Even Hell has its Standards

They call themselves Kiwis (a flightless bird and also a fruit), have a wicked sense of humor, and they like to take the mickey out of each other. Taking themselves too seriously is not part of the national character.

We’re now approaching Auckland international airport, and will land in a few minutes if we can get these sheep off the runway. Please set your watches back 25 years.

They do have sheep. 40 million of them. The sheep outnumber the human population 10 to 1. In an area about the size of Japan, or the US state of Colorado, they have 4 million people. The economy is based on grassland agriculture and is one of the most egalitarian in the world. Instead of setting your watch back 25 years, you would be better advised to set it forward when it comes to schooling and dealing with problems national as well as international.

My primary motive in visiting New Zealand was to learn about their educational system. My guide was one of New Zealand’s favorite sons who is world famous in New Zealand (as he likes put it) — my friend, Mr. Gordon Dryden: journalist, radio and TV host, co-author of the best-selling book The Learning Revolution, a brilliant raconteur, an able and indefatigable tour guide, a man who knows his Pinot Gries, a legend in his own mind, and a bit of a bullshit artist. Gordon will soon celebrate 50 years of being married to Margaret. You have to know Gordon to fully appreciate why she is called St. Margaret.

(OK, Dryden, I have kept my part of the deal and said nothing that would embarrass your first wife St. Margaret of Auckland. Now go ahead and ship that case of Pinot Noir to me.)

As I was telling you, they like to take the mickey out of every one. Here is a simple billboard advertising — guess what — pizza!

Hell Pizza

Another billboard again with George W Bush’s picture in Auckland downtown simply declared:

Even it has its standards.

They evidently say it like they see it. Just this past weekend, David Lange, the former prime minister of NZ, passed away at the age of 63. His wit was legendary. He is supposed to have told the US Ambassador H. Monroe Browne, who owned a racehorse called Lacka Reason: “You are the only ambassador in the world to race a horse named after your country’s foreign policy.”

Now I will take a break and go read the entry on David Lange in the wikipedia. After the break I will continue on what I learnt on my recent visit to NZ and Singapore. So don’t go away.


Post Script: For an update on the “Hell Pizza” billboards, see “Hell and Censorship” (Feb 2007.)