Thursday, February 3, 2011


The acronym of 2011 is PCG - Primary. Care. Giver.

John the Robert is a stay at home dad. And no - you will not get any whining from me about the transition from a successful and fulfilling career to nappy (diaper) duty and the Wiggles. Actually I will probably bitch about the Wiggles. My little girl is getting weaned on the Ramones and if we must introduce the Wiggles we shall do so with the same care and trepidation as when she gets into ice cream, fast food, beer, and boys; that is, we'll avoid it as long as we possibly can and then we'll begrudgingly admit that it can't be avoided.

My point is that I've never had much of a career - a series of jobs punctuated by hobbies and travel, so believe me, it ain't no sacrifice to stay home and look after this little ball of cute. I'm trying to make sure I've got a plan for everyday - there's plenty to do, and the days fly by. Yesterday Lucy and I went to a how-to-introduce-solid food presentation, and I learned that the pizza and chicken wings must be pureed and enriched with iron before she gets any (Super Bowl is next week, after all).

Another project this week was to finally dust off* several stacks of CDs that haven't seen the light of day since we moved to NZ almost three years ago. And yes, once again, dear readers, I've remembered what excellent taste in music John the Robert has. We spun Bauhas frontman Peter Murphy's Deep, a fantastic noir-ish goth/pop record that I hadn't heard in years. I found a slew of late 90s Bob Dylan bootlegs - I bet you didn't know that he played all 17 minutes of Highlands in Worcester, MA on November 14, 1999. And Lucy loved Disc One of the Ramones anthology. Her favorite tune seems to be Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue. Oops.

*I never saw an infinitive I couldn't split.

Friday, August 20, 2010

More Kiwi than You

John the Robert has a Kiwi daughter. Her name is Lucy and she is perfect in every way and will one day rule New Zealand. Unless she decides to move to the Gold Coast for the weather and surfers. In that case she will still rule New Zealand from afar because Australia gets lots of attention and, as per the Kiwi media, what goes on in Australia is more important that what happens here in our beautiful islands.

John the Robert has the next 18 years to get Lucy an American passport. We'll get around to it eventually, but I reckon we make the Yanks come here first. Not all of them. Just the good ones who are related or whanau'ed (how do you make a verb out of that?) to me and mine. Out of 300 million Americans, we are inviting 23 of you. After 23 Americans have come here for the specific purpose of visiting Lucy, we will get her a US passport.

Unless of course she demands that Daddy take her to Disneyland. At that point Daddy will use his quiz hosting* connections to fast track a US passport-and-accompanying-taxpayer-funded-credit-card-charged-plane-tickets to get his princess to LA.

*Bailies Irish Bar in the Square, Tuesday nights from September. John the Robert hosts a pub quiz and makes all those who participate feel smart.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pixies play the Barn

It's been awhile, but John the Robert is back. Like most projects, this blog got off to a great start and then petered out once I got distracted, usually by something on TV hosted by Gordon Ramsay. Or a sudden urge to re-evaluate 1980s era Stones records released between 1984 and 1992 (Steel Wheels is always better than I think it's going to be).

And then we got pregnant (my wife in the actual sense, me in the sensitive-and-sympathetic-modern-male sense) and my already nano-length attention span starting going backwards. The closest I got to writing this blog was thinking about not writing a letter to someone in 1988.

Anyway, let's get back to the music, because the music always makes everything right. For what was surely our last live show before Parenthood (unless Bruce Springsteen comes down here for a one off at Al's Bar between now and the end of August) we saw the seminal high water mark of American indie rock - the Pixies, a band so bleeding seminal* that they haven't bothered to release any new music since getting back on the road in 2004.

Am I the only one who thinks seminal is a ridiculous word? It either means hugely influential in a Velvet Underground or Pixies (the two American bands that always get described as seminal) kind of a way, or it means full of semen, in a mid noughties crime show kind of a way ("There was seminal fluid on the nightstand"). English is stupid.

But I'm cool with no new Pixies records. We don't need any. Actually every band should follow suit. Outside of metal, virtually every rock band gets worse as they go on. No one wants to hear the Pixies play new songs. What we want, and what Christchurch got last Tuesday at the CBS Canterbury Arena, were the classics everyone loves and expects - Debaser, Here Comes Your Man, Where is My Mind?, Gigantic - along with a slew of personal favourites - River Euphrates for me, Cactus for the American sitting next to me.

Speaking of which, I think there were about two Kiwis at this show. Wife (Kiwi #1) and I went with a South African and his Japanese girlfriend, along with Stacy the Kiwi #2. Next to us on the right were two Irish girls who complained about the lines for beer and on the right a guy my age from Wisconsin who has lived in Twizel (population 1017) for the past 10 years and somehow makes a living as a DJ. He gave me his card at the end of the show; thank GOD I know who to ring the next time I need someone to spin records while I go fly fishing.

Come on John the Robert, what about the show? We don't care who sat next to you!

It was the Pixies, it was great, and I'd go see them again tomorrow. They played a "smattering of favorites from throughout their career." Their LOUD quiet LOUD thing still works. Stage banter was kept to a thankful minimum. Frank Black's not as fat as the last time I saw them. Kim Deal is slightly fatter. The other two guys looked exactly the same.

Set List: Cecilia Ann, UMass, Dig for Fire, Nimrod's Son, Velouria, The Sad Punk, Break my Body, Broken Face, Cactus, Is She Weird, Mr Grieves, Ed is Dead, Winterlong, The Holiday Song, River Euphrates, Here Comes Your Man, Wave of Mutilation, Gouge Away, Tame, Hey, Vamos, Where is My Mind. Encore 1: Gigantic, Debaser. Encore 2: Planet of Sound

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Queenstown and Midgets

John the Robert has been busy. One 3/4 time job, three other part time jobs, playing in an old man cover band, a business trip to Australia, six months of house hunting to finally find our dream home only to then go on to meetings with three different banks to secure a mortgage and then wait for a dipshit named Dave to get around to doing a valuation so the banks believe that we didn't get ripped off. The blog has suffered, and I apologize to my 9 followers. Hope y'all found something else to read on the internet.

Last weekend I was in Queenstown for a wee (little/short) winter holiday with the in-laws.

Skiing is a bitch. Not only does one have to balance on one leg at a time, changing legs quickly in time with the gradient of the hill, but you also have to contend with the weather.

Saturday morning I woke up early to get to the Remarkables, an incredibly beautiful series of mountains that has managed to produced an incredibly shitty skifield. There was hardly any snow - not that John the Robert the Texan is qualified to opine about snow, but suffice it to say that everyone I was with bitched about the quality of the snow. Whatever - my lasting memory of that Saturday will forever be the wind that kicked up around 11 that morning. Gust. Zephyr. Howl. Gale force. Hurricane strength. Blow. Category 5. Fucking strong wind. I can't ski worth a damn (I've been on the green slopes for the last three years) but at one point last Saturday, my skis were facing down the mountain, and I didn't move - the wind was that strong. Snow swirled around to produce what experienced skiers term a whiteout. My father-in-law Steve calls it skiing by braille. I would go along with that, but apparently Steve has more feeling in his boots that I do, because the bumps on the ground did nothing for my sense of direction. Fortunately, in skiing, all roads lead to the same place - the bottom.

To make a long story short, Saturday's skiing was awful. The "snow" was basically one very large sheet of ice. The weather was awful, the wind was painful, and I got back to home base by 3 pm. We went into Queenstown proper Saturday night, found a pub full of Australians, and watched the All Blacks beat the Wallabies. Sweet as.

THE duality of skiing came through on Monday. (Sunday was a day off.) We went up to Coronet Peak, home of the New Zealand ski team and shitloads of Australian tourists. Conditions were perfect. Blue skies, no wind, the most amazing views (you can always judge a skiers' ability by how much he or she comments on the beauty of the mountains - people who can actually ski don't even notice), and plenty of space for an upper-beginner Texan skier to practice his turns. I went up the 2 person chair lift 15 times. I struck up a conversation with the person next to me each time. I talked to a young Danish girl (too bad I never visited Denmark when I was single - be. still. my. beating. ...), a French woman who complained about how houses in New Zealand are not isolated (she wanted to say insulated, but I just let it go), a Japanese lady whose English was better than 99% of the Japanese people I teach, a fat dude from Ireland (the lift was tilted about 20 degrees to his side - and I'm not exactly small. This guy was the Stay Puff Marshmellow Man on skis.), ten Australians of various descriptions, and one Kiwi. Granted, it was a Monday, so perhaps my results were somewhat skewed by the fact that New Zealand school holidays had just ended the previous Friday, but I was pretty suprised that only 1 out of 15 people using that lift actually lived in New Zealand.

Moral of the story. Queenstown is great. The Remarkables sucks. Coronet Peak is a great skifield for all levels. Danish chicks are hot. John the Robert can go down the blue trails, but it takes forever and he looks like he took the short bus up the mountain.

Totally unrelated but somewhat humorous aside. I bought a baseball glove last week off Trade Me, the New Zealand version of ebay. I met some guys at the bar from a local softball club, and they invited me down to their practice (called "training" in Kiwi English). The Trade Me seller said that his glove was in perfect condition but was just too big for his hand. It was only $10, so I bought it, thinking that a big glove would be great for softball. I go to his house to pick up the glove, knock on his door, and the guy turns out to be a fucking midget. Dwarf. Little person. Extra from Willow. Hobbit. The glove is fine, about the size of a second baseman's glove, but probably too small to play softball with. I've got no problems with little people, but I do think a dwarf that says a baseball glove is too big for him should perhaps also let it be known that he's four feet tall. But that's just me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Five Record Reviews for the Price of One Post

2009 has been a bumper year for new records by my musical heroes. Had someone told me that in the first five months of the year I'd be listening to new albums from Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, and Bob FREAKING Dylan, I would have been frothing at the ears in anticipation. Unfortunately, the actual results have been mixed. No, that's wrong. It's not mixed if pretty much all those new records are crap save for one. So the results aren't really mixed; they are, for lack of a better term, confused.

Springsteen's Working on a Dream is by the far the best of the bunch. I have to admit that I find it hard to believe that Bruce had never written a song called Working on a Dream before this one. The title song itself is pretty much a distillation of Bruce at his Bruce-est, doing what he does, singing about work and/or dreams, while the E Street Band inhabit every available space with a Spector-esque wall of sound, filled with keyboards, organs, acoustic guitar strumming, droning baritone saxes, and even a bit of the old glockenspiel for the outro. I'm on to it - take a three chord wonder with a chorus repeated over and over and layer the sound like a Black Forest Cherry Cake with extra icing. Just in case that sounds like a criticism, realize that I love me some Schwarz-walder-kirsch-torte, and no amount of icing could ever be too much. The album overall isn't as good as 2007's Magic, but it doesn't need to be that good to still be a damn good record and proof that Bruce Springsteen is still very much in control of his gift.

(Someone remind me to write up my thoughts on Queen of the Supermarket - I still can't decide if it's the most ridiculous thing Bruce has ever released, or just a bad song, or a stroke of genius that I just don't quite get.)

Neil Young, on the other hand, has about as much quality control and product consistency as the lunch ladies at my high school cafeteria. Sometimes those nachos were crispy and delicious with the perfect cheese to jalapeno to corn chip ratio, but the next day you got a bowl of gooey ooze that tasted and looked like baby food. And so it is with Neil Young's output. Promoting the latest broadside, Fork in the Road, our local/national (in NZ local and national is pretty much the same thing) classic rock radio station said that if anyone other than Neil Young drove across American in a battery powered "heavy metal Continental" and recorded an album about it it would be f**king gay. They were pretty much correct, other than the "except Neil Young" fine print. The album is terrible. Somehow Neil actually sings, with a straight face apparently, lines like, "The awesome power of electricity/Stored for you in a giant battery" and "running low on the people's fuel/riding around in something really cool." Worse, he refers to himself as the Motorhead Messiah. Really.

The death of Stooges guitarist and Iggy Pop sparring partner Ron Asheton puts to bed any hope of a better Stooges reunion album than 2006's The Weirdness. That record was crap, but it was fairly harmless as anyone who would have listened to it already had classics like the self titled debut and Fun House. And fortunately the shows the Stooges played over the last several years convinced anyone who saw them that a, Ron Asheton was a ground breaking guitar hero who never got his due, and b, Iggy Pop is still a human pogo stick, that is, if pogo sticks had great abs. Iggy Pop's Preliminaires opens with the mourning Stooge reciting French poetry. In French. Over a moody bass line with congas in one ear and a vibrato heavy keyboard drone in the other. Jesus, the sax solo just came on. You have got to be freaking kidding me. About as far of a cry from Now I Wanna Be Your Dog as you could ever cringe over. But having said that, I am a pure sucker for Iggy's baritone with some soft and mellow production ("Fucking Alone" off American Caesar is a forgotten classic). The music press has given him a ton of shit for his lyrics over the last several records, and Iggy is certainly no Dylan, but "You can convince the world/That you're some kind of superstar/ When an asshole is what you are" is pretty bad even for a guy whose last album included the line "Baby take a look at me/ My dick is turning into a tree." Bottom Line: Iggy Pop and smooth jazz, in any language, is gonna be an acquired taste. This one might take awhile, if I ever get around to listening to it again.

Elvis Costello has put out a country record called Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane. It's not an embarrassment or anything, but other people do country a hell of a lot better. Not many do rock better than Elvis Costello & the Attractions/Imposters, so one wonders why Costello can't be satisfied being one of rock's best singers and songwriters, period. Dude, you really don't have to put out country records or duet albums with Burt Bacharach or do gigs with Allen Tussaint. Buth then again, I guess if I could shit out albums as good as Momofuku in a week, I might start looking for other challenges as well.

And finally, Bob Dylan should really get his own post. But who am I to critique his Bobness? He can do whatever he wants, and usually does, and lately (as in about the last 12 years or so), Dylan's late career output has only added to his already insurmountable legend. Together Through Life proves once again that Dylan listens to a lot of really old music. I thought I was bad for thinking London Calling was the last true classic by a young-at-the-time-band ever recorded (when I was 4), but Dylan acts like Elvis was the end of music. Bob has basically mined folk, blues, and country for workouts that his frankly shit-hot band could probably play in their sleep. So, yeah, the playing is great, the Dylan croak is just a tad worse than on the last record, but this one is just kind of there. I've still not sat down and listened to the whole thing in headphones to take it all in, and I suppose I should before deciding what I really think about it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Still a Barman . . .

SO . . .

I walked into the bar last Friday with every intention of it being for the last time. I slipped into my way-too-small uniform shirt (it doesn't even button - I have to wear a black T shirt underneath and turn the official garb into a vest) and found Dickface (see below) in his office.

I said hello and he didn't move a muscle apart from the few he was already using to type up an email. So I reiterated my greetings, "Hi Dickface, how are you."

"Okay, mate. Okay," he finally replied without looking up.

To make a long story short, I told Dickface that, although he may not realize it, he is a dickface because he embarrassed me in front of customers. He tried to act like I couldn't take a joke. I corrected him, pointing out that I can take plenty of jokes (a steady stream of accusations of homosexuality courtesy of one uncle comes to mind) but, as in the case of my uncle, it is crucial that you establish some kind of relationship with me before you start shooting your mouth off, especially in front of other people. Dickface is a dickface because he didn't speak to me at all for 3 months, and then suddenly felt like he could have his comedic way with me when it suited him.

He seemed to be pretty shell shocked, which reminded me of the last time this kind of thing happened to me here in NZ, that is, the last time I spoke honestly with a work superior. I somewhat (errr, VERY) directly told a previous manager at the telephone company (see first post of this blog) that I didn't understand what she wanted me to do and was getting tired of her passive aggressive bullshit. From that day forward, she was nothing but super nice to me, going out of her way to offer me doughnuts (doughnuts : office :: cigarettes: prison) or ask me what I thought about various conundrums, such as how to deal with rude customers or how to respond to the company plan to move the entire team to the Philippines. It was weird. One minute, I was persona non grata, the next I was a valued member of the inner circle, getting loads of face time with the boss. And the only difference was that I made a bit of a fuss.

And so it was with Dickface. He claimed that he had never been accused of such rudeness ever before, but it was obvious that he knew what I was talking about. "Mate, sometimes I get here at 8 in the morning, and I guess I just don't always think to say hello to the people here." Besides the fact I too go to work at 8 in the morning, albeit for a different job, I did mention that it is certainly no excuse for being a dickface. It ain't that hard to say hello, or to just smile.

So for the rest of last Friday's bar shift, Dickface talked to me about future opportunities, said I could probably do some other work at other places, and said that he wanted to include me in some brainstorming sessions about where to take the bar.

I certainly couldn't quit at that point. I even hung out with some of the regulars after my shift ended.

And it turns out one of the regulars is a builder, and knows all about redoing bathrooms. And I've been house hunting. The builder says he can sort me out with bathrooms, kitchens, etc . . . If he can't do the job, he knows the people who can.

So yes, the unsolicited advice I got from Julia after the last post was spot on. Christchurch is a small town - it's about time I start figuring out how to use that to my advantage.

But I'm still kind of stuck. Not sure if the Kiwis like this American directness or not. Ask them, and most Kiwis say they don't like it. But whenever I have actually done it - whenever I have taken the gloves off and simply told people exactly how I felt and what I wanted, the response has been generally positive.

I suppose it's all part of the work in progress that is settling in on this small island far from everywhere else. We'll see where it goes . . . .

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Barman No Longer

My very brief career as a Barman in New Zealand is about to come to an end. My happy hour shift starts in about an hour, and I've decided it will be my last one.

I took the two-shifts-a-week job pretty much for the hell of it in the first place. I didn't really need the money, although every little bit extra certainly helps. But it turns out that bars and the people who work in them are not that much different in New Zealand from anywhere else.

The manager is the worst type of human - the kind of guy who was the coolest, nicest dude ever when we first met, but once I started working for him, he didn't speak to me for about 3 months. No hello. No goodbyes. He didn't even look at me. I've come to find out that it is nothing personal, as he pretty much treats everyone like shit.

Dickface suddenly started being real nice a couple of weeks ago after he very seriously stuck his foot in his mouth at me. I won't go into any details, but suffice it to say that he really pissed me off and I let him know it. The fact that he is now suddenly saying, "Hello" and "How ya goin' mate" in the Kiwi way makes it all even worse. So to hell with him. I don't want to see him anymore, and I am over the bar work. Sometimes it is actually kind of fun, but most of the time it's pure drudgery.

And someone needs to teach these people how to drink. My God. There is a reason we put ice in cocktails - no ice means that the drink is watered down and doesn't taste like anything. People in Christchurch seem to think that ice in a gin and tonic robs you of tonic water.

I can't decide if I should go out in the proverbial blaze of glory (see the first post on this blog) and tell Dickface what I think of him, or if I should just finish my shift and go home, never to be seen again. The red-blooded Texan side of me that was partially raised by a gun-toting, liberal bashing, 300 pound uncle who went nuts at waitresses in Denny's if his pork chop was overcooked wants to make sure Dickface knows not to fuck with bald Texans ever again. It would be kind of fun to tell him off and, if nothing else, just embarrass the crap out of the guy in front of the other employees who can't stand him. But on the other hand, the mature adult hiding somewhere inside me knows I'll probably just reinforce everyone's already negative stereotypes of most Americans.

But what the hell . . . it's been a long time since I've truly and completely burned a bridge. Might be time to light one up . . .

We'll see what happens . . .

Don't you hate ellipses . . . how lazy is that . . . either form a complete thought, or come up with another way to indicate incompleteness . . .

This blogger sucks . . .