Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

A three week break is only days old, Christmas in the morning, the Boxing Day test to follow. The youngest is more excited about Christmas than any previous year. She is convinced by the Santa-myth, Judeo-Christian or FMCG, and I'm certainly not going to spoil her fun. Family are relaxed, lunch organised, the forecast good. Friends will soon arrive from various parts, some close, others from afar. This feels like the makings of a great Christmas.

I thought about joining a Christmas Mass. Something simple and intended mostly for the kids. Bedtime's been dominated by carols this last few weeks and I need the refresher. Not being a regular church-goer however, I'm not sure where's best. Instead I've spun Lennon's And so this is Christmas a few times. It's long been our family tradition - many others' too.

I miss New Zealand. Russell Brown's mob are twittering about Tui, Kereru, Hot Water Beach, Piha, Te Anau and Pohutukawa. I have such vivid memories of the northern hill side of Mount Victoria, Wellington, drapped in crimson flowers circa 1995/6. More memories of the first Tui starting to venture out from Karori Wildlife centre all the way to Brooklyn in 2000/01 (I think it was the Kowhai that attracted them).

I'd've loved a lengthy trip away, even just down the South Coast but we left it too late. Day trips and possibly a weekend will suffice and Sydney without traffic has plenty to offer.

I'll avoid the usual round-ups, I might do a sort of summary in the new year. In the meantime, I wish all a great Christmas. A safe Christmas. A break that rejuvenates you and permits relief from your watch, your emails, meetings and deadlines. The occassion of a new year means less and less except for that break in between and the chance to relax with family - even those not so near.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

History is written by the victors

The tide has turned in almost every economy, NZ's perhaps more so because of its dependence on a narrow range of commodity exports and its small domestic economy. The reversal will not wipe away the gains of the last decade, but employment, trade and overall productivity are in decline as has been thoroughly commented on. Does this, however, justify the broad claims made in the Speech from the Throne? That the last decade was merely a wasted opportunity? Clearly not, the rhetoric is overblown, particularly for regally-endorsed speech. Nevertheless, Key's win gives him the right to script such events just like Clark's did in '99, 2002 and '05 (however I'd argue none of Clark's speeches included commentary comparable with Key's, not even the '99 speech).

It's a bit pointless to rate Key's speech. Save for the significant ommission of plans to urgently remove protections from an estimated 100,000 workers, it contains no real surprises. The focus is predictably on first stablising the economy then growing it. Laudable goals, almost apolitical absent the details. What specific plans the speech does contain are really no more detailed than the various pre-election announcements; for this reason alone I think it's a poor effort.

The policy prescription outlined is as othordox as it could be - perhaps too much so for ACT. Reducing personal tax rates, investing in infrastructure development, deregulation (particularly in Industrial Relations and resource management) and various vague trade goals. I note the absence of any mention of migration - what ever happened to John's ambitious plans to bring kiwis home? Silent.

Paul Keating famously observed (circa 1996) that when you change the government, you change the country. By the end of the year, this will at least be true for 100,000 workers. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Crowdies play Sydney

Having initially missed out on tickets for Crowded House's gig in Sydney, I was pleased to pick some up on Ebay at only a small premium on the face-value. I'm now clutching two tickets to the gig at the Enmore and enjoying their latest release - Time on Earth.

I've long been a Crowdies tragic. When Split Enz broke up, I simply transfered my affections to any and all of its offspring, but particularly to Neil Finn. I first saw Crowded House in Hamilton in 1990 (or '91). They were supported then, as they will be tonight, by Don McGlashan (then early in the formation of the Muttonbirds). I've seen them several times since but I didn't see their Farewell to the World gig in Sydney (1996). I regret that as I had the dosh having decided not to move to the UK. I bought a good suit instead - it was a great suit, but I wish now I'd jumped on a plane.

Like any fan, I was upset by Paul Hester's suicide. His larrikanism has been much commented on. It was a major part of the way the band performed. I wonder what they'll be like without him, without his cheek to balance Finn's intensity? I remember seeing Crowded House in New Plymouth in '94. It was an afternoon gig in a football field. Half way through the show, Paul insisted on a race around the crowd. Two races in fact, one for kids, one for adults. He called it as if it were a thoroughbred race. It felt like some sort of Christmas holiday camp activity day.

There'll be a singalong, there always is, it's a Enz tradition the Crowdies have kept up. I'll post a review of the gig for anyone who's interested. It'll be positive, almost certainly, and free of any pretense of objectivity. The only risk is that they don't play my cluster of favourites, but if McGlashan sings There is No Depression in New Zealand, well that'd be just grand.