I want my own TV reality show

I want my own TV reality show. The problem is, other than sending the six year old into space in a tin foil hot air balloon to get some media coverage I’m not sure how I’ll do it. She’s too old for the faux salaciousness of something like ‘Toddlers in Tiaras’ and too young to want to marry a millionaire – and I’m not sure I really need a psychopathic son in law to complete the family picture. That didn’t work out so well for the last girl that tried to marry the rich guy, when the producers left out the bit about him being completely bonkers and also prone to killing people.

Still, it’s a growing trend to live vicariously through our children and so last year to hope that they grow up to be the best than they can be rather than – well just to grow up on TV. Because TV makes everything real – it validates us in a way that real life in all its B side incompleteness just can’t compete with. I’m thinking ….maybe a cooking show will do it. It’s not like there are enough of those around. I could send a … (what’s the collective noun for hippies? A school of fish, a kindle of kittens…), a commune of hippies to get a job at the local meat works and make them cook something tasty out of tripe. There’d be a love affair amongst the off cuts and at least one would go nuts for the ratings. I could be the deranged host – I learnt to swear in real kitchens so that won’t be a problem and I could toss lots of fresh herbs randomly at things to satisfy the Jamie Oliver fans. I could take the girl out of school and get her to cook hedgehogs in clay and reply politely to the notices from the SPCA. It’d be educational. I’d just get the Latin to cook a traditional Argentine barbeque with all his mates – the first time he did that I came home from work and thought I’d walked onto the film set of some vegetarian porn movie – half a cow was roasting on my back yard and the calculations per guest were half a kilo of meat for women and a kilo for each bloke. Now that’s entertainment.

At the end of each show I could say “Three beautiful hippies stand before me but only one will go on to be New Zealand’s next Alison Holst”. I could look deep in their eyes and ask them if ‘they really want it’ – the chequered frock and slightly queenie hairdo and a winning way with scotch eggs that is, then stand back while they claw their way to fame by being evil and duplicitous to all their new housemates. Then once we have done a complete character assassination on each person with a board of my most trusted friends – we’d send them packing and laugh at them behind their backs while they can go home to their newly developed neuroses. Yup, reality TV has so much to teach small kids and adults alike.

I’m going to go with the adventure cooking beauty pageant queen idea. Dress the six year old in a pink cowboy suit with a tiara – tie her to a chair with a thousand helium balloons with all the ingredients to cook the hedgehog in clay wherever she alights. That surely has never been done before. There was a Brazilian priest awhile ago who tried the chair and balloon thing and he was last seen floating somewhere over the Atlantic and hasn’t been heard from since. We’d be a world first.

The problem with the Balloon Boy Dad is that he didn’t take the idea far enough. If he’d been really committed he would have let his kid get in the balloon. Anything goes in reality TV land. Even compromising the lives of small children. Just show me where to sign.

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Blokes Rejoice

Blokes rejoice. Finally it’s taken a Frenchman to point out what most of us really deep down know to be a fundamental truth. Births just go better without blokes. Michel Odent a leading childbirth specialist and veteran of over 50 years of baby catching summed it up by saying that having the fathers round at the time of delivery can lead to marriage break ups and mental illness. Well I could have told him that – but it’s great to have the expert back up.

I doubt there will be many males challenging him on this one because basically – if you give them a few beers and ask them what they really think you’ll find that most are well… just not that into it. Actually – if you ask most women what they think about childbirth you’ll find that many of us are really not that into it either. My birth plan involved a complex diagram of the Whangarei hospital with an intricate tunnel system leading to a getaway car outside and a series of cartoons of me escaping my biology and therefore my destiny. The midwife must have found this obvious state of denial tedious and suggested that seeing as the belly was likely to be coming with me I should possibly think about planning the birth as opposed to silly ways of avoiding it.

In South America it’s all that much simpler. Men are banned outright from the maternity ward for their tendency to deck anyone who goes anywhere near their women’s private bits which is often unhelpful for the obstetrician especially if he is male. They also shout a lot – which is just annoying for everyone. A point I should have considered when I insisted the Latin join the ranks of thousands of kiwi blokes and be my birth partner (like it was a privilege), instead of buying a case load of cigars and sending him packing with a bunch of blokes – which would have been the sensible choice. What were we thinking letting blokes into a delivery suite in the first place? It’s not like we haven’t survived ‘man flu’ – that is where we get a sniffle and they are convinced they have pneumonic fever just to outdo us. Deep down I knew the whole birth deal had a fairly high chance of going pear shaped after the first antenatal class which, foolishly, I made the Latin attend. Unfortunately this involved a very serious woman handing out a doll to all the blokes so that they could experience the constant pressure of having to breast feed and hold a heavy baby all day. She had only just finished telling them that they were all to treat the doll as if it were their own real baby for the duration of the class, when the Latin went and threw it head first in the nearest rubbish bin/toybox and wondered (out loud but luckily in Spanish) if all kiwi men were poofters and why were they all sitting round holding dolls. I was just hoping that no one was going to call CYFS and put us on their ‘to watch’ list. The second meeting involved pain relief massage which involved all the women being on all fours with the men kneeling behind us. Destined humiliation. There are a few things that are difficult at 8 and a half months pregnant. One of them is trying to knee your birth partner in the bollocks to get him to behave himself for 5 minutes while attempting to take a massage relief session seriously. The shame of being expelled from an antenatal class in a town you’ve spent 5 minutes in with all hopes of making any social connections dashed is only just diminishing 6 years later.

Later, during the tedium of birth I had time to reflect, as the Latin paced and ranted that he felt like decking someone - anyone, and that if he ever considered having another child I was to chop off his willy and feed it to the dog - and the midwife was trying to encourage me to translate everything he said so that we could all share in this amazing and life enriching experience; that perhaps those South American midwives had got it right the first time. When it comes to birth – it might just be better if all the blokes just buggered off. I’m sure they’ll be the first to agree.

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I hope aliens arent watching us

I hope aliens aren’t watching us. Because if they are – earth is about ready to be invaded. After NASA’s effort on Friday the aliens will have figured they won’t need to bother with mass extermination or enslavement that we’ll just get rid of ourselves fairly soon leaving earth free for the taking. After all… what kind of a species puts all it’s best brains and ridiculous amounts of money into driving a very fast vehicle into a slow moving object? On purpose? And on the very day that we honour our holy priest of peace – John Lennon by naming a moon crater after him.

They will have decided that we’re either all rabid or of a primitive culture that values random acts of vandalism. Surely there is a more peaceful and less invasive way of looking for water than ramming the equivalent of 20 zillion hydro bombs or whatever it was into the side of your nearest neighbour. Don’t NASA have spades? Our intergalactic neighbours are hardly going to be shaking out the ‘welcome’ mat if water was there anyway… I mean who would want us as their neighbour?

All the crowing headlines of the NASA moon bombing being a success defy all reason – I bet the very same people who issued the press release would have the first 15 year old found tagging their back yard fence thrown in the nearest jail despite themselves being guilty of graffiti on an intergalactic scale. I’m thinking McDonalds will be planting a big ‘M’ up there very soon once they’ve signed a deal with NASA over crater naming rights. And there’s the thing… who owns the rights to the moon? Who decided it was NASA’s to play with in the first place? Maybe there is a sect of moon worshippers in Bhutan who wish for it to remain intact – I don’t remember there being any UN conference on whether or not other nations might be annoyed that NASA was going round blowing up bits of our solar system.

What would happen if in those little bits of dust were found specks of gold or bits of uranium? Apparently one asteroid alone can contain trillions of dollars worth of resources. Who owns the mining rights in space? I know NASA was only looking for water in order for us all to go and grow organic veges there but wouldn’t it be interesting if lots of valuable resources just happened to show up too? Antartica – the last frontier for international colonization has had treaties governing mining issues and preservation of the environment for over a hundred years – surely the moon should be covered too. Actually – it is. We have a few space treaties but the fifth agreement passed by the UN ‘Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and other Celestial Bodies’ was passed in 1979. This states that ‘the Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind and that the use of the moon shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries irrespective of their degree of economic development.’ Obviously the US objected. The ‘common heritage’ bit kind of got in the way of huge dividends. In the UCLA Journal of Law and Technology it is suggested that there needs to be an international regulatory board to grant licenses to mine in space to get round that common heritage clause. That’d work. Sam Dinkin on his website ‘The Space Review’ shows in one deft sentence exactly how; “The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty… we can bootstrap a private property regime by only granting a single US entity the right to exploit a certain tract on Mars. We will be expanding an American way of doing business into space.” Yay. Well – I guess it worked in Iraq with the security firms. It’s certainly worth a go.

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Farewell 3 Great Souls

We’ve lost some truly great souls over the last few months. Howard Morrison had his final curtain call and his send off became a national event. His talent as a singer was in some way eclipsed by his greater ability to cross cultural boundaries, bringing people and cultures together through his art; his funeral testimony to that. It was the first time I’ve heard a pakeha newsreader on TV one speak for so long in Maori on prime time without sounding like they’d just spent the last half hour practising and then had to madly race through it without having any idea what it meant. We seemed to be watching the first baby steps towards a genuine biculturalism.

In August, Alistair Campbell, arguably one of New Zealand’s finest poets died. Somehow it was comforting to know that the author of such great poems as ‘Wild Honey’, or, more recently ‘It’s love isn’t it?’, was still alive somewhere in New Zealand. I’d like to think that he and Baxter had a few on his arrival at wherever good poets go but also hope that his work, like Baxter’s, doesn’t get relegated to the odd NCEA exam or New Zealand anthology but instead, like the great Spanish speaking poets became part of our larger cultural heritage.
Mr. Campbell also knew a thing or two about living with different cultures. A boy from the islands, he came to Dunedin in the 1950’s to a boarding school having lost his mother at only eight. Antarctic or Himalayan survival stories fail to impress in the same way that the emotional survival story of the young Alistair does. He must have been the only Pacific Islander there, in a frigidly pakeha 1950’s world. Yet his work is infused with warmth and humanity and while he mastered the stringently academic English of his environment – his poems still manage to carry with them the na├»ve charm and lilt of the islands.

On Monday night the world lost another great soul – one perhaps who is not so well known here in New Zealand but who is being mourned all over South America and in many places in Europe. How a woman from such a poor dusty forgotten place as Tucuman in Argentina managed to record her work with everyone from Nana Mouskouri to Shakira and all the Spanish greats in between – who sold out Carnegie Hall in 2004 when she was already in her 70s and who managed to get the world’s very richest people singing poor peoples’ songs is testimony to her talent. Mercedes Sosa had a spectacular voice. I went to her come-back concert in Argentina in 1998 and watched her throw away her microphone when the sound system broke down. Instead of waiting for the technicians she carried on without it and, already ageing and in poor health her voice still filled the entire auditorium. From the cheap seats at the back her voice resonated around us until the entire audience was singing with her. She had the ability to cross cultural and class barriers and move people with the simple beauty of her art.

There are two excellent reasons to learn Spanish – one is Pablo’ Neruda’s poetry, the other would definitely be Mercedes Sosa’s songs. Exiled from Argentina in the 70’s after she was arrested on stage during a concert at a time when many artists were killed for protesting against the military regime of the times, she could have become one of the more than 30,000 ‘disappeared’. Instead, from the living death of exile her renditions of songs like ‘Como le pido a dios’(I only ask of God) and ‘Como la cigarra’ (Like the Cicada) became left wing hymns for whole nations in what must have seemed like a never ending struggle against oppression. They also became personal rallying calls long after the civil wars had finished, helping get people through their own hard times. ‘Gracias a la Vida’ her song thanking life itself for all the good simple pleasures is one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry ever sung. Gracias Negra – I truly loved your work.

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