Hard News by Russell Brown



One News has a mobile phone video shot in what looks like a Pak 'n' Save minutes after last night's earthquake in Gisborne. As people pick through the debris wondering what the hell happened, the PA system crackles into life: "Could we have a checkout operator please … we've still got customers to clear here."

I'm not sure where the checkout operators had gone, but clearly, a mere convulsion of the earth itself was not about to be allowed to interrupt the flow of commerce.

The citizen journalism that accompanies all modern calamity was present last night, if in mild measure. The Trade Me forums -- always a good place to check for chatter -- launched a thread 18 minutes after the quake struck, with reports coming in from all over the place, including Auckland, where two people claimed to have felt it. Not me, I'm afraid. I called our friends in Wellington and it was news to them too.

Tony Hughes at Geekzone posted the news and got some great reader reports in his comments. I liked the one that starts: "Have i got a story to tell you, well i was playing guitar hero 3 with my cousin and we were on the last level -teardrop- man we were rocking and then that's when the rolling part started ..."

The Geonet page for the quake even shows a little wriggle way down in South Westland, which was fairly swiftly confirmed in the Herald's Reader Reports by Keri Hulme.

Given the size of the quake and the degree of damage to some building's it's a mercy that no one was badly hurt. Although the Soho bar depicted in reader photos being published by the Herald appears to have lost its top shelf in spectacular fashion.

On the other hand, here's something to bring you right down for the festive season. On Morning Report today Larry Baldock said that he and his swivel-eyed pro-hitting friends have enough signatures for a CIR on repealing the Child Discipline Bill, to be held along with the general election. Can you imagine the crap we'll have to endure there? The hysterical advertising campaigns from the deep pockets of Family First?

Things might get a bit bumpy all round, with the appearance of court of people charged subsequent to the October 15 police raids. We can also look forward to more crazy talk from EFA opponents, who will try breach the new laws as we run up to the election itself.

Speaking of which (hat tip: No Right Turn): has the Herald now gone completely mad? Today's attack on democracy is, um, the traditional practice of MPs sending out Christmas cards, funded from an electorate budget provided to cover such things as communicating with constituents. The Herald story appears to suggest that the offence is compounded by Phil Goff and Rodney Hide including contact details for their electorate offices in their cards. Somebody needs a holiday.

But enough of that. And while there may be further communications before Tuesday, now is a good time for me to wish all Public Address readers a Merry Christmas, however you and your loved ones may choose to celebrate it.

Our family had a good year this year, after a pretty difficult 2006, and I'm still marvelling at the kindness shown by everyone involved with the fundraiser for our children earlier in the year, which also resulted in the creation of the humans website. We still haven't quite sorted out where Leo belongs, but Jim's doing well in the mainstream and picked up a good haul of NCEA credits. Their respectively unique experiences of the world are instructive to everyone who comes into contact with them. And Fiona is well.

I have some plans to refresh Public Address in the new year, including bringing some voices out of the discussions here, where I still think are the best of their kind in New Zealand. I'm delighted with the reception for Emma Hart's guest post, and with the quality of her writing. Be assured that you'll hear from her and others again. I'm grateful to all our regular bloggers, to CactusLab, and to everyone who has come here and made this site what it is. I also have a Big New Thing coming up in 08, but I can't tell you about that yet.

So, to conclude … the last time I saw a dear old friend (I originally typed "dear old fiend", and that works too) I thought that he wasn't in a very good way. It turned out he wasn't in a good way at all, and although things have quickly improved for him, I realised that I could have done more, sooner. It was a good lesson, and perhaps the right one to conclude with here. Have a great Christmas and a fine summer -- and just keep an eye on the people you love.

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