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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 since 1966.''
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 jail.''
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, now incontinent.
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.