Why Whole Food Plant Based?

I’ve been on a serious health kick now (2016) for nearly thirty five years. It has been a mostly private exploration and experiment of one. I don’t proselytise or evangelize about health. But I’m often asked about my health regime by those seeking a better lifestyle, or the curious. It all boils down to a few simple ideas about diet and nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Mostly they ask about what I don’t eat. Mostly I tell them about what I do eat.

I’ve been vegetarian for 30+ years, eating no meat or fish. I considered myself vegan for about the last 15 or so years, eating no animal products at all. A Maori, war veteran vegan who grew up on farms. Strange you might think. Well, I might be a bit strange but being vegan wasn’t the reason.

I wasn’t a political vegan, an activist vegan, an animal rights vegan or an environmentalist vegan. I was just a health nut vegan. And I don’t really care whether you eat meat or not. I don’t. After all, I grew up hunting and fishing, and killing and butchering for the table.

The Vegan Society of Aotearoa New Zealand defines vegans as people who, “do not eat meat (fish, shellfish, livestock or poultry) eggs, dairy products, honey, gelatine or use leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics or soaps derived from animal products”.

So by their definition I wasn’t just a dietary vegan, not the whole hog politically correct vegan. Maybe not even a vegan. Because I wear leather shoes and a leather jacket, I’ve got a couple of silk scarves, and my preferred winter fibre is most definitely wool. I’m a fan of fine merino wool garments, including my suits. Nothing like two or three layers of wool to keep the winter chill from getting into the core of this aging body. I don’t use cosmetics by the way. I’d be interested to know what sort of vegan the Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy is.

But many vegans also eat refined sugars and flours, and processed foods, and perhaps too much plant oil. You can be a vegan and still eat unhealthily.

I was always an omnivore up to the age of about 40 (33 years ago), through a 20 year career in the NZ Army. But I was becoming increasingly choosy about the flesh I did eat.

Growing up, we killed some of our own meat. My mother would let me know when she wanted chicken for the table and it was my job to kill and dress the chook. We raised orphan lambs for the table. My job again to slaughter and butcher. That’s why we never named the “pet” lambs . They weren’t pets. They were food.

Out at the shearing shed it was my job to butcher the sheep the farmers would leave in the slaughter house for us.

We hardly ever bought fish because we could catch it ourselves, or the fishermen in the whanau would share with us. In fact the only fish we ever bought was battered and wrapped in newspaper with chips. That was a special treat about once a month if we were lucky.

A big pot of pork bones and puha was the extra special treat, about once a fortnight.

While I was still in the Army I attended a New Zealand Day function at the residence of the NZ Ambassador to Indonesia. The main course was BBQ fillet steak. He had flown in a whole NZ fillet from Singapore, and it was the most tender and fresh fillet you could imagine. Export quality. The sort of meat you can rarely find in the butcher shops in New Zealand. Unless the butcher raises and kills his own meat, like the butcher in Waipawa did. It reminded me of when I worked in the Tomoana Freezing Works in the boning room. The best meat was always packed for the export market. The Gold Cut was boned and packed for export to the USA. They probably turned our best cuts into hamburger.

By comparison the stuff in the butchers’ shops was low quality.

I never bought fish except for the occasional fish and chips. Or sometimes at a restaurant. For I could catch it myself wherever we were posted. And I was very careful about where I went fishing, knowing full well that a lot of fish in the marketplace are a bit dodgy. Sometimes contaminated by toxic minerals or chemicals.

After leaving the Army I took up cross country, road and track running just to keep fit.  Fit and healthy runners were good company too.

It was the running that caused me to stop eating meat and fish. During the Winter cross country season, in the Harrier Club we would train hard all week and race hard at club or inter-club meets on Saturday. During the week I would schedule one long hard training run of about 30km, usually on the Wednesday.

As we Masters runners got older we had to be careful about the amount of stress we put on the body, and about what we ate. Some of us found that the meat we were eating caused unusual stress. We would have to stop during a run for a bowel break. Meat takes about three to four days to digest and pass through the body. A hard race or a long training run can speed up the passage. It could be embarrassing.

So that meant that if I stopped eating meat three days before a race or a hard training run I could eat meat one day a week. So I decided to give it away for the season.

And I immediately noticed the difference. I felt better. People asked me why I was looking so good. Those close to me remarked that I had become a calmer person. I gave up eating flesh for good.

And for the last 30 years or so I have never had a problem with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract; the digesive system. No indigestion, no heartburn, no stomach aches, no constipation, no diarrhea, no nausea or vomiting. None, except for two short bouts of diarrhea caused by contaminated food.

I also gave up alcohol and tobacco at about the same time as I became vegetarian. That had a big effect of course.

About 16 years ago I was doing some work for Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. One of the main projects at the time was grommet operations for the mokopuna. There was so much ear infection in the Kohanga movement that we had a number of ear, nose and throat specialists on contract to fit grommets. They did literally thousands of operations on the mokopuna.

It was well known that Maori kids were prone to ear infections, and growing up it always seemed that Maori kids were the ones with the snotty noses. I’d noticed that most of the kaikorero on the paepae were forever clearing their throats of phlegm. I wondered why and went looking for answers.

It was the milk. Human milk is designed by nature to grow babies into toddlers, then they are weaned, sometime before the age of 4, then we feed them cow’s milk for the rest of their lives. Cow’s milk is designed by nature to turn calves into cows, and they are weaned off it when it is no longer the right food for them. So I sort of reasoned that cow’s milk was not designed by nature to feed Maori babies, let alone the toddlers, or the adults, who from time immemorial had been weaned off milk at an early age. And I came across some research that indicated that it could cause ear infections, snotty noses and excess phlegm in adults.

No one was interested of course. New Zealand is the Saudi Arabia of milk, and it is touted as one of the healthiest foods we should all be consuming. It’s not for Polynesians though.

Since the mapping of the human genome scientists have identified the milk gene. It was first discovered in Denmark. It has now been established that when the child is weaned off human milk the milk gene is switched off, and the body is no longer able to properly digest milk.

Except in those populations that have been consuming animal milks for thousands of years, for instance in Northern Europe and in Africa.  In those populations the milk gene stays switched on and they have no problems digesting cow’s milk, cheese, ice cream and the rest. The rest of us are prone to have problems digesting dairy products. The undigested or partially disgested stuff gathers in the ears, nose and throat and causes the problems.

No one is interested of course.

Anyway, before I came across the genetic science I decided, as I often do, to experiment on myself and to stop consuming dairy products. The effect was almost instantaneous. No more snot and phlegm. And it’s been that way for the past 15 years because I haven’t touched the stuff since. No more snot and phlegm, except when I catch a cold, usually on an aircraft, about once every two or three years.

So there I was, 15 years ago, a vegetarian for 15 years and now off dairy as well. So I went the whole hog and cut all animal products from  my diet. In the last few years I realised I was eating too much bread and pasta. I’ve eliminated most refined and processed food as well, hence the Whole Food Plant Based diet (see here also).

And I’ve never looked back. I’m certain that my nutrition and regular exercise are keeping me healthy. I feel good always, and I have not had any illness for the last 30 years (and for many years before that too). Touch wood.

When I was five years old my grandmother taught me that good health was the key to a good life. 68 years later I can vouch that she was right.

 

Asparagus & Sweetcorn Soup

This is a really delicious, simple Whole Food Plant Based soup. Just asparagus and corn.

Ingredients

About 1 kg fresh asparagus
4 or 5 cobs of sweetcorn

Preparation

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus spears. Set aside and reserve.
Snap off the tender tips of the asparagus spears. Set aside and reserve.
Strip the corn kernels off the cob. Set aside and reserve about 1 cup.

Boil the woody ends of the spears to make a stock. Strain and discard the asparagus ends.

Put the asparagus spears (the middle bit) and the corn kernels into the stock. Top up and cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender. Puree with a hand blender.

Crush the reserved corn kernels and put them with the reserved asparagus tips into the soup. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender.

There you have it. One of the most delicious soups you’ll ever taste.

 

 

 

All Purpose Dressing

I eat a lot of salads. For most salads I will just use olive oil and lemon juice as a dressing. light and tasty.

But this is my favourite dressing, used in a potato salad, or just poured over steamed vegetables.

Equal measures of olive oil and lemon juice.
Couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard.
Handful of fresh basil leaves.

Whizz, blend, pour.

Brussel Sprouts

I hated brussel sprouts. Well, hate might be a bit over the top, but I didn’t eat them for about 60 years after the age of 6. I lived with my Pakeha grandparents for just over a year when I first started school. We didn’t have a school where we lived.

My grandmother was English, brought home after WW1. Her cooking was standard working class English; meat and two veg. And they didn’t have electricity or refrigeration of course in those days. So we ate fresh caught fish, fresh meat occasionally, and a lot of corned beef or corned mutton, mostly corned beef. Didn’t need refrigeration to keep corned meat. We had a big vegetable garden and I don’t know why but it seemed to me to be mostly brussel sprouts, and cabbages.

Anyway we ate a lot of corned beef and brussel sprouts, and corned beef and cabbage, boiled.

I was chatting with my last surviving aunt a few months ago, over lunch, and mentioned that I hadn’t touched brussel sprouts from the age of 6 to a few years ago. At the time she, being the youngest, was still at home. She told me she hadn’t ever eaten corned beef since she left home.

A few years ago I was idly watching the Graham Norton Show on the TV. Gwyneth Paltrow was a guest. She’s a bit wierd but also a bit of a foodie. For some wierd reason she started talking about brussel sprouts, and how she cooks them. I thought to myself, “Maybe they’ll taste OK cooked like that”. So I tried it, and I’ve been cooking and eating them regularly ever since. Healthy kai.

Cut the base off the sprouts and cut a cross into the base.
Steam them until they’re half cooked.
Saute them in olive oil in a frying pan.
When they’re nearly done, add a generous splash of balsamic vinegar, or caramelised balsamic vinegar if you have it.
Continue cooking until the vinegar has reduced to almost nothing.

Serve.

Vegetable, Fruit & Nut Tagine

This is a no meat version of an original North African dish. Best cooked in a tagine, the distinctive North African cookware.

Ingredients

1 Onion (sliced)
Garlic
Chilli
Ginger
Flaxseed Meal
Ras el Hanout North African spice mix
Coconut oil (or other cooking oil)

1 handful pistachio nuts (try peanuts for a different taste)
4 dried apricots (sliced)
4 dried figs (sliced)
4 dates (sliced)
1 preserved or fresh lemon (sliced)
1 apple (sliced)
1 can white beans (or 2 cups pre-soaked dried white beans)
1 or 2 handfuls shredded coconut

Zucchini
Eggplant
Broccoli
Tomatoes
Green beans
Peas
Other vegetables

Saute the onions, garlic, chilli, ginger, flaxseed meal and Ras El Hanout in the cooking oil, in the tagine. Add the nuts, fruit, beans and shredded coconut, one or two tomatoes, and water. Bring to the boil on the hob, turn the heat down very low, and simmer for at least 60 minutes. Slice whatever vegetables you’ve decided to use, including another one or two tomatoes, add them (and more water if needed) about 30 minutes before serving, bring to the boil again, then simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.

Try not to lift the lid more than you have to. The steam and juices are trapped inside the lid, and run back down into the dish, trapping all of the many flavours.

Serve over rice or quinoa and garnish with herbs or chopped apricot.

Delicious.

Heaven and Hell

Onions and Apples

This is an easy, different, and tasty dish. Whole Food Plant Based of course.

Ingredients

2 onions
2 Granny Smith apples
1 large potato
1 large kumara
Frozen peas
Beans
2 Cinnamon sticks
Mixed herbs (handful)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil (about a tablespoon)
Water

Thinly slice the onions, apples, potato and kumara.

Layer the onions on the bottom of a casserole or similar oven dish with a reasonably heavy lid (I use a cast iron dish), and layer the apples over the onion. Layer the potato and kumara over that, with more layers of onion and apple if you have any left over. Throw in the peas, beans or any other vegetable in between the layers.

Place the cinnamon sticks in the middle somewhere, season with the herbs, salt and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over it, and add about a half a cup of water.

Put the lid on and place in the oven at 200 degrees, cook for 95 minutes. By then the onions and apple will have caramelised. Serve on its own or with another vegetable.

Feeds two.

Enjoy.

The Breakfast Smoothie

A totally different topic:

People always ask me about my breakfast smoothie, mostly out of curiosity rather than from any intention to adopt my peculiar dietary habits.

It’s strictly a no animal products (Whole Food Plant Based) for I’ve been that way for over fifteen years now (2016), and vegetarian for fifteen years before that. This smoothie, and variations of it, has been my main daily meal for about 12 years. It combines the nutritional essentials of protein, fats, carbohydrates and fibre. There is plenty of fibre in the fruit, greenery and nuts to maintain good gut health. I figure that the smoothie gives me all the nutrients I need, including essential minerals, vitamins and amino acids.

Except for Vitamin B12, which I take as a daily supplement.

The smoothie keeps me going all day without ever feeling hungry. Without ever feeling the effects of low blood sugar. I have two meals a day; this smoothie and dinner. I rarely snack between meals. And it powers me through my daily exercise late in the day – about 10k daily walking plus occasional weight training.

It’s made in a standard 600ml smoothie maker (Kambrook, George Foreman, Nutribullet, etc) and is one third fruit, one third greenery and one third nuts, with a few other ingredients, in plain water.

Fruit

Whatever fruit is in season, but my staples are:

  • Pineapple,
  • Orange or grapefruit, or sometimes a lemon or lime, just for a change.
  • Blueberries and
  • Banana.
  • My son adds avocado which gives the smoothie a creamy texture, and avocado is rich in health promoting nutrients.

Greenery

Kale is the hipster fad of the moment but I use:

  • Celery, or
  • Spinach, or
  • Silver beet, and
  • Herbs (usually mint, basil or parsley). Usually the dominant taste in the smoothie, and
  • sometimes I use Kale because there’s some in the garden, not because I’m into the hipster fad.

A Combination of Raw Nuts (protein, fat and fibre)

  • Walnuts, and
  • Cashews, and
  • Almonds, and
  • Brazil nuts.
  • Peanuts make it taste like peanut butter, if that’s what you like, and they’re a legume rather than a nut, but still very healthy.

According to this scientific meta analysis higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections.

And there is some scientific evidence that a daily nut intake will help prevent erectile dysfunction. Who needs to support the billion dollar Viagra business.

Supplements (essential ingredients)

  • Turmeric root or powder (about half a teaspoon); and
  • Spirulina (about one teaspoon).

Non-essential supplements, but I add them anyway

  • Seeds (whole or ground), i.e. flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin.
  • Coconut yoghurt, just because coconut is an ancient tipuna kai (ancestral food) I suppose.
  • Ginger root, because its good for you.
  • Garlic is good for you too but I can’t stand the taste of garlic in my smoothie. I tried it once and it was overpowering.
  • I’ve been known to add miso paste because it’s a complete protein, is said to aid digestion, and as a fermented food helps maintain a healthy gut biota. But it does become the dominant flavour (omnivores can use an ordinary yoghurt for the same purpose).

Experiment

I experiment, trying new healthy ingredients from time to time, always maintaining the 1/3 fruit, 1/3 greenery, 1/3 nuts formula, with the essential ingredients.

Preparation

I prepare it the night before, nuts first, then the fruit and the greenery, with the supplements last, top with water, and leave it in the fridge overnight. I will usually make about three days’ at a time. In the morning I add an ice cube for an extra chill, whizz and drink.

Some people think that they need to drink a bit of the smoothie at a time throughout the day, to power them through the day. I find that taking it all at breakfast is more convenient, and still powers me through the whole day, without ever feeling hungry.

Fishing for Prawns – Maori TV & Mihi Forbes

After a recent allegation, aired in the media and provoking outrage on social media, that former Maori TV presenter Mihingarangi Forbes had without permission taken her employer provided wardrobe with her when she left the job, I penned a few words of disbelief about the whole controversy, including:

“The Indonesians have a pepeha “Ada udang dibelakang batu” which means literally “There’s a prawn behind the rock” or “There’s more to this than meets the eye“. And a long time ago, long long before TV and the Internet my grandmother taught me never to believe anything I read in the newspaper or heard on the radio, and to believe only half of what I saw and heard for myself. She might well have said don’t believe anything you read on Facebook or Twitter. Suspending judgement and waiting for the full story to reveal itself, sometimes digging for the full story myself, always works for me. I suspect there’s two sides to the real story and we haven’t heard either of them yet”.

“My advice to those who are upset by the allegation, even outraged, is to take a deep breath, to abide by the wisdom of my grandmother and don’t believe any of it; from either side. This wardrobe stuff is just a ripple on the surface of the pond. There’s a prawn behind the rock and we haven’t seen it yet”.

Thinking on it for a few days I decided to go fishing for prawns. It’s a small pond and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a prawn behind a rock somewhere.

It all starts in 2013, I think, with the decision by former MTS CEO Jim Mather to move on. The media hints that his decision to seek new challenges might have been assisted by a difference of opinion with the chair of MTS, Hon Georgina te Heuheu. Whether or not that is the case he resigned and the board set about advertising for and appointing a replacement. Jim Mather had in his eight years as CEO stabilised the channel, installed sound management practices and built competent production and news teams. Maori TV was thriving.

Maori TV had also reached out to new audiences and it was reported from time to time that its Pakeha audiences at times outnumbered its Maori audiences. There has always been tension at Maori TV between those who would privilege its founding kaupapa of language retention and revival above all else, and those who would reach out to a broader audience; some of those with a more commercial bent. That tension has always been present at staff and board level. Under Jim Mather and his core team some saw Maori TV moving away from the original kaupapa, becoming “more Pakeha” even.

The truth of that position depends entirely on your own preferences and perceptions and not on any objective measurement. Maori TV is Maori TV still by Maori mostly for Maori regardless of its editorial direction. However perceptions are infinitely more powerful than substance. But whatever management and the public might think, it is the prerogative of the Board of Directors to set the strategic direction of the organisation including its editorial direction, without of course interfering in day to day editorial matters. Boards have that in mind when they select CEOs.

The Board of Directors set about the recruitment and appointment of a new CEO. There were quite a few applicants and four were shortlisted by a committee led by Deputy Chairperson Tahu Potiki. Chairperson Georgina te HeuHeu had, so it later transpired, declared a conflict of interest because of friendship with one of the leading applicants, and left the process to her deputy. The shortlisting of her friend Paora Maxwell, and the elimination of MTS executive Carol Hisrchfeld, kicked off a long running controversy in the media and in Parliament. Additionally in some quarters Maxwell was not a popular choice, especially among MTS staff.

The four on the shortlist were Paora Maxwell, Carol Hirschfeld, Richard Jefferies and Mike Rehu. After Hirschfeld and Rehu were eliminated it became obvious to most that Maxwell would get the job.

The only real contenders were Maxwell and Hirschfeld. Regardless of their likeability and professionalism they represented two entirely different philosophies regarding the future direction of Maori Television. It was those philosophies that clashed and broke out into a public controversy. The real issue of the future direction of Maori Television was never publicly canvassed and debated but was buried in the controversy that erupted about whether or not Georgina te Heuheu had acted improperly and promoted her friend onto the shortlist of four, into the shorter list of two, and then into the job.

In retrospect the MTS Board was making a controversial decision to change the direction of MTS as much as it was making a decision about who should lead it in that direction.

Some on the MTS Board did not agree with the decision. Ian Taylor resigned from the Board and it was reported that Rikirangi Gage had disagreed as well. But the real opposition came from MTS staff. And there is some evidence that the whole public controversy, in the media and in Parliament, was generated from within MTS itself. MTS staff organised a petition in opposition to Maxwell and it was reported that 68 of the 170 staff had signed it. Apparently it was never presented to the Board but mainstream media certainly knew about it. Someone was certainly feeding the media and stoking the controversy. The media also reported that Jim Mather had sent an email to Georgina te Heuheu warning her that if Maxwell was appointed several staff would resign.

Fuelled by leaks from within MTS it turned into a public controversy about Georgina te Heuheu’s (declared) conflict of interest and about accusations of editorial interference. The content of that public controversy was heavily influenced by MTS staff. The real issues were ignored.

The core staff that Mather had built into his news team and who were leading MTS in a certain direction were Carol Hirschfeld, Julian Wilcox, Annabelle Lee Harris and Joanna Mihingarangi Forbes. The media reported that Hirschfeld had presented a written proposal about the direction she thought MTS should take. It was obviously not accepted by the Board.

The media team had also been in a legal battle with Te Kohanga Reo National Trust (TKRNT) about its intention to air a Native Affairs programme alleging impropriety in TKTNT financial affairs. MTS won in court and the “scandal” went to air in two episodes. Lee Harris and Forbes were the public faces of that campaign. It caused considerable public controversy and some accused Native Affairs of becoming too Pakeha in attacking establishment figures in Te Ao Maori. The substance of the MTS allegations was later proven to be largely unfounded although based on minor impropriety within a subsidiary company. But the allegation against MTS about being too Pakeha was also way over the top.

Some saw it as an intergenerational thing with a stroppy young generation attacking and disrespecting their elders. I just saw it at the time as a group of journalists trying to make their mark but employing bad and biased journalistic practice. Their allegations were taken at face value and no-one bothered to look behind the story to the real story.

In my commentary on that controversy I found the journalistic professionalism of the Native Affairs team to be lacking.

However, that controversy was linked to the other controversy over the appointment of the new CEO with allegations of political interference and editorial interference. This is how it was reported in the NZ Herald on March 21st 2014:

“Native Affairs uncovered a scandal over mis-spending of Kohanga Reo funding, which led to the whitewash report from EY (Ernst & Young), commissioned by Education Minister Hekia Parata. Subsequently, the Government did a turnaround and asked for a Serious Fraud Office investigation, saying more information had come to light – though many failings had already been identified by the show.

“It was gutsy coverage and the Maori TV board has been troubled by this story. Sources say the board came under intense pressure from figures in the Maori establishment, unhappy with the allegations against high-profile Maori leaders.

“Supporters of Native Affairs and its assertive approach to the Kohanga Reo story are dismissive of the criticism, saying elements within Maoridom – including some on the Maori TV Board – are resisting modernity. In my opinion that is understandable, given the Herculean effort many people put in to get Maori TV established.

“Some people achieved that through activism, and those activists are now part of the establishment. They do not like the stroppy team at Maori TV who are not afraid to question authority and have their own definition of deferring to elders. The question now is whether the old school stomps on the new breed of Maori broadcaster”.

The real goings on in Te Ao Maori are more often than not quite nuanced and unstated, and often concealed behind the public manifestation of a disagreement or argument. More often than not journalists, politicians and commentators are easily misled and totally miss the nuance. So it was in this controversy.

Underneath it all this controversy was also about the cult of celebrity that now dominates mainstream media most noticeably mainstream TV. TV journalists/front persons and radio shock jocks (and some bloggers) build their visibility and salaries on celebrity and not always on journalistic substance. Two of the most successful in the celebrity stakes were the late Paul Holmes and the ever present John Campbell who did both bring substance to the screen as well as celebrity. There are now many minor celebrities of varying degrees of substance surfing the airwaves in their wake.

Maori Television was built from the beginning on an entirely different platform; a Te Reo revitalisation platform. At least four of the MTS Board members were long time proponents of and activists for that Te Reo platform. As Native Affairs developed under Jim Mather and his team Native Affairs became the face of MTS and MTS became more and more a platform for the minor celebrity of Ms Forbes. The Kohanga Reo story, apart from being poor journalism in that it concealed more than it revealed, did openly reveal Native Affairs as celebrity platform.

And that would have been the nail in the coffin for Native Affairs and those who had promoted it as the face of Maori Television. Intentional or not it directly challenged the primacy of the original platform or kaupapa based solely on Te Reo revitalisation, and would have directly challenged the governing philosophy of a majority on the MTS board.

“Political interference” and “editorial interference” became their war cry, shorthand obfuscation in the battle for control of the Maori Television kaupapa. They lost of course.

When Maxwell subsequently reorganised MTS and reorganised some of the senior staff out of a job it was portrayed as “political interference” and “editorial interference”. Given their fierce public opposition to his appointment and to the new direction the Board hired him to take, Maxwell was never going to retain Mather’s core news team. He would have been mad to try to work with them. Which is not a reflection on their competence but on their kaupapa.

I should point out that I don’t know Maxwell and have no opinion about his competence or suitability for the job.

It is his job to appoint staff who will implement the strategic direction of the Board and the CEO, then let them get on with it. It is his job to sideline or remove staff who might be opposed to that direction and to appoint staff who would implement that direction. The real underlying issues were the intrusion of the cult of celebrity, the amount of English language programming, and the future direction of MTS which is entirely the prerogative of the Board to decide.

Carol Hirschfeld, Julian Wilcox, Annabelle Lee Harris, Mihingarangi Forbes, Semiramis Holland and Jodi Ihaka all eventually moved on. They were replaced by Maramena Roderick, Ward Kamo, Billie-Jo Hohepa Ropiha, Matai Smith, Maiki Sherman, Rewa Harriman and Wena Harawira. And that should have been that. Just one team replaced by another with MTS heading off in a new direction. End of story.

Except of course for lingering personal animosities. In amongst that broader conflict over control of the MTS kaupapa some personal stuff developed. Given that the recent target of some of that animosity was Mihingarangi Forbes, and given that there are always two sides to a dispute, I would tend to believe a media report that it revolves around her and Maramena Roderick who replaced Carol Hirschfeld as head of news, and that neither side is blameless or free of conflicts of interest. An article in “Scout” on 13th April 2016 says in part:

“There is no love lost between Roderick and Forbes, who said she quit Maori Television last year amid concerns about editorial interference.

“Scout understands there is bitter bad blood between the two women, and Forbes had hoped she would get the role of news boss herself. Sources have said Mihi and her camp sought several OIA requests about Maramena’s appointment at the time”.

In the change of strategic and editorial direction Ms Forbes also lost her celebrity pulpit.

Whoever was responsible for airing the allegation about Forbes’ wardrobe was certainly stooping low; it was a low blow, way below the pito. On the other hand, whilst I accept completely that Ms Forbes did not steal or otherwise misappropriate her wardrobe, I am not at all convinced of her innocence in the unseemly dispute the tip of which became public in a most unfortunate manner this week. Whatever did she do or say to provoke such a low blow?

And whoever did decide to give it an airing the day before Ms Forbes new TV programme was to launch, in direct opposition to MTS’ Native Affairs, is an absolutely lousy strategist. It backfired badly and gave Forbes loads of sympathy and enormous free publicity. If Forbes were Machiavelli she might have organised the leak herself. Nah. She’s not that smart.

The Indonesians were right. I found a prawn behind a rock. I followed the smell and it was right off.

Maori Television, Mihingarangi Forbes & Her Wardrobe

Once again what seems to be a dispute between past and present executives and news staff at Maori Television hits the news. This time supposedly about an allegation that Ms Forbes misappropriated her employer provided wardrobe when she left MTS. See the news report here.

Most commentators are linking this revelation back to the Native Affairs series of exposes about Te Kohanga Reo National Trust (TKRNT) and its subsidiary Te Pataka Ohanga Ltd, commented on by Te Putatara here. The Twitterati and Facebook crowd have also linked the removal of several news executives and presenters from Maori TV to the same TKRNT episode, and have assumed an ongoing feud between them and MTS, caused by the Native Affairs team taking on the Maori Establishment.

It all seems too simple to me. One thing I’ve learnt from decades of Maori politics is that nothing is ever what it seems to be.

The Indonesians have a pepeha “Ada udang dibelakang batu” which means literally “There’s a prawn behind the rock” or “There’s more to this than meets the eye“. And a long time ago, long long before TV and the Internet my grandmother taught me never to believe anything I read in the newspaper or heard on the radio, and to believe only half of what I saw and heard for myself. She might well have said don’t believe anything you read on Facebook or Twitter. Suspending judgement and waiting for the full story to reveal itself, sometimes digging for the full story myself, always works for me. I suspect there’s two sides to the real story and we haven’t heard either of them yet.

What we’ve heard is what they want us to hear. What’s more important and ultimately far more interesting is what they don’t want us to hear.

But is it really important, this spat between a minor Maori celebrity and her supporters, and some unknown and therefore unimportant detractors, presumably associated with MTS?

My advice to those who are upset by the allegation, even outraged, is to take a deep breath, to abide by the wisdom of my grandmother and don’t believe any of it; from either side. This wardrobe stuff is just a ripple on the surface of the pond. There’s a prawn behind the rock and we haven’t seen it yet.

"A Dowry for the Sultan"

Book Review – “A Dowry for the Sultan: a Tale of the Siege of Manzikert 1054” by Lance Collins

Self published by the author in Australia.
© Lance Collins 2016
ISBN 9780994540904 (paperback)

Reviewed by Ross Himona

A novel set in Central Eurasia in 1054 against the background of conflict between the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) Empire and the Seljuk Turks. This tale is about the Battle of Manzikert in 1054 in which the Byzantines prevailed against the Turks in their attempt to lay siege to and capture the city of Manzikert. In 1071 at the next Battle of Manzikert the Turks were victorious and seized control of much of Asia Minor. The fall of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 finally ended the Byzantine Empire.

At the time of this novel the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire was Christian and culturally and linguistically Greek. Hence its citizens and soldiers were described as both Roman and Greek which is sometimes confusing. Frankish mercenaries also feature prominently in the novel. The Franks were a Germanic people from the Western Roman Empire who eventually gave their name to the modern France. The other main characters (apart from the Turkish invaders) are the Armenians. Armenia was the first state to become Christian (late 4th Century & early 5th Century) and was absorbed into the Byzantine Empire in 1045, soon after to be invaded by the Seljuk Turks. At the time of this novel Manzikert in Armenia was a key strategic city on the eastern border of the Byzantine Empire.

Central Eurasian history is extremely complex, involving the rise and fall of empires and the waxing and waning of thousands of tribes over many millennia. Although “A Dowry for the Sultan” is set in just a short period in this vast history it has obviously required a great deal of general historical research as well as specific political and military study by the author. That shows in the authenticity of the depiction of cultural, political, military and intelligence aspects of the story. The author’s own background as a military officer and intelligence analyst shines through in the detail of strategic, tactical and intelligence operations central to the story. As a former military officer and intelligence analyst myself I greatly enjoyed that authenticity. Although the central characters brought the book alive for me that authenticity added an extra layer of enjoyment.

Apart from historical, political and military authenticity there are the wonderfully portrayed diverse characters of many ethnicities with whom we are led to intimately engage. In this book the main characters are both human and animal, for in those times horses were the main mode of transport and formed an intimate warrior partnership with the fighting man. We come to know the horses in this story almost as well as we know their owners. The author’s country upbringing and his lifelong love of his own horses shines through. The detail of the partnership between horse and rider is quite astonishing. The people however, the politicians, soldiers, townspeople and their womenfolk, and their stories, are what draw us in and hold our attention from the beginning to the end of this well told story.

The unfolding love stories set against the background of warfare in which men and women often worked and fought side by side were what got me in the end. They are beautifully told. They showed that even in times of constant political intrigue and warfare, and in times in which human life was often valued cheaply, in which rape, pillage, plunder, murder, slavery and genocide were commonplace, there was also beauty in the human relationships. These love stories are islands in an ocean of human misery for this is the story of the clearance of a countryside of its people, animals, crops and treasures by a ferocious invader, and of a fierce battle to eventually defeat him. There is much death and much misery as there was in those times, and as there is still in the Middle East today. Then as now in the to and fro of geopolitical relationships the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must.

A Byzantine officer, Leo Bryennius and his soldiers, accompanied by a Frankish mercenary, Guy d’Agiles and his small party, ride from Constantinople to Manzikert to bolster the defences of the city commanded by the Byzantine Basil Apocapes. At the time Manzikert was thought by some to be threatened by Tughrul Bey, the sultan of the Seljuk Turks, although not everyone agreed and it was therefore not adequately garrisoned to repel a determined invader. Bryennius and his men arrive after an incident filled journey to find an undermanned city garrison that would be greatly outnumbered by the Turkish army. The main story revolves around the creative and inventive intelligence operations, strategy and tactics employed by Apocapes and Bryennius to see off Tughrul Bey, and the collective and individual courage and heroism of the defenders of the city.

There is also much intrigue in the employment of spies by both sides. Accurate intelligence was an essential component of the eventual victory.

The novel began to form when the author heard of an incident in history involving the courage of a single soldier about whom virtually nothing was known. He has given Guy d’Agiles that role in the novel and woven the incident into this story. In this fictional account it becomes the key courageous event that finally defeated the Seljuk Turk army and enabled the Byzantine victory at Manzikert in 1054.

A riveting read.

———————————————————————-

Click through to buy from Amazon
Or from iBook.

Facebook Page