(First published in The Dominion Post, November 13.)
Urgent questions for our times – the latest in an occasional series:■ So why do bureaucrats and academics now begin every statement with the word “so”?
■ Four and a half million New Zealanders, four and a half million opinions on the flag?■ Is it true Wellingtonians are prone to panic attacks if there are no cafes within sight?
■ Why do highly paid government department CEOs (Ray Smith of Corrections, for instance) refuse to be interviewed on current affairs programmes? Shouldn’t it be written into their job description?■ How hard would it be to pass a law requiring soft drink manufacturers to place a simple symbol on cans and bottles showing how many teaspoonfuls of sugar they contain?
■ Police keep urging us to “drive to the conditions”. So where are they?■ According to the “One News Now” promotional campaign, we need our news instantaneously. But which is more important – immediacy, or accuracy and depth?
■ Why are there so few women surgeons?■ Could the answer to the previous question have anything to do with the attitudes of some male surgeons?
■ Go Set a Watchman – a contender for the 10 worst book titles of all time?■ Why do smoke alarm batteries wait until the early hours of the morning before announcing that they’re running low?
■ Had enough of the haka?■ Remember the days when it was touch and go whether your car (usually British) would start in the morning?
■ Are “devices” taking over your life?■ Why do sports reporters refer to someone winning a “famous” victory only moments after it happened? Doesn’t it take time for something to become famous?
■ Fed up with pointless stickers plastered on every piece of fruit you buy?■ Why are there so few women chess players?
■ Time to ease off on that hackneyed phrase “the perfect storm”?■ State houses haven’t changed. The weather hasn’t changed. So how is it that people who live in state houses are suddenly getting sick, supposedly because of mould?
■ Saint Dave Dobbyn?■ Shouldn’t someone point out to Winston Peters that addressing opponents in parliament as “Sunshine” – presumably channelling Jack Regan of The Sweeney – is just a bit 1970s?
■ Given up trying to keep pace with technology?■ Solid Energy goes belly-up, at enormous cost in money and lost jobs, and the men who presided over its collapse walk away unscathed – something wrong here?
■ Why are there so few women orchestra conductors?■ When did photographs become “images”?
■ Big men endlessly lumbering back and forth from one end of a court to another – is there any sport less interesting than basketball?■ Are there any sociologists who aren’t Marxist?
■ Isn’t it time we dispensed with the tired (and just plain wrong) cliche that it’s every New Zealand boy’s dream to become an All Black?■ Why do radio and TV interviewers insist on straight “yes” or “no” answers when there may be none?
■ When did we start calling lessons “learnings”?■ Do people with British accents not see the irony in phoning talkback shows to complain about the number of immigrants?
■ Saint Don McGlashan?■ Graham Capill, Brian Tamaki, Colin Craig – is there some immutable law that says leaders of socially conservative political parties and pressure groups have to be a bit creepy?
■ That term "social media" – shouldn’t it really be anti-social media?■ What did New Zealand do to deserve Phil Rudd?
■ When did we start being bored “of” things, rather than with them?■ Do we make far too much fuss of our poets? I mean, how many people actually read them?
■ Where is this place called New Zelland that John Key keeps talking about?■ Why do so many left-wing crusaders – Jane Kelsey, John Minto, Professor Doug Sellman – have a desperate, haunted look? Is it because they carry the terrible burden of having to save the world from itself?
■ Is Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy a bit thick, or is that just the impression he gives?■ Saint Nigel Latta?
■ What does it mean, exactly, when newsreaders say a journalist is “across” the story?■ In American movies about men suffering a mid-life crisis, why does the main character always drive a Volvo?
■ Why does ACT MP David Seymour keep wearing his little brother’s suits?■ How do you feel about being described not as a reader, viewer or listener, but as a “consumer of content”?
■ Exactly when did we start pronouncing route to rhyme with out?■ Would you want Julian Assange as a house guest?
■ Whittaker’s Chocolate has nearly half a million Facebook followers. Why?