Now Zealand

Unsustainable threads

The spirit of Dirk Diggler must have come over me this afternoon.

It happened at home, changing for tonight’s Sustainable 60 awards. It was a disturbing impulse to make myself presentable. Even stylish.

How troubling was my new sartorial interest. There was a time, not long ago, when I felt a similar uneasiness about personal hygiene. These days, I’m literally all spit and polish.

But could I ever come to terms with clean, unwrinkled shirts and un-scuffed shoes?

The point is I wanted to dress up because Sustainable 60 can be festive. Last year’s awards ran late, with stragglers dancing and laughing and having a blast. They were busting moves that would have been completely self-defeating in a roadside sobriety test.

My wardrobe selection was limited. The only clean shirt there was a puffy, floral-patterned number, like something Laura Ingalls might wear to bed.

There was a green-grey suit jacket. But where in god’s holy name did my pants go? A second pair of similar color would have to stand-in, despite all the cat hairs.

I was so obsessed with dressing up that I forgot to change into my shoes, and arrived at the Q in a suit and Birkenstocks. This was a far cry from Dirk Diggler-style. I couldn’t believe how far off I was until I saw a picture someone snapped during cocktail hour.

This isn’t to take away from the evening at all. The Q loft space was a savvy choice for the size of the audience. Its narrow cocktail area focused social energy to foster a positive vibe, abetted by good food and handy drinks.

If the awards event itself went at a pleasant and steady tempo, it was in no small part due to the emcee, Jane Ferrari of Share Yalumba winery in Australia. Ferrari is an organically humorous storyteller. Even her summary of Yalumba’s pesticide-free approach to moth control at its vineyards was captivating, if brief.

Altogether it was a fun night. And I would have stayed to mingle afterwards. I just couldn’t muster the strength for it. Not when I was dressed up like the Mayor of Hobbiton.

Go to Unlimited magazine to read more about the event and the winners.

 

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Mainstream memes

The word meme is getting tiresome.

It was not that long ago when the only people who used the word ‘meme’ were pretentious assholes and graduate students. And the only difference between them was the latter had an advanced education, preferred black and white movies, and smoked American Spirits because it was more socially conscientious. (The ones in the light blue pack were my favorite. I mean, hypothetically, of course).

Now ‘meme’ has gone mainstream. It describes any internet phenomenon that keeps popping up in American culture over and over despite being extremely stupid in the first place. Like Rick Rolling, planking, or Sarah Palin.

The word does fit. But, in the old days, we knew what meme meant. It meant, if you casually dropped the word ‘meme’ in passing conversation at a party, you were almost certainly going to knock boots with someone that evening. It was a sign that you read Richard Dawkins, before he was cool. You stopped liking him when he sold out and started doing critical thinking “just for the money”. I mean, or so I have read.

Memes generally come out of the oven dry. This is because they spread very quickly over the Internet, especially via Twitter. Social media in general represent the industrialisation of the meme. One of these, the Keep Calm and Carry On with the little graphic crown, appears to have instantly gone from sincere to farce in a matter of mements.

In the beginning, they were printed up and taped around the cubicles by someone who actually believes that a trite expression will motivate you through the more excruciating ordeals of one’s working life. If you are motivated by Keep Calm and Carry On you’re a psychopath. You should not be allowed near firearms, matches or puppies. Once a year, you may light a sparkler. But that’s it.

Obviously, other people felt this way. They responded by satirizing the notion of motivationalism, with ironic twists that seemed to also have been stamped from a template. Instead of Keep Calm and Carry On, we got Now Panic.

But I think people have taken this particular meme a little too far, into vulgar and strange places. See for yourself:

Now, honestly. Is there any reason for this kind of indecent material? Clearly it was the product of a crude, juvenile imagination. Sure, a lot of men probably would find this poster handy to tape up in a prominent place in their offices. In those cases, it would function as a kind of “health and safety” notice, sort of like Employees must wash hands or How to give the Heimlich Maneuver. But perhaps there is a more subtle way to say it.

Some of the posters have no excuse, though.

Not all the posters are of a sexual nature. In fact, some even have a comfortable domesticity about them. Like this one:

But the majority, as I say, are nonsensical. So please, if you’re going to propagate a meme, at least be smart about it. And try above to be as cogent as I am.

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.

Green about the gills

New Zealand is beautiful. In parts.

But that’s all right. New Zealanders love it all, from the zesty first lamb of spring, to the last 126 Kakapos clinging to their perch.

Kiwis are in love, in love with the lush forests, and the glacial mountains. In love with dried possum skins as well as the average clod of dirt.

Nature: they can’t get enough of that shit.

But sometimes they go a little overboard in protecting their environment, fragile as it is.

Yeah, that’s a piece of bread. In the recycle bin.

I love the fact that New Zealand makes a concerted effort to make use of everything we’ve got. We recycle paper, aluminum, glass, most kinds of plastic. We use and re-use everything, from newspapers to automobiles to 11-month-old Anglophonic culture.

But has it become necessary for us to recycle bread now?

I had so many questions when I saw that bread. I wondered who put it there, and if they would be upset if I ate it out of the dumpster. Or would I have to wait. Did my bread need to go to the recycling facility for washing, sterilizing and reconstitution before I could eat it? Was there a symbol on some loaves at the supermarket, reading “100% recycled bread”?

As I performed several thought experiments weighing the feasibility of a recycled bread program, I noticed something odd. A few paces away from the recycle bin, a potential riddle: more bread, only this time on the ground and broken in pieces.

This bread seemed to have been toasted. The mystery deepened. Why would we be told to recycle regular bread, but when you toast it you can get it way with just tossing it anywhere you wanted? I wondered if my MP was aware of this ludicrous double-standard. And I don’t want to hear any of that horseshit about how the technology to recycle ‘isn’t there, just yet’. I call bullshit. If John Key wants my vote next time around, he has to pledge more resources for not only recycling toasted bread, but for developing new products and markets that recycled toasted bread is bound to open up, especially among the eco-conscious everywhere.

Among people that love nature as much as we do.

If it were up to me, I’d go one step further. I’d put the dairy industry together in a room with the recycled bread industry and make them stay there until they agree to co-produce a line of pre-toasted grilled cheese sandwiches, made from 100% New Zealand recycled bread, for the export market. (Recycled cheese optional).

Think about it. New Zealand is always talking about moving from commodity- to a value-add-led export. All around the globe in this modern circus freak show we call a world, people are far too busy with the important things than to waste time making their own grilled cheese sandwiches. New Zealand, the cheese griller of the world. And with our conscientious practices and ‘pasture-to-plate’ (so to speak) tracking, someone as far away from France will know whose recycle bin in Auckland their particular slice of 100% recycled bread came from.

This was one of those times I hoped to see my neighbors. The couple next door. They’re into fitness. At least, they wear sweat pants at night before they go to bed. Close enough. They’re in better shape than me. And they might be able to shed some light on this recycled bread phenomenon, I thought.

But when the couple came home, that was the moment Vince came out to sniff shit.

So of course it was all about Vince. Which really ticked me off.

Jacquie joined us and we all started talking. About that asshole Vince. The woman-neighbor was telling Jacquie about another cat from another flat, and asked how many months Vince was, and if he went outside much.

“And have you had him done, also,” the woman neighbor asked.

We weren’t sure what she meant, until she explained she was referring to Vince having his balls cut off.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Jacquie said. “Simon sprays all the time.”

The Sixty-Second Promo

Just a few announcement to make. Listen up.

First, I want to say thanks to everyone who participated in my recent poll. I have no idea what the results are, but I’m sure your opinion still counts for something. To someone. Somewhere. Whatever. I myself voted three times. For ‘Cookie’. Which seemed to be the most logical option, really.

Alright. Next up is for those of you in the Auckland area. There is a show coming up at the Bath Street Gallery that everyone who likes painting should see. It promises to be very interesting. I will be attending the opening on Thursday, and posting about it shortly thereafter. The show looks promising on its own merit, but it also will make a great lead in to a discussion about the exhibition coming down on Tuesday.

One more item. We got a new kitten. He’s a six month old Maine Coon and his name is Vincent, but sometimes goes by Vince, or even just ‘meep’. In an upcoming post, I will be going more into his interesting story, his ideas about cat nip and the advantages of licking oneself over a shower, which in his imagination is far less hygienic. Somehow, I will tie this subject in with my recent, toxic exposure to popular culture, and why Madonna is worse than Whitney Houston, despite their music being equally unlistenable.

Lastly, does anyone object to me changing the name of this blog to BasemeNZlife.com?

All that, and more, in the next few weeks of Basement Life.

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Vacated minds, wasted spaces

When you’re on holiday, you don’t have to worry about punctuation forming a coherent thought or personal hygeiene.

If you don’t wreak bumbling the neighborhood muttering nonsensical, grammatically incorrect, run on sentences, then you haven’t earned a vacation.

Management experts believe that people who have their shit together must never have a good time. Only the incompetent, they say, should be allowed to take paid leave. I would take this one step further. Incompetent people should be encouraged to spend as much time away from the office as possible. I’m pretty sure that’s why a lot of people at work were happy when I announced I was going to be gone for 10 days. If efficiency and productivity improve by the 200% I expect in my absence, I will recommend to my bosses that I should go on leave indefinitely, so as to lift company performance. Always happy to take one for the team.

It’s crazy. Leaving Auckland for a week. Why would I want to do that? Auckland is an urban planning marvel. It’s the city dreamed by a car. Beware of pedestrians.

It leads to dead spaces.

The only scenario I can imagine in which someone would sit in a space like this is if they’ve just been shivved by a fellow inmate, and they needed a sec to light a cigarette as they bled out.

I haven’t formulated why I think these spaces are because of cars. I’m thinking of explaining it in a photography project cataloging Auckland’s wasted spaces, even crowdfunding for decent equipment.

But cars are definitely a part of the calculation. A lot of people drive them. Entire transportation infrastructures have disappeared.

Obviously it wasn’t cars that obviated railroads. Planes did that. But in truth, the infrastructure hasn’t disappeared.

Some of it ends up with a historical society.:

If you want a glimpse of future events:

That’s Auckland Domain beyond the rail-bed.

A car loves speed and billboards and signs. It is amused by appeals to its addictions. It adores pithiness at 60kph.

Juxtapositions of its basic appetites allow it to dwell on itself. Here is Magnum Ice Cream, in heat. It is barely visible in this shot (there’s another picture below). The ad is essentially a conflation of  commodity junk food with coitus. You can buy an orgasm. (I mean, without involving a professional). It guarantees a presumably feminine audience an alternative delight to the one that so often eludes them, at least according to the popular imagination. How are you going to sell that to a man? As the Woody Allen line from Manhattan goes, “I’ve never had the wrong kind. Ever. My worst one was right on the money.”

But if you notice in the picture above, right next to the Magnum ad is Neat Meat:

Part of the joke is cultural specific. Magnum is a condom brand. I’m not the first person to giggle about it.
Neat Meat. Magnum. It’s like a sausage with the casing on it. You see? Or maybe an easier simile: it’s like a penis with a condom on it.

Anyway, back to wasted spaces. This is the oval in front of  what was once the Auckland Railway Station.

Which is now pretty much something to park near.

The station facade.

Just in case you mistook the railway station for a railway station, there’s a sign.

tktktk

Anyway. I’ll kvetch about this crap another time. I just need to rest. Go away.

Jacquie does too. Lately she’s been stepping on the ends of mops and getting clocked in the head by its handle.

Jacquie is the only three dimensional person I know of who has done that. Like in the cartoons. Unless Jacquie is Wilma Flinstone, that really shouldn’t be happening at all.

She says this happens because, “I’m the only one who cleans up around here.”

But I think hitting herself in the head with a mop handle, like in the cartoons, is really some weird cry for help. Obviously, it was an accident, she says. Obviously, Jacquie? Really? Because I think there are no accidents. I mean, you start with these kinds of gestures, and next thing you know you’ll be arranging to have a piano fall on your head. Just like in the cartoons.

Oh, crap. Stick a fork in me because i’m

New Zealand outdoor advertisement, getting it right

The last post didn’t really do it for me.

But the Oreo incident in the States that I wrote about got me to thinking about how New Zealand organizations appeal to their audiences. How do they do their marketing?

A brief walk from Parnell to downtown Auckland gives us a clear indication. When it comes to public display advertising, Kiwis need to prime their A-Game.

I mean, take a look at this advertisement for a new, reality television show called The Block.

Sorry for the lousy exposure, but I think it’s clear enough. TV3 made a huge error in judgment. The models featured in this billboard strongly suggest that the network is targeting the highly desirable, 18-to-32-year-old, douchebag market segment. I mean, if that’s not who they’re banking on to attract advertisers, then they’ve got me confused. You just have to look closely to understand what I’m talking about.

Clearly, these people are operating at a social, if not a cognitive, deficit. The woman above wants to re-enact a scene from the movie, Misery, with the man on the right. But she’s swinging her mallet in the wrong direction. Meanwhile, the guy isn’t even playing along. He’s too busy congratulating himself for taking a shit in a 1920’s-era tennis outfit. We’re all proud of you, bro.

But just because the models look like they come from Douchebag Central, that doesn’t mean the people on the show or the people watching it are also douchebags. So I decided to do a little digging. The Blockis New Zealand’s hot DIY programme. The network bought a few do-ups in a row somewhere, and selected a corresponding number of couples to fix up the houses. I guess the ones that do the best work win something.

I don’t really know, since I grew completely bored reading about it. But I was on the programme’s Website long enough to see this picture.

Speaking as a douchebag myself, this just doesn’t resonate with me. I’m left to wonder who it is they’re aiming for, and what kind of people so enthusiastically look forward to eight hours of strenuous labor in a toxic atmosphere of mold, dust and asbestos? The guy on the left is clapping his hands, without realizing the irony that at some point he will accidentally cut one of them off with a radial saw.

And what about the guy on the right? What kind of person wears jogging clothes to a construction site, complete with gym shorts and black socks? A douchebag, yes. But not my kind of douchebag.

This all could be the network’s spin on Tom Sawyer getting everyone else to paint the fence. Maybe people are supposed to see how positively giddy the models in the billboard ad are, and say to themselves, “Hey, having a rusted nail drive up your jogging shoe, through your foot looks like a fuckload of fun. Let me get down to Warehouse and buy some caulking right away.”

The network is not as clever as that.

Which is to say, in Auckland’s outdoor advertising ecosystem, TV3 is not alone.

This one, from ANZ Bank, commands another busy approach to the motorways, but from the direction of the CBD, on Beach Road.

It celebrates the bank’s sponsorship of the New Zealand Olympic team competing in London at the end of the month.

I’ve passed it many times over the last few months, and it has always troubled me as unpleasant and insensitive.

Does ANZ really want its brand to be associated with lumps in people’s throats? I hate to break it to them, but not every lump in a person’s throat is a good thing, necessarily. Most lumps in people’s throats, in fact, have serious health implications that need to be addressed immediately by a doctor. These can range from a chicken bone, to someone’s index finger poking around, to an unfortunate incident with a Tic Tac.

It’s hard to imagine what ANZ is thinking. Do they really want to risk having people say things like “I have a benign throat polyp thanks to the friendly folks at ANZ.” We seem to have moved far beyond the day when they gave you a toaster for starting an account.

ANZ’s sloganeering isn’t that far off, though. They just need to tweak the ad to appeal to their core customers. These are the kind of people with second mortgages and retirement funds, the ones that are truly engaged with banks in general. Considering that target demographic, it’d be much more affective if the poster read “Proud sponsor of the goiter on your neck”.

The next one is a slightly different species. It alerts us to the existence of a bar somewhere in the drab and depressing residential/commercial complex on Beach Road, the Waldorf on Scene Apartments.

I’m really not sure which feeling this mildly psychotic display is intended to evoke. Perhaps boredom. Perhaps something a little more kinetic and exciting, like discomfort or hangover.

In the end, this feels like the place you take your spouse to reveal your gambling addiction, and that you have 24 hours to pay off the loan shark or you’re going to end up in Auckland Harbor. At least that’s the only time I’d take Jacquie there.

Finally, there’s this next one, hanging on the railroad trestle obverse to The Block promotion.

KiwiRail wants you to know that it’s transforming the way we move freight over land in this country. This isn’t your grandfather’s locomotive. We’re talking high-tech efficiency, here. So, congratulations, New Zealand, you finally have a train engine powerful enough to poke its way through a sheet of paper.

Jubilee-joobity-do

This is a special time for a special lady and the entire world is sitting up and taking notice, like a well-meaning but half-witted poodle.

It’s Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, and in New Zealand, everybody gets a three-day-weekend, as we also happen to be commemorating the monarch’s 86th birthday. Everybody wins. I get to sleep late, England gets to enjoy the illusion of its own significance, and the Queen gets to look back on another year of opulent sloth.

If I’m coming off as harsh, it’s only because I’m jealous. Most unemployed, inbred, octogenarian people with dumb accents spend their birthdays like any other day. By spitting tobacco juice out of their toothless gobs onto the heads of the grandchildren eating dirt in front of the porch and don’t even notice anyway. Oh, no. Not the Queen. That’s not her scene. No, Queen Elizabeth gets something special. A thousand-vessel flotilla up the Thames, including a waka.

I’m sorry. I guess I just don’t understand the royal prerogative. In America, we don’t have a person who inherits the mantle of statehood by dint of genetic composition; who earns, simply from having been born, the deference of a nation, and the power to rule it supremely, for life. In America, anybody can be a douchebag.

And most of us are. It is no glowing, jingoistic hyperbole, but a simple, historic fact the Declaration of Independence civilly GUARANTEES an individual’s inalienable right to being a douchebag, specifically in the pursuit of happiness. America has come through with flying colours, as far as I’m concerned, in the protection of THIS, OUR PREMIER among several DOUCHEBAG FREEDOMS. From slavery, to the Vietnam War, to American Idol, what happiness could be greater than the joy we take in the suffering of others? That’s why America rebelled in the first place: why should the Royal Family have all the Schadenfreude?

New Zealand never broke with the mother country the way America did. So it’s easy to understand why some Kiwis look to the throne with Britannic pride. She’s still Queen Regnant here, albeit more figurehead than executive, and the visit she made to New Zealand 60 years ago still makes the odd person stop in the middle of the street and break out in tears remembering the occasion. In fact, I had an experience the other day when I found this strange rock in the alley by our flat.

One of our neighbors told us that it was a coprolite. I was suddenly excited by my discovery. It touched my imagination. What ancient creature could possibly have generated this fossilized piece of crap? The neighbor, however, explained that it was not from any dinosaur, but it was from 1953, when the Queen paid a royal visit to the region, shitting everywhere she went, including New Zealand.

According to my neighbor, Elizabeth had tried to hold it in for as long as possible, so as not to have to use a toilet that someone else might have used. But two months is a long time, even for a royal sphincter. Also, Elizabeth was constantly being fed. And though she spat into a napkin as much of the food as she could without anyone seeing, it was obvious to her staff that she must evacuate her royal person, or die. Or die trying. They conferred, and seeing the royal doctor’s wisdom, she decided to shit as soon as she landed in Auckland. Her one caveat was that she still refused to sit on strange toilets, and when given the choice of having a new toilet manufactured for the occasion, or shit standing up, the queen chose the latter.

Whenever Elizabeth stopped to address a crowd, she would take that opportunity to shit and be adored by her subjects at the same time. My neighbor said some observant Aucklanders noticed and collected them as souvenirs of the royal visit.

“That’s amazing,” I said. “But how in the world did the Queen’s shit get fossilized in 60 years?”

My neighbor seemed perplexed.

“What do you mean ‘fossilised'” he said. “It came out that way.”

Still, Elizabeth’s reign is impressive. She’s spent more time doing nothing than any other monarch in British History, besides her great, great grandmother, Victoria, who celebrated her60th year of indolence in 1897. Considering this historic achievement, I think now’s a good time to write about my recent trip to Martha’s Backyard.

The last time I visited this emporium of American brands was a little more than two years ago, before it moved to Harvey Norman Plaza.

If you haven’t been there since the relocation, the new spot is a vast improvement. In the first place, it’s bigger, with wider aisles to accommodate the ample American ass. There are far more products in stock, apparently more staff who pay attention to inventory, and generally a superior, easier shopping experience than the last place. Best of all, it occupies a dominant corner of a soulless, suburban shopping center, with plenty of parking, which should satisfy many Americans’ nostalgia for the Old Country.

Actually, I got to Martha’s Backyard a little early the Saturday I went, so it was helpful to have a few other shops nearby to visit. I bought a rain jacket from a store where everything is made out of rubber, except the rubbers.

The day I went, I bought two jars of Vlasic pickles (Kiwis look at you funny when you mention savory pickles), a box of Cheerios, a box of Triscuits, some Mexican hot sauce, and something else, all of which I mixed into a bowl and dipped in a fat-fryer.

I didn’t get any Pop Tarts, but there is something at Martha’s Backyard for everybody. Even if you’re not from America. The day I went, I heard quite a few Kiwi accents talking about how they remembered this or that thing from when they’d visited the States. But even those who’ve never left New Zealand can find something in New Zealand to like.

There’s even an aisle that I think Bishop Brian Tamaki of the Destiny Church might be interested in.

Now that I look at these pictures again and think about the significance of the Diamond Jubilee, I’m compelled to make an observation.

The queen might have been big here 60 years ago, but with America’s cultural domination, political influence, and bullying of the local judiciary, as illustrated by the Megaupload case, I have just one thing to say to Her Majesty on behalf of America. Hands off, lady. New Zealand’s our bitch now.

Escape to Alcázar

First the bad news.

Thanks to properties unique to Jacquie’s physiology, we’ve been evicted from an apartment for the second time in eight months.

They’re running us out of Mt. Eden, but good.

Now we have to go through that tiresome packing process all over again.

And what’s worse, you have to read about it.

See, it’s not just the big stuff, the furniture and the books and all that that’s the problem.

There’s also the dozens of boxes of clothes to shift, another dozen for shoes. Plus a small plastic bag for my things.

But there’s a silver lining around here somewhere. It’s this: we’re moving to a neighborhood known for its quaint wankerliness, to a building called Alcázar, in the mysterious land of Parnell.

Strangely enough, I haven’t seen the new place yet. But Jacquie assures me it looks something like this:

It all started in February, while I was on an overnight trip to Wellington.

That would be this nation’s capital (for those abroad that can’t be bothered with Google Maps).

It’s a compact place with heart, and a half-million people or so at the bottom of the North Island.

It’s got lively streets, scaled to pedestrian traffic, and art and theater, and a McDonald’s that stays open sometimes past 11.

In short, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in Wellington and if you’re ever down that way, my recommendation of can’t miss things you need to are this:

And this:

And this:

As superior a city to Auckland as these photos prove Wellington to be, don’t let that mislead you. It wasn’t all beer and skittles for me. There was work to be done. The company had flown me down to moderate a breakfast event, which required standing at a lectern before dozens of business executives.

Obviously, I had to look sharp and perform at my best. So the morning after I got into town, I woke up early, tossed on a t-shirt with only one mustard stain, and made my way over to City Gallery Wellington, only to realize halfway there that I had forgotten my pants.

So I went back home, put on a pair of good pants, brought along an extra pair, because you can never be too careful.

Anyway, and in all seriousness, City Gallery is a really great event venue. I liked it a lot, and will definitely revisit next time down. The foyer was the perfect size for the audience we expected, and large, imposing pieces by artist Rohan Wealleans, who was part of a group show of New Zealand sculptors, provided a pleasantly surprising backdrop.

The discussion started after breakfast, with the panelists doing all the heavy lifting while I played Tetris on my Smartphone, interjecting every now and again with something like, “Fascinating. I just beat my old high score”, through the microphone. So we all did our part, and the discussion moved along splendidly, until out of nowhere my phone rings, and I see that it’s Jacquie.

“Ah, shit,” I said to the audience, holding up the phone. “My wife. Gotta take it. You know how it is. I’d never hear the end of it. Yap, yap, yap. Guys, you know what I’m talking, right?”

I said hello to Jacquie.

“Are you sitting?” Jacquie said. I could tell she was upset.

“Ot-nay ight-ray ow-nay, know what I mean? Sort of in the middle of something here.”

“We’re getting kicked out of the flat,” she said.

“What for?”

“Oh, no reason.”

“That’s odd.”

“Yeah, it is. It’s odd. Incidentally, and apropos of nothing, complaints have been made, you know, around the neighborhood about certain smells and sounds, you know, emanating from somewhere in the vicinity of my ass.”

“Oh, no, Jacquie,” I said. “Not again. We have to leave because of your constant farting?”

“I swear, it’s not me,” Jacquie said.

“Come on. Who else but you?”

“It’s Blastula,” she said. “Blastula’s back. And she means business.”

To be continued…

 

Be a pal and tune in again soon for the exciting conclusion of Escape to Alcázar.

Public Service Ambiguity

New Zealand children returned to school this month, when their summer holiday came to an end.

What a bunch of idiots.

But you kind of have to feel sorry for them.

The first day of school in New Zealand is always set aside for the annual de-lousing and anti-rabies regime, a difficult, but necessary public health program.

Then it was back to the grind, to sitting in Social Studies, gazing upon the giant wall atlas, day-in and day-out, with the disappointing realization flickering to life in every child’s mind that, yes, they still live in New Zealand.

A little harsh, I’ll admit, but not nearly as grim as what I discovered last night on the way home from my local and passed a bus shelter with this sign:

I stood for minutes wondering what it was about, because I enjoy deciphering the subtexts of public signs, and because, what else was I supposed to do while I was urinating?

But the poster was so ambiguous, I had to take a picture of it with my mobile productivity device.

The poster seemed to be saying that drivers tend to speed up at school crossings, with the goal of running children over, and they shouldn’t. For whatever reason.

I soon doubted this interpretation. What if the sight of a student crossing a street recalled to a driver his or her own de-lousing experience, thus triggering a kind of post-traumatic stress road rage to the level of vehicular homicide? Auckland Transport, I reasoned, surely would view this as a value-add. After all, if drivers were encouraged to run-down children at school crossings, fewer children would make it to adulthood who otherwise would have run children over as a consequence of their own post traumatic de-lousing stress disorder. Sure, it would require patience, but I bet that after two or three generations, Auckland Transport would see a dramatic decrease in school crossing vehicular homicides.

But at the very least, that would require Auckland Transport to advise drivers to speed up recklessly at school crossings, which, I concluded, this particular poster was not doing. (Note the phrase “Slow down around schools”.)

Then I started thinking, maybe Auckland Transport wasn’t talking to drivers, but rather, to the students.

If you study the poster closely, you’ll see that the only object in need of slowing down is the dorky student himself.

And while we’re at it, why should we assume that the dork is turning to look at a speeding car? What if we assume that the dork is turning to look at an adult who is offering some helpful advice. Under this assumption, the scenario becomes very clear, with the adult (not pictured) saying:

Hey, slow down around schools, huh? Don’t you know how dorky you look, running to school? You really shouldn’t. The only thing waiting for you on the other side are two bullies who spotted you eagerly running across a busy street. For what? To stare at a wall atlas depicting New Zealand as the east coast of Australia because it was printed in America? You’re just running to your own beat-down, son. And look at your shoes? Who wears black high-tops with grey woolens? Who the hell dressed you, your dog? Why don’t you do yourself a favor. Stop before you reach the other side, turn around, go back home, shut the door, and do what your parents did when they were your age: start a meth lab.

Oh…uh, sorry. I think I got carried away recalling one of my own childhood traumas.

But, having said all that, I don’t think that’s what this poster is saying, either. In the end, I think what the subtext of this poster is getting at is bad acting.

Frankly, whatever this kid is selling, I just don’t buy it.