Flag, Helen Clark

Clark government advised to ensure flag change if public supports it

There was a fascinating revelation in the fine print of Saturday’s Herald article about Helen Clark’s flag preference.

It seems her government was advised in 2004 not to lead any flag debate, but that if there was a mood for change, the government should take steps to drive the change through:

The advice given to Helen Clark was from former Cabinet Secretary Diane Morcom, and the chief executive of the Culture and Heritage Ministry.

Released this week by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, it advised Helen Clark that the Government should not lead the initial stage of the process – public debate about whether to change the flag.

But if it was established that there was wide support to change the flag, the Government should get involved to ensure that the process for change succeeded. If it didn’t succeed it could damage the flag as a unifying symbol.

Well, well, well. This begs the question: is the Key government being given similar advice?


Ansell/Wang silver fern, Flag

Farrar’s impeccable taste in flags

Can’t argue with Kiwiblogger David Farrar’s choice of alternative flag on last night’s Backbenchers. (Click on part 2 of the video – it’s near the start.)

David had told me he was going to be doing the Soapbox spot about flags, and asked me if I could chase down the old and new Canadian flags – to show the improvement.

But he gave me no clue that he was planning to use the above design of Kenneth’s and mine as his preferred NZ flag.

His point was how it would make a better choice than the tino rangatiratanga flag because of the non-racial fern.

It got a pretty good reaction from the audience too, even if one guy did say it looked like the Nike logo :-).

However, my own poll of six Ansell-Wang fern flags currently has this one coming fourth.

If you’re in the voting mood, do take part in my other poll comparing four different styles of fern.

Good also to see Monday’s Herald proclaiming Silver Fern design preferred choice for new NZ flag.

The momentum is running my way on two issues at the moment: for flag change and away from climate change!

Humour, Language, NZ Poetry Society, Poetry, Tom Lehrer

Planning a new career

After a fun night performing silly poems, monologues and novelty songs at the Thistle, I’ve decided to try and do this full-time. 

By what I seriously hope was popular consent (!), my 30 minute slot finally ended after 75 minutes.

To fill out the time, I strayed from my poetry brief to include the monologue about rugby as a series of mathematical formulae that I wrote for Jim Hopkins as part of a Shell ad campaign in the 90s.

That went down well, so I thought I’d attempt to do justice to several songs by my all-time favourite lyricist Tom Lehrer.

One of these was The Elements Song – the one where Lehrer rattles off 102  elements from the periodic table in about 150 seconds to the tune of I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.

Check out this Flash-illustrated version of the original – oh, and see if you can spot the handful of uncharacteristic pronunciation errors 🙂

And don’t tell Mr Lehrer, but I took the liberty of adding another verse to include the elements discovered since his 1960 recording:

And then there was lawrencium
And hassium and dubnium,
Meitnerium and bohrium
And finally ununbium;
It’s next to unununium
And don’t forget seaborgium,
And also ununilium
And (Ernest) rutherfordium.

We’ll tell you any other ones
The minute they discover them,
And just in case you wondered
There are one hundred and twuv o’ them.

I’ve long thought it would be fun to spend my time touring schools and enthusing and amusing kids about our crazy language. But somehow, the grownup world and its baubles has always got in the way.

Well, no I’m going to give it a shot, and see what happens.

(I always make my life-changing decisions on the spur of the moment like this. If I think about it too much, sanity will prevail. Far better to back myself into a corner with a public announcement :-))

With a mix of conference speeches and school ‘word concerts’, I hope to keep my head above water doing what I love most.

If it works, it will be a vindication for Mum, who always said I should ditch the serious stuff and concentrate on the silly.

My speaking agent will hopefully be able to get me enough conference work to compensate for the lower fees paid by schools.

If anyone can point me to any schools that would welcome such an addition to their literacy programme, please email john@johnansell.co.nz.

Same if you know of any conference speaker-seekers needing a keynote or after-dinner speech about words.

Tell them I’d be happy to give them a demo down the phone. As soon as I can, I’ll put something on YouTube.

Thanks to Laurice Gilbert of the NZ Poetry Society for inviting me on Monday night.

NZ Poetry Society, Poetry, Thistle Inn

Guest poet at Thistle Inn tonight

The Thistle InnTonight (Monday) I have the honour of giving Wellington’s most recent poetry performance at the city’s oldest pub, The Thistle Inn in Mulgrave Street.

The Thistle dates all the way back to Wellington’s founding year, 1840.

There it is below in 1865 (the two-storeyed building) shortly before being fire-damaged in 1866.

These days the pub is separated from the sea by the railway yards and the Cake Tin. But before the 1876 reclamation, sailors could make a quick dash from the bar to their boats if need be.

One of my fellow poets is a descendant of Te Rauparaha, who by all accounts used to pull up his waka and enjoy a drink there.

The NZ Poetry Society hold their meetings upstairs from 7.30 – 9.30pm on the second Monday of every month, and they’ve asked me to be February’s  guest poet.

That’s good of them, given that I don’t exactly fit the poet stereotype.  My style is more silly verse a la Milligan and Ogden Nash.

I love the challenge of trying to create perfect rhymes without using my poetic licence and disrupting the flow of the story. Not easy, but good when it works.

Why not come down for a pint and a laugh? Better still, bring a poem and read in the open mic session that kicks off the evening.

Not sure how many will come given that the meeting is being promoted as the NZ Poetry Society’s January meeting 🙂

Flag, NZ Herald, Silver fern

Scientific poll backs fern flag

The Herald DigiPoll results. Photo / Herald Graphic
A Herald-Digipoll of 600 today echoes last Friday’s less scientific Close Up poll of 12,000 New Zealanders who want to see us adopt a new flag with a silver fern.

Oddly, the greatest mood for change comes from 40-70 year olds and those outside Auckland, with Aucklanders and 18-29 year olds favouring the Union Jack.

That’s the exact opposite of what I would have expected – a campaign for change driven by middle-aged provincials.

(Seems we baby-boomers are an island of radicalism in a sea of conservatism.)

It would now be good to see another poll, independent of the newspaper that’s leading the campaign for change.

It will be too easy for conservatives to view this Herald poll as akin to a Greenpeace poll on global warming.

But this is a great day for those wanting change, as it means the issue will start to move on to the government’s radar.

All the moreso as it reinforces the prime minister’s own instincts about the silver fern being the right symbol.

Ansell/Wang silver fern, Flag

More blue fern flags

In my poll of six Ansell-Wang fern flags, the white fern on blue surrounded by red stars continues to outpoint the fern on black by 28% to 24%.

Here’s a version with the stars separate from the fern, based on a recent design by Kenneth Wang, but wider.

Are we getting closer?

I clearly made a mistake in pushing my black and silver design, which has failed to catch on. As a result, we didn’t raise enough money for an Auckland Harbour Bridge flyover on Waitangi Day.

This was always a possibility, as it scored only 6% in the same poll, but I thought people might agree that it looked better when animated.

Not many did. Lesson learned!

Here’s a more single-minded design without the stars, but relieved by a white panel.

In an email to the NZ Herald, I  justify it as follows:

Royal blue for the sea and our British heritage, white for the mountains and the long white cloud.

Plus the uniquely New Zealand silver fern, the ponga, chosen by the captain of the Natives rugby team  of 1888 because it brought to his mind the Maori proverb “Mate atu he toa ara mai he toa.  Mate atu he tetakura ara mai he tetakura.”

(“When one warrior dies, another arises. When one fern dies, another arises.”)

A blend of land, sea and air, native and colonial, Maori and Pakeha.

Blogger and artist Lindsay Mitchell says one white panel works better than the Canadian-style panel either side of the leaf, and I agree.

I wasn’t sure why, but she says it’s because the Canadian maple leaf is symmetrical, so suits a central position, while the fern is leaning and doesn’t.

If we want to be totally single-minded, here’s the equivalent of the classic black in royal blue.

Meanwhile, Kenneth’s and my fern is getting royally beaten up by Kyle Lockwood in my latest poll. But we’re outscoring the All Blacks’ steak knives logo, which is just as well.

(Don’t tell my old schoolmate Steve Tew or there could be some serious block-voting from a certain office building on the wharf – not to mention five franchises, twentysomething unions and countless clubs. Mum’s the word.)

For some reason, the nzflag.com fern has completely failed to fire in the poll, which I find strange as I like its dynamism.

Perhaps people are saying that it works as a flag campaign logo, but not as a flag.

Anyway, I’m pleased to see the softer, classical ferns prevailing over the sharp, angular versions.

Feedback welcome as always. Are we getting closer with the blue?

All Blacks, Flag, Rugby, Silver fern, Sport, Wales

Welsh fern designer ruffles NZ feathers

Now, by way of balance, some ammo for those who say ignorant foreigners wouldn’t know a silver fern from a white feather.

Seems the Welsh artist who designed the programme for the All Blacks v Neath and Aberavon match in 1954 was not steeped in the icons of his country’s national game.

Perhaps things were busy in the studio that day. Perhaps his boss had given him a quick peek at an All Black jersey, and he’d  concluded, with somewhat curious logic, that the mighty All Blacks played under the  international symbol of cowardice.

Had he been a rugby fan, he’d have known that the only team that wears white feathers is Wales – as shown on this souvenir jersey from their last win over New Zealand earlier in the same tour.

The three white Prince of Wales feathers and the silver fern, memento of the Wales/NZ rugby test, Cardiff, 1953.

(Our feathered enemy won 13-8.)