Cracker by Damian Christie


Do real Afghans have walnuts on them?

If things have been a bit quiet of late here at Cracker HQ, it's not because there's been nothing going on. Quite the opposite in fact – for the past few weeks I have been busily planning my super-secret overseas excursion.

Well, when I say super-secret, there probably aren't too many people at the Matterhorn who haven't at some point heard me slur the phrase "Yessir, I'm going to Afghanistan and it's very dangerous and I might die and I'm so incredibly brave would you like to buy me a drink? (hic)".

What's made my super-secret trip all the more exciting is that the second country I am now visiting, after Afghanistan, has recently declared itself to be a state of emergency. Pakistan is now In The News, and in this far flung parochial paradise, if anything from abroad gets itself into the first fifteen minutes of the nightly 6pm bulletin, you know it's Big News.

Of course this has all meant a deal of uncertainty regarding my travel plans, and even led to me uttering completely without irony the phrase "well if things get too dangerous in Pakistan I can just hole up for a bit in Afghanistan where it's safe." But despite MFAT travel advisories suggesting that there's no good reason on earth why I should willingly head in that general direction at the moment, I reckon I'll be okay.

Either way, I'm incredibly brave.

I will of course be blogging as much as possible, and the various things I hope to achieve while overseas will emerge in due course. Suffice to say I'm not going there for work – although if things get hot enough you might just hear from Our Man on the Ground in Karachi.

My departure seems to have approached so suddenly – it dawned on me only today that next weekend, I'll be in Kabul. I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm sure it'll be a lot different from the weekend just gone, when I went to a brilliant gig by the Phoenix Foundation (brilliant, although they do need to know when to play their last song, and end on a high, rather than bashing out a few more low key numbers simply because the crowd keep asking for more…), and probably a lot less boozy than my last weekend in NZ, when I will be heading over the hill to Toast Martinborough.

Normally I'd ask for travel tips, so if on the off-chance anyone has been to Kabul of late and can recommend any hot nightspots or local bands (Graham Reid, I'm looking in your direction), or likewise in Karachi or Lahore, hit the feedback button below.

Does anyone else find the Erin Brockovich ads for Noel Leeming annoying and cynical to the extreme?

Yeah yeah it's great that a New Zealand company is getting in behind a charity, but why did they only launch their sponsorship of Habitat for Humanity at the same time as the multi-media advertising campaign crowing about how great they are for making such a contribution? Oh that's right, because otherwise no-one would have known what an amazingly altruistic company Noel Leeming is.

I'd love to know how much a massive media campaign like this would cost –including shooting in LA and whatever Ms Brockovich got paid– compared to how much Noel Leeming is giving to Habitat for Humanity.

And is Brockovich's favourite movie really the appallingly schmultzy 'Pay it Forward', or is that just a convenient way to point out that Noel Leeming does a lot of great work for charity (but doesn't like to talk about it)? Given how Brockovich is happy to sell out to a New Zealand electronics retailer, perhaps her favourite movie should be that other Julia Roberts film, the one with Richard Gere… what's it called?

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