In an effort to write informed columns that make sense of our complex world, I stay close to the news. I listen to the radio and watch television. I read widely on the internet. I've even dabbled with social media. As a result, nothing makes sense, and I'm beginning to worry about my mental health.
I worry for my health because to swim in the sea of current events is to swim in a sea of effluent. These past couple of weeks, I almost drowned in the stuff.
Kicking off the headlines over the past fortnight was NZ First MP Richard Prosser's Middle-earth writings about troglodytes from Wogistan. According to Mr Prosser, a "Wog" is a Western Oriental Gentleman, and a term not to be offended by.
I learned from Google that, amongst other things, a troglodyte is one of a race of humanoid monsters from the game Dungeons and Dragons. This was all I was going to learn from Mr Prosser's writings.
His wisdom born out of pocketknife rage swept local news before launching itself on the eagerly waiting wider world. Much was written and spoken, but nowhere did it state that New Zealand's standing in the world had increased, or that international travel had become safer or more efficient, because of the wisdom Mr Prosser shared with us all.
So what other items were floating out there in the current events sea? Well, we learned that Coca-Cola kills. A coroner's report says so.
Which set Bob Jones off. "What absolute tosh!" he wrote. He threw in a "totally absurd" with a "damn silly suggestion", and topped it off with a "not content to simply do their job".
Coroners "suffer from Gareth-morganitus", according to Sir Bob, "namely, an obsession with seeing their name in print".
The following night, Sir Bob could be seen on Seven Sharp talking about women. Apparently, he employs a few and is well qualified to speak on their behalf.
This was on the back of his previous week's column in New Zealand's largest newspaper, where he talked of "hogwash" and "unadulterated world-class nonsense", followed by more "infantile nonsense" and a "capacity to spout garbage . . . familiar to us all".
He seemed to have covered it all. Was there any subject left untouched for a columnist like me to get outraged about? Perhaps not.
I continued my forlorn search for subject matter in the 24-hour news cycle sea. Unfortunately, Richard Prosser kept floating back to the surface.
Political commentator Matthew Hooton said: "I feel sorry for poor old Prosser; all he was doing was articulating the beliefs of his political party. If you're a greenie, you spread the green message; if you're in NZ First, your job is to promote hatred."
All this "news" was making me feel unwell. My doctor did say I should try more greens.
I turned from the writings of one shock jock politician to another. Not Michael Laws, but former ACT leader Rodney Hide. Perhaps he could guide me on this week's subject matter.
Rodney didn't muck about. He gracefully danced his way into the current education debate. "The teacher unions? They're the baddest and the maddest."
Teacher unions "dictate education policy, destabilise duly elected ministers of education, and present themselves as the arbiters of right and proper schooling". Nothing about Hekia's own righteous high heels destabilising her, Rodney?
He finished with another charitable thought on unionised teachers. "They're rich, powerful and unassailable . . . their driving concern is their own power and their own budget."
Rodney gave me an ice cream headache to go with my current events heartache.
I bravely continued my voyage into what Colin Hogg calls the "godless and lost world of New Zealand current affairs". And there it was again. Richard Prosser's bobbing head - this time handed in on a plate, in a quote from a NZ First board member.
According to the board member, Mr Prosser is "prone to hyperbolistic feats of expression". The quote exploded on my computer screen before I went searching for meatier subjects.
Meteors in Russia, I hear you say? I reckon they were a Russian tourism publicity stunt. Horse meat in Britain? That'll teach them for joining the European Union. Oscar Pistorius? A story with legs, but too sad for words.
What about Telecom's email security? How about writing about the Living Wage? What about the Salvation Army's State of the Nation report released last week? What about the release of long-delayed semi-legal auditor-general's reports into issues that are mostly moral? Followed by a neat policy release on beneficiary fraud to divert the media's gaze.
The truth is, I've waded through so much news effluent it's got into my brain.
I may have to wait for Seven Sharp to give these subjects a go before I can understand them. Their graphics always help. With any luck, someone will tweet about it to further enhance clarity.
- © Fairfax NZ News