Non-Zealand

Accountant flies plane into Bronx, files taxes

Michael Schwartz must have been in deep shit if the Jewish hero pilot and Jewish accountant thought his best option was to land his Jewish plane in the Bronx.

Schwartz took a big risk setting down on that strip of highway. Bad move, man. Believe me. I grew up in the Bronx. I know what it’s like there.

Number 6 Local, 1980

A low-angle perspective familiar to me when this picture was taken in 1980. Photo by Joseph A Grimm, found on The Real Boogie Down Bronx! Facebook page.

I wouldn’t land in the Bronx unless my engine was on fire and gremlins were ripping apart the wings and my two passengers were turning sickly green.

In short, it would have to be particularly strong acid.

Earle and Bath, Friday, noon, II

You learn growing up in the Bronx that there are a lot of neighborhoods where a white kid just does not land his airplane.

A white kid tooling around some streets in a shiny new airplane was just asking to be jacked. At least back then.

And the parks, such as around Schwartz’s crash site, were worse. Even in the day.

Earle Street, Saturday afternoon

One day, when I was 17, I borrowed my mom’s Piper Cub and landed in Pelham Bay Park.

It was about 11 in the morning, and this weird-looking guy started taxiing behind me.

Everywhere I taxied, he taxied.

I say he was weird-looking because he wore a 1930s style, wool-lined leather aviator’s cap with the goggles pulled down. And no underwear.
Vincent, Sunday

He finally caught up to me, taxied alongside for a moment, looked around furtively, and whispered, “Ground crew services for $5.”

I was so freaked out, I didn’t say anything.

I literally took off.
Britomart, Saturday afternoon

Things may be better these days.

Even so, it took chutzpah—as a pilot, an accountant, and a Jew—for Schwartz to do what he did and come out without so much as a scratch or a solicitation.

Freemans Bay, Wednesday afternoon Freemans Bay, Wednesday afternoon 2

Watch below, for a related story.

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Glenn Taylor, the quintessential American

What a beautiful day it was in Auckland.

Obviously, I’m displeased.

You can’t extract decent blog material from a sunny, warm, afternoon that puts everyone in a good mood. There’s no fucking punchline.

A good punchline would be if the day ended in emergency surgery, for example.

Sadly, not everyone ended up in emergency surgery today.

The best I could hope for was one of my pasty-faced British neighbors got third-degree sunburns. I’d blog that.

But the day never got to that high laughs-per-minute level. Bummer.

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It did turn to shit though.

Earlier, I thought I’d go out while there was still plenty of daylight to work on my third-degree sunburn.

Before leaving, though, I made the mistake of checking Facebook.

Like a schmuck, I watched this:

How could I enjoy my day knowing these kinds of American fucktards are allowed to breed, lead a Boy Scout troop, or form the Tea Party?

Thanks to the questionable judgement of New Zealand’s most sadistic standup comedian Simon McKinney, I was made to confront the American psyche in all the High-Fructose, Saturated Fatty-assed magnificence on display in this video.

Really appreciate you introducing me to that video, Simon.

How about I make you take a long hard look at your country’s disturbed psyche?

There, now I ruined your beautiful Sunday. Not so fun confronting the ugly truth, is it, Simon?

Now you know how I’ve felt since watching Dave Hall, Glenn Taylor, and Dylan Taylor destroying a 200 million year old rock formation in the Goblin Valley, Utah.

Just because, you know, it was there.

And because Glenn Taylor has eaten so many Big Macs this week, he has unlocked the “Obese, dumb-ass American” achievement badge, and wanted to show off his new powers.

There’s been quite a public back lash in the US.

Which really confuses me. I thought America elevated “proud stupidity” above all other American virtues.

Why else do 79 percent of you think humans were created by god, with 37 percent of you saying humans were created by god as they are right now?

How could half of you believe an inside-the-Beltway-haircut like Obama represented “change”? How could the other half of you get away with calling him a “socialist”, bandying the epithet around like a chimpanzee who just found an inflatable baseball bat?

Obviously, because you’re stupid.

So, Glenn Taylor knocked down some stupid rock formation some so-called scientists estimate to have been there for 200 million years.

Big fucking deal. Glenn shouldn’t be publicly shamed. He should be lauded for destroying one of the lies that Satan has planted to confuse us about how the world works.

Everyone knows god created the Universe 6,000 years ago.

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America should adore Glenn. He’s American Superstar material.

He’s morbidly obese enough to make people feel better about eating that second cake for desert.

And Glenn has proven conclusively that he’s brutish, ignorant, and asinine, which seals the Fox News audience.

And Glenn’s buddy, the guy on the camera? His bland taste in music will secure the American Idol crowd.

You see where I’m going with this, Glenn? You have the audience. Now you just need your own TV show.

Every week, you and your friends will go to a different national park, and deface it in a spectacular way that only a fat, ignorant American can come up with.

And your friend can sing all the crappy, canned club music from the mid-1990s that he can recall.

Next week, you should go to Yellowstone and plug up Old Faithful with cement. That would be awesome.

With any luck, you’ll inspire other people to record their own vandalism in national parks. That way, you can segue your show into a reality TV competition.

Hosted by Donald Trump.

It could be anything, really. Setting fire to Yosemite. Spray-painting “LOL” underneath Lincoln’s head at Mt. Rushmore. Buying 500,000 gallons of crude oil and dumping it somewhere in Alaska.

Honestly, the possibilities are endless.

All we need now is some critical mass.

So America. Get the word out. Tweet it, put it on Facebook. Hell, ask Jesus to come into the heart of a TV producer to make this happen.

And it’s going to happen.

Let’s go, Glenn!

We are V’Ger

The spacecraft Voyager 1 has left the solar system.

So long, arsehole. Don’t let the door hit your dish on the way out.

It’s great that you had a nice 36-year tour of the solar system on the US taxpayers’ dime.

But if there’s any scientific fact I learned growing up from broadcast television movies, it’s that as soon as Voyager reaches interstellar space, the fucking aliens are going to be pissed.

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And they’re going to come, and they’re going to fuse with a bald chick, and they’re going to give us an ultimatum, like “Go back in time and save baleen whales from the Japanese, or we’ll destroy your planet, including all the remaining baleen whales.”

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have sent a probe out. But did we have to give the aliens a fucking map?

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In case you’re not familiar with US history, or you’re not an American, the above image is from a disk mounted to Voyager 1.

What rocket scientist came up with the idea to invite the galaxy to kick our asses? Once the aliens see there are only two of us, and we have no clothes (let alone weapons), they’re going to be like, “Shit, why wouldn’t we kick their asses?” It’d be a walk in the park.

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Now that I think of it, the plaque above isn’t from Voyager 1. It’s from one of the Pioneer spacecraft, which is also leaving the system, but in a different direction.

So, basically, like a bunch of idiots, we’re putting the call out everywhere.

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I’m not sure what any of that shit means, but the concept must be the same. I understand that Voyager also carries a bunch of recordings, sounds of the earth, including bird songs, and the Bill Hick set where he tells the marketing guy in the audience to kill himself.

We don’t know what kind of alien is going to find our invitations, but after watching one season of Falling Skies, why would we take any chances?

I’d have to kill myself if I lived in a world executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

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In the first place, all Spielberg has done with Falling Skies is replaced zombies with aliens. The plot lines and dramatic conflicts and cheesy character dynamics are pretty much the same as Walking Dead. Which is bad enough, without having to watch Noah Wyle in a lead role.

Frankly, I’m tired of both the alien invasion and the zombie genres. So, I’m not a good person to ask honestly about this show. Why can’t anyone come up with a new genre? Like, what if the alien attack happened two weeks after the zombie outbreak. That would be cool because then everybody would be fighting one another, and making alliances and changing teams, and then there would be alien zombies, and that’s your show. There’s your show. I’d watch it.

And I’d be glad if there were a show like that. It would make sending those invitations to the universe worth it.

A royal pain in the fanny

Kate Middleton’s water broke, flooding the internet with excitement.

I’ve tried to ignore the hyperventilated media coverage of the Duchess of Cambridge. The wedding. The pregnancy. The identity of the real father.

But, this topic is hard to avoid, man. It’s like the world has been taken over by extraterrestrial pod-people and I’m the last real human, because I’m the only one left that doesn’t give a shit about Kate Middleton’s foo foo or the thing that is scheduled to pop out of it shortly.

Leda and the Swan, Leonardo da Vinci, between 1505 and 1510.

Leda and the Swan, Leonardo da Vinci, between 1505 and 1510.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the occasional musing over adult female genitalia as much as the next lesbian, or heterosexual male.

What I don’t understand is why so many everyday people care what enters or exits this particular no-no zone.

Is it really huge? Will they be measuring the dilation in meters? Were its contractions somehow connected to the spate of earthquakes in New Zealand the other day?

Or is it the birthing process that intrigues people? You can go to any old dairy farm to watch a calving. You could probably even perform the insemination, if you paid the farmer enough.

But you don’t see a lot people going out of their way to ogle cows dropping placentas. Because that’s kind of gross.

Nor do you see Kate Middleton’s family letting any old guy off the street come into the house to inseminate her for a small fee.  Because Kate Middleton is considered oh so special.

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Is the fascination all because of the royal thing? I’m willing to entertain the idea that royal reproduction differs from human reproduction. In fact, if I knew that the blessed day would involve, say, the baby violently bursting from its host’s abdomen, I’d be obsessed over it, too.

I know. Not likely.

So, maybe the baby is something special, not the mother? Help me out here. Is this child expected to start talking as soon as the royal meat curtains are parted? Even before the Royal Tasters can lick the afterbirth from its skin? (ie, “Hey, you missed some.”)

Will it be able to control people with its telekinetic powers?

Village of the Damned

That would be cool. But also, not very likely. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if this baby didn’t even know how to wipe its own ass when it was born. It probably won’t ever have to, just like Justin Bieber.

At least that’s what we’re told by the media.

We have been deluged by the media with this stupid pregnancy. And a lot of people around the world are eating it up.

Paparazzi, pensioners and other social leeches have been camped for weeks outside the hospital where the Duchess was to spawn.

They are making this into a tawdry spectacle.

Frankly, I find the whole the spectator aspect tasteless.

I mean, look at this guy.

the royal fanny

Out of the way, you arse. You’re blocking our shot.

And whatever the media points to, the mindless hordes consume, without question.

For example, several stories about how the Middletons didn’t want to know the baby’s gender  have come out, leading to all kinds of speculation on social media.

Come on, people. Think. This baby is special. It’s not limited to one gender. If it wants to keep both genders for a while, and decide later, that’s its Royal prerogative.

Another outlet has gone so far as to predict that Prince William and the Duchess are going to be awesome parents. I really hope so. It’s very difficult balancing parenthood with doing fuck-all all day. It’s harder, still, when you’re living on a shoe-string budget of £36.1 million a year. And with all these austerity hawks running around the globe, I’d advise the Middletons to keep a low profile.

Why, just the other day, the New Zealand government cut benefits of 3000 people after it was discovered they were receiving money they were not entitled to.

I don’t know how the welfare system works in England. But if government officials there ever found out that the Middletons’ child was not ordained by god to be third in line to the throne, there could be some investigations. After all, the last thing any government wants to do in these dire economic times is give away public tax dollars to cheats that aren’t entitled to them.

Anyway, maybe the problem isn’t people who love the royal family. I come from America. The Founding Fathers there didn’t think that destiny of a people should rest in the hands of an elite, by some antiquated notion of the Divine Rights of the King.

The Founding Fathers knew that power should be shared universally. Among all white, gentile male, well-off merchants and plantation owners.

[[first draft, lightly proofed. I’m not getting paid for this, so sue me. Photo courtesy of Jeff Gaunt, taken at Comic Con in San Diego.]]

It was Mother’s Day?

I’ll be the first to admit that I had more than one agenda when I finally agreed to marry my wife.

On the one hand, I promised myself that I would lose my virginity by the age of 37.

It was a lofty goal that only crossed into the realm of possibility when Jacquie and I started to date.

Still, I wasn’t sure if she was “the one”.

Norman Rockwell Mother's Day plate

In fact, it wasn’t until the third time Jacquie proposed to me that I finally acquiesced, after I had realized that our betrothal could benefit me, as well.

You see, another dream I’ve had since I can remember was to invent a pretext so credible that my family would have no choice but to excuse me from ever seeing them in person again. It would be christened the OMEGA Excuse, the justification of all justifications. No more birthdays! No more funerals! No more other boring bits in between!

I had known for some time that Jacquie was keen to return to the homeland 9,000 miles away from New York City. That might be some people’s idea of a “comfortable distance” to put between themselves and their family. But not most people. Most people would need to live permanently on a space station to reach their familial comfort zone. And I understand the feeling. But in my case, let’s be real. I wasn’t going to get a better offer than 9,000 miles. Before Jacquie, I would have been grateful for a one way ticket to Hoboken.

We quickly made plans to move to Auckland, and then I popped my cherry. Eighteen seconds later, we were back to talking about Auckland. It was a moment of triumph. No longer must I rely on my grossly inadequate neocortex (I was born breach) to think up new excuses to avoid personal contact with my loved ones.  with our relocation to Auckland arranged, if anyone in my family asked if I were attending this or that gathering, I had the OMEGA Excuse to save me. “Oh, I’d love to spend Thanksgiving at your house eating your dried out turkey and repeating the same conversation we had last year. Oh, no. I just remembered. I’m going to be 9,000 miles away living my new life in Auckland that day. Damn.”

It’s hard for me to say all this. I’m a sentimentalist at heart. But if I’m honest, I think me moving away was the best arrangement for all parties concerned.

Norman Rockwell's sentimentality

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and infrastructure, even separation by a continent and an ocean is not enough to suspend all contact with loved ones, unfortunately. Facebook and Twitter keep us up to date on important news from the folks back home, such as what they had for lunch, and how some of it is still stuck in their teeth. (The rest is made up of George Takei re-posts).

There is also gmail, for our semi-literate siblings and parents. And there is Skype, for those relatives who want to see how fat I’ve gotten.

This  multichannel, always-on, ever instant online access to anyone in the world means that we still have to deal with shit like Mother’s Day.

Which I only just found out it was yesterday.

I’ve been adequate keeping in touch on every occasion. Except for  Mother’s Day, which has proven a tough nut to crack.

My first Mother’s Day here, I woke up that Sunday morning, eager to beat my siblings to wishing mom a happy day.

I called her on the land-line, but what I failed to take into account was that, due to the International Dateline, it was still early Tuesday morning back in New York.

Needless to say, mom was kind of angry I woke her. She said goodnight, and then implied that of all her children, I was the one that came closest to being aborted. Then she hung up.

I decided I’d take the high road the next year, by tagging my mother in a photograph that, if memory serves, had something to do with Mother’s Day.

But by 2012, the demands of acknowledging this holiday, year-in, year-out, had pretty much exhausted my creativity, to say nothing of my interest. I ended up tagging my mom in a status update about how she can fart on request.

But this year, I was inconsiderate. The day passed without my notice. And that made me feel bad.

To make up for my neglect, I decided that for the next day or so, I would be nice to whatever mothers happen to get in my way.

Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out well, either.

On Sunday morning, for example, I stopped to say hello to my neighbor, Lucy, who had just come out of her apartment accompanied by an older woman.

I made a comment about the pleasant weather. I mentioned how much I liked Lucy as a neighbor, even though she doesn’t clean up the dog shit from the courtyard, and I think she’s been reading my mail, and that she must be proud.

This woman was very offended by what I said. “I’m her sister, you asshole,” the old lady said, before storming off.

Then there was the poorly timed “baby sea lion for lunch” joke I told to a mother who happened to be raising money for the SPCA, and the whole misunderstanding over my use of the word “bastard” in passing, and on and on and on.

So, I give up. I’m no good at this shit. That’s my new Omega Excuse.

The sticky issue of a beast with two backs

This is a really, really holy time of year, what with Passover and Easter and shit going on all of a sudden.

But as the son of an Irish-Swedish-American-Catholic mother and a Russian/Eastern European-American Jewish father, I have to say, this period of time always leaves me confused.

Do I high-five the Jews for getting their asses out of Egypt? Or do I high-five them for getting rid of that pain in the ass with his anti-clerical message? Or do I take a whole different tack, and high-five Jesus, at the risk of accidentally poking my finger through his stigmata?

Let’s face it. This whole Gentile/Jewish-Jewish/Christian identity divide is very confusing.

So much so that I still wonder if I did the right thing when I clapped during the sentencing scene in The Passion of the Christ. You wouldn’t believe the stares I got.

Boba and Me

Boba and me and the face that has earned such nicknames as ‘schnoz’ and ‘bagel nose.’

Easter should give Christianity the clear advantage in this race to the bottom for my religious holiday affections.

I was dubbed a Catholic when I was a child, and attended Catholic school until I was 13 and learned a valuable lesson. A half-Jew is never quite at home among the gentiles.

One year at Catholic Summer Camp, my cabin decided to lip sync to We Are the World for the talent contest. It was a lot of fun, and it kept us campers occupied while the counselors got stoned and felt each other up behind the commissary building. Frankly, it could have been a contest to see who could stuff the most dead leaves in their mouths before choking. As long as there was contest to show that Cabin Five was the best Cabin of all time, we would be in it to win it.

At casting time, the counselor-in-training had no doubt who would play Bob Dylan in our live-action performance of We are the World.

“It goes to the Jew,” he decreed.

This came to me as a relief, initially. I had fully expected them to give me the Cindi Lauper role, for reasons entirely unrelated to my Jewishness. But I had to complain.

“I’m nothing like Bob Dylan,” I said.

“Then it is settled,” the counselor-in-training said. “The whining, slump-shouldered, hollow-chested Christ-killer will lip synch to the Jew Bob Dylan.”

When I pointed out to the CIT that he was more accurately describing Woody Allen, he told me to shut up, because Woody Allen wasn’t one of the Jews in the original music video. Then a fellow-camper punched me in the stomach. “That’s for Hannah and Her Sisters not being as funny as Broadway Danny Rose,” he said.

Months later, in the school yard, the same counselor-in-training asked everyone who loved Jesus to put their hands up.

“Not you,” he said to me. “Jews don’t love Jesus.”

“Jews for Jesus love Jesus,” I retorted.

Then he punched me in the stomach. “That’s for all the subway trash fires started because of your stupid religious literature,” he said.

By that time, my family and I weren’t Catholic or Jewish or even Jewish for Jesus. We were born again Pentecostal types.

You would think that with all the hours I passed speaking in tongues, and sharing the testimony of how Jesus saved me from the debauchery and sin that had plagued me throughout my 13 year life, my Jesus-loving bona fides would have been indisputable. But they weren’t.

The fact is, my ties to Judaism are severely restricted. I can count them on two fingers because as a Jew, I am naturally gifted with numbers. The first tie is I am Jew by cultural and genetic inheritance And the second tie is I am Jew because I’ve been to Temple. Twice. I’ll never forget the first time because it was the first time I vomited on the Torah while the rabbi held it up for the male members to salute with a kiss.

I must make it easy for people to stereotype me as Jewish. Even a member of my own family made something about it when I visited at Christmas.

Me and grandma

Bubbe and Me. The Jew author (left) celebrates Christmas with his 99-year-old Irish-American Catholic maternal grandmother (to his left).

Although my grandmother is quite cogent for her age, and has been aware of my secret Jewish past at least since her 80s, she brought a whole new level of angst to my identity crisis.

“Merry Christmas,” I said.

“I love your comedy,” she said.

“Ha ha,” I said. “Because I’m just like Woody Allen, right?”

“Woody Allen? Ah, hell no,” Grandma said. “I was thinking Adam Sandler.”

And here I am months later, pondering my identity, with no clear resolution in sight. The Irish in me just wants a drink. The Jewish in me wants a bit of Matzoh made of gentile babies. And the Swedish in me is  standing like a big dolt, daydreaming about how great it would be to live on a dairy farm in Minnesota in the middle of an everlasting winter.

The bull-tide carol

People think we’re all great and shit just because we do stuff other animals wouldn’t dream of doing.

But, should we really be so proud of a species that has produced intercontinental ballistic missiles and Justin Bieber?

The problem is evolution and framing. People only live for 70, 80 years. They also tend to hang out together, and ponder their existence, which basically boils down to who has the biggest penis.

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So when people look upon their inherited advantages through the prism of their self-aggrandizement, they can’t help but think how much better they are than all the other animals, put together.

Shit, you don’t see monkeys coming up with 172 uses for corn. Sure, they may stick a cob up their ass after taking a dump. But that’s pretty obvious, don’t you think? The truth is, monkey probably don’t even like corn. Ergo, they must be stupid.

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That’s the current thinking, anyway. It’s like we’re saying, “The day a dolphin can take my order at a restaurant is the day I’ll stop asking for extra Bottlenose in my Tuna Nicoise.”

It’s a fantastic hierarchy that conveniently ignores the demonstrated truth that evolution is adaptive, not progressive. We are the children of organisms that were optimized to the likelihood of passing on their genes. The fact that so many people distort reality to fit their religious preconceptions on these matters, with all that we know to be true now pretty much demonstrates that we’re still just a bunch of hillbillies whose brothers are their uncles, and whose sisters you know are having their period because they’re only wearing one sock.

But it’s understandable. We’re proud of ourselves! And we should be. Wasn’t it just last week that we discovered fire? And didn’t that help us find our way to the computer in the dark room? And where would we be today had we not invented free internet porn yesterday? Yeah, we are pretty clever. Which makes it such a weird coincidence that some of our gods happen to look a lot like us. What are the chances? A universe with billions and billions of ways for a god to be, with so many varieties of environments, inhospitable to fragile man, but suited to an omnipotent entity. And he happens to look like Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard. And he’s a He!

Let me ask a theological question for a moment. What the fuck does an eternal, omnipotent being need with a penis? Can you just clear that up?  I’m getting to the age where I’m wondering why have a penis. But if we’re made in god’s image, and god’s a man, then doesn’t that mean he has some kind of dick? You know what it means that god has a dick? It means it took him at least 13 billion years to get laid. And I thought I was a late bloomer.

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Sorry for that. I do tend to get a little carried away with the holiday spirit.

And that has been difficult this year. A friend of mine has a sister who teaches at the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut where the horrible massacre took place last week. It’s not that I’m friends with her, but there’s a personal dimension to this story for me.

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I’ve never really had much of an opinion about gun control, to be honest. I think I had one of those “liberal urban” consciences you can probably buy for $14 at Urban Outfitters. Didn’t like automatic weapons, but if you hunted, that’s cool, if you’re eating the meat.

I still think hunting for food is a worthy adaptation to preserve. I’m now, more than ever, opposed to automatic weapons, high-capacity cartridges, and a wild west mentality, both in attitudes and in the shameful multitudes of channels arms manufacturers now have to markets.

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I do have a solution to the issue, that I think should make everyone happy. I’ll agree to leave your guns alone. You can have as many weapons, in any style, with as many bullets as you can carry. Hell, you can even have your penis replaced with a bazooka. And probably best of all, we’ll makes sure the Stand Your Ground law is interpreted to include as a “threat” anyone who “You don’t like the look of.”

But there are a few conditions.

First, you all have to move to Utah. I’m sorry. That’s not even negotiable.

Second, when traveling to any of the 49 ‘sane’ States, you have to leave your weapons at the door. We may make exceptions for Civil War re-enactors.

And finally, you have to agree to have your testicles snipped, to decrease the chances that you’ll give birth to a mentally ill person with no access to medical care but plenty of access to your guns with which he goes to shoot up an entire classroom of children.

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So, yeah, we’re great and all. But we’re still subject to our primate heritage. But seeing as we’re so great at making AR-15s and high capacity cartridges, we must have the intellectual capacity to create institutions and methods by which to keep this shit from happening again.

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Especially because I’m flying into the States tonight, and I don’t want to get shot.

Thanksgiving in Mordor

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in America.

I know what some of you in the US are wondering and the answer is ‘no’.  Thanksgiving is not celebrated in New Zealand.

This is for a very obvious reason that shouldn’t need mentioning: New Zealand isn’t thankful for anything.

The mindset here diverges from the Americans’, formed in parallel, colonial histories that intersect from time to time.

Mt. Tongariro erupted this afternoon at about 1:30, sending a plume of ash three or four kilometers into the troposphere. It was a brief and less dramatic explosion than one that occurred in August. There were 100 or so school kids hiking nearby, but I don’t think anyone was hurt. Mt. Tongariro served as the template for Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. This image was lifted from Dan News (https://twitter.com/dannews).

The Europeans that settled New Zealand were just as unpleasant as those that settled the US. They were both kicked out of some of the same countries, even. And not without good reason. They were all ugly and they smelled like cow manure. But that’s where the similarities end.

Today, not only do Americans smell much better than New Zealanders, but they also come from a much different experience with indigenous people. The English in colonial Massachusetts were treated by the Native Americans to a huge Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmin’s (whatever the fuck that means). Then they all said a prayer, and lived happily ever after together in peace and harmony. Apart from that little misunderstanding over land and small pox-laden blankets. All water under the bridge. Your modern Indian today happily occupies crucial niches in American society, not just as the sporting team logos that grace our helmets, but as the custodians of our favorite vices tax-free.

Of course, the Maori-European experience was not so fortunate. Instead of James Cook and his crew being feted by the Maori in their first encounter, a handful of those European sailors were actually eaten instead. By the handful. (With the leftovers put away in the ice box and used for sandwiches for the kids to take to school).

You’d have to be a saint to show gratitude after traveling seven miles through someone’s intestines, only to be shat in a ditch (on Thanksgiving Day no less.) How is it even possible to turn the other cheek, after it has been braised, and dressed in a delicious mint sauce? Lick the other cheek, is more like it. So, I give Kiwis a pass for not celebrating Thanksgiving.

And I give the Maori a pass, too. I don’t blame them for eating a few poms now and then, back in the day. I do blame them for having eaten the wrong people.

You can’t go back in time and change history. But wouldn’t it be great if Peter Jackson’s ancestors had been eaten?

Better yet, could someone eat Peter Jackson now, tonight, while the authorities, I don’t know, looked the other way?

Peter Jackson and his movies have done great things for New Zealand. I guess. In essence, he accomplished what the US compulsory education system could never achieve. He has alerted Americans to the concept that there is some place that isn’t the United States. That is no minor feat.

But it only goes so far. Before I moved to New Zealand in 2009, there was a bit of a disagreement among my friends and family over where I was actually going, if it did indeed exist. Some said the east coast of Australia. Others said, “that island where they filmed Lost.” An old friend from college asked me if New Zealand was one of the flyover states.

At the airport, there was a suggestion to hold that year’s family Christmas celebration in a place equidistant from New York and New Zealand.

“Like, maybe somewhere on the New Jersey Turnpike,” they said.

Clearly, Peter Jackson has a job to finish. And he’s more than willing to take on the task, without complaint. And with the helpful hand of the New Zealand government, which has slavishly tailored tourism promotions into little more than Hobbit-abilia. This essentially makes Peter Jackson the biggest welfare queen in the country. There are also in-flight promotions on Air New Zealand. For at least a year, probably longer, Air New Zealand used a video featuring Richard Simmons in its pre-flight instructions videos. Now, of course, it’s hobbits and dwarves and other Irish folk.

After Peter Jackson decided to milk The Hobbit into a trilogy, after he blackmailed the government into changing labor laws or lose the production to Romania, after the allegations of animals dying by the dozen in hazardous pens, and after the “mysterious cover ups on autopsy reports”, I just think Peter Jackson needs to be eaten. Full stop.

So have yourself some Bath Salts, and sharpen your forks and knives. It’s Thanksgiving.

Editor’s Note: I can’t wait to see The Hobbit.

Midlife crisis, on the cheap

When I was nine or ten, I made a solemn vow.

“One day, long after I’ve grown into a man,” I pledged, “I will divorce my wife and run off with my secretary, who will be half my age.”

Reality, of course, does not always work out the way we plan. And there isn’t always a happy ending. And we learn to enjoy the contours of our lives, taking solace in those precious moments when we are alone and can sob bitter tears of regret over the dreadful hands that fate has cruelly dealt us. That’s called aging gracefully, the acceptance that we do not earn nearly enough money to afford a really awesome mid-life crisis.

Not like the ones our fathers and grandfathers took for granted.

If my generation was led at a very young age to believe the big lie, we have only our print media to blame. After all, the one thing I learned as a schoolboy from my friend’s father’s Playboy magazines, was that I would have it all. The cherry red mustang, the shapely college cheerleader, the pack of Newports with 17% less tar, and the bottle of Old Spice. It was all supposed to be there for the asking.

Since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, there has been a lot less home equity available to men of my age and older. Consequently, for the first time since the Great Depression, the average middle-class, balding, shriveled up, overweight heterosexual American male could not afford to sustain a respectable mid-life crisis. The men of my generation are only now confronting this shocking truth, right at the point in our lives when our penises are starting to slowly but inevitably telescope up into our abdomens, where they will eventually disappear altogether within the fleshy, adipose folds surrounding our crotches.

All is not lost, though. You can enjoy a decent midlife crisis without breaking the bank! You just have to think creatively. Instead of buying real Ray Ban sunglasses that can run as high as $900 a pair, just buy the $20 Ray Bans the next time you fill your car with gas. That’s how I’m doing it. Instead of a Mustang convertible, I roll down the window of my Honda Civic and stick my head out while I’m driving. Instead of a mistress, I have a kitty. And instead of a venereal disease, I have a feline venereal disease. Midlife crisis, with all the fixings.

You know how I know I’m middle-aged? Because today, someone posted this on Facebook.

And I realized that there would be a lot of people out there who wouldn’t get that joke. And that would be for most of them because they were born after me. A long time after me. Like, I was doing adult type shit before they even existed, and now I’m closer to dead than I am to childhood aspirations for satisfying mid-life crises. But they’re not.

But I took out my depression on two who were very dear to my heart. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. And I wrote horrible things about them on Facebook.

I wrote that Uncle Owen was a “martinet”, and that I was glad “they did him”. Uncle Owen was always like “Luke do this; Luke do that; Luke, there’s going to be hell to pay; Luke, it’s time for your colonic.” Poor Luke. And the worst part about it? Uncle Owen wouldn’t let Luke waste time with his friends picking up power converters at the Toshi Station, until all of Luke’s chores were done.

If I were Luke, I’d be like “fuck that” then use the force to put a cap in the motherfucker’s ass. Uncle Owen gets in my way? He’s got to fall. Because, let’s face it, that’s what Luke was like. “Toshi Station” and “power converters” were such a transparent euphemism for “losing one’s virginity at a whorehouse full of Jawas”.  Uncle Owen wasn’t a fool. He knew what went on at that cab stand. That’s why the chores were never-ending.

I could have continued. But a silence seemed to have descended over Facebook. It was as if nobody knew what I was talking about. And the only possible explanation for that, beyond the unlikely suggestion that I am incoherent, is that those people are too young to even understand.

Breaking the ice

The other day I was reminded of a story I haven’t told to very many people.

I was 18 or 19 years old, living with my sisters and parents in the Bronx. It was an age of innocence, the late 1980s, and I was just discovering the world on those few occasions I was allowed out of the house.

Most of my days were spoken for. When I wasn’t in school, I was gladly flailing my arms at church functions, 20 to 25 hours each week. Sometimes I would be asked to stop flailing my arms, but the rest of the time, the pastor and elders seemed to be just fine with the phenomenon.

So, as I say, my time was heavily prescribed: when I wasn’t in church, going to school, or doing chores or part-time jobs, you can bet I was somewhere in my house masturbating.

One summer afternoon, I was supposed to drive down from Castle Hill Avenue to midtown to pick up my father after work. Driving made me feel independent, though I had a difficult time managing my flailing arms.

I made my way to Bruckner Boulevard via Zerega Avenue, an industrial side road. 

I noticed a woman standing on the corner. I thought I recognized her as a member of my church. And it seemed like she recognized me, in return, because when our eyes met, she kind of nodded hello. So I pulled over and asked if she needed a ride somewhere.

We got to talking. And it quickly dawned on me that my passenger wasn’t a woman from my church, but a prostitute looking for a john. I told her the mistake, and we laughed and laughed, and I pulled over to let her out again.

“So what was it about me that made you think I was this woman from your church,” the prostitute said.

“Oh, I thought that was her usual corner,” I said.