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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.


Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I earned ‘em 200 grains of rice before I became bored with the quiz.

Maybe American football will catch on. But then, I’m addicted to it.

Have a grand week, Brooksie!

1:38 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Thanks for checking out the Free Rice link, Nick! And I hope you are feeling better this week. I'll check your page later for updates. Cheers and you have a great week as well.

9:04 PM  

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