Island Life by David Slack

Envelope Opening

Just five short months after I said I'd be judging the contributions for the iPod contest, I've finally taken the time to do it. Refer to the surname if you're wondering why it might take that long.

So. Have you won an iPod? A fabulous consolation prize? Answers at the end of this blog but first, a few honourable mentions.

The object of this exercise was to compile a list of memorable dates in New Zealand's history. I wasn't necessarily looking for the most famous of moments. On the contrary, when you're trying to build a comprehensive collection, the more obscure the event, the more value it has. So thanks to everyone who nominated the Treaty of Waitangi, and well done for spotting that the judge might have a soft spot for that topic, but no iPod, sorry.

Our collective understanding of the significance of that day seems to remain somewhat loose, I'd have to say. One contributor proposed "the signing of the treaty of Waitangi" as a memorable day on the basis that "the moari's and the white people made friends, stopped fighting and taking land". Another had a more concise reason: "Because NZ got rich."

Your iPod has strong appeal to the youth market, and although I have no way to substantiate it, I'm envisioning (although trying quite hard not to make the picture too clear) a male not yet out of high school as the likely contributor of the following:

descovered pornography
porn is good
November 10, 1867

And then there were the doubters:

Still New Zealand is yet to have anything important happen in it or to it
Nothing having anything to do with New Zealand has ever been important and New Zealand probably won't ever be important

Whatever, dude. Reminds me of an old story in The Onion - Sullen Time-Traveling Teen Reports 23rd Century Sucks.

Happily, the great majority of the contributions were exactly what I was looking for, and I'm grateful to everyone who took the time to offer them. Before we get to the winner, I'll mention a few other noteworthy ones which have won the contributors a copy of Civil War and other Optimistic Predictions, with the author's compliments.

Matt Barrett gets one for nominating the day Ihug's Wood brothers,introduced flat rate dial-up to the public. While they were in the game, they truly shook up the internet industry in NZ, he says, and laments that "we are in dire need of innovation, with Telecom doing its damnedest to stop the penetration of truly high-speed broadband. "

And a copy of the book to Pat McIntosh for nominating the day TVNZ aired Peter Jackson's "Forgotten Silver" documentary about the legendary film maker Colin McKenzie. She recalls the public outrage over the fact it was a hoax and offers quotes from irate letters to the Listener, including: "Peter Jackson and his Silver Screen conspirators should be shot."

Ross Mason gets one for nominating the day Radio Hauraki began transmission in the Gulf from Tiri, and Kevin Moar for suggesting the day the first McDonald's restaurant in New Zealand opened in Porirua.

Thanks to Aaron Simperingham, the database will include the proud moment in Winston Peters career when he "punched John Banks....and got away with it by using the excuse that he was drunk! In parliament!!!"

"Try punching a teacher at school and using that excuse!!!", says Aaron, which of course is a question that is even more interesting in the political context which has developed since he submitted his entry.

A copy too, to Venetia King for nostalgically suggesting the last appearance of the Goodnight Kiwi on TV2. I miss the little guy too.

Mr Bell of the Drug Foundation had been promised a copy already, but Ross, you get it as well for nominating the time (in early 90s) at the Gluepot "when Straitjacket Fits played She Speeds after a period of not playing the song following the trashing of some Dunedin pub.

They were doing an encore, Shane walks to the mic, says "this one's called 'how to please your audience'", the song begins, marvellous. The Gluepot was pulled down soon after - but surely that's not a memorable moment.

And the last copy of the book (Civil War and Other Optimistic Predictions by David Slack 28.00, Penguin) goes to Mr John Smith, (and I'll take that name on trust) for one of the best descriptions I've read of the Bassett Road Machine Gun Murders:

Threatened by the prospect of a hand grenade being chucked into his Ponsonby beer den by a rival operator, a sly grogger and his mate got cranked up on beer, benzedrine and weed before machine gunning the rival (a seaman) and his spiv mate in the front room of a Remuera villa.

He also wins for this equally meritorious contribution, with extra marks for predicting a future that sounds completely accurate except for the very last bit:

La De Da's "How Is The Air Up There?" reaches #4 on the NZ Sales Charts.

A swaggering gang of Auckland teenagers in mod threads managed to get their second and best single into the upper reaches of the NZ charts, paving the way for more swaggering Auckland teenagers in Mod gear to do the same in 1981 (Screaming Meemees) and 2005 (the Checks). Well the last one hasn't happened yet, but you read it here first. Another prediction: The Checks will probably have a better song than "See Me Go" but not as good as "How Is The Air Up There?"

Moving on to the prizes for sheer volume, the promised CD vouchers go to:

1. Kent Atkinson

2. Terry Baucher

3. Matthew Bywater

4. Peter Clayworth

5. Keene Family

6. Andrew Llewellyn

7. Ross Mason

8. Jake Pollock

9. John Shears

10. Stephen Walker

I'm pleased to say that these winners provided not only quantity, but quality.

Peter Clayworth's contribution included mention of the deaths of 'Griff' MacLaurin and Steve Yates in the early stages of the Spanish Civil War, making them probably the first New Zealanders killed fighting against fascism.

Andrew Llewellyn contributed some of the most entertaining of all the entries, and I especially enjoyed his nomination of the night Russell Crowe was punched out by Eric Watson in the men's room at a London restaurant. "Someone had to do it," he said.

John Shears had some fascinating contributions on topics ranging from remarkable snowfalls to little-known facets of our nation's wartime exploits. Best of all, he offered this gem, which is the undisputed runner-up and wins a copy of the book to go with the CD voucher. Never mind the buzzy bee, jandal and hokey pokey nonsense that people talk when they go looking for so-called Kiwi icons. Your whitebait is what you want to focus on, son. Ask any of us more senior (ie Mr Christie's age or older) New Zealanders to recall a great experience with whitebait, and just watch the wistful expression come across our face. Here's John's one about the day he was unable to lift his whitebait net from the Clutha river because it was so full of 'bait.

My Cousin Vic who was fishing nearby came and helped me. I had to do the same for him a little later on. We were fishing on the North bank of the Clutha just above the Paretai Punt. It was school holidays. After my Aunt had served her famous Whitebait fritters (One Egg to a Pound of 'Bait) and we had all had our fill we sent the rest to the market in Dunedin in two 4 gallon cans and got threepence a pound. Those were the days.

Indeed they were.

In the end, though, there was just one entry I liked even more, and it was contributed by
Mikaere Curtis: when Te Pouihi was unveiled at New Zealand House in London by the Queen Mother.

Any Kiwi who has visited New Zealand House in Haymarket will attest to the presence and mauri of Te Pouihi. Its context - a quintessentially Maori artifact displayed in the lobby of a classically Pakeha building - is a visceral reminder of the common history shared by the inheritors of Te Tiriti O Waitangi. Ngati Ranana, the London Maori Club, refer to Te Pouihi as "te ngakau o te whare" - the heart of New Zealand House. And in this way the simple event of unveiling a truly New Zealand icon has persisted in the decades following; generations of young Kiwis on their OEs have (and will) feel the undeniable mana of Te Pouihi reminding them of their roots and the unique partnership envisaged back home. Te Pouihi is a physical utterance of a reknowned truth: being a Kiwi is *very* cool.

In Civil War, I quote Ani Mikaere in her 2004 Bruce Jesson lecture:

When travelling overseas, Pakeha leap forward to perform bastardised versions of the haka and "Pokarekare Ana", and adorn themselves with Maori pendants in an attempt to identify themselves as New Zealanders: when in Aotearoa it is often those same people who decry any assertion of Maori language and culture as a threat to their identity.

She's not wrong. Some of them even think it's a good idea to put up bullshit billboards that incite division based on willful misrepresentation. We can be better than that. One iPod to Mikaere Curtis for making that abundantly clear.

Finally, because I don't want to see anyone going away empty-handed, here's a gift for everyone else, courtesy of the entertaining people at Crikey. They write:

Ever read something in the papers that's had you scratching your head and wondering just what the reporter was trying to say? Here's a cut-out-and-keep glossary of journalistic cliches.

Here's a taste of what they have to offer:

Reportedly: we stole this bit of information

Intensely private: Not promoting anything right now

Rarely interviewed: Promoting something right now

Highbrow: boring

Family Values: right wing idiot

Progressive: left wing idiot

Couldn't be reached for comment: the reporter didn't call until after 5pm

Legendary: about to die

Click over there now and LYAO.