What Are You Even For?

I remember a second-year business student for whom I had just bought a large orange and vodka for $5 at the Fat Lady’s Arms one Saturday night in 2002. He wanted to know how writing would ever get me a decent job. “What are you gonna do with that?” he asked me, almost as if I’d just pulled some indescribable item out of my pocket and was demanding that he touch it. I remember, in that moment, looking at the university students dancing all around us to “I’m Gonna Be” by the Proclaimers, the worst song in the world and yet also the song that people most often shouted into one another’s faces. I said to the business student that I didn’t know what I would do with the writing. A hot shame came over me then for not having a reasonable plan. 

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Citizen Thiel

“I’ll be back in touch if we have any comment,” he said.

He did not get back in touch.

In the 12 months since, the Herald has 10 times asked questions of Thiel — about his citizenship, his shrinking holdings in Kiwi software firm Xero, why he appears to have ghosted New Zealand, ties between his firm Palantir and local intelligence agencies, and even the celebrity classic, “What do you think of New Zealand?” And 10 times he again did not get back in touch.

But on the eve of publication of this story — a year and a day after questions were first asked about this saga — Thiel broke his silence with a short statement.

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Under fire

Lance Burdett, a former crisis negotiator for the police who now runs a resilience coaching business, says police don't always get it right, and he questions if they look closely enough at the leadup to shootings to determine what could have been done differently.

"I investigated cops," he says. "One of the things I used to do was go back and see the other jobs they'd been in - why did they lash out?

"Most times they've been to a baby death, they've been in a car chase, they've had something emotional before they've got there and so their mindset might not be right."

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A fond-ish goodbye

Here's where I cried like a child one night three years ago when my Dad was suddenly critically ill. I wasn't ready for him to go; I'd never be ready. I resent this piece of floor for holding me up that day. I'm sure there's another place where I later sat, maybe cradling a cup of tea, knowing that he'd rallied and would soon be discharged. I don't remember that moment; perhaps, deep down, I didn't trust my relief.

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Grant Dalton: For love, and money

Go on, admit it. Deep down, in the places you don't care to reach into, you don't really like Grant Dalton OBE. You're not sure exactly why, but the animus lurks.
It might be the not-made-for-TV smile that can slide into a smirk. It might be the rich-man-pleads-for-money act. It might just be that some people aren't built to attract sympathy - just as Christopher Walken could never have played Forrest Gump, Dalton can't play the part of Sir Peter Blake.

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The last of the giants

They counted their age in centuries, but it took them less than a decade to die. In kauri time that’s a sudden accident—a heart attack.
Kauri have suffered two great tragedies, and now a third is in progress. The first was logging, when more than 99 per cent of the forest giants were taken. The second was the arrival of agathidicida. The third is our failure to do anything about it.

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The food critic and the rookie head to KFC

Simon likes the finer foods but has never been vocal about any sort of love for The Grove in particular. Meanwhile, my love for KFC has been well documented. Have you ever told someone that a movie was really funny, then watched it with them and died a little every time they didn’t laugh? This was like that. Except Simon had already told me he didn’t like KFC so it was more like telling someone who hates Will Ferrell that they’d love Anchorman.

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Jackie Clark and The Aunties

Inside an antique wooden cabinet in the lounge of Jackie’s new Manurewa home, a beautiful collection of New Zealand ceramics is on display. On the wall above it is an enormous portrait of her father, Crown Lynn founder Sir Tom Clark, to whom the collection belonged. He looms, with his white hair and sharp grey suit and tie. He’s leaning forward, staring down the lens of the camera, with his elbow resting on his bent knee. Three picture frames sit on top of the cabinet - a watercolour portrait of Jackie that was painted by a friend, a certificate of appreciation from the Albert Eden local board and a motivational quote: “Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”

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I saw the mountain erupt: a Kawerau childhood

Mum was the primary ‘breadwinner’, providing the main income and exercising the matriarchal and patriarchal authority in the home. It was up to Dad to cook dinners, vacuum and mop, clean and hang out the washing and more. It was up to Mum to make sure the family got by. Not an easy thing to do as a teenage mother. Even harder when your husband was a former patched gang member, a bloke with ‘Mongrel Mob’ tattooed across his forehead, and in and out of work during the family’s early years.

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The real cost of air travel to the environment

I put the details of our household of two into the online carbon calculator, and felt a virtuous glow as our waste, energy and local transport emissions came in well below the New Zealand average.

But then I had to confront the jumbo jet in the room. The computer program asked for the details of all flights I had taken in the past year: London; San Francisco; a couple of cheap hops from Stansted to Scandinavia; numerous domestic flights from Christchurch to Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Nelson.

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CTV: 115

The crux of the inquiry arrived when two key witnesses, Reay and Harding, gave evidence. Reay was pensive, deliberate on the stand, allowing long pauses to fill the hall while he formulated his answers...He proffered five alternative collapse scenarios, which, under questioning from Mills, he was forced to concede were “just a series of possibilities that occurred to you”.

“Am I right that they all have in common the fact that none of them attribute any responsibility to you or your firm for the collapse of the building?” Mills asked.

“I have not considered that,” Reay said.

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The Misery of Marie

“I was screaming and yelling. I don’t remember what they were saying, my mind was gone. I couldn’t sleep.”

Beneath a deep grief for the loss of her closest sibling lies guilt.

As someone who untangled herself from a violent relationship, with the help of a friend, Vicki can’t help but feel she could have done more for her sister.

But she has questions, too, over what government and social welfare agencies could and should have done.

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Sun-stroked

Harriet was loving all this, strolling down to a corner of the beach for a lonely swim, and stretching out on her wide Indian cotton sheet to read a book, and washing our metal camping cups in the DOC cold tap, which appeared out of the ground like a periscope, attached to a small stake.
"Isn't this great?" she would say. She was loving it.
Was I loving it? That is more complicated.

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How do you know when it's time to leave Auckland?

The turning point? The disappointment of missing out on a home, beholden to a landlord once again. At some point, everything began to frustrate me. The interminable waiting in winter for buses that were always full. Climbing Mt Eden for a moment of peace, to find the summit covered with people. Watching as my favourite cafe became "cool", its signature dish on Instagram and on Sundays you could hardly get a seat.

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A refugee's perilous story: Afghanistan to Christchurch

Again, they left in the night. At the beach,  Zarif lay crammed in the boat's hold with 14 others.

The smugglers nailed planks of wood over them.

It was a tiny fishing boat, Zarif says, and gestures: barely from here to here. Raised in land-locked Afghanistan, he had never sailed on the sea.

"The first night, the water and the wind was really bad," he says. "The noise was loud and we were very afraid."

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Ockham literary winner Catherine Chidgey opens up

Chidgey’s densely layered lyricism has reviewers reaching for such words as haunting and spellbinding. The Wish Child, with its mystery narrator’s elliptical observations – “Let me say I was not in the world long enough to understand it well …” – has a touch of magical realism. In the book’s author photo – dark blue lace, pre-Raphaelite hair – Chidgey looks fully capable of binding a spell.

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