Hard News by Russell Brown

Back through

A police pipe band, footfalls locked to the spare beat of a snare, bisects a line of happy Asians, who clutch long incense sticks as they wait to pay tribute to the giant buddha whose stage fills one side of Aotea Square. On the other side, a group of expatriate Iraqis is staging a protest march down Queen Street, banners and Iraqi flags held high. They're unhappy with America, and you can't really blame them.

I saw some Iraqi teenage girls gathering before the march set off, and I was struck by how much they had the look and the body language of any teenage girls; just with headscarves.

There are rows of stalls selling special Buddha's Day food and drinks, and, in the square's northwest corner, twin queues stretch back from the entrance to Armageddon Pulp Expo, which showcases the cultures of comics, video games, fantasy and sci-fi. Ours is a city that never quite knows where its centre is, but one that, on any Sunday, just sort of happens.

We've come back to Aramgeddon after a not-entirely satisfactory experience the day before; inside was a scrum and it was hard for the kids to get their hands on anything. Today, Leo finally gets to play Halo on a big, bitchin' G5. The action is also mirrored on a big screen behind him, and he gives a running commentary to the small crowd of boys that gathers around him. The trade in information is one of the major forms of social organisation for modern boys.

Downstairs, Fiona's buying the last three issues of Dharma Punks, from Ant Sang, who has the air of one of his characters about him (ditto for Dylan Horrocks, actually). While her back is turned, John Rhys Davies and a minder pass, gently making their way through. Mr Rhys Davies places his hand on Jimmy's shoulder as he makes his way through. I point out to Jimmy what has just taken place: touched by the hand of Gimli! He's amazed, although possibly not as awestruck as the day before, when he saw Dana from Studio 2. I think he likes her …

The night before, we're at The Classic for the second Dimmer show of the weekend. The little venue is sold out: no chairs and tables, everybody dancing. Yeah, I know, we're running the ads on Public Address, and we had the guest blog, but I've been watching Shayne Carter make music for more than 20 years, and I don't think I've ever seen him more in command of what he's doing. And he's clearly pretty happy about it too.

Anika Moa has stepped up from album guest to - for this tour anyway - band member. Could she stay? Her voice and occasional guitar playing add a lot to Dimmer, filling out the sound and meshing with the supple, funky sound of the new incarnation. Bic Runga joins her for a while, and then Shayne throws all his residual rock instincts into a jet-engine version of 'Seed' (a song about fucking and trying not to come) that seems to surge and blast on for fully 20 minutes. An encore follows, it's over, and still people are clapping and cheering. Wow.

I do wonder if this could be sustained through a crappy PA system on a Thursday night in Timaru - there's no pub rock about it - but by the same token it's easy to see the whole new Dimmer show expanding, with a real horn section and a big concert stage. Dimmer has been through a variety of live incarnations, not all of them effective or in tune with the recordings, but I think Shayne has really cracked it now. He's like the veteran midfielder who just understands the game and is good enough to play it his way and enjoy himself while he's at it.

Friday night isn't so good. In fact, it's awful. We sit in the ASB stand at Eden Park watching the Blues disintegrate into a rabble. Certainly, the almost immediate loss to injury of Rockocoko and Gibson doesn't help the composure, and then Carlos is smashed in a tackle and stays down for seven long minutes. But the lack of joint purpose and commitment is staggering. The Stormers score five tries in 12 minutes and it's all over.

We leave 10 minutes before full time, along with a few thousand others. What a bloody debacle. As we walk up Sandringham Road, I call Big Gay Paul and tell him its all the fault of gay marriage, homosexual law reform and a general collapse of community institutions and standards. Those poofs have a lot to answer for. He says he'll text me later if he's up to anything.

PS: My producer Damien Lay has kindly provided a transcript of last Wednesday's radio interview with Bruce Logan of the Maxim Institute. The audio from the interview is also available online in MP3 form. My examination last week of Logan's false claim that "a whole raft of social indicators … are in freefall" in New Zealand is here.

PPS: Someone has just forwarded me an email from Maxim member Stephen D. Taylor which is doing the rounds. It's addressed to Tim Barnett MP, who Taylor said last week in a letter to the Herald should be "put down" like a rabid dog. It's headed 'A not so gentle reminder' and it reads: "The NZ Herald may have been forced into an apology Timmy, but Hell itself will freeze over before you hear one from me." I find it strange that a man who trumpets his moral leadership in the nation's newspapers should be so intent on behaving like a nasty little thug ...