Sunday, 22 May 2016

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Every so often a movie comes along that is a pure delight from start to finish. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) is quickly becoming part of New Zealand folklore and providing plenty of laughs along the way. Based on the 1986 novel Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, Hunt for the Wilderpeople has been brought into the 21st century and given the Taika Waititi directorial treatment. In just eight short weeks, Hunt for the Wilderpeople has become the highest grossing local film in New Zealand.

The movie features a long line of cameo appearances, including Waititi himself as a church minister. Sam Neill is his usual fine form as the gruff 'Uncle' Hec and newcomer Julian Dennison takes on this master at his craft with a cheeky performance of his own. There are so many laughs in this film as the duo go on the run from police and 'child services', sparking a national man hunt over escalating misunderstandings. There's drama, action, comedy and plenty of clever kiwi pop culture references.

Watch the official trailer here, then see the movie for yourself while it's still playing in cinemas.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Word of the day: suboptimal

Our office is a little unconventional. We work hard, we play hard, we let off steam and we start all over again. For some, the language is colourful. For one in particular, swearing is as natural as the air she breathes.

In an attempt to curb her swearing steam-release valve, one team member has self-initiated a swear chart. There are point values for certain words and a chain of terms will earn a bonus point. Each calendar month, she aims to reduce her overall office swear tally. It began in March with a target of 50 points, meaning that she would shout a round of drinks for everyone in our part of the office if the target was met.

Unfortunately, the first month's target was not only met but exceeded, with 50 points accrued by 16 March and almost half a month to go. April was a little better with 48 points earned. We're halfway through May and the total is sitting at just 11. A reformed swearer? Or are we just so attuned to these words that we're no longer conscious of when they're uttered? To be fair, she is very good at self-reporting, sometimes emerging from a meeting room to take up a whiteboard marker and add tallies to the chart without even explaining herself.

We may have found another solution to help our highly strung swearing colleague. Someone suggested a new word of the day: suboptimal. Apparently it's acceptable as both a word and a sentiment. It can be embellished with emotion and gestures but is not offensive in itself.

Looking at its definition, it could work well in everyday conversation. Here are some examples:
"That idea is suboptimal."
"This document is completely suboptimal."
"I don't know what you're thinking but it sounds quite suboptimal to me."
"Another suboptimal meeting." *rolls eyes*
It wouldn't always work, though. Try saying these paraphrased sentences:
"Suboptimal off, you suboptimal piece of suboptimal!"
"Why doesn't anyone suboptimal listen to me?"
Will it work? Only time will tell if this is just another suboptimal idea.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Brown Brothers wine tasting

Two wine tastings this month! This time, the esteemed Brown Brothers were in town from Australia for a short window of time and so we were lucky enough to try their wines on our home turf. Our host for the evening was the loquacious Andrew Harris, Wine Ambassador for Brown Brothers. What's a wine ambassador? Basically, it means he's done a little bit of everything to do with wine and knows a lot about it!

The evening began with a presentation about the company itself and we were introduced to the four generations of Browns who have owned and operated the winery for the past 125 years in Milawa, about two hours north of Melbourne, Victoria. Innovation is the name of the game with Brown Brothers, who have constantly developed and experimented with different methods and styles of wine making throughout their history, producing multiple ranges across their various vineyards. Their business model involves setting up cellar doors in collaboration with other local businesses and constantly looking for new ways to experiment with wine. It works!

We got to taste nine samples during the evening. Some were variations on a theme and several were additions to our wine list.

Yes yes yes!
  • 2015 Moscato. My favourite wine of the evening came in several different iterations. Moscato is to Australia what sauvignon blanc is to New Zealand wine. Its very sharp, fresh and crisp flavour actually only has a 5% alcohol count as less sugar is extracted during the fermenting process. I bought a bottle of this for our wine rack.
  • 2015 Moscato Rosa. Similar to the plain moscato, this rosa has a pale pink colour while retaining a similar palette. Very light and refreshing with 7% low alcohol content.
  • 2014 Cienna. I had to get my head around several ideas to enjoy this wine: it's a sparkling, sweet red that is served chilled and its name was constantly mispronounced. (Apparently the spelling makes it different from Italian town of Siena, meaning they can get away with IP issues, even Brown Brothers say it the same way ... but this spelling should mean it's pronounced chi-en-na.) Once I got past all this, I really liked the Cienna and bought a bottle for my family to enjoy on Mothers' Day. We had the same conversation about pronunciation (can't argue with an Italian mama), that it could be sparkling, sweet, red and chilled ... a winner with the family.
  • NV  Prosecco. I do like a good prosecco but couldn't warm to this one. It was light, clean and crisp but a tad too sweet.
  • NV Sparkling  Moscato Rosa. Another variation on the moscato theme, this sparling wine had a very crisp, fresh flavour and a litle pink colour. 
  • 2014 Devil's Corner Pinot Noir. A lovely mid-red colour but the flavour way too rugged for me.
  • 2015 Devil's Corner Pinot Grigio. One word came to mind for this Tasmanian wine: asparagus.
  • 2014 18 Eighty Nine Shiraz. A smooth finish and a lovely mid-red colour, this shiraz spent 14 months on French and American oak, with 10% new oak.
  • 2009 Patricia Shiraz. I know it sounds wrong to say that I didn't like the best quality wine of the evening produced under their esteem flagship label, but I'm still not a shiraz drinker. A much smoother finish than the 18 Eighty Nine shiraz but still far too rich and heavy for me.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Jet plane lollies

Ahh, jet plane lollies. These firm packages of sugar and food colouring have a soft spot in many grown-ups' hearts. My nonna would bring jet plane lollies when she came to stay with us during winter weekends and I've looked at them through a nostalgic lens ever since.

Jet planes have out-survived many iconic kiwi lollies that bit the dust in recent years. Now, I don't know where jet planes originated from but, given that the colours and flavour profiles are the same as wine gums, they may well have come from the UK and migrated to the colonies over time. I'm glad they did.

Everyone has a preference - and everyone is right (of course). I had quite an in-depth conversation with a six-year-old nephew on a camping trip recently about which jet planes were the best. It turns out that he and I have similar tastes. We like white, yellow and green jet planes when others make a beeline for red or purple. We've both been told that white jet planes have no flavour at all - but we know that they do and it's our favourite. In just six short years, he has heard all the same jet plane stories as me:
"I like the red and purple ones but not the green ones."
"Euw, green and white ones are horrible! They don't taste of anything!"
"I can taste the yellow and orange ones anywhere."
"Of course I know which ones are which. They're not all the same flavour."
We had a similar conversation in the office yesterday when a packet of jet planes appeared after a meeting. There was only one way to solve this: blind taste testing. Jet planes of each colour were cut into small bites which were presented one at a time to those of us brave enough to put our taste buds on the line. A score card was kept and the results collated.

It turns out there is a difference in flavours - but not as we expected. Our empirical research, with a sample size of four, showed that those who were most confident about their jet plane palette were actually the least competent at identifying them. We all interchanged yellow and red, but only two of us could correctly identify four out of six (white, green, purple and orange). One person scored two out of six and the most confident managed a measly total of one correct - and that was probably a guess.

We agreed that next time we should repeat the experiment with wine gums or jelly beans or both - all in the name of research, of course.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Pink Ribbon morning tea

During the month of May, people come together to host Pink Ribbon Breakfasts all around the country. Apparently eight women a day are diagnosed with breast cancer in New Zealand. This year the money raised from pink ribbon events will be used to fund vital research projects and medical grants to help improve the survivorship of breast cancer in New Zealand.

My workplace decided to simultaneously hold a Pink Ribbon morning tea in all three of our offices (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) today. Volunteers each prepared a plate and everybody brought cash or donated online. We ended up with a selection of pink savoury and sweet treats including pink salmon, pink devilled eggs, cupcakes, marshmallow slice, raspberry meringues, crackers and various pink dips (salmon, beetroot and horseradish were the winners).

Pink Ribbon morning tea
We also had some pink goodies to buy and a super-shiny donation box - just in case anybody wasn't sure where to put their money.

Pink goodies and donations
We aimed to raise $500 across all three offices. The donation box will be out for another day or two while the IOUs flow in, then I will tally up our donations and submit them via the Pink Ribbon website. It feels wonderful to be involved in such a positive event at work, where everybody contributes and supports such a worthy cause.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Tommy Tiernan - Out of the Whirlwind

The New Zealand International Comedy Festival has kicked off around the country. We always look forward to a show or two, especially if it means we can take advantage of seeing some of our favourite international comedians on stage instead of on television.

Last night, we saw Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan in Out of the Whirlwind. Resplendent in double denim, Tiernan's stand up comedy show is a whirlwind of mischievous storytelling. Described as having "no manners on him", absoultely nothing is sacred: religion, sexism, homophobia, racism ... somehow you can get away with more when you have a charming Irish accent (although one particular Stuff reviewer begs to differ).

Tiernan plays the audience and microphone well. He is proficient at a huge number of accents (except for Belgian - you'll see) and can pull a story out of almost any situation. Take, for example, a topic as mundane as drinks. Sure, Europe enjoys their wine, but the Irish are masters of anger in a glass, otherwise known as whiskey.

Whatever your tipple, you'll laugh, be offended, then forgive Tommy Tiernan all at once during his two 45 minute sets. The tour wraps up in Christchurch tomorrow night before picking up again in Edinburgh in August.