Saturday, July 13, 2024

When words fail

Words have been part of my life, one way or another, for as long as I can remember. From a very early age, I understood the power of words arranged in the just the right order, and especially when they’re delivered at just the right time, however that may be measured. So, when words abandon me, it’s a particularly difficult thing.

When I was somewhere around seven, give or take, I found an antique manual typewriter in the attic of our house. It had belonged to my parents, though I have no idea where it came from. Nevertheless, I carefully typed out what I labelled “Schenck News”, with some small “news stories”, including an “interview” with my dad which reported that he liked his job. It even had a “comic”, the humour of which was based on an answer to a question that was random letters/characters that I typed. I don’t know, but I doubt I thought that was actually funny even back then.

Whatever that was way back then, I’m fairly certain that it was my first attempt at creating something that I specifically intended for others to read. I did that several times during my childhood and adolescence, and the pace only picked up over the decades after that, and this blog has been part of that for nearly 18 years.

In recent years—say eight, give or take—I’ve had periods in which I didn’t produce much of anything, for one reason or another. That’s become much worse since Nigel died, mostly because of the realities that followed. In the past couple of years in particular, something new emerged: In my head, I heard only silence.

Actually, that’s not entirely true: There have been times when posts popped into my head nearly fully formed, though often at night when I was in bed and trying to fall asleep. Many other times, there was simply silence, and no amount of willing things to be different could make the words arrange themselves on the page.

Any recent casual reader of this blog would see that my last post of June and first post of July were both in the ”Weekend Diversion: 1984 series, and it would be logical to assume that those were pre-written and their publication pre-scheduled, since I talked about doing exactly that back in March. However, both were written shortly before I published them, and, in fact, only two of the 10 posts in the series so far were pre-scheduled.

This is a specific example of how things are for me at the moment: I knew those posts were coming up (it’s a set schedule, after all), I knew the subject of each post, and probably exactly what I thought about it. I could easily have pre-written all the posts in the series—but I didn’t.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this happening, and why it’s been far more intense than it ever has been before. I don’t have one single answer, and that’s part of what has made all of this so challenging—and frightening.

I know part of it is that this is a very difficult year for me, what with its overload of challenging times: My 65th birthday, what would’ve been Nigel’s 60th birthday, and the fifth anniversary of his death. All three of those events are how the fuck can that be true?!” moments for me. My age, that Nigel didn’t make it past 55, that he’ll have been gone five years—all of that means I’m in an existential nowhere land, carrying a rich and beautiful past, but also nothing but doubt, uncertainty, and fear about the future. Even so, much of that has been the case ever since Nigel died, so what’s different now?

I think part of it was that I launched into what turned into a major a project I’ve yet to talk about here or on Facebook, for various reasons and no particular reason. I began with the best of intentions, and then derailed myself—and my emotional well-being—several times along the way. Worse, the project isn’t even finished yet, though there are extenuating circumstances for that.

So, when I take the existential angst I live with like background radiation, add in the specific emotional demands of three important anniversaries, and then put all that under the immense weight and pressure of an absolutely huge and very physically demanding project, I know it was inevitable that something had to give. As bleak as I know that sounds, it’s actually not: Instead, it’s actually a light, and a bit of hope: This means that the current dark times will pass, and not as long from now as I am from where this particular challenge started. The massive project will end, and then I’ll get through each of the two remaining challenging dates this year, just as I got through the first one.

What I can’t know for certain is that the end of my current dark times will mean the silence should end, too, and the words will return. I hope so. Still, I’ve also learned that, if necessary, I can learn to live without arranging words in the just the right order, and delivering them at just the right time.


When I was thinking about this post in recent weeks, my mind once again seized on pop music, in this case, the 1982 song ”Words” by French musician F.R. David (video below). I’d never heard of the song when lived in the USA, and when I heard it on the radio here in New Zealand, I thought it was performed by a woman. Clearly I didn’t listen very carefully then—or ever, to be honest. Still, it was the lyric, “Words don't come easy to me” that kept playing in my head as I planned this post, and it’s definitely not the first time that my life and pop music had interwined. It’s not surprising I didn’t know the song in the USA: It only hit Number 62 on the Billboard “Hot 100”, but it did hit Number 7 in New Zealand, which is probably why I eventually heard it on NZ pop radio. Veritas in musica/ and all that.

Monday, July 08, 2024

Road way

It’s been a year since that road connecting my neighbourhood to the rest of Hamilton opened, something I talked about at the time. That’s probably because I’ve used it so much over the past year that it feels like it’s been there for years. I use that road to get to nearly anywhere I’m going in Hamilton, so, in a sense, it really did connect my house to the city, something I talked about last year. That’s mostly about “feel”, of course, but isn’t that true about much in life?

Making me feel physically connected to the city aside, it hasn’t exactly made Hamilton feel like “home”. I think I’d say, “it’s okay”, which is the kind of non-committal indifference I’d say about things I may not love, but also don’t hate. I say that about things that I really do think are okay.

One thing that would make me like this city a lot more would be if they would finally build the small commercial area along that now year-old road, but there’s no indication that’s going to be any time soon. Maybe when interest rates finally drop?

The original part of the road we were connected to last year has a new development under construction, Orient Industrial Park, which will have warehousing and live/work light industrial units, along with “two onsite food and café providers plus an interactive indoor golfing simulator,” the latter made me chuckle.

Interestingly, at one point Nigel was really keen on us moving to a similar live/work unit on Auckland’s North Shore. The concept was new to New Zealand, and I wasn’t as keen as Nigel was (honestly, at the time I thought it sounded kind of odd). He moved on to being interested in living other places—in fact, I lost track of how many houses we actually visited, let alone how many others we just looked at from the road or online. Still, I backed him, as I always did, and if he’d truly been into the live/work units, I’d have backed him on that, too. Of course.

So: A year on from that road opening, my ordinary daily life is so much easier than it was before then: It now takes around 5 minutes from my house to The Base/Te Awa, two different supermarkets, my dentist, and Leo’s vet. On a bad day before the new road was opened, it could take me 15-20 minutes or more to get to those same places, so the road brought a big improvement.

There are several different things holding me back from feeling at home in Hamilton, but at least now I can see how the feeling could be possible—and that new road is definitely an unexpectedly huge part of why that is.

I’m still only at the start of my own personal road, still finding my way, and there aren’t any maps. But that actual new road really did help my actual and existential journeys.

This post began life as a Facebook post. That’s only relevant because that’s the only reason this is post is here. More about that soon.

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 10

Number One songs come and go, and some hang around longer than others. This week in 1984, yet new song went to Number One and began the year’s second five-week run in the top spot, but this one was especially significant for that year. On July 7, 1984, “When Doves Cry” by American musician/singer/songwriter/produce /etc. Prince (his full name was Prince Rogers Nelson). The song was the lead single from Prince’s sixth studio album, Purple Rain, which was the soundtrack album for the film Purple Rain. “When Doves Cry” was Prince’s first Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” chart.

“When Doves Cry” was was the second single of 1984 to stay at Number One for five consecutive weeks (I talked about the first, Van Halen’s “Jump”, in Part 3 of this series, back on February 25). “When Doves Cry” however, was even more significant because it went on to become the Number One song for 1984 on Billboard’s “Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1984”. “Jump” was Number 6 on the same year-end list.

As we all know, Prince’s life was complicated. In 1993, he had a dispute with his label, Warner Bros, and changed his name to a symbol, but was often referred to as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” (or “TAFKAP”, usually said as a word, as I recall) or was just called “The Artist”. In 1990, after moving to Arista Records, he began using his own name again. His personal life was complicated, with some controversy. At the same time, though, he was hugely popular and sold more than 100 million records worldwide, which made him among the best-selling pop artists of all time. He was also clearly a gifted musician, songwriter, and performer., and all of that is quite a legacy.

I liked quite a lot of Prince’s songs, beginning with his 1983 song ”1999”, which peaked at Number 12 on the “Hot 100” (and was probably my favourite of his songs). I liked “When Doves Cry” when I first heard because its sound was so different from other songs at the time. In the years that followed, I liked more of his songs, but not necessarily all of them. Even so, I can’t think of any of his songs that I actively disliked, and that’s kind of unusual for me: When I like some songs by a musician or band I don’t consider myself a fan of, there are inevitably songs of theirs that I don’t particularly like. However, I also can’t think of a time I intensely disliked a song by a person/band I otherwise liked (for at least some songs, anyway).

“When Doves Cry” reached Number One in Australia and in Canada, Number 2 in New Zealand (Gold), 4 in the UK (Platinum), and it was Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” and also on their “Hot Black Singles” and “Dance Club Songs” charts, as as well as Number One on Cash Box. The song was also Platinum in the USA. The song charted again after Prince died on April 21, 2016, reaching 8 on the Billboard “Hot 100”, the first time it was Top 10 since September of 1984.

The album Purple Rain reached Number One in Australia (3x Platinum) and in Canada (6x Platinum), Number 2 in New Zealand (5x Platinum), Number 7 in the UK (2x Platinum), and Number One on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (13x Platinum). In 2016, the album charted again, hitting Number 5 in Australia, Number 7 in Canada, Number 4 in the UK, and Number 2 on the “Billboard 200” chart, as well as hitting Number One on their US “Soundtrack Albums” chart. A remastered version of the album was released in 2017 (the first of his albums to to be remastered), and hit Number 4 in the USA.

The next post about a 1984 Number One song will be August 11.

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2 – February 4, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 3 – February 25, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4 – March 31, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 5 – April 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 6 – May 12, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7 – May 26, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 8 – June 9, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 9 – June 23, 2024

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 9

Another new song went to Number One this week in 1984, and, like the previous Number One, it also had a two-week run at the top spot. On June 23, 1984, ”The Reflex” (video up top) by English New Wave band Duran Duran became the new Number One song. It was the group’s eleventh single, and the first of two songs to reach Number One in the USA. The song was the third single from their third studio album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

Duran Duran is one of the groups I remember most from the mid-1980s, however, I wasn’t exactly a fan. In the US, it was fashionable among some people to hate the group, which I thought was silly. Mind you, I thought many of the lads were rather fetching, so maybe I was more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt? They were (and are, of course) all around my age; while most members are a year or two younger than me, lead singer Simon Le Bon is nearly three months older than me.

As with nearly every band played on radio and MTV at the time, I liked some Duran Duran songs, and other songs I didn't particularly like. For me, “The Reflex” was in the latter category. I certainly didn’t “hate” the song; as is so often the case with me, not liking a song doesn’t necessarily mean disliking it. What kept me from liking the song was the refrain that began, “Oh, why don't you use it?” because of the warbling on the word why. It was unique, sure, but for some reason it really annoyed me. I have no idea why. Still, that wasn’t enough to make me hate the song, so it wasn’t exactly a deal-breaker, either. I guess I had a kind of benign neutrality.

The music video was mostly footage shot at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on March 5, 1984 during the band’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour. The Wikipedia article linked to adds:
In keeping with the band's insistence that their music videos "never be ordinary", the video screen above the stage displayed bits of naked models wearing collars and chains illuminated with black light, occasionally interrupted by computerized video white noise. At one point, a computer graphics–generated waterfall appears to pour out of the video screen above the stage to soak the audience.
I’m always fascinated to find out, well, “what were they thinking?!” when a video is made, whether I like the result or not. In this case, my feelings about the video were pretty much the same as for the song itself: A kind of benign neutrality.

Like many songs form this era, and probably more so than was true for other Duran Duran songs, I think I may have become better acquainted with “The Reflex” over the years that followed, particularly because it remained in rotation for both pop radio and, especially, MTV.

“The Reflex” reached Number 4 in Australia, 3 in Canada (Platinum), 6 in New Zealand, Number One in the UK (Silver), and Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” and on the Cash Box “Top 100 Singles” charts; the song was also Gold in the USA.

The album Seven and the Ragged Tiger reached 2 in Australia, 7 in Canada (3x Platinum), 11 in New Zealand (Platinum), Number One in the UK (Platinum), and 8 on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (2x Platinum).

This series will return July 7, when a huge hit reached Number One.

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2 – February 4, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 3 – February 25, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4 – March 31, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 5 – April 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 6 – May 12, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7 – May 26, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 8 – June 9, 2024

Mirror on the wall

On Monday, June 10, I finished a mini-project, one that came about kind of by accident and was to solve a problem that an earlier “solution” didn’t. Not that I ever mentioned any of that here. That’s nothing new, even if the project was.

Back in February, I spent several days knocking off a bunch of very small jobs, including two in the en suite: Installing a hand towel ring and installing a rechargeable LED light over the mirror, which is visible in the photos above. I needed to do this because the ceiling light is in the wrong spot—and off centre, which annoys me at least as much. When I trim my moustache, I like to get close to the mirror so I can see better, but that’s meant I was blocking the light, putting my face was mostly in shadow. There’s no electricity in that wall, so I couldn’t easily have an over-mirror electric light installed, so I thought the rechargeable light I installed was the best answer. I hoped it would help because it was pointing downward.

I spent days and days working on a blog post about that and all my February projects, complete with photos, but it was just too complicated (and very long…) so I gave up. In the end, I talked about some of of the small projects I did, including installing that light, on AmeriNZ Podcast Episode 413.

I used the light several times, and wasn’t entirely happy with it because it wasn’t point downward enough, mainly because of the magnetic holder: It can’t be pointed down any more than it is. I knew that he touch-sensitive power button was a little temperamental, but the bigger problem is that the light doesn’t hold a charge all that long, something that I noticed in recent weeks (possibly because winter and cold temperatures arrived).

I didn’t have a better solution, until one day when I was watching a YouTube video by an interior designer who was talking about good design, but I wasn’t paying close attention until I happened to see one photo of a bathroom included a shaving mirror that is attached to a wall and pulls out for use. I knew that was the solution.

From their website.
I found one at Mitre 10 for around $40—and others that ranged from $150 to $399. I decided to get the one at Mitre 10, and that’s why I went there at the end of May, after my dental appointment and vaccinations. Their website said they were “low in stock”, so I asked a friendly young woman to help me find one. She checked the computer which said they had four. She couldn’t find even one, not where it should’ve been, and also not in the back-stock above the shelves (she got a ladder to look).

I was going to give up and make do with a handheld one I already have, because I couldn’t be bothered ringing other Mitre 10 locations to see if they had any. But then I thought, why should I settle? The whole point of literally everything I’ve done to this house has been to make it meet my needs, easier to live in, etc. So, Wednesday, June 5 I ordered one online and it was delivered Monday the 10th.

I decided to install it on the wall to my right so I could pull it out and stand over the basin while I trim my whiskers. However, there’s a power point (outlet) on that wall (don’t worry—it’s on a RCD circuit, usually called GFI in the USA), so I wasn’t keen on drilling into the stud—which, it turned out, was where the window frame was, anyway. Instead, I drilled into the noggin (the horizontal wood between studs, often called blocking in the USA), and used a drywall anchor for the bottom screw. As a result, it’s attached very solidly—not a surprise, really, since I have rather a lot of experience at doing that sort of thing.

The photo up top shows the before (on the left) and also the after with the mirror folded against the wall, where I’ll keep it. I could put it the other way, closer to the mirror, but because the extractor fan is also in the wrong place, that corner has dead air and there’s condensation there when I take a shower (when I’m done, I open the window and leave the fan running for a 10-15 minutes, which takes care of the problem). The photo at the bottom of this post shows the new mirror pulled out and tilted to show me—and as far as I can remember, it’s the first time I’ve ever shot a selfie using a mirror.

I’ve sued the mirror a couple times since I installed it, and it works great—exactly what I wanted. I use the regular side, but I can flip it for 3x magnification, if I had a reason to. There are two other things I noticed. When I walk into my bedroom, I can see it reflecting light, which is just new, not bad or anything. The other thing I noticed is that when I first get in the shower, if I look over at the mirror I can see my head and the top of my shoulders, kind of like a vignette portrait. That doesn’t last long—it ends when the glass in the shower steams up—and it, too, was just a new thing. I usually don’t even notice it.

This was just a small project, and not very expensive. Even so, it’s made my life so much easier because I can better see what I’m doing now, and that was the point all along. This isn’t the first time that I was able to recognise a solution to a problem, then carry out the work to fix that problem. It’s also not the first time I was willing to re-do a project because I came up with a better solution. I think that reflects well on me, too.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Same page, not same seasons

Seasons are pretty obvious in temperate climates. For example, summer and winter can be quite different from each other. However, it turns out that when, precisely, people say seasons arrive can also be quite different, too. Sort of.

I’ve often talked about how seasons in this part of the world are said to begin on the guest of the relevant month, and not on a solstice or equinox. Some people who use the traditional dates (solstice or equinox) become kind of angry at those of us who don’t.

I think the crux is what’s being measured. Traditionalists use the position of the sun relative to the equator, much as our ancestors did in ancient times. The problem is that weather doesn’t neatly correspond to where the sun is. This is why some people prefer the first of the relevant month because it’s more closely identified with seasonal changes on weather. For example, this year we started having chilly autumn temperatures in late May, and some parts of the Northern Hemisphere were having quite warm temperatures around the same time, and all of that didn’t wait for the June Solstice some three weeks later.

Most people would acknowledge that this is a really unimportant disagreement. However, I do wish we could agree to refer to the solstices and equinoxes by month, not by the season. The seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are complete opposites, so whenever people use the season to describe solstices and equinoxes, we have to stop to work out where the speaker actually is in order to know month they’re talking about. That’s not ideal.

In that spirt, the June Solstice arrived in New Zealand at 8.50am this morning. The temperature at my house at that moment was around 6C (42.8F), because winter arrived three weeks ago. For us, seasons and astronomical events definitely aren’t the same. But, you already knew all that. Of course.

Related: Today is the shortest day, but tonight won’t be the coldest nightStuff

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 8

Forty years ago this week, a new song went to Number One, beginning another two-week run at the top spot. On June 9, 1984, ”Time After Time” (video up top) by American singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper (co-written by Rob Hyman, who also provided backing vocals) became the new Number One song. The song was Lauper’s first Number One hit in the USA, and was the second single from her debut studio album, She's So Unusual. The first single from that album is the arguably better-known song ”Girls Just Want to Have Fun”.

I bought the album when it was released, and because of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, but I also loved this song. At the time, I had a partner who I often had to catch when he fell, but I don’t recall ever feeling I could rely on him to do the same for me. However, I definitely felt that kind of mutual certainty with Nigel, but I didn’t associate this song with that until after he’d died and I saw the video for this song on one of my many YouTube video sessions during the first Covid lockdown. The chorus encapsulated what I knew was true of Nigel and what he knew was true of me, too:
If you're lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting
Time after time
Those lyrics can still make me cry. Is there higher praise I could give to any song?

The music video is pretty straightforward story-telling. It includes her real-life boyfriend at the time as her boyfriend, as well as her mother and Lou Albano, both of whom had also appeared in the video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. According to the portion of the Wikipedia post on the song that talks about the video, Lauper said, "It was important to me that we were natural and human in the video. I wanted to convey somebody who walked her own path and did not always get along with everyone and did not always marry the guy." The walking her own path part is a theme throughout songs on the album—even in the title.

Having said all that, I don’t remember seeing the video much at the time, and it was only in 2020 and beyond that I grew to appreciate it (that’s largely because once you watch a YouTube video of a song, their algorithms will serve it up again, and more frequently if you watch it, and then it'll turn up again and so on). Because of this, the video helped reinforce for me the power of the song’s lyrics, and it led me to appreciate them more than I did in back the day. This song, then, is one of those times when I liked the song and the video, but the video (eventually) helped me appreciate the song even more.

“Time After Time” reached Number 6 in Australia, Number One in Canada (Gold), 3 in New Zealand, 3 in the UK (Silver in 1984 physical sales, 2x Platinum digital sales since 2005), and Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” and on their “Adult Contemporary” charts, as well as Number One on the Cash Box “Top 100” chart. The song was also 5x Platinum in the USA.

The album She's So Unusual reached Number 3 in Australia (Platinum), Number One in Canada (8x Platinum), 3 in New Zealand (Platinum), 16 in the UK (Gold), and 4 on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (7x Platinum).

It’s natural to become reflective as we move through life, looking back nostalgically or wistfully at our past, probably especially the time when we were just starting out in our adult lives. The album She's So Unusual (especially its singles) is one of the albums from such a time in my life that can make be reflective—not sad or melancholy, just kind of mindful. That reflection makes me feel grateful for all that was good about those days, and grateful, too, that I survived all that wasn’t. It seems to me, that’s not so unusual at all.

This series will return June 23 with another new Number One song beginning a two-week reign.

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2 – February 4, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 3 – February 25, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4 – March 31, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 5 – April 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 6 – May 12, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7 – May 26, 2024

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Not quite yet, thank you

Social media companies, including Facebook, have long had troublesome algorithms. Their problems include politically radicalising people, promoting conspiracy theories, advancing misinformation/disinformation, helping scammers and other criminals to find targets—and also serving up useless ads. Clearly that last one is the last important, but it even that can have negative implications. I found that out this week.

The ads I see on Facebook have always been mixed: Some have been good or interesting, but a lot more were irrelevant—or worse. In recent years, I've been sent ads for fundamentalist “christian” churches/organisations, far-right NZ political parties, and even anti-LGBTQ+ groups, and for all of them I selected “Hide” so I’d never have to see their excremental rubbish. What annoyed me nearly as much as seeing such ads was the fact that the only reason I could give Facebook for hiding the ads was that they were “irrelevant” when there clearly should be the option to choose “offensive”.

This week, the ads took a different turn: They treated me like I’m elderly.

Over the course of four days this week (so far…), I saw the ads in the montage at the top of this post. “When you’re over 65, your immune system is more vulnerable,” the first ads began before going on to say that foods that once were safe suddenly posed a grave risk of bacterial infection—apparently just because I turned 65. Things like cold deli meats, cold cuts, dried sausages, and soft cheeses like brie, are supposed to be off my menu now (cold smoked fish already was, though…).

My first reaction was probably to laugh. It seemed highly improbable that I’d suddenly get sick from making a ham sandwich for lunch, or from having some brie, or anything else I want, but am being told to not to have anymore. Surely, I thought to myself, the issue is food safety, not age?

Next, though, I began to worry that maybe I should be worried about getting a Listeria infection from a sandwich or a cheese board. Maybe I also should’ve known all that, too, and I was stupid, naive, or both for not knowing it. What other hidden horrors of aging were lurking around, waiting to jump out at me? Maybe it was time to panic—make that, PANIC—about what I eat? These dark thoughts mainly happened because I’m already worried about what ageing may be like, primarily because my parents never made it to the age I am now, so I have no examples to go by, and especially because Nigel isn’t here to age along with me.

Those thoughts would never have happened if I’d never seen those ads.

Ultimately, rational reason returned, and I realised that I’ve always used an abundance of caution in food safety. “If in doubt, throw it out” has long been my mantra for food items, though it’s also true that Nigel was far more cautious than I ever was. I also realised that in my lifetime I’ve known plenty of actual elderly people who didn’t flee in terror at first sight of a ham sandwich or a cheese platter that included brie. I’ve also never known an elderly person who was infected—or worse—with Listeria. It seems to me that diligent food safety measures are what matters, and not necessarily cooking things I didn’t used to.

Here in my real world, in addition to practicing good food safety measures, I actually do cook things I supposedly should now avoid. For example, I’ve used sliced sandwich ham in dishes instead of bacon. I’ve also used soft cheeses in a cheese sauce. Even so, I very rarely have any of those things I supposedly should now avoid, so I really don’t have anything to change.

That existential crisis dealt with, a new one popped up today when I saw the ad below. I mean, COME ON! I may or may not need to worry about Listeria, but there’s no way on earth I would want, let alone need, “walking shoes for Elderly Men in 2024”—nor any other year, like, ever. I’ve seen actual elderly men wear shoes like that, and maybe in a decade or two I might decide I need them, but that definitely ain’t happening now.

Naturally, I’m mostly amused at being served that shoes ad, but it does annoy me that the advertiser apparently selected men 65+ as being “elderly”. I’m well aware that there are health issues I now have to pay attention to, like being sure I get my annual influenza vaccination, and maybe I really do need to be extra super-duper cautious with food to avoid Listeria. But I am absolutely NOT “elderly”, nor even close to it—not quite yet, thank you.

These ads may well be typical of what I’ll be seeing from now on. I suppose that’s better than seeing ads that are flat out offensive—though targeting me with ads for “elderly men” is getting pretty damn close to being offensive—for now. Give me a decade or two and I may feel differently—and maybe that’s all the ads I’ll see. Assuming I’m still around by then: After all, a rogue bit of brie may have finished me off before then.

Getting older is just full of surprises.

Friday, June 07, 2024

It started out jokingly

Much of what I share on social media is meant to be at least partially joking, but sometimes things later turn out differently. Like this week.

I decided that this past Wednesday was the perfect time to mow my lawns and do all the edges, too. It had been delayed (yet again) by rain, but the cool/cold temperatures had slowed the growth, so it wasn’t extraordinarily long. That doesn’t mean it was easy to do.

The edges are always a challenge because the line trimmer is awkward to use. It’s not particularly heavy, but the weight is carried by my forearms, which also control the movement. As a result, my arms get tired fairly quickly, and that’s true regardless of how dense the growth along the edges is, or whatever the weather’s been doing.

Mowing, on the other hand, is much harder when there’s been rain, especially when the grass is long, because moisture stays close to the ground for a long time. That makes the lawn mych denser than it is when dry, and that can stall the mower if I’m not careful. This week, I often had to use force to push the mower through particularly dense patches—being careful not to stall the mower—and that, too, required a lot of strength centred on my forearms.

When I was done, I was physically tired in general, and my forearms in particular. I posted the joking status at the top of this post on my personal Facebook, and that was that. Until it wasn’t.

While I was mowing out front, I checked my letterbox and found a letter from Hamilton City Council. I put it in my back pocket, intending to put it inside once I was down out front. It stayed in my back pocket until I was completely finished. By then, it was a bit moist.

As I was sitting in my chair to relax and recover, I opened the letter: Another letter instructing me to look after the raingarden in my front lawn. I was not amused, but I also didn’t really care because I’ll get to it when I get to it.

The new letter was a little bit clearer than the one I received back in 2022, but still didn’t tell what what, specifically was wrong, still just like the 2022 letter, it said there were “issues” and they were “incorrect plant selection” and “not enough plants”. There were a few changes this year, though.

First, while last year’s frankly oddly amateur-looking letter (it looked like something printed from a webpage) was signed by a “stormwater compliance specialist”, this year’s was signed by the “Compliance Manager” for the “Three Waters Team”. This made me chuckle because the Hamilton City Council, like several others, opposed the previous Labour Government’s Three Waters reforms, which were meant to ensure that water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure and treatment were all adequately funded and met national standards. It became a campaign issue in last year's election and the current “Coalition of Chaos” three-headed coalition government repealed the law and basically told councils they’re on their own to fund it all (in my opinion; the Chaos leaders would no doubt dispute my honestly and sincerely held view).

This year’s letter also dropped the veiled threat that pissed me off in 2022 (“As this is a pilot programme, we will not be taking any action”). Instead, this year's letter merely said, “We ask that you keep this stormwater device regularly maintained so that it can continue to function well.” I think that them dropping veiled threats is why this year’s letter didn’t annoy me like the last one did.

Another difference this year is that the brochure was professionally printed on slick paper stock—a proper brochure—while what I got last year was just printed out on an office printer, which made the photos of the approved plants very difficult to see. I haven’t bothered to check if the text is the same, though, and only skimmed this year’s version without really paying attention. I still think I managed to work out what the plants are.

The larger issue is that what I always refer to as “The Damn Raingarden” annoys me just as much now as it did in 2022, and for all the reasons I said at the time (see the post linked above). This time, I thought I’d be clearer about the physical reasons I hate it so much, apart from the fact it’s, as I said in 2022, “ugly AF—it looks like a cattle trough (and it’s in a bizarre spot).”

The bottom of The Damn Raingarden is roughly 40 centimetres (just under 10 inches) from the top edge of the round concrete trough-like thing that contains the raingarden itself. My property slopes from the house down to the footpath, and that means that the bottom of the raingarden is farther away from ground level on the house side than on the street side.

Specifically, the edge nearest the house is nearly at ground level, so I need to sit on the ground and reach down 40 centimetres so pull weeds. That may not sound like much, but because the land is sloping away from the house, I also have to keep myself steady so I don’t topple into the raingarden. On the street side, the top of the rim is 25cm (15.75 inches) above the ground, so I’m sitting lower and don’t have to reach in as far, and the land has started to level off at the point so it’s easier to stay put.

All the other issues remain the same: I need to special order the plants (though winter isn’t the ideal time to do so), and I cannot find their required “hardwood mulch” anywhere in New Zealand. I’d planned on ordering the plants earlier and simply forgot. To deal with that, I’ll set a reminder on my phone to remind me when it’s time to plant. However, I decided some time ago that I’ll use ordinary bark mulch (which I’m almost certain the builder did, too). If Council insists on me using hardwood mulch, they can give it to me and I’ll use it. Otherwise, and since it’s at my expense, it’ll be ordinary bark mulch. Still, I’m not a total contrarian: I’ll “remove excess mulch” before adding new.

There’s actually another reason I’m so nonchalant about “compliance”: I’ve seen how few raingardens in front of other houses in this development are “compliant”, and some of them are far worse than mine. I will get to the one in front of my house, but it'll be on my schedule and at my convenience.

As if receiving a new letter of annoyance wasn’t enough, I apparently overdid it on Wednesday. I needed all day Thursday to recover, and, in fact, I’m not feeling 100% today, either. Oh well, at least the lawns and edges are done. With more rain on the way (again), it’s good to get that out of the way. I ought to be less annoyed with rainy days, too.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Toy obsession

Many dogs love their toys, though precisely what that means varies a lot. In Leo’s case, the pattern is indifference, interest, obsession, de-construction, and then routine. I’ve seen this basic pattern repeated continually since Leo was a puppy, and it continues even now. I may end up with more work out of the deal, but along the way, he’s extremely happy, which is the point.

When I first gave the new stuffed toy to Leo on his birthday (photo at left), he was, as usual, not all that interested in it. He left the toy on the sofa where I’d given it to him, and only paid attention to it when I returned that evening. Even then, though, as I said at the time, “he’s not yet entirely sure about his new toy”, which, I also said, “basically means he hasn’t yet torn it open.” I knew that wouldn’t last.

Leo brought his new toy to bed with him Saturday night, but put it aside and went to sleep. However, when I woke up in the morning, there was some of the toy’s stuffing on the bed. I looked at the toy, and saw its nose was chewed off. Leo had moved to the complementary obsession and de-construction phases.

As the day passed, Leo spent most of his time with the toy. Sometimes he’d lick and chew it, and pause to lay next to it panting (a sure sign of his obsession phase), or he’d have a nap with the toy right next to him. This continued all day, and by mid-afternoon, I noticed there was a lot of stuffing strewn around the floor in the living area, even though I’d been picking it up all day.

Around 3pm, Leo jumped into my lap, chewed on the toy for awhile, then jumped over onto the sofa to have a nap. I could see the extent of his de-construction at that point (photo at right). Basically, the nose was completely gone, and the head was somewhat deflated.

This overall pattern continued on into the evening, until a little around 8pm, when Leo was busily working on his toy and I noticed that the chest was open and I could see the plastic bottle that provided the air for the squeaky noisemaker. While he was busy chewing on the toy, I noticed the noisemaker itself was laying in my lap—he’d chewed it off the bottle—and I picked it up immediately because it was small enough for him to choke on. I also removed the bottle itself from the toy and put it on the table next to me. Leo apparently only wanted to get that out of his toy, because he wasn’t interested in where I put it. He seemed to calm down—until I riled him up again.

I wanted to see how the thing made noise, so, I blew into one end—the wrong one, it turned out—then the other, and it made the squeaky noise. Once again, Leo was riled up, just as he is every time he hears a squeaky toy. I thought this was utterly hilarious—but then immediately felt guilty for getting him all riled up, so I put the noisemaker into my shirt pocket. He lay on my lap next to his victim, looking pretty pleased with himself, then he jumped onto the sofa, leaving the toy behind. This is what I saw (the photo at right is staged, and includes the ear he’d chewed off late afternoon):

He didn’t spend much time working on his toy after that point, not vigorously, anyway. When we went to bed, he again brought his toy with him. When I came out of the en suite after brushing my teeth, I saw him laying on the bed with his chin on his toy, making it barely visible. He lifted his head to look at me as I tried to get a photo of him (at the bottom of this post).

Today, he’s played with his toy a bit, but at one point he picked up one of his other toys when I thought I was headed to my chair, something he hasn’t done since I first got home Saturday evening. His de-construction of the toy will continue, but less vigorously than when he was still obsessed, meaning he’s moving into the next stage, routine, one in which his existing toys will be played with again, too. And the new will continue to slowly become smaller.

This new toy is tentatively named “New Bunny”, to distinguish it from a long line of stuffed toy rabbits called “Funny Bunny” (the final one of those is in a photo with a post just before sunny had to have teeth removed). Leo hasn’t yet lost interest in any of his toys, and they stick around until they become utterly destroyed, often little more that bits of cloth, and they leave the house when I quickly put it in the rubbish while he’s outside, and none the wiser. In fact, I have my eye on one of his older toys right now, the tiny bit that’s left of “Mr. Turtle”, a toy I mentioned in a post back in December 2022. That’s my role in his routine, I suppose.

I don’t know how long he’ll still be interested in destroying his toys, but as along as he is I’ll continue to give him toys for him be indifferent about, become interested in, then obsessed with, until he de-constructs it and it enters his routine. It’s a small thing, really, but getting him new toys makes him extremely happy, and that’s the whole point.

King’s birthday and such

Today is the King’s Birthday public holiday in New Zealand, a day which honestly has no particular relevance for most New Zealanders, apart from being a day off work. I suppose that’s actually enough.

For many years, this was our last public holiday until Labour Day, which is the last Monday in October (this year that's 21 weeks from now, on October 28). We also have the Matariki Public Holiday, which is observed in June or July, depending on the rising of the Matariki star cluster (in Europe and its decedent cultures, it’s known as The Pleiades or the Seven Sisters). This year, the public holiday is June 28.

I think it’s still possible that the current “coalition of chaos” government will talk about eliminating one of our public holidays, each party for its own reasons, but whether they’ll follow through or not is unclear. For this year, at least, our public holidays are safe.

There are only two things (other than the name…) that tie the public holiday with the monarchy. The first is that one of the two Honours Lists are released on King’s Birthday (the other is New Year’s Day). The King must approve all honours (except for military honours). As is usually the case, the 2024 King’s Birthday Honours List is filled with people I’ve never heard of. This year, I’ve only heard of the new knights and dames [various recipients are talked about on the 1News site, and also on Stuff, and also on RNZ, among others]. This is the first year that the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) and Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) were renamed King’s Service Order (KSO) and King’s Service Medal (KSM).

I have no particular opinion on whether any of the honours are “deserved”, though I did noticed that unlike other honours lists under previous National Party-led governments, it’s not heavily dominated by “for services to business”, the two new knights and two new dames notwithstanding. In general, though, I think knighthoods and damehoods are an anachronism, maybe even silly, in the 21st Century. Recognising and honouring outstanding achievement by New Zealanders—especially work down by unpaid volunteers—is a good thing, but some fancy title that a foreign king has to approve seems kind of absurd to me—though I’d accept one if I was teleported into an alternate universe where I was given one, which underscores that my quibble is with the foreign title, not the honour itself.

The other thing that ties this public holiday to the monarchy is that there are 21-gun salutes for the reigning monarch—even though King Charles’ actual birthday is November 14, and the late Queen’s actual birthday was April 21. Still, whatever, I guess.

For most New Zealanders, the royal connections aren’t the focus of the day—a day off work is. Because it’s a public holiday, there’s no mail delivery today, and some cafes and restaurants have a special service charge to “compensate” them for having to pay workers more on a public holiday. There are grumbles about that every public holiday, of course. I’ve seldom gone to a cafe on a public holiday, and when I have gone, I wasn’t happy about the surcharge. I wouldn’t say it’s kept me from going, exactly, but there have been times it was a factor when we were were kind of unsure about whether to go or not.

Most people like public holidays, of course, regardless of what it’s ostensibly for. Sure, some business owners grumble, but most of them just get on with, well, business. So do the rest of us. And so it goes, on repeat.

But public holidays are great to have. I suppose that’s actually enough.

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Leo is seven

Today is the first day of meteorological winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and not all that long ago, that was just about all the significance the day had for me. Today has something far more important about it: It’s my boy Leo’s 7th birthday! That means he’s considered a “senior” for things like dogfood (fewer calories, among other things), though none of that affects his happy demeanour.

Leo came to live with us just before his first birthday, but his Daddy Nigel only got to celebrate two of Leo’s birthdays. Nigel would be so very happy to see what a happy boy Leo is these days. I feel both happy and honoured to have spent all seven of Leo’s birthday’s with him.

To celebrate his birthday, Leo had a special breakfast, as has long been our custom. After his official birthday photo (up top), and the photo he graciously allowed me to take with him (at the bottom of this post), it was time for his birthday present: A new stuffed toy (photo at left), not that he knows what’s a birthday present is, of course (all of this is stuff I bought yesterday, which I referred to in yesterday’s post). I actually wanted to get a new toy for him because two of his toys (formerly stuffed animals…) are now basically just rags, though he still loves playing with them. This makes me want to be more like him, content with what I have and not needing any new toys.

Today I also trimmed the fur around his eyes a little bit. Every year on his birthday he’s always being groomed, about to be groomed, or was just groomed. Who am I to buck tradition? He didn’t seem to mind.

This evening I got together with some of the family to celebrate the birthday of one of our humans, and when I got home Leo got a special dinner, too. He’s not yet entirely sure about his new toy, though—which basically means he hasn’t yet torn it open. On the other hand, he played with it this evening, which he didn’t do earlier in the day.

As always, Leo makes every one of my days better. He makes me laugh, keeps me entertained, gives me someone in the house to talk to, loves playing the game where we take turns chasing each other, and he looks after me when I’m feeling sick or just sad. He really is this man’s best friend! I love how happy he seems all the time, and I like to think—or maybe I just like to flatter myself—that I have a little bit to do with his happiness. In any case, Leo seems as happy with me as I am with him, and that’s probably enough for us both.

Happy Seventh Birthday, Leo!


Leo is six – 2023
Leo is five – 2022
Leo is four – 2021
Leo is three – 2020
Leo is two – 2019
Leo is one year old – 2018
Another new addition
All blog posts tagged “Leo” – All the posts in which I’ve talked about him

Friday, May 31, 2024

Today was a very good day

Today was a very good day, and for a lot of reasons. There were things I influenced, and things I didn’t, but in the end, it was all good. Except the very start, maybe.

Around 5am this morning, someone in my house, we’ll call him “Leo”, decided he needed to go outside. Fortunately for him, I needed go inside, as it were, so this time he didn’t hear my customary low grumbling as I got out of bed to let him out.

I planned to go get Leo a new bag of food today, and since Animates, where I get his food, is near New World, I decided to pop in there first to pick up the stuff I forgot when I went to Woolies on Monday (even though I always have a list, I also always forget to put some stuff on it). I thought the traffic might be bad, and the shops busy, because it’s the Friday before a three-day holiday weekend, but they were all fine.

I knew Animates would have specials for the holiday weekend, and I got some tinned food as a treat for Leo as well as his flea and tick treatment, all on special. I always get a discount on his dry food due to the chain’s loyalty discounts. All up, I saved around $25, which ain’t nothing.

When I left Animates, the traffic was starting to build, and that was shortly after 2pm. I was extremely glad that I didn’t wait any longer to head out.

In the end, I had a great day today. I got a lot of chores done around the house today, as well as my successful outing, and then there was another thing that happened overseas that made me happy, too. It was a very good day.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

It was a rainy day

Yesterday was a rainy day, sometimes pouring, even some thunder, as had been predicted. That made it a good day to get stuff done, and I even had a re-run of a kitchen adventure. Weather aside, it was a good day.

Leo and I were sleeping-in a bit yesterday morning, but I was awakened around nine by torrential rain. That’s mainly because the roof over the main bedroom is quite low, with very little attic space above the ceiling (maybe I should write that as “attic” space, because I don’t think an average size person could crawl through it…). That, and the fact it’s a metal roof, makes heavy rain sound loud . But the specific thing that woke me up was thunder.

The downpour only lasted maybe 15 minutes before easing a bit, but it was DARK in the living space when we got there around 9.30, with virtually no light coming through the Solatube, that skylight kinda thing I had installed in the kitchen back in 2021. All the curtains and blinds were still closed, of course.

A few minutes later, Leo finished his dental chew stick and was ready to go outside, and the rain had stopped completely. By 10am, the time the Severe Thunderstorm Watch for our area was to begin, the sun was breaking through the cloud cover, though sometimes only meekly. Rain returned, then sun, then rain, etc., all day long.

After I was done with my shower this morning, I heard rain blowing onto the window, which made me glance at it. I thought, “I need to give the window a clean,” and then it hit me: It was the perfect day to clean the front window. It was the first time that particular thought has popped into my head since I last cleaned the window, um, “quite some time ago.”

A rainy day is really the only day I can clean those windows because the sun shines in the glass for a good chunk of the day, year round. But, it wasn’t a straightforward thing to do.

I vacuumed up the dead bugs first, and then I realised I needed to clean the blinds before I could clean the glass. I dust them from time to time, even if it’s just vacuuming them, but I can’t remember the last time I wiped them down, but some of those dead bugs, or their relatives, had left deposits. Wiping down the blinds took a long time, because, it turned out, they were quite dirty.

While I was doing that, another session of thunder and heavy rain arrived, and it got so dark that I thought about turning on a light, but I didn’t because there was just enough light. Actually, I mainly just didn’t want to stop because by then I really wanted that task to end.

The glass windows were easy to clean, though the two openable side windows either side of the picture window were difficult to open because I never open them and they were sticking a bit. I needed to open them so I could vacuum the track and seals. I opened the windows, of course. An aside: Having two openable either side of a fixed-pane window is called a Chicago window because it was first used in designs for office buildings built there. I kind of like the fact that my house has a Chicago window—even though, technically, they're supposed to be openable sash windows, not awning-style (hinged along the top) like I have. Pffft, technicalities!

After I was all done, the sun reappeared, and I could see the blinds were dully shiny again: I hadn’t noticed they weren’t before I started work on them. The glass was also gleaming, sparkly, even. I’d thought it was the outside of the window that was dirty: Apparently not. It made me glad I did the work.

I didn’t get much else done yesterday, but I’d planned to make my reconstruction of my mother’s beef and barley soup, which I first made a year ago this month, and that became my next project. It went well (photo up top).

I bought some chuck steak when I went to the supermarket this past Monday, and I bought it specifically for the soup. This time, after I rinsed the barley I soaked it in hot tap water for a few minutes while I cut up stuff, then cooked the barley in the microwave for six minutes. I drained the barley and added them to the soup, and all of that dramatically reduced the remaining cooking time once I added them to the soup.

There were more brief bursts of rain into the evening before it stopped. There were some strong winds in the evening, but they, too, disappeared as it got later, making the night—and this morning—quiet. Today became another ordinary day, but one without weather drama or post-jab blech.

So, the bad weather yesterday ended up helping me get some not-every-day sorts of things done. It turned out to be a good day. And tonight, I get to have the leftover soup for dinner. Ordinary wins are good, too.

Ordinary life continues

Ordinary life always carries on, for good or bad, and which it is probably depends mostly on our life situation. For most of us who are safe from war and natural disasters, there’s a kind of banal ordinariness to our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean ordinary events aren’t worth noting, at least sometimes (and for a personal journal blogger, that’s “most times”). Also, many of the big and significant events in our life depend on the small, ordinary, possibly even totally unrelated events in our lives, that came before. And sometimes, especially online, it’s just documentary evidence that we were here, and that’s enough.

I’ve had a lot of ordinary stuff going on lately, things that, as is often the case these days, I haven’t shared here. This is the first in a series of “catch-ip” posts, kind of like a chat with a friend, maybe—or maybe just if I want to flatter myself.

The photo montage up top is from Friday of last week, and when I posted the photos on my personal Facebook, I said:
I picked my first usable lemon (I got one last year, but the birds had pecked at it). The plant is still pretty young, and I did very little to/for it apart from giving it some citrus fertiliser. I didn’t spray, so the lemon isn’t perfect looking, and I’m fine with that because neither am I! 🤣 Also, Leo wanted to show you his toy bone. It’s a lovely, sunny Friday afternoon in Kirikiriroa-Hamilton, and we hope you’re having a great day wherever you are!
The only unusual thing about this is that I made the montage up top because that’s how the two photos appeared on my Facebook post. That’s hard to do on Blogger, so, I turned as I so often do to Photoshop. There’s a side note to this, though: I noticed recently that when I post photos of me and/or Leo on Facebook, I get more “reactions” than I get for a post where I share a link to something, or just write some words. The posts with photos of Leo usually get the most reactions. Consider that market research, I suppose.

I was supposed to see the dental hygienist on Monday of that week, but she called in sick. On Friday the office rang me to reschedule, and that was for this past Monday at 10am—what was I thinking?! I saw a new hygienist, who I have an appointment to see again in six months, along with a check-up with the dentist, who will also be new: My current dentist is leaving the practice to go to one closer to where he lives. Everything was fine with the hygienist.

After that, I went to the chemist next door for my influenza vaccination and Covid booster. As it happens, I went to the hygienist and then got the same jabs at the same place one year ago today, something that Facebook “Memories” reminded me of this morning.

After my health stuff, I went first to get some breakfast at the Columbus Coffee cafe in the Mitre 10 Mega (I’m not paid to promote either, by they way—it’s just where I went; obligatory food porn of my eggs benny, as seen on my Facebook, is at right). I wanted to check out something that the Mitre 10 website said was in stock at that location—it wasn’t. I also went to look at a new cover for my outdoor table and chairs, as I was talking about last week, but they didn’t have the size for my table, though they did have the twice-the-price one (I didn’t buy it).

My final stop was the supermarket, and that was nearly two weeks since my previous visit. This makes me think I may have successfully reduced my buying, and increased my planning, so that I can go every other week. Maybe. If so, it’d mean I’ll spend less, too. Still, early days.

By the time I was maybe halfway through the shop, I started to feel kind of unwell—the post-jab blech was settling in. I didn’t muck around after that, and so, forgot a couple things. Still, I was able to leave soon after and I went home.

That afternoon, I tried having a bit of a nap, but barely dozed. I moved to my chair and just sat and relaxed teh rest of the afternoon. At one point I looked up and toward the front window, and the photo at the bottom of this post is what I saw. Instantly made me feel better—though I still needed some paracetamol by evening.

The post-jab blech continued to some extent both Tuesday and Wednesday, especially in the evening, and on Tuesday I was particularly tired. Even so, this week has had other adventures, mostly on Wednesday, but that’s a tale on its own.

These ordinary days can have a lot going on even when they’re ordinary. Or, maybe I just notice more on those ordinary days. In any case, sometimes it’s nice to be busy just doing ordinary things.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7

Talk about a long time between drinks of water, this week in 1984 another song from the Footloose movie soundtrack reached Number One, eight weeks after the first song from the movie. On May 26, 1984, ”Let's Hear It for the Boy” (video up top) by American singer Deniece Williams became the new Number One song, where it would remain for two weeks. It was the second and last Number One from the movie soundtrack, and Williams’ second Number One in the USA (after "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late", her 1978 duet with Johnny Mathis). The song was released as a single both from the Footloose soundtrack, and also from Williams’ eighth studio album, also called Let's Hear It for the Boy.

Because I’ve still never seen the movie Footloose (either version), I was only aware of this song as a pop song. The song was released on February 17, 1984, a bit more than a month after the Kenny Loggins song “Footloose”, which went to Number one on March 31 (that song was the subject of Part 4 in this series). I heard “Let's Hear It for the Boy” on the radio, and I also heard it in the gay clubs that I went to in 1984. The video wasn’t released until mid-April 1984, well after I’d already heard the song. That may have been fortunate.

I love music videos as a specific artform in pop music, something I think I’ve made clear by now. I’ve also said that there have been times I didn’t like the video of a song I liked, and there have even been times I liked a video, but wasn’t too keen on the song itself. In the case of the video for “Let's Hear It for the Boy”, it wasn’t a time when it mattered whether I thought the video was good or bad, because it kind of creeped me out.

The video begins with a young boy sitting in a corner of a classroom wearing in a dunce cap, when Deniece enters, singing, and the boy ends up in a tux and dancing. All very cute, except for two things. First, the song is about her singing about her boyfriend/partner [LYRICS], and isn’t about chaste admiration for boys who we should cheer about. In that context, the little kisses the boy gives Deniece seem a bit… out of place.

This discomfort with the video needs its own context. In May 1984, I was at the height of my grassroots LGBT+ activism. It was still the first term of the Reagan regime, and we were fighting every single day against anti-gay bigots, all of whom spread vile slurs against LGBT+ people. In particular, they spread the defamatory lie that all gay men (and lesbians, too, when they could be bothered to note women existed) were child molesters. As a result, I was extra-sensitive to anything that appeared even remotely untoward, and the fact that the song was played in gay clubs only underscored that. The little boy kissing Deniece aside, all the other dancers are also young men, and even though the vast majority were very obviously well above the legal age of consent, for me the video took away the upbeat celebration of a boyfriend to a reminder of the evil we activists were fighting.

Time heals all wounds, they say, and I’m relaxed about the video now—though the opening scene still makes me squirm a little bit, quite possibly because the vile anti-LGBT+ slur has been resurrected as justification for anti-LGBT+ violence by a weird assortment of folks on the far-right, like fans of conspiracy theories, ardently anti-trans folks, and, maybe especially, far-right religious nutjobs, and their assorted fellow travellers. Sadly, that’s true here in New Zealand, too.

Some asides: That little boy was played by actor Aaron Lohr. Lohr, who is now 48 (!), is married to American actress and singer Idina Menzel, who Nigel and I really liked, particularly for her performance in the original Broadway cast of Wicked. Deniece Williams is now 73 (!).

“Let's Hear It for the Boy” reached Number 3 in Australia, Number One in Canada (Gold), 2 in New Zealand, 2 in the UK (Gold), and Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100”, and its “US Dance Club Songs” and “US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs” charts. The song was also Number One on the Cash Box “Top 100 Singles” chart. The song was certified Platinum in the USA.

Williams’ album Let's Hear It for the Boy peaked at Number 26 on the USA’s Billboard “Top 200” album chart, and reached Number 10 on their “Top Black Albums” chart. The Footloose soundtrack, as I mentioned back in March, reached Number 2 in Australia (5x Platinum), Number One in Canada (6x Platinum), Number One in New Zealand (Platinum), 7 in the UK (Gold), and Number One on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (9x Platinum).

This series will return June 9 with another new Number One, another time where I liked both the song and the video..

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2 – February 4, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 3 – February 25, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4 – March 31, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 5 – April 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 6 – May 12, 2024

Thursday, May 23, 2024

To re-do, or not re-do

Over my lifetime, I’ve worked on dozens, maybe even hundreds, of household projects. Sometimes, I re-do them because I have better solutions, and sometimes it’s because something didn’t got well. Right now, I’m trying to decide if I should re-do a project yet again, or do something different. Add it to the list of current difficulties, and to the list of things I need to ponder.

Back in December of 2022, I bought a cover for my outdoor table and chairs to protect them from rain and, especially, the harsh sunlight. It worked well! Until it didn’t.

Eight months later, in August 2023, I noticed there were holes in the cover where the tops of the metal chair backs had worn through the cover. I bought a new cover, but this time I put pool noodles along the backs to prevent new holes by providing a cushion between the chair backs and the cover. That worked, too! Until it didn’t.

I noticed this week that a hole has developed at the top of one chair (photo up top), and—surprise!—that’s eight months after I put it over the table and chairs. Still, it’s only one hole, not several, so, yay?

I considered trying to patch the hole, but I have a feeling that the UV rays may be weakening the plastic, so new holes might appear. Also, how would I patch it to keep the rain out? I decided I need a better solution, and, fortunately, I've already thought of a few.

First, and most obviously, I can buy yet another new cover (which would mean throwing an old one away, since they're not recyclable (I still have the older one,with far more holes, and I certainly don’t need two covers with holes). But that would mean spending another $50 to protect the table for eight months. There’s another version from the same company, a nicer-looking charcoal coloured one, but it’s more than twice the price of the one I have, though the pricier one is lined and has air vents, so, maybe twice as good?

Option two is to sell the table and chairs, and although I wouldn’t get much, at least I wouldn’t be spending any more money. At the cheapest end of the spectrum is option three: I could take a large blue tarpaulin I already have and put it over the cover that’s on there now. Obviously that option is free, not just three.

My final option is to clear space in the garage and store the table and chairs in their until I can have a patio cover built, which, realistically, could be the better part of two years from now. There are two major drawbacks to opton four. First, it would require major work to clear space in my garage (of course), but it also would also mean I couldn’t use the table and chairs since I wouldn’t drag them out just for, say, a cup of coffee. Those are the same reason I didn’t do that 8 months ago, or eight months for that. However, I haven’t used the table and chairs for years, anyway, because of the harsh conditions, and because it’s been under a cover.

The raises a bigger question: Do I even need a table and chairs for six people? Since I haven’t used it at all in around four years, and not for dining in maybe six or more, maybe I don’t need one? Also, the patio is fairly small, so maybe a smaller table and chairs set (say, for four people so I could still have a couple dinner guests), would be better, or maybe even a two chair “bistro set” so I can have meals/coffee out there. Or, maybe I should have no table and chairs, just lounging furniture—chairs, maybe an outdoor sofa.

I don’t think the garage option would be quick to do, and late autumn probably isn’t the best time to try and sell outside furniture. That leaves the options of buying a new cover, or using my big blue tarpaulin for now. Using the tarpaulin makes sense if I plan on putting the table and chairs into the garage, or maybe I could buy a new cover and just put it on top of the one on there now. That would buy me time (hopefully at least eight months…) to work out my (more) permanent solution.

The thing is, I normally talk about my household projects in the past-tense, what I did and how I did it. This is the first time I’ve gone into such detail about my thought process as I try to work out how to tackle a project, how my thinking works before I do the actual work. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m looking forward to seeing what I end up doing.

Will I re-do a project yet again? Something different? Right now, I actually don’t know.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Six years ago, Leo

Leo is clearly a huge part of my life, and both this blog and my social media posts show that. This makes a lot of sense, of course: Ever since Jake died in September 2021, it’s just been Leo and me. And, naturally, there’s a lot that goes with that.

Last week, Facebook served up a Memory of the day in 2018 when I announced that Leo had joined our family, and and a couple days later I also talked about it in a blog post (the photo up top is what I shared on Facebook and in that 2018 blog post, and the blog post also has another photo of him).

What I didn’t mention in the original posts was that my announcement was actually well after Leo came to live with us—a few weeks later, I think it was. I didn’t say anything earlier than that in case his first humans changed their minds and wanted to take him back. Nigel and I tried so hard to be cool about it, and to not fall head over heels for him, but Nigel was absolutely right when he said to me, “we’re besotted with him,” because we immediately were. It was also Nigel who reflected on our family of three dogs, a cat, and us, saying, “We bought a zoo!” (from the Matt Damon movie…). I expanded on that in a comment on my blog post, replying to Roger Green: “I suggested we get a tank of fish and cage of birds so we’d have a complete set. But I think this is enough.”

Six years later, it’s now just Leo and me, and every single day I’m grateful to be sharing life with him. He was an unexpected addition to our family back then, and now he’s my last—and very treasured—remnant of it. He makes me smile, even laugh, every day, and there have been times he was quite literally the only one that could do that.

So, the significance of my posts six years ago wasn’t about his “gotcha” day—I don’t remember when that was precisely because at first Nigel and I tried to pretend we were just his temporary carers. However, it was the day I first shared the fact that he’d joined our family—and you can only imagine how hard it was for me to not share photos of him before my announcement.

So, that particular FB Memory reminded me of how glad I was that he joined our family. I still am. Of course.