Sunday, 3 September 2017

Hairy MacLary is a piece of dangerous misinformation

New Zealand's best loved dog story, Hairy MacLary, is a sham. There. I've said it. 


Dangerous propaganda, up there with anything Don Brash has written

Stuff recently posted an interview with author Lynley Dodd discussing how he was inspired by a cheeky dog she once saw take a bag of bones from her local butcher. What a scamp! What a loveable rogue! So she went home and wrote a series of books about him, which have been passed down from generation to generation of New Zealander, delighting children and adults alike, before the cold, harsh reality of what happens when dogs are allowed to roam free hits home. Dangerous dogs are no joke. Alan Partridge can tell you that.



So, as a counter point for the generations of young Kiwis raised in the belief that letting your pet run wild is acceptable, I have rewritten the he classic story to teach some more realistic consequences.

No need to thank me. Just consider it my civic contribution to dog ownership standards in New Zealand.


Hairy MacLary from Donaldson's Dairy (2017)

Dedicated to the loving memory of a bad dog.

Out of the door, and off for a walk, 
Went Hairy MacLary from Donaldson's Dairy

With Muffin McLay
Like a bundle of hay
Bottomly Potts
All covered in spots
Hercules Morse
As big as a horse
And Hairy MacLary
From Donaldson's Dairy

They set of towards town, with a sniff of their noses
They stopped off at Miss Lawson's and they dug up her roses

Then Bottomly paused at the shop of Tom Clegg
He needed a slash, so he lifted one leg
Then he let out a stream that was steamy and golden
It seemed never ending, so long he'd been holding

Next on to the butcher's, Hairy snuck through the door
Then stole out with some sausages, steak,chicken and more

They felt so much better, having eaten that meat
And now Hairy was horny, luckily Muff was in heat
Hairy looked at her longingly, out stuck his small log
Soon they were mating, in the style of a dog
But Hairy's a small dog, you'd think he'd need a ladder
But instinct kicked in, and soon he had had her

All loved up, the pooches kept wandering 'round town
Hercules shat on the path, near the local Countdown
Such a large beast will provide quite a stool, I should warn
A dark brown soft serve ice cream, with small bits of sweet corn

What a day! Time was flying! Oh, how it passes!
The dog pack rejoiced as they sniffed each other's asses
What winning! These canines were on a clear roll!
But around the corner lay....


ANIMAL CONTROL

And the cops were there too! For dangerous canine
Was the call that came through to the council hotline

Hercules growled, and rushed with teeth bared
The officers understandably were very scared.
One cop drew his pistol, and without a word
He shot, and the Mastiff dropped to the curb
Lifelessly Hercules fell to the ground
The other dogs, terrified, were led to the pound

Seriously, would you trust this dog to roam free in public?

Later that week, the Donaldson clan
Ventured down to the pound with their mind on a plan
To pay a small fine, a nominal fee
A few hundred bucks that would set Hairy free
But sadly, the D's, they were in for a shock
When they found their dog ownership rights had been blocked

'You leave your gate open' the officer scolded
Mr D fainter, his legs under him folded
'Your Hairy MacLary and his pack of wild hounds
Have been escaping your garden to terrorise town.
Your fence is too low, your gate is left open.
Your dog has more wanderlust than you would be hoping.

'For the capers they cause are not meet caterwauling
Last week an old lady was maimed in a mauling.
Wild dogs are a vector for diseases like rabies
But it's not just the health risks, it's also the babies!
For Hairy is clearly aware of his needs.
He's seeking out bitches, and spreading his seed.

'I'm sorry Sir, Ma'am, but this cannot go on
If you think your responsible dog owners, you're wrong.
Your dog's a risk to health, through injury and infection.
But at least now he's dead. We gave him an injection.'


RIP Hairy MacLary, and your horrible mongrel mob.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Album Review: Melodrama by Lorde

Save us Ella Yelich-O'Connor, you're our only hope

As a middle class father from New Zealand with a Twitter account and a blog, I knew it was my expected civic duty to have an opinion on the new Lorde album. This follow up to Pure Heroine had been teased about for months, with an epic and anticlimactic scavenger hunt around Auckland announcing the first single leading into a word puzzle where fans were invited to guess the album title from the first and last letters.

My guess was M£*#€@$&%?~A

Then came the artwork. A clear reference to Picasso's Blue Period.

We're Blue, da ba dee, da ba da ba da ba dee da ba da

Unless anyone can think of another artist who works with such beautifully shadowed brushstrokes?

Well, maybe we all DID misunderestimate him

It all led to today's climax, the release of Melodrama. Was New Zealand ready? Was
it ever. The nation had been left rudderless and without a leader since the resignation of beloved figurehead Richie McCaw, and without a cultural touchstone since Peter Jackson had run out of  Tolkien books to adapt into lengthy and pointless films . Even our country's defining moment in the history of handshakes has been eclipsed by the British.



Bring on our new Lorde, our saviour.

I fired up Spotify (free edition), typed in Melodrama, and let rip. And what a ripper. Lorde clearly corners her targeted market of middle aged men who have procreated right off the bat, starting with the lead single Green Light. It's a dad joke that easily wins my heart! We know this song, it's been everywhere. I last heard it being blasted by a DJ resembling an alpaca who's career had reached the heights of playing at an Australian Burgerfuel at 6pm on a Friday. The dancing on cars, the pianos in toilets, the kissing on light up dance floors, it's got the New Zealand experience written all over it, and we love it.

Track 2, Sober, sounds similar, the mellow start leading eventually into a banger of a chorus, but something is wrong... Can a song called Sober really describe the New Zealand? Surely Lorde knows that it's not the drinking, it's how we're drinking, and no amount of minimising that and claiming to be sober is not going to alter New Zealand's sorry rate of alcohol related injuries?

Also, I don't think you're truly sober if you're reviewing onion rings that look like this, Ella

We carry on, every song a certified New Zealand grown platinum hit. Or almost every song. I listen to Louvre, expecting to hear a soaring masterpiece, reminiscent of crystal pyramids and fine arts, but something's wrong. Sure, there's the odd highlight, but something doesn't quite feel right. Then it hit me,  this is exactly what Lorde meant it to mean. This isn't a song describing the Louvre as a cultural custodian of Europe's finest sculptures, paintings and artefacts. It's meant to bring to mind the Louvre as experienced by an 18 year old antipodean backpacker, rushing through the corridors, before pausing briefly to appreciate a work of genius they've only heard about until now through schoolbooks. A work of high intellect, this is captured perfectly by Lorde, who, it seems, is not aiming for a global hit album accessible to her fellow countrymen and women, but producing for the world a true insight into what it is to be a New Zealander.

Liability, in contrast, serves as a stark warning to her country of birth, against using the teenaged songstress as the basis for its entire cultural identity:

I understand, I'm a liability
Get you wild, make you leave
I'm a little much for
E-a-na-na-na, everyone

Indeed, what happens when it does get us wild, when Lorde does get a little much for everyone? We love her, but Melodrama does contain, for example, explicit language, words only previously acceptable in everyday use in middle New Zealand if used after a tough rugby match or climbing a very tall mountain. Is it wise to hitch our cultural wagon to a young girl who may turn out to be such a loose linguistic cannon?

Before long, I found myself I found myself listening to the last track of the album, Perfect Places, a song title that surely described any place you had access to this record for your auditory perusal. Time had flown, I'd had fun. Then it struck me how familiar this song sounded. The tune, the lyrics, they were essentially the same as an untitled secret track after song three, minus a few spoken lyrics:

Hi this is Lorde
You can listen to my
New album
Melodrama
Here on Spotify

Genius. It was the ultimate musical callback, playing on themes already expressed in the album and I loved it. This is why Lorde is such a treasure, inserting little jokes into her music, revisiting them later on in the record. Sure, she's a liability at times with the odd F-bomb, but this is why as a nation we are happy to have her as a global ambassador, a truly worthy heir to our other great Lord, of the Rings.

Overall, 14 stars out of 10. Get used to it New Zealand, this record is our national identity until at least the 2019 RWC.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

RANKED: a playlist of 20 arbitrarily chosen Wiggles songs


Initially I wrote this playlist for summer holidays, when parents are trapped in the car for prolonged periods of time, and need an escape strategy to distract the warring factions in the back seat. Then I rewrote it in Autumn, as it hadn't been the best year for beach weather, but with the day's still long, families were still be packing the kids into the car in a desperate attempt to squeeze out every drop of outdoors enjoyment possible before temperature dropped. Now it's winter, there probably isn't such a huge need for long family road trips, but even on a short journey, parents may find themselves in need of peace keeping diversions.

Any grown up worth their two cents will know the easiest way to quell such a rebellion would be to quickly switch on some child friendly tunes, preferably something pleasant to more experienced ears as well as those yet to develop true musical taste. Unfortunately, though, there are times when the Songs for Bubba CDs aren't handy, and you're forced to turn to the Wiggles. So I've trawled through the extensive back catalogue of the skivied foursome's various iterations, and have come up with a guide to which songs aren't going to be too hash on your ears, and which to give a miss in order to avoid a horrible echo through your brain keeping you awake all night.

20. Little Vampires (Cranberry Juice)
This is not necessarily a great song. In fact, it's almost definitely a very bad song. But I've included it on this playlist because it is just so fun to annoy your significant other with! What could possibly be more irritating than four fully grown adults imploring in a high pitched screech that they 'want to drink some cranberry juice, we want to drink it now'? Probably a fifth grown adult joining in singing along! Primarily included on this playlist in order to make you appreciate that the next nineteen songs actually aren't that bad.

Also explains why vampires never seem to get urine infections


19. Captain Feathersword, He Loves To Dance
Confession time. I used to like Captain Feathersword, but I'm starting to find his stereotypical pirate schtick really monotonous and irritating. I mean, it's probably my own fault, but what first or second year university student doesn't think it's hilarious to tell endless pirate jokes where the punchline is the sound Aaarrgggghhh? And who, in the early 20s, didn't think that the absolute height of wit is International Talk Like a Pirate Day? It's just, Captain Feathersword does this the whole bloody year round. And he's supposed to be the 'adult relief' character. Help us all.

Also that's not a sword, it's a bloody feather duster you pillock

18. Rock-a-bye Your Bear
Everybody clap, everybody sing, bla bla bla bla bla, turn around whoopee. Dear Lord, it just goes on and on. Your kids will expect this at some point cos it's SUCH A COOL ACTION SONG, so best get it out of the way early on

17. Shock the World
The Rugby League World Cup is coming! So how are the Wiggles going to get the youth of the planet interested? By singing about one of the hottest teams on the planet! The USA! Why the USA? Probably cos Joseph Paulo was the only league player who would show up for the video. If the Wiggles had got their way, President Obama would have put his face on Mt Rushmore!

Also he's about the only league player with a clean enough disciplinary record to appear on a kids' show

16. Do the Owl
What in the name of all that is good is this? Back in the day, The Wiggles did a collaborative album with Australia Zoo, by which I mean with Steve Irwin, rest his soul. The one problem was the Crocodile Hunter couldn't sing to save himself, so what did they do? A spoken word lecture about owls in the middle of a song that basically crams every tiny fact about owls possible into three minutes of course. Did you know owls excrete pellets made up of ground mouse bones that they've just eaten? Truly bizarre. Given Bindi Irwin seems to be currently completing any work her father left behind, expect an upgraded re-release of this song soon.

Smashing owl related pop culture reference


15. Dorothy, Would You Like To Dance With Me
A dancing dinosaur? What's next? Sure, the screechy falsetto could get irritating, but this is quite a catchy tune truth be told. Not their best, granted, but good enough to be included in any true Wiggles playlist. Also, there's a version featuring Kamahl. I don't know much about Kamahl, other than when I was a student you couldn't go into a second hand shop without seeing about ten of his albums, but he seems like a pretty cool dude.

Sadly none of his albums was called Come One, Kamahl 
14. Rock and Roll Pre-school
Another of the Wiggles special guests is Lou Diamond Phillips, who apparently was quite big in the 1980s, and hasn't aged a bit since (thanks B for Botox!). It's probably the New Wiggles' strongest guitar rock anthem since Murray's departure, and Lou's pink leather suit in the video is a sight to behold.

Nothing says Rock n' Roll like a fist pump whilst playing the Keytar 

13. Fruit Salad (Yummy Yummy)
Is it me, or does the basic musical theme of this song sound kind of sinister? Almost like some sort of broken augmented fourth? I can't help but feel that this is selling us some sort of devilish fruit based snack, one which Anthony has clearly sold his soul for, hence why he is still stuck in the Wiggles whilst all of the other OGs have escaped. Sure, he seems to be enjoying eating fruit salad, day after day, but have you seen the sadness that lies behind his eyes?

Still, it's a fun song.

12. Do The Hawk
The Wiggles love their guest performers, but you wonder what audience they were reaching out to when they recruited Wall St Journal journalist Lee Hawkins to sing lead with Simon on this song.

Get ready, to discuss financial policy 


11. Do the Propellor
I guess the New Wiggles probably needed a trademark song to call their own, and they came up with Do the Propellor. It's not a bad song, and it's got some fun dance actions to go along with, though I'd suggest they're probably not really suited to a long car journey, at risk of siblings hitting each other with their flailing appendages and thermonuclear war consequently breaking out in the back seat. Still, worth a whirl (ha! See what i did there? A whirl? Like a propellor does?)

10. Glasses
As a child I had glasses. Glasses and asthma. Oh how I was teased. I wish I had had this song to explain to my bullies that my glasses helped me to see clearly, though playing this song at 14 may well have led to more bullying. A truly destigmatising song (pun totally intended).

9. Broccoli Bunch
Have you ever wanted to learn all about broccoli, but you can't be bothered reading a boring old book? Well. The Wiggles sure do have a song for you... detailing the historical origins, the tree-like shape, and the vitamins in which broccoli is rich into a jaunty, danceable melody, Broccoli Bunch is probably in the top five songs ever written about a brassica vegetable. Even better, though, the music video features two Wiggly Dancers in full body broccoli costumes! Damn that's hot!

Unfortunately not quite this hot though 


8. Play Your Guitar With Murray
Did you know that Murray Cook was once named the fifth best guitar player in the history of Australia? You do now, and listening to this song you might be able to see why. Remember when the OG Wiggles had guitar solos, and they rocked? That was Murray, and this song is right up there in terms of his musical mastery.

7. Do The Monkey
Back in the early 80s, there was an Aussie rock band called the Cockroaches, featuring a chap called Anthony Field on guitar, and Jeff Fatt on the keys and the accordion. They had a gritty pub rock anthem called Do The Monkey. In 1991, Anthony and Jeff left to become children's entertainers, and sanitized their monkey song. Anthony started wearing toe shoes, and Jeff kept playing accordion. But both versions of the song still hold up. True story.

This video confuses me so much 

6. The Suarez Last Supper
Remember when Luis Suarez bit that Italian guy at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil? Even if you don't like sportsball you should definitely remember that. The Wiggles wrote a song about it! And it was so much better than the song it was based on (Feeling Hungry), and even betterer than the song that that was based on (Funiculi Funicula). Topical comedy for adults at its finest. Cannabalistic themes may scare the youngest audiences though.

Also, Anthony FINALLY stops eating fruit salad in favour of a muddy old football 

5. Big Red Car
You can't have a road trip without the big red car. Whether you're chilling in the backseat playing your guitar, fast asleep having a little rest, or eating SO MUCH FOOD, Big Red Car really sets the agenda when getting from A to B on four wheels. The newer Wiggles have tried to shake the vehicular sound up with a new song entitled BRC (is the Big Red Car), but this is the true masterpiece fit for any journey, no matter how long or short it may be. Also the music video is kinda reminiscent of those old Ronald McDonald Click Goes the Seatbelt ads.

Ronald wasted his plagiarism payout on trying to make the Fillet of Fish popular

4. Hot Potato
Hot Potato? More like Scorching Megahit! One of the better known songs, and you can see why. Such simple lyrics, detailing some of the band's favourite foods (cold spaghetti? Each to their own, I suppose). And how about the video? Probably some of the finest moves that Murray, Jeff, Anthony and Greg ever laid down, with arms flailing, knees bent, feet a-twisting, the urge to get up and dance is just too strong to exist at times. Which is hardly ideal for a long road trip, I suppose. Still, Gimme that, gimme that, gimme that funky beat.

3. Ooey Ooey Allergies
If there's one thing I appreciate as a doctor, it's that parents are faced with such a massive amount of medical information of varying accuracy coming at them from all directions. That's why I was so relieved when the OG Wiggles released Ooey Ooey Allergies as one of their last new songs together. All the information kids could need, simplified: allergies might make you think you have a cold! These foods cause allergies! If you have an allergy, tell an adult! Don't share your food! And a video with giant bacon costumes! Why can't all medical PSAs be communicated through this medium? I'm still waiting for their follow up song, (You'd Better) Vaccinate Yo'self before you Hate Yo'self.

2. Have A Good Day (Kia Pai to Rā)
They said New Zealand! They sang about New Zealand! How has this song, featuring Brown Wiggle Robbie Rakete, not won all our music awards and become our national anthem yet?

And this image would have easily won the flag referendum 


1. Wake Up Jeff
What a banger. No intro save a quick glissando, and straight into the first emphatic, riotous chorus. And the whole gang are here: Greg, Murray and Anthony are all awake, the Captain is shouting, and Dorothy, Wags and Henry are all dancing along too, in a desperate attempt to rouse Jeff in time for the show. And if that wasn't enough to wake up the narcoleptic purple Wiggle, after the second verse, Muzza shows exactly why he was once named 'possibly the most influential guitarist in the world' by Guitar Magazine, and launches into the best solo in Wiggles, if not Australian music, history. Of course, the song couldn't be complete without a few words from the man himself, as he scolds his friends for making so much noise: he's trying to get some sleep! When I worked in the hospital system I had a boss called Jeff, and if I ever needed to call him in the middle of the night I'd always start singing this when he answered the phone. I'd like to think it always lessened the blow of his slumber being disturbed for what would probably end up being quite a trivial problem.

Of course, this masterpiece was later adapted into the frankly lesser Wake Up Lachy. But still, it remains a yardstick of musicianship for the ages.

OK, that bit about my boss was a lie, but it did inspire this amazing joke 


Happy travels Fam.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Phone App Review: Four Seasons Condoms presents The Extendables.

Apparently we live in a golden age for intimate technology, or Sexnology, as no one apart from me just then, calls it. For in the course of the past month, not one but two great strides forwards have been made in the field.

One of them gives a whole new meaning to the term sex doll

First, UK scientists announced the development of a 'smart condom' sexual activity tracker able to be worn on the penis, or FitDick as it really ought to have been called. So many questions arose... Did this mean that no longer could gentlemen lie to a casual acquaintance about their prowess in the sack, without being asked to display a  download of data and graphs about previous performances in regards to duration, partner's satisfaction, and explosive energy released? Would phrases such as 'talks a big game in the streets, statistically disappointing in the spreadsheets' become common place? Would the ring vibrate on the achievement of certain sexual milestones? Would their be badges (you achieved 10 thrusts and are still going strong! New record!)? Group challenges? And of course, what about that neglected sexual demographic, parents?

I mean, they must still be doing it, given the number of second, third and subsequent children being born. But more often or not, it's got to be quick, nothing you're going to be boasting down at the pub about with graphs showing your endurance and tackle statistics. At the end of the day, kids finally in bed for the fourth time that night, parents are going to be collapsing themselves rather than trying to achieve another medal for going stronger, faster, deeper, harder. They need a distraction during the day, to slip away from the kids. Chuck on a Wiggles DVD and delight each other's hot potatoes and cold spaghetti. Put the kids in front of Dora the Explorer before exploring their adorer.

Who even knows what DVD these two will be putting on when their time comes

So Four Seasons Condoms have tried to come along to the rescue with The Extendables app. This basically does the same job as your kids favourite DVD, with a puppet show presumably made by a couple of rejects from the Jim Henson school of puppetry, played upon a parent's computer, tablet, or smart television, and synced to their phone. On the phone, a stopwatch judgementally counts down
whilst the amorous couple makes more babies (or doesn't, depending on whether they've fallen for the subtle marketing ploy and are using the Four Seasons' prophylactic wares). If, after the initially programmed eleven minutes, things are still hot and heavy in the bedroom, a button can be hit, and a further five minutes of distracting sock puppetry ensues, hence, I assume, why the show is called The Extendables, and not Sesame Treat, The Muffets, or Fraggle Cock.

Or Shaggle Rock. There's two puns for that one.

Slightly creepily, if a kid does get bored and walk away from the wholesome entertainment on screen, motion sensors in the smart device sound an alarm to stop adult fun time, and make as though the only intercourse taking place in the master bedroom is of the oh so boring verbal type. It's all explained in this adorable YouTube instructional video, starring one little girl who clearly recognises that something's up.



Of course, my beautiful and intelligent wife was far too sensible to allow us to test the Extendables app for its intended purpose. That wasn't going to stop me from reviewing it though, oh no. I wish it had though.

A bunch of third class voice actors (I'm not really sure what I expected, imagine explaining voicing a puppet from a third class condom company's ad campaign on your cv) play five sentient feather dusters who, I think, are trying to take over earth, though there doesn't really seem to be much of a plot. Within a minute, I was lost, bored, and getting up to find a beer. And the app didn't tell me I was doing that! Granted, my children may be entertained for longer than me by a few silly voices, but when they get up after two or three minutes, parents need to know their carnal pleasure's getting cut off short of a measure.

I sat down again, and forced myself to tolerate the inane chattering of the five anthromorphic feather boas for another 10 minutes, and it struck me that actually, what I was watching was kinda filthy. Sure, it would be straight over any preschooler's head, but the first sentence was about engaging landing gear and commencing thrusting. There was great excitement about the female character 'slipping into something special for the first time' on the new planet. Further amazement when the five some went to an Earth house, and saw a 'small hairy thing' by the front entrance. Which was then 'put in the mouth' of one of the puppets, and then again, great excitement ensued when 'he swallowed.'

I don't know, maybe I didn't go into this review with an open mind, and was seeing gratuitous innuendo where none was intended. What I didn't see, though, was a satisfying climax to each episode. They just kind of petered out, without much of a bang. And perhaps that is the perfect metaphor for parental hankypanky against a time restriction whilst the kids are distracted. It's never gonna measure up against what you're hoping for.

So parents, when they're released, get your FitDicks if you want. Who knows, having a tracker round your tacker might provide the motivation you need to perform to a new personal best. But forget the Extendables, because in my opinion, this app has just ended up a bit flaccid.

1/5

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Key Learnings Gained from Flying Internationally With Two Preschoolers

This piece was initially written a few months back, but for one reason or another has never seen the light of day. But I feel it's my public duty to hold it no longer, and release a warning to parents on why flying from Palmerston North to the Gold Coast with two small children is one of the worst ways you could possibly spend a day.

These are not my kids. Not even my kids would be this annoying. I hope.


Thursday, 7.30pm
I'm leaving work for the last time in two weeks. Finally, it's time for our first big holiday as a family of four. We're flying to Australia! With two preschoolers! What could ever go wrong?

Friday, 9.30am
I'm trying to get the dog out of the door to the kennels. The three and a half year old is screaming bloody murder. He's not so worried that the dog's going away for two weeks, he's more distraught that the Paw Patrol DVD we've had out from United Video has to go back after three weeks of renewals. Finally get the dog to the kennels at ten to ten, only to remember drop offs actually close an hour earlier than I thought. Thank god the owner loves our Hank so much. He's the kennel's poster boy for their doggy bath service, bloody galling given the performance we have to go through to clean him at home

10.00pm
It's the night before we leave for the Gold Coast. I've been researching parenting sites and social media for ways to travel by plane with young ones, and I've found that it's best to pre-empt any disruption your kids may cause by preparing a little something for your fellow passengers.

This was a joke, people, I didn't actually do this! The angry Twitter people convinced me not to!


I reckon we're all set

Saturday 7.30am
We're trying to get out the door. I feel like I'm herding cats. In fact I wish I was herding cats, at least you can just chuck them in a little carry cage, then hand them over at the airport where they'll get stowed in the cargo hold whilst you hit the gin and tonics back in economy class. Then on arrival in Australia, they get quarantined away for a couple of weeks whilst you make the most of it, or if you do manage to sneak them in you get into a hilarious public feud with a red faced man called Barnaby.

Instead I have a 3 and a half year old and a nineteen month old. They've both lost that one essential toy they just have to take with them.



8.30am
We arrive at Palmerston North International Airport, which is still clinging to the glory days of one Freedom Air flight to the GC a week.  Right now I would love for that flight to still exist. I take the bags and the kids whilst my wife disposes of the car for two weeks, and we head for a coffee, only to find out our flight's delayed. Half an hour in a tiny airport with kids is bad enough, let alone two hours.

We go to check in through to Gold Coast at the same moment the 19 month old fills her nappy. We meet an old friend, who helps my wife drop the bags whilst I go off on baby change duty. We return to find international boarding passes in hand, our friend having presumably been mistaken for my passport photo. He's Sri Lankan. Our friend's Jetstar flight leaves for Auckland an hour and a half before ours, and minutes ahead of schedule.

There's a cat in a carry cage at check in. I'm jealous AF of its owner.

11.10am
We're on the plane at last. The three and a half year old has found the safety card and is anouncing to fellow passengers that there is a lifejacket under their seats. Much more of this, hopefully they'll offer him a job. He's the only passenger paying any attention to the safety demonstration.

This kid takes Fireman Sam's safety first mantra far too literally at times

11.15am
We're in the air. I've just remembered that the three and a half year old has developed severe motion sickness since he last travelled by air.

11.40am
All holding up well so far. The three and a half year old has just announced he needs to wee, so we trek back to the rear of the ATR-500, which, it turns out, has a much much smaller toilet than I was expecting. A little while back, I wrote a blog post about changing a nappy in a train bathroom. How I long for that sort of spaciousness now. I place my son on the seat, and try and jam myself in and close the door as best I can. There's no way it's locking, but there's also no way anyone can miss my arse sticking out of the half ajar door. It's all worth it though, as the toilet water is bright blue. This is a highlight of the day. As we return to our seats, I realise we're descending, and we've missed the lollies being handed out. The resulting reaction is a lowlight of the day.

11.50am
Turns out the 19 month old's ear infection hasn't quite cleared.

11.53am
The three and a half year old has dropped his Thunderbirds toy under the seat in front of him. The seatbelt sign is on, but he's winding up a bit. I glance briefly at the cabin crew, and break international aviation law by slipping my seatbelt off.

12.10pm
We're on the ground. The 19 month old cried herself to sleep in the descent. The three and a half year old wants to run around on the baggage carousel, so I tell him if he does that, he won't be allowed to row in the big rowing race. The no-longer-topical joke goes straight over his head.

We've got just under an hour and a half to get to the international terminal, so we walk. It's a nice day, and it's a bit like the Wizard of Oz, except with a green line instead of a yellow road, with other harassed looking families instead of magical scarecrows and woodmen, and with 3 1/2 hours in a metal tube to look forward to instead of a wizard. We get to immigration, and realize they've taken all the pens on chains off the tables, so we head back to the bookshop to buy one for five dollars. I want to put my occupation down as comedy writer, but my wife says one published column is well short of qualifying me for that.

1.10pm
We're at the gate. Thank god, there are loads of young kids on this flight... surely our two won't be the worst behaved ones? Because we're flying pleb class, I've  decided to buy a sandwich and a few drinks to have on board from the airport cafe. It's quite expensive, but surely it'll be cheaper than buying on the plane?

1.40pm
After boarding, I check the on board menu. The prices are in red on a green background, so my faulty colour vision makes them hard to read, but my wife confirms the sandwiches are about half the price of what I've just paid. The three and a half year old is very excited, as we're parked next to an Emirates A380 which has elephants painted on the side of it, or a Journey Express, as he calls it. Take off is more fun on a jet, as it goes a lot faster. Soon we are 'driving over the sea'.

2.30pm
The kids are getting hungry and grumpy. I got an egg sandwich on the ground. Turns out this isn't an ideal food for confined spaces, and the egg is going everywhere. I open my son's sipper bottle and water sprays everywhere. The 8 dollar beers are starting to look tempting. The three and a half year old looks out the window and notes that we are still driving over the sea. I tell him there is a lot of sea between New Zealand and Australia. He asks why. I briefly consider a lecture on continental drift, but decide it's easier to shrug in a non commital manner, which seems to work.

2.40pm
My amazing wife has packed a bag with new toys. Theres a magnetic jigsaw puzzle, which seems like a good idea, but it's are still going everywhere. The Planes magic coloring book is a hit. We're still driving over the sea. I found a couple of bibs in my bag which would've been helpful with the sandwich.

Toys for the flight, all ready for packing


3.30pm
Two hours in, and tolerance of wholesome activities is starting to wear thin. We admit defeat and put on an hour of Peppa Pig episodes. Why are all the houses in Peppa Pig  on top of hills? Are they living in some sort of post-apocalyptic water world where half the land area has been made uninhabitable by climate change or something? Still driving over the sea, but the three and a half year old is engrossed so he doesn't notice.

3.40pm
The 19 month old isn't too keen on Peppa Pig. She'd rather I lift her up repeatedly so she can turn the reading light on and off. We pass ten minutes this way. She wants a drink. I forget the lesson I should've learnt earlier, and water hits the ceiling as I open her bottle.

Ready for some LIGHT entertainment? Ahahaha shut up Dad


4.30pm
Quick toilet break for the three and a half year old, now Peppa Pig is finished. The toilets on the Virgin 737 are more spatious, but not as fun as they make a scary noise instead of flushing with blue water. Also, the (fully grown adult) guy who went before us didn't flush, something the three and a half year old is perfectly capable of EVERY SINGLE BLOODY TIME. Still driving over the sea. He wants to know if we're actually moving.

5.10pm
We're watching something called Sydney the Sailboat now. It seems to be about an anthromorphic sailboat called Sydney who lives in Australia and gets into hijinks. It's very similar to every other sentient vehicle cartoon I have ever seen, but on water. The three and a half year old is getting grumpy as the captain and the head steward keep on stopping the entertainment programme so they can make announcements.

2.30pm (again)
Landed. We disembark, and the three and a half year old declares himself dissapointed as there isn't a water park waiting on the Tarmac, or in the terminal. There is an ibis eating a discarded takeaway in the carpark, or a 'funny duck' as the 19 month old brands it. We pick up the rental car. The kids pick up multiple tourist maps in Cantonese. We wrestle two rental car seats into the back seat of the car. My wife does an awful lot better than I do.

4.00pm
At our accommodation at last. It's 7.00pm NZ time, by all rights the kids should be dead on their feet. In reality, the parents are, but the kids will be hyperactively overtired for another three hours. We go to Burgerfuel for tea across the road. Australian Burgerfuel is licensed, and I have a beer. In my sleep deprived state, it wrecks me. We pop in to a mini mart to get some milk and bread. The three and a half year old tries to go to sleep on the floor by the counter.

8.00pm
Finally in bed. hopefully the late bedtime will help them adjust to the three hour time difference.

Sunday, 3.00am
No, of course it hasn't.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Drink review: H2Go Chocolate Water

Gold. Brown liquid gold

Last week, Minister for the Environment Nick Smith announced plans to make 90% of New Zealand's streams and rivers more swimmable by 2040, primarily, it seemed, by redefining what is accepted by 'swimmable'. To celebrate this bold vision, Frucor Beverages and their H2Go brand released a drink based on the general appearance of the average kiwi body of water after it has passed through prime dairy country

Nick Smith after a swim near Frucor's bottling plant 

New Zealand's first chocolate water was here! Based on the run-away
hysterical popularity of the, let's face it, slightly better than average at best Whittaker's Chocolate Milk, how could this fail to be a hit?

Back in 2000, retrospectively cringe-inducing poor spellers and 'musicians' nu metallers Limp Bizkit released an album called Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog
Flavoured Water. Judging solely on my life philosophy that anything that reminds me of Fred Durst cannot possibly be good for me, this wasn't a good start for H2Go. Speaking of which, did you know that Durst's latest a of douchieness was acting as a Russian regime propagandist trying to spread acceptance of their claim to Crimea? That's true, though I reckon I could make up just about any story about him and you wouldn't look it up to confirm it for fear of being reminded further of his crimes against music.

I did it all for the Putin
WHAT
For the Putin
WHAT
So you can take Crimea and stick it up your YEAH!

Anyway, I put my misgivings about the Bizkit to one side, gritted my teeth, and bought a couple of bottles of the chocolate water, purely for research's sake of course. Limited Edition!! the bottle label screamed at me. Quite the euphemism for 'product which you'll buy once out of curiosity, then never again when you realise what it tastes like.' Though from the full shelves  my local New World drinks cabinet, not even curiosity was doing a good sales job.

I poured some water into a glass. A transparent dirty brown colour greeted me. Really Frucor? This doesn't look appetising. My dog swims in a stream out the back of our property that has cleaner looking water than this. The smell though.... Actually pretty good. Which is disappointing. It's rich and dark and promising, it lingers like the smell of that aforementioned Whittaker's milk. There is no way this is going to end in anything but disappointment when the taste turns out to be insipid and flavourless. It's going to be like if you sit down to a Garage Project Pale Ale, and it ends up tasting like Tui.

Brown, the tastiest of beverage colours

But I'm kind of wrong. It's palatable. I mean, on the fore tongue, it's just water, slightly sweet. But hold it at the back of the mouth, it actually does taste like chocolate. But it's thin and, well watery. It doesn't FEEL like a chocolate drink should. You want some body, and this has none. I'm not going to be dunking my gingernuts into some muddy looking water, and I think that is where the chocolate water falls down. When we taste a chocolatey drink, we expect to to be creamy and milky, and water is neither. So the limited edition label was perhaps right, I can see a lot of people maybe buying out of curiosity, but it's not going to build a loyal following.

There was one last thing I wanted to do with the chocolate water, and that was to make a cup of coffee with it.... Would the sweet cacao flavouring last the boiling process and give my brew a chocolatey mocha flavour? I boiled up, plunged the plunger, and poured. And it worked! The rich hint of dark chocolate actually lingers at the back of the cup! It's pleasant, it's not overpowering, and actually, it's probably got a helluva lot less sugar than you would get in your traditionally made mochaccino. So maybe this is the H2Go Chocolate Milk's future? Not as a refreshing cold alternative to Coke, but as a healthy-ish coffee alternative. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

Adult Gig review: Guns n Roses, Not in This Lifetime Tour, Westpac Stadium

Earliler this week, as Guns n Roses landed in Wellington, I made a joke. I should've known not to really, as it turned into a self fulfilling prophecy.



Because the weather last night was awful. I rocked up to the stadium on an eerily empty train around a quarter to six, hoping the lines might be short enough to get in relatively quickly and settle down to see support act Wolfmother. The wind was driving a heavy shower across the Fram Wilde Walkway, and I was not regretting any of the four layers I had packed myself in. Reaching the queue for the gate, it soon became apparent that it was not moving at all, and sure enough, soon across the PA system came a message apologising for a 'technical weather-related issue' preventing the gates from opening at the advertised time of 5pm. So we waited, in driving rain, the wind getting up, on an exposed, elevated slab of concrete. Phone battery steadily decreased. Finally, at 6.30, fifteen minutes before the opening act was due to start, the line started moving, and we were in! Just enough time to grab a cider drink and a lager drink (Stadium drinks limits prevented the addition of a whiskey drink and a vodka drink for the true rock n roll experience), grab my wristband allowing me access to the pitch, and I entered the bowl just as Wolfmother took to the stage.

Bling

Wolfmother performed with a flourish, and probably deserve more of a review than half a sentence, but then the wait for the main act started. Through the week, promoters had been promising an 8 o'clock start, saying Axl Rose's diva behaviour and habits of forcing crowds to wait hours before starting had mellowed with time, and were firmly a thing of the past now. So hopes were high of a short wait. 8 o clock came and went.

So did half past 8.

I could feel my refreshments working their way down my bladder. I knew if I made a dash to the toilet, it would no doubt be sure to bring the band to the stage. There was no other option though: I pushed my way back from my position near the front of our section, and made a dash into the stands.

I got back. 8.45 came and went. Finally, at five to nine, with a brag that they 'put the punk back into punctuality', there they were.

Slash, ageless in his top hat and glasses, but presumably due to stadium smoking regulations, minus his trademark cigarette.

Duff, his bass proudly sporting Prince's symbol, as if to boast that although 2016 had killed off half the world's musicians, somehow it left its most dangerous rock band untouched.

Richard Fortus, Slash's replacement since 2002, but looking like he'd been there all along.

A Fred Durst look-a-like on the drums. I mean, he was wearing a red cap backwards, anyway.

And Axl. Not the bloated, past it Axl who became a punchline with his rotating pool of session musicians in the early 2000s. But not the skinny, runty Axl of the late 80s and early 90s, threatening to tear the band apart at any moment with his self-absorbed douchery either. Maybe he has finally matured. His voice may not be quite what it was 25 years back, but he was committed to this performance, ripping in to It Ain't Easy, following up with Mr Brownstone. Four songs in and we were being screamed at that we were in the jungle, and we were gonna dieeeeeeee. It was a cold and wet jungle, but there were fireworks, and it was fun, and no one cared any more about the late start.

Axl, making sure the wheels don't fall off once more

I was in the cheap seats, which were a slight misnomer, being general admission (standing), and upwards of 170 dollars plus booking fees. Still, from half a stadium back, there were few problems with view of the stage, and with massive screens flanking either side, it didn't really matter. The acoustics of Westpac stadium have never been great for any of the three concerts I've attended there, but no one seemed to care, this was Guns n Roses, a band no one had thought they'd ever see again, let alone in NZ, and they weren't going to let slightly sub-par acoustics derail it.

Hit followed megahit, interspersed by the odd lesser known song from Chinese Democracy, then by slightly indulgent Slash guitar solo. Perhaps fittingly, he ripped into the theme from The Godfather, then segueing into the opening riff of Sweet Child of Mine, and 32,000 voices rose, and screamed back at Axl about  smiles that remind of childhood memories, and faces that take away to special places, and the nostalgia was real. Because this song is our childhood memories, and this place seems so very special right now.

And the rain continued to come down. Or rather, horizontally into our faces, because this is Wellington, and there's wind, too. But nobody cared, not the fans. Not Axl, who was getting  drenched in water and sweat and changing shirt and jacket every second song. Not the music journalists, who were writing Cold February Rain headlines in their heads. No one.

Yeah, I was guilty of that one too


Through the furious last quarter of the set (Slash and Fortus duelling on Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here! Axl getting the ivories and intense pyrotechnics out for November Rain! Knockin' on Heaven's Door! And of course Nightrain!) and they were gone, off the stage. I had just enough time to wonder if Axl would leave us waiting half an hour for an encore, and they were back, with Don't Cry, a cover of the Who's the Seeker featuring inexplicably creepy tuatara audio visuals, and a stonking run through Paradise City with more fireworks to finish. It was lapped up by everyone.

Given the pyrotechnical imagery, I'm wondering if November rain
is more akin to some sort of golden shower 

Except maybe by the guy standing next to me on the train home, who made his views loudly known whilst we waited 15 minutes to depart the station ('who's driving this thing, Axl Rose?'). Apparently the sound was awful, Axl can't sing, the wristband system for audience on the field was overkill, the opening number was a weird choice, they shouldn't have done a Who cover in the encore, and they didn't play Patience. But you know what? That guy can GGF.

Because for three hours, Wellington was in the presence of a band that a year ago most thought they'd never see together again. And despite the rain, despite the wind, despite getting a bit passively stoned, it was a bloody awesome three hours.



Monday, 23 January 2017

A theory about Paw Patrol, from a parent who has been subjected to it a few too many times

My 3 1/2 year old son and I frequently enjoy a bit of bonding time, and our recent trip to Australia provided us with the perfect opportunity when we both came down with gastroenteritis within hours of each other. As my wife and the 20 month old left for some mother-daughter time at the swimming pool, we lay on our respective couches, bowls and water bottles close at hand, and watched hours upon hours of the Nickelodeon Kids Channel. From this experience, I can report many things:

1. Parenting a sick child is harder when you're struggling to keep down your own stomach contents.
2. Sam the temporary Yellow Wiggle has found meaningful employment since his cruel axing when Greg briefly returned to the band in 2013.
3. Hi-5 are more multi-talented than I had previously given them credit for in my opinion of them as a knock-off Wiggles.
4. Despite 20+ years of practice, Alvin and the Chipmunks still have horrible singing voices.
5. Preschoolers have little understanding of what 'just take small sips so it doesn't come straight back up' actually means.

I also learned a helluva lot more about the Paw Patrol than I had previously known. Chief amongst my learnings was that local nautical enthusiast Captain Turbot is almost certainly the absent father of Fireman Sam's Norman Price: the absent minded disaster-prone nature, the myopia, it all adds up. I know some feel Sam himself must be Norman's dad, but would a responsible pillar of society who's personal motto is 'safety first' really have accidentally begat such a little shit?

Such an open-shut paternity case it doesn't even need a Jeremy Kyle episode

Except, in all likelihood, Captain Turbot probably isn't Norman Price's long lost father, because my second realisation was that none of the happenings in Paw Patrol are likely to be real. A clue to this is that the show centres around a group of six talking, driving puppies. We know that it is possible to teach dogs to drive: there's televisual evidence that John Campbell managed that in the first of his miracles on the path to Twitter Sainthood. (His second miracle, of course, was uniting the Internet in mild dislike of Guy Williams, after Guy stole his 7pm weekday TV3 time slot, #ThanksALotGuy). But to teach them to talk as well? I'm not sure even JC could manage that.

No, instead, the goings on that Paw Patrol depict are the creation of the fevered imagination of lonely Adventure Bay adolescent Ryder. It's not just the talking dogs that give this away, either... In what reality would the mayor of a humming city not only rely on a youthful tween and his six canine pals to keep the town from falling into chaos, but also carry around a pet chicken in her purse everywhere she goes? Indeed, Mayor Goodway is so disorganised, so prone to comical gaffes, it is a wonder she got elected in the first place. Though to be fair, Invercargill do keep electing Tim Shadbolt.

How else, but through the power of imagination, would a 11,12 at most year old be able to afford a fully pimped out tower base, with high tech vehicles, and a spiral slide around the outside? A slide! Not a standard emergency exit or chute, but a fairground attraction! And where is the operating budget coming from when the type of emergencies dealt with include helping baby turtles cross the road, or assisting geese on their migration? Sure, occasionally the squad may perform a lucrative out-of-hours plumbing job if the local swimming pool has maintenance issues, though these are few and far between. And even when an emergency like a potential train derailment is on the cards, the adolescent mind can think  of stakes no higher than the possibility of the latest Pup Pup Boogie not being delivered on time.



But is Ryder's over-active imagination really a bad thing? He's clearly lonely, without any other children his age. Sure, there's Alex Porter, the apparently parentless impressionable young lad under the care of his grandfather. Alex is half Ryder's age, and would surely be easily convinced to play along with the older boy's make believe games involving a linguistically advanced crew of rescue dogs if it helps him fit in with the older child. And there is Katie, a girl of a similar age who Ryder is clearly sooo desperate to impress. So with no obvious parental guidance of his own, it's not surprising that Ryder will disappear into an imaginary world of his own, where he's on equal footing with adults in positions of power, where there is no greater civic honour than winning a hot air balloon race or a game of football against the next town over (which of course has an immaturely rude name in Foggy Bottom), where he gets to ride his very own quad bike that turns into a hovercraft at the press of a switch, and of course where he controls a team of hyper-intelligent pups who will obey his every command.

It's clearly a developed coping mechanism. And really, who are we to judge Ryder so harshly, when he's ignored by his parents and has so few peers to associate with that he has to create this make believe world? Maybe we should just sit back and enjoy it with him, as he controls Chase, Zuma, Marshall, Rocky, Rubble and Skye through various imagined scenarios, in his quest to become Katie's true Adventure Bae.