It probably won’t get any kind of result, but a week or so back I made a complaint to that great faceless behemoth, Facebook, my first.
I reported an anti-vaxer. I got sick of a constant stream of messages from this person, each laden with emotive prose about the grave risk of getting the jab, “backed up” by strings of website links that supposedly supported her argument.
I told FB I not only didn’t want to hear from her again, but they should take a look at her activities, which seemed to breach the social media company’s rules about…well, something.
There’s been no news back, and I haven’t inquired. The block I put on Ms Anti-vaxer seems to be holding. I’m hoping she’s given up on me and is pestering somebody else.
You’ll have worked out where I stand on Covid-19 vaccination. Lin and I – and every other person we know – have had both jabs.
In case you’re wondering, we approached it with caution. We’re old enough to remember the thalidomide disaster, to recall as kids getting injections against polio (and knowing other kids who caught it), measles, diphtheria, whooping cough and other once-rampant afflictions that swept society periodically last century.
I was a medical reporter and columnist back in my Auckland Star days in the 1970s, and for three years from 2010 I spent two or three hours a day writing a blog about prostate cancer, my project being labelled one of the world’s best lay information sources by the Harvard Medical Library.
So I believe I know how to research medical stuff. And my reading (and Lin’s) supported the idea of getting the Pfizer vaccine as soon as it was available.
In case you’re wondering, the first prick had no noticeable impact, but the second last month left us both feeling a bit crook (strong Kiwi medical term) for a week.
Things in the world of vaccination development and application have moved on a lot, to say the least. Our study of how Covid vaccines were developed so rapidly convinced us the risks were no greater than they have ever been when it comes to applying medical treatment on a broad scale.
Someone, somewhere, will have a bad experience. Bad enough to kill them. But the chances are so remote as to place the risk factor below those generally in play every time we get out of bed in the morning.
My anti-vaxer acquaintance may have given up on me, but you can bet she’ll still be spreading her earnest message to others.
People like that never give up, because to do so is to concede a wrong turn somewhere, the weakening of a leap of faith that if questioned would bring their philosophy on human existence out into the glare of reason.
Those words are too grand to describe why some people are like that. In fact, they’re simply dumb. They’re as easily persuaded as religious fanatics, and greatly reinforced by endless opportunities offered by the internet to rotate within a silo of like-minded people.
If my language here is strong, then forgive me. I had a lot to do with the anti-vaccination brigade a decade or more back when I joined the Sunday Star-Times as acting chief reporter for a six-month stint.
I was first defence against anyone approaching the paper looking to pitch a story. Most came from public relations hacks, whose emails could be binned after a single glance at the first paragraph. But the anti-vaxers were different.
They mustered screeds of evidence to support their belief that not only does mass vaccination run counter to freedom of choice, but long-term risks from introducing any foreign substance to the body can never be predicted.
You can see how such vague but compelling arguments needed careful consideration, before – as invariably happened after I’d read the screeds, checked their origins, and compared them to my own research (in effect, lay person v lay person) – I would politely tell them to bugger off.
I don’t feel so polite these days. I’m with US columnist Leonard Pitts Jnr who writes of what’s happening there as the government introduces mandatory vaccination for its employees, like ours is now.
We’ll see the same whining here, the same complaints we saw when wearing a seat belt became mandatory last century, the laments about loss of freedom.
Goodbye, then. I don’t want you teaching my grandkids.
My new book – Random Thoughts: Jim Tucker revisits favourite columns – was formally launched at the Hospice Taranaki shop in Westown, New Plymouth, on the evening of October 13.
A crowd of about 50 hospice supporters, New Plymouth District Councillors (including Deputy Mayor Richard Jordan and his wife, Anne) and friends of the author and wife, Lin, gathered at the shop at 5.30pm to hear speeches from hospice CEO Paul Lamb and me.
The occasion ended with book sales and signings. The book, proceeds from which go to Hospice Taranaki, went on sale the next day at the five Taranaki hospice shops.
There will be more book signings next week at the shops in Waitara, Waiwhakaiho Valley, Stratford and Hawera, and at Westown.
The aim is to sell at least 1000 copies, which would raise $20,000 for the hospice.
The book republishes about 40 of the 237 columns I wrote for the Taranaki Daily News/Stuff between 2016 and January this year. Each is illustrated and followed up to see if anything eventuated.
Printing of the book was paid for by Dr George Mason from his charitable fund. Many thanks, George.
Anyone wanting a copy can email me on email@example.com (if you’re out of Taranaki) or buy from one of the shops or the hospice Trade Me account. The book is not on sale at any bookshop or through any book publisher (other than JimTuckerMedia).
Take a look at my third photo essay on New Plymouth’s renowned Pukekura Park, this time a two-parter assembled from a couple of thousand cellphone pix taken over the past couple of winters.
Winter Park (Parts 1 and 2, You Tube below) shows how nature changes everything in the park, but also how quickly the plants and trees regather themselves for spring. I’m taking spring shots now for the next essay.
While the NZ Government is showing due concern for the welfare of the country’s aged during the Covid pandemic, something has gone wrong with its funding for those vital end-of-life places about to be overrun by dying Baby Boomers.
Hospice Taranaki, for example, has seen its government funding drop from 70 percent a decade ago to 47 percent now.
My latest column (October 9, 2021) writes about this discrepancy in State care, as well as my latest book, whose proceeds will go towards helping our hospice survive.
Roadworks in Taranaki – not much progress. DN Photo
During this second term of the Labour-dominated government one thing that has become apparent is its quest to gain central control over more of the country’s basic functions.
We’ve got all the polytechnics now merged into a single administrative entity, the regional health boards are going to be reorganised into a small number of new mega-boards, and now there is a plan to take over what is being called the “Three Waters” – drinking water, sewerage and stormwater drainage.
The government is predicting large ratepayer savings with this plan, but now our many councils are questioning the numbers. The rest of us can only wonder if we’re going to get another version of the roads board system, which has left our main highways patchy and neglected.
Have a read on my thoughts about Three Waters in this recent column I wrote for the Taranaki Daily News and Stuff.
A bunch of brave fellers lop the top off one of the last old pine trees at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth.
Once one of dozens, this 140-year-old specimen used to towered above the band rotunda at the bottom end of the park’s main lake. A small crowd waited for more than an hour as the tree-fellers removed the top part of the main trunk.
This is a collection of some of my 237 weekly columns written for the Taranaki Daily News/Stuff between 2016 and 2021. The selected columns will have updates telling you what happened after they appeared and some amusing tales of what transpired when I was researching and writing them at the time.
The book will be dedicated to Hospice Taranaki and proceeds from sales will go to the hospice organisation. It will be on sale through their four Taranaki shops.
Watch out for it in the second half of 2021.
Now four years in the writing – too many interruptions and other books – my memoirs might well be out in time for Xmas 2021.
I’m into Part 3, a record of my 25 years as a journalism teacher, and about to write about our seven years in Wellington at the journalists training organisation and Whitireia polytechnic. Part 4 will be about the return to New Plymouth.
I’m interrupted again, of course – the columns collection above is the current focus.
Feedback on my last column
“You’ll be getting lots of good wishes just now, but here’s another set to add to your pile,” wrote author David Hill in an email.
“I’ve relished your columns greatly over the past few years – your balance, clarity, skills of structure and tone. You’ve been such an admirably mature voice on local issues, and you’ve also been that elusive thing, A Good Read, with narrative and register so neatly controlled.”
David was one of a few dozen well-wishers who got in touch. This attached document shows what they had to say. I thank them all for their kind words.
A few people suggested we publish a collection of some of the 239 columns that date back to 2016. That might work if I added background about how the columns came about in each case and what, if anything, eventuated.
He was as famous as Jonah Lomu in his day. Neil Wolfe set the rugby world aflame when he first played for the ABs in 1960. If you want to know the full story, you’ll find it all in my newly published book – Wolfie: The life of an All Black.
To buy a copy ($60), email Raewyn Wolfe at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve just eaten the best toasted sandwich in my 60 years of working and travelling the world as a journalist (lived off them, believe me). It was a good old ham/cheese/tomato at New Plymouth’s Kitchen Table café in Brooklands yesterday.
That old cliche “to die for” just doesn’t cut it when it comes to describing the sophisticated qualities – taste, looks, smell, generosity of filling – of that sandwich.