Tucked deep in the archives of private/political investigative journalism is a wicked sense of humour – a bit of wit awaiting exposure, some say about 50%, dry, like a magnum of Aussie plonk. Like wetas at lunchtime, eventide and when a waterblaster awaits, it hides awaiting revelation at a time and place of its choosing then, bang, it reveals itself in all its splendiferous glory. Well that would be the Braunias way of summarising this post anyway. My way is to say that “Steve Braunias looks like a scruff but is actually turning out to be a good guy in my books, and this is my way of saying thank you to the Senior Reporter of the New Zealand Herald.” He scribbled a personal note of best wishes on this book of his – a gift for my 88 year old father’s birthday (if he makes it through the night), tomorrow.
First, a legal disclaimer and warning. This post contains humour, satire and a smidgeon of truth all based on truth and is not the opinion of the author. For Americans and all others without knowledge or understanding of Bri’ish humour we call this satire, witty, clever, and probably more like the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth than you realise, if you really want to know. For Brian Henry, it doesn’t mean what it says. For Cameron Slater it means everything it says. For Colin Craig it means
money; justice; opinion; well actually it has no meaning. For the vast majority it probably means nothing either. Insiders will grasp the irony, and some may laugh their heads off.
The following is a brain-dump . . . the secret diary of a brain variously invigorated by the comic “damned good” genius of Steve Braunias, Senior [note senior]
Editor, Journalist, Writer at the New Zealand Herald. That brain is mine – the “damned good” quote is my father’s and the job description is Steve’s.
It all started a long time ago when I returned from rural Samoa in September 2016. It’s more fair to say “was returned” as I was kindly vacated from those friendly isles apparently Founded Upon God rather recently. Just like Israel, Iraq, ISIS and the rest who know that God is captured under their corporate colours too. Don’t write books called Corruption in Samoa if you want to remain in Samoa. But don’t worry – there aren’t any virgins there so there’s an alternative Paradise awaiting you.
I came back to a changed literary landscape – the NZ Herald still arrived in my aging father’s letter box more mornings than it didn’t and thus there was a sense of continuity with the multi-decade-long rant about the shocking delivery processes [at least there’s consistency, Dad]. How long have you been complaining about this? “Since you were knee-high to a grasshopper!” he pouts, recognising the sound logic based upon fact. That silences him for all of two minutes until he can get back to his crossword . . . and Steve.
“Well I certainly enjoy his weekly article!”
Well I already knew this, because I’d established this previously when the Braunias name popped up in conversation. “Damned good! Damned good!” was his diagnosis. Again. Yes I knew this too. Dad sometimes repeats himself. Every now and then. Throughout the day. And am I confused that these were positive words too? Nah! cannot be!
So what’s so good about that comic? Is it because he stands there smirking at us every day with his arms crossed, he’s onto a
victim, subject, story? I could never get over the way that NZ Herald seemed to now put huge coloured photos of girls with their arms crossed on page three. I remembered different photos from page three when I lived in New Zealand way back when. Cough!
So I’d written the man and his articles of comedy [“It’s satire, Dennis!” he rightly corrects me] off as just another NZ Herald writer, with an ego trained, skilled and hated (if you listen to The Whale) and categorised Dad’s love affair with the folded armed page two guy, as just a geriatric worship experience until . . . that fateful day when attempting to stay incognito at the back of the courtroom, I was thrust into the limelight of New Zealand journalism by the Man with Secrets. The man who seemed to know the secrets of the lives of ANYone in the news – Steve . . . Braunias in fact.
I’d previously determined that there was something fishy between the two
big egos big names of Craig vs Slater, and/or Slater vs Craig depending on which day of the week it was and which week of which year you were talking about. Something’s up with these dudes I thought, and wrote. I’d previously checked in with the Registrar (Actually the Court Taker” to be precise) and yes, it was possible to connect my notebook into a power plug in the court room. You just gotta pretend that you’re a journalist for the day and the judge will grant you your wish.
Done. Stand up before the judge why not? Steal the limelight for all of a seven and a half minute lecture about how clause 15b of the 29th section of the 1824 legislation says that you cannot be a journalist . . . but I will still let you plug your notebook computer into the court power system anyway, because I can.
Whew! Now I can recharge my battery throughout out the day (oh and use the free court WIFI for court business of course).
“Hello, I’m Steve! Who are you?” and he’s standing there in front of me having bounded across the courtroom around about two milliseconds after the door banged shut after the judge had exited for his break.
Wow! This stickybeak journo guy with a smile has a business card too, and he’s offering it to me too! Having lived in Samoa for seven years this was certainly a new experience! What do I do with it? Oh! That’s right . . . you take it from him. They don’t charge you for things like that here . . . it’s safe to take it without incurring debt or a Samoan IOU. You just give him your business card in exchange.
Problem. We don’t use business cards in Samoa. We just ask which village you are from and what your title is. That’s enough for an ID. Everybody knows everybody else and everything over there!
Nek minute . . . publicity!
I’m a private investigative blogger trying to keep a low profile. I try to sit in the back pew hiding from everyone (but that spot was firmly taken by Cameron Slater); all I wanted was to plug my computer into the court power socket and now I have to be a bl**dy journalist (just like Cameron Slater) and this apparently “senior” and famous ‘golliwog’ who had cornered me in the courtroom with his version of the seventh Spanish Inquisition and . . . I’m plastered all of the NZ Herald’s next day review from the trial – “a conspiracy theorist with a bowtie fetish . . . ” WTF?
Steve’s marketing genius certainly worked for me. My hit counter recorded three extra hits for the day doubling my hitcount for the week! I think two of them were from New Zealand; not sure that Australia can be attributed to the awesome power of the New Zealand Herald online though!
Steve, you champ!
I popped down to Wellington last week to help a mate out with a few legal things . . . again all incognito of course – bowtie, civvies and Jetstar [yes I dared risk it!]. I leave it to the last minute to board – nothing to do with Arabs and box cutters – honest. I just hate sitting with my knees into my chin so try to shorten the time on the plane. The downside of this is that you have to walk past a hundred or more sets of eyes gawking at you as you make your way down over under around bulging fat people, long legs sticking out into the isle and glorious transgender damsels until you can claim your fifty square inches of seated sanity.
Fortunately it is good practice to remind me of my insecurities of the past and another opportunity to deal to my inferiority complex. I relish the thought that a hundred plus people have no idea that the guy with facial wisdom under his chin, and a scowl, is actually a big softie at heart!
Then oh, dread . . . I’d only gone all of three isles through the rich and famous and there, down in the back on the left was a mop of scraggle that I could recognise anywhere on the planet. The scraps of grey straw that had accosted me in the courtroom with a businesscard and infamy on the once-proud bastion of the NZ Fourth Estate. OMG! Can I ever be free from this thing that haunts me? Smile . . . be seated. Samoa is such a small place you know. We expect to meet and bump into our friends all day every day you know! I’m in New Zealand? Oh!
I try to depart the plane as soon as I can but am boxed in by big Samoan behinds – makes me feel at home – and find myself one of the last in the line walking the distance to the Wellington baggage claim with the Senior Writer. Small talk and an invitation to his book launch, Wellington, Unity books and the time. See you there . . .
OMG. How do I get out of this one? I mean I write books not read them Steve. You’re a comic claiming to be a satarist. You’ve done a dozen of these things all about ‘fluff’ and are famous. I’ve written a couple of dozen and a million and a half words online and all about serious stuff, important, save the world kinda stuff and nobody knows me . . . you said it yourself, that damned trial brought me out of the woodwork didn’t you? Didn’t it?
Nah! Book launches are not my cuppa tea, Steve . . . and you need a haircut [with a Number 1 or 2], and tuck your damned shirt in too – you look like a scruff!
“How do you get in to town from here?” I asked my hosts.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m thinking to pop down and see a mate of mine. He’s doing a book launch today downtown.”
“Who is it? What’s the bookshop?”
“Steve Braunias. Unity Books.”
“The writer from the NZ Herald?”
“Yeah! You know him?”
“Of course. Everyone knows him. We all think his satire is great. I’d love to meet him. I’ll take you down!”
Grrr! It’s comedy to me and I don’t want to go. I just want to get a book autographed for my aging father. He reckons Steve’s work is good. “Damned good,” to be a little more accurate. Note to self – budding authors wanting to rise up over low self esteem, don’t mention, let alone befriend the famous without deep psychological preparation and lots of planning.
I stood out like a sore toe at the book launch in the centre of Wellington at lunchtime. I wasn’t dressed for a funeral. What is it with Wellingtonians and black? I stood at the back at the book launch in the centre of Wellington at lunchtime. I tried to dissolve into the bookshelves and immerse myself in other peoples’ books. So many of these bl**dy things. Why would people want to buy these things in the day of the Internet I wondered aloud? I watched in amazement as dozens of people at the book launch in the centre of Wellington at lunchtime awaited the arrival of fame. He spoke. Dreary dry words like a priest. For a whole year he visited establishment after food establishment until he’d “knocked the bastard off”. The people edged forward to catch the scraps of wisdom. “I ate Lincoln Road” he said. It took him half and hour to say it, but it was profoundly real, even interesting, sort-of. And he had the book to prove it.
The pain continued with question after mighty question and discussions continued well into work time before we all lined up to buy and have our prized purchase scribbled in by the man; The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road.
There were some gems to take home from the long and painful saga of going to Wellington to buy a book from a comic about a truly dreary subject:
- The book price was good. I expected to have to pay $29.95. It was only $25.00. I think even his publishers would have had a conscience trying to get that extra $4.95 from a slimline newsprint pocketbook with huge margins and deeply unmeaningful content;
- I learned that if you work at the NZ Herald and convince your bosses that you are a Senior Writer then they can also be convinced to fund a year’s worth of free food, once a week anyways. I wonder if this has anything to do with their demise? Nah it’s Facebook that has done that to them;
- I noted that the top eating establishment in Steve Braunias’ latest literary masterpiece was adjudged the top place because of . . . not the food; not the service; not the location, location or location; not the advertising; nor the brand . . . but because of the people. They were happy; they smiled and genuinely cared about their customers.
Ahhh! There is wisdom to be learned from the comic after all!
Steve Braunias needs to tuck his shirt in and get a hair cut, but he knows how to butter up 88 year old geriatrics who adore him – you just write arrogant nonsense with a bit of wit, get it published in the NZ Herald then scribble a personal note to them in the front of your newly published book, wishing them happy 88th birthday, and they drool.
Steve Braunias, for all your crimes of calling me a conspiracy theorist when I am nothing of the sort – I am a conspiracy ANALYST – THANK YOU! – and for outing and exposing this blogger and doubling his weekly hit count in a single day from three to six, you’re a bl**dy good guy, because I’ve waited all of my 58 years to hear two positive words from my father in a row and when I gave him your book, opened it at your personal message of best wishes to him and put it in front of him to read at dinner time, he not only said THREE nice things in a row, he repeated one of them for good measure:
“That’s nice of him [to autograph the book]!”
“Well I certainly enjoy his weekly article. Along with Mary [somebody] in the Business section to me, he’s the highlight of the week.”
“Damned good.” and for good measure and a little more emphatically to end his longest ever positive rant:
It took 88 years to get there but Steve, you’re a bl**dy genius mate!
Happy 88th birthday Dad.
PS: Oh, and yes, I did sneak a quick read of the book. I speed read. It took all of twelve minutes in the car on the way home to my guest’s place. It’s different to what I write. No dealing to crims, crooks or crazies. No deep and meaningful stuff. Nothing that will save the world or solve age-old giant international problems. Nothing contentious. Nothing daring. Not my cuppa tea but Dad will love it, I’m sure.