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Monday, February 25, 2008

Something for all you loquacious philanthropists

G'day, my soul posse!

I'll get to the point of my title in a second, I just wanted to say that I hope everyone had a good weekend, for I sure did here. Started out Friday night going with my friend Sarah to see our very own Hurricanes eke out their first win of the Super 14 rugby season. It wasn't pretty, but they've just got to get the 'W', right? The timing of the Super 14 couldn't be more perfect, as it's been just long enough since the NFL has wound down that I'm starting to have withdrawal symptoms. I know rugby and 'gridiron' (as American football is called down here, which I think is very cool) are not the same thing, but they are certainly close enough!

For me, rugby combines some of the things I like best about soccer - continuous action, long halves, minimal coaching/true player improvisation - with some of the best things about gridiron, such as full-impact violence, rather high scoring and cheerleaders. In a way, I enjoy the rugby more than gridiron, mainly because it isn't so 'made-for-TV' with all the stopping and starting. That being said, I'll always be a huge fan of the gridiron, I just feel lucky to have rugby around so much and to have learned to appreciate it.

But what's this? American gridiron football - a whole league of it - right here in Wellington? Granted, a lowly number of people (200) saw their championship last weekend, but I was gobsmacked to see that gridiron was even played here in New Zealand! Good on ya, guys, and if this keeps up perhaps one day the NFL will be playing an exhibition game down here in New Zealand instead of London.

And if I had wheels, I'd be a bus. I'm not delusional, ya know! It's fun to dream, is all I'm saying.

I spent Saturday in town, the first half of which was my usual waterfront stroll, cafe crawl, small talk with the Kiwis routine - arguably my most favorite thing to do in New Zealand. I spent the second half assailing the steep roads to my friends' Simon and Sarah's house. A saner person would have driven all that way but I've been in the habit of taking the train into town lately. Plus I wanted to see pictures from Simon's remarkable climb up Mount Aspiring last month - this is no small feat, I can assure you! - and I hadn't visited them in a while.

After visiting with them and meeting Sarah's grandmother, I gladly accepted a ride back into town as they were on their way to Palmerston North to visit with more family. Since the walk back into town was all downhill (literally) I didn't think that hitching a ride would compromise the manliness of my earlier 'uphill stroll'.

Today I was back in downtown Wellington again, although for different reasons. Sundays are so great in New Zealand in part because of the great newspaper that comes out on this day: the Sunday Star Times. I mention it here because there was a funny article about Christchurch's new tourism campaign that you can read here. I love how self-deprecating the Kiwis can be, and perhaps I am still wearing tourist 'love goggles' even after 20 months Down Under, but I find Christchurch and nearby Akaroa to be very attractive destinations.

Then again, I've never been to Europe, and the line in the story "Why can't it just be 'Christchurch, it's quite nice'?" is just hilarious. And this is not an attempt to downplay any negative tourism stories about New Zealand in advance of my mom's visit here starting next weekend!

I know this post is getting long, so I'll finish with these two items:

First, the main reason I went into town today was to see one of the main plays headlining the 2008 New Zealand International Arts Festival. It was called Black Watch and it was one of the best things I have ever seen. In sometimes all-too visceral fashion, it felt very real. After today I felt as would an embedded journalist would perhaps feel, following a unit along in war-torn Iraq. The individual performances of all the actors were outstanding and the pacing was brilliant.

The play mixed a series of interviews (based upon conversations with real soldiers of the Black Watch who served in Iraq) with the surviving members of the squad with flashbacks, and the material was at times touching, poignant, hilarious and frightening. One of the highlights for me was how they told the story of the 300-year history of Scotland's Black Watch regiment: one of the main characters had a long monologue wherein his fellow soldiers would pick him up, spin him around, carry him aloft as they dressed and undressed him in the various uniforms worn by the Black Watch throughout history.

This performance is certainly not for the faint-of-heart but every single actor on stage was so focused and genuine it was worth the at-times punishing sounds. You would be hard-pressed to find a better ensemble than these guys. It was sold-out and they got a standing ovation - for a matinee, that says something!

Oddly, and I took it for a good omen, as the train pulled into the station, I saw that the actual cruise ship named the "Black Watch" was docked in Wellington Harbour. What a strange coincidence!

Finally, the other thing is the actual reason for this post's headline. I can't remember if it was in a recent edition of WIRED magazine or in the SST but I wrote down this website: FreeRice. For free (natch), you can test your vocabulary skills (or online dictionary searching skills) and for every correct answer you give, the website will donate 20 grains of rice free to the UN World Food Program.

So go on, check it out and see how high you can get your 'vocab level'. I got mine to 44 all by my lonesome but it goes all the way up to 55. In my session I ended up donating 3180 grains of rice.

Think you can top that? Make me proud! Get your 'SAT Verbal' thing on and help out a good cause.

It'll make ya feel all benevolent.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kiwi-English Dictionary 3: In 3-D!

Okay! It is high time for another installment of my Kiwi-English Dictionary. As the title above suggests, this is the 3-D version, so don those funky red and blue panelled cardboard sunnies, sit back, and enjoy the show!

What's that you say? You mean you didn't get your 3-D glasses in the Brooksie 2.0 Fun Pack I sent you? But... but... they were hand-made! This is a travesty!

The entire Promotions Department has just been sacked.

I know that cleaning house still doesn't get you your ├╝ber-cool 3-D glasses, so I'll just have to disable that special set of code for this time around. I hope you still enjoy these definitions I've come up with as my KiwEnglish has improved since last we visited this topic, so it is time for an update.

(But oh man, I was hoping it'd be in 3-D, 'cause without that special effect, I'm afraid these just ain't that funny.)

See also!

Kiwi-English Dictionary the First

Kiwi-English Dictionary, Collegiate Edition

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

biro - slang for a pen, referred to as such for the inventor of the ballpoint pen, I do believe. I don't hear this very often, in fact the only two times I've heard it said (and I've been paying attention), it was uttered by delivery men. True story. I see this in print much more often than I hear it spoken.

brill - shorthand for brilliant, which until those Guinness commercials came on the past few years in the States, was primarily a Kiwi or British expression akin to the American 'cool' or 'sweet'. Or, for people who were alive in the 50s, this is like their 'keen' or 'swell'.

catch you up - nothing really special here, just another way of saying 'catch up with you', I just like this subversive, shorter version better! And it sounds 'cool' or 'brill' or (to my Alive-in-the-50s crowd) 'keen'.

dob - this is a verb, as in to 'dob you in'. You don't want to be dobbed in for anything, for it's just like being busted. As with not wanting to be the 'dobbee', you do not also want to be the 'dobber', for nobody likes a tattle-tale. Snitch!

does my head in - pretty much how it sounds, in that something 'drives you crazy' or even 'freaks you out'. So, if you like to complain a lot and are running out of synonyms, try this phrase on for size! Your overworked audience will appreciate the change, if only for a little while.

dosh - cash, moolah, money, coin. It's like combining 'cash' and 'dollah', I love it! The word as well as what it stands for! Well, at least I don't love money as much as this guy does:

everything goes in roundabouts - since we don't have many of these glorious gifts to our congested roads in the States, I can see why obviously nobody is saying this. It makes sense standing alone, but given all the roundabouts (traffic circles) evident in New Zealand, I am taking a semi-educated guess that perhaps that's where this phrase originated. It's corollary in 'American' might be 'Win some, lose some' or perhaps 'What goes up, must come down' based on the context in which I've heard it said.

...for Africa - when trying to describe something that is of an overly abundant quantity, or if you are just trying to exaggerate, then tack this on to the end of what you are saying. As in, "They had enough beer for Africa at that party!" or "You used enough cotton for Africa in that bandage!" Not that I've had that last thing said to me by any means. Nope.

hooning - love this word, it's just one that sounds like what it describes. A way of describing not only excessive but reckless speed, usually applied to cars, but I've also heard it used in relation to bikes, small children or even rambunctious puppies. "He came hooning round the corner there and plowed through the screen door! I ran after him in my jandals, chasing the little ratbag!" (Threw in some words from the older dictionary editions for ya there.)

how ya going? - the direct corresponding phrase would be 'How's it going?'. Interesting that the Kiwi one is more personal and direct, when compared to our vague 'it'. Although we do also say 'How ya doing?' but thanks to those brill(iant) Bud Light commercials, this usually immediately degenerates into a quote-fest displaying all the variations on this excellent theme (the nerdy white guy version, the Sopranos version, etc.) - at least in conversations in which I'm involved!

knackered - very tired, as in 'dog tired'. Beat, worn-out, exhausted. Comes from the British term for the guy, called the knacker man, who comes and takes dead livestock off the hands of the farmers. Yep, if you're due to be knackered, you must be very tired indeed! I already knew this one from my All Creatures Great and Small days, yo. James Herriot, you best recognize!

lose one's rag - when somebody goes completely 'mental' or 'loses it', they have officially lost their rag, like losing one's grip on reality. Much speculation exists daily as to the sanity of various celebrities (whose names don't need to be mentioned here - I mean, come on, how long do you want this entry to be?) and whether or not they've finally lost their rag. This also can describe not only the bizarre eccentric but also those throwing a particularly vicious temper tantrum, often at service people they feel have not lived up to their end of the bargain. "If they don't fix my car this time, I'm really going to lose my rag! It won't be tidy!"

mooted - being considered for something, as in "John Stewart is being mooted as the next president of the College of William and Mary," or "Vanilla Coke has been mooted as Brooksie's drink of choice." Haha, yeah right. There is no mooting there: Vanilla Coke is my drink of choice! But you see what I mean.

munted - um, 'not working as intended', i.e., shit-faced, wasted, drunk off your arse. You get the picture! Have also heard this describe things as well, as in 'That car's munted, it's not going anywhere!' Yes! Yet another synonym for 'drunk', and a particularly good one, I might add.

piece of piss - not to ruin this other phrase for you with this analogy, but is just like our 'piece of cake'. "I'm not sure I can get all that gardening done in one day." "Nah, it's a piece of piss, mate." Piss comes up a lot in KiwEnglish, as mentioned in past versions of this dictionary, so here it is yet again in all its glory. Quite a versatile word, don't ya think!

see how he/she goes - very like our 'Let's see how it goes' but again a more personal version with the Kiwis. Invariably later on down the line one would then be asked 'How ya going' after initially deciding to 'see how we go' (see above).

slapper - refers to a woman who has a reputation for getting around. Also synonymous with munter which should not be confused with the term 'munted', above. Definitely not a compliment. Quite misogynistic and it is a word I've only heard down here. Of course the American equivalent term would be 'slut'.

slash - a piss. Again with the P-word! But yeah, I like this synonym, it is a welcome addition to my vocabulary. Often said with 'off for a' as in, "I'll be right back, I'm off for a slash." As with my philosophy that you can never have too many phrases for 'to vomit' or to describe drunkenness, so too you can never have enough ways to describe taking a leak. Bleeding the weasel. Hitting the head. You get the idea!

stuff - as in, the action. Usually said when giving up on something, as in "Ah, stuff it, I'll finish this tomorrow." But it could also be used to describe making a mistake, as in "I told you to ask her out then but you waited too long and stuffed it all up." Can be considered a synonym for knackered but perhaps to a lesser degree, as in you might be just 'stuffed' before you progress all the way to being 'knackered'. Can also be quite a cutting insult, as I've rarely heard it spoken so far and when I have it's been pretty harsh. So, if you are told to 'get stuffed' you have indeed been told off, mate!

sunnies - sunglasses, shades. Kiwi-speak is great, isn't it? Sunnies just sounds so very positive, like the Kiwi's often 'sunny' disposition. Awww!
Ok, that's enough of that.

Well that's all the new terms I have written down for this edition. I hope you are enlightened and at least a little amused! And, uh, sorry again about the 3-D glasses not being sent out. When I get next year's budget together, hopefully I'll have enough for a second go at them!

Until then, I remain, your faithful


Friday, February 15, 2008

White Boy Pain

This is just so unfair.

Stop me if you've heard this one: The story of the guy who unfailingly for years buys the same weekly lottery ticket numbers. Then, as luck would have it, he forgets to buy them just ONE time - and it just happens to be the time he would have hit it big with those very numbers! Sometimes this story has a rather grisly ending, and it's probably no more than one of many urban myths floating around out there.

The reason I bring this up is because something similar happened to me today. In the grand scheme of things, it is nowhere near as tragic as the above cautionary tale. But it is still galling and see if you agree!

As you may have gathered from my previous bloviating writing, I tend to have a wander through downtown Wellington on Wednesdays, my day off during the week. The day is pretty unstructured, and usually I try to end up experiencing something I haven't done on past trips into town, as there really is an awful lot to get up to in downtown Wellington.

Yesterday, however, was an exception. Instead of going into town (taking the train as I now do - it's all about being green, yo), I skipped on my trip to Welly and hung around the Hutt Valley instead. Oh, I was being productive at least: cashed a couple of checks, picked up my winning bet on the Giants from Super Bowl XLII (thank you, Eli!), mailed off some bills, tidied up the house a bit, etc.

But my productivity on this particular day off is hardly a soothing enough balm for missing out on THIS.

(You'll really need to follow that link to understand the rest of this story.)

Yes, it's none other than Jemaine and Bret performing live and downtown on Wednesday! Not downtown Lower Hutt, either: downtown Wellington!

And where was I? Idly sipping coffee in one of the Hutt malls, content with my lame day-off "Mailing of the Bills" or "Cashing of the Checks". Instead I could've been down there with Bret and Jemaine and seen them play live and even autograph my DVD of Flight Of The Conchords, Season One!

Now, I'm not going to get all "Mel" on you:

But I do love the show and have been sort of hoping these two guys would get up to some kind of public performance while they've been home in New Zealand, waiting out the writers' strike before beginning their second season of FoTC. Given my frequent haunting of Wellington, I kinda fancied the notion of being able to see them out and about somewhere, sometime.

That's as "Mel" as I'm like to get, though. I have never pretended to be out for a jog just outside of their flat or anything. (Please - do you know how hard it is to find out where celebrities live? It ain't easy, especially when you've got restraining orders out against you!*)

In my defence, this was a (mostly) impromptu performance, as the only people 'in the know' would have been those on the mailing list for the movie rental place where they set up their quick show. I am not on that list.

Second, I do not (usually) bring my FoTC DVD with me everywhere I go. (I'm still not Mel). So there would have been nothing for them to sign. Well, I could have tried to get them to sign my chest or something, but don't ya think having one restraining order out on you for that reason is enough?*

Finally, this particular video store is also way up Aro Street, which is usually a far cry from where I walk downtown, even though I do tend to walk all over. So odds are, I would not have been able to just stumble upon this event while it was happening.

We won't mention the fact that Jemaine and Bret stayed on for two hours after the gig, unfailingly signing anything and everything that came their way. So there could very well have been a word-of-mouth buzz going on in all the cafes and coffee shops downtown about their presence.

Oh, think of the cred I could have had if I could lord it over my fellow FoTC fans back home that I actually met Jemaine and Bret in their home town!

And had them sign my chest!

No, we won't be mentioning that.

So... how 'bout those Giants eh?

* I keed, I keed!