Cracker by Damian Christie

Dollar Mixture

Just a few bits and pieces today I’ve been mulling over, for what it’s worth.

First, something that’s been on my mind for a couple of weeks. Don’t try and read anything into it, it’s not a metaphor. It’s not an analogy, and there’s no moral to it. It just is.

I’ve been surprised how many people out there can’t tell the difference between a boy sparrow and a girl sparrow. Obviously as children, you all had more interesting lives than me. If you do know, then just read on, but from anecdotal evidence (you know, the sort they use for Sunday Star Times polls) you’re in the minority.

It’s pretty simple, and while it won’t radically change your life, I feel mine is just that Little Bit Better for knowing. It means I can discriminate on the basis of gender when I’m throwing bread crumbs around. Okay, I guess that says more about me than it does about sparrows, but regardless. You can also say “come here little fella”, or “how d’ya like that bread little missy” with a degree of certainty. Small things, small minds perhaps, but try it and see if you agree.

Boy sparrows are the ones with black bibs. Girl sparrows are the ones without. Here’s a picture of the two, although it’s pretty obvious when you look.

Good to have that off my chest.

I was reading last week’s Independent this week (again, says more about me…) and found something that amused me slightly, albeit in a despairing sort of way. Under the headline “ACT opts for independence”, Richard Prebble is quoted as saying “Maori culture plays a vital role in defining New Zealand as a nation, with films such as Whale Rider.”

A couple of weeks back I made a call about Don Brash’s speech, inferring he’d quite like it if the role of Maori in Aotearoa/New Zealand was limited to posing for photos with tourists and greeting rockstars at the airport. It seems Prebble is in agreement.

I should mention that last Thursday, before Waitangi Day, I interviewed the Maori Affairs spokespeople for National, Act, United Future and the Greens. Labour’s Parekura Horomia wasn’t available – quelle surprise, as he never is – but this time he had a believable excuse, being on a marae somewhere out of range. The Progressives don’t have one (a Maori Affairs spokesperson), not even outside of Parliament, and NZ First’s Pita Paraone didn’t get back to us.

Faced with names like Gerry Brownlee, Stephen Franks and Murray Smith, I was glad I’d boned up on my Maori pronunciation. However, I was more interested in what they had to say, how they kept up with Maori issues, and what their policies were than the colour of their skin. Finishing up each interview, I asked a couple of questions relating to Maori history. I assured them it wasn’t a stitch-up, nor some circus, I was merely interested in their knowledge of the portfolio. Brownlee wasn’t having a bar of it, sounded pissed off, didn’t know the answers to the questions, and didn’t even attempt to offer an “I’ve only been in this job two days, but I’m learning” explanation.

The winners, first equal, were Act's Stephen Franks and Metiria Turei of the Greens. Franks seemed to know his stuff, which to me only makes Act’s position on Maori Affairs even more disappointing. Murray Smith from United Future scored one from two, but what was more interesting was hearing him talk about United’s position on Maori affairs. I won’t go into details, but it all seemed very sensible, a good middle ground between Labour’s perceived excesses and the destructive policies of the parties of the right. United and their common sense solutions – when will they stop being so damned reasonable!

(What were the questions you ask? – Which article of the Treaty explicitly grants Maori “all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects” (the Third) and “Which Act passed in 1908 oppressed Maori” (The Tohunga Suppression Act, which effectively prevented Maori having their own religion)).

Finally, a plug for a mate of mine, but one that fully deserves the publicity – starting this February 27th is the Cinema Circus, a series of films screened in various beautiful locations outdoors around Auckland and the North Island. It begins with a couple of drive-ins, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Faster Pussycat Kill Kill – real date flicks! Check out the site for a schedule and bookings.