Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Another year on earth

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  • Russell Brown,

    There's something I did three months ago – a discussion of the possibilities and implications of CRISPR gene-editing for Auckland Museum's LATE series – that I was really proud of.

    It finally played yesterday afternoon on RNZ and you can listen to it here. I'm also stoked that someone transcribed the discussion and made a story out of it!

    I was also really happy with my story for Canvas on the emerging credibility of psychedelic therapy. You need your editor on board to do unusual stories like this and I'm madly grateful to Canvas editor Sarah Daniell for the chance.

    I think my story for Matters of Substance on the nature of a good question for the cannabis referendum helped that debate in a material way.

    And my interview with Lifewise CEO Moira Lawler, originally conducted for another feature that didn't go ahead, ended up standing strongly on its own. What Lifewise does is kindness in practical action.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Thank you, Russell, for this lovely, reflective piece. I am one of those folk who have drifted away from PA; an occasional visitor rather than the avid daily reader of those halcyon days of 4-5 years ago. I miss the Great Blend get-togethers and MediaTake.
    I guess, like others, I been distracted by those forms of SM which demand less thought and reflection—damn you, Instagram! But there are occasions when they serve a great purpose, For example, the community created by Peter Wells—very personal commentaries about his cancer treatment.
    But I share your anxiety about financial uncertainty; a year into so-called retirement (I rail against that word!), when a very generous university salary has diminished to bugger-all generates doubt. Should I buy that expensive concert ticket? Should I contine to go to films once or twice a week? Should I do more unpaid work? But this is tempered by the knowledge that for many people in Aotearoa, there are more immediate questions, such ‘How can I feed my children? How can I buy them new shoes? But at least we have a government who is beginning to listen to them.

    nga mihi nui

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report

  • Geoff Lealand,

    On another matter, the little film I have endeavouring to get seen by as many people as possible is now available on NZ On Screen: The Reel People of New Zealand (Nick Homler, 2017), It is a homage to independent cinemas around NZ—the people who run them and the people who go to them—as seen through the eyes of a young American film-maker. People seem to love it, even those Aussies when I took it to Sydney a couple of months ago.
    Whilst these rainy days persist, do take a look ...

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report

  • Neil,

    It feels like there has been a new, sharper, more polarised kind of argument abroad in recent years...

    That’s my impression as well. Hard to quantasize but it seems to keep growing. A lot of it appears designed to just destroy debate and promote bitterness which works in favour of authoritarians. A bit like drones at an airport, there doesn’t need to be many to cause huge disruption.

    Since Nov 2016 • 382 posts Report

  • Robert Harvey,

    Concur with Geoff Lealand's praise for this column -- reading it, was (temporarily) stricken that it might be valedictory, but thank kindness, not. I don't FB or Tweet, but browse, and Firefox opens with the following sites:
    1 Metservice, 2 XKCD, 3 Alex, 4 PA, 5 Werewolf, 6 SoylentNews 7 Slashdot.
    All I want to know of what's happening is contained therein. Thank you, Bob.

    Westmere • Since Nov 2006 • 66 posts Report

  • Hebe,

    Ah Russell, arohanui to you and yours. I had not put together how hard the year has been overall for you. I was rapt to see a Newsroom piece praising you this week: it’s much deserved and well overdue.
    And the music: The Beths! Marlon Williams geeking on the beach at South Brighton!
    Lovely writing.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report

  • nzlemming,

    Thank you Russell, for what you give to us and enable us to give. Like Geoff, I miss the meaty stuff we used to feed on, but I know from experience that you can only go like that for so long. I'm pleased to have been a part of it.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2937 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    very personal commentaries about his cancer treatment.

    ... Not that it's a competition in any way, but Blair Parkes has also written expansively, eloquently and honestly about his year involved in the twin processes of cancer discovery and treatment coupled with creating two damn fine albums. (Also contains a fine endorsement of Shortland Street's public advocacy plot lines).

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Blair Parkes has also written expansively, eloquently and honestly about his year involved in the twin processes of cancer discovery and treatment coupled with creating two damn fine albums.

    As I just told someone else, the frankness and grace of that post was in my mind when I was writing this one yesterday. Blair's got soul.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • sandra,

    Like Bob, I was afraid this was your signing off. Pleased to see it isn't so. And, like others, I miss the politics. Your pieces always made me think and consider if my position on whatever was the best one, the right one. I don't believe I'm a naturally kind person but I've been trying ... always so impressed by the 20-something generation who just naturally seem nicer to one another. Merry Christmas to Russell, family and Hard News readers - from another freelancer. Stuff does have a habit of turning up but thank goodness there's also a steady earner in this household.

    tauranga • Since Dec 2011 • 72 posts Report

  • Trevor Nicholls,

    Thank you Russell, for setting up, curating, guiding, at times inciting, a place that was not always A Quiet Place, but has always been A Sane Space.
    Glad I don't have to say "I'll miss it".
    Merry Christmas and a happy (and secure) New Year.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 325 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    Russell, thanks so much for your continuing and practical support of Access, although posts have been sparse this year. A year ago today I was recovering from pancreatitis and gall bladder surgery and on Christmas Eve fell and badly broke my ankle. The lovely paramedics from Wellington Free Ambulance came with some wonderful pain relief to suck on and took me to hospital (where I had just spent a week or so) and Christmas Day was spent in and recovering from surgery rather than hosting a large family gathering. The hospital chaplain came around and gave me one of those Christmas cards that kind people had written for lonely and alone people - but that little gesture meant a lot. The care from Wellington Hospital was great but I learned a lot about being a patient patient. All that took several months to recover from and I found it hard to do the usual brain stuff for a long time. But a year on I can now walk up mild hills and can sometimes think clearly.

    By the way I really liked the CRISPR talk and think it would be a great idea to have some more discussions about ethical issues generally. Ethics usually lags behind technology which is rapidly advancing in many directions. It's not just the exciting AI stuff, it is also the growing international DNA biobanks that we willingly contribute to and new things like do-it-yourself brain stimulation. When cannabis is finally legal will there and should there be trials on autistic children? And in public policy is it ethical to have two different and unequal systems of disability support in NZ based on whether the impairment is acquired or congenital? So many issues and few easy answers!

    Best wishes for 2019.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Natalie Donald,

    Thanks for so many years of quality reading. I've enjoyed reading your work for many years and happy to contribute in a very small way to hopefully reading many many more years of well researched and sensible content. All the best for 2019 to you and your whanau.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2018 • 1 posts Report

  • Sacha,

    I'd like to acknowledge Fiona Rae for her quiet efforts this year.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Andre,

    Grant was one of the most influential leaders of a movement that radically changed New Zealand's culture. Your place in that pantheon is also assured. I used to buy Planet religiously and living in Christchurch and Wellington it was akin to reading The Face in 1987. World class. The music was also ahead of its time. RIP Grant.
    What a loss to all of us.
    I can attest to Russell's brilliance as a speaker, MC, interviewer or raconteur, available to hire at great rates. If you're thinking of calling Celebrity Speakers, contact Russell. It is crazy that someone so talented should have gaps in his schedule.

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 371 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    I’d like to acknowledge Fiona Rae for her quiet efforts this year.

    Hell yes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Doug Hood,

    I'll cry again for Grant

    Kingsland • Since Oct 2009 • 44 posts Report

  • Dennis Frank,

    "It also made me think a lot about tribe and identity, about who we all were and what was important to us. In particular, about my role in our tribe. Outside of the bonds of family, it seemed the most enduring duty I had."

    As someone still reluctant to admit to being elderly, I've found myself meditating on this stuff often in recent years (I'm 69). Likewise being motivated by a sense of duty to the my increasingly-ephemeral peer-group in particular, and to maintaining a role in the zeitgeist, I welcome your venture into these reflections on mortality Russell.

    Did you know Neil Young also has that nexus in which music, writing, cannabis and cultural ethos are anchored in family and tribe? A few years ago I read his autobiography and learned of his childhood polio and impaired children, which I was unaware of till then:

    "I stood stage right with his son Ben, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy who is unable to speak. When he was born, Young and his wife, Pegi, a singer and musician, put everything else aside to help him develop his motor skills. Now 34, Ben goes on every tour. “He’s our spiritual leader in that way,” Young says. “We take him everywhere, and he’s like a measuring stick for what’s going on.” (Zeke, Young’s son by Snodgress, has a very mild case of cerebral palsy".

    That's from an excellent 2012 NYT feature: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/magazine/neil-young-comes-clean.html - I recommend reading both, to suss out his warrior-like caring way of managing things in adversity.

    "Young, who has never been a graceful stage presence, lurched to the front. He is old — he began playing in this town more than 40 years ago — and bent over his guitar, but he is not old and bent. Young has never been physically whole, but that brokenness has annealed rather than slowed him. He is anything but a frail man when he has a guitar in his hand."

    "Foo Fighters followed, with Dave Grohl mentioning that the sooner he got done, the sooner they’d all get to hear Young play. (He stood at the side of the stage afterward for Young’s entire set.)"

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 292 posts Report

  • JWT1,

    Thank you Russell. I have been a regular reader of Hard News and Public Address for 23 years (since 1995) when I spent a year in Houston and HN was my touchstone back to New Zealand. Have missed several of the contributors as their contributions became sporadic or disappeared completely, but have been grateful for your dedication and persistence. You meant mentioned Hillary Stace and I would like to also give a shout for Emma Hart (Up Front) who always informs and usually entertains me.

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2010 • 12 posts Report

  • BenWilson,


    Arohanui Russell. So sorry to hear about Grant.

    5 days offline with family that I just had would have been unendurable 10 years ago, with major Public Address withdrawals. 5 days off Twitter, OTOH, is to be heartily recommended.

    Since this is a yearly reflective post, can I put the call out for good PA folk to share what the year (or more) has brought for them, too? Will put in mine when ten fingers can do it justice.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel,


    Goodbye 2018… so long… sayonara.

    I was just wondering if there was anybody out there…

    Wrote a long screed with complementary links,
    accidentally refreshed the page and lost it all!

    But when it came back there was Ben – Yay!!
    Welcome back to ‘civilisation’.

    Now I know the funfair is filling up again
    I’ll grab my sack and head back up to the top of the ride…
    Helter skelter!

    Here comes 2019!

    A happy peaceful and productive new year to all

    Keep on running!

    …and keep on keepin’ on

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    Great to see Jackie Clark on the New Year Honours list. I first 'met' Jackie through Public Address years ago.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    But sad to hear that her husband, Ian, died that morning.

    My condolences to Jackie and extended family.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Moz, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    anybody out there…

    Evolving consensus is that we can't know, unfortunately. At least not with current physics.

    Sad news about Jackie's Ian, condolences from me too.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report

  • Rob Stowell,

    Thanks Russell – for everything. It’s been a journey – and journeys always go best in good company, and the company here has always been good :)
    eta: heart goes out to Jackie. The bigger we love - the aunties has always been about love (and the k word) - the more we grieve. Hoping there is some peace too.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2120 posts Report

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