Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Watching Kiwis Drink

There was an ad in the weekend employment section of The Press back in November of last year looking for a resident funny person to work in a bar. I sent off a funny (haha) email, detailing my complete lack of skills, disdain for soccer, and love of New Zealand beer. I guess it turned out to be a fairly effective cover letter, because three months later, I started working at the bar.

My first shift was 27 February (Kiwis do the date backwards like that for the Americans reading this), which, for those scoring at home, was two days after Fat Tuesday, or one day after Ash Wednesday, or one day into John the Robert's forty day exercise as a teetotaler. I wasn't going to drink a single drop until Easter, and, with a few very minor exceptions (I had a beer at the Who concert, I sampled my first homemade beer once it was ready, and I took one for the team and had a glass of wine [Marlborough Savignon Blanc - hints of cut grass and citrus] with my mother-in-law on her birthday - all worthy exceptions in my version of Lent) I have been on the wagon.

What better time to start working happy hours at a local in Papanui? I don't generally hang out with drunks unless I'm drunk myself, at which point I'm not really hanging out with drunks, I'm just hanging out. And getting drunk. With other people.

So I thought this would work out really well. I would pour beers for three or four hours every Thursday and Friday and it wouldn't bother me a bit because I wasn't drinking anyway. I would calmly sip on some ice water or maybe even some lemonade (what Americans call "Sprite" is called "lemonade" here). And for the first few weeks, it really didn't bother me. I was actually starting to have a pretty good time, with a few exceptions . . .

DIGRESSION: Every country, or maybe even every city or neighborhood, has its own drinking customs, and apparently most people here in Christchurch, or at least the ones that go to my bar (not that it's mine, but you know what I mean - the bar I'm working for) think that

1. local drinking customs are obvious
2. anyone who deviates from local drinking customs is a retard
3. a barman with an American accent who serves a drink with a straw is gay

This bar has a pretty happening happy hour. Something about $3 wine and tap beer helps. 95% of what we sell is beer and wine, so there isn't much I can do to fuck up. Make sure the glass is reasonably cold, or at least not hot, leave 1 cm of head in case of beer or fill the wine glass to the letters (the name of the bar is printed on the wine glasses). But for that 5% that wants a Rum and Coke or a Gin and Tonic, GOD HELP YOU.

Where I come from, you order a gin and tonic, and the bartender makes you a gin and tonic. Period. The customer might request a slice of lime instead of lemon, but basically you defer to the bartender's skill and hope for the best. Here, whatever I do is met with scorn. I pick up a short glass, and I get yelled at to put in a tall glass. I pick up a tall glass, and get a little chuckle as the customer looks at me like I'm Rain Man and says, "it usually comes in a shooooort glaaaaass." I put ice in the glass, and the bank lady (invariably it's bank ladies that order gin and tonics) says it's too much ice. No ice in the glass and she wants more ice. Would you like lemon? "Of course I want lemon!" Would you like lemon? "Hello no! Give me lime!" I start stirring the drink with a little straw. Would you like the straw? "Yeah - and you can give it to me with a facking umbrella - why don't you put a bloody cherry in it as well ya fackin' Yank and put the straw in this beer mug" (this last bit was actually bank lady's boyfriend). I think he was being sarcastic. Anyway, lesson learned. Use a straw to stir the drink behind the bar and toss the straw before serving it. Ask if customer wants a tall or short glass, or even better, hold up one of each. Do not criticize customer for ordering RTDs, even though it has got to be the dumbest thing in the world to order a ready made Bourbon and Coke in a bottle while you are in a fucking bar talking to a bartender whose job is to mix drinks! (END OF DIGRESSION)

95% of the customers, especially the regulars, have been really cool, although our conversation rarely gets past a variation of "How ya doing/how ya goin." But it really doesn't take much to make me like people. Just a simple smile and a "how's it" while I pour the beer puts me on their side. Some people, sometimes fortunately and sometimes not, do feel the need to have a chat.

In the latter category was a female regular who somehow found it necessary to share that her ultimate sexual fantasy involved dressing her boyfriend up in Klu Klux Klan robes. She asked if there was a Klan supply store in my hometown. I told her I didn't know. Her boyfriend was standing right next to her, wearing Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse sponsored Nascar gear, and smiling from ear to ear as she detailed what she would do with a white pointy hat.

As for the theory that working in a bar during a period of enforced dryness would be easy, it hasn't exactly worked out. I haven't actually tried the beer at the bar yet (they serve their own boutique brews), but it sure as hell looks good, and truth be told I can't wait to try it. I have never wanted a beer more in my life than the second I clock off and walk out of that bar. Every molecule in my body wants to change shirts and walk right back inside and order an ice cold lager, nicely, with a big smile and a "how's it going." I wouldn't even blink if I got a straw.

But I haven't yet broken down yet. Maybe that's because we've moved Fish and Chips night from Sunday to Friday. Once happy hour is over, I drive to the best fish and chippy in town, pick up my order, go home, and completely forget that beer even exists.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cry Me a Tasman

New Zealand is a small country. Area wise NZ is about the size of Colorado, and its population is less than that of John the Robert's native habitat, that cesspool of humanity and humidity known as Greater Houston.

So perhaps New Zealanders can be forgiven for having "little country" syndrome, the same way I have come to forgive 5 foot nothing Jason McClain for being a dick in high school. (Life as a short, red headed atheist who was the world's biggest Misfits fan at an all boys Catholic school in Texas must have been rough.)

But the reaction to this Australian expat's blog has taken the traditional Kiwi inferiority complex to new levels, damn near equating New Zealand itself with the personality cult status afforded Kim Jong Il or Fidel Castro, if only Dear Leader/El Jefe were a small flightless bird or a silver fern.

Here's what all the fuss is about. An Australian couple (from Tasmania of all places) moved to Auckland and started a blog a few months ago about their experience as Australians living in New Zealand. While literally thousands of Kiwis move to Australia every year and just about every Kiwi is either related to or at least knows someone who has made the move, Australians aren't exactly clamouring for flights further south. Nor do Australians know much about New Zealand - several Australian friends I knew in Japan were surprised that New Zealand had its own currency or that it's capital city was Wellington.

The need for a blog detailing life in NZ for the few Australians thinking about living here seems clear.

But then someone told the thin-skinned Kiwis that this couple didn't like New Zealand beer (Auckland beer probably does suck, but the beer down here in ChCh is gooooooood) and thought that Rotorua stunk (it does). And this "story" about the bloggers who "hate" New Zealand ended up in the papers and was even the top of the hour topic of conversation on the breakfast news show this morning.

I suppose I'm not really surprised. Three days after the New Zealand election, there was a front page story in the Press (Christchurch local rag) "reporting" that a columnist from the Age (Aussie paper) thought Kiwis made a huge mistake by electing John Key over incumbent Helen Clark. A few months later a German television network ran a story about street racers in Christchurch bothering tourists, which duly landed on the FRONT PAGE of the Press.

And in today's Press, the story at the bottom of the front page compares the drop in hotel prices in uber-hip Queenstown to the plunge in prices in Mumbai and Reyjkavik. The audacity to compare our supposed troubles in attracting tourists to the tragedy in Mumbai and financial chaos of Iceland, while shocking, is yet further proof of this innate and irrational defensiveness that Kiwis harbour.

Relax. New Zealand is beautiful, and it is a great place to live.

Christchurch is the most livable city in the world. I can walk to work in 20 minutes. I saw Steve Earle play one of the best shows I've ever seen in a state of the art theatre that was halfway to work (that's ten minutes for the mathematically challenged). The skifields are a 90 minute drive, and the beach is 15 minutes on the bus, or 45 on the bike. We've got flower shows coming out our yin-yangs, international buskers, a world class rugby stadium, a kick ass library with very comfortable chairs and every magazine known to man (Downbeat anyone?), and enough Thai food to keep Thailand going should global warming wipe it off the map.

We love it here. I'm not leaving. But I'm not going to Rotorua either.

And I'm still allowed to bitch.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Who at North Harbour Stadium, Auckland

Drummer Keith Moon has been dead for 30 years, and bassist John Entwistle succumbed after the coolest rock star death of them all (cocaine and prostitute induced heart attack at 58!). The other half of the Who have a combined age of 128. The writer (Pete Townshend, 63) continues to deliver backhanded compliments to the singer (Roger Daltrey, 65) along the lines of, "Roger is the best interpretor of my work," and outright put downs such as, "Keith Moon was a genius, John was a genius, I certainly approached genius, and Roger was just a singer." Pete and Roger put out a Who record back in 2006, Endless Wire, with cover art straight out of 1984, but with keyboard riffs and guitar motifs directly plagiarized from the own earlier work. ( And yes I've spent the last two and a half years trying to decide if I like it. I still don't know. Apparently David Fricke from Rolling Stone did. So did virtually every other rock journalist, even though Daltrey's voice sounds shot and Townshend's lyrics at times border on ridiculous. Some bands, you just can't criticize.)

In an earlier post you can read about my justification for spending a fair amount of coin on the 2009 version of The Who. I'd never seen them before, and there is something about being in the presence of true honest to goodness rock and royalty that gets me every time, making me willing to spend absurd amounts of money to see absurdly rich people play absurdly good music. Still, I had my doubts, especially about Daltrey's pipes and how anyone could stand in for the greatest bass player of the rock era; suffice it to say I had low-ish expectations.

I know now that having low expectations ahead of seeing The Who is like walking into the movie theatre thinking that The Godfather might suck, or holding your nose as you gingerly inch that filet mingon to your mouth, or putting off a trip to New Zealand because there are other mountains closer.

What the hell was I thinking? From the punk rock blue print that is the opening chords of I Can't Explain to Daltrey's scream at the end of Won't Get Fooled Again (he can still do it!) to the sheer beauty of an utterly stunning Behind Blue Eyes, Townshend and Daltrey (along with honorouble mention Zac Starkey for pounding the living shit out of his drums) brought the goods. And we loved it.

Was it perfect? From a technical standpoint, not at all. Although I'm sure he's played it approximately 7000 times by now, Townshend managed to forget where he was in I Can't Explain, going into the lead break after the first verse while the rest of the band fired up verse two. His amp shat itself during the 5:15/Love Reign O'er Me Quadrophenia nod. His riffage during the Tommy montage in the encore could have been tighter. Roger still tries to fling his mic around, but he pretty much stayed in one spot the whole show, and he still seems to uncomfortably defer to Pete (are these guys ever gonna just like each other?) in terms of most if not all stage banter.

A more important question - did it rock? Oh yes, my friends, it rocked, Townshend rocked, the crowd rocked, even the bus ride on the way out to the stadium rocked (courtesy of a very drunk Maori dude singing 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover over and over again - I'm not sure if he realizes that Paul Simon was not in The Who).

Townshend wound up his trademark windmill throughout, attacking his shiny red Fender Strat with gusto and force. Perhaps most importantly, he genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself. I've always wondered how much a performer like Pete Townshend can get up for yet another gig at a random stadium on the other side of the world from everything, but he appeared sincere when he thanked the crowd for coming out "in such difficult times" and if he is getting sick of playing Who Are You and Baba O'Riley, he certainly didn't let on.

And what of Daltrey's voice? His singing on the Endless Wire album sounded strained; on virtually the entire album he is just barely able to hit the notes he's reaching for. Apparently this was done on purpose, because with the exception of some minor vamping on Won't Get Fooled Again, Roger's voice sounded the way I imagine it did the last time The Who played New Zealand 41 years ago.

After an encore of a short Tommy medley, which concluded with the beautiful harmonies of Listening to You, the support players left the stage. Townshend finger-picked an acoustic while Daltrey sang Tea and Theatre, a fitting and touching tribute to Moon and Entwistle. The amazine journey was complete.

Setlist: I Can't Explain, The Seeker, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Fragments, Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Sister Disco, Baba O'Riley, Eminence Front, 5.15, Love Reign O'er Me, You Better You Bet, My Generation, Won't Get Fooled Again, Pinball Wizard, Amazing Journey, Sparks, See Me Feel Me, Tea And Theatre

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Four Years

High School: Four Years
University: Four Years
Olympic Training Period: Four Years
Time Between World Cups: Four Years
How Long I Spent Trying to Appreciate Leonard Cohen Records Before I Gave Up: Eight Years
How Long My Last Band in Japan Lasted: Four Years
How Long My First Band in NZ Lasted: Four Months
Number of Work Days in a Week with One National Holiday: Four Days
Minimum Paid Holiday as Mandated by NZ Government: Four Weeks
Length of US Civil War: Four Years
Length of World War I: Four Years
Length of World War II (US involvement): Four Years (give or take a few months)
How Long I've Been Married: FOUR YEARS

David Bowie may have sung, "We've got FIVE YEARS/ that's all we got" but it just seemed like five years to him because during the Ziggy Stardust period he was trying to be gay and refused most solid food. The magic number is clearly four, and the fact that Sarah and I have survived the first four years is reason for serious celebration.

We went out for some seriously ***** (that's pronounced "five star") Italian food last night. You may have heard that I don't do restaurant reviews, and I'm not about to start now, but there was a quattro formaggi pizza with walnuts, a bruschetta composed of manuka honey and pears, and, as the menu said, The Best Ever Lasagna, which, were it my restaurant, would be renamed the Best Ever Lasagna Because It Comes With a Shitload of Meat. As I sliced the lasagna, meat poured out from between the layers of pasta like ice cream on a half melted Mississippi Mud when bitten. It was so good that I didn't even have anything to drink, for fear that adding anything further to the taste orgy would so desensitize my tongue that my own penne-and- tomato-sauce-with-$6-bottle-of-South-African-Cab-Sav would never suffice again.

In keeping with the celebration of FOUR, I've decided that the anniversary will last for four days. Thursday was Italian food, Friday was staying at home and watching Springsteen on the Daily Show (we would have done that anyway . . .) but it all picks up again on Saturday because we are flying to Auckland.

To see The Who. From the 12th row.

And yes, I know that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are half the original band and that their combined age is 128 (no shit), but as Pete has said, they are very lucky that the guy who wrote all the songs and the guy who sang them are the two left standing. Fair enough I suppose. And besides, we and about 50,000 other people saw the Beatles play a show in the Tokyo Dome a few years ago with one original member, and that dude was definitely sporting man cans (abnormally large male breasts) at that point. The Japanese did have the decency to advertise that event as a "Paul McCartney" concert, but you know what I mean . . .

And the four day celebration of the four year anniversary concludes Sunday with a lie in at the Rydges Hotel in central Auckland where we shall gather another six months worth of mini soaps (perfect for the gym) before returning to Christchurch and eating the best fish and chips in Australasia, no screw it, the best fish and chips in the Pacific Rim (I find it hard to believe that there's a place in either Chile or Oregon that can compete with our guy down the road).

1040 Takeaways at, uh, 1040 Colombo Street for those of you in ChCh, is absolutely the best fish and chip shop in town. The double burger with cheese will melt the heart of anyone (and I now you're out there) opposed to the basic premise of ever ordering a burger in a fish and chip shop on the basis of keeping some order in the universe. To hell with order in the universe. It's time to embrace chaos, and order the fucking burger. It's really good.

I'll let you know how it all goes. Hope everyone else has a good weekend.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Punk Rock Rosetta Stone

I often stay up late at night searching for that mythical musical bridge that must have existed between the so-called prepunk of the MC5 and Stooges in Detroit and the full blown, fully leaded punk rock played by the Ramones and Dead Boys in New York.

I had been pretty satisfied that the New York Dolls were that bridge - image wise at least, as the Dolls look and sound was an esophagus burning nightcap made of the androgyny and pure bloody weirdness of Iggy Pop, mixed with a dash of Mick Taylor era Stones, shaken with some accidental death in a bathtub (poor Billy Murcia - perhaps the saddest rock star death of them all), and served with a floater of soon to be Sex Pistols manager Malcom McLaren dressing up the band in red leather commie outfits. How punk rock is that?

Very punk rock indeed is the correct answer, but the problem with this "New York Dolls as the sonic bridge between the Stooges and the Ramones" theory is that the Dolls' music sounds just like the Stones (and no, that does NOT mean they sound like Aerosmith). Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this sound. Tis a sound other bands would do well to emulate, if only they could. Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders worshipped the spoons that Keef used to melt his smack, so much so that Thunders threw the cat amongst the pigeons by becoming a heroin addict before he became famous, never a good idea.

As righeous as those two original Dolls albums are (and the third record that the last two surviving members put out in 2007 is pretty damn good too), this Stones-ish sound the Dolls played is decidedly un-punk, or at least that's what my old pal Tim would say. And if Tim doesn't think it's punk, then it's not punk. Dude.

So what is a punk rock historian to do?!?! Thank God for articles like this.

I've never actually heard this band Death (never even heard of them - I'm embarassed), and I'm not about to fork over $800 but for a single, but the idea that three black dudes from Detroit could have saved rock and roll from disco is just so damn cool I think I'll just have to go with it, songs unheard.

So there you go. Death is now in my "Top 10 Most Influential Bands of the Punk Rock Era That No One Listens To Anymore." The actual list shall be forthcoming.

And speaking of influential bands that no one listens to anymore, I saw John Doe, the bassist/singer from L.A. punk band X, play an acoustic set at a jazz lounge in Christchurch last week. The X songs sounded great, especially The New World, which he of course dedicated to the new administration among hopes that he can sing The New World four years from now after we have seen an actual New World. Whatever, it's a great song, always has been, always will be, and hearing Doe play it solo acoustic Woody Guthrie style was neat-o.

John Doe's new songs all have that familiar thing he does with his voice where he gives us a rising vibrato at the end of each verse before a punchy chorus of lots of syllables in not a lot of time. I swear John Doe does this on damn near every song he plays, and it's great, it's his thing, just like Bono's hoo hoo's and Springsteen's rebuttals of "Mister" and Kris Kristofferson dropping the word "freedom" into every song he writes. So let me be clear that I have no problem with John Doe doing his elongated-end-of-verse-vibrato-thing-followed-by-punchy-chorus. I am cool with it. But when an honest to goodness punk rock legend introduces a new song by commenting about the mountains near his house or how much he misses his daughter (while cradling an acoustic guitar), you know you better be ready to cringe.

And cringe we did. But no worries, John, you still rock. Just don't write any more songs about mountains, daughters, or California.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dancing Kitten

See below for why my kitten is special, and why this is all new to me.


Friday, March 13, 2009

This Guy REALLY likes Slayer

I like Slayer and all, but damn . . .

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

That Dress is No Longer Fancy

Living in different places is great. There are new experiences to be had at every turn, or at least that's what I keep telling myself. The truth is that I'm starting to wonder if my curmudgeonly tendencies have gone from "occasional" to "permanent feature of John the Robert's personality." My patience for eccentricity for its own sake is starting to wane.

Emo bands that cover Dylan songs, especially this Dylan song, should lose whichever hand they use to apply makeup.

I've been living in New Zealand for nigh on 10 months now, and I am bloody sick of costume/fancy dress parties/events. The Rugby Sevens weekend in Wellington has turned into a 30,000 strong costume theme frat party. The dudes unironically, yet cheekily dress like the Village People, and the chicks dress like nurses, if every nurse in the world wore fishnet and had DSL's. It's stupid, it makes a mockery of the sport (which might not actually be much of a sport anyway to be fair - rugby sevens is like the 6 man American football they play in West Texas high schools too small to play real football), the blowhards in the stands don't even watch the games, and it's just wrong on all levels.

Today is Wednesday, March 11. There is absolutely nothing special about today (other than my sister's birthday, but she lives 19 time zones to the left). Thus, there is NO REASON for a guy dressed as BATMAN to walk past my kitchen window at 6 o'clock this evening while I'm cooking. But there was and he did and "Holy Fancy Dress Party" that dude showed up to wherever he was going dressed as Batman and is probably getting laid via a fat chick who went to the party as a pirate.

I declare a moratorium on fancy dress events in this country. Enough is enough. We have Halloween in America so we can keep this shit to a minimum. Once a year people. Not every Friday when you and a bunch of coworkers put on pirate and cop outfits and rent a 1960s model school bus to drive your drunk ass around from one about-to-go-out-of-business-pub to another, rocking out to classic, uh, Kiwi tunes such as Country Roads and Sweet Home Alabama. And not at sporting events, even if the sport in question is, uh, questionable.

Stop it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

No Songs Like That

I've never written a record review. I have spoken approximately 2,587 record reviews, and that's just if we count what I said to my former colleague in Japan, Mike, the only person I know who can tell you all about Kind of Blue and Astral Weeks but still has the time and inclination to get into Slayer in his mid 30s.

You may have heard that a new U2 album was released this week, the group's 12th. As with most music snobs of my generation if they are being honest, U2 was the first band I obsessed over, listening to Boy through The Joshua Tree and virtually nothing else for most of 1987. That being said, I am by no means a U2 fanboy. I found the 90s albums intolerable and can now go literally years without listening to the 1980s high water mark of inspirational-wet-dream-pretension that was the Unforgettable Fire (it's last spin on the ipod was on a bike ride in Japan in October 2007, and while, yes, it may be a bit over the top, it is still a great record).

2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind was the return of that classic U2 sound - Adam Clayton thumped the same bass line he'd been thumping since War, the Edge jingled and jangled and kept the batteries in that delay pedal fresh, Larry Mullen tapped out military patterns on his snare while Bono sang songs with names like When I Look at the World and Peace on Earth. I loved it. And I even liked the much criticized 2004 follow up, the unfortunately named How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (certainly in the top 5 "badly titled good records," somewhere among R.E.M.'s New Adventures in Hi Fi and Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow). That record even has a song called Yahweh, for Christ's sake. No wonder so many people (my friend Mike notable among them) wish upon a star for Bono to meet up with a flesh eating virus that attacks his vocal chords but leaves the rest of him to writhe in unrelenting agony.

So what's the deal with No Line on the Horizon? The haters will hate it. The level of animosity - no, that's not quite right. Allow me to start again. The vitriolic malice, spite, and revulsion the anti-Bono crowd has for his pretension, rock star hypocrisy, and politician's smirk will only be amped after they get a whiff of lines like "every generation gets a chance to change the world," and "the shitty world sometimes produces a rose" (I swear a grown man who writes songs profesionally actually sang that line on this album) on song titles such as Cedars of Lebanon. I can hear Mike now. "Dude. They have got to be joking. Cedars of fucking Lebanon! Have they no shame!" And I would put my head down in shame as Mike would fantasize about all the cool ways in which Bono and/or the rest of the band could be dismembered, buried alive, or at least water boarded.

And for those of us who grew up on U2? You're gonna buy it anyway, but here are my two cents. The Edge is starting to plagiarize himself - the Walk On riff seems to come up again and again (but then again Clayton has been playing that bass line for 25 years and no one complains). The first signs of wear and tear are apparent in Bono's voice (check out the squeaks in the upper registers that he just can't quite hit full tilt in I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight). The much maligned Get on Your Boots is not nearly as bad as it's been made out by some and seems to work well as a lead single, as if that even matter anymore in this age of download-whatever-song-you-want.

The biggest revelation to me, and I admit I may very well be making a mountain out of a mole hill here, is that Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois have come away with songwriting credits on 7 of the 11 songs here. Think about that for a second. Imagine Bob Dylan sharing credit with Lanois on Oh Mercy or Time Out of Mind. Yes, the layered sound that is Eno's hallmark is all over this album, not that it is necessarily a good thing (and Lanois's triple serving of reverb is all over Time Out of Mind - sure as hell doesn't mean that his Bobness needed a writing partner). How to Dismantle a Band By Coming Up with a Stupid Ass Title for a Good Record was a good record for those 3 minute bursts of postpunk guitar rock (All Because of You, Vertigo) that hadn't seen the light of day on a U2 record since Electric Co off Boy.

And that is the biggest weakness of No Line on the Horizon. For all their faults (and even I'll admit they have many), U2 does stadium rock like no one else. They can actually ROCK. The Edge can make the hair stand up on the back of the neck of that dork in the cardigan sweater in the back row of the upper prom of a Japanese all purpose convention hall with that jingle jangle thing he does. But on this album, it just doesn't work. Yes, Clayton gives us that bass line and Bono sings high pitched hoo-hoo's and the Edge plays with lots of effects pedals and Mullen sounds like he's playing halftime at the Army-Navy game. On the best U2 records, the four members of the band do these things they do, and it results in unmatchable if not overblown epics like Bad, Where the Streets Have No Name, and City of Blinding Lights or at least rockers like A Day Without Me and Desire. No Line on the Horizon has No Songs Like That.

Methinks I should stick with speaking my record reviews. That was hard.

The Kitten

Growing up in an animal free home, I never understood people who cried when their pets died. I figured you would just get another cat. Or more goldfish. Or God forbid, another dog. I don't like dogs. Never have and probably never will. My uncle would say that my fear of dogs is just another manifestation of my latent homosexuality. The truth is that I fear dogs because one bit me when I was four. And they stink and shit in inconvenient places and make noise and are generally unbearable.

My wife Sarah grew up with cats, or to be exact, a cat. The same cat lived in the house on Highcliff for 17 years, and passed away mercifully at the vet's office, the victim of that procedure delicately known as "being put down." Curiosity didn't kill that cat, the vet did. Never mind that Colours lived to the human age of 80 and was blind, lame and generally useless; her death was a traumatic event for nearly everyone in the family, even my mother-in-law who loved to affect an imaginary hatred for Sarah's beloved pet. Sarah has always looked forward to getting another cat - we weren't allowed to have pets in either the shoebox apartment we called home in Japan for the last eight years or in the palatial two bedroom in which we now reside in Christchurch.

I have been a pet owner for a week. A quick call to the landlady, a sob story about a blind, lame, and recently deceased cat, an upcoming birthday, and some creative gift giving resulted in a small bundle of tortoise shell and white coloured fur sharing/invading/overtaking my living space. We named the kitten Kirin, after the best beer in Japan.

So this kitten playfulness is all new to me, and yes, she is hilarious. From the near suicidal leaps from the sofa onto the coffee table to the running start to climb up the back of Sarah's right leg to express displeasure at Sarah's decision to wash dishes to the way she goes apeshit with a box of tissues, Kirin is excellent value. This kitten is equal parts pro wrestler (the back of the dining table chair is her top turnbuckle), gymnast, sloth (sleeps 16 hours a day) , kangaroo (she loves hopping on her back feet), and retarded ballerina.

And I don't want to hear that every other kitten does the same thing. "All kittens are playful," my coworkers say. "Kitten love jumping, they love tissues, and they absolutely love to climb on you," says another cat owning friend. I DON'T CARE! Please just let me think that my kitten does double back flips from a wet coaster onto a piece of plastic just because she wants to impress me. Period.