Cen­sor’s in­sa­tiable cu­rios­ity

Joseph Ro­manos talks to An­drew Jack, who be­came the chief cen­sor last March, about col­lect­ing fly­ing pigs, read­ing hi­ero­glyph­ics and do­ing his own up­hol­stery.

Kapi-Mana News - - FEATURE -

Let’s dis­cuss a few of your in­ter­ests. First, read­ing hi­ero­glyph­ics.

It’s a re­sult of my stud­ies in Greek. I’m still in­ter­ested in it, but don’t do a lot. I can read it. It’s a mat­ter of de­ci­pher­ing it. Some words you have to look up.

Do hi­ero­glyph­ics vary ac­cord­ing to lo­ca­tion and time?

Not as much as you’d imag­ine. By 3000BC, the lan­guage was fully formed, so it stayed un­changed for a few thou­sand years. There’s prob­a­bly more dif­fer­ence be­tween Shake­spearean and mod­ern English. Play­ing the bag­pipes? I liked the sound from them when I was a lit­tle lad. At school I man­aged to find a mu­sic teacher and learned how to play. In Welling­ton I joined a band. It was great fun.

They’ve very

loud. Any prob­lems prac­tis­ing?

It could be a bit try­ing for flat­mates, so I’d go to parks or car parks in cen­tral Welling­ton. The car parks were pretty cold but at least they were dry and they were suit­ably re­mote. You don’t play for long any­way – 15 or 20 min­utes and you’re do­ing well.

I un­der­stand you do your own up­hol­ster­ing.

I have been do­ing that for about three years. Our dog ate our lounge suite so we’ve been busy re-cov­er­ing it. I like to get hold of old fur­ni­ture, such as my par­ents’ old lounge suite given to them by my grand­par­ents to cel­e­brate my birth, and work on it. I do re­cov­er­ing and re­spring­ing.

Here’s an­other one – di­a­mond grad­ing.

My wife worked in the jew­ellery trade. Through her, I met peo­ple want­ing to start an or­gan­i­sa­tion to pro­tect cus­tomers’ rights. So we formed the Jew­ellery Ap­praisal So­ci­ety of New Zealand. I got in­ter­ested in the in­dus­try and in di­a­monds. I did a cor­re­spon­dence course, then a one-week course in Christchurch to learn how to grade di­a­monds.

How much of it is guess­work?

I’d never graded di­a­monds be­fore I got to Christchurch. By the end of the week I was get­ting it 96 per cent right. It’s a skill and a pretty ex­act sci­ence.

One more. You col­lect fly­ing pigs.

When I was work­ing for the po­lice I re­marked one day that some leg­is­la­tion would be passed. A col­league re­marked that ‘‘pigs would fly’’ be­fore that hap­pened. But the leg­is­la­tion went through and he duly pre­sented me with an or­na­ment of a fly­ing pig. Since then I’ve col­lected some more, and I must ad­mit, I quite like them. I see you ride mo­tor­bikes. Yes. When I was at univer­sity I used a small mo­tor­bike as a means of get­ting around. Now we have a Har­ley and use it for fun, to get away on week­ends. The weather’s got to be good, though.

You have five de­grees. Did you ever get sick of study­ing?

I’ve al­ways been nat­u­rally cu­ri­ous. The re­quire­ment to write es­says and the­ses was a way of keep­ing you fo­cused. Ac­tu­ally I’m part way through a quan­tity sur­vey­ing de­gree. I think I’ll be fin­ished it in 2014 at the pace I’m go­ing.

In the cen­sor’s of­fice, are games be­com­ing more of an is­sue?

I re­mem­ber the first com­puter games I saw, that ping pong ball bounc­ing across the screen. I used to be fas­ci­nated by it. Com­puter games now are many gen­er­a­tions ahead of that. There is a wider range of games and some are very complicated. There are some vi­o­lent ones. It can take 90 or 120 min­utes to get through the multi lev­els. We have peo­ple here who are games spe­cial­ists and also we get given codes so we can by­pass some lev­els.

Are our cen­sor­ship laws rigid or re­laxed?

I feel they’re about right. They very much re­flect New Zealand. If we com­pare them to Australia, which is so close to us in many ways, some of the things they clas­sify high be­cause of sex­ual con­tent, we might let through. On the other hand, what we might clas­sify as R16 or R18 here be­cause of the level of vi­o­lence might not get such a high clas­si­fi­ca­tion in Australia.

Is cen­sor­ship more a mat­ter of law or in­tu­ition?

The statute is very de­tailed and we un­der­take a me­thod­i­cal and ob­jec­tive prac­tice. We are hugely an­a­lyt­i­cal, but hav­ing said that, I’m the only lawyer in the of­fice.

Do you see ev­ery­thing that leaves the of­fice?

That would be im­pos­si­ble, but my deputy or I sign off on all clas­si­fi­ca­tions.

I tend to do the ones that are likely to be con­tro­ver­sial or where there is a prospect of them be­ing banned.


An­drew Jack on cen­sor­ship: ‘‘It’s more clin­i­cal than peo­ple would imag­ine.’’

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