Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bette Davis Eyes

This song was already old when Kim Carnes took it and shook it in 1981. I loved it then, and like it a great deal now. Oh, how fickle I am! Actually, this may mean that my taste is all in my arse, but I don't care. When I say it was old - it had been written in 1974, and released later that year to thundering silence.

It's a fine thing to be back at work, and an even finer thing to have the energy to sit at my keyboard to write something. So, here we go:

I have found that the way to become a good bus driver (an exalted state I hope to reach one fine day) is to have Salamander Eyes. Big, googly, swivelling eyes. When cornering, I can use one to focus on the right mirror, to make sure I don't hit that bloody concrete island that some dickhead put there. With the second swivelly eye I can watch for the moron in the Audi - more on that later - who is going to do something unexpected. With the third (!) I can keep an eye on the left mirror to make sure the tail swing doesn't take out the Postbox some dickhead (possibly the same one) put too close to the kerb. And after I've done all that, I can do something about watching the road ahead because that kid's just rushed out and..

Incidentally - "He's got salamander eyes" scans with the song perfectly.

There are a few TV commercials I'd like to comment on. There's the Kinder Surprise one, where the Dad knocks on the door and asks the little girl to come outside... Then gives her chocolate and acts all... creepy... with her. I can't help but think he's been forbidden contact with the child, isn't allowed in the home, and is a peadophiliac slimeball. Otherwise, why not simply open the door? Why not simply go inside? Why not simply tell the little girl to put her hand in his pocket to find the.... Oh. Sorry.  I don't like that commercial, At all.

Then there's the one where the equally creepy guy goes to the bank vault while an oleagenous voice-over bangs on about "precious things". El Creepo then gets into a car to find a bride (it's at night-time, too. Extra creepiness) while the voice-over says something about daughters being the most precious, my dear. The Rich Creep gives the bride - his daughter - a key. I'm assuming it opens her chastity belt. The whole tone of the commercial is that the daughters of rich men belong to their fathers. Vileness, in the back of a car.

Then there's the Stuart Dawson (I think) Jeweller commercial. Three vacant chicks are sitting at a coffee table. Two ask the third how her new relationship is going... and Blank Chick # 3 shows off the jewellery her new boyfriend has bought her. Hmm. The best way to judge a man is by the jewellery he buys you...  Vile factor of 7 out of 10.

It's later. Time to write a little more about Audi drivers.

There are, I am sure, good drivers who are also Audi drivers, but I haven't seen any for a long time. Maybe there's an Audi aerosol that the vehicles spray at their drivers that turns off their brains. I'm finding that 8 times out of 10 that I see arrogance, rudeness, shitheadedness, and prickish behaviour on the roads, it's being demonstrated by an Audi driver. I bet that Creepy Father # 2 drives an Audi. Paedo Creepy Father # 1 would drive a white van...

Watching: Not much on TV right now that rings my bells.

Reading: Ian Tregillis, "Bitter Seeds". Sci Fantasy, and excellently done.

Listening to: Arcade Fire "Neon Fire". Top album.

Movies: We went to see "Brave" yesterday. Laughed like a drain. Really thoroughly enjoyed it.

Buy of the Week: Mad Butcher has big bags of licorice allsorts off cuts for $4.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Born to be mild

Steppenwolf, of course. Easy Rider, of course. The song "Born To Be Wild" has become a cliche, a laughing stock, a parody of everything it might have once stood for or said. It was, it's said, the first heavy metal song, and the lyric provides the first use of those two words used in conjunction. It's dragged out by broadcast journalists every time they have a story dealing even vaguely with motorcycles. It was the standout track on Steppenwolf's 1968 album, and used as the first big song on 1969's movie "Easy Rider". 'Nuff said.

It seems the NZ Police want us all born to be mild, if their Special Tactics Group spokesman is to be believed. When being questioned about the veracity of the Kim Dotcom search warrant and the methods used to execute it, the STG chappy said (in court) with some indignation, that Mr Dotcom was "belligerent and disdainful".

As opposed to what, Mr Gun-Totin' STG person? Mild, and polite? Fawning, and obsequious? Timid, and grovelling? Of course Dotcom was belligerent and disdainful. (Actually, he wasn't belligerent. He physically surrendered. Dotcom was belligerent and disdainful because he is a highly intelligent person - you don't get to develop and run a business turning over hundreds of millions of dollars if you're stupid - and knew what was going on. He knew the NZ Police were toadying to their FBI colleagues. He knew the guns and helicopters and total overkill was all theatre, and all gobshite.

The rationale used by the anonymous coppers in court for the guns (we saw a 10 year old photo of Mr Dotcom holding a shotgun! Shriek! Panic!) and hugely overmanned attack on his home (we needed men to neutralise his cars because we'd seen a YouTube clip of Mr Dotcom driving at 260kph on Germany's autobahn, so considered him a flight risk) is pathetic.

As for when he was physically arrested... well, what a balls up that was on the part of the Special Tactics group. They knew where the Panic Room was, because Dotcom has shown a visiting constable all of the house's features a few days prior to the raid. This co-operation on his part, of course, made the zealotry for guns and shock and awe all the more rational. But, even knowing where the Panic Room was, it took the arresting team 13 minutes to track him down. Despite the fact that the Panic Room's door was left unlocked. Then it took a lot of yelling and gun-pointing and noise to persuade a fat man to hold his hands up, to push him to the ground, to punch him (yes, I believe him on that one) and to accidentally trample his fingers (Yes, I believe the cops on this one. There was so much chaos that it's highly likely it was accidental).

The whole thing was bullshit. And the NZ Police Commissioner should be asking some very hard questions, and making the answers very public. Bet he won't, though.

ON TO ME: Diagnosis: cluster headaches. Have to carry powerful anti-cluster-headache drugs with me at all times. Might get a man-bag. And I can go back to work, once I get the letter from the doctor. woo hoo. Monday week should do it.

READING: Ken Follet, "Fall of Giants". Big, fat book. Good start.

LISTENING TO: Steppenwolf, "At Your Birthday Party". Excellent.

PRODUCT: Sounds fm. They're doing a lot of TV advertising right now. Tuned in when I was in hospital. Like listening to my own album collection. And they don't just play the "popular" tracks from albums. They play stuff I haven't heard in years.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fever, and Que Sera Sera

Yes, two topics!
First, "Fever". Made famous by Peggy Lee back in 1958. A thousand other people have covered it (Beyonce being the most recent), but no-one else has managed to get the raw sexuality of Peggy Lee's recording. Yes, "Fever" is the rooting song.

Anyway: fever. I've not blogged for a couple of weeks, because I had a fever. Huge one, too: pneumonia. Now, I learnt a couple of things from this experience.
A fever isn't just hot. The night before going to the doctor, I was experiencing bouts of deep cold, accompanied by uncontrollable shivering. This was unpleasant, so nature, in all its deviosity followed it up with heat. Lots of heat, and sweat.
So, Jenny dragged me to the doctor the next morning (Almost literally. I was terribly weak.) and while I was there I passed out. Excitement! People rushing about! Jenny getting the fright of her life (sorry, sweetheart)! Mucho vomiting, too!
Then hospital. Again. I am really getting sick of that place, weak-kneed pun intended. So, yes, it was pneumonia, and I said "but it hurts". They looked at me as though I was a moron - a look I've been getting a lot, lately. "Of course it hurts," they said. "It's pneumonia".
Well, hell. Who knew. I've been accustomed to hearing about Old Man Jones, who mercifully died of pneumonia after spending 20 years battling scrofula.
It seems that pneumonia kills many old people. They have cancer, beri-beri, malaria, whatever. The disease weakens them, they contract pneumonia, and they die. Well, we think. Ain't that a mercy. Instead of having to battle Limping Leprosy, pneumonia has peacefully carried them off. Ha! Pneumonia hurts. A lot. There's no mercy about it.

Que Sera Sera: another 1950s number, this one first made popular in the Hitchcock movie "The Man Who Knew Too Much", in 1956. Doris Day sang it in the movie, and it became a big hit. Much as I love Doris, I prefer the Connie Francis version, which came out in 1962, when I was 10.

Also, Connie was hot. Ter.

Anyway. Christchurch has a few things to celebrate, post-earthquake. The residents have been given ample opportunities to see just how much of a hollow man their Mayor is, and Gerry Brownlee has strode the area like a colossus. So much so that his bulk has actually kicked off 17 after-shocks. He hasn't said much worth listening too, though. He has merely eclipsed the sun occasionally, and harrumphed.
But the new plan for the city centre does look like it could work very well. Brilliantly, in fact.
I just have one small quibble.
CERA. Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. Great acronym. Well, it would be, if we pronounced Canterbury as "Santerbury". For some reason or other everyone pronounces CERA with a soft "C". SERA. But the "C" from "Canetrbury" is hard - Kanterbury.

Immanuel Kant.

So the "C" IN CERA should be hard. KERA.

Can't wait to get back to work. Seeing the Neurologist today to get my facey thing signed off, and to see if I can get Magic Drug to stop future headaches. Wish me luck (which I, as a rationalist, don't believe in). Hearty thing's under control. Pneumonia has largely gone, just in recovery mode.

READING: "D-DAY", Stephen E Ambrose. Very, very good. "Pale Horse Coming", Stephen Hunter. One of his very best, and a replacement copy for the one I loaned out to someone who obviously thinks it's too good to return.

LISTENING TO: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Beat The Devil's Tattoo". Constantly surprising.

WATCHING: TV: "The Fades". Brilliant Brit writing, acting, directing. Great ghost / apocalypse yarn. MOVIE: Have finally seen "War Horse". Not as damp-making as I feared. Good flick, but I'm glad I didn't spend $16 on a movie ticket.

PRODUCT ENDORSEMENT: Gu chocolate Millionaire Pancakes. Holy crap. I never knew chocolate, caramel, oats, and magic could ever taste so good. These were given to us by our neighbour, recently returned from Australia, so they may not be available here. Storm the Bastille until someone imports them!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Please Read The Letter

Woo hoo! I made it into the 2000s: Please Read The Letter is on the 2009 album "Raising Sand", by Alison Kraus and Robert Plant. OK, picky people will also note that it was first released on the Bob Plant album "Walking Into Clarksdale", realeased 1998. Bah, I say. And humbug.
Three letters...

Dear Listener Editor;
The first time I saw it in your pages, the matches came out. The second time: the fuse was lit. And now I’ve seen it for a third time. Which makes it time for me to explode.
July 21-27 Issue 3767
It’s the replacement of poo (a perfectly good -if childish – euphemism for sh*t, cr*p, d*ng, m*n*r*, or the ever-popular French m*rd*. Excrement.) with pooh. Pooh, as we should all know is the name of a Bear. A very nice Bear. A Bear of Importance, Hunny, and Verse.
Christopher Robin did not go a-wandering in the Hundred Acre Wood with a poo. That would have been weird. Instead, he went with Pooh, Piglet, Kanga, Tigger, Eeyore, Wol, Roo, and various others.

To replace Poo with Pooh implies that the word Poo (or sh*t, etc) is also synonymous with Black, Polar, Grizzly, Koala, and Cuddly. I shudder at the thought of a Cuddly Poo, but a Cuddly Pooh makes me feel all gooey and caramel-ey inside.
And consider this: all Bears can poo in the woods, but only one Pooh can Bear in the woods.

Please instruct your writers and sub-editors that a poo is a poo, and cannot under any circumstance be confused with Pooh, who is a Bear.
Many thanks,

Dear JohnKey;
It must be very heart-warming for you to know that 67%  63%  58%  whoops  53%  um  48% er quite a few people are still quite fond of you. Unfortunately, your popularity seems to be dropping almost as quickly as a crack whore’s drawers on a Saturday night.

So, what to do? You’ve tried the race card: hauling out the water rights thing, so the Maori Party will get all divisive and divided, and you look like quite a reasonable sort of chap, smirking while you said that all you were quoting was the law. Oh, please, JohnKey: not even Winston Creepers would have used that one.
We know that all you’ve done, really, is follow what your monied instincts tell you to do: grab things that aren’t yours, things that someone else (like me, and my parents) paid for and built, and sell them to yourself and your buck-buddies. After all, you’re Mum and Dad Kiwis, aren’t you?

You know that so-called “ordinary” Kiwis can’t afford to buy any of the shares / share packages that will be offered when the power companies go on the market.  In New Zealand and simultaneously in Australia, where there's a million or so "ordinary" Kiwis. Mind you, I have to grant that your definition of “ordinary” might be different from mine. To you, ordinary is someone who earns more than $200,000 a year. Probably overseas. To me, ordinary means the other 98% of people. Here.They’re the strange little creatures you meet on those interminable photo-opportunities you have to smile so much at.
But the smile’s not working these days, is it? Not working for you, and not being put to work by you. Perhaps people have started seeing how shallow and shabby you and your pod-people in Cabinet are…


Dear God;
I’ve been reading a bit about Intelligent Design lately.
It’s an attractive proposition, until I look at myself. I had to start wearing spectacles at age 3, because my “Intelligently Designed” eyes weren’t up to scratch. It took a surgical team of fallible people to fix the major problems that Your Infallibility left behind. Mind you, I got lucky: I missed the Intelligently Designed Polio you gave us to play with.

And now, it seems your Design has cracked up again. The chances seem pretty good that I have something called “Cluster Headaches”. You must have built them into your Perfect Design as a way of teaching us oh, something – although if a human father did that to his kids he’d be thrown into prison for child abuse. Anyway, if you’ve forgotten about Cluster Headaches, check ‘em out on You’ll see a video of a man learning your ineffable lesson as he joyously experiences a Cluster Headache. I know exactly how he feels.

Intelligent Design, eh, God? Sorry, but you don’t even get an “E” for Effort.

Ignore ya later,

Listening to: Nina Simone, Greatest Hits. “Cotton Eyed Joe” is playing right now. Sublime.
Reading: War comics.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

And When I Die

In 1969 (will I ever drag myself out of the 60s?) the jazz/rock fusion band Blood Sweat And Tears,_Sweat_%26_Tears released "And When I Die". It reached #2 on the Top 40, and was, quite possibly, the last time death was rationally mentioned on primetime media in the United States of America.

It strikes me that the Americans (and we're catching this particular disease) have a really odd attitude toward death. I am not convinced that people - particularly Americans -  actually "believe" in death. Vast numbers believe in some sort of Sky God who speaks to them personally, and who maintains some sort of home for them to go to when their material body dies, so they don't actually die. It's seems to me that there are major delusional factors involved in this belief system, but wjhat do I know?

But it goes beyond that. There's a number of movies that come out every year that shows the transubstantial belief goes beyond organised regions. The Christ, Jahweh, Mohammed, Krishna, and Buddha followers aren't mentioned in films in which an adult swaps bodies with a teenager (and vice versa, of course), and everyone enjoys learning a jolly good lesson. Or the films in which preople are miraculously saved from some tragedy, but are later harvested by a vengeful personified Death, wyho seems to enjoy coming up with quite novel and spectacular ways of doingn away with people. Now, even irrational people understand that movies ain't real. But even the suspension of disbelief allows the making and popularity of movies that easily insist on the reality of "souls", "spirits", and (more sinisterly) the personification of a being that takes your spirit from you.

Then there's the language. I've notived American movies, books, TV programmes, websites, and magazines almost never use the "D" word. People don't die, and they're not dead. They pass, or have passed.

Oh, well - that's them.

I noticed this the other, and couldn't believe it. The quote comes from the story in the link, which tells of a chap who was called in to investigate a "sacred" statue that was producing holy water. Unfortunately for the goddists, it was actually sewage water, leaking from a busted pipe. But here's the quote:

You now face possible arrest. Why?Leaders of two Catholic laity organizations have launched charges against me under Section 295A of the Indian penal code. This charges a person with "deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community.”

Yeah - an actual law that protects the feelings of the religious. Sigh. If their god ain't powerful enough to protect their feelings, then what the dickens does that law have to do with it?

Reading: Potsdam Station, by David Downing. The last of a series about Berlin during WWII. Better than Le Carre at his best.

Watched: "Strange Exports: A Christmas Tale". A Finnish movie about the real Santa. Deliciously funny.

Listening to: Lana del Ray "Born To Die". Well, at least she didn't call it "Born to pass..."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

When I'm Sixty-Four

The Beatles didn't do many "character" songs - and it could be argued either way as to whether "Sixty-Four" is one or not. It was on the Sergeant Pepper album, released in 1966, and it made my Parietal Lobe reverberate the other day when I looked at something and reacted... well, here's the story.

When you drive a bus, you get a terrific view of all sorts of stupid, wonderful, beautiful, and breath-taking things. I see a lot of drivers do a lot of stupid things. To be fair, I see a huge number more drivers doing sensible, safe, and thoughtful things, so it evens out. I see old couples out walking their dog, strolling along hand in hand. Very cool. I see teenagers walking together, and I know from the way they walk that they both want to hold hands, but neither knows just how to go about it. At night-time, I don't see any men waiting at bus-stops, because they're all wearing black. I've learnt to slooow---riiight---dooown just before every bus-stop, just to look for the invisible men. The other night one of them held up his glowing cell-phone to alert me. I could have kissed him.

And I see a lot of tights. And I often see long, bare legs, topped by micro-skirts. And 90% of the time I think to myself: "Shit, she must be cold." Actually, when the legs are bare you can tell she's cold. The legs are blotchy with purple patches.

Now, I'm pretty sure that only 10 years ago I would have been thinking "Hurly burly what a girly!" Actually, I wouldn't have been thinking at all: it would have been a purely visceral reaction.

"Shit, she must be cold." It's with that murmur of concern that all my dreams of being a dirty old man run down the gurgler. Damn.

Reading: David Downing, "Sealing Their Fate". A history of the 22 days in 1941 that Germany and Japan lost WWII. Excellent.
Listening to: The Beatles, "Love". The re-mix that Giles Martin did for the Cirque de Soleil show of the same name. Also excellent.
Watching: "Castle". Absolutely and totally brainless. I love it, but when are they going to get it on??

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Dangling Conversation

A minor hit before for Simon & Garfunkel before the album "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme" was released in 1966, "The Dangling Conversation" tells the tale of a couple whose familiarity with each other has turned not into contempt, but rather into a rift that is so vast as to be practically invisible.
The theme of the song has nothing to do with today's blog. It's all in the title.
I was at a girls' school the other day (I shan't say which one). I was out of my magnificent chariot, making sure the School Bus signs were on display. As I walked back to the vehicle's front door from the rear, I was followed by to girls. Here's the fragment of conversation I heard:

GIRL ONE: I shaved my legs last night.
GIRL TWO: Really? Did you shave your vadge as well?
GIRL ONE: Shave my c*nt? No way...

I got on the bus and looked at them. I, of course, was invisible. I'm old, and a bus driver - guaranteed invisibility. They were 13, maybe 14, tops. On this, I merely report. I do not judge or comment. But I must add that I laughed like a drain. Oh - and I inserted the asterisk into the word because I know some of my readers find the whole word distasteful.

A couple of days later I was in Takapuna, and picking up four or five Chinese couples. They'd apparently been to a language class, and were eager to try out a few new words. They were happy, shy, and proud.
MAN ONE: Two stage tickets, PLease, for me and wife.
HIS WIFE (correcting him): MY wife!
PERSON ONE: Ah. Me and MY wife. Ha ha ha!
ME: Certainly, Sir. Well done! Welcome aboard.
MAN TWO: Good.... (asks wife question, in Chinese)
HIS WIFE: After-noon.
MAN TWO: Good after-noon. Two tickets for FoRRest HiLL, PLease. (laughs).
ME: Good afternoon, sir. Good afternoon, ma'am. And here are your tickets to Forrest Hill.

And so it goes, until the last passenger boards. She is a white lady, bottle-blonde, late 40s, perhaps early 50s. Nicely dressed.

ME: And good afternoon to you, ma'am. And where can North Star take you today?
LADY: Three stages please. And you do know, don't you, that there's no need to call them Sir or Ma'am, don't you? They're only Chinese.....

Again, I make no comment or judgement. But I do know who I'd rather have at my dinner table.

WATCHING: Bugger all. I've been doing a bunch of night shifts, starting at 2.00pm, finishing around 11.00.
READING: "Catching Fire", Suzanne Collins. The second part of the Hunger Games trilogy. Slower going than the fist one, but still...
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT: Ambrosia apples. I'm normally a Royal Gala kind of guy, but these are delicious.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The House of the Rising Sun

The House of the Rising Sun has a complicated history: it may be as much as 300 years old, telling a tale about a Soho brothel. What it's about is also speculative. One theory is that the actual House was an infirmary where prostitutes went to have their STDs cured. It's that interpretation that I'm leaning on today. The song was, of course, turned into a major hit by Brit band The Animals in 1964, although I first became aware of it when Dylan did a cover of it in 1962. I do prefer The Animals' version.

Anyway, I recently spent a short amount of time in a house of healing. The North Shore Hospital has a schizophrenic reputation. Many people moan about it. The service received by some individuals does seem to leave something to be desired. Many people also love it: I am included in that proud roster.

On my three different jaunts there, I have been hugely impressed. And my most recent stay has left me an avid fan of the nursing staff. Cheerful, good-humoured, knowledgeable, and working under what seems to be an incredible amount of pressure, they were always supportive, understanding, and - perhaps most importantly - very real and human. A few even laughed at my jokes, which is taking their duty to places it shouldn't have to go.

Nurse : Nurse and Skeleton

My health has taken a hammering lately. I went to hospital because I'd asked my new GP about a terrible pain I'd been experiencing in my face. She took blood pressure, and listened to various organs, and sent me to the House of the Rising Sun (yes, my ward window faced East, and I caught the full force of the dawn) because my heart was beating hugely irregularly. It carried on doing that for several days, which is apparently a wee bit dodgy.

My father used to call me Face Ache when I was a child. I suspect he called my siblings that, as well, when he forgot their names too. The heart nonsense (for which I am now taking a daily does of rat poison) had nothing to do with the face nonsense, which got forgot about. I figured it was just an infection, and had gone away under the threat of Drugs of Mass Destruction. Not so. While it didn't occur while I was in the House of the Rising Sun, it did re-occur when I had been released. Sigh.

I returned to the Doc, who whimpered that I needed to see a SuperDoc soonest. I did so, on Friday: a Neurologist, who made tut-tutting noises, and is moving the bureaucracy of the Auckland Hospital to get me an MRI within a week. As getting an MRI normally takes a year ( ! ) this could be a Sisyphean task.

The face business is painful. I never actually believed people could / would / do writhe in pain. I can reliably report to you that yes, they do. Or I do, anyway. It's some sort of nerve damage / disease thingy, and I have been prescribed Powerful Drugs to counteract the symptoms. I am a firm believer in the "Drugs Give Hugs" philosophy, but I am a little concerned at the cocktail of crap that I'm hurling down my neck. Arthritis drugs (yay!). Heart drugs (yay!). Now facey-nervey drugs...

I am wondering about Karma. Did I over-indulge in too many illegal recreational drugs when I was young and gorgeous? Am I paying a Karmic debt by having to take too many Big Pharma concoctions? Or is this the Revenge of a Jealous God, who's pissed at me because I am positive it doesn't exist?

None of the above, I'm sure.

Just one more observation: The House of the Rising Sun - or North Shore Hospital - may be also referred to as "The House of the Repetitive Questions". It seems that every time a nurse ( or any other hospital worker, for that matter ) approaches a patient, they automatically ask three questions: Will you confirm you name, please? And date of birth? And can you tell me the Patient Number that's on your hospital wristband..?

They could add a fourth question, I suppose, depending on circumstance: Which kidney / leg / eye is to be surgically removed?

Kidney : Digital illustration of kidney in colour background   Stock Photo

READING: Well, a lot. Currently, though: Stephen Hunter's "Tapestry of Spies". His first novel, which I'd never read. Very good. Interesting to see how writing styles develop. Also the second part of the "Hunger Games" trilogy. Fun. And I've cracked open Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" again.

WATCHING: Doctor Who and Fringe (of course), and Grimm might just be a starter as well.

PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION: IXL Strawberry Jam. Much better than Craig's, even better than Barker's and Anathoth. And it's the cheapest of the lot! It actually has big chunks of strawberries... Excellent jam.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

It Is What It Is

The Highwaymen released "It Is What It Is" a few million years ago, and while it wasn't a great song, it does have the great lyric "It is what it is / but it ain't what it used to be".

I really wanted to use "You Can't Always Get What You Want" as my lead today, but I couldn't make it work. Great song, though. Play it now, really loud.

I was chatting to a fellow driver the other day. He wanted to know my history, as one does when you're in the initial stages of getting to know the person you're yarning with.  But he couldn't work out why I enjoy this work so much, especially as I've worked in positions where I've met All Blacks, Prime Ministers, pop stars, wits, sages, Winston Peters and Paul Henry. He's a driver, but (like me) he's come to the job from something altogether different. He was in IT, made redundant, and fell into driving by chance and WINZ.

And he resents the fate that's led him here. A nice guy, but bitter about the road the brought him to his current stop.

All I could offer him was the line: it is what is is, my friend. To which the Highwaymen would add "but it ain't what it used to be". I have come to this acceptance not through any facet of wisdom, but more from an acknowledgement that the affairs of the world are, without, far bigger and more powerful than my own desires. It's also taken me a couple of years.

We humans are odd creatures. Impressively ego-centric, to the point that every one of us (if we are fortunate enough to enjoy three square meals a day) is certain in the belief that the world does, indeed, revolve around us. We are bound and confined not only by what we see, but by where we see it from. The world presents itself to us through the very intimate portal of our eyes and ears, connecting to our mind / brain which is central to our existence.

The debate still rages about the whereabouts of the human mind. I believe it is the organic brain. Religionists must insist that the mind is centred in the inorganic soul. Animists might believe the mind is centred in the heart. But I digress.

 We cannot help but be ego-and-self-centred. The species' survival wouldn't have been possible otherwise. But equally, our survival wouldn't have been assured unless there was a healthy dose of acceptance of the fact that the sabre-tooth tiger is a hell of a lot more powerful than an individual human. Nonetheless, if we're warm and well fed, it is hard to acknowledge the fact that the world really has no time for us as individuals. The macro-economics beats the snot out of micro-economics,  the Baron will always bugger about with the peasant, and sometimes the best thing to do is accept what we have (and in my case, I am severely wealthy in most ways that count) and make the most of where we are in our life's journey.

And where I am is this: I've worked hard to learn a new and dangerous skill. I have now spent five days driving transiting human beings about this wonderful city. Literally hundreds of people have granted me the privilege of trusting me to safely deliver them to their destination. I mean, really, how fucking cool is  that? It is what it is. It ain't what it used to be. And that's what is so excellent about my new circumstance.

READING (and read): I have read one astounding book in the past week - "Broken Jewels" by David L Robbins. Quite, quite extraordinary. And I'm reading another one: Donald Ray Pollock's "The Devil All The Time". Holy shit! I am amazed by this book. Many, many thanks to Gillian for recommending it.

LISTENING TO:  Florence + The Machine, "Ceremonials". I like this a great deal. Such a neat combination of 1980s Glam Rock and soul-searching chick singer-songwriter.

WATCHING:  Have seen "The Avengers". Simply excellent. On TV, I heartily recommend "Outnumbered", Prime TV, on Thursday. Outstandingly funny. Also "Fringe", which is so good that TVNZ put it on at 11.30. I've found it pays to check out the late listing on TV1 and TV2: that's when they put the good stuff on.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm a Man

In 1967 The Spencer Davis Group released "Im a Man", and in 1971 Chicago's cover version - which had originally featurfed on their first album "The Chicago Transit Authority" - scrambled all the way to #48 on the American charts. I knew that would fascinate you.

Actually, at more than 7 minutes long, it's surprising it got that far. It's bloody good, though.

I am now fully licenced, and I've had my first week of one-on-one tutoring. Yes, I have been responsible for the safe commuting of several hundred trusting Aucklanders. My driving abilities will be assessed by two seperate examiners next week - possibly Monday - and I shall be allowed out completely on my own.

I feel nowhere near ready. Actually, I'm confident that I can drive the various vehicles quite safely, and have proven that to myself. But I never knew what bloody hard work it was. And the responsibility of the job is a little terrifying. No matter. My main tool is, actually, my Mother In Law, who turns 93 on the 29th. I simply imagine I have her on board, in one of the middle seats. If I can drive so that a frail little old lady is safe and comfortable, then I'm on a winner.

And what does that have to do with "I'm a Man"? Nothing. What does is this: It puts me into close daily contact with all the regular drivers. Up 'til now I've only really mingled with my fellow trainees. Now we're all rubbing shoulders with the hardened men of the front line.

I chose those words deliberately. I've watched oh, about a thousand war movies. Love 'em. Read about a gazillian war books. Love 'em. And this whole recruitment / training / replacement / meeting the veterans thing reminds me hugely of  the new recruit movies that I'm so familiar with.

The environment in the Drivers Room is unashamedly masculine, despite the fact that around 15 to 20% of the drivers are women. The language would shock such delicate flowers as my friends Gillian, Jo, and Liz: three women I daren't get in the same room together. The combination of three such luminous personalites would cause the sun to go nova. Back on the subject now, Mathews.

The male drivers are split into two groups. The first is a bunch of greying older white men, while the second is a grand mixtures of younger immigrants: the Sikhs, Sri Lankans, Malays, Chinese, Turks, Albanians, Indians, Azbekistanis, and so on. There's a smaller sub-group of middle-aged Chinese and Pakeha men who just shrug when the noise gets too high.

The more men you get together in a confined space the more basic the conversation gets. 10 men might talk sport, barbecues, penises, drinking, and rooting. 20 men and it's just sport, penises, drinking, and rooting. Over 21, and you simply forget about sport and drinking.

Most of it is mocking - self-mockery as well as putting down their colleagues' sexual capabilities. The stench of testosterone is palpable. The malice is non-existant. Everything cutting remark that's made (and I've heard a hundred very witty and very original lines every day) is made in pure jest, and is designed to make the speaker a bigger wit than the target.

Yes, it's competitive. What male endeavour isn't? It's all "I'm A Man". The intellectual contect is nil - while the cleverness quotient is very high. Most of these men aren't, it must be said, well-educated. But there's not a stupid one amongst them.

I know they're all bright, because not a one of them has any time for my friend JohnKey the Donkey. And anyone who agrees with me must be clever. Right?

Listening to: Santana, "Shape Shifter". Extraordinary.

Reading: "Broken Jewel", David L Robbins. A favourite author, and this is his best.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I'm Part Of The Union

In 1973 the band with the highly plausibnle name "The Strawbs" belted out the anthemic "Part Of The Union". It got to #2 on the British charts. We don't need to know much more than that, really.

The bus business is highly unionised. Just as almost everyone describes him or herself as a bus driver (or mechanic), so it is that just about everyone who earns a wage is a member of a union.

The bus drivers have a choice of two unions - which means they aren't entirely united, which does seem to be a little silly. When we (the training group) were being inducted into the company, representatives of both unions came and talked to us. Neither one was complimentary about the other, yet they work together in the annual wage / conditions neghotiations with the company. They just wanted our money. They wanted us to pay our dues. And no, paying our dues wouldn't turn us into immortal blues musicians. Oddly, we were also talked to by the Operations Manager, who dressed like a real estate agent and told us of the value of joining the union of our choice. The union people and the suit also told us that joining a union was totally voluntary.

And so, as union members do get slightly better conditions and overtime rates than those who choose to not join, I have signed up. Also, I am not politically averse to unions. I take great pride in being a bleeding heart leftwing pinko liberal ratbag. So, you can't touch me. I'm part of the union. Or part of one of the unions, anyway.

BIG NEWS: I am now a fully licenced bus driver. I am now legally and lawfully allowed to drive cars, motorcycles, and heavy road-going vehicles up to 17,000 kilograms.Or some ridiculously large weight, anyway. My licence also boasts a "P" endorsement. This doesn't mean I can sell Class A drugs. It means that the State has found me to be a fit and proper person, someone who can drive a fare-paying passenger vehicle.

This doesn't mean my training has stopped. It simply means I can now be put into a bus with a tutor, to actually travel the routes with passengers in the vehicle. After a week or so I'll be allowed to be behind the wheel while the tutor sits behind me, ready to behead me should I do anything stupid.

Several of my classmates are already in this mode: they got their "P" endorsement through before I did. Being a Fit and Proper person after having lived in Austrralia for several years in the 1970s is, apparently, not easy to demonstrate.

You'll have noticed that I am using my old "Maundering" blogsite. This is because I have, for some reason or other, lost the ability to actually write a new blog on that site. Google really didn't want me to write a purely bus-oriented blog. If you're new to the "Maundering" site, feel free to browse a few of the old offrerings. You may - or may not - be amused at the rantings of a middle-aged left wing liberal pinko etc.

LISTENING TO: Robert Plant, "Band of Joy". Very groove and cooly.

READING: Still working on "The Hunger Games". And loving it. Am shortly going to start "The Devil All The Time" which has been recommended by the ever-reliable Gillian in a Million.

WATCHING: Saw the new "Sherlock" programme last night. Very brilliant.