can start planning those summer weddings (oops, I mean "civil union ceremonies"), which no doubt gives wedding planners, florists, caterers, champagne merchants, and cake decorators something to be happy about. And all their friends can look forward to blinging up for the aforementioned ceremonies and not coming home with their expensive outfits soiled by smoke.
Tonight, Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui is released on bail, following today's high court ruling in his favour. The coterie of staunch activist supporters - not least of all Green MP Keith Locke - who stood by Mr. Zaoui over his past two years in prison can celebrate and feel that their important efforts have actually resulted in a commonsense and humane outcome. Much as the Green movement cheered when a commonsense decision was made to quit Project Aqua on the Waitaki River earlier this year. Both decisions are signals of a maturing society, that the activist efforts of average New Zealanders in the 1960s and 1970s meant something, and are now being integrated into day-to-day political and judicial decision making processes.
Another reason to be happy is the release of bro' Town on DVD, just in time for Christmas. Wow, the entire first season, on one DVD box set (2). The creators of the "Polynesian Simpsons" (Oscar Kightley and the crew from stage show "Naked Samoans") created an indigenous animated ratings success for TV3, all with the goal of putting a lens up to ourselves and letting Kiwis laugh, warts and all, at who we are. The focus of the story was a South Auckland Polynesian community, with fascinating side jaunts to Asia and the East Coast (the classic "Jeff the Maori" episode). It was telling that guest voices included Prime Minister Helen Clark, Lucy Lawless, Stacey Jones and John Campbell; mainstream voices in a fairly edgy and offbeat animated comedy. Kiwi is cool.
Kiwi cool was pretty much confirmed last month when I heard Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey relate how "Eating Media Lunch" is weekly "the day after" water cooler conversation for he and his staff. Really? Yes, really. MP Maharey was at the NZ film conference, as was Oscar Kightley. Oscar showed us his NZ On Air pitch video for bro' Town. In the pitch, unanimated brothers Vale and Valea have a good korero about what their proposed show will be about, before they realise "Hey, we can't move!". "NZ On Air, please bring us to life," they pleaded. It was hilarious, and the brothers closed their pitch with a serious message about how the show would give the country a laugh in troubled times, and bring communities together. And, not entirely surprisingly, it worked, they did, and our beloved Enzed godzone is all the better for it. Teary eyed stuff.
We've got bro' Town to be happy for, and we've also now got indigenous music channel C4 and (at long last) Maori Television to entertain us. C4 is always a good watch, to catch the latest Scribe vid that's climbed to the top of the charts, or trip out on the "Flashbacks" show bustling with select shots from that golden age of music video: the 1980s! I've become an avid fan of "Mika Live" on Maori TV after watching last week's episode with NZ Idol finalist Luke Whaanga and Merepeka Raukawa Tait. I also really enjoy catching the soap content of "Korero Mai", also on Maori TV. "Akina" revolves around a group of young Maori making their way in the big city whilst holding on to their Maori-ness and getting involved in various professional, political and emotional entanglements (Mtv - make it a weekly soap, please!).
Have I forgotten to mention that Paul Holmes no longer helms the ship at TV One? Is it okay to be happy about that? It was pretty clear following our media maven's description of Kofi Annan as a "cheeky darkie" last year that the writing was on the wall for Paul. Now he's at Oz clone "Prime" (the austere version of Australia's Channel 9) which is amping up to be a serious contender to TV2 and TV3 (read: more reality shows, game shows and expensive "CSI" type crime dramas). Me, I might graze the odd pinch of Prime, but its C4 and Maori that I'm more interested in checking out more. (Mtv, bring back those obscure South American art films on Sunday night!)
Out on the Net, Public Address (3) grows from strength to strength, though some think Russell Brown is getting a bit overexposed (A profile in the Listener? Like, isn't he a columnist there, too?). Russell's best writing is easily found in the easy flow and honest banter of his weblog ("I listened to my iPod on the Paraparaumu line"; classic). The "Guest Speaker" slot has included such diverse writers as Keri Hulme, Ahmed Zaoui, Pat Snedden, the Rt Rev Richard Randerson, and (ahem) me (4). Russell's added the great "NZ Argument" with classic and obscure New Zealand essays and speeches that kicked off with PM David Lange's nuclear weapons debate speech at Oxford Union 1985 ("...I can smell the uranium on your breath," indeed!) and has juggled around his range of contributors, who are settling in nicely (Fiona shines for tv addicts).
Of course, Public Address was a finalist in the weblog category of the 2004 Netguide awards (it won in 2003), but intriguingly this year's award went to a dude in Hamilton posing as a litchick in Wellington. bizgirl.blogspot.com was described by the judges as a bit like a "New Zealand version of the Bridget Jones's Diary." It wasn't until the awards ceremony that Biz Girl was revealed to be a very male writer located "somewhere south of the Bombay Hills".
Mr. BizGirl, "came out" on a weblogs themed item on TV1 arts show Frontseat last month, as did Mr. Russell Brown, Ms. Deborah Hill-Cone (NBR journalist), and, ahem, yours truly, Mr. Leo Koziol "tucked away in Nuhaka." Frontseat's press release described all of us as "ordinary, everyday Kiwis who hang their washing out on the internet through their various web-logs."
I looked like a Mallowpuff on the telly. They say television adds on the pounds, but was that really the same fellow that I see in the mirror each day? I must ban Oslers meat pies from my diet forthwith. I did appreciate my rather dark East Coast tan; I do vaguely recall the sun started shining here in August, the result being a me that actually looks quite native (like, I am, right?). On reflection, the process of seeing yourself on national television for the first time does tend to do something to the psyche. Something to see, digest, and then move on from. Yes, move on from...
Luckily my cat, cows, clothesline and carwreck strewn paddocks stole the show, leaving me the subject of only the briefest of snippets on air. I liked the rest of the piece, and Russell's spot at Grey Lynn Bowling Club was kitschy cool, to say the least. Reason to be happy? It's nice to see the world of weblogging get some coverage on the telly, and its nice to see the Aotearoa mediaverse evolving beyond the shackles of the media magnates into the brave new world of the blog. And it was, if I don't say so myself, nice to cop a little bit of that recognition on the telly. Thanks, Frontseat. Shout outs to ya, Jeremy!
So are we happy yet?
Well, there was the little matter of a national hikoi over the foreshore and seabed legislation, all post Don "Bash" Brash ripping the nation apart with his Orewa speech. "Its actually quite nice having you Maoris here", or something along those lines. Hmmm. Thanks, Don. Then there was the Destiny Church "Enough is Enough" march down Lambton Quay, a bizzare reality remix of the hikoi four months previous. Something Karl Marx said...
We can all not be happy that George W. got in for another four years. Me; I kind of accepted his return as a bit of a fait accomplit; hey, all that protest noise from Green Day and Eminem wouldn't sound anywhere near as exciting with the Dems at the helm. American Idiot, indeed. And where would we be without looking forward to Michael Moore's next big blockbuster? Oscars sweep, I say!
Same for John Howard in Australia. No surprises there. Lets hope our Te Puni Kokiri (TPK) doesn't go the same way as their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Commission (ATSIC), which was abolished this year and replaced by a "tribal council". Very "Survivor".
I was happy to see muesli magnate Dick Hubbard win the Mayoralty in Auckland, so hopefully our biggest burg won't necessarily be destined to be lost in the land of the Jafas (4). Here on the East Coast we're all pretty happy with the stability of having all the same Mayors; Meng Foon got back in in Gisborne (the only Maori speaking Asian Mayor in the world, methinks?) and Les Probert got back in here in Wairoa. My Mum didn't get back on to the Council (she came 9th out of 20) but that's okay as she's much too busy helping plan our family reunion and the Wairoa Maori Film Festival. (5)
I'm happy, I think. I guess living here in Nuhaka I've managed to dig out a niche where I can live and reconcile my varying personae - liberal, green-ish, Maori, alternative and bourgeois bohemian (6) - and create a space - literally and virtually - for something resembling integration to occur. I've enjoyed writing Naked in Nuhaka for the past two years, and have been inspired by the numerous reader responses from Aotearoa and around the world. Thanks, guys (blush).
If I've presented New Zealand as a beacon of hope and wisdom in a global age of uncertainty (7), then I think that's a good thing. And the more I monitor the media, and the world, the more my suspicions seem confirmed. I end with a quote from today's New Zealand Herald.
Under the headline of "Dreamy NZ opting out" (8) the article described how a panel at a conference on international security in Wellington bemoaned New Zealand as courting irrelevance by opting for a nuclear free stance and choosing minimal defence spending. But the overall prognosis actually didn't seem negative. Indeed, it seemed to set out an agenda worth both promoting and celebrating:
"New Zealand has special access others may not have. They are not seen as threatening, therefore as diplomats and envoys they have a very special niche that others cannot occupy. Quiet diplomacy could be a special role for New Zealand."
Quiet diplomacy by leading by doing. Much as occured today, with some important and positive events in an important and eventful year.
Make the change you want to see happen
(4) http://www.publicaddress.net/default,1421.sm - thanks Russell!
(6) See "Bobos in Paradise" by David Brooks.
ABOUT NAKED IN NUHAKA Leo Koziol (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes essays on ecology, identity, culture and place in Aotearoa NZ in the 21st Century. Nuhaka is located on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.