I’ve been an extremely lucky in that I’ve been able to make a living doing things that I love to do while working with people I admired and trusted. I now move into the next phase of my life.

After thirty-three enjoyable and productive years in Sydney, Australia, I’ve moved back to live in New Zealand where I’ve found what can only be described as my piece of paradise in a valley about 30 minutes northwest of Auckland. An old villa set among 5.5 acres of park-like grounds and ponds, with a big vegetable garden, a bountiful orchard and all kinds of flowers and shrubs. It’s a real gem that I’m now polishing with the invaluable help, knowledge and skills of my son, Jon, (and his family) and the long time gardener Karen.

I cannot to begin to describe the sense of joy and serenity I feel when wandering about this little estate. And a year from now it will be even more beautiful. If ever there was a place to inspire me to write and paint and compose this is it. I did not die but I have gone to Heaven.

But jeez it rains a lot in Heaven. No sign of summer yet. Just cold, wind and rain. Very confusing for all the seedlings we’ve planted. And in such moist conditions it’s kind of weird to be planning an irrigation system (as we are now) as a cautionary measure against the drought I’m assured I could face in summer.

Nevertheless, by the end of this promised summer we should have the renovation work finished. The maintenance will be constant but I have a big shed full of machinery and equipment to help me with all that. And the work can only be good for my health.

I won’t bore you with an in-depth report on the latter. Suffice to say I am in far better shape than I was earlier this year. Although, like many people my age, I’m plagued by various creaks and pains that come and go inexplicably and the threat of gout is ever present. I find I increasingly walk like an old person and am often unpleasantly surprised when I catch a reflection of myself in a shop window. I avoid mirrors.

The older I get the better I was.

That said I’m not done yet. I have big plans for 2015. I think (I hope) you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what I do. So stay in touch and stay tuned.

I love you all.

But wait, there’s more! What follows is my traditional end of year rant. My usual mystified musings titled accordingly. Enjoy.

 

WHAT WOULD I KNOW?

 

Along with grey hair age brings with it an expectation of sagacity. I guess it’s the assumption that if you’re reasonably intelligent, curious and receptive, lessons learned in life — your experience — must surely increase your knowledge and wisdom. Ergo, the longer you live the more you should know.

Well, it ain’t necessarily so.

Part of the problem is that experience has to do with the world that was and not the world as it is now or, perhaps, will be tomorrow.

For instance, what possible value could my experience as a songwriter and recording artist offer to anyone trying to work in that world today? Nothing is the same as it was except perhaps for the fact that radio programmers are still too lazy (or limited) to do anything more than put a handful of songs on high rotation hence (music) radio is complicit in its own suicide.

As for the decades I spent honing my skills in advertising industry — who gives a shit or even knows what typography is today? Today you just jam words into the space allotted and any attempt at crafting copy is a complete waste of time.  Clients and their lawyers write the copy and, apparently, anything more than three sentences would be beyond the reader’s attention span. And any word longer than three syllables would quite possibly be beyond their reading ability.

I can’t help you with advice about pitching new business either since pitching now involves the need to supply tomes of information about your financial position and OHS practices to the new power base in the business world, the Procurement Department. This must be like pitching to the CIA — and is surely no country for old men.

However, none of this matters because, I’m assured, old media (print, television and radio) is dead and gone. So it could be argued that in terms of value in today’s world my experience is about is much use as that of a typewriter repairman.

Today it’s all about social media, viral phenomena and a total disregard for intellectual property. And the sheer inanity – in words and actions – of (for instance) many of the YouTube stars attracting millions of fans and who, subsequently, are hailed as the vanguard of the new world media, bewilders me. Seriously, if you were to tattoo the head of your dick on YouTube you’d be an international sensation overnight. You’d have followers. You might even start a cult — The Dickheads. Because my friends, in today’s alarmingly voyeuristic publicity-crazed world, Jackasses rule.

This seemingly insatiable desire for fame infests every level of society. Everyone wants to be a Kardashian. Vacuous celebrity trumps real accomplishment. Quiet achievement is passé.

All of this is beyond my experience. I just don’t get it.

Okay, there’s a lot to love about the Internet. I Google everything like most of you do.  But in my view social media is too often anti-social. Everyday I see couples and groups sharing tables in cafes not talking to each other but instead engrossed in whatever device they might have handy. My personal favorites are those who insist on holding long and loud conversations on their mobile phones in public places with no consideration (or should that be every consideration) for others within earshot. This group is particularly prevalent in cafes and Business Class lounges. Total tossers who want you to know that their every waking hour is important. But if you actually listen to their conversations you soon realise they are most often middle management types, having mind-numbingly inane conversations while never passing up the opportunity mention big dollar numbers or destinations like Noo Yawk. It will come as no surprise to you that at least three such pontificating pricks have been exposed to that antipodean term of endearment ‘Fucking Wanker’ when doing this while sitting near me.

Where I’m going with all of this is to try to explain why I’m feeling increasingly unqualified to offer the usual ‘state of the world’ commentary many of you have come to expect from me at this time of the year. The harsh fact of the matter is that my opinions and values belong to another time. A time when good manners and consideration for others was important, a time when you did things without seeking the limelight, a time when there was respect for intellectual property, a time when people got their news from newspapers not sound bites, a time when we had time for each other.

Now is not that time.

So forgive me if my random observations seem old fashioned. I am what I am and ever shall be. However, in deference to the new world I will keep my comments short and superficial:

Obama is a good man with good intentions who has failed to be what I hoped he would be. While it’s true he has been stymied by a bloody-minded opposition that, it seems, would bring a country to its knees rather than give an inch, it’s also true that he appointed un-convicted criminals to advise him on financial matters and the ‘cronyism of capitalism’ remains intact despite his promises. Corruption and conscienceless behavior are now so entrenched in the financial world that we simply accept it in the same way we accept that politicians lie.

The fact that there are still those who believe the only way to achieve world peace is for us all to be scared of America (I actually heard one of George Bush Senior’s erstwhile advisers say this in a Larry King interview) makes me shudder.

In the long run multinationalism benefits no one but multinational companies. And despite the benefits offered by some free trade agreements, they come at a cost.

Islam is being used to justify evil today in much the same way Christianity has been used to justify evil in the past. These are the actions of men not Gods.

Regardless of your position on Climate Change, cutting down carbon emissions can only be good for the health of the planet.

We have to find a way to the stop the mind-boggling rate of deforestation stripping the planet. To do this will require working with big business and corrupt politicians in a way that makes them look good while achieving the right outcome. Needless to say I have an idea that just might work.

I believe fracking is a short-term energy solution with potentially dreadful long-term consequences. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about this.

No matter how you might choose to justify doing it, downloading pirated music or video is stealing. If you disagree, walk into a store tomorrow and steal a CD or video and feel okay about doing so. It’s the same thing. Unless you believe anonymity gives you license to steal.

Companies and organizations involved in the design, development and manufacture of weapons, machinery and the logistics of warfare need war to profit. They exercise influence accordingly. Follow the money and you will find the warmongers.

Africa is riddled by corruption and the populations of African countries with histories of famine and starvation continue to grow exponentially. The answer to Africa begins with population control and by that I do NOT mean genocide.

AIDS is not God’s punishment.

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic should remain the Holy Trinity in schools. We abandon these fundamentals at our peril. Leave school without these basic skills and your life will be a constant struggle.

Financial derivatives dealers aren‘t worth the paper they’re writing on.

Not all male showbiz personalities from the 70s are pedophiles — despite alarming evidence to the contrary.

Video Games like Grand Theft Auto that give children (usually teenage boys) the choice to (virtually) kill women are anathema to any thinking person. To argue that players have a  ‘choice’ to kill or not to kill, simply reduces murder to entertainment. Many will choose to kill just to see what happens. If there were games giving players the choice to join the Nazi party, many would. I can see it now, Auschwitz. The game. Many parents would be buying it en masse having been convinced by their progeny that ‘Everyone is playing it Mum.’ To let your children do something just because all the other kids are doing it is to encourage an ovine mentality. If you don’t want your children to be part of the stupid flock try leading. Be a parent not a friend. And please, if a game called High School Massacre appears on the market don’t let them buy it no matter how fashionable it might become.

Healthy bodies breed healthy minds, like so many clichés this is most often true —Bladerunner and OJ Simpson notwithstanding. Sadly, it’s quite possible that the reverse is also true.

Expecting students to pay for university education will ensure that (in the main) the poor will remain undereducated and the rich will continue to inhabit the upper echelons of everything. The privileged will remain privileged.

That said, in my decades in the advertising world I saw no evidence whatsoever that university educated people were any more effective than those who learned the business from the ground up. On the contrary, I’d argue that highly educated, overly analytical, risk averse graduates who are strapped by theory and process and only make decisions by consensus are the bane of the business in general and advertising Creative Directors in particular.

On the other hand I wouldn’t want to be under the knife of a heart surgeon who was picking it up as he went along.

Despite my aforementioned experience and expected wisdom, I have no idea why people continue to seek my advice about anything not least life and love. I’m 65 and single, what the hell would I know?

As for anything else I might want to say about the world today I urge you to listen closely to John Lennon’s song Imagine. He said it better than I ever could.

 

JOHN HANLON

New Zealand, December 2014