I didn’t see the Grafton Residents Association newsletter in the mail slot until it was too late.
The single-sheet circular announced a General Meeting on April 13th, which had already passed.
Jacquie and I weren’t too disappointed to miss out on the fun.
Me and the old-lady just moved to the neighborhood, so we had yet to accumulate a list of grievances of sufficient length to warrant the meandering, slobbering public harangue we’d always looked forward to making as proud homeowners.
You can bet your life the GRA will get an earful from me next meeting, when I excoriate their tardy communications, no matter how indifferent I am to checking my letterbox.
Who the hell wants to check their mailbox? It’s either a bill, an advertisement, or a letter from your grandma without a check inside. It’s all bad news.
I’ll probably lead with that in my remarks to the GRA at the next meeting. I’ve got 20 minutes of material already. I haven’t even gotten past complaining about my grandmother yet.
In retrospect, I started looking forward to addressing one of the agenda items a week too late, after all. Bummer. Item 4: Local Issues was right up my alley. It read, I mean It still reads (ie, I haven’t twinked it yet):
A number of local issues have been taken up with Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and others. For example, we have received complaints about some helicopters going to and coming from the hospital, taking short cuts across the residential area. This has caused noise problems, especially at night.
Having mistaken myself for a journalist in the past, I instinctively put out some feelers. Communicating with the inside sources was very deep throat, very cloak and dagger, very click-here-for-more-information. They helped me to clarify to myself, in time for the next GRA meeting, in what direction I will publicly spew my bilious indignation.
They confirmed that Westpac Rescue Helicopter had received complaints, Westpac apologized, and their pilots are once-again faithfully adhering to flight paths designed to mitigate noise in residential areas. So, no darms. Another bummer.
Speaking strictly for myself, I thought,
Man, it takes a bit of cheek to complain about a rescue helicopter making noise. Aren’t people in rescue helicopters literally at death’s door? Isn’t that, like, their main qualification for being in the helicopter in the first place? Doesn’t bad shit happen all the time? Isn’t it better to land a patient as quick as possible so that they don’t die, or end up a vegetable that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funding to maintain its oh so special existence? Did I amend my will to make sure Jacquie DOES or DOESN’T unplug me if I end up in a coma? I really should get that will sorted out. Maybe I’ll bring this up at the next GRA meeting.
Then my thoughts trailed off to something else entirely.
The point is, at first, I thought the complainers were being assholes.
But then I remembered what a light sleeper I am, and how cranky I can be without at least a solid seven. What if a helicopter rushed over my house at three in the morning because someone in Dargaville let their kid stay up all night drinking Jack Daniels and riding their bicycle into telephone polls. Is that any reason for me to be irritable and tired the next day?
You may think that’s a really mean thing to write. I used to be as naive as you. Look at all the benefits to society that delaying medical treatment to a head trauma from Dargaville—or any place. I’m just picking names out of hat, really. Do we really want that drunken kid mixing his (demonstrably undesirable) DNA with the old national gene pool? No, because he’ll grow up to sire kids that will get drunk and ride their bicycles into telephone poles. You see what I mean?
That’s how I started coming around to the other way of thinking. I live across the road from the hospital, and though the helicopters don’t fly overhead any more, these hospital people and me, we don’t see eye-to-eye all the time, as you can see from Episode 3 of my webseries Let’s Get Fixed.
And really, at heart, I’m all about being a good neighbor. I look forward to fighting with all of them.
I swore to Jacquie that I would sooner wax my privates on a regular basis than be observed walking a cat in public.
That was a long time ago. Circumstances change attitudes. I am now a cat-walker.
Incidentally, I did stay true to my oath about waxing. And now I can look down with humility and satisfaction. Take it from me, a tree does stand taller when it’s not in the middle of a forest.
My objection to walking Vince is simple. People who go out in public to take their cats for a stroll generally look like pretentious assholes.
Practicality has obviated my former bias. Over the months—as I’ve exploited Vince to plug a hole in my self-worth, and with luck, the even bigger hole in my net-worth—I learned something. Vince needed mobility and a modicum of independence, and we needed to make sure our expensive cat didn’t get run over by a truck. Vince and Jacquie and I reached a compromise in which Vince would be allowed to roam under supervision in the day time, but at night, he could only go out on a harness and lead.
It’s going to take a long time before we get this right, but I think we’re making progress.
Yet, despite the practical benefits of walking Vince, I can’t get over the public attention I’ve received.
Every night, someone says something, and I think my neighbors are starting to avoid contact with me.
So, it’s not all bad.
What bothers me are the strangers passing on the street. I don’t know if they’re going to punch me in the teeth or just laugh in derision until I start crying. Perhaps more the former, because it is the quickest way to make me cry. And there is no rule that says they can’t laugh derisively in addition to punching my teeth.
So far, my encounters have been less dramatic.
One night, this guy was heading toward the youth hostel down the road.
“Holy fuck, is that a cat?”
He was obviously dunk, or from Wales, based on his pattern of speech.
“No bro, that’s absolutely genius.”
“Oh, yeah, I like it a lot.”
Unfortunately, he fell down in the middle of the road before he could finish his sentence. But he turned out to be ok, I think, because I found him in the exact same place the next afternoon, with no visible signs of having been run over.
I’ve met other interesting people. A guy on a moped one night pulled into the driveway of the business next door. He got off his bike, unzipped his pants, and proceeded to urinate. He didn’t see me with Vince until after he was finished. He was startled and annoyed when he did see us, but I smoothed things over. I suggested that having his privates waxed on a regular basis would do him a world of good. He left without a word. Didn’t even thank me. But there was the unspoken agreement that if I didn’t say anything about his public urination, he wouldn’t tell the world about me walking a cat.
Sometimes I think about what movies my life most resembles.
Selection depends on circumstance.
For example, if I have to eat dinner with Jacquie and her relatives, or if an airplane were to crash into my head, those days would be like Alien and Die Hard, respectively.
There are plenty of other parallels, though, ranging from the obvious to the oblique. When I floss my teeth, of course I’m going to see myself as Dustin Hoffman doing the interrogation scene with Lawrence Olivier in Marathon Man.
But when Jacquie comes home after a difficult, endless day helping Auckland’s mentally ill community, it’s hard to say. Life then seems like a mystifying pastiche of Tina Turner’s segment in Tommy and any adaptation of Jane Eyre, take your pick. Imagine the daughter of a Victorian parvenu, in a mini-dress, overindulging on some ‘queer’ mushrooms she’d found in a cow patty, winding up eight hours later in an asylum, signing over her dad’s estate to the warden, and you’ll get the visuals. Jacquie often comes home in a foul mood, and goes straight over to open the windows because “there are bad airs” in the lounge.
So analogy by film is that handy way I chart my progress toward perfection as a human being, and away from being like Adam Sandler.
This comes easiest, most days, if I compare my life to Star Wars. It’s not just because the original epic bore witness to the final, historic transformation of cinema from theater-based entertainment to brand-based enterprise, but mostly because people tend to mistake me for Harrison Ford.
True, the comparison may strain the credulity of skeptics. Never mind the fact that, like Han Solo, I too have a pet companion that is furry and adventurous and enjoys licking his own rectum. It’s just too difficult for those die-hard fans out there to imagine Han Solo as a nasally, early middle-aged, trade magazine editor whose greatest thrill is to sleep past 8:30 on a Saturday morning. The parallel goes much deeper than that. The women in both our lives condescend to us as their social inferiors.
This manifests in my case whenever Jacquie perceives disorder in our small apartment. There is a constant battle here between tidiness and clutter and somehow I’m always on the wrong team. No matter what I do or don’t do, no matter how dirty or clean the place is, Jacquie always greets me with the same chiding statement.
“I know you grew up in a hovel in the Bronx,” it begins, “but you really need to [insert maintenance request here].”
It irks me that Jacquie uses the Bronx against me. Like she’s the frigging duchess of Kent.
I tell her, “Honey, you’re a Westie. I’m lucky the car isn’t up on cinderblocks in the driveway and I don’t have two kids, one that looks mysteriously like the milkman and another that displays virtuosity on the banjo, but can’t wipe the drool his face.”
What’s really going on? Self promotion
I have to confess that the preceding was not much more than a set-up with punch lines to a couple of jokes which weren’t even funny to begin with.
While some aspects of the back story, such as how I measure my life against my favorite movies, are indeed factual, the narrative as a whole isn’t “really true”.
This disclaimer seems important in this age of dimming. Last week, a Discovery Channel programme drew attention to the network as the fraudulent purveyor of ignorance that it is. This is the cable channel in the US that pretends to take an interest in science, then airs programmes about UFOs and Noah’s Ark. It recently aired a program called Mermaids: The Body Found. Apparently, the channel’s documentary-style “science fiction” was so indistinguishable from its “science”-style documentaries, that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration felt it necessary to issue a statement to clarify that there is no evidence for the existence of mermaids.
It’s always fun to have a laugh, followed by a long sob, at American ignorance and the Americans that profit therefrom.
Like two weeks ago when Oreo Cookies launched its marketing campaign in honor of gay pride. The campaign featured a speculative cookie made from a dozen layers of colored lard corresponding to the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag.
This, of course, drew the ire of cultural conservatives who decided to “vote with their feet” away from Facebook, where the campaign appeared.
Their reaction stood in stark contrast to the majority’s enthusiasm and support for this blatant, if sensible and correct, marketing overture.
In the minority were those outraged and alarmed by “yet another liberal company destroying our religious values and teaching immorality”. What kind of people feel morally threatened by a cookie? They seem mystified and alarmed that the reality of nature, biology and civil justice has thoroughly encroached on the territory formerly held by the literature and institutions of their Neolithic reckoning. The salt of the Earth. You know. Morons.
They promised on Facebook never to buy an Oreo cookie again. But I don’t buy that. I imagine these are not the kind of people to pass up on corn syrup. I was so irritated and amused by their hollow protests that I decided to “like” the Oreo cookie Facebook page. I held out this olive branch, a “family safe joke that everyone will love: What’s dark and round and full of cream?”
Ok, I have to confess again that the only reason I mentioned the ignorance and Oreo things is because, once again, I wanted to tell more jokes I thought of recently.
So, for real. To make up for the bad jokes, I’m going to close this post with a couple amusing videos.
First, something that actually happened in Auckland
Last week, I went to pick up some takeaways from a new Thai restaurant that opened a block from us.
Soon after I got there, the most hilarious thing happened.
Actually, the funny part comes after this video ends. Basically what happens is a woman comes in after me to put in an order.
When she’s finished ordering, the cashier looks up happily at her.
“Will there be anything else, sir?” the cashier says.
The customer looks puzzled, unsure how to respond.
“No, that will be all,” she finally says.
The cashier smiled and nodded.
“That will be $14.95, sir,” he said.
Which is kind of like something that happened to me and Jacquie on our honeymoon.
And finally, something that happened in San Diego
Lastly, on July 4, there was a malfunction at the Big Bay Boom fireworks show in San Diego.
All the fireworks went off at once. Which I think wasn’t a bad thing. And neither do the hosts of the Young Turks who comment about it here.
What I like more than their commentary is the closed caption from the video. YouTube seems to be Beta Testing some kind of automatic captioning software. But the results aren’t very clear. In fact the translation of the above clip reads more like YouTube has come up with a Concrete Poet application:
right but i will say this
i would have preferred that
as opposed to what I saw last night
at the fireworks show humming different
and sometimes quicker is better um…
interested five no i don’t know
cartoon violence you’ve seen them all
after like after like two minutes I’m like
often alum got I’ve seen this fire
and that’s what I was just another analogy pioneer
that pilots i think is the greatest fireworks as in a long time
part number one i’m so tired of the fifty minute fireworks are you all there
is another log all that what’s going on
that one spread by god and i got it i’ve
seen a for forty two years trade
this indulgence as i a lot
second of all
it looks like a real war
no fireworks that was like you don’t
know but like you to take this they
would get your revolution etcetera
facebook woolworth’s was this already
and there are a lot of stand that looks
like rack urself
rikki that this kind of bats
and all that story the same time
of totally be was a but added that a
civil that was my favorite fireworks and
as long as I remember
once the last time they were prescribed
by next i’d find it highly presitgious
student for like two minutes
you get over it because it’s the same
thing over and over again
stays up but i will say this and just a
little concerned about your obsession
with like how it looks like more of that
so we are
i don’t have a baptism character
now and i like him a look at a bad asses
on l.a. latest like something out of you
see every movement wants security fucked
little concern now
Sorry. I know this blog post was rather disorderly. But you can forgive me. I grew up in a hovel in the Bronx.
Instead of ruing the 20 percent year-over-year drop in sun-block and ice cream purchases, I choose to celebrate the 24 percent increase in over-the-counter cold remedies. Way to go, influenza.
An important thing to keep in mind is, technically, there are still a few more weeks before the autumnal equinox. So, don’t worry, New Zealand. There’s plenty of time to catch a nasty head cold.
What I can’t gloss over with my usual optimism and Pollyanna thinking is the fact that I can’t lay blame for this inclement summer on living in New Zealand. Typically, I find it quite easy to cast all of life’s irritations and setbacks on my decision to migrate here.
From my disgusting trichotillomania to the tattered remnants of my sense of humor, there isn’t one circumstance that I can’t find a causal relationship with this frontier existence. Yet, try as I might, I can’t say this weather stuff is a function of New Zealand’s oceanic isolation or Latitude, per se. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research says we’re at the tail end of a La Niña weather pattern.
It is certain that increased greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and from land use change lead to a warming of climate, and it is very likely that these green house gases are the dominant cause of the global warming that has been taking place over the last 50 years.
Whilst the extent of climate change is often expressed in a single figure – global temperature – the effects of climate change (such as temperature, precipitation and the frequency of extreme weather events) will vary greatly from place to place.
This is true regardless of how a vainglorious, hick demagogue edited his wildly popular yet utterly depressing movie, which I watched under the influence of a bottle of vodka, having just seen Children of Men the day before. (One of the few cases in cinema history where the movie is far superior to the book, especially when you watch the DVD extras with Slavoj Žižek).
That movie depressed the hell out of me, not only because Clive Owen was in it, but because of Alfonso Cuarón’s deft contextualization of contemporary crises within one of the best-made battle scenes ever.
But I was severely depressed back then. Now that I’m only mildly depressed, I spend my time looking on the bright side of life.
The SDO’s mission is to help understand “the Sun’s influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously”, according to the SDO website. It also provides some spectacular images.
Watching these videos, I can’t think of a better way to pass the long, cold days of summer.
Every year about this time, trillions of Americans, and other sorts, gather to watch the Superbowl.
For those of you that haven’t heard, the Superbowl is a gargantuan sporting event, considered by some to be the Superbowl of American football.
In fact, it’s probably the premiere sporting event of the year in the US. If you’ve never watched it, to get an idea of what this year’s spectacle was like, imagine a giant plastic bag the size of Australia seeping testosterone, and you’ve got a pretty good idea. And that’s just counting Madonna’s half-time show.
Because this battle of brains and brawn to determine the best football team of the year attracts such a huge audience, advertisers pay a lot of money to get their products seen. They put their most creative of their many feet forward to capture the imaginations, and the inexhaustible credit debt, of the average consumer watching the game on TV. So, you get to see a lot of humorous, edgy and memorable spots when you watch the Superbowl.
The only problem from an antipodean perspective is that because the cost of renting a 30-second slot equals the gross national product of New Zealand, no Southern Hemispherean company will ever get the chance to reach the American market, as it should.
So to rectify this injustice, I’ve decided to put forward my vote for best antipodean TV commercial that should have been featured during the Superbowl.
My first prize goes to Herbal Ignite.
Apologies for the bad sound. Honestly, it’s not too far off from the actual sound. But if you can’t sit through the whole thing, be sure to watch the bit starting at 15 seconds. You’ll see why I’m a true believer. At $2 a day for a better sex life, it’s like they’re paying me. But don’t take my word for it. Take it from a guy tooling around his car in the car port.
And the runner up is Sir George Seymour National College of Airline, Travel and Tourism
I’ve always wanted a career wherein I would have to compete with websites and apps. Call today!
There was a second runner up, but I can’t find it on the web and I erased the crappy image I recorded off the tv. It features a bunch of half naked women with eyes above their bikini clad cleavage and on their mid-riffs. I have no idea what they were advertising, but what difference does that make when you can look at cleavage?
Oh,wait. Thanks to my friend, Vera Alves of supergeneric girl, here is the second runner up for the Superbowl TV ad…
I haven’t really been following the Republican Presidential Primary warm-up debates. But news of Rick Perry’s clumsy performance on CNBC the other night did catch my attention.
During the debate, Perry, the Texan governor of Madame Tussauds, explained how his flat tax plan “does the things to the regulatory climate that has to happen”.
This would include the elimination of three Federal agencies, Perry said, directing his comment squarely at America’s current most hopeless romantic, Ron Paul. The Governor was clearly responding to criticism the more-of-a-libertarian Paul had made earlier in the debate.
Perry said his plan would balance the budget by 2020, partly by getting rid of the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce…and the Department…of…
Well, we don’t know what the third one would be because Perry doesn’t know. The governor struggled for a few moments to come up with a doozie that would shut his fellow Texan up for good. But poor Perry wasn’t up to the task, much to Ron Paul’s elfin delight.
leaped to Perry’s defense in an interview with Michelle Bachmann (US Representative-the Kuiper Belt) who’s also running for her party’s nomination. The interview really pissed me off, and I’ll tell you why after you watch the video. Pay attention especially from 1:o4 to 1:26 into the clip.
Van Susteren here accidentally reveals a streak of news media elitism when she said the “news media are going to have a field day with this”.
Why is it that any time something even remotely scandalous happens, some jerk always has to chime in with “the news media are going to have a field day over this”.
I’ve worked in various aspects of the news media for 15 years now, and I’ve never once been on a field day. I can’t even imagine what the news media would do if they went on a field day. Would there be potato sack races, balloon rides and one of those inflatable jumping castles? When a scandal breaks, does something like this happen at the desk:
Reporter: A good source in Wellington says John Key took a sheep for a long weekend in Bali on the taxpayers’ dime.
Assignment Editor: That’s a great story. This being election season and all.
Reporter: But that’s not all. Key tried to cover it up by having the sheep for Sunday roast the day after they got back.
Assignment Editor: This is hot stuff. We have to move quickly. Tell Murray to go home and collect his badminton set, and we’ll meet him at the Domain.
Reporter: That sound fun. I’ll make ambrosia.
Assignment Editor: No, you do potato salad. Jane will bring paper plates, forks and cups.
Reporter: I thought you liked my ambrosia.
Assignment Editor: I hate ambrosia. It’s not dinner. It’s not dessert. Only toothless morons like ambrosia.
I’ll admit I’m making a big assumption here. A field day doesn’t necessarily have to be a day in the park or a picnic. Maybe when the news media go on a field day, they all get together and rent a yellow school bus, drive for two hours singing 99,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, and go on all the rides at Great Adventure before vomiting up all the cotton candy they ate while riding one of those things where you sit and spin around and around and around.
Maybe that’s what the news media does when they have a field day. But I don’t know. And it makes me angry. And confused. I’m starting to wonder if I’ve ever actually worked in the news media at all.
I mean, the New York Post, yeah, I can understand the confusion there. But, what, the New York State Society of CPAs newsletter doesn’t count all of a sudden? I’ll have you know, I’ve also worked for the Harlem Valley Times (R.I.P.), The Meriden-Record Journal and the Poughkeepsie Journal. Surely, one of these publications qualifies as news media.
Assuming that is true, you’d think that at some point over a 15-year time-span, you would have at least heard of someone going on a field day. Probably in the same way you hear about how the reporter sitting nearest you just won a whole bunch of Associated Press awards for a three-part series about cats stuck in trees. But you never won bupkes, and this explains your serious problem with alcohol abuse. I mean, some reporter gets invited on a field day? In most newsrooms, you couldn’t keep something like that under a bushel for very long.
But no. I have never heard mention of anyone going on a field day. My only conclusion is that field days are reserved for an exclusive, secretive group cabal. They probably all met at Columbia University or something. It probably started innocent enough. A bunch of J-students, just looking to relax.
Indeed, there is an elite media out there, and whenever something scandalous happens, they pack whatever they’re doing, and go on a field day. We just weren’t supposed to know about it. Way to let the cat out of the bag, Greta.