I started to check my emails yesterday (yes, I do actually do that occasionally.) I have Stuff as my home page, as it's interesting to see what their lead story is: often, they'll beat even radio with the news. When the page opened, I was stunned to see that a minority sport was headlined: a sport result that might concern perhaps 30 people in this fair and green country. Apparently a team called the "Saints" had won a "Superbowl" at "Football". Grid iron. American football. I read the report, which had obviously been written by an excited 15 year old, with puzzlement. It needed translating. I nooded off, and forgot about my emails.
Implicit racism: the trailer on for the trash show "Target" wittering on about the state of our beaches. "Our beaches," bellows the voice-over, "have more rubbish that Australia's! Even - Thailand's!' Swoon, dribble, dribble. The even was shrieked hysterically. They were saying that we were even dirtier than those little brown people... and they're supposed to be dirty! That's what I heard in their tone of voice, anyway.
Hands up if, like me, you think the doofus on the Pizza Hut commercial is hugely mis-cast. He's a Ken-doll. An artifact. Someone's acid-flashback-demented idea of what one of the lads looks like. He's five years too old, twenty years too uptight, and I just bet he doesn't have an ass-hole. He's almost certainly Australian, as well. No Kiwi could be so un-cool. And he should never have been given a line that includes the word "Dude". He just can't do it. And anyway, the commercial is fatally flawed: the first guy has $5 to spend, the can't-say-dude guy wants him to accept that $13 is less than 5, dude.
Hands up if you think the commercials for the ice cream product that's "whipped for the girls" would be shrieked off the air if the roles were reversed?
And hands up if you think that the Jonkey's tax cut, when delivered, will allow you to do anything more than pay the extra GST you'll be paying? Unless, of course, you're earning more than $70,000 per annum, in which case yes, you will be able to retire some debt, save for your retirement, or go to Paris on the proceeds. If you're on $50k or less, you'll be getting screwed, just as you have been ever since we voted Blue.
Tariana's tummy-stapling's worked: she's shed 16 kilograms. Good on her. Now all they have to do is get her to say Fonganui. Of course, being a good Whanganui Maori girl, she'll do no such thing. She know's what's what, and that the National Programme people are a bunch of what-heads.
READING: Stephen (Band of Brothers) Ambrose's "Pegasus Bridge". Thoroughly enjoying it... and, what's more, I think Jenny'd like it, too... and it's a war history, bang bang explode bang!
LISTENING TO: In the car: The Beatles "Love", excellent. Right now: Jethro Tull, "Living In The Past". I swear Ian Anderson has been Britain's greatest lyricist since 1968.
TODAY'S WORD: Sacrifice. I was talking to a 90 year old Egyptian lady today. Her name is Alexandra. She was born in, yes, Alexandria. She married a Kiwi soldier during the war. She knows what this country of ours sacrificed.
In a place where death is the best, if not only, answer to most problems, there can be no room for a sane man. The Battalion had been on or near the front line in southern Belgium for over four months: four days in the front-line trenches, suffering under the never-ending tension and fear of continual shell-shot, mortar bomb, and machine-gun fire. The weather, so far, had been benign: the Battalion had arrived at the lines just as Spring was giving way to Summer, and on this part of the Front at least, the Summer had been kind. The men had heard, however, of how hard the Winter could be, and had been hard at work improving their living conditions on the Line.
Sergeant Arthur Tomlinson had bunker to himself. Sergeant Arthur Tomlinson had everything to himself. He was the last of the Battalion's specialist sharp-shooters, and he liked it that way. No cares, no responsibilities. There'd been 12 of them when they came to the Line: five had died, six were in Blighty nursing injuries, and that's they way it should stay. During those four months 23 enlisted men had been killed or wounded by German snipers. Snipers were hated. All snipers regardless of uniform, or language spoken. All the other forms of indiscriminate death were tolerated: the whizz-bangs that showered down, the minnenwerfer mortars, the sundry shells and grenades and bombs, the machine-gun fusillades that could sweep a row of men into bloody ruin an instant. They were entirely impersonal, and the men accepted them as they'd accept a run of diphtheria or dysentery. Hard facts of nature, to be borne with stoicism. But the sniper was another creature all together. The sniper's bullet wasn't random. The sniper's bullet was a reward for a moment's carelessness and stupidity. The sniper was the reaper who harvested a man's life in exchange for the folly of being momentarily inattentive.
The hatred of snipers wasn't confined to enemy marksmen: it was an even-handed disdain. Tomlinson was seen as the same embodiment of evil as the Hun sniper was. The men watched Tomlinson slither away every day, and they heard the sharp crack of his rifle, and they knew that the life of a boy similar to themselves had been added to the stook. When the sniper's rifle was heard, it was heard by servicemen in all the trenches, and all the soldiers knew that, there but for the grace of an indifferent god, they went. The sniper was a weapon of terror. The shells and mortars were the debris of an indifferent god of war.
Arthur Tomlinson was good at his job. He had survived the Basic Training at Trentham, back in New Zealand, and had helped train a cadre of what they thought were excellent sharpshooters. They left for France a dozen strong: six riflemen, six spotters. They'd lost one spotter to gangrene in Egypt. The boy had pissed a camel off, and it had bitten him. Death by dromedary. Ken Swain had been the hardest to train, resistant to Arthur's ideas. He had also been the first to die on the line. He'd been too casual in leaving his location. A German counter-sniping unit had seen him, and dropped him with a 9mm Mauser round to his belly, a bullet that scooped a kidney and a vertebra out the exit wound. Back in Trentham, they hadn't considered the thought of counter-sniping: their lack of imagination had been the cause of three deaths.