Back in 1973, Bob Considine, an American newspaper columnist,
sat down at his typewriter, stared at the ceiling fan seeking
inspiration, and found himself denied.
He scratched his stubble, checked the time till deadline, and
then, conquering the fear that he had finally run dry,
hammered out the most truthful column ever written. Clack,
clack, clack. It was pure, it was simple, it was clean.
''I have nothing to say today,'' typed Considine. He wrenched
the world's shortest column from his Remington, yelled ''copy
boy!'' and presumably spent the next morning dealing with
sympathetic colleagues who lined up to pat his shoulder and
tell him: ''Don't worry, old fruit. You've had nothing to say
Charles Low Cloud, a Winnebago tribesman, wrote a syndicated
column called Indian Report, and duffed his deadline at least
once with: ''Not much news this week. Indian Report in
Whenever The Spectator's columnist Jeffrey Barnard found
himself unable to perform due to the trials of grape or
grain, his sympathetic editor ran the same carefully worded
announcement: ''Jeffrey Barnard is unwell.''
The requirement to regularly say something, no matter how
asinine, can weigh heavily. But Considine, Low Cloud and
Barnard would all have perked up whenever they, like myself,
were writing for today. New Year's Eve is a doddle, a piece
of cake, an untaxing stroll in the park. You don't need new
ideas for December 31 columns. It's accepted that on the last
day of the year, thou shalt simply write out lists of awards:
''best'' or ''worst'' of the year lists, in fact any old
lists. Lists can't miss.
The fashion writer pores through the types who get their
pictures in the celebrity pages to compile the Ten Best
Dressed list, and then joyfully pirates the same cocktail
sausage gobblers for Ten Worst. The film critic who sneaked
into to the latest James Bond film four times earnestly
selects arthouse movies nobody saw.
The TV columnist sinks the slipper into reality shows, and
the gardening writer thinks long and hard about Best
Beetroot. Political and rugby correspondents debate sharpest
hookers or top dunces, while the Black Caps writer - look, to
be entirely candid, I'm not sure what this bloke does.
Perhaps he, too, calls in as ''unwell''. It would seem fair
that the company coughs up for counselling.
I am what is known in the trade as a ''general columnist'',
which means I have a slightly formed opinion on anything from
kick boxing and croissant-making to politics, the economy and
the errors of Episcopalians. So, after due consideration, we
present the Wit's End 2012 awards:Payroll clerk of the year -
Hekia Parata, hands down.
Best television - New Zealand's Got Talent. So good, it may
bring back reading.
Chemists' Guild Prize
Mr Nadzeya Ostapchuk, Belarus. (Special lifetime achievement
award Lance Armstrong.) Driver of the Year - To the
aficionado, veteran racer Rusty Jones has the edge on
Sebastian Vettel. This year Jones, a gentleman hoon,
ratcheted his touring golf cart to such performance heights
that jealous Gold Coast cops bagged both Rusty and his 3
wood. True class.
Best New Opportunity Here's a chance for the industrious. Sri
Lanka has been advertising for two hangmen, and is stretched
to find applicants who know the ropes. Their last official
execution was in 1977.
Dictator of the Century
Idi Amin, Mussolini and Colonel Gadaffi all scraped into the
top 10 on the strength of terrific uniforms. But I've had
difficulty finalising a top three. Hitler had his strong
points, but the ex is also solid. Perhaps the NZ Cricket
Board by a fine edge?Most Useful Invention - Twitter, from
Facebook, by its nose. Twittering has finally disproved the
theory that if you sit an infinite number of chimps at an
infinite number of keyboards, you will eventually write the
works of Shakespeare.
Achievement by a Major Economy - Europe, once a continent,
Mother Knows Best Prize - Judith Collins, for calling in the
snicko-meter on that silly umpire, Justice Binnie. What would
a High Court judge know about reviewing evidence?There's our
list. But to complete a year in which we've just survived the
Mayan Apocalypse, let me make an economic prediction for
2013. Hold your breath, as I've wasted a lot of brain cells
on this:Despite the high cost of living, it will remain
popular. Keep at it, folks.
John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.