Tuesday, December 15, 2009


A lovely mild morning yesterday. We had the sliding doors wide open. Sunshine streamed in. Dorothy the cat plonked herself down on the step and lazed there – queen of the section and of the house. The daily tui came for its nectar fix at the abutilon bush. Summer had arrived.

Peter Jackson’s movie ‘The Lovely Bones’ had its Wellington premiere. The reviews have been mixed. The heaven scenes are too coy say some critics. That might go down well in America. My criticism of Lord of the Rings and King Kong was length. Several scenes should have been cut. I mean a battle between a dinosaur and a gorilla has only so much interest. I felt ‘have the technolgy, must use it.’ Suspect the same here.

Every now and then a voice from the past emerges to catch one by surprise. Today’s news that famous economist Paul Samuelson has died aged 94 is one such occasion. When I studied Economics I at university Samuelson was the text. To my astonishment I did well in the exam in that subject. So my economic bedrock was and is his theories. I had long confined him to an earlier era. He must have been a young man when he wrote that defining book.

A visiting scientist criticises the modern celebrity cult. ‘It’s a form of false idolatry’, he says. True! But is it new? In my youth Joe Louis, George Nepia, Clark Gable and Shirley Temple enjoyed the same cult status. Probably modern media increases the hype and certainly makes it more readily available to everyone internationally. The careers from which celebrities emerge may change but human nature tends to worship false gods. Because someone acts or sings or plays well – that does not necessarily make them good people and worthy role-models. The same can be said about intellectuals and scientists and politicians. And in the spot-light’s glare if you stumble there is a long way to fall. Tiger Woods is the obvious example at present. He is not the first man whose penis has got him into trouble. And he will not be the last. But if you are a celebrity and court the spotlight and the advertiser’s dollar you do so at your peril.

Over the years Anne and I have had some good holidays at Waiheke Island. This December time six years ago we spent a week in a friend’s apartment at Onetangi. On the far horizon was the outline of Great Barrier Island. From the deck we could watch gannets diving in the bay and sparrows nesting under the tile eaves of the neighbouring block. Pukeko strutted on the vacant section behind the apartments. We lazed on the beach, went for walks and read. Friends on the Island and from Auckland visited. We went to vineyards for wine-tasting. I watched the Australian/Indian cricket test live from Adelaide. Australia were 556 all out at the end of the first century. Ponting got a double century. But the Indian batsmen responded magnificently and eventually won a nail-biting match. School holidays had not started so in our evening strolls along the beach there were few people about - the blue flicker of TV sets in the few inhabited baches told the story of modern civilisation. While we were there Graeme Henry was appointed the new All Black coach and Saddam Hussein was captured live in Iraq.

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