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Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Gardening at night is never where." - R.E.M.

Take a gander at my garden slideshow, s'il vous plait.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I am the master of my home doman now that I am the proud owner of a Fischer-Price - er, electric - lawnmower. I've also been weeding in the garden, pruning the rosebushes, and mucking out the occasional cat poo that ends up in random locations in my yard.

But what I don't know, what I haven't yet mastered, is the art of properly maintaining a garden. "Garden" including but not limited to: potted plants, flowerbeds, trees, rosebushes and basically anything else that's not the grass itself.

Gardens are a source of pride down here, and even though people back in the States overall seem to do a very lovely job of making their gardens grow, it seems there is an even deeper sense of pride relating to the garden here in New Zealand. Once again, I blame this on British tradition!

I think it's nice to take such exquisite care of one's lawn and all the trimmings, but aside from pushing a mower around or taking a weed whacker to the fences and borders, I've got no work experience in this area. And before long, the green behind my ears is going to be far more obvious than any green on my thumb. Because there isn't any.

So please, a little help here. Take a look at the pictures of those things in my yard. Got any advice for me? What should I plant in the flowerbeds? Think of the climate down here as similar to the Pacific Northwest: never scorchingly hot but rather humid and windy. What about those planters on my deck? What sort of plant would you put in there? And those trees - I think I can improve on the mulching and put stones down to help keep the weeds at bay, but should I be doing anything else?? And even though I've managed to 'prune' the rosebushes a bit, I shamefully submit that I used a pair of kitchen scissors to do the job. I lack even a proper pair of pruning shears. Boo-hoo. So what's the proper way to trim a rosebush, anyway? It just seems to want to grow wildly in random directions and, if left alone, I fear it would probably engulf not only me and my flat and everything within, but also the neighboring flat and soon after that the entirety of Totara Park. I've got a guldang botanical crisis on my hands here, people!

Lyndsay, I know you've got massive gardening experience so I'd particularly like to hear what you have to say on the matter. And don't worry, I'm not trying to grow any carrots here! *snicker*

Before I earn some icy stares from the neighbors or a negative review in the neighborhood newsletter or - worse yet - an eviction notice, please let me know what you, in all of your gardening wisdom, would have me do with these deceptively simple garden items!

And let me just say this now: I am quite open to the idea of replacing all of the mulch with large stones and having the entire yard paved.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Good King Wenceslaus looked out ...

...on the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight gath'ring winter fuel."

Holy mistletoe, Batman, it's almost Christmas!

It just doesn't feel like it, though. No, I'm not down in the dumps or anything because it's the holidays, I'm actually excited about them. Even though Thanksgiving went by without incident down here in Kiwi-land (for obvious reasons), I still am getting into that festive holiday spirit.

Sort of.

You see, it's WARM outside right now. It's actually hailing outside at the moment, for gosh sakes. There isn't that crisp winter chill in the air, and there certainly isn't any snow on the ground here in Wellington (anymore), and it's even melted on the mountaintops in the distance. Well, it's either melted or been blown off the mountain by these gale force winds we are having here. Hoo boy!

I suppose this is what people who live in Florida or Texas back in the States must go through every Christmas. That disconnect between seeing all those holiday classics on television like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Charlie Brown's Christmas", what with all their snow and carolers and guardian angels and the like, and then looking outside only to see palm trees and sunshine and a total lack of snow. Growing up near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia (representin' ya, Lynchburg!) I guess I was a bit spoiled because I had the classic 'white Christmas' so much I've come to expect it. Not that it would actually snow on Christmas day, mind you, we weren't that cliche a town, but we'd often have had enough snow at that point that when it came time to open the presents Santa had left us, we'd be able to play out in the snow later that day, a la Calvin & Hobbes.

And don't waste your time trying to tell me Santa ain't real, cuz he is dammit! I've long since grown out of believing in the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny (cha, as if), but come on, Santa Claus really exists people. Just check this linkie here if you don't believe me - they're Canadians, they live in Santa's 'hood, they would know!

But the inevitable signs of Christmas are still there, even without the white stuff, so I'm all excited to attend my very first Christmas Barbie this year! No, dammit, not like Malibu Barbie, but barbie as in barbecue! Granted, I didn't put "barbie" in my Kiwi-English dictionary, so you are forgiven for any confusion. But from here on out, I'm giving partial credit only.

I was walking through downtown Wellington the other day, on my way to meet someone for coffee, and lo and behold, what do ya know, I ran smack into a full-on Christmas parade! Granted, they didn't have gregarious Macy's-style floats or anything (which is a good thing, too - all this Wellington wind would turn that giant SpongeBob Squarepants into one deadly zeppelin!), but it was very cool to see the Kiwis getting into the spirit of things.

They had all the usual themes represented: snowmen, Santa and his elves, high school drum corps, pirates, Disney characters. Well, I don't know how the pirates got in there, but then again turning up when least expected is the sort of thing they do, isn't it? At least they didn't appear to be hijacking any of the other floats and seemed quite happy to be tossing bits of 'booty' to the kids in the crowd.

One other thing about Christmas down here that I find cool is that the Kiwis really go for those Christmas crackers. What are those, you may ask? Well, allow me to let you in on a little secret! I think it's a secret, anyways, because I don't know of anyone else back in the States who enjoys these things as much as my family does, so maybe you'll learn something new.

Christmas crackers are basically these small cardboard cylinders (I didn't want to say empty toilet paper roll centers, but that's essentially what they are) that are wrapped in festive paper, twisted at each end. Connected to the paper and inside the cylinder are these weak little gunpowder caps, so that when you open the cracker, it makes a proper 'cracking' sound and this makes it all official and all that. Inside there is always a piece of paper with a lame joke on it (where do you think I get all of my best material?), a colored paper crown, and a plastic or metal toy or gadget of some kind. These toys are the ones that used to come in boxes of Cracker Jacks before they got decidedly less cool, and sometimes they're actually pretty useful! I still have the miniature screwdriver set that I use to tighten those impossibly small screws on my sunglasses whenever they get loose. Hey don't laugh, it's saved me from having to buy a new pair on several occasions!

So the crackers, along with plum puddings and Christmas cakes, are yet further examples of British traditions celebrated down here in New Zealand that are mysteriously absent back in the States. They are probably here and there in pockets of the States but by no means do they seem as mainstream to me as they do here. I think once we finished off the British in the Revolutionary War we must have dumped a lot of British traditions like these along with them. Sort of why we don't celebrate Boxing Day, Guy Fawkes Day, and of course the Queen's birthday anymore.

Not that we should, mind you! I like American traditions just fine. I'm just glad there'll be a few things done differently down here this year so that will help me take my mind off of how much I miss everyone and everything back home.

Happy Holidays, people!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Damn you, Bill Bryson


More than once, while reading one of your books in a cafe, I've struggled in vain to stifle a laugh. I've resorted to all sorts of tactics, from noisily shifting in my chair, covering my mouth with one hand, to staring at the book intently as if deep in thought, all the while nervously glancing around to see if anyone's noticed the idiot laughing to himself in the corner. Every now and then I'll see that someone was indeed looking over at me, as they politely divert their glances away as I look up.

Only the fact that you are such an excellent and entertaining writer serves to lessen the anguish I feel when I realize that I have begun to behave like a madman in a room full of strangers.

It's not just me, though, I can't be the only one. Most everyone I meet, should the discussion turn to writers, has not only heard of you but the mention of your name brings a smile to their face. This is especially true here in New Zealand, they are quite fond of you here. So much so, in fact, that your books are as hard to find in used book stores as a Ward & Dickinson diner is in the States. Actually finding one gives me a feeling akin to what it must be like to discover a golden ticket inside a chocolate Wonka bar.

So when I attract unwanted attention with my suppressed snorts and awkward mouth-covering, chair-shifting behavior, and when all those who shoot startled glances my way see the cover of the novel and your name upon it, at least there's a good chance they will immediately understand why I'm in the grips of uncontrollable laughter. At least so far, no one has scooted their chairs further away from me or gotten up to leave, or worse still asked me to leave as I'm scaring the children or something.

For those unaware of Bryson's humor or those who are aware and want a jog of their memory as to what he can do to the lone coffee drinker in cafes the world over, let me quote you a couple of examples from Notes From a Small Island:

"Because time was getting on, I decided to take a shortcut through the hilly woods, but I neglected to note that I was at the uppermost of a very tight band of contour lines. In consequence, I found myself a moment later descending a more or less perpendicular hill in an entirely involuntary fashion, bounding through the woods with great leaps and outflung arms in a manner oddly reminiscent of George Chakiris in West Side Story, except of course that this was Wales and George Chakiris didn't shit himself with terror, before eventually, after several bouncing somersaults and an epochal 80-yard slide on my stomach, ending up on the very lip of a giddy precipice, with a goggle-eyed view of the glittery Wye 100 feet below. I cast my gaze back along my suddenly motionless body to find that my left foot had fortuitously snagged on a sapling. Had the sapling not been there I would not be here."

And one more:

"Now the second rule of excessive drinking...is never to drink in a place on a steep slope. I walked down the hill on unfamiliar legs that seemed to snap out in front of me like whipped lengths of rope. The Adelphi, glowing beckoningly at the foot of the hill, managed the interesting trick of being both near by and astonishingly distant. It was like looking at it through the wrong end of a telescope - a sensation somewhat enhanced by the fact that my head was a good 7 or 8 yards behind my manically flopping appendages. I followed them helplessly, and by a kind of miracle they hurtled me down the hill, safely across the road and up the steps to the entrance to the Adelphi, where I celebrated my arrival by making a complete circuit in the revolving door so that I emerged into open air once again, before plunging back in and being flung with a startling suddenness into the Adelphi's grand and lofty lobby. I had one of those where-am-I moments, then grew aware that the night staff were silently watching me. Summoning as much dignity as I could and knowing that the elevators would be quite beyond me, I went to the grand staircase and managed - I know not how - to fall up them in a manner uncannily reminiscent of a motion picture run in reverse."

Yes, in both cases, I was trying very hard not to snicker but like the cliche train wreck, I just could not look away from the book. Read Bryson in public at your own risk, people. You have been warned.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cool for cats


I couldn't think of anything particularly clever to title this post, so I picked the first thing that popped into my head: the title of a favorite Squeeze song , "Cool For Cats". It's a catchy tune and if you've heard it, you'll know what I mean.

But it is really cool to have the cats back home. In spite of near gale-force winds the day I went down to get them, the ferry crossing was pretty smooth sailing. Ironically, the ferry was completely chock full of American and Canadian tourists, and the man at the bar mistook me for one of them, but of course he can't be faulted for that. I was so tempted to say something along the lines of, "Don't hassle me - I'm local, buddy" but I humored him and anyways it doesn't really matter.

The quarantine facility, Canterbury Quarantine Services, was tip-top and the cats couldn't have had a better place to spend their first 30 days here in New Zealand. They shared a decent-sized room, the back wall of which was fine chicken wire, and it opened onto a scenic paddock wherein they got to watch horses galavant about every day. The staff at the place were brilliant and it was obvious how much attention they gave to my cats, especially because the whole time my cats were there, the facility was packed full of other pets coming to NZ to live.

One of the things I was worrying about on the trip back up to Wellington, aside from how the ferry crossing would be, was how the cats would do in the car for a five hour drive, followed by a three hour wait for the ferry to arrive. Well, they are veteran travelers now, as unlike back in the States where they'd howl and carry on with just a five minute trip in the car, they were very quiet and calm for the entire drive up! I guess all of those plane rides and car trips just to get here served as good experiences after all.

I had a new cat condo waiting for them in the flat, freshly assembled the night before I left. But what do the little ingrates do? They camp out around the BASE of it, and they have yet to deign to even climb up it. The top of the condo even affords a killer view of the surrounding yards and even the sheep and horses in the distance up on the hill but nooooooo.

It's all right though, I find it hard to be mad at them, considering what they went through the past five months. I'm just happy to have them back, and they recognized me immediately and are a bit more clingy than usual. Guess they're making up for lost time.

One concern is Miranda, though, the calico. She's quite a bit thinner than before, and even underweight. Her right hip is very painful to her now and she seems to have full-blown arthritis. She suffered an injury there as a kitten, including a fracture of her right hind leg that I fixed. But I think it's time for some x-rays and I've started her on pain relievers and glucosamines for her arthritis. I'm going to give her the weekend off before carting her up to the clinic, as I think she's probably had enough 'vetting' to last her a while. Still, got to find out what that hip looks like on x-rays. She's in good spirits, though, and is eating fine so hopefully I can do some good for her.

As a final note, something great happened in the whole "Things Come Full Circle Department". My cats represented the last part of my transition to moving over here to New Zealand from the USA. I've now got all of my stuff I came with or shipped over, my mail's all forwarded (more's the pity there, it's mostly bills natch), I've got my own place and some new furniture, a flash car (haha), and now my pets are here. As a sort of welcome symbol of not only the entire move-over being complete but also of the next phase in my journey, I received a letter in the mail from Immigration New Zealand. No, it's not an order to have me deported, but it's an invitation to apply for residence under their Skilled Migrant category. Since my occupation remains in demand here, and now that I've got a bona fide job ("I'm the damn paterfamilias!"), I can apply for residency and take this road to citizenship.

That would be so nice to have, because then I'd be able to come and go as I pleased, for life, without having to worry about those gorram visas! I'd still be a U. S. citizen, of course, and even were it not difficult to give up, I would never relinquish that. But the freedom to live and work here or at home without pesky visa arrangements is truly one of my greater goals in coming over here so please wish me luck with that.

Here are some proper pictures of my three cats:

Mouser

Miranda

Buddy

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I will have you, Sony Reader


This just isn't fair. I don't mean to whinge but in this case I think I am entitled. I have inherited being a gadget freak from my dad, and though I will never be half as knowledgeable as he is about all things Electronic, I sure do appreciate a geeky device when I see one.

The device in question is the new ebook from Sony, the Reader. In case you haven't picked up on how much of a dork I am already, let me tell you a little story that will convert those of you still on the fence about my geek status.

In an issue of WIRED a few years back (already, nerd alarm bells should be ringing loudly), there was a great feature on a new generation of handhelds, called ebooks. That's shorthand for 'electronic books'. There were three models being previewed, and all had their pros and cons but the one model that stood out was shaped just like a paperback book with the front cover folded back. It was designed to fit in your hand as if you were reading a real novel, so it felt right, only you didn't have to worry about the spine breaking or too many pages being folded back at once. They were all backlit nicely so they were easy on the eyes, and they managed to have displays big enough to be simple to read, and the page on the screen corresponded to the page in the actual printed version of the book. Weight wasn't really an issue with them and some had other bells and whistles like date books, addresses, etc., but their main raison d'etre was to be an electronic book for you.

I love to read. I love to buy books. I love to hoard books. I tend to have way more books than I need at any given time. So you can see why an ebook appeals to me, geeky pleasures aside. It'd be so cool to have the equivalent of five books in my pocket at once! I don't tend to be in the middle of just one book at a time, but rather two or three. I'm not bragging here at all, it's just I guess I have a short attention span and can't read more than a few chapters at a time without then having to work at it. The moment reading a book feels like homework, I stop. Sure, there are those rare ones that are real 'grippers' and I just can't put them down, but this is the exception and not the rule.

The way these ebooks work is they are just like your iPod except that instead of music or podcasts, you are downloading books. I should mention, the ebook concept was around several years before the iPod, only they obviously didn't catch on like the iPods have. Until now: I think this Sony Reader is going to really change the book industry, for a number of reasons. First, I noticed how they are already selling more of them than they thought they would, although I'm sure the holiday season has a little something to do with that. Second, now that the iPod has revolutionized the music industry in its own way, it seems only natural that this phenomenon would carry over to this other medium of pop culture. Third, with this increasingly de-forested/landfilled planet we live on, it seems about time we had a way to buy a book and read it without generating so much waste. It's really shameful how many stripped paperbacks end up in the dump every day.

But I don't want to stand on my soapbox about that right now. I'd rather just moan about the fact that this very fresh, revolutionary, uber-cool, ELECTRONIC book is now available and I. Can't. Have. It.

That's right, "No Sony Reader for you!" You can't buy one outside of the United States. And even were I to smuggle one in here a la Christmas as a present for the Brooksie, it would only sit on my shelf, a lifeless hunk of silicon and metal. You see, they also won't sell the actual electronic books off of their website, called Connect, to anyone not in the U.S. I'm sure it has more than a little to do with royalties, and I totally understand that.

What distresses me is what I know of the current iTunes situation regarding New Zealand. You can buy iTunes in lots of countries, including Australia. But you can't buy them here in NZ, because of some gayness with the Aussie dollar vs. the Kiwi dollar. They fear that if they enable iTunes to be sold over in Kiwi-land, all the Aussies will just plug in to the NZ market and buy the tunes for a cheaper relative price. Something like that. Anyways, it's pretty clear from the iTunes forums that Apple is in no hurry to enable iTunes to be sold anytime soon - if ever - in New Zealand.

If you extrapolate that crappy situation into a potential scenario involving Sony's ebooks, you'll start to see what I mean. And now you understand the nature of my petulance. So I could have a nice shiny new Sony Reader, but aside from being something pretty to look at, it would be nothing more than expensive eye candy. Just like my third wife.

Haha, just a little ex-wife humor there for you kids, it's nothing serious.

Maybe, just maybe, Sony won't be like Apple and will let the rest of the world get a crack at their snazzy new Reader. If and when they open the floodgates on their Connect service, they'd best be lettin' us Kiwis through the door as well!

Until that happens, however, you can find me at the used book store, making some more trades.

Sigh.

Oh yeah, and I'll be 'offline' for a few days. Gotta go back to Christchurch, see a man about a horse. Actually, a cat. Three cats. My cats from the States are here and they've almost finished serving out their 30-day sentences for being felines abroad without passports. They're being turned over to me on probationary status so keep your fingers crossed for the little ratbags. Also keep your fingers crossed for smooth sailing for the trip back across the Cook Strait. See you all later.

PEACE

Monday, November 13, 2006

Kiwi-English Dictionary

Haha, not that Kiwis don't speak English, but if you don't know some of their colloquialisms and vocabulary, you might be a little lost. So I've come up with this guide to explain what I've heard so far and what I think it means, although by no means is this a definitive list. I have started using a few of these phrases myself, they're quite catchy, but I've not used all of them. Also, I definitely don't have (and probably never will) a Kiwi accent, and some of these things just don't sound right unless spoken with the true Kiwi flourish.

So here is some bona fide Kiwi slang, in no particular order, served up with a generous helping of pavlova and a side of whitebait. Enjoy!

See also!

Kiwi-English Dictionary, Collegiate Edition

Kiwi-English Dictionary 3: In 3-D!

Kiwi-English Dictionary 4: The Final Chapter of The Return of the Dream Master

gobsmacked - Shocked, taken by surprise. Can be in either a good or bad way; British term originally.

gutted - Dejected, depressed. "When the All-Blacks lost to England, I was just gutted."

greedy guts - Like it sounds, someone or something (like a hungry pet) that's a 'greedy guts' just can't seem to get enough, usually in reference to food.

crook - In a very bad way, health-wise. "Do you want to see that Rottweiler first instead? He's crook."

amped - Excited, psyched, pumped, stoked. "Man, I'm so amped to see Tool next January!"

on to it - On the ball, plugged in, hip.

tramp - Hike, noun or verb.

tomato sauce - What we call ketchup, or catsup (although who ever says "Please pass the catsup"?!? Mid-westerners, probably.)

bangers - Sausages. Often heard with mash, or potatoes. "Bangers and mash for dinner, guv'na!"

partner (q.v. my previous posting) - Significant other; more important than a boyfriend/girlfriend but less so than a fiance/fiancee. Or perhaps more than the latter but less than a spouse, I really dunno. Many couples in NZ don't marry but rather form 'partnerships'.

whinge - To whine. Not a good way to earn points; in fact, whinging just makes others lose respect for you here. Rapidly. No room for whinging or self-pity when those first settlers came over in the 19th century to tame the land!

no worries - Probably Aussie in origin, but I really don't know. I think everybody is most familiar with this phrase and it thus needs no explanation, so no worries.

back in a mo' - Definitely British in origin but I hear it from time to time, "mo'" being short for "moment". Kinda gay, so I haven't used this one.

ratbag - This one cracks me up. It seems to be a sort of endearing little insult, and I've only heard it used in reference to animals. Usually a mischievous one, or possibly a scraggly one. "Oh, you're just a little ratbag, aren't you?"

bach - Pronounced "batch", refers to a Kiwi vacation home, what we yanks would call a 'time-share' or 'summer home'. Apparently on the south island instead of bach they say 'crib', which I find quite funny given the gangsta overtones, but I never once heard a south islander talk about 'cribs', yo.

pakeha - Maori term for all non-Maori of European descent. Used to be considered derogatory (and still is by some), kind of like being called 'whitey' but is now pretty widely used as a neutral term.

lollies - Candies, and not just hard candies as the name may imply.

takeaway - To-go, or take-home food. I sound like such a yank when I ask for something 'to go' and am desperately trying to learn to say 'takeaway' instead. They'll ask, "Is that for here, or takeaway?" and I'll blurt out, before I can think, "To-go, please!" There's always that awkward pause as they try and figure out what the hell I mean, then they catch on. Can also be a noun, as in, "Takeaways again for lunch, eh?"

biscuits (or 'bikkies') - Cookies.

good on ya - Good for you. A favorite of mine, and I use it a lot. I hope I am not sounding pretentious to my friends back home when I use this, because I'm not trying to be! It's just really catchy, and to my credit I don't follow it up with the usual 'mate' uttered by most Kiwis.

mum - Mom. I like 'mum' as it sounds more endearing, so I may soon be converted on this one. Unless, of course, mom objects to it!

jandals - Flip-flops. Definitely you will be mocked if you call them 'flip-flops' here! Much like you'd be mocked for calling them 'jandals' back in the States.

taking the piss out of/taking the mickey - Giving someone a hard time, mocking. I'm a bit baffled as to the origins of this one, as it doesn't really make sense, but then again it works somehow. Often abbreviated to 'taking the piss' in which case it could refer to the one being joked upon or the joker.

dairy - Corner convenience store, like a 7-11.

judder bars - Speed bumps. Yeah, 'judder bar' just sounds perfect for those damned things.

playing up - Has many other meanings but here I think it's used to refer to when someone is cheating on someone else. "Has she been playing up Jimmy then?"

togs - Swim trunks. What I keep leaving at the gym, along with my cap and goggles. When calling back one night to ask if they could find my swim trunks (which they thankfully did, hanging on a hook in the locker room), there was an awkward pause until I explained that I left my 'togs' there.

chilly bin - A cooler, or possibly also the freezer portion of a fridge. Known as an 'esky' in Aussie. Honestly, I have yet to hear anyone say 'chilly bin', but then again BBQ season is just around the corner so I may yet hear it. Saying it is a whole other thing, though, lol.

pissing down - An excellent slang term, used to describe rainfall. Not just any rainfall, but when it's really pouring out there, which it's been doing a lot lately. Serves to describe it far better than 'cats and dogs' if you ask me. "What's the weather out there like today, Steve?" "Ah, it's pissing down." "I'm gutted."

pavlova - Kiwi dessert, yet another item created by them but apprehended by the Aussies. It's a shame that I haven't tried it yet, but it is pretty decadent. It's named after Anna Pavlova, a ballet dancer who visited Wellington in the 1930s and a chef there created this dish for her.

sweet as - Said in response to asking for something, and that request is granted by this most positive response. Also used in acknowledgement of something good. "Could you make sure to add the Rugby Channel to the lineup?" "Sweet as."

arvo - Aussie in origin, but used here quite a lot. Means 'afternoon', as in, "I'll see you Thursday arvo, 2-ish."

good as gold - Like it sounds, and I've heard it said in the US, though not for a long time. Interchangeable with ...

box of birds - "So, how's little Monty been since he's been home?" "Oh, box of birds, mate. He's good as gold now." "Sweet as."

whitebait - It's a, um, 'delicacy' that some Kiwis prefer, though I don't think you'll find me going native on this one anytime soon. It's a small fish that is in its juvenile stage, akin to eating a soft-shelled crab. This is a bit hypocritical of me, considering I'll eat those tiny fish out of those tins - bones and all. But I've seen pictures of these little things, and I'm sorry but I don't like to eat anything with its eyes intact!

The lighter side of Islam

Daddy used to tell me,
"Everything comes down
To what they say about you
When you're not around."


-Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers in "Dead, Drunk, and Naked"

Yeah, I know. It may seem strange to start a post with a quote from a guy from Alabama and somehow attempt to tie it in with the Official Muslim Comedy Tour, "Allah Made Me Funny". Bear with me, if you will.

Hah! Bet you didn't see that pun there: bear... Alabama... Bear Bryant, legendary football coach of the Crimson Tide, the University of Alabama's football team.

OK yeah that was pretty lame, but I just can't resist puns. Back on topic now.

I went and checked out a stand-up comedy act tonight, Allah Made Me Funny, featuring the comedic stylings of Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman. Preacher is from Washington, DC, and Azhar grew up in Chicago, Illinois. They were both making their first appearance on the Tour's run through New Zealand and Australia, and the show was at the impressive and nicely restored Wellington Opera House.

I was eager to see their act for numerous reasons, among them to see how well American comics would be received in NZ, how they'd handle the volatile topics of the post-9/11 world, and to gain a better understanding of an Islamic view of the world today. Specifically, a view that isn't filtered to me by the media or spoken by some zombie fundamentalist twisted with hatred. I don't regard morons like that as representative of most muslims by any means, but what I don't know much about is how most muslims do think. I also thought it would be good to view Islam and the post-9/11 situation from the lighter side, as opposed to the usual hand-wringing stories you encounter daily in the media.

Stand-up comedy affords the opportunity to take a taboo subject, like race or religion, and turn it on its head and make light of it without sounding like a complete asshole. This assumes that the comic respects the material, for obviously the comedian just can't get up on stage, grab the mic, and begin a littany of hate masquerading as jokes. (Well, he can, but only at white supremacist meetings and the like, and then it's no longer comedy). Preacher and Azhar were both hilarious while at the same time poking holes in stereotypes and making sure nothing or nobody was sacred, including and especially by poking fun at themselves. Never did they intimate that Islam was superior to other religions, nor did they try to convert the audience.

Azhar said something that I found particularly funny. He mentioned how in America, he is sometimes hated for being muslim. But now that he was outside of America, he was sometimes hated for being American! What really rang true with me was how he said this actually made him feel more patriotic, as he realized how much he really does love the USA. I've never been more patriotic in my life, now that I've moved to another country, an irony I find most welcoming.

Like Azhar said, I've found that we Americans are not exceedingly popular with the rest of the world at present, and that includes New Zealanders. I was a bit stung by how much they cheered at the mention of Hugo Chavez's name (that dodgy bastard currently in charge of Venezuela), but really almost all of the animosity towards the States seems to originate with Bush and his administration. There is much elation over here about the results of the mid-term elections, so this end of the international community at least has much hope about the next few years.

But this does tie back in with my quoting of Patterson Hood at the beginning of this post. I was compelled to check this event out tonight because I knew invariably the USA would be part of the act not only because the comics are American but because Islam is so obviously relevant to American culture right now. I wanted to hear what people say and think about us when we're not around. By applause, I was the only American in the entire floor section, although there were about three or four more of us up in the balcony.

Also, I do not mean to present Hood or the Drive-By Truckers as some sort of racist rednecks from the deep south, for they are absolutely not. It's beyond the scope of this post to go into the greatness of this band, but I refer you to the lyrics of one of their songs to give you a capsule understanding of what they're all about. I encourage you to read them and give the DBT's a listen, they're one of my favorite bands - thanks to Todd for getting me into them!

Unpopular though we Americans may be at present, this doesn't mean that we don't have respect from the Kiwis - for I really think they do admire us on the whole. Another big knock against us is the excessive consumption of our society, and it really is pretty bad. I always explain how, now that the war back home against 'big tobacco' is over, there is a new war being waged on 'big fat'. Hopefully our restaurant chains will stop serving such mammoth proportions of food and we won't be so wasteful with all the junk we generate, but I'm starting to digress.

At the risk of going all cliche, I will say that when comedy serves not only to make me laugh but also to enlighten me, so much the better. What shouldn't get lost in these days of fundamentalist religious psychopaths is that they are (and hopefully will remain) a small but rabid and vocal minority. It's important to have a message of peace and understanding out there, and the Muslim Comedy Tour certainly has that going for it. Worship whoever and however you want, but respect other people's rights to their own choices and free will.

Sounds a bit like that most excellent document, the U. S. Bill of Rights, doesn't it?

Comedian Tom Rhodes, in one of his acts, had a great line about race. He said that racism was bogus and that we should just keep mixing all the races, keep mixing and mixing until everyone is the same sort of brown color. Then, we could start hating each other for who we really are, instead of what we look like. Brilliant.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The days were just PACKED


Ah, some of the joys that warmer weather and longer daylight hours brought back when I was in middle school make for great memories: going for endless hikes in the woods around the neighborhood; building forts out of scrap materials in those same woods; riding BMX bikes along Mike's paper route after school (I had a Mongoose with mag wheels and a chrome chain); burning through piles of quarters playing Spy Hunter and Tempest and Sinistar and the like at the local arcade; sledding down that awesome hill up the street whenever it snowed in winter; staying up late playing too much Atari and Intellivision.

The other day I got a chance to emulate that to some degree by taking a hike (tramp) through some woods in my new neighborhood, sans any friends from middle school or a BMX bike.

OK so I didn't bring my toy stuffed tiger along with me, either, but you get the general spirit of the situation.

The tramp in question leads to Cannon Point. It's at the top of one of the hills overlooking the Hutt River Valley, in which I currently reside. There are other branches off this trail once you reach the top of the ridge, and if I were so inclined (and I am not presently, as these blisters on my feet will attest!) I could hike along old Maori hunting trails all the way over the hills and to the ocean on the west coast. It might be worth it to tramp that far one day to have a view of Kapiti Island from the hilltops, but that's another tramp and another fresh set of moleskin.

The complete tramp had about a 90-minute return, starting from my front doorstep. There's plenty of other tramps along the Hutt River itself and I mean to check those out one day soon as well. A mountain bike and a set of in-line skates (sadly I had to leave my pair back in the U.S.) would also be great things to have, especially for the river trails.

So there's about a dozen or so photos from this tramp here, and although the views aren't as intriguing as some of the others I've had over here in New Zealand, they are pretty rewarding for a trail that starts in my own backyard, basically. The biggest payoff is the view of Wellington harbor (the last photo in the album I believe), and you can make out Soames Island in the foreground which is also pretty cool. I need to see this distant harbor view of the city at night at some point as well but I don't have a good enough torch (flashlight) for this yet.

Right, well, that's enough forced viewing of my vacation slides for now. Thanks for indulging me!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Travel New Zealand Tourism Update

Hey! All of you readers out there, I’ve got a bulletin for you.

It's the first sunny day we’ve had here in Welly in a week. Exactly a week. I’ve been terribly lucky these past three Wednesdays with the gorgeous weather. They've been an oasis of calm amidst a stormy tempest of cold, blowy rain the past fortnight.

Hmm, I've been reading too much poetry lately.

So I’ve taken full advantage of this boon by coming into the CBD (Central Business District, to us locals. Sha, as if!) and getting coffee and writing and being part of the energy that is the Wellington crowd. And something occurs to me: I can't have this glorious splendor all to myself!

So which of you is coming to visit me first? Come on now, don’t be shy. There are no excuses, now that I’ve got my flat nearly all set up. Well, the guest room anyways. I figure I can have the air mattress, while my illustrious guests (you, dear reader) have the bed and your own dresser and night stand. I just need some living room furniture, which is coming soon. There's also a nice big barbecue I'm inheriting as well, and the flat has a spacious deck!

It also has three cats, so if you have allergies to them please don't let that stop you from visiting. Plenty of nice places to stay for reasonable rates. Your dollar does go further here!

But Spring is here and it’s going to be a nice, long summer down here in NZ. I just know it. So get out of wherever you are for a bit and escape all that inclement weather! Let me take you on a tour of both islands. You’ve got a free place to stay and a free tour guide who’s admittedly still learning the place, but that’s half the fun.

I’ve already got a south island itinerary mapped out, but of course I’m game for anything. It’s so easy to wander off the beaten path here and find something amazing. You really just can’t go wrong. Sometimes the best plan is no plan at all, just to wander and let it all hit you as you go. I’ll even do all the driving!

So mark your calendars now. Take no less than two weeks, preferably three. You’ll spend three days of that just getting here and back, plus allow for a little jet lag. Organize the time off from work, trade shifts where you have to. If I must, I will write you all doctor’s notes saying that you require some much-needed R&R and the only place for it is Down Under. I have that power, you know.

I grant you, it will take some time and effort to make this trip happen. That’s why I’m officially starting to pester you all now. Get together with other friends and family of Brooksie and take the trip together. The more the merrier! The guest bed sleeps two, as does the air mattress, and I’ll be getting a couch that sleeps one, plus there will be the master bedroom as well. We can even organize some cots. There is only one bathroom, though!

The best time of year to come is probably February through April, after all the Kiwis have gone back to work and it's late summer/early autumn down here. Rates on everything will be lower as it's not tourist season then, either.

Just to entice you further, I refer you to some snapshots of my trip so far, with more linked at right. The picture above is from New Brighton's beach, just outside Christchurch. Images like this are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

And if it’s icebergs you really want, Antarctica is just round the corner. They got a million of 'em.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Legacy of the "Assman" *

I like how many work vehicles in NZ are not only allowed to have their plates personalized, but that many companies actually seem to embrace this. Delivery companies, taxis, vet hospitals (ours is the ultra-original “ANMLDR” - and it almost looks like "Anal Doctor" but let's not go there), pesticide companies, even official government use vehicles – I’ve seen examples of all of them with a personalized plate, or ‘registration’ as it’s known here.

Post Haste, a Kiwi company similar to FedEx, lets their drivers choose their own plates for their trucks, all within the boundaries of good taste mind you. Apparently you have to put in quite a long slog in the delivery rooms before you’re promoted to the point where you get your own truck to drive around. This just sweetens the deal for all the Kiwi delivery guys out there, I guess.

There was one such driver whose plate read “DRKMAN”. I assume he means “Darkman” but he may not be aware that it could also be interpreted as “Dorkman”, a decidedly less cool moniker. Today there was also “YWALK2” on a taxi cab (I assume “YWALK1” was otherwise deployed), and I have seen things like “GRNTHM” on landscaping service vehicles.

Mind you, you’re only allowed six slots on the registration plate, so this does hamper the creativity to some degree. It may actually increase the need to be creative, come to that, as you have to think up with something that is clever and recognizable but only in 6 slots. “DRKMAN” (“Drink, man”??) may have failed in this but by and large they all succeed.

As far as personal plates go, I was blown away by seeing “XYZZY”, a particularly nerdy reference which I am ashamed to admit that I got. Yes, I’m about to go off on yet another one of my endless, sidelong tangents, so buckle up!

You see, the mother of all computer games was developed on the huge mainframes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology back in the late 1970s and it was called “Adventure”. It was this text-based game wherein you could wander nearly infinitely (I don’t think the game had a proper conclusion but it did keep score and you could die – and often did). One of the magic words in the game was ‘xyzzy’ and by typing this you could do lots of things you couldn’t before, as magic words are often prone to do. The other big magic word in the game (yes, it had a whole two of them) was ‘plugh’. I have yet to see this particular plate so perhaps it’s there for the taking. Maybe me and ‘xyzzy’ could get together and reminisce about those heady mainframe days.

Anyways, the guys at MIT went on to create the software company called Infocom, their most famous game being “Zork”. And while playing Zork, if you typed in either ‘xyzzy’ or ‘plugh’ you would get a sarcastic response. Still, unless you’re properly in tune with the same dorky circles I am, you are likely still unaware of whatever the hell it is I am writing about.

So let’s get back to the matter at hand.

I also saw a woman driving around a station wagon (with two kids in the back), and her plate said “RUFSEX”. Either she’s a dog breeder or one kinky mum!

Now were I to pay for a vanity plate, I would tend to shun obscure computer game references and of course “DRKMAN” (“Doctor K, man”?!?) is sadly taken. I’d also probably avoid any reference to what it is I do for a living, lest I become confused for a house call service.

I thought of simply “YANK” but that seems rather obvious and might invite some uninvited opinions or criticisms. “BROOKSIE” just won’t fit, and dammit I’m sorry but the nickname doesn’t get abbreviated! “BRUXIE” would just look stupid.

I’m not going to be dim enough to go for something like “LANCER” or “MBISHI” (I drive a Mitsubishi Lancer), as many sports car drivers are wont to do when they personalize their plates with exactly what the car is. I guess all that penis envy has clouded their sense of irony.

“WASHME” could work as I am notoriously bad about keeping up with cleaning the car, but then I don’t think anyone would actually follow through on that simple request.

“BLOWME” would be perfect for those tailgating berks who would just as soon run you off the road as look at you, but this may cause a bit of animosity with the cops. I’m up to two speeding tickets (!) already in just four short months, so no need to tempt fate there.

Ah well, I just might leave my current registration, “LKTITS”, as it is and not bother with personalizing. It is just random and inconspicuous enough to let me keep blending in like I have and I don’t want there to be any confusion or controversy.
_______________________________________________________
*References a particular episode of Seinfeld.

A sampling from "Brooksie: The Official Soundtrack"

Warning: At some point in the reading of this post, you are going to encounter the word juxtaposition. Not to worry, you will be warned before this word appears again (in its proper context of course). Carry on.

From the Random Musings Department, I bring you: another perfect moment for me here in New Zealand.

While driving along the Southern Scenic Route last August, somewhere south of Dunedin and along the Catlins Coast, I crested a hill during one windy stretch of road. At the top was a lookout and spreading majestically down below me was Tautuku Bay. It is easily one of the most amazing sights I have ever beheld (there is a picture or three of this spot in my photo album), and what made this awesome vision even… awesome-r, was the musical accompaniment that was playing on the radio at the same time.

Warning: The usage of the word juxtaposition is drawing very near. This has been your final warning. Read on at your own peril.

It was Queen’s “A Kind of Magic”, which could not have been a more perfect song for the moment. Queen’s music makes me nostalgic for the '80s when I was in middle and high school and having the time of my life with endless summers and great friends. The title of the song fit beautifully with the real-life magic I was experiencing in not only the view but also the freedom and sunshine of driving around the south island on that day. It wasn't a tape that was playing either, just one of the local radio stations, and I've mentioned before how I love the fact that they like Queen so much down here.

Never before has the --->juxtaposition<--- of such good music and glorious scenery been quite so acute in my life as it was then. It was as if my life has its own personal soundtrack going all the time but only occasionally does it bleed through and I am able to hear it. Ever have one of those moments? Where just the right song comes on the radio or is playing in a bar or in another car as you pass by and it just fits?

Sounds and smells are often tied inextricably to memories. Honeysuckle in the spring always reminds me of soccer practice; fresh paint recalls times spent acting or working on stage sets in high school; carbon paper brings back memories of report cards (I'm old school, baby). So from here on out now, whenever I hear “A Kind of Magic” (or really, any other Queen tune except maybe the songs on the Flash Gordon soundtrack - those particular ones always bring up the soundbite of Brian Blessed going "Gordon's alive!") I will fondly remember that drive on that day.

In more ways than one, you just had to be there.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Oh no. That is so inconvenient."

So sayeth Hugh Grant's character in "Love Actually" when referring to the charming, funny new girl working on his staff.

This would be my sentiment exactly, except I'm not the Prime Minister of England and the object of my crush does not in fact work with me. Rather, she cuts hair at the local salon where I go to... get my haircut.

Oh sure, I've chatted with her every time I've been in there, enough to know that she moved to New Zealand from England about six years ago. She loves it here and she loves to travel and she knows a bit of my story as well.

One key detail I've neglected to find out is her name. I am such an absentminded buffoon sometimes that the obvious things escape me, so I've never introduced myself to her as such. We've just had the odd small talk conversations.

But I can tell that she is rather sweet and friendly, and is probably in her mid-20s so I know she's younger than I am but age is a state of mind!

My problem is - and here is the inconvenient part - I would like to ask her out on a date but I don't know quite how to go about it. Do I just spring it on her next time I get a haircut? She isn't the one who actually cuts my hair, but she does wash anyone's hair who requests it, so perhaps this could be an opening.

Still, I feel a bit silly asking her on a date in front of all those people, and there is my nagging lack of knowledge of her name. Perhaps asking her out before knowing her name would be putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

I also am well aware that she could indeed have a boyfriend (or the dreaded 'partner'), but in my view there is really only one way to find out.

So what do you think, kind reader? Any advice for Brooksie in this particular situation? My heart's all aflutter, stomach's full of butterflies, tongue's in knots. I could use a little advice!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Remember, remember...

...the 5th of November
Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

So goes the famous English rhyme about Guy Fawkes, the man who headed up a ring of Catholics that failed in their attempts to assassinate the Protestant King James I as well as many members of Parliament in 16th century England.

Don't worry, I don't know these facts stone cold, but I did remember something of my history when earlier this year my memory got a jog by the movie, "V for Vendetta". It's not really a day that's commemorated in America, which is a bit ironic considering the Gunpowder Plot has at least a couple of themes in common with my country. First, that no government should ever be beyond the ability of its people to overthrow it. Second, that Guy Fawkes was acting out against the powers-that-be in England, something we yanks did in that little squabble with Mother England called the Revolutionary War.

More accurately, there isn't really a Guy Fawkes "Day", but rather a "Night," and tonight it's being celebrated here in New Zealand. The night before the 5th of November, the original chosen date of the doomed conspirators to blow up Westminster Palace, is celebrated with fireworks and bonfires. So I know I'm not posting this on the actual day, but in the spirit of the celebrations being carried out the night before, I am thus writing about it the night before.

So nyeah.

There have actually been a high number of clients coming in to the practice all week, requesting tranquilizers for their poor dogs, whose nerves will be shot by the time the evening is over. Fireworks do send some dogs into quite a frenzy! All this mention of Guy Fawkes and fireworks eventually lead me to ask a co-worker what it was all about. At first I was a little embarassed since I am here in NZ and didn't know much of anything about this holiday they celebrate. But the Kiwi nurse who shall remain nameless said she thought Guy Fawkes was American and that this fireworks celebration had some religious undertones. Wrong though she was about his nationality, I can't hold it against her as she still knew more than I did. There are more than a few yanks who don't fully understand many American holidays, either!

I am a bit uneasy about the notion of glorifying a guy who was basically going to vaporize many innocent people just to make a point. It kind of puts him in the same echelon as that wanker Timothy McVey, although at least Fawkes and his cronies never did see their plot come to fruition. Also, in these uneasy times of global terrorism, it is hard to get behind a celebration for a guy who would undoubtedly be painted a terrorist today were he to carry out such a deed. Perhaps if he had planned to blow up empty buildings, like the character in the movie, it would be a little easier for me to sympathize with Fawkes.

Still, I like the notion of the holiday, for I think the real reasons most people celebrate Guy Fawkes Night is because of his firm belief in standing up to the government and doing something about a bad situation.

Plus, it's a whole lot of fun to light off some fireworks and burn stuff, so any old reason will do.

Still, as the tagline for "V for Vendetta" says: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

Damn straight! Coincidentally, Election Day is right around the corner in the States, so in our own accidental way we indirectly celebrate Fawkes by exercising our awesome ability to vote. Well, about 50% of us do, anyways. Makes me wish I had seen far enough ahead to register to vote by absentee, but for sure I'll correct that mistake before next year.

So good on ya for your fighting spirit, Guy Fawkes, even though you just might have become a murdering bastard. The fireworks that are going off as I write will hopefully keep inspiring other Guy Fawkes Night celebrants to always be suspicious of their governments and to take the power back when necessary.

I do like celebrating this new holiday, it speaks to my American spirit, and I have enjoyed being in New Zealand that much more now. I have definitely learned something new today!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ants in the Kitchen*

*sung to the tune of "Mirror in the Bathroom" by The English Beat

Ants in the kitchen
please God no
Crawling from the
counter to the floor.
Where did I put that ant spray
it kills bugs dead
They keep coming in
while I am eating.

Ants in the kitchen
can't kill them all
Don't look now and don't turn 'round
they're in the hall.
Sprayed inside and out, tried to be clean
but they're from Hell
Just a thousand minions
sent by Satan himself, self, self

Ants in the kitchen
There are ants in the kitchen
There are ants in the kitchen
There are ants in the kitchen

Ants in the kitchen
they're payback
For many fleas
I have whacked.
Hard as I fight
they've moved on
crawling from the pantry
onto my arm.

Ants in the kitchen
please leave me
I'll drop the Raid
just eat and flee.
I'll bring you lunch tomorrow
pesticide free
Just stay outside
while you are eating.

Ants in the kitchen
I got
Ants in the kitchen ...

On the dumping of memes

Dear fellow readers and lovers of the English language:

Might I just suggest something? There is a term that has become rather hackneyed and I would very much like to see it go the way of other oft-overused/little-missed phrases such as “Where’s the beef?” and “Keep it on the QT”.

I am referring here to one usage of the word ‘cathartic’. Lately it is often used to describe anything in a person’s life, usually a body of work, that upon so completing or releasing said work, gives the creator or author a feeling of relief. The same kind of relief the work’s creator would have felt, say, if they had been eating far too much cheese lately, became horribly constipated, and then took strong doses of Ex-Lax and had embarrassing and painful repeated enemas to finally achieve… well, the opposite of constipation, whatever that is.

I am aware that a main definition of catharsis is to achieve a state of mental and emotional cleansing, but I’m sorry the meaning of catharsis as it relates to the bowels is just too inextricably intertwined with it to sort the meanings out in my mind. As my boy Tony Kornheiser would say, “It’s a ‘gots-to-go’ situation!”

This occurs to me because while taking a sight-seeing drive around the north island the other day, there was an interview going on the talk radio station that I was tuned into. Normally I don’t listen to talk radio (outside of sports), but the stations down here seem tragically insistent on playing Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” on an hourly basis ad nauseum, so I retreated to the relatively safe confines of talk radio to avoid having my own personal version of ‘catharsis’ right there in the car.

Anyways, the interview was with the author of a recent book, his autobiography in fact. His life story was rather interesting and a large part of the book dealt with his mother and father having tragically been split apart very early in the author’s life. It was due to some military conflict between Latvia and Russia, a war in which the author’s father fought. The boy and his mum had split to New Zealand to live while his father turned out to have faked his death or something. Anyways, something like 50 years had passed when he and his mother came to realize that his biological father was in fact still alive, and had re-married and had lots of kids and grandkids. As the man was still in Latvia, the author – who had spent all his life caring for his mum, who had herself re-married into an awful, abusive marriage – took it upon himself to take her back to their native Latvia so that she might see her homeland once again and, more importantly, that they both might see her ex and his father.

So they went up there, got some closure on several key things in their lives and then returned to NZ fulfilled and happy. The author’s book was about these experiences and, in so writing it, the moderator asked if the book had served as some sort of ‘cathartic’ for him.

Groan.

To her credit, the moderator did acknowledge how trite and overused the word has become, but I guess she was fresh out of other analogies and certainly wasn’t able to supply a new one on her own.

Come on, lass! Be a trend-setter, come up with something new! Let’s get out of these fecal analogies for things in everyday life. They’re more than a little unsettling, like how pathologists love to come up with food analogies for all the gross things that can go wrong in the body. “Raspberry jam stool” comes to mind. “Port wine cheese colored urine.” Eww.

Here, I’ll spot you a few suggestions. Firstly, how about we use a more alcoholic metaphor instead? Let’s say that writing this book served as a sort of ‘tonic’ for him, as in GIN and tonic. So, in writing this book he did not, in effect, take a huge and long overdue dump. Rather, he bellied up to the bar and tossed back a few drinkies in order to alleviate some much needed stress and repression that had been bothering him.

It could go something like: ‘The publishing of Roger’s autobiography proved to be just the tonic he needed to slip into a cozily numb and horizontal position in life.’

There, see? How much more agreeable is that than comparing his book to a painful, long but ultimately rewarding session in the john?

Having a medical background I could further make my point and think of other analogies for achieving an emotional release that involve processes as noisome as an enema. Lancing an abscess springs to mind, as in: ‘Miranda’s completion of her magnum opus, “Piano Sonata in D Minor,” lanced the abscess of her frustration and the pus of relief came pouring out.’ I think that one speaks for itself.

Or how about: ‘In completing his epic love ballad, Roderick had finally administered the spiritual insulin of release to control the hyperglycemia of his anguish.’ Too technical.

Hmm: ‘Reginald, in downing the hydrogen peroxide of effort, had finally vomited forth his graduate thesis with breathtaking precision and clarity.’ This is slightly cleaner than the enema analogy but still a little too ‘Jackass 2’ to be appropriate.

OK, here it is: ‘Now that Kathy’s work on her blueprints for the new museum were completed, she felt a wave of bliss come over her as she narcotized herself from the pain of underachievement.’ Yes! Drugs are always the answer.

Ahh, just writing this entry has made me feel all… euphoric.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Behold!

My new favorite beverage, discovered by yours truly today. Wednesday is my day off and I usually enjoy it by going into town and trying somewhere new for lunch or coffee. One of my favorite haunts is a place called Deluxe Cafe. I may have mentioned it before, but they have the best food of any cafe in town I've sampled thus far.

It was there that I was first introduced to a New Zealand soft drink company called Foxton Fizz. Their cola tastes great and doesn't have the acidic afterburn that Coke seems to give sometimes, particularly when drank from the bottle. So whenever I head to Deluxe and don't get one of their coffees (also one of the best in town), I'll get a Foxton Fizz. I like it better than Coke and plus I like to support NZ businesses as much as I can while I'm here.

Today I tried out a new cafe called The Lido Bar & Cafe, down on Victoria Street in Wellington. It's gotten good reviews in two of my travel guides and I've meant to check it out since I've been up here. It is too easy to fall into a routine and just go to the same places over and over again - especially when they're good, like Deluxe is - but I force myself to try somewhere new on a regular basis or else I'll miss out on all these great things down here.

Lido was a great experience today. Even though it's nearing the first day of summer (!), today was rather cold and windy - jacket weather. So when I heard that the soup of the day was a tomato basil with bacon, I jumped at it. I asked the waiter if they had any Foxton Fizz, and he seemed perplexed and then surprised as he realized there was a soft drink made in nearby Foxton! He then brought me a drink menu, and though I didn't see the Fizz I did spy another choice that wasn't Coke or Pepsi: Phoenix Cola.

I asked for a Phoenix and he said "Ah, great choice," so I knew I was in for something good.

As an aside, I should say that one of my favorite things to eat is honey. I've really grown to like it more and more these past few years, and I think it all started when I went to my first state fair in Virginia back in the late '90s. There was so much farm produce there, and one of the things I found most intriguing was the beekeeping industry and the honey market.

Honey in the States is a failing market, mainly due to the infestation of the terrible varroa bee mite, so we lose a lot of business to imported honey that is cheaper. Not wanting to let such a cool industry dwindle, I took it upon myself there and then to start being a regular consumer of honey so I bought a couple bottles and have been using the stuff whenever I can ever since. I always buy domestic USA honey, too.

It's gotten to be a little silly, really, as I'm now like one of those people for whom ketchup goes with everything. Except for me, instead of putting ketchup on everything I'll use honey. I don't use it in any novel, groundbreaking sort of ways, I just have made it a habit. I'll put it in oatmeal, cereal, my tea, on a sandwich with peanut butter (a favorite), cook ham with it, things like that. Every now and then I'll get a big gob of it out of the jar with a spoon and just have that, but don't worry, I'm not one of those gross 'double dippers'!

So imagine my pleasant surprise when the Phoenix Cola arrived and I found out that it was made with honey! It is a great taste combination. If you know me well, you'll know that I had a terrible addiction to Vanilla Coke while back in the States. I have only found it once over here so I haven't kept up that bad habit. But I have to tell you that, in one fell swoop (swig?), Phoenix's Honey Cola has replaced Vanilla Coke as my all-time favorite soft drink! The sweet honey takes away some of the bite of the cola, and it's a smooth and mellow and great-tasting drink.

I hit Woolworth's tonight after swimming and bought a bunch of bottles. As soon as they're cold enough, I'll be cracking another one open.