Ask

A typical confused Internet Warrior offsetting negative ions with a peace lily

Sadly, this is not about that great The Smiths song, it’s about something we don’t talk about enough in society: Computer Illiteracy in the Third Age.

More than ever, the elderly (people over the age of 48) are turning to their computer machines to use applications such as the ASK toolbar, Yahoo as a search engine, and to unwittingly download the full version of AVG because it offers full protection from hackers, who are young men who wear hoodies and gloves while hacking in the dark while no-one else is looking.

Hackers always dress this way, it’s very common and even though they are alone in a room probably, wear masks and hoodies and also drink V

Print this out and give it to someone you love, someone who is wrestling with the Internet. I’ll increase the font to the largest that this here WordPress will allow.

 

1. Check you aren’t just writing a private message to a family member in your own status bar

2. Stop fucking installing the ASK toolbar. Once you have it, you can never get rid of it. Well, you can but I’ll have to do it next time I’m over

3. You can take a screenshot of your screen without using your phone

4. You do not need to switch the entire computer off every time you have finished using it

5. When Microsoft ring to talk about the breach of security on your computer, remember you have an “iPad” which is from a different company. But ffs don’t tell them this. It’s ok to not have a long conversation with someone who is scamming you. They won’t think you are not being polite. The Bridge group will not find out

6. Yahoo is now sponsored by Rich Dad. I know you like this idea but everything you type into the search area will lead you to Rich Dad

7. You can watch a YouTube clip of Nigel Kennedy for free, with the notes he’s playing at the bottom of the screen while you have a New World Graham Norton sav

8. I’ll do a full virus scan of your computer next time I’m around

9. I see you have put some favourites on your toolbar. I did not know you knew how to do that. I see you have Quotable Value, your local council and EzyBuy there

10. How come your printer is there? Next to the John Grisham novels? That poinsettia is doing well though even though it was moved. It seems that you might need to go to refill your ink cartridges quite soon, also

 

OMG this was exhausting to write. Next time on The Sane Companion: Existentialism: Fad or Something to really think about?

Magnamail Magic

What do you reckon is the wackiest thing you can get from the Magnamail catalogue?

Is it the cat that you place on your lawn, with glowing eyes, that scares away birds?

Is it the hip-and-cool Mom tracksuits, polyester throughout?

Is it the food umbrella, wide enough to protect all of your cold-cuts from pesky bugs?

As I write this I’m tempted to buy all the paraphernalia that goes with lap-top based work. Surely there’s some sort of robot tray that will also hold my cup of Horlicks and my latest copy of Best Bets, perhaps there’s some kind of foot rest that’s on such an incredible angle, maybe made for people who also bought the Hobbit feet in the footwear section, what about a lumbar pillow to cure my sciatica…people, let’s find out!

1. Armrest organiser

M8 look at this! I’d swap out the Healthy Meals for Suduku, but apart from that, while I sit in my comfy lounger listening to Leighton Smith tearing a caller a new one, I can relax in the knowledge that my television can simultaneously be tuned into the ads about the oven that cooks with air.

2. Heater for ants

While I’m surfin’ up a storm using the ASK toolbar that somehow got there, I can plug this in—wow, so safe! I’m grateful it has two ‘on’ switches, for safety.

3. Reading Tray

The description is very specific.

“Now you can comfortably read, write or complete crosswords with this Reading Tray! Ideal to use on your bed or in your favourite chair, the sturdy design supports heavy books, while the bottom lip keeps magazines and iPads firmly in place…” (Source: Magnamail)

But I’m sure I can fit my Dell Inspiron on here too. Must look into the homewares section to get some of the hospital chic used in this photograph.

4. Support Cushion

This is going so well, I’m nearly there with my needs. This cushion will transfer to any seated situation, from coffee at BB’s Cafe, Meadowlands, to me driving errands in my Nissan Cube. I’ve just remembered I have the good seats for Celine Dion too! This cushion will be perfect to take and will not annoy the shit out of anyone at all.

5. Shower Rug

Ok, I may have got a bit sidetracked here, but this seems eminently sensible to me: a rug for the shower. They say it won’t get moldy, but it doesn’t matter because I’m a Life Member of the Shower Witch Society, and we members all have literally 80 litres of Shower Witch on standby at any given time.

So there we have it, what a glorious company, you should go there right now and get yourself an incredibly confusing set of Buddhas who are both laughing, but also not seeing, hearing or speaking evil.

Rites of Passage: “Mum I’m quite surprised because I got School C!”

Once upon a time, in Fifth Form (Year 11), I took some subjects at school.

I was asked to know my exact career path at age 15, and being from a fairly middle-class and therefore fortunate family, I simply answered with the first thing that came into my head:

Um I’ll take florist please.

With that over and done with I just randomly checked some boxes and ended up in French and Geography thinking they sounded nice.

The qualification was then School Certificate. I remember it being content-driven, meaning I’d be “taught” by my “teacher”. My teacher would do all of the talking, and would stand in front of the blackboard and draw diagrams with chalk.  We’d write down the content in our 1B5 hardcover books.

My geography teacher warned us about our exams from the minute we started class on the first day. We got used to hearing helpful reminders such as:

You think exams are in November, well they’re closer than you think

Oh, how we laughed at this nonsense, and went back to writing notes to our friends and planning what colour taffeta we’d wear for next year’s ball.

Suddenly it was term four and we’d done no work all year nor any study. My florist career was already in tatters and there were no Coles Notes for Geography or French.

There was only one thing for it, and that was to make it all up and hope for the best.

The English exam went ok. On the morning I packed a pretty tight plastic bag with things like protractors and a compass to make myself look more scholarly.

All of my transactional pieces ended with “Thank goodness it was all a dream”, because they were rubbish stories.  Possibly what got me through this exam was the helpful anecdote about Tennessee Williams’ sister being the first person in America to have a frontal lobotomy, the only thing I could remember about A Streetcar Named Desire.

French was tough. We were made to listen to some cassette tapes of scenarios. For example, Thierry getting told off by his mother.  I managed to work out that the whole family were going to the pool though, and that felt good.

On to Mathematics. Not my strength by any stretch but still the compass and protractor finally came into their own.

Geography was easy. I can still describe to you what orographic rain is, and that Auckland is an isthmus, and write a creative paragraph about California’s varied land forms and weather.

Science was ok, apart from the chemistry and physics parts, and by then, it was nearly holiday time and I no longer cared about my future.

In January the results came in. To my surprise, I had passed everything except French, only because everything was scaled up. Because of scaling, so that the education system could attain its all-important “bell curve”, three of my grades were in the late sixties. I passed mathematics. What a shitty cohort we must have been.

The following year, we were thrown into the first experimental year of Sixth Form Certificate and I spent a year mounting things onto thick cardboard for no good reason, and staring into the educational abyss, and wondering if I’d wear leg-of-mutton sleeves with my backless dress, and whether my date would be shorter than me because of the heels.

Great New Zealand Archetypes: Extremely Extreme Sports Dad

 

The Everyman idea is a fallacy.

The guy who refers to himself as “just a regular dad” is, in fact, Extremely Extreme Sports Dad, oft spotted doing the school run.

He can do it because he’s his own boss. He heads up a consultancy firm that specialises in oblique business messaging. He comes and he goes. You never really know what he actually does, but on pay day, an earth mover arrives and dumps an unfeasible amount of cash into the back pocket of his jean shorts.

To add insult to injury, Extremely Extreme Sports Dad rocks up to the school run in his Extreme Sport clothes. That’s how we know what he’s into.

Clima-dri™weaves cover his body as if he’s about to do the London–Dakar, but Olympic-walking it.

He also runs. How do we know? He’s always got a strapped thigh—sorry—Extremely Strapped Thigh.  He bikes. He’s got a ten-speed. Or is it a twelve-speed? Old school.

Extremely Extreme Sports Dad’s real name is probably Jonathan or Graham. He went to Auckland Grammar, where he was Extreme Head Boy.

He’s got a soft side. He’s got daughters. He knows all about how long the women take to get ready. And that’s about all he knows.

He’s 6 foot five, taller than anyone else.  The children gather around him after school as he stops to have an Extremely Important chat with another budding alpha male (let’s call him Lachie). Who will win the conversation is anyone’s guess, but Jonathan is a disrupter in the consultancy world, and Lachie is afraid.

On Saturday, he’s on the football sideline, egging on his sons into a world of Extreme Sporting. Then they’re off, into the ten seater with someone else’s kids too for a big Saturday.

Later that night, Juliette and Rog are coming around for relaxing drinks and nibbles. The group will sprawl out onto the deck while Extremely Extreme Sports dad demonstrates his new drone.

And it’s over, another packed day. Soon it’s Monday again, time to do the school run, this time in a land yacht.

DWTSNZ: My Jam

What would you dance to on Dancing With The Stars, if you had to? Tonight’s stars chose a range of hits that fitted a rock vibe, ruined only by Robbie Rakete dancing to Whitney Houston.

Dai Henwood was allowed to be a little more Benny Hill in his delivery, slipping in a few clangers that were noticed mainly by the judges.

First up was Shav. Dai’s assessment at the end seemed to sum up this performance:

…even though you were buffing the floor like a high-school janitor

It’s all here on New Zealand’s Dancing With The Stars. If you’ve missed the episode, just shut your eyes and imagine Shav being dragged around the floor by one arm, for charity. The dance stunts are becoming increasingly complex. I just realised why Shav shortened her name; is it because texters can’t spell Shavaughn? Beautiful dancing and so much genuine emotion. And Shav looks stunning, and boy does she believe in her cause.

Next up was Roger. Of course he chose a difficult band and a difficult song.  Nothing Else Matters is a waltz just like anything by Strauss; it’s a classic of its kind, but unfortunately Roger was so wooden I actually felt a bit angry. He looked like a boy from the St Kent’s Senior Ball being made to dance with his first and only girlfriend from Epsom Girls’, and she’s well into metal ‘n’ shit.

Rog: nothing else matters

I do wish Rog would let up on his radio-announcing voice for one minute. I’m half expecting him to turn to the camera and remind us to update our life insurance policy through Sigma, partners in this show.

Sam and Aaron did ‘whimsy’ with Florence and the Machine as an accompaniment. I couldn’t look away from Sam’s dress which reminded me of those toilet seats with resin set with flowers. In a good way.

You can’t go past her partner, Aaron Gilmore and his one stud earring. He’s super-lithe and ridiculously good-looking. I hope these two get married at the end of the show.

And then, like a live-feed from the Acapulco Lounge on the Sea Princess, judges Julz and Rachel hit the floor to show all those other amateurs how it’s done. Dressed in matching Jarrah Jaffa-coloured outfits, Julz looked like he’d cashed in his Sylvia Park voucher for a $200 makeover. The spray-tan is up to 11!

Julz and Rach: tans

Jess and Johnny are a crowd favourite and chose festival favourite Six60 for their jam. It immediately made me want to start drinking large plastic cups filled with Speight’s. After a seamless fuck-up the week before, undetected by no-one but the judges, they sashayed around the floor and I really wondered how Jess was doing this. She is an amazing woman.

Let us pause for a minute on Zac.  Sadly, Zac looked like he was made to wear a lengthened version of David Seymour’s jacket from episode two. He ripped it off within three seconds revealing an orange sleeveless garment, as shiny as his Soul Glo hair. Kirstie was previously bereft in the backstory for the week, as this episode is her Judgement Day. Don’t worry though, Zac bought his special Kelvin Cruickshank-issue tarot cards and thinks the odds are in their favour. Sadly, the dance was awful.

Zac: pleather and Soul Glo

Meanwhile Naz is in the bit where they hold the stars while they wait for their turn. Another medical drama has befallen her, this time her partner’s knee is bust, but she will dance alone if she has to.

Cut to Dai who by now cannot wait any longer to drop his finest double entendre:

Thanks judges, a lot of swelling down there.

Robbie Rakete is next in the line-up and I have a major flashback to his days on Sea Urchins. The ageless one isn’t the greatest dancer in town, and neither am I, I remind myself ,as I sit relentlessly judging these poor people from my couch. My own style is “lovable donkey” and Rakete is way better than this. But is he good enough?

We find out by contrasting his set with that of Chris Harris who is getting more tanned and lithe each week. He’s dressed in extremely tight but breathable dance fabrics, and apart from the fact that his free hand is constantly in a fist (and there’s nothing wrong with that), he’s looking more relaxed by the minute.

Tomorrow great mysteries appear, such as: Why is David Seymour almost naked, will Suzy Cato bring her children and perhaps some stray animals she adopted on at the end, and will Naz’s date turn up?

DWTSNZ: Hashtag Cringe

Everybody rock your body (Credit: ThreeNow)

 

Dancing With The Stars New Zealand can only be described as a good night out at the Cosmopolitan Club, the proviso being that you’ve pre-loaded at home with a few hundred chardonnays and one Snax topped with tasty cheese.

We’re watching it though, or thinking about it. Those of us who piously announce they are refusing to engage with it sit—furious they said this publicly—with the TV set tuned to something much more important at 7.30, such as a documentary on The Eagles or pretending to watch the one about the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, on TV3, 12 celebrities, ostensibly chosen because of their strong desire to raise money for charidee, strap on man-made fibres and Cuban heels and are rendered barely able to walk in a straight line let alone dance, for the next 10 weeks.

Let that sink in. Ten weeks is a school term. At the end of one school term, you will emerge from this fog of dancing. You won’t recognise your children any longer, and you’ll be tripping over the stack of Woman’s Day magazines that you hate-bought so you could read the exclusive inside story about how Zac has real feelings, and how David Seymour never gave up hope that his dance partner would finally say yes to a date.

In essence the premise of the show does work. That’s because there’s at least one or two half-decent personalities who viewers probably want to see do well, if not win.

And then there’s David Seymour. Seymour performed his first dance last night. My Sharona is a good song. Seymour emerged from the mists of time dressed “rocker styles”. Cut-away to the dressing room:

Just make me look cool. I missed my chance at Grammar. What does cool look like and make me that

There was one sequence where he danced alone. His body blurred into what looked like one of the more disturbing Francis Bacon portraits; a wash of purple surrounding a maniacally enthusiastic face.

He did ok. What can we expect from ACT?

Another character called Shav danced the previous night. People on Twitter were saying things like “You go girl” and “Shav is owning this show”. With names like Suzy, Shav, Robert and David, this show sounded increasingly like the workplace function of a small-to-medium accounting firm in Lower Hutt.

The exception was of course Marama Fox. Fox could actually dance. She can dance, and this is because she doesn’t care what people think of her.

Other contestants were wound up, rigor mortis styles. They were so stiff that the judges were really needing to dig deep for the good comments. One judge got around the poor dancing prowess of Zac Franich by sexually harassing him in front of the nation.

Over to the judges, we had the three main archetypes of humanity: the bitchy one, the voice of reason and the cool dad (who modelled in Milan for a few months once).

Dai Henwood is now just ringing it in and gutted he can’t say words like “fuckin’ ” and “cock”.

Who will go home first? Predictably it won’t be Suzy Cato. She really pulled out the big guns last night, mainly by having her children join her at the end. Ain’t no one going to vote her off.

David Seymour won’t last. People can’t take much more of this guy and his surrealist notions and outlook.

The text machine will decide, and New Zealand will, once again select the innocuous, honest broker from the bank of smiles, because the text machine has an unlimited text add-on and a penchant for Jude Dobson.

It’s a terrible beauty we’ve made: MAFSAU

Drinking/wife swap (Photo credit: Nine)

Telv took one look at Sarah and thought she was a bit of a looker.

Troy has been trying to get his leg over his wife Ashley for weeks now.

Dean (nearly all the men have four-letter names) cried at the final commitment ceremony then ungraciously took a dumping from Tracey. He looked over a fence in shame.

Tracey has a signed Oprah photograph. Dean’s a Creative in a Creative Industry who can rap and skate.

John Aitken sat, blue-blazered, serious, and recapped the same old thing over and over for eight weeks.

Couples will have to decide whether there’s enough in this for the marriage to work.

Trish, hands folded together, nodded in agreement. The judges/psychologists have the sex appeal of Glad Wrap. They are also the experts.

Have I been watching this for eight weeks?

Each week, more or less, the same things happen. Dean and Tracey revisit Dean’s affair with Davina. The women, all desperate to stop their eye makeup running, dab at eye-corners with Kleenex while sitting on a couch. John’s couch, their sister’s couch, the couch in the shared tiny bridal apartment. Nobody does anything, really, except sit on a couch, drink, and cry. Sometimes Dean looks over the balcony holding a longneck.

Now and then a sound-effects technician pushes the gong or cymbals button on their computer. We’d never know this was a turning point in the plot without those cues. A salty Gabrielle to Nasser:

Bad luck, Donald Duck! (crash)

John and Melissa talk about their upcoming long-distance relationship, which John seems pretty excited about.

The week’s roller-coaster of tête-à-tête culminates in a group dinner that resembles a workplace Christmas do.

It’s a table in a studio somewhere littered with large wine glasses of Chardonnay and Lindauer. Nobody truly eats the food, just like a real work function.

The couples neck as much booze as possible in order to fuel an imagined slight by their partner. If nothing is lighting the touchpaper, the producers take the only two options left: fill up the glasses even more, or drag out a terrible game of I’m Going To Ask You Everything.

Such a sensible idea.

Can I trust you? It’s just a simple question. Yes or no.

Sometimes small groups break out into other rooms for private chats. Charlene invariably yells out “be a man” to both her own and others’ partners.

And the credits roll, but not before we’ve been previewed the entire contents of tomorrow’s episode. Trish’s face of concern, John’s hair, and Dean’s sweaty mug, all in varying states of either bewilderment or horror.

Married at First Sight is like terrible beauty. It’s hard to stop watching, once you’ve started.

It enables us to compare our own relationship experiences to something highly abnormal, and feel better.

Rites of Passage: The Parental Long-Haul at Chipmunks

A real chipmunk eating a spicy wedge

One of the great tests of parental strength is the inevitable trip to Chipmunks, an indoor play area for babies to 11 year olds, even though if you’re lucky, sometimes you might see a five-year-old knocked aside like a skittle on the giant bouncy slide by an 18-year-old who has nothing else to do in Pakuranga on a Sunday.

I’ve just got home, poured myself a glass of wine, looked out the window and said

 

Why?

into the late-afternoon abyss.

I get it, don’t get me wrong. Kids want birthday parties so they can share their special milestone with their friends and sit in an MDF throne for an hour whilst hair-netted servants bring them boxes of highly processed foods.

In the main hub, children are let loose to explore the well-worn boxing bags, and duck, dive and weave their way through plastic balls shot out of makeshift canons. I’m told that these balls house the kinds of bacteria that can survive a nuclear blast, and probably that’s what’s needed, given that they are stored in seven-year-old boys’ jeans for hours at a time, then carelessly re-entered into the next play session.

As the paper towel bins overflow with moist bacteria-sodden colonies, the regulars, the Chipmunks-professionals, sit at tables on their devices, oblivious to the fact that 11-year-old Tarquin is currently causing havoc on the preschool slide, and who cares, because you can sit there and drink flat whites until you are technically high, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can get the barista to slip you a shot of fake whiskey or—even better—take your own hip flask and get amongst.

You are then summonsed into an ante-room, laid out with boy or girl place-mats and eat-wear. Little eyes wait as the boxes of nourishment arrive and then WHAM. The biggest fucking Chipmunk you’ve ever seen materialises through the door, scaring the living shit out of small people, but ultimately it’s only benevolently there to dish out silent good vibes and perhaps a discount on your next visit.

The candles are lit, there’s one more chance to play in the heat and nausea and smell of Chipmunks, and then please proceed to the parents, now working in deficit, to collect your lovingly made goodie bag filled with gifts even better than what you bought for the birthday person.

And out you go onto Te Rakau Drive and through Panmure, surely the subject of another blog altogether with its multi-laned roundabout of death.

Next time on The Sane Companion: Panmure: The Roundabout of Death.

 

 

 

Rites of Passage: The Dental Nurse

Mrs Marsh (RIP) used to scare the living bejesus out of us with her tooth horrors.

Back in 1981 the dental nurse was on-site at most primary and intermediate schools throughout New Zealand.

We had one at Owairoa Primary School. The nurse had a tight ringlet perm and she played rock music on her wireless. Around the clinic were posters of rotten gums, but it was okay.

Once a year you could enter a competition where you decorated a toothbrush and made it into a character. You won a place, first, second or third.

We called it the Murderhouse but it was part of school life and hardly any fillings were actually needed. Mrs Marsh was breaking chalk on Television One and there was no way we wanted that to happen to our developing teeth.

Nowadays, the dental clinics are off-site, the posters have changed and the messages about teeth are vastly different.

I was in one last week with my five year old. Let it be known that overall, she is an emotionally transparent girl. No emotion is unexpressed. No situation is taken quietly. She is full of lifeforce, and she lets it be known to all.

She needed a filling.

As a mother, once you’ve whipped yourself 100 times, Opus Dei-styles, for allowing things to get to cavity-level, you suck one down and front. This is about you, not your child.

Nothing you can say can prepare your child for the dental nurse. You can’t even bribe them with sweets. All you can do is offer them an extra hour on the iPad as you pledge to redesign the dietary intake of your entire household so you never have to go through this again.

Your child is positioned on the chair, the chair that used to be the cool rocket ship ride of yore, is now an instrument of utter terror, and your child, so rigid with fear that you could snap them in half, begins to loudly complain.

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

It’s very loud, and the other rooms, populated with calm children, go utterly silent.

Sadly, the dental nurse, with years of experience in treating small children, has never encountered this kind of thing apparently. You defensively shrug and just pray that the ground will open up and swallow you whole.

On top of this the dental nurse, for the next half an hour tries to calm the child down—loudly in an octave above what would be considered a natural voice—by explaining every single process in lengthy detail, including the composition of the filling, right through to how the suction hose works on other parts of the body.

By the time the water jet/suction hose combo hit your child’s mouth, the gurgling/screaming sound is something that someone should really record for a horror movie about a person who gets sucked into a dysfunctional spa pool.

By this stage you’re mentally planning which Chardonnay to buy on your way home, and whether you could mainline it for quicker effect, but you soldier on, your hands now crushed into a bloody pulp by the Amazonian strength of your five year old.

It’s over, the chair is lowered, and your child, now glowing bright red jumps into your arms, and actually you feel so proud of her.

You realise that your child is never going to suffer fools, dental nurses, pain or anything else, in silence.

You flash back to how much you held in over your life yourself, and you vow to allow your children to really let it rip when they need to, despite the social niceties of decorum and sanity. Not as brats, but as small humans who will lose the chance to scream a dental clinic down once they reach adulthood.

 

Toy Review: Growing Pet

Those of us on a budget, who do not buy Hatchimals, attempt to save the $99 by buying the $2 shop Growing Pet. Sometimes we say things like:

Look, Tarquin. You can get five or six of these for only $10. Think how many pets you can hatch!

We say it enthusiastically enough that even the children know we are lying, but still, since delayed gratification isn’t a child’s strong point, they buy into the bullshit line and, after the Saturday afternoon trip to Countdown to buy the evening dinner and twelve dozen beers, they traipse after you into the 1 2 3 Dollar Store, eyes filled with wonder.

They’re over here!

you yell out, a little louder than you had intended. You look at the packaging, nothing more than a small box printed with some of the most misleading information, ever.

There is no marble in this toy, anywhere.

According to this box, you will hatch a real live dinosaur, one that will grow to love Tarquin so much, one that will never leave his side. Not only that, one that (as soon as he tires of its ways) can be replaced for a mere $2. What could possibly go wrong?

This little fella LOVES a bath and can be taken to school etc

He grips it in his little hope-filled hands and you leave the store, the bottles of booze rattling temptingly in the trolley as Tarquin turns the box over and over, trying to fathom (and rightly so) how such a massive T-Rex could live inside this chicken-sized egg, made of plastic, on a shelf, in Meadowbank, Auckland.

Once home, you and he excitedly fill a drinking glass with water, rip the box open and drop the egg in, all the while you explain that at some point according to the instructions, you’ll need to fill a bathtub for the creature to live in so it can continue to grow.

Even though your child insists that dinosaurs really don’t live in water, you refuse to listen.

The very next morning little Tarquin is up early, to see the results. He rushes in to where you are sleeping, or trying to complete your morning sex rituals, and shouts

Guys! Look! It’s hatched!

He thrusts the glass into your face, and indeed, through the gel-like murk something bright green seems to have emerged from the shell, much of which has either dissolved or cracked.

Sleepily, you promise to buy a huge enclosure for the pet, reassuring Tarquin that it’s best to put the dinosaur back in the water and let it thrive even more, within the primordial sludge of the gelatinous mass in the tumbler.

Later that day a disappointed Tarquin fronts. He holds it up to you, with a small object for context. Indeed, the dinosaur is around 3cm in length and looks like nothing more than a crudely modified rhinosauros. If that.

You realise that no longer can you draw out this pathetic farce and drag your pummeled credit card out, to buy a Hatchimal, a toy that lasts one day and costs $99.

You slug back another beer, knowing that Tarquin is now happily entrenched in rampant consumerism, and it’s all your fault.

Hi, my name is Tarquin. I don’t watch Game of Thrones.

Scene:  A typical white middle class drink-up.  It’s late.  People are barefoot and sitting on the floor.

Jonathan:  (pouring a large bowl of Pinot)

So, is everyone ready for Game of Thrones?

Helen:

Oh yes. It’s amazing.

And people break off into small private conversations about other shows they are currently watching featuring home bakes, gun battles and guys with wires. These folk live in Meadowbank, Auckland. They drive a large Skoda to work and attend the Catholic Church just next to Countdown.

But there is one, just one human here who is different.  He is quiet. He is measured. His drink of choice is a Tiger beer straight from the bottle. He’s been listening, silently necking 25 standard drinks in the face of this gathering. Out of nowhere, he says:

I’ve never watched it.

You could slice through the indignation with one of the swords of Visenya Targaryen or whoever.

Jonathan rises, calmly resting his Pinot on the occasional table, made from blonde wood sourced ethically from Freedom.

What did you say, Tarquin?

Tarquin shrugs.

I dunno, I watched one episode and small kids were being murdered and there was rape in bulk format.

Jonathan is incensed.

He pulls out a small handgun and slowly orientates it sideways.  The people in the room are beautifully turned to tilt shift miniatures.  The glow of the room is stunning as Jonathan’s sweaty trigger finger becomes the focus.  Ex-members of Linkin Park are brought in to create an overproduced soundtrack—like listening to music while having your eardrums dewaxed.

The kind of occasional table you might find in this situation.

The kind of occasional table you might find in this situation.

Tarquin squints his eyes, tears seeping like broken guttering.  He shakes his head.

You won’t Jonathan.  You can’t.  You’re just like me.  All of you.  Just like me!

Helen, still in miniature tilt shot form, is seen stirring in the background.  Suddenly she looms at Jonathan and knocks the cocked piece from his hand.  It slides over the floor, ricocheting off the Ottoman and into the feature wall, discharging its magazine into the Smeg brushed aluminium dishwasher. One bullet lodges itself into the bottom independent dish drawer. The other, in slow motion, redirects to Tarquin’s thigh. He screams like some kind of wounded extra from The Wire.

Oh well.  That’s the price you pay. It’s only $10 a month.

says Jonathan in a cruel voice, one he would normally use when turning a client down for finance.

He sits down in his special large leather chair, the one no-one, not even the kids are allowed to sit in. He fingers his vast glass receptacle of red wine, and watches Tarquin squeal and cry on the Cavalier Bremworth “Cromwell Autumn” carpet.

The room is back in normal focus. The guests return to sit in small groups. Nora Jones is now the background music. Jonathan places his index finger on the Sky menu button and selects SoHo>Game of Thrones>Series Link.

The room is silent, except for the screams of little Tarquin.

 

20100326_ciarinhinds-silo_250x375

Ciaran waiting for his MySky to warm up.

 

 

 

Rites of Passage: Skateaway to Paradice

Coz this is Thriller

 

I was an awkward teen, a late starter in every way possible.

I seemed to hit puberty later than everyone else. I lost my virginity at 18, way after everyone else.

All through school until I left, I was a virgin who, sadly, grew up in the awkward 80s, wearing shit fashions, awkwardly, flat-chestedly trying to find my niche.

I never really did.

I was happy though. Partly, it was because I didn’t know anything. I was an ignorant, awkward, non-sporting, only-just-in-the-upper-band plain girl. There wasn’t the height for netball, there wasn’t the speed for sprinting, there wasn’t the parental income for impressive Reeboks. My main talents were distracting classmates with notes with jokes on them and knowing all the lyrics to Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

I had the immense privilege of being ignorant.

Back then, as I now helpfully explain to my kids, we didn’t have the Internet. We had places to ‘hang out’; either friends’ bedrooms, or public spaces like Paradice and Skateaway, which were the two local roller- and ice-skating franchised emporiums.

I’d spend every weekend at Skateaway. They had sessions from 2–4pm, and the buildup was immense. Mum or dad were forced to drive us there, dropping us dutifully over the road from the venue, before speeding off into the afternoon of preparing the chicken thigh casserole and warming up Channel One for Stars on Sunday.

My friend and I would line up. The cool kids brought their own skates and had square cigarette packet bulges in their back pockets. We’d stand in the “To Hire” queue, a much less bespoke experience, but a chance to dial the adrenaline up to 11, while mentally ticking the roll: that’s Jason; he’s in Form Four at Pakuranga College. There’s Toby; he’s currently suspended because he walked over to the Paparoa Road dairy during social studies and stole a K-Bar. There’s Tanya, she has a roll-bag and does gymnastics.

Here’s me. I’m 14. I have a wallet with Good Times emblazoned on it. I’ve never kissed anyone, and I’m wearing baggy jeans and a fisherman’s rib jumper. No part of my body can be seen except my face, which is made-up with a rudimentary blue eye-shadow and a clear lip-gloss.

We are issued our skates and we’re off, inside this strange world for two hours. I daren’t look at my Swatch the whole time because I don’t want to miss a thing and I never want to go home.

Inside, the confident kids are already on the rink, skating backwards to Goody Two-Shoes by Adam and the Ants. It’s unbelievably intimidating, but in my mind it’s a life-goal. I twirl my souvenir shop gold necklace on my fingers and wait until there’s a song I love enough to get out there and shakily go anti-clockwise until the DJ booms breathily into the mic:

Chaaaaaannnnnggggeeeeeeee

The DJ has girlfriends plural and none of them care. They are all blondes. He is the youth pastor at Elim Church but still seems to be swinging his penis around like a windmill. Suddenly, without warning, he puts on Thriller.

We’re allowed to skate and watch the video on the big screen at the same time. It’s surreal watching Michael Jackson dancing so ably, juxtaposed with one hundred white teenagers, skating as if they are walking on comedy ball-bearings.

Soon, my friend meets a boy, and the couples skate takes off. They hold hands and skate at a different pace to each other to Turn Me Loose by Loverboy. Half an hour later, they are pashing violently on the reddy-orange carpet in front of everyone.

I’m alone, so I awkwardly buy an Icey from the kiosk but then it’s 4pm and time to wrap this gig up. I find my friend, who is virtually now married, and we sadly hand over our skates to the guy at the skate hire (who is wearing skates).

My friend’s mum is waiting for us in the carpark. She asks us if we met boys, and I inwardly eyeroll. If I’m honest, they didn’t play New Moon On Monday or Lovecats and I’m unfulfilled.

If I’m honest I hate the wistfulness of feeling alone, but I’m happy. I endeavor to try harder next week; perhaps I’ll wear mascara and tighter jeans.

Perhaps they’ll play In A Big Country.

If I had my own skates, I’d practise in the garage.

Now, I just wish 47-year-old me was there for 14-year-old me.

 

____

This blog post is dedicated to Paula.

The Sting of the Tweet

I joined Twitter in 2012.

My first followers were Marcus Lush and Ali Ikram, only because I followed them first. But they were my first.

“What is this place?” I thought, so different from the Friends Reunited format of Facebook, where your pending friend request to your former lover/friend would sit unanswered for two months until you were shamefully forced to withdraw into the shadows, confused and crying.

It took me a while to understand the rules of engagement. I thought that because I followed someone they’d endlessly want me to answer their tweets. Strangely, they didn’t. Several incarnations of my Twitter account occurred as I tried to negotiate why I was even here.

Was it because Facebook had started to suck so badly? With its “Feed My Aquarium” ethos and “Share This, And If You Don’t I’ll See And Know” clientele, I was looking for something more dynamic and diverse. I’d exhausted my supply of old friends and relatives, and once we’d all caught up and done a silent head-count of how many humans we’d all created and who was the most financially successful, Facebook stopped being so interesting. But also, Facebook always felt a little like being under a glaring spotlight.

Twitter, on the other hand, felt more like an anonymous rampage; it was up to you who to follow, you could see into their every thought, every meal, every weird, angled photo of their cat. It was all very contrived, but then so was I. I loved it.

The pace was very fast, blink and you’d miss, or retweet someone you admired to show everyone what you were into, or that you admired their material. Or them.

Soon I had one hundred followers. Why? I was just saying my thoughts, somewhat sub-edited to an acceptable level. Sometimes my tweets went unnoticed, other times someone would “take the bait”.

After a while, I noticed there were groups. There was a cool group. There was a literature group. There was the group from Wellington. They were mostly males; a little tight clique throwing around great gags about New Zealand politics or pontificating about a thing, using Twitter to spray around their man-musk and show those lesser stags all about who were the bosses of a 140 word argument application.

Then I noticed the Twitter wars. Like rising dust, I’d see what I came to understand as a “subtweet”, and I learned to react like a fly on shit and locate the original tweet, as if I had nothing else better to do with my day. I’d read endlessly.

Someone used the wrong word for something, and someone came at them with a correction; and I began to understand that Twitter was not only the proofing facility for all your freedom-of-speech needs, but a place where all the hopes, dreams and mostly fears of people came out and were heaped upon a singular Twitter being at any given time.

A few times I glanced over to Facebook. It was like watching an episode of the Good Morning Show, the one that used to feature Rod Cheeseman, “The Cheese”. Every now and then, Rod would look at the camera with a naughty, sexy, eye and I’d eye him back, until Astar came crashing into the room with her horrible, shitty creations. But ultimately these actions were scheduled and predictable. Like Facebook.

Twitter wasn’t predictable. One night I stayed up watching a group tear apart a person for their political beliefs. The replies were vile, and yet this same group had consistently positioned itself as the beacon of acceptance. Other times I heard about the Twitterati. Who were they? What did they eat?

I came to understand that they were a group of friends and peripherals on Twitter with simply the most gigantic sense of entitlement in the known universe.

I saw people who were in a genuine struggle receive individual messages of support, and even crowdfunding. I really think that these are the good Twitter people. No subtweeting, no entitlement; they give a heart fave without having a policy on heart faving.

Did you know some people won’t heart-fave? Get a fucking grip.

I’ve never seen such a place. It’s a place. I’m very grateful for Twitter, inc.

Where else would I capture my thirst needs, want to make a slow-cooked mild butter chicken and share my ragged soul?

 

Next time on The Sane Companion: can’t get thyme growing in winter? Wait until you see this seaweed/Rheineck life hack

 

 

Rites of Passage: New Zealand Survivor

 

"Please release the vice-like grip that holds back the waters of the log flume ride" (repeat for eternity)

“Please release the vice-like grip that holds back the waters of the log flume ride” (repeat for eternity)

Survivor: Nicaragua begins tomorrow and I’m already laughing, because why do we think, in this country, that we have to go to “Nicaragua” to survive something?

It’s a bit old-hat now that we have a housing and poverty crisis here in our first-world cities, and those of us who are at the opposite end of that continuum spend an inordinate amount of money on survival-style boot camps and weird diets that now involve artisanal bugs from Farro.

Why did the producers not just hold it in New Zealand? It’s a no-brainer. The challenges could have included:

  • An endurance challenge on the log flume ride at Rainbow’s End. The challenge is to try, individually, to stop the log flume around about just after the entrance-way through the waterfall. I’ve done this; everyone has. You then need to see how long you can last holding your log there, while enduring the vocal-fry of the angered staff member telling you to let go.
  • Shopping at Countdown the day before a public holiday, using only the self-scanners. You need to factor in how much alcohol needs to be drunk over the 24-hour period that you will not have access to Countdown. The winner is the person who is still drinking at 9am on the actual public holiday, and still has enough piss to see them through to the family movie, Over The Hedge, at 7pm.
  • A morning school-run challenge. Cars to choose from are a really large Audi, an MX-5, some kind of double-cab utility and a normal sedan. Who will win?
  • A food challenge. Teams have to eat native bugs selected by Ray McVinnie, and while eating them, Ray will, in his best voice, talk you through the whole thing. The aim of the challenge is to make Ray stop.
  • Listening to a two-hour loop of Mike’s Minute.
  • Find the available rental property! On foot, using the Trade Me mobile app.
  • Collect the most oil-column heaters from Auckland berms.

So many options! Sponsors could be Jetstar, The Property Press and My Food Bag.

And the grand prize? Why, $200,000, to put “as a deposit on a house”, the only possible choice for prize expenditure in New Zealand.

New Show for the 7.30pm Slot

I’m on the hunt for a new TV show, for the 7.30 slot, now that Married at First Sight is nearly over.

I’m yearning for more.  The 8.30pm Viking-themed rape-fests available these days — they aren’t really for me.  Isn’t there something we could sit down and watch with the kids?  Something like … Rip Tide?

 

1.  Rip Tide

Wendy-kilbourne-riptide-title

He who has this font controls the Universe

These guys were so honest that even as a 12 year old, I used to want them to do something anti-Police.  Shows like this had one theme tune.  The incidental music was just a variation on the main theme, either slowed right down, or sometimes there was an acoustic version.

The characters were always perpetually sans girlfriends and the truth is, if these guys were real, people would keep their daughters well away from them.

I loved the quirky combo of Perry King, Joe Penny and straight-to-oblivion Thom Bray.  Cody, Nick and ‘Boz’ were the trifecta of American detective personality dovetailing.  A geek, a spunk and a guy with dark hair.   Such a classic and reliable combination of ‘type’.

2.  Falcon Crest

lorenzolamas001

Lorenzo Lamas in the role of Lance Cumsen. Yes, that’s right. Cumsen

I am still waiting for America to release Season Three of this piece of auteurship.

In the pilot episode, the patriarch of Falcon Crest winery, Jason Gioberti, fell through the stair railings to his death, in one of the cheapest stunts involving balsawood I have ever seen.  When his drunken, limp body was flung through the shitty stair hand-railing, it was as if a hot knife had been thrown through butter.  Someone tried to describe this series as “Dallas, with grapes”.

That’s bullshit.  It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

3.  Simon and Simon

Simon and Garfunkel

This was another superb offering from CBS.  Rick and AJ were polar opposites, and brothers.

Maybe they were the precursors to Cohle and Hart, without the rapey voodoo paradigm.  Rick was a hairy ’Nam vet and AJ had the smarts.

Together they solved crimes within a tightly-scheduled 40-minute time frame.  Everyone always laughed at Rick at the end, and the mother shook her long-suffering head and rolled her motherly eyes.

4.  Logan’s Run

Jessica is in the middle, flanked by Gregory Harrison of Trapper John MD fame and some other guy.

Jessica is in the middle, flanked by Gregory Harrison of Trapper John MD fame and some other guy

Myself, my sister and my neighbours used to roleplay this TV series after school.  I was always Jessica 5. I think my role was to be on the run and trying to avoid turning 30.  This played out well into my late twenties, if I am honest.

5.  Battlestar Gallactica

Raw talent

Raw sex

This got really confusing and serious toward the end — it was as if Alan Alda (the depression years) took over the direction of this SciFi series.  Starbuck and Apollo were a fantastic pair of space-guys, crashing through the space-time continuum with their thick thatches of hair and overpoweringly-high sex drives.

Back in those days, they used to hide real people inside the set walls, and it was their job to push and pull the sliding doors open and shut as people walked through, as if they were automatic doors.  Commander Adama would flay them alive if they didn’t do it naturally enough, and they would never work in Hollywood again.

So, with all this in mind, can someone please just make (from scratch) a new 7.30pm-slot series to watch?  Could they please contain:

  • mysteries to solve in 40 minutes — no heavy serialization.  Just nice, clean, solved homicides.  The only exception is once a year, make a two-part cliff hanger; but that, too, must get solved in the second part and never be mentioned by the characters again.
  • three guys. Someone good at computers but unlucky in love.  A darker soul who has seen mayhem, war and a nasty, ugly divorce.  Also, a preppy, humourless one who went to St Kent’s, Pakuranga.
  • a large boat with the name Sea Folly.
  • a Corvette Stingray
  • a regular slot for a ‘hooker with a heart of gold’, who helps the boys out (but never sleeps with them).  She wears a fur stole and has a red clutch purse and blue eyeliner.  She’s brainier than them all, “yet stays on the game, where she belongs,” says Sidney Sheldon.
  • an angry older Chief of Police.  Bald to his ears then hirsute beyond a joke.  Looking like a Franciscan Grizzly bear, he becomes fist-poundingly angry because the detectives keep crossing the line. Sometimes they play tricks on him, and laugh — and then the scene freezes and the credits roll.