Tuesday, January 31, 2006


The Dominion Post: local, national & world news from Wellington's daily newspaper: Dogbite victim wants justice

...in Otaki...

There are a lot of dogs wandering the streets up there. Wilma regularly plays with an unattended pitbull at the beach (I think bitches are far less likely to cause confrontations), but a couple of English Bull terriers (feckin' ugly, bellicose dogs!) gave us a fright one day. They were however, with some guy (feckin' ugly, bellicose looking too), but they surprised him & ran helter skelter for Wilma before he could grab their leads. He was very apologetic, but they were only coming to say hello as it happened.

One of them was called "Justice", we can only speculate that the other was called "Vengeance".


New Zealand news on Stuff.co.nz: Speeding baby boom drivers get more tickets than young

In Otaki...

Mind you, this does not explain the odd sight we saw one evening, a (younger than 45) woman holding a baby, while driving a go-kart 3 times around the block. No seatbelts, no helmets. It did stall at one stage & we saw her call to some kids to push start the contraption. Cool. (not)

Very odd.

Some January photos

Vehicles prohibited - Yeah Right!

What rain clouds?

Sun-dappled surf



Waitohu 2

Wind & sand


Looking South

Sand. After the wind

Monday, January 30, 2006

The weekend in review.

Another brick in the wallIn time honoured tradition, the weekend was spent working like navvies (I do so hope that "navvy" is not some racist epithet, but I am too lazy to look it up). We do this every weekend in the hope that one day, it will all be done & we can relax & enjoy it. Alternatively, realising that "it" will never "all be done", the Plan B is to become stinking rich. Like these fine people plan to. And pay real navvies.

So anyway, after mental preparation (Mrs Llew walked the dog, then we both had a leisurely breakfast & read the paper...), it was full on. Tatiana (Mrs Llew's real name) heat gunned the front veranda, while I went down to Placemakers to get mortar, cement, and sandpaper.

I know it's obvious, but I was still disappointed to find that the 40kg bags of mortar really do weigh just as much as the 40kg bags of cement. I had 6 of them to shift from the car to the back garden.

After lunch, Tatiana commenced sanding the singed porch. And she sanded for the rest of the afternoon, until, get this, she wore the orbital sander out! Way to go T! Fortunately though, I took it down to my subterranean super-heroes' secret sanctum* (we all have them you know), and fixed it with super hero gizmo technology (gorilla glue).

While sanding was going on, I was out the back building a brick retaining wall around part of the garden. Something we've talked about for years. I got the cement base in by about 6pm, when it was time to do the evening dog walk.

We've had "blockheads" in recently. Yes, that's what the "chippies" call them! Blocklayers might be their preferred label. We watched them at work for a while. So precise, so economical with the mortar. So damned fast! I can quite confidently say that I think had one of these "blockheads" been on the job, my retaining wall would have been finished in 15 minutes.

But anyway, the next day, while I was doing the walk thing, Tatiana finished sanding the porch. I spent the rest of the day building my wall. And credit where it is due, Tatiana spent much of her day cleaning and scrubbing over 100 recycled bricks (we have many, left over from a chimney that was once demolished), while I mixed mortar, and painstakingly assembled the edifice. I probably used 5 or 6 times as much mortar as the pros, and there was only a token nod to making it level. But I have to say it looks grand. 3 bricks in height, and 26 bricks long. The next step is to make a nice little path beside it. Which may also involve recycled bricks, but not as many.

This morning, I descended to the backyard to retrieve Wilma's bone for her to gnaw on during the day. I paused, and regarded my creation with satisfaction and pride. My beloved appeared at the back door.

"Anatoly (my real name), what are you doing?"

"I'm regarding my creation, my beloved." I replied.

"Anatoly, is it always about you? Have you regarded my porch?"

Bewildered, because let's face it, it IS always about me, I stammered, "What porch?"

*You may have heard of me as "Mr Sweat". Or not.

Sky High

Kurt RussellRemember in the 60s & 70s when Disneyland screened on our (sole) TV channel every Sunday afternoon?

You never knew if it was going to be an item from Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Tall Tales & True from the Legendary Past, or er... whatever the other branches of Disneyland were called. So, essentially, you might be sitting down for a heartwarming nature documentary, a Donald Duck & Goofy cartoon adventure, or one of those really cheesy movies featuring either avuncular has beens (Fred McMurray in um... something about flying rubber, bear with me here folks), or cute as a button kids, animals or teenagers doing (family friendly) whacky things, or some charming mix of both cute & true (Grey Friars' Bobby).

But I'm thinking about the teenagers doing whacky, yet family friendly films often starring none other than a youthful goober of a guy called Kurt Russell.

Who can forget, The Monkey's Uncle (actually a chimpanzee), or "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes"?

Commander & JetstreamWell actually, I had, until this weekend, on a recommendation from Berardinelli, we took in a recent Disney movie, about teenagers doing whacky (yet family friendly) things called Sky High. Not only is Kurt Russell in this movie, but in one scene, when he reminisces over his old high school year book, we see a picture of him from the earlier era, complete with goober haircut.

Ah nostalgia. Luckily they don't make them like that anymore, and I'm pleased to report that The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes' return to the Disney fold is a cheesy, utterly predictable (we were guessing each plot development approximately 2 minutes beforehand throughout), yet thoroughly entertaining cross between X-Men, the Incredibles, Batman & Spy Kids, with a few nods to Harry Potter.

Will Stronghold is a pretty average American kid. Except that his parents (Russell & Kelly Preston) are not just the most successful real estate agents in town, when they take off their spectacles & change into their spandex suits & capes, they're the most famous superheroes in the world, Commander & Jetstream!

Will, and his best friend Layla are about to start at Sky High, the high school for the children of superheroes. While Layla has the power to control plants, Will appears to have no superpowers at all, a fact he is ashamed of & has concealed from his proud parents.

The first day of school goes disastrously, when it turns out Coach Boomer "You may have heard of me as Sonic Boom! Or not." (Bruce Campbell) has no love for the offspring of Commander, and consigns Will, along with the less, or more eccentrically powered (the shapeshifter who can only turn into a guinea pig, and the nerdy kid who can melt into a puddle of goo...) to the "Sidekicks" class (way lower in the school pecking order than the "Heroes" class). To make matters worse, Will also gains his "arch enemy", a kid called "Warren Peace" who can shoot flame balls from his arms, and whose father was defeated by Commander some years ago.

Will later manages to alienate Layla, and the other sidekicks, by falling for the very cute & powerful "technopath" Gwen...

So what have we here... a riff on the class system that forms the average American High School, a coming of age story, and of course, the tale of underdogs triumphing over adversity. The Revenge of the Sidekicks.

Cheesy, but a whole lot of fun. Look out for Lynda Carter even, exclaiming "Who do you think I am? Wonder Woman?"

And in supporting roles, Kurt Russell & Kelly Preston look pretty darned heroic in their spandex suits.

Well worth checking out. And as expected from a Disneyland movie featuring Kurt Russell, family friendly.

Correction for the trainspotters:

The Monkey's Uncle did not star Kurt Russell, it starred Annette Funicello, herself a Mouseketeer, so it probably had something to do with Uncle Walt.

I was thinking of The Barefoot Executive. I didn't check to see if the same chimp appeared in both.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Rejoice! Blogging finally has a boogeyman

Be careful what you post, or The Whig will get you.

The Whig: Behold, I Am the Whig, Destroyer of Blogs!

Still haven't figured out which one wears The Wig. (Probably Ted).

But I'm relieved, I thought Murray from Silent Running would have to stump up to the mark with a loaded trebuchet, and call me weird, but I kind of like him.

You learn something everyday...

I have used the word "segue" now & then. And you know what? I always thought it was pronouced "seeg". Imagine my anxiety when on TV the other night I heard someone say "segway" in much the same context as I've always used "seeg".

So with some trepidation, because to my mind, the "seeg" pronunciation is far more aesthetically pleasing to my ear, and also a whole economical syllable less... I consulted an oracle:


Motherfucker... that's the last time I use that word.

In earlier pronunciation disappointment & dispute...

1. I recall when I discovered "cojones" was pronounced "cohoneys". Man, what a gyp! "Co-jones" sounds so much funnier. I mean, if you have cause to use such a word.

2. I also recall my dad making a semi convincing argument for pronouncing "tyranosaurus", as "tyro-nossorus". I presume he was joking, but please do let me know if that's been your understanding all along.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Is there anything worse?

Than that feeling you have after visiting the dentist, and he has replaced two old fillings with new ones, but in the process has administered a local anaesthetic to half your face?

So firstly, there's the slightly worrying suspicion that you're walking around slack jawed and drooling.

But secondly, and far worse, when the afflicted area starts to itch, there is nothing you can do to stop it, the itch seems to come from deep inside the tissue, and you can't even feel your face, so scratching is impossible.

Still, the teeth in my slack, drooling, itching jaw are pretty white right now...

And on the flipside, is there anything better than that feeling when you suck cold air through the newly cleaned gaps between your teeth? "Sffftttt!"

Although that feeling would be better if I could feel my lips.

Underworld is GREAT!

Park your brain outside & enjoy the ride. Utter, and thoroughly enjoyable crap. Not at all scary. Not too gruesome (lots of blood though). Think: Low rent Matrix with vampires & werewolves.

And hah! Bill Nighy... chances are he really IS a vampire.

And I just read that Underworld: Evolution topped the box office in the US last weekend.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Home Alone...

Well, not quite alone. M & I are flying solo tonight, the Mrs, and Mom are out of town on business!

But 13 year olds are refreshingly taking up the habits & interests of their fathers. To some extent.

So conspiratorially, we have gigglingly planned & agreed that grilled steak is on the menu, and Underworld* will be our post-prandial entertainment.

Neither of which would be on the cards if the adult were home.

* I've heard it's tosh, but like Catwoman, which is handily taped for a future occasion, I suspect that the collaboration between the casting & costuming departments may make the experience at least a little bit ah... tolerable.

Which reminds me... I bought a bargain basement copy of The Deep last week, and only a few minutes in the suggestion was made that I got it because of my fond memories of Jacqueline Bissett in a wet t shirt. And to be completely honest, I got it because of my fond memories of Robert Shaw's performance & indecipherable accent. And the amazing underwater photography. And it was ridiculously cheap.

And so I probably shouldn't have laughingly admitted "Yes, the wet t shirt was a major marketing device at the time..."

Last of the summer whine..

Well probably not my last whine this summer. Nor wine come to think about it... but here's a reasonably accurate assessment of the gruelling fare that made up National Radio's summer programming.

Public Address | Random Play

And my gripes about it too.

I could put up with the excruciatingly light rubbish that replaced morning report, because when I was on holiday, I wasn't listening, and when I was back at work last week, I wasn't listening, except to the news & weather.

but the weekends? Can someone from on high in National Radio please publicly promise that next year, we will not be subjected to anything involving Garrison Keillor?

Man, he is BORING! He makes Milwaukie (or is it Minnesota? Anyway, wherever & whatever...) sound cold, boring, and still living in the 1950s... man, if I wanted that I'd go live in Ashburton.

He is NOT funny! Ok, I once tuned into someone who sounded a lot like him, and I thought, hey, he IS funny after all? But it turned out to be someone else (whose name I have forgotten, but he is of Native American extraction & amongst other things was recounting how he failed to get residency in NZ because he "was not THAT kind of Indian". Anyway, HE was funny, Keillor is not.

One thing I did enjoy though, was after work hours, Simon Morris presenting a music show called "You had to be there" or something like that (look, I'm not about to go look it up), which was a selection of "cult" music & musicians. That was hilarious. I never knew Tod Rundgren sounded so much like Burt Bacharach!

And Anita McNaught was quite good. Listened to her speaking with David Slack yesterday while goofing off from the gardening programme scheduled for me by my work supervisor. Shakespeare as management text anyone?

Anyway, it was surprising relief that I tuned in this morning to hear Sean Plunket giving someone a grilling.

Let him loose on Garrison I reckon.

We Have liftoff!

Life will never be the same.

Over the Xmas break, my mobile phone stopped working (handy though, no-one from work could contact me).

On my return, I was given a new one. Just the same. Except that certain customisations were not present. Like predictive texting was still on.

Last time I tried to use this feature, I was attempting to txt "OK" to someone. I tried & tried, and eventually texted the cryptic "oompopo".

This lunchtime though, I mastered the dark art.

And it's easy!

Vote For....

Trivial Pursuit!! G'wan... you know you want to...

Trivial Pursuit: Blimey.

Well done & good luck Caroline!

Vote for Trivial Pursuit in Best Australian or New Zealand Weblog category here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Utterly pointless Friday arvo diversion.

Lindsay Lohan doesn't change facial expressions.

Burglar (38) hogtied by old age pensioners...

This reminds me of the story of my Uncle Don Gullick, quite a famous league player in his day (St Helens), a commando during the war apparently. A hard & very big man.

he made headlines in the UK when, in hi s70s, he confronted two young guys who had broken into his home. He knocked one of them out & broke the other's arm.

New Zealand news on Stuff.co.nz: 'Incompetent burglar' humiliated - lawyer

"Mr Knowles told the judge he had been engaged in cases involving Black Power gang members and violence, White Power members who had bashed people and therefore it was 'only a matter of time' before he had a case involving Grey Power members."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Right Bag

College is rapidly approaching for a certain member of the family. And preparations are underway in the various areas that need addressing before the first day: Subjects - French, Chinese or Drama?; Which netball team will I get into?; and of course, the ordering & fitting of the school uniform (and the related arranging of the mortgage to purchase the gear).

It's the uniform & accessories that fascinate me. I was surprised to discover that the school expects the uniforms bought for the 3rd form, to last the pupil the length of their tenure, so M is dismayed to find she has to stump up on the first day in a size 14 tunic - I don't know what size she is now, maybe a 10 or an 8? - but I can tell that she never, ever intends to be size 14. Ever. And will wear this uniform only under sufference. She's a tall girl actually, I can't wait to see what her smaller friends have to endure in their first year, some of the tunics will be dragging on the ground.

There are still a few items to settle on, one being the school bag. And here's where we segue into reminscence...

I moved schools a lot to follow the global ramblings of my parents. A lot of what M is going through now is foreign to me, because I can only think of two schools that I attended where I started on the first day of school. One was my first primary school (all I can remember is the school caretaker outside, conducting a group of kids singing "I am H A P P Y..." - maybe its a Welsh thing, but even I was pretty worried about this, and that I played a christmas tree in the school nativity play - demoted from Jack Frost), and the other was intermediate. At all other schools, I tended to arrive somewhere mid year. Primary school in NZ, grammar school in Wales, Wellington College, and then Naenae College.

I think my parents had to stump for the spiffing grammar school uniform - grey long pants, grey school jersey (or optional waistcoat worn by some), and really fantastic school blazer. At Wellington College, I was humiliatingly garbed from the lost property, because my dad taught there & had access to the facility. Probably no-one knew. Except me. The official Wellington College School bag also came from lost property, otherwise I'd have been forced to carry my dad's cast off briefcase. And this college bag was quite cool. Soft vinyl, school colours & crest, and best of all, everyone else had one. I belonged. I had that bag for a few years - it sat in my shed containing a spare gearbox for a Fiat Bambina that I once owned - but inevitably, the handle broke & I steeled myself to part with it.

At my next college, the uniform was somewhat plainer, the absence of a crest made sourcing the correct style simple & economic. But the school bags were much the same as Wellington, just a different colour. Unfortunately, my folks saw no reason why I shouldn't use the cursed briefcase. And so for a few years I shuffled resignedly to & from school carrying this camel coloured monstrosity that hit my knee at every second step.

I think it was the 5th form that I was finally able to persuade the powers that be that I really deserved an official Naenae college bag. By this time, the style had changed (the old ones handles used to break, and the school got sick of half the students ingeniously keeping them in action with various coloured ropes). They were bigger for a start, but still designed so they could be slung over one shoulder. And the handles were much improved.

So robust were these bags, that it is only in recent years I was persuaded by my wife to throw it away. It served proudly for decades as my overnight bag on business trips.

But robust as it was, there are some jobs these bags were not designed, nor equipped to deal with. Like containing small explosions.

Which brings me finally, to the real topic of this post...

It must have been the 7th form, I was hurrying along to physics, ahead of me were the class nerds...

Tangent: At school, I was neither a nerd, nor cool. Somewhere happily (mostly) in between. I was reasonably academically successful, such that, after one disastrous maths test, I overheard one of the class nerds tell another "Don't worry, even Rodriguez Llewinsky (my real name) only got 45%". I was so proud. However, I was mercilessly shy with girls, and found this a real bother. Luckily, I got over it in my 30s. We did have a small team of nerds though. And to be honest, I have no idea of their academic prowess, we all assumed that they were pretty bright, they all had really esoteric interests, it's just that they socialised with no-one but themselves.

The nerd at the heart of this story was the closest of the group ahead of me, as he rounded a corner, he was jostled by a cool kid coming in the other direction, which I think, wouldn't have been a rare occurrence for the guy. let's call him (the nerd) David Foohey, for the sole reason that this is not his name.

David was a stocky guy with unruly hair, and coke bottle glasses. He was, and probably still is, a nice enough guy. Just one of those guys who peered through his thick spectacles at you & spoke with a funny voice. And he had a funny laugh. But we're not talking about American Splendor grade nerds. David joined the army when he left school.

Anyway, as a result of the jostling, David's official school bag was knocked from where it had lain, slung across his shoulder.

The notable, and quite surprising consequence of this action, was that approximately 10 feet in front of me, the schoolbag turned into quite a sizeable ball of flame, which threatened to engulf the nerds. All of whom, excepting David, looked completely taken by surprise. David also looked startled, although not completely, he was also a bit singed, as he heft his flaming bag over a fence into the biology class's vegetable garden, and retreated to a safe distance. Smoking.

The story came out, over time, after some discreet quizzing of his friends. The bag, it seemed, contained a small home made landmine. The intention was that at some stage during the day, David was going to plant the device somewhere in the school field, in the customary path of the school caretaker's tractor.

In a way, it was a pity this plan was thwarted, it would have been legendary. In another way, it's lucky it was thwarted as the chances of someone stepping on the mine before the tractor would have been quite high.

David was suspended for a couple of weeks, I'm not sure his real intention was ever discovered by the school authorities, but it transpired that the parts & ingredients for the bomb were stolen from the chemistry lab. He returned to school, having served his time, and finished his college education without further incident.

He was, however, now world famous, in school.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Seen, Heard & Read over the (very nice, thank you) Break.


The second Stuey from Shortland Street movie in as many years.... Torque! (Toshue!).

Large swathes of the Lord of the Rings DVDs (in bizarre order following the vagueries of a 13 year old's reading habits), so that we watched the first half of the Fellowship, then the Return of the King, and then the 2nd half of the Two Towers. It's still got it though.

Secret Window - entirely predictable thriller with Johnny Depp. Based on a Stephen King story, so you know the drill. Nice & atmospheric though.

Delovely. Already covered this a while ago, it's nice. And someone got it for Christmas.

Mr & Mrs Smith. Loud & flashy, not as good as I'd heard. Too loud & flashy really, except for the witty one-liners, which were muted, so I missed most of them.

Large chunks of Season 1 of the Sopranos, which someone also got for Christmas.

And aside from watching my brief appearance on TV3 news (although they filmed lots more than that, and inexplicably excluded my negotiations for my own gardening show, and my "method" queries about what my motivation should be for me to base my performance on, and the lengthy sequence of the dog barking at the cameraman - I'm hoping she'll appear in a future story about vicious dogs), we saw NO TV AT ALL.


The Understudy, by David Nicholls. Apparently Nicholls is a writer from the TV series Cold Feet, and this book is very amusing as you'd expect from such a CV. It's a bit like William Brandt's The Book of the Film of the Story of my Life, but perhaps not quite as good. Although that might be my parochialism showing through. And instead of a truly hopeless film maker, it concerns a truly hopeless actor, the titular understudy in fact. Stephen C McQueen (no relation) is understudy to mega star Josh Harper in a West End play about Lord Byron (Mad, Bad, and dangerous to Know). One day, the ultra vain Harper invites Stephen to a party and it's not until he gets there that Stephen realises he's not a guest, but the bar man. So he gets pissed, steals Harper's BAFTA award & Star Wars memorabila, chunders, and falls in love woth Harpers wife. Things go downhill from there. Not a single character is a call girl from Levin.

Zorro: The Novel, by Isabel Allende. Finally finished this, and it is great. It's the backstory to the real Zorro (well, not the real one, since he's fiction, I mean Anthony Hopkins' character rather than the Banderas pretender). An origin story if you like, Zorro Begins. It's also nearly as much the story of his mute blood brother, Bernardo, telling us why Bernardo is mute (mostly), how they were raised, and trained, and chronicles their youthful exploits ranging between California, Barcelona, the Caribbean, and back to California again. And as a bonus, the characters are all flawed humans, if somewhat heroic. I look forward to the miovie of this one. "Out of the Night, When the full moon is bright... Comes a horseman known as Zorro.... this bold renegade carves a Zee with his blade... a Zee that stands for Zorro...". That's the theme to the old Disney made Zorro TV series, starring Guy (Lost in Space) Williams. And that series was pretty much on the money. Except that Bernardo was too old & not as dashing, but hey, they can't get everything right.

No Opportunity Wasted, by Phil Keoghan. This... is one of those short inspirational books written by the Kiwi who started in (I think) Spot On, and went on to host & produce many successful reality TV series, and appear regularly on Oprah. Pretty much what you'd expect. Light & breezy & enthusiastic.


Album of the break was the She Will Have her Way album, featuring a bunch of Kiwi & Ocker women covering Neil & Tim Finn songs. We're not sick of it yet, and the personal picks for best tracks go to Brooke Frazer's amazing rendition of Seven Worlds Collide (just astonishing!), and Nathalie Imbruglia's Pineapplehead.

Honourable mention goes to Shakira's new song, Don't Bother. Which we all hate, and features the inspirational lines "I'm really a cat. But I'll file my nails for you. And move to a communist country". Are we hearing this right? And we caught the video last night... which is an improvement in that it has a wet negligee in the shower scene. And let's face it, is there any music video which could not be improved by the inclusion of a wet negligee in the shower scene? But really, Don't Bother.

Also.... please note, I'm feeling really lazy about hyperlinks, you know how to use Google, I'm sure.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

3 News, Last Thursday

New evidence showing trees create more harm than they previously thought...

But that's not the important bit...

Look for the guy earnestly planting a tree....