Thoughts on: Paris 13/11/15

16 November 2015

There was a time not so long ago when it was easy to react to terrorist attacks. Be outraged, mourn with the victims, preach tolerance and patience. Take comfort in the knowledge that these were isolated incidents borne of a particularly violent few years in our history. 

For ten years since the turn of the millennium, this is how the world reacted to attacks in New York, London, Madrid, Bali, Mumbai and Nairobi. These awful crimes were random and unavoidable, we told ourselves. There was light at the end of the tunnel. As the number of terrorist incidents dropped year after year, it seemed we had endured the worst. The death of Osama Bin Laden was a symbolic coda to a decade of urban bombings. 

I've been thinking about this a lot in the last few days as news has filtered through from Paris about what happened on Friday night and how the world has reacted. The immediate response has been very different to that a decade ago. It's far too early to predict what impact Paris 13/11 is going to have on our world, but it's worth collecting some thoughts and trying to put a little perspective on things.

(Note: This is part of a new series on this blog. I've haven't posted much recently because essays take a lot of effort. "Thoughts on:" is a way for me to post more on issues that interest me without having to commit to writing an essay. I still intend to write long-form pieces but this is a compromise I've made with myself to keep my blog ticking over. Feedback is welcome, as always)

Two coffees

18 June 2015

This is a story about two very different cups of coffee.

The first cup of coffee is black, instant, lukewarm and fortified with white sugar. It's made in my work canteen or in my kitchen. It tastes bad but it takes just a few minutes to prepare and drink.

The second cup of coffee is fluffy, warm and sweetened with granulated brown sugar. It's made by baristas and sipped slowly when I don't have anywhere to be in a hurry. It's a flat whites or a latte. This coffee is comfortable, rewarding and one of life's simple pleasures. It feels like a hug or a warm blanket.

There have been times in my life when I've consumed more black coffee than white coffee and times when the opposite has been true.

I like white coffee a lot more. It's the perfect accompaniment to chilled conversations with friends about each others' lives. And it's a good excuse to sit in a cafe for hours by myself and write or read.

The World Cup Final!

28 March 2015

In a few hours New Zealand will walk onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the biggest match in this history of the sport in my country.

After ten tournaments and 40 years we’ve finally…finally…made it through to the World Cup Final.

The law of averages suggests that we were going to make the final eventually, and we’ve come close to stumbling into it through six semi-final defeats.  But even if we did squeeze through to the main event in the past, we wouldn’t have deserved it. We almost certainly would have lost.

New Zealand has usually been an average cricket team, occasionally a very good one and often very, very bad. We’ve cultivated a reputation of being grafters and underdogs – losers who can give bigger nations a good game, but still lose to them.

A conversation about NZ

28 January 2015

One of the golden rules about being a New Zealander is that you’re not allowed to criticise New Zealand. Even if you’re famous. Especially if you're famous.

Being outspoken about anything in New Zealand is often seen as quirky. Being outspoken about NZ itself always merits comment. Even after decades of the world wide web, international jet travel and the shrinking of the globe, we seem incapable of having a conversation about our nation without bristling at the first stanza. 

Which is why it’s been so weird reading Eleanor Catton’s comments about our homeland, and then so depressingly familiar reading other people’s reactions to them.

Writer's Block

5 December 2014

I've been staring at the same blank page for the last month.  

You may have noticed there's been very little activity on this blog recently. Each time I try and write something, I'm forced to start with the same blank page.  I'm not short of ideas. I just can't articulate anything. 

I've self-diagnosed myself as having writer's block. It's one of the scariest things I can imagine.

Instead of seeing this white space as a blank canvas to be attacked with gusto, the document become increasingly more adversarial. Each time I flip open my laptop and open WordPad, I'm faced with the same vacant feeling. My fingers hover over the keyboard but I have no idea which button to press first, or second, or at all.