Friday, July 31, 2009


One from the ‘I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen
it with my own eyes’ logbook. We've been in the habit
this winter of putting out bread for the birds in the back
yard. It brings mostly sparrows but also starlings,
blackbirds, the occasional thrush, and some of those
lime-coloured little ones, finches, are they? Knowing
what’s coming most days the sparrows have taken to
gathering in the trees as soon as they hear a likely noise
from the kitchen, and sometimes making passes over
the feeding ground before the food’s even there. It
always reminds me of that scene in Close Encounters of
Third Kind where the swarm of harbinger spacecraft
swoop and dive over the landing ground before the
mother ship descends.

This morning the sparrows were moving in on the crumbs
when a gang of starlings hit the ground like paratroops
and started strutting about, as they do, tossing the food
around and behaving, frankly, as if they owned the place.
A blackbird arrived almost immediately and set about
seeing the starlings off, driving them away one by one, by
charging at them. Just the starlings; not the sparrows.
Now of course I’m being anthropomorphic, but I could
have sworn that the blackbird was protecting the sparrows
so that they could get more of the food for themselves. It
didn’t seem very interested in feeding itself—it patrolled
the perimeter of this al-fresco breakfast while the starlings
stayed in the branches above. Yet when it flew up and out
of my sight, as I watched through the french doors, the
starlings did not return. I went outside and realized that the
blackbird was up on the roof, maintaining its watch on the
scene. When more starlings descended a few minutes later
it zoomed in like a Lancaster on a bombing run and blew
them away. I was so impressed, I put more bread out. The
sparrows dined well today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Drop it

There it is again, in today's Dominion Post—yet another
egregious reference to the 'Third World,' the patronizing
phrase that, as I have said before, ought to be banned
from civilized exchange. In this case, the DomPost was
quoting rail commuters infuriated at frequent delays,
'some labelling the region's passenger train services
Third World.' A few days ago I said that use of the term
perpetuates hegemonic European assumptions about the
way the world is or should be, as well as discriminatory
concepts of social class. Seeing it quoted here, however,
I see even more directly how it insults the majority of the
world's population—those economically worse off than we
in the lucky countries. Anyone with the faintest familiarity
with public transport in countries lazily designated 'Third
World' will know that, whatever the sufferings of
Wellington commuters, they don't begin to resemble what
people in, say, Bangladesh or Chad put up with. Let's stop
pretending that somehow we in the West have it really
hard, as hard as anyone else on the globe, and let's stop
and think before we parrot phrases like 'Third World.'
No one would dare say 'nigger' now, so how come we license
ourselves to keep using a term almost as offensive?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


With some relief I notice people starting to say twenty-
twelve and twenty-thirteen when referring to the years
2012 and 2013. Given the continuing preference for
two-thousand-and-ten and -eleven I was starting to
think we might never adopt the crisper, shorter versions.
The human race didn’t get where it is today without
abbreviating words wherever possible, which makes it
all the more surprising that there has been some
resistance to twentifying. So far, we earthlings have had
it relatively easy with our eighteens and nineteens and
so on, let alone that halcyon era of three-figure years
(where were you in 602?), but I’m worried about how
people will cope from around 2121 on. Imagine having
to say ‘twenty-one twenty-eight’ or ‘twenty-two twenty-
seven’ every time you want to specify a year. There are
some major mouthfuls there: as many as eight syllables
will be required. Some other form of codification may
have to be found. I wish them well.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


There is, in me, an indomitable streak of sentimentality,
and it looks as though I’m stuck with it for life. Of course
I try to control it, lest it disgrace me in public, but I know
it’s there, just waiting to be triggered by a lachrymose
scene in a film or a soppy piece of music. I’ve undergone
surgical procedures for its removal but it’s too deep-
seated for total eradication. It has its provenance, I think,
in my dreamy youth, when, unable to express adequate
or appropriate emotion—or any emotion at all—in real
life, I experienced it gratuitously through books and films
and music. And, naturally, the more removed they were
from reality, the better. I became a sucker for the syrupy,
and dreamt great dreams made out of this goo. You know
—love, romance, undiluted happiness, constructive
engagement with life. The usual suspects. I now allow
myself to believe that I've acquired at least the makings of
a desentimentalized literary taste, and as for film, there's
some evidence that I could no longer watch South Pacific
without flinching; but music can do still utterly undo me.
I remember, in the 80s, confessing to my Listener
colleague Gordon Campbell that in the mid-to-late 1950s,
a crucially formative time for the first wave of baby-
boomers, I’d been more into Pat Boone than Elvis Presley,
let alone Little Richard. A pale cast seemed to cloud his
gaze as he silently registered this information; I knew then
how irredeemably middle-of-the-road I was. At least I
refrained from sharing my liking for Chris de Burgh's
'Lady in Red' or indeed Engelbert's 'Les Bicyclettes de
Belsize.' So we wallow on, we sentimentalists, ever ready to
melt when a heartstring is plucked, however commonplace
the cause. Inscribed on our (slightly damp) banner are
Noel Coward's words 'Strange how potent cheap music is.'

Friday, July 24, 2009


Beryl Bainbridge’s Every Man for Himself is an exquisitely
constructed novella based on the voyage of the Titanic,
spoilt only by too many minor characters—one gets
confused. When you have to start looking back through
the pages to find out who someone is and how they fit in,
the writer hasn’t done their job properly. Sometimes, also,
Bainbridge’s need to pack in necessary information about
the structure, machinery and fittings of the ship slows
things up; but really, most of the writing is of the highest
order of fiction. Set mainly among the upper classes it’s a
little like The Great Gatsby at sea. After touring the engine
and boiler rooms, the plutocratic young narrator writes:

We had spent our lives in splendid houses and
grand hotels and for us there was nothing new
under the sun, nothing, that is, in the way of
opulence; it was the sublime thermodynamics
of the Titanic’s marine engineering that took us
by the throat. Dazzled, I was thinking that if the
fate of man was connected to the order of the
universe, and if one could equate the scientific
workings of the engines with just such a
reciprocal universe, why then, nothing could go
wrong with my world.

Hence the core appeal of the Titanic disaster: it freezes in
time an emblematic moment symbolizing the Western
world before, two years later, it struck the First World War,
already out there in the water, directly in the path of
civilization, huge, epochal, implacable, waiting for events to
collide with it.

There’s also a blistering sex scene in Bainbridge's book: just
one; and it rips the story open, as the iceberg rips open the
ship with a ‘long drawn-out tearing, like a vast length of
calico slowly ripping apart.’

Published in 1996, a year before the famous film, the novel
book may or may not have influenced director James
Cameron; certainly some scenes seem to find their echo in
the movie. And still there are nests of Titanophiles around
the world, still debating whether or not the band really did
play 'Nearer My God to Thee' as the deck tilted or whether
Captain Smith stayed on the bridge to the last. Their really
big moment comes in less than two years from now, when
14 April 2012 rolls around and the centenary of the Titanic's
sinking arrives. Expect the ship to hit the fan.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Green shoots

Enough already. I think I’d like commentators, analysts
and assorted businesspersons to stop talking about the
‘green shoots’ of economic recovery now. They’ve
parroted this inane phrase so often that they’re starting
to sound like Chance the gardener. But then,
notwithstanding the power they wield, the suits they
wear, the ludicrous amounts of money they deal in and
the air of unimpeachable authority they emit, the worlds
of finance and business are really only a step away from
the sandpit and the playground, which are located right
by the garden in which it seems green shoots are
supposed to grow and the wintry weeds of recession
wither and die! Or something.

This can be seen any day in the business pages of
newspapers or in the increasingly meaningless
daily sharemarket reports that television and radio
stations love to present as if they had any real meaning,
let alone news value. In a recent Dominion Post column,
for instance, Terry Hall refers to the ‘constant war
between bulls and bears’ and the concern, borne by the
bulls, that the green shoots might be ‘nipped in the bud,’
as the bears predict. Yes. Not surprisingly, in the
circumstances, reports Hall, there has been a lot of
‘unusually skittish behaviour’ in offshore markets,
involving ‘wild price swings…as investors gamble about
what is in store.’

This would be an absurdist farce if it weren’t for the
power the markets have to influence the real economy—
you know, the one where people actually work and make
and do things with a practical purpose, the one where 99
percent of the human races lives. Yet it’s hard not to crack
a sick smile when you keep hearing about how the markets
need certainty and reassurance from governments and
'meaningful forecasts' from companies so that informed
investors can be wisely guided in their decision-making.
Hallo? The real world has to provide certainty for the
artificial one so that they can flick quadrillions around
the world 24/7 looking for quick profits? Aren't they the
same markets that recently imploded in a blancmange of
unsecured debt and crazily over-extended credit?

The kicker, of course, is that for all the sound and the fury
from world leaders saying Something Must Be Done About
It, very little is Going To Be Done—certainly not anything
that impinges on the right of investors and speculators to
go on doing exactly as they will, whatever the damage. And
that's so funny you could cry.

Garrett's choice

The Australian environment minister, Peter Garrett, is
copping sneers and taunts because he approved the
expansion of a uranium mine in South Australia, thus
aiding and abetting the development of nuclear energy
and weaponry—something he fiercely opposed when he
sang with Midnight Oil in the 70s and 80s. So, 20 years
on, having become a full-time Labor Party politician,
he’s a hypocrite? Maybe. But also a realist; and in politics
it can be a fine line between the two stances, if indeed
they differ at all. If you want power and the opportunity
to make real political change, you have to let some things
go. Garrett clearly made that choice when he signed up
with the ALP and aspired to high office. Of course he was
never going to get his way in everything, not even Kevin
Rudd gets his way in everything, and if by going along
with the uranium deal he retains the ability to do good for
the 'environment' (I've just about had it with that word
but what the hey) in other ways, then fair enough. I'd
rather wait and judge his ministerial record over a longer
period of time.

Naturally the Greens can say they're bitterly disappointed
in Garrett, given his previous work on behalf of ecological
issues, but 35 years after the first green-style parties
emerged in Western democracies none has seriously
dented the grip on power maintained by the more
generalist types of party that evolved earlier in the 20th
century. Until Green parties can break out of their leafy
niches and present as serious contenders for government
in their own right, then people like Garrett will go
elsewhere, with all the inevitable compromises that that

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Third mentality

I’m sorry to see that, in a recent statement on the Green
Party website, even Jeanette Fitzsimons allows herself
to say ‘Third World’ (‘Our Pacific Island neighbours and
third world countries are already paying a high price for
our emissions and that’s not fair’). This odious term,
often used in relation to health standards (‘Third World
diseases’), has no place in civilized discourse. Unpack it
and you find a whole baggage train of hegemonic
European assumptions about the way the world is or
should be. It perpetuates discriminatory concepts of
social class and the thought-poor predilection for
numerical ranking that we all fall back on for want of
grappling with the complexities of real life. The last time
I looked, there was just one world, and we’re all in it,
just as everybody was in the same boat, the Titanic, and
guess who did worst out of that disaster? You’re so right.
Sixty percent of the ‘first-class’ passengers survived, 41
percent of the ‘second-class’ and 25 percent of the ‘third-
class.’ You don't fix a system like that by continually
reminding people that you're first and they're third.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Comfort zone

In my Helen Clark biography (coming soon* to a bookshop
near you) I touch on the fundamental similarity between
the Labour and National parties. Irked by the much-
vaunted notion that Clark is ‘tribal Labour’ and hard-wired
to oppose everything National stands for, I try to show how
alike the two parties really are. Maybe there was a time,
I write,

when the parties were more distinct, but for the past
20 years both have signed up to the Rogernomical
paradigm; in terms of economic policy the only
notable difference is that National is more business-
friendly and pro private enterprise, Labour more
sympathetic to state intervention and the public
service. Where it really matters—the structure of the
New Zealand economy—they share common ground.
They are also increasingly hard to tell apart in the
areas of foreign affairs, defence, trade, environment,
energy, science, technology, education, immigration,
Maori issues, justice, commerce, investment,
agriculture, tourism and export industries generally…

Given the truism in Western democracies that you can
only win power by occupying the centre ground, and
given the historic conservatism of the New Zealand
electorate, it shouldn’t be surprising that our two
major parties are so similar. One shouldn’t even have
to point it out—except that the parties themselves
make such a big deal out of being substantively different,
and vigorously condemn each other for being the Devil

Only the advent of MMP has prevented the pair of them
from visiting even more scorn on lesser parties, on whom
(to their teeth-gnashing frustration) they now depend for
the formation of governments. Nothing tells you more
about the cosy National-Labour-your-turn-next club than
the fact that both Clark and her successor, John Key, prefer
the old first-past-the-post electoral system, which has an
exemplary tendency to produce nothing but one-party
Labour or National governments...

I mention this because I’ve been pondering why and how it
is that the current National-led government has seemed,
on the whole, to have enjoyed a far less rough ride than
Clark's government did, after a similar time in office. That
might change, of course, but for now, it’s noticeable how
much more easily this government has merged, as it were,
with the country’s wallpaper, striking fewer jarring notes,
and indeed, this should not be entirely surprising, given the
resemblance of many of its members to items of furniture,
often with the same wooden veneer.

Alas, the government's continuing popularity has little to
do with its political savvy or enlightened policies. Two
likelier reasons suggest themselves for the relative
in office of John Key and his colleagues:
one historical, the other strategic. The first is the
entrenched preference of business leaders and
organizations for a National government: nine months
into its first term, nine years ago, Clark’s government
was struggling into the headwinds of something called
the ‘winter of discontent’—a fictional construct devised
by its opponents to force it to become more business-
friendly. Which it duly did. No such worries for National.
And it shows in the media too: that almost constant
murmur of anti-government grumbling just doesn't
surface so conspicuously in the media when National's in
power. So yes, being business-friendly is a definite, and
highly advantageous, point of difference for National over
Labour, not least because the media are generally
business-friendly too.

The other main reason is the government’s co-option of the
Maori Party. Probably Clark’s biggest failure was to lose
most of the Maori vote, indeed, had it not been for her
capitulation to racist redneckery in the wake of Don Brash’s
infamous Orewa speech in 2004, there would be no Maori
Party today. It was unquestionably a masterstroke of Key's
to get the Maori Party onside, though whether it's been
such a masterstroke from the Maori Party's point of view
remains to be seen. For the moment it has freed National
from a great deal of potential political bother, such as
Labour brought upon itself once it fiddled with the
foreshore and sank thigh-deep in the treacherous seabed.

*from 31 July on

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Subway train drivers in Tokyo are woken every day in
their depot dormitory by a pillow that automatically
inflates at the appointed time. Aristotle 'slept little, and
always had one arm out of his couch with a bullet in it,
which by falling into a brazen basin underneath, early
awakened him' [LempriƩre]. Salvador Dali apparently
took naps on the same principle, with a teaspoon and a
pewter dish; Thomas Edison, while having big thinks,
kept a lead ball in his palm, the idea being that it would
fall on his foot if he dozed off. There is a certain bird that
stands on one leg clutching a stone in the raised foot, so
that when the stone drops the bird wakes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tour de farce

So it seems that there was more to John Key’s vision of
a nationlong cycleway than met the eye. Not a lot more.
But a bit. According to One News there were ambitious
initial plans to use the route for a Tour-de-France-like
bike race called the Sir Edmund Hillary Explorator.


Actually, that’s incredibly appropriate, because it’s a
little-known fact that for much of their ascent of Everest
Hillary and Tenzing used a three-speed Raleigh bicycle
with snow-chains on its tyres and a specially amplified
bell in case they got lost. It was only discarded when
Tenzing froze to the seat at 28,000 feet and it took 48
hours to thaw him off it, though he was never quite the
same man afterwards.

Sceptics now say that the cycleway will never happen
but Key is urging everyone to be patient. ‘Rome wasn’t
built in a day,’ he says, ‘and neither is the New Zealand
cycleway going to be.’

Is this man a dreamer of dreams or what?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Details of the war

Auntie Annie would stay with us from time to time. Not
our real aunt—a great-aunt, I think—she smelt of camphor
and seemed incredibly old and shapeless, even boneless,
as if she spent her nights hung up in a wardrobe. She had
never married, or, if she had, it was in another century,
and Henry or Tom or Titus was dust in an unattended
grave. With her wispy shuffle and dowdy dress she made
so little impression that you hardly knew she was in the
house. When she took a bath she would turn out the light
and from outside the bathroom window you'd hear little
plashing sounds in the dark. To shield yourself from
yourself: the ultimate in modesty.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The will to fail

The will to fail is a brute of a thing. Snapping and
snarling, it still has the power to back me into a
corner. You tell yourself you want to succeed, and
of course you do, you press on towards your goal,
but there’s a perversity that shapes our ends,
something that wants to sabotage our nobler attempts
to leave some kind of mark on the cave wall. The
nearer the goal, the more the feet begin to drag, as
they naturally would do if a rottweiler had its teeth
sunk into your shin. Doris Lessing, I seem to recall,
once called it the self-hater. Actually, it’s probably our
old mate death, which comes into the world with us
and is never far away thereafter, making its pitch for
oblivion. So impatient.

Friday, July 10, 2009


The appeal of amnesia. That was the year when a number
of movies came out exploring the idea that all our
memories were false, or somebody else’s, implanted by
aliens maybe. It was the year when the option of amnesia
began to look attractive to the forgetful. After all, amnesia
was the ultimate refinement of an identity crisis. It took
self-doubt to a natural extreme.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oh no, John

Most murder cases hinge on circumstantial evidence,
because as a rule your average murderer prefers to do the
deed while no one else is watching. The verdicts in such
cases are therefore always going to be controversial,
because a jury can never be absolutely certain what
happened. All they can do is weigh up the probabilities on
the basis of the evidence presented in court. And that’s all
the rest of can do, too. So I can’t say that John Barlow did
murder Eugene and Gene Thomas at a business meeting
in February 1994, and for his and his family’s sake I’d be
delighted if it could be proved conclusively that he didn’t.
But as a journalist who covered his three trials 15 years
ago and wrote about the case for the Listener I agreed with
the third jury’s verdict of guilty, because that’s what the
evidence convincingly indicated to me; and I’ve heard
nothing since to change my mind.

For me, then, the British Privy Council is right to reject
Barlow’s appeal, even though it agrees that the form of
forensic testing used on bullets found at the murder scene
has since been discredited. That’s only one small technical
point in the case against him, which remains—the council
correctly says—overwhelming; and to try to clear his name
on the basis of it is like wilfully failing to see the forest for
the sake of a single twig.

For all the protestations of Barlow’s wife and sister I've yet
to see a satisfactory answer from them to the much more
relevant question, ‘If he didn’t do it, then why was he in
such a hurry to throw a gun, a silencer and some bullets into
the Happy Valley tip the morning after the murders?’
Hardly the action of an innocent man with nothing to hide.
As I said in the Listener at the time, a note pinned to the
wall of the homicide room at the Wellington central police
station summed up the situation even more inescapably:
'When Barlow went to the meeting they were alive—when
he left they were dead.'

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We can call him Al

Were we to see film or video of Al Jolson now, we would
probably be appalled. This manic white man in blackface
—good God almighty, where was the sensitivity?
Charitably, you could say that his was one of the first
desperate attempts by white America to reach out to or at
least recognize the growing and undeniable power of black
music—a gesture that achieved its apotheosis 30 years later
in Elvis—even though he deformed it to the point of parody.
Still, when I hear old Al I feel a blast of energy that makes
me feel more human (never an easy ask). There’s a madness
in his music that perhaps catches the madness of the 1920s
as well as anything, in the way that F Scott catches it in The
Great Gatsby. Then I listen to Cab Calloway singing ‘Minnie
the Moocher’ as he did at the Cotton Club in that feverish
decade and, after a quick consultation with other executives
here at Thumbcorp, I am drawn irresistibly to the
conclusion that the lines

She had a dream about the King of Sweden
He gave her things that she was needin’

are possibly the finest song lyrics of the 20th century. Then
again, I could be wrong.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Three i's and a y

It is surely one of the wonders of the modern world that
three of the foremost economic commentators in New
Zealand are called Brian. I refer of course to Easton,
Fallow and Gaynor, whose surnames—and surely this is
significant as well—follow each other alphabetically.
Make of this suggestive nomenclature what you will, but
insofar as I understand anything at all about the New
Zealand economy, I understand it mostly thanks to the
three Brians and the one and only Rod Oram, whose
luminous dissertations on money, trade, national identity,
life, the universe and the medium-to-long-term are
tucked away disgracefully in the business section of the
Sunday Star-Times each week when they ought, frankly,
to be on the front page. But back to les trois Brians, as the
French so playfully call them, or would if they knew of
their existence: Gaynor in particular surpassed himself last
Saturday with a masterly column on the way in which the
Kiwi dollar has become a favourite of the global currency
speculators whose gambles shape our economic destiny.
Gaynor sums that up pretty well when he says that the
New Zealand dollar is

extremely difficult to forecast because
it is primarily driven by speculation—
rather than fundamentals—and many
of these speculators are relatively
uninformed about New Zealand.

You could say that, yes. Unfortunately, while declaring that

there should be far more high-level
discussion on the state of the NZ
dollar market and any measures we
can introduce to reduce its volatile
and speculative characteristics while
assisting our export sector

Gaynor goes on to assert that currency controls

are not an option for New Zealand
because it would be impossible for
our government to set the right
exchange-rate level and then
support this against potential attack
from US and European hedge funds.

Here I part company with Brian G. Nor would this view of
his be endorsed by another economic commentator whose
thinking I respect enormously; nor it will surprise readers
who have stuck so far with this dithyrambic blog to learn
that this individual’s name is also Bryan, only spelt with a y.
I refer of course to the Ohope oracle Bryan Gould, who in
his book The Democracy Sham cites the example of the
the Malaysian government, which in 1998, in defiance of
'free-market’ orthodoxy, imposed exchange controls on its
currency. Writes Gould:

To reclaim national control over one's
economy through the simple step of
re-imposing exchange controls—even
when done in isolation from anyone
else and in the teeth of fierce criticism
and dire warnings from the most
powerful economic forces in the world
—did not mean that the heavens fell in.

He's right. I checked back on the major news stories of 1998
and could find no record of the sky falling in. In fact, the
Malaysian economy continued to do rather well. And even if
it were to be concluded that powerless li'l ol' Enzed had no
alternative but to remain a counter on the global
checkerboard, the value of its currency subject at any
moment to anyone's whim, there's nothing to stop us
pushing, as Gould proposes, for internationally coordinated
action to control the movement of capital and regulate the
currency casino in which, as Gaynor says, New Zealand
might as well be the Las Vegas.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

All the way down

That a 12-year-old girl should survive the Yemen airliner
crash into the ocean off the Comoro Islands is something
that catches at my heart; and I guess, too, that there’s an
element of hope in it, because it tells us that big airliner
crashes are survivable. (Not that you should consider
yourself singled out by destiny if you do come out alive:
Peter Weir’s film Fearless memorably explores the
consequences of that belief.) In this case, it seems to have
helped that the plane was not at full height and that it fell
into the sea rather than onto land; nor did it explode in
mid-air, which somewhat drastically lessens the chance of
of survival. The bomb that blew up a Pan Am airliner over
the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988 tore the plane
apart, exposing the main passenger cabin to the night air,
and, as Hugh Miles wrote in the London Review of Books
two years ago,

the change in air pressure made the passengers’
lungs expand to four times their normal volume
and everyone lost consciousness. As the
fuselage plummeted and the air pressure began
to return to normal, some passengers came
round, including the captain. A few survived all
the way down, until they hit the ground.
Rescuers found them clutching crucifixes, or
holding hands, still strapped into their seats.

Those whose bodies weren't redistributed across the
landscape, that is. All 259 people aboard died. Yet a girl
of nine survived a mid-air explosion over Colombia in
1995. Be of good fear.

We had known

‘And then, were the Germans alone to blame? Why were not
the railway lines to the camps bombed? Where were the
religious institutions of the world? They knew what was
going on. We had heard rumours, we had known.’

—Michael Lewis, one of the first British servicemen to enter
Bergen-Belsen camp on 15 April 1945; quoted in Forgotten
Voices of the Holocaust by Lyn Smith.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Change of fortune

Right from the get-go, in 2005, Outrageous Fortune has
consistently been the best television drama series ever
made in New Zealand. For four years I've had nothing but
admiration for its creators and main writers, Rachel Lang
and James Griffin, for giving us such credible characters
and strong storylines. They, the core cast and everyone
associated with the series deserve every honour heaped
upon them. At its peak—perhaps some time around series
3—Outrageous Fortune was outclassing just about anything
else on TV, homemade or foreign. Its great virtue was that
it never sank or settled into formula. Week on week, for up
to 20 weeks at a time, that ain't easy.

Yes. But. Sorry, guys, but a few eps into season five and
it's just not cutting it any more. I think the OF idea has run
out of puff and should be laid to rest with honour at the end
of this series. Every possible angle of every possible plotline
about every core character has been milked dry, and now
they're all coming perilously close to being bores, if not self-
parodies. It comes to all great series sooner or later and
there's no shame in that; the only shame would be in not
recognizing it. So I'm sorry to see that apparently there will
be one more series after this. If that's so, Lang and Griffin
are going to have to write some great tunes to make it sing.
One thing that would really help: bringing back Wolf, whose
absence has really weakened series five. The storylines
involving lesser beings like Sheree and Nicky are simply not
interesting enough to sustain whole episodes.

Here at Oppthumbcorp, a mass staff meeting has downed
tools long enough to pass a unanimous vote urging the early
return of Wolf, a lot less Loretta, who's really starting to
grate, and, hopefully, some industrial-strength kick-ass
storylines involving slings and arrows and stuff, even if it
takes a guest appearance by Sir Howard Morrison as a drug
lord to do it.