Rightio, then, to the mailbag for reader questions, with the first missive from young Lain H. of somewhere in the dark and gothic Southern US, who asks:
While living in New Zealand, did you ever cover a story about a movie musical starring Hugh Jackman?
Also, what can I do to get gravy stains out of my formal morning jacket?
A: 1. If you play any of the "X-Men" movies while listening to Elton John, you get a delightful experience.
2. Remove jacket, set on fire.
On to the right honorable Roger Green, Esq., of New York State, a man with many questions indeed of a more serious bent than the redoubtable Messr. H. However I shall only answer three:
What is the schedule of releases in NZ for movies, music, books, etc. vs. the United States? What are the one or two things that NZ does SO much better than the US? And vice versa?
Arthur @ AmeriNZ has talked about the "end of the earth" thing, how far away you are from pretty much everything. How does that affect you? Do you have a reserve fund in case you have to make an emergency trip to the US or are you settled on the idea that there will just be things you can't get back for?
A: 1. It's curious -- some movies come out much later; some come out at the same time [your big blockbusters and the like], some come out a lot earlier [often British fare like the quite funny "The Boat That Rocked" about pirate radio]. Music and books pretty much come out at the same time. The biggest annoyance for us is TV, which can be years behind the US sometimes. Even being a couple months behind can be frustrating with a show like "Lost," where you have to frantically avoid any spoilers on the internet.
2. Um, on the pro-NZ side socialized medicine and the mandatory four weeks of paid vacation a year springs to mind... NZ also does open-mindedness a bit better than the US, where too much partisan hysteria holds sway for my taste. (People just don't get so worked up about culture wars here.) It's a very secular society, which has ups and downs. Things the US does better? Well, space and scenery (NZ *is* beautiful, but there's a lot less of it), friendliness (I find Americans, while they can be loud, are more open-hearted sometimes) and deep-discount shopping comes to mind (Wal*mart is a curse and a blessing, I think).
3. We try to get back every 2-3 years, but it is hard in a mixed country relationship knowing you will always be far from one of your families. We are prepared if I have suddenly have to fly back, though. We're quite glad we're here now as my wife's father is ailing, but it's tough as my parents age knowing we aren't always there.
We also hear from Troy Hickman, talented author, leader of men, fondler of badgers and administrator of wedgies, who asks:
Tell them what exactly it is you love about ME...
A: It's your mind, Troy, not your body.
An old work friend of mine (Hi Becky!) asks about the 5 years or so I lived in the gorgeous Lake Tahoe area of California/nevada (It should be noted the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza is a friggin' NEWSPAPER, Troy 'n' Jay in the peanut gallery, although there is a nifty Bonanza the TV show theme park right there in town too, where you can pose with the stuffed corpse of Lorne Greene for a fee):
What do you miss most about Tahoe in particular, not just the U.S.?
A: I do love Tahoe, and the whole Sierra Nevada mountain area where I grew up -- utterly gorgeous as New Zealand is, the granite hills and tall pines of Northern California will always be the landscape of home to me. It was fantastic to live at Tahoe for a few years, although it had two big drawbacks -- the flood of tourists in summertime, and the 10 feet or snow for 5-6 months in the wintertime. I love snow but in a bit of moderation. Tahoe was always really expensive for anyone in the middle class to live. Why is it the nice places are always the popular ones, anyway?
Thanks for the queries, all! More blogging imminent.